§ As amended, further considered.
*MR. COCHRANE, continuing his speech, said that during the last eight months the Government had done nothing to deal with this important question of insurance, although they had dealt with many other less important measures introduced by private Members of Parliament. In Germany this matter had been dealt with by several Acts of Parliament which commenced in 1883 with one of compulsory insurance, while the fundamental law was passed in 1884. Since that date five supplemental Acts of Parliament had been found necessary, and all he could ask of the right hon. Gentleman was, "Why do we lag so far behind?" The right hon. Gentleman, on the Second Reading, said—
The fact of the matter is that the wider you extend the scope of what we call the principle of workmen's compensation the greater is the urgency you create for some system to guarantee the position of those entitled to compensation.
But his right hon. friend had done nothing between April of this year and the present time to provide for that necessity which had been accentuated enormously since the time at which he spoke, because the restrictions in regard to the number of people who would be affected by the Act had been swept away. The urgency of the situation had therefore been accentuated. Then, again, in the course of the debate the right hon. Gentleman said that the present Government considered that there was a risk as regarded the ability of the small employer to make compensation to his workmen in case of injury. If that risk existed, and the Government could not find a remedy, he thought it was their duty to accept a remedy proposed to them from the other side of the House. His real object was to encourage insurance by the small employer. The Act, he might point out, was being very widely extended. The right hon. Gentleman himself had said that he wanted to limit the number of shop assistants to three, that was to say, that the Workmen's Compensation Act should not apply in cases in which there were less than three assistants, and he had pointed out how widely a proposal to include less than throe would extend
the Act as compared with cases which applied to organised trades. He said—
Shop assistants number 1,000,000, of which about 450,000 are the sole assistants of the small shopkeepers by whom they are employed, and the House will have to consider whether it is advisable and safe to make these small grocers, drapers, and booksellers liable under the Act.
This expression of opinion also applied to masons, bricklayers, carpenters, carriers, joiners, blacksmiths, et hoc genus omne. As the Royal Commission pointed out, 25 per cent, of the small builders did not insure, and the evidence about the small tenement factories was to a similar effect. Commander Smith said—
The tenants of these factories neglect to insure, and being men of straw would be unable to pay any compensation awarded against them.
In view of that expression of opinion, he held that considerable responsibility in regard to these men rested upon the Government. If the Government left them without any protection they would be very wrong indeed. Knowingly to promise compensation and yet to take no steps in such oases was cruel and unstatesman like. In these cases very often the employer made no more money in the course of the year than the employee, and the only resort of the latter, if he were injured, was to make his employer a bankrupt or go without his compensation. After all, the small ignorant employer did not know probably what his duties were, but the Government, unless they were careful, were going to injure a man who had a wife and family to support just as much as his employee had. The Government were aware of the facts of the case, because the Home Secretary had stated—
The fact of the matter is that the wider you extend the scope of what we call the principle of workmen's compensation the greater is the urgency you create for some system of insurance to guarantee the position of those entitled to compensation.
Again the right hon. Gentleman had said —
The present Government consider that there is a risk with regard to the inability of the small employer to make good the payment to the workmen entitled to compensation.
These were weighty words, and this new clause would help the small employer and warn off insolvent adventurers who wished to traffic upon the needs of the
poor and ignorant. But what was being done in foreign countries? In Spain the employer was released from his personal liability on insuring with an approved insurance company. In Holland one of the alternatives open to the employer was the transfer of his liability to an insurance company provided that this company deposited sufficient security with the State Insurance Office. In Sweden the employer was given the right to insure in "the Royal Insurance Institution," apparently a State institution. In Russia employers were exempted from liability if the had arranged for insurance in certain insurance companies. In Belgium employers escaped the obligation by contributing to an insurance fund set up by the State, and if they contracted for the payment of an indemnity by an insurance society approved by the Government. In Italy the general rule was that the employer must insure with the National Bank for the insurance of workmen against accidents (an institution established by the Government by agreement with various savings banks whose operations were assisted gratuitously by local officials and the Post Office), or with other societies approved by the Government. Exemptions were allowed to employers who gave security or belonged to a mutual insurance corporation fulfilling the conditions prescribed by law, the regulations of which had been approved by the State. The Home Secretary had admitted that the conditions in Italy were well worth our while to consider, but nothing had been done. Under the clause which he had submitted to the House he had endeavoured, so far as a private Member could, to meet the difficulty which he saw before them.
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS (Kent, St. Augustine's)
seconded the proposed new clause brought forward by his hon. friend and former colleague. Everyone would admit that the Bill would throw a great burden on the employers of the country. That was one of the reasons why the right hon. Gentleman should give, every consideration to this clause. It ought to be made as easy as possible for email employers to effect these insurances with proper and solvent companies. If the right hon. Gentleman could 327 not go further he ought at least to see that a list of proper insurance companies was exposed in the post offices of the towns and villages. In that way the names of these insurance companies would come before the small employers, who would then be protected against bogus companies. The Government ought to see how far they could go in making it easy and cheap for the small employers to effect these insurances with solvent companies and protect them from the mushroom companies which would grow up directly this Bill became law. If the right hon. Gentleman could not accept the clause as it was, he hoped he would accept its principle and bring up another clause dealing with the matter.
(1) For the purpose of enabling small employers to enter more easily into contracts of insurance in respect of their liabilities under this Act, the Postmaster General may enter into and give effect to agreements with any insurance company approved for the purpose by the Registrar of Friendly Societies, for the issue through the Post Office of policies of insurance in respect of those liabilities granted to any such employer by the company. (2) Regulations made by the Treasury shall prescribe the conditions to be fulfilled by a company to obtain approval under this section, and shall provide for the payment by the company to the Registrar and the Postmaster-General of the amount of any expenses incurred by them in connection with any investigation of the affairs of the company before approval and with the issue of policies granted by the company, and shall contain such further provisions as may be necessary or proper to enable the Postmaster-General to carry into effect this section and any agreement made thereunder. (3) In this section the expression 'small employer' means an employer who, at the time when the policy is issued, has not in his employment more than five workmen, and it shall be a term of every policy issued under this section that if at any time during the currency of the policy the number of workmen in the employment of the policy holder exceeds five the policy shall thereupon become null and void, without prejudice to any liability already accrued thereunder, and the company shall repay to the employer such a proportion of the premium paid by him as is attributable to the unexpired portion of the period in respect of which the premium was paid."—(Mr. Cochrane.)
§ Brought up and read the first time
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."328
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLADSTONE, Leeds, Central)
said the Government were in full agreement with the object the right hon. Gentleman and his friend had in view in moving this clause. They desired as for as possible to make it easy for small employers to effect insurances through the Post Office or in other directions, but they did not view with favour the general object of compulsory insurance. The necessity for dealing with the large question was admitted, and when the right hon. Gentleman spoke of small bogus companies he would remind him that the Government had in hand a Bill, which would probably be brought in next year, by which that evil would to a large extent be dealt with, as a deposit would be required so as to insure a reasonable amount of solvency on the part of the companies. The hon. Member for North Ayrshire had blamed him for having neglected his opportunity in this matter, stating that before 28th November there was ample time to inquire into the whole subject and to bring in a scheme, or plan, or Bill to deal with the question of compulsory insurance. But the hon. Gentleman had also said that in Germany it had taken years of inquiry and five Acts of Parliament to deal with it. How all that work was to be done in two months he could not say. This clause was based on the general proposition brought forward by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean on the Second Reading of the Bill. On that occasion it was fully discussed by the right hon. Member in an interesting and exhaustive speech in which he shewed how comprehensive and difficult the question was, and it was made perfectly clear that it would be sheer folly on the part of the Government, without full consideration, to commit itself to a particular scheme of national insurance. The Government required to consider the advantages and the disadvantages of the numberless schemes in existence, and the working of our own laws in relation to those schemes, before they determined what particular scheme could be applied in this country. What the House was now considering was the clause proposed 329 by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire, to whom they were indetted for the obvious care with which he had dealt with the subject. He did not plead guilty to any neglect of his opportunities, but he thanked the hon. Member for the trouble he had taken in his desire to facilitate the working of the Act and to give employers hints. But the Amendment itself went too far. It involved an absolutely new departure and put a very great responsibility on the Post Office. It provided machinery for making the Post Office in a large measure an insurance agency. That was what the whole Amendment rested on, and if his right hon. friend took upon himself all the responsibility which rested on such agencies with the added responsibility of his office he would be in a position of great danger. The Chief Registrar also saw the greatest difficulty in the Amendment. Two things must happen if this Amendment were accepted. First of all, he presumed the Home Office would have to furnish a list of selected insurance companies which should be exposed in every post office throughout the kingdom. Before that could be done the Government would have to examine the financial condition of every recognised insurance company, and there would have to be a permanent committee for that purpose. There was no statutory power for such examinations, and probably the truth would not be ascertained. How was it possible to draw up such a list before 3rd July—the date at which this Bill was to come into operation. The hon. Member had not suggested how he proposed to get at the financial position of the companies.
* MR. COCHEANE
said he thought the explanation was on the face of the clause,For the purpose of enabling small employers to enter more easily into contracts of insurance in respect of their liabilities under this Act, the Postmaster-General may enter into and give effect to agreements with any insurance company approved for the purpose by the Registrar of Friendly Societies.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that in that case the Amendment did not go far enough. A very serious question was raised. Was the State to guarantee the solvency 330 of all the companies on the list? It was perfectly clear that if on the authority of the Government a list of selected insurance companies were hung up at all the post offices it would be equivalent to a Government guarantee that all these insurance offices were solvent. If he followed the argument of the hon. Gentleman that was not all. He understood him to say that a harsh company would not be selected, so that not only would the Government have to be responsible for the solvency of a company, but for its methods of conducting business as well. That opened up a vista of considerations which went to show that no solution of this question would be satisfactory without a formal and an exhaustive Government inquiry into the whole subject. There was another point. Any company that happened to send in its name would have it added to the list of companies to be hung in the post offices. Any company, large or small, good, bad, or indifferent, which chose to have its name put on the list would be put on. Was the Government to be a medium for giving facilities to a man to insure in a bad or insolvent company? Was it proposed that a sub-postmaster should select or advise the applicant to select a particular company? How was he to advise on the question? He had no knowledge of employers' liability law or of insurance risks. A special branch of the Post Office would be required to deal with the matter. One of the great difficulties in the matter of insurance for small employers was the cost of insurance relative to the risk that was run, and if they proposed and elaborate, but he was bound to say, with all respect to his hon. friend, an ill-considered scheme of Post Office interference, he very much doubted whether the effect that all desired would be obtained, namely, a cheap and easy policy to the insurer. In 1900 something like 2,000,000 agricultural labourers came under the Act, but ft had not occurred to the late Government in five years to prepare a scheme, and he could not accept a proposal of the kind at two days' notice. Though he could not accept the Amendment, he, with the Postmaster-General, would be quite willing to confer with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and see if a way could be found to offer certain facilities through the Post Office and by executive action to assist the object in 331 view. Having said that, he hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
said the right hon. Gentleman had recognised the interest which his hon. friend took in this question and the part he had a right to take in their debates on the subject. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would recognise also that he had some interest in workmen's compensation, partly of a filial nature, partly on this particular Amendment, because he had had the honour at one time to hold the office of Postmaster-General. That was his justification for intervening in this debate. Though there was much he could find to criticise or to differ from in the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, his concluding sentences, for which he had not been altogether prepared by the earlier portions of his speech, encouraged him to hope much better things than he had hoped at first. The right hon. Gentleman himself in arguing against the Amendment had stated the difficulty with which they were really confronted. They wanted to make workmen's compensation as embodied in the original Act and as amplified by the amending Acts reach as far as possible. They wanted to secure compensation to the injured person with the least possible expenditure on machinery and with the greatest possible certainty that he would attain it when the proper time came. The more they extended it to industries carried on by very small employers, the greater was the difficulty of ensuring any one of these conditions being properly fulfilled, for, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, the small employers in a country village or scattered widely over a country district with very little to insure, and with a very small premium to pay, were not an attractive field for the insurance agent. That was the difficulty recognised by both sides of the House which it had boon the object of his hon. friend to meet. He had not proposed to interfere with private enterprise, even in these scattered cases, still less in the cases of large industrial insurance, with which private enterprise could most easily deal; but he had suggested that to bring home the benefits of this insurance to these scattered cases of small employers they might fairly look for some assistance from the State, 332 and that that assistance should be given through the Postmaster-General. Might he say as one who for a very short time held that office that he thought there was a natural disinclination on the part of the Post Office as an institution to add to its already large responsibilities new and onerous duties? At the same time, be conceived that the Legislature might find in the Post Office ready to hand an instrument at once certain, far-reaching, and economical, for some of the changes or reforms which they desired to see introduced, and he was extremely glad to hear from the Home Secretary that the present Postmaster-General was not averse to considering the tacking on to the Post Office of some additional duties outside the ordinary work of the office What were the, objections urged by the Home Secretary? The right hon. Gentleman had said that the chief registrar of friendly societies would have great objection to the duties thrown upon him, and they ought to pay attention to his opinion. The same objections would apply to Clause 8, under which similar duties were imposed.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
thought the right hon. Gentleman was rather anticipating the line the Government proposed to take.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said the Home Secretary had altogether exaggerated the duties which would be cast upon the Chief Registrar and the Treasury by his hon. friend's proposal. It would not be necessary to examine into the details of the management and solvency of every insurance company throughout the United Kingdom. All that was necessary would be to make an alteration in the law which would impose upon every insurance company doing this class of insurance business the obligation of depositing sufficient security to meet any liability which might arise under these policies. The words of the new clause in sub-section (2) provided that—Regulations made by the Treasury shall prescribe the conditions to be fulfilled by a company to obtain approval under this section.No doubt if the Government consulted with the Chief Registrar they would be able to frame general regulations which would guarantee the solvency of the 333 companies concerned for the purposes of these policies. The Home Secretary had drawn a picture of the sub-postmaster having to refer individual cases to the Postmaster-General, or to the new branch of his Department which would have to consider each case on its merits; he agreed if that were the result of this Amendment it would make the working of the scheme practically impossible. He submitted, however, that that would not be necessary, because all that was required was to lay down general regulations by which it could be easily ascertained what class of risk the applicant would come under. He thought there were strong reasons for using the Post Office as an agency in this matter, because it would add to the present life annuity business. He welcomed the statement made by the Homo Secretary in his concluding remarks, although he thought he had somewhat exaggerated the difficulties. He hoped that before the debate closed the Postmaster-General would explain to the House what was in his mind, and the lines upon which he thought he might be able to take action.
§ * THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON, Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said everybody recognised the sympathetic manner in which the Home Secretary had met this Amendment, and that the hon. Gentleman opposite had done good service by raising the question. It was one that must be considered and, if possible, dealt with, because the State by this Bill would place an obligation upon small employers, and they ought to make that obligation as light as possible. It was a question to which he should like to devote his attention. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had asked what actual proposals he was in a position to make. The House would recognise that he could not give a reply to that question without the fullest consideration.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that was not his question, because that would be quite unreasonable. What he asked was if the Postmaster-General could indicate the lines on which his mind was working, and the results he hoped eventually to obtain.
§ * MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he had not yet had an opportunity of giving it 334 full consideration, but, speaking without prejudice, he thought that if the Post Office dealt with the matter all it would be better that it should deal with it as principal and not as an agent. There were two difficulties in the way of the State's acting as an agent. There was the difficulty of the State, through its officers, distinguishing between one company and another, and if a distinction was made, it would be considered to be an absolute guarantee of the solvency of the company, and in the case of any defalcation on the part of the company there would be a claim upon the State to fulfil its obligations. Therefore it appeared to him, on the first blush, that, if the State found it could deal with this matter at all, it should deal with, it directly, because it would incur all the responsibility; though it might be found, in working out a practical scheme, that the difficulty might be overcome and agency be utilised. That was a question that required grave consideration. He might mention that there was a Bill pro-pared, which would be introduced in the coming session, more or less on the lines of the present Assurance Companies Act, whereby such companies who desired to make a deposit, or in some other way to show to a certain extent their solvency, would be put on a list, and no company who did not show sufficient security would be allowed to undertake this assurance at all. That was what they all desired—to prevent rotten companies from undertaking the work. For the moment all he could promise was that, so far as administrative action was concerned, he should desire to do anything he found it in his power to do. He saw the advantage of placing lists of solvent companies in post-offices for information.
* MR. COCHEANE
asked how the right hon. Gentleman would discover which companies were solvent and which were insolvent.
§ * MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that unfortunately they had no means at present of discovering which companies were solvent and which were insolvent. Under the Bill to be introduced next year they would have a list, and as soon as there was a list of solvent companies he would undertake that it should be so dealt with as to be utilised in bringing the two parties together. He 335 would be prepared to allow the sub-postmasters in various parts of the country to act in their private capacity as agents for these companies and to give such information as they could. Until more security was obtainable they could not be allowed to make the State liable for the information which they gave. He hoped the House would recognise that the Home Secretary and himself desired to deal with this matter in a sympathetic spirit.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said that the Labour Members on both sides of the House were agreed in principle in regard to this Amendment. It was felt that it did supply a need for which there was no provision in the Bill. The statement just made by the Postmaster-General, however, had put an entirely new aspect on the question. He had given what was practically an assurance that in one form or another the Post Office would be used at least as a means of communicating information concerning insurance companies. A further indication that it was possible that the Post Office might develop into a principal insurer rather than an agency for insurance companies was most valuable and welcome. He would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he could give any indication that some method of meeting the point made by the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Ayrshire would be devised to come into operation simultaneously with the Act on the 1st July next. If an assurance of that kind could be given he hoped the hon. Member would agree to the Amendment being withdrawn.
§ SIR E. CARSON (Dublin University)
said he did not know very well how far the powers of the Post Office went under present legislation, but he thought most of them at all events were agreed with the observation which the Postmaster-General made that eventually this matter ought to develop into a scheme for the Post Office themselves carrying out these small insurances just as they carried out other matters not germane to Post Office work. What he would suggest was that if the Post Office had not already sufficient 336 powers the Postmaster-General should take powers by this Bill by a short clause, limited in any way that the right hon. Gentleman thought necessary, so that if and when he saw it was feasible to formulate a scheme for setting up these insurance provisions they could do so. It would be merely a permissive clause, and the whole matter would be dealt with under the regulations of the Post Office and the Treasury, so that it would be lawful for the Post Office with the consent of the Treasury to set up a scheme to enable small employers to insure through the Post Office.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he had stated as fully as he could at present the views which the Government entertained on the subject. Without having further opportunity of looking into the matter, the only pledge he would give to the House was that he would give it sympathetic consideration on the lines he had indicated.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (City of London)
said the proposal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University was extremely dangerous. He understood the proposal was that the Post Office should start an insurance business. He was astonished at the rapidity with which they were going on the road to socialism. He understood further that the Postmaster-General was going to allow postmasters to recommend insurance companies on the understanding that the Post Office did not accept any liability.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY
said the result would inevitably be that the people who received information would consider that the name given by a postmaster carried with it the liability of the State. Therefore he thought that before the right hon. Gentleman gave permission to postmasters to do this he should take some steps to ascertain that the companies recommmded were in a sound financial position. He could find out in a fortnight which insurance companies were sufficiently sound to be 337 recommended with a reasonable probability that they would be able to meet their liabilities. This was an extremely important point on which he felt strongly, and he hoped the Postmaster-General would consider what he had said.
§ * MR. COCHRANE
thanked the Postmaster-General and the House for their kindly and sympathetic reception of the Amendment. He did not share the fears of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London as to what would take place. The Post Office had already undertaken considerable insurance business, and after due inquiry it might be found that the Department could still further extend the sphere of its usefulness. The right hon. Gentleman had substantially admitted his point and promised that the matter should receive immediate attention, and he had further stated that the Board of Trade would early in next session introduce a Bill dealing with the subject. He therefore asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GLADSTONE moved an Amendment providing that an employer should not be liable in respect of any injury which did not disable the workman for a period of "one week" instead of "three days." He would briefly remind the House what had been done in regard to this point. The Bill as originally introduced provided that there should be compensation after seven days. In the Standing Committee an Amendment was carried against the advice of the Government substituting three days for seven. There had been considerable debate about the matter, and communications had been received from employers complaining that the qualifying period had been made so short. Proposals were made on behalf of the employers to the effect that if "seven days" were reinserted, they would be ready to accept a dating back provision after twenty-eight days. Afterwards he announced to the Grand Committee that the Government, after careful consideration, proposed to reinstate "seven days," and subsequently they provided a dating back period so that the workman should get compensation after fourteen days.338
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he announced that to the Grand Committee. There could be no question about that. He did not say that the hon. Gentleman accepted it, but unless he was under a misapprehension, it was received with approval in the Committee by hon. Gentlemen opposite and below the gangway. The principal argument in favour of substituting seven days for fourteen was to his mind to be found in the evidence given before the Departmental Committee, which showed the great hardship which this long qualifying period inflicted more particularly on the small wage - earners of the country. A man or woman earning 7s., 10s., or 12s. a week, after being injured, had to pass a whole fortnight before getting either wages or compensation, and the Government felt, in view of the many cases of hardship which would arise, that the matter was one of which they ought to take notice. He quite agreed that the proposal of the Government would involve considerable increase in the cost, especially in connection with the more dangerous trades of the country. There were many trades where the question of cost was quite inconsiderable to the employers themselves, but when they came to such trades as engineering, shipbuilding, mining, and so forth, it was a far more serious matter. What he maintained was that the proposal which the Government were making in this Bill was a necessary and direct consequence of the Act of 1897, because this principle was adopted as underlying that Act. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham, to whom everybody was under a great obligation in connection with the question of workmen's compensation, laid down these words—When a person on his own responsibility Sets in motion an agency with grievous risk to others, he ought to be similarly responsible for what he does.In 1897 the Government in many directions refused to put upon the employer a higher liability than was proposed in their Bill; but they did not refuse to accept Amendments involving higher liability because it was wrong 339 in itself. Time after time they urged that the Bill which they were introducing was tentative and experimental, and that they wanted fuller experience before committing themselves to the further progressive stages which they frankly admitted would ultimately become absolutely necessary. The country had now had almost ten years experience of the working of the Act of 1895, and he maintained that the cost of the Act had not inflicted the smallest damage on any industry in the country, in spite of the lugubrious and harrowing prophecies which were made in 1897. The two great hardships which had emerged from the working of the Act had been the hardship to the small wage-earner in losing his wages for two weeks when he was only temporarily incapacitated, and the hardship on the severely injured man, who might be laid up for six months or a year, who was cut off absolutely from any compensation for the first fortnight. These particular hardships were inconsistent with the principle laid down in 1897 by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. No provision in the Bill would injure the country, as against foreign countries. He was confident that no damage would be done to the industries of the country, and that the provisions in the Bill would fall lightly on the shoulders of employers. In some foreign countries the compensation law pressed more hardly on the employers than any Act passed by Parliament in this country. He knew quite well that the employer did not like to increase the responsibilities Parliament was imposing upon him; but the employer would not bear any higher burden under this Bill than under the Act of 1897. The burden would be transferred to the consumer. It seemed to him that the workman had as much title in one sense as the employer to keep his eye on increased charges of production, because he knew that unless the employer could transfer those charges to the consumer they would affect his wages. It would be acknowledged that those who represented workmen made no complaint that this charge indirectly, fell upon them, because it was in order that those who were injured should be provided for.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 1, line 13, to leave out the words 'three days,' and to insert the word 'seven.'"— (Mr. Secretary Gladstone..)
§ Question proposed, "That 'three days' stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. COCHRANE
said he could not quite accept what the right hon. Gentleman had said in regard to what took place in Committee upstairs. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to have then made the statement that the claim for compensation was to be after fourteen days from the injury.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that in Committee he stated that while the Government then accepted three days they would be prepared on Report to restore it to seven days from the date of the injury.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said that the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the prophecies which had been made in 1897 as to the evil which would result from the Workmen's Compensation Act. But he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that those prophecies came from the right hon. Gentleman's own Party which was then in opposition. He remembered a wealthy goalowner getting up in the House and saying that if the Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham were passed he would be a ruined man. What had happened to that prophet? Like all prophets he had in due course been translated to a higher sphere—in his case to the House of Lords—and he was still solvent. He endorsed emphatically what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman that this was not entirely an employer's or a workman's question. It was a national question. The fund from which the compensation would be paid was the wages fund, and the working classes had as direct an interest as the employers in the economical management of that fund. He desired to see all reasonable precautions taken to prevent the increase of malingering from which the working classes were no more exempt than other sections of the community. The 341 friendly societies by their rules protected themselves against malingering, and although he did not wish to make allegations of any kind he wanted hon. Members to see that there was a case to be met and dealt with. If the compensation were allowed to be dated fourteen days back a man would be entitled to get his half pay after fourteen days for the whole fourteen days. He would take, for example, the case of a man earning 30s. a week. What would his position be under the Workmen's Compensation Act? It would be found that if after the eighth day he remained idle rather than go to work he would make more money by it. This had been very carefully worked out, and the figures sent to him showed that there was a direct incentive to a man not to return to work. It was not only the question of the compensation which had to be paid, but it was the fact that the man remaining away from his work disorganised the establishment. To reduce the time from fourteen to seven days would mean increased percentages in the cost of insurance rising from 8 to 44 per cent. in the coal-mining, shipbuilding, textile, and other industries. This appeared from the figures supplied by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that the figures he gave in reply to a Question were merely speculative estimates by employers.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said he was aware of that, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would admit that they were genuine and bona fide figures which any hon. Member might quote to the House. What he suggested was that they wanted some measure of time which would enable them to tell whether the injury was serious or not. He was certain hon. Members opposite would agree with him, although they could not give him the support he desired. He desired to meet this difficulty. He did not want to see the man who had met with a serious accident left without assistance. He should, therefore, support the present Amendment, but he hoped the right hon. Gentlemen would not be inflexible with regard to the Amendment 342 he (Mr. Cochrane) proposed to move at a later stage.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said his understanding was that if the period of seven days was restored it would be made clear that on an injury incapacitating a man for fourteen days the payment would date from the beginning of the fortnight. As the phrase "more than two weeks" was used in the schedule he wished to know whether it was the intention of the Government that payment for the past week should be withheld if the illness did not last fifteen days.
§ MR. CORY (Cornwall, St. Ives)
said he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, that the passing of the Act of 1897 did not affect the interest of any one industry. So far as the coal trade was concerned he differed entirely from the right hon. Gentleman. It had made it more costly to extract coal, and to that extent more difficult to compete with the foreigner. Other nations had similar schemes, but they, especially the German scheme as it affected the coal trade, were much more favourable. It could not be said that the workman paid the cost of the Compensation Act, because wages were not based on profits, but on prices. If the cost was increased and the price did not go up less profit was obtained, but the same wages were paid. Nor did the wages paid rest with the employer. They rested with the Conciliation Boards. He contended that the increased cost imposed by the Bill would fall not on the consumer or the workman, but on the producer. In certain cases a workman would be better off by remaining away from work than by working at full wages. The North Durham Colliery Company had given an instance of miners who, receiving benefit from the different benefit funds, together with compensation, would be better off than if they returned to work. For instance, a man might receive from the Permanent Relief Fund 5s. a week; from the Durham Miners' Fund, 10s. a week; and from the Colliery Fund another 8s a week, making a total of 23s., which supposing his wages were 30s. a week, 343 and he received 15s. a week as compensation, would bring him in a total of 38s. a week if he remained away from work, instead of the 30s. he would get at regular work. In these circumstances there was sufficient inducement to a man to malinger. Under the present Act the proportion of cases in which compensation was paid per thousand of persons employed had increased from 43 to 148, which showed that as the men became better acquainted with the mode of making a claim the number of claims had enormously increased. He did not think that was to their credit. The Act had induced men to claim who were not entitled to do so, and by degrees they had been demoralised. Every class was liable to malinger, the working classes being no worse than any other. So long as a class had sufficient temptation they would avail themselves of the opportunity if it arose. The present proposal of the Home Secretary was infinitely worse than that carried in Grand Committee. Inquiries had been made from districts all over the country as to whether they would rather have three days, seven days, or a fortnight in this matter, and he thought without exception in all the big industries—certainly where coal was concerned—three days was preferred. Therefore the compromise that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of was merely a compromise between him and the Labour Members, and so far as the employers were concerned it seemed to him they would be very much worse off than under the Bill at present. He should oppose the Home Secretary's Amendment if it were coupled with the fourteen days provision.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he felt some difficulty in knowing how to vote upon the question which would be first put from the Chair. He would have been perfectly ready to support the right hon. Gentleman in the Motion that stood on the Paper had it not been for his explanation given in answer to the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division as to his intention when they came to deal with a later portion of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman stated that whilst proposing now to insert seven days in place of three days, he intended at a later point, to make the compensation retrospective if the accident disabled a man four- 344 teen days. Under those circumstances he supposed he could hardly vote upon the present Motion without having regard to what the right hon. Gentleman intended it to lead up to. At any rate he must reconsider his intention to support the right hon. Gentleman. This was not a Party question in any way, and should not be treated in a sectional spirit. Their interests were all alike, and those of the good workman and the good employer were the same. They desired to secure that no serious injury should take place without the fault of the workman for which he should not receive compensation. They did not desire that the industry on which the workman was dependent for his livelihood or the employer should be unnecessarily burdened in giving effect to that principle, and, therefore, they did not desire that an industry should be taxed to support what were not genuine cases of incapacity. There was, of course, always a difficulty in ascertaining whether a man who pleaded incapacity for work was or was not really incapacitated in the first days of an illness or injury which might be very serious, but which, on the other hand, might be more the effect of his own imagination than anything else. Speaking for himself and for those whose views be knew in the Midland counties, he believed it would be better for the insurance societies and for the workmen that they should take the three days limit than have a proposal of the kind now made. If they encouraged a man to stay out from work by telling him that if he only stayed out long enough compensation from that date forward and also for the time he had previously been out would be paid, they would be giving him an enormous temptation to keep away from work. The great mass of workmen desired to prevent malingering, and did their utmost to prevent it, but they knew that their societies were from time to time defrauded by claims which they were unable to check. In Birmingham there was an Employers' Mutual Insurance Society. The society insured employers, who employed over 125,000 workmen, and for some time past they had been making investigations in order to ascertain the comparative cost of insurance on different systems. They computed that 345 if the limit was three days the increased cost over that of the Act of 1897 would be 65 per cent., and if the limit were seven days the increase would be 74-4 per cent., in both cases the figure including increased cost of administration and investigation. For that additional cost to the employer no corresponding advantage was given to the workman. Personally he would support the old period of fourteen days without any counting back, because he thought it was the best. He would prefer, however, seven days to three days, because he did not think seven days inflicted any hardship on an injured workman, and was a greater security against malingering. But if the seven days were to be counted when the injury extended beyond a fortnight, he preferred the Bill as it left the Grand Committee to this proposal.
§ * MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.)
said that if there was as much malingering among workmen as hon. Members professed to believe, the best solution of the difficulty would be to pay compensation from the date that the accident happened. Speaking as a workman, he had no hesitation in denying that there was anything like the quantity of malignering that they had been told existed. Far be it from him to say that they would not find here and there in a large number of working men a man who was not as honourable as he ought to be, but he was really an exception. The House was asked to legislate for the rule, not for the exception. He did not think hon. Members ought to emphasise too much the question of malingering. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire told the. House that sometimes workmen's accidents were more matters of their own imagination than anything else, he was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman had not been hurt or injured by following manual labour himself. He himself had, and for years before he entered Parliament it was his particular business to deal direct with oases of compensation. Men had been hurt who bore no signs of it, but they knew they were hurt, and even after they returned to their work they had been obliged to give up. Much emphasis had been laid on the case of a man who although he received £100 346 for total disablement began to work again. They were not told, however, whether that workman had commenced to work at his own trade, which was an important distinction. A miner was often injured and received compensation but was able to do some light work outside his trade. There were many cases of that kind. A man should not be called a malingerer because he worked at some lighter trade. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer had observed quite correctly that compensation was paid out of the "wage and profit" fund of a concern, and therefore the workmen paid their proportionate share towards the compensation. The hon. Member for St. Ives said that wages were ruled by prices. He noticed that the same hon. Gentleman fought as strongly and determinedly against any advance of wages as he was doing against compensation, and looked at the matter from the side of the employer. He agreed that he himself might be somewhat biassed in looking at the question from a workman's point of view, but he would remind the hon. Member that neither the selling price nor the wages paid were taken into account so far as compensation was concerned, because compensation was paid out of the wage and profit fund, and if that was reduced the workmen stood to lose. If the concern did not pay the men got no allowances when workinp in bad or unfair places. He would like to ask the House to pause before placing too much reliance upon the documents which had been sent to Members by representative employers' associations. He did not say they were compiled purposely to mislead, but the question of cost was looked from the standpoint of the employer through a magnifying glass that the facts were exaggerated. It was stated by the employers on the introduction of this Bill that the result of its working would impose a burden of 3d. a ton on all coal got, but the actual figures showed that it was less than 1d. per ton.
MR. MAEKHAM (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
The hon. Member is quite wrong there.
§ MR. BRACE
said he was speaking well within his own knowledge but he would be glad to hear from the hon. 347 Member the source of his information. If the employers made such a blunder before what reliability could they place on their statements now? But the question of cost ought not to be considered in connection with injured workmen. Surely it was not too much to ask the House of Commons to provide that when men had been badly mauled in producing the nation's wealth they should be given sufficient compensation to keep then -selves and their families in some kind of comfort and respectability until they were able to resume work. He did not think that seven days for a minor accident was unfair, although he was sure that he could make out a strong case for payment from the first day of injury in serious and minor accident cases. In his view the proposal of the Government was a fair compromise. An honourable understanding had been arrived at by which the injured were to have compensation from the first day of the injury in serious accidents, and a limit of seven days for minor accidents, and he thought that was an arrangement which the House might very well accept. When a man was injured the cost of keeping up his home was very much greater than under normal circumstances. During the first few weeks whilst the injured man was nourishing his body an increased cost would be thrown upon the home and its resources. When a man's earning power was withdrawn by an accident surely it was only right and equitable that the Legislature should open a channel through which the means of sustenance might flow until he had recovered. He hoped the compromise arrived at would not be departed from.
§ MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said the Government had agreed to this compromise, and he did not think the point was worth arguing under the circumstances. It had been said that there were more serious accidents than minor ones, but surely the path the Government had taken was the right one, namely, to give compensation for the larger number of the accidents.
§ MR. H. J. TENNANT
said he believed the suggestion was a compromise which would be largely instrumental in pre-venting the occurrence of accidents, and the Government ought to adhere to it.
§ MR. MARKHAM
said he had some knowledge of the cost of the working of the Compensation Act. In South Wales the cost of compensation insurance was originally 18s. per £100, but it had risen to 35s. The cost to his colliery company in South Wales —and he did not regret it, because he considered that every employer could recoup himself in the prices he charged for his commodities—was 50 per cent. higher than the hon. Member had stated. It was 1½d. per ton and not 1d. In Yorkshire the cost of insurance had increased according to the latest quotations of insurance companies by 20 per cent. This also applied to Derbyshire and counties in the federated area. He heartily supported the Amendment, as it would be most disastrous to have three days. He had always advocated to his constituents that the time should be a week in the case of trivial accidents. He was quite certain that when the clause was in operation the cost to the employer would be nothing like what some Opposition Members had stated. He had made careful inquiries and he estimated that the Increased cost due to this just and equitable provision would be less than ¼d. per ton.
§ MR. PARKES (Birmingham, Central)
, who was indistinctly heard was understood to say that there was no compromise in the Grand Committee.
§ MR. PARKES
asked of what value it was if the compromise was made with only one portion of the Committee. Various solutions were mentioned in the Committee as to dating back. The Bill, when originally brought in by the right hon. Gentleman, mentioned seven days without any qualification at all. The Government were 349 beaten on that point, and the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill expressed his disagreement with the decision of the Committee, and suggested as a compromise seven days and fourteen days dating back. A deputation waited on the right hon. Gentleman, after the Amendment substituting three days had been carried, and he stated that he stood by the Bill as originally drawn.
§ MR. PARKES
said he had read the report of the deputation, and there was no mention in it of dating back. What was said to the deputation showed that the right hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with "three days." The compromise which the Home Secretary had promised was no better than the three days, and would give no relief to the industrial people of the country There was no disposition on the part of any section of the House to refuse compensation to a man who was genuinely disabled. He believed the desire was that every man who was seriously injured should receive compensation, starting from the day on which the injury was sustained. He thought that provision might be made in the Bill to give effect to that view. The proposal now made by the Government was worse than the "three days" provided for by the Amendment carried in the Grand Committee. Those who were not parties to the suggested arrangement were perfectly justified in saying that they disagreed with the solution put before them.
§ * MR. BRODIE (Surrey, Reigate)
said he entirely agreed with the statement that this Bill should have been so framed that compensation should date from the day of the injury. Most hon. Members accepted the Bill because they believed it paved the way for a wider scheme of compensation for all accidents. The Home Secretary was not singular in moving this Amendment. He had himself given notice of a similar Amendment, though he intended it to pave the way 350 for a later Amendment in the following terms—Provided also that where the disablement arising from the injury prevents the workman from earning full wages for a period of one week the employer shall be liable to pay compensation for the whole period of such disablement starting from the commencement.He suggested that the dating back period should be one week instead of fourteen days. Hon. Members above the gangway had been considerably impressed by the memorandum which they had received from engineering employers and the federation of shipbuilding employers. They very pertinently pointed out that if compensation was to date back to the commencement of the injury, provided that the injury should have lasted fourteen days, that was a reason why a man, who might be ill for a week or ten days, would be anxious to be ill for fourteen days in order to obtain the benefit. It seemed to him—and there were others who agreed with him—that it would be far better in the interests both of employer and employed that the period should date back after one week to the date of the accident. He should have preferred that the clause had remained exactly as it was, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would accept the suggestion that compensation should commence after the end of one week and date back to the date of injury. He should like to dissociate himself from what had been said as to malingering on the part of the men. They all knew that there were bad workmen as well as bad employers, but he believed that they might rely upon the trade unions bringing their influence to bear in order to prevent malingering in the manufacturing districts. In other parts of the country there was a wonderful freedom from anything like malingering or shirking of work.
§ * MR. WALSH (Lancashire, Ince)
said he rose with some little hesitation, because he did not want to delay the passing of this measure, but he wished to state how sincerely grateful he and his friends were to the Government for standing by the Bill both in the House and in the Grand Committee. On the Second Reading of the Bill he himself had suggested to the Home Secretary that the provisions 351 of the French law should be adopted in this measure. The predictions of woe and of disaster which were to fall upon the employers from the first Workmen's Compensation Act would have been sorrowful had they not been so ridiculous. In France since 1898 compensation had been paid in all industries from five days after the accident; and since 1905 if the injury lasted ten days compensation had been paid from the day of the accident. They bad been told that the competition was so keen in these days that under the pressure of such a Bill as this they would be beaten in the race of life; but he maintained that they had nothing to fear, as had been proved by experience. It should be remembered that the onus of proof rested on the workman, who would also have to produce a surgeon's certificate that he was suffering from the effects of an accident. The employers themselves had always their own machinery for their protection. He held that the French experience of eight years sufficiently demonstrated that a nation did not suffer by paying its injured workpeople from at least the first week of an accident, or, if the injury lasted more than ten days, from the day the accident occurred. He remembered how the coal owners of Great Britain had insisted that the first Workmen's Compensation Act would increase the price of coal by from 3d. to 1s. per ton; but evidence was laid before the Commission that for years the increase was only ½d. per ton, and it had never yet exceeded two-thirds of a penny per ton. He again offered sincere congratulations to the Government on the firm stand they had made in regard to this Amendment.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
said that he understood that the Government had come to an arrangement with the hon. Members below the Gangway in regard to this Amendment. He confessed that after giving the best attention he could to the arguments used in Grand Committee, he thought that three days as the period after the accident when compensation should commence might safely have been adopted by the Government. He had argued in hundreds of cases brought under the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897, and 352 he was happy to assure the House that he knew of only one case in which malingering had been successfully brought home to a working man. The hon. Member for North Ayrshire had stated that there were cases where men who had been compensated for injury were engaged in other employments, but that argument was totally irrevelant to the present case. The only question before the House was whether or not the payment of compensation three days from the accident was a greater advantage to the working classes than a burden on the employer. In his opinion there could be no doubt that it would be a great advantage to the working classes. He had had the advantage of discussing this quesion with associations of working men in his constituency, and he found that their wish was that compensation should be given at the earliest possible day. They preferred that it should be given from the first day, and if not that it should be given from the third day. He believed that employers of labour and the general body of workmen would much prefer three days to the scheme put forward by the Government, and on behalf of the working men of his constituency he could be no party to the bargain entered into between the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members below the Gangway. Even if he voted alone he would divide the House upon the subject.
§ THE UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL, Yorkshire, Cleveland)
said it would be interesting to know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down represented the opinions of hon. Gentlemen around him and of right hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench. If he did, he had made an exceedingly belated revelation. The unanimous opinion of the direct representatives of labour was that on the whole they preferred the present proposal of the Government to an all-round three - days period. He thought they might assume that from the economic point of view there was not much difference between one scheme and the other, but the 353 Government believed that the three days scheme would result in an immense flood of comparatively small claims which would clog the working of the Act. It was impossible, as had been suggested, to define what was a serious accident. It was provided in the Notice of Accidents Act that serious accidents should be reported, but the phrase had been found so ambiguous that it was impossible to maintain it. As to the burden of cost which this measure and compensation generally threw on the industry of the country, when they spoke in percentages the increase seemed heavy. But what did it amount to in actual figures? At present the ordinary rate of insurance was about £1 for every £100 spent in wages in an ordinary trade. The increase in the cost of insurance was precisely equivalent to a rise in wages, and a rise in wages of 1 per cent, would be regarded as a matter of very small importance. The cost under the Act of 1897 was equivalent to a rise in wages all round from £1 to £1 0s. 2½d., and if they assumed that this new Bill would add 30 per cent., that would be equivalent to about ¾d, per £1 of wages, bringing it up to £1 0s. 3¼d. He thought the House would agree that that was not a very heavy burden.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Proposed words inserted in the Bill.
MR. GLADSTONE moved what he described as a drafting Amendment. As the clause stood it provided that when the injury was caused through the negligence of the employer nothing in this Act should affect his liability,
but in that case the workman may at his option either claim compensation under this Act or take the same proceedings as were open to him before the commencement of this Act.
He moved to leave out the words "the same" and also "as were open to him before the commencement" and insert "independently," so that the clause would read—
The workman may at his option either claim compensation under this Act or take proceedings independently.
Amendments proposed to the Bill—
In page 1, line 22, to leave out the words 'the same.
In page 1, line 23, to leave out the words 'as were open to him before the commencement,' and insert the word 'independently.'" —(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Amendments agreed to.
*MR. WALSH moved as an Amendment to leave out sub-section (c) of Clause 1, which runs—
If it is proved that the injury to a workman is attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of that workman, any compensation claimed in respect of that injury shall be disallowed.
The hon. Member said he did not wish to give the House a rehash of the arguments used in the Grand Committee, but he might say that nine years ago a very lengthy debate took place upon the insertion of this provision, but in operation it had not proved of much utility. The cases in which the employers had been successful in establishing that a workman had been guilty of serious and wilful misconduct had been very few in number, and little tangible relief had been obtained by them under this provision. The sub-section however, while it afforded very little relief to employers, had inflicted great hardship upon widows and children. After all, the general scheme of workmen's compensation was not based on abstract justice to the employer. Employers were held responsible for thousands of accidents over which they had no control. It was a charge upon industry when people set in motion machinery which might result in injury or loss of life. He did not; want to repeat what he had said on former occasions, but he could quote case after case where hardship had resulted to widows and children. In the case of one colliery within three miles of his home, and in the constituency which he had the honour to represent, a portion of the mine filled with gas and the workpeople were removed to, another part of the mine. The fireman of the mine and a man working by day wage went into the part which was filled with gas in order to rescue the rails and sleepers and the various implements required by the men. In doing so they no doubt committed an error of judgment. One man was an official of the mine and naturally would do his best for the owners, the other was a man on day wages and could not hope to derive any
benefit from his action. Those two men were brought out of the mine dead, and it was held by the County Court Judge that their widows and children were not entitled to compensation because the men had been guilty of wilful misconduct. This clause became more detrimental day by day, especially in Scotland, where the Court of Session had tightened up the interpretation of the law to a considerable extent. A great many of those who now occupied the Treasury Bench voted against this sub-section when it was introduced into the Act of 1897, and therefore, without labouring the matter further, he begged to move that this paragraph be deleted.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 5, to leave out paragraph (c) sub-section (2) of Clause 1."—(Mr. Walsh.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'if it is proved that the injury to a workman is' stand part of the Bill."
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir W. ROBSON, S. Shields)
said the hon. Member had reminded the House that nine years ago many who now occupied the Treasury Bench voted in the way the hon. Gentleman wanted them now to go, but since then many things had happened. In England the scope of this sub-section was by no means extensive; it did not do extensive good, and it could not inflict considerable harm. He thought it was to the credit of the Bill that there should be some penalty attaching to misconduct which could be described as serious and wilful. A mere breach of rules had not been treated as serious and wilful misconduct in England. There had been some cases in Soctland where a stricter view of the sub-section had been taken than was taken in England. He had little doubt that before long the law in England and in Scotland would be made to accord. There would be an appeal which would give for both countries an authoritative exposition of the law. In England the question of serious and wilful misconduct had always been treated as a question of fact, and there could be no doubt as to the justice of dealing with it in that way. The Scottish Courts had treated the question as being in some measure a question of law. He had 356 little doubt as to what the result would be of any appeal to the House of Lords-They must treat the sub-section as one which would soon receive a construction applicable both to England and to Scotland, which would leave this question entirely as a question of fact to be decided by the arbitrators and Judges, and in accordance with the tendency of arbitrators and Judges to treat cases of serious and wilful misconduct as being almost inconceivably rare. Therefore he saw no reason for deleting a clause which was intended to be a protection to the employer. The clause did some good, although it found its way so little into the law Courts. There were cases in which the sub-section would operate as a deterrent against misconduct that might lead to injury. It did not infringe in any serious way the rights of workmen, and whatever might be said in favour of amendment he hoped the House would not delete the words.
§ * MR. BELL (Derby)
said that although at the time he gave evidence before the Departmental Committee he had no knowledge of any member of the organisation of which he was secretary having ever been refused compensation on the ground of misconduct, unfortunately since then a case had occurred which made him feel very strongly in favour of this Amendment. It was a very simple case and one which no hon. Member, he was sure, would say could be construed into misconduct. It had been through the lower Courts and the Court of Appeal, and it was now waiting the pleasure of the House of Lords. It was a case of firemen on an express engine running many miles on a trunk line without a stop. The instructions issued by the officials of this particular railway, he believed, corresponded with what other companies also stipulated, that no fireman or engine-driver must go on the tender whilst the train was in motion. In this particular instance it appeared that the coal within reach of the foot plate had been burnt, and it became necessary for the fireman to go to the back of the tender to shovel down the coal so that it should be within his reach for stoking purposes. In going to the back of the 357 tender the man came into contact with a bridge, and was killed. It was held in this instance that his death was due to his wilful misconduct in going to the back of the tender, and the claim was not allowed. Certainly no fireman would ever do anything of that kind unless it became absolutely necessary, but in this case there was only one other alternative, namely, to stop the express, and he left hon. Members to imagine what would have been the consequences then. That was certainly putting a strain on these words "wilful misconduct," though the act of the fireman was technically a breach of the regulations. If it was to be held to be misconduct it was a kind of misconduct which was committed daily by railway men, and he hoped therefore that the Home Secretary would accept this Amendment.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said the speech of the Solicitor-General was so conciliatory that he was disposed to think the Home Secretary might still accept the Amendment. He thought, however, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was inaccurate in stating that this section would apply to only rare cases in England. He had known a considerable number of cases in which the claims of the workmen had been defeated owing to the interpretation put upon the words "serious and wilful misconduct." The real mischief was that the decision of the arbitrator—often a County Court Judge—was absolutely final in this matter. The cases held to be "serious or wilful misconduct" had almost always been based upon some non-observance of rules. On the other hand, he knew of no case where in the ordinary acceptation of the term the offence could be held to be serious and wilful misconduct. A workman who was anxious to serve the interests of his employer frequently volunteered to do work that he ought not to do, and the result was that the widow of such a workman when he lost his life got no compensation. He appealed to the Home Secretary to strike out the objectionable words altogether, in order to secure to the workman, if only in comparatively isolated cases, due compensation to himself or his family for every injury he received.
§ MR. CROSSLEY (Cheshire, Altrincham)
said thousands of accidents happened over which the employers had no control at all, and if they made rules for the protection of the workmen he thought it would be very hard indeed upon employers if when accidents happened through the breaking of those rules no notice was taken of the fact. He spoke as an engineer, so that he held no brief for employers. It was a rule in engineering works that machinery must not be cleaned while in motion, and the engines were stopped just before the ordinary stopping time on a Saturday in order to give workmen an opportunity to clean the machinery before they went away. It was a common practice for young fellows to try to clean the machinery while it was running, and he had known more accidents take place in that way than in any other. It was very hard upon employers who had made the rules for the protection of the workman that they should have to pay compensation to a workman for the loss of a finger in such a case. This clause was needed for a disciplinary reason, and it would be very wrong, coming as it did after the clause placing so much responsibility upon employers, if it were deleted.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said he rose really to make a suggestion which he hoped would receive some consideration. It was to limit the sub-section to non-fatal accidents. In the first place, it seemed to him it did not involve a large concession on the part of employers, but it was a very considerable concession to those who were unfortunately concerned. If a man were killed and his death were held to be due to serious and wilful misconduct, he was not there to give evidence on his own behalf, and the consequence was that his dependents got no compensation at all, and it was little consolation to them to know that there was serious and wilful misconduct on the part of the man who was killed. The hon. Member for Derby had given a case in point. It did not amount to serious and wilful misconduct. There was the case of a man who was held to be guilty of serious and wilful misconduct because instead of taking refuge in the nearest man-hole in a tunnel he ran on to the next and was killed. 359 Having regard to the comparatively few occasions in which this sub-section would come into operation, he did not think it was much to ask employers to consent freely to the proposal that it should be limited to non-fatal accidents. They ought to consider the position of the dependents in this matter. The bread-winner in these cases would be killed, and why should his family suffer? On behalf of the Government he was willing to insert after the word "shall" in line 8 of sub-section (c) the words "unless the injury results in death."
§ MR. CORY
said the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion would not meet the case. It had been admitted that very few employers took advantage of this clause, and they did not resist claims for compensation under it. A case came before his notice of a man who was returning home after working on the docks, and instead of crossing the railway line by a bridge he passed under some trucks just when the train was starting and was killed. That was a clear case of wilful misconduct. In that case the employer did not try to evade the claim, but paid it. The proposal did not make the workmen any more careful, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would keep the clause as it stood.
§ * MR. KEIR HARDIE
said that admitting an accident was due to carelessness or wilful misconduct, surely it was better that an employer should suffer a slight injustice than the widow and family of the man who was killed. He wished to point out, however, that it did not always require an act of serious or wilful misconduct to disqualify the man. Under the Mines Regulation Act there were no less than 157 special rules, a large number of which were violated daily with the full knowledge, concurrence, and consent of all those concerned in the mine, from the manager downwards. He knew of cases where men had been threatened with dismissal for rigidly carrying out the special rules. In the case of an accident, however, if it could be shown, particularly in Scotland, that every one of the rules had not been rigidly observed, loss of compensation followed. If the Home Secretary could make the serious 360 and wilful misconduct some serious act committed by the workman and not merely some omission to observe the rules, that might be made a basis for some common understanding. He wished to acknowledge the generous way in which the Home Office and the Government had endeavoured to meet the working classes on this point. Although they did not wish to press the matter unduly, he thought the Home Secretary would see that it was an important question.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid.)
said a very reasonable appeal had been made by the hon. Member, but he warned him of the danger of any such limitation as he had suggested. Those who had to discuss these matters in Courts of Law knew how difficult it was to distinguish between the omission to keep a rule and the commission of an act. There might be a rule in a colliery that a man must not leave his own working place to go to the working place of another. The suggestion of the hon. Member was that a man who did that should not be held guilty of wilful misconduct. Surely it could be argued that that was the commission of an act by the man. After all, he thought the safest plan was to revert to the position of the original Bill of 1897, in which there was no such sub-section as this at all. In the opinion of the author of the Act of 1897 these words were not necessary. He quite agreed that nothing ought to be done which would seem to be an encouragement to the workman to commit serious or wilful misconduct. In the actualities of life the fact that there was such a subsection as this in an Act of Parliament had no deterrent effect on men. The danger of this sub-section was pointed out in 1897 in that it would increase litigation, and, it being always a question of fact, no appeal brought would ever interfere with a finding of fact by the Judge who tried the case. The result was there was always litigation over these words "serious and wilful misconduct," and if it was certain that the inclusion of the words had no deterrent effect and that the exclusion would have no effect in the way of encouraging misconduct, the best way was to revert to the old position. A compromise had 361 been suggested by the Home Secretary, but he did not think it went far enough or had any logical basis. If it was not right to deprive the representative of a deceased person of compensation in cases where injuries had resulted in death it was not right to deprive the man himself who, possibly through some error of judgment which might be regarded as serious misconduct, would be deprived of all compensation which the law should allow him. If that was the true aspect of the situation it was not a very great burden they were putting on the employer. He thought the time would soon come when compensation would have to come from some fund provided by the State. That was an additional reason why, when they were framing a code of compensation, they should omit these words, the inclusion of which inflicted considerable hardship on the workman. It would be very much better to omit the sub-section altogether.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said that from his recollection of the evidence he could not admit that the provision in the Act of 1897 had not a deterrent effect. It had always been somewhat surprising to him that gentlemen directly representing labour, who had from the first protested that what they wanted was not compensation but safety, had shown such unwillingness in all stages of this controversy to admit the inclusion of words such as those now proposed to be left out of the Bill. Although it had to be admitted that the effect of these words had been small, he thought their retention was a matter of great importance, for the reason that negligence or recklessness of a workman involved the safety of other besides himself. For that reason alone he would have supported the retention of the words. At the same time he thought the Home Secretary had proposed to draw a very sound distinction in making an exception in cases where the workman had lost his life. It was impossible to conceive that a man was likely to be so reckless is to court his own death. He would, therefore, support the arrangement proposed by the Home Secretary.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Forest of Dean)
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Hallam Division had stated that he was astonished that workmen should have attached so much importance to their opposition to the inclusion of these words in the original Ridley Bill, and that they should now be anxious to leave them out. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted the hardness of the case where a man was killed. When the proposal to put these words in the original Bill was argued, their case was that it would not be real misconduct that would be hit by the words, but breaches of special rules, and what was now proposed showed that every word they said then, though contradicted at the time, was true. The House of Commons ought to be careful how it acted on mere Government assurances in matters which affected life and limb.
§ * THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir JOHN WALTON,) Leeds, S.
hoped the House would see its way to accept the suggestion of the Home Secretary. He thought the only obstacle in the way of the general acceptance of the suggestion was the one stated by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil. The general principle which he enunciated was that workmen did not desire the law to provide compensation for men. who had by wilful misconduct brought upon themselves the calamities which attended their acts. No one desired that the law should provide solatium for a man who was guilty of wilful misconduct. But in the case of misconduct which had a fatal result two new principles came into play, both of which operated in the determination of the question of compensation. In the first place there was the principle that the lips of the man who was the victim of what was said to be his misconduct were closed; he was no longer a witness in the case as to the degree and character of the misconduct which had to be determined, and therefore he was not able to clear himself from any reproach which might be made upon him. The other principle was that the solatium they were providing was not solatium to the man who had the misfortune to meet his death because of 363 an act amounting to misconduct, but solatium to the innocent person or persons he left behind him, and who did not participate in his reprehensible conduct. It was said that was illogical. Logic had long ago gone in legislation of an exceptional kind. This was altogether exceptional legislation, dealing with a class of the community which had been considered by a whole series of statutes founded on grounds of humanity to have a claim to such special treatment as the principles of justice would allow. The hon. Member opposite had simply said in a different way what he had endeavoured to convey to the House. The hon. Member said that the difficulty was that the misconduct was not really serious although so understood by Courts of justice, and the result had been that injustice had been done. He did not think that the adoption of this compromise would remedy the case of which the hon. Member complained. He had suggested that the Government should frame new words which might discriminate between misconduct in the nature of omission, and misconduct in the nature of commission. He personally doubted whether that could be done. He had failed to find any such formula. Every act, or nearly every act, was an omission if regarded from one point of view, and a commission if regarded from another. In his opinion the words "serious and wilful" applied to the misconduct whether it was in the nature of an act of commission or omission. He did not think it was possible to frame words which would enable that discrimination to be defined in such a way as would effect the result which the hon. Member desired. Everything depended on the gravity or importance of the rule of which there had been a breach. If it was a rule on which human life depended—if it was a serious rule—then the wilful violation of that rule, whether it was an act of omission or commission, was "serious and wilful" misconduct.
§ * MR. FENWICK
said that as one who had taken an active interest in opposing the Amendment of the Bill of 1896 which became an Act in 1897, he confessed that he should have liked to have seen the Home Secretary prepared to accept this Amendment. It was quite true 364 what his hon. friend had said that this provision was not in the first Bill, and it was clear that the original promoters of this kind of legislation did not consider that such a provision was necessary at all. In the opposition which he urged to the adoption of the Amendment moved in 1897 by Mr. Seton-Karr, then Member for St. Helens, he was strongly backed by the legal Members of the then Front Opposition Bench, and by none more strongly than by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Seton-Karr's Amendment was—The employer shall not be liable under this Act to pay compensation to any workman by whose wilful and wrongful act or default the accident arises in respect of which compensation of injury may become payable.With the permission of the House he would read an extract from the speech then made by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman said—Speaking for himself alone, he felt the greatest regret that the Government had adopted the Amendment. He admitted that the matter was one of very great difficulty, and felt that it would be absurd to dogmatise about it; but it appeared to him that the introduction of words like these involved a departure from the fundamental principle of the Bill.That was what they all felt. And the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—This Bill was not started from any idea of moral obligation, as it made an employer liable for accidents for which lie was not directly responsible, simply because in the general interest and the interest of trade it was necessary to make provision for injured people. But now the Government were introducing in the case of the workman a moral obligation, and opened the door to an inquiry as to what were the circumstances under which an accident happened, and how far the conduct of a man was a breach of a statutory obligation.He would remind the Government that nothing could be stronger than the language of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in opposing Mr. Seton-Karr's Amendment, and for the life of him he could not see how they could consider themselves under an obligation to stand by words which one of their leading leaders considered were a violation of the principles of the Bill of 1897. He made an appeal to the Home Secretary that if he could not see his way on behalf of the Government to accept the Amendment moved by his hon. 365 friend, he should leave the matter an open question and allow the House an opportunity of dividing freely and untrammelled by the Government Whips.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH (Birmingham, S.)
said that the suggestion of the Home Secretary had not been supported by any logical argument. The hon. Member for Wansbeck had said that they were importing moral considerations into this measure by penalising the workman who, by his own act brought misfortune on himself. But if the words of this subsection were omitted the effect would be that the rules made for the safety of the workmen in any factory or colliery might be regarded as rules which could be lightly broken. He maintained that were the rules absolutely necessary for the safety of life they should be strictly enforced. The Home Secretary had suggested to the House a compromise, but he agreed with the Attorney-General that there was no argument by which that compromise could be defended. It appealed frankly to sentiment and to sentiment only—that a man had already been sufficiently punished for misconduct by his death. He maintained that it was to the benefit of both employer and workman and to industry as a whole, that workmen should be encouraged to believe that rules were made to be observed, and that they could not be lightly broken without the responsibility falling upon them.
§ MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
wished to thank the Government for the concession they had made in regard to fatal accidents, but he thought they might have gone a step further and extended the provision to permanent injuries or injuries which totally incapacitated a man from earning a living. He represented a considerable number of employers who attached no value whatever to the rule excluding compensation to workmen who happened to break a rule. His idea was that all men injured in any way should be compensated.
§ MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)
de-sired to add a word or two for the purpose of trying to induce the Home 366 Secretary, who had gone a good way in the direction of meeting the wishes of Labour Members, to go a step further to meet particular cases. The sub-section as it stood really re-enacted the antiquated doctrine of contributory negligence. There was a rule in some collieries that no one was to ride in a waggon, and there was a case in South Wales in which the County Court Judge decided that where some lads who had ridden in a waggon to get to the shaft in order to return to the surface had met with an accident and been seriously injured—in fact he thought some were killed—they had been guilty of wilful misconduct and a gross breach of the rules of the colliery, and therefore he refused compensation. He knew that many similar cases had been decided in the lower Courts against workmen in a similar fashion. He also knew that trade unions had advised their members that this section would prevent them from getting compensation. The noble Lord beside him had called attention to the previous sub-section (b); but he had not read the whole of it. It provided that when the injury was caused by the personal negligence or wilful act of the employer, certain things should occur, but the noble Lord did not read on to the part which said what would occur. The sub - section went on to say that the workman might in that case at his option either claim compensation under this Act or take proceedings under the Employers Liability Act, which gave a higher scale of damages. Therefore the position was not so illogical as it appeared, although no doubt the Compensation Act of 1897 was illogical, because if a man earned thirty shillings a week the Act said that he should only receive fifteen shillings. He thought that this particular sub-section should be re moved, because although it only affected a few cases it inflicted a positive hardship. He therefore hoped that the Government would give way on the point.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that after what had beer said it was clear that they must modify this sub-section. The Government did not insist on retaining the actual words of the sub-section. He proposed to add words which would 367 provide that compensation shall be disallowed in the case of serious and wilful misconduct of the workman "unless the injury result in death or serious and permanent disablement."
§ MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say "serious and permanent disablement," but he thought the words should be "serious or permanent." An injury might be serious in one sense, but it might not be permanent. It might also be a permanent disablement and still not a serious one.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
formally moved the addition of the words "unless the injury result in death or serious and permanent disablement."
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 8, after the word 'shall,' to insert the words 'unless the injury results in death or serious and permanent disablement.'" —(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ * MR. COCHRANE
thought he had a grievance. He should have supported the right hon. Gentleman in his first concession, but he doubted whether the second concession was not too large. The right hon. Gentleman had seriously extended the scope of his proposal. He did wish that occasionally the Home Secretary would stick to his guns. He was in the Committee upstairs, and what happened there was that the Solicitor-General nailed his colours to the mast, and the right hon. Gentleman said that they were so nailed. Then somebody would criticise the action and straightway the Under-Secretary was sent to the masthead to pull down the colours from the mast to which they were said to have been nailed so firmly. The right hon. Gentleman had in the first place made a proposal with which he agreed, but further pressure having been brought to 368 bear upon him he did not stick to his guns, but said: "Let us extend the provision to serious and permanent disablement." He therefore considerably widened the scope of the Bill, but he had given no reason for doing so, or for departing from his original proposal after a most eloquent argument on the part of the Solicitor-General in favour of it. He was placed in this difficulty, that while he was inclined to support the hon. and learned Gentleman on the first Amendment, he thought the second went too far. He thought the hon. and learned Attorney - General might explain what, from his point of view, would be the effect of this section, and thus remove the cloud of doubt which obscured the minds of many hon. Members of the House.
§ * SIR JOHN WALTON
thought the hon. Member would realise that it was better to have this clause in its modified condition than not to have it at all. The alternatives were whether the Amendment to strike out the clause altogether should be accepted by the House, or whether the clause should be modified so as to meet the views of those who supported the Amendment. As the matter now stood the clause was not unreasonable. All agreed that if deliberate wilful and serious misconduct had occasioned a misfortune in regard to which the sufferer sought compensation, he had deprived himself of all moral and legal claim for compensation. But though they might approve of that as a general principle there were exceptions to every rule. One exception had been mentioned by an hon. Member opposite, namely, where the misfortune had been so terrible that it had cost the man his life. There were other misfortunes almost as terrible and difficult to deal with which might result in injuries so severe as to involve a living death almost worse than death itself, and this class of misfortunes seemed to demand some humane consideration. The exception that had been so far created was not more legally or logically defensible than that which would be created by allowing the exception to apply to an injury short of death. One might fairly ask, whether without introducing any large exceptions to the general principle, 369 they might not extend some consideration to the unfortunate individual in an accident to which he had contributed by his own misconduct. It, of course, would have to be a serious accident. They would not have to deal with a trifling accident which resulted in the loss of a finger or of even the left hand; it would have to be a serious permanent injury. And when it came to a case of life-long suffering and of a man being permanently disabled from following his calling, he thought they had a case which was entitled to consideration and relief.
§ * MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said the House in his opinion had come to a very extraordinary pass in this matter. The Attorney-General had made a most unusual statement from the Treasury Bench. He had asked the House whether it was not better to have the clause in a modified form than not to have it all. They had to choose between two alternatives, therefore, either not to have the clause at all or have it in a modified form. Why should they not have the Government clause as it stood? Had the House come to such a state as this? He congratulated hon. Members below the gangway—
§ SIR JOHN WALTON
I said that the proposal was to omit the clause altogether. If the hon. Member had been in the House as long as some of us he would know that when there is a proposal to omit a sub-section it is very often met by a suggestion to amend it, and in that way a satisfactory solution is frequently arrived at.
§ * MR. COURTHOPE
said the words of the Attorney-General only gave one interpretation, and they certainly led the ordinary listener to the conclusion that there were only the two alternatives. He was certain that hon. Members around him also put the same meaning on the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman. However, if the Attorney-General assured him that he had no such thought in his mind, he would not press that point. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had indeed changed his guns. He 370 began by declining to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Lancashire to do away with the clause which he, in common with so many hon. Gentlemen, believed had acted as a deterrent. But as the debate went on and Member after Member spoke in favour of the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman gradually gave way. He first promised a limitation to compensation in the case of death, and a little later another limitation to give compensation in the case of permanent and serious injury. The hon. and learned Attorney-General said that the injury must be serious and permanent, and declared that the loss of a finger or of the left hand would not be a serious or permanent injury. To many people the loss of a finger, and certainly the loss of a hand, would be a very serious injury, and no one could deny that it was a permanent injury.
§ * MR. COURTHOPE
said he pressed the finger. In many trades the first finger of the right hand was as important as the whole left hand, and he believed that any Court would probably hold the loss of the first finger of the right hand to be a serious and permanent injury. That did away with the argument, with which the hon. and learned Attorney-General had tried to cover up the process of "climbing down" by his colleagues, and his suggestion that it would apply to only a very few cases of complete and permanent disablement. As a matter of fact it would apply to an enormous number of cases. Would the Undersecretary for the Home Office, who earlier in the evening had given the House an interesting statistical speech as to the probable increase of premium for insurance, give the House any idea of the increase in premium for insurance which these Amendments accepted by the Home Secretary would cause? Personally he (Mr. Courthope) believed it would be an enormous increase. Hon. Members would admit that it might very likely be held to apply to loss of a finger or hand, and if that were so insurance companies would have to bear that in mind. Was not the increase in premium likely to be enormous, and 371 would not the Amendments have a more far-reaching and disastrous effect than the right hon. Gentleman suspected when he suggested them in order to satisfy the views which the Labour Members so ably expressed? He hoped the Under-Secretary would give some statement about this—he was a great authority on such matters—and if he said it would be a certain figure the House would be inclined to accept his statement, but it could not accept the suggestion of the hon. and learned Attorney-General. He thought they were justified in raising a protest against such a change being made by the Government without the slightest warning to those who happened not to be in the House at the time and who, had they been there, would have raised strong objections.
§ MR. MARKHAM
appealed to the hon. and learned Attorney-General to go a little further in this matter, because the House was drifting into a very bad state of affairs. If they gave compensation, in the case of a man who met his death in his calling, to the widow and the child, and if they gave compensation to a man for permanent disablement, surely they could give compensation for any kind of accident. In every other country in the world—certainly in Germany at any rate—compensation was given to every man who met with an accident in his calling irrespective of whether it was by reason of his own misconduct or not. The hon. Member had referred to the great increase of cases which was likely to take place if this Amendment was accepted. He was connected with the employment of many thousands of miners, and during the whole of last year there was not a single case that came before his notice where a company pleaded this clause to avoid giving compensation. As the Government had gone so far why could not they go the whole hog and give compensation in all cases of injury? If such a change was not made the clause would be a cause of more litigation than there had ever been before. After all, what constituted a serious accident? He would say that the loss of a hand or a finger was serious injury. The hon. Member for Clitheroe had asked whether the Government proposed that their Amend- 372 ment should refer to accidents resulting from misconduct that was "serious and wilful" or misconduct that was "serious or wilful," and the Attorney-General said the former expression was the correct one. To prevent any ambiguity it was surely much better when the House had the opportunity that they should quite clearly lay down what was the intention of Parliament. He believed the clause as drawn would give a workman the right to compensation who met with a serious accident. It would be very much better that the Government should accept what was the law in every other country but this, because he did not know of a single case where a man had allowed himself to meet with an accident in order to get the compensation.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
said it had been pointed out already in the course of these debates that this Bill was not a Party one, and the speech just delivered showed very clearly, if additional illustration were needed, the great difference of view which existed in the various parts of the House. On the particular issue before the House he accepted absolutely the speech of the Attorney-General, and thought the solution which had been adopted by the Government was on the whole the one which would give rise to fewest difficulties end fewest injustices. Under the present law if there was serious and wilful misconduct the workmen could not recover from his employer. They were confronted first of all with the serious difficulty that one County Court Judge had differed from another in the determination of what was serious and wilful misconduct. The Court of Appeal had repeatedly decided that it was in every case a question of fact for the County Court Judge to determine, and it had been decided in one sense by one County Court Judge and in another sense by another County Court Judge. They were met in the present Bill by a proposal for which in the abstract there was a great deal to be said, though he thought the Government were right not to accept if unreservedly. The proposal was to get rid of the ambiguity by striking out all these words. That proposal made for simplicity, and so 373 far as that went he was in favour of it, but there was a reason against it which he thought had weighed with the Government, and it was not a reason which made the present position of the Government one which a self-respecting Government need be ashamed to adopt. The point of view which appealed to him so strongly was this: a workman would not commit a breach of rules for any improper motive if the result of that breach was likely to inflict upon him permanent disablement or death. The Legislature, however, was not only entitled, but bound, to provide against cases where a man might well say, "Whatever happens is a trivial matter, and I shall get compensation." But to say that it was necessary in the case of where a man's life or limbs were concerned was flying in the face of all human experience. For these reasons he believed the solution of the Government was the best. He rather regretted on one ground the actual words used, because there had been many conflicting decisions as to what the word "serious" meant. One County Court Judge might regard the loss of a finger as a serious disablement, whereas another County Court Judge might not so regard it, and the Court of Appeal would not interfere because they would say it was a question of fact. If the Attorney-General would substitute some word with a more definite meaning he would without reservation be ready to agree to the position the Government had taken up.
§ * MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
thought the Government might go a step further and take out the clause altogether, The general consensus of opinion seemed to be that the Government should go further than they had gone. It was well known to those who had to deal with accidents to working men that that which appeared only trivial at the time often developed into very serious permanent disablement. In such a case the question arose in his mind whether the man would have to go to the Court to have revised the judgment which regarded his injuries, in the first place, as trivial, or 374 whether the County Court Judge would have power to say that the man was permanently injured and ought to have had compensation from the first. Another thing which induced him to think the Government might have gone further was that the number of cases left to be dealt with was very small indeed. He knew the fight they made in 1897 in order to prove that this section should never have been in the Act. He was surprised to hear the argument as to a man lighting his pipe in a mine and causing explosions which consequently deprived the man and a large number of his fellow-workmen of their lives. There was the prior consideration to be taken into account, namely, that the owner of a mine which was in such a state that it contained constantly an explosive mixture deserved to be tried for manslaughter. He had the Report of the working of a Committee under the present Compensation Act showing the results of six years operation of the Act. It was the Report of the Durham Miners' Mutual Protection Association, and the Durham Miners' Association, according to which there had been 39,623 cases under the Act in the six years, and all of them had been either paid or disputed. Inquiries showed that in that district there only had been seven fatal and seven non-fatal accidents in Court. Consesequently there would only be seven cases under this provision in the largest coal-producing county in this country if all were trivial. If the experience of his own county was on a par with other counties there was very little to fear. He assumed that a few out of the seven would be permanent cases, and not all trivial, and it would be quite fair to eliminate a portion of the seven. If he eliminated only two that would leave five in the county of Durham. A great deal had been said about violating rules. His opinion was that the first consideration of the men should be the preservation of and obedience to the rules. No man ought to hesitate in the least about impressing upon every workman the importance of carrying out strictly the rules. There was an old proverb that "familiarity breeds contempt," and there was no place he knew of where that proverb held good so much as in a mine. Before the Compensation Act of 1897 375 the maintenance and enforcement of the rules were not so strict, and the men broke the rules because there was no serious financial consequences behind. Consequently the men became familiar with danger and exhibited a contempt for it. The forced observance of the rules had brought about a much better state of things. He thought that having gone so far the Government might go a little further, and leave this sub-section out altogether.
§ SIR ROBERT ROPNER (Stockton)
said that exactly what happened in the Grand Committee was happening on the Report stage. The Labour Party section of the Grand Committee said that the proposals of the Government would not do for them, and they brought pressure to bear, and, although the Home Secretary said that nothing could be done, the Government gave way. That happened not once on the Committee, but over and over again, with the result that the Bill they were now considering was vastly different from that which the Home Secretary first introduced. Exactly the same thing was now happening on the Report stage. The first exception made to serious and wilful misconduct was in case of death, in order to provide that those left behind should be allowed to benefit under the Bill. Now they were being asked to consent to "serious and permanent accidents," and he would like to know where they were going to stop. In making further concessions to the Labour Party the Government were acting unfairly towards employers and in a way that was derogatory to their own dignity. It was not fair to keep on altering the Bill under continued pressure. He thought the words "serious and permanent accidents" ought to be eliminated altogether. He felt that they must draw the line somewhere, and in these matters they ought to be just not only to the employees, but also to the men who had invested their capital.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)
said he was surprised at the indignation which had just been displayed by the ton. Member for Stockton and the attack he had made upon the Grand 376 Committee. He had stated that the alterations made in Committee were carried either with the consent or the connivance of the Government. He would like to point out that the important principles embodied in the Bill by the Committee were inserted against the wishes of the Government. Therefore, there was no good ground for the indignation shown by the hon. Member for Stockton. Upon this point he was in agreement with the hon. Member for Mid Durham. If the words they were now discussing were inserted the sub-section would not be worth retaining at all. He thought it would be more courageous to take the bull by the horns and let the sub-section go altogeher.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (City of London)
said no stronger speech could have been made against the Amendment than that which had been delivered by the hon. Member for Mid Durham. He had stated that it would be very difficult to prove whether injuries were serious or not, and that was an argument against putting in these words. His hon. and learned friend the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool had told the House that county court judges held different views as to the interpretation of the word "serious," and that was another argument against the Amendment. The words which had been proposed would lead to any amount of litigation. The Government Amendment would lead to all the evils which the hon. Member for Mid Durham did not wish to see made possible. If the clause stood it would indicate to a working man that if he was not careful, if he did not pay regard to the serious rules laid down for his guidance, and if, owing to his wilful neglect he suffered an accident, he or his family would not get compensation in case of injury, and the result would be to give him some encouragement not to commit a breach of the rules. If, as the hon. Member had said, very few cases had arisen under this sub-section, why delete it or do anything which would minimise its force? There could be no object in doing so from the point of view of working men, but there was an object from the point of view of those who desired that rules 377 should be obeyed. If people were encouraged to break rules, they would be encouraged to incur risks which everyone in the House desired that they should not be encouraged to incur. Looking at the matter as a business man, he could not conceive what object the Government had in inserting these words. Rather than put in the words, it would be much better to delete the clause, but he believed the clause ought to remain.
§ MR. R. DUNCAN (Lanarkshire, Govan)
said that in the long run it was by common sense and good feeling that they had to be guided. He appealed to his hon. friends not to take a course tending to relax discipline in such a way as to encourage recklessness which would lead to greater danger than existed. As business became more complex, and as those engaged in industrial concerns had to deal more frequently and intimately with the great forces of nature, there must of necessity be more regulations and more attention to rules. Was it not a false position to take up to say that a man who transgressed deliberately, thoughtlessly, or recklessly, the rules by which the business in which he was engaged was conducted, should be on the same footing as the man who obeyed the rules, and who did not endanger his own life or the lives of those who worked along with him? If a man was permanently disabled through having failed to obey the regulations of the establishment with which he was connected, and if for that reason he only received half pension or a modification of what otherwise he would have been entitled to, that condition of the law would be a warning to him not to break rules framed for the protection of himself and others.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorganshire, Rhondda)
said he wished to protest strongly against the idea that a man would commit a breach of the rules when he did not know the extent of personal injury that would ensue, simply to get compensation. It was too mean for a body of hon. Gentlemen to think of for a moment. He protested with all his heart against such an idea. He was full of gratitude to the Government for what they had done, and as they had done so much he appealed to them to delete the sub-section altogether. He was chairman of an organisation which had 100,000 members, and agent of a district with 30,000 members, and he did not know of one case where they had been face to face with the position which had been suggested. The Government would not save a five-pound note by keeping the sub-section in the Bill, and he was sure many Members would like to see it taken out altogether.
§ MR. C. DUNCAN (Barrow-in-Furness)
said that the only assumption on which one could understand the arguments that had been used was that a man would go to his work in the morning in the hope that he would be killed for the benefit of his wife and children. A man who wanted to commit suicide would not go to work to do it. In ninety-nine out of 100 cases in which a man was killed or injured owing to his own wilful misconduct the expense was thrown on the boards of guardians. He held that the employers should bear that expense.
§ Question put.
§ House divided:—Ayes, 286; Noes,27. (Division List No. 454.)381
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Beauchamp, E.||Bramsdon, T. A.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Beaumont, Hn. W. C. B. (H'xhm||Brigg, John|
|Agnew, George William||Beck, A. Cecil||Bright, J. A.|
|Armitage, R.||Bell, Richard||Brodie, H. C.|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Benn, W. (T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo||Brooke, Stopford|
|Astbury, John Meir||Bertram, Julius||Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, R'mf'd||Brunner, Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. Ches|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Bryce, Rt. Hn. James (Aberd'n|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Billson, Alfred||Bryce, J. A. (Inverness Burghs|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Black, Arthur W. (Bedfordsh.||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Barker, John||Boland, John||Burnyeat, W. J. D.|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Boulton, A. C. F. (Ramsey)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Barnes, G. N.||Bowerman, C. W.||Byles, William Pollard|
|Beale, W. P.||Brace, William||Cairns, Thomas|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Henry, Charles S.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nussey, Thomas Willans.|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Clarke, C. Goddard||Higham, John Sharp||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Hills, J. W.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Clough, William||Hobart, Sir Robert||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Clynes, J. R.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W)||Hodge, John||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Cooper, G. J.||Hogan, Michael||O'Hare, Patrick|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Holden, E. Hopkinson||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Gr'st'd)||Holland, Sir William Henry||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hope, W. Bateman (S'm'rset, N.)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Horniman, Emslie John||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Paul, Herbert|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hudson, Walter||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hyde, Clarendon||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n)|
|Crean, Eugene||Idris, T. H. W.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Crombie, John William||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Crooks, William||Jackson, R. S.||Pollard, Dr.|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Crossley, William J.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Jowett, F. W.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Centr'l)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Joyce, Michael||Radford, G. H.|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Kearley, Hudson E.||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Kekewich, Sir George||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Kelley, George D.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N)||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Laidlaw, Robert||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Dillon, John||Lambert, George||Richards, T. F. (W'lv'rh'mpt'n)|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Richardson, A.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lamont, Norman||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Ac'ngt'n)||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwick)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Levy, Maurice||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Elibank, Msater of||Lewis, John Herbert||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Lough, Thomas||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Essex, R. W.||Lundon, W.||Runciman, Walter|
|Evans, Samuel T.||Lupton, Arnold||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)|
|Fell, Arthur||Lyell, Charles Henry||Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne)|
|Ferens, T. R.||Maclean, Donald||Seddon, J.|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Shackleton, David James|
|Findlay, Alexander||Macpherson, J. T.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Flynn, James Christopher||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||M'Callum, John M.||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||M'Crae, George||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Fullerton, Hugh||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||M'Killop, W.||Snowden, P.|
|Gill, A. H.||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Ginnel, L.||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Spicer Sir Albert|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Maddison, Frederick||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Glendinning, R. G.||Mallet, Charles E.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Glover, Thomas||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Gooch, George Peabody||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Massie, J.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Meagher, Michael||Summerbell, T.|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Menzies, Walter||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius||Micklem, Nathaniel||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Hall, Frederick||Molteno, Percy Alport||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Halpin, J.||Mond, A.||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr T'dvil)||Mooney, J. J.||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Thompson, J. W. H. (S'mers't, E)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh)||Morrell, Philip||Thorne, William|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Tomkinson, James|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Myer, Horatio||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Toulmin, George|
|Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Nicholls, George||Verney, F. W.|
|Hedges, A. Paget||Nicholson, Charles N. (Donc'r)||Vivian, Henry|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nolan, Joseph||Wadsworth, J.|
|Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)||White, George (Norfolk)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Walsh, Stephen||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh., N.)|
|Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)||Whitehead, Rowland||Young, Samuel|
|Wardle, George J.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||Wiles, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Watt, H. Anderson||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthn)|
|Wedgwood, Josiah C.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Ashley, W. W.||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Moore, William|
|Balcarres, Lord||Du Cros, Harvey||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Talbot, Ford E. (Chichester)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hervey, F. W. F. (Bury S. Edm's|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kimber, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Chance, Frederick William||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Robert Ropner and Sir|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham)||Magnus, Sir Philip||Frederick Banbury.|
|Cory, Clifford John||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
VISCOUNT MORPETH moved the addition of the following words—
Insobriety or the wilful breach of any rule printed and published by the employer for the safety and protection of his workmen, shall be serious and wilful misconduct within the meaning of this Act.
He said the Law Courts put many interpretations upon what constituted wilful and serious misconduct. Therefore he proposed that they should define as far as they were able what it consisted of. He should say that wilful misconduct was a deliberate and intentional breach of the rules framed not only for the safety of the man himself but also for the safety of his fellow workmen, such as the regulation against carrying a naked light in a mine. He thought it would be a very great advantage if the Legislature were deliberately to put in the Statute that the wilful breach of rules should be wilful and serious misconduct within the meaning of the Act. Then he had also put the word "insobriety" into his Amendment because it was manifestly unjust and unfair that when a man, in a condition of drunkenness and unable to control himself, met with a serious
accident, his employer should have to pay him compensation. It was unjust and unfair to charge upon the employer an accident which a man owed to his own want of self-control and his lack of character.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER (Liverpool, Everton)
seconded, and said it was absolutely incumbent that employers should have some means of maintaining discipline in their works, but so long as the Bill stood as it did at present there was nothing to enforce obedience to rules which were necessary not only for the protection of the man himself but of the men generally. These rules were made for the safety of the employees, and not, as hon. Members were constantly suggesting, for the purpose of relieving the employers' pockets. Insobriety was a very serious thing in a workman, and it was frequently displayed, especially on board ships and on the quay when sailors came down at the last moment and shipped in a state of drunkenness The employers ought to be given some kind of influence over the proceedings of their men, and therefore he hoped the House would accept the Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 8, at the end, to insert the words 'Insobriety or the wilful breach of any rule printed and published by the employer for the safety and protection of his workmen shall be serious and wilful misconduct within the meaning of this Act.'" —(Viscount Morpeth.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ MR. GLADSTONE
did not think the noble Lord had realised how far the Amendment carried him. Under it an employer might put up a notice that no workman employed should do anything which would lead to an accident, and then if an accident occurred the employer might escape liability. He would remind the House that this proposal, although not in so many words, was before the House in 1897, but was not adopted. It was proposed by the Government, but on consideration they withdrew it. The present Government could not under any circumstances accept it. The Departmental Committee condemned the proposal and expressed the opinion that it would be unwise to lay down any hard and fast rule of this kind. It might be that the use of a naked light in a fiery mine would be wilful misconduct, but it seemed an in- justice to deprive the Court of the power of looking at all the surrounding circumstances in order to see if the act was capable of some explanation.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH, while he thought his noble friend was justified in bringing 384 forward his Amendment, said there were numerous legal decisions which rendered it unnecessary. It had been decided over and over again that the breach of a rule by carrying a naked lamp was wilful misconduct. It had also been held that no cleaning was to be done unless machinery was stopped, and he could give case after case where in reference to the breach of a special rule the Courts had had no hesitation in deciding that that was wilful misconduct within the meaning of the Statutes. His hon. friend had also raised the question of insobriety, but anybody who had given the least attention to these cases knew perfectly well that the decisions showed clearly that if insobriety was of a degree or kind which could be said to be wilful misconduct it would be covered by those words, and any such Amendment as that now proposed would only introduce confusion into the existing law. Therefore he hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.
§ * MR. GILL (Bolton)
said he wished to call attention to one case with which he had had to deal resulting from a notice put up in a cotton mill. A short time ago he had to make a claim for compensation for a person injured in his own town. He had been injured while cleaning machinery in motion. Notices were put up in the mill stating that this was forbidden, but the overlookers were nevertheless constantly seeing it done. The employers would not as a matter of fact allow the men to stop the machines in order to do the cleaning. Under those circumstances they refused to pay, whereupon he said: "We will see to it in future that there is sufficient time allowed for the machines to be stopped in which the cleaning can be done." The 385 result was that instead of having the machinery stopped, they paid. It had been a constant thing for machinery to be cleaned while in motion under certain conditions. The notice was, however, put up in every mill in Lancashire and considered as a rule, yet it was winked at by the employers. Under these circumstances he hoped the Government would not accept that Amendment.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he was not one to treat disobedience to rules too lightly. A breach of the rules might affect not only one man but also a number of his fellow employees who had nothing to do with the breach. But he thought the Amendment went far beyond anything the House should sanction, and would be destructive of a good deal that was good in the parent Act.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HARMOOD BANNER moved an Amendment with the object of making-it compulsory instead of permissive for a Court to deduct the costs caused by a plaintiff bringing an action for damages against an employer instead of proceeding under the Bill for compensation. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment which really placed the Bill in the position in which it was when before the Committee. It was necessary because this Bill would no doubt open the door to a great deal of litigation. It was possible under the present law to proceed against employers in three separate Courts. If the employer won in one of the Courts and proved that the claims was wrongfully brought in that Court and the workman subsequently won under the Workman's Compensation Act the employer had no right to set off the costs of the first action against the amount 386 he had to pay as compensation. That did not seem to be either justice or equity, and he hoped he would carry the House with him when he proposed that they should make it impossible for such actions to be brought. They must protect the employer poor though he was. He begged to move.
§ MR. CORY
seconded the Amendment, because he thought that if a workman brought a speculative action with a view to getting compensation under the Employers Liability Act he ought to be compelled to pay the costs when he lost. It seemed to him that if costs were not to be obtained it would be an inducement to enterprising solicitors to go round and find workmen whom they could induce to start an action of this kind. The hon. and learned Member for Mid Glamorganshire had thought proper to say that he should not support these Amendments because he was an interested party. He was not at all ashamed to admit that he was an employer. Furthermore he was a Member of the Mining Association of Great Britain, and he thought it was only fair that the Mining Association of Great Britain as well as all the other employers in this country should have an opportunity of putting their views before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman had the audacity to make that statement in the face of hon. Gentlemen opposite who were there not to represent the interests of the general community, but were paid by the workmen's associations. [An HON. MEMBER: By whom are you paid? He was not paid by anybody. He maintained that hon. Gentlemen opposite represented workmen's unions.
§ MR. CORY
said he had been attacked on this question, and he thought he was justified in making this personal statement. The House in the main seemed to be with him in thinking that the employers' views should be represented, though there were no hon. Members in this House representing employers simply and solely. He had much pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 25, to leave out the word 'may,' and insert the word 'shall.'"—(Mr. Harmood-Banner.'")
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'may' stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said the point was a very small one and was decided in Committee, he believed, unanimously. Both hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment appeared apprehensive lest the legal element in the House should encourage Amendments which might afterwards lead to litigation. He assured the hon. Members that there was no intention whatever on the part of even the most self-interested lawyer to encourage such Amendments. Other Members in the House did that for them. Regarding the Amendment, he would point out that in the Bill, as it stood, if a workman brought an action under the Employers Liability Act and failed, the Court was given the discretion to deduct from the compensation that they might give him the costs of his abortive action. The Amendment proposed that the Court should be obliged to make a deduction. Was that just or fair? The Government proposed to leave it to the Court to judge all the circumstances.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
said the piece of advice he had ventured to give his hon. friend the Member for St. Ives was based upon the fact that lawyers were very often attacked in this House for pursuing their own interests. He had never known a case, however, where a lawyer had argued the cause of an Amendment in order that he might have litigation arising out of that Amendment if carried. As regarded this Amendment he thought it was right that in the interest of all parties discretion should be given to the Court. No one could say that the discretion had been in any way abused during the last nine years. The effect of anything else would be that people who had a good ground for a common law action might be deterred from bringing it. No one who had followed the Courts would venture to argue in favour of this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. CLAVELL SALTER (Hants, Basingstoke) moved to leave out in line 38 the word "maintainable" and to insert the words "commenced except by leave of the Court." The workman had always been treated by the Courts with great indulgence with regard to notices, but the difficulty was that the question whether some technical omission made by the workmen would be fatal or not to his claim could not, under the Bill as it stood, be decided until the claim came before the County Court Judge for trial. When an omission of that kind had been made by the workman a great deal of time would be saved if the parties were able to go at once to the County Court Judge, and have the matter decided. It was 389 said that the object of this Bill was to remove the blots from the Act of 1897, and he thought the point he had raised was a blot which ought to be removed. He begged to move.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 38, to leave out the word 'maintainable,' and to insert the words 'commenced except by leave of the Court.'"—(Mr. Clavell Salter.)
§ Question proposed. "That the word 'maintainable' stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said the effect of the Amendment would be very serious indeed. As the Bill now stood any defect or omission on the part of the workman in the prosecution of his claim would be considered at the hearing when the Judge would be acquainted with all the facts of the case. The Judge would be entrusted with a very wide discretion to waive all technical omissions, and he could consider the matter in a way which would not be possible unless he had the whole case before him. Under this Amendment attention would be concentrated on some technicality, and he felt sure that all who had given careful attention to this subject would agree with him that it was far the best course to give the Judge power to waive technicalities. It would be placing a serious burden upon workmen if claims for compensation had to be extended and multiplied by separate applications to the Court before the trial of the action itself actually began. That would be a most undesirable state of things, and he hoped the House would reject the Amendment.
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said he did not take the same view of this Amendment as the 390 Solicitor-General. His hon. and learned friend had pointed out from practical experience that it frequently occurred when a claim came on for hearing and some technical omission on the part of the workman was raised the Judge disallowed the claim altogether. It was obvious that in a good many cases the workman would be put to very serious expense in getting up his case and bringing forward witnesses, and the whole cost of that would be thrown away if the technical objection succeeded. A technical defect could be easily shown in the first instance, and the process would not be expensive.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ *MR. CLAVELL SALTER moved to omit the words "as soon as practicable" and to insert the words "within fourteen days." What he proposed to leave out was a loose and unsatisfactory expression which had given rise to a great deal of litigation that could be easily avoided. He entirely agreed with the view of the Departmental Committee that it would be far better to fix a period after which it would be incumbent on the workman to show cause. He thought fourteen days ample time, unless the county court was of opinion that it might be exceeded.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 2, line 39, to leave out the words "as soon as practicable," and to insert the words "within fourteen days."—(Mr. Clavell Salter.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR W. ROBSON
expressed the hope that his hon. and learned friend would not press the Amendment. The words "as soon as practicable" were of a somewhat elastic character, but to substitute 391 a definite period might result in hardship to a workman who happened to exceed the fixed date. If the Amendment were accepted, and a workman gave notice of injury on the fifteenth day, then, save so far as the Court exercised its dispensing power, the claim would be absolutely barred.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ *MR. GIBBS (Bristol, W.) moved an Amendment providing that the claim for compensation should be made "in writing." It would be more satisfactory for all parties if the claims were made in writing. There were good employers and good workmen, and the reverse, and it was certain that good employers and workmen would prefer that claims should be made in writing. It was possible to conceive that the notice of an accident might not reach an employer in certain circumstances unless it was made in writing. He thought it was reasonable to ask that the claim should be made in writing.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER, in seconding the Amendment, said that the case of an injured man who on account of insensibility was prevented from sending notice in writing was fully provided for. It was only proper that the employer should get written notice of the claim.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 3, line 2, after the word 'made,' to insert the words 'in writing.'"—(Mr. George Gibbs.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said this matter was fully discussed in Committee, and it was decided by a large majority that it was undesirable to import any definite form of legal document into the making of the claim. If they insisted on the claim being in writing what would happen? 392 The workman would go to a solicitor, and he might not be able to put down the claim in writing, simple as that might seem to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. It was a complicated and difficult matter to put down in plain writing what the claim was. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would not be accepted.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor) moved an Amendment providing that the claim for compensation should be made within "three" months after death instead of "six" months. The Amendment was based on a recommendation of the Departmental Committee, and he, submitted that three months was ample: time for the purpose.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
In page 3, line 2, to leave out the word 'six,' and to insert the word 'three.'"—(Mr. Evelyn Cecil.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'six' stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said he considered six months a reasonable time, and therefore he could not accept the Amendment.
§ And, it being Eleven of the clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered on Monday next.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of the 4th August last.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Eleven o'clock.