HC Deb 15 August 1913 vol 56 cc3441-5

"(1)Where it appears to the Insurance Commissioners that the persons employed by any employer or group of employers in any class or classes of work are in general in receipt of a rate of remuneration which, although liable to fluctuation, is normally within any of the limits hereinafter mentioned, the Commissioners may by a Special Order declare that all the persons employed by that employer or group of employers in that class or those classes of work shall, for the purposes of the principal Act but subject to any exceptions contained in the order, be treated as if they were constantly in receipt of the normal rate of remuneration, notwithstanding that those persons, or any of them may in any week in fact receive a higher or lower rate of remuneration.

(2) The limits referred to in this Section are:—

  1. (a) A rate not exceeding 1s. 6d. a working day;
  2. (b) A rate exceeding 1s. 6d. but not exceeding 2s. a working day;
  3. (c) A rate exceeding 2s. but not exceeding 2s. 6d. a working day."

Clause brought up, and read a first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."


The chief object of the Clause is to prevent outworkers having to pay more than their just contributions. In some trades, the unit of work is 8s. 9d. In other cases it varies from 8s. 9d. to 12s., in which, case the worker pays a 1d., and in some' cases the unit of work is fixed at 12s. In the latter case the employer and the employed divide the contribution. This is not a flat rate. The quick worker is considered to be employed at a high rate, and contributes accordingly, while a slow worker is considered to be employed at a lower rate, and contributes accordingly As it works out, the employer very often has not the time, or he will not take the trouble, to see exactly at what rate his workers do contribute, and he is tempted to consider that his workers are quicker and better workers than they really are. He is tempted to move them up to a higher unit of work and to ask them to contribute an unjust share of the contribution. If this Clause is passed, this injustice will be prevented. The Commissioners will be able to satisfy themselves that all the workers are working at a uniform rate. This is bringing a simpler and a fairer system into operation, and I hope the. Committee will agree to it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."


I am not able to follow all the implications of this Clause, and I should like it to be discussed.


I thought it was generally agreed that this was a desirable Clause. It is a method of averaging, instead of calculating the wages of each particular individual, especially in connection with units of work. It operates also in some of the textile trades. The present method is exceeding difficult, cumbrous, and expensive. All this Clause allows us to do is to strike an average, although the rate of remuneration of any individual is liable to fluctuate. I think this, on the whole, will meet the difficulties of the case put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilton earlier in our discussions, when we were dealing with deductions in respect of agricultural labourers. I think this will enable us to make an average rate by which we may adjust the 15s. on the one side or the other. We have already ruled out harvest money and such-like in connection with the variations in the wages of the individual labourer from week to week. I think this will make both for the advantage of the insured persons and for the greater simplification of the present arrangements. I put it down as a Clause to be discussed, but if hon. Gentlemen wish to oppose it I shall certainly not press it. I do not not want to press it if it is controversial, but I think it is a Clause which is desirable, and my expert on the Insurance Committee, who has been trying to solve this problem, and especially that of the agricultural labourer, thinks that it is a Clause that is necessary if the insured persons are to have the rights which are due to them.


I understood from the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham, who explained this Clause, that an employer sometimes advanced the wages of a workman with a view to bringing the workman into a scale of higher contributions.


There is no objection to that.


I think it is a very great advantage. I understood the Noble Lord to say that it was a disadvantage; therefore, I raise the point.


What I stated was that some employers assumed that their workers were being paid at a higher rate than they really are being paid at.


This only gives power to the Insurance Commissioners to issue a Special Order. I am not at all sure that this is the best way to do it. The method is to lay down an income standard, and then to say that all individuals working in those trades are to be assumed to come up to or to be below that standard. I think there is a good deal of room for grave individual injustices, but, as it is going to be operated by a Special Order, and as I know the very great difficulties that have arisen in connection with it, I think the Committee will be very well advised to take the risks and give this experiment a fair chance.


I understand the Government would like to know if this is generally acceptable. I should like to say, speaking for myself now as an employer, and not as one connected with any approved society, that I heartily approve of this Clause. I think we would be obliged to the Commissioners if they would try to solve the problem. I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester. As the Insurance Commissioners are going to try and solve this problem, I hope the Committee will allow them the chance of doing so. My opinion is that the good employer will welcome this and the bad employer will not.


The right hon. Gentleman suggested just now that this Clause would meet the case of the poorly paid labour and casual workers in the rural districts. I am afraid it will not. After all these persons in certain parts of the country are paid above this level, and in other parts of the country are paid below it. I do not think the words as they stand will cover that case. But they could be made to do so if the right hon. Gentleman would add the words "after work or in any district," because it is not the class of person but the district in which they are engaged that sets the fashion as to the standard of wage. I am not quite sure that even with the Amendment the Clause is going to cover the case of the agricultural labourer in casual employment, and if it does I am not quite sure that it will not operate to his detriment, because the remuneration is proposed to be treated as constant and normal. I think that it may operate against them as well as in their favour. I never like the word "normal."


In my opinion the Clause needs far more consideration than we can give to it, and this could be done in my opinion when it reaches the Report stage. If it carries out the apprehension I have, it is going to act harshly.


It cannot act more harshly than it does at present. There are half units of work which meet the hon. Member's objection.


The present method of averaging earnings is exceedingly unfair. Where they are charged the full deduction of 4d. or 3d., or whatever it is, on the unit, which may take two or three weeks to earn, it would he better to make an average of their earnings.