§ (1.) If in any employment to which this Act applies personal injury by accident arising out of and in the courses of the employment is caused to a workman, his employer shall, subject as hereinafter mentioned, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the First Schedule to this Act:
§ (2.) Provided that:—
- (a.) The employer shall not be liable under 1his Act in respect of any injury which does not disable the workman for a period of at least two weeks from earning full wages at the work at which be was employed;
- (b.)When it is decided, as hereafter provided, that the injury was caused by the willful and wrongful act or default of the
1274 employer or some person for whoso act or default the employer is responsible, nothing in this Act shall affect any liability, civil or criminal, of the employer or persons for whom he is responsible; but the employer shall not be liable to pay compensation both independently of and also under this Act, and shall not be liable to pay compensation independently of this Act, except in case of such willful and wrongful act or default.
§ (3.) If any question arises as to whether the employment is one to which this Act applies, or whether the injury was caused by the willful and wrongful act or default of the employer, or of any person for whose act or default tins employer is responsible, or whether the injury was caused by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment of the workman injured, or as to the amount or duration of compensation under this Act, or otherwise as to the liability for compensation under this Act, the question, if not settled by agreement, shall, subject to the provisions of the First Schedule to this Act, be settled by arbitration, in accordance with the Second Schedule to this Act.
§ (4.) If the Registrar of Friendly Societies certifies that any scheme of compensation or insurance for the workmen in any employment is on the whole not less favourable to the workmen than the provisions of this Act, the employer may, until the certificate is revoked, contract with any of those workmen that the provisions of the scheme shall be substituted for the provisions of this Act, and thereupon the employer shall be liable only in accordance with the scheme, hut save as aforesaid, this Act shall apply notwithstanding any contract to the contrary made alter the commencement of this Act.
Another Amendment proposed [24th May], in sub section (2), after the words "Provided that," to insert the words,—
(a.) the employer shall not be liable under this Act to pay compensation to any workman by whose willful and wrongful act or default the accident arises in respect of which compensation for injury may become payable."—(Mr. Seton-Karr.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted." — Debate resumed.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester. Forest of Dean)
pointed out that there were upon the Paper several Amendments somewhat similar to that of the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Seton-Karr). This Amendment provided that the employer should not be liable to pay compensation to any workman by whose "willful and wrongful act or default" the accident arose, but the Amendment of the hon. Member for 1275 Chester-le-Street, to which the Colonial Secretary specially alluded in closing the Debate last night, raised the whole question of the misconduct of the workman. He wished to ask the Chairman whether he thought it would be for the convenience of the Committee to Debate the various forms of the Amendments upon the present Amendment, or to confine the present Debate to the words "willful and wrongful act or default."
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said it had been the custom lately when one Amendment raised a principle which was also raised by several other Amendments, although the principle was not stated in exactly the same terms, to discuss the principle generally on the first Amendment, and then, if the House accepted the principle of the Amendment, to consider the actual wording of the Amendment to be inserted. That would, he thought, be a convenient practice to follow on the present occasion.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said that the words "willful and wrongful" undoubtedly restricted the Amendment to cases which were somewhat different from those suggested in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street. If they had to choose between the form of the Amendments he should prefer the Amendment and the protection suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street. That Amendment raised the question of disregard of orders and the question of misconduct. He hoped to lay before the House some considerations opposed to these Amendments altogether. He confessed that they seemed to have limited the Bill by certain words introduced into it already, and which were likely to give rise to a good deal of litigation. The introduction of the principle which was now contended for in this Amendment, and still more the introduction of this principle in some of the milder forms suggested by some hon. Members, would open the door, he was certain, to a very large amount of additional litigation. They were engaged in discussing a Bill for which there was no precedent in this country, but which, in many points, touched questions which had been very largely discussed in other countries for years past. The particular point raised by this Amendment had been very fully discussed in Germany for years 1276 past, and it was one upon which there had been the greatest possible difference of opinion. When the first steps were taken towards the introduction of the compensation principle in Germany, the State officials were mostly opposed to suggestions such as this, but the employers were favourable to such suggestions. In Germany, the Committee would remember, all accidents were paid for unless they were caused by an act which might be almost described as an act of suicide. Dr. Boediker, the head of the German system, in a book which appeared last year, had brought into comparison the German system and the Austrian and Norwegian systems and the principal systems proposed for other countries, and had fully discussed this point. "For ten years," he wrote,—we have given full compensation from the employer even where the accident is caused by the gross fault of the workman. The employers wish for no change on this point. If we are to stop or reduce that compensation in such cases, then we ought clearly to increase it in the case of gross fault of the employer.This authority then went into the figures to show that a large percentage of accidents were the fault either of the worker or the employer, or, in part, of both, and said that the consequence of introducing this principle of fault into the consideration of compensation, either as regarded stopping the compensation or reducing it, would be to produce an enormous amount of litigation upon a point which was, in itself, a thing most difficult of ascertainment by the Court. Dr. Boediker concluded his survey of this matter with some general considerations which were, he thought, worth the attention of the Committee. He said the principle of compensation was the principle of social pacification, which ought to be accepted, and could only be defended on that ground, but that if they brought in this principle of stopping compensation or reducing it, exasperation instead of pacification followed. He used these words:—To stop compensation in the case of gross fault of the worker is to throw a bombshell into the whole principle of compensation itself.He also pointed out that the employers had now come to know that they would 1277 save very little money indeed by the adoption of the principle which was contended for in this Amendment, and while they would save but very little money the adoption of the principle would destroy the whole moral effect of the compensation law which had been introduced. He was quite aware that they could not argue with regard to this Bill generally from the example of Germany. The foundation of the German system was different from the foundation of the system here, but he did submit to the Committee that as regarded this particular point before them the experience of Germany was material to the question the Committee had to decide.
§ MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucester, Stroud)
said he had put an Amendment on the Paper practically in the same words as that now before the Committee, and he should like to explain why, both on the principle of justice and of expediency, he thought, the Amendment should be adopted. He should first like to say, in answer to the right, hon. Baronet opposite, that in this particular Bill the additional obligation which he referred to was placed upon the employer.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said he was quoting Dr. Boediker, who meant an increased, a penal, payment in addition to the ordinary compensation.
§ MR. CRIPPS
said there was a penal payment in this Bill. The advantage to an employer of this Bill was that, as against insurance, he had limited liability. If an injury were caused by the willful or wrongful act or default of the employer, he lost the limit of his liability and he was liable at common law, not only for the £150 or the £300, or whatever sum might be fixed in the Bill, but for such larger sum as the Jury or the Court should award. Upon the point of justice, really there seemed to be no dispute, and he did not think there was any reason to expect any of the difficulties as regarded litigation or friction to which the right hon. Baronet opposite alluded. Was the Committee going to sanction for the first time the principle that although a man might be criminally responsible for his willful and wrongful act, yet he was to be compensated either by the employer or by his fellow workmen? ["Hear, hear!"] A principle of that kind was necessarily inconsistent 1278 with justice. Supposing, say, an employé of a railway company acted in direct contravention of the rules which had been laid down, such as riding on an engine. Was he, because he suffered an injury as the immediate consequence of his neglect of rules, to cast the same obligation either upon the company or upon his fellow workmen? Take another illustration. A small employer was working with his workmen, and contrary to his direct, instructions, a workman brought about, by his willful and wrongful act, an injury which affected both the employer and the workman. Under this Bill the workman, who had thus brought that about would get compensation, and the effect would be that while the small employer would be ruined and have to go to the workhouse, the man who had caused the accident would be living in ease and comfort. He did not think it could be said that that was consistent with justice. As regarded the question of expediency, he said it was inexpedient to encourage a man to hope for compensation when an injury resulted from his own willful and wrongful act. It was far more expedient to make him feel, not that he would be compensated, but that he must bear the necessary consequences which such an act had brought upon him. He thought that compensation under that Bill ought to go to the man who deserved it, and not to the man who had brought the injury upon himself by his own willful, and probably his own criminal, act. He did not agree that the Amendment would tend to increase litigation. On reference to Sub-section 3 of Section 1 it would be seen that the question whether the injury was caused by the willful and wrongful act or default of the employer was a question which the arbitrator would have to settle under the Bill as it stood. And if they adopted his own Amendment, to add after "employer" the words "or workmen," he could see no difficulty in the arbitrator deciding whether it was the employer or the workmen who had been in default. He denied, therefore, that there would be any tendency to increased litigation as the result of the Amendment. He went further, and said that justice required discrimination in a matter of this kind, and the machinery for discriminating properly must be provided. [" Hear, 1279 hear!"] He pointed out that contributory negligence did not come in under the Bill at all. The workman had to establish the fact that he was injured in his employment, and it was then for the arbitrator to determine the amount of compensation and whether there had been any willful and wrongful act on the part of the employer. There could not be any real chance of greater litigation because the arbitrator had this additional question referred to him. He submitted it was right that the question of the workman's default should be referred to him also, and he hoped, after the intimation the Government had given, that it would be possible for them to give way on this point. For himself, he would not assent without a Division, unless the Government would make some concession, to introducing for the first time into English law what he considered to be a thoroughly bad and vicious principle, viz., that they were to encourage a man to act wrongfully in order that he might be paid in respect of the injury that resulted. Although his own Amendment was not quite in the form of that of the hon. Member for St. Helens, yet he cordially supported it.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-street)
said that if the Government were disposed to accept the principle of the Amendment now before the Committee, he should be content with any words that would carry out the principle. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean alluded to the fact that in Germany this question of eliminating accidents caused by the willful default of those who suffered had been a cause of great difficulty. He confessed that to a certain extent he agreed with him. But the German system and the system proposed in this Bill were altogether different things. In the German system no compensation was paid until 13 weeks had expired, and by that 13 weeks a large number of the accidents caused by carelessness were eliminated and the workman contributed to meet the claims arising within that period. He could not admit there was any great difficulty in compensating for all accidents, seeing that it was already done by all the Minors' Permanent Relief Funds, and very little litigation occurred. But he looked upon this Amendment as a much more important one than many 1280 hon. Members, for this reason—the Bill did not directly deal with safety. But the safety of the workers in our mines and our large industries should never be lost sight of when the House was legislating on a question of such importance. He held that if a workman in a mine willfully broke rules and thereby caused an explosion, which not only injured himself, but probably a large number of his fellow workers, it would be a monstrous thing that the same compensation should be paid him or his family as to those who had nothing whatever to do with the cause of the explosion. To take a simple illustration. Certain rules were laid down for firing shots. The hole had to be made a certain depth, and a certain quantity of coal had to be taken out before the shot was fired in order that the shot might bring down the coal without difficulty. The workman refused to do that, but put in his shot without adopting the precaution of taking out the coal, and instead of the coal being brought down there was what was called a "blown-out" shot, which produced an explosion. Was there a Member of that House who would say it was just and proper that a man who showed such carelessness with such serious results should receive compensation the same as the other workers who were injured by his willful neglect? He could not think there was any justice in that. Apart from justice, the question was one of safety. In his opinion, they ought at all events to throw the balance against the workman in favour of safety rather than in favour of the workman against safety. He felt that the Government, in accepting an Amendment of this sort, would confer the greatest advantage not only on the employers, but on the workmen employed in mines, because it would lead to greater care being taken, and thus tend to a large prevention of accidents. It was quite impossible for any employer to have perfect supervision over every workman. He cared not what the industry was, a great deal must always be left to the care and judgment of the workman himself; and they might depend upon it that an Amendment of this sort would lead the workmen to take greater care than at present, to his own advantage as well as that of his employer. He would not for a moment say that any workman would willfully neglect proper 1281 precautions because he was sure of compensation whether he took those precautions or not; but he was sure it would have some weight, and believing that the Amendment would induce greater care, he hoped the Government would accept it.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
I said last night that the Government were prepared to meet this question with an open mind, arid would be very glad of any guidance the House could give in respect to it. ["Hear, hear !"] There are two questions to be considered—first, as to the principle of this Amendment; second, assuming the principle to be granted, as to the best means of giving effect to it. As regards the principle, I am entirely at one with the hon. Gentleman opposite and with the hon. Gentleman behind me. ["Hear, hear !"] I do not think it can be toe seriously contended that it is not just or right that a man who deliberately and of gross negligence causes an accident, by which other people, perhaps, as well as himself are injured, should have the same compensation as he would be entitled to if the accident occurred irrespective of his own action. It would seem to be almost monstrous that, when stringent rules are laid down with regard to the firing of mines, and when workmen are required not to descend into mines with matches, or without looked lamps—I say in those cases the orders are distinctly and definitely given within the knowledge of every workman; and, assuming that a workman goes down with matches in his pocket, and, lighting a match in a fiery part of the mine, an accident happens by which three or four persons are injured, including the workman who took down, the matches—I say it is monstrous to assert that the man has any right to compensation under circumstances in which he himself has been the agent in bringing about all the suffering and loss. ["Hear, hear !"] I am bound to say also, having regard to what has been impressed on us again and again, that we should at all events do nothing which would interfere with the prevention of accidents; and it certainly would seem absurd, as it were, to put a premium upon negligence which might cause accidents. We are, therefore, in accord with hon. Gentlemen in the principle they have laid 1282 down, and the only difficulty we have is as to whether, by accepting the principle, we might not introduce complications which would cause more injury and trouble than we should save by dealing with what is admitted to be a rather exceptional state of things. The Government have come to the conclusion that we cannot resist that some application of this principle should be accepted. [Cheers.] A great deal will depend upon the terms of the Amendment, for there are certain things which we must carefully avoid. We wish to avoid the bringing in again under another name of the old principle of contributory negligence. ["Hear, hear !"] We think it has been clearly and conclusively proved that the introduction of that principle into employers' liability has been the cause of the greatest hardships and injustice to the working people, and we must not, therefore, bring it in again by a side wind. ["Hear, hear !"] It is also necessary that we should have our words so simple that they are not likely to be the subject of material litigation. ["Hear, hear !"] I think I have gathered from all discussions on this question that employers, quite as much as workpeople, are anxious that litigation should be avoided, and both sides would agree that anything which increased unnecessary litigation would be a great misfortune. I do not think the words we are now considering would be satisfactory, nor yet the words of my hon. Friend behind me. I admit, although the words appear in the Bill in a different relation, that I do not think in this case they would avoid the probability of litigation. Wilful and wrongful default is always a matter of some dispute, and when we are dealing with cases of this kind we ought to try to make the clause a little more technical. I think the best framework for an Amendment is to be found in the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chester-le-Street, but even to that as it stands I think there are serious, or, at all events, plausible objections. The hon. Baronet proposes that the employer shall not be liable for compensation in the case of accidents which arise from the non-observance of any lawful orders. That is a very wide statement, and it would admit the possibility of an order being given which was intended to evade liability under this Act 1283 —in fact, a sort of impossible order. An order might be given under which the ordinary work of an employer would not be satisfactorily carried on, and which, therefore, must be disobeyed, and which would only be nominally given in order to throw the risk upon the workman when it ought really to rest upon the employer. A sort of case which suggests itself is the case of shunting on railways. It is perfectly easy to make regulations and orders about shunting which would render that operation absolutely safe. But at the same time, if they were observed, shunting, which now occupies a minute, would take an hour, and the work of the railway could not be conducted under such regulations, and it would be understood—and, indeed, it is understood—that a bold and skilful workman does take upon himself a certain amount of risk. In all these cases the Bill intends that if an accident occurs to such a workman he shall be compensated notwithstanding any regulations to the contrary; therefore I say to allow an employer to clear himself from all liability under this Act by giving a lawful order—and, of course, all orders in this respect would be lawful—would, I think, give rise to a great deal of difficulty and would materially detract from the value of the Bill. I should, therefore, suggest that the hon. Baronet should strike out of his Amendment the words "the non-observance of any lawful order." I would suggest that the Amendment should run—which arises from the wilful disregard of any rule or regulation contained in or established under any Act of Parliament which it was the duty of the workman to observe.The Committee will see that that involves, first, that the rule shall be one which has already had the sanction of Parliament, and which, therefore, may be considered to be a reasonable and proper rule; and, in the second place, that there should have been wilful disregard. The hon. Baronet then proposes to add these words, "or to any other misconduct of the workman." Those words, again, are a little too wide, and I think we might insert in their place the words, "or to the drunkenness or other gross misconduct of the workman." That would be a modification which, I think, comes entirely within all the cases the hon. 1284 Baronet desires to include. I think if he were prepared to accept these modifications the hon. Member proposing the Amendment under discussion might withdraw it, and we might accept the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, altered in the sense I have suggested, as a new subsection to Clause 1, and which would come in as the second sub-section just before that which deals with wilful and wrongful default. The words would then be to the effect that an employer would not be liablefor any accident which arises from the wilful disregard by such workman of any rule or regulation contained in or established under any Act of Parliament which it was the duty of the workman to observe, or to the drunkenness or other gross misconduct of the workman.
§ MR. CHARLES FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
could not help expressing his regret that the Government had steadily refused to broaden the Measure in any sense or form, and that the Colonial Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Government, should have accepted a limitation such as was implied in this Amendment. ["Hear, hear !"] He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman as to the justice of the case, and there was not a single labour representative in the House who would get up and defend a man having compensation for his wilful act on the ground of justice or equity. But he certainly thought that in accepting, even in its limited form, an Amendment such as this, the right hon. Gentleman had opened the door for endless litigation between employers and employed. ["Hear, hear !"] That one defence—for it was practically the only defence—which the Government proposed to set up would, in a large number of cases, if not in every case, be urged by the employers as a reason why compensation ought not to be paid. Assume that an accident had proved fatal and a workman had lost his life. Where were they to find witnesses except the official witnesses? They were the only witnesses that would be called in this instance to prove that the man had wilfully and negligently disobeyed some order and therefore had given rise to the accident. He was bound to say that the Measure became infinitely less valuable to the workmen when a provision 1285 such as was now proposed was inserted in the Bill. In the whole of his experience as a working miner, extending over close upon 30 years, he had never known a case where a man wilfully and deliberately injured himself or a colleague for the sake of any compensation that he would be likely to receive. ["Hear, hear !"] He hoped it was not too late to appeal to those in charge of the Bill to withdraw from their position and refuse to accept the Amendment; even in the modified terms suggested. If such a restrictive Amendment were adopted it would materially alter the views as to the advantage of the Measure which were now entertained by workmen in various parts of the country.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said that in reference to the mode proposed by the Bill for dealing with compensation for accidents, he had been an humble follower of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. When that right hon. Gentleman moved his Amendment to the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) in 1893, he limited it by the proviso that the compensation he proposed should not apply to injuries caused by the workmen's acts or defaults. That limitation was embodied in a Bill which had been introduced in more than one Session for dealing with accidents in that way, and it could not be a matter of surprise to any one that it should not be proposed that employers should be made liable to compensate a workman who had been injured by an accident caused by his own misconduct or by violating rules provided for his own safety. That was the object of this Amendment, and he felt bound to support it.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
expressed deep regret that the Government, by the acceptance of the Amendment even in a modified form, should have given the case of the miners away. [Ministerial cries of "Oh !"] He reminded the House that only 42½ per cent. of the fatal accidents in coal mines were due to explosives, whilst 57½ per cent. were due to falls of roof and side. In cases of the latter category the employers would be able to plead the "wilful and wrongful act or default" of the workmen and refuse compensation. It was very easy to theorise 1286 after the event and for employers of labour to find officials who would blame the dead man. The officials of the colliery would naturally defend the employer and say that it was the fault of the deceased that life was lost. Hitherto he had valued the Bill, but the acceptance of the Amendment would reduce the value of the Bill to the miners of this country 50 per cent. [Cries of "Oh, oh !"] He asserted his opinion against every man in the House. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
, replying to the hon. Member who last spoke, said that, if he thought the acceptance of the Amendment would exclude compensation in anything like the large percentage of cases he had suggested, He would not have been a party to it.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
also regretted, in the interests of the miners of this country, that the Government had accepted the Amendment. Never yet did a blown-out shot cause an explosion where the condition of the mine was satisfactory. He denied that miners would receive any encouragement to do wrong. A miner's life and limb was as valuable to him as any hon. Member's. He had never seen the value of the Bill to the miners of the country, and the acceptance of this Amendment would greatly minimise the value of the Bill. All the efforts to extend the provisions of the Bill had been strenuously objected to, but when an attempt was made to restrict the effect of the Bill, the Government accepted it in plausible and illusory terms. From early youth until manhood he worked in the mines, and he had never known an instance of a man wilfully and deliberately injuring himself. The effect of the Amendment would be that, whenever an accident happened, an attempt would be made to fix the blame on the workman. The man would he mulcted in expenses, and the benefit of the Act would be delayed until the time for its usefulness was past. The process of the Bill was that if a Committee was formed in a district the appeal was to that Committee. If there was no Committee then the appeal was to be to an arbitrator or to the County Court Judge. Did the Government believe that the access to these courts would be ready and easy? They would be crowded with cases, and 1287 three or four months would elapse before a man would get the benefit of the Act. The time would be gone when the Act would be useful to him. It was no mere fantasy to say that a charge would be brought against a dead man for breach of the rules. He had seen it done. The officials of the employers were not all angels who spoke the truth at all times. Their prejudices were in favour of the employer, and they would not hesitate to make charges against the men of breaches of the special rules. He was sorry to hear gentlemen in the House make charges against workmen, not by implication or by indirect insinuation, but by direct statement. To suggest that for the sake of compensation a man would place his life in jeopardy was abhorrent to human nature, and a direct contradiction of the first law of existence, self-preservation. It was not by carelessness but by boldness that a man placed himself in danger and brought harm upon himself. Would anyone say that a man who did that should be deprived of the benefits of this Measure? ["No, no !"] But the effect of the Amendment would be to deprive him of these benefits. He hoped the Government would recede from the position they had taken up in reference to the Amendment.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
, with a view to putting the matter in order, moved to amend the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Helens by leaving out all the words after the word "liable" and inserting the following words: —to pay compensation in respect of any injury sustained by any workman which arises from the wilful disregard by such workman of any rule or regulation contained in or established under any Act of Parliament which it is the duty of such workman to observe or from the drunkenness or gross misconduct of such workman.
§ MR. PHILIP STANHOPE (Burnley)
thought they had some ground for complaining of the course the Government had taken with regard to the Amendment. The Colonial Secretary stated on a previous night that the Government in this matter would be guided by the sense of the House, and they met that day imagining that only after very full discussion would the Government make up their minds as to the action they would take. Instead of that, however, only 1288 two speeches had been made when the Secretary of State for the Colonies got up and announced the intention of the Government to accept an Amendment which he (Mr. Stanhope) regarded as almost fatal to the Bill. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman a little fact which might convey some information to him. He had himself the honour, as representing probably the largest weaving town in Lancashire, of meeting the representatives of the employers of the Lancashire cotton industry on the previous day, and in discussing the matter with them he took the view that had been taken by the hon. Member for Wansbeck and others in this Debate, and he was glad to say that amongst those gentlemen who represented the Lancashire cotton centres on the Government side of the House, so far as he could judge, there was a majority who did not take the view of the Colonial Secretary, and who did not believe that the Amendment would be a useful one to introduce. The principal merit of the Bill was that so far as was humanly possible it excluded litigation, and gave general compensation for accidents and death. To that extent it was an immense advance upon all its predecessors in connection with employers' liability. It was in fact not a lawyer's Bill, but a statesman's Bill. But when they came to the acceptance of this Amendment he was bound to tell the Government that by that acceptance they were about to destroy the whole value of the Bill. The sole argument adduced in support of the Amendment was that a man who by his wilful neglect or act caused an accident ought not to be allowed to receive compensation. But he would point out that the object of the Bill was not to punish but to make provision in cases of accident or death. He entirely agreed with those who thought that if there was one defect in the Bill it was its too limited scope, and that, it ought to be applied to all trades. Now the Government had opened the floodgates of controversy, and if the Amendment were accepted he believed that means would be discovered of raising legal questions with regard to almost every claim for compensation. As the representative of a cotton industry, he agreed that the acceptance of this Amendment would destroy the whole value of the Bill. [Opposition cheers.]
§ SIR ARTHUR FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
in supporting the Amendment moved by the Attorney General, said he did not think it would Lead to litigation. In the Bill there was every encouragement to a workman to refer every question to arbitration, and if he did so he had everything to gain and nothing to lose. If the Amendment was introduced the question would go before the arbitrator with this additional consideration:—Was the workman himself guilty of misconduct that he had committed a breach of any of the rules laid down by Parliament? The workman, if he had been guilty in either of these respects, would hesitate to place the matter before the arbitrator, and would be more willing to settle by agreement. Therefore, this restriction, which was just in itself, would have the effect of preventing litigation.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
very much regretted the attitude of the Government with regard to this Amendment, he admitted that the matter was one of great difficulty, but the introduction of the particular words now proposed would, in his opinion, involve a departure from the fundamental principles of the Bill. [Cheers.] If they opened the door to an inquiry into circumstances and conduct in one case they would have to do so in all. By the adoption of this alteration of the Measure the dangers of litigation would be greatly increased. In the case of coal mines the regulations and the instructions to miners were often of a very minute and complex character. He did not hesitate to say that experience had often shown these rules to be unfitted for special emergencies, such as were likely to happen in mines. Under this Amendment a workman who purposely violated a rule in the interest of the safety of those in the mine, and who himself sustained injury would not be entitled to compensation. Apart from these considerations, who could say what was "gross misconduct?" He defied any lawyer to lay down any standard in the matter. And the special reference to drunkenness 1290 he considered unnecessary, and in the highest degree offensive. He hoped the Government would abandon their intention of endeavouring to meet what, after all, would be a trifling number of cases, and that they would decide to deal with the question on broad grounds of general policy. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
denied that the Amendment was a departure from the principle of the Bill. He believed that it removed an injustice, and that that would be recognised by those who had a knowledge of the facts. [" Hear, hear !"]
§ MR. B. PICKARD (York, W.R., Normanton)
said it was absurd to suppose that workmen would commit an act which would result in injury to themselves in order that they might get compensation. When the Bill was introduced he was so enamoured of its provisions as explained by the Home Secretary, that he advised his people they would make a great mistake if they refused the Measure or did anything to prevent it becoming law. Since then there had been a Second Reading Debate, and there had been attempt after attempt on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to narrow the scope of the Bill. Evidently the Government dare not face the music. If this Amendment were inserted in the Bill the workmen would at once agree that the Measure would be no good to them. He and those he represented believed that the Bill should not be narrowed in its scope. The underground workers felt it would be most unfortunate if the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Helens were accepted, and they entirely disclaimed any desire for such legislation. If the Bill was to be narrowed down as was now proposed, he advised his hon. Friends around him to wreck the Bill if possible.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
said he was rather surprised at the indignation with which the acceptance of this proposal by the Government had been received by certain Gentlemen opposite. Last night the Government signified that they thought it was reasonable they should consider with an open mind whether a workman who had been guilty of wilful and gross negligence should be entitled to compensation. He 1291 believed he was correct in stating, notwithstanding what was said by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, that under the German law a workman who had been guilty of negligence could not claim compensation. The Government were determined to make it perfectly clear that if a workman was guilty of gross neglect of rules which he quite understood, or guilty of gross misconduct—they would not now bind themselves to the exact form of words—he should not, be entitled to compensation. If a Bill of this kind was to be a fair and just settlement of a vexed question, it must be fair and just not only to the workman but also to the employer— ["hear, hear !"]—and he did not believe it was the expectation of any workman that he should receive compensation for any injuries which were directly the result of his own act. He admitted it had been claimed as one of the great merits of the Bill that it would reduce the amount of litigation, and he was not prepared altogether to agree with those hon. Gentlemen who asserted that the acceptance of this Amendment would lead to an increase of the amount of litigation. Was anybody prepared to say that the payment of compensation in respect of a gross breach of well-understood rules ought to be on the same scale as that in respect of an accident where there had been no breach of rules? His right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary had said that the acceptance of this Amendment amounted to a departure from the principle of the Bill. As a matter of fact, they provided in a subsequent clause that if the employer was guilty of special personal negligence, or of gross personal negligence, or of culpable negligence— he did not know what form the words would ultimately take—the man injured should be entitled to special remedy against the employer if he chose to seek it outside the Bill. Why should they not provide that if a workman, well knowing what he had to do, caused through negligence a great accident resulting in loss of life and personal injury, he also should come under some special exemption from the ordinary provisions of this Bill? It seemed to him that what was fair for one party was fair for the other. He failed to see why those hon. Gentlemen representing labour in that House who had spoken on this subject should have 1292 charged the Government, by having accepted such a reasonable proposal as this appeared to him to be, with greatly departing from the principle which underlay the Bill. It might be that there were an insignificant number of cases which would come within the scope of this Amendment. He was not for one moment going to say that there were a great number of such cases; but, however that might be, surely, when they were introducing a Bill which cast upon employers a large and heavy burden, in the interests of the community they ought to take care that it did not carry with it the feeling that it was unjust. Could it be held to be just if they did not provide that a workman who was guilty of deliberate neglect of the rules under which he was working was not to be entitled to the same privileges as the man who did his best to conduct himself in obedience to those rules? That was a proposition which ought not, in his opinion, to endanger the success or the popularity of this Bill. He thought it was possible, by words which could be drawn up, to prevent the possibility of introducing the question of contributory negligence and to provide, on the part alike of employer and employed, that they should be outside the provisions of the Bill for all purposes so long as they were guilty of gross, culpable negligence. He understood that that was all that was done in accepting the principle of this Amendment, and he believed it ought to commend itself to the sense of justice both of the Committee and of the country.
§ SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD (York)
ventured to think that the hard cases to which reference had been made were cases which the Government ought to have taken into their consideration before they pledged themselves to the principle of this Bill. [Cheers.] But when the Government found themselves brought face to face with the logical consequences of that principle, of which he, for one, most firmly and heartily approved, they somewhat ran away from the Bill—[Opposition cheers and Ministerial laughter]—and were willing to water down that great principle for which they no doubt rightly claimed so much. No doubt this Bill was an innovation, but it would not be an innovation long if they were going to accept 1293 Amendments like this. [Cheers.] What was the good of the Home Secretary's telling them that, though they accepted this Amendment, they would have nothing to do with contributory negligence? It was merely idle talk. [Cheers.] The question of contributory negligence would arise over and over again under the terms of this Amendment. ["Hear, hear !"] It was involved in the Amendment. The Home Secretary had told them that they held the employer responsible for his wrongful and wilful act, and that therefore it was only equitable that they should hold the workman responsible for his wrongful and wilful act. But the Government were doing nothing of the kind. The employer was liable under the law now for his wrongful and wilful act. It was not the Bill of the Government that made him responsible. The Government had said, "Taking the law as we find it, we are going to make this great and generous concession, and we are going to introduce this principle new to our law," and the first thing they did was to begin to whittle it away by the acceptance of an Amendment which made the Bill, to his mind, a nullity and a sham. [Cheers.]
MR, J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)
said it was a pity this matter had degenerated into a fight between the two sides of the Committee. This Bill had not been introduced for the benefit of the employers. It had been introduced to satisfy the demands of the working classes, which had been recognised over and over again as just by both political parties. If this Bill failed to satisfy the working classes what was the good of having introduced it. He thought there was a great deal to be said for the Amendment. It appealed to one's natural sense of justice. It must seem to every man in that House a most unfair thing that an employer should be forced to pay compensation to any workman who, by gross or deliberate negligence, had wrecked that employer's property and caused the loss of the lives of many of his fellow-workmen. Still, on the other hand, they were confronted with practical difficulties which were expounded by the Colonial Secretary and insisted upon by other hon. Gentlemen, and he confessed that, although his strong feeling at 1294 first was in favour of the Amendment, he had been very much impressed with the speeches of the labour Members on the opposite side as to what would be the inevitable effect of introducing an Amendment of that kind, he thought it was perfectly evident that the effect would be to open the door to a considerable evasion of this law, and to minimise to a large extent the beneficial results which would accrue to the working classes. Was it not desirable that the Government should take time to consider this matter? [Cheers.] It would really be a great misfortune for the Government, for the House, and for the country if this Bill were deprived of some of its most beneficial features in its progress through Committee, he thought the discussion illustrated the importance of the Debate that took place last night when they urged that the principle of putting the burden on the individual employer alone was a mistaken principle, and that they should lay the whole burden on the community at large. Was it not most unjust that compensation for injuries done in this way should be placed on the individual employer? It forced them to the conclusion that the ultimate result of legislation of this kind must be to place the burden upon the community at large, and make it necessary that all accidents should be compensated in that way by a system of State insurance.
§ MR. REGINALD MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
said the evil of this Amendment, if it were embodied in the Bill, was that it would open three new defences to an employer in the case of every accident. It was admitted on both sides that the number of accidents which the workman would have contributed to, or would have caused, by his own misconduct, would be very small, but the number of accidents in which one of these three defences would be raised would be enormous. [" Hear, hear !"] Consequently they would have all the evils of litigation imposed, certainly in mining, in upwards of 50 per cent. of the accidents.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
It could not possibly be raised in one-half, or anything like one-half of the cases.
§ MR. MCKENNA
saw no reason why it could not be raised in every case. If the defence, or any one of the three defences, could be raised in the first instance 1295 it would be raised. The Bill was introduced mainly to avoid litigation. It had only been in Committee two days, and the workman already had to run the gauntlet of five defences which might be set up to his claim. He, therefore, appealed to the Government not to accept an Amendment which would add enormously to the difficulties of the workman.
§ *MR. ALFRED HOPKINSON (Wilts, Cricklade)
thought there had been a tendency on the other side of the House very much to exaggerate the effect of the Amendment, and to minimise what the Bill would be without the Amendment. Under the present law the workman had to prove negligence on the part of the employer or his manager, and the result was that only a small sum had found its way into the workman's pocket. By the Amendment they would bring within the scope of compensation an enormous number of cases in which injury was caused by inevitable accident or the act of another workman. The doctrine of common employment would be entirely abolished as regards employments to which the Act applied. The burden of proof would be cast on the employer, and unless he had a good defence he would not set it up. Many defences could under any Bill be set up. But the employers did not desire to litigate. He believed both sides of the House desired to stop litigation. Under the existing law litigation was necessary, as the employer would not admit negligence, but under this Bill he believed it would be rare. It would shock their sense of natural justice that a man who might have caused the death of a number of fellow workmen should receive compensation because he had met with some slight injury himself. Unless the Amendment was adopted such a man might be properly convicted of manslaughter one day, yet be awarded compensation on the next at the expense of the person whose property he had wilfully injured. Such a position had not been adopted in the German law, and in the draft Bill before the French Chamber the principle of the Amendment was proposed to be adopted too. He did not believe a man would deliberately injure himself, but if a man knew that he would not receive compensation he would be more particular than if he thought he would receive compensation whatever his own act might be. Much was to be said 1296 for extending the Act to other trades and employments, but it would be more difficult to extend it without some Amendment of the kind before the Committee.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said that under the German law nothing but acts of virtual suicide excluded a workman's family from compensation. As to the practical point before the Committee he moved to amend the proposal by leaving out the wordswilful disregard by such workman of any rule or regulation contained in or established under any Act of Parliament which it was the duty of such workman to observe.This would leave for further discussion drunkenness and gross misconduct. These were different questions from those of mining law involved in the earlier part of the Amendment. Those who were not personally acquainted with mines hardly realised the extraordinary network of legislation to which the men would be made amenable if the words were passed in the Government proposal. It was notorious that breaches of the Mines Regulations Acts occurred every day. It was laid down in the general rules— which were equivalent to an Act of Parliament—that acompetent person or competent persons appointed by the owner, agent, or manager, for the purpose … shall, immediately before the commencement of each shift, inspect every part of the mine situate beyond certain stations.Then followed a rule by which no workman should pass beyond any such station until the part of the mine beyond that station had been so examined and stated by such competent person to be safe. Every person who passed beyond such station before that inspection had been made would be guilty of an offence under the special rules, and, therefore, in every case where an accident occurred to such workman it would at once be said that he was violating the rules laid down in a portion of the Act of Parliament itself. That would be a matter of daily occurrence. There was a boy killed the other day in his constituency while in charge of a horse drawing tubs. In the course of the inquest it came out that he was being employed in violation of the provision that a person in charge of machinery (tubs drawn by horses coming under this definition) must be a competent male person not less than 18 years 1297 of age. In that case, not only would this be a bar to compensation, but even if an accident occurred to a boy over 18, the fact of the accident would be alleged as a reason for believing he was not a competent person, that, therefore, the Act was violated and he could not obtain compensation under the provisions of this Measure. Again one of the rules provided that—Every person shall observe such directions with respect to working as may be given to him.Any violation of that general rule would be a breach of this Act of Parliament, and every such breach would disqualify for compensation under it in case of an accident. Offences of this general kind would be pleaded in every instance that might arise. There was a case in which a manager gave directions to his engine-man, and yet that man was ousted from his compensation, under the present law, because it was held he ought to have disobeyed the mines manager and acted in accordance with the Act of Parliament. He thought the object of the Bill was to get rid of such monstrous decisions as the decision in the case of Heywood v. Baker in 1886; but instead of doing so it would continue the injustice unless some Amendments were accepted in the direction he had suggested. He begged to move the Amendment.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
observed that the point of view of the Government was that the change they suggested was a minor one which would not be attended with a fraction of the consequences which had been alleged by hon. Members, and especially by some representatives of the mining interests. He rose for the purpose of appealing to hon. Gentlemen opposite who took this view to help the Government by suggesting a form of words which, while saving this feeling of natural justice, which the Government desired to save, would prevent the consequences which they feared. There seemed to be no difference as to the principle upon the two sides of the House. No single Member had got up to deny that the case which had been put, of a man who had brought about an accident, by his own deliberate misconduct, to himself and fellows, was not a case for compensation. Everybody had admitted that 1298 as a matter of justice. ["Hear, hear !"] It would be a defect in the Bill if that case, however exceptional it might be, were not met. Some hon. Members said that the words in which the Government proposed to meet it were much too wide. If hon. Members on the other side would suggest a practical Amendment to cover the case, and which would exclude the cases it was not desired to include, the Government would give it their favourable consideration. ["Hear, hear !"] He did not think that object was secured by such an Amendment as that which had been proposed by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
desired to call attention to the position the Committee were in. An Amendment had been proposed by the hon. Member for St. Helens, to which an Amendment had been proposed by the Government, while a further Amendment had been proposed by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean to that of the Government. The Government Amendment was not on the Paper; hon. Members had not had an opportunity of studying it or considering whether its language was appropriate for dealing with such a difficult and delicate question. The hon. Member for Cardiff had made the practical suggestion that this matter might be withdrawn for the present. In his opinion it would come more appropriately in the form of a new clause. It was not at all necessary it should come in this part of the Bill, and if the matter was postponed there would be time for conference between Members and for considering what was the most appropriate language to employ. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
thought that this was the appropriate place for inserting the Amendment, and that its insertion would not preclude any further suggestion. It was not the intention of the Government by their Amendment to cover mere technical breaches of regulations, nor did he think for one moment it would have the effect of setting up again the principle of contributory negligence. He promised between this and subsequent stages of the Bill to consider whether any guarded words were necessary to prevent, contributory negligence from being set up. What the Government desired was to exclude from compensation the workman who had caused 1299 the accident by his wrongful act alone. If the suggestion was acceded to that the question should be postponed, he hoped they should not have the whole matter debated again. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
joined in the appeal that the Amendment on this particular head should be postponed. The matter was one which required most careful consideration, and the Government would be well advised, in the interests of time and the progress of the Bill, to consent to the postponement.
§ MR. ROBERT ASCROFT (Oldham)
said that employers often stood by and allowed men to break rules, but if an accident resulted from such a breach of rule with the employer's connivance, the man would have no compensation if this Amendment were carried. They ought to try to get some protection for the workers as well as some compensation, and if the Government would adjourn this question he would suggest an addition to the section—That no employer shall be entitled to the benefit of this section if it can he proved that the accident has arisen from the breach of a rule which had been allowed by such employer to be systematically disobeyed.[Laughter.] He did not know why hon. Members were so greatly amused. Surely it was a most objectionable thing that an employer should be allowed to stand by and see workmen break a rule day after day, and then, when the workman was injured in consequence, he should be able to plead the breach of rule as a bar against compensation. He would deprive the employer of the right to plead such a defence, and was certain that it would tend to prevent many accidents.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said the discussion had opened up a very wide field, and it had not convinced the Government that they were wrong in accepting the principle of the Amendment suggested. At the same time, they felt there were considerable difficulties in fixing the particular form of it. They were perfectly willing that the Amendment should be withdrawn on the understanding that he would consider how to give effect to it at a later stage of the Bill. He hoped his hon. Friend would be inclined to accept that assurance, and withdraw. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said the Amendment before the Committee at that moment was his own, and he had great pleasure in acceding to the suggestion of the Home Secretary.
§ Question proposed, "That the words down to 'observe,' inclusive, stand part of the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, as amended."
§ Amendment proposed to the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, as amended, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, as amended, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, as amended, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
rose to move, in Sub-section (2), after the words "Provided that," to insert the words: —A claim is lodged with the employer or his representative within three months after the accident causing the injury.In moving this Amendment, he disclaimed any hostility to the Bill. On the Second Reading he expressed his approval of its general principle, but he had also said that this was a Bill which, required very careful consideration, and that the Government would do well to take the advice of practical men. His Amendment was not intended to attack the principle of the Bill, but to make it a practical working Bill. He had had a great deal of experience, having sat in judgment on quite one-half of the whole of the cases of claims against employers in Scotland, and that experience led him to tell the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill that he would do well to consider carefully the importance of the point involved in his Amendment. There was no limit in the Bill to the time during which an injured person might bring a claim for compensation. This was a most important omission. He had named three months, because the right hon. Member for East Fife adopted that as the proper time for lodging claims in 1301 his Employers' Liability Bill, but he should be satisfied with anything reasonable. It was no mere fancy on his part when he said that unless a limit was stated, claims might be brought five, ten, or even twenty years after an accident. He had in his hand details of a case in which a lad in the employ of a coal company was injured, and after having been kept in easy employment for seven years, he was advised to bring an action for £500. The coal company won the action in two Courts, but it cost them £300, so that victory was almost as bad as defeat. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would give his suggestion careful consideration.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
hoped the Government had advisedly made a distinction between their Bill and the Act of 1880, and that the provision as to notice would not be inserted; for he was quite sure that it had caused an immense amount of injustice, and had given rise to the strongest feeling on both sides in reference to the Employers' Liability Act of 1880. No doubt notice of injury or of action was a convenience in itself, and it carried some advantages with it—such as identification and the possibility of arrangement with the individual making the claim. But what he had to ask was, why should the case of the workman be made a distinction from almost all other cases arising under the law? Take the case of a collision in the street, giving rise to an action for negligence. It would be obviously desirable that immediate notice should be given, but there was no such obligation here. He would point out that in such a case, the occurrence being transitory, immediate notice was much, more necessary than in the case of a workman who was more or less well-known to his employer, or his manager, and yet the Act of 1880 imposed the liability to notice on the workman, while the general law imposed nothing of the sort. He was not going to impeach employers generally, far from it, but there were exceptions, and anyone who was familiar with the cases knew that very often the employer showed great consideration and benevolence during the statutory period, but immediately that term had expired, the injured workman was put at arm's length, and the benevolence ceased. The effect of this provision, therefore, as in the Act of 1880, 1302 would be to deprive the workman of compensation simply because notice had not been given, and to place him in an invidious and unjust position. A strong argument had been based on the desire to prevent litigation. But the great defect of the Act of 1880 was that a large proportion of the litigation under it had arisen in connection with the failure to give notices. It was singular, by the way, that in that Act, in the most important of all cases, viz., that of death, there was an express proviso that notice need not be given. He strongly urged the desirability of leaving all these cases on the footing of the general law. Employers might well, as a matter of economy, make even great sacrifices for the sake of establishing and preserving good relations with their workmen. But if, on the one hand, they apparently made sacrifices, and then defeated the just expectations of the men by a technical and an artificial rule as to notice, that would give rise to the same feeling that followed on the Act of 1880 and defeat the object of the Bill.
§ *MR. CHARLES HARRISON (Plymouth)
hoped the Government would not adopt the proposal to require notice. They all knew that there was a regular system carried on under the existing Employers' Liability Act, which required notice of claim to be given. There were persons who made it their business to watch for accidents, and then to run off after the workman or other persons suffering, and inform them that they could not bring their claim without legal advice. The sure and certain result of the statutory requirement of notice of claim was to bring about litigation, with its attendant expense. Speaking from considerable experience as one connected with a very large accident insurance office, he knew that nothing gave rise to more litigation than the imposition by the Act of the necessity of giving notice of claim to the office or to the employer. In addition to that, there had been numerous instances in which notice had been given, and the Courts had been asked over and over again to construe whether the notice had been sufficient within the meaning of the Act. They had had cases in which letters had been written by professional men on the part 1303 of injured workmen, claiming compensation, and referring to reports on the accidents made by the Government Inspector, and it had been held by the Courts that the notice had not been sufficient because the report referred to had not been incorporated in the actual notice of claim. The provision requiring notice of claim gave rise to all sorts of technicalities, and encouraged litigation, and he hoped the Government would not adopt it. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ COLONEL DENNY
said he had been connected with an accident fund for fifteen or twenty years. One of the rules was that notification should be given within a certain period, and that had never been found to work hardly, he thought in all the friendly societies notice was required, and he did not think it could be any hardship. Both the last speakers had referred to hardship under an Act that was now practically done away with. Under that Act the whole onus of proof lay upon the man, but in this ease the whole onus lay upon the master.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
thought if the Government intended to accept any such Amendment, it was desirable that the claim should be made in writing. With regard to the period of notice of the accident it seemed to him that three months was too long. It would be easy for a workman to advise his employer of an accident within a comparatively few hours of the occurrence, and he thought three days' notice would be better than three months. There were however, accidents, such as those to the spine and the brain, which took days and even weeks to develop, and he would add words to the Amendment to meet such cases. The Amendment, in his view, should readA claim in writing is lodged with the employer or his representative if a notice of the accident has been previously given within three days of the accident or of the development of the injury.
§ SIR J. JOICEY
hoped the hon. Member would not press the Amendment. All that was really required was that a notification of the accident should be given within at least, three days. Every colliery owner was bound to give notice to the mining inspector within 24 hours of any accident that occurred. In his opinion it 1304 would be unreasonable and unjust to deprive a workman of his advantages under the common law, and he thought if notice of the accident was given it would be sufficient to meet the necessities of the case.
§ MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
said it might be difficult in the case of a serious accident to formulate a claim within a limited period. What was wanted for the practical working of the Measure was an almost immediate notification of the injury. He spoke from some practical experience of the working of one of these schemes, and the difficulty was in many cases to decide whether a man really got the injury at his work or at another time and in another occupation. He did not think it would be any hardship to require prompt notification of an accident.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
hoped the Amendment would not be pressed. The question of notice of claim was rather a difficult one, and he thought the matter should be left to the operation of the ordinary law.
§ *SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said he had never been able to see why under the present Employers' Liability Bill notice of claim should be given within a certain period, as the employer would have ample protection if notice of the accident was given as soon as possible. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chester-le-Street had already pointed out that under the Mines Regulation Act notice of an accident must be given within 24 hours to the Home Office, and with regard to the Miners' Provident Society it was provided that in order that the doctor might attend at once, and that the injured man might be well cared for, notice should be given within three days, and he could not obtain, money from the funds if it was not given within 35 days.
§ MR. J. L. WALTON (Leeds, S.)
thought the Amendment represented a legitimate effort to introduce a period of limitation into the Bill. It was an extraordinary feature of this legislation that these claims might be brought at any period during the lives of any number of generations of human beings who might as dependants be entitled to claim compensation under the Bill. The Home Secretary seemed to be under some misconception as to the operation of the ordinary law. 1305 He knew of no statute which would introduce a period of limitation into the operation of this Bill. He thought some principle of limitation should be introduced. He could not conceive a case of greater hardship than a claim being brought years after an accident, when all the evidence necessary for its investigation had been destroyed, leaving the employer entirely at the mercy of some unscrupulous person who might promote claims of that kind.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said there was a distinction between notice of claim and notice of accident. He hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his Amendment, to which the Government could not assent, in order that they might discuss the question of notice of accident.
§ MR. ASQUITH
asked, in view of the very pertinent observations of the hon. Member for Leeds, whether the Government intended to introduce any period of limitation? As the Bill stood, there was no period of limitation, and the Statute of Limitations would not apply. He was not in favour of such a limitation as that suggested in the Amendment, which was almost grotesque in its brevity, but, sooner or later, the Government would have to provide some limit of time, and he hoped they would follow the analogy existing in regard to common law actions.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
desired to point out that within a period of three months the whole of the evidence of an accident might be entirely destroyed.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his Amendment. He was quite willing to say that the Government would consider the question as to how far the common law limitation would apply.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. HARRISON
moved to insert the following words: —Notice of any accident to a workman shall be given by or on behalf of the workman to the employer or his agent as soon as possible, and in no case later than three months after the happening thereof.The hon. Member pointed out that whilst he had objected to the proposal 1306 for giving notice of claim, this Amendment related only to the notice of the accident; and it was essential, in order to afford the employer the opportunity of inquiry, that notice of an accident should be given as soon as practicable. Since the Act of 1880 there had grown up a vast field of insurance on policies between workmen direct and insurance offices and provident funds, and in all those cases there was not a single policy which did not contain a provision that the accident was to be generally specified within three or four days of the cause of accident. That was too short a time for a statute which might deprive the workman of his compensation, and, therefore, this notice had studiously enlarged the time to a period of three months, which would cover all reasonable time, and three months had been fixed upon with reference to giving certain elasticity, and prevent anything like forfeiture of the right to compensation owing to the notice not having been given. Further, the Amendment was so worded as to allow a notice, whether verbal or in writing, to be given by or on behalf of the workman, and its object was to avoid imposing on the workman as a condition precedent to his right to compensation any formalities which would involve either the calling in of professional persons to formulate the notice, or to require that the notice should be given by the workman personally, instead of by some mate or friend or member of his family—a provision which might be very necessary in case of serious accident incapacitating the workman from himself giving notice.
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddington)
sympathised with the object of his hon. Friend, but believed that the Amendment would do more mischief than good. Why should a workman be placed in a worse position than any one else? If they adopted this Amendment they would place him in a worse position than any other member of the community.
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
said if an accident occurred in a factory the employer had to give notice of it within 24 hours, and he saw no reason, why an employer should not receive notice of an accident within a reasonable time. He moved to amend the Amendment by substituting 24 hours for three months.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
did not see why they should be hampered by these restrictions, which were unknown to the ordinary law. At present an employer was liable to have an action brought against him, and he hoped the Government on this matter would follow the ordinary course of practice. The hon. Member suggested 24 hours notice. Why, a man might be insensible for 24 hours after the accident.
§ MR. C. B. RENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)
thought that the employers of labour were entitled to some protection under the Bill. There ought to be some limit for these claims. ["Hear, hear !"] There ought certainly to be some limit as to the time when the claim should be made.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said it would be an unfortunate thing for the Bill if it made it a condition precedent to obtaining compensation that such notification of accident should be given. He was of opinion that it was one of the subjects which should be considered by the arbitrator.
§ SIR J. JOICEY
said He was rather surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. They were not asking anything unreasonable in asking that within a reasonable time notice of an accident should be given. The workmen's own relief societies required that notification of accidents should be made within three days. It had been suggested that employers should insure against the risks under the Bill. He was certain that unless there was notification of accidents, say in two or three days, they would not get any insurance company to take the risks.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
could quite understand attorneys and learned counsel objecting to any notice being given, because the direct result of no notice being required would be to leave employers for ever open to litigation. Twenty-four hours' notice was too short, but a fair notice should be given, otherwise not only would the employer be liable for ever, but his descendants, his executors, administrators, and assigns. [Laughter.] Again, the Act could only be made workable by its giving rise to a system of insurance; and there must be a definiteness about the object of insurance; and there must be large areas or 1308 the averages would not work. He suggested that his hon. Friend should withdraw his Amendment if the Home Secretary would undertake to insert words which would provide that one of the matters to be considered by the arbitrator should be whether due notice of the accident had been given.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
contended that the presence or absence of notice of an accident within a reasonable time of the occurrence would be taken into consideration by any Court, tribunal, or arbitrator. The absence of notice for a year, for instance, would very probably lead an arbitrator to say that the employer was not liable at all. On the other hand, solicitors knew very well how a statutory term for notice was sometimes worked at present to the prejudice of the employé. The negotiations proceeded for a time, the statutory term ended, the charitable feeling ceased to prevail, the matter went into the hands of solicitors, the company or employer took up a legal position, and very often the employé got nothing at all.
§ *SIR JOSEPH PEASE
said that they were now adopting legislation which would place upon employers a responsibility which they had never yet had, and a very grave responsibility it would be to some of them. They were accepting it as cheerfully as they could. They wished to make the best of it. But surely the Committee would provide that employers should receive reasonable notice of accidents for one reason, if for no other, namely, that the employer might see that the injured received medical care after he had obtained what was called first aid from his comrades, who almost all belonged to the ambulance corps. He could not believe that the Committee would place an employer in a worse position than men had placed themselves in with regard to provident societies. There were 122,000 men in the Northumberland and Durham Miners' Provident Society, and it was a condition precedent to a penny being paid in case of injury that notice of the accident should be given within three days.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said he would like to ask hon. Members a question respecting the mutual provident funds which were so largely contributed to in the North. The hon. Baronet had said that three days' notice was required. If 1309 from some cause, which did not involve any fault on the part of the workman, the workman failed to give three days' notice, did that, as by a law of the Medes and Persians, exclude him from all compensation?
*MR. J. WILSON (Durham)
remarked that, as he had been a member of the committee of the Northumberland and Durham Miners Permanent Relief Fund, he was able to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. If a man did not give notice in time he was only paid from the time he gave notice. But a man was allowed to work 35 days after an accident, and if injury developed itself in that time he would not be debarred from benefit.
§ MR. S. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)
stated that the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Society had a rule under which a man did not receive benefit unless he gave notice within three days. He knew of a case where a man was permanently prohibited from getting compensation because he did not give notice within the required time.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said it was, therefore, perfectly evident that the Northumberland and Durham Society was much more generous, and, he thought, much, more just than that to which the hon. Member for Walthamstow belonged. Confining himself to the Northern society, let him say that the case of that society and its members was very different to that of employer and workman. A mutual society was able by means of the discretion of the Committee to take into account any failing on the part of the workman to give notice, and if the Committee was persuaded that that failure did not constitute an attempt to impose on the society, it was evident the workman would not suffer. If, however, they were to put into the Bill a definite provision that failure to give notice should in all cases exclude the workman from all compensation, he was certain they would do injustice in a vast number of cases unless the employer in all cases proved as liberal as a mutual society. He thought they might very safely leave it to the discretion of the arbitrator to decide whether or not the failure of notice might be cited as part of the evidence against the claim. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ASQUITH
said he entirely agreed with everything that had fallen from his 1310 right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary on this subject, and he hoped the Government would adhere to the position they had taken up in regard to it. He was certain that the Amendment, if carried, would be productive of an enormous amount of injustice, and injustice to the man in many cases where it was not in the least degree needed for the protection of the employer. The Amendment did not even except the cases whore an employer had knowledge independent of any notice. In almost every well-regulated undertaking in this country the employer knew perfectly well of these accidents, without receiving notice from the men, and under the Coal Mines Act and the Factory Act, it was his duty, within a, prescribed period, and subject to a penalty, to give notice to the Government inspector that an accident had occurred. On the other hand, while this was not needed as a protection for the employer, if it was made a condition precedent to a man's right to recover, an informality in the notice might be sufficient to altogether disendow him of compensation.
§ MR. CHARLES SEELY (Lincoln)
would like to press the consideration of this question upon the Government. The hon. Members who had spoken against it had regarded it principally from the point of view of serious accidents. As a matter of fact it was not the serious accidents in which this question would arise. It was in the case of slight accidents that it would arise, and he wondered whether the Government would consider the question of inserting some such words as,—That, in all cases where notice is not to be given by the employer to the factory or mine inspector, it shall be a condition that the workman should give notice to the employer of an accident having happened.In all serious cases the employer must naturally be aware of what happened, but there was undoubtedly the risk that in slight cases claims might be made on an employer, which were not in themselves reasonable for accidents which had happened. It was now the universal custom in all friendly and miners' accident societies that notice should be given of an accident, and it was necessary for the protection of the employer and of the workmen themselves that an arrangement 1311 of this kind should be provided. It was admitted that some portion of this burden would have to be borne by the workmen out of their wages, and it was, therefore, only right and reasonable to the workmen that they should put in provisions which would avoid risk of the honest, respectable, and hard-working man having to pay his share of an unreasonable and improper claim.
§ MR. J. W. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
hoped the Government would stick to the very sensible position they had taken up. Speaking as an employer of labour, he thought a great deal too much stress had been put on this giving of notice of an accident. He thoroughly appreciated the necessity of giving notice of a claim for compensation, but that had already been dealt with. Something had been said of the analogy of a friendly society, but it must be remembered that it was absolutely necessary to give notice to a friendly society, because they had no other means of knowing that an accident had occurred. As to the case of slight accidents, all he could say was that if an accident was so slight that an employer, taking the precautions for getting notice that he ought to do, did not know of it, then he thought the arbitrator would consider it was a case for very slight compensation, or for no compensation at all.
§ MR. W. J. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S.W.)
hoped the Government would reconsider the position they had taken up in this matter. He would give a case which had come under his notice only that morning. A workman employed on a rivet machine injured his wrist. He worked two days after the injury and then went away and had been off work five weeks. How could an employer possibly know that man was injured unless he had notice given to him. He would like to know whether practically the same provision which was in the present Act could not be put into this Bill. He quite agreed that 24 hours, or even three days, was short notice, but he thought that six weeks or some such period as that was reasonable, and that, at all events, an employer should not be liable for ever for an accident of which he had no notice and of which, when he came to defend it, he might have no means of knowing whether it did or did not take place.
§ MR. EMERSON BAINBRIDGE (Lincoln, Gainsborough)
made a further appeal to the Government on this question. This was a Bill under which very big claims would be made, and he was sure the House would think it was only fair and just that there should be some kind of notice given with regard to accidents. He could see no injustice whatever to the workmen in this. He would suggest either three or six days, but, whatever period was thought best, it was, in his opinion, only common justice that those who might have to pay large claims should have some just and reasonable notice.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
hoped the Government would be able to meet, in some way, the views of those who felt very strongly that some form of notice was necessary as a protection against bogus claims and litigation. He should like to know whether the Government could not provide that the man should have power to show, before the arbitrator, that there was some special reason why he had not given notice within the time appointed, and that in those cases want of notice should not be held to deprive him of his claim against the employer. They were giving him, under this Bill, far better terms than any person who came under the common law, and it became a matter of special urgency to the employer that he should have the opportunity of collecting evidence at an early date before it had got scattered. There was also the proposal mentioned by the hon. Member for Durham, in response to the question of the Colonial Secretary, which the Government might see their way clear to accept. Would it not be a fair solution to say that the claim should be made as soon as possible, and that the workman should not be entitled to any allowance for the period before the claim was made? Surely that would not be more than a fair penalty for his laxity. That would be, as it seemed to him, sufficiently strong pressure on the workman to make him make his claim, without being open to the objection that could be rightly taken against any arbitrary limit.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken seemed to imagine that workmen were millionaires. It was very evident that unless a workman had a 1313 large sum in the Savings Bank, he would have to go somewhere for relief. His wife would soon discover his position under the Act—[laughter]—and would apply to the employers without delay.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said he had a clause of which he would be glad to make a present to the Government. It was to the effect that proceedings for recovery under the Act should not be maintained unless notice had been given within six weeks, and an arbitration commenced within six months from the time of the accident; or in case of death within 12 months of the time of the death; provided that in case of death want of notice should be no bar to proceedings. He thought that would meet the arguments on both sides.
§ MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)
appealed to the Government not to make any concession whatever. The argument as to friendly societies was quite beside the mark. In their case notification was necessary because their members were scattered over a large area. Now the employer was to be the means of providing the workman with insurance. He hoped that the Government would make no extension except to provide against bogus claims by men for accidents met with when not at work. If the Government made some form of notification necessary they would be putting an absolutely unnecessary barrier between the workman and his compensation. All the arguments based on the necessity for prompt notification in the past were worthless. In the past a claim could only be made if the employer was in fault, but employers would now have to assume that if an accident happened and the man injured was absent from his work for two weeks, they would have to pay. In view of that knowledge on the part of the employer he did hope that for the sake of possibly eliminating one case of fraud, the Government would not endanger the men's compensation in the other 99 cases.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said the hon. Gentleman opposite might rest assured that the Government would not make any concession that would detract from the value of the Bill. His right hon. Friend had promised on behalf of the Government to consider whether any notification of a claim should be made, and undoubtedly in connection with that, the Government would have to see whether 1314 it could not be provided that, in the event of notice not having been given, the claim for compensation should not be commenced until the notice had been given. Those were points which the Government were pledged to consider. Beyond that he did not go; but he would ask whether the friends of the Bill would assist the Government to make a little more rapid progress. ["Hear, hear !"] This was only one of some hundreds of questions of more or less importance which could be raised as possible additions to the Bill; and if they were to spend so much time on each, they would never make satisfactory progress. ["Hear, hear !"] He would suggest that now either his hon. Friend should withdraw his Amendment or, if he could not agree to that, they might take a division.
§ COLONEL DENNY
asked leave to withdraw his Amendment, remarking that he had already risen three or four times for the purpose.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
*MR. J. WILSON (Durham)
moved to leave out paragraph (a) Sub-section (2). He suggested the omission of the paragraph because he thought it would very largely destroy the effect of the Bill, so far as the workmen were concerned. The Bill set forth that compensation was to be provided for all accidents, but if this paragraph were maintained some accidents would be omitted from the scope of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies had said that the Government were dealing in the Bill with the whole of the accidents occurring in the included trades, but those were excepted which only disabled a man for two weeks or less. Bearing on that, he wished to give a few figures relating to the Miners' Relief Fund in the north of England, which supplied expressive data. He had in his hands the balance sheet of that society, which covered Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, and the ironstone mines of Cleveland, and included in its membership the whole of the men at work down the mines and a very large number of those working at bank, the total number of members being nearly 123,000. During the year 1896–97 there were 19,200 cases of minor accidents— namely, those cases that did not last longer than six months. He might say 1315 that the relief paid in minor accidents was 5s. a week. If the cases lasted over six months, they were classified as permanent, and the disabled men then got 8s. a week. Out of the 19,200 minor accidents, no less than 5,000 lasted less than two weeks. So that by the operation of this Bill one-fourth of the minor accidents in the north of England would be excluded and would receive no benefit whatever. He wanted the Secretary for the Colonies or the Home Secretary to tell them their reasons for excluding the workman from benefit for the first week if he was to be entitled to it in the third? Of course, the Colonial Secretary had told them that logic had no place whatever in the Bill. Still, they were compelled to ask the why and wherefore, and unless some solid reason was given why the workman should not have relief the first week if he was to have it the third and fourth, he was right in his demand that the sub-section should be excluded altogether. Friendly societies, he might remind them, gave their benefits the first week a man was off. He had listened very closely to the arguments of the promoters of the Bill in order to gather one or two reasons why this exclusion should take place, but he had failed to find one. He had not been enamoured of the Bill, because he had seen in it what he thought would be evils so far as the workmen were concerned. He would not go into them now, but this was one of them. One of the imaginary reasons for the sub-section was that there must be time for the effects of an accident to develop. But if a man was off work the second day, surely the effects had developed enough to entitle him to some benefit. Employers of labour in that House, of all classes of politics, had heartily welcomed the Bill and readily admitted the workman's right to compensation. He assumed that every hon. Member who supported the Bill was genuine in his wish to carry that out to its ultimate result. Then why were they to debar a workman from compensation during the first week of his accident? Was it suggested that he had some resources of his own, that he had money in the savings bank sufficient to carry him over the first two or three weeks? The wages-list of this country was a denial of the possibility of every man making any such provisions. In the large 1316 majority of cases wages were so low, that from the first day a man was injured he was within touch of poverty. No doubt there were some workmen who were paid well enough to enable them to lay up a small store to last a week or two; but there were hundreds and thousands who could not do it. He concluded by again appealing to the Home Secretary or the Secretary for the Colonies to give the Committee some reasons for the exclusion contained in the sub-section.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said he would endeavour to meet the hon. gentleman by giving the explanation he asked for. At the outset he might say that the Amendment was one which by no possibility could the Government accept. It was an Amendment which, if carried, would be the death of the Bill. It was hostile to the Bill, and he pressed that on the attention of all friends of the Bill. As he understood the position of the friends of the Bill was this: The Bill might well be extended, but rather than risk it they would take it as it was, believing it to be a very substantial concession. ["Hear, hear !"] He was obliged to say, therefore, that this was a serious Amendment to which the Government must give strenuous opposition. The reason why the limit of two weeks was introduced was this. The Bill applied a new principle to industry, and threw a new burden on employers and on the trades they represented independent altogether of any negligence or action attributed to the employers themselves. This new principle the Government would only be justified in applying by some great public human interest. Now that great public human interest arose in the case of what he might call serious accidents. The sufferers from those accidents were the wounded soldiers of industry whom they had in their minds, and about whom so much was said in discussing this subject—people who were seriously if not permanently injured, and prevented, at all events for a considerable period, from following their ordinary employment. There would be no ground for legislative interference if they could believe that every accident which occurred was an accident whose effects would not last longer than three weeks. Such accidents as those were accidents 1317 for which the workman might very properly he expected to make provision himself. He did make provision in his friendly societies and in his trade union. Bodies of that kind had been accustomed to provide for him in the case of these shorter periods of disablement; and he might say in passing that he thought it would be a very great blow to the friendly societies, and perhaps to the trade unions, if they were to undertake to provide for the workman from the very day on which the accident occurred. ["Hear, hear !"] They therefore drew the line between what they called slight accidents, which might be properly cared for by friendly and other industrial societies, and the more serious accidents which constituted a grave misfortune and for which they were anxious that legislation should provide. In doing so they followed the principle of German and other foreign legislation, actual and proposed. In the first instance the Government suggested or proposed to themselves to exclude the first four weeks of an accident; but in that case they intended that, if the illness lasted more than four weeks, the four weeks' back pay should be given. ["Hear, hear !" from the Opposition.] But it was represented to them, both by employers and by some representatives of workmen's societies, that a proposal of that kind was very dangerous. It was admitted, he believed, by all who had an active part in the management of mutual relief and friendly societies that malingering was a thing to be carefully guarded against; and it was represented to the Government that such an arrangement as he had described would tend to provoke malingering and put a premium upon it; that in fact would put a distinct temptation in the way of a workman who had received a slight injury to remain away from his employment four weeks and one day in order that he might obtain four weeks' compensation. It was represented that if they gave a shorter time, and made that a period for which there would be no payment whatever, there would be a complete answer to those who feared malingering would result; because it was extremely improbable that any man would he in bed a fortnight without real reason in the hope of getting a day or two's pay at the end of that time. ["Hear, hear" !] He 1318 hoped, therefore, that after the explanation he had given the Committee would support the Government in resisting the Amendment. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
regretted that the Colonial Secretary had viewed this Amendment as a hostile one. There was a good deal to be said in its favour. It was a great hardship on a workman who had been out of employment for ten or twelve weeks and had just secured employment, but through an accident for which he was not responsible was laid up for ten or twelve days, not to receive compensation. If he understood the Bill, however, the workman had a right to sue for compensation either under this Bill or under the Act of 1880. If this clause stood as part of the Bill, therefore, a workman who had been injured would be forced to seek compensation under the earlier Act, thereby encouraging litigation.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. L. HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
moved, in paragraph (a) sub-section (2) to leave out the word "two," and insert the word "four," the effect of the Amendment being to relieve the employer of liability in respect of any injury "which does not disable the workman for a period of at least four weeks from earning full wages." He pointed out that in the large societies connected with the Miners' Relief Fund, it had been found that the average duration of minor accidents was about four weeks; and it was on this ground, he thought, that it would be desirable to put the limit rather higher than in the Bill. A four weeks limit would be the safest to adopt. It had been adopted to a certain extent in Germany, and he therefore urged the Government to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. FENWICK
hoped it was unnecessary to appeal to the Government to reject the Amendment. If the hon. Member wished to protect the friendly societies and particularly the Miners' Permanent Relief Societies, he would do 1319 so best by reducing the time instead of increasing it. Compensation from the employers would then come in, and permanent relief funds could accordingly reduce their benefits.
§ MR. HENRY SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
said he supported the Amendment, which raised a most important question—the distribution of the burden of compensation under the Bill as between employer and friendly society. The employer was at present only liable to the extent of his contribution— generally 25 per cent.—to the friendly society, and the compensation imposed on the employer fell either on the workman or the community. By the Bill the whole liability for compensation for personal injuries to the workman would be thrown on the employers. The extension of time would relieve the employer and encourage thrift in working men, because they would have to rely longer on their friendly societies. He considered that the chief blot in this Bill was that it imposed too great a burden on some of the great industries of this country. ["Hear, hear !"] He was in favour of the principle of compensation, but not of so allocating or distributing it as to drive some industries out of existence. ["Hear, hear !"] Had hon. Members opposite never thought of foreign competition or the cost of production? They might be taking away with one hand what they were conferring with the other, and driving some of the men they professed to represent out of employment into the streets. On this ground he desired that the burden of compensation should be distributed. This distribution rested entirely on figures, to which he wished to seriously call the attention of the Government, calculations made by one whom they would admit was a fairly high authority —Mr. Neison, Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries—who had gone carefully into the financial aspects of the Bill. He was not the authority consulted by the Government. His figures contradicted the figures supplied to the Government; and, while he did not claim that Mr. Neison's figures were infallible, it showed that the point was open to argument. The supporters of the Amendment desired to extend the period of two weeks to four weeks, during which a man would have to rely on his own 1320 resources. Mr. Neison, basing his calculations on the accounts of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Permanent Relief Fund, stated that for every 10,000 men employed in the coal-mining industry a moderate estimate of the liability for fatal accidents would be £5,000 a year. The average wages for 10,000 colliers above and below ground would be £600,000 a year, or £60 a year per miner, which, if anything, would be under rather than over the mark. Five thousand pounds a year for fatal accidents would be nearly 1 per cent of the the total wages. It had been said that the total liability would not exceed 1 per cent. of the wages earned, but here it was shown that the liability for fatal accidents alone would be 1 per cent. Mr. Neison divided accidents which would not be fatal into two classes —accidents above six months and under six mouths. The liability for accidents over six months in respect of 10,000 men, taking the ordinary figures of the society he had referred to, would amount again to £5,000 a year, or nearly another one per cent. of the wages fund. Five thousand pounds plus £5,000 would be the liability imposed yearly on the mining industry in respect of accidents, fatal and non-fatal, to 10,000 men. Ten thousand pounds on £600,000 was one-and-a-half per cent. of the wages. The liability for accidents under six months in respect of 10,000 men would be £4,500. The net result of the calculation was that, taking 10,000 miners earning an average of £60 per year per miner, the total liability for accidents, fatal and non-fatal, would be £14,500 a year, or two-and-a-half per cent. on the wages earned. He trusted the House would consider these calculations before passing the Bill. What was he asking the House to do? It was a ridiculously small concession. The two weeks reduced the number of accidents for which employers were liable under the Bill 20 per cent., but it only reduced the costs of compensation to which they were liable 5 per cent. If they extended the period to four weeks it reduced the number of accidents for which employers were liable 50 per cent., and it reduced the costs of compensation 33 per cent. The 50 per cent, and the 33 per cent, did not apply to anything like the whole liability under the Bill. 1321 The net result was this: by the Amendment, he was asking the House to relieve the employers of a liability of a third out of a total liability of £4,500; in other words it would relieve them of a money compensation of £1,500. It would still leave a burden of no less than 2¼ per cent. on the wages fund of the industry. In other words, every colliery proprietor would find that if he paid, say, £100,000 a year in wages, he would pay no less than £2,500 under the scheme of compensation imposed by this Bill. There were many collieries now being worked under serious difficulties, and it was a question from year to year whether the owners would think it worth their while to go on. He knew one which was being worked at a dead loss of several thousand pounds a year, and the only reason why they were going on was that the proprietors owned other large works to which the colliery in question supplied fuel, so that they could afford to work the colliery at a loss. But in the case of other collieries similarly situated they might be imposing a burden on that industry which would finally compel them to close their works. What was the meaning of that? It meant that this legislation might have the effect of driving hundreds of people out of work, and that was the only consideration that actuated him in moving Amendments to this Bill. With regard to the friendly societies, he asked hon. Members to put themselves in the position of a collier who was subscribing a certain proportion of his wages to a permanent relief society to which his employer also subscribed. The collier would say, "Here is a Bill under which, no matter what kind of accident I suffer from, I shall be compensated on a handsome scale. Why should I subscribe a halfpenny of my wages to the funds of a society, when I can get everything I want out of the Bill for nothing?" The argument was perfectly sound and logical. For his part he should not hesitate for a moment. If they were going to relieve the workman without any effort on his part they would encourage habits of indolence and thriftlessness. The workman must be interested, and the sole object of the Amendment was to ameliorate this state of things and to bring about a slightly more equitable distribution of the burden 1322 of compensation which was imposed by this Bill.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said it was not possible for the Government to accept the Amendment. They were satisfied that if such a period as four weeks were to be chosen it would be absolutely necessary, in the event of the disablement extending over the four weeks, to make the payment relate back. The Government had selected the period which they thought would fairly cover minor accidents which, though they might temporarily disable, were not sufficiently serious to prevent work from being resumed within a week or ten days. On the question of figures he must say that those which the hon. Member had given as being furnished by Mr. Neison did not correspond with the figures which that gentleman supplied to her Majesty's Government. It might be that further investigation had caused Mr. Neison to alter his figures, but the Committee could not place very much reliance upon the last figures of Mr. Neison when they found that there was such a substantial variation between them and those supplied to the Home Secretary so recently as May 18. He was not attacking Mr. Neison, but it was not possible to place the same reliance on the figures of any gentleman when they changed within so comparatively short a time. The hon. Member estimated the total liability under the Bill at 2½ per cent. upon the wages paid. That represented a serious charge. The Government did not agree that the total burden would be so large, but, assuming it was so, it was no good upon this Amendment discussing what was to be the total burden with reference to death liability and permanent disablement liability when the material figures to be considered were the difference between four weeks and two weeks. ["Hear, hear !"] It seemed to him that apart from money calculations, which it must be difficult to make with accuracy, there were certain broad principles upon which they should proceed. They knew what a serious accident meant, and what, comparatively speaking, a less serious accident meant. If a man was laid aside for a fortnight, he did to a certain extent draw a line of demarcation between what might be called a serious accident and a non-serious accident; and that was a more practical line to draw than any 1323 based on actual money calculations. There were figures which enabled them to test that view a little more closely. The Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Permanent Relief Society, which embraced a very large number of men, reported that in the five years 1892–96 the total number of accidents of which particulars were furnished was 49,378. The number confined to the first two weeks was 11,961, between two and three weeks the number was 12,629, and between three and four weeks 7,160—a total of 31,750 out of 49,378. Therefore, if the Amendment was carried, the result would be to impose upon other sources from which compensation might be obtained a total liability which would amount to between 60 and 70 per cent. of the total number of accidents. By the provisions of the Bill the employers would be exempted from paying compensation in 11,961 cases, or about 22 per cent., which he thought was a very fair proportion. They were dealing with a class of men who they knew in many instances were earning only what they were obliged to spend week by week. It was only in the most favourable circumstances that the most thrifty of these men were able to save anything, and it was no fault of their own that many of them could not save much. When misfortune or sickness came they had no claim except upon the benefit societies, and had seldom anything to fall back upon. The Government, therefore, felt that in exempting the masters from the liability to pay compensation during a period of two weeks a substantial relief was given, while a system was adopted which would put fairly upon the workmen that portion of the burden which they ought to bear. It was said that by taking two weeks instead of four they would not be encouraging the friendly societies. All he could say was that if 22 per cent. of the accidents were left to the friendly societies it would be a considerable inducement to them to rearrange their funds with the view of giving perhaps larger allowances during the period of temporary disablement. If it was right to deal with the liability for all serious accidents in the way proposed by the Bill, he would be only too glad to find that the friendly societies were able to devote some of their funds, which were contributions of the men themselves, in 1324 giving larger allowonces for sickness and disasters not dealt with in the Bill. The Colonial Secretary had indicated the Committee that the Government regarded Sub-section (a) as being a vital part of the Bill. They did not see any reason to change the period they had named, and unless they were shown that they were absolutely wrong they would feel it their duty to adhere to the period of two weeks.
*MR. J. WILSON (Durham)
said the figures quoted by the Attorney General with regard to Lancashire and Cheshire coincided in a remarkable manner with figures which he had obtained in reference to the North of England Permanent Relief Society, and which showed that one-fourth of the accidents suffered by the miners there did not extend beyond the first two weeks. The hon. Member opposite had charged the working men generally with improvidence. He forgot that there were other liabilities and causes of men being out of work besides accidents. The men had to subscribe to sick benefit societies as well as permanent relief funds. Did the hon. Member suppose that the men would leave the friendly societies because of this proposed compensation, which could in no case exceed 50 per cent. of the wages? He would ask the hon. Member to address his lecture on foreign competition to the Home Secretary instead of to the working men representatives. They had never asked for this Bill. He should oppose the extension of the time for two weeks to four weeks, unless the hon. Member could induce the Government to agree to the compensation dating back from the occurrence of the accident. Then he would support the Amendment.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said that he differed entirely from the figures of the Attorney General. As far as he could learn, half the cost of injuries was in the first six weeks, and if a longer period were given, these benefit societies might continue. They gave the workman security against the insolvency of his employer, and an interest in his own insurance. There could be no doubt that eventually the effect of this Bill would fall on employers and workmen alike, but before that time there must be much friction. The principle hitherto had been that the 1325 workman assisted by the employers should insure himself, and wages had been settled on that basis. This Bill threw the whole burden on the employers. That meant an increase of wages at a time when it was not justified by the condition of trade. He thought that the workman should be a party to his own insurance, and that it was a retrograde step to relieve him of that duty.
§ *SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
was glad that the Government had spoken with no uncertain sound against the Amendment. ["Hear, hear !"] The proposal of the Bill was passed on an intelligible principle. Every workman would have at least a week's wages due to him after he had sustained an accident. He would have at the very least, or at the very worst, half wages for a fortnight; but, if the period were extended the man would be placed in a very different position, he might be in absolute want, and the benefits of the Bill would be for him largely done away with.
§ MR. GALLOWAY
asked whether, if a workman was disabled three weeks or for any period over two weeks, he would receive compensation for one week or for the three weeks?
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
referred to Mr. Neison's calculations, and said that he thought that there was some misapprehension as to the statements made by that gentleman. He denied that he had furnished the Home Office with statements inconsistent with those referred to by the hon. Member for St. Helens. Some facts collected by Mr. Neison had doubtless come before the Home Office, and some other gentleman had drawn some inferences from those facts which Mr. Neison disputed. For instance, Mr. Neison had undoubtedly stated that one-fifth of the accidents would be covered by the limit of two weeks, and the erroneous inference had been drawn at the Home Office that this limit of time disposed of one-fifth of the accidents; the fact being that owing to the greater costliness of the remaining accidents the two weeks only eliminate 5 per cent. in value of the accidents.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
said that if he might be permitted to say so, both the 1326 hon. Member for Mid Durham and the Attorney General had made the same mistake. They had alsolutely disregarded the percentage of cost; and only treated the percentage of accident. But as this was a money compensation Bill, the question of cost was the only question worth considering.
§ MR. BAINBRIDGE
said he regarded the Amendment as the most important that had been brought forward in connection with the Bill. Its effect would be to ease or reduce the strain thrown by the Bill upon the employer or upon the industry which the employer represented; and he therefore supported it. It was extremely important that the House should understand, and in regard to the coal trade—the industry which the Home Secretary had said would be most seriously affected by the Bill—the Bill meant an increased cost of two-pence per ton. The Attorney General had stated that there was very little difference between the effect of this Bill, and the effect of the Bill brought forward by the late Home Secretary. He controverted that statement in the strongest terms. He was an insurer of 12,000 or 15,000 men for the last 17 years under the present Employers' Liability Act; and the exact cost of the insurance was 1–32nd per cent. of the wages. The cost under the Bill of the late Home Secretary, if carried, would not have amounted to more than just twice as much as the cost under the Employer's Liability Act. In other words, the cost under the present Bill would be 2½ per cent., more than 80 times as much as the Employers' Liability Act; and 40 times as much as the late Home Secretary's Bill. This showed the extraordinary strain that would have to be borne by industry under the Bill; and it behoved them to try to reduce the strain as much as possible. He hoped the Government would think very seriously before they rejected this Amendment. He had been down to his constituency last Saturday, and spoke to a large employer of labour, who told him that, if this Bill passed, he would be obliged to discharge a large number of his young men. On asking him why, he replied that the Bill would encourage carelessness and neglect, and it was the younger men who displayed the most carelessness and neglect. That was a new light to 1327 him. He hoped the Government would not reject the Amendment, because it would tend to lighten the load on the employers, it would help to prevent a number of old men from being starved, and would support the maintenance of such societies as the Miners' Permanent Relief Fund.
§ MR. HARDY
said, in view of the position taken up by the Government, he did not propose to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division on the matter. Personally, he felt a very strong inclination to accept the suggestion from the other side of the House with reference to four weeks, but he did not feel justified, without consideration, in altering his Amendment. He assured the Committee that he brought forward the Amendment, not from any desire to take away from the compensation of the men, but rather with the view of making them work better when the Bill passed. He asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. RENSHAW
moved, in Paragraph (a) Sub-section (2), after the word "weeks," to insert the words "immediately subsequent to the injury."
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
hoped the Amendment would not be pressed, as it was easy to conceive cases of accident where the injury was not discovered till some time afterwards.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
moved, in Subsection (2), after the words "Provided that," to insert the words: —he shall not be so liable if he shall be a member of a trade association in the management of which employers and workmen shall have equal representation, and shall have contributed to the funds of such association an amount not less than the amount contributed by his workmen to such funds.1328 It was very desirable that these funds should, if possible, be administered through trade organisations. That, undoubtedly, would lead to economy in working, just as it was frequently found that a body elected by the people was more economical than a body which was not controlled in any way. If initially there were contributions by the workmen towards the expenses of compensation—
§ MR. PICKARD
, rising to order, asked whether the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks were relevant to the Bill?
§ MR. BOUSFIELD
said it was perhaps a little difficult to gather from his Amendment what was its exact scope. It seemed to him that in the administration of these funds it was essential that they should have the assistance of the workmen, and that the workmen should, in the first place, contribute to the funds. His suggestion was that in the case of the Lanarkshire coal fields, for instance, there should be a Mining Board, that that Board should be elected, and should consist of an equal number of employers' and workmen's representatives; that they should have power to form a fund to which employers and workmen should contribute in equal shares, and that they should have the dispensing of that fund. If they had a body of that sort, responsible for the collection and administration of the fund, there would be the great advantage that those interested in the administration would know all about the necessities of the people who from time to time would be injured. There would be the further advantage that they would get rid of the difficulty of the possible bankruptcy of the employer. The association would represent a large area, and the fund would be practically incapable of being bankrupt. Further, there would be the great advantage that they would have the employers and workmen working together in harmony. He was satisfied that such a scheme as he proposed 1329 in this matter would tend to the happy solution of many trade difficulties in other matters.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said there was no doubt that, if the object which this Bill sought to attain could be secured without legislation, it would be a very desirable state of things. As far as he understood the Amendment, his hon. and learned Friend really proposed to substitute for the proposals of the Bill a very vague system of what was generally called contracting out. He did not for a moment deny that it would be extremely desirable if trade associations could be formed all over the country in which, by the mutual co-operation of employers and employed, the various claims which might be made upon them could be satisfactorily met. The contracting out clause of the Bill was a more liberal and generous one than that of his hon. and learned Friend, and, whether the Committee considered it a right or a wrong one when it came under discussion, he hardly thought they would be prepared to accept the present Amendment. ["Hear, hear !"] Certainly the Government could not accept it. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
moved, in paragraph (b), Sub-section (1), to leave out the words: —When it is decided, as hereafter provided, that the injury was caused by the wilful and wrongful act or default of the employer or some person for whose act or default the employer is responsible.He said the words proposed to be left out provided that the common law liability of the employer was to continue when, and only when, it had been decided by the arbitrator that the injury was caused by the wilful and wrongful act and default of the employer or some person for whose act and default the employer was responsible. He wished to point out 1330 that these words were inconsistent with what he understood was the purpose for which the Bill was introduced. It was introduced with a view to confer upon the workmen a new system of compensation. To the employer there was to be left the burden of such civil liability as already existed. The clause, as drawn, was not consistent with that. Let him take a concrete and simple illustration. Supposing a very common sort of accident. Machinery was fenced, but through the negligence, but not the wilful or wrongful negligence, of the employer or his superintendent, imperfectly fenced. The fencing gives way, and the man lost a couple of fingers. He was laid aside for a fortnight, at the end of which time he came back with his arm in a sling. He was able to work his machine, he was not permanently incapacitated within the meaning of the schedule, although he was a worse man. It might be that through some similar cause, through the negligence, but not the wilful wrong of the employer, he had lost an eye. He was not permanently incapacitated from doing his work, but what was his position? Before the Bill passed into law he would have been able to have recovered against his employer compensation in the shape of the damages which the Employers' Liability Act gave him, but in this clause they had taken away that right without giving anything to take its place. He could recover compensation under this Bill, but only if he came within the provisions of the schedule. In the case he had put—and it was quite a common case—by the provision which constituted the beginning of this sub-section, he was disabled from recovering under the law as it now stood. He could not get compensation under the Bill, and he could not get compensation under the Employers' Liability Act, because this Bill had cut down the cases in which he could claim under that law, to cases in which there had been a wilful and wrongful act on the part of the employer. 1331 In that class of cases, he said, the workman was distinctly worse off than he was under the existing law. They were cutting out from compensation a large class of accidents—he admitted they were smaller accidents—without any justification so far as he could see. It was perfectly true that the employer was to bear a larger burden than at present. That was in pursuance of the Government's policy, but why should they take from this class of person who had suffered injury the rights which he had at the present time? He would also like to ask what was the meaning of the words "wilful and wrongful." They were not known to lawyers. He was always delighted when legal phraseology could be departed from, and things could be expressed in plain terms —[Ministerial cheers]—but unfortunately such was the infirmity of the human mind that stereotyped phrases did get an ascertained meaning, and when new ones were started they opened up a large and vexatious field of questions for the Courts to decide; and of this he was convinced, that if these words were left in the clause, and if these questions were reserved for the arbitrator, they would be opening up a new field of litigation. ["Hear, hear !"] For these reasons he begged to move the omission of the words to which the Amendment referred.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said he would be glad if his hon. and learned Friend would tell the Committee in whose interest this Amendment was proposed. He was certain it would not conduce to the interest of the workman, but would manifestly conduce to the interest of the lawyers. [Laughter.] The illustration which his hon. and learned Friend gave was altogether inconsistent with his line of argument. He supposed the case of a workman who had lost two fingers and an eye, or two fingers or an eye—he was not sure sure which—and he assumed that this man would recover from this injury in a fortnight. All he could 1332 say was that if he did it would be a most wonderful recovery. [Laughter.] The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that this man would not be permanently incapacitated. He did not think the word "permanently" occurred in the Bill. The words were "in case of incapacity for work," and to say that a man who had lost two fingers or an eye would not be to some extent incapacitated for work seemed to him quite contrary to the probable facts of the case. ["Hear, hear."] He did not think it was true to say that a workman in that position would not be able to get compensation under the Bill. What would be the effect of the Amendment? The Government were endeavouring to do away with litigation. The one case they considered to be outside the purview of the Bill was the case to which reference had been made continually—of wilful and wrongful default on the part of the employer. The hon. Gentleman complained that those were not legal words, but them he could discuss on a subsequent Amendment. What the Government meant was perfectly clear. They meant to do what they said—["hear, hear !"]—the wilful and wrongful act of the employer, which would justify them in imposing on him a different liability to that imposed by the Bill. His hon. and learned Friend proposed that in every case of accident it should be an open question whether the workman took advantage of the Bill or whether he took some other proceedings—that was to say, he was going to open the whole opportunity of litigation in every case that occurred under the Bill. In every single case the workman under the sort of inducement that was brought to bear on him was to leave all the certain and definite advantages of the Bill and was to engage in expensive litigation, which would be undertaken as a speculative matter by somebody on his part with the certainty that if he won, very little if any, of the compensation recovered would go into his pocket. ["Hear, hear."] 1333 That was entirely opposed to the object and intention of the Bill, and it would be quite impossible to consent to the Amendment. ["Hear, hear."]
§ MR. WALTON
said that the proposals of the Government were most remarkable in their nature and without precedent, inasmuch as they set up a double form of procedure for ascertaining the rights of the parties whose interests were involved. Let him indicate shortly what he thought were grave and conclusive objections to this proposal of the Government. In the first place, let them consider the tribunal which was to decide the issue on which the civil and criminal status of every employer was to depend. Let them consider the nature of the tribunal, and consider the justice of leaving the employer to face its investigation with the danger of a subsequent criminal indictment hanging over his head. It was said that he had been guilty of some neglect of duty, that he had been wilfully and wrongfully negligent, either in the engagement of his workmen or in the arrangement or management of his works. That issue had first of all to be determined by a secret tribunal under the name of arbitration, sitting without the safeguards of legal procedure, holding its inquiry without the guarantee of publicity. Assume an adverse verdict. That verdict would entitle the workman or his representatives to indict his employer perhaps for manslaughter. Imagine a man going before a jury on such a charge when already involved by the verdict of this extraordinary tribunal. What chance would he have? Then, in the matter of civil responsibility, what sort of a chance of a fair trial would an employer have when sued in a Court of Common Law after the workman had got the verdict of the arbitrator that the conduct of his employer had been wilfully negligent? That was the provision from the employer's point of view. Let them look at it from the workman's point of view—for he submitted it was important in the 1334 interest of both parties that this portion of the Government scheme should be reconsidered. The Colonial Secretary had again reminded them that the whole object of the Bill was to avoid litigation. Well, the operation of this provision was to insure that there should be at least two suits in regard to every case in which the workman sought to establish his claim to a larger measure of compensation than the Bill awarded. He had first of all to enter on arbitration. The Colonial Secretary, in his happy innocence of the working of legal procedure, seemed to be under the impression that arbitration was simpler, shorter, and cheaper than legal action. Some of them had had experience of both processes, law and arbitration, and they had been painfully driven to precisely the opposite conclusion. ["Hear, hear !"] They had learnt that arbitration was longer and more costly and was profoundly unsatisfactory. Yet they drove the workman, dissatisfied perhaps with the niggardly compensation given him, to incur the cost of this litigation by arbitration; and then, having spent his resources on the preliminary struggle, they launched him on a course of litigation in the Courts of Common Law. He submitted that from both the employer and the workman's point of view this portion of the Government scheme was open to the greatest objection. Let him remind the Committee of the assurances given on the First and Second Readings. They were told that this was an enabling scheme; that it took away nothing and gave everything; that the workman would have the option of either proceeding under the Bill or under the Employers' Liability Act or at common law. Why did not the Government have the courage to adhere to these assurances, and give the workman full power of deciding under which scheme of relief he should proceed in order to assert his remedy? He did not see why a workman should be coerced to adopt one mode of procedure, 1335 and should be prevented from selecting others, and he believed that unless the Government made some concession on this point, the beneficial operation of the Bill would be materially diminished.
§ MR. THOMAS BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
doubted whether his hon. and learned Friend opposite had read the clause very attentively. The object of the clause, according to the Home Secretary, was to give to the workman an additional opportunity of recovering as against his employer. Where an employer had been guilty of a wilful or wrongful act or default, either by himself or by some person for whom he was responsible, the injured man would be able to avail himself of three remedies. He could proceed under this Bill or under the Employers' Liability Act of 1880, or under the common law. He did not understand how any one could argue seriously that the clause was disadvantageous to the workmen, to whose rights it certainly added something.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N. W.)
did not think that the Colonial Secretary intended that a workman should always have his remedy at common law, under Lord Campbell's Act, or under the Employers' Liability Act, at his option. What he understood was that a workman was only to have a remedy outside the Bill in the case of what was inartistically called "the wilful or wrongful act or default" of the employer. The provision under censure would, he feared, be inoperative and futile. What they wanted to do was to save workmen and employers the cost of litigation, and the proposal of the Government was that the workman should proceed by arbitration, but it was obvious that the workman must have a right to the services of counsel, a solicitor and witnesses. It was perfectly obvious that somebody must pay the cost of the counsel, solicitor, and witnesses. On whom was the cost to lie? It was to lie upon the un- 1336 successful party. In certain cases the workman would be the unsuccessful party. He would be the unsuccessful party if he failed in showing that this particular injury of which he complained did not fall within the scope of the Act. Would he then have to pay the costs of the arbitration? If so, how would he have to pay it. Would it be deducted from the amount he had to receive, or otherwise? But supposing he was successful in his contention and established that the case did not come within the Act, what had he got to do then after going through all the expense of arbitration? He had got to bring his action, and if he established that it was not an employment within the Act—which he was anxious to do because he could get a larger compensation if it was an employment outside the Act—he proceeded with his case, and there was a second trial to decide whether or not he was entitled to receive compensation under the common law or under the Statute. Why, he asked, for the sake of economy and expediency, should not the workman enjoy the same rights to litigate any question which might arise between him and his employer that he had at the present time? Supposing a workman elected to bring an action under the Employers' Liability Act or the common law. He brought the action before the Judge of the County Court, or the Judge of the High Court under Lord Campbell's Act, and the Judge of the High Court coming to the conclusion that it was not a case for compensation under Lord Campbell's Act or the Employers' Liability Act non-suited the plaintiff. He had only thereby gone through precisely the same operation as he would mutatis mutandis by going through arbitration. He had had a procedure cheaper and more expeditious before the County Court Judge in which he was unsuccessful, whereas mutatis mutandis he would have procedure before the arbitrator more expensive and protracted had a similar necessity arisen 1337 that he should go to law. It should be open to the workman to bring his action, if he had a right of action, so that the matter must be disposed of there and then and justice meted out to one or other of the parties at a cost which was very much less than it would be by the method, of arbitration. He was at a loss to understand why all this machinery of arbitration had been created, the only effect of which would be that in the vast majority of cases in which accidents happened, there would be presented to the workman, hanging over him as a sort of threat in terrorem, the prospect of being dragged to arbitration. He did not wish to say a single word against the employers, who for the most part acted justly to their workmen. But in the vast majority of cases the employers would insure and it would not be the workman meeting face to face his employer. It would be the workman meeting face to face the agent of the insurance company, who would interpose every obstructive tactic and have recourse to every device which might possibly tend to intimidate the workman. He declared that under this arbitration clause the Government were simply opening the door to the insurance offices using the arbitration proceedings as a means of terrorising workmen and preventing them getting justice. For these reasons he very cordially supported the Amendment, and he was sure there was not a single workman represented in that House who would not entirely concur in the view that it was much better to leave him to his present remedy plus the advantage derived from this Bill, rather than compel him to try in every case whether or not he had a right to compensation.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that a contrast had been drawn between the expense of the Courts and the expense of arbitration. Having had some experience of the last-named tribunal, he said that if he thought prolonged sittings and expense entailed by counsel and wit- 1338 nesses were likly to arise, he should be the first to agree to the suggestion which had been made. But he referred his hon. and learned Friends to the schedule of the Bill, from which it would be seen that this was not the class of arbitration which had to be considered. Who was the arbitrator to be? He was to be the County Court Judge, and it was not contemplated, if the County Court Judge could not take the case, that the usual County Court fees should be paid by the parties interested in the hearing of the case. Therefore the arbitration contemplated was intended to be something in the nature of a domestic forum which should settle matters in a cheap and expeditious manner. It was said that they ought to leave the workman in every case in the same position as he was now, and should give him the right to sue at common law under the Employers' Liability Act, or under this Bill; but one of the objects of the Bill in putting an end to litigation would be defeated altogether. ["Hear, hear !"] Their endeavour was to make it the interest of the workmen to adopt the cheapest and most expeditious way of having their compensation assessed. If some such machinery as the Bill contemplated was not adopted, workmen who thought that they could possibly get a large amount would be tempted to take the employer into Court and to frame a double claim against him. The result would be that there would be absolutely no inducement to adopt the cheaper course, and the workmen would find themselves perhaps largely in the hands of not too scrupulous legal advisers, who advised them to go into Court because they might get a remedy in some shape or other, and on the expectation that employers would have to pay the cost. The scheme of the Bill was simple. The workman said, "I do not wish to be tied to the pecuniary limits of this Bill; I think I can show that my case comes within the provisions which entitle me to a larger amount." If hon. Gentlemen said that 1339 this question also would be decided by the arbitrator, well and good; let them suggest Amendments to that effect; but if it was desired that the workman should still have a right to say, "I desire to have my damages assessed, not by the arbitrator, not by the County Court Judge, but by some one else," then it was necessary that there should be some ready means of determining whether he possessed those rights. He regarded the words as a practical means of getting the question speedily determined before further litigation were entered upon.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
supported the Amendment, because the words if allowed to remain would not only repeal part of the Employers' Liability Act, 1880, but prevent the criminal law from being put in motion against an employer in cases where he was responsible. Parliament decided 17 years ago that in certain events the employer should be liable to the workman to a much more considerable extent than under the provisions of the Bill. The Government had told the Committee that they did not deal with employers' liability under the Bill. He agreed that the questions of employers' liability and compensation were distinct matters. But by the inclusion of the words they would repeal parts of the Employers' Liability Act, 1880, and make it impossible for the workman in any of the events prescribed under the Employers' Liability Act to take any proceedings unless beforehand he went to an arbitrator or a Committee of employers and employed, and then, in the event of disagreement, to the County Court Judge. The Colonial Secretary said they were not attempting to deal with the punitive side of the Measure, and that if it could be shown that employers should be punished, there was no reason why they should not. If an employer, in the opinion of an employé had been guilty of manslaughter, the criminal law could not be put in motion against him. A Commitee must first be appealed to, and if they did not decide, he must go 1340 to the County Court Judge. If the words remained in the Bill, the workman would be unable to put into force the criminal law under the Factories Act or the Coal Mines Regulation Act without the decision of this Committee, and the opinion of the County Court Judge. This diminished the remedy of the employé civilly and criminally in an important respect, and he entirely agreed with the Amendment that the remedies which already existed in favour of the workman civilly and criminally might continue to exist in his favour.
§ MR. W. R. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
thought the suggestion of the Attorney General showed a way out of a real difficulty and hardship under this section—that was to say, that the arbitrator should have power to give the compensation on the higher scale. If the Amendment were withdrawn, perhaps before to-morrow the Government would be able to put the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion into shape and the difficulty would be removed.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that, of course, if that view met one of the difficulties he should be glad to consider it. He did not deal with the question of criminal liability, because that did not arise as the question was put from the Chair, but with that of civil liability. On the point of simplifying procedure, he would be happy to consult with the Home Secretary.
§ MR. ABEL THOMAS (Carmarthen, E.)
was very much in favour of the Amendment, as, having had a very large experience in cases connected with the Employers' Liability Act, he thought it would be a terrible thing to send these cases to an arbitrator instead of leaving them to the ordinary tribunals. How in the world was it to save money, to have the County Court Judge in his private room instead of in his own Court? He had never been in an arbitration in his life in which the costs were not vastly higher than those of the High Court or the County Court.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
hoped the hon. and learned Member would be willing to withdraw his Amendment upon the understanding that the Government were quite willing at a later period to consider the questions which had been raised in connection with the Amendment, but which were not determined by it. These questions were whether the words "wilful and wrongful default" were the best description of the particular kind of negligence which they wished to strike at; whether the words criminal liability were properly inserted in the clause; and whether they would, in fact, involve the decision by a County Court Judge as to whether a workman would or would not have a criminal remedy; and questions concerning the expenses of the arbitration. All these questions were open for consideration, and could be discussed at a later period, and the Government would certainly favourably view Amendments which had the object and wore likely to have the result of simplifying procedure and cheapening it at the same time.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
asked whether, if the Amendment were withdrawn, it would be possible subsequently to move another to eliminate the arbitration clause?
§ MR. ASQUITH
recognised the conciliatory manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with the question, and he should be disposed to advise his hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment on the undertaking of the Government that they were going to consider the various questions which the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned. But there ought to be a clear understanding that the withdrawal was not to prejudice their right to raise the contention that the workman ought to have reserved to him as complete a right and as complete remedies against the employer in all 1342 cases of negligence as he had at present. ["Hear, hear !"]
§ MR. S. EVANS (Glamorgan, S.)
desired to point out the difficulty in which the hon. and learned Member would find himself if the Amendment were withdrawn. If it was decided that, "as hereinafter provided," should remain, they would have limiting words in the Bill. He objected to the Amendment being withdrawn unless upon the clear understanding and undertaking of the Government that it was not their intention to prevent a workman having recourse to any of the remedies which he had now for civil damages, or to prevent him from prosecuting criminally, if he thought fit. He warned his hon. Friend not to be caught too readily by conciliatory speeches made by the Colonial Secretary.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said he understood that the question remained entirely open, and that the words "as hereinafter provided," would not in the least degree prejudice the question.
And, it being Midnight, the Chairman of Ways and Means left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.