§ Order for Committee read.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said this Bill made a grant of public money in the schedule which provided that any arbitrator other than the County Court Judge should be paid out of money provided by Parliament. He thought that the making of a charge in the schedule to a Bill was most novel, and so far as he could ascertain without precedent. He thought they ought to have the Committee of Ways and Means before they considered that part of the schedule.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the question remained whether it would be necessary to take the Committee of Ways and Means before the schedule, or the clause which incorporated the schedule. The charge, he believed, resided in the first clause.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The Money Committee (there is no question of the Committee of Ways and Means) for authorising the grant of money for the expenses involved in the Bill must be taken before the third section of the second schedule is reached. That is the charging part of the Bill. All that the first clause of the Bill says is that compensation is to be settled by arbitration "in accordance with the second schedule to this Act." That does not fix what the terms of the second schedule are to be. Those are to be settled after the first clause has been passed, and when the second 1152 schedule is reached. There is nothing in the first clause to say that the terms of the second schedule shall be the identical terms in which it stands. The House may alter it, or even strike out the power to refer to any one of the County Court Judges, and the consequent charges, but no charge can be dealt with by the Committee under that third clause of the second schedule until a Resolution in a Money Committee has been passed.
§ The following Notices relating to the Order stood upon the Paper: —
§ SIR JOHN JENKINS
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert clauses in the Bill with a view to provide that the owners of royalties shall contribute to the compensation paid in respect of accidents that take place in the course of the carrying on of a trade or industry in respect of which they receive such royalties.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions for a scheme of insurance under State supervision to secure to workmen the payment of the amounts of compensation which may be awarded to them under the Bill.
§ MR. MCKENNA
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert clauses in the Bill with a view to amending the law of Employers' Liability, in respect of those trades or industries to which the Bill does not otherwise apply.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill to enable employers of workmen in mines and quarries to deduct yearly out of any royalties payable by them to any landowners or persons in respect of any mines, minerals, or substances won, gotten, raised, or worked out of or in such mines and quarries a sum not greater than one-half the yearly sum paid, or which would be required to be paid, by the said employers for insuring themselves against liability for compensation under the Bill.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill in order that the burden of compensation to be paid under this Bill by employers of workmen in mines and quarries may be distributed and borne equitably between such employers and the owners of all royalties payable by such employers in respect of all mines, 1153 minerals, and substances won, gotten, raised, or worked out of or in such mines and quarries.
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions to secure compensation to workmen for injuries to health arising out of and in the course of their employment.
§ MR. BUTCHER
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to introduce into the Bill such provisions as may be necessary to abolish the doctrine of common employment as affecting the right of a, workman to compensation for personal injury.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions in the Bill that, in the event of any employer or employers being proved financially unable to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade to pay the compensation that may become payable under this Bill, or any part of it that the Board of Trade have power to remit all or any part of such compensation as may be deemed equitable, consideration being given to the fact as to whether the said employers have used all proper and statutory precautions to prevent accident.
§ MR. HAROLD RECKITT
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert clauses in the Bill with a view to provide for the compensation of workmen where the employer is a foreign shipowner without assets in this country.
MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE
To move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make the State liable to pay compensation under the Bill.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
There are several Instructions on the Paper with reference to the First Order of the Day, Workmen (Compensation for Accidents) Bill. These I will now deal with. The first Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Carmarthen Boroughs, and the two which stand in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Glamorgan, propose to deal with the relations of lessors and lessees of mines. That subject, I think, is outside the scope of the Bill, which relates wholly to the relations of employers and employed, nor does the fact that the lessee happens to be the employer of a workman in a mine affect the point. The Amendment standing in the 1154 name of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and also that of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Tyneside)—the one proposing a scheme of insurance under State supervision, and the other a scheme for State insurance—are both out of order as being outside the scope of the Bill and involving a charge on the revenue. Then there is the Instruction of the hon. Member for North Monmouth, which seeks to insert clauses with a view to amend the law of employers' liability in respect of those trades or industries to which the Bill does not apply. At present the Bill applies only to certain trades, and it will be competent to hon. Members to propose to add other trades, but it will not be competent by Instruction or otherwise to deal by way of amendment with the law relating to trades which are excluded from the Bill, both as it stands at present, and as it ultimately may stand. The Instruction standing in the name of the hon. Member for Berwick proposes to empower the Committee to insert provisions to secure compensation to workmen for injuries to health arising out of and in the course of their employment. If the Bill were not expressly limited on the face of it to injuries arising from accidents I should have said that that matter might have been dealt with by way of amendment without an Instruction; but, having regard to the express terms of the Bill, I am of opinion that the Instruction is necessary and it is in order. The Amendment of the hon. Member for York proposes to introduce provisions to abolish the doctrine of common employment as affecting the right to compensation. As regards any trades that are included in, or may be added to the list in the Bill, of course that might be done by Amendment, and no Instruction is necessary; as regards other trades, the Instruction would not be in order, as the law affecting them is outside the scope of the Bill. The Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Helens, dealing with the case of employers who may be financially unable to pay compensation, is out of order, because the matter can be dealt with by way of Amendment. The Amendment of the hon. Member for the Brigg Division is out of order. It proposes to insert clauses to provide for the compensation of workmen where the employer is 1155 a foreign shipowner without assets in this country. Seamen are not at present included in the Bill; if it be intended to include them, such inclusion can only cover the case of seamen employed in the United Kingdom or on British ships. For that no Instruction would be necessary. If it is intended to cover the case of seamen employed by foreign shipowners on foreign ships, that would be outside the scope of an Instruction, if not altogether outside the powers of Parliament. That disposes of all the Instructions except that of the hon. Member for Berwickshire.
§ *MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
accordingly rose to move:—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions to secure compensation to workmen for injuries to health arising out of and in the course of their employment.His first contention was that the man whose health was undermined was more deserving of pity and of compensation than the man who met with an accident, grievous though that was. Because, while both were prevented from working, the man whose health was injured transmitted to his children a weakly and impaired organisation which unfitted them for the struggle of life. His second proposition was that there were many very sad cases of illness which were contracted through no fault of either employer or employed. In illustration of that he took the case of the Sheffield file-makers, and quoted from the Report of the Registrar General, who found that 1,667 file-makers died as compared with 1,000 in other trades at corresponding ages and periods, and that the mortality from lead-poisoning was twice as great in that trade as in other classes and occupations. The Registrar General further mentioned that had it been possible to compile a column dealing with the file-cutters, as distinguished from the file-makers, a still higher percentage of mortality would have been shown. As regarded the case of the lead-workers in Newcastle, through the kindness of Dr. Oliver, who presided over the infirmary, he had ascertained that fact that in seven years from 1890 228 cases of lead-poisoning were admitted to that institution, 10 of which resulted fatally. Dr. Oliver added that 1156 the numbers stated gave no criterion of the total number of the cases occurring in the district, because many of the workmen who were ill went to the doctor at the works. These lead-workers had no trade organisation and no benefit society, and the result was that when they broke down from lead-poisoning they were nearly always thrown on the rates. If the Bill were to deal with accidents which arose from nobody's negligence, it was obvious that it should also include cases where health was undermined simply through the nature of the employment. But if the Government would agree to the Instruction, he would accept a provision restricting compensation to the cases in which negligence could be proved against the employer. The Colonial Secretary had maintained that it would be extremely difficult to prove that the injury to health resulted from the employment. There were many cases, however, where there could be no doubt. He would mention some. A girl, aged 17, employed for three years in the lead process of the Pottery trade, had to go to hospital for lead poisoning, and left almost totally blind. Another girl, of the same age, and in the same employment, was attacked with partial paralysis, and after 12 weeks in hospital was discharged, but with the loss of her sight. Representations had been made to her employers, but nothing had been done for her. Another girl, aged 18, who had been employed in the lead process as a dipper since January 1896, was seized with a fit in the January of this year, and had now been discharged from hospital with the loss of sight in one eye, and with her general health so impaired that she could not hope ever to be able to work again. The Government had urged that if these cases were included in the Bill, the Measure would be very difficult to pass. The time of the House could not be more fitly occupied than in the discussion of proposals to give, not justice, for that was impossible, but some small compensation to those who had lost the greatest gift of life. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
There is a great deal of force and truth in what the hon. Member says as to its 1157 being equally sad, whether a workman be rendered incapable of earning his livelihood by disease or by accident. And I take the opportunity of offering my thanks to the hon. Member for his services to the Home Office in respect of the adoption of precautions in the case of dangerous trades. It takes some time to introduce these; but it is being done more and more; and much of the improvement is due to the hon. Member. But when we are asked to put into a Bill which is to provide for compensation in case of unexpected accidents provisions for compensation in case of injury to health resulting from employment in a dangerous trade, we are asked to do something of which the definition is difficult and which will open the door to much dispute and litigation. The position is not the same as it was with the Bill of 1893. We are providing for accidents alone under this Bill, and to that extent we abolish the doctrine of volenti non fit injuria. But in the cases quoted by the hon. Member, though the trades mentioned are well known to be dangerous, the effect upon the health is very different with different persons. Women are much more injuriously affected than men. There is a broad and substantial difference between a person who is injured by an accident and one who is injured by the nature of the trade in which he is employed. If the obligation be thrown upon the employer to compensate the latter, it will be made necessary for him not to employ men or women who are likely to suffer in health; and that would not be a very good tiling for the workpeople. At present, if a workman suffers injury to health in the course of his employment in a dangerous trade, and can show that it is due to the negligence of his master or foreman in not applying the necessary precautions, then he has a remedy against the master. And, though I do not say that that is a satisfactory remedy, I think that the House would be wise not to introduce into a Bill dealing with accidents the far more complicated and difficult question of the permanent injury to health caused by some trades. It may be difficult for the arbitrator under this Bill to decide any of the questions which will be brought before him. But in the case of the diseases brought on by the lead industry, how much more 1158 difficult will it be for him to say that a particular condition of bodily health is due to the industry and not to the constitution of the individual? I hope the House will not accept an Instruction which will complicate the whole Bill and render it almost impossible to carry out.
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddington)
said that it was difficult to see on what theory the Home Secretary rested his exclusion of this class of case. The Bill proposed to make provision for the injured workman; and now the Government were drawing a distinction between two classes of injuries and declaring that the one should carry compensation and that the other should not. The right hon. Gentleman had said that this Amendment would not be in the interests of the working classes, because it would keep those who were delicate and susceptible to injury out of employment. Surely that was one of the strongest arguments in favour of the Instruction. ["Hear, hear!"] It was the only way to make prevention really effective. If they put on the employer the burden of seeing that the material used in the course of his trade were not injurious to the health of the workers, they would most certainly have a substantial diminution in the numbers of cases of chemical poisoning. It was impossible to defend the position of the Government in the matter. He could understand them saying, "We must not overload the Bill." But why select for exclusion those cases of injuries to health which nothing but the skill, knowledge, and means of the employer could avoid. A curious case of explosion from blasting gelatine, a substance nearly akin to cordite, had recently come under his notice. The substance was set on fire in the midst of two or three workmen with apparently no evil effects to them. However, in the course of a few days they were attacked with what appeared to be acute bronchitis, and died, but the post-mortem examinations showed that the cause of death was chemical poisoning. Those were the cases to which the Instruction proposed to extend the protection of the Bill. If the Bill were to be really useful they must include within its operation all classes of injuries to health and body which arose directly in the course of employment. If the Government desired to lighten the 1159 Bill, let them not put outside its scope the very class of cases it was most important they should bring inside—the class of cases in which prevention was essential and in which that prevention could only be got by that scientific skill which only the knowledge, experience, and means of the employer could supply.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
thought the Instruction was impracticable. If a workman employed in several employments broke down in health, it would be impossible to say in which of the employments the man's health was affected.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said the Instruction was eminently necessary; and it came with peculiar grace from an hon. Member who was connected indirectly with the chemical trade, and who had great experience of the subject as Chairman of the Committee on Dangerous Trades. He had heard with alarm the statement of the Home Secretary that dangerous trades could not be included in the Bill. The Bill would apply to something like six millions of workmen, and he ventured to say that if the Instruction were accepted not 7,000 would come under the Bill for compensation in 10 years. Cases of the kind were not large in number; but they were very acute in the amount of pain and disablement they imposed on workmen, and for that reason alone he thought the Instruction should be accepted. He would, for the purposes of illustration take the cases of two strong men, who left the Army and joined the Reserve. One of the men went into a chemical factory. After three or four years' employment his health was undermined, he became physically a most pitiable spectacle. He was no longer fit for work, and he drifted to the workhouse, the Salvation Army shelter, or the doss-house. The other man became a navvy on a railway. Through an accident, probably due to his own negligence, he had a leg cut off? But instead of being cast adrift like the first man, he got £200 or £300 compensation, and possibly the company provided him with an easy gatekeeper's job at a low rate of wages. If the first man whose health was undermined in the course of his employment got compensation, he would be able to go into the country to recuperate, and possibly, with the aid of his friendly society, 1160 he would be able to start in some little business such as selling newspapers, or he and his wife keeping a mangle, or in other ways made independent of the community on which without this Instruction he would be a burden. The most pathetic figures he knew of in the army of industry were the chemical workers of Lancashire and the lead workers of Newcastle; and he was bound to say the Home Secretary had not advanced a single argument for the exclusion of those men from the protection of the Bill.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said the Instruction practically amounted to a proposal that industry should be liable to compensate the widows of men who died at any age substantially lower than the average term of the life of men engaged in such trades. That was a serious prospect to contemplate. The hon. Member for Berwickshire had referred to the file-cutting trade. The hon. Member must have meant the hand file-cutting trade, and not the machine file-cutting trade.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said the scientific opinion which the hon. Member had cited in support of his proposal undoubtedly applied to the hand file-cutting trade. But if the Instruction were passed, there was no earthly doubt that the hand file-cutting trade would entirely disappear. A number of small employers would be driven out of the trade, and machinery would be universally introduced. He must refuse to be a party to the bringing about of such a result. The Bill as it stood went quite as far as the public had got notice of, and it would not be fair for the House to extend its operations further.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
said that if it were a. just principle that industries should bear the burden of injuries to health and to limb, he failed to see how the Government could oppose the Instruction. The Home Secretary seemed under the impression that health had nothing to do with the Bill. Health had a great deal to do with it. A slight accident to a man in bad health might develop serious consequences. Was his employer to compensate him while employers in industries which produced a general condition of ill-health escaped? The workman whose health was injured 1161 in his occupation was as much entitled to compensation as the workman who might lose his arm or leg or sustain other bodily injuries. On this ground he would support the Instruction.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.)
said he understood that one of the principles on which the Bill was founded was that where a workman was injured in a dangerous trade the employer should be liable. He should have thought the principle applied a thousand times more strongly to cases where a, man was slowly and surely poisoned in a noxious trade. This should be provided for as much as cases where workmen had their feet cut off or their legs broken, or sustained similar injuries. It was said that then the wife of every man engaged in dangerous employment who died would be entitled to something from his employer. It meant nothing of the kind. The Instruction simply meant what it said, that if a trade had poisoned a person the relatives would have a right of action against the employer. He could not see any difference between the case where a man was poisoned by his trade, and the case where a man received personal injuries in the course of his employment.
§ MR. C. B. RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
submitted that the Instruction went further than the speech in support of it, which confined it to certain dangerous trades that were enumerated. He was glad the Home Secretary refused to accept the Instruction. It would be injurious to the working man if such an Instruction were carried, and equally so to employers of labour. The Bill itself would create many difficulties in regard to employment, but if the Instruction were adopted it would shut out from employment in a large number of industries not regarded as dangerous a great many people who for some years had been following them, who although their health was not strong were capable of doing a. day's work and earning a day's wage. Because he believed the Instruction would have this undesirable effect he should vote against it.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
thought hon. Members were losing sight of the question before the House. This was not an Amendment. All his hon. Friend was asking was that the House should have an opportunity of discussing the matter. If the Government were to be deterred by difficulties from 1162 dealing with points in the Bill the Government should have thought twice before asking the House to accept the principle of the Bill. He believed the difficulty involved in the Instruction could be overcome. If the proposal of the Instruction when brought forward by Amendment in Committee were reasonably objected to as impossible to carry out, or for some other reason, the Committee could reject the Amendment. But if the Instruction were not adopted, his hon. Friend could not bring forward in Committee the just and reasonable proposal embodied in it.
§ SIR EDWARD HILL (Bristol, S.)
trusted the House would not listen to the Instruction, because he believed it would complicate the Bill. This was a Bill relating to accidents, not illnesses, and while he and others would grant compensation for the former, they objected to the latter.
§ *SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said there seemed to be a misapprehension as to the class of labour to which the Instruction referred. The Mover of the Instruction had in view the match-making and white lead industries and the pottery trade. It was said to be impossible to deal with the matter under this Bill. But it was dealt with in the legislation of every country that had faced the subject, and it was intended to be dealt with in the legislation of other countries which were beginning to face the subject. In five Continental countries it had been found impossible to separate the two questions. The Instruction only proposed to allow the subject to be dealt with in Committee.
§ SIR ARTHUR FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said the House was regarding the matter from an erroneous point of view. He ventured to say that this Instruction went too far. If it had been limited to the neglect of an employer to take reasonable precautions for the mitigation of risk then he should have been glad to support it. As it was, the Instruction would go into every trade and undoubtedly it would lead to great difficulty and litigation. He should move after the word "employment," to insert:—Through the failure of the employer to take reasonable precautions in employments injurious to the health for the mitigation or removal of the risk of injury to the health in such employment.
§ MR. G. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said this Amendment would place a penalty on the employer for neglecting certain precautions, which was not consistent with the spirit of the Bill. If the hon. Member had made a Motion limiting it to certain trades in which diseases were contracted, he should have hoped that the House would have accepted it. The House should be left free to consider any reasonable Amendments, so that trades could be selected according to the danger involved. For his part, he should vote against the Instruction.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
said the Bill had been placed before the country, and the House had accepted the principle without any demur. He thought that it was too late in the day now to try to limit the scope of the Bill. It was all very well to say leave a trade which was dangerous, but if a man's bread and the bread of his family were depending on it, it became a different matter altogether. He thought they had better not discuss this matter theoretically, but try to look at it from the position of the workers. There were hundreds who would leave these dangerous trades if they could do it, but they could not do it. One of the reasons why these dangerous trades should be included was given by the Colonial Secretary, who spoke of the wounded soldiers of their industrial life. He contended that a man who was injured in the course of his employment had a right to compensation. He hoped the Government would see their way to accept this Instruction. It was not only in chemical works that men were poisoned. There were men working in the mines who were poisoned. Men might be poisoned from bad ventilation, but they would receive no compensation whatever for that injury.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
thought that the short discussion of the Bill showed that it was absolutely impossible to limit the action of the Bill if it were to become law. He should therefore support the Instruction. It was becoming clearer every day that to make exceptions would create difficulties.
§ *SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
thought the Instruction should be a wide Instruction. The Bill was a skeleton Bill, and his conviction was that it was impossible to draw a distinction between trades. ["Hear, hear!"] 1164 What was the vise of telling a man who was brought up as a coal miner to go elsewhere? How could he go to work elsewhere? The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley said they had had enough of men getting up and saying there was no profit. Employers found means of accomplishing reforms. Although this was a sweeping change, employers desired that it should be fully and fairly worked through all trades, and not applied to three or four only. He hoped the Government would consent to this Instruction.
§ MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)
said it must not be supposed that he and those who sat around him had not as much sympathy for those persons engaged in dangerous trades as hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they voted with the Government on this occasion they would do so on practical and not theoretical grounds. Three claims to the consideration of the House were made by the operatives of the country. There was the claim in respect to accidental injuries and that in respect to employment in a dangerous trade, but he did not see how the third claim could be distinguished from that in regard to dangerous employment. The Instruction provided that injuries to health in the course of employment were also to be considered. That meant that persons were entitled to expect consideration who met with some injury, however trivial, to their health in the course of their employment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Arising out of or in the course of!"] He admitted that the word "or" was significant. In that case the hon. Member would accept the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Liverpool. This Bill was intended to deal with accidental injuries, and, therefore, it was not proper they should be invited to engage in endless discussions upon matters which could not be reasonably remedied under this Measure.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I have listened with very great surprise to some of the speeches which have been delivered from the other side of the House. We are discussing the simple issue whether or not it shall be possible when we come to the Committee stage to include provisions for cases where injury to health as distinguished from, injury to limb has resulted from the carrying 1165 on of a trade. Everyone who votes against this Instruction will be voting for making it impossible in Committee to include any case, however applicable, of any trade, however dangerous, where it can be shown, as it has been shown, that not only is the percentage of ill-health very grave, but that the results which necessarily follow the pursuit of certain occupations are such as completely to undermine the condition of health. I have a very vivid recollection of what took place in 1893 when I introduced the Government Bill of that year. That Bill contained no clause specifically dealing with dangerous trades, but the hon. Member for Hackney proposed:In any employment injurious to health, in which the risk of injury to health can be mitigated or removed by the use of reasonable precautions, the death, or temporary, or permanent disablement of a workman is caused by the neglect or such reasonable precautions, the workman, or, in case of death, his representatives, shall have the same right to compensation and remedies against the employer as in other cases of personal injury due to negligence.I did not oppose that Amendment in the first instance, though I was somewhat loth to accept it for this reason, that I thought it was already included in the Bill. Our Bill dealt with all injury by accident—personal injury. In my judgment, that was wide enough to embrace injury against the health of a limn through neglect on the part of the employer to take proper precautions, but, as it was pointed out there was some doubt, we accepted the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. That Amendment was blessed from both sides of the House. I think more speeches were made in its favour from the Conservative than from the Liberal Benches, and it is simply the principle of the Amendment that my hon. Friend is now asking the House to empower itself to recognise. I want to know why, if this Measure, as we are told, is so very much larger and more comprehensive in scope than any previously introduced, these not very large in number but very grave and dangerous class of injuries to workmen are to be excluded from the scope of your remedial provisions, Whether you look at the matter from the point of view of prevention or from the point of view of the workmen's title to compensation it appears to me this claim 1166 stands on at least as strong a footing as any claim that can be advanced. Surely, from this point of view of prevention, if you make the employer liable for all injuries he will have a strong inducement to diminish the number of injuries. How strongly will this provision operate in the case of trades where prevention is most easy and most necessary! If the employer has this motive he will exercise a better selection of the workpeople he employs, and these are mainly women and children. And if the employers were to exercise more discrimination than they do in the selection of the persons who are employed in these peculiarly dangerous processes a great deal of the ill-health that at present exists might be altogether obviated. Then there are the mechanical processes which could very easily be adopted, and which would mitigate, if not altogether remove, the injurious effects. If that be the case from the point of view of prevention, surely it is stronger from the point of view of the workman's title to compensation. On what principle of common sense are you to say that these people should leave their employment? People go into those dangerous trades not from the love of them, not from, a desire for pleasure, not from a desire to secure high wages, for these are the very worst-paid workpeople. These people have to choose between starvation and spending their lives under unwholesome conditions, which necessarily result in injury to health and to a shortening of life. I have not heard a single argument which can suggest to my mind a reason for discriminating between these classes of the soldiers in the industrial army and those who have been so liberally provided for. It is said that this will very greatly extend the scope of the Measure. It will do nothing of the kind. The Home Secretary told us the other night that this Bill would apply to six million people, and those excluded from its scope will amount to seven millions. Let us assume that the Bill will apply to six millions. I believe I am not overstating the number when I say that the whole of the persons in our industrial population who can be affected by any Amendment in pursuance of this Instruction will not exceed 100,000–100,000 in addition to the six millions, or 1 in 60.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The hon. Gentleman, like some others, did not seem to realise the limited effect of the words "arising out of and in the course of their employment." There is no intention to compensate workmen who are not engaged in unhealthy trades and who are not exposed to peculiar danger from, the character of the employment. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, and all of us, will be perfectly ready to consider and adopt any limitation which can be reasonably suggested go as to confine the operation of the subsequent Amendment to those trades which are in real need of special protection. It is said there will be enormous difficulty in determining whether or not the injury to health from which a particular person is suffering had or had not arisen in the course of employment. There will be no greater difficulty than in determining the question whether permanent disablement has resulted from injury. Everyone knows that the shock or the blood-poisoning consequent upon a comparatively slight accident to a limb may permanently disable a man for life. That man would be compensated under this Bill. I earnestly hope the Government may yet be induced to reconsider their decision. The only thing we are asking —and surely it is both a moderate and reasonable request—is that when we get into Committee we shall have the opportunity of considering and discussing Amendments which will secure the same protection for these classes of workers as you are already going to give to all those who are injured by accident in the course of their employment. [Cheers.]
§ SIR J. B. MAPLE
thought that the right hon. Gentleman, quite unintentionally, wished to misrepresent the scope of this distinction. He wished to deal with it as though the Bill dealt with the question of dangerous trades, whereas it was a Bill dealing with accidents only. If the Instruction were carried, an employer might be liable for compensation if a man caught a cold through working in a draught, and who said he did not know but what consumption might follow. They understood thoroughly that the Bill now before the House was one to deal 1168 with accidents. Every accident would be recorded, and it could be dealt with, but if they were to say that every workman who received any injury to health arising out, or in the course of their employment was to have a claim on the employer, where would they end? It was a difficult subject altogether, and he believed that a separate Bill might be brought in to deal with the dangerous trades. If they were to have the Bill weighted with Amendments which might arise out of the Instruction, they would be discussing the question through August and September. He hoped the Government would stand to the Bill as it had been introduced. He knew it would be a great advantage to the working classes generally, and he would like to see the Bill carried forward. He hoped, therefore, the Instruction would be rejected.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife said a good deal in the way of minimising the effect of this Instruction, following what has been said by other hon. Members. He pointed out that it was not mandatory and did not commit us to any particular Amendment, but that it was merely to enable us generally to discuss the subject. Then he went on to say that if the House had this power it could confine itself strictly to the case of certain dangerous trades, which he considers include about 100,000 workmen. I ask the House, as practical people, not to open the floodgates of discussion—[cheers]—even upon an enabling Instruction until they know where it will carry them. I am bound to say I think it will carry us a great deal further than my right hon. Friend opposite appears to think. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman argued from analogy. We shall have, no doubt, again and again, in the course of these Debates, the same appeal to logic, to our inability to discriminate between different cases of persons who have a claim to the compensation which this Bill affords. That is perfectly true, but, as I ventured to point out on the Second Reading, if we are to be guided by logic to that extent, after we have already introduced a Bill which is admitted to be one of the most important Bills that have been brought 1169 before the House in the last few years, which is admitted to be a revolutionary Bill, and to introduce new principles into our industrial life—if we are, on the ground of logic, to be continually applying to that Bill new structures, the Bill itself will certainly not get through the present Session. [Cheers.] I really sympathise very much with a great deal; that has been said on the other side, and I feel all the more sympathy because I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have spoken are merely interested in the cases they submitted to the House, and in the hardships which they revealed, and that their arguments did not include any calculations which are hostile to the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] My right hon. Friend says the Instruction is intended to apply only to dangerous trades. Then it is very badly drawn. ["Hear, hear!"] The Instruction applies to a great deal more than that. ["Hear, hear!"] It is not limited at all to the extent of the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman accepted in 1893, and with the acceptance of which be now apparently taunts Gentlemen on this side of the House. The Instruction will allow the Committee to discuss any Amendment intended to give compensation for any injury to health, whether caused by negligence or not, happening to any person "in the course and arising out of that employment." Those are the vaguest possible words. I will undertake to say that under those words it would be perfectly legitimate to claim compensation for a person of whom it was alleged that he had become consumptive in consequence of working in a draught. ["Hear, hear!"] That is not, I am sure, an extreme impossibility, and when my right hon. Friend opposite says, "Oh! but we can assure you that all we ask is that you should give to these people in the lead trade and certain other trades the compensation which we demand, and that we will not attempt to apply it to other less dangerous trades," then, I ask, where is his logic? How has he suddenly developed this power of discrimination? Will any man tell me what difference there is in logic between the agricultural labourer who contracts rheumatism in the course of his employment and the person working in a lead factory who 1170 contracts disease in the course of his employment? [Cheers.] I defy anybody logically to show the slightest distinction between those two cases. My right hon. Friend does not agree with me—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Well, then, my right hon. Friend agrees, and yet he has not put in a claim for the agricultural labourer. [Cheers.] And, moreover, not only that—he has declared that so far as he is concerned, he will distinctly exclude him. I only appeal to that to show that even my right hon. Friend, slave to logic as he is— [laughter]—is unable to carry out this view in its application to this Bill, and it points very clearly to the difficulty in which this House will find itself if we are to allow the scope of the Bill, already so large, to be continually increased in pursuit of this illusory phantom of logic. [Cheers.] I say undoubtedly a distinction could be made between the pressing and urgent claims of the dangerous trades, and the claims of the bulk of the trades of this country, in all of which, however, it is quite possible that an injury to health might occur in consequence of and arising out of the employment; and the Instruction practically amounts to this, that, having got a Bill which imposes a new liability upon employers and upon trade, this proposal takes a perfectly different line and proposes to impose a further liability. It is not a question of distinguishing between different trades; it is a question of distinguishing between different liabilities; and, admitting, for the sake of argument, that the new liability which you seek to impose will be a fair liability, I say it is altogether too large to be imposed in this Bill. [Cheers.] If it is to be imposed at all, let us treat it as a separate question—[ cheers]—and then it will be found how extremely complicated and difficult it will be. ["Hear, hear!"] It is difficult sometimes, no doubt, to prevent malingering in the case of what the law admits to be an accident, but it would be almost impossible to deal with the question of malingering when it comes to injury to health; and when a person who is injured has to prove, as he would have had to prove according to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the injury to health was due to the neglect of what 1171 is called reasonable precaution, I think you would have opened the way to an amount of litigation to which even the Employers' Liability Act can show no parallel. [Cheers.] But let me put one more point to the House. In the case of the dangerous trades themselves, what is it you are going to do? In the case of an ordinary trade it may be that the injury to health occurs so seldom that the liability would not be a very large one, but in the case of these dangerous trades it is contended that the number of cases is very considerable in proportion to the workpeople employed. And you are going to throw this new liability in these cases upon the trades which, by your own statement, are the worst-paid trades in the country. Consider what you are doing. If they are the worst-paid trades in the country, being dangerous trades, it must be because the trade is unprofitable. [Opposition cries of "No!"] That is absolutely certain. Are there no such things as trade unions? Is it possible that in these trades the trade unions are powerless?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
That is the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard. [Cheers.] To say that in trades of this kind, which offer no attraction to the workman, from which the ordinary workman would naturally shrink unless he had some great advantage offered to him, even at a time when they can offer to pay higher wages, the workmen do not get higher wages, is to say what my experience does not justify. ["Hear, hear!"] I say that in a trade of this kind the wages would be higher if that trade could afford it. There are other dangerous trades in which the wages are higher precisely because the trade is dangerous, but in which the competition is so great that they cannot afford an increase in the wages. If they are in that position, then, if you are going to throw upon them this new and increased liability, you are going to destroy the trade. For my own part, I have often thought it was a matter which might be open to argument whether a trade which does involve so much suffering as some of these trades are alleged to do, is a trade that ought to be carried on at all—["hear, hear!"]—but let it be borne in mind that, if you propose to 1172 throw this new liability upon these particular trades, what you propose is to destroy those trades, and that can be the only effect of the action you propose. I do not want to lay stress upon that. I am only indicating to the House the number, the importance, and the complexity of the questions which would be raised if we open out this discussion, and under the circumstances I cannot help thinking that the Bill is already of such a character, of such dimensions, and of such importance that it will well occupy the time of the House during the remainder of the Session, and I hope its future progress will not be endangered by increasing its present scope. [Cheers.]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said that, looking to the fact that this was the most tremendous experiment in Socialism ever offered to the House by a Conservative Government, it seemed to him they ought to make the experiment handsomely. [Opposition laughter and cheers.] It was absolutely impossible for any man who was in harmony with the spirit of this Bill to vote against the Instruction. [Opposition cheers.] The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool cut away the ground from the Instruction. It was not a question whether or not the employer had neglected his duty. The element of neglect which the Amendment proposed to introduce was quite outside the principle of the Bill. The House ought to come to the consideration of this Bill with unfettered hands. They ought to be able to deal with maladies arising from dangerous trades as well as with accidents, and this Instruction would enable them to do that. His opinion was that the Bill must be extended to all trades and all occasions—[Opposition cheers]— and everybody who accepted the principle of the Bill was bound to accept the Instruction moved by the hon. Gentleman opposite. [" Hear, hear ! "] He, therefore, should vote against the Amendment and for the Instruction.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HUDSON KEARLEY (Devonport)
said he wished to ask a question as to the bearing of the Bill in the case of certain Government employés, he meant 1173 a body of men who were employed to do what was called double bottom work. The work was so dangerous that the instructions were that no man should be engaged on this work for more than two hours a day, and not more than two days a week. He wanted to know whether, in the event of a Government employé losing his life while employed on this double bottom work, his representatives would get compensation under this Bill without this Instruction being adopted.
§ MR. P. A. MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
said he wished to say at the outset that he did not approve of the Bill as it stood. He did not approve of throwing the liability for accidents on the employer. He thought it should be thrown on a national insurance fund. ["Hear, hear!"] But with regard to the Instruction, he thought it was really absurd to argue that it would not increase the scope of the Bill to any practical extent. It must be perfectly apparent from its wording that it would enormously increase the scope of the Bill if it was carried in its present form. He should certainly vote against the Instruction, but at the same time he thought it was only fair and right that he should say that he did not approve of the Bill at all. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. REGINALD MCKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)
pointed out that there were at the present time schedules existing of dangerous trades, and he was quite certain that his hon. Friend who moved the Instruction would be perfectly willing to limit its scope to those trades now scheduled as dangerous trades. He submitted that a strong case had been made out in favour of the Instruction and on its merits, when limited to those trades scheduled as dangerous, there could not be two opinions. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
said that there must be a limit to the charges falling upon a business. While, perhaps, two pence a ton might be put on in the coal business without ruining it, if every trade practically was included the difficulty of working the Bill would be vastly increased. More than that, he did not believe that it would be possible 1174 to increase the scope of the Bill if it was to pass this Session, and, therefore, he should vote against the Instruction.
§ Question proposed, "That those words he added."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 144; Noes, 233.—(Division List, No. 215.)
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ [The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS. Mr. J. W. LOWTHER, in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1,—