HC Deb 01 June 1897 vol 50 cc85-94

Scale and conditions of compensation.—Scale.

(1.) The amount of compensation under this Act shall be—

  1. (a) where death results from the injury—
    1. (i.) if the workman leaves dependants, a suns equal to his earnings during the three years next preceding the injury, or the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, whichever of those 811/11S is the larger, but not exceeding in any case three hundred pounds, provided that the amount of any weekly payments made under this Act shall be deducted from such sum; and
    2. (ii.) if he leaves no dependants, the medical attendance and burial, not exceeding ten pounds.
  2. (b) in case of incapacity fir work, a weekly payment during the incapacity after the second week not exceeding fifty per cent. of his weekly earnings at the time of the accident, such weekly payment not to exceed one pound.

(2.) The payment shall, in case of death, be made to the legal personal representative of the workman, or, if he has no legal personal representative, to his dependants, or, if he leaves no dependants, to the person to whom the expenses are due.

(3.) The expression "dependants" in this schedule means such members of the workman's family as are entitled to damages in cases under the Fatal Accidents Act 1846; and any question as to who is a dependant, or as to the amount payable to each dependant shall, in default of agreement, be settled by arbitration under this Act.

(4.) If any of the dependants is an infant his share of compensation may in invested for his benefit as directed by the arbitrator.

(5.) Any weekly payment may be reviewed at intervals of not less than three months at the request either of the employer or of the workman, and on such review may be ended, diminished, or increased, subject to the maximum above provided, and the amount of payment shall, in default of agreement, be settled by arbitration under this Act.

(6.) A weekly payment shall not be capable of being assigned or charged, and shall not pass to any other person by operation of law.

MR. RENSHAW moved in Section (1), sifter the words "if the workman," to insert the words "under sixty years of age, and," so as to limit the compensation to be paid to the dependants of a workman who has been killed and who "is under 60 years of age." He believed that there were an enormous number of old hands employed in factories who through failing health or imperfect sight were not so capable of performing their duties so satisfactorily as when younger. It was a matter of constant consideration between a good employer and Ids manager that nothing should interfere with the continued employment of these MOB. But when a liability such as was imposed by the Bill Was incurred and accidents happened to these old men, the claim in respect of the dependants, who were extremely ill-defined, raised a grave and serious question as to how far the passing of the Bill would affect the employment of these older hands. While making a certain provision for men under 60, the Committee ought to make a sandier compensation in respect of an accident to men over that age. Having regard also to the question of carrying out a scheme of old age pensions, it seemed extremely undesirable to add to the already large number of those who were driven out of employment by reason of increasing years.


hoped the Government would not agree to this Amendment. The Mover of it did not appear to have borne in mind the fact that in the ordinary course of nature an aged man was hardly likely to have any dependants, except, per-Imps, a wife—[HON. MEMBERS: "Grand-children!]—and the employers would be few and far between who, whether the clause passed or not, would be so chilly in their dealings as to withhold the benefits from the aged widow under such circumstances.


pointed out that, under the Bill as it stood, not only the widow, hut every son and daughter and every grandson and granddaughter would— be a dependant and entitled to a share of the compensation. As a man got old he was less likely to have persons actually dependant upon him in the sense of requiring his earnings, and that seemed an argument for reducing the scale of compensation. Again, as a man got old, Ids rate of wages ensile down, and that was another argument for reducing the scale of compensation. If this heavy scale of compensation, which might be fair enough to a man in the prime of life, was to be payable to old men, it would offer a strong additional inducement to employers, instead of finding easier places for the old men, to get rid of them altogether.


said there was another reason which the hon. Member opposite had not taken into consideration, and that was that, in the case of an accident befalling an old man it might be a long affair, whereas the same kind of accident happening to a. young man would be of trifling importance. A comparatively slight accident might take the old man months to get over it, and when at length he came back, he would find his muscles stiff and less fitted for work. [HON. MEMBERS: "This is the case of death!"] Even if the Amendment was limited to death, he still held that there should be a difference in the scale of compensation as between old and young men.


said he had thought a good deal about this subject, and he should like to have some opinion from the Committee from the point of view of the workman. He thought there was something in the argument that they might be putting a disability, as it were, on the older men. That was one of the most serious things which we had to face in future with regard to our industrial position. Every day firms of any importance were being turned into limited liability companies, and however generous an employer might be, these companies were not always generous. He knew many such companies—extremely well managed, and, on the whole, liberally conducted—in which even now no man above 50 years was employed. If an additional disadvantage were attached to old age, it might tend more and more in the direction of throwing the older men on the world without a chance of employment. That would be a most disastrous thing for the men themselves and generally for society. He should like to know what those who represented the working classes in the House thought on the subject. In its pecuniary aspect the question was not of the slightest consequence, and the Government were quite prepared to stand by their Bill if it were preferred. But, if he were confirmed in his impression that the tendency in adopting a uniform scale would be to prejudice the older workmen, then the Committee might reasonably consider whether a difference could not be made. It was known that the older men were those to whom accidents were more likely to happen, because they were not so skilled nor were their muscles in such good condition.


said that those who directly represented labour would not be prepared to accept the statement that the older men were more liable to accident. They were generally more cautious. If the Bill were to differentiate, not only between different classes of men in the same trade, but between old and young men, the Measure would be very unpopular. The whole experience of permanent relief funds and benefit societies showed that there was less liability to accident on the part of the older men.

COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)

said that the Amendment was moved entirely in the interest of labour, and if those who directly represented labour were not prepared to accept the Amendment, his lion. Friend would not press it, but would be content to leave the consequences to those who were advising labour. It frequently happened that old men, unfit for work, were kept on simply because they had grown up with their employers, and fictitious posts were created for them, because if they were discharged they would never earn another day's wages. It was rather hard to offer another inducement to the limited liability companies to get rid of the old men.

*MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)

said he had a better opinion of the employers of labour than evidently sonic of those gentlemen had of themselves. He did not think there would be that readiness to discharge old men on the part of the employers which the Mover of the Amendment seemed to anticipate. When the Bill was originally introduced, he was glad to see that there was no distinction drawn in it between old men and young men, but that compensation on the same basis of percentage of wages was to be provided for all alike. If an old man earned less than a young man he would get less compensation. Under the Bill as it stood, whatever a man's age might be, he would get simply a percentage of his wages as compensation in the event of an accident. That appeared to him to be the best plan, and he hoped the Government would adhere to it. There was no necessity whatever to draw a distinction between the young and the old. He might be accounted an old man, but he was sure he could work as hard as some young men. Old age, after all, was only relative, and they could not set up on the basis of age as a distinction between capability and incapacity. He did not believe, as he had already said, that there was any danger of employers treating their old workmen unfairly; but he was prepared to risk that danger rather than that there should be a distinction between young men and old men in regard to the compensation they were to he allowed in case of injury.


said that this was a matter which entirely concerned labour, and he took it its representatives were unanimous on that point. He imagined his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment did not claim to move it on behalf of the employers, and, therefore, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would withdraw the Amendment.


could not say he moved the Amendment on behalf of the employers, but he felt that the Bill would prejudice the position of many old men in the eyes of employers. He had several old servants in his employ whom he certainly would not like to dismiss, and to whom it would be a great punishment if they were deprived of their employment. He sympathised with the hardships of the employés, and in view of the speeches which had been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.


thought it would be most. invidious to make a. distinction in an Act of Parliament between old and young men and at the same time be of no practical use at all. [Cries of "Agreed!"]

MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)

expressed the opinion that in the interests of the workmen his hon. Friend was wrong in offering to withdraw the Amendment. There was no doubt one effect of the Bill would be that private firms would be turned into limited liability companies, whose managers, having to show a profit, would select young employés, who were less likely to come to injury that older Melt. In a coal mine, nine-tenths of the accidents were caused at the face, and young men were able to spring away.

*MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)

Old men keep out.

MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)

said that when he was a young man of 20 he was in such an accident. He sprang aside. Had he not done so he would have had, instead of having a. sprained leg, a sprained back, and he would not now have been addressing the Committee. If the representatives of the workmen thought they were acting in the best interests of the workmen, he had nothing more to say.

COLONEL MILWARD (Stratford-upon-Avon)

believed that under the Bill as it now stood the older workmen would be more likely to lose their employment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

*SIR. A. HICKMAN moved in Section (1) to leave out all the words front "leaves" to the end of the Section, and to insert:— A widow the sum of 10s. per week during her life and widowhood, and, if he leaves children under the age of 16, the sum of 1s. 6d. per week for each such child until he or she attains that age. If the workman leaves no widow or children, but leaves dependants, the sum of 10s. per week during the life of such dependants, to lie divided amongst such dependants, if more than one, in such proportions as the County Court Judge or arbitrator, as provided by the second schedule of this Act shall direct and— The object of the Amendment, he said, was to provide that the provision made under the Bill for the widows and orphans should be of a permanent character. Those who had experience of the working classes knew how soon a lump sum could he dissipated. The interest of t he community was that there should be a permanent provision which should keep the widow and her children, rather than that she should receive a lump stun, which might very soon be wasted, and that then she should become a charge upon the rates. His proposal might impose in increased burden upon the employer, but, speaking- as an employer, he would he quite willing to accept that additional burden, for he should have the satisfaction of knowing that under no circumstances whatever could the widow and children go to the union.


said he was obliged to ask the Committee not to accept this Amendment. The fact was, the Government had adopted the principle to. which his hon. Friend attached importance in regard to certain cases. What had followed? There had come to the Government demands from all quarters of the House—from those who represented the cause of the workpeople and from those who represented employers, that this scheme would be unfair both for workmen and employers if there were no means whatever of commuting it for a lump sum in certain cases. There were on the Paper at the present time 10 or 12 Amendments from different sections of the House, claiming that under certain circumstances, at all events, there should be liberty to commute in the interests of the workpeople quite as much as in the interests of the employer. If that were the case in regard to incapacity, a fortiori it would apply to this proposal to make a new prolonged payment in the case of the dependants of the person who had suffered death by accident. Although he agreed with his hon. Friend that this proposal of his would probably be, actuarially, more valuable than the proposal under the Bill, he did not believe it would be so popular with the workpeople themselves. The Government proposed to meet his hon. Friend and those who had Amendments upon the subject, as far as they thought it possible, by allowing discretion to the arbitrators, in all cases of death, to invest the sum which came to the dependants in such manner as they might think desirable. They had provided in the schedule that they might invest it in the case of infants. They proposed to go further and to give that discretion in regard to all dependants. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he did not know where the 10 or 12 Amendments were to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, as wishing to alter the weekly payments in the direction of a lump sum. He was disposed to agree with the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. The fact was, that the lump sum had been absolutely rejected by all the people who had written and thought upon the subject before people here began to think of it at all. It had been rejected by the legislatures of all countries which had adopted any legislation of this kind. He could only imagine one reason that might induce them to adopt the lump sum, and that was the difficulty of being certain that they should be able always to provide for the payment of the weekly instalments. The bankruptcy argument always came up on this question, as it cropped up in almost every question they had so far debated on this Bill. But except that one argument, he could imagine none. In the German legislation this matter had been most carefully provided for. In every form it had rejected the lump sum, and in case of death there was an allowance made for the widow and for every child separately. It was very elaborate and careful legislation, and took a long time to carry.


Hear, hear!


Still, it is not the scientific way of looking at the question to object on that ground, and it confirms the hon. Gentleman who has moved the Amendment. He must say that it was with some alarm he heard the Attorney General indicate, earlier in the evening, that a change would be made in the Bill in the direction of a lump sum. Of course the Committee would have to consider it when they came to it later on; still, he desired to express the alarm he felt, because he was sure that the lump sum would be too often wasted and squandered. ["Oh, oh!"] He spoke with some knowledge of the habits of widows who received compensation upon the deaths of their husbands. He had often, when sitting as chairman of a board of guardians, seen instances of enormous sums being wasted on death. He remembered one case of a widow who came into a very large sum of money, as the result of subscriptions by her husband's friends—an immense sum for the class to which she belonged, and within three months, although she was a perfectly respectable woman, she came to the Board of Guardians for relief, having wasted the whole sum in expenditure in her husband's honour in connection with the funeral and mourning. He was sure there would be great opposition to any commutation to a. payment in a lump sum. If the Government could see their way to some method of securing permanence for the weekly payments, that would be a very different mode of relief; but he was quite sure that the substitution of a lump sum for weekly payments was not the right direction in which to advance, and he was, therefore, disposed to support the Amendment.


said that he rose to a point of order. He understood that the Chairman was going to put the word "dependants" as part of the clause. If so, would that not have the effect of ex-chiding his own Amendment, next on the Paper, which was to leave out "dependants" and insert— any wife, husband, parent, or child who has been wholly or in part dependant upon the earnings of the workman at the time of or immediately prior to his death (hereinafter referred to as dependants')"?


There is no other form in which the question can possibly be put, and it cannot be helped if the hon. Member is excluded. He can raise the question lower down upon the schedule.


asked upon the point of order whether, under the circumstances, he might not on this occasion speak to his own Amendment? [Laughter.] The point was this. Although possibly his Amendment might come later on, yet he thought the discussion of his Amendment at this stage had a very material bearing on the whole of the rest of the schedule, and it might shorten the discussion as to whether this principle was to be accepted or not.


said the hon. Member's Amendment could not be discussed at this stage.


But surely my Amendment would be in order upon the Motion that the word "dependants" stand part of the clause. My Motion is entirely relevant, because if it is carried, the word "dependants" would not stand.


suggested that the hon. Member might bring his Amendment in order by inserting after "dependants" the word "being," making the clause read, "dependants, being any wife, husband," etc.


It is impossible to discuss another Amendment which really does not raise the same point as that raised by the Amendment now before the Committee. The hon. Member will have an opportunity lower down.


considered the lump sum payment to be the only practical and business-like suggestion. Fix a lump sum, and it could be insured, but if they went mixing up weekly payments, they were immediately brought face to face with actuarial considerations, which were extremely difficult.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.