§ MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
rose to move—"That this House calls upon the Government forthwith to undertake the Amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Act." He said that, shortly, his desire was to extend the provisions of the Act and to remove its restrictions. The Act had been in operation now for more than five years, and, since it was passed, its provision had been extended so as to include agricultural labourers who had intentionally been left out. The extension of the Act to agricultural labourers brought in all workmen employed in agriculture by any employer who habitually employs one or more workmen in such employment. And agriculture includes horticulture, forestry, and the use of land for any purpose of husbandry, inclusive of the keeping or breeding of live stock, poultry, or bees, and the growth of fruit and vegetables. It was a far-reaching extension, and brought under the operation of the Act 1,700,000 more workers on 1st July, 1901. The three chief objections which were urged against the passing of the Act were the danger to friendly societies, the risk of increased carelessness on the part of workmen, and the fear of over-burdening certain industries. He recollected that the coal trade was particularly mentioned in 621 that regard, it being said at the time that it was suffering from heavy foreign competition. He thought it would be generally agreed that in all these respects the fears of the opponents of the Act had been proved to have been very much exaggerated. So far as the friendly societies were concerned, they had grown steadily year by year. In 1898, one year after the passing of the Act, 575 now friendly societies were registered, and in 1899 748 were registered; and with regard to carelessness, there was no evidence that the Act had made men willing to run more risks, or that the masters took less precautions against accidents than formerly. The Act had, however, given rise to much litigation, and this was one of the most harassing aspects of that legislation, that in most of the cases that came within the scope of the Act the question arose, not as to whether there had been a case of serious and wilful misconduct, or whether the injury had been caused in the course of employment, but in the majority the question which the arbitrator had to decide was whether the particular workman affected came within the scope of the Act at all. The arbitrator, who was in most cases the County Court Judge, had wide and ill-defined powers, and the decisions in various parts of the country had been conflicting, and had often been overruled, both by the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, Surely an Act which gave rise to such a question as that, in a large majority of the cases that came to be tried, needed making more explicit and clear. The Act came into operation on July 1, 1898. Between that date and the end of the following December there were 178 cases before the Courts in England and Wales. From January, 1899, to the end of January, 1900, there were as many as 1,347 cases in the County Courts, and, during the same period, only 763 voluntary arrangements were registered. The proportion of voluntary arrangements to litigation had been very much the same, and not upon the increase, which was unfortunate, because one of the main objects of the Act was to secure a business arrangement in a peaceable way by the amicable settlement of an admitted liability rather than to produce a legal battle in the law courts.
622 The hon. Baronet the Member for Chester-le-Street had stated that in the working of the Act many of the dangers which had been anticipated had not arisen in Northumberland and Durham; that in those counties there had been very few cases of litigation, but that this was not due to the clearness of the Act itself, but to the common sense of the people of Northumberland and Durham, who had endeavoured to adapt themselves to every Act passed by the House. He hoped everybody would take that lesson to heart. In those parts they had formed Conciliation Boards, around which three representatives of the workmen, and three representatives of the masters, together with the secretaries and solicitors of the Union and the Federation, sat and arrived at a solution of the question. But in spite of all these happy experiences, what they wanted by the Amendment he suggested, was more clearness. They wanted the Act better defined and the cases codified. There were inconsistencies in the Act. Frequent definitions were given by reference to other Acts, and the result was an enormous amount of litigation. The Act included within its scope a "factory," as defined by the Factory Acts. The Factory Acts applied also to docks, and so far as loading or unloading were concerned, it included all the machinery on the dock used in the process, but not machinery on the ships. A vessel in dock had been gravely held not to be a factory, but he had ascertained recently that a vessel in a dry flock was a "factory" and not a ship at all. So that an engineer injured on a vessel in dry dock could claim compensation, but if the same engineer was injured six minutes after the same ship was afloat he could not claim compensation, because the ship was then a ship and not a "factory." The fourteen days limit excluded from compensation all accidents the effects of which did not last for two weeks, and a hardship that was felt in connection with the textile trade—in case of improvers, for instance, who worked at the rate of 2s. a week—was that compensation for life-long injury was based on the existing rate of wages, and made no allowance for a prospective rise. The most important alterations required were the abolition of the 30 feet limit in the 623 building, repairing and painting trades, the bringing of all accidents under the Act, compensation to commence from the date of the accident, the abolition of the fourteen days qualifying period, and a more uniform application of the Act to all cases. The Act was one of the most momentous Acts ever passed in that House, and it was a very successful one. The Home Secretary had already, by his kind consideration and sympathy in meeting deputations of workmen, shown that he viewed favourably the Amendment of the Act, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would translate his generosity into action, and so confer an endless boon upon millions of their fellow-countrymen.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
, in seconding the Motion, said the five-and-a-half years of experience which they had had of the working of the Act was quite sufficient to justify them in appealing to the Government to take steps forthwith to remedy its admitted defects and to extend its scope. He attached considerable importance to that term of the Resolution moved by his hon. friend, "forthwith," because the experience they had had of the Act, and having regard to the number of people excluded from its operation justified them in demanding that the Government should forthwith remedy the defects of the Act, and do an act of simple justice to a large number of people who in 1897 were left outside the operation of the original Act. He admitted that the Act, with all its defects, had been of immense good to those engaged in the industries to which it applied. But it had not accomplished all, or nearly all, that its promoters expected from it. It certainly had not got rid of litigation. The Times on July 24, 1899, said—The multitude of appeals arising out of the Workmen's Compensation Act is becoming a matter of grave concern.And in an article on December 27, 1899, The Times said—Of all sources of litigation, the Workmen's Compensation Act has been the most fruitful of modern times.It was claimed by Lord Salisbury that the Act would prove a great 624 machinery for the saving of life, although it was only fair to say that the Colonial Secretary disclaimed any such idea. Recent statistics that had been issued by a Departmental Committee of the Home Office had shown that since the Act was passed accidents had considerably increased, although he did not for a moment suggest that the increase was in consequence of the passing of the Act. One of the chief merits claimed for this Act was its simplicity, but those responsible for its administration—the magistrates and the County Court Judges—had not found it by any means simple. It seemed to him that all legislation affecting the labouring classes, and the relations of employer and employed, should be framed in the simplestand most unmistakable language, and it ought not to be necessary to have to rummage through old and musty statutes before they could get to know what the law was upon any given subject. When the Act was brought in simplicity was claimed as one of its chief merits. It had turned out, however, to be complex in all its details; that was abundantly shown by the statements of the Judges who had to administer it. Lord Justice Collins had said, in delivering a judgment, that he did not think it was possible to give any clear and satisfactory interpretation which would be perfectly consistent with all the provisions of the Act, and that he had long since come to the conclusion that he must make the best guess he could at what the Legislature meant in a particular section of the Act. Such an unsatisfactory state of the law, so clearly indicated, called forthwith for a remedy. If the law was so confused that a judge engaged in administering it found it almost impossible to construe it, how on earth were simple-minded laymen to understand what the law was? Judge Parry had described the Act as a veritable Chinese puzzle of legal chaos and a mixture of clauses and schedules supplemented by rules and orders of various Departments; and he further stated that the cost to the litigants in time, temper, and money was out of all proportion to any possible beneficial results. The instances he had mentioned might be supplemented by scores of others, but those he had 625 quoted clearly indicated the unsatisfactory state of the law, and called forthwith for some action on the part of the Government to remedy these admitted defects in the law. The Lord Chancellor himself had said that it was impossible not to recognise the fact that the Act was one which from time to time presented difficulties of construction, adding that he was not surprised that the Legislature, having a somewhat difficult problem to solve, had used language which required consideration to give it its true significance. That surely was a strange utterance to proceed from the chief officer of the law, who, when the Bill was before the other House, should have seen to it that the language was clear and unmistakeable, so that nobody could possibly have mistaken the true meaning of the statute. This was the opinion of one of the legal advisers of the Government, and yet he allowed this monstrosity of legislation to go through in the haphazard way in which it was permitted to go through all its stages.
One of the gravest anomalies of the Act was that it set up a claim before the law for certain classes of workpeople which it denied to others. More than that, the millions of workpeople that were excluded from its provisions were to be found among the worst paid and worst organised classes, and consequently the classes which were least able to protect their own interests. For that there was no justification whatever. If it was proper that the trade or industry should be held responsible for accidents created by that industry, then he saw no reason whatever for the exclusion of the large number of workpeople who were excluded from the Act. He supported the Workmen's Compensation Act when it was before the House of Commons notwithstanding the very unfounded charge brought by the Colonial Secretary, in a speech he made at Birmingham during the last election, in which he charged him, along with the hon. Member for Mid Durham and the hon. Member for Leicester, with having opposed and hindered the passage of that Act. He entirely approved of that Act, and he did not agree with the doleful picture presented to the House by some large employers of labour as to the ruinous effect which the Bill was likely to have. The allegation, as far as he was concerned, 626 was a mere figment, and had no existence except in the fertile brain of the Colonial Secretary. He hoped the Government would take the earliest opportunity of remedying its defects and of extending its provisions to other industries. The Act was inconsistent with the object the Government declared they had in view and with the pledges given by members of the Government and their supporters during the elections of 1895 and 1900. The House would remember Lord Salisbury's famous declaration in the House of Lords that Mr. Chamberlain was well known as the spokesman of the Unionist Party upon these subjects. In a speech on February 20th, 1893, the Colonial Secretary asked the House to consider whether it was worth while to deal with this subject in a partial way, and whether it would not be possible once for all to settle the right of every workman to compensation. In a later speech on May 3rd, 1894, the Colonial Secretary said the Government believed that every man, who in the course of his employment met with an accident, was deserving of consideration, and ought to be compensated; and that they wanted to secure that for every man for every accident. The Prime Minister himself, during the election of 1895, on his election card called public attention to the fact that they as a Party were in favor of universal compensation for all accidents. The hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow, in his election address, stated that the Government meant to give compensation to workmen for all accidents during their employment, which meant doing away with a most costly and embittering legislation. And so one might go on through all election speeches and addresses of hon. Members opposite, showing that they obtained support at the election in consequence of the pledges they gave to propose a scheme to give universal compensation for accidents which arose in the course of employment. One of the reasons given by the Government for excluding a large section of working people from the Act of 1897 was that they were engaged by small employers, and that the position of the workmen under them was very little different to that of their employers. They applied that argument not only to shop assistants 627 and others, but also to the agricultural labourer. What happened? In 1900, after deciding upon an appeal to the country, and wishing to obtain the sympathy of the agricultural labourer, they supported a measure introduced by one of their supporters, and extended the Act to agricultural labourers. By their extension of the Act in 1900 to agricultural labourers at the time when the Government wanted the support of the agricultural vote, they had given up the defence they made against the extension of the Act to all employments, and in the light of admitted facts he called on the Government in the words of the Resolution for immediate amendment of the Act.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said that as a large employer of labour, employing over 4,000 men in one of the most dangerous employments, namely, coal mining, he had had a long experience in the settlement of claims for compensation. The Workmen's Compensation Act had done a vast amount of good, and he thought this would be admitted frankly and freely by the leaders of trades unions, and more especially by the miners' unions. That there were many anomalies and difficulties in the Act could not be denied for a moment, and he cordially seconded, almost in all particulars, the views put forward in support of the Resolution by hon. Members opposite. If a man was injured in any way in the course of his employment, why should he not have compensation? Why make two bites of a cherry? But he must make an exception as far as serious and wilful misconduct was concerned. Wilful misconduct, and tampering with Davy lamps in coal mines involving danger of explosion, were matters employers had constantly to fight against. In many cases he had to bring men into Court for wilfully endangering not only their own lives, but the lives of their fellow-workmen. He remembered the Colonial Secretary saying in this House that the Employers' Liability Bill might well be called the Lawyers' Employment 628 Bill. He thought the Workmen's Compensation Bill might also be called the Lawyers' Employment Bill. In Scotland, so far as coal mining was concerned, they had an association which regulated all these claims, and through the skill and co-operation of the working men they generally managed to arrange a very large proportion of them, but the difficulty—and this was what he most earnestly desired to call attention to—was that employers were exposed to the dangers not of one Act but of three Acts. If the country wished to be rid of the litigation and annoyance caused in this way he would recommend the Home Secretary to bring in a Bill to do away with the Employers Liability Act in this matter, and to see that all trades were put on the same footing. He did not see why the benefits of the Workmen's Compensation Act should be confined to the highly organised trades. Speaking for himself and not for any association, the only exception he would make would be in the case of seamen, because the ships on which they were employed went abroad and out of the range of the employers' jurisdiction. He strongly urged the Government to appoint a Commission to inquire into the working of the Compensation Act, with a view to remedy the anomalies complained of and to prevent so much litigation.
§ MR. LEVY (Leicestershire, Loughborough)
said that the promises made on this subject had been sufficiently numerous, and he thought the time had come when hon. Members might expect something more from the Government than a Commission of inquiry. He anticipated that the Home Secretary would promise that the subject would be dealt with forthwith. It was not difficult to point out what the great blots on the Act were. He would quote one or two instances to show how indefinite Clause 1 was, and how difficult it was to know the scope of its terms. Clause 4 dealt with the position of "contractor" and the position of "undertaker." He thought most people would agree that the undertaker was practically the employer for the time being. There could, in his opinion, be no reason why any other construction should be put on the word undertaker, and he must accept the responsibility 629 for any accident happening to his workpeople. Clause 7 referred to the questions of factories, workshops, scaffolding, and their definition. These questions could be easily dealt with without any Commission. Another great blot on the Act was in relation to the question of "the first fourteen days at the employées' cost," which often meant that the person who sustained the accident did not receive any payment before the twenty-first day and often the twenty eighth day. He objected to the arrangement by which only 50 per cent. of a man's wages was paid to him after meeting with an accident. Everyone would admit that if a man met with an accident the probability was that he would incur greater expense than if he were at work. It might be said that he would get relief from his club, but it should be remembered that there was a great percentage of workmen who did not belong to clubs. Hence they would not get relief in that way. He thought it was incongruous that there should be under the Act a maximum limit of 20s. when there was no minimum limit. The limit was certainly put in to protect the employer, but if the employer was entitled to protection he ventured to say that no one would get up and contend that the employee was not equally entitled to protection. The fact that there was no minimum worked seriously in the case of young people who were earning low wages. It also materially affected the position of people working in the unskilled trades in which, as everyone knew, the dangers were often greater even than in connection with those for which high training was required and where the best machinery was employed. The wages in those industries were low, accidents were frequent, and compensation in the present state of the law was particularly small. Among the businesses which he included in this class were brewing, and the manufacture of mineral waters, tin boxes, and patent medicines. He proposed to refer to a few cases to strengthen his argument in favour of an amendment of the law.George Ranger, age 15, was employed as a chain boy by a railway company at Leeds at 8s. a week. He was knocked down and run over by some trucks; one leg was severed above the knee, and the other so crushed as to 630 necessitate amputation; he was totally incapacitated. The compensation was 4s. a week.Mary Worrall, age 18, was employed in a steam laundry at 7s. a week. She was entirely dependent on her own earnings. Her left thumb was caught in cog-wheels and crushed. The compensation was 3s. 6d. a week till she was able to return to work. The first payment was due three weeks after the date of the accident.William Dimelow, a lad employed on brick-making machine, at 9s. a week, had three lingers of left hand caught and crushed, and they had to be amputated. The compensation was 4s. 6d. a week whilst he was unable to work.Richard Dawson, age 14, was employed at a wine and spirit merchants at 6s. a week. Whilst he was trying to put a strap on the wheel of a machine for washing bottles his arm was torn off. The application made for compensation under the Act was for 3a. a week, but it was not allowed, as the Judge held the applicant was not engaged upon his proper work at the time of the accident.Sarah Brambley, age 15½, calender hand in steam laundry, received 5s. a week in wages. Her left hand was caught between hot rollers and was crushed and burnt. The fingers and large portion of the hand had to be amputated. The compensation offered by the firm under the Workmen's Compensation Act was 2s. 6d. a week for three years, less any sums earned. The case is now being taken under the Employers Liability Act as the calender was unguarded. The girl was a promising worker for her age.Ellen Stone, age 55, widow, with partially dependent mother, was employed at steam laundry, wages 11s. 6d. a week. Her left thumb was crushed in a wringer and had to be amputated. The compensation under the Act was 5s. 9d. a week. The first payment was due three weeks after the date of the accident. She would have had to go to the workhouse had not the firm made payments to her from the date of the accident, and at a scale above the sum legally due to her.He did not think any one would say on the face of these cases that if there was a maximum there should not also be a minimum. He wished also to refer to the litigation which was continually arising through the lack of clear definitions in the Act. In one case brought under his notice repairs were being made onThe walls of a refuse destructor consisting of open arches. It was resolved to fill up these arches with panels. A workman, while fixing the frames to hold these panels, met with an accident. He claimed compensation from his employers. The County Court Judge held, in the first place, that the work upon which this workman was engaged was not 'construction,' and, secondly, that a plank supported by two piles of slag was not 'scaffolding.' He, therefore, refused to award him compensation. The workman appealed, and the Court of Appeal 631 sent the case back to the County Court Judge for him to state his view of the facts as to what was actually the work in question, and his reasons for holding that it was not 'construction.' The Court held that the County Court Judge was wrong in holding that the plank in question was not a 'scaffolding.' In another case a workman, employed by a builder who was executing repairs to the roof of a house exceeding 30 feet in height, was carrying slates up a ladder when it slipped and he fell and was injured. He claimed compensation from his employer. The ladder in question was placed against the house to enable workmen to get on to the roof from the street, one end of the ladder resting on the ground and the other end leaning against the parapet at the top of the house. There was no ladder, crawling-board, or other contrivance on the roof. The Country Court Judge held that the ladder was not a 'scaffolding,' within the meaning of the Act, and refused to award the workman compensation. He appealed; and the Court of Appeal declined to hold that the County Court Judge had misdirected himself, and dismissed the appeal.One of the classes of employment to which the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1897, applies, is employment 'on or in or about any building which exceeds thirty feet in height, and is either being constructed or repaired by means of a scaffolding.'A bricklayer, employed by a firm of builders executing a contract for the building of a new wing to a dwelling-house, was injured while at work, and claimed compensation from his employers. There was a cesspool into which the house was drained, situated at a considerable distance from the house, but connected with it by a drain. Close to this cesspool there was a heap of bricks, to be used in repairing it. The bricklayer was chipping off a piece of brick from one of the heap, when a piece flew into his eye and injured it. The County Court Judge awarded the bricklayer compensation, and the employers appealed, contending that, although the main building was over thirty feet in height, and scaffolding was being used on the new wing, and also in connection with one of the chimneys, there was no evidence to show that the bricklayer at the time of the accident was working on, or in, or about a building which exceeded thirty feet in height, and which was either being constructed or repaired by means of a scaffolding. The Court of Appeal held that there was ample evidence on which the County Court Judge could come to the conclusion at which he arrived, and dismissed the appeal with costs. This was a very absurd instance. The man was working on the ground when the accident occurred, yet the question of compensation depended on the building—'situated at a considerable distance'—being over thirty feet in height. In another case a claim for compensation was made against a builder by the widow of a workman who was injured while engaged in putting an iron roof on to a boiler-house. This house formed part of a factory which was being constructed by this builder, but he had made a sub-contract with the employers of the 632 deceased for putting on this roof. The County Court Judge found as a fact that contracts for putting up iron roofs formed no part of the trade or business carried on by this builder, but that contracts of that kind are nowadays commonly made in the building trade, and held that the work in question was not merely ancillary or incidental to, but was part of, or a process in, the trade or business carried on by the builder. On appeal, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, holding that, on the findings of fact of the County Court Judge, the putting up of the iron roof was merely ancillary or incidental to, and was no part of, or process in, the trade or business carried on by the builder. The Compensation Acts applied only to certain classes of employment, including employment by the undertakers, as in the Acts defined, on or in or about a factory. 'Undertakers,' in the case of a factory, meant the occupier thereof within the meaning of the Factory Acts. A firm of engineers was engaged in erecting a fly-wheel for an engine in a cotton factory, when one of their workmen met with a fatal accident while at work in the factory. The widow of this workman claimed compensation from the mill-owners and the engineers. But the County Court Judge made an award against the widow, who appealed. The Court of Appeal held that the claim must fail as against the mill-owners, because the putting up of the fly-wheel was not any part of, or process in, the trade or business of cotton manufacturers carried on by them, and as against the engineers, because they were not the 'undertakers,' not being the occupiers of the mill. The Court accordingly dismissed the appeal with costs. (See Gazette, April, 1901, p. 107.) The widow then appealed to the House of Lords, the appeal being brought against the decision of the Court below, only so tar as it concerned the engineers. The House of Lords dismissed the appeal, holding that the engineers were not liable to pay compensation because the accident happened, not in their factory, but on the premises of other persons.In most large factories at the present time the owners employed engineers to look after their machinery, and therefore if the law, as stated in that case, could be maintained, it eliminated from the provisions of the Act a very large number of workpeople. He had many other cases he could quote, but he thought those he had mentioned were sufficient to show the incongruity of the Act as it stood. They had a right to claim that the Act should be amended at once, because in 1897, in this House, Lord Ridley, then Sir M. White Ridley, said—The Government did not contend this was a complete or final Bill. It was a tentative measure, but it was an honest attempt to deal with a difficult question.633 The present Chancellor of the Exchequer said to the Trade Union Congress deputation on 6th February last year—It was quite clear that, however carefully the Bill was drawn, there would be a large number of points which could only be judged by experience. For instance, take the point in connection with the erection or demolition of buildings. It was a very arbitrary point whether a less distance than 30 feet should debar a workman from compensation in case of accidents; it certainly was a point which would have to be considered. Then there was the period of qualification referred to. He did not think that matter had been properly dealt with. As to whether the provisions of the Act should be extended, and how it should be extended, he was only repeating what he had said before when he said that he thought it was now time to extend the Act. He thought that generally employers were perfectly willing that the Act should be extended.Having been connected for many years with a large manufactory, he believed that most manufacturers were quite prepared to see the Act extended. What was required was an extension of the Act to all accidents and injuries arising out of employment, giving full compensation to all workpeople included in the Act from the day the accident happened. This was the barest justice to the employees, and would not inflict any hardship on the employers because they could meet all their liabilities by insurance. It would simply mean a slight increase in the premium. He hoped they would get a satisfactory answer from the Home Secretary, because the grievance of the employees was not sentimental or imaginary.
§ MR. BUTCHER (York)
said he gave his hearty support to the Resolution, and he did so mainly on the ground that the Act had been so eminently successful. Now that the Act had proved so great a success in the case of the more dangerous trades, he saw no reason why it should not be extended to all the trades of the country. The Act had proved of enormous value to the workman, but he went further and said that it had proved to be an advantage to the employer. All the terrible fears which were expressed by some hon. Members in this House as to the ruinous rates of insurance which would be necessary had been shown to be to a large extent groundless. In the case of railway contractors 634 the rate had fallen from 25s. per £100 of wages to 7s. 6d.; in shipbuilding from 35s. to 10s., and in the textile industry from 15s. to 3s. 6d., and sometimes actually as low as 1s. 3d. He thought, therefore, he was justified in saying that the Act had proved a success both for employers and workmen. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division had referred in terms of regret to the considerable amount of litigation which had taken place, but he would remember that under the Employers' Liability Act there was unfortunately a very great amount of litigation also. He himself had looked into the statistics, and was satisfied that the litigation under the Employers' Liability Act was greater than under the Workmens' Compensation Act. He did not support the hon. Member for Falkirk when that Gentleman stated that a Commission was necessary to inquire into the matter. In some cases, as, for instance, on the vexed question of trade disputes, it might be necessary to have a Commission to inquire what the law was, and whether it should be amended, but in this case there was no such necessity. They had already extended the Act to agricultural labourers, and it might with advantage be extended to all the industries of the country, putting aside for the moment seamen, who fell into a different class. The extension of the Act would have two most valuable results. Not only would it give the advantages of the Act to those workmen now excluded from its benefits, but it would have the effect of wiping out a serious amount of litigation which now took place for the purpose of determining whether the particular workman injured did or did not, fall within the provisions of the Act. The amended Act should, in general words, embrace all workmen, and if there was any class which it was desired to exclude, they could be specifically excluded. Broadly speaking, on both sides of the House they were in general agreement that now the original experimental legislation had proved a success they would be justified—it would be their duty—to extend it to other classes of workmen, and to remedy the defects of the Act which had been discovered in its operation.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W. R., Barnsley)
said that for the last two years he had had charge of an Amending Bill which had been prepared by the Trades Union Congress, and at the present moment there was another Workmen's Compensation Bill which had been drafted and agreed upon by the Trades Union Congress, the Miners' Federation and the textile workers of this country, which he would introduce in the House within the next few days. The chief points as regarded the amendment of the existing law desired by the trade unions might be briefly summarised as follows: First, a change in the law which would place liability upon all employers for injuries done to all workers—men, women, and children. Second, that the provision in the existing law that compensation in case of accident should not be given for a fortnight after the accident took place should be abolished, and that the compensation should be reckoned from the day the accident happened. Third, that the doctrine of contributory negligence on the part of the workmen should be abolished. Some objection might be raised to the last proposal, but no one could imagine that a workman would intentionally do an act which would endanger his life or limb.
§ MR. BUTCHER
said he thought he was right in saying that the doctrine of contributory negligence was not part of this Act.
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
said that the trade unions objected to the doctrine of contributory negligence as at present interpreted. Take the case of a coal miner working at the face. He might put up such timber for the safety of the working face as he considered sufficient, but he might make a mistake and might be held under the present law guilty of negligence in not having placed sufficient timber. No one could imagine that a working man would run the risk of unnecessary danger, and therefore the law ought to be made much clearer than at present, and that any mistake made on the part of the working man should not debar him from receiving compensation under the Act. Fourth, the trade unions desired the law to be amended, providing a scale of compensation in case 636 of accident. At the present moment, supposing a workman met with an accident the very first day he entered his employment; there was very considerable difficulty in fixing the amount of compensation. There was a notorious case in which a man was injured on the day he commenced his employment. He had only earned 2s., and the Courts divided that 2s. by six, and he only got 4d. per week as compensation during the time he was laid up. The trade unions desired that the law should be amended, so that there would be a minimum of compensation irrespective of the length of time a man worked in a mine; that was, that the average wage earned per week by the men in the same grade of work should be the basis of the compensation to be paid in case of accident; and compensation should be given for loss of life on the same lines to the man's family. When the Workmen's Compensation Act was passed it was thought by the colliery owners of this country that it would be ruinous, and that it would cost them at the rate of 3d. or 4d. per ton of coal. As a matter of fact, the cost throughout the North of England had been only two-thirds of a penny per ton on the average. Surely that was a great encouragement to extend the Act to all workers of the country—men, women, and children, including sailors. He ventured to say that no expenditure would be so fruitful and beneficial as a liberal rearrangement of the Workmen's Compensation Act. If the Government took in hand the measure he was about to introduce on behalf of the trades unionists and passed it into law, which they could do in two or three days, they would earn the gratitude of the workers of the country. They had had astute electioneering legislation, such as the extension of the Act to the agricultural labourer, and they had had an electioneering Budget, but he could assure the Government that there would be no charge of electioneering made against them if they extended the Act and passed it into law during the present Session.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said that there was no necessity for the passionate declamation of the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division about the remissness of hon. Members sitting on the Government Benches with respect to the injuries to workmen in the course of 637 their employment. The first speech he had made in the House was in favour of the Employers' Liability Act of 1880. He also took part in 1888, as a subordinate Minister, in the discussions on the Bill of that year, which would have very largely extended the Act of 1880. He remembered the debate on the Bill of 1893 introduced by the right hon. Member for W. Fife, and he also remembered that the problem of the present Workmen's Compensation Act had then been developed by the present Colonial Secretary. It was not uninteresting to refer to these debates, because the curious and apparently indefensible limit as to the height of the buildings was borrowed from the Factory Act of 1895, introduced and passed by the right hon. Member for W. Fife.
Many years ago he had ventured to suggest in this House that they were proceeding on hopelessly wrong lines as long as they mixed up the negligence of other workmen with the case of injury of an employee. The Act of 1897 gave a practical certainty to the workman that, independently of all questions of negligence, he should receive compensation for his injuries. That was a tremendous new departure in the law, and he was bound to say that the Ministry of that day were right in asking the House to proceed cautiously. They did proceed cautiously, and did not apply the Act to agricultural labourers, for the very good reason that in the election in the year preceding the passing of the Act not a word was said of the possibility of extending the liability for compensation to the farmers class. He thought it would not have been fair, without much fuller notice, to place so serious a new liability upon that class, who had no sort of reason to imagine that it would be imposed upon them. There were also solid reasons for drawing a distinction between the liability of small employers and large employers. He did not say that in the Act of 1897 there were no ambiguities, and that possibly litigation had resulted from these ambiguities; but of one thing he was absolutely assured, and that was, that whatever litigation had resulted from the Act, it was less than would 638 have been the case if the existence of negligence had been again made the condition of the benefit to be enjoyed by the employees. It was true that the Act of 1897 deprived an employee of compensation if he were guilty of wilful misconduct, but, apart from that provision, the Act had given an enormous protection to the workmen, and he had never been quite able to understand the opposition of the representatives of labour in this House to the insertion of that provision. He remembered a case of a workman in a coal mine, who was repeatedly told to use certain means for the purpose of supporting the roof of his working place. The workman failed to comply with the directions given him. His attention was drawn to it again, and again he failed to comply. Subsequently an accident occurred, and serious damage was caused to life or limb. When the case was tried, the County Court Judge, for reasons best known to himself, held that there had not been serious and wilful misconduct on the part of the workman. It was obvious, under these circumstances, that the protection of fellow - workmen so devised had not proved what this House had every right to expect it would; but that was a necessary part of the system which the House wisely adopted when it gave the administration of the Act to the smaller and humbler tribunals, with the praiseworthy desire to give to workmen easy and cheap justice at their own door. He did not think the (Government had any reason to treat the Motion with disfavour, and he saw nothing in the experience of the Act of 1897 which should make this House close the door to any deserving class in this respect. Of course it was open for the Government to say that at this late period of the session their settled legislative arrangements could not suffer violent disruption and upheaval, but at any rate those who embarked on the experiment of 1897, which gave the working men of the country great benefits by relieving them of a most fruitful source of litigation and by giving them certainty and promptitude in the recovery of compensation, had the least possible reason to fear the consequences of assenting to such a Motion as this.
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON (Leeds, S.)
said the hon. Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield had shown himself most anxious to defend the Government against any charge of lack of caution in their legislation on this subject, but he thought the last charge which any critic would be disposed to prefer against them was that the series of Acts which had been passed at their instance had been characterised by headlong or precipitate action. Those who had listened to the debate that night, and had heard the unanimous expression of opinion that the present Act was totally inadequate to deal with the mischief at which it was aimed, would be inclined to ask why proposals of legislation had not hitherto appeared in the King's Speech opening Parliament. They would await with some curiosity to hear what definite promise the Home Secretary was prepared to make when he came to deal with the Motion. But before that stage was reached one was a little tempted to follow the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke in the vein of reminiscence in which he had indulged. He had drawn their attention to the different pieces of legislation which the House had from time to time undertaken. But there were those on the opposite side of the House who could refer back with a considerable degree of satisfaction to the debates of 1897, for the evils which were predicted by the Opposition at the time of the passing of the imperfect measure of 1897 had been amply realised in the experience of the last five and a half years. In the first place they pointed out that the interpretation of the Bill by the Courts of Law would open the floodgates of litigation. They were met with the answer that the Bill was a layman's Bill, framed by laymen and to be construed by laymen. What had been the result? While a Bill framed in legal terms might have been construed without any excessive amount of litigation, this measure had led to results which had called forth protests from all representatives of labour. There was another point. The Bill, as originally introduced, provided for no appeal, and they were told that none was required, as the language was so simple that all 640 who ran might read. But as a strong opinion was expressed that the absence of power of appeal might lead to a different rule of construction in every County Court District in England, the Colonial Secretary gave way, and allowed an appeal to the Court of Appeal. He apparently quite forgot that under the existing procedure an appeal to the Court of Appeal was opening the way to an appeal to the House of Lords and the result had been that a whole series of decisions all adverse to the interests of labour and adverse to the true views of the House of Commons had been reversed by the House of Lords.
Again, he might point out in vindication of the Motion and the attitude which the critics of this legislation took up nearly six years ago, that certain limitations had been introduced in the Act which were so artificial in character and so vague in definition and phraseology that no court of law could give a consistent or intelligible interpretation of them. In the first place it was pointed out that the number of trades to which the Act was to apply was very small, and in the second place it was shown that the application varied from time to time according to the operation in which the workman was engaged and the hour of the day at which he was employed. A builder's workman, for example, was out of the Act until the building reached 30ft. from the ground, or until a crane was produced, when the protective provisions of the Act extended to him. If a ladder was in use it did not carry with it the protection of the Act, but it did directly a few planks were attached to it, and the ingenuity of many County Court judges had been expended in defining when an erection amounted to a scaffold. A navvy was protected in a sewer, but not as a workman on the roadway. The dock labourer's position was still more extraordinary. He came within the Act if he could bring the dock within the definition of a factory, but when a dock became a factory was one of the puzzles which the House of Lords had been unable to solve. It was a factory when a ship was moored alongside and her cargo was being discharged with the aid of the dock machinery, but it was not a factory if the ship was away from the side of the docks discharging her cargo into lighters. Therefore, the same man 641 employed by the same stevedore on the same ship came within the Act if she was moored to the dockside, but was deprived of its advantages if the vessel was discharging her cargo into a lighter. He had no desire to disparage, in any way, the tribute which hon. Members opposite had paid to the introducer of the Motion, but he thought he was entitled to point out that these pitfalls so far from having been disclosed by experience in the working of the Act were predicted five and a half years ago. It had taken all those years to satisfy the Government that some reform was needed. These and other defects had been persistently pointed out and, mean while, litigation involving heavy expense and injustice to large classes of the industrial population had taken place. As the Government had made no sign of bringing forward proposals for further legislation he was glad that this Motion had been submitted, especially if it should elicit from the right hon. Gentleman some specific declaration in point of time and character which would satisfy the widespread feeling throughout the country that something further required to be done.
§ COLONEL ROPNER (Stockton)
supported the Motion. It was not at all necessary, he said, to go back to what happened years ago, but the working men of this country would not soon forget that their thanks were due to the Unionist Government for having passed the original Act. After nearly six years experience of the Act, however, he could not see why its provisions should not now be extended to all workmen in the country. He would like to correct one statement by the hon. and learned Member for York, and to inform him that the cost to shipbuilders had been far more than was originally anticipated. It had gone up to 15s. per cent., but the principle of compensation remained the same, whatever the cost might be; and the greater cost only proved the greater reason for insuring the workmen against risk. In his opinion, legislation ought to be introduced as soon as possible to cover all trades. It might be impossible to bring in a Bill this session, but he did hope a pledge would be given that one should be introduced during the life of the present 642 Parliament. When he was pursuing his candidature for Stockton, three years ago, he himself gave a promise to bring in an Amending Bill. At that time he was not aware of the great difficulties a private Member had to surmount when bringing in Bills, or he would have said that he would do his best to induce the Government to legislate on the matter. Now he was wiser, and he would take that opportunity of urging the Home Secretary to take a kindly view of this matter and give the House an assurance that the Government would undertake to extend the Workmen's Compensation Act to all men employed in this country.
§ MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said he was reluctant to stand between the House and the Home Secretary, but he took much interest in the passing of that legislation in 1897, and he wished to recall the attention of the House to the debates of that year. His hon. and learned friend the Member for Leeds had alluded to the great gaps in the Bill, and he now wished to call attention to another gap affecting one class of workmen who had especial claims to the benefits of the Act: the class employed in workshops. It was an injustice that a man employed in a workshop got no compensation for injury, while if he had been in a factory he would have been compensated. It was in the power of the employers to separate a factory into compartments for legal purposes and to call the one where there was no machinery a workshop. A man might thus be employed in a factory one day and in a workshop the next, and the question of his being compensated in case he sustained injury depended solely on which compartment he was in at the time. Surely this was a little concession to ask at the hands of the Government. There was another point he wished to raise. In his opinion, injury to health in the course of employment should be put in the same category as injury to limb. The man employed in the white lead industry, who was afflicted with paralysis, or the man engaged in sorting hides or wool combing, who was very liable to sudden and fatal attacks of anthrax, in consequence of the nature of the work, had as much right to compensation as 643 the man who was injured by a steam crane or a revolving shaft. Then there was the industry connected with the generation of electricity. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the relatives of a man who was killed by an electric shock in the course of this employment were not entitled to compensation. There was another trade, the dangers of which would be realised by the hon. Member for Stockton, and that was one involving the use of inflammable paint. Men who were engaged in painting small enclosed spaces such as peaks, bunkers and the holds of small vessels, and who had to use quick-drying, inflammable paint, ran the danger not only of asphyxiation from the fumes of the naphtha, but also of the injury by fire, for there was great risk that when they were feeling the effects of the naphtha the candle they were using would fall into the paint pot and set fire to the place. Thus if asphyxiated, they or their friends were entitled to no benefits Under the Workmen's Compensation Act, but if at the same time—he was going to say by the grace of God—the candle fell into the paint pot and the workman was burned, then the Compensation Act became operative. These anomalies, added to those quoted by his hon. and learned friend, made out a strong case, he submitted, for further legislation. There were two distinct precedents for the argument he was submitting. One was the Act passed in 1901, which, Section 136, gave compensation to people engaged in dangerous occupations; but that section, owing to its phraseology, had not been put into force. The other was the scheme of compensation given to workers in the pottery trade. When Lord James went down to arbitrate in that trade he suggested a scheme of compensation for men and women injured in their health while in that employment. That was a good precedent which the right hon. Gentleman might follow, and it was very honourable and creditable to Lord James that he was able to institute such a scheme. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will follow the example set by Lord James.
§ MR. BELL (Derby)
said that he only proposed to intervene in the debate in the interest of classes of workmen who 644 were great sufferers from the operation of the Act. He would not emphasise the advantages which a great number of workmen who were fortunate enough to come within the meaning of the Act obtained; but there was still a large number of workmen in different occupations, who, owing to the different interpretations put upon the Act by the judges in the lower Courts, as well as in the Court of Appeal, and in some cases in the House of Lords, were excluded from the Act. For instance, boiler makers were a class who suffered greatly from the loss of their eyesight in consequence of accidents. Yet the insurance company with whom the majority of the shipbuilders insured, in many instances had refused compensation and had refused to insure a workman after he had lost one of his eyes. That was a very great disadvantage, because frequently, when an employer found that such a man was not insured he declined to continue to employ him.
Then a large number, practically all the railway men in the country, engaged in the working of trains were subject to accidents on private sidings. An employee of the North British Railway most unfortunately met with a very serious accident on a private siding. That case was carried to the Court of Session in Scotland, and the Court decided against the workman because he was not on or about the railway at the time of the accident. It had been decided also that appeals to the House of Lords were not allowed under the Act in Scottish cases. He failed to see why a Scottish workman should not have the same access to the House of Lords as an English workman, at any rate under the same Act.
Another class who also suffered through the interpretation which had been put on the Act were railway carmen. There was an instance in which he was interested in which a man was injured only twenty yards from the goods shed. The arbitrator awarded him damages, but the Court of Appeal reversed that decision; and it was now held that a carman meeting with an accident outside the company's premises was not entitled to compensation under the Act. There was even a worse case than that which was brought before him. The London and North-Western Railway Company own premises 100 yards from their main property. A man was injured 645 in the stable owned by the company, and it was held in that case that the stable was not on or about the railway, and consequently the man was unable to obtain compensation. He could quote, if necessary, a number of other cases in support of his contention. He merely rose in order that the Home Secretary might be able to observe the great number of instances in which men were excluded from the benefits of this Act; and he would urge on the right hon. Gentleman to introduce an Amending Bill. Since he had been in the House he had never seen such complete accord as on the present occasion; and he certainly thought that that ought to encourage the right hon. Gentleman to bring in the Bill to amend the Act in accordance with the desire of every hon. Member who had spoken. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor promised to bring in an Amending Bill before the Government went out of office. These were days of great uncertainty; he did not know how soon the Government might go out of office; and, therefore, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bring in the measure as soon as possible.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. AKERS DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)
said after listening to the entire debate he had certainly come to the conclusion that there was a unanimous opinion in that House, first of all with regard to the benefits of the Act of 1897; secondly, in regard to the necessity for amendment and extension; and thirdly—a rather unusual opinion—that the House of: Lords was not such a bad place after all. Hon. Members had repeatedly expressed gratitude to the highest tribunal in the country for having extended the somewhat close interpretation placed on the construction of this Act by the Court of Appeal. He had to thank the hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Motion for the great courtesy with which he introduced it. It was a pleasure to listen to the hon. Member. The hon. Member who seconded him was somewhat more severe in his criticisms of the Act of 1897, and by comparison seemed to prefer the Act which preceded it. [Mr. FENWICK: No.] The hon. Member however, desired not only to see the 646 Act amended, but extended. [Mr. FENWICK assented.] He thought the benefits of the Act had been generally allowed, not only inside but outside the House. By the workmen, certainly, the benefits had been freely admitted; in fact he hardly knew of any gathering of workmen in the country held during the last two or three years which had not gone out of its way first to praise the Act of 1897, and then to press for its extension. The last conference of the Miners' Federation was a case in point. He believed, too, that many of those employers, who, when the Act of 1897 was under consideration, expressed fears lest its results should be to hamper the industry of the country, had found their fears to be very largely unfounded, and had shown comparatively little antagonism to the existing Act. The insurance rates which had been alluded to as first quoted by insurance companies were certainly extravagantly high. They had now, however, been very greatly reduced, and he thought that with a larger experience, and probably with the larger field afforded by an extension of the Act, they might be still further reduced. As had been stated that night, the Act was introduced as a tentative measure, and was confined to those industries which were thought to be most liable to accidents and about which statistics were most easily procurable. The Government had repeatedly promised to amend the Act and to extend it, and they had certainly never shown any unwillingness to receive suggestions to that end. All they asked was that, before undertaking its amendment and extension, they should have an opportunity of gaining sufficient experience of its working, and that they should wait until certain points had been definitely decided by the courts. Personally he had been in favour of an extension of the Act, and he had never made any secret of his desire. He had, in his private capacity, largely availed himself of the Act, and, even before it was passed, he had insured not only the whole of his agricultural servants, but every one of his domestic servants. He found he could do it on the cheapest possible terms, and the result was not only a benefit to the servant, but a satisfaction to himself. He was, therefore, not preaching what he did not practise.
647 It would be generally understood, he thought, that the Government were prepared to accept the spirit of this Motion; but, as he pointed out in February to a deputation from the Trade Union Congress, and as the members of that deputation agreed, there were certain inquiries which it was necessary to make before they would be in a position to introduce anything more than a very flimsy Bill indeed. He had every hope and intention, however, of introducing a Bill next session which would deal with the question of Amendment and of what extension was possible. It had been generally admitted that, while the Act had worked smoothly and well in many respects, there were certain points which were ripe for Amendment. Many serious difficulties undoubtedly arose in the earlier years of the Act owing to the narrow constructions which were placed upon many of its provisions by the Court of Appeal. This was especially the case with regard to the notice to be given by the workman, the application of the Act to casual labourers, to the building trades, and to workmen employed in vessels and in docks. Many of these difficulties had been removed by decisions of the House of Lords, while an Amendment introduced into the Factory Act of 1901 in regard to docks had practically made a ship in a dock, harbour, or canal equivalent to a factory. So that it was no longer possible for a workman to be injured on one side of the ship and not obtain compensation, whereas, if he had been working on the other side of it he would have been entitled to it. A good deal had been said that night as to the cost of litigation under the Act. They did not often find lawyers so frank or so careless of their fees as the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who spoke strongly against litigation; and he would be glad to find that there were lawyers who were prepared to give up their emoluments for the public good. But, considering the enormous number of accidents that occurred, and quite apart from the litigation involved under the Act in regard to points of construction, he did not really think it had been very large. A great number of cases had been settled promptly and by agreement without coming into court at all, and the number of appeals was very largely diminished. The facts were clearly set out in the statistics 648 under the Workmen's Compensation Act which had been published for the year 1901. These statistics showed that the costs of litigation under the Compensation Act in 1901 were considerably less than the costs under the Employers' Liability Act. He found that the average amount of solicitors' costs was, in that year, under the Employers' Liability Act, £21 5s. 0d., and under the Compensation Act, £10 13s. 0d.
§ MR. FENWICK
said that his statement was that as far as the Northumberland Miners' Association was concerned their expenses were considerably heavier under this Act.
§ MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said that the hon. Member's district must have been more unfortunate than other districts. The cost of litigation had been less, and the number of appeals was considerably decreasing. He thought that as the Compensation Act dealt with entirely new matters, the legal questions to be settled must necessarily be numerous. But it was reasonable to suppose that the majority of the decisions would be given during the first years of the operation of the Act; and, judging by these statistics, he earnestly hoped that the worst of the litigation was over, and that in future years the Act would work, not only as smoothly as it had done, but with less expense.
With regard to the points which called for amendment, the question which struck him most was that of no compensation for the first fortnight. The present Act did not apply when a workman was disabled for a period of less than two weeks, nor was compensation payable in respect of the first fortnight in the case of prolonged disablement. When the Bill was before the House it was urged that there should be some period of delay in order to check malingering. He thought two weeks was not an exceptional period to prescribe in order to test the bonâ fides of the claimant; but if the disablement was serious and asted longer than two weeks, and the bonâ fides of the claimant were distinctly proved, he certainly thought there was a clear case for making the compensation payable from the time of the accident. That would be a very reasonable Amendment, and would not interfere with the 649 necessity for proving a bonâ fide serious case. Then there was the question of serious and wilful misconduct. This condition was not in the Bill as it was originally introduced, but was rightly added by the House. By the decisions of the Courts given since the Act was passed it had been settled that the exception did not apply to cases of mere negligence on the part of a workman; it only applied in a bad case where the workman had sustained injury in consequence of directly disobeying the distinct orders of the employer. He could not agree that compensation should be given in such a case. To do so would certainly be inequitable, and would be putting a premium on disobedience. Some of the suggested Amendments could easily be dealt with, but there were others which required further consideration. He might tell the House frankly that they were now being considered, and had been noted for some time past by the Home Office, with a view to an Amending Act.
In addition to the request for an Amending Act there was the request for the extension of the Act. The Act applied only to persons engaged in or about mines, quarries, factories, and engineering works, to certain classes of building works, and to persons employed in agriculture. He fully recognised the desirability and necessity of a further extension of the Act, at any rate, to all industrial employments. In 1897 Lord Ridley intimated that they proposed to proceed tentatively, and to take in the first instance those classes of industry which included the great majority of industrial accidents, and in regard to which full statistics and information were available. But there were certain classes which at present were wholly excluded from the Act. There were, for instance, the seamen and the fishermen. This was a subject which he should like to have seen discussed that night, but he was afraid he should be ruled out of order if he entered into that question. Perhaps the House, therefore, would excuse his going further. There was a point raised by the Member for Derby, however, to which he wished to refer—the question of inland transport service, carriers, and others. There were also classes connected with the building trade, and some of these classes, although small in point of numbers, were amongst those who 650 suffered most under exclusion from the existing Act. Very often the importance of a class in regard to numbers was in inverse degree to their liability to accidents. All these points would be very carefully considered, and they were being considered now. He could say they would be seriously considered during the present year. Then the hon. Member for Barnsley, who proposed to introduce a Bill on behalf of the trade unions, stated that he might gain considerable experience by looking at that Bill. Well, the Bill had not yet appeared, but the hon. Member had promised to show it to him. However, if that Bill were based on a former Bill introduced on the part of the trades unions on the subject, he thought it could hardly effect the purpose which the hon. Member aimed at, because it included cases to which the provisions of the Act could not possibly apply.
§ MR. TENNANT
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider the question of injury to health.
§ MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
Certainly with regard to poisonous trades. That was a matter well worthy of consideration. He was already engaged in drafting a Bill which would amend the existing Acts, but he could not promise to deal with the question this session. He thought it would be unreasonable to expect him at this period of the session to introduce a Bill extending the existing most useful Acts.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
said he had listened with great satisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as he understood him to accept the Motion, so that they would not be put to the trouble of a division. He only rose to make a few comments on what had been said. He thought that, on the whole, the existing Act was a very good Act and that it had done good work. The whole of the difficulty that had arisen about the Act was due to the exemption from its operation of particular trades. Indeed, the whole litigation which had taken place had been entirely due to the system of exemption, limitation, and qualification which was most unnecessarily introduced 651 at the time the Act was under consideration. In the first place, the whole class of seamen was exempted. There was no reason whatever why seamen should not be put in the same category as agricultural labourers and others. Another important class were builders' workmen. For five years the Courts had been engaged in deciding what was a scaffold. Metaphysical questions of the subtlest character, such as might have puzzled the schools, were made the subject of judicial decision. Again, there was a limitation in the scope of the Bill whereby, in order to establish a claim for compensation the injury must have been sustained on the premises of the employer. In a case arising on this point, he had been personally engaged, where an engineer fitting a fly-wheel to an engine was injured and had not the right to compensation he would have had because he was injured on the premises of the customer who had ordered the wheel, and not on the premises of the man's employer. All these subtle, unnecessary, and artificial distinctions should be swept away, and he hoped that in the Amending Bill promised by the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the Act would be extended to all classes of workers in all employments, without limitation of time or place.