HC Deb 08 May 1919 vol 115 cc1204-5

Order for Second Reading read.

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a second time. I am sure that this measure is one which will evoke the whole-hearted sympathy of the House, and that it will be rapidly passed into law. It is a Bill to enable arrangements to be made to facilitate the employment of disabled men who have served in any of His Majesty's Forces during the War and the facilitation of their employment is brought about under the Bill by indemnifying employers against any increase in their expenditure arising in their liabilities under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Bill is based on the unanimous Report of a Committee set up by the Home Secretary in March last, and which made a record Report in April of the same year. On that Committee were two hon. Members of the House, namely, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Shaw), and the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. Tillett), both of whom have taken a keen interest in this question. The Committee was unanimous in laying down the principle, first, that the Bill would facilitate the employment of these disabled and gallant men and secondly, that the only way to facilitate that employment and to indemnify the employer was for the State to assume the necessary burden. The Committee said that on a general review of the whole position we have come to the conclusion that the individual employer should be relieved of any additional compensation which the appointment of disabled sailors and soldiers may entail so as to prevent the apprehension of such liability prejudicing the employment of such men. We are confident there will be a very strong feeling that all obstacles in the way of the return of these men to employment should as far as practicable be removed. It would not be fair, in our opinion, to call on the individual employers to bear the cost of any additional liability which arises out of injuries incurred in the service of the State. We may mention that both in France and Italy, where a similar problem has arisen, the State has found it necessary to take action. There were three courses open—first, the indemnity might be borne by the man himself, that is from his wages there might be deducted some extra premium that would be payable by him to ensure him under the Workmen's Compensation Act, or it might be borne by the trade as a whole. But the members of a trade are not all insured on one system, and some insure with companies and others insure themselves. The Committee adopted the third alternative, namely, that the burden such as it is should be borne by the State. On the question of expense the Committee say: For the reasons which we have set out earlier in the Report we do not regard the increases in the compensation liability in these cases as likely to be at all serious, and consequently we do not expect the charge to the State will be considerable. Whatever the charge may be it will be a declining charge because these disabled men will not be for all time a charge on the State under this or any other Bill. I think with those few remarks I can ask the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill. I am sure the Members will feel that these men have a prior claim upon the sympathy and gratitude of the House, and that the measure of their sacrifice is the measure of our plain and simple duty, and that the least we can do for these disabled men is to make it as far as possible certain that they will return to their old or some other employment feeling that they are not disabled by the disablement they have received.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.