HC Deb 16 July 1909 vol 7 cc2463-6

(1) Where any minimum rate of wages fixed by a Trade Board has been made obligatory by Order of the Board of Trade under this Act, an employer shall, in cases to which the minimum rate is applicable, pay wages to the person employed at not less than the minimum rate, and if he fails to do so shall without prejudice to any proceedings for the recovery of wages at that rate be liable on summary conviction in respect of each offence to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds and to a fine not exceeding five pounds for each day on which the offence is continued after conviction therefor.

(2) If a Trade Board are satisfied that any worker employed on time work in any branch of a trade to which a minimum time-rate fixed by the Trade Board is applicable, is affected by any infirmity of physical injury which renders him incapable of earning that minimum time-rate, and are of opinion that the case cannot suitably be met by employing the worker on piece-work, the Trade Board may, if they think fit, grant to the worker, subject to such conditions, if any, as they prescribe, a permit exempting the employment of the worker from the provisions of this Act, rendering the minimum time-rate obligatory, and while the permit is in force, an employer shall not be liable to any penalty for paying wages to the worker at a rate less than the minimum time-rate so long as any conditions prescribed by the Trade Board on the grant of the permit are complied with.

(3) On any prosecution of an employer under this section, it shall lie on the employer to prove by the production of proper wages sheets or the records of wages or otherwise that he has not paid, or agreed to pay, wages at less than the minimum rate.

(4) Any agreement for the payment of wages in contravention of this provision shall be void.


moved, in section (1), after the word "rate"["at not less than the minimum rate"], to insert "clear of all deductions." I think that is exactly what the House wishes. They do not wish the minimum wage to be nullified by some pecuniary deduction.

Amendment agreed to.


moved, in section (1), to leave out the words "without prejudice to any proceedings for the recovery of wages at that rate."

Amendment agreed to.


moved, at end of section (1) to insert:—"(2) On the conviction of an employer under this section for failing to pay wages at not less than the minimum rate to a person employed, the court may by the conviction adjudge the employer convicted to pay, in addition to any fine, such sum as appears to the court to be due to the person employed on account of wages, the wages being calculated on the basis of the minimum rate, but the power to order the payment of wages under this provision shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any right of the person employed to recover wages by any other proceedings."


I should like to call the attention of the Solicitor-General to some of the provisions of this Amendment, and ask for his guidance in regard to the previous section (1). Under the Bill the employer who pays wages at less than the minimum rate can be fined a sum not exceeding £20, without prejudice to any proceeding for the recovery of wages at the minimum rate against the employer, and the Amendment proposes that the judge may, in addition to the fine, order payment of the wages at the minimum rate. These two sections in fact mean that the criminal proceeding for a fine and the civil proceeding for wages due can be kept separate or can be put together. This is a very unusual provision, and I think hon. Gentlemen will agree that the procedure in criminal cases is very different from the procedure in civil cases, and the effect of the Amendment might be that the employer charged with paying less than the minimum rate of wages may not have an opportunity of getting his defence in in a manner in which he would if sued civilly for the amount of wages due. It seems to me that there might be a civil action and there might be a criminal action, and they might either be begun separately or together. If both were taken in a criminal court it would appear that the employer would be under certain disadvantages.


Would not the effect of the clause be that if the magistrate, on conviction, adjudged that the employer had paid short wages, the workman would be entitled to recover the same amount by other proceedings in another court. It rather appears to me that he would. I do not know whether that is the intention.


There are two things dealt with by the section. First of all, there is the punitive proceeding against a person who offends against the Act of Parliament, and that lays him open to a fine or a penalty. There is also the possibility of the recovery of wages which ought to have been paid. One need not necessarily cover the other. They are totally distinct. There are precedents for making provision of this kind, and it is really done to avoid multiplicity of proceedings, both for the sake of the person employed and of the other. Take, for instance, the case of the person employed. If there is a prosecution for a penalty it is rather hard on the person employed to say, "You are here to-day, but you must take other proceedings to recover your proper wages." On the other hand, supposing there is any dispute as to the proper wages, it would be rather hard on the employer if the question was not dealt with in exactly the same proceedings. There are ample precedents for this. In cases of malicious injury to property it constantly happens that a penalty is imposed for the offence, and compensation is payable for damage. There was the case of the Sea Fisheries Act, 1883 (Scotland), where this procedure also was adopted. In answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman I do not think it is possible to recover twice. You may say the penalty covers to some extent the wages, but that is not the case put. It is impossible under these proceedings that the same amount of money should be recovered twice, whether it be the penalty or the wages.


It does not seem to me that that point is safeguarded. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will see that if that is so some words should be inserted in another place.



Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made in section (3) to leave out "the"["production of proper wages sheets or the records"], and to insert the word"other."—[Mr. Churchill.]