Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [17th May], "That the Bill be now Read a Second time:" —and which Amendment was, to leave out the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add instead 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. "— (Mr. Drage)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:"—Debate resumed.
§ *MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
, said he intended to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, and he would like to express his gratitude to the Government for having dealt with this difficult subject in a generous spirit. Two matters of interest had occupied 735 the attention of the House. The first was how far a scheme of universal compensation was likely to act as a preventive of the occurrence and recurrence of accidents. They had been told by the Home Secretary and the Secretary for the Colonies that if they desired to prevent the occurrence of accidents they should seek for that in a strengthening of the criminal law. No one was more in favour of strengthening the criminal law than he was, but there were certain deficiencies in its administration which hindered it from being effective as a preventive of accidents. He contended that the penalties inflicted were most inadequate. There was the case of a boy killed in a factory, and the fine inflicted was £1. There was another case where a man was killed, and there again the fine was £1. It was evident that the criminal law wanted strengthening by such additional help as this Bill would supply. He would ask what was likely to be the effect on the minds of other employers when they saw how easy it was to escape the law? Allusion had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, and figures had been given showing that accidents had not increased in Germany. According to figures he found that the numbers in 1887 were 15,900, and in 1895, 75,000, and the amount expended in compensation in 1886 was two million marks, and in 1895 50 million marks. In other words, the number of accidents compensated had largely multiplied. The figures were not absolutely convincing, because it did not follow that there were more accidents because of the increase in those reported and their consequent compensation. A further question raised by the hon. Member for Derby was what was likely to be the economic bearing of such a scheme as the present. On whom would the burden fall? Those who like his hon. Friend and himself, were engaged in industrial production, knew how difficult it was to raise prices, and how reluctant they were to accept diminished dividends. As to the reasons given by the Home Secretary for excluding certain trades, he did not think he had made out his case. Take agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman said it was not included because there were so few statistics in their possession. The returns showed that there were as many acci- 736 dents in agriculture through machinery as in the whole textile trade. He regretted the exclusion of workshops. There were 79,000 registered factories, and almost one-half of them employed less than ten persons. If the burden was one fitted to be borne by the occupiers of these small factories, it was also fitted for the occupiers of large workshops. The right hon. Gentleman said there were fewer accidents in workshops than in factories, but he did not understand him to say that these figures were conclusive. The Government, by excluding workshops, would exclude a particularly dangerous trade. He alluded to that of generating electricity. The transforming chambers would be regarded as workshops. The dangers in those departments of electric shock were great. Since 1892, 14 fatal accidents had occurred through electrical current, and out of those seven happened in transforming chambers. That afforded a good reason for the Government to bring workshops within the purview of the Bill. Why he asked, should a person engaged in the bottling of aerated waters be denied the benefits of the Bill? It was not necessary that such bottling should be done in factories, indeed it was constantly done in workshops, In excluding workshops from the operation of the Bill the Government were taking a very serious, if not a retrograde, step, the result of which it was difficult to forecast. But there was an oven greater anomaly than the exclusion of workshops; he alluded to the interpretation of the words "personal injury by accident." What was an accident? There was hardly any clause in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife to which greater importance was attached, or which gave greater satisfaction to the working classes, than the clause which fixed the responsibility on the employer for accidents to workpeople engaged in dangerous trades. The Government claimed to be dealing with dangerous trades; but was it not idle to make such a claim when they withheld from the operation of the Measure such trades as the white-lead trade, the india-rubber trade, the pottery trade, and equally dangerous trades? ["Hear, hear!"] He maintained that a man who had his health impaired suffered more than the man who met with an accident; because, while they were both debarred from 737 winning their daily bread, the man injured in health handed down to his children a sickly frame and a diseased organisation which unfitted them for useful citizenship. In conclusion, he desired to say that he and his hon. Friends in criticising the Measure were only anxious to strengthen the Measure and to widen its scope. The Government had now a threat opportunity, and it was but lair to say they recognised the fact. But if they did not deal generously with the suggestions which had been made from different quarters of the House in respect to the widening of the scope of the Bill, and the doing away with the inequalities of the Measure, he feared they would throw away their matchless opportunity. If, on the other hand, they did deal generously with those suggestions, they would not only earn the gratitude of the House but would "give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death."
§ *MR. LIONEL HOLLAND (Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley)
said that to-night they had to consider the main principle and not the details of the Bill. They had to decide whether or not the time had now arrived to cease tinkering with the question of employers' liability, and to put the question upon a permanent, broad, and logical footing. He had listened carefully to the speeches delivered during the Debate, and as far as he could gather three main objections had been urged against the principle of the Bill. It had been said that a system of general compensation covered by insurance would tend to make the employers careless as to the precautions they took for the safety of their men; it had been said that the compensation would be deducted from the wages of the men; and the fear had been expressed that the charge for insurance would be so large as to act as a handicap to the development of trade and enterprise in Great Britain. If the last objection could be substantiated it would, in his opinion, more than counterbalance all the advantages which could be gained from the Bill. But it seemed rather curious that we should be unable to do in England generally what many of the employers in England had done voluntarily, and what was made compulsory upon all employers in most trades in Germany. The system of insurance in Germany was not less satisfactory to the employer than 738 to the employed, although the burden which the system imposed on the employers was no light one. That was not altogether due to the generous nature of the compensation, but in great measure to the immense cost of the management expenses. The latter expenses amounted to one-third of the compensation which was given; and the cost of insurance, which fell directly on the employer, came to from £1 to £1 4s., and £1 12s. in some trades, per £100 paid in wages. It had been said that under this Bill insurance would amount to about 1 per cent., but he had been informed that insurance companies would be able to effect the insurance at about 15s. for every £100 paid in wages. If an employer wished to insure his risk under the present Act he was charged from 2s. 6d. to 5s. for every £100 of wages, but if the doctrine of common employment were abolished, and it was agreed on all sides it should be abolished, the charge for insurance would be raised to about. 10s. per £100. Therefore the increase in charge to the employer under this Bill, and a Bill which merely abolished common employment, would be about 5s. per £100 paid in wages. He maintained that the increased charge-upon the employer would not be altogether a real charge, because to a great extent he would receive compensation by sonic indirect benefits which would accrue from the Bill. Litigation would not be altogether abolished, but the opportunities for litigation would be materially decreased. The liability of the employer would be an ascertained and defined liability, and not an arbitrary and unknown liability. Besides this, he would be relieved from many of the charitable obligations, or what almost seemed to be moral obligations, to relieve the relatives of an injured working man or the injured man himself. It was far better that a man should stand on an independent footing and know that what he claimed was under an Act of Parliament, than that he should have to depend on the charity of his employer. This Measure had not, and could not, escape its allowance of gloomy predictions. The prophets of evil had never been absent when any Pleasure affecting the management of industrial operations had been before the House. An hon. Member opposite, representing the mining industry, had 739 actually declared that the mines of England would be shut up and that thousands of men would be walking over the country without any employment as the result of this Bill. It was curious that, in the Debates on the first Truck Act in 1831, there were Members on the opposite side of the House, foremost among them Mr. Joseph Hume, who stated that if the Bill were passed it would spell the ruin of many of the manufactures of the country, that manufacturers would shut up their works, and that men would be walking about unemployed until the Act was repealed, as they were certain it would be repealed. Since then trade and industry had prospered, and continued to prosper in spite of the fact that Measures of a similar nature, oven more stringent in their character, had been passed down to last Session. He only instanced this as an illustration of the fact that the results which were predicted of an alteration of the law were not always the results which ultimately obtained. ["Hear, hear!"] The objection which had been raised that this compensation would ultimately fall upon the wages of the men, was a mere supposition, and he did not think it was a supposition likely to be indorsed by that House. It seemed to him quite contrary to experience, and it certainly was incapable of proof. The rate of wages in Germany had gone up, and not down, since the system of compensation was introduced. It seemed to him that there was only one condition in which it was likely that this charge would fall upon the earnings of the men. That was in the case of a business in which the sale price of an article was cut down to the lowest possible level in order to meet foreign competition, and where that price could not be raised without succumbing to that foreign competition—where the cost of production was so slightly below the sale price that an employer would rather give up business altogether than suffer any further diminution of his profits. In that case, and in that case only, where the cost of the insurance could not be got out of the employer's pocket, and where it could not be got out of the consumers' pockets, was it likely to fall upon the wages of the workmen. These cases were comparatively few, and, so far as German competition was concerned, they must always bear in mind that already German 740 trade bore this charge without any detriment. He only wished to refer to one other argument, namely, that a system of general insurance would weaken the inducement to an employer to take precautions for the safety of his men. In the first place, that seemed to take a precious low view of employers, and, in the next place, Sir Frederick Pollock, in a note in the Report of the Labour Commission, declared that no proof had been adduced of avoidable negligence on the part of employers, and added: —If such proof could be produced, it was the criminal rather than the civil law which ought to be strengthened to meet such a case.It was quite clear that proper safeguards against accidents was a matter for Factory Acts, Merchant Shipping Acts, and other legislation of that character, and was not a matter to mix up and confuse with demands for compensation. But, admitting that there were employers who would be likely to expose their workmen to unnecessary risk, surely the one way by which they could influence such men as that was by getting at their pockets, and the increased premium which the insurance companies would impose upon them would soon induce a better frame of mind. The object of the Bill, he took it, was to make the pecuniary interest of an employer to safeguard his men the same as the interest of the men in securing that safely. He thought it was reasonable to assume that the very effect of insurance would be to compel in the direction of prevention. He did not wish to lay any stress upon this point, because, whatever system of employers' liability they adopted, it was not likely that it would materially influence the question of prevention of accidents. The subject of precaution against accidents and of compensation for injuries arising from accidents, were two distinct issues, and should be treated as distinct. But, since the late Home Secretary introduced his Employers' Liability Bill, he maintained that the evidence received as to the effect of the working of the German system tended to show that, on the whole, it had acted for the prevention and not the increase of accidents. The present law as it now stood was admittedly defective. It did not provide 741 for one quarter of the accidents which were an inevitable accompaniment of modern methods of industry, and, even where a workman had got a claim against his employer, he was obliged to enforce it by legal action, which was a perfect pitfall for the unwary litigant. To abolish the doctrine of common employment was to leave untouched one-half of the accidents which occurred now, and merely to remove one out of five legal defences which could be made to an action under the Employers' Liability Act. He would remind the House that Sir Godfrey Lushington, in the Report of the Labour Commission—and he was not likely to be prejudiced against the existing state of the law—condemned the whole principle upon which our system of employers' liability was founded. He pointed out the terrors of litigation to workmen; the gross unfairness to workmen that they should have to prove negligence on the part of their employers; and he concluded: —It is quite unsuitable as a remedy to meet the common case of a trifling injury which befalls a workman in the course of his employment, and results in his temporary disablement.As he understood this Bill, the House was asked to declare in favour of a system which would be more humane than the present system, because it would give a, more certain means of compensation. The Bill, he agreed, was capable of amendment; but he hoped that whatever length of time it took to discuss and perfect it in Committee, the House would not get up before it had resolved that it should pass into law. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ MR. ANDREW PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
said there was one point which wanted clearing up to some extent, namely, whether they were debating how to provide compensation for injury, or how to prevent accidents. They ought to make up their minds what sort of a Bill they wanted, because it was certain that a Bill compensating for accidents could not be also a Bill for preventing accidents, except indirectly, by means of its penalties. However, if that were so, this Bill would operate in a much stronger way for the prevention of accidents than any which had preceded it. The Bill of 1893 would only have reached one accident in ten, and even with the doctrine 742 of common employment set aside, the Bill would only have doubled the number of cases that would have been compensated. The present Bill proposed that all accidents in the included trades were to be compensated for, and it would be five times more powerful than the 1893 Bill in the way of prevention. No Employers' Liability Bill had dealt directly with the prevention of accidents. The Bill backed up by the hon. Members for Battersea, Normanton, and Morpeth contained nothing of the kind. It dealt with compensation only. It was perfectly clear, then, that all the Legislature had done to prevent accidents hitherto had been done by special Acts—such as the Mines, Factories, and Quarries Acts. The Bill of 1893 provided many facilities for going to law against the employer: but if there was anything clearly proved by experience under the Act of 1880, it was that workmen could get no benefit from the Law Courts. That was shown by the result of the actions brought under the Act. There was an impression in the minds of workmen not only that all accidents, or nearly all, were preventible, but that a very large number, if not the whole of them, were caused by the employers. The available records showed that the result was quite the contrary. The only recognised record was the Return of convictions of employers and employed under the Regulation of Mines Act. The figures showed that during last year seven owners or managers of mines were convicted of offences connected with safety-lamp explosions. On the other hand, the number of workmen convicted of such offences was 65, while 59 were convicted of neglecting to set sprags and blocks, 44 of offences in connection with the use of explosives, and 137 of carrying matches and smoking in mines. The Return, therefore, showed that the number of workmen convicted of offences was largely in excess of the number of offences proved against employers. Prevention, it was clear, must be carried out in some other way than by the imposition of penalties for the contravention of some particular Act. Workmen and their leaders seemed to have a strong feeling that they could get advantage under an Act of Parliament by going to law. They had encouraged it in every form. Even the Bill just introduced on their behalf 743 gave every facility for going to law, but it did nothing for the prevention of accidents in any other way. The Secretary for the Colonies had told them that in the actions tried under the Employers' Liability Act in England the compensation awarded averaged about £41 per action, That was bad enough. But the figures respecting Scotland were so bad that, candidly, he believed it would have been much better for the workmen if there had never been any Employers' Liability Bill at all. In 14 years after the passing of the Act of 1881, there were 1,762 actions tried in Scotland, in which £363,000 was claimed, but only, £17,500 was awarded, which was only 5 per cent. It was certain the workmen of Scotland must have paid that amount in costs. He mentioned these things to show the worthlessness of going to law either to obtain compensation for workmen or to discourage employers and others from causing accidents. It would have no effect at all in making either employer or workman more careful. Nobody was benefited except the lawyers; indeed, in all the Bills brought before the House before this the chief, if not the sole, interest protected was the interest of the lawyers. Another reason for calling attention to this was that he wanted the right hon. Gentleman to take into his careful consideration the question of costs. If the arbitrations under the Bill were to be conducted as arbitrations were usually conducted in this country—say before an official referee— then, a workman had better face an ordinary trial. He hoped such rules would be made as would prevent the piling up of enormous costs against those who referred their cases to arbitration. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned that the fees would be paid by the Government; but those who knew anything of County Court practice knew that the fees were a microscopic part of the total costs; and unless the right hon. Gentleman took care to protect litigants in cases of this kind, he felt certain that he would have to come again to the House, perhaps even to abolish arbitration altogether, and set up some simpler and easier method of arriving at a settlement of the question between the parties. The right hon. Gentleman told them last night the number of accidents which he believed occurred in the industries 744 affected under this Bill. No doubt, he had better opportunities for arriving at the numbers than himself. But, turning to the Census Returns, he found that there were 17 millions of working men in this country, and of these four millions were working on their own account, while about 13 millions were employed by others. There were employed in callings with little risk seven millions; with some risk two and a half millions; and in more or less dangerous callings about three and a half millions. There were two employments which he would ask the Home Secretary to include, namely, workmen engaged in the manufacture, storage, and transportation of explosives, and men who were employed in occupations connected with horses, carriers, coachmen, wag-goners, carters, and farriers, numbering altogether about 400,000. This work was dangerous, and the men were unable to combine for protection, with anything like the strength and cohesion possible in most other trades. The Home Secretary had been asked if he would introduce a separate Act to deal with sailors, but he had not given an answer. It was to deal with dangerous callings that this Bill was introduced, and going to sea, was the most dangerous of all callings; being, according to the Official Returns, rive times more fatal than mining. Sailors were already protected to some extent in several foreign countries, but so far nothing had been done for them here, and they were unable to combine to protect their own interests as they led a too scattered life, and obtaining evidence in case of accident to them was almost an impossibility. The Bill contained anomalies and inequalities, and there was no doubt that the position of workmen who were excluded would become intolerable under the Act of 1880. The Home Secretary promised the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife to consider an Amendment repealing the doctrine of common employment as applying to all workmen excluded from this Bill. He himself hoped the Home Secretary would also accept Amendments dealing with contributory negligence, or of a workman having knowledge of a defect in the plant which afterwards might have led to an accident, as innumerable actions have been defeated by these defences. Then the Act of 1880 should be amended to the extent of making all negligent employers liable, 745 and not as at present only employers who personally directed the workmen. The notice of injury should also be extended from six weeks up to, say, three months. While the scale of compensation in the Bill might be considered as satisfactory, as no objection had been taken to it in any quarter of the House, it would be unfair to apprentices, as a young man, during the last year or two of his apprenticeship would have very small wages, while immediately his time had expired, his wages might be doubled, or become even higher. He believed the Government would have on this point to amend the Bill. As the Bill stood it would be an inducement for employers to engage bachelors, widowers, and men without children in order to escape the consequences of the Act. Should it prove that there were no dependents, the money could be applied to some fund for which use might be found hereafter. Sub-contractors were also left out of the present Bill, and these should be dealt with as they were in the Bill of 1893. He thought with regard to insurance that it must be made compulsory that a workman should have his compensation secured, otherwise cases would arise in which he would not receive anything. The contracting out clause would lead to the extension of Accident Relief Funds, such as were now carried on by many large companies employing many workmen, but small works would be unable to have such Funds with safety; and it was likely that the Registrar of Friendly Societies would not certify for small works with few men employed. In the case of coal mines, insurance must be compulsory, unless the whole of the coal industries of the country combined for mutual insurance, as all the men in any coal pit might be killed by a single accident. Between 1860 and 1891 there were 30 mine accidents in which 4,100 lives were lost. The owners of many of these would have been quite unable to pay compensation, and therefore mine owners must either combine for mutual insurance, or be required to insure with insurance companies; otherwise the miners would have no security for compensation in case of accident. He could not, however, see how every case will be met, unless some Government scheme of management or regulation were created. The insurance offices expended 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of their premiums in 746 management charges, whereas the London and North Western Railway Company managed their fund for 4 per cent. Mutual trade arrangements could be carried out for as little, and with Government management the work could be done for less. If employers were compelled to insure with companies it will in effect tax their industries for almost twice as much as insurance could be effected for in other ways. Labour representatives had always opposed insurance. In 1886 in a. Committee upstairs, they tried to make insurance impossible. An Amendment was proposed which would have made it penal on the part of an employer to insure, and this was repeated at a subsequent Committee. Of course, these Amendments were not accepted, and did not appear in the Bills when they came back to the House. The contention was that it would weaken the trades unions, and also that it would remove the necessity for care by the employer. That was an entire mistake All insurance meant increased security — [Mr. HAVELOCK WILSON: "Not in ships !"]—and greater care. This was true of marine insurance as regarded ships, and fire insurance as regarded houses. Both ships and houses were much better and safer built at the present time than they ever were, and they were so because, in the case of ships, they were compelled to be built in conformity with rules laid down by Lloyds. This remark also applied to companies that did not insure their ships. They must, like the others, build up to the standard or beyond it, for the reason that if they did not do so, no one would ship cargo. Every shipper had to put his goods in a vessel in which he could insure. Therefore, in order to obtain freight, every vessel must be built in conformity with the rules laid down by the representatives of the insurance offices. A word as to the distribution of compensation. It would lead to waste if widows of workmen received in one sum £150 or £200. It would appear to them unlimited wealth, probably never in their lives having known what it was to have as much as £5. The Government should do all that was possible to retain the Miners' Permanent Relief Societies in existence, as their machinery met such cases by paying allowances weekly to widows and children. If these societies were permitted to die 747 out, their machinery could not be recreated. The present Bill was admittedly imperfect, and would require much amendment in Committee. The Government could complete all necessary inquiries during this Session, and take it as the first Bill nest Session. It would then become law on the 30th April 1898, which would make only four months delay, and this would furnish opportunities of making it a better Act.
§ *MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
When this Bill was first introduced I ventured, on behalf of many of those who sat on this side of the House, to assure Her Majesty's Government that it would be received by us not in the spirit of party controversy, and that its provisions would be examined in a fair and sympathetic temper. Those anticipations, it must be admitted, have been more than realised by the course and character of this Debate. [" Hear, hear !"] And in the brief observations which I shall address to the House—for it is extremely desirable that we should compress our speeches into a somewhat more moderate compass than has been done in one or two cases—[cheers]—I shall speak as one who is not only prepared to accept the principle of the Bill, but is desirous in various ways to extend its scope and to strengthen its safeguards. Let me say at the outset that I do not share in the least the apprehensions which have been expressed in more than one quarter that legislation on these lines—developed, as it must be in the course of time, far beyond the comparatively limited area of this Bill—is likely to impose an insuperable, or indeed a serious, burden upon the industries of this country. As an hon. Member opposite has reminded us, there has not been one single stage of the long and beneficent series of enactments for the protection of the life and health of the working population at which similar vaticinations have not been uttered with the same lugubrious confidence. ["Hear, hear !"] But happily there is not one case which can be produced where those forecasts have not been falsified. ["Hear, hear!"] I am myself certain that among the many new and formidable dangers with which undoubtedly British trade is in these days confronted, our industry is not only not unfavourably handicapped in the race with the rest of the world, but it has enjoyed 748 great and distinct advantages, resulting directly and indirectly from the legislation shortening the hours of labour and improving the conditions under which our industrial life is carried on. ["Hear, hear!"] One other thing. I do not see—and I never have seen—the incompatibility, from the point of principle, which appears to suggest itself to the minds of some hon. Gentlemen between proposals such as those which some of us were engaged in promoting three or four years ago, for the amendment of the law of employers' liability, and the proposals now before the House. They aim at different, but at perfectly reconcileable and perfectly consistent, objects. The primary purpose—although people may differ as to the method—of legislation as to employers' liability is, by fixing a direct personal responsibility on the employer for taking all precautions which skill and foresight can suggest against accident, to raise the average level of safety. The primary purpose of compensation, on the other hand, is to secure that every one who is engaged in what is called "the army of industry," shall, if he is wounded or if his life is cut short, have secured to him and those dependent on him, an adequate provision to meet the necessities of the case. These are different objects, but they are quite compatible one with the other, and I do not see why they should not be pursued at the same time. ["Hear, hear !"] A great deal of reference has been made to the German system. In common with most of those who are interested in industrial questions, I have watched that system pretty closely during the past few years. If I had to state my own opinion of it, I think I should find myself almost midway between the conflicting views of its champions and its critics. But I desire to point out that the German system has nothing to do with the proposals in this Bill, which is framed on entirely different lines. In the conception and in the drafting of the Government's Measure, it is perfectly clear that they have deliberately and for reasons which seemed good to themselves, abjured the German example. The German system is a perfectly logical attempt to combine the two objects which I have described. On the one hand, it does secure to the workman not only a title 749 to, but an absolute assurance that he will receive compensation; because it does not make his enjoyment of compensation dependent on the solvency of his employer, but enables him to have recourse to the whole industrial group to which that employer belongs. On the other hand, the German system aims also at those objects which we have endeavoured to pursue in our law relating to employers' liability. It has a "danger tariff" as it is called—a system under which a higher levy of contribution is exacted for the common fund from the employer who, from the prevalence of accidents in his works, there is ground for believing does not take proper precautions. In the present Bill these features are not reproduced. As regards prevention, as my right hon. Friend very frankly stated, the Bill does not propose to make any change in the existing law, except to the extent that, when the employer has to compensate the workman for all accidents, he will be under an inducement to curtail the area of preventable accidents in order to reduce' his total liability, lint the Bill makes no direct proposals on the subject, and does not, like the German system, penalise the employer, apart from the compensation which he has to pay, if he is proved to be guilty of exceptional want of care. Still more remarkable and significant is the departure of the Bill from the German example in the character of the security which it gives to the workman for compensation. Do not let it be supposed for a moment that I am quarrelling in this respect with the lines which the Government have pursued. The German system may be very well suited to the economic and social conditions of that country, but its adoption here—resting as it does on the double foundation of compulsory grouping and centralised control—would require us to fry in the face of the traditions and the living tendencies of British industry. [Cheers.] I thought that the Government were perfectly right in discarding that feature of the German system, although it must be admitted that in so doing they have been obliged to deprive the workman of a security which, under the German system, he does undoubtedly enjoy. Let us see how it works out. It is said that under this 750 Bill the employers will insure. I believe that in a large number of cases they will, though there is no obligation to do so. In the textile trades, where the premium paid at present for insuring employers' liability is so trifling as to be an insignificant item in the cost of production, the burden thrown on the employer, even if that premium were multiplied five or ten fold by the Bill, would still be very small; and I do not doubt that in that large industry insurance will be very generally resorted to. But there are other trades in which you cannot predict with the same certainty that that will be the case. I mean, for instance, the building trade and coal mining. Take a case which I am sure is possible and even probable. Take the case of a coal mine in South Wales—one of those dangerous areas where, as we know, however great the precautions taken by the manufacturer, there is a natural and unforeseeable liability to disaster. Many of them are owned by limited companies of which the whole of the capital is paid up. I do not believe that any of the insurance companies would insure an employer in that position against the risks of explosion; but, whether or not, I am certain that the premium which would have to be paid for such an insurance would be so large, and would be such a heavy burden on an industry in which the margin of profit had reached almost the vanishing point, that the owner would rather depend on "the chapter of accidents" than avail himself of that insurance. Then what happens? Sooner or later the explosion takes place and perhaps 200 lives are lost. The minimum payment under the Bill is £30,000, and it may rise to £60,000. What becomes of the workmen? The concern goes into liquidation and the workman has a right of proof, for what it is worth, and I may say that there is no form of litigation so unsatisfactory as carrying in a proof in bankruptcy. The workmen may get a farthing or at the outside sixpence in the pound. Here I beg to assure the House I am putting no imaginary case, but one which is very likely to occur— ["hear, hear!"]—and one cannot ignore the probability that the existence of a statutory obligation of this kind will tend to encourage the conversion of many businesses at present carried on by private partnerships into limited companies, 751 thereby, of course, reducing the margin which would be available for compensation to workmen in the event of one of these inevitable disasters. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government and those who support them will agree that this is a very serious state of things, and as long as that is possible it cannot be said that we have solved the question of compensation for accidents. It may be said, What suggestions have you to make? I repeat that I think the Government were right in the first instance in trying the experiment of making the individual employer liable. But I am certain that when you have made that experiment you will find that you will be led to lengths which some people hardly anticipate. [Cheers.] Let us fully realise where we are going. If you once establish the principle that if a soldier in the army of industry is wounded or dies he is entitled in the one case to a pension, and in the other case that his dependents are to be provided for, you cannot leave the application of that principle to the hazard of chance, as to whether the captain of his company is solvent or insolvent. The liability you recognise rests not upon the ground that the employer is morally responsible; it rests on the ground that this is one of the burdens incidental to the trade, and that it is a matter of general interest that men should not be left unprovided for who have devoted the best of their energies to the carrying on of industries of the country. As a matter of convenience you may make the employer the person whose pocket is in the first instance to be resorted to; but when that pocket is empty, and when the workman who has sustained a great injury is unable to obtain compensation from him, you will have to provide another fund for the purpose. I like to look questions of this kind fairly in the face, and I do not hesitate to say that in my opinion, when we have passed this Bill into law, we shall have practically committed ourselves to a system by which out of State resources you will have to guarantee compensation for accidents. ["Hear, hear!"] I pass from that to say a word on the subject of the introduction of additional safeguards for the prevention of accidents. I was glad to hear the assurance of the Home Secretary last night that whilst he deprecated 752 making the Bill too complicated a Measure, if it were found consistent with not unduly enlarging its area, he would introduce safety provisions, or at any rate keep an open mind on the subject. The point which I would press upon the Government is that they ought to take this opportunity of abolishing once and for all as regards all the industries of the country the doctrine of common employment. ["Hear, hear !"] That doctrine has had a curious history. It was the invention of lawyers. Seventeen years ago, when the first Employers' Liability Bill was passed, the doctrine of common employment was taken for granted by everybody as being a sound and well-founded principle, and it was regarded as rather a heretical thing to throw doubt upon it. But now there is no one so poor as to do it reverence. ["Hear, hear !" and laughter.] No one has adduced a single argument in favour of the maintenance of the doctrine of common employment. ["Hear, hear !"] The Colonial Secretary has said that as regards these selected industries we are getting rid of the doctrine. I do not think that that statement is literally accurate. It is perfectly true that as regards a man in the selected trades who chooses to prefer his claim to compensation under the schedule of this Bill no question of common employment can arise. But there is an important provision in the Bill to which very little attention has been directed, namely, sub-paragraph B of Sub-section 2, Clause 1 —[cheers]—which gives the alternative right to the person injured to pursue, subject to certain conditions, his legal remedy. I confess I do not understand the language of that clause any more than I do astrology. [Laughter.] What is the meaning of "wilful and wrongful act of the employer"? How you are going to draw a line between what the Home Secretary called "gross negligence" and the "wilful act of the employer" I do not know; and as this is one of the matters that have compulsorily to be referred to arbitration before the workman can bring his action in a Court of Law, it seems to me a clause which will give rise to a great deal of unnecessary litigation. Let us suppose a case which will commonly occur. A man is not killed, but is seriously injured by an accident. He loses a finger, an eye, or a limb, but he 753 is not in a condition of incapacity, which alone is contemplated and provided for in the schedule of the Bill. He can work, but he works in a mutilated and crippled condition and at a less remunerative form of employment. As I read the Bill I do not think it makes any provision for that case. But even if it did, the man may believe that he would get a larger solatium by his legal remedy than in this modest amount—"a weekly payment not exceeding 50 per cent of his wages." ["Hear, hear !"] The moment a man goes to law, although he belongs to one of the selected industries, he may be met by the defence of common employment, and if the injury can be shown in any degree to be due to the default of a follow workman he cannot obtain a remedy. ["Hear, hear!"] I say then that, even as regards the selected trades, my right hon. Friend went beyond what is provided in the Bill when he said that the doctrine of common employment had no application. But as regards the non-selected trades the law remains as it has been for the past 17 years a scandal and a. reproach to the Legislature—["hear, hear !"]—an elaborate series of traps and pitfalls for the unwary litigant, and producing litigation which in proportion to its difficulty and cost is absolutely barren of result. ["Hear, hear !"] By a few words introduced into the Bill the Government may get rid of the doctrine of common employment and confer an incalculable boon upon the large body of workmen who are otherwise excluded from its operation. ["Hear, hear!"] with regard to exclusions from the Bill. I do not deny that there is something to be said for proceeding tentatively in the working out of a. matter of this kind but I cannot understand or appreciate the grounds upon which the Government have proceeded in their discrimination between favoured and unfavoured trades. The main ground alleged is that in selected trades the percentage of accidents is higher than in the others. That I believe is open to doubt. It certainly is very high in the case of certain trades of a dangerous character which are excluded from the scope of the Bill. But I venture emphatically to protest against the use, or rather the abuse, of the doctrine of averages in matters of this kind. It is no consolation to a mine-owner, who has to work a dangerous 754 mine and who is called upon to make good the results of an explosion by which two or three hundred persons are killed, to say that the average cost of this new charge on capital is 1 per cent. of the coal industry of the country. ["Hear, hear !"] But if that is the case as regards the owner, how far stronger is the case as regards the workman who is injured? Here is a man, we will say, a builder, who falls from a scaffold on a building where steam power is not used and breaks his arm or his leg, and is incapacitated from carrying on his business by which he gets his living. The doctrine of common employment stands in the way of his getting anything out of his employer if it is shown that a fellow workman has been guilty of contributory negligence, and he cannot get a halfpenny under the Bill because he does not happen to belong to one of the privileged trades. You go to such a man and say to him, "My poor friend, I am very sorry for you. It is quite true that you have been crippled and mutilated for life, and that your value as an instrument of production, has been depreciated to an extent that cannot be estimated. But you are only one case in a thousand. Your more fortunate neighbour next door, who, having sustained a similar injury, has got a pension for life, belongs to a trade where he is one in fifty or in a hundred." [Cheers.] There cannot possibly be any policy or justice in that discrimination. ["Hear, hear !"] I am not making these criticisms in any hostile spirit, because I am anxious if I can, as we all are in respect to this Bill, to make it a complete and workable Measure, and, above all, that it shall not be a, Bill which, by introducing new and invidious distinctions between different classes of workmen, could give rise to jealousy and heartburning, and prove anything but a settlement of the great questions which we all wish to settle. [Cheers.] I therefore earnestly trust that the Government will reconsider the exclusion of these trades, some of which, for instance, such as the trade of seamen, are peculiarly dangerous. [" Hear, hear!"] I should like to mention two other points. The first is as to the question, who under the Bill is to be deemed to be an employer—a question which was raised by one of my hon. Friends on this side. Now, Sir, everyone 755 who has had to study this matter with a view to practical legislation has very soon found himself confronted with this difficulty. In our law, if the employer delegates a part of the work which he has contracted to do by contract to another, and allows that other to employ the workmen, between that head employer and the workmen there is no contractual relation whatever. Thus, if you give to the workman a remedy against the employer, he must pursue it against the middleman and not against the head man, for whose behalf and profit the contract is really being carried out. In. other words, you are brought face to face with the question of sub-contracting. If this Bill be passed in its present form, it will give an enormous impetus to sub-contracting. We know that sub-contracting already exists to a very considerable extent in mines, where a. great deal of the incidental work is done under butty men or gangers—by small gangs of men, whom they select and pay. These men are not, in point of law, in the employment of the mine-owner, and any remedy given to them against their employer would only be against this man—I will not call him a man of straw, but a man with no adequate means of making good the compensation which it is your intention to give. You must deal with that question if this Bill is to be a satisfactory Bill, and I venture upon that point to press upon the Government the desirability of incorporating, as they can, I think, without the least change in the structure of their Bill, by a more addition, the clause we succeeded in introducing into the Employers' Liability Bill of 1893. In that clause, under certain, well-defined conditions, the main one of which was that the head employer must have control of the operations or of the premises upon which the work has been carried on, you would make the head employer liable, and not the intermediary alone, whose liability would be of no value whatever to the injured man. There is another point also involving no change whatever in the principle of the Bill, and very little change in its structure. It was brought forward with admirable wealth of apposite illustration, by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire. In the first subsection of all, which entitles an injured man to compensation for injury arising 756 from accident, you should either by the introduction of words into that clause, or by definition or, if needed, by a separate and independent clause, import into the scope of the Bill injuries to health which are caused by neglect on the part of the employer to take those sanitary precautions which are essential for the well-being of the workmen. [Cheers.] As my hon. Friend pointed out there are a very large number of cases, particularly in dangerous trades, such as the lead, pottery, and other industries, in which people living in an insidious atmosphere day by day and week by week are slowly poisoned, lose their health, very often become victims of paralysis, and are rendered quite incapable of carrying on industrial operations. These men and these women—for they are very largely women—are as much wounded soldiers who have fallen on one side in the march of this great army of industry as the man who has his arm or his leg broken in one of the trades dealt with by the Bill. [Cheers.] I confess that no Measure to secure compensation is to my mind adequate or satisfactory which does not bring them within this scope. I have confined myself to matters that seemed to me of vital importance, which go down to the very roots of the question, and I end as I began, by saying that I trust that when the Bill reaches the Committee stage we shall find the Government willing to consider and accede to the suggestions, such as those I have ventured to put forward, conceived not in any spirit of hostility to the Bill, but in the honest desire to extend its scope, within such limits as are reasonable and just, and to make it a satisfactory Measure. [Cheers.]
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said it was a great pleasure to him to find himself in accord with the right hon. Gentleman in regard to many of the observations he had made, although he must criticise some of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments. He was satisfied that they were not addressed to the House in any spirit of hostility. The main objection which had been raised to the Bill was that it would impose a burden, on the great colliery industry. Hon. Members who represented colliery interests, however, had proceeded on inaccurate data, and upon promises which would not bear the test 757 of even a superficial examination. The calculation of the hon. Member for Gainsborough that the liability thrown upon the colliery owners by this Bill would amount to 2d, a ton, or even more, and would be an almost intolerable burden, was not a calculation upon which the House could act, because no one who had considered the question during the last 10 or 15 years could possibly assume that the existing law was to be allowed to continue to be the standard of the liability of the colliery owners. What they ought to do in order to fairly gauge the real burden imposed on any industry by the Bill was to take the best position which that industry could hope for under the altered legislation which they must expect. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite gave the best terms which the colliery owner could have been asked to expect, and yet not a single Member in the course of that Debate had attempted to fix what would have been the standard of liability imposed by that Bill. That Measure would have put an end to the doctrine of common employment so far as collieries were concerned, it would have made the coal owner liable in every case in which a workman was injured by reason of the negligence of any person in the service of the employer. He risked hon. Members who might follow him to say how much of the hundreds of thousands of pounds ought to be deducted in the case of colliery proprietors who had a. good defence. He did not hesitate to say from his own experience that, taking the standard of liability which would be imposed by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman and the standard imposed by this Bill, only a fraction of increased liability—it might be 10, 15, or 20 per cent, at the outside —would be due to the fact that the colliery proprietor had to compensate in every case of accident in which the workman had been guilty of contributory negligence. No doubt many hon. Members opposite at the last election were prepared to accept the Bill of the right hon. Member for Fife, and if so to consent to have imposed upon themselves as employers of labour a liability which he believed would be 50, 6O, or even 70 per cent, of the liability imposed by this Bill. In order to ascertain what was the real burden, they must contrast the existing state of things with what would have been the change in the law and the increased liability had 758 the Bill of 1893 been passed. A word with reference to the inclusion or exclusion of all trades or the limited inclusion under the present Bill. Here he could not quite agree with the argument of the right hon. Member for East Fife. To his own mind, remembering that the Government were enunciating a principle which, if not altogether new, went further in regard to these trades than the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, it was necessary to proceed with caution. To include all trades at once in this system he believed he could show was impossible. Upon what basis had the Government proceeded? The first broad principle that they had proceeded upon was to include trades that were either dangerous or involved such conditions that legislation had been necessary to control the manner and safeguards under which they were carried out. With regard to engineering works they advanced further. Then they had to consider the practical conditions which affected those industries, and he would take one or two of the most typical matters that had been referred to. Take the building trade. What was the condition of that trade as a whole? Apart from, the vast structures reared in London and other large cities by the aid of costly machinery, the bulk of the work done was in relation to comparatively small buildings which did not involve the same elements of danger. Here small employers were for the most part little better off than the foreman and superior workmen who worked on the job, and if at one sweep, without experience of how it would work, they were to include the whole of the building trade, they would simply drag in and put under the conditions of this Bill a class of men who could not combine to protect themselves and ought not to be called upon to insure and pay compensation for injuries of men who were practically in the same position, as themselves. Take domestic servants. No Bill would be necessary for domestic servants such as hon. Members would employ. If any of their servants were injured in their employment he was sure they would not allow them to remain without the means of subsistence. But with small people, in the small habitations of our towns, employing one or two servants it was different. It would be ridiculous that persons with incomes varying between £100 and £200 a year should have imposed 759 upon them by statute the liability to compensate servants for accidents that might happen in the course of their ordinary employment. Take the case of small trades—smiths', ironworkers', and carpenters' shops and tens of trades of that kind, in hundreds and thousands of instances they would find they would be obliged, if they included all trades, to bring in persons little better than superior workmen. It was necessary to draw the line somewhere, and accordingly the line was drawn at these trades in which there would not be the same hardship and burden which would be likely to cripple I industry and to be a serious detriment to the carrying on of the trades. As to the power of employers of labour in the larger industries to combine and protect themselves, in the shipping trade there existed mutual associations whereby shipowners combined for the purpose of meeting the demands of the workmen and protecting themselves; and with regard to colliery proprietors and other large industries there were the same means of mutual assistance and co-operation. This was not the case with the small employers throughout the length and breadth of the land, so the Government had proceeded on lines which the House might think right or wrong, but which were still intelligible, intended to include dangerous trades, and trades where the power of mutual protection and insurance was readily accessible to those engaged in them, and which would not impose an unreasonable burden on small employers, who were often in no better case than their superior workmen. When in Committee they came to consider whether the actual provisions of Section 2 were sufficient to bring in dangerous trades, the matter would, he was sure, be carefully considered; but in considering the Amendments and the action, of the Government with regard to them, it was necessary they should keep in view the principles to which he had referred, that they might not, without experience and foresight, include trades which, in practical working, it would be found undesirable to bring within the scheme and the Bill. Now he came to the main point of the attack of the right hon. Member for Fife. He asked, "Why have you not abolished the doctrine of common employment altogether?" He could not understand the construction he placed on sub-section (3) 760 of Clause 2. He could not imagine the question of common employment arising in a case under that section. If the employer had been guilty of such gross personal negligence us to render him liable to compensate a workman in damages, no question of common employment could possibly arise. But he would not debate points not necessarily for the purpose of the Bill. A great deal had been said which was not well founded in attacking the doctrine of common employment. But he was not there to defend it. Still there was much more to be said for it than his right hon. Friend indicated in his speech. But as regarded the trades included in the Bill, it was abolished altogether. He unhesitatingly submitted that if they had determined to proceed gradually, and if it was necessary not at once to include every trade, but to select trades to which such a principle as this could be safely applied, then, as to the trades included in the Bill, the doctrine of common employment had no more to be considered. Several hon. Gentlemen had asked: —Why, when you contemplate compensation for injuries, have you not at the same time endeavoured to prevent accidents?When he remembered the legislation proposed in 1893, it astonished him that such an argument could be used on the other side of the House. ["Hear, hear !"] All that the Bill of 1893 did from this point of view was to abolish the doctrine of common employment and to make the master liable for injury done to a workman as he would have been to a person outside. If it was true that this Bill, in the case of the selected trades, imposed a greater liability on the employer than the Bill of 1893, to that greater extent there was a stronger inducement to prevent accidents, and he did think it was hardly a fair argument for hon. Members opposite to say that by the proposed legislation of 1893 they directed their attention mainly to the prevention of accidents. All they did was to make the master responsible in a greater number of cases. ["Hear, hear !"] The present Government had gone further, and if the trades included under the Bill were dangerous trades, they had applied a stronger preventive against accidents in the proposals now before the House than was contained in the proposals of 1893. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had dwelt a good deal on what might happen 761 in the event of the bankruptcy of an employer. He did not deny that that was a difficult question, but it existed to a great extent at the present time. Employers were just as likely to go bankrupt when an action was brought against them as they would be under the provisions of this Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] But that question could not be dealt with as a matter of principle. He did not suppose the House would care to say that the State should provide a fund out of which compensation might be paid to the workman. He did not suppose the House would be prepared to adopt the German system. The question of solvency and ability to pay damages was just one of those chances of fortune to which persons employed in trades must at times be subjected. ["Hear, hear !"] He would be glad if some system could be devised which would afford security to the workman, but it did not seem to be possible to remove all risk that might arise. There was one suggestion he would throw out, though he did not do so on behalf of the Government. It seemed to him that if there was anxiety as to the ability of the employer to continue the weekly payments, an alternative might be inserted by providing for the payment of a lump sum. He heard his hon. Friend the late Solicitor General suggest, that in that case the employer might "go bang at once." [Laughter.] But that might happen at the present day, and if an employer could not pay when an accident happened, that was a misfortune which might arise at the present time. ["Hear, hear !"] It seemed to him that the possibility of future insolvency might be met by some such Amendment as he had suggested. He did not think very much reliance could be placed on the argument that there ought to be included in the Bill some provision against injuries arising from dangerous trades. He was a little surprised to hear the hon. Member for Berwickshire claim credit on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife for having provided for compensation for injuries arising from employment in dangerous trades, in his Bill of 1893. There was no such provision in the Bill.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said the only suggestion was to provide for compensation for injuries to health which could be mitigated or removed by the use of reasonable precautions. But a large number of those injuries arise, not from the neglect of precautions, but from the trade itself; therefore it was no good to suggest that provisions should be included in this Bill for the compensation of workmen who, in the ordinary course of trade, lost their health, when the only suggestion made in the Bill of 1893 was to compensate the workman for loss or injury if it was occasioned by the neglect of reasonable precautions. He would not argue the Bill in reference to such occurrences as the great explosions in mines. He hoped that they would become rarer year by year; but they had to deal with the everyday occurrences and accidents which must arise, and he trusted the House would feel that the Government had endeavoured at any rate to adopt a principle which, whether it were extended or not, would commend itself to those who desired to compensate workmen in the trades included. If, in the course of years, with the better knowledge the House would gain from the working of this Measure, it could be extended, so much the better. If it promoted insurance, it would mean greater security in the trades, for the precautions taken by insurers and insurance companies led to the reduction of accidents. The Government had adopted a principle which they believed to be sound in itself. They had applied it to those industries which, in their judgment, called for an alteration in the law. If they had not gone far enough, the House could amend the actual list of trades to which it ought to apply. Certainly, in his opinion, it ought not to apply generally without distinction to all employers. The Bill was an honest attempt to deal with the question, and he sincerely hoped the House would continue the discussion on the Committee stage in the same spirit which had been displayed on the present occasion, and that they would be able to see at the end of the Session a useful Measure on the Statute Book, which would not only prevent accidents, but also compensate those who were injured through no fault of their own. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *SIR J. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said he could wish to see the Bill amended in more points than one, but it was his intention to vote for the Second Reading, because he considered it, on the whole, a great advance on any proposal that had hitherto come from the Party opposite. He also supported the Bill because, during the last 16 years, the firm with which he was connected had paid compensation exactly in the way the Bill proposed. ["Hear, hear!"] He had to congratulate the House on the tone in which the Home Secretary had met what they had to say in the way of criticism. Whenever they heard the right hon. Gentleman they listened to a man who gave them the impression that, whether they differed from him or not, he was kindly disposed towards them, and would meet their objections if they were not opposed to the principles on which he based his political conduct. "Hear, hear!"] Unfortunately that was not so in the case of all speakers from the Treasury Bench. ["Hear, hear!"] For the last 16 years his firm had been paying compensation exactly in the way proposed by the Bill. During that time they had not spent any money whatever in legal expenses under the Employers' Liability Act, and they had paid compensation in every case of injury without asking who was at fault, the workman or the employer. Moreover, they had never insured, for the reason that they expected the insurance company would pay as little as possible, and fight every case when there was a chance of defeating the workman. They desired that no such intermediary should come between them and their employees, on the ground that good relationship between them was extremely valuable and should be maintained. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought it worth while to mention that the legal definition of an accident is that the workman should be kept from his employment by his injuries 48 hours. In every case a report had been made to him personally by the head of the department in which the accident occurred, with a view to steps being taken to prevent a repetition of the accident. Some of the accidents arose from extraordinary causes. In one case a nut an inch and a-quarter across and ⅜ inch deep caught a workman by his cotton jacket and took him round a shaft. 764 During the four years 1881–4, the first years under the Employers' Liability Act, the number of accidents reported was 13 per 1,000 men per annum; but as a result of the pains to secure prevention the number was brought down to 6 per 1,000 per annum in the four years 1893–6. With respect to the proper method of dealing with drunken workmen, fifteen years ago his firm offered a reward for sobriety and regular attendance in the shape of a week's holiday every year and a week's pay, and at that time 43 per cent, of men were, steady enough to earn the reward. Since then the number had risen to 98 per cent. ["Hear, hear !"] Although the hours of employment had been shortened from twelve to eight, this giving four hours a day longer for drinking, if the men were inclined to indulge in it, they were now far soberer than formerly. With regard to sub-contractors he agreed with Mr. Asquith that they were not as careful as the head employers, and for that reason, as well as for the reason that the sub-contractor was, as a rule, not able to pay compensation, he should be very glad to see the head contractor made responsible for the neglect of the sub-contractor. It was generally conceded that for this year at any rate agriculturists were to be left out of the scope of the Bill. He would like to point out that in the case of firms like his own, while they had to contribute to the maintenance in the workhouse of agricultural labourers who, often in consequence of receiving miserably small wages had been unable to provide for old age, they would have to maintain other agricultural labourers who were accidentally injured and were unable to obtain compensation through the operation of the doctrine of common employment, and in addition would have this new liability thrown, upon them of paying compensation in every case at their own works. If the accidents to agricultural labourers were small the liability also would be small. He very much feared that agriculture was left out mainly for the reason that the Tory Party considered that nobody engaged in agriculture ought to be obliged to put brains into their business. [Laughter.] The chief blots in the existing law mentioned by the hon. Member for East Fife would, he hoped, be dealt with in Committee by way of amendments. The Bill was described by 765 its authors as a serious and earnest attempt to diminish litigation, but he would like to point out that in the first schedule it was provided that weekly payments made to a defendant might be revised every three months. A Bill which offered arbitration four times a year during the whole of a man's life could not fairly be described as an attempt to diminish litigation, for he looked upon arbitration as only another name for litigation. ["Hear, hear!"] Fear had been expressed that the Bill would tend to the extinction of small employers. He should be extremely sorry if that result came about. Small employers were a very valuable part of society. Their existence was an incentive to workmen to strive to improve their position, and they were a bulwark against that threatened condition of things in which every man would be either the paid servant of a limited company or would have to go to another country to earn his living. It would be a mischievous thing if all the trades of the country got into the hands of enormous organisations. The reason why it was feared the Bill would tend to extinction of small employers was, that small employers would find it impossible to insure against the liabilities imposed upon them. He should be grateful if he could be informed upon that point. With respect to the definition of "dependents," he had no doubt that if the Government would consider the matter for a moment they would allow a brother and a sister to come under the definition if it could be shown to the satisfaction of the arbitrator that that brother and sister had suffered loss by the injury or death of the workman. It appeared to him that, under the Bill as it stood, it was not necessary for the dependent to show that he or she suffered any loss through the injury or death of the workman. If that was so, they came to this absurd result. The definition of dependent under the Fatal Accidents Act 1846, included stepfather and stepmother, as well as grandfather and grandmother; stepson and stepdaughter, as well as son and daughter; so that if a stepson ran away and concealed himself as a workman in a factory, and met with an injury, his well-to-do stepmother, who suffered not one jot by the injury, might receive compensation.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I think the schedule is clear, that under the Act of 1846 compensation can only be given where pecuniary loss is sustained. It is not intended for relations who do not suffer pecuniary injury.
§ *SIR J. BRUNNER,
said what he wished to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman was that nobody who did not suffer pecuniary loss should get compensation, and that anybody who did suffer should get compensation. He should support the Second Reading, because he considered the Bill was a considerable step in advance of previous legislation, because it tended to a thoroughly wholesome result, but mainly because for 16 years his firm had paid compensation on the lines it proposed.
§ *MR. EDWARD GOULDING (Wilts, Devizes)
believed that this Measure would be received with great satisfaction by the working class, end especially by those, members of that class who would benefit under its provisions, for whether in its aim at establishing compensation for accidents or in its endeavours to reduce the worry and uncertainty of litgation, it marked a great departure in legislation of that kind. The chief fault he had to find with the Bill was that so I many trades were excluded from its operation. The Secretary for the Colonies, to whom so many were grateful for his powerful advocacy of social reforms, had said that the right to compensation of any person injured in the ordinary course of employment was a public right and a national obligation. Representing an agricultural constituency he claimed that right for them. This Parliament had already legislated for agriculture through the Agricultural Rates Act, which relieved the landlord and the tenant, but, so far, it had hardly done anything for the agricultural labourer, than whom there was no more deserving or law-abiding member of the community. [" Hear, hear !"] After a close study of the speeches of the Unionist Leaders during his election campaign he assured the agricultural labourers in his constituency that he would support a real Employers' Liability Bill, but what excuse could he make to them, now that they were excluded from the operation of this Measure, when the men in the towns, who often earn ten tunes their 767 wage have the benefit of this Measure? The lot of agricultural labourers was not a happy one, and there was no wonder that the best of them migrated to the towns. Were not the Government by this Bill adding an inducement to them to continue in that direction? As an argument for the exclusion of agriculture from the Bill, it was said that the accidents from which those engaged in agricultural pursuits suffered were few. Far more accidents occurred in agriculture than people imagined; but even if the accidents were few, the premium paid by farmers to insure against them would certainly be small. He had spoken to many big farmers in regard to this subject, and he did not find them at all hostile to being included in the Bill. He earnestly appealed to the Government to give favourable consideration to the Amendment which would be proposed to include agriculturists in the Bill If they did bring that class within the scope of the Measure, and so helped to remove the cause of friction that exists between master and man, he was persuaded that the oldest, and by far the greatest and most important, industry in the country would receive a great impetus.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
thought that the Government had every reason to be satisfied with the manner in which their Bill had been received in every part of the House. In his opinion, no more important Bill had been introduced during the last 50 years—["hear, hear!"]—and if he had been told some time ago that a Conservative Government would introduce a Measure of such a character he would have been staggered by the information. There was more socialism pure and simple in the Bill than in any Bill which had been submitted during the last half-century, and many of the arguments used in favour of it could be equally well applied to any Measure brought in to provide food, clothing, and medical attendance for the working classes. He was not averse to accidents being provided for, but there were many ways of making that provision. Those who, like himself, had been associated with a dangerous trade knew that for the last 25 years the workmen had been most anxious to make provision for themselves and their families in case of accidents in their 768 occupation. They saw that exemplified in various ways. In his own county, and in other parts of the country they had Miners' Permanent Relief Funds established, which had been of incalculable benefit to those connected with them, not only for the assistance they received in the shape of financial payments, but for the training they had afforded in self-government, and the inducements they had offered to look into all those financial questions. He thought these men had been qualified to a very great degree by these funds to exercise their citizenship in a way that had been of real advantage to the country. He certainly would not like to see these funds disappear. He was not prepared to say, like some of his hon. Friends who had spoken in this Debate, that this Bill would be the death blow to these funds. He hoped it might not. It was quite possible it might be the death blow so far as the owners' contributions were concerned, but as the Bill did not comprise everything which at the present time was dealt with by these funds, he thought there was still a large sphere open to them to develop and continue the usefulness that they were now carrying on. So far as he was concerned, he could not say that he objected to the principle of this Bill. As he had said, he did not object to compensation for accidents. He expected, however, that when the Government brought in a Bill of this kind the least they would have done would have been to make some sort of provision for accidents caused by the act of God, with which employers as employers had no more to do than any other member of the community. He was surprised that they should make an employer responsible for an accident caused to a man by his own negligence or carelessness. He thought that was going a step beyond what might be reasonably expected. He thought the Bill was in a very crude state, and if he were asked to deal with any particular part of it, he confessed he would have a difficulty in finding a single part of its details with which he perfectly agreed. He was glad to find that the Government preserved an open mind, and were prepared to consider the questions that had arisen in, the course of the Debate in a liberal and reasonable way. So far as he was concerned, and he believed so far as hon. Members who represented great artisan and mining constituencies 769 were concerned, the Government would get every assistance in trying to make this Bill a perfect Measure so far as it could be, provided they accepted those Amendments which would be proposed on the sound and right lines. He agreed with the Attorney General when he said that if they increased the cost of accidents to an employer, undoubtedly the employers would use more diligence in preventing risks of accident. He believed that it would load to greater strictness and more careful supervision on the part of managers, and one effect of this Bill upon employers would be that if they saw any workman negligent or careless, and doing anything which was likely to tend to or promote an accident, they would certainly discharge him in order that it might be a lesson to those who remained. In a most dangerous mine of his own, a short time ago, a box of matches was found, and the next morning all the men were carefully examined, and three of them were found to have pipes and tobacco and matches. They were prosecuted, and he thought it was his duty to prosecute them in order to show that conduct of that kind was not only injurious to themselves, but to those with whom they were associated. Suppose an explosion had taken place in the mine, he scarcely thought it could have been said that it was owing to the negligence of the employer. There was a great difficulty in a mineowner covering himself even by insurance from all the risks under this Bill. There was no insurance company that he was aware of would accept a greater risk for explosion than £5,000. £5,000 was a very small amount when they considered what might happen by an explosion. They had had disasters in this country whore 400 men had lost their lives. At £200 per man that would mean £80,000. There were very few owners who could look with any degree of complacency upon a risk of that kind. He confessed he was somewhat amazed at the calm with which some hon. Members, who practically did not suffer to any degree under those risks, discussed this question. He had had careful examinations made into the cost to the coal industry, and he was bound to admit that it was most difficult to estimate what would be the actual effect of this Measure financially. Allusion had been made on the previous might to Mr. Merivale, Professor at the 770 Mining College, Newcastle, who stated that compensation would represent something like two-thirds of a, penny per ton. He had had the figures carefully gone over, and to give the House a little illustration of the loose and lax way in which the calculation had been made, he would point out one or two things in connection with it. Mr. Merivale said there were 700,000 persons employed in and about mines. As a matter of fact there were 726,000 persons. He next assumed that there were 170 per thousand cases of partial disablement, with an average duration of four weeks. But Lancashire and Cheshire's experience was 180 per thousand, and the average duration was 4¾weeks. As to permanent disablement he assumed that there were eight cases per thousand per annum employed, equal to a disablement of not quite two years. Lancashire and Cheshire's experience showed that there were 4½ cases per thousand, but that the disablement period was 3½ years. Then as to the deaths. Professor Merivale assumed there were 1,100 deaths per annum. In Lancashire and Cheshire for the live years ending 1895 there were 1,457 deaths per annum. He had had an opportunity of seeing that day Sir Wm. Lewis, who probably knew as much about the South Wales coal trade as any man in the country, and he assured him that it would cost something like close upon 3d. per ton in South Wales. That, of course, was without taking into consideration the quantity of coals consumed in the collieries, and Professor Merivale had made no allowance whatever on that point. Adopting Mr. Merivale's figures of 13s. per week for disablement and £200 for death, the amount charged to the trade would be: —Partial disablement, £416,475; permanent disablement, £386,464; deaths, £291,400; or a total of £l,094,339, or on the total output of 1896 1.34d. per ton. If the full compensation, provided for by the Bill was taken it would represent £1,652,450, or on the total output 2.02d. per ton. He admitted, however, that they could not make an accurate calculation which could be thoroughly relied on to suit the whole of the country. The Attorney General used an extraordinary argument in reply to the late Home Secretary in alluding to the difference between the calculation that they made as to cost and what they actually 771 bore at the present time. He said that under the Bill of the late Home Secretary, if that Bill had been passed, they would have paid almost as much as they would pay under the present Bill. He failed to gather from the Attorney General how he made that out. All that they paid at the present time for insurance against accidents, including explosions up to £5,000, was 1–l6th per cent., and he believed that under the Bill of the late Home Secretary it would have been one-fourth per cent. Under the present Bill they would not get their insurance effected for less than probably 1. or 2 per cent. For the Attorney General to say that to compensate for all accidents, whether employers had anything to do with them or not, would make very little difference to what would have been done by the Bill of the late Home Secretary—which compensated no accidents except such as could be shown to have occurred from the negligence of a fellow-workman—he thought was absurd. The present Bill would in every way put a much heavier burden upon the mining industry than would have been done by the Bill of the late Home Secretary. He was not one of those who believed that even 2.d. or 3d. per ton extra would ruin the coal trade of the country. It would have to be paid by somebody—the consumer, the employer, or the workman—possibly by them all. But in Northumberland and Durham, where a large proportion of the coal was exported, and where they came into direct competition with foreign producers, who were fighting them in every market that they had access to, he was not sure that they would be able to make the consumer pay any of it. Did they think that a considerable portion of this charge would not come from wages? Did they think that the coal owners, when they were treating with their men, would not bring forward the argument that they had got an additional burden of 3d., or 2d., or 1d. to pay? They had always done it, and consequently this Bill would be a serious charge upon wages. With regard to the exclusions of the Bill, he failed to see why the Government had adopted their present method of giving exclusions. He would rather have seen every industry included; but small employers should have the benefit of exemption if exemption were thought to be 772 necessary. He was surprised that shipowners should be exempted. Shipowners paid no poor rates whatever. All the widows that were made in the shipping industry had to be supported by other people. He was of opinion that when Measures of this kind were accepted by the House, everybody should feel the burden of them. ["Hear, hear!"] An to bankruptcies, he quite agreed that many large employers in dangerous trades would have to consider whether it was wise not to limit their liability under the liability law. He defied anyone to calculate what would be the liability of the coal owners under this Bill. He hoped the Government would be disposed in Committee to accept some clause which would enable employers and workmen in case of need to insist upon some guarantee from a reliable and respectable insurance company. He thought there was very little difference in this Bill from the German proposals. In his opinion it was not so liberal to employers. In Germany the sick fund paid for the first 13 weeks all the expense of an accident, and that was a very largo protection and a very liberal allowance to the employer, but in this Bill there were only two weeks, and then they were not to be allowed to revise the matter for three months, so that practically a workman would get two weeks' allowance, and then he could not be compelled to go before the doctor till three months were over. He thought a good case would be made out for contributions from the State, and for a contribution from, the royalty owners. There were precedents for such a course—namely, when the Poor Law was extended to Ireland in 1835, and in 1877, when lead mines were, for the first time, made chargeable to the Poor rates. These were points, however, which could be discussed in Committee. If, in the course of the Debate, the Government found that so many difficult questions had arisen that they would have to withdraw the Bill this Session, he hoped they would bring it forward in another year. He did not want to escape from the principle of the Bill, because he thought it was a good one; but when they were making this new departure—a new departure with such vast possibilities—he thought it was nothing but right that the country should have an opportunity of considering the 773 whole question on its merits, and that they should have some opportunity of consulting their constituents upon it.
§ MR. THOMAS RICHARDSON (Hartlepool)
, as an employer affected by the Bill, congratulated the Government on having brought in a Measure which promised so effectively to grapple with a complex problem. The Government had also given evidence, by the concessions already made, of their desire to improve the Bill. In his judgment the Bill was, no doubt, a long step in the direction of industrial socialism, though he had no doubt that coal owners and others affected by it would find some way out of the difficulties which confronted them. As a rule, works which were full of machinery were found to be the most dangerous places, but, judging by the discussion, the opinion appeared to be entertained that they were about the safest places a man could be in. He could only account for this impression by the fact that in engineering works 2s. 6d. per cent, of the wages paid would cover the liability under the Bill. He had looked over the number of accidents in his own industry during the past ten years, and had applied the provisions of the Bill to them. This was the result. The total number of accidents during the ten years was 94, five of them, unfortunately, fatal. Out of the remainder 21 men were off work one week and less; three were oil three days; 22 men were off two weeks; and 46 had an average loss of nine weeks. Not a single man had been off for a whole year. He believed that in the engineering works the a mount to be paid did not reach a halfpenny per man a week, and this was not likely to come out of the wages. He believed that employers of labour were only too willing to pay compensation to the men injured in their works, provided they were sure that the money went in the right direction. What had annoyed employers was the fact that the money should go in aid of litigation. It had been stated that out of every £1 in compensation, on an average 15s. had been contributed to the lawyer. In the industry with which he was connected, they had always been able to steer clear of litigation, and he did not think that under the Bill many employers would be frightened into insuring against the accidents that might occur. The right hon. 774 Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean spoke about the necessity of safeguards. He hoped that when the Bill was in Committee hon. Members would remember that the works which were full of machinery were not the most dangerous places, that they had already suffered in consequence of the interference of inspectors under the Factories Acts. The inspectors stipulated that the employers must put a certain guard on machinery —a provision which put the employer to a great deal of useless expense. In many cases these guards on machinery had led to accidents which in some cases were rather serious. The right hon. Baronet also referred to the question of doctors; but there was no need to be in a hurry about that subject. Any man injured in his own works was immediately removed on an ambulance to the hospital, and was attended there by the hospital doctor; but in the case of trivial accidents the man was treated at home, and, besides, nearly every works had a doctor of their own. If neither of those doctors was available, there was the doctor under the Factory and Workshops Act who visited workshops periodically. As to the Friendly Societies, he assured the House that there was no fear of their being ruined by the Bill in any way. So far from young fellows joining these societies with the idea of making a provision in the case of sickness, the idea was far from their minds; their idea was that they would not come to want, and they joined these societies on the persuasion of their friends. He was quite sure that there was nothing in the Bill that would at all injure, much less ruin, the Friendly Societies. He had great pleasure in giving his support to the Bill, for he agreed that it was one possessing enormous advantages for the working classes of this country. He joined other hon. Members in the hope that it might be possible—if not now, then at some future time—to include other industries within its scope, for he believed that, although, as he had said, the Measure would be of enormous advantage to the working classes, in practice it would be found not to be a serious matter for the employers. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ *MR. C. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said he did not think the Government had dealt with the question in a very satisfactory manner. To differentiate in the way they had between different classes of workmen and to create distinct privileges before the law for one class as compared with another seemed rather a retrograde step. The main object for which the working classes had been striving of late years was to secure as far as possible equality of right, opportunity, and treatment before the law, and no one had yet attempted to show that the present Bill brought this about. On all sides there was a general consensus of opinion—and he admitted that this was the boldest step in the direction of collectivism that any Government had yet ventured to take— [Ministerial cheers]—that the Government would have to go further than they had already done. Many persons thought that when the present Government came to deal with this question their Bill would apply both to domestic servants and shop assistants. He could conceive no reason either in justice or equity for the exclusion of many industries that were excluded from the operation of the Bill, and particularly the building trade. One of the organs that supported the Government and circulated largely in the north of England, The Newcastle Chronicle, had described the Bill as an accident-promoting and wage-decreasing Bill. Whether that were so or not, no one could doubt that German experience tended to show, notwithstanding all that had been said by the Home Secretary and the Colonial Secretary, that since the adoption of universal insurance in Germany, accidents had been on the increase. That might be nothing more than a coincidence, but there the fact stood. According to official documents issued from the Foreign Office, the number of accidents reported during 1895 was 75,527 as against 69,719 in 1894, of which 6,448 were fatal and 1,706 produced an entire incapacity for work. It was not surprising that accidents should increase, because under such arrangements as were proposed in the Bill, compensation would be paid automatically, 776 and there would be no incentive to inquire into the cause of the accident, and such inquiries enabled preventive measures to be taken. There would be no inducement to carefulness on the part of either workman or the employer. He did not think that this Bill would get rid of litigation. He agreed with what the Colonial Secretary said in 1880, that where there was a legal remedy the way was opened to litigation; and under this Bill there was every inducement to the employer to go to litigation in the Arbitration Court. There would be many questions as to whether the injured workman came within the Act, and as to the extent of the compensation. The employer knew that in any case the compensation given could not exceed 50 per cent, of the workman's wages, and the workman would be infinitely worse off than under the Act of 1880, because no compensation would be paid until the Court had given its decision. As to the cost of working the Bill, the estimate of the Home Secretary was much too modest. In 1880 the present Colonial Secretary estimated the cost on the mining industry of the Act of that year at one farthing per ton, and added that the cost would be ten times greater if compensation were given for all accidents. He preferred that estimate of 1880; and an additional burden of 2d. per ton. on the coal trade of Northumberland would, in its present state, spell ruin. Of the coal produced in Northumberland 80 per cent, was sent abroad to compete with foreign coal, and it was not likely, therefore, that the increased cost of production would come out of the consumers' pockets. A large portion of it, at least, would be defrayed out of wages. Experience proved that where industrial legislation increased the cost of production, wages had been reduced. Even if the modest estimate of the cost put forward by the Home Secretary were true, there was reason to fear that wages would be affected. In Committee he should propose an Amendment providing that the coal owners should be entitled to recoup themselves for the increased cost of production involved by the Bill from the rates now charged by royalty-owners. ["Hear, hear!"] At the present time they were bearing a charge in the shape of mining royalties of over five millions per annum; and he 777 thought that as royalty owners were directly interested in the development of their mining royalties they ought to have some share of the increased charge that would be thrown upon the coal industry. It had also been said that the Labour representatives had accepted the principle of the Bill, though it contained a provision for contracting out, although they had rejected the Bill of 1893, because contracting out had been inserted in it in another place. But contracting out was not the main principle of this Bill, and as he had never seen any reason for changing his opinion in regard to contracting out he should certainly put down an Amendment to strike that provision out of the Bill. He looked upon the main principle of the Bill—the principle of giving compensation for all accidents as a sound principle; and he, therefore, would not put the House to the trouble of dividing against the Second Reading. But he was bound to say that he viewed the provisions of the Bill with very mixed feelings indeed, and, in his opinion, having regard to all its details, it was less favourable to the working classes than the Bill of the late Home Secretary.
§ *SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
said that as an employer he desired to warmly congratulate the Home Secretary and the Colonial Secretary upon the Bill. He fully recognised that it would lay a. serious burden on some industries, especially the coal industry; but as a coal proprietor he approved of the Bill, and accepted his share of the burden, because he believed the tendency of the Bill would be to prevent litigation. ["Hear, hear!"] Employers did not grudge their workmen some provision in cases of accident, but what they objected to was that they should have to pay in legal expenses two or three times as much as the injured workmen received in the way of compensation. He regarded as most important the provision that, in the case of total disablement, payment of the compensation should be made in instalments. If the money were paid in a lump sum it would soon be dissipated; but by being paid in instalments the injured workman was prevented from becoming a charge on the community; and employers would not be exposed to the opprobrium of having men disabled hi their service on the 778 parish or going about the streets begging. The late Home Secretary had unfavourably contrasted the Bill with the Bill which he himself had introduced. He should like to submit both Measures to a very simple and plain test. The Report of the Inspector of Mines in his district showed that during last year there had been 39 fatal accidents. Of those two only could have been dealt with under the Bill of the late Home Secretary, while the whole 39 would have been covered by the present Measure. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman also objected to the Bill because it did not tend to prevent accidents. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to prevent accidents under his own Bill by abolishing the doctrine of common employment. But he failed to see how making the employer responsible for the default of the fellow workmen would make the fellow workmen more careful. On the contrary, a workman would be less inclined to be careful if he felt that any fellow workman injured by his recklessness would be fully compensated. ["Hear, hear!"] He asserted that in the interest of the workman, in the interest of the employer, and in the interest of the community at large this Bill was beyond all question a better Measure than the Bill of the late Home Secretary. It had been said that the Bill was inimical to the friendly societies and trade unions. He believed it would be a great assistance to those bodies in relieving them of much of their burdens, and in leaving them free to deal with questions of sick relief and old-age pensions for their members. The hon. Member for St. Helens said that it was unfair to burden the employer with the consequences of the workman's own act and fault. That was true as a matter of abstract justice, but as an employer he would rather deal with those few cases which might arise under those circumstances than he would have the element of uncertainty introduced where the question of contributory negligence might be made a matter which would lead to litigation. An industry that would not bear the natural burdens that pertained to it was an industry that was not worth carrying on. He had said that he was in favour of this Bill, but he was not prepared to say that it was a perfect Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] There were 779 Amendments which he hoped would be accepted by the Home Secretary in Committee. He thought the Bill ought to be extended to a large number of trades which were at present excluded. As to the question of malingering, there was no doubt that in many cases half wages without work would be more acceptable than full wages with work; in many trades the men were fully employed at one period of the year and not at another, and it would happen that half wages on the basis of full employment would be more than a man could earn when employment was only partial. In that respect there would be at any rate a great temptation to malinger. He thought that provisions in regard to the men regularly reporting themselves to a doctor in case of illness were absolutely necessary. Such provisions and regulations were found to be necessary in friendly societies, and in workmen's clubs, and a man had to report himself to a doctor, or to the colliery surgeon every week, and get a. note before he was entitled to his pay. Then there was a provision that if a man was permanently injured he should be entitled to a certain weekly payment, but that arrangement in the case of the widow of a man who was killed was done away with. He submitted that it was twenty times more important in the case of a poor woman who was left helpless than in the case of the man himself. He hoped the Home Secretary would consider the suggestion that the payments should be made to the widow by instalments. In the case of the man himself, he thought there ought to be a provision by which he could accept a lump sum instead of the instalments, as such a sum might be useful as capital in starting a man in a small business. He concluded by cordially accepting the Bill, which he believed was the most beneficent piece of legislation for the working classes of this country which had been passed—certainly during this century. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
said the hon. Member for Derby had declared that this Bill was not satisfactory, because it did not provide for the prevention of accidents, but the hon. Member himself did not adduce one single argument in support of his Amendment. The hon. Member said that this Bill would destroy all thrift among 780 the working classes, and set the trades union leaders to stir up strife among the working classes. He was surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have such a bad opinion of the working men. The hon. Member had also said that this Bill would have the effect of destroying many charities and valuable institutions which existed. All he could say was that if the effect of the Bill would be to prevent the working people from placing reliance on charity, he for one would most heartily welcome it. He wished to see the working classes loathe and despise charity, and there was no more certain way of inculcating thrift than to teach them to do so. He thought it was but bare justice that the man who was maimed should look to the industry in which he was maimed for his maintenance. ["Hear, hear!"] When he heard the hon. Gentleman speaking on behalf of charity he was reminded of what was said by one of the deepest thinkers of this country: —The one ordered sacrifice, is to do justice; and it is the last we are ever inclined to do— anything rather than that. As much charity as you choose, but no justice. Nay, you will say, 'Charity is greater than justice.' Yes, it is greater; it is the summit of justice; it is the temple of which justice is the foundation. But you cannot have the top without the bottom; you cannot build upon charity.He thought the Government had taken one of the best steps they could to insure greater safety to the working clases by providing that the pecuniary responsibility for accidents should rest upon the shoulders of the employer. He did not think for a moment that the money which would have to be provided would come out of wages, and he believed that in the long run the effect of the Bill would be to improve the producing power of the men of this country. But supposing the money necessary to pay this compensation were to come out of the profits, he would point out that the amount of profit upon which income tax was paid in 1881 was 255 millions, while in 1895 it was no less a sum than 336 millions. Therefore, it could, if necessary, stand an additional charge. The figures relating to industrial profits for 1895 were ample justification for this Bill. Even if the money necessary to be found should come, out of the profits of trade, he thought this Measure was 781 justified, and he believed a more liberal or juster arrangement could not be made for the rank and file of workmen. With such a record of the paupers before us in this country as the records showed, they ought cheerfully to welcome such an attempt as the Government were now making to provide for the rank and file of their great industrial army. ["Hear, hear!"] Mr. Bainbridge had suggested that the Bill would put a 2d. burden on the cost of coal. Even if that were so, he would suggest to Mr. Bainbridge that the colliery proprietors should help to make the royalty owner, to whom they paid from 5d. to 6d. a ton, contribute towards the burden imposed by this Bill. It was seldom indeed he had the great pleasure of congratulating right hon. Gentlemen opposite upon any efforts of theirs on behalf of the toilers of this country. He hoped they would believe him when he said that he was absolutely certain that had this Bill been brought in by hon. Members upon the Opposition aide, a great many hon. Gentlemen opposite would find themselves compelled to oppose it. [Laughter.] He congratulated the Government on having brought in the Bill, because it contained the right principle that the employer should be responsible for the man who met with an injury. He welcomed the Bill because he desired to see employers as concerned for their men as they were for their engines and their horses. And if throughout the Bill had been as sympathetic as it was in the first sub-section, he would have nothing but praise to say of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped that the Government would accept Amendments which would remedy some of the defects, which were many, of the Bill. The one as to the weekly allowances would need consideration. Then Sub-section (3) of Clause 1 would lead to a vast amount of litigation and work for the lawyers. In his own business as a contractor they sublet a considerable amount of work, and provision should be made that the principal contractor could not shift his responsibility under the Bill to any sub-contractor he might employ. However the Government might deal with these Amendments, he should support the Bill, because of the principle it contained that compensation should be paid to the workman in all cases. He 782 wanted to see that principle placed on the Statute Book. He said so with a full sense of what that led to. When it became recognised that every workman would have to be compensated, the State would have to step in and guarantee that the money was paid to men injured, and the State would be amply justified in doing so, and would be fully compensated for it by remembering that safeguarding the working classes and making them more efficient instruments of production was one of the first things the State should do. He objected to the provision in Sub-section (a), by which a man was fined two weeks' wages because he had been injured. A large percentage of the working classes lived from hand to mouth, he was sorry to say; they had no available balance of wages, and the amount that they received did not admit of their putting by anything. Recognising, as this Bill did, the great principle that the man who was doing his duty should not suffer from having done it, he was surprised that the Bill should in this section propose to plunge a man into difficulties for doing his duty. Supposing a man were injured for six or eight weeks, for the first two weeks he would receive nothing, and, consequently, would run into debt; the next four weeks before he was able to work again he would receive half his wages, which would not be sufficient to enable him to pay all his current expenses, and the consequence was that he would run further into debt, with the result that when he was fit to go to work he would have a weight of debt hanging around his neck which it would take him some time to remove. Therefore he was sorry that the Government had not recognised that the responsibility of the employer should commence before the end of 14 days. In common with many others, he was sorry that the Government had not yet seen their way to extend the Measure, especially to horse drivers, more of whom were killed than engine drivers. But, having made this start, they would not be able to stop, and he had no desire that the Government should stop. ["Hear, hear!"] It was in the interests of the Tory Party, as well as in the interests of the working classes, that they should extend the scope of the Bill. It 783 was not from a party point of view that he urged them to increase their popularity in the country. He could assure them that they would receive from him no captious opposition, because he regarded the principle contained in the first sub-section of the Bill so valuable in the interests of the working classes throughout the country that it should not be lightly thrown aside. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said the Bill was important for the workman; first, in securing his safety—the primary consideration in any Employers' Liability Bill—and, secondly, in securing compensation for him, which was a great boon if it were certain and assured, and not illlusory and misleading, and if these results could be gained without imposing such undue burdens upon an industry as to divert it, by which the workman might suffer, and he hoped whatever was done good relations between employers and workmen would be strengthened, for this was economic, and well worth some obligations being accepted by employers. He, remarked that the first point the House had to accept was that this Bill would have some effect in increasing the cost of production. A great deal had been said about the coal industry, but that was only one of a great many industries that would be affected. He knew no more difficult matter than to say where the increased cost would ultimately rest. In the case of a monopoly the consumer could be made to pay, but where there was free competition he defied anyone to say where it would fall—on the business, or profits, or wages, or upon the consumer. He did not hesitate, however, to say that in this case some proportion of it might fall on wages. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore it was for the working classes to consider whether the effect of the Bill would be entirely beneficial. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill made a most important new departure. For 300 years the basis of liability in business had been negligence in some form or other, though negligence had been held by an excrescence in the law in some cases not to constitute liability—he referred to the doctrine of common employment, which created a manifest injustice in the legal fiction that a manager in a superior position was the colleague of a man who had no control 784 or power at all, which would have no real foundation since the introduction of the factory system. Whatever else was done, the abolition of the doctrine of common employment should have been one of the first steps in the improvement of the law. ["Hear, hear!"] Again, under the Act of 1880 a great injustice had been perpetrated on the working man by the necessity of giving notice of an injury within a specified time, which had led to benevolence for a time and then to repudiation. There was also the question of sub-contracting, and there again there was room for remedy. He ventured to say that the remedying of these points was even more urgent than the granting of compensation—["hear, hear!"]—because they disturbed and rendered most unjust the relations between employer and employed, and so caused injury and loss to both. The Bill passed over negligence as an element of liability—even contributory negligence, he thought, and possibly, according to the working of the Bill, even willful neglect or default—a concession for which he saw no reason. It substituted for these compensation, and introduced into the law of Employers' Liability two terms unknown before, compensation and insurance. He admitted that the Bill had one advantage. It would do something to decrease litigation. The Act of 1880 had been most unfortunate in that respect, but the cases under it had chiefly arisen on the doctrine of common employment, and on the absence of notice of the injury, and, if these defects had been removed, there would have been a great decrease in litigation. But that was to be changed, and what was the new principle? It was that if in the course of a lawful trade, and without any wrongful act or default in the employer or his agents, machinery was set in motion, the person who did this must assume, without practically much limitation, all the consequences of it. Would all businesses survive this additional burden? They had not only to deal with to-day. Times were good now, but there might be a return to the condition of things experienced between 1890 and 1895, and therefore it was necessary to consider carefully whether, in the stress of both national and international competition, and in times not so prosperous as now, an additional burden, so variously 785 estimated, could safely be borne by the industries of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] Although large concerns might be able to deal with bad times, smaller businesses felt them much more. The latter might find it difficult to insure, or might have to incur large premiums, and the House must take care not to run undue risk of destroying businesses of that class, which were the backbone of the trade of this country, especially in London. Great effort should be made to prevent the universal creation of limited concerns and Trusts, for if the effect was to kill the smaller businesses it would have a most lamentable effect on the trade of the country, while the experience of America as to Trusts and monopolies was a strong warning. Did the Bill assure compensation to the workman with the certainty that was desired? Was the basis of the Bill wide enough to make it safe and permanent? In other words, was the base of the Bill wide enough to be effective? Because if it were not so it would be illusory. What was to happen in the case of the insolvency of an employer? And were the payments to the insured to be preferential in bankruptcy like wages? The Attorney General suggested that instead of payments by installments cash should be paid at once. Would not that precipitate a disaster? ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that the only possible solution ultimately would be the security of the State. [Cheers.] The inevitable outcome was State assistance, or, like the German system, the security of employers' associations. We must be careful of putting burdens on particular businesses to their prejudice and to the disappointment of the employés, who might find, after relying on them, that their employers could not fulfill their expectations. That would be a disaster to the social relations of this country. He hoped the Government would seriously consider whether the limitation of trades was a practical one, and whether for the safety and success of this Bill it would not be necessary to strengthen the base on which the Bill was built, and Inputting both burden and benefit on all classes, make all responsible for the practical wisdom and economical success of the Measure. A few words as to details. The Bill was limited to four industries. Why was it so limited? 786 He thought that was a mistake. If injuries were sustained in employments why should there not be equal compensation? ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill as it stood might produce what was the worst of any of the features in the relations of employers and employed—inequality. The Bill created anomalies, and he hoped the Government would very much enlarge its scope. If that was not done by this Government it would be done by the next House of Commons. He complained of the 6th Sub-section of Clause 3, which, he contended, was a derogation from the existing common law right of the workmen in the use of the word "willful." These, however, were points which could be dealt with in Committee. He thought there were strong objections to the Measure as it stood, but on the other hand, it was a Bill which boldly dealt with a new principle in the development of economic and social views. As a new departure they would all gladly vote for its Second Reading as a tentative experiment.
§ MR. THOMAS ASHTON (Bedfordshire, Luton)
expressed his satisfaction that this new social departure had been accepted so quietly on the other side of the House. For himself, he thought the two great objections to the Bill were—first, that sufficient cure was not taken in it for the further prevention of accidents; and, second, the limited scope of the Bill. Looking at the paternity of the Bill, he was a little disappointed that it was not in these respects of a different character. The Colonial Secretary objected greatly to the last Employers' Liability Bill because it did nothing to further prevent accidents, and it was limited in its scope. The right hon. Gentleman desired to see the scope of that Measure so enlarged that it would take in even domestic servants. Where were the right hon. Gentleman's servant girls to-day. [A laugh.] He regretted to say that they had been basely deceived and deserted by the Colonial Secretary. [Laughter.] It was certainly quite possible to take further means to prevent accidents. ["Hear, hear!"] Reference had been made to the German insurance system. He knew that very many hon. Members objected to anything that came from Germany. Sometimes German goods were superior to English goods, and he, personally, was not prepared to refuse to take a lesson 787 from Germany if the goods she produced were of good quality. Taken as a whole, he regarded the German insurance system as a good system. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife described what he considered were the central and best features of that system, but in his opinion the right hon. Gentleman entirely overlooked what really was the system's best feature. The right hon. Gentleman told them that employers were grouped, and that they had to pay for all accidents. The House were led to suppose, either by the right hon. Gentleman or others, that in Germany there was a State direct insurance. Nothing was further from the fact. The main and best feature of the German system was that the funds were collected and managed by the employers. The employers, therefore, had every inducement to see that each member of their body conducted his business in the most careful manner possible. His firm had never insured, with the result that they had been very careful to take all precautions; but he felt that, with the added risks under this Bill, it would be necessary for them to insure, and if they did they would, he was sure, prefer to be grouped with fellow employers for purposes of insurance than to go to outside insurance companies. As the hon. Member for Gainsborough had pointed out, there might be a tendency on the part of employers to prefer to employ young and unmarried men to old and married men; but another serious objection to the Bill, in his opinion, was the great risk there was that employers would not be able to pay the compensation. He was glad that in all quarters of the House the opinion prevailed that the trade ought to bear the risk. If the trade was to bear the risk the employer was the only person to look to for the payment of the compensation. So far as collieries were concerned he sympathised with hon. Members who thought that part of the risk ought to come out of the pockets of the royalty owners. Royalties were rent in one form, and rent, economically speaking, was that which was left after labour and capital had received a fair return. If part of the workmen's compensation was going to be taken out of the proceeds of capital, part also ought to come out of the royalty as rent. Under the German system, instead of each employer being 788 liable, instead of the workman having to take the risk of the employer's failure, there would be a growing fund contributed to by all the employers, out of which the workman would be certain to get his compensation. But if they could not have that, he hoped that the Government would, at any rate, consent to a plan under which lump sums would be paid instead of pensions for life. That would secure the injured workman against the risk of the subsequent failure of the employer. Coming to the question of contracting out, he admitted that the working man who came within the purview of this Bill would in most respects be free from the dangers of contracting out. At the same time, there would be a very large number of workmen who would still be subject to them. He believed that if they could have the German system, there would not be the same objection on the part of the supporters of this Bill to the inclusion within its scope of a very large number of the trades at present excluded. What was the main objection of the Government against the inclusion of a large number of trades? That which weighed with them was the plight of the poor employer who might not be able to stand the racket of the accidents. The Home Secretary had told them that he had selected certain trades because they were rich trades. So the Government were going to give this compensation to workmen who were employed by rich men, who would most likely give it in any circumstances, while the workmen under poor employers were to be deprived of it. He could not see any justification for this. It seemed to be assumed by some hon. Members that all the employers who would be affected by this Bill were wealthy people, but that was an error. There were a large number of farmers who could just as well afford to compensate their labourers as some of the employers who would come within the scope of the Bill. He did not mean by this that in his opinion the farming industry was prosperous, but he asserted that there were also a great many employers in the trades within the Bill who were not prosperous. In the town of Burnley, for example, the trade of cotton weaving was largely carried on by very small employers. There were weaving sheds with a thousand looms in them, but these looms were distributed 789 very often among different employers, who ran some 200 looms apiece. The cotton was found for them by the cotton broker, and the position of these employers was very little indeed above that of working men. Their capital was very small. These considerations pointed to the desirability of establishing a general insurance system such as existed in Germany, under which all employers paid their little quota to the insurance fund. It had been pointed out that the risks in the agricultural industry were very small, and that was true, but, if that industry were brought within the Bill, the premiums payable by the farmer would also be correspondingly small, and the same was true of the householder. A man who met with an accident while working at one of the excluded trades deserved compensation just as much as a man working at a trade within the purview of the Bill. He held that in whatever trade an accident occurred the Bill ought to provide, for compensation by that trade. The way in which the Bill in its present form would work would be most inequitable. Take the following instance. If a man was employed in a cotton factory, and a bale of cotton fell upon him and injured him, he would get compensation. In the next street, a man employed by a flour dealer might be injured in precisely the same way by a falling sack of flour, but he would get no compensation. He could only hope the day was not far distant when the Bill would be extended for the benefit of all workers, irrespective of whether they were employed by wealthy firms or by poor firms.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
Whenever I have to make a speech in this House or in the country—an operation for which I have a profound distaste—[laughter]—I only have one ambition, and that is to express, in the fewest possible words and with the utmost clearness, the views which I hold upon the subject on which I have to speak. ["Hear, hear!"] If I am to test my oratory by what has just fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite, I am afraid I should have to confess that four years ago, when I spoke in this House on the Employers' Liability Bill, I must have egregiously failed. I should be altogether discouraged if it were not for the 790 fact that, unless I am mistaken, the hon. Gentleman opposite tried and failed to be a Member of this House on that occasion—[laughter]—and consequently did not hear the speech which he has now criticised, and I am afraid he can hardly have read it since. He accuses me of a two-fold inconsistency. He says that on that occasion I laid great stress on the necessity for legislation for the prevention of accidents, whereas in this Bill nothing is done with that object; and he says, secondly, that, whereas on the previous occasion I advocated the claims of domestic servants, he now alleges, with a grace peculiarly his own, that I have basely deceived my servant girls. [Laughter.] The answer is very simple. My right hon. Friend the ex-Home Secretary introduced the Bill on which I then spoke as a Bill intended to prevent accidents, and I criticised it—I am not going into old discussions, which I think are now out of date—at that time severely on the ground that, in my opinion, it was not calculated to prevent accidents. I pointed out that, in my opinion, that was not the way to prevent accidents, and that, if you want to prevent accidents, if there was anything still to be done in the direction of preventing accidents, that result was to be sought either by increasing the stringency of your criminal legislation or by additional regulations for the protection of persons employed in industry. As regards domestic servants, it is perfectly true that I advocated their inclusion in that Bill, but that Bill, by admission, was a very much more limited Bill than the present one. I do not think there would have been the slightest objection—and, as a matter of fact, that was the general opinion of the House at that time—to do away with the doctrine of common employment, so far as domestic servants were concerned, but it would raise altogether a different question, which now I am not going to argue, if it were proposed to give domestic servants all the privileges which we propose to give the trades included in this Bill. Having dealt with what was personally addressed to myself, I will now trouble the House with a few remarks upon the general position in which we find ourselves. I rise now, because it seems to me that probably it would be the general wish of the House to come to an early decision. 791 [Cheers.] I think we have discussed the question very fully—I do not say in any sense too fully—and I believe there is a great desire that the important subject which is put down for Debate to-morrow should be taken, and that the consideration of this Bill should not therefore be unduly protracted. ["Hear, hear!"] There is another reason for reaching an early decision. It is this, that while I believe the discussion which we have had is useful, suggestive, and interesting, it must be admitted that it has been very unusual in its character upon the Second Reading of a great Bill, because I venture to say that, with the exception perhaps of a sentence or two in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, who moved an Amendment to the Bill, there has not been one single word from either side of the House directed to the principle of the Bill. [Cheers.] We have been prematurely discussing Committee details during the whole of the two days over which this Debate has lasted. I agree with the statement which was made by the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Cheshire, that the Government ought to be extremely satisfied with the general tone of the discussion. I do not agree with him when he said that our satisfaction would be to some extent lessened by the consideration of the criticism which we have received from our own friends behind us. I think the hon. Gentleman probably took his view from the headlines of a most influential party organ which has given a very great support to this Bill, but which, I observe to-day, in its account of our proceedings yesterday, described them as "Tory attacks upon the Bill: Liberal defences." [Laughter.] Of course, we are very glad of defence from whatever quarter it comes, but a more absolutely erroneous description— [cheers]—of the character of this Debate could not possibly be devised. The attacks upon this Bill, such as they are —the most serious attacks have come from the other side. They have come from the Member for Gainsborough; they have come from the Member for Durham, and suggestions have been made of a most insidious character, with a view to destroy the Bill, by the Member for Leicester, the Member for Glasgow, and from the Member for one of the Divisions of 792 Cheshire to whom I referred just now. On the other hand, the Bill has been supported again and again by hon. Members on this side. In a speech to which I must pay, if I may be allowed to do so, a respectful compliment, my hon. Friend for one of the divisions of Sheffield gave, on the First Reading of the Bill, the most admirable, and at the same time the most succinct, defence of the Bill which I have heard in the whole course of these proceedings. ["Hear, hear!"] We have also had speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, my hon. Friend the Member for one of the Wiltshire divisions, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, and from other hon. Members who have answered the objections which came from the Liberal side of the House. I do not think that the opposition to this Bill has come from employers on this side of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] On the contrary, I, at all events, am bound to recognise the spirit in which they have met the Government proposals, because we admit that we are now putting upon employers a new burden ["Hear, hear!"] I think some of my hon. Friends have exaggerated the amount of the liability which will now be imposed upon them, but we admit that we have put a new burden upon them without suggesting even that there is any moral liability in their case. [Cheers.] Notwithstanding that, employer after employer on this side of the House has got up to support the principle of the Bill and to express his readiness to submit to these sacrifices if he can be assured that the Bill will be effectual for its purpose, and will secure to those who may be injured in the course of their employment the compensation which humanity would willingly accord them. [Cheers.] There are two lines of criticism on this Bill which, as I say, have been chiefly developed in speeches from the other side of the House. It has been said that the provisions of the Bill would press very heavily on trade and industry and would seriously interfere with trade in certain particular industries named. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time, it is argued that the Bill must be extended to other trades. Surely there is either inconsistency in that claim or great selfishness. [Cheers.] There is great selfishness—if hon. Members who hold this view really believe that their trade is to be ruined, 793 as they have practically represented to us, by the impositions in this Bill—in suggesting that other trades should be ruined as well. On the contrary, they should be glad that some trades, at any rate, should be left in the United Kingdom even after this Bill has been passed into law. [Laughter.] These criticisms come from the same people. The people who want to extend the Bill are the people who say that their own trades will be ruined or seriously affected by it. [Opposition "No, no!" and cheers.]
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
If the hon. Member will allow me, I will finish my sentence. The hon. Member staled, unless my recollection deceives me, that the cost of this Bill would be over two pence a ton on coal, and the result would be that many coal mines would be closed. [Cheers.] I suppose that when a coal mine is closed the mine-owner may consider, at all events, that that trade has been ruined.
§ *MR. BAINBRIDGE
I said that a great many mines would be closed, not that the whole of the collieries would be ruined.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
What is the object of making this statement? It is true that the hon. Member and the hon. Baronet the Member for Durham are engaged in the same industry; and the hon. Baronet began by saying that he thoroughly approved the principle of the Bill. [Cheers.] If I believed that this Bill was going to ruin any considerable proportion of the coalovvners of the country, I would have the courage to say that I did not approve it. [Cheers.] The hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Gainsborough and other hon. Members who have spoken from that side of the House "are willing to wound yet afraid to strike." [Opposition cries of "Oh, oh!" Ministerial laughter, and cheers.]
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
The question is whether it will ruin the mining industry 794 of this country. If it will, then no one should vote for it; and I ask why do not hon. Gentlemen vote against the Second Reading?
§ SIR J. JOICEY
I do protest against the right hon. Gentleman continuing to misrepresent the speeches of hon. Members on this side of the House, when, he has been told again and again that he is doing this. [Cheers.] I must ask him to accept the statement that I do not believe it will ruin the coal trade, and that I approve of the principle of the Bill as thoroughly as he does, but I object to its methods. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I am quoting the hon. Member for Gainsborough. The hon. Baronet the Member for Durham stated that he approved the principle of the Bill—that, I think, was the fast sentence in his speech—and he went on to say that he thought he objected to every single provision in it. [Cheers.] I do not want to misrepresent hon. Gentlemen when I say that they are "willing to wound yet afraid to strike." [Ministerial cheers and Opposition "No, no!"] What is the conclusion of the hon. Baronet's speech? I have come to a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Leicester and other hon. Members; and they all agree in this—that they hope the Government will give ample time, that they thought it would probably be desirable, although the Government might proceed with this Bill, to give ample time for discussion—that is to say, to waste a certain amount of time this Session—and that the Government should withdraw it. [Cheers.] These hon. Members will probably go down to their constituent and tell them that they are in favour of the Bill while suggesting to the Government that they ought to withdraw it.
§ MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to willfully misrepresent anything I said. I never suggested that the Government should withdraw the Bill. [Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh!" and ironical laughter.] What I said was that I was so much in favour of this Bill that rather than see it go through imperfectly — [ironical laughter and cheers]—I would suggest to the Government that they would suffer no disadvantage if they took a longer time to make their Bill a perfect one and an inclusive one, instead of an imperfect Measure. [Ironical cheers]
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I must ask the House to consider whether I misrepresent the hon. Member? At all events, I will give the answer of the Government. We have brought in this Bill. We attach the utmost importance to the principle of it; we believe that the country has approved it—[cheers]—and we intend at all hazards to take the decision of the House of Commons upon it. [Cheers.] We are not going to accept the suggestion either of the hon. Member for Leicester or of the hon. Baronet the Member for Durham to withdraw this Bill—[ironical Opposition cheers]— when probably in the next Session something else may cause it to be indefinitely and permanently postponed. [Cheers.] After all, hon. Members opposite seem to think that I have done them an injustice. I am very sorry, but they will have the opportunity of showing hereafter where I am wrong. We will watch with the greatest and most friendly interest their proceedings in the subsequent stages of the Bill. [Cheers.] There are two ways of killing a Bill. You may kill it by cruelty; I am sure that they would not do that. [Laughter.] You may kill, it by kindness, you may smother it with Amendments; and it seems to me as if from erroneous notions of what the House of Commons is capable, or from ulterior motives, which I do not impute, they are inclined to overlay this Bill and do their best, at any rate, to endanger it by the Amendments they have suggested.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I want to warn the House and the friends of the Bill on both sides, because, although I have thought it necessary to indicate that this is the position of many hon. Members opposite, I must frankly admit that there are many hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife, who have dealt with this Bill in the most frank and the most cordial manner. I may refer also to the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean and other hon. Members who, I believe, are as friendly to the Bill as the Government themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] But let us on both sides of the House, then, watch the future proceedings on the Bill; and to all those who are friendly to the Bill 796 I do desire to give a warning. It is admitted an all sides that we have had the courage of our opinions, that we have introduced a new principle into English legislation. ["Hear, hear!"] I think we may claim that it was a bold thing to do. [Cheers.] And in introducing this now legislation we have openly avowed our opinion that we could not possibly carry' it too far. Sir, we believe in this experiment. [Cheers.] We believe that it will in practice be found to be even better perhaps than many of our friends now suppose; and possibly, when it can be done with safety and with general assent, it may hereafter be extended. ["Hear, hear!"] But if we had in the first instance brought in this new principle and applied it without exception to all the varied trades and industries in this country, we should have roused so much opposition—[" hear, hear!"]—that it would have been absolutely impossible to carry the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] Very well; we are serious in our desire that this new principle should have a fair trial, and we will not be led, therefore, by fancied analogies, by talk about logical consistency, to overlay our Bill with a number of separate proposals, all of which will have a tendency to increase the opposition to and thereby prevent the passage of this Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] If it is suggested to us that there are cases which are exactly on all fours with the cases included within the Bill, of course those are matters to which we should be very glad to give our attention when we get into Committee, and if we find that without any injustice or without raising any great controversy we can add to the trades already included in the Bill, we shall be very happy to do so. But beyond that we do not propose to go. We propose to follow the course that has always been followed by every prudent Government in dealing with a similar subject. What is the history, for instance, of our factory legislation? ["Hear, hear!"] It is perfectly true, as my right hon. Friend said to-day, that the original proposal of the factory legislation and subsequent proposals were all, one by one, met with great hostility, and that they created great fears in the minds of the industrial classes, and that all that hostility and all those fears have been found to have been unnecessary. ["Hear, hear!"] But 797 if, in the first instance, Lord Shaftesbury and his friends had proposed legislation dealing with every factory and every workshop in the country, does anybody suppose that that Bill could have been passed? Certainly not. It was proposed, in the first instance, to deal with the textile trade; it was proposed later on to add the engineering trade; other trades were added later on, and workshops also. The whole subject has been since reviewed in the light of experience, and a great extension of the principle has been by universal consent agreed to. Well, Sir, I sincerely hope that we may have as good fortune. All we claim to be is to be pioneers. We propose to establish the principle. If the principle fails in practice, of course no one will over propose to extend it. If it has the success we believe it will have, then we shall consider the exclusions about which so much has been said. Now, Sir, just let us consider—and I do ask the House at this stage to consider, because it may save us time in Committee—what has been proposed in the course of this Debate. It has been proposed that we should add to this Bill—which is already, as I have said, a gigantic Bill—a new proposal of the utmost importance. It must be recognised, for it cannot be denied, that nothing has been more striking than the way in which the Bill has been received in the country. We know of hon. Members who declared beforehand their personal opinion against the Bill, who have, nevertheless, in this House, expressed their determination to support its principle. ["Hear, hear!"] I am not complaining of them in the least, but it is perfectly evident that this change of opinion has been brought about by communications with their constituents; and I do not hesitate to say that this principle is so popular that there will be the greatest indignation in the country if anything occurs to prevent effect being given to it in the present Session. [Cheers.] We are asked to add to this Bill the abolition of 798 common employment. They wish us to bring in I do not know how many other trades, including the domestic servants, to whom one hon. Gentleman referred, the agricultural labourers, and the shipping trade, which has always been difficult and exceptional in its character. [Interruption from the Opposition Benches and Ministerial cries of "Order!"] What? I say that everybody who has the slightest information about it knows that the shipping trade is admitted to be exceptional. That is one proposal. Just consider it. Suppose the Government agree—I am not saying whether it is right or wrong—but suppose the Government agreed that it was right, and suppose thereupon they accept the Amendment and apply the abolition of the doctrine of common employment to all these other trades, when would the Session end under these circumstances if that great principle and its application to this number of important trades are to be discussed at length in the course of Committee and on the Report stage? ["Hear, hear!"] Then, in addition to that, we are to include in the general scope of the Bill a number of other trades, all of which have had their advocates in the course of the present Debate. We are to add provisions dealing with unhealthy trades. It is said that we might take a clause which was not introduced originally by my right hon. Friend in his Bill, but which was subsequently accepted my him in the course of the Committee Debates upstairs. Let me say one word about that. There is not a word of objection to be taken to the principle of that clause, which proposes to give damages against an employer for any injury to health suffered by a workman in consequence of the neglect of proper precautions by an employer in trade. But, Sir, the matter was not discussed in the Committee upstairs for this reason—that, owing to circumstances with which the House is familiar, the Opposition—the regular Opposition—was not represented on that 799 occasion. And in the discussion on the Report stage the whole attention was concentrated on a particular question—viz., the question of contracting out, and accordingly the other provisions of the Bill received no sufficient investigation. I say, therefore, that that proposal, in a new House, under new circumstances, would deserve and would undoubtedly receive a great deal of discussion. I doubt myself whether the clause would be effective. I think it would lead to an immense amount of litigation. I think it would be almost absolutely impossible to establish a substantial claim for damages under it, because you would have to prove, in the first instance, that the illness of the workman was caused by the trade, and nothing else but the trade; that it was not caused by constitutional weakness on the part of the workman; and that it was directly due to the conditions of the trade; and then you would have to prove that proper precautions had not been taken, and you would have further to prove that the employer was responsible for their not being taken. Well, Sir, anyone who has any experience of litigation under the Employers' Liability Bill would know that it would be extremely difficult, at all events, for a poor workman to make good his complaint under a clause of that kind, and if we were to discuss it anew—I began by saying that I did not in the least object to the principle of the clause—but certainly, if we were to discuss it anew, it is one of those matters which would take a considerable amount of time. ["Hear, hear!"] Then another right hon. Gentleman proposes that we should consider the subject of State insurance. State insurance!It is a gigantic question. And supposing for a moment that we thought it right, raising as it would do, the opposition of the powerful vested interests already engaged in the work of private insurance —supposing we thought it right to do it, I undertake to say that if we made any proposal for State insurance, it would 800 take three or four times as long as the whole of the present Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] Then another Gentleman proposes that we should go into the deep and difficult subject of the proper incidence of the taxation which is to be levied in order to support the compensation which is to be given under the Bill. These are admirable proposals, but they are not practicable, and what I particularly call attention to is that they are brought forward by hon. Gentlemen who represent trades which profess to be in great danger of extinction under this Bill. Therefore I think I am justified in saying that not only would the result of passing these amendments be—I will not say fatal—but dangerous to the progress of the Bill, but I think I am justified in saying that that conclusion is not altogether absent from the minds of those who suggested them. It is said that our exclusion of certain trades is illogical. Of course it is; I grant that. But let it be borne in mind who are the people who are now calling for universal dealing with this great subject. Why, they are the people who proposed to deal with but 10 per cent, of the accidents. ["Hear, hear!"] What did they do when they had the opportunity of dealing with this subject? I daresay they may have felt it was very desirable to deal with the whole subject, but they very wisely, when they were the Government, proposed to deal with such portion of the subject as they thought they could deal with successfully, and in their case it was 10 per cent, of the accidents. Now that we propose to deal with 80 per cent, of the accidents they say, "You are leaving out 20 per cent. What an illogical proceeding!" [Laughter.] Of course you cannot draw an arbitrary line in legislation and at the same time profess to be absolutely logical. I perfectly agree with the right hon. Member for East Fife when he says it is no satisfaction to a man whose leg is broken by an accident in agricultural employment to be told that a man whose leg is broken in an engineering shop gets 801 compensation. That is perfectly true; but you cannot observe this logical consistency in legislation. You do not observe it in any legislation. Look at your franchise legislation. Is that logical? ["Hear, hear!"] You say that when a man reaches the age of 21 he is to have a vote. Why is he to have a vote when he is 21 and not when he is 20 years and 364 days old? What is the difference in a man the day before he becomes 21 and the day afterwards? It is not logical, but it is admitted to be expedient. Look, again, at the question of taxation. Take, for instance, the income tax. You have limitations below which the income tax does not go. Is there anything logical in that 'You say that a man with an income of only £160 a year shall pay no income tax, but that the man with £161 shall have his income taxed. There is no logic in that, but again I say it is expedient and in the present instance to all those who really care for this Bill and for the establishment of the principle, I urge upon them that it is expedient in the interest of the Measure that it should be confined, at all events, within reasonable limits. [Cheers.] We are not concluding the question, we are not determining the principle. W e admit that a case may be made for the trades which remain outside the Bill, but we say that this is not the year, this is not the time, in which their particular case can possibly or conveniently be dealt with. The hon. Member for one of the divisions nf Wiltshire made a most eloquent plea on behalf of the agricultural labourers, but I think he was hardly just to our modern legislation, because he said the agricultural labourers had always been left out and nothing had been done for them. I will ask the House to consider what was done by the last Conservative Government for the agricultural labourer, and to observe that exactly the same thing happened—that is to say, the principle was arbitrarily restrained in its application. The last Conservative Government brought in legislation for enabling the agricultural labourers to become 802 the owners of their small holdings and to become lessees of allotments, and gave them State aid for that purpose. But nothing again is done for the inhabitants of the towns. ["Hear, hear!"] Logically you cannot defend that. You cannot logically say that a, workman in the town is not as much, entitled to have assistance from the State in order to purchase his house as the labourer in the country is entitled to have assistance from the State to purchase his holding. I hope the case of the labourers in the towns will hereafter be taken. ["Hear, hear!"] But, at all events, no one has any right to complain that we are varying what has been the universal practice—namely, to deal with one thing at a time, and with one class, if that is the only practical way of dealing with it. 1 have said there may be cases in which we might probably include a little more than has been included not be brought to our notice cases which may have been accidentally omitted. We took as an arbitrary, but very convenient, definition the definition of the Factory Act as given in the Bill; and it will be remembered that, in regard to the building trade, the Factory Act does include in factory legislation buildings where no machinery is used, for some purposes, if they are above 30 ft. in height. It was the intention of the Government, and I am afraid that by some slip that intention is not carried out, to observe absolutely that definition, and we thought the House would be willing to accept the definition which had already appeared in our legislation in regard to the Factory Act. If, therefore, we have failed to include building operations where the buildings are over 30ft. in height, we certainly make no objection to including those buildings; and I have no doubt that that will bring in a very large additional number of labourers engaged in that trade. [Cheers.] I will just refer as briefly as I can to certain objections taken from two standpoints from which this Bill has been discussed. 803 In the first place, I will take those objections which have come rather from the representatives, I will say, of the employers' interests. Objection has been taken to the clause in which we propose that where an employer has been guilty of a willful or wrongful act or default, the injured workman should have his remedy at his choice, either under the Bill or under the common law or any other statutory law. It is said those words are unusual. They are the best words that our advisers can suggest in order to convey what, perhaps, may be a new idea. We want to distinguish between what I will call moral negligence and technical negligence. I will give an illustration. An employer is technically liable and technically negligent when somebody in his employment in a position of responsibility, say a foreman, acts in such a way as to bring about an accident to a workman. But he is not morally negligent—["hear, hear!"]—in the vast majority of cases it might be contended that he knows nothing whatever about it, and has had no opportunity of preventing it. That I call technical negligence. For that you may make a man pecuniarily liable, but you do not attempt to impose upon him any moral reprobation. On the other hand, if there be a case in which an employer knowingly has neglected a precaution, after being warned, by which life might have been saved, and loss of life and limb has occurred in consequence, that man is morally responsible. He is criminally responsible; he may be—in some cases he is—guilty of manslaughter. We say in those cases we want to reserve to the workman every right which he has at present, or which any future law may give him, and therefore we have put in the Bill that in these cases of moral negligence the workman shall have his choice. That, at all events, is the intention of the Bill, and I believe we have carried it out. But, then, it is said, Why have you not done the same thing in regard to the workman, because the 804 workman also may be guilty of an act, a willful or wrongful act, for which he ought to be held responsible? I will make a frank statement of the ideas of the Government with reference to that question. I entirely agree as to the morality of the view. I have no doubt the workman ought to be placed upon exactly the same footing as the employer as a matter of right, but as a matter of expediency it appeared to us that, as one of our first objects was to avoid litigation, it was hardly worth while to provide against what, after all, is a very rare case, for the workman is not likely to be guilty of a willful act or default by which he himself would suffer, and that to introduce such a provision might be to raise as a litigable matter the whole question of contributory negligence. That, however, is a matter for further discussion in Committee, but I hope the House will agree with the Government, and say that as to putting the workman in the game is not worth the candle. Another objection is that we have left a possibly unlimited claim for compensation for what is called permanent incapacity. For instance, to take an extreme case, a man at 25 is permanently injured. He may have, therefore, a claim upon the employer from 25, say, to 70, and that is an enormous liability. That is true. We have proceeded upon the doctrine of averages. What we find is, after inquiry from very large firms and very various employers, that the average of permanent incapacity is only something between three and six years, and we have thought that, as an average to be taken into account in an insurance policy, it would make very little difference. If you suppose, on the contrary, that employers will take this burden on themselves without spreading it over a general insurance, then, no doubt, there might be a case of great hardship, and if it is necessary to provide against such an exceptional case by an exceptional provision it is a point which the Government will be quite open to consider. But by far 805 the most important objection taken on behalf of employers has been the objection that this new liability will be a heavy burden on industry. Now, it is admitted that the coal trade is the trade which will have to bear the heaviest burden, but all our calculations differ materially from those put before the House. I have been furnished by the Lancashire and Cheshire Mines Permanent Relief Fund with their particulars, and certainly I am unable from their statements to come to the conclusion that the cost would be anything like what was stated by the hon. Member for Durham and the hon. Member for Gainsborough. I have here the particulars of the whole of the accidents for which they have made themselves responsible, and the compensation which they have paid. I calculate that the cost under our Bill would be 20s. 9d. per £100 of wages. From statements made in the House I doubt very much whether hon. Members who have made other calculations have taken into account the fact that for the first two weeks there is no payment under our Bill; and although those accidents are minor accidents with which we do not think it necessary that the State should deal, yet, as they are very numerous, the compensation for them amounts to a considerable sum.
§ SIR J. JOICEY
In his calculation has the right hon. Gentleman taken the wages of the underground men separately? Because by far the larger proportion of accidents take place among them, and they receive the largest part of the wages.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I have taken the figures as given to me—the total number of men and the total amount of wages. These are the returns of an association of coalowners, and we must take the calculation over the whole of the employment and the whole of the wages. ["Hear, hear!"] If you took a dangerous employment like the railway shunters' alone, the charge would be enormous; but in reckoning the charge on railway companies I have taken the whole of the employment, and that is the only fair way. [Cheers.] I have calculated that the cost 806 will be 1 per cent., roughly. But suppose it is 2 per cent. It is said that this may be fatal to certain mine owners, and to mines which are unfavourably situated. Surety that is a mistake, and hon. Gentlemen exaggerate the effect of a charge of 2 per cent, on wages. They are mistaken in supposing that this charge could not be got out of the cost of the article. This addition of 2 per cent. is nothing compared with the ordinary fluctuations of the trade. In the last three years the average wages in this very industry, for this very association, have gone from 23s. to 26s.—a rise of 15 per cent. [Cheers.] On that one item, wages, there has been a fluctuation in three years of 15 per cent., and yet they say that a fluctuation of 2 per cent, would make trade impossible. I am convinced that when this charge is put, not merely on one owner, but on all owners, and is, in effect, mainly a charge upon a particular industry, that the conditions of the trade will very soon adjust themselves to the new liabilities, and that these undertakings will not find themselves in the desperate condition which they now fear. One or two objections were taken from the workmen's point of view. Some hon. Members, but not, I believe, the representatives of the working classes, have said that they fear the effect of this arrangement upon the friendly societies. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that this proposal will give an immense impetus to friendly societies. [Cheers.] It will throw upon them the burden of their due work. It will leave open to them the dealing with those trumpery accidents which ought properly to be provided for by the thrift of the workmen themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] I call them trumpery accidents because they do not detain the workman long from his work. It will leave open all that is connected with the health and superannuation of the workman, and I am convinced that, when the burden is taken off the workman of providing for accidents which occur in the course of his employment, he will have the money, and he will 807 spend it in making provision in other directions through the friendly societies. [Cheers.] We have been told that while we have provided for incapacity we have not defined incapacity. There seems to be doubt in some minds as to what is meant by total and partial incapacity, by permanent and temporary incapacity. Well, we will not attempt to tariff incapacity—so much for an eye, so much for a leg, so much for an arm, and so much for a hand. There is something very disagreeable in any such attempt—["hear, hear!"]—and something calculated to raise what may be called sentimental objections, but what are really serious objections. The attempt is also open to such practical objections as that you never can tariff all the accidents which may possibly occur. But what we propose is that the moment a man is injured—whether the accident ultimately develops into total or partial, permanent or temporary', incapacity—and is prevented from pursuing his ordinary employment he has a right to compensation. [An HON. MEMBER: "After two weeks!"] Certainly, after two weeks. Then the amount of compensation is not fixed by the Bill, but a maximum of half the wages is fixed. If the incapacity is total I think the employer will offer him full compensation, or the arbitrator will give it to him. But this case is put—a. man, may be partially incapacitated; he may still be able to perform other work at a little less remuneration, such a case, for instance, as that of a man who has been earning 30s. a week, and who after an accident gets only 25s. Such a man is entitled to compensation, but undoubtedly the amount of the compensation should be limited to the extent of the incapacity. ["Hear, hear!"] That is to say, the amount of pecuniary compensation he would get would be proportionate to1 the amount of pecuniary loss he would sustain by the accident. ["Hear, hear!"] Another objection taken, and it is rather an important one, is that although we have provided for compensation, we have not provided against the 808 possibility of the bankruptcy of the person who is to pay the compensation. But my right hon. Friend opposite did not propose to provide against bankruptcy. He was quite right. It is altogether outside the scope of the Bill. Of course, it would be most advisable, if the thing were possible', that we should pass an Act providing that every debtor should pay his debts. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] But do not let it be supposed that the grievance is greater in the case of an injured workman than it is in the case of any one else. I have known the most pathetic cases of people who tried to save up money for their old age, and by the failure of a, friendly society or a bank lost everything. ["Hear, hear!"] That is a great grievance; but it has never been proposed by legislation to make these people secure against loss. It would be perfectly illogical to provide against bankruptcy in the case of injured workmen and not to provide against bankruptcy in other cases where bankruptcy creates as much suffering; and we, therefore, ought not to be asked to introduce what is really a foreign subject into our Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] I recognise and am grateful for the very frank, cordial and generous support given to the Bill by my right hon. Friend opposite. He said very truly that there was nothing consistent between the principle of this Bill and the principle of the Bill which he brought in. But there is a distinction between them. There are two classes of reformers in the world. There are reformers that want to punish somebody—[laughter]—and there are reformers who want to benefit somebody. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] They both of them fulfill a mission, and I do not deny that each of them is very useful occasionally in fulfilling his mission. But one party are anxious for punitive Measures; the other party are anxious for Measures of relief. That is the distinction. All Employers' Liability Bills hitherto were Bills for punishing the alleged negligence of the employers. 809 ["Hear, hear!"] This is not a Bill which supports any idea of that kind. ["Hear, hear!"] This is a Bill for bringing' relief to the injured men— [cheers]—and, although undoubtedly it will lay in the first instance a new liability on the employer, we believe he will be able to distribute that liability over the trade in which he is engaged. I believe that the liability under this Bill is no more, and I know in some cases it is less, than what the generous employer undertakes at present. ["Hear, hear!"] I could name hon. Members on both sides of the House who are at the present time doing more voluntarily than this Bill would impose upon them. But they do it out of their own pockets, because they do it in competition with people who do nothing. But when we have brought all employers into line the element of competition will not arise, and then it will be possible to obtain the increased cost from the consumers who use the goods. It is said that the foreign competition would still remain; but at the present time the liability on foreign employers is as great as we are imposing on our own manufacturers under this Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] Under these circumstances we present this Bill to the House, and we rejoice that we have received so much support from employers in the House. We know that we have the support of the workmen outside, and we, therefore, have every reason to hope that we may be able to place the Bill on the Statute Book this Session. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Baronet the Member for Durham began his speech to-night by saying that no more important Bill had been introduced during the last 50 years. He mentioned also the Free Schools Bill, and I think that the Party which has introduced these two great Measures may take some credit for being earnest in their desire to benefit the working classes of this country. [Cheers.] The hon. Baronet went on to say that he was only astonished that a Measure of this kind should come from the Tory Party. I 810 might take exception to that and say we on this Bench call ourselves Unionists. [Ministerial cheers and Opposition laughter.] But I care nothing for that, I do not complain that the hon. Baronet will not give me the title which I claim for myself, because I refuse to him the title which he claims for himself. I refuse altogether to say that an employer of labour who is hostile to this Bill is any true representative of Liberal sentiment. [Cheers.] But I say that this surprise is altogether misplaced, and if he had any knowledge whatever of the political history during the last century he would not be surprised at all that the Tory Party should have brought in a Bill of this kind. [Ministerial cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh!"] I remember in the year 1874 I stood for Sheffield —[An HON. MEMBER: "As a Home Ruler!"]—and certainly at that time the hon. Baronet would not have denied to me the title of an advanced Liberal, and 1 remember that during that Election I made it a part of my programme—[An HON. MEMBER: "Unauthorised!"]—to do something in the direction of the social legislation which has occupied so much of our legislative time since that period, and I pointed out then to my Liberal; friends that they were the most backward Party in this connection. [Cheers.] I pointed out again and again that it was not so with the Tory Party—I was ashamed of it then—[laughter]—I was ashamed that the Party to which I then belonged had been so backward in the matter, and I pointed out that all this social legislation had been initiated and to a large extent carried out by the Tory Party — ["hear, hear !"] — that the Liberal Party had done a great deal in the way of political reforms for the working classes, but that so far as social legislation for their welfare was concerned almost the whole credit was due then, as it is now, to the Tory Party. [Cheers.] I said that in 1874, and I say it in 1897. Who introduced the whole of this factory legislation for which hon. Gentlemen opposite take all the credit?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I have noticed that the hon. Member opposite has the most peculiar faculty of irrelevant interruption—["hear, hear!"]—that I have ever known in this House. He asks me who objected to it? Well, Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden. I believe they were Liberals. ["Hear, hear!"] It is extraordinary that the new Liberals should be so extremely ignorant of the history of their Party, and of the political history of their country. When the history of this Bill comes to be written will some hon. Member for Stockton get up then and say "Who opposed it?" and is the answer to be, "the hon. Baronet the Member for Durham, the hon. Member for Gainsborough, and other hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House?" I hope not. After all, my great anxiety is now, as it was in 1874, to see this legislation carried, and I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite have learnt their lesson and that now we may have their support where probably 20 years ago we should have had their opposition. I say this Bill is one of which any Party may well be proud. We introduce it to the House and to the country as an act of justice to, and as an act of sympathy with, the working classes of this country, and, believing that it will be recognised as such in the country, we confidently bring it forward. [Cheers.]
§ *MR. REGINALD MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.),
who was interrupted by cries of "Divide!" said that the discussion had been carried on with scarcely any trace of Party recrimination until the right hon. Gentleman had risen. Hon. Members on that side of the House had given far more genuine support to the Bill than hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman had condemned amendments of the Bill, though it must be admitted some amendment was desirable. But even if the Government followed the precedent established by themselves of accepting no amend- 812 ment, he, for his part, would still vote for the Third Reading of the Bill. He believed it to be admirable in principle, but, as the Home Secretary had admitted, it was susceptible of amendment in several important respects.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said he sympathised with the aim of the Government, but he believed the principle of the Bill to be unsound. They had adopted the German system of compensating workmen without the safeguards which made that system feasible. The principle adopted in this country had been that employer and employed should contribute to the compensation to be paid. That had been done voluntarily, and he wanted to know why the employed was no longer to contribute. All wages had been settled with reference to that arrangement. He contended that the system of payment—by both employers and employed, as in Germany —for 13 weeks should be extended to this country; and he hoped the Government would make the employed contribute towards the sum to be paid for compensation in all cases. If that were done there would be more mutuality, and the great change in the relationship of employers and employed which would be caused by throwing the whole weight on one side would be avoided.
§ MR. HAROLD RECKITT (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said he wished to call attention to the case of the men who were employed in loading and unloading ships in our docks and harbours. The extent to which these men would come within the Bill would be a question of argument in Committee; but assuming that they were to come under the operation of the Bill, the question arose what were the conditions under which they were employed. Cases occurred in the river Thames, within a few miles of the place where they were now sitting, and they ought to be dealt with. He would like to mention a case which occurred lately of a barge being run down by a foreign 813 ship in the Thames. That ship was held up in the port of London for the damage done to the barge, and was detained until security was given for the amount of the damage; but the man who was navigating the barge was drowned, and left a wife and nine children. Yet there was no process of law known in this country by means of which the widow and children of this man could get compensation out of the owner of the foreign ship for his death. No doubt an action could be brought in an English Court and a judge men obtained, but the judgment could not be satisfied. Such cases ought to be dealt with in Committee, and he asked the sympathy of the House in support of an Amendment in that direction. He thought that when a man who fulfilled his duty met with injury he was entitled to compensation. He pressed the matter on the Government, for it was one above all Party considerations. He appealed to all who were not acquainted with this particular trade to take up a sympathetic attitude. There were many cases of great hardship where a man's family got no compensation. He concurred in the principle of the Bill, but hoped vigorous efforts would be made to amend it in the direction he had indicated. He would like to say, in conclusion, that he regretted exceedingly the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Bill on the part of the Government. He regretted that no one had risen to criticise that speech.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Bill Read a Second time amid cheers.
§ On the Motion that the Committee stage be taken on Monday,
§ MR. ASQUITH
asked what length of time the Government proposed should elapse before the Committee stage was really entered upon? He hoped that a reasonable interval would be allowed.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider that a reasonable interval would elapse if the Committee stage were taken on Monday, but perhaps the right hon. 814 Gentleman would ask the Leader of the House a question upon the subject on Thursday.
§ Bill committed for Monday next.