§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ *MR. GEOFFREY DRAGE (Derby)
proposed to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add instead thereof the words: —no Bill dealing with accidents to workmen will be satisfactory to this House which does not provide for the prevention of accidents as well as for compensation in case of injury.He said he was well aware of the gravity of the step he was taking. He had been told by private Friends on both sides of the House that no one would stand any chance of being re-elected by an industrial constituency who opposed the principle of the Bill. But he had always opposed the principle of the Measure as injurious to the best interests of the working classes, and had always advocated the principle of the Amendment which he was now submitting. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean referred on the First Reading to the subject of the Congress of Milan. There, in company with MM. Léon Say and Yves Guyot, he opposed to the best of his ability the principle underlying the Bill, and during his candidature for Parliament he opposed it on all occasions as he had done since he had had the honour of a seat in the House. He must run any risk there might be attaching to opposition to the Bill, even if he stood alone. He would do so in the hope, perhaps a very vain hope, that his opposition would ultimately arouse some Member of more Parliamentary knowledge, and greater knowledge of the subject than himself to support him. He firmly believed that the cause which he supported in the Amendment was good, and would, in the long run, prevail. The objects he had in submitting his Amendment to the House were to show that it was possible to provide for prevention as well as compensation, to show 637 that this was not effected by the Government Bill and, lastly, to show that if the Government Bill was passed it would endanger the very existence of the friendly societies and those institutions of self-help and reliance which it had taken so many years to build up. An alternative policy to that laid before the House by the Government was that contained in the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Morpeth. In that Bill provision was made for the complete abolition of the doctrine of common employment. ["Hear, hear!"] Everyone who had any acquaintance with the subject knew that the operation of the doctrine of common employment, even as limited by the Act of 1880, did bitter injustice every day to the working classes. [Opposition cheers.] It was necessary there should be a simplification of procedure. There should, he thought, be a State prosecutor to enforce the law where there was no inspector of mines or factories to do so. Further, in the Government Bill there was no provision for the inclusion of the liability of sub-contractors, there was no provision for increased compensation outside the trades provided for; and, lastly, there was no provision for the better regulation of dangerous and unhealthy trades. According to documents circulated among Members of the House, under the Boilers Explosions Act 1882, of 337 fatal accidents, 232 or 68 per cent. were such as, in the tenour of the Report of the Board of Trade, are preventible. It was quite evident, therefore, that regulations in respect of dangerous and unhealthy trades should be made as would, at any rate, prevent such a state of things as those figures disclosed. Further, the provisions of the alternative Measure he suggested to the House would give full recognition of those friendly societies and mutual societies for which Members on the Ministerial side of the House had always contended. All the specialists whom he had been able to consult since the Bill was introduced had informed him that under the Bill the mutual societies would eventually disappear. He would like to hear from the Home Secretary on what grounds they were to destroy those societies for which they had fought so hard. With regard to the general policy of the Bill, he submitted it was extremely hard to exclude the majority of the trades of the country 638 from what was considered to be justice, until the Government experiment had been tried. In times past the principle of Conservative social legislation had been that protection should be afforded to women and children and the helpless in the first instance, and that adult labour and the well organised labourers should be left to self-help. He suggested that this Bill protected the better organised and richer working men, and left the poorer and weaker men and women and children without protection. He could have wished that in this year of all others when so many people are flocking home from the colonies and foreign countries, they could have found time for discussing a Measure which would do justice to all classes of workers alike. With regard to the question of the prevention of accidents, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean appealed to him on the First Reading as to the experience in Germany. He found that I under the German law, which resembled the Government proposals, there had been an undoubted increase of both serious and trivial accidents, even when every deduction was made for an improved system of notification, and for the fresh industries from time to time brought under the operation of the law. The fact was that, whereas some accidents in Germany might be attributable to the action of the employers, by far the larger number of accidents were attributable to the action of the workmen themselves. There was evidence of increased negligence and malingering on the part of the men. The interval of 13 weeks before which compensation for accident could be claimed in Germany had been called there the high school for simulation. A great American scientific authority, Mr. Graham Brooks, had come to the conclusion that in Germany between 10 to 25 per cent. of the accidents were due to malingering. There were in the House Members who specially represent the working classes, and are closely associated with them. They will be able to say whether or not any malingering is known to trade unions and friendly societies in England; if there were none now he suggested that the Bill of the Government would put a premium upon such conduct, and there was no institution like the visiting committee of friendly societies to check it. In Germany a new race 639 of doctors, who were called cognac doctors, had sprung up, and they made their practice by taking a favourable view of accidents. He would not suggest that such a class of doctors existed in England, or that the workmen in England were malingerers, but he asserted that a Bill such as this would encourage evils of such a kind. Prince Bismarck, who himself carried in Germany similar legislation to this, had since said that such legislation showed an extraordinary psychological ignorance of human nature. Then there were the judicial difficulties with regard to actions for compensation. On the First Reading a well known lawyer, the hon. and learned Member for the Epsom division (Mr. Bucknill) stated that if the Government imagined that by this legislation they would stop litigation they made a great mistake. He (Mr. Drage), on the First Reading showed that, whereas under the German system it was supposed that workmen would obtain a remedy at once, there were last year 38,000 appeals to arbitration committees, 12,000 appeals to Berlin, 2,780 of which were left over from the previous year, so that under this legislation there was all the delay of taxation it was hoped to remove left over from the previous year. He did not like to interrupt the Colonial Secretary when the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the figures were not the most recent, but as a matter of fact, the figures he had received from the courtesy of the head of the Imperial Insurance Office at Berlin were made up to the end of last year, and published in the month of March. In Germany no less than 160,000 decisions had been last year given by local associations in regard to questions of compensation, and he imagined that here there would be applications for compensation in all cases of accident. Let him read what Mr. Graham Brooks, who investigated matters on behalf of America said upon insurance in Germany. That gentleman said: —Almost the most certain thing we can say of these laws is, that they have inspired neither gratitude nor contentment of spirit.If this Bill were passed they would be able to see whether the numbers increased or not. He now came to the 640 question of expense. The increase of accidents would naturally bring an increase of expense. This last year there had been in England 3,700 fatal, and 47,000 non-fatal accidents. He was informed by those who were more conversant with the question of insurance than he was that premiums would undoubtedly rise many times higher than the figure at which they now stood. There were in that House many large employers of labour who were perfectly capable of answering for themselves as to the immediate effect of such a Measure as this on trade, but there were a large number of small employers in the country who were not represented. It seemed to him that such a class as that would be crushed out. It did seem hard that working men who were struggling to rise in the world should be liable not only for their own negligence and for the negligence of their foremen and the men appointed by them, but also, as they would be under the present Bill, for the negligence and wilful act of the injured man. The result would be that an avenue through which many men had risen to careers of usefulness and fulfilled important positions in the State would be closed to them. As far as he could judge the workmen would have to pay for the whole of the expenditure under this Bill. There were those who were of opinion, and amongst; them the late Home Secretary the Member for East Fife, that the money would come out of the workmen's pockets as wage-earners, and there were others who believed that it would come out of their pockets as consumers. If it did not come out of their pockets either as wage-earners or consumers, it would be found by them as taxpayers. His own view was that the highest wages should be paid to a workman straight into his pocket that trade allowed, taking into consideration danger and health; and the Friendly Societies should teach him how to insure himself against negligent conduct for which he himself was responsible. Then there was the question of the administrative side of the Bill. On the First Reading the Colonial Secretary was inclined to flatter the Bill on the ground that it was so short and would be therefore easy to pass. The present Bill was in fact a mere skeleton. 641 [Opposition cheers.] Anyone acquainted with the details of German legislation or any legislation on the subject must be aware that there must be a whole mass of orders arising out of the scheme submitted to the House. ["Hear, hear !"] It was the boast of English legislation of the last century that they passed in that House detailed laws, so that the House of Commons knew how far it was going, and how its provisions would act. He believed that while, as a result of this Bill, the burden of charity will be the same, while the burden of the poor law was not likely to be diminished but to be increased. Under this law the workman would be discouraged from providing for himself as he had done in the past through his friendly society and his trade union, and when out of work would have no club to fall back on. If the Bill should in any way infringe on trade unions, which especially in the north, were largely benevolent in their character, he ventured to think it would be little short of a public calamity. If any hon. Member who held the I view that trade unions should be I discouraged would look at their figures, the would discover that last year they spent in unemployed benefit £435,000; on sick and accidents benefit, roughly' speaking, £250,000; on superannuation benefit, £125,000; and on funeral benefit, £27,000: while their working expenses were £130,000, and among the wealthiest of the old Unions, those connected with mining, iron, engineering, ship-building, and cognate trades, only 6.7 per cent, of their revenue was spent on disputes. He would suggest that anything which diminished in any way that great work or which diminished the inclination of the working men to subscribe to societies which were doing such a magnificent work as that, must be carefully scrutinised before the House gave its assent. [Opposition cheers.] If, by the action of that House, these unions were turned away from benevolent objects, all the intelligence and ability which were now occupied in developing and maintaining these funds would be turned in the only direction to which it could find vent— in the direction of disputes. As to the influence which the present legislation was likely to have on friendly societies, he was told by the best authorities he 642 could consult that this Bill would undermine, if it did not eventually destroy, the whole of such societies in this country. He was told that the miners and other mutual societies were bound to go, and that, though the great orders would in some cases in the first instance receive a temporary local benefit, when the old generation which had built up these societies had gone, the younger generation would refuse to join because they could get, as they said, out of the pockets of the employers, what they now had to pay into their own friendly societies. It might interest hon. Members who sat for the Home Counties to know that in the opinion of an official of a friendly society, which was widely spread over the Home Counties, this Bill would be absolutely destructive of the interests with which he was connected and all those interests with which he was acquainted. He was told that this society, which was a very important one, would go to the wall. The friendly societies in England had rendered great services to the country. They had invented the best system of social insurance at a time when commercial insurance was still in its infancy. They had recognised the important fact only now become known abroad, that industrial sickness and accident were one, and cannot be separated. As time went on and an actuarial science advanced, they had made enormous sacrifices in order to place their funds on a sound financial footing; they had united, all orders of society in social work, and, during the last ten years, they had made the most extraordinary progress. He was confident that should the friendly societies be left alone in their beneficent work the problem which the Government hoped to meet, in so far as compensation went, by their present Bill, would be met by the working classes out of their own pockets by their own self-reliance and self-help alone. The record of the ten chief orders in this country for the last ten years showed that in round numbers their membership had increased from 1,600,000 to 2,200,000; that their income had increased from £2,500,000 to.£3,500,000; that their benefits paid out had increased from £1,600,000 to £2,400,000; and that their accumulated funds had increased 643 from £11,000,000 to £16,700,000. These societies were doing a great work which this Bill would undermine and destroy, and he asked the House whether it was desirable that the efforts of these men should be in any way undermined? These societies had not only solved the most difficult of social problems, but they had taught the working classes a knowledge of business and public affairs which the working classes in no other country possessed. Lastly, they formed a bond by which the whole country was bound together. They had their branches in the Colonies and in the United States, and if on no other ground than that of the bond which they formed with the English-speaking races, he submitted to the House that any Bill which in any way infringed their privileges or diminished their strength should be carefully scrutinised, and if there was any doubt on the matter it should be rejected by the House. There was the question of social peace. They had been told that this Bill would promote social peace, but if there was any argument to be drawn from the experience of Germany it was that it would promote social strife. He had, by the courtesy of the German Imperial Parliament, been furnished with a copy of their last Debates, and he should like to read to the House the statement of the chief representative of the working classes on this subject. Dr. Grillenberger said: —If these laws (the insurance laws) were, so constituted as to be suitable for promoting content among the working classes, no incitement would be of any avail to produce discontent. But you see from the facts as they are placed before you to-day that these laws are not in any way calculated to produce content, but precisely amongst those who are, unfortunately obliged to come in contact with these laws the discontent is even greater than it ever was.In the face of these facts, he thought it was clear that while, as he had shown, the Government Bill would increase accidents, diminish wages, and endanger the friendly societies, it would hold out no prospect of promoting better relations between employer and employed. The fact was that the working classes in England had now before them the choice of Hercules. On the one side there were those who supported the Government, 644 offering them by way of dole what they had hitherto provided for themselves. On the other hand were those, if any there were who agreed with him, who pointed to the hard and thorny path of self-reliance, self-denial, and self-sacrifice, by which the working classes had solved these great social problems in the past, and he for one exhorted the present generation to hand down to their successors, undiminished, the great institution they had inherited. He only hoped the country and the working classes would have time given them to appreciate what was at stake before the Bill was passed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the interesting speech he recently delivered, summarising the progress of the country in the last 60 years had, he ventured to think, lost sight of a most important factor. He did not take into account the immense advance that had been made during Her Majesty's reign by these self-governing societies, and the great services they had rendered. These societies had made possible, for the first time in the history of the world, the combination between democracy and empire, between liberty and loyalty; and they alone and made the combination possible. In submitting the Motion he had brought before the House, he humbly ventured to ask the House to consider the facts he brought to their notice. He asked them to take into consideration the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Morpeth as a Bill which would do justice to all classes alike—a Bill which, if passed, would add fresh lustre to the closing years of Her Majesty's reign, as well as to the country they all loved so well.
MR. EMEKSON BAINBRIDGEM (Lincoln, Gainsborough)
said he had come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the Bill now before the House was the most important Measure brought before the Parliament for many years. It was a Measure of such a revolutionary and far-reaching character, that only those who had studied it closely or were largely affected by its provisions were likely to have grasped its real character. The labour a working man could apply with his hands being the only capital he possessed, any enactment which would provide him with the means of maintenance when incapacitated by an accident, or 645 which would give to his family some means of support after his death by accident or otherwise, must appeal to the sympathies and receive the support of every Member of that House if it was based upon proper principles. At first sight this Bill seemed to go a long way in that direction; but he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Colonies when he said that many of the Members who spoke bail not "a correct appreciation of the Bill." He wished to support any Measure which would give every working man in this country the assurance that he would be provided for in ease of accident, but he believed that this particular Bill was against the best interests of the working classes, would be a death blow to the large and prosperous friendly societies promoted by workmen, would have the effect of throwing a large number of old workmen out of employment, and thus throw a special burden on the rates, would put an unfair burden on employers, and was likely to seriously damage the trade of the country. In summarising the objections to the Bill he had omitted to mention one point which was of great importance, that was the limited area to which it was intended to apply. He thought the Government would find that the concensus of opinion was in favour of making it apply to every workman and every workwoman of every class throughout the Kingdom; and on this point he should just like to say one word as to the agricultural class. The exclusion of this class from the Bill had been upheld by some sections of the Press, on the ground that a small farmer if he had to pay for the death of or injury to one of his workmen would be ruined. He should be able to show later on that this argument would extend to other trades included in the Bill, but there was a complete answer to it. Assuming that the Bill in one form or another became law, it would be the duty of every employer, and especially those who, like the small farmer could not personally bear the brunt of a fatal accident, to insure. If the liabilities under the Bill were reduced, as he should suggest later on, the premium for insurance ought not to be serious, if it were serious that, of course, would be a strong argument against the Bill itself. The special points he wished to mention were:—(1) The effect of the Bill on existing Friendly Societies, and 646 Sick and Accident Funds; (2) The bearing of the proposed high compensation on malingering; (3) The blow which the Bill is likely to strike at one of the most important industries in the Kingdom. With regard to the Friendly Societies, for many years nearly all the trades referred to in the Bill had been supported by these societies, which, managed by the workmen themselves, had kept the men while off work whether from sickness of from accident. It had been said that there was a demand for the Bill, but he was not aware that there was a demand for it in any quarter. It was suggested that the case of Germany was some reason for making' a change. He would like to point out that there was a great difference between the law of insurance existing in that country and the law as proposed in this Bill. In Germany the workman during the first 13 weeks of incapacitation from work was supported by a fund, nearly one-half of which was contributed by the workmen themselves, and it was only after the thirteenth week that he was supported either by the State or by the employer. Under this Bill the employer alone would maintain the man after the end of the second week. Very few Members of the House, probably, realised what this meant. He had looked into the figures relating to the large mining districts of Lancashire and Cheshire for the live years ending December 31st, 1896. In that period there were 49,000 cases of relief, and no less than 46,000 of those cases were finished within the 13 weeks. In other words, had the Herman law prevailed in that district the men would have subscribed in 46,000 cases, or over 90 per cent, of the whole. Coming to the point as to the danger of increasing the duration of the period of incapacitation, the hon. Member said he knew he was touching on a somewhat delicate point; but there was no reason why the real facts, as shown by actual figures, should not be brought before the House. The following figures showed how in the Lancashire and Cheshire country the period of incapacitation distinctly increased according to the rate of relief received. In the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Permanent Relief Society the amount of relief paid in 1873 was 6s. per week, and the percentage of relieved cases was 12.5. In 1874, with the amount of relief increased to 8s., the percentage rose to 13.5; whilst in 1896, with 647 the relief raised to 10s., the percentage rose to 18.3. The case was further proved by the average period of claim. In 1873–76 the average was 2.8 weeks; in 1877–81 it was 3.0; in 1882–86 it was 3.4; in 1887–91 it was 3.8; and in 1892–96 it was 4.7 weeks. Thus between 1873 and 1896 with a rise in the amount of relief from 6s. to 10s. per week, the average period during which the men received payment rose from 2.8 to 4.7 weeks, an increase of about 70 per cent. It was only natural, it was according to the dictates of human nature, that the nearer the recompense a man received approached to his earnings when at work, the more inclined he was to remain off work. Another important point arose here. Under the present condition of things, when a man was off work from accident he was constantly watched by his fellow workmen and by the visiting committee of his society. Under this Bill there would be no such supervision. The whole burden would fall upon the employer, and there would be nobody to look after the men who were being paid unless detectives were employed for the purpose. One of the most important points he wished to bring before the House was the question of the employment of middle-aged and old men. Most employers desired to keep on their old hands, even if it must be at reduced wages. But what would be the effect of this Bill? It was obvious that when a man got to the age of 50 or 60, he became—either through diminished sight or hearing, or decreased physical force—less able to escape the danger of accident, or when accident befell him he had less recuperative power. Therefore, the tendency would be for the employer to get rid of the older men and fill their places with sound young men. This was a very serious thing, for when they recollected that there were at work in the mines of this country 130,000 men over 45 years of age, they would see that there was a great risk of a large number of these men being thrown out of the mines and coming on the poor rates. All employers had to deal more or less with a very large roving class of workmen, who were nearly always on the move, and who in starting on new premises were much more liable to accident under conditions they were not altogether used to, than men who were 648 permanent workmen. For instance, it was a common thing for a workman who might be a second or third rate man to find employment in a mine, and as a matter of habit, to remain there only a few weeks, and the very fact that he was a second or third rate workman made him more liable to be the victim of an accident. Was it reasonable that an employer under these conditions should be liable for his support for the whole of his life? A further serious objection in the same direction was the fact that exactly the same recompense or remuneration or maintenance payment was made to a man to whom an accident happened, if it was a pure accident, for which no one was responsible, as was made if the accident was one which was due entirely to the man's own carelessness. Was it believed that this Bill was framed for the purpose of meeting a crying need or an urgent demand on the part of the class for whom it was formed? Did the House understand that in the case of nearly all industries with which it proposed to deal, provision was already made for the workmen in case of accidents of every kind? Turning to the case of the mining industry, he said it must be remembered that whilst the working of coal mines was attended with a good deal of risk, there was no industry which had been so watched over by Parliament and so protected with preventive measures in the shape of Mines Regulations Acts and Government inspections, as the mining industry, and in which such excellent societies existed for supporting workmen when sick or disabled. The present condition of the mining industry in relation to the employers' liability and accidents was as follows. Probably half the coal mines in the country belonged to the Miners' Permanent Relief Association, which gave relief in case of all accidents, and in the case of the other half the workmen formed sick and accident clubs from which they got relief in the same way, and to both these the employer subscribed to a smaller or larger degree. This mutual arrangement formed part of the contract between the employer and his workmen. If this Bill had the effect of raising the cost of coal it was quite clear that the employer must pay for this in the first place, and whether the producer or consumer would ultimately carry this on his back would be a 649 question depending; on the economic law of supply and demand. His special object was to explain what the cost of the Bill would be on the production of coal. This had been worked out in the district covered by the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Permanent Relief Society, the members of which produced coal yearly to the extent of 25 million tons, or about one-seventh of the total production of Great Britain. The cost of the effect of this Bill had been carefully computed, and he was able to tell the House that it worked out (taking the maximum rates of remuneration) at 1.64d. per ton on the coal raised, and 1.78d. per ton on the coal sold, but to this must be added an amount for the cost involved in managing the payment of the fund over a certain district, and on the basis of information received from friendly societies, this would increase the cost from 1.78d. to 2.05d. This calculation, however, made no allowance for big explosions, the figures taken, in fact, making no allowance for explosions at all. On the average of the explosions which had taken place the last few years, this would increase the cost to 2.15d. per ton. This was taking the amount payable under the Bill at the maximum amounts, and some reduction should be made in the estimate for this. On the other hand, the estimate was based upon the time of disablement being the same after the passing of the Act as before, but there was no doubt that the average time of disablement would be increased after the passing of such an Act. The increase in one case might be put against the decrease in another, and from that it seems safe to estimate that the cost of coal would be increased 2d. per ton. On the authority, however, of Sir William Lewis, the well-known colliery proprietor of South Wales, he was able to state that this 2d. would in South Wales be increased to no less than 3d. per ton. At first sight this might not appear to hon. Members as a serious amount, but in relation to the average profit made on coal in the United Kingdom it was a very serious matter indeed. On this point he might read to the House an extract from a statement made by a gentleman who was not in the coal trade, but who was the editor of a well-known organ of the coal trade, and who made it his business to 650 ascertain reliable statistics in regard to this industry. This was what he wrote in regard to the Eight Hours' Bill: —It may be safely estimated that the present average profits made on the coal mines of the United Kingdom do not exceed 3d. per ton.Mr. Jeans' estimate might be taken as being correct; in fact it was confirmed by a statement made a few-days ago by one of the largest coal-owners in the County of Durham, and a Member of the other House, who said that if this Bill became law he would have to stop several of his coal pits in that county. Was it just that a tax of this kind should be levied upon the producer, for it was pretty certain that in the first place the producer must bear the burden. The prosperity of this country depended very much upon our ability by cheap production to maintain the export of both coal as a raw material and the finished goods which were manufactured by the aid of coal. Was it likely that any buyer on the Continent of the 40 million tons of coal exported every year would pay one farthing more for his coal in consequence of a new tax being laid upon the producer in this country? It was obvious that he would not. In the counties of Northumberland and Durham alone the sum paid by the miners to the permanent relief fund amounted to over £90,000 a year, and it was quite clear that under this Act the cost would amount to two or three times this amount, say £200,000 a year. It was proposed, without the least consultation with the colliery proprietors, who had launched their capital in this industry, to place the whole of this burden on their shoulders, and it did not seem unreasonable to ask whether this was a fair or just arrangement. But another illustration of the serious effect of this Bill was given by Mr. Blake Walker, President of the Midland Institute of Mining Engineers, in a letter to The Times this morning. He related the case of a man being caught in the act of smoking in a dangerous mine, and having been brought before the magistrates, and he wrote on this as follows: —The solicitor who conducted the prosecution pointed out that had an explosion resulted it might have caused the death of 400 of Draper's fellow workmen and the destruction of the pit. The Bench recognised the gravity of the case by sentencing Draper to 21 days' imprisonment. But what I wish to point out 651 is that if such an accident had resulted, and has involved the awful loss of life which was possible, the liability of the Rother Vale Company under the Home Secretary's Bill would have amounted to from £80,000 to £100,000, which we may assume would mean absolute ruin to 99 collieries out of 100.What view did the Miners' Unions take of this Bill? They had in the House three hon. Members from the North of England who had worked themselves in mines, and who deservedly held a high position in the eyes both of the men they represented and of the Members of this House. He had no doubt that the mandate they would receive from the Union would be to support the Second Reading of this Bill, for on comparing it with the Bill brought forward by their own representative, the Member for Morpeth, they were in a position to say, that if their own representative's Bill gave them 1s., this Bill gives them 2s. At first sight this was the natural dictate of self-interest, which was common to all; but the representatives he had mentioned were recognised as having a strong sense of justice, and he felt he was quite safe in saying that not one of these gentlemen would rise in their place to contradict his assertion that this Bill was unjust and unfair in its proposal to place the whole burden of all accidents entirely upon the employers' shoulders. It might be considered by some that he had dealt with the Bill too much from an employer's point of view; but he submitted that the best answer to this was to remind the House that another Bill was before the House backed by the names of the hon. Members for Morpeth and others who represented the workmen. From the names on the Bill he took it that it expressed the wishes and desires and requirements of the workmen themselves, and therefore practically represented the wish of the working classes. He was glad to say that this Bill would have his cordial support, meeting as it did many of the objections he had mentioned to the Government Bill. In his short experience in this House he observed that a frequent inquiry made by the Front Bench in meeting dissentient views on any Measure from this side was, "What remedy do you suggest, or what alternative do you propose?" If he had succeeded in laying before the House some real and serious objections to the 652 Bill, he hoped he might have its indulgence while he submitted six points, which, if agreed to by the Government, would, he thought, mitigate substantially the objections which had been raised against the Bill, and would commend it to this House and the country at large as a. useful and beneficent Measure: — (1) It should include workpeople of all classes. (2) It should abolish the doctrine of common employment, and make the employer liable to a workman for the negligence of his fellow workmen. (3) It should leave the existing friendly societies and sick and accident societies, which had been and were such an immense benefit to the working classes, and which were for the most part formed and managed by the workmen themselves exactly as they were. (4) It should provide for the maintenance of every workman in the event of any and every accident, whether caused by his own carelessness or not. (5) The average rate of payment should be the same, or thereabouts, as was now paid by the existing friendly societies, which had been perfectly satisfactory to those concerned. And (6) The payment or maintenance rate paid to a workman when incapacitated by accident should be very much less when the accident was due to his own carelessness than what was paid when the man was hurt through the negligence of his fellow workmen, and this payment again should be less than when the accident is caused by the neglect of the employers. If they had an indication from the Government that these points would substantially be conceded in Committee, a large number of the opponents of this Bill would be prepared to support its Second Reading; but if its present provisions were adhered to, he had not the least doubt in his own mind that it would be damaging to the interests of good workmen, would put a premium upon careless and inferior workers, and would be the means of the discharging of a large number of old workmen well able to maintain themselves under the existing conditions of things, and that it would be a serious blow to many of the important industries on which the prosperity of this country depended. He hoped the promoters of the Bill would consider that he had referred to the question in no carping spirit, as he felt sure it was best to give 653 one's opponents credit for bringing Measure forward with the best of motives. He felt sure that this was so in this particular case; but in his criticism he hoped it would be considered that he had brought forward no paltry or unimportant objections to the Bill.
§ MR. S. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)
observed that there were three or four points brought before the House by the hon. Member for Derby with which he entirely agreed. He had always, when the question of employers' liability or compensation had been under consideration, opposed the principle upon which this Bill was based. During the discussion of the Bill of the late Home Secretary in 1893, the Secretary for the Colonies made the remarkable statement that he was in favour of an adequate substitute. For his part, he had always contended that it was impossible to find a monetary substitute and put it against the sacredness of human life, and if he thought, for one moment, that the present Bill, even if the maximum of £300 could be obtained in every case, would risk the loss of one life he would certainly oppose the Second Reading. The hon. Member for Derby said that he could not for the life of him see why the question of prevention could not go along with compensation. As far as he had been able to read the provisions of this somewhat complex Bill, he did not see that it interfered at all with the question of prevention, because he took it that if an employer was guilty of culpable negligence to which one single accident was traceable, criminal responsibility and punishment for that act would be brought in the case of mines under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, in the case of factories under the Factories and Workshops' Act, and in the case of railways under the Railway Acts. Like the hon. Member for Derby, if the Bill of the hon. Member for Morpeth had been under discussion he would have given it his hearty support, but they were not discussing that Measure, which, he regretted, had not had previous discussion. He hoped the House would consider that they were discussing a Measure that affected millions of human beings in this country, and dealing with, probably, one of the most complex questions that could be discussed in the House of Commons. He hoped it would not be discussed from a 654 Party point of view. He did not think it ought to be considered, for one moment, as a Party question, but as one of humanity. He did not look upon this as an Employers' Liability Bill at all. It was not an Employers' Liability Bill; it was a, Compensation Bill, and therefore to be viewed somewhat differently to a Bill which would deal both with, the criminal and civil responsibility of employers of labour. He should like to give his honest views in regard to the Measure. While the Bill did not rise to the standard of perfection, he believed it, went some of the way towards settling this complex question of a responsibility and compensation for accidents. The first weak point was the limited application of the Measure. It excluded seamen, agricultural labourers, men engaged in the building trade, and domestic servants. He contended there was no sound argument which would justify the exclusion of one single trade. If a man in the building trade met with an accident through a scaffold falling, or some defect in the building, surely the dependents of that man were as much entitled to compensation as a miner or a railway servant? Therefore, if he gave his support to the Bill it would be on the distinct understanding that he should co-operate with other hon. Members to secure the inclusion of all trades within the provisions of this important Measure. The hon. Member for Derby pointed out another defect, and that was that the term employer was not sufficiently defined. Supposing an employer had sublet his works to a contractor, and a man met with an accident, who would be the person to sue, and where would the compensation come from? That was a very important consideration. Another weak point in the Bill was in connection with the question of employers insuring individually instead of insuring as a trade. He could quote a case which occurred in 1889 in North Staffordshire, where an accident took place resulting in the loss of 30 or 40 lives. The case was fought in the Courts, the jury awarded compensation, but the employer, not being able to pay it, went into the Bankruptcy Court, both widows and orphans being deprived of their remedy. In the schedule of the Bill the maximum amount of compensation was defined during incapacity for work, but the minimum was not mentioned. One of the strong parts 655 of the Bill was that it included accidents from all trades. The present Employers' Liability Act, it had been stated over and over again, only applied to 12½ per cent, of the persons injured, whilst it had been pointed out that the present Bill would apply to 100 per cent, of the people injured. That was an advantage, if it was correct, and, of course, they should want a pretty accurate definition of what this meant when the Bill got into Committee. There was one point as to which there was considerable doubt, and that was about this question of contracting out. He had always opposed contracting out, and he should oppose it in any Act of Parliament on which the life and health of people depended, because he thought if there was a necessity for an Act passing, it certainly was unfair that provisions should be inserted for contracting out. They were told by the Secretary for the Colonies that this would not be a litigation Bill or a lawyers' relief Bill, because it would destroy the necessity for all litigation in connection with accidents. If that was correct it was a virtuous part of the Bill, but he was rather inclined to believe—and hundreds of others held the same belief—that even under this Bill there would be considerable litigation, and if this was one of the primary objects of the Government he hoped they would make it very clear before the Bill became law. He should be sorry to take the responsibility of being a party to the rejection of this Measure, but at the same time during the Committee stage he, along with other hon. Gentlemen in that House, would do his best to make the Bill as perfect as possible, with the view of relieving poverty and doing away with the distress and almost rain which occurred in connection with many of the accidents in this country.
§ *MR. HENRY SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
thought it would be admitted that the Bill contained a new, wide, and very novel principle, and also a principle which had not been asked for by the working men of this country. Before he read the Bill he was, he confessed, favourably impressed by the speeches of the Home Secretary and the Secretary for the Colonies, but he was bound to say that since reading the Bill he had come to the conclusion, without having any intention to oppose its principle, that that 656 principle did involve some very serious objections. He was aware that this was a subject of great complexity and difficulty, the law upon which was now in a very unsatisfactory state, and he, at all events, congratulated the Government on having attempted to deal with it. Those who had sent him to the House were enormously interested in this question, and he, therefore, desired to put some practical objections to the Government. In the first place the Bill seemed to throw far too great a burden on some industries, particularly the coal-mining industry. In the second place it would, in his belief, absolutely kill all existing friendly societies. ["No, no !"] At any rate that was the conclusion he had come to after reading the Bill most carefully, and after considering the facts and figures in the subject. Another objection was that no account seemed to be taken in the Bill of the negligence of the workman himself. For the first time, as he understood the Bill, the employer was to be made liable to a workman injured through his own negligence. His fourth objection was that the Bill would not necessarily decrease litigation. He was in favour of the general principle of compensation contained in the Bill, but he could not agree with the principle of making that compensation take the form of a tax on an industry, for that would amount to taking away with one hand what was given by the other. If a burden was placed on an industry which that industry could not stand, large numbers of men would be thrown out of work, and injury would thus be inflicted on the community. The Bill would throw a serious burden on the coal-mining industry. At the present moment employers were liable for accidents caused by the negligence of themselves, or of persons placed in charge by them; but this Bill made them liable for all accidents, including those arising from the negligence of the workman himself. The principle extended even to inevitable accidents, and inevitable accidents could not be prevented by penalising the employer. The chief argument that had been used was that the industry must be taxed for its victims; but if the industry was unable to bear the tax it would be killed. He submitted that the principle of compensation for inevitable accidents affected 657 the community at large and not the particular industry. Taking the maximum scale of the present Bill, it would impose a burden on the coal-mining industry of 2d. a ton, and to take the example of one colliery alone in his constituency 2d. a ton on the 750,000 tons raised at that particular colliery during the year meant a charge of no less than £750,000 a year. He took the maximum scale because the coal-mining industry was one of the most dangerous, and the wages in it were the highest. He was informed that so far as South-West Lancashire was concerned, this 2d. a ton would make an enormous difference. In the case of small collieries it would have the effect of closing them, and the consequence would be that a large number of men would eventually he thrown out of work, and the injury thus inflicted on the coal-mining industry would largely exceed any benefit that might be obtained under the Bill. Twopence a ton meant 1s. per head of every person employed in the coal-mining industry in the United Kingdom, and would add a burden of £1,600,000 per annum to that industry. He was dealing simply with the question of compensation for accidents to men in the course of their employment. The Bill proposed to give the men the same thing which they had now from other sources, only on a higher scale without their having to pay for it. They would cease to subscribe to their benefit societies because they would know that they would get compensation on a higher scale from their employers without paying anything out of their wages. It might be said that the employers could insure, but he was informed that the rates which the insurance companies would charge would be practically prohibitory. Then with this extra burden thrown on him the employer of labour would be much more particular as to the class of men that he employed. ["Hear, hear !"] He would subject them to a much more rigid examination than was the case at present; and it was obvious that the effect of the Bill would be to prevent a certain class of men getting employment so easily as was now the case. There were only two ways in which a colliery owner could escape from this Bill—reduce the wages or increase the price of coal. He could not reduce the wages without the 658 danger of a strike, and it would be probably equally difficult to raise the price of coal. They knew the importance it was to the glass and many other industries to get their fuel cheap. He put it to the working men's Members to say whether it was likely to increase prevention of accidents if they took away from the men the sense of being careful. He instanced the case of a man who, by lighting a cigarette, endangered the lives of 400 men in a colliery. This showed how important it was to inculcate the duty of care. They all knew how difficult it was to make men careful in the face of dangers to which they were accustomed. The men thought nothing of dangers which caused in others who, like himself, only seldom went down a mine, the liveliest apprehension. In this matter there was a great blot on the Bill. He was not opposed to the principle of the Measure, but he should do his best to amend it. He was not standing there as a colliery proprietor. When he read the Bill he felt inclined to thank Providence that he was not a colliery proprietor. He represented 100 men for one master, and he would sooner lose his seat than support this Bill. The men had not asked for this Bill. The Bill was something entirely new, and he hoped the House would carefully consider it before passing it into law. He did not profess to be an authority on the question. He was entirely in favour of general compensation. By all means let them have a certainty of that, but the question was, who was to pay the compensation? The men were interested in this, and the community were interested in it, and both the men and the community should share the burden of compensation. He knew of the case of the glass industry, where foreign goods were coming in and underselling ours, and the House ought to be careful before throwing these additional burdens on any industry. The burden should be thrown on the shoulders able to bear it. There should be a system of State compensation, so that they should assure that no special burden was put on any particular industry. If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, he should give him his hearty support, and do his best to amend the Bill.
§ *SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that if he thought that this 659 Bill would destroy the great benefit societies to which the hon. Member for Derby had alluded—the Manchester Unity, the Foresters, and would harm the trades unions—he should not be found supporting it as he should support it. The hon. Member for Derby had offered no argument in favour of the view that he took. He confessed that his own view was that the trade societies, after this Bill passed, would have as ample ground for existence as they had now. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Derby attacked the Bill upon the ground that it did not contain any safety provisions, but he did not defend his Amendment by a single word. The hon. Member evidently wished to defeat the Bill, and had adopted an Amendment which he thought would conciliate the largest amount of support. He agreed with the hon. Member as to the necessity of safety provisions, but felt that in Committee it was quite open to them to insert such provisions in the Bill. The Bill was not in any way limited by its title. It undoubtedly let in the whole question of employers' liability, and it would be open to hon. Members in Committee to make all the proposals with regard to safety which ought to accompany a Bill of this kind. The hon. Member for Gainsborough and the hon. Member for Derby differed altogether as to who would pay under the Bill. The hon. Member for Gainsborough said the employer would pay the whole cost out of his own pocket, and that the whole profits of coal mining would be destroyed by this legislation. Exactly the same thing was said when the Coal Mines Regulation Act was passed, but the profits of coal mining had not been reduced by one farthing. The hon. Member for Derby said the men would pay, and that not one farthing would come out of the pockets of the employers. That was a somewhat speculative argument. He thought that in the case of the well organised trades the cost would come out of the pockets of the consumers, but that in the case of the ill organised trades there might be some tendency for the cost to come out of wages. The hon. Member for Derby concluded by saying that many of those who, like himself, were opposed to the Bill, were opposed to legislative inter- 660 ference with the rights and habits of grown up men. That was an old view, but time was wholly past for speculative arguments on this question. The first remark he had to make upon the Bill itself was that there was no sort of precedent for it. The nearest approach to it—and even that was very distant— was that similar legislation was now being considered in Belgium. The Belgian Bill and this Bill raised the whole question of individual responsibility as contrasted with trade responsibility, and at once opened up the great difficulties which had been hinted at by the hon. Member for Walthamstow. While he thought the Measure was crudely drawn, he was able to defend it against the strictures of the hon. Member for Derby. There was one question which greatly troubled many men outside the House, namely, that of contracting-out, which was connected with the matter of deductions. When the Bill was introduced it was believed it was intended to preserve or retain in full working order and for the purposes of the Bill existing societies, such as the railway societies; but a perusal of the Bill showed that that was not intended. Those societies, if they were to continue at all, would be entirely outside the Bill. The compensation of those societies could not be used as compensation under the Bill. The deductions to which he was opposed put these societies wholly outside the Measure, and it was probable that the promoters of the societies, if they retained their existence at all, would retain it, for wholly different purposes. He knew, indeed, that the great railway companies had been contemplating converting their societies into societies for old-age pensions; but he doubted whether such conversion could take place against the wishes of an unwilling member. Sir R. Palmer had given the opinion that it could not be done against a non-consenting member who had begun to receive benefit. It that was so, the House of Commons would have an opportunity when the railway companies proposed the legislation of considering the footing upon which they intended those societies should exist. It was clear, however, that no question of contracting-out as regarded those societies arose under the 661 present Bill. He admitted that there was something to be said in favour of the extension of the Bill; but with regard to the excluded trades there was the enormous difficulty that they must either continue to limit them very much as proposed in the Bill, or, if they extended them, they would be face to face with the question of bankruptcy. There were some trades, or branches of occupation excluded, which he thought might fairly be put into the Bill in Committee. Coming to the larger exclusions, there was something to he said for the view of the Government that it was difficult to extend the Bill to large sections of those excluded trades. As regarded seamen, the Government had a case, no doubt, for dealing with the matter by separate legislation, because seamen were already the subject of wholly separate legislation. But that excuse, while it availed for the exclusion of seamen from the present Bill, did not avail as regarded the principle of their exclusion, and, if this Bill passed, it seemed to him that the Government, on their own showing and on the lines of the proposals they made, were bound to promise to apply a similar system in a similar Bill next year to seamen. ["Hear, hear !"] As regarded many of the exclusions, there was a great deal to be said, but what was to be said rested upon the question of bankruptcy. Take the case of builders. Even as the Bill stood there was very great danger upon this head. The Bill applied to all building operations which were carried on by builders who employed a steam crane. If they were to follow the analogy of the Factory Act, and its factory accidents notification provision, he thought it f ought to be extended even more widely. It ought to be extended to all buildings over 30ft. in height, and having scaffolding. ["Hear, hear !"] But, even as the Bill stood in this respect, the danger of bankruptcy was a very serious one. A pension which might be earned, if one might use the word, by the misfortune of a boy of 15 engaged in the building trade, might run for 60 or 70 years—it, might run through three or four generations of building employers. The Bill was not very clear what was to happen in the case of one of those arrangements which were very frequent in the building 662 trade, and which, while not bankruptcies, came somewhat near to that—a sort of handing over the business without a formal bankruptcy. Apart from those difficult cases, in a case of bankruptcy any time within three or four generations of building employers, it seemed to him this pension would cease. They made a show of compensation to a man and then frustrated him in his legitimate expectation by a circumstance which he could not control. It seemed to him that the more they considered this question the more they would be driven to look forward to the ultimate assumption, in some form, of the responsibility of these pensions by some authority higher than the individual himself. [Cheers.] Having gone as far as the Government had in this Bill, they undoubtedly would be driven to go further. ["Hear, hear !"] This question of bankruptcy was particularly connected with one which would be the subject of anxious debate in Committee—the consideration of whether the compensation should be by pension or by lump sum. There were difficulties either way, but the Government had not faced those difficulties by putting both principles into their Bill. In the case of Germany there was no lump sum compensation, and weekly pensions had been adopted both for accidents and death. These considerations led him to again say that the task upon which they had entered in this Bill was a larger task than this somewhat crude measure would suggest, and, though he heartily welcomed the House entering upon that task and heartily supported the Bill as an experiment, it could only be looked upon as an experiment which could not end the series of legislation on this question. ["Hear, hear !"] The desire of the Government, no doubt, would be to make the arbitration under the Bill as simple and as cheap as possible, but was it the case that the cost of those proceedings would be low? The Home Secretary, he thought, a little misled the House, though quite involuntarily, in his speech on the introduction of the Bill. The House believed at the time that the cost of the arbitration was to be paid by the community but when they came to see the Bill they found that that was not the case. The doctor's fee was to be borne by the employer, but the rest of the cost of the proceedings was to be borne 663 by the litigants in the usual way. The fee of the arbitrator was to be paid by the State, but so was the salary of the Judge of the High Court. There was a further point. The County Court Judge was to be arbitrator automatically in many cases, and he wanted to know whether, when he sat as arbitrator, the ordinary fees of County Courts were to be charged or not. This was a matter of very considerable importance to the working classes, because the fees of County Courts were so enormous as to amount to a denial of justice to the poor.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said he was glad to have that assurance. He assumed that, not only was that the case, but that, when a point of law was referred by an arbitrator to a County Court Judge, the Treasury would renounce the fees and that they would be paid by the Crown. That very greatly mitigated the objection he had to that part of the Bill, and would greatly simplify the litigation under it. ["Hear, hear !"] A great deal of responsibility would rest on the medical man in these cases. He would be the real arbitrator, and, in many cases, it would be his judgment rather than that of the arbitrator which would decide the case. The medical man who had to decide in cases of alleged shamming would have an immense responsibility. Then it was proposed that the medical man should be paid by the employer. Would it not be far better that he should be appointed by the Home Office and paid by the State? ["Hear, hear !"] He raised that question because, although it was a detail, it was a matter that must be settled by the House before it disposed of the money Resolution touching the expenses of carrying out the Bill. He hoped the Government would see their way to make the Bill more popular, even at some increased cost, and to secure a great improvement in its administration by undertaking the appointment of the doctor either for a stated period or for a district, or case by case, and paying him out of the taxes. Upon any other plan they would not only throw enormous responsibility on the medical man, but in many cases would make it most difficult for him to perform his duty, 664 especially if he were a young man dependent on his practice in a district where his patients belonged almost entirely to the two classes affected by the Bill—employers and employed. He hoped the Treasury would be induced to give way on this point, for he was sure that the Home Secretary and his Friends would be only too glad to take the course he had suggested if the Treasury placed no difficulty in the way. There was only one word more he need say with regard to the Bill. A great deal of attention had been called to it outside in the Press, and he thought that something ought to be said by the Government in the course of the Debate as to their intentions with regard to permanent incapacity. The Bill, to his mind, he confessed, seemed clear. It seemed to him that the first clause had no connection with the schedule, but over-rode it altogether, the schedule being merely concerned with machinery. He had asked authorities learned in the law, and they gave him an opposite opinion. They said that the reference in the first clause to the schedule was so drawn, and the schedule itself was so constructed, that the Bill was at least not clear on the question, or was possibly clear in the wrong way; that was to say, that the Bill did not deal with the diminution of capacity. Still a different trade would be a very common case. He hoped that the Government would in the course of the Debate tell the House that they did intend to cover—as the first clause without the schedule appeared to cover—incapacity of every kind; he hoped the Government would assure the House that it was their intention that the Bill should cover every case of incapacity, as he was sure the House would desire it to cover. The Bill was not clear on the point; it had been read in an opposite sense outside, and he hoped the Government would undertake to make it clear. ["Hear, hear !"] The obvious defects which had been pointed out in the course of the Debate ought not, he thought, to deter them from heartily supporting the experiment which this Bill was to make; and if he expressed any doubts as to details of the Bill, they were largely associated with doubts as to whether they ought not even now to go further and boldly carry out a great extension of 665 what was the real principle of the Bill. [Cheers.]
§ *SIR EDWARD Bill (Bristol, S.)
said he hail long taken a very great interest in the question dealt with by this Bill, feeling, as he did, that it was one of serious importance, not only to the employed but also to the employer. He did not propose to go into details and to give figures in their support. These were matters, he thought, more properly dealt with in the Committee stage. He rejoiced at the Bill of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and he felt that he deserved the thanks of the community for the close attention he had given to a very difficult subject. The pleasant feature of the Bill, to his mind, was the recognition of the principle on which alone, in his opinion, this question was to be solved—namely, that of compensation for all accidents, excepting those caused by the wilful action of the workman from intoxication or otherwise. On the Report stage of the Employers' Liability Bill, brought in by the Home Secretary under the late Administration, he ventured to move a series of Amendments which, if they had been carried, would have given the benefits of compensation to all employés, whether the employer were a private individual, a firm, or the State—in Her Majesty's dockyards and arsenals, and even in the Army and Navy; so that no employer should escape liability, and every employé would be certain of compensation. But he was defeated on a Division in which he did not obtain any, or very little, support from the Government side of the House. It seemed to him then, and it seemed to him still, that a Bill which dealt only with a fraction of the accidents to which workmen were liable—namely, those in which negligence could be proved in a Court of Law—was of doubtful benefit to the sufferer. The procedure in Courts of Law was naturally difficult and troublesome, and always expensive. He wished the compensation money to go into the pocket of the injured man, and not into the pocket of the lawyer. It was much better both for employer and employed that there should be a settled sum which would be paid without demur and obtained without difficulty, than that the Courts of Law should be invoked in behalf of an unlimited sum demanded on 666 one side and strenuously resisted on the other. It had been truly said that safety was better than compensation. But he was unable to see how it was possible that an employer's care for his men would be diminished if he had to pay for the whole of the accidents instead of for a portion only of them— that small fraction in which negligence could be proved in a Court of Law. Then it had been said that an employer would relieve himself of liability by insuring. Something had been said on the question of insurance by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. Well, he thought insurance should be made compulsory. ["Hear, hear !"] He could not understand why the compensation of the workman should be subjected to the possibility (which he was afraid existed in some instances) of the employer being insolvent at the time when the liability arose. It was said that the Bill would tend to destroy existing societies. Now, he should he sorry if that took place, but he could not see how possibly it could be so. The Bill, relieving the societies from a portion of their liabilities, gave them more power to provide for sickness and old age pensions. He was not in favour of sums of money being paid down, because there was great risk that such sums might be improperly expended or lost, and the sufferer would then cease to enjoy the benefit provided by the Bill. What he hoped would be arranged and he could see no difficulty —was that the compensation should take the form of inalienable postal annuities, so that, whatever happened, a man would have the benefit provided for him. He was prepared to admit that possibly his own scheme was too comprehensive as well as premature, and he was ready to acknowledge the wisdom of his right hon. Friend in intróducing a Bill which dealt with the question tentatively. He had no hesitation whatever in voting for the Bill, hoping that in a short time it would be found that its provisions conferred a great benefit on the working classes of this country, while not putting a too heavy burden on the employers. He hoped that when this was discovered the scope of the Bill would be increased, to the benefit of both classes and to the promotion of that good feeling between 667 them upon which he believed the industrial prosperity of the country depended largely. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
said he was reminded that night that it was 17 years back that very month that he made his first speech in the House of Commons on the Second Reading of the Employers' Liability Bill of that year. That Bill became law, and it had laid the foundation of every attempt at betterment made since then by successive Governments and private Members. He was bound to say that he viewed with considerable favour the introduction of this the most recent attempt at solving this great problem; and he had great hope of the future of the Bill, not so much for what it contained, except one or two set principles, as for the capacity it possessed to be developed, and the foundation it formed upon which a complete system might be based, which, he believed, might be satisfactory to all classes of the country. ["Hear, hear !"] His first complaint against the Bill was as to its exclusiveness. By the kindness of the Home Secretary that night he was informed that only those portions of the building trade that were in the use of machinery would come under the operations of the Bill. If that was so, at least two-thirds—if not more—of the building trade would be excluded from the Bill. ["Hear, hear !"] Now, why should 200,000 skilled mechanics and a large number of unskilled labourers be excluded? He was at a loss to understand why; and if the Bill went into Committee he should certainly seek assistance in providing for Amendments that would remove this exclusion of the building trades, from the Bill. ["Hear, hear !"] He further thought the Committee would have to consider the advisability of including agricultural labourers within the scope of the Bill. There was seldom a harvest passed in any parish, but what there was an accident of some kind to agricultural labourers. The House had behaved exceedingly well to the landlords last year, and he hoped now they had an opportunity of doing an act of kindness to the labourers the Government would embrace it, and include that class in the Bill. Turning to the arbitration scheme of the Bill, he hoped the Government would so safeguard it that men 668 should not be heavily penalised for seeking the protection of a County Court Judge or of some competent authority to be nominated as the arbitrator. He thought if that was done, it would facilitate the passing of the Bill through Committee to a very considerable extent. He should also like the Government to see whether they could not make provision for persons who were not totally permanently disabled, but who were partially permanently disabled. A man engaged in the building or engineering trades who lost a log or an arm would be ruined for the remainder of his life from following his employment, and in such cases it was very seldom that the firms found other employment for the man so injured. He was greatly disappointed in the speech of the hon. Member for Derby. That speech wandered entirely from the purport of the Amendment, which had for its object greater security against accidents. The hon. Member had stated that if the Bill became law it would injure trades unions and must, in some cases, lead to the total destruction of the great friendly societies. For his part, speaking as a forty years member of a trades union, he had not the least fear of such a result. The Bill did not provide out-of work pay. It did not provide superannuation, and there was no continued assistance of a material kind except there was a, severe accident. Surely it could not be said that every member of a trades union, or even a considerable number of them looked forward to receiving injury in order to obtain pensions from the firms by which they were employed. They had heard an extraordinary speech from the hon. Member for Gainsborough. That speech was an exact reproduction of what they heard 17 years back. In the Session of that period an hon. Member who was interested in the coal and cotton industries, and who was also a railway director, speaking from those Benches, declared most solemnly, night after night, that the cotton and coal industries must inevitably be ruined if the Employers' Liability Bill of that year became law, and that, as a, consequence of the departure of trade, the railway companies must suffer much depreciation. They knew that those predictions were falsified. They had heard the same doctrine that night from the hon. Member for Gainsborough. For his 669 part he had no belief in anything of the kind happening. The hon. Member had said that the Bill would add two-pence per ton to the cost of the production of coal. It was easy to surest where some of this cost might come from. The hon. Member for Plymouth had advised him that he intended in the Committee stage to put down such Amendments as would apportion part of this increased charge on the production of coal upon the funds received in the way of royalties, way-leaves, and ground rents, and he would be able to show precedents for that proceeding. He hoped the Secretary for the Colonies would keep on open mind upon that part of the subject, and recognising that these were sources of wealth upon which no extraordinary physical labour was expended, would come to their assistance in seeking to provide that part, at any rate, of this charge should be levied upon the owners of these sources of income. The hon. Member for Gainsborough went on to give six resolutions which he advised the Government to accept and base legislation upon them, but every one of them seemed to be a contradiction of everything he had urged in his speech. He had also told them that if this increased provision was made for workmen during periods of disablement, and sickness there would be a strong tendency for them to remain on the sick list for a considerable period, although they were capable of returning to their work. He himself had no faith in the assertion that the true British workman would shirk his work and sham sickness in order to obtain an income from his employer in the way of sick or accident payments. In 1877, when this subject was under the consideration of Parliament, he remembered reading an artick—and it was not in a, Tory newspaper —in which the writer solemnly described how, if the Bill then under discussion became law, workmen would inevitably commit injuries upon themselves in order to cast a burden upon the employers. He hoped the Government would not listen to any such croakers to-day. Trade and industry had increased by leaps and bounds after every so-called attack upon capital. This was essentially a Bill for Committee. It 670 would not be contested from that side of the House on party lines, but every Member would do his best to assist the Government in improving it. He asked the Government to allow a considerable interval between now and the Committee stage in order that such Amendments as the discussion would have shown to be necessary might be brought in. And if the Government should rind it necessary in order to consult all classes interested to postpone the Bill till next year, they need not be ashamed of doing it. The working classes had been attempting to secure legislation for 17 years, and their could easily wait for another six months if necessary. The hon. Member for Morpeth, at the request of the trade unions, had for 22 or 23 years been attempting to abolish the doctrine of common employment, and now those who were strongly opposing the present Measure of the Government would, he understood, willingly support his hon. Friend's Bill. They could not, however, get that Bill, and they were therefore willing to take the Bill they could get. They could not trifle with a Bill that had for its object and aim to give compensation for accidents that would not, under the existing law, be provided for. He himself bore marks on every limb of his body of injuries which he had suffered while working at his trade, and for which, if this Bill had been law, he would have been compensated. He welcomed any honest attempt made in good faith to give greater protection and greater assistance to the workers than they had received in the past. He hoped the suggestions he had made would receive the consideration of the Government, and that they would be prepared to accept Amendments which would greatly broaden and strengthen the Measure.
§ *MR. ARTHUR STRAUSS (Cornwall, Camborne)
thanked the Government on behalf of the Cornish miners for this liberal Bill, which fully realised their most sanguine expectations. Statistics showed that accidents were proportionately far more numerous and far more serious in metalliferous mines than in coal mines. It was heartrending to see the number of men who were blind, or deaf, or cripples in Cornwall. These men had either to obtain a precarious living or to depend on charity, for the 671 provisions made for the Cornish miners were most inadequate. The directors and managers of the mines were also grateful to the Government for bringing in this Bill. They had always been anxious to give ample compensation to men injured in their employment; but, being trustees of the shareholders, they were unable to do so, and this Bill, if passed, would compel them to do that which they had all along desired to do. In this respect they set an example to the colliery owners, for, while the latter would only be affected by the Bill to the extent of 2d. per ton, the Cornish mine-owners would have to pay from 5s. to 10s. a ton additional. The contention that the compensation paid under the Bill would come out of wages was advanced cither by lawyers or by hon. Members who were not conversant with trade. He would advise those hon. Members who advanced that theory to go to their constituents and propose that the compensation should be deducted directly, instead of indirectly from their wages, and the hon. Members would then find out what view the working men took of their theory. Nobody who had any practical experience in commerce would assert that because of a small extra charge of this kind, a mine-owner would shut up his mine, and turn his workmen adrift. There was no doubt that compensation would have to be paid by the industry, and the industry alone. It had been argued that the industries of England would be encumbered by this tax, but he would point out that in this country the taxes on industries were far lighter than in any other country in Europe. He congratulated the Government on their ingenuity in picking out the best parts of the German law and discarding the worst parts. About 2¼ millions were annually spent in compensation in Germany, and he had no doubt that there would be a similar expenditure in this country when this Bill passed into law. There were two points in the German law which he would recommend to the consideration of the Government. Instead of a round sum paid as compensation in case of death, pensions were given to the widows and orphans in certain percentages fixed by the law. Then, in the second place, when the bankruptcy of any company was feared, power was 672 given to make application to the Judges for security. The hon. Member for Derby had said that accidents had increased in Germany, but this was not the case. There had been an increase in the number of claims, but this was due to a better knowledge of the law having permeated the working classes of Germany. As a matter of fact, there were less accidents now, as was clearly proved by the death rate. The number of deaths from accidents has gone down from 17 per cent, in 1888 to 9 per cent, at the present time. It had been predicted that there would be more litigation than before. He had made inquiries from a number of Judges in Germany living in those districts in which cases for compensation were particularly likely to occur, and every one said that ever since this law was enforced there had not been a single case in his district of workmen claiming for compensation under the old law. The late Home Secretary told them in 1893 that the average of compensation for injury given in law cases was £42, but in this Bill workmen would get more than £42 on the average. Moreover, the workmen would not go to law if they could help it, but would take what they could get. The hon. Member for Derby had said that there was a great deal of malingering. The insurance authorities of Berlin, however, said that such cases were most rare, because experience had shown that working men themselves condemned malingering, and nobody was better able to find it out than the working man. There had been a few cases in which wrong certificates had been given, but as a matter of fact, when a doctor had been found to have given a wrong certificate his reputation was gone for ever. With regard to the question of appeals, in 1896 9,273 appeals were made to the Berlin Court, that was to say, 23 per cent, of all the cases were entered for appeal. But then the working men could appeal without any expense whatever, and, therefore, this low percentage showed that there was great content with the decisions. Of these cases 80 per cent, were made by the working men, 18 by the employers, and one per cent by both. Fifty-one per cent of them were for insufficiency of compensation, and the other 49 per cent, for different reasons altogether. At least 673 71 per cent, of them were rejected, which showed that the awards were satisfactory. As to the question of mines, in his opinion the old and infirm ought not to be employed in mines at all, but if the Government would next Session bring in an Old Age Pension Bill, on as broad and liberal a basis as this Bill, the question of the old and infirm would not arise. Liberal Unionist Members would go back to their constituents with a clear conscience and with the unprecedented record of having fulfilled all the pledges they gave at the general election. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
congratulated the Home Secretary on the reception that had been given to the Bill on both sides of the House, and he entirely agreed with the views that had been expressed favourable to the principle of the Bill. He imagined that they might take it that this Bill was only a step in the direction of extending a similar status to other classes of workmen. Because it would be a most fatal and far-reaching defect in this Bill if they were to make a privileged class of workmen who would be able, without any negligence on the part of the employer, to obtain compensation for themselves while the residue, the majority of the workmen of the country would be deprived of any residue whatever except of the illusory nature afforded by the present Employers Liability Bill. Therefore, he regarded this Bill only as a tentative step in the direction of enabling every workman to obtain compensation for injury by accident who fell within the definition of a workman within the Employer and Workman Act of 1875. But he was bound to say they were undoubtedly introducing a most novel principle in the law of responsibility on the part of employers in making every employer liable to his workman for any injury which might happen to a workman, be it the Act of God or from any other cause beyond his control, and it was certainly a curious fact to be taken in conjunction with the circumstances, that the class of employers upon whom this onerous burden was to be placed were the class of employer in whose employment there were the smallest number of accidents arising from negligence or from want of care. He spoke with some experience, because he had acted in a legal capacity in relation to various branches 674 of the coal trade for some years past, and he could say there was no class of employers more scrupulous in making wise provision against accidents than the coal owners of Durham and Yorkshire. It would have been wise if those responsible for the Bill had brought in the assistance of the State to assist employers financially in their responsibility. He had studied the German, system of compensating workmen for accidents, and he entirely differed from the hon. Member who spoke last as to the expense it imposed on the State. It was not the amount of compensation which caused the expense, but the unwieldy character of the machinery for the purpose of fixing and arranging the details of the compensation. But he believed the German system had been found to act most beneficiently in this respect, that it had placed no undue burden on the employer and had secured the absolute certainty of payment to the workman. An explosion in a coal mine often involved the lamentable sacrifice of 100, 200, or 300 lives. The insurance of certain fiery mines would not be effected except at prohibitive rates. He was perfectly certain from what he had heard from coal owners who owned these fiery mines that they would run the racket of them, while insuring against other accidents. If an explosion occurred and 200 or 300 lives were lost in a fiery mine owned by an individual proprietor, or a limited liability company, whose margin of capital was too small to boar the burden of compensation and the proprietor became bankrupt, or the company was wound up the workman would not get compensation. He asked whether it would not be possible to introduce some provision of compensation in the Bill by which a guarantee might be afforded cither by Government help or otherwise, that the compensation which would be applicable to these particular cases should be secured to the workman. Take another case. The Bill provided that in the case of a disabled workman the workman was to receive a weekly wage not exceeding 50 per cent, of the wage which he received at the time of the injury. It was to be paid every week by the employer, and supposing the man remained disabled for ten, twenty, or thirty years at every week end the workman would have to apply to his employer if alive, or his administrators or executors if dead, for the payment of this weekly 675 allowance. If an individual employer went bankrupt, or quitted the country and died, and his family could not be followed, what guarantee was there that the unhappy workman would over get a penny of his compensation? The only rational way of meeting this point was to provide for the capitalisation of that sum whatever it might be. He believed it was the intention of the Government, and certainly of the Colonial Secretary that the procedure under the Bill should be as simple as possible, but the provisions as to settling matters in dispute by arbitration would open the door wide to litigation. In a large number of cases arising under this Act one or other of these contingencies would arise. In every case there would have to be a long arbitration, with counsel, solicitors, agents and witnesses, and then, perhaps, the unhappy workman would find himself compelled to commence de novo by an action at law. Could anything be more absurd? As to the provision that no workman was to have any remedy outside the Bill, except in the case of what was called the wilful or wrongful act or default of the employer or of some one for whom he was responsible, he would be glad to know the meaning of those words. Was the workman still to be allowed to bring his action under the Employers' Liability Act if there was negligence on the part of the employer or his agent, or under Lord Campbell's Act if there was negligence on the part of the employer, or was he only to have the remedy of this Bill except in the case of wilful or wrongful act or default? If the Bill meant that it would be a disabling statute. It would rob a certain class of persons of rights which they now had under common law and the Employers' Liability Act. He thought, however, that the Bill contained a very excellent principle, but it was desirable that its benefits should be extended over a wider area, and he thought it would be well if the Government were to consider the representations made in the temperate speech of the hon. Member for Gainsborough, as to the possibility of their availing themselves of the excellent model afforded by the German Statute-book and introducing some system by which compensation 676 might be accorded to workmen by direct intervention of the State. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *MR. AUGUSTUS HELDER (Whitehaven)
said he had always been of opinion that there should be compensation for all workmen. Consequently he was very glad to learn that the Government intended to bring in a Bill to carry out that object. He had supposed, however, that the course would have been that which had been adopted for many years, of making the workman contribute to some extent to the funds necessary to find compensation for him, but the fact that the Government had determined to throw all the burden on the employers was a very serious thing for many trades, and might affect them very prejudicially. The remarks that had been made as to the collieries were deserving of much more attention than they had received. It was all very well to say that the employers must pay compensation in all cases of accident, but it would not be so easy for them to carry it out. He should support the Bill, but he thought it would require to be very considerably amended in Committee. The better plan, in his opinion, would have been to have encouraged arrangements between employers and their workmen. This system of universal compensation might also have the effect of stopping public contributions in great accidents. Up to the present, arrangements made between employers and their workmen had been carried out with very beneficial effects; but now workmen, when asked to continue their contributions, would say that it was not necessary to do so. The matter was much more serious than people had and idea of. It was argued that the Bill would not have the effect which he had stated, but the figures put before the House by the Member for Gainsborough showed that it meant an extra charge of 2d. a ton on coal, and that was undoubtedly very serious. Although he would certainly vote for the Bill, he hoped it would be very carefully considered in Committee, and that proper arrangements would be made by which the loss would not be so seriously felt. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *MR. ROBERT ASCROFT (Oldham)
said that before entering upon the details of this Bill, he would like to ask 677 the Government, as it would save a considerable amount of time, whether they had an open mind on the question of contracting out? As the Home Secretary remained silent he assumed it was not a convenient moment to make any announcement on the subject. He had had same little experience in connection with contracting out and the Employers Liability Act he had, during the time he had been practising as an advocate, dozens of cases, and out of those cases he had selected forty at haphazard and gone through them carefully, and he found that in more than thirty out of these forty cases there was no remedy under the Employers' Liability Act for the injuries received, but there would have been remedy and compensation under the present Bill. He was surprised to hear the hon. Member who opposed the Bill suggesting that the time might come when workmen might, by means of malingering, obtain money for injuries which were not so serious as they represented. From his experience he had never known a case of that kind. It was rather difficult for men to malinger who had their legs, arms, or fingers torn off. He would call their attention to the position in which a workman was placed who received an accident and had to fight it. He regretted to say that from his experience the workman had to fight his case to the bitter end. He had been engaged in these cases for employers, workmen and insurance companies, and he knew what defences were raised when a workman sought compensation. The first defence was that the notice was defective, the second, that the workman knew of the defect in the machinery and had failed to call attention of his employer to it; the third, that it was done by a fellow workman, the fourth, that he was not carrying out the orders of his superior officer; the fifth, that he was engaged in work outside his own employment; the sixth, that his injuries were not so bad as represented; and the seventh and last, that the machinery that caused the accident was not defective. Under the present Bill these defences could not be raised. The only question under it would be, "Are you injured; if so, to what extent?" He was surprised to hear it represented 678 that the coal mining industry was going to be swept off the face of the earth by a paltry tax of 2d. a ton. How long was it since they had to pay shillings extra for their coal owing to the strikes? If they could pay then, they could pay now. The consumer would grumble, but at the same time he would pay. In 12 out of the 30 cases he had mentioned, not one penny was received, either by way of gift or by way of verdict. There was a case of a man killed by a shaft falling upon him. His widow was entitled to £150, but she could not bring the employer in guilty under the Act, and she did not get a farthing. In another case a man had his hand torn off and claimed £100, but he was poor, and unable to find means to pay his fees and he did not get a farthing. There was a third case where a man who fell off a scaffold broke his ribs and legs and claimed £140, but as it was shown that he had assisted in erecting the scaffold he got no verdict, because it was contributory negligence. There was a feeling in this country that the time had come for dealing with this question. He should regard this Bill not the Employers' a new departure as an addition to Liability Bill, but as and an instalment only, because the Government would be compelled, sooner or later, by public opinion to reconstruct the Employers' Liability Act. He believed the Bill would compel every employer to insure, and he did not believe that, the insurance companies would refuse the risk of insurance. There was nothing that an insurance company would not take. It was entirety a question of premium. Besides, employers in any particular trade could combine for mutual insurance. He was quite sure that it might be left to the insurance companies to protect themselves by a strict system of inspection. There was one proposal in the Bill to which he strongly objected, and as long as he had breath he should oppose that clause, for if there was one clause in the Bill more objectionable than another, it was the clause which allowed contracting out, and did not provide for supervision of any kind in respect to the administration of the scheme. As long as he had life in his body he should oppose that principle. There was no provision in the Bill either that the workmen affected 679 should have the right of considering the scheme. There was no provision for the workman being heard or that the workman should even receive a copy of the scheme; everything was left to the Registrar of Friendly Societies without his knowing the circumstances. In some of the Friendly Societies' Acts there was provision that workpeople could have an inquiry, but there was nothing of the sort here. With respect to the number of trades with which the Bill dealt, he had no hesitation in saying that it wanted widening, and difficulties would arise, especially in Lancashire cotton mills, as to the meaning of the word "employer." He thought it would be most unreasonable, as well as most dangerous, to give power to the arbitrator to say how money should be invested. The money should be invested in the Post Office Savings Bank, the Government giving, if it was thought necessary, a larger rate of interest than that allowed on ordinary investments. Now, he wanted to call particular attention to a case which would, he thought, have a very material influence on those Members who voted in favour of the contracting out clause when the Bill of 1894 was brought in. If there was one thing which influenced Members three years ago with regard to contracting out more than another, it was the mutual insurance scheme of the London and North Western Railway Company that was dangled before the House. He had investigated the scheme, and had received several letters on the subject, and he was of opinion that if ever there was a good investment and a money-making scheme, it was that of the London and North Western Railway. In the case of total disablement, a sum not exceeding £1 1s. per week for 52 weeks was paid in weekly instalments, and in the case of death only £50 was paid by the company. Was not that a scandal? The workman had to sign an agreement contracting the company out of all further liability, and giving it the right to dismiss him at a moment's notice without assigning any reason whatever. If they found the rich and powerful London and North Western with such a scheme, what could they expect from the poorer and smaller companies? He felt perfectly satisfied that the railway company, when they 680 agreed to pay £50 in case of a workman's death—
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said £50 was paid by the Company and £50 from the fund subscribed by the workmen themselves, but he was under the impression, the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester was not present, and therefore he had not gone so fully into the case. He, however, gave the hon. Baronet notice last week that he intended to make an attack on the London and North Western to condemn their scheme, and to condemn their administration. The scheme provided that the employer should contribute—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I cannot sea how an examination of the scheme of a particular company can be entered upon on the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said his object was to convince those hon. Members who three years ago were in favour of the contracting out clause that contracting out should not be allowed. When the Employers' Liability Bill was before the House, the question whether contracting out was to be allowed was raised. The scheme he was now speaking of was generally cited in favour of allowing contracting out.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That is really replying to the arguments used in the case of another Bill upon points which are not raised by this Bill.
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said he would, of course, bow to the Speaker's ruling, but thought that he would have a right to speak on the question of the administration of this fund by the London and North Western to illustrate the objectionable nature of the administration of any scheme. He would, therefore, subject to the Speaker's ruling, explain to the House the manner in which the London and North Western dealt with those servants who dared to make claims of which they disapproved.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not see how that arises on this Bill. Of course, the hon. Member is entitled to argue that the present schemes of railway companies are schemes which would or would not be allowed by the Registrar of 681 Friendly Societies, but that is really the only point which arises in regard to contracting out.
§ *MR. ASCROFT
said he would not contend further. He simply wanted to show that unless it was fairly administered, any scheme was dangerous. To show it was dangerous he desired to give his experience of the way the largest railway company treated its men. The London and North Western Railway Company's scheme was such a poverty-stricken thing that the company had recourse actually to technical defences when claims were made against it. If contracting out of this Bill were allowed there would be different forms of agreement in different localities, and when a man was injured he would be compelled to go to lawyers to have a construction put upon the particular agreement which he had signed. That would be unsatisfactory, and with a view to limit the expense; he suggested that a clause should he inserted in the Bill, providing that no solicitor or barrister should conduct a case before an arbitrator. He should vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, but he held himself free to urge the Government in a future Session to extend the operation of the Employers' Liability Bill, to abolish the principle of contracting out, and the doctrine of common employment, and to provide for granting greater compensation.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ *MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said that, while he sympathised generally with the principle of the Bill, and intended to vote for the Second Reading, he thought that it was a Measure which needed most careful scrutiny in Committee. The Bill seemed to him to bear almost in every line the marks of haste. It was a remarkable fact that this Government should bring forward a treat and revolutionary scheme without any preliminary inquiry, despite the fact that both the Government and the public were destitute of information on the subject. Further inquiry would probably have saved the Bill from the erudeness and injustice which marked it in almost every part. The Bill teemed with inconsistencies. For instance, it admitted one, industry to the benefits of the Bill and 682 capriciously excluded another. In one case it gave compensation to the workman, although he might have brought the injury on himself, and in other cases it left the employer not liable for an injury which his own selected servant had caused. While it gave compensation for any accident, although no human foresight could have prevented it, on the other hand, it gave no compensation for injury to health or loss of life where the risk might have been obviated by reasonable precautions. The Bill, in short, excluded the very persons who stood most in need of protection. The Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Chamberlain) stated that the Government had excluded small employers, because they were dealing with unavoidable accidents in this Bill, and the small employer was no better able to bear the burden of inevitable misfortune than was the workman. No doubt a large class of accidents were not avoidable. But he should be disposed to say that in. countless cases accidents were due to negligence, of which the law — at best a, clumsy instrument—could not take cognizance, but which care and oversight on the part of the employer might prevent. If these considerations were well-founded, it must at once occur to hon. Members that they were particularly applicable to cases of small employers, who had their businesses much more directly and immediately under their own eyes, than the larger employers. There was very little reason, therefore, for the exclusion of these small industries from the Bill. It was said by the Colonial Secretary that as far as agriculture was concerned there had been no demand. Yet it was a little curious, if not significant, that within a few hours of that statement being made, a Bill called the Chaffeutters' Bill obtained Second Reading, with the concurrence and approval of the whole House, being carried nem. con. What did this show? It showed that the agricultural labourer, and those who represented agricultural labour, were anxious that their industry should be brought within similar rules and regulations to those which applied to factory legislation. He would suggest that if and when the Bill got into Committee, certainly some classes of agricultural operations might be brought within it. ["Hear, hear !"] There was a clause in the Austrian law, which, he 683 thought the right hon. Gentleman might very fairly accept as being quite consistent with the general provisions of this Bill, and that would be in effect to include in the Bill any agricultural operation in which machinery driven by steam, water, or other mechanical power was used. ["Hear, hear !"] One word with regard to contracting-out. He did not desire to say much, however, for he believed that in attacking the contracting-out provision of this Bill he would be in effect simply forcing an open door. He gathered that the provision was inserted in the Bill merely to save appearances. The Government were scrupulous on a point of honour—[cheers]—remembering that they defeated their opponents' Bill three or four years ago on the question of contracting-out. They had thought themselves bound in honour to introduce a contracting-out clause into this Bill; but he ventured to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he need not be at all concerned about his consistency, because there was really no analogy between the two cases. It would be quite consistent in the right hon. Gentleman opposite to have stipulated for contracting out in the Bill introduced on that side of the House, and at the same time to have abandoned contracting out in this Bill. He had always held that the case against contracting out, even under the Liberal Bill, was, after fairly balancing the arguments pro and con, an overwhelmingly strong one. At the same time it could not be denied that a plausible case could have been made out, and was made out, in favour of contracting out of that Bill. But the case was now completely altered. Under that Bill it was proposed to provide by the law for only a fraction of the total number of accidents. There was room, therefore, for schemes outside the law. But now this Bill, which they hoped would become a statute, proposed to cover the whole field of accident, and that being so, what possible room was there for schemes outside the statutory provision? It had been suggested that they were going to have a scheme to which the workmen would be asked to contribute so many pence a week. But it was expressly provided that any scheme substituted for the statutory one must be of at least equal benefit to the workmen. That being so, the Registrar of 684 Friendly Societies would not for a moment entertain any scheme which proposed to take any money out of the pockets of the workmen to form a fund from which compensation was to be taken. Therefore, he said that the contracting-out clause was only inserted for show; and he hoped that the Government would take the advice of their friendly backer, The Times newspaper, and drop it. ["Hear, hear !"] Now, with regard to common employment. Most lawyers admitted that it was a bad law, and most laymen contended that it was bad policy. He submitted that it was both bad law and bad policy. He had been under the impression that there was a general agreement in that House with regard to the abolishing of the doctrine of common employment. ["Hear, hear !"] The Royal Commission on Labour, whose Report he had been looking up, assumed that as a result of the Debates in that House in 1893, there was a general agreement in favour of abolishing the doctrine of common employment. If that was so, the case was very much strengthened by this Bill—strengthened, of course, in this way, that as regarded the favoured classes they were practically abolishing the doctrine, and therefore those classes of workmen who were excluded from the Bill would feel that it pressed upon them more harshly and more oppressively than ever when they saw that their fellows were no longer suffering from it. ["Hear, hear !"] One word with regard to the procedure under this Bill. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had very carefully perused Clause 1, sub-section 2, B. As he read it, the clause had this effect—that the workman who thought he had an action against his employer at common law or under the Employers' Liability Act of 1880, could only get into the Common Law Courts to bring his action there through the Committee Room or through the Arbitration Court provided by the Bill. Most distinctly, as the clause was drawn —he did not know whether the Government meant what the draughtsman had put in—but most distinctly, as the clause was drawn, a decision by the Committee or by the Arbitration Court that there had been a wilful and wrongful default on the part of the employer was a condition precedent to bringing an action at 685 common law or under the 1880 Act. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, or someone else who would speak on the other side, would tell the House what was the real intention of the Bill in this matter; because, if that was to be the meaning of the Bill, it was most monstrous, and would have the strongest possible opposition on that side of the House. [Opposition cheers.] Moreover, he was not at all sure, from the way in which the clause was drawn, that criminal liability was not also ruled out in the same way—i.e., you must have the same condition precedent to criminal proceeding. As he had said, the proposal was monstrous, and he could scarcely suppose the Government seriously intended what they had put into the Bill, ["Hear, hear !"] The hon. Member for the Gainsborough Division, in a speech early in the evening, said that one of the effects of the Bill would be to throw the older miners out of employment. Well, he thought it, was not impossible that the Bill might have an effect in that direction. But such a result was not peculiar to this Bill. It had been the effect of most of our recent legislation with regard to labour, viz., to elbow out of employment less competent labour. ["Hear, hear !"] It would seem that that must be the necessary result of the conditions under which our modern labour was carried on. He accepted, therefore, the objection of his hon. Friend. He admitted, because he believed, that that would be in part the result of this Bill. Did he, therefore, oppose it? Not at all, because he believed that the effect could be met in another way. Hon. Members had pointed out the injustice of allowing the whole burden which this Bill created to fall exclusively on the shoulders of the employers, and they said that the State should bear a part of it. No; as far as accidents were concerned, let it fall on the shoulders of the employer. But then came the point at which the State could very properly intervene. It was the duty of the State to make provision for the men who might be thrown out of employment. It was inevitable, under the modern conditions of English labour, upon which the greatness and wealth of the nation depended, that the less competent men should be elbowed out, and 686 that the older men should lose their employment. Then the State ought to take the matter up. The State ought to see that when these veterans of labour, who had borne the burden and the heat of the day, were pushed aside to make way for younger and stronger men—the State ought to see that they were not handed over to the tender mercies of the poor-house, but that some provision was made for them, so that they who were really sacrifices to the modern conditions of labour should have some provision for spending their declining years in decency and comfort. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
claimed that special knowledge entitled him to speak on this most Radical Measure. He represented a mining constituency; he was an employer of miners, and he had suffered in his own person by being incapacitated for several months by a mine accident. He desired to express his approval of the principles of the Bill, but would use no stronger word. He had spoken in his own constituency in favour of a Measure of universal compensation to all workmen, and he was, therefore, very much disappointed indeed to find that the Measure was so meagre in its effect. [Opposition cheers.] It certainly largely embraced the class of workmen he represented, and it would therefore to some extent satisfy him. But it would not be such a Measure as might have been expected from this Government—after the many promises its supporters had made to the constituencies. There was no doubt whatever this was great Bill, and if the Government would only listen to the valuable hints which would be given to them by those who practically understood the matter, it might be made a most valuable Measure. He hoped the Home Secretary would take to heart the hints he had got from supporters as well as from opponents; and in particular that he would include all trades and not attempt the invidious task of selecting certain trades for an employers' liability Bill. He defied the Home Secretary to define the various trades affiliated and embraced in the Bill. He understood the distinction to be that where machinery was employed then the trade affiliated in the schedule would be embraced, but where no machinery was employed, then these 687 should not be classified. In the building trade, for example, the right hon. Gentleman said "It means a large building in which dangerous work is done." That is to say, where a steam crane is employed liability would attach, but where stones were carried up by hand labour the case would be different. In those circumstances many employers would prefer not to employ steam cranes, and yet they knew many fatal accidents had happened from the breaking down of scaffolding. The Bill would affect him, as a colliery-owner, perhaps as largely as any Member of the House, yet he had in his own constituency expressed approval of a Measure which should give compensation to all workmen, but he had always understood they were to have no more litigation. He heard the Secretary of State for the Colonies use the expression that the Employers' Liability Act of 1880, was a lawyers' employment Bill. He was quite sure the present Bill would be to a much greater extent, as it stood, a lawyers' employment Bill. Instead of having two pistols at their head, employers would now have three—the Act of 1880, the common law, and this Bill. [Laughter.] He gave his support to the principle of this Bill only on the condition that the whole benefits of the Bill should go to the employés without litigation, and he was certain this Bill did not do so. He was one of the executive of an association of Scottish mine owners formed exclusively for the purpose of an insurance association for employers of mining labour. They managed the whole details themselves. An idea of the extent of their operations might be formed when he stated that during 1891, 1895 and 1896 they had paid over 5¼ millions of money in wages to the miners. The total death and accident claims he did not feel at liberty to state, but the legal expenses were fully two-thirds of the total amount paid in compensation. But what did they now find in this Bill? They found that it vastly enlarged the liability of mine owners, without amending the procedure in connection with the existing law. There was no limit whatever to the time for recovery of compensation, and no notice of death or injury was required, as was provided by Section 4 of the Employers' Liability Act 1880. 688 What would be the consequence of that? No one connected with a colliery could ever have his affairs wound up in the event of death, or dissolution of partnership. Section 1, subsection (2) stipulated that the employer should not be liable in respect of any injury which did not disable the workman for a period of at least two weeks from earning full wages, but it did not preclude him from claiming under the existing law for trifling injuries. Section (1) sub-section (3) would involve an employer in a dilemma. If he pleaded that the Act did not apply and succeeded he might be subjected to the expense of a jury trial. If he pleaded that the Act did apply and succeeded he might be subjected to heavier damages than under the Employers' Liability Act. They had heard a great deal about contracting out, they had no such thing in Scotland. They had no friendly societies in Scotland, because according to opinion of counsel obtained after the passing of the Act of 1880, they were advised that the law of Scotland did not permit of workmen contracting away the legal rights of their wives and children. As far as contracting out was concerned, therefore, their withers were unwrung, but the Government must see to it that this Measure was framed in accordance with the laws of Scotland. With regard to the weekly payment, in the event of incapacity, not exceeding 50 per cent, of the earnings at the time of injury, he considered that such an arrangement was unworkable. As to the weekly wage to be paid in case of incapacity, there was no table whereby the value could be ascertained, neither would ordinary annuity tables apply, as the annuity was contingent on incapacity. It ought to be provided as at present, that the claim for incapacity should be fixed by the arbitrator, as it was by the Sheriff and the Court of Session at present, and then there would be finality; and specially there ought to be a provision that the weekly payments should not exceed in all a specified amount, certainly not more than £150, or three years' wages, whichever should be greater. When the Bill reached the Committee stage he should certainly move a direct Motion against the weekly wage, because he found from his own experience that employés themselves did not wish it, and would much 689 rather have a sum of money paid down or invested for them in an annuity. He had heard hon. Members on both sides, who were not particularly interested, so Car as their pocket was concerned, in this Bill, say they would much rather hear of the question of prevention of accidents than compensation, lint surely the workmen themselves were the best judges of these matters. He should like to see any hon. Member go down to Crowe and argue against this question of contracting out. He was perfectly sure that no hon. Member could accuse the present Government of doing wrong in maintaining contracting out. He was glad to see that in this Bill they admitted of no compromise whatever on that point, and he should not vote for the Second Reading were contracting out not allowed. The House was too much in the habit of treating working men as children, whereas they were quite able to take care of themselves. It had been said that this question of compensation was not a large question. That, however, was not the case. Competent authorities had said that this liability which was cast upon employers would, in the case of mine owners, certainly involve an extra charge of twopence per ton upon coal, and this in many cases was more than the whole profit. He happened to be a shareholder in one of the most extensive concerns in Scotland, which turned out nearly one-thirtieth of the total output of coal in that country. Last year, this company paid a small dividend of 3 per cent, out of reserve; this year it had paid nothing. Hon. Members talked in an airy manner about the pecuniary responsibility that was thrown upon employers, but so far from its being a light matter, it would mean the extinction of many small concerns. It was no slight sacrifice, for the coal trade at all events, to adopt this Bill. For his part he accepted the principle, and was glad to see that the Home Secretary had undertaken this task. He was only sorry the right hon. Gentleman had not gone so far as he himself was prepared to go, and had not embraced all the trades of this country. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman should ever have undertaken the invidious task of selecting some trades and excluding others. It might be said that the Government had selected 690 those which were most dangerous. But if the others were not dangerous all the less compensation, would be needed. He hoped the legislation in this most important, most drastic, most radical, and most revolutionary Measure would not be hastily passed, but that it would receive the most careful consideration. The fashion now seemed to be to see how much output could be got through in a, Session, and not what would be the most beneficial. A matter of this importance however, deserved the most careful and painstaking consideration, and he hoped the Home Secretary would give an assurance that he would carefully consider the points he had put before him, and endearvour in Committee to secure Amendments in the direction he had ventured to indicate.
§ MR. AUGUSTINE BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
had hoped to be able to congratulate his hon. Friend who had last spoken upon having intrenched himself in a somewhat stronger position than on the last occasion when he volunteered some remarks. But the hon. Member in the course of his remarks had made the incriminatory admission that he belonged to a, company which had violated the criminal law of this country by paying dividends out of capital. [Laughter.]
§ MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
I must correct the hon. Member. I said I knew a company which had declared no dividend this year, and which last year took a dividend of 3 per cent, out of capital. I did not say it was my own concern. [Laughter.]
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that his hon. Friend had not conveyed to his mind what he meant to do; for the evident suggestion which he was going to make was that the company to which his hon. Friend had referred, like the regiment in which his hon. Friend was interested, ought to be disbanded. [Laughter.] His hon. Friend had made a good many references to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Essex, and intimated that he thought little of anyone who could not compress his remarks into 20 minutes. If his hon. Friend would look at the clock, he would find that he was not able to compress what he wanted to say into anything like 20 minutes. [Laughter.] But he agreed with his hon. Friend that it was a very hard Measure that mine-owners and other 691 employers should have these three pistols held at their heads—the Employers' Liability Act, this proposed Act, and the common law. Representing a constituency where one of the trades favoured by this Bill—the mining industry—was carried on, he was certain of the Bill's favourable reception; but he wished to address the House, not so much as the representative of a mining constituency, as one who belonged to a small and transfigured band of law reformers in the House of Commons. It was as a man who looked forward to nothing better than to earn some slight fame as a reformer of the law—["Hear, hear !" from the ATTORNEY GENERAL]—that he expressed his dismay and regret that in any Bill which had upon its back the name of the Attorney General—[laughter]—the opportunity of reforming in some way the common law of the country should have allowed it to go by. It was holding the Legislature up to something like ridicule and contempt deliberately to allow the Home Secretary to frame an entirely new system of law, based upon an entirely novel principle. ["Hear, hear !"] "Come into my parlour," said the Home Secretary,—and you shall there have united out to you justice on principles very different from those which will be observed if you are foolish enough to go into the Law Courts.That amounted to a scandal. Such legislation violated the great principle of the House of Commons that there should be for all Her Majesty's subjects equality before the law. [Cheers.] The common law of this country was not an irrational law. The law of employers' liability, as understood by the common law, was a branch of the law of negligence; and it proceeded on the footing that no employer should be required to pay a farthing of compensation unless the person injured could prove that the employer had been guilty of a breach of duty, either in commission or in omission to him. On that the whole law of the country was originally based, and though it might not be a sufficient basis, having regard to the enormous increase of our industrial undertakings and to joint-stock companies, yet in its essence and origin it was an entirely satisfactory basis. But it was not allowed to rest there. Satan found mischief still, not 692 only for idle hands, but for subtle and logical brains to do; and Her Majesty's Judges had taken upon themselves not only to interpret contracts between employers and employed, but to invent them, and to introduce terms into the contracts which neither employer nor employed had ever heard of. There was the doctrine of common employment. At one time it was the shibboleth of Party; and no candidate could appear before an industrial constituency without being asked whether he would vote for its abolition. The doctrine was only invented in 1837. Lord Abinger planted it; Baron Alderson watered it; and the devil gave it increase. [Laughter.] Working men who had never heard of one another, nor had the faintest relation with one another, were held to be in common employment; and if one was injured by the negligence of the other there was no title to compensation. A platelayer, going home after his day's work, was refused damages when he jumped on to a train and was injured by the gross carelessness of the engine driver, on account of supposed common employment. That doctrine was condemned universally when the Bill of his right hon. Friend was under discussion some years ago. There never was a doctrine which made so poor a show in the House of Commons; though for many years men of conscience and honour had hesitated to pledge themselves to its abolition because they imagined it stood so well. When it was boldly attacked not a single employer rose up to declare that without it he could not carry on his business. Yet this condemned doctrine was allowed to remain a part of the law, and the Home Secretary made it a part of the just and reasonable claim which his scheme had upon the working classes, for if they would fall in with the scheme the doctrine would no longer affect them. Then there was the doctrine of contributory negligence, to which the Colonial Secretary had referred in a feeling, becoming, and instructive manner. It rested upon mediaeval ideas about the causa causaus and the proximate cause of accident; and the Judges declared that on no account must the cause and connection between the negligence of the employer and the injury suffered be severed. This doctrine had stood between the 693 workmen and compensation to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds. ["Hear, hear !"] Yet it was a doctrine inconsistent with the general basis of the common law. When, but for the employer's negligence, the accident could not have occurred in stepped the doctrine of proximate cause and connection to do incalculable injustice. Then there was another whole class of cases, governed by that relic of barbaric Latinity—Volenti non fit in juria—where a distinction was drawn between volens and sciens, between the workman who knew he was exposed to danger and the workman who consented to it. And here we had the most highly trained intellects of the country playing fast and loose with men's lives, for no one could draw a line between the man who knew and the, man who consented. Judge after Judge had tried to do it, and Judge after Judge had failed. Now it was admitted by this Bill. The great object of the Bill was to put aside that discredited machine, the common law of England, and adopt a law which knew nothing of common employment or contributory negligence or volenti non fit injuria. This was not fair upon the law of this country, and the Attorney General ought not to allow such a thing to happen. [Laughter.] He looked upon the Attorney General as the guardian of the common law. He ought not to allow a. rival judicature to be set, up next door to that in which he had madé a large fortune and a great reputation—[laughter]—but ought to see that the admitted abuses of the common law were altered so that all Her Majesty's subjects should have fair play in this matter. He did not say whether in an experimental measure it might not be wise to begin with certain trades; but the effect of the Bill was that for certain trades all these admitted abuses had ceased, while for every other occupation of the country the horrors of the law renained unreformed. ["Hear, hear !" and laughter.] To depart from the law based mi negligence was a most solemn change. They were departing from the law that nobody should pay unless he was to blame; and were saying that short of suicide—for he did not suppose that was within the scope of the Bill— [cries of "Yes !"]—all damage that resulted from the careless, wanton action of the workmen was to be heaped on the 694 head of the employer. That was based on a new principle, namely, that the employer of labour should guarantee and insure the lives of all the persons he invited to join his employment from all accidents whatsoever. He believed that was a just and a proper thing. All the enterprise of this country was carried on by the joint efforts of labour and capital. The capitalist at the most only risked his money. The employé contributed his bones and sinews and risked his life. In case the enterprise turned out a success the capitalist made a fortune; whereas, however, successful the concern might be the workman got out of it just sufficient in the form of wage to maintain himself and bring up his family to lead a life of equally arduous and strenuous toil as that which had bent his own back and shortened his days. It was, therefore, perfectly just and right that the House should in these latter days depart altogether from the old common law ideas of negligence and impose upon every employer the responsibility of insuring the lives of his workmen without entering into the question of how the accident was brought about. But, as a law reformer, he would ask, Why should they expose the Courts of Her Majesty to ridicule and contempt? Why should they allow the Judges to go on administering a law which the Bill emphatically condemned' ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
This is a most interesting discussion to lawyers, and I only regret, for my own sake, and still more for that of the House of Commons, that it should fall to my lot to be sponsor for the Bill, and that it is not introduced directly under the auspices of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend opposite that I am fully conscious of my inability to do justice, from a legal point of view, to this new departure in our procedure. I am at the same time very glad that, notwithstanding the fact that the Bill is a new and startling departure, its principle has his approval, and that, although he believes that in a more legal and constitutional way the doctrines of contributory negligence, common employment, and volenti non fit injuria, might have been abrogated, still, that so far as it goes, 695 our Measure has his support. I think the Government has no reason to complain of the reception with which the Bill has met. I recognise that from every quarter of the House, whether the matter is looked at from the point of view of the employers or from the point of view of the men and the trade unions, this Bill has received nothing but fair criticism—if candid criticism—during the two evenings' Debate oil its provisions; and whatever may be the ultimate fate of the Measure, we may take this consolation to heart, that if the principal complaint against it he, as it undoubtedly is, that we have not included all the industries of the country within its operation, it cannot be such a very bad Bill after all. ["Hear, hear !"] With regard to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Derby, I do not know whether he seriously intends to propose that the Bill should be accompanied by some measure of prevention. I imagine that if employers become their own insurers, they will have every inducement to take care that there are no accidents; and it is equally certain that if insurance societies are the insurer, they will take care that the premiums are low in the interest of the employers by whom the best precautions against accident are taken. ["Hear, hear !"] From what I have been able to gather from a study of the question, I do not believe it is accurate to say that in consequence of this insurance in Germany there has been an increase in accidents. ["Hear, hear !"] Certainly as regards fatal accidents the figures show, not an increase, but a decided decrease. My hon. Friend asks that there should be further legislation with a view to securing prevention in dangerous trades. As to that, I think I may say that neither my right hon. Friend opposite, the late Home Secretary, nor, in an humble capacity, myself, have failed to do something to secure prevention against dangerous accidents. ["Hear, hear !"] My right hon. Friend's Factory Act was a great piece of legislation—["hear, hear !"]— and from the time it was passed into law there have been inquiries going on which are rapidly introducing into our most dangerous trades regulations that are best calculated to insure both life and health. ["Hear, hear !"] And having, with the assistance of the House, passed 696 the Coal Mines Act of last year, I think it is not true to say that the House of Commons is unwilling to pass legislation for further strengthening the law which regulates our dangerous industries, and I am confident that, if the responsible Minister thinks it necessary to ask the House for further powers in the same direction, the House will not be unwilling to recognise his demand. ["Hear, hear !"] I now come to the two most important arguments urged against the Bill. The first is that it does not abolish common employment in all industries. My answer is that it does abolish it completely and practically, if indirectly, where it applies. I say, further, that, in developing this new departure, it adopts a better principle in giving the workman, instead of a claim for an unlimited amount, an immediate and direct, though limited, compensation. ["Hear, hear !"] I am confident that if we had introduced into this Bill proposals to abolish common employment in regard to other industries we should have immensely complicated the Measure. ["Hear, hear !"] If my hon. and learned Friend will draw up, as an Amendment, those three or four clauses, which he says can be prepared so easily, embodying the abolition of common employment in respect to those industries which may not be included in the Bill, I am willing to give it favourable consideration. But I am persuaded that if you now raise the question of the abolition of common employment for all industries— including domestic service and employment at sea—you will raise controversies that will materially interfere with the passing of this Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] I come now to the great question of the limitation of the Bill. We have followed in this matter the precedent of other countries. On the Continent this law has been applied gradually. I should like to say that the distinction we have made in this Bill is not an arbitrary one. We have got, I think, some general recognition of the fact that in applying this new principle we were bound to proceed in a tentative fashion, with caution, and in the hope that it might win favour and lead to the introduction of what we believe will be a great boon to the working classes of this country and to other classes not included at the present moment. We have applied this principle 697 in the first place where there are most accidents. That may not be a logical thing to do, but it is a practical thing to do. It certainly is no satisfaction to a man working in an excluded employment to know that he is not able to got the same compensation which a workman is entitled to who conies under this Bill, but at least when you are legislating for millions of people it is reasonable to legislate for those trades in which you know by figures that you have most accidents. ["Hear, hear !"] Every trade which may fairly be called dangerous is included, except that of seamen. Moreover, the trades included are those which are, as a rule, carried on on a scale which will enable those who are responsible for them to pay compensation by their own insurance. I should like to say something as to the number of those who appear to me to be included in the Bill. I take the number of workmen in factories, docks, and wharves as 3,600,000; in mines, 730,000; on railways, 465,000; and in quarries, 104,000. As to the remaining class included— namely, those employed in engineering works—I find it extremely difficult to ascertain the number. There are a great many builders and bricklayers, something like 700,000; and under the description of general labourers and navvies another 800,000 might fairly come. At all events, there will be included in this Bill as at present drawn some 6,000,000 at least of the workmen of this country. [Cheers.] Outside the Bill there are those employed in agriculture, whom I estimate at 1,700,000; seamen and fishermen, about 192,000; domestic servants, 2,300,000; persons employed in workshops I roughly estimate at 2,000,000; shop assistants, 500,000; transport services, 600,000 —which give a, total of something over 7,000,000. I am not at all I surprised that many of my hon. Friends would like to see agriculture included, because, unfortunately, where machinery is used those employed in agriculture are liable to the same kind of accidents as those which occur in a factory. But if you consider the few statistics that we have in connection with agriculture, and the number of farm servants who may be classified as domestic servants, you will recognise how great has been our difficulty. The small farmer, moreover, is not as a rule a man who is inclined to 698 insure. Therefore I think we ought not to be in a hurry in this respect, although I am not at all unfriendly to the representations which are made. With reference to seamen, although theirs is a very dangerous industry, I would point out that it is under special laws, and I do not consider that anybody could bring them under this Bill. Under the shipping laws, when accidents happen to seamen in the course of their employment they are entitled to maintenance after the accident, and also to their wages,unless the accident is caused by their own fault. It has never been the practice to bring seamen under such a Bill as this, and I think there is sufficient reason for excluding them. The Government, however, are not indisposed to listen to arguments which may be brought forward. ["Hear, hear !"] As to the question of workshops, it has been said that there may be very little difference between a workshop and a factory, but there is a real and substantial difference, not only in regard to the machinery, but in the actual results as tested by the number of accidents. This year is the first in which we have had a return of the number of accidents in workshops as distinguished from factories, and I find that, whereas there have been in the first three months only two fatal and 34 non-fatal accidents in workshops, there have been 188 fatal and 9,247 non-fatal accidents in factories, the number of workpeople being, respectively, 2,000,000 in workshops and 3,500,000 in factories. In separating workshops from factories for the purposes of this Bill, therefore, we have clearly shown that we are taking those trades in which there are the greater number of accidents. With reference to the question of contracting out, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham asked me whether the Government had an open mind upon that question. All I can say is that we have thought ourselves bound by our own convictions, and by the pledges which we gave when this question was formerly discussed in the House, to enable the parties, both workmen and employers, to make their own contracts if they so please. ["Hear, hear !"] We have thought that where proper they should do so, provided the terms they made were at least as favourable to the workmen as those contained in the Bill. We have not overlooked the fact in proposing a Bill 699 which confers such a great boon upon the workmen that there may be less incentive to him to join a mutual insurance society, or that the employer, when called upon to bear so much larger a liability, may not be disposed to open his pocket to a great extent; but we do believe that there is yet room for the action of these societies in the case of accidents for which compensation is not paid, or in the case of sickness. I wish to say emphatically that the clause in regard to this matter is so drawn that the Registrar of Friendly Societies, who has an intimate knowledge of the practice of all friendly societies, and who has, I believe, their good will, should be able to take into consideration all the circumstances in regard to these mutual insurance societies. If the workman comes under contribution to the insurance societies we must see that he gets a quid pro quo beyond what he gets by the liability of the employer under this Bill. Therefore, I think the House will not be astonished that we have thought it our duty to introduce this clause. We believe there is no danger in it, that it is perfectly reasonable, and that if employers and workmen, notwithstanding the great boon given to the workmen under this Bill, can, see their way to arrange for the same boon to be given in a slightly different way, they ought to be at liberty to do so. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says we have abandoned freedom of contract. There is no such thing as freedom of contract in this country or any other. We make our own arrangements as regards houses or farms under the conditions of the law, which lays down certain conditions with which you must comply; and this Bill lays down certain conditions with which employers and workmen must comply. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean talked about the difficulties of the Bill from the point of view of the bankruptcy of the employer, considering that we have adopted the principle of individual and not trade responsibility. I am not indisposed to admit the risk this proposal incurs. It would be an advantage to amend the Bill so as to give security to the workman for the recovery of compensation due under the Bill, whether from a private owner, large or small, or a limited company. [Cheers.] But the right hon. Gentleman hardly expected that the Government could have proposed 700 any scheme of compulsory trade responsibility or insurance. Anyone who has studied the details of the German system will feel that it could never be introduced into this country; and when you look at the enormous expense which that system entails—one-fifth of the total amount of compensation, and in case of mines one-tenth—I am sure it will be felt it would not do here. We hope that by such associations of employers as have been spoken of, and mutual arrangements between cognate trades and industries, employers responsible under the Bill will protect themselves against their liability; and such arrangements made voluntarily, as is the custom in this country, will be far more effective and economical and in accordance with English feeling than any compulsory system. As to litigation, many hon. Members think the Bill will not realise our intention—that litigation should be reduced as far as possible, and that as simple a method of procedure should be found as is consistent with getting ready and speedy justice. Our hope is that boards of employers and workmen will be formed who will be able to come to an agreement. If not, we have thought it best to provide arbitrators. The cost of the arbitrators is not to fall on the parties, nor the fees of the County Court Judge, but to provide counsel to be paid on either side by the State is to ask for more than we can grant. The hon. Member for Derby spoke of the number and cost of appeals under the German-system. But appeals in Germany are very different from, what they would be under this Bill. In Germany the first compensation is assessed to the workman by sin association composed entirely of employers, from whom goes the first appeal to a board composed in certain, proportion of employers and workmen. Then there is a further appeal to the High Court of Berlin. There have been many appeals under the German, law, and they are increasing in number. But surely no argument can be drawn from that that there will be an increase of litigation under this Bill, because we provide no system similar. As to malingering, the Bill provides that there will be no payment for the first two weeks. In Germany there is no payment for the first 13 weeks, except under the sick insurance, to which both, parties contribute. But, 701 by providing proper precautions and seeing there is a proper medical officer, and relying on the action of friendly societies, who may be in many cases giving extra help, we do not fear any increase of malingering, which is not common in Great Britain. I do not believe there has been any increase of bad feeling between workman and employer in Germany; as far as I have studied the report of the American Commission on Labour I understand they came to a similar conclusion. Nothing has been said to-night, or very little, upon the scale we adopt in the schedule. I think it is not a scale which is open to attack on the score of liberality. ["Hear, hear !"] If more is wanted, I think it ought to be provided from other sources. I believe, generally, when we come to the question in Committee that it will be felt that, on the whole, when we impose this universal liability the scale proposed in the Bill is not inadequate. I admit that there are objections to some of the provisions, and that there are details that require to be amended. You may argue in favour of a pension for a considerable number of years, or in favour of a payment down. You may argue in favour of a pension because in many cases it would be easier for the employer to pay; and you may argue for the payment of a fixed gum down because if paid it is paid once for all, and it can be, possibly, recovered from an association or company which could not be depended on for payment in the case of a pension for a considerable number of years. These are details, as also the question of partial incapacity, and questions of that sort, about which the Government are perfectly ready to consider any suggestions that may be made to them. ["Hear, hear !"] On the question of cost, we have heard two or three conflicting speeches to-night. I am fully sensible, and I am sure the Government are also, that if, upon consideration, it turns out that the conditions of the Bill are likely to be onerous to the trade of the country, they ought not to be imposed. I have taken the coal-mining industry as the principal industry that will be affected-—["hear, hear !"]—and I have worked out what would be the percentage of compensation to the wages paid in this country. I was astonished at the figures given to-night by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He said that the advice given 702 to him, and his own knowledge led him to the conclusion that the liability under this Bill will impose on the general coal trade of Great Britain an extra charge of 2d. a ton. If that be so, I admit that it is a serious charge. ["Hear, hear !"] But my figures point in another direction. I have worked the thing out from two points of view. First of all, I have taken the German experience. I have taken the number of German accidents, f have allowed for different conditions and circumstances, I have allowed for the 13 weeks under the German system and the two weeks under ours, I have allowed for the higher scale in Germany, which is roughly as four to our three, and the extra risk, and I have found that the percentage of compensation paid to the wages in any one year would be just a little over one per cent. I do not say that these figures are of any great value, but I have checked them with the figures for Great Britain; and when I come to work out the figures for Great Britain I find the result comes to something near the same figure. I have taken the number of deaths from 1891 to 1895, which gives a yearly average of 1,046. I have used the figures of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Relief Society as typical of the rest of England, and I have found them corroborated by the figures of Northumberland and Durham.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
My figures are taken for the whole of Great Britain. I admit that one district, may be different from another and the risk may be different; but I use these figures for the purpose of ascertaining the number of men who would leave widows and whose widows and children would have to be paid under the scale in this Bill, and the number of men killed whose funeral expenses would have to be paid, and with a further computation for non-fatal accidents, I have arrived at exactly the same result as is obtained from the German figures. Taking the total wages at £39,000,000, the total payments in one year would be about £500,000, and that gives a. percentage of about 1.2; and if I take the output of coal at 189,000,000 tons, it is very easy to see that that would work out at about ¾d. 703 per ton. That is rather different to 2d. ton. ["Hear, hear !"] Mr. Merivale, the celebrated mining engineer, puts the cost at two-thirds of a penny per ton.
§ MR. BAINBRIDGE
said he was very glad the right hon. Gentleman and himself had chosen the same district, namely, Lancashire and Cheshire, as a test. He could certainly show that the cost in that district would be 2d. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
I will leave my hon. Friend to fight that out with Mr. Merivale. Working it out in two totally different ways, I have arrived at the same figure.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
No, not on the maximum, because everybody does not receive the maximum. I have made what I believe to be the fairest calculation, and I have taken the average wage at 23s. a week, whereas, I believe, it is now 26s. The hon. Member for Derby spoke of new liability; but I am sure he will admit that, whatever the amount of present liability, there are great moral claims which are freely recognised by many employers. Then there is the great advantage that it will get rid of litigation. That is, at all events, our intention. We shall try to make the Bill safe in that direction. I do not think that this Bill involves a serious burden on employers in this country. ["Hear, hear !"] Several details have been mentioned in the course of the Debate, but I do not think that there are any of them to which I need particularly refer. There is the danger of bankruptcy which I think ought to be considered. Then there was a reference to the payment of doctors; that will have our consideration. I think we have swept away a great deal as to contributory negligence. I have discussed this matter with employers, and there is great difficulty, and a great many people do feel that, after all, it is better to pay compensation than to run the chance of litigation. We believe that this Bill will minimise the hardship which attaches to the workmen in securing compensation, and we believe that it will tend to diminish litigation. If there are objections to the details of the Bill, we shall be willing to consider them. Our object has been to establish a principle 704 which we hope will commend itself not only to this House, but to the country in general. I cannot admit that the Bill, as has been said, has been crudely drafted; on the contrary, I can assure the House that the Bill is based on a principle which we believe to be sound and thoroughly impartial in spirit. Under these circumstances I hope the House will be disposed to pass the Measure. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *MR. THOMAS BURT (Morpeth)
said he was seldom seized with an overpowering desire to make a speech, and did not care to enter into competition with the many hon. Gentlemen who wished to address the House that night, but he had been so long and so closely associated with the question of employers' liability that he felt he could hardly give a silent vote upon that occasion. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Broadhurst) had stated that 17 years ago he addressed the House on this question. He was a little surprised a day or two ago when looking over "Hansard's Debates," to find that in 1876— more than 20 years ago—he supported a Bill dealing with the question. On that occasion his Friend, the late Mr. Macdonald, the then Member for Stafford, brought in a Bill to abolish the doctrine of common employment. Sir John Holker, the then Attorney General, opposed the Measure, and pointed out the terrible liabilities it would throw upon the trade of the country. There were at that time very few lawyers in the House prepared to attack the doctrine of common employment, but now it was exceedingly difficult to find a distinguished lawyer, unless he was also a large employer of labour, who would defend that doctrine. The present Bill did not abolish that doctrine, but it certainly very considerably weakened it, and it would be exceedingly difficult to maintain the doctrine of common employment as applicable to the other trades outside this Bill when the Bill became an Act of Parliament. The main principle of the Measure was to provide for all accidents, though it really did not do that completely. It was, however, a great stride in that direction. Personally he had always been anxious that all accidents should be provided for. He had never opposed a general system of insurance on its merits, but he had always objected 705 to a national scheme of insurance in substitution of employers' liability. Attention had already been called to the important exclusions from this Bill. There were the seamen, for example, who were certainly in the category of dangerous trades, and who, therefore, ought logically to be included within the scope of the Measure. There was, however, great force in the argument that seamen hitherto had always been legislated for separately, and that might he a valid reason for their exclusion; but he hoped that an assurance would be given that before long the benefits of this legislation would be extended to seamen. Then domestic servants were excluded from the scope of the Bill, and foremen, managers, and clerks. [Sir M. W. RIDLEY explained that foremen were not excluded.] The exclusion of domestic servants from the Bill of 1893 was, he remembered, severely criticised by the present Colonial Secretary. A good deal hail been said about the cost that would be thrown upon employers by the Bill, especially in the mining industry. The hon. Member for Oldham had rather minimised the importance of the question of cost, and had ridiculed the sum of twopence per ton as an amount scarcely worth considering, He might tell the hon. Member that he had been engaged in miners' strikes that were protracted for 17 or 18 weeks, the matter in dispute when narrowed down, being only a penny per ton. In the part of the country with which he was specially connected, 80 per cent, of the total produce was exported. The extra cost there could not possibly be thrown upon the consumer and, therefore, the question must be settled between employer and workman and might become a serious matter. He believed that in the long run the workmen would have to pay, but he did not mention this as an objection against the Bill. He would like to assure the hon. Member for Derby that, whatever other effect might accrue from this Bill, it would not touch the trade unions injuriously. ["Hear, hear !"] They were too firmly embedded in the confidence, and in the affections of the workmen of the country, for this or any other Bill, or for this or any other Government, even if they desired, which he did not believe they did, to injure them in the slightest possible degree. But there were other institutions 706 of very great value of which he could not speak with equal confidence, although he did not take a gloomy view of the effects of this Bill upon them. He referred to the Miners' Permanent Belief Funds.
["Hear, hear !"] These institutions had about 300,000 members at the present time throughout the country. The parent society was the Northumberland and Durham Miners' Permanent Belief Fund, which in 1896 had a membership of 122,000. The members' contributions last year were £99,167, and the owners' percentages were £4,585 There were paid to widows and children £20,500; to men permanently disabled, £15,400; and the superannuation to aged miners was £34,000. By their trade unions they also made provision for their unemployed members. They were self-help institutions—["hear, hear !"]—and every one would admit that these societies reflected the greatest credit upon the workmen in the North of England and upon those colliery owners who had contributed to them. ["Hear, hear !"] The hon. Member for Whilehaven said that if men could get provision quite independent of their societies they would not contribute to them. He feared there would be some tendency in that direction, and he was not at all confident that a Bill of this kind would not injuriously affect these societies. He was not without hope, however, that instead of destroying them the result of the Bill might be to induce employers of labour to approach their workmen with a view to contributing more largely to the support of these societies than they had done heretofore. ["Hear, hear !"] The hon. Member for Derby said that this Bill would be a sort of high school for malingering. He did not like that word at all, or the idea it conveyed, though it might have some substance in fact. He believed that originally it was applied as a military term. He did not think it was characteristic of the soldier to malinger, and he was perfectly certain that it was an exceedingly exceptional thing in connection with the working population of this country. [Cheers.] His own experience was that for one man who would sham illness when he was not ill they would have a dozen who would go to work before they were fit. ["Hear, hear !"] Workmen, however, like other people, had a great deal of human nature in them, 707 and if Parliament increased the benefits beyond a certain point, and gave a man more for lying idle than for working, he might be put under considerable temptation to remain idle. [Laughter.] His belief was that the best way to deal with this would be to get the workmen and the employers to co-operate. ["Hear, hear !"] The ordinary workman had a stronger dislike to any form of shamming than the ordinary employer, and he was sure that he had far less sympathy with it than the ordinary candidate for Parliament. [Laughter.] Therefore, he thought that if they could get the employers and workmen to combine they would effectively put a stop to anything in the direction of an imposition of this kind. To his mind the weak points in the Bill were in the direction of protection and safety, and he attached great importance to that question. The Colonial Secretary and the Home Secretary rather indicated that something might be done in the way of strengthening the criminal law. He was not one of those who believed that the best way to deal with careless men was to impose pecuniary obligations and still less criminal penalties upon, them. He had much more confidence in a thorough and complete record of accidents of all kinds, and in having them thoroughly investigated. Though he disliked litigation, one of its advantages was to let in light and to enable the facts to be got at more thoroughly. While he did not think that the Bill would increase the number of accidents, he was afraid it would not diminish them. That, he thought, was the weak point in the Bill. If the Amendment of his hon. Friend was a mere abstract proposition, he would say "aye" to it, but hon. Members were practical men who had to deal with a practical subject; and if he succeeded in being in a majority in supporting his hon. Friend the result would be that the Bill would be defeated. He did not want to defeat die Bill. [Cheers.] He wanted to amend it. It was not a satisfactory Bill; it was not a complete Measure. No Bill would be satisfactory or complete that did not abolish the doctrine of common employment, and entirely prohibit contracting out of its provisions. This Bill did neither the one nor the other, but it was a very 708 long step in a new and good direction. It was experimental; and, as far as he was concerned, he wanted to give the experiment a fair chance of succeeding. Any influence he possessed would be directed rather to amending the Bill than to defeating it. [Cheers.]
§ MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucester, Stroud)
said he agreed with the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) that in its general principle this Bill did not introduce a dangerous experiment but really a most beneficial reform. He was decidedly of opinion that the scope of the Bill went far enough and should not be enlarged in any of the directions suggested. Sufficient attention had not been paid to the limitation of the employers' liability which the Bill introduced. In the first place it was not a question between the existing law and what was proposed in the Bill. They were agreed on both sides that the doctrine of common employment could be no longer maintained as far as the employments included in the Bill were concerned. Therefore it was not a question of a, new liability contrasted with the liability already existing; it was rather that of a limited liability to insurance as against unlimited liability to the negligence which would arise if they did away with the doctrine of common employment. Hon. Members who wished to abolish that doctrine were hardly consistent in opposing a Bill which proposed to do away with it as regarded all the more dangerous employments, such as mining, railways, and factories. [VOICES: "We don't object !"] There was a point which seemed to have escaped the notice of those who objected to the Bill. At present employers were liable both for their own negligence and for that of their servants in cases where the doctrine of common employment did not apply. But within the scope of the Bill this liability was removed, and outside the Bill no employer could be liable as regarded the specified industries unless the arbitrator or a County Court Judge sitting as arbitrator found him guilty of wilful and wrongful default. That was 709 a most important safeguard, and a safeguard to which he thought the employers were fully entitled. He did not want to look at the Bill from the point of view of the workman any more than from that of the employer. The Bill ought as far as possible to be a fair adjustment as between, the two interests. He agreed with the hon. Member for Morpeth that probably the most perfect adjustment would be made by agreement as between the parties, by their mutual contribution to a common fund. But if they could not rely on the voluntary principle, and they had to introduce legislative enactments, then it was essential that the interest of the employer should have as full recognition and be as carefully protected as the interest of the workman. He had said already that he hoped the scope of the Bill would not be extended. Let him mention one or two points in which its scope might be further limited. He did not wish to reintroduce the principle of contributory negligence. Anyone who appreciated that the Bill was founded on the doctrine of insurance would know that the principle of contributory negligence could hardly come in at all. In his opinion no workman ought to be entitled to any compensation whatever where the accident or injury was directly attributable to his wilful or wrongful act. Suppose a workman had committed an act for which he would be criminally responsible, say, lighting a pipe in a mine. Was he, in respect of a criminal act of that kind, which might do injury to a large number of his fellow workmen, to be entitled to claim compensation either against his employer or any other fund? For his part he could see nothing but injustice in the application of such a doctrine. When the Secretary of State for the Colonies brought forward his Amendment in 1893 he excluded from the operation of his compensation scheme "injuries due to the negligence of the workman." He did not wish to carry his principle quite so far as that, but was it just they should provide compensation—he did not care 710 from what source—when, the injury complained of was the direct result of the wrongful and wilful act of the complainant? He agreed as to getting rid of contributory negligence if they wanted to get rid of litigation, but merely to say the man was not to get compensation where the injury was brought about by his own wilful act was not introducing any difficulty, such as they found in contributory negligence; it was merely asking the arbitrator to decide, in the case of the workman, the very same point which under this Bill he was asked to decide in, the case of the employer. This Act might be a stepping-stone towards further legislation, and if this House once assented to the proposition that a man was entitled to compensation for injury brought about by his own wilful act, and if they were to apply that principle to all employments in the country, he maintained they would have introduced a principle not founded on justice, but on injustice, which would throw an improper liability on the employer, or upon the fellow workman, or upon the consumer. There were two other points to which he desired to call attention with regard to the scope of the Bill. It was very necessary, to his mind, in order that the employer might be protected, that the extent of the liability should be clearly ascertained. In one respect this Bill in no sense clearly ascertained the liability of the employer. Supposing a man was incapacitated at a very young age, was that to say that the employer was liable to provide for all time an annuity in respect of the injury so suffered? He did not believe any principle of that kind could possibly fairly and properly work as between the two parties. It was not the principle they found in any of their friendly societies at the present day. It was not that he feared malingering or anything of that sort, but whether they were dealing with an individual employer or a company, it would be an essential to the fair working of this Bill that the limit of liability should be fairly ascertained, 711 and they could not ascertain that liability in order to insure against it, and in order to make fair provision for it without they limited in some way the amount of compensation which might be claimed not only in the case of a man's death, but also in case of permanent incapacity owing to some injury suffered in the course of employment. Might he point out to the House that this difficulty was to a certain extent, though imperfectly, dealt with in the Bill itself in this way. The question of the amount to be paid to a man for permanent incapacity might be reopened every three months before the arbitrator, or County Court Judge who acted as arbitrator under this Bill. That would be a most fertile source of the very litigation it was one of the objects of the Bill to get rid of. It would be far better to keep out altogether this power of reopening the question and to settle once for all in the case of incapacity as well as death what the payment was to be within some maximum amount fixed in the Bill itself. He was strongly in favour of the principle of contracting out, and he hoped no concession would be made by the Government in the way of defeating the contracting out clause contained in the Bill. But there was one point to which he would ask the attention of the Secretary for the Colonies. When the matter came before the Registrar of Friendly Societies to decide whether the provisions of the Bill were more favourable, or the provisions under some arrangement made between employers and employed, the Registrar was to look to the conditions as a whole. Did that mean he was to consider all the advantages which the workman got and not merely the amount that would be paid to him either in the case of death or incapacity? These funds contained provisions for sickness, old age, and a variety of provisions, all of which operated more or less directly in favour of the workmen, and he wanted to know whether the Registrar of Friendly Societies had to take all these conditions into 712 consideration when he was considering whether the conditions of the Bill were more favourable or the provisions under a scheme of this kind. If all the conditions were to be taken into consideration, and the whole position of the workman was to be ascertained, then he thought that a large number of these schemes must succeed in future as they had succeeded in the past. But if, on the other hand, they were only to be considered in a limited sense, and the duly question was to be whether the amount of compensation in the case of death or incapacity was larger in the one instance than in the other, then he foresaw for his own part not only that no new schemes of this kind would be initiated, but that existing schemes could not endure for any appreciable time. It was most important that the position of the employer under the Bill should be really ascertained, so that in bringing in this novel and beneficial principle, it should be framed on a just, sound, and equitable basis, and it was from, that point of view that he had drawn the attention of the House to the three points which he hoped the Government would carefully consider in their future conduct as regarded this Bill dealing with a great question, which might put an end to much friction as between workmen on the one side and employers on the other.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."—Debate arising;
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.