§ THE SECRETARY FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLADSTONE,) Leeds, W.
I hope I shall not have to inflict on the House a very long statement; the subject is familiar to most Members; and a considerable part of the Bill deals with details in the recommendations of the Departmental Committee which are rather subjects for discussion in Committee than on any other stage. The question with which the Bill deals has advanced by stages, and will advance. Up to 1880 there was the common law for the benefit of the workman, and in that year it was reinforced by the Employers' Liability Act, which continued in operation, with all the disadvantages attending the legal distinctions of negligence and common employment until 1897, when a totally new departure was made with the Workmen's Compensation Act, founded on the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that, when a person on his own responsibility sets in motion an agency that creates risks for others, he ought to be similarly responsible for what he does. The acceptance 887 of the liability of employers was made subject in 1897 to two considerations; first, the right of compensation was limited to the most dangerous employments, and, secondly, the liability was limited to those employers who could either afford to pay directly or through insurance against the risk. Then in 1900 the Workmen's Compensation Act of that year was extended to agricultural labourers and gardeners. In that Act two of the main principles of the Act of 1897 were abandoned, because it was made to include two employments which are among the safest in the country; and, in the second place, it included employment which exposed small farmers to very considerable risks on the ground that they would not be able to pay heavy compensation in case of serious injury to a workman and might not insure, because the premium on insurance was out of all proportion to the risk. The Government now think that the time has arrived for a wide extension of the Act of 1897 to every class of labour, and in the Bill a new principle is adopted which differentiates it from the Act of 1897. That Act excluded all classes of workmen who were not directly and expressly included; and it is now proposed to reverse this, and, subject to the definition of a workman in the Bill, all will be included who are not expressly excluded. The definition is important, as it is really a governing factor in the Bill. A workman includes any person not a police-constable, clerk, shop assistant, outworker, domestic servant, or a member of the employer's family dwelling in his house who works under contract for wages or serves under apprenticeship by way of manual labour or otherwise, and whether the contract is expressed or implied, oral or in writing. Under that definition certain classes of the community are excluded; but the House will observe that workmen employed in workshops, in transport service, fishermen, postmen, and seamen will be brought within the operation of the Act. With regard to seamen, the Committee which considered the subject two years ago recommended that their case should be dealt with under Section 207 of the Merchant Shipping Act, and hon. Members will know that under that Act provision was made for seamen injured during the voyage, but after landing they had to take their chance. The 888 Government consider that the best and simplest plan would be to bring them under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and we propose, therefore, to deal with them in opposition to the proposal of the Committee. When a seaman lands after a voyage during which he has been partially or totally incapacitated he will be able to claim under the Workman's Compensation Act. The difficulty of small employers which considerably hampered Parliament in 1897 is still with us. There are a number of small workshops throughout the country and a number of small employments in which an employer is practically a workman himself; and, as hon. Members know, it is the small employer who, as a rule, neglects to insure and in case of serious injury is unable to pay very heavy compensation. According to the evidence given before the Committee, 25 per cent. of the employers in the building trade do not insure at all, and probably the greater proportion of that 25 per cent. consist of small employers. It does not always happen that small employers do not insure, for the report of the Committee mentioned stevedores as an important exception and who, though they paid a high premium, did as a rule insure. But, putting aside exceptions, small employers prefer to take the risk of accidents rather than to pay the minimum premium out of all propor ion to the risks in their particular trades. The Committee spent a good deal of time on this question and pointed out that the successful working of the Act of 1897 was largely due to the organisation of the system of mutual insurance agencies and the action of the larger trade unions. When there was organised co-operation the Act of 1897 had worked extremely well. But the Committee went on to point out that in industries where employers and workmen were not organised it was doubtful if the same results could be achieved and it was difficult to say how far small employers would insure. It is dangerous to concede by law a right which in many cases will prove to be illusory; and for that reason we propose that employers whose workmen do not exceed five in number shall not come under the operations of the Act. That limitation does not apply to agriculture — the clause relating to agriculture provides that the test shall be one permanent workman— 889 and there are some other exceptions. Under this limitation there will no doubt be hardships and anomalies, but this Bill is not and cannot be final. There is no reason why different classes of workpeople, such as shop assistants and clerks, should be excluded from the Bill, but in certain cases small employers would have to pay a premium out of all proportion to the risk in their particular trade, and for that reason a large number would not insure at all. Then, if there were an accident, the employee would not have a substantial man to proceed against and the employer probably would be ruined. The ultimate solution of the whole question is probably to be found in a scheme of compulsory insurance. When we have seen how this Bill works, fresh proposals might be made to make up proved deficiencies, to extend it to other classes, and to get rid of limitations; and some plan of cheap and easy insurance on a small scale through the medium of the Post Office might be possible. But we have not reached that point yet. There is one important limitation to the exclusion of workmen under the limit of five. It is provided that if the accident to a workman coming under the definition is attributable to the use by the employer of machinery driven by steam, water, or other mechanical power, or if the workman at the time of the accident was employed in the care or management of horses, mining, quarrying, or building operations, or in laying or repairing any electric line or works, the limit of five shall not apply in the case of such workmen. The House will see that that is an important limitation of the exclusion, and I think it will agree that it is a valuable and practical application of the principle of workmen's compensation to cases which most require it and which otherwise would be cut out by the limitation. I have now dealt with the basis and scope of the Bill. One incidental advantage of the new form will be that our old friend the "undertaker" will go out of workmen's compensation, and we get rid of the definition of included trades which has been so fruitful of litigation under the Act. Most of the proposals in this Bill are based wholly or in part on the valuable recommendations of the Departmental Committee over which Sir Kenelm Digby presided. In the first place, we propose 890 to extend workmen's compensation to industrial diseases. That involves a new departure. Of all the casualties to which the industrial army is unfortunately liable, those arising from disease are the most pitiable and disastrous. The Committee did not recommend that industrial diseases should be included in the Bill, but the Government thought the case was so strong that, although the difficulties were great, they thought a strong effort ought to be made to surmount them. Therefore, we propose to include in the Bill the following diseases:— Anthrax, lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, phosphorus poisoning, arsenic poisoning, and ankylostomiasis. The clause which deals with this question contains the following general provision. Where a workman is certified to be suffering from disease, and thereby partially or totally disabled from earning full wages, and his disease is due to the nature of the employment on which he has been engaged during the previous twelve months, he is to be entitled to compensation, the compensation to be recovered from the employer who last employed him. But if the employer proves that the disease was, in fact, contracted or developed while the workman was in the service of another employer, or other employers, there is to be proportionate and collective responsibility. In these cases the limit of five is not applicable, and the Secretary of State is given powers by Provisional Order to extend this provision to other diseases. We have given effect to the Committee's recommendations in respect of sub-contracts, and the law will be amended to give the workman security for the recovery of compensation, the principal not to be liable, however, for accidents on premises which are not under his control or management; With regard to the payment of compensation, this is not made under the existing law until a fortnight has elapsed from the time of the accident. The Committee think that any interference with this provision of the law would involve a grave departure from the system of 1897. The Government have given serious consideration to this matter, knowing full well that there is a strong objection to any interference with the law as it stands. We have considered the case of industries which are alleged 891 already to be hampered by the cost of the Acts. The Committee found that hitherto the pecuniary burden imposed by the Acts upon the employers has not been excessive. On the other hand, we have to remember that the employers have not yet come to the point when compensation under the Act of 1897 will reach its highest level, after which it will probably go down to a certain extent. But since 1897, taking into account all available experience, the Government have come to the conclusion that trade has not been hampered by the Act sufficiently to prevent what they considered a further measure of justice. There was ample evidence given to the Committee that large masses of men, women, and children whose weekly earnings amounted to something between 5s. and 25s. a week are put to the most serious hardship by the operation of the law as it stands. We have therefore come to the conclusion that the two weeks shall be reduced to one. That is the proposal in the Bill. Of course it will put a certain increased cost upon the employer. The cost has been variously estimated by experts before the Committee at from 25 per cent. up to 50 per cent. I will not at this moment hazard an opinion as to the incidence of that increased cost. A small proportion possibly may fall upon wages; but it will probably be distributed between the proprietor and the customer— at any rate, it will be distributed upon the resources of the trade without, as we think, doing any injury at all to the trade, and it is a measure of justice which we cannot leave out of this Bill. Under the present law compensation is based on the wages received or agreed to be paid while the workman is in the service of the same employer. But the effect of the law as it stands imposes a great hardship on some classes of workmen, especially on those engaged in casual labour The Committee have given instances of hardship which occur under the present law. A man earning from 6s. to 7s. a day may be awarded 3s. 6d. a week. Another case was given in which a man went on for a night's work, and, being injured, received only 2s. a week. Another more extreme case was that of a man, who, in five days earned 30s. and then went on to a fresh job, and was injured in the first hour, and his compensation was reckoned out at 3½d. per week. It is quite obvious 892 that there are great anomalies under the law as it stands which must be removed. Therefore, in the Bill the Government have adopted the recommendation of the Committee, which is founded, virtually, upon the Employers' Liability Act standard. If a man has worked with an employer for two weeks continuously or more then his compensation, when he is injured, will be founded on the wages he is receiving in that] employment, but, if he has not worked continuously for two weeks, then the court must have regard to the earnings which such workman would receive in the same trade, in the same employment, and in the same district. In regard to the reassessment for partial incapacity, the proposal of the Bill is that the weekly payment is not to exceed one-half the difference between the amount of the average weekly earnings before the accident, and the amount which the workman is earning, or is fit to earn. That is to say, if a man who is earning £2 a week is injured and is awarded compensation at the rate of a £1 a week, is, on the reassessment, found capable of earning £1 a week, he would get 10s. a week compensation, so that he would be in a position to earn 30s. a week. There is power under the Bill to commute weekly payments which continued for not less than six months for a lump sum not exceeding £500. With regard to the question of aged persons and minors, the Committee find that the Acts have largely increased the difficulties of old men finding and retaining employment, and the difficulty is believed to be growing. They came practically to the same conclusion with regard to infirm and maimed persons, and they proposed that a lower rate of compensation should be payable in regard to both these classes. The two cases of the aged person and of the infirm and maimed person appears to the Government to be governed by somewhat different considerations. I confess that personally I am somewhat inclined to extend to both classes in the proposals of the Committee, but the difficulties are undoubtedly rather more serious in the case of the infirm and maimed person. Other considerations arise, which I will not mention now, and so, on the whole, the Government have decided only to deal with the recommendation of the Committee in its application to the aged person. After 893 the age of sixty the employer is enabled to make special arrangements with the aged person under which, in case of death, a maximum payment of £25 is payable, and, in the case of injury and incapacity, weekly compensation with a maximum of 10s. a week. The Committee suggested 5s. The Government think that is too small an amount, and they, therefore, extend it to 10s. In the case of minors, again, very great hardships have arisen under the present law. A boy, for example, receiving 4s. a week, who is injured and incapacitated for life, cannot get more than 2s. a week compensation. The Bill provides that, where a minor is injured who earns less than 20s. a week, 100 per cent. should be substituted for 50 per cent. in respect of compensation based on his weekly earnings, but the weekly payment is not to exceed 10s. a week. If the case is reviewed within twelve months or more after after the accident the amount of the weekly payment may be increased to any amount not exceeding 50 per cent. of the weekly sum which the workman would probably have been earning at the date of the review if he had remained uninjured, but not in any case more than £1 a week. The Bill authorises the payment into court by the employer of a lump sum in case of a fatal accident where dependents are left, to be invested at the discretion of the registrar. The Bill also deals with the case of widows, and provision is made, where there is evidence before the court that a widow who obtained compensation under the Act was prone to misconduct, for the court to apply the whole or part of the compensation, which otherwise would accrue to the widow, for the benefit of the other dependents. I now come to the question of medical referees. As the law now stands, when there is an accident and a workman is injured, he has to submit himself to the employer's doctor, who reports to the employer. If there is disagreement then there is no remedy but proceedings in the courts. If proceedings are taken under the Employers' Liability Act medical evidence is taken, but it is not competent to bring a medical referee into court; but if they are taken under the Workmen's Compensation Act, after hearing the medical evidence, a medical referee may be appointed, and his judgment is final. But that leads to considerable delay and cost, and so under the Bill it is provided that if there is no agreement 894 after injury between the employer and the workman, on the report of the employer's doctor, the employer or the workman, on payment of a fee, can apply to the court, and the registrar may at once appoint a medical referee, whose judgment will be final. And in case of review either party in the same way can apply to the court, and the registrar will appoint a referee whose judgment will be final. The Government hope that that provision will save a good deal of unnecessary cost and delay. Provision is also taken in the Bill that the Secretary of State may, with the sanction of the Treasury, appoint medical men to be referees under the Act, and, subject to Treasury regulations, remuneration and expenses may be paid to them out of public money. There are various other minor points of detail, the consideration of which I propose to leave to another stage. The Government are aware that the change in the basis of the Act will bring out new conditions, new points, and they will welcome suggestions. They will have the benefit of the criticism and information of the House, and I have no doubt that the Bill in its passage through the House will be greatly improved and strengthened. There is one important consideration on which I should like to touch, and that is the question of safety under the Workmen's Compensation Act. It was feared in 1897 that the adoption of the new principle would lead to more accidents. It is maintained by the Government, on the other hand, that the contrary result will probably ensue. The Committee find that no evidence has been brought before them which enables them to find that any great improvement in the direction of safety is to be placed to the credit of the Act, and their conclusion on the matter has reference to an important point which was raised in the evidence of Commander Smith with regard to the power of the court, under the Act of 1897, to set any fines imposed under the Factory any Workshop Act against the compensation due to the workman, and that that provision removed the Act from any penal operation. The Committee propose that that particular part of the clause should be repealed, and the Government have adopted that recommendation. The Committee say—On the whole we feel unable to come to the conclusion that the operation of the Compensation Act of 1897 has had any marked or 895 ascertainable effect, one way or the other, upon the safety of the workman.Therefore, in considering this question anew, we must not flatter ourselves that by providing compensation we provide increased security for the workman. In my judgment that increased security will have to be found in the operation of other Acts, and more particularly, of course, in the operations of the Factory and Workshop Act and the Mines Regulation Act. There is one further point which I think will give general satisfaction. The Bill which I propose to introduce is in the form of a consolidating Act, incorporating the Acts of 1897 and 1900, so that the House will have plainly before them, in more or less simple English, the whole statement of the case with regard to the compensation of workmen under the law. In these circumstances I venture on an appeal to the House. The Government are submitting the whole subject of workmen's compensation and are opening it all up, and as this is done for the convenience of the House I hope that questions which are not only settled, but which are supposed to be satisfactorily settled, will not be unnecessarily re-opened so as to hamper the progress of the Act. Our main object is to pass the Bill into law this session, and we offer it to the House in the hope that it will be of permanent practical benefit to all that are included within the scope of its provisions.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend the law with respect to Compensation to Workmen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment."—(Mr. Gladstone).
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)
I am sure I am voicing the opinion of the whole House when I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the clearness and ability with which he has dealt with a very complicated subject. We have all listened to him with very great pleasure, we have all felt the difficulty of his task, and recognised the excellent manner in which he has discharged it. I do not think there is any difference of opinion as to the object to be aimed at. We all welcome a Bill to amend the Act of 1897. We feel that an Amendment of that Act is very much wanted. The Act, as the right hon. Gentleman 896 has explained, was a new procedure in legislation in 1897, and for that reason it had to be to a certain extent experimental and tentative, and, therefore, we need not be surprised at the fact that after working eight or nine years it requires some considerable amendment. But the experience of those eight or nine years, I think, on the whole, has been very satisfactory, but certainly the time has now come when we might deal with many matters which require amendment, and as the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do, very largely extend the Act in its operations towards the people who come under it. I have listened very carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I gather from him that not only is the Bill to be an amending, but a consolidating, Bill. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on this fact, and I admire his courage in advoiding the temptation to legislate by reference. I know from the experience I had in introducing a measure on this subject last year the very great difficulty of dealing with it purely by an amending Bill, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman has taken a wise, and, I am bound to say, a courageous course in bringing in the Bill in the form he has done. I may assure him that so far as I am concerned, and so far as my friends on this side of the House are concerned, we will accept the suggestion that he has made to us in regard to not opening up unnecessary subjects. Generally speaking, subject to three or four points for amendment on which we feel strongly, we shall give all the assistance we can to secure that this measure shall become law this session The Bill, I admit, is a more ambitious one than that which I had the honour to introduce to the House last year. We had a debate on the Second Reading of that Bill, but the measure did not get beyond that stage. As the right hon. Gentleman has explained, the present Bill proceeds by different machinery from that of the original Act, and from that proposed in the Bill of last year, which followed that of the parent Act. I understand that, whereas in the original Act and in the Bill of last year all trades were excluded except those which were specially included under the right hon. Gentleman's Bill all trades are included except those which are excluded by name. That, I think, is an 897 improvement, but it is rather opposed to the advice given by the Departmental Committee presided over by Sir Kenelm Digby. I wish to associate myself with the praise given by the right hon. Gentleman to that Committee, because I was at the Home Office at the time and I know the extreme care and great attention which they gave to this subject. The present Bill, I understand, extends the operations of the parent Act to injury to health in dangerous trades—that is to say, it gives compensation in cases of lead poisoning, anthrax, and mercury poisoning, and in similar cases mentioned in the schedule of the Bill. The question of including these trades was pressed upon us very strongly last year by my hon. friend the Member for Berwickshire. He moved an Amendment to the Second Reading of the Bill suggesting that no Bill would be satisfactory which did not give compensation in these cases, and, therefore, I congratulate him on having so far pressed his case upon the attention of the public and of his own Party as to secure the inclusion of these trades within the scope of the measure. My only objection then was, and my only criticism now is, that I think it will be found an extremely difficult provision to work. The Act has hitherto been devoted to? compensation for accidents. It has been laid down that an accident must be something of which the date can be fixed, and I think it would be rather difficult, notwithstanding all the right hon. Gentleman has said, to fix the date when infection was incurred in such a case as lead poisoning, or mercury poisoning. It might be rather difficult to find on which employer the cost of compensation should be cast. I only make that remark as a friendly criticism, for I think there is great difficulty in the matter, and I wish the House to bear in mind that we must not in this case, while wishing to be generous in our extension of the Act, do injury to the employers. If it could be proved that a workman had contracted the disease in a certain employment, I think the case for compensation under the Act would be very strong indeed, but in many instances men pass from one employer to another, and as some of these diseases are very insidious and slow in becoming known, it may be very difficult indeed to find the right man upon whom to place the 898 onus of paying compensation. I do not put myself at all in hostility to this extension of the Act. As I have pointed out, we based our Bill last year very closely on the Report of the Commission. The Commission did not recommend this, and although we were sympathetic towards the proposal we felt the difficulties were great, and we did not include it. But if the right hon. Gentleman who has so pluckily attempted to deal with this subject is successful, and if it can be done without inflicting hardship on employers, I am sure we wish him well. Then, I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill extends compensation to seamen and fishermen. The Departmental Committee, after carefully considering this question, recommended that compensation to seamen was a matter which ought to be dealt with by an amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act. I mentioned that subject in introducing my measure last year, and hinted that it was the intention of the Government to find this compensation for seamen by the method suggested, namely, an Amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has thoroughly satisfied himself that it can be worked under this measure. Had I not known that the right hon. Gentleman was going to introduce it in this Bill, I might have suggested that it should have formed a matter to be dealt with under the Merchant Shipping Bill now before the House. I am very glad that fishermen are going to be included in this Bill. I think the Departmental Committee suggested that this matter was so difficult that it should be left to the advice of a special Committee after special inquiry. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has either had that special inquiry or is satisfied that the interests of seamen can be properly looked after under the provisions of this Bill. There is only one other point of criticism I want to make, and that is with regard to the chief departure from the spirit, at all events, of the measure which was introduced last year—that is as to the "fourteen days." The right hon. Gentleman explained to the House that the Departmental Committee did not make this recommendation; in fact they thought that the law in this respect should be left as it is. He is not prepared to follow their advice, nor does he go to the whole extent of abolishing the 899 "fourteen days," but he suggests a compromise of "seven days." Under the Act of 1897 an employer was not liable for an accident where a man was disabled for a period of less than two weeks, nor, in the case of an accident for which compensation was payable, in respect of the first fortnight even in a case of prolonged disablement. I always understood that the object of the first fortnight's exclusion was to prevent malingering and the multiplication of small claims. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that seven days will be a sufficient modification to meet the case. That is a point which has been eloquently and ably put forward by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, and I shall be very anxious to hear whether they are satisfied with the compromise, or whether they think the low limit named should not be enacted. It is clear, I think, that a very great amount of expense to the employer will be caused by this alteration. Again, I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has taken care to consult employers of labour, especially on his own side of the House, with regard to this extra burden which he is placing upon them. I am anxious to give every reasonable facility to cover reasonable cases in the interests of the employees, but we must not not in our desire to act generously to them either make the Act unworkable or throw unreasonable cost upon industry. The Committee which sat under the chairmanship of Sir Kenelm Digby took a great deal of evidence on this point. As to the additional risk incurred and the cost of insurance, the General Accident Company thought that the additional premium required would be 35 per cent. and the General Insurance thought it would be 50 per cent. If the assurance companies still hold that these figures are correct, we shall have seriously to consider whether such a scheme would not throw too great a burden on the employer. I am most anxious that the Act should prove successful, and I hope that when the Bill is in Committee this question of burden on the employers will be carefully discussed. I do not want to press it now or on the Second Reading, for I am anxious that the measure should pass into law as quickly as possible; but details can always be more usefully considered in Committee than on the floor of the House. I am sure that hon. Members of the Labour Party below the gangway 900 want only a measure which will be fair as between man and man, and that they will endeavour by their criticisms and Amendments to make it a workable measure and one likely to be accepted by all classes of employers and employed. Whether the right hon. the Home Secretary has gone too far or not in amending the Act of 1897, or in extending the benefits of the Act to further trades — the general principle being admitted—we must wait to see; but, so far as we could gather from the speech of the right, hon. Gentleman, the measure is satisfactory and I trust, therefore, that the House will agree to the First and Second Readings, leaving all these details to be considered fully in Committee.
§ MR. BARKER (Penryn and Falmouth)
said that as employer of labour he believed this Bill could be very easily simplified so as to avoid trouble and uncertainty in various ways. He meant that it should provide for compensation for all accidents, and the compensation to begin from the date of the accident. That was, he believed, the only way to arrive at a solution of this matter which would be satisfactory to all interested.
§ MR. BARNES (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
said he wished to offer a few observations on the speech of the right hon. the Home Secretary and on the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman had asked leave to introduce into the House. First of all on behalf of the Party with which he was identified, he welcomed the right hon. Gentleman's statement of the projected Bill as being, to a large extent at all events, satisfactory from their point of view; and he could promise that it would have a helpful and sympathetic consideration with a view to having it amended in their direction and passed into law. It seemed to him that the name of the Bill was to some extent a misnomer. The Bill would not compensate. It provided merely for a maintenance being given to a man who was injured. Therefore, it seemed to the Labour Party that there should be some Amendment in the name of the Bill which would more accurately define what the Bill really was. On the whole, however, he felt satisfied that not only in its form but in its scope, as indicated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Bill would to a very large extent meet the wishes of the Labour 901 Party. The Act of 1897 had been of inestimable benefit to a very large number of working people throughout the length and breadth of the country. With all its defects and blemishes it had proved one of the best bits of social legislation that had been put on the Statute Book in recent years. He wished to go a little further, and to pay a well-merited tribute of indebtedness to one who was largely instrumental in getting that Act passed through Parliament. That right hon. Gentleman long ago contributed articles to magazines advocating what was then a novel principle in English law. He introduced that principle as an Amendment on the Bill of 1893, and had it afterwards successfully embodied in the Act of 1897. It was needless to say that reference was made to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. He was all the more satisfied to pay that tribute of indebtedness to the right hon. Gentleman, for it was the vogue to jump upon his by no means prostrate form. A good deal had been said as to the deficiencies of the Act of 1897, but he believed that a great deal of the litigation and of the money which had found its way into the lawyers' pockets had been caused by the confusing lines between the "ins" and the "outs." He remembered the report of a debate eight or nine years ago in which it was predicted by hon. Gentlemen in this House, especially those who represented the mine-owners, that the Bill would lead to vast litigation; and some even went the length of describing it as a "Lawyers' Employment Bill." He had had a good deal of experience in regard to the working of the Act of 1897, and had had the opportunity of hearing the testimony of others who had had more, and all he could say was that the cases which had been settled and money paid without litigation at all was from 90 to 95 per cent. of the whole. From that point of view the Bill had been on the whole satisfactory; but there was no reason why the 5 or 10 per cent. of litigation should not also be reduced. In his belief, there would be no complete solution of the difficulty until all men, no matter what employment they were in, were included in the scope of the measure. It had been said that only dangerous trades were included in the last Act, but agricultural labourers were afterwards included, and no one would seriously contend that agriculture 902 was a dangerous employment. He was sorry to hear that while anyone employing more than five men was to be included in the Bill, all small employers having fewer than five employees were to be excluded. That would be a fruitful source of litigation and confusion which would only benefit the lawyers and the agents of the insurance companies. He hoped that the Bill would be amended in these respects. He knew many small workshops where fewer than five men were employed under the most dangerous conditions—probably more dangerous than in large workshops. But it would be no good including them on paper only. Therefore, if they were to be included there must be some provision whereby the money should be there when wanted. That carried with it some form of compulsory insurance. The right hon. Gentleman said that the time had not yet come for that. That remained to be seen. He was inclined to think that compulsory insurance would even now be necessary; but if the Bill was carried further than its present scope, he was certain that compulsory insurance would be absolutely necessary. He knew that there were some who said that compulsory insurance, or insurance of any character, carried with it increased risk. There might be something in that argument, but, after all, the contention seemed to him to be advanced by those who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel. It was perfectly obvious that unnecessary danger was run by the men upon our railway systems, and that there were many safer couplings than those now in use, and yet the House refused to carry out the policy of enforcing the use of these couplings upon the railway companies. It was true that there were many ways and means by which the danger could be minimised, and, after all, insurance companies were not made up of simple Simons, and in many cases they refused to take premiums, because they knew that those who offered them had not taken the ordinary precautions which were necessary to ensure safety in their workshops. He thought that inspection was one of the best remedies. Let them increase the number of inspectors, and increase their power and draw the inspectors from the practical workshop, release the inspector from the large amount of clerical duty he had to perform, and, above all, let in the light of day upon the causes of those accidents which occurred through 903 the ignorance of unlearned men, or of inmature youths. He believed that in the direction he had alluded to lay the greatest field of promise, and that they ought not to disregard insurance. He knew that insurance had its evils, and quite agreed that the Government might take those evils into their consideration. When they did, he thought that the Government should offer some inducement to small employers to insure. He thought that the Government should go so far as to make the system of insurance compulsory; but if they were not disposed to go that length, he thought they might offer some alternative scheme of insurance as against private insurance, and induce small employers to insure through the agency of the Post Office. It ought, moreover, to be made impossible for insurance agents to do, as they did now, viz., go and visit men in hospital immediately after an injury and make bargains with them. This was most improper, as the men knowing nothing of the law, often assented to terms much below those to which they were entitled. The men often yielded to the temptation of receiving a lump sum, and he thought something ought to be done to make agreements entered into with an injured man under these circumstances absolutely null and void. In the third place, something should be done, he was not quite clear what, to prevent what now took place to some extent in regard to insurance companies coercing employers not to employ old men, or physically defective men. He learned with great gratification that those suffering from industrial diseases were to be dealt with by this Bill, but he was not quite sure that the best means were being taken towards a satisfactory solution. He understood that in order to carry out the idea of the Bill there would be some system of proportional liability placed upon the employers of labour who had employed an injured person, or a poisoned person. He was afraid that method was rather a clumsy one, as it would be very difficult to ascertain where a man got the disease or was poisoned. It would, moreover, be difficult to enforce the decision. A much more hopeful method would have been to do as was done in the Potteries, where a trade fund was created, and no matter where the man was injured, the compensation was taken from the trade fund, and spread 904 over the whole of the industry. As to the schedule of dangerous diseases, he noticed that anthrax was included, but thought that a good many more diseases might have been likewise put on the list. He rejoiced in the provision by means of which out-workers were to be protected, but he hoped the out-worker was not to be protected only if he happened to be working in a place which was scheduled as being engineering, harbour, or canal works. That did not carry them far enough. The out-worker might be working in a brewery which he did not think was scheduled. A good many outworkers, moreover, did work in places where they had to hang on by their eyebrows in order to stick up a pipe. Ho thought the only satisfactory provision would be one by which all out-workers would be protected. The provisions as to the assessment of weekly wages were on the whole satisfactory as far as they went—at all events, they were passable; but when they came to consider the question of reassessment, he thought the Home Secretary had given way too much to the representations of the employers. He hoped some rearrangement would be made which would practically leave the question in its present form, which, on the whole, worked fairly. At present there was a discretionary power vested in the County Court Judges, and it would be well if that power were left with them, because, on the whole, they had exercised their discretion with great wisdom. He thought the Home Secretary had quite unnecessarily called attention to the case of the old men. It was one of the most painful incidents in connection with our present industrial conditions that old men should be hurried out of our workshops. By calling attention to the old men, and making special provision for them, the attention of employers was called to the subject, and they were encouraged to get rid of them. He hoped that more generous provisions would be inserted in favour of this class of workers. As to minors, he thought the provisions of the Bill were on the whole satisfactory. He remembered acting on behalf of a young man, aged nineteen years, who had lost three fingers off one of his hands. He was just leaving his apprenticeship, and his pay was 7s. 6d. a week. He was paid 3s. 9d. a week for a few weeks, and then got nothing further. He took it 905 that the provisions of the Bill would make a far more generous provision in such a case as that. There was reason in the arrangement that the decision of the doctor, with regard to the extent of the injuries, should be taken as final; and it was fairly satisfactory provided the doctor was one in whom both sides would have confidence. In order to ensure that, it was necessary that the doctor be a public official, and he gathered that that would be the case. As to the fourteen days exemption, he understood that the Home Secretary had conceded half their demands, and he hoped he would concede three-quarters. They quite realised the fact that there was danger of malingering, because, after all, workmen were only human beings, and sometimes they tried to get a day's holiday. Trade unions thought if they paid after three days that was sufficient to prevent abuse, and to secure the society against malingering. He thought the hon. Gentleman might take that as satisfactory, and make his measure conform with that experience. Those who had previously been within the scope of the Act had been the best paid workmen; but they were now going to bring in the workmen whose wages were miserably small, and to whom a week on the sick-list would be a serious thing. Another point to which he would ask the right hon. Gentleman's generous consideration was the question of dependents. He would like to see the law of Scotland and England assimilated in this matter. He saw no objection to incorporating step-parents in "dependents," and if they brought in parents they might also under certain conditions bring in brothers and sisters. He was at the present moment acquainted with a man, the father of a family, whose house was being kept for him by his sister; and it would be a very serious thing for the sister if that man had an accident. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would include both these classes in "dependents," and thereby avoid a great deal of trouble. He was glad to hear of the repeal of part 1, Sub-section 5, and that their old friend "the undertaker" would disappear. He should also like to see the abolition of the twenty feet for quarries. That should also disappear as well as the thirty feet for houses. He welcomed the inclusion of seamen in this measure although he confessed that he was induced to sign the majority report of the Departmental 906 Committee, which had the effect of proposing that seamen should be dealt with under a special Act, because he believed there were special circumstances connected with the life of seamen which rendered the conditions of their inclusion in this Bill peculiar. He therefore ventured to hope that, as seamen were included, the provisions of Section 207 of the Merchant Shipping Act would also be included, so far as the seamen were concerned.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said they did not interfere with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act in any way. This Bill only applied to the man injured when he was in England.
§ MR. BARNES
said, if that were so, of course it was quite right that the seamen should come under the Act. He would say nothing further now. There were other questions, but they be could dealt with in Committee. He would only ask the right hon. Gentleman to say, when he replied, in what way he was going to deal with the shop assistants. As he understood, shop assistants were not included in this Bill, and it was not proposed that they should be. There were, however, many shop assistants who were working under dangerous conditions. In his opinion shop assistants should be included, though they might not be employed under dangerous conditions. If there was little danger there would be specially low insurance premiums, and inasmuch as many of these persons were working in large warehouses which were analagous to work shops and factories, they should be brought within the Act. On the whole the Bill seemed satisfactory, and he welcomed it and hoped that during its passage through this House its scope would be widened to include those classes' to which he had alluded.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that compulsory insurance in some form or other lay at the root of all the improvements to which the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division had alluded. The most extraordinary fact about all our legislation of this kind was that we never paid the slightest attention to what took place in other countries. We were hopelessly in the rear of every country in Europe in this matter, and owing to the fact that we never attended any of 907 the international conferences we did not know that all the problems which were being inquired into to-day had been inquired into and solved by every foreign country. That this country was not likely to adopt the German scheme had been very clearly seen before the introduction of the original Bill, and had been more clearly seen since. But the German scheme was not the last word that had been said upon this subject. The modified French scheme, which was being adopted by many other countries, might well be adopted here. All the suggestions which the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow had made had been met in France. Although the French law was exceedingly complicated and had not the simplicity of the German system, it met all these difficulties; and by its variable system of drawing insurances from four distinct sources gave everyone security. He did not, however, know how this question was to be raised on this Bill, because it was opposed to the whole form of the Bill and all our legislation on these matters. With regard to the second point raised by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division, there was no more interesting or difficult question than subcontracting. On that point he had not been able to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman said he had got rid of the "undertaker" altogether. That was not a word introduced by the late Government. It was a word introduced at the last moment in the House of Lords by a private peer, and in the face of the enormous difficulty which this question presented the noble Lords jumped at the the phrase. The question was a most difficult one and perplexed the House for a considerable time. There were cases in which it was desired to get at the subcontractor, and cases in which it was desired to get at the other man, and the difficulty was how to get at the man wanted. It was easy enough to say "you must go for 'A'" or "you must go for 'B'" but the difficulty of putting such a thing into the law was exceedingly great. It was the point on which the previous Act broke down, and was a most interesting and important point. Another matter in which the French law, imitated now in other countries, had met our difficulty was that of the definition of "workmen." 908 The question as to what men should be brought in as workmen was one that had caused a great deal of trouble. Among the miners, for instance, there were a great many persons who were partly workmen and partly employers in a small way. This question had at times given rise to a great deal of litigation. The French law dealt with this question by declaring that, over a certain rate of pay, the workmen should only be compensated to the extent of a proportion of his pay, and in that way it got over the question of the man who was partly a workman and partly an employer on a small scale. Let the House consider what it was they were asked to do. They were asked to exclude, arbitrarily from the benefit of this Bill as they had excluded from the benefits of the previous. Act, and from the Agricultural Acts, certain persons whose case was just as hard and whose case was absolutely indistinguishable from the case of those who were included in the scope of this Bill. The sense of irritation and injustice, which was always the result of exclusion and inclusion in this arbitrary manner, would continue a long time. In the sweated women's industries, such as the tailoring and shirt and collar trades, outwork was extending very fast; and although not specially subject to accidents there were some accidents to which the workers were liable. The exclusion of these was peculiarly hard, and one from which he thought on consideration the House would shrink. In this case and in that of the small workshops the exclusion was made because the Government were not prepared to make that breach in old traditions which every other country in Europe had made. If it were not too late he would add his voice to the appeal already made in favour of a complete assurance of every individual worker of every trade of the compensation which the House had intended him to have, and of which he was often deprived now by the mere operation of the law.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
said that as a director of one of the large mutual indemnity companies perhaps the House would allow him to say a few words from their point of view. They all knew that the object of the Act of 1897 was to grant compensation for 909 accident without proof of negligence, that another object was to provide machinery by which compensation could be arrived at without resort to law courts. That machinery had been entirely successful. During the year ending June last 349 claims came on the fund of the company in which he was interested, and of that number they settled 341 without litigation, generally through the Trade Union officials, who preferred dealing with the company rather than individual employers. The Government's proposals with regard to a medical referee would be a valuable improvement of the law, which on that point was at present a dead letter. He could only be called in at present by the county court judge after he had heard the evidence of both parties, and naturally the judge preferred to give his decision on the evidence which he had heard himself; the consequence being that the medical referees had not been required at all, and had been practically useless. The proposal now was that the medical referees should be public officials and should be called in as soon as possible, so as to avoid litigation. If that were done he felt that it would be a most admirable improvement of the present law. With regard to the burden of the Act, he thought there could be no doubt that the largest burden had fallen upon the coal trade. The large coal fields were unfortunately liable to accidents day by day. In Yorkshire they had an output of nearly 20,000,000 of tons per year, and they had paid in the seven years, ending June last, over £220,000 in compensation, but they could not tell what the full liability would be until the permanent cases, namely, those which lasted for more than six months, assumed their normal figures. In 1899–1900 they had fifty-six of these permanent cases, for which they paid £2,800; last year, ending June, the permanent cases had increased to 349 and the payment to over £22,000. Until the period arrived when the increase stopped it was therefore impossible to say what the permanent liability would be. He should like to point out that the decision to reduce from a fortnight to a week the period before the elapse of which no compensation was payable was against the recommendation of the Committee. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knew that Messrs. Armstrong, at Elswick, before the Act of 1897 came into operation, had a scheme 910 by which workmen drew benefit after being disabled for three days, and the number of men disabled over three days was 12.3 per cent. per annum for the five years ending 1897. When the Act came into force they naturally dropped their private scheme, and the number of men disabled for over three days was reduced to 2.9 per cent. per annum for the five years ending 1903. That was some little evidence to show that if the period were reduced there would be a larger number of claims to be dealt with. With regard to industrial diseases, the Committee in their Report advised that such diseases should be provided for by a system of insurance. He quite agreed that those cases should receive compensation, but it would have been better if that had not been provided for under this Bill which referred entirely to accidents, as a disease could not be called an accident: However, the Government had no doubt come to their decision. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House would give the Bill their best consideration. With regard to old and infirm men, he was inclined to allow them to be compensated at a lower rate by agreement.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS
Because they were much more liable to be disabled permanently. The old men were suffering on account of this system because employers and insurance companies would not take the risk. The hon. Member for South Durham in his evidence before the Committee declared that he had no hesitation in saying that a very large number of the men discharged from the mines would not have been discharged had it not been for the Compensation Act. The object of the Government was to try and meet this case instead of the men being discharged. He hoped when the Bill was in Committee the Government would be prepared to listen to any reasonable Amendments put forward by the Mining Association of Great Britain and by others interested in this important question.
§ MR. E. EDWARDS (Hanley)
desired to call attention to one phase of the question which had not been touched in the speech of the Home Secretary and that was the attitude of the Government towards the contracting-out clause. 911 Whilst fully sympathising with the right hon. Gentleman's view of this Bill and the great effort he was making to give the country an improved Workmen's Compensation Act, nevertheless it was the business of Labour Members to call attention to the position of the workers after some seven or eight years' experience of the Act now in force. His hon. friend opposite, the Member for the Blackfriars division of Glasgow, had paid a well-deserved compliment to the promoters of the Bill of seven or eight years ago, but he was not sure whether he had realised all the difficulties which some of them had realised, especially in regard to the great amount of litigation which had fallen upon them. If the Home Secretary, in his effort to consolidate this legislation, could give them a measure which would be free from litigation it would bring great credit to himself and to the House as well. He happened to be the chairman of a great union which, since the operation of the Act, at almost every executive meeting had been face to face with appeal cases, and they had been obliged to spend large sums of money in order to find out what the law was. He did not know whether the present House of Commons, having in it so many lawyers, would be able to improve matters in this respect. He remembered that the late Home Secretary, Sir Matthew White Ridley, once suggested to a deputation in regard to a rather important case that he would like the workmen to take it to the Appeal Court to find out what the law was. And so they did, and it cost them a great deal. They paid a very heavy price for finding out the law, and a great many men who did not belong to any trade unions had secured the advantage. The unions had also paid for what he thought it should have been the duty of the Home Office to find out for themselves. He gathered that this Bill was much on the lines of the measure brought in by the late Home Secretary. The Miners' Federation generally, with the men in Durham and Northumberland, offered their strongest protest against any Bill which did not pay from the commencement of the accident. Many things were said about the Workmen's Compensation Act at the time it was introduced as to the enormous cost it would entail upon employers, but the fears had proved absolutely groundless. It was said on 912 both sides of the House at that time that it would cost 3d., 6d., and in some cases as much as 10d. per ton, but now they had been told that the cost was less than 1d. per ton. In all great conciliation schemes the factor of the cost of production was always brought prominently forward, but now they would see that it did not fall upon the colliery proprietor but upon the workman himself. He wished to emphasise this point, because the great mass of the mining community were not the malingerers they were said to be. The friendly societies paid a man if he was off work for only a week. Passing through a time of bad trade, a man might only be working two or three days a week and consequently his compensation would be very small indeed. It was time that clause was amended, and if they were to have an amending Act they would rather wait this year and even next year in order to get a much stronger Act than to start off with seven days. The other point with which he wished to deal concerned the question of contracting out. If the two parties to a bargain were equal, there might be some force in contracting out, but experience in the operation of the clause had taught them that whatever in the judgment of the registrar was thought to be the right reading of the Act was forced on them, regardless of the view of the men. He offered their protest against this. If a contracting out clause was allowed to remain it should carry with it the right of the workmen to be consulted in any arrangement which was come to. But the workers would prefer that the clause should be left out altogether, and, having had a long experience, he wished to emphasise that point. Fortunately, explosions were not so frequent as formerly, but a disaster on a great scale would shake eight-tenths of the firms to their foundation, and some of them would prefer to go into the bankruptcy court rather than face their claims. It might be, therefore, that after all it was to the interest of the State itself that there should be some compulsory measure of insurance, not for small people alone, but for much larger interests also. Some colliery people had decided to insure among themselves, and so far as they knew they had met the claims against 913 them honourably. He hoped, in view of their importance, that the Home Secretary would give the House satisfactory assurances on these points, namely, that there should be no contracting out, and that those who met with accidents should get payment from the date of the injury. Everyone would re-echo the wish that had been expressed that the Act should work smoothly apart from either solicitors or medical men. But the workers had found that they were bound to take into account the solicitor and the medical man. They objected to a medical referee, as now understood, being the final authority. If they were to have him as a final authority, let him be a paid servant of the State, and then the workman would have some confidence in his decision. The members of the medical profession had used strong language in the columns of their medical journals condemning working men as lazy and indifferent, and any medical man who stooped to write such articles about working men was not a fit person to be a referee. The right hon. Gentleman had their warmest sympathy in regard to this Bill, but in the interests of a great organisation they desired certain Amendments.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
asked whether a man who was engaged in other work, such as delivering goods, met with an accident would he be entitled to compensation if it was not his ordinary work.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL,) Yorkshire, Cleveland
Yes, that case would be included.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON
said he wished to know also whether gamekeepers would come under the Act. They were peculiarly liable to accident in many ways. He should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on avoiding the pitfall of slovenly drafting and on making the Bill a consolidating measure instead of legislating by reference.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said he recognised that the Government had in the Workmen's Compensation Bill brought forward a 914 very important measure, and he thanked them for having had the courage to include seamen within its scope. After all, it was only an act of justice which he had for a long time advocated, and he was pleased that at last there was a ray of hope and sunshine for the seamen in this matter. They were included in the right way. Compensation for seamen would only commence when they were landed in this country. Up to the time they landed here the ship owners had to provide for them. That placed the seaman in the same position as the working man on shore. He thought it would be found that there would be no great difficulty in applying the Act to seamen.
§ MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)
said he wanted to ask a question about the fortnight's exemption from liability on the part of the employers. It had always seemed to him that there was no real reason why this fortnight adopted as a bar to cases of malingering should be deducted in the case of serious accident which was clearly proved. He suggested that whether they reduced the period to three days, as had been suggested by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow or not, at all events they should provide that those who had suffered from serious accident should not suffer any reduction whatever. There had never been any reason in common sense for it. One other thing seemed to him to be a great omission, and one to which his attention had been drawn in connection with the people in his own employ, namely, the difficulty of establishing the case on the part of the worker, not only against any particular employer, but against the trained experts of the insurance companies, who were generally the defendants in such actions. In regard to members of large trade unions, they had their trade union secretaries to defend them, but that was an obligation which should not be put on trade unions. If Parliament established the moral right of an employee to compensation, the State should see that the poor and very often ignorant employee should be something more on a level with the parties against whom he had to make claims than the employee usually was. He certainly thought that a very simple scheme might be set up under this Bill, something 915 similar to that of the medical referee, some person appointed in the public interest, who would take up and investigate claims in order that there should be no bogus claims or trivial claims put forward. There should be some deposit made by the claimant, say 5s. or 10s., as an earnest of good faith. He himself, as an employer, who was insured against employer's liability, had over and over again remarked how, under present conditions, the employee was liable to be taken advantage of, or something like it. There should be no unfairness. Just imagine Jack Tar home from a voyage, or an agricultural labourer, having to put in a claim! He knew this to be a practical difficulty, and he urged the Home Secretary to adopt some practical solution. Another point in carrying out legislation of this kind was the invidious distinction which the Bill made. That led him to the conclusion that they would have to come to some system of State insurance. That was the only logical conclusion which would get rid of unnecessary expense and unnecessary distinctions. Why should the employees of the small employer not be protected? Why had the right hon. Gentleman abandoned hope of protecting this class? He had given a reason which was no doubt to some extent valid, but it seemed to him that these people had just as good a moral right to protection as the employees of larger employers. He did not know what public policy there could be in making this distinction, nor did he know why it should be more difficult to insure the employees of small employers in towns than in the country. Agricultural labourers in small numbers were not exempt. He asserted that the difficulty of looking after the claims of agricultural labourers was just as great as the difficulty of looking after the others. There was no predilection on his part for collectivism. He did not want to put on the State any more than he could help, but in this great question of compensation of workmen it did seem to him that it was the State alone that could effectively cope with it. There was one objection behind State action. He believed that the principle of State insurance did not tend to further security of life and limb. That was the fault of State insurance as well as private insurance, and he had no doubt that the Home Secretary was quite right when he said that they must look 916 for further security to more stringent factories and mines regulations where life and limb were concerned. He hoped the Home Secretary would kindly bear this point in mind on further consideration of the Bill. He was a bold man indeed, but he had earned the gratitude of both employer and employed when he proposed to make his Bill a Consolidating Act. They knew what a great benefit the Consolidated Factories Act of the late Mr. Ritchie conferred, and he was sure that the present Government in running the risk of a great many points of discussion had earned the gratitude of everybody. He hoped that those who might desire to impede the progress of the Bill for Party purposes would refrain from raising such points, and that as the Liberal Members helped the progress of the Factory Act the Conservative Members would return the compliment and help the House to make a good Consolidated Workmen's Compensation Act.
§ MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said he wished to join in congratulating his right hon. friend on the introduction of this measure, which had been received with a chorus of approval. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough had in a great measure secured what he had been endeavouring to secure for the last eight or ten years in regard to seamen. He, like the hon. Member, saw a ray of hope with reference to an amendment of the law which he had during the same period been endeavouring to secure. He was glad that those unfortunate people who were employed in workshops were at last going to receive the benefits of this legislation. He pressed for their inclusion in the Act of 1897, but the Government of the day did not see their way to include them. He wished to refer to two points. One was the exclusion of workshops where only five men or under were employed, and the other was the limitation to which the hon. Member for the Radcliffe Division had just alluded. He saw no ground for excluding shop assistants from the scope of the Bill. There were a great many departments in which shop assistants were engaged. He did not know whether warehousemen would, in law, be regarded as shop assistants; but there were a great many occasions in which shop assistants were employed in warehouse work, and who would be deprived of the 917 benefit of the Act. Hoists, for instance, were a most fruitful source of accident, and one constantly read of the most distressing cases of bodily injury from such machinery. Then, it was known what great risks had to be run by the assistants who sold petrol. He had been very much disappointed at the limitation to workshops where five persons were employed. That was really an adaptation of one of the worst features of the whole industrial system; and it was known how that had been disastrous to the health and safety of the workers in the small exempted laundries. He joined in the appeal so eloquently made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who urged some form of compulsory insurance. The very admirable memorandum by Sir Kenelm Digby on the practice of foreign countries in regard to particular forms of insurance had been referred to by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars division of Glasgow. He regretted that Sir Kenelm Digby had dealt more particularly with Germany, for he thought the conditions of the system there were not so applicable to this country as that which obtained in France. The limitation to five persons was wholly unnecessary. Why not have a scheme of grouping the trades and inducing the small employers to join together to pay compensation to their servants? That system had been tried in the Potteries, and was acting admirably. It might be true that persons who had been inoculated in the early stages with poison, and who had started on the down grade in health, might not easily get employment; it was also true that if there was a scheme of insurance of that kind mentioned, it might be perfectly possible to include small workshops with less than five; and there was no reason at all for excluding shop assistants. He wished to thank the Government most cordially for including in the scheme of compensation workpeople who had been injured in their health. That was only an act of justice to a large number of industrial soldiers who had fallen out by the way. The Home Office proposed to apply these provisions to anthrax, lead poisoning, mercurial poisoning, arsenical poisoning, miners' disease; he hoped they would also include poisoning from carbon sulphides, chemicals and explosives 918 where di-nitro-benzole was used, etc. There were dangers attending such trades as bronzing, paper-staining, millstone chipping, and india-rubber manufacture, and he hoped that these would be scheduled by the Home Secretary as dangerous for the purposes of this particular compensation Act. Those details, however, were more fitted to be dealt with in the Committee stage, and he would not labour them, but would conclude by once more expressing his gratitude to the right hon. the Home Secretary for the measure which he had introduced.
§ MR. SEDDON (Lancashire, Newton)
said that the right hon. the Home Secretary had stated that he would welcome any suggestion for the improvement of the Bill. Now, he was in favour of the Bill, but he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be strong enough to include in its scope shop assistants. He had been more than surprised when he found that the right hon. Gentleman, after all the Liberal promises which had been made during the recent General Election, was prepared to perpetuate the very vicious system of differentiating between workmen and workmen. There were, in his opinion, only two classes— the worker and the idler; and all workers should come under any Compensation Bill passed by this Liberal Government. He believed he was the only man in the House who had first-hand experience of the changes that had taken place of late years in the distributive trade. Few people in the sphere of Members of this House had any conception of these enormous changes in the shops —changes almost as violent as in the manufactories of the country. Take the case of the grocery trade. It had become almost an engineering business. There were machines for weighing sugar, machines for parcelling, and machines for putting up provisions. In fact, if more machines were to be adopted in grocery stores the shop assistants would have to be skilled engineers. Then there were the great emporiums, not only in London, but in all the large towns throughout the country. There were in these emporiums not only hoists to be worked, but there were dark, subterranean passages which neither customers nor inspectors ever saw, in which many accidents happened to shop 919 assistants at the present time. With his practical experience of all these dangers, he wished to see abolished the vicious system of making any difference between the classes of the working people of the country. He pleaded with the right hon. Gentleman to bring the shop assistants, who numbered at least 250,000, within the scope of the Bill.
§ MR. CHIOZZA MONEY (Paddington, N.)
said he was very glad that there was only one note of opposition raised to the very excellent measure now before the House. The hon. Member for one of the divisions of Sheffield raised the question of the great cost which this measure would cast upon the employers. That should not stand in the way with us. It must be remembered that the profits which accrued to employers, as revealed in the income tax returns, were always swelling in a satisfactory way, while that was not the case with the manual workers of the country, who were chiefly concerned in the Bill under discussion. He particularly welcomed the extension of the provisions of the Act to cases of industrial disease It had already been ruled that anthrax came within the provisions of the existing law. If it had been decided that the introduction into the human body of the bacillus of anthrax constituted an accident they could hardly refuse to go further and say that when lead settled in the human frame that also constituted an accident. If the results of an organic disease like anthrax should be compensated, non-organic but equally distressing diseases like lead colic and phossy jaw could hardly be excluded. The Home Secretary could hardly fail to be impressed by the fact that most Members were in favour of universal compensation accompanied by compulsory insurance. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman himself favoured that solution of the problem, and he hoped that in the not distant future the present measure, excellent as it was, would be extended by the application of that principle. In the meantime he thought it hardly necessary that the Bill should make exceptions both as to numbers and as to trades. If the measure excepted the small employer, whether shopkeeper or manufacturer, that should be sufficient without excepting certain trades and clerks, shop-assistants, and 920 domestic servants. He hoped the Home Secretary would on Committee stage accept an Amendment to that effect. With regard to agriculture, also, there was a danger lest the exception of farmers who did not employ one labourer permanently should lead the small farmer to do without permanent hands, and therefore avoid the provisions of the Act. But whatever was done in regard to compensating workmen, he hoped it would be remembered that there were industrial diseases like consumption which could not be brought under the Act, though arising from the conditions of employment; and he hoped that there would be no relaxation in the inspection of factories, and in other forms of protection for those who chiefly bore the heat and burden of the day.
§ MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
thought the Home Secretary had every reason to be content with the general tone of the criticism of his Bill, and he hoped that the remarks he should make would prove no exception to the rule. There were one or two points which they must bear in mind in considering a question of this kind. They must not only endeavour to secure a fair remuneration for the workers, but also have regard to security of life and limb. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1897 laid great stress upon that. He had hoped that his right hon. friend would have found some other means than were contained in this Bill for carrying so desirable an object into effect. The other point was what amount of compensation could be considered fair. One could never really actually compensate a man for any serious injury, say the loss of an eye, an arm or a limb, and where a man lost his life no amount of solatium given to those dependent upon him could entirely compensate them. It was necesssary, especially in the case of widows and young persons that the amount of compensation recovered should be invested so that the interest should not be wasted and should pass into the proper hands. No doubt in the case of the injured man he must bear some part of the cost and burden resulting from an accident in the way of ill-health, and he thought they could all sympathise with him. And it was their duty so far as they could to lighten that burden as far as was just and equitable in the interests of the country generally. 921 The hon. Member for North Paddington seemed to think that all employers were wealthy persons, and that all this House had to do was to place the burden upon them and that they could bear it. But that was not the case, and many who would come within the provisions of this Bill would be exceedingly poor men. However sympathetic, therefore, they might be with workmen they must not place too large a burden upon the man who was only just above the workman, as this meant that in the case of any serious accident they would make the small employer bankrupt, and the workman would get no compensation at all. The right hon. Gentleman having said that some 25 per cent. of these small employers were not insured, there seemed room for some general scheme of compensation to which contributions might be made from some source other than from the employers and the men. The general sketch of the Bill given by the right hon. Gentleman showed that it was not lacking in amplitude. The right hon. Gentleman intended to include all those employers who employed five men and upwards, and that large increase in the scope of the Bill might place some obstacle in the way of its steady passage into law. The Party of which he was a Member had always been favourable to the fuller extension of the Workmen's Compensation Act, but it was desirable to move cautiously. There was a strong feeling in some quarters against Workmen's Compensation being applied indiscriminately to all trades, and the right hon. Gentleman proposed to reverse the practice of his predecessors, and at one stroke to include all trades with certain exceptions. He proposed only to exclude police, shopkeepers, clerks and some others. The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about the Naval and Military services of the Crown. He did not, moreover, know why the policeman should be excluded upon the argument, which had been adduced, that it was desirable to widely extend the Act. The same observation would apply to the other classes whom the right hon. Gentleman intended to exclude from the benefit of the measure. It was a happy result that after nine years experience both Parties had agreed to endorse the principle then laid down by extending the scope of the Act, and remedying the defects that had been found to exist. In the past there had 922 every where been an unnecessary amount of litigation, and Scotland had been a great offender in that matter. In some cases the heavy costs had altogether exceeded the amount of the compensation awarded. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman had considered that matter, and that this Bill would result in less litigation and a bigger fund for the benefit of sufferers. With regard to the provision for the reduction of the fourteen days, the Act of 1897 provided that an employer should not be responsible under the Act unless a man was prevented from working for fourteen days. That was a most important provision. The Departmental Committee expressed the opinion that—Practical considerations such as are indicated in the evidence above quoted makes us altogether, apart from the question of principle, reluctant to propose any interference with the existing provision.There were also many expressions of opinion in the House at the time that Act was before it. One hon. Member when the Act of 1897 was under discussion was in favour of extending the period of fourteen days to one month. That hon. Member was now the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury. He (Mr. Cochrane) did not know what action the hon. Gentleman proposed to take now. Then the consideration of costs came in. Undoubtedly there would be an alarming addition to the costs because, as Mr. Brabrook, the late Registrar of Friendly Societies, pointed out, the amount paid in respect of the first two weeks was 63¾ per cent. of the amount paid after two weeks, whilst insurance companies estimated that the amount paid in respect of the first week was from 25 to 50 per cent. Their duty was to point out these facts to the right hon. Gentleman and point to the weighty expressions of opinion that appeared in the Blue-book, and to express the hope that he had acquainted himself with those expressions of opinion, and had been guided by new facts that might have arisen since the date of the issue of the Report of the Departmental Committee in proposing this reduction, the responsibility for which rested on the right hon. Gentleman. Then as to the inclusion of diseases. Every one felt that injury which arose from a disease contracted through a particular occupation was as serious in its consequences to a man and his family as 923 any other accident, but there was some difficulty in dealing with such cases under this Bill. An accident must arise "out of" as well as "in the course of their employment by him." The right hon. Gentleman said that he was going to throw upon the employers a collective responsibility, but it would be very difficult to do so and to determine whether a disease was inherited, whether it was contracted before the employment, or whether it was contracted at home. One of the greatest difficulties would occur in the case of lead poisoning, where a man having suffered from lead poisoning had recovered and applied again for work. If such a man had the least sign of blue round his gums, he would not be again employed, as lead poisoning being latent in his system might appear in an aggravated form and the immediate employer would find it very hard to prove that the illness was not contracted in his employ. He thought the best way to deal with cases of that kind would be to make the whole trade responsible, and not to pass the responsibility on from one employer to another. The hon. Member for North Paddington had said that anthrax had been held to be an accident, but in that case the ruling; of the Judge was certainly not a general ruling. The general rule was expressed by the Court of Appeal, which laid down the principle that—An injury can only be said to be an accident if it can be ascribed to a particular place and a particular date, and if it can be regarded as an accident in the popular and ordinary sense of the word.Such accidents as lead poisoning could only lead to litigation, and were not suitable for inclusion in this Bill. He welcomed the provision dealing with the aged and infirm and the provision by which an employer might contract to give a reasonable and fair sum to persons injured in some previous employment. The clause dealing with the seamen was a very important one. The men the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to include were an important class, and their case was one which excited the sympathy of every Member of the House. They recognised that these men were only partially covered by the Merchant Shipping Act, but, here again, he thought special legislation was required. Let them take the case where a ship was in distress and another ship came 924 to her assistance and a boat was lowered and lost. What would be the view in the mind of the ship's captain who had to report that a serious accident had taken place resulting in the loss of two or three lives? It appeared to him they were placing a great responsibility upon such a man and making it very difficult for him to carry out what they all considered was the highest duty of man, namely, to go to the assistance of another in distress. There must be some special legislation to deal with that point and the State might well be called in to bear a part of the loss incurred in such circumstances. Were fishermen to be included? They were not included in the Bill introduced by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1893. He felt, and a great many would feel, that they were placing a great burden on the owner of a boat, who was often a partner of the men who formed his crew, if they made him responsible for all the accidents that befell those with whom he was working. There was no reason why they should not be compensated, but there must be special legislation to that end. The only other observation he had to make was as to the scope of the Bill. The Bill of last year would have included, an addition of a million workmen, and an indefinite addition was to be made to that number. He again pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman the warning of the Departmental Committee, who said on page 314 of their Report—What seems to us important is that no considerable addition beyond what we have recommended should be made to the classes at present receiving the benefit of the Act without full inquiry into the circumstances of the particular employment, with a view of ascertaining whether the extension is needed, whether it will work effectively, and whether any special provisions or conditions are required or desirable.Had the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity of making full and exhaustive inquiry before making proposals to add so many to the schedules of those who were in future to come under the Act? He feared that the right hon. Gentleman had not had sufficient leisure since succeeding to office and it was therefore all the more necessary that he should give the House the fullest opportunities for freely discussing the Bill. They on that side of the House had always been sympathetic to the objects aimed at 925 by the Bill and towards all proposals for giving greater security and adequate compensation to the workmen and for avoiding litigation, and he thought he might assure the right hon. Gentleman that he might rely on the criticisms of those on that side of the House being of a perfectly fair and not of an unfriendly character.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir W. ROBSON,) South Shields
said the hon. Gentleman was perfectly entitled to make the claim which he had just made on behalf of the Party to which he belonged. He and those associated with him had been and were always willing to consider in a sympathetic spirit measures of the class to which this Bill belonged. The hon. Gentleman's Party was honourably associated with, and might claim the principal place in the initiation of, legislation of this particular character. Though it was not very satisfactory to conduct anything in the nature of a general discussion on a Bill which was not in the hands of hon. Members, one or two points had been raised in the debate upon which he thought some observations might be made. Special reference had been made to the limit of five which appeared in the Bill. The House would understand that the Bill applied to all employments except the excepted employments, which were not many in number and which did not include the class generally understood as workmen. It not only covered all employed, but it also covered all persons employed in those trades which had been generally understood to be more or less dangerous trades. The limit of five did not apply to cases where machinery was used. That would cover the case of the shop assistant employed on a lift.
AN HON. MEMBER
Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that the Judges of the Court of Appeal would interpret the Act in that sense?
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said perhaps he was wrong in using the term shop assistant. At all events those working lifts or machinery and who were workmen would undoubtedly be included within the terms of the Act. That was a very wide extension of the benefits of the Act. The same observation applied to those who where engaged in building opera- 926 tions, in mining or in quarries, and in laying electric lines or works. The limitation of five applied to other employments. All the dangerous trades, practically, were included in the Bill. There were many trades which were not absolutely dangerous, in which there were small risks and small premiums. But, when they got to the small employers in those trades, they got the small risk but by no means the small premium. The insurance companies, in those cases, insisted on a minimum premium. In farming, for instance, where the risk was small, the premium ranged from 7s. 6d. to 10s. per cent., which represented ten or a dozen times the risk. The result would be that the small employer in a non-dangerous trade would not be insured, and that, if they were to take him into the Bill, they would be conferring on the workmen in that trade an illusory benefit. These small employers were, in truth, nothing but fellow workmen. Suppose, in the case of the village bootmaker, the apprentice who was sent with a pair of boots to a customer was injured in the course of delivering the goods by some accident in the road. Then this small trader might be called upon to pay the sum of 10s. a week, it might be for life, to a man who was very little removed in commercial and manufacturing status from himself. The Government had to consider that. Hon. Members might be quite certain that those who had framed the Bill considered every one of these cases in a most sympathetic spirit. They had considered them with no desire to make exclusions, but in a spirit desirous of making every inclusion that was possible, and they had come to the conclusion that it would not be desirable to include small employers to whom the whole principle of personal liability for workmen's compensation was inappropriate, because they were, in fact, workmen themselves. It had been suggested that the men thus employed should have some means of deriving equal benefits with their fellow-workmen by some other machinery than that which was provided by this Bill. That was a very fair matter for consideration, which was not excluded by the Bill. The Government did no prevent that further extension of this legislation by their proposals. On the contrary, they led the House and the country up to it. The experience of the 927 working of the Bill among small employers in dangerous trades would greatly help and guide those who desired to make a still further extension of the principle to workmen in non-dangerous trades. As to State insurance, the Government were certainly not desirous of encumbering this Bill, already of dimensions dangerously great, with a proposal so disputable as that. No doubt his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean would raise the question in Committee, but he was not sure that it was an exactly accurate statement of the facts to say, as his right hon. friend had said, that England was behind every country in Europe in legislation of this kind. There was a sound and substantial reason for limiting at present the benefits of such legislation. The limitations were very small indeed compared with the enormous extensions.
§ MR. THORNE (West Ham, S.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that thousands of carmen will be shut out of this Bill?
§ MR. JENKINS (Chatham)
asked if two men working on board a ship scheduled as a factory would be excluded from the operation of the Act.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
thought such a case would come under the provisions of the Act. Something had been said with regard to out-workers, and he was desirous that the word should be used in its proper sense. What they meant by an out-worker was a person to whom work was given to do at his own house, where he was not under the control of the master at all, and to whom the whole machinery of the Act was inapplicable. That was the kind of out-worker who was excluded. With regard to industrial diseases, the provisions of the Bill were of a limited class, one might say of an experimental class. They did not by any means attempt to define industrial disease in general; they only specified certain diseases which were known to arise from particular causes which could be easily traced and identified, and as to which they could also form a very fair estimate of the time when they 928 arose. Those carefully specified diseases were made the subject of compensation as if they were accidents, because they were nearly all cases very much like accidents. With regard to seamen, for long it had been recognised that they ought to be included within the provisions of some Act of this kind, and the reason advanced for their exclusion ought rather to have been a paramount reason for their inclusion— namely, that accidents were so common in that employment that the premium would be too serious for the masters to incur. He thought that was now an exploded idea. He had had the honour as a private Member of proposing a measure for the inclusion of seamen in such benefits, and that was laid before the ship owners and met with very general agreement. As far as the shipbuilding trade was concerned, he believed they did not look with any special dislike on the inclusion of seamen. No doubt in Committee details would be dealt with which it was not convenient to discuss at the present stage, but he thought that they might now agree on the principle of the Bill. He suggested that the Motion before the House should be amended as follows, since the Bill was also a consolidating measure—Bill to consolidate and amend the law with respect to compensation to workmen for injury suffered in the course of their employment.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.),
who was indistinctly heard, said he quite appreciated the reasonableness of the appeal made by the hon. and learned Gentleman that they should not go into very great detail as to the innumerable cases which might arise under this Act until, at all events, the full text was before them. In the case of similar Bills he knew how easy it was to misunderstand, and how time was wasted by not deferring consideration for a period. At the same time, in a matter of this sort, whore the interest was so universal, it was very desirable to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the First Reading to get a clear and distinct understanding as to the main provisions of the Bill. He himself in previous years had taken a very great personal interest in this subject. His hon. friend the Member for North Ayrshire had said with great truth that on that side of the House there certainly could not be any objection to the principle of the Bill, which was, if he might put it shortly, to extend 929 the advantages of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had said that in a matter of this kind it was wise to proceed step by step, and had objected to encumber such an Act with proposals which might tome at a subsequent time, and which would introduce considerable matter for discussion, such as that for State insurance. He entirely agreed, and would point out that this principle of compensation was one of the charges which properly belonged to the trade in which the accident took place. When the principle was first introduced in 1892 there was still more reason why those who were answerable for such a novelty should limit considerably its immediate application. He thought it would be found by reference to the debates of that time that his friend the late Lord Ridley, then Home Secretary, and he himself, in speaking on this subject, while protesting against any attempt to overload the Bill at that moment, and considering it as an experiment, nevertheless showed very clearly their own wish and desire that it should be largely extended if it proved to be, as they thought it would, a very great success. Speaking for himself, there was hardly any extension of it which he would not welcome. The first remark he had to make with regard to some of the exclusions was that even now he did not quite understand them. He understood from what had been said at an earlier period that the Bill excepted employments in which not more than five persons were engaged. But, if he had followed the hon. and learned Gentleman, another condition of exemption was made—namely, that there was no machinery.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that in the clause which governed the exclusions there were certain limitations. There was liability for compensation where the accident was attributable to the use by the employer of machinery driven by steam, water, or other mechanical power, or where a workman at the time of the accident had the care or management of a horse, or was engaged in mining or quarrying, or building operations, or laying or repairing any electric lines or works.
MR. J. CHAMBEBLAIN
confessed that he did not understand the principle 930 of that. He himself would be inclined to include small shops. He could not quite see how they could fairly include a shop where there happened to be a lathe, as, for instance, a blacksmith's shop in a village, where there were less than five workpeople, while at the same time excluding a similar shop which had not a lathe but where a man might be injured by a hammer or by a hot iron. Was not such a case as that deserving of compensation? In excluding small workshops it was proposed to go a great deal further than he himself would like to go, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his position in regard to this matter. Then, again, for the life of him he could not understand why apparently a whole class, one of the most deserving in the country, was excluded—he meant clerks. There was no class with which he had more sympathy than clerks; they had to make a good appearance on very small means, they had to have a superior education, and he thought they certainly were deserving of the consideration that was shown to workmen. In many cases they took similar risks with workmen. He remembered an accident that happened in Birmingham—a boiler explosion, when the boiler was flung bodily by the explosion through the office, and serious injury was sustained by some of the clerks. On what possible ground in any such case could clerks be fairly excluded and workmen included? He hoped that when they came to the discussion of matters of detail clerks would be included. It has been strongly urged that domestic servants might be included in this Bill. He was in favour of including them. They might exclude very small houses. He knew by his own experience that insurance of domestic servants could be obtained at very small expense. With regard to seamen, he was not quite certain whether it was intended in the case of accidents on board ship to force the British owner to compensate alien seamen.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
thought that reasonable enough. He would proceed a step further. They were going to compensate the alien, and throw upon the English shipowner the expense 931 of compensating not only British but alien seamen. There was a Shipping Bill before the House by which perhaps this subject might have been more satisfactorily dealt with. At all events, they were told that it was intended to equalise the conditions as between British and foreign shipping, and that they were going to force foreigners who came into our harbours to adopt the same precautions which were considered necessary in British ships. He thought that was perfectly fair. He hoped it would be remembered that there was a new obligation upon the British shipowner, and Parliament ought to enforce the same obligation to insure their seamen on the owners of foreign ships coming into our harbours, and to take the same precautions with regard to life. These were points to which he wished to direct attention at this early period. Questions of the greatest importance affecting enormous numbers of workmen would necessarily come up in the discussions on this Bill, and he presumed that the measure would be dealt with by Committee of the Whole House, and that there would be no attempt to take the Committee stage out of the control of the House. He said that with all friendship to the Bill, because he was not certain that by taking it upstairs they would prevent the House at subsequent stages from giving great attention to the details. It would not be so convenient to deal with the details of the measure in that way as in Committee of the Whole House. There was no desire to obstruct the Bill in any part of the House. But, in regard to the time before the demand for compensation should commence to be paid, he would press the representatives of the working men, both inside and outside the House, to consider very carefully whether a provision which at first sight might appear to be to the advantage of the workmen, might not ultimately be not so much to the disadvantage of the manufacturer or the employer, as to the workman himself. They should not desire to press on the employer any expenditure which was not clearly in the interest of the workmen; because, after all, whatever political economists might say on the subject, they all knew that one of the factors in wages was the expense of production, and if the expense of production was raised beyond certain limits by legislation, it was con- 932 ceivable that some part of that charge might he transferred by the employer on to the workmen. Before the Bill of 1897 was introduced he consulted a large number of people acquainted with the principles of compensation insurance, some of the principal officials of the great friendly and benefit societies in this country, and representatives of insurance companies. They all pressed upon him that in the interests of the workman, as well as of the employer, a distinct and definite period should lapse before compensation was payable. The reason was that, after all, there was no great pressure for compensation where the accident was so slight as to be represented by no more than a fortnight's illness. In the second place, it was found by some of the friendly societies necessary to protect themselves by a delay before compensation became payable, in order to prevent fraud. He asked whether it was worth while putting 50 per cent. more expense upon the employer in order merely to get compensation for the first fortnight's absence from work. He urged the representatives of the workmen to consider whether it was in their interests to press for an alteration in the law which would be found to be extremely unpopularand would place an increased charge on employers everywhere. When the Bill of 1897 was before the House he had returns furnished to him of the number of accidents which took place in every great trade in the country, and calculations were deduced from these returns as to what the operation of the Bill would cost. At the time he believed that the statements made by the opponents of the Bill as to its cost were greatly exaggerated, and that had been proved to be the case, because after some years experience of the working of the Act it was found that his original calculations were absolutely correct. He was informed that of late years there had been a considerable increase in the number of accidents. Why was that? [An HON. MEMBER on the LABOUR Benches: Speeding up the machinery.] Well, if speeding up machinery had taken place, with the result of an increase in the number of accidents, then he for one was glad that means were provided for compensation. If the House reduced the close period, as it had been called, to seven days, he thought they would open the way to a great deal more litigation, and to that 933 extent they would injure rather then benefit the working classes.
MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
recognised the appeal which had been made that the House should not treat this as a Second Reading debate. He wished, however, to make a few remarks in regard to the last point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken. Under the last Compensation Act several classes of workers were deprived of its benefits, and were thus seriously injured. He could not see why in serious accidents compensation should not be payable during the first week following an accident, and he put it to the Home Secretary that he would confer a greater benefit upon the working classes if he would make compensation date from the time when the accident took place rather than by altering the qualifying period. He did not think that by this means they would increase the claims which would be made under the Bill, or in any way bring it into disrepute. The Home Secretary had spoken of this as a consolidating measure, but it included only the Compensation Acts of 1897 and 1902. He thought it might be possible to provide one measure which should include all the Employers' Liabilities Laws concerning the relations between workmen and employers, and that such a Bill was wanted by the country. He welcomed the present Bill, however, and would do all he could to support it.
§ MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
said that trades unionists wanted a promise from the Home Secretary that he would make provision that no person at present included in the scope of the Acts should be excluded from the right to compensation by the Bill. Labour Members could not support a measure which would exclude some people who were now entitled to the benefits of the existing Compensation Acts. Since they had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham practically a member of the trades union group, they would get a good Bill.
§ MR. SPICER (Hackney, Central)
said he was in favour of the inclusion of clerks, shop assistants, and domestic servants within the purview of the Bill. Domestic servants were of great assistance to us all, and it would be sheer ingratitude to 934 exclude them from the Act. He was also unable to understand why clerks should be excluded. He thought that the learned Solicitor-General touched rather a lower key than the Home Secretary. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to say that the Bill had been built up by a recognition of dangerous trades. He maintained that the classes whose cause they advocated ran as much risk as those who worked in factories and workshops. Take the fiat system, with its tenements and lifts. The servant ran as much risk there as in any factory.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill to consolidate and amend the law with respect to Compensation to Workmen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary Gladstone, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Solicitor General, and Mr. Herbert Samuel.