§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.9 a.m.
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The subject of workmen's compensation is one that has often given not only trouble to the injured in addition to their injuries, but trouble to everyone connected with those injured persons. The struggle to secure justice for the injured workman has been a long and dreary one, but I shall not take up the time of the House with any historical survey. What tragedy can compare with that of the broken or injured man making his claim against forces that made, and still make, that man feel as though he had committed some crime? When organised workers, as trade unionists, first began their attempts to get some redress they were backed by some measure of public opinion, and the combination brought about such pressure as to force some recognition of the claims of the injured workman, who, I may point out, had no say in management or at the place of work in questions of safety.
This movement immediately attracted conflicting private interests, and this, of course, led to complex legislation resulting in expensive litigation which gave scope to all the evils arising from vested interests in insurance. Worst of all it gave to money power the right to increase the sufferings of the injured by reason of their poverty and their lack of funds to fight cases where they were not backed by trade unions. We have even seen money power at work on a larger scale than that. Combined trade unions, with all their power, have had to fight combined interests in insurance with their huge money power; and these latter have had the audacity, if I may say so, to take a single case through all the courts, and even to another place across the way in 722 order, if possible to establish a precedent. This was done not so much in the interests of justice as to establish a precedent that might intimidate from the point of view of the expense involved. They knew well that if they could take a case to the House of Lords and get a decision the question of expense, if nothing else, would intimidate others from trying to obtain justice on behalf of the injured.
There can be nothing meaner, I think, than that wealthy, profit-making insurance firms should concentrate against honest, injured, broken workers. The injured man has been following his employment—doing what he was told, and not doing what he likes. It is from such injustices that we seek, by this Bill, to free the workers. Why should the misery of the injured be increased by conflicting private interests, or why should such misery be made a means of acquiring private profits? An amendment of the existing law is long overdue. The urgent need is for direct control in place of the present cumbersome and costly methods. All who know anything of the subject agree that it is time something was done.
This Bill introduces direct control by constituting an ad hoc body to be known as the Workmen's Compensation Board. The main object of the Bill is to take the whole business of workmen's insurance outside the range of competitive insurance companies, to prevent profit-making in such a service, to prevent money intended for the injured being wasted over legal quibbles and to take away any incentive that leads to such practices. When this subject was last discussed in this House, in 1933, it was the opinion of everyone that there was need for amendment of the law. There was not one of those who opposed the Measure then under consideration who did not admit that. I am hopeful to-day that all who oppose, but who still feel that there is need for some change, will have the courage of their convictions and join in giving this Bill a Second Reading.
The object of the Bill is to take over the business of insurance known as workmen's compensation. Our record of cases contested in court makes a very revolting chapter to read. Insurance companies take from employers premiums which are more than ample to cover the risks, as is shown by the large profits they make. Despite that, they use every possible means to reduce the claims of the broken 723 men. We believe that the Compensation Board proposed in the Bill, will, by its composition, eliminate most of the present evils. In the same room there will be employers and workmen, and the other representatives specified in the constitution of the Board. Both employers and workers sitting together to consider a case will have knowledge of the work and of the workmen's conditions, and they will be in a better position than anyone who is without that knowledge. Such a combination will bring a much more humane atmosphere into the consideration of the claims than is the case with the paid representatives of insurance companies with briefs.
We recognise the need for the logic of the law, but we know from experience that you destroy the legal mind the moment you give it a brief and say, "You must talk to this brief. You must make that case out." We seek by the Bill to release the legal mind and to give it free scope for its powers, not to fight a case for someone else, but to fight for what is just in the application of the law. If we can secure that kind of atmosphere, we shall have gone a long way not only towards peace, but to a far better relationship in every respect between the workman and employer. When industrial workers suffer an injury, we should make their path as pleasant as possible, instead of placing obstacles in their way, as we do to-day. The present system, under which insurance companies talk for the employers, leads to injustice, because it is their business to retain all they can out of the premiums. To succeed in that financial business they are pitted against the claimant.
Anyone with human feelings, especially when in a court, cannot support a system which reduces an injured workman merely to a claim in court. I have been in court when legal luminaries have been addressing each other, and it has taken a long time to understand that there was some injured workman in court. I was in a court one morning listening to the case of a man who had lost his arm, and when one of the legal representatives had finished speaking about the great efficiency of the mechanical arm and the improvements which had been made in it, one wondered why he had not had his arms cut off, too. It is that kind of 724 atmosphere that results from a brief. The lawyer is not speaking what is true to his heart and mind; he is speaking to a brief. One of the objects of the Bill is to cut out all that and to set the lawyer's mind free. We wish to treat our injured men not as defaulters; that has been the atmosphere of the court. We want to treat them as less fortunate citizens, to take their cases out of the legal, contentious atmosphere and put them into an atmosphere where the incentive of gain at their expense does not exist, and where simple justice will be done. We believe that the proposed Board can accomplish this at less cost than under the present system.
In the last Debate many objections were taken to the Bill because there was not enough parliamentary control. I was surprised to hear that, in view of the number of Clauses in which Parliament is given power to intervene. I hope that no hon. Member will repeat that objection. It is a waste of time to say a thing is not there when it is there. The only difference between the Bill to-day and the one in 1933 is some minor changes in Clause 7 with which I need not take up the time of the House. I will describe the proposed Board. The chairman will be in a position at least equal to that of a Judge. One member is to be of the legal profession. Despite all that I have said about the legal profession, when you take away the necessity to speak to a brief that representative will be useful on the Board. There are to be two representatives from the employers' and the workmen's organisations. Two other members will be appointed because of their knowledge of medicine and finance respectively. These men, chosen for their capacity, will give their whole time to the work, and will necessarily increase in usefulness as years go on. The training which they will receive and the knowledge which they will acquire in dealing with these cases will establish an entirely new system, and an entirely new mental attitude, towards workmen's compensation. I would draw special attention to Clause 30 (3):The decisions of the Board shall be upon the real merits and justice of the case, and it shall not be bound to follow strict legal precedent.I want to make it clear. If, as is the case with existing Acts, this measure 725 were to establish legal precedents you would not get justice, because no two cases are alike. I would remind the House that at one time, when we tried to reach what were called the distinguishable facts, much precious money and time were spent in discussing whether a well 60 feet deep was not the same as a wall 60 feet high. That is the kind of discussion that makes a layman sick. We know that, whether a man falls off a wall that has been built 60 feet high or whether he falls down a well that has been dug 60 feet deep, he is injured, and that is the matter that we have to consider. We are not disturbed as to whether a well 60 feet deep is equal to a wall 60 feet high: we have sufficient natural horse sense to know that 60 feet is 60 feet.
With regard to the question of finance, I would point out that we are not asking for a subsidy, or something to be taken out of the pockets of the ratepayers. It is simply a question of a loan to start with. We know that, when the thing gets going, the premiums, instead of being fixed by insurance companies on a profit-making basis, will be fixed on an equitable basis which will lead to the establishment of the necessary fund. As to the local committees, these are simply bodies to whom powers of the Board may be delegated, and from these local committees there will be a right of appeal to the board itself. In Clause 64, provision is made for the framing by the Secretary of State of regulations regarding the duties of local committees.
The next step towards establishing this much needed reform is to deal with some of the difficulties that are experienced to-day. There are a thousand and one cases that anyone with knowledge of these matters could bring before the House, but we do not intend, in introducing the Bill to-day, to take up time in that way; we want to make a general statement, so that other Members will be able to thrash out the details. The Bill provides a definition of the expression "workman," but a change is made in that the limit of exemption from the definition of persons employed otherwise than by way of manual labour is a remuneration of the £500 a year, instead of, as at present, £350. Personally I think it would be a good thing if all people, no matter how they are employed—even Members of this 726 House—were under some form of insurance and under such a Board, because, with the financial power that would follow, there would be no need to quarrel as to whether the compensation should be £1 or £1 1s. 0d.
With regard to the amount of compensation, it will be noticed that Clause 7, which deals with this matter, makes full provision for children, including orphan children. I would draw the special attention of the House to Sub-section (1, e) of Clause 7, which provides that, where the deceased workman leaves no widow, or the widow subsequently dies, and it seems to the Board desirable to continue the existing household, a foster-mother can be put in, with the approval of the Board, and she will be treated in the same way as the actual mother of the children, so that the home may be continued; while Sub-section (1, h) provides for the payment of compensation to an invalid child—a principle which, of course, has been previously accepted with regard to the battlefield, and I do not see why it should not apply to the industrial field as well.
Clause 8 deals with the question of total and partial incapacity. I could never understand why the compensation for total incapacity should be less than the full earnings. If an able-bodied man who is earning enough to keep his wife and family gets knocked out in some way, and cannot continue to work, why should he not receive the same amount that he was previously earning? Indeed, he needs more, because it may be that, while he could walk before, he now has to get a carriage and someone to push it. Even now I cannot realise how human minds can be so inhuman as to think that, because a man is completely knocked out as a worker, he should receive less than he was receiving when he was able to work. Of coupe, we remember the old narrow-minded type of employer that I used to know as a workman, who would even accuse men of inflicting injury upon themselves in order to get compensation. I cannot conceive of any type of mind lower than one that would make that accusation. I never yet knew any sane man that would inflict upon himself any injury. No matter what the injury may be, it always costs the victim more than he would have 727 to expend normally. An illness, no matter how small, always means extras.
Then there is the charge of malingering. I remember a case in which such a charge was made. It was that a young man of 27 whom I knew well. When he dropped dead at his bench one day, I went to the expense of having a postmortem examination made, because I knew he was not a malingerer, and it was found that a piece of metal which went into his shoulder as the result of an accident had travelled right across his body and touched his spine, bringing about death. From what I have read of the medical evidence in such cases, I am convinced that, so far from malingering, it is more often the case that people return to their work too soon in order to keep their job. Only a short time ago there was a conference in London, attended by many eminent medical men connected with the subject, on the rehabilitation of men injured in industry, for which we do nothing at all in this capacity. As regards partial incapacity, why should a man who is partially incapacitated suffer a loss in addition to his injury?
I come now to the difficult question of light work. I do not think that anything can be more cruel than to say that a man is fit for light work when it is known that there is no light work to give him. By every post I receive letters about men who were in full possession of their faculties until the injury took place, and then the court found that they were fit for some kind of light work, but they have never yet been able to define what a light job is. I know a job that would be specified as a light job, but not more than a dozen Members in the House would be able to perform it continuously for an hour. The Board is going to give protection in all such cases. We are going to see to it that none of that kind of thing takes place. When you come to compensation for disfigurement you cannot possibly do it, but what you can do is not to harass the unfortunate individual still further.
The business of insurance is growing. In 1934 136,858 industrial accidents took place and there were 785 killed. That was an increase of 23,390 accidents and 93 deaths over 1933. The Holman Gregory Report found in 1920 that during the pre- 728 vious five or six years out of every £100 insurance premium only £48 was paid in benefit. There is still no law to prevent this, but in 1923 an arrangement was come to in the Home Office with some insurance companies to limit their administration costs for 1924, 1925 and 1926 to 40 per cent., and subsequently to 37½ per cent. The Home Office statistics for 10 years, from 1924 to 1933, show the average profit of insurance companies to be 10 per cent., while for the same period commission and management averaged 33 per cent. and the compensation paid, including legal and medical costs, was just over 56 per cent. For every £100 premium the compensation paid was £56 9s. 10d., while commission, management and profits was £43 10s. 2d., or, in other words, 11s. 3½d. out of every £1 of premium was paid in compensation, including legal and medical charges, while about 8s. 8½d, was used for management. That, to me, represents nothing short of exploitation of both the employer and the injured man. If hon. Members wish to continue that exploitation they will vote against the Bill, but I think, from what has taken place recently, the Bill is sure to get its Second Reading and any defects that it may have will be amended upstairs. We see that half the amount that is paid never reaches the insured people at all.
Where there is a State system, official investigation shows that it is superior to private enterprise in prompt payment, liberality of benefit, security for the workman, and economy for the employer. That is the report that is given of all these State schemes. State schemes take a leading part in the prevention of accidents and industrial disease, and they also take a great part in rehabilitating she injured workman. The cost of administering the schemes is about 15 per cent., while in this country it is 37½ per cent., and that on an inferior system providing neither medical treatment, accident prevention nor rehabilitation, but allowing waste of money over legal quibbles. I think that contrast ought to weigh sufficiently to give us the Second Reading of the Bill. The States that I have mentioned are Canada,—all provinces—the United States—seven States—Queensland, Bulgaria, Italy, Norway and Switzerland. Are we, with our boasted capacity to do things better than any other country, to 729 admit, by not doing things like this, that we are incapable of such organisation or business capacity; or have vested interests in the House the power to reduce our reputation for justice by not adopting these schemes? If they have, this House ought to be ashamed of itself. The State system was opposed last time on the ground of cost, but even individual cases that were quoted were not quoted correctly, because in Ontario itself it is only 2 per cent.
I want to show what can be done on the basis of this change that we seek to bring about. We have operating under the 1925 Act an arbitration committee. The average cost for legal matters is £1 1s. per case, whereas in cases where the employers are not members of the arbitration committee the law costs are £8 8s. The medical costs under the arbitration committee run from 5s. to £1 1s. Where the employer is not a member of the arbitration committee, they run from 12 to 14 guineas. In 1934 the total number of cases, according to the Government return, was 59,480. If these had been put through this arbitration committee, the total cost would have been £9,219, but if they had been put through by those who were not members of the committee, they would have cost £121,339, showing a saving due to committee operations of £112,120. If the House wants any quotations to show how this is done in other countries, I can give them, though I have not the time now, but I am showing that in our own country, under very difficult conditions, the committee in County Durham and the employers and workers are engaged in doing their utmost to deal with this very difficult problem.
The need for redress is admitted. The criticisms from the other side of the House in 1933 were not directed against the claims for redress, nor did hon. Members say that the present system was satisfactory. On that count there seemed to be general agreement from the reading of the Report of that debate. There are bound to be points of difference in the Bill between the opposing Benches and ourselves, but we are hopeful that, in the interests of the greater justice, the Bill will be given a Second Reading and sent to a Standing Committee where any differences can be adjusted. The Bill seeks to improve the organisation of the services for making claims, to free the 730 services from profit-making, to abolish legal squabbles over cases, to replace the present waste by real economy, to reduce the cost to the employer and to increase the benefits, and to establish a new relationship between the workman and his claim where human considerations will predominate, and where the voices of contending lawyers will be replaced by the calm consideration of claims in an atmosphere in which a judicious mingling of mind and heart will produce justice.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I beg to second the Motion.
I hope the fact that I am a lawyer will not derogate against what I have to say in support of the Bill, We realise that the Bill involves fundamental changes which will give rise to considerable differences of opinion in this House, but many of us, at any rate on this side of the House, have formed the opinion that the workmen's compensation system which is now operating in this country is not satisfactory from the point of view of the injured workman. We also take the view that the history of workmen's compensation legislation constitutes one of the worst examples of piecemeal legislation that can be found on the Statute Book of this country.
I should like to remind the House of the development of this system. Until 1897 there was no law relating to workmen's compensation as such in existence in this country. A workman who was injured during the course of his work had a right of action against his employer, provided he could prove negligence on the part of his employer. That right, however, was qualified by the doctrine of common employment, which the House discussed a few weeks ago, which made it impossible for the workmen to secure any redress, provided a fellow employe had been connected with the cause of the accident. The matter was put right, to some extent, by the Employers' Liability Act, 1880, which gave the workman a specific right of action against his employer, even though a superintendent, or manager or foreman, or some other fellow-workman was responsible for the accident. But the Employers' Liability Act was rendered practically valueless by the doctrine of "contracting out" which was involved in a celebrated case two years after the Act was passed. That led 731 to considerable agitation, which finally resulted in the late Lord Asquith introducing a Bill to abolish the doctrine of common employment. That Bill was successful in this House, but owing to a dispute in another place, the Bill was dropped.
In 1897 the first Workmen's Compensation Bill was introduced by Sir Matthew White Ridley, and it provided for payment of compensation on death to an amount not exceeding £150. It also provided for the payment of compensation in the case of total or partial incapacity to an amount not exceeding £1 per week. That was the law until 1906, when, in that year, another Act was passed which, to some extent, improved the position. It increased the amount payable under the Act and extended the scope of the 1897 Act, which, some hon. Members will know, applied only to what are called the heavy industries, and applied it to industry generally. The 1906 Act continued in operation right through the War years, except that various temporary Acts were passed in order to ameliorate the position of injured workmen by reason of the abnormal situation which existed during the War. In 1920 we had the Holman Gregory Commission, and I should like to deal with the findings of that Commission for a few moments, because I believe that it is of very great importance at the present time. The Holman Gregory Commission made a number of recommendations, some of which were embodied in the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, and some of which have been ignored.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department who, no doubt, has refreshed his mind by perusal of the Report will, whatever view he may adopt with regard to this Bill, give very serious consideration to those recommendations which have not been adopted and embodied in any legislation subsequent to that Report. Take the case of death. Under the 1906 Act the minimum amount payable to the widow was £200, and under the 1923 Act, the minimum was £200 and the maximum £300. The Commission recommended that the minimum should be £250. Under the 1906 Act no compensation was payable to the children of a workman who had been killed while at work. No depend- 732 ants' allowance was payable under that Act. The Commission suggested that, in Addition to the £250 payable to the widow, the following amounts should be paid to the children of the deceased: 10s. for the first child, 7s. 6d. for the second and 6s. for the third.
Under the 1923 Act, the average weekly amount payable to the dependent children is 6s. per week. If hon. Members will work out the 15 per cent., taking the total number of weeks from the death of the father, and the age of the child to the time that it attains the age of 16, and multiplying on the basis of, say, £2 a week, whatever the age of the child, I think they will find that it works out at an average of Cs. per week, against 10s., 7s. 6d., 6s., recommended by the Holman Gregory Commission. The Commission suggested that the maximum amount payable should be £800, but under the 1923 Act the maximum was £600. In regard to total incapacity, under the 1923 Act, and the 1925 Act which now operates, the amount payable must not exceed 50 per cent. of the average weekly earnings of the injured workman. The Commission recommended that the amount should be 66⅔. With regard to partial incapacity, at the present time the amount payable is one-half of the difference between pre-accident earnings and post-accident earnings. The Commission recommended that two-thirds of that difference should be paid. Therefore, it comes to this. that the amounts payable under the present law are considerably less than the amounts recommended by the Holman Gregory Commission.
What do we propose in the Bill? In the case of death, I believe there is a good deal to be said against the compulsory payment of a lump sum. Hon. Members on the other side who belong to the legal profession will agree with me that in many individual cases that has not worked very satisfactorily. Therefore, we suggest that instead of a lump sum payment, there should be paid a weekly sum of 30s., or one-half of the weekly earnings, whichever is the greater. We suggest the payment of 10s. for each child, whereas the Commission recommend 10s. for the first child, 7s. 6d. for the second and 6s. for the third child. In the case of total incapacity we recommend 75 per cent., as against the 50 per cent. payable now and the 66⅔ per cent. 733 recommended by the Holman Gregory Report. Whereas the Report recommended £3 as a maximum, we recommend that £3 shall be the minimum. In the case of partial incapacity, we recommend, instead of one-half or 50 per cent. of the difference between the pre-accident and the post-accident earnings, the whole of the difference, because we take the view that a man who has been injured at his work should be in no worse position than he was before the accident.
I very much doubt, whatever one's views may be about the main provisions of the Bill, whether hon. Members opposite can argue that the amounts that are set out are in any way excessive, but that, on the other hand, they are merely sufficient to maintain the man and his family in a reasonable standard of living. How is the cost to be met? I am not in a position to give any exact figures. I am in the same position as Sir Matthew White Ridley in 1897, when he said that it was very difficult to obtain exact information as to cost. I frankly admit that I find it equally difficult to give to the House the exact cost of these proposals. What we do say is, that we should adopt the proposals of the Holman Gregory Commission for the compulsory insurance of every employer.
With the exception of the Crown, statutory companies and private householders, every employer should be compelled to insure in respect of his work-people. The Commission recommended the appointment of a State commissioner to enforce supervision of rates of insurance premiums—a very excellent suggestion, which is embodied in the Bill. Under the Bill, a State insurance fund is to be established, which would be controlled by a Board. That is the same proposal as is contained in the Report. There is nothing very startling in that proposal. In many foreign countries a State fund has existed for many years, with a monopoly of insurance. In America, I am informed, 30 of the 48 States have a State fund, and these 30 States have the same structure and type of control which we seek to establish in the Bill. In Canada, until a few years ago, the various Federal States had the same workmen's compensation law that we have in this country, but in the last decade practically every State has followed the American pattern and 734 established a system of compulsory insurance under State control.
Let me say a few words with regard to the establishment of the Board. I am not supporting the Bill because I have no trust in the courts or in the lawyers of this country. We are a very much criticised profession, but we have our uses on very many occasions. I am not seeking in any way to attack the administration of the law in this country. With certain exceptions, I have implicit confidence in the way justice is administered. I would, however, point out that only two per cent. of workmen's compensation cases find their way into the courts. That may be an argument for no change. On the other hand, it is an equally strong argument for withdrawing opposition to the change. Anyone who has studied the development of legislation applying to workmen's compensation knows perfectly well that it was never intended to establish a complex body of law such as we have to-day, providing a happy hunting-ground for the lawyers and the insurance companies. Lord Brampton, a very famous judge, stated a few years after the first Act was passed in 1897:The Act was passed to provide a simple proceeding entailing comparatively trifling expense.We all know that the average workmen's compensation case in the county court, even if it goes no further, may involve an expenditure of from £60 to £80. How is this system to work? The closest analogy is to be found in the administration of unemployment insurance benefit. There is to be a workmen's compensation officer locally, just as there is an unemployment insurance officer. He is to be assisted by a local committee, just as the unemployment insurance officer is assisted by the courts of referees. One criticism which was put forward by the former hon. and learned Member for Norwood, who is now one of His Majesty's judges, was that it was a monstrous thing to determine the question of liability without receiving evidence from the employer. Anyone who knows the way in which the Unemployment Insurance Acts are operated, knows that in 100 cases out of 100 a statement is received from the employer setting out the facts relating to the discharge or the cessation of work by the applicant for 735 unemployment insurance. Exactly the same thing would apply under this Bill. The employer would be entitled to state his version of the accident, if there had been an accident, medical evidence would have to be adduced, and no insurance officer would ever be in a position to make a finding on fact unless he had full evidence before him.
It is also suggested that the Board is independent of Parliament. That is a criticism which is reasonable in itself, but I very much doubt whether it has any considerable weight, and I have no doubt that the promoters of the Bill would meet it in Committee. But may I remind hon. Members opposite that we have very good precedents in this regard —the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Electricity Commissioners and the London Transport Board. The complaint is that they are not under the control of the Government. I suggest that those who criticise the Bill because the Board is independent of Parliament must realise that they have given us the precedents. During the Debate in 1897 another famous Conservative, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, said:Our first duty, as well as our first object, is to avoid litigation.The object of the proposals in the Bill is to take the question of compensation entirely out of the hands of the law courts and insurance companies. The insurance companies operate for profit, as they are perfectly entitled to do, but there is always a conflict of interest as between insurance companies who are responsible to their shareholders and the injured workmen. The intention and hope of the promoters of the first Workmen's Compensation Bill, a Conservative Government with Sir Matthew White Ridley in charge of the Measure, was that all claims would be settled through a committee of employers and workmen; that all workmen's compensation claims would be settled within the industry itself. The development of litigation is something which was never contemplated by those responsible for that Bill. A further criticism is that the Board is not only independent, but that it can make regulations without any supervening authority. That is not the case. Under Clause 33 of the Bill the regulations of the Board have to be approved by the 736 Secretary of State, and it is quite obvious that this must involve a measure of control by the Government.
There is a second approach to this question which concerns hon. Members on this side of the House. We regard the present law as having failed in the prevention of accidents; it has not tended, as it should have done, to reduce the number of accidents. During the last four years the total number of workmen's cases rose from 398,000 in 1931 to 403,000 in 1934, including fatal and nonfatal accidents. The position is causing grave concern not only to those who represent workmen's interests but also to employers of labour. I have here a statement made by Mr. E. J. Fox, the Managing Director of Stanton Iron Works. He says:His firm carries its own insurance and was able to maintain a first class accident prevention ambulance and general medical supervision service out of the savings effected in compensation payments. In effect, the working conditions of the employees and the resultant good will so valuable to all employers were achieved free of cost.It is very desirable that such a state of affairs should exist throughout the whole of industry. I am not suggesting that employers are callously indifferent to the welfare of their workmen, but if every encouragement were given to them, through the system we seek to establish by the Bill, to pay more attention to the prevention of accidents much more would be done. Under the present system a workman has to concentrate on securing his compensation rather than on his fight against incapacity. The secondary becomes the primary. We advocate more facilities for proper curative treatment. In Clause 17 we make provision for the re-habilitation of the unfortunate workman by various provisions as to curative treatment, and in Clause 36 the Board is given power to assist or co-operate in any scheme for the prevention of accidents or industrial disease in any industry, and in research into the causes and nature of such diseases. That is not practicable under the present system, and all these drastic changes are essential.
My last point is this: The question arises whether a workman is entitled to complete immunity in respect of his injuries. We realise that the workmen of this country are no more perfect than 737 hon. Members of this House, and that they are liable to be careless like the rest of us. On the other hand, they are essential to industry, and I should like to express my own view in the words of the late Lord Oxford, who said:The word compensation is an inadequate and often an ironical term. A workman is entitled to receive some solatium for the injury he has suffered in carrying on his operations as a soldier in the army of industry.It is because I consider the Bill constitutes a measure of justice, and will bring greater happiness and comfort to the injured soldier of industry that I have the greatest pleasure in seconding the Motion for the Second Reading.
§ 12.13 p.m.
§ Mr. LEVY
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I have listened with great interest, as I always do, to the speeches made by the two hon. Members opposite. I was immediately struck by the confusion of thought. The hon. Member for Spring-burn (Mr. Hardie) attempted to justify the need for this Bill by saying very emphatically that he has no faith in the law courts of this country so far as workmen's compensation is concerned. Then we got the hon. Member who seconded the Motion speaking of the administration of justice and the law courts in very glowing and complimentary terms. We, therefore, have two schools of thought diametrically opposite to each other on this particular point. Whenever we get two speeches from hon. Members opposite we never get unison but always confusion of thought, and it only shows how divided they are in all that they desire to do. Plainly the Bill is brought forward for the purpose of nationalising insurance, bringing it under State control and taking it away from the insurance company. There is no complaint, apparently, of the working of the present system by the two hon. Members opposite. I could go through the Bill Clause by Clause and criticise it. So far as I am concerned, it is a bad Bill. I have no intention of going at any great length through the Bill, but I have picked out one or two points in order that I may give the House a 738 general survey of it, and in doing so I am hoping that the House will see its way to reject the Bill entirely on Second Reading, because I do not think the Bill is worthy even of being sent to a Standing Committee.
In the first place the Bill proposes to place a heavy and an entirely unreasonable burden upon industry. It proposes, too, to set up a Workmen's Compensation Board which would be like a superior Court of law and whose decision would be final, without any appeal at all. I realise as much as anyone the necessity for reasonable provision for workmen's compensation, but I submit that the existing law is already comprehensive and that this Bill would place a very much greater charge upon industry at a time when it is struggling to recover from depression. The Workmen's Compensation Board which the Bill seeks to set up would in its sphere exercise powers equal to those of the Treasury for levying charges upon employers. There is nothing at all in the Bill for imposing any restraint upon these extraordinary powers of this Board.
Clause 37 provides that an accident fund shall be provided from contributions to be made by the employers. Clause 50 empowers the Board to make an assessment on employers in the various classes of industry at such an amount as in the Board's opinion will be sufficient to meet the claims for compensation which may be payable by that class in a particular year, and also sufficient to meet the expenses of the Board. These assessments may be levied either upon the amount of the employer's pay-roll or upon some estimate, unknown, made by the Board. Clause 53 provides for the making of supplementary assessments by the Board to make up any deficiency that may be revealed after paying compensation, and generous compensation.
§ Mr. E. DUNN
Is it not perfectly true that in a very large section of industry the employers themselves are doing exactly the same thing now?
§ Mr. LEVY
I am dealing with criticisms on this Bill, because the Bill seeks to nationalise that and make it general. 739 Hon. Gentlemen opposite will have an opportunity of expressing their views, and I do not intend to detain the House nearly as long as hon. Members opposite have already detained it. I was saying that Clause 53 provides for the making of supplementary assessments by the Board, to make up any deficiency that may be revealed after paying the generous compensation provided in the Bill. Further, the Secretary of State may require the Board to make further supplementary assessments if he considers that the accident fund is not sufficient to meet all compensation payments.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
I do not want to interrupt, but I was wondering how the hon. Member differentiates between the assessment by the Board recommended in this Bill and the premiums charged by insurance companies under the existing law, in those cases where employers quite properly insure against risks under the existing law.
§ Mr. LEVY
I listened without interruption to hon. Members opposite, and I think they might do me the same courtesy as I always try to grant to them. I have mentioned three types of assessment that can be made. There appears to be no limit whatever to the assessments that can be made under the Bill. The compensation which the Board may award, as I said, is on a generous scale, and will be payable to people earning up to £500 a year. I do not know whether the authors of the Bill have made any inquiries about the financial burden which it will impose, but from my inquiries it would appear that the cost of this workmen's compensation would be enormously increased. As the Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading said, and said very properly, unfortunately it is difficult to form any really dependable estimate of the charge, because no one knows what assessments might be levied by the Board. But certainly, whatever those assessments might 740 be, no one apparently could challenge them. I can imagine from the constitution of the Board, as proposed in Clause 20, that there would be a good deal of scope for disagreement and that the final decision in practice might often rest upon the judgment of one man, the chairman, who is to be a lawyer—one of the very men in whom the proposer of the Second Reading has no faith.
§ Mr. LEVY
The constitution of this Board is very peculiar. It will include two members nominated by the Council of the Trades Unions Congress, two nominees of employers' organisations and two members appointed for their special knowledge of medicine and finance, and the Chairman would be a lawyer appointed by the Crown. In my judgment it is not a good thing to have an all-powerful tribunal of this kind with four of its members sitting as representatives of special interests. The tendency definitely would be to undermine, if not to destroy, the judicial character which a tribunal of this description should have. It is far better to submit cases for compensation to an impartial court of law than to allow them to be decided without any right of appeal by a tribunal of this character. I do not wish for a moment to cast any reflection on the bona fides of any representatives of employers or of trade unions who might be chosen to serve on a body of this sort, but I suggest that where fine points of liability and claim, and even points of law, have to be decided, it is better not to have sectional interests on the tribunal which has to pass final judgment. It is clear from the Bill that special administrative 741 machinery of a very considerable kind would have to be set up throughout the country. For instance, Clause 61 lays down that:All claims under this Act shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be determined in the first instance by the compensation officer appointed under this Act for the area in which the claimant is employed,and:In any case where the claimant is dissatisfied with the compensation officer's decision, the matter shall be referred forthwith to the local committee appointed under this Act.
§ Mr. GEORGE GRIFFITHS
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member allowed to read all this stuff all the time?
§ Mr. LEVY
I was quoting from one of the Clauses. The officers and committees referred to are to be appointed for every area by the Secretary of State, and the whole of the country has to be divided into areas which are to be determined by the Secretary of State. Each local committee must have an equal number of representatives and workpeople, with a chairman who must be a lawyer. Here, again, we get those objectionable sectional interests in the local body which must deal with many compensation claims under this Bill, and here, again, there is obviously ample scope for disagreement and dissention between the rival interests.
§ Mr. LEVY
My object was to save time, and if it is desirable I will certainly go through the whole Bill. What I am endeavouring to do in a complicated Measure of this kind is to pick out some of the points from the various Clauses in the Bill in order to make a general survey of it, so that other hon. Members who are anxious to speak may have opportunities of going through the various details. If you would like me to put my notes away, do not blame me if I repeat myself. I am simply en- 742 deavouring to be as brief as I possibly can, which you have always said you desired.
Further, it appears that under this Bill there is to be new machinery which will duplicate the Factory Acts. I must again quote from the Bill. Clause 47 says:The Board and any member of it and any officer or person authorised by it for that purpose shall have the right at all reasonable hours to enter into the establishment of any employer who is liable to contribute to the accident fund and the premises connected with it and every part of them for the purpose of ascertaining whether the ways, works, machinery or appliances therein are safe.That is a duplication of the Factory Acts and the inspectors under those Acts which I contend is undesirable, because I think they are ample, and no fault has been found with regard to them. Presumably, every compensation officer and every member of every local committee will have the right of probing into the employer's factory to see that all these multifarious obligations are complied with. But if the employer is to be worried and harassed, so is the Compensation Board with regard to one responsibility under this Bill. Clause 7 (I, f) is an innovation and is exceedingly interesting. It says:Where a woman, not the wife of the workman, was living with the workman as his wife at the time of his death an allowance may, in the discretion of the Board, be paid to such woman as if she were the widow of the deceased. Such allowance may be paid notwithstanding that the wife of the workman is alive.It is laid down that compensation may not be paid for both. This provision may well raise a tremendous moral issue which would puzzle the most solemn-like board. The Bill would impose a heavy burden on industry at a time when it can least afford it. It would set up a vast administrative machine of an undesirable character and would do a disservice to the principle of workmen's compensation, which should be administered by authorities that are completely divorced from sectional interests. I am sorry if in my endeavour to shorten my speech and to deal only with the salient points I have had to refer to my notes more than I usually do. I apologise to the House if I caused it any inconvenience, but I think I have said enough with regard to this Bill and have criticised it sufficiently. 743 I sincerely hope the House will reject it and not send it to a Standing Committee.
§ 12.34 p.m.
Mr. ERSKINE. HILL
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think I may assure the House that hon. Members on this side feel that the present Act as it is worked is not without anomalies and that it might be improved, but I would like to remind the House that a Departmental Committee is sitting at this moment, about which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will perhaps be able to give some particulars, and that some of those anomalies may be removed at some not too distant date. I think the chief objection to this Bill has reference to those fundamental changes mentioned very fairly by the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson). Those fundamental changes are matters which ought not to be allowed to go beyond the Second Reading, because they are of such importance that the House ought to decide upon them as a matter of principle on Second Reading. This Bill differs fundamentally from any Measure of the kind hitherto suggested in that it would impose an altogether uncertain burden upon industry which might well prove intolerable. It might lead to industries which are improving at the moment being unable to carry on and if those industries failed that, in turn, would increase the burden on other industries.
The Bill may be divided into three parts, the first dealing with the enforced contribution of employers to the common fund; the second with the paying out of the money to those entitled to benefit, and the third, with the constitution and functions of the Board. It is to the enforced contributions of the employers that I would particularly draw attention. Those contributions are not limited in amount. They are to be such amount as the Board may determine—an entirely arbitrary figure which is not only uncertain, but is unascertainable by the employer. There is no specific method of assessment. It is to be a percentage of the pay-roll or a specific sum such as the Board may determine. It is not only an arbitrary assessment on the industry itself, it is an arbitrary assessment on the individual employer. It is not necessary, Clause 51 says, for the assessments to be, uniform. It is the Board who are to 744 make the assessments upon reports furnished by local inspectors and I do not think that proposal will meet with the views of the House a to fair play.
Further, there is no principle upon which the assessment is to be made. There is nothing to say that the burden falling on one industry may not have to be shared by another industry. In addition to the disadvantage of not knowing what assessment is to be made upon him, the employer is at the further disadvantage that an additional assessment may be made upon him at any time. For example, when the reserve fund is not in the opinion of the Board sufficient for its purpose, a further assessment may be made and a further assessment may be made by the Secretary of State for any reason. The chief objection to the Bill is that, in the event of the bankruptcy of the fund, there is no remedy other than that of the additional assessment. In other words, the capacity of industry to bear the burden is not considered at all. The only proposal for meeting the case of the bankruptcy of the fund or the case of the fund getting into difficulties, is that of making a further assessment on the very people who are unable to bear the burden already placed upon them. If this principle were accepted, it might result in an intolerable burden on industry and there is also the danger that it might damage those people who are in employment at the moment. It would increase unemployment and throw the burden of dealing with those unfortunate enough to be injured, upon the able bodied men and women who were still able to carry on in industry.
From the industrial point of view, there is also the question of interference with those who are carrying on industry. Constant visits may be paid to each industry which may well have the unfortunate effect of increasing the difficulties of those who are trying to run those industries. There is also an absence of the legal safeguards which are normally adopted to protect those who are to be made subject to taxation. An arbitrary assessment is made on the industry or on the employer and he has no right to appear or to be heard in opposition to it. He has no right of appeal. He is in the position of having to accept exactly what the Board decide and the Board in addition to the administrative duties set forth in the Bill, will have to act in a judicial capacity. I do 745 not think it will be possible for such a Board to give proper attention to each individual case. Not only will the Board have to act on the report of local officers, under the terms of the Bill, but they will have to do so of necessity, because it will be impossible for them to give proper attention to the details of individual cases. But the gravest effect in the Bill is what I would call the penal clause, namely Clause 42, and particularly Subsection (4) which provides that:where in the opinion of the Board the ways, works, machinery or appliances of any industry are defective, inadequate or insufficient.a further assessment may be made upon that employer. I agree that it is necessary, in the interests of the proper running of industry, that workers should be protected by means of such Acts as the Factory Acts and the Coal Mines Act. In many ways the present regulations might be tightened up in some respects. But where there is a contravention of any of those Acts the parties concerned are brought into court, evidence is laid against them, they may answer that evidence and the fine which can be imposed is limited. The effect of this Clause is, first, that there is not a fair trial, and secondly, the fine may be up to any amount in the discretion of the Board. No provision is made for the appearance of the accused party and there need be no evidence whatever, because the Board may proceed on the report of a local inspector. I do not think that that accords with the principles of justice and fair play, and I think it is just carrying out the general principle of this Bill, which is to impose a liability without any possibility of the most interested party, from one point of view, the employer, having any right of showing that he has been unfairly treated or that in fact the regulations impose an unfair burden upon him.
What is set forth as the reason for such wide-sweeping changes as are here suggested? It has been suggested that the present system is not working. I think I interpret the minds of the promoters of the Bill correctly when I say that they are satisfied with the action of the courts. I suppose I have been in court as frequently as the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), and his experiences have been more unfortunate than mine, because I 746 think that workmen's compensation cases in the lower courts, in the higher courts, and in the highest court of all, in another place, have been conducted with scrupulous fairness, and that if anything the courts are, as a rule, ready and willing to find a way in which they may give effect to a worker's claim.
I do not see 'any reason for bringing into effect such changes as are here proposed. Such anomalies as were mentioned by hon. Members opposite might well be put right by a Measure very different from this. This Bill proposes to impose an uncertain and unascertainable burden on industry, a burden of any amount, a burden which might well have the effect of crippling industry. What of the smaller employers? There are a great many industries in this country where three or four men are employed in a small works, and the Bill might well prove an intolerable burden on such employers, who are anxious to know what their charges will be and are only able to go forward on the footing that they know where they will stand 12 months ahead. It might well be impossible for many of those who are conducting such industries to carry on at all.
I think the present Act would be infinitely superior to this Bill. I am hopeful that where and when changes are found necessary and anomalies have to be remedied. Parliament may, by establishing continuity of the older Acts, still give effect to the remedies which this House is anxious to give to workmen who are injured in the course of their employment. The courts after many years, have been able to establish a clear definition of the words used in the older Acts, namely, "arising out of or in course of employment." That particular definition, I think I can now say with certainty, is watertight. It gives, I submit, a reasonable amount of protection to the workman who is injured, and it has stood the test of time. It is not necessary to alter a definition which has been tested and has not been found wanting.
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
Clause 1 (1) reads:If in any employment personal injury by accident occurring in connection with his employment is caused to a workman, his employer shall…be liable to pay compensation….That takes the place of the older words, "arising out of or in the course of employment." In my submission, the present law is infinitely better than this Bill and would bring far less risks to the workers themselves. If further alterations are necessary, a further Bill may be brought forward along the lines of the past Acts, but this Bill is based on principles which cannot be defended and which, I am sure, this House will never allow to come into effect.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I find myself in rather a peculiar position, speaking at this stage of the debate, because I agree with a very large part of what was said by the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, but I also find myself in agreement with the greater part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill), who has just sat down. The reason is that the hon. Members above the gangway were drawing attention to the need for reform of workmen's compensation, while the hon. and learned Member opposite was drawing attention to the defects in the methods by which it is proposed to secure that end. I want to make the attitude of my hon. Friends and myself as clear as I can. We are not opposed in any way to reform of workmen's compensation, or indeed to reform of the law of employers' liability, and hon. Members above the gangway may recall that a few weeks ago, when they brought in a Bill to abolish the defence of common employment, we gave them all the support we could. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) when he said that he would like to see a Measure for compulsory insurance applicable to all employers, and we would certainly co-operate with any Measure brought forward to secure that end. I agree also, and think a strong case has been made, that the amount which goes in administration expenses is unduly high, 748 and I think there is matter for inquiry there.
I want to preface my remarks by saying that I think the present state of the law of workmen's compensation demands inquiry and reform, and I hope that when the Minister speaks we shall hear that the Government propose in the near future to take some action in that respect. I think this debate, if it does nothing else will serve a useful purpose, in that it will enable hon. Members to draw attention to the undoubted defects in our present law of workmen's compensation, the chief of which is, I think, the limitation to 30s. a week. But having said that, I look at the Bill to see whether it is possible to separate Part I of the Bill from Part II, and I regret to have to come to the conclusion that it is not. When one looks at Part II of the Bill, it seems to me, at any rate, quite clear that the cure proposed is very much worse than the disease. Part II of the Bill, to my mind, contains a set of proposals for which nothing whatever can be said. It contains certain extraordinary principles, and I am astounded that those principles should be put forward by hon. Members above the Gangway. The first question to which we have to address our minds when we are considering this matter is whether the determination of claims is a judicial question or an administrative question. There can only be one answer and we should all agree that this is a judicial question. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I should not have thought that anyone disputed it. The difference between a judicial and an administrative decision is that in the former you decide which party is right and in the latter you decide what is best to be done.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
Would the hon. Gentleman define the claim of an insured person under National Health Insurance as administrative or judicial?
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that thousands of injured men 749 who are denied workmen's compensation secure National Health Insurance benefit for their incapacity?
§ Mr. FOOT
I think that that may be so. I am only stating that the question that has to be decided when there is a claim for workmen's compensation is not whether it is best to give the workman compensation or whether it is in the public interest, but whether he is entitled to it in view of the facts and the law. That is a decision that has to be made now by the courts, and which under the Bill will have to be made by an official. In either case there is not any doubt that it is a judicial decision. The Committee on Ministers' Powers, on which the party above the Gangway was strongly represented, was most emphatic upon this point. Reporting in 1932, the Committee said:Judicial, as distinct from quasi-judicial, functions should normally be entrusted to the ordinary Courts of Law, and their assignment by Parliament to a Minister or a Ministerial Tribunal should be regarded as exceptional and requiring justification in each case.I put it to the House, therefore, that when we are dealing with matters of this sort, the burden of proof is on those who want to take these matters out of the hands of the ordinary courts. I may remind hon. Members that that Report was signed by Professor Laski, one of the most noted jurists in the Labour party, by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards), and by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson).
§ Mr. FOOT
In that case it ought to be taken by a judicial tribunal, but all these things were taken into account by the Committee on Ministers' Powers. They do not say that there must necessarily be alteration in past legislation, but they made these recommendations for the future. The hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) endeavoured, I thought, to make some sort of case for taking this matter out of the hands of the ordinary courts because he drew the analogy between this system and the system under which we administer Unemployment Benefit. That is true, of course, and the system that is proposed here 750 would greatly resemble the system of courts of referees and umpires under which we administer Unemployment Benefit. There is this difference, that each year there are many thousands of cases that have to be decided by courts of referees, and I imagine that the reason why they are not decided by the ordinary courts is that it would be impossible for them to decide these matters and still get through their ordinary business. There is that special reason in the case of Unemployment Benefit for having a particular tribunal, but that does not apply in the case of workmen's compensation because only a small proportion of cases where workmen are compensated come within the purview of the courts at all. Last year's Home Office Report on workmen's compensation says, on page 13:The total number of cases under the Workmen's Compensation Acts which were taken into court in Great Britain in 1934 was 5,948 as compared with 5,610 in 1933 and an average of 6,098 for the 10 years 1924 to 1933. Many of these, however, were applications for dealing with allowances already granted, and many were settled out of court or otherwise disposed of, so that the total number of original claims for compensation finally settled with the cognisance of the courts was only 2,514. The decision in 1,871 cases, or 74.4 per cent., was in favour of the applicant.The Report goes on to say:It is not possible to give the precise percentage of claims subject to litigation during 1934, but it must have been quite small, certainly less than 2 per cent.So that the considerations which were present in the case of Unemployment Benefit do not apply at all because only a very tiny fraction of the claims come within the purview of the courts. I would like to draw the attention of the House to Clause 30 of the Bill. It provides that the Board shall have exclusive jurisdiction.The Board shall have exclusive jurisdiction to examine into, hear and determine all matters and questions arising under this Act and as to any matter or thing in respect to which any power, authority or discretion is conferred upon the Board and the action or decision of the Board thereon shall be final and conclusive and shall not be open to question or review in any court and no proceedings by or before the Board shall be restrained by injunction, prohibition or other process or proceeding in any court or be removable by certiorari or otherwise into any court.751 That covers all the decisions of the Board, but it is provided in a later Clause that the Board is the appeal tribunal from the local committees. That means, I take it, that the High Court will have no sort of jurisdiction over the Board. May I again trouble the House with a quotation, which is even more emphatic from the Report of the Committee on Ministers' Powers. The Committee had no doubt on this subject at all, and said:The jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice to compel Ministers and Ministerial Tribunals"—this Board, of course, is a form of ministerial tribunal—to keep within their powers and 'to hear and determine according to law,' i.e., to exercise their judicial and quasi-judicial powers in good faith and uninfluenced by extraneous and irrelevant considerations and fairly and not arbitrarily, should be vigilantly maintained.They do not recommend any exception to that at all. This is not a question of fine legal distinctions. We set up nowadays a great number of these special tribunals. There is only one safeguard that we have in our law to make sure that these tribunals work fairly and according to justice. That is the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court and the fact that, if a party before one of these tribunals is not treated in accordance with ordinary canons of justice he can go and get a decision called in question or quashed in the High Court. There was a case a little while ago where certain people were aggrieved by the decision of the Milk Marketing Board because the Board had decided to impose fines on them, and they said that they had not been properly heard in their own defence. The applicants were able to go to the High Court, and they were able to get redress and secure a measure of justice. They would not have been able to do it if there had been any provision of this kind in the Agricultural Marketing Act or the Milk Marketing Scheme. It is not a question of legal quibbles or fine definitions, such as those mentioned by the hon. Member for Springburn, but the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court is one of the great bulwarks of the rights of the subject.
§ Mr. FOOT
I appreciate the point of the hon. Member, but surely that is a reason for trying to make litigation less expensive, not a reason for destroying the rights which the subject now enjoys. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite drew attention to the imposition of employers' contributions, and there I am bound to say that I agree with every word he had to say. Ever since the glorious revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights it has been a cardinal principle in this country that we do not give to outside bodies the power to impose taxation. That principle has been maintained through all these centuries, and it is rather remarkable that this challenge to it should come from the party above the Gangway. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear!"] I do not think it lies with hon. Members opposite to cheer, because the nearest we have got to an infringement of that principle is contained in the Import Duties Act, 1932. Under that Act the Import Duties Advisory Committee and the Treasury, together, were given power to impose taxation which does come into force at once, but there was at any rate this safeguard, that all the proposals had to come before this House and that this House could turn them down and bring those particular taxes to an end. But there is not even that safeguard in this Bill, and I am very sorry to see the vicious principle introduced by hon. Members opposite being taken up and carried still further by hon. Members above the Gangway.
Now I should like to say a word or two about the machinery for dealing with claims. It starts with Clause 61 and goes on to Clause 62. There are to be these local committees, each composed of a member of the legal profession, a representative of the employers and a representative of the workmen who are to hear appeals from He officer. Whatever provisions there may be about not being bound by legal precedents, when considerable changes are made in the law such as are proposed under Part I of this Bill, difficult questions of interpretation are bound to arise. You may object that the Board or the local committee is not to be bound by legal precedent, but they have to be bound by something, and they will have to be bound by their own precedents, because it would be a perfectly impossible situation to have a case being 753 decided in one way on one day and a few days later a precisely similar case being decided in a different way. It is provided that an appeal shall lie from the local committee to the Board, and here I should like to draw attention to the whole of the words in Sub-section (1) of Clause 62:In any case in which a claimant is dissatisfied with the decision of the local committee, any association of employed persons of which the claimant is a member or, with the consent of the local committee the claimant himself, may appeal to the Board.What possible justification can there he for a form of words like that? This is repeating the entirely unjust provision which already obtains in the Unemployment Act. I do not believe that by any standard of justice a provision of this kind ought to stand in any of our legislation. What is the position? Suppose the committee is unanimous, as in most cases it is likely to be. Our experience of courts of referees is that they are generally unanimous, it is not often that they are divided.
§ Mr. G. GRIFFITHS
In the case of courts of referees you will find that they are divided more often than they are unanimous—in the case of miners' claims.
§ Mr. FOOT
Shall I put it in this way, that as a rule leave to appeal is not given? Each Member can quote his own experiences, but I should have thought that in the greater number of cases courts of referees were unanimous. In any event there will he a large number of cases in which the committee is unanimous. Then what is the position? A man who is a member of an association of employed persons has a right of appeal. A man who is not a member of an association of employed persons has no right of appeal.
§ Mr. FOOT
That is an entirely irrelevant interruption. I know that hon. Members above the Gangway do not particularly appreciate this, but it is a point which I have raised before and I regard it as a very important one. You are saying that a man who is a trade unionist is to have a right of appeal but a man who is not a trade unionist is to have no right 754 of appeal. That is what is being deliberately laid down in the Bill.
§ Mr. FOOT
That may be, but where a committee is unanimous in turning down a claim there is no right of appeal except through the association of employed persons or with the leave of the tribunal, and where they are unanimous, generally speaking, leave will not be granted. Therefore, you are giving to one man a right of appeal which you deny to another. We had from the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill a most moving account of some of the cases which he himself had seen. He told us some of the injuries that had been suffered by workmen which had come under his notice. Surely he might apply his experience to this case. Suppose that this Bill passes into law and a man comes forward with a claim which is turned down by the local committee and he is not given leave to appeal. Is the hon. Member, or are any hon. Members above the Gangway, prepared to say, "You shall have no right of appeal because you are not a trade unionist "—however severe the man's injuries may be? He may be partially incapacitated or wholly incapacitated, but he is to have no right of appeal because he does not belong to a trade union. I join issue with hon. Members above the Gangway on this point. We in this part of the House say that there is such a principle as equality before the law, and that that is of more importance than the vested interests of the trade unions.
§ Mr. FOOT
Another hon. Member below the gangway when I talked about applications to the Courts pointed out that without money people could not go forward with appeals, and it is rather strange that one should get these two interruptions from the same benches in a few minutes. It is proposed to set up 755 here a great new administrative service and we make the point, as we are entitled to do, that it is to be set up without any Parliamentary control. The hon. Member for Springburn tried to meet that attack in advance by pointing out that Parliament had to vote the money and that we had some control over the expenses, and also that this House had to approve of the regulations that might be made. All those things are equally true of the Unemployment Assistance Board. We have to vote the money to the Board, we have to approve the regulations the Board makes, and we are to have no more control over the board which is proposed in this Bill than we have over the Unemployment' Assistance Board. I do not know what view hon. Members above the Gangway are going to take in future, but in my last election one of the principal issues in my constituency was the character of the Unemployment Assistance Board. One of the principal arguments that I placed before the electors at almost every meeting was that it had been entirely wrong in the Unemployment Act, 1934, to put a great service, affecting so many thousands of people, under the jurisdiction of a board subject to no democratic control. It is precisely that principle which hon. Members propose to apply to the service of workmen's Compensation.
The hon. Member for Kingswinford gave certain precedents. He quoted the Electricity Commission and the British Broadcasting Corporation, as well as the London Passenger Transport Board. We will leave out the last of those three. I would ask hon. Members: are the Electricity Commissioners and the British Broadcasting Corporation, as now constituted, precedents that hon. Members above the Gangway really want to follow? After all the controversy we had in the discussion of the Unemployment Bill, 1934, on the question of arbitrary boards without democratic or representative control, it is astounding that the Labour Opposition should bring forward this sort of proposal. We would have wished to support the Bill, which I believe has been introduced in perfectly good faith. We agree with the aims which hon. Members who have introduced the Bill have in view, but it seems to me and to my hon. Friends that the methods 756 by which those aims are to be achieved are so dangerous that it is impossible for us to support them.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXWELL FYFE
I want to add just a footnote to the history of this legislation as it was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson). He traced the history of workmen's compensation legislation, but not the short and somewhat interesting antecedents of this Measure. As hon. Members opposite are aware, this legislation began with a Bill which was introduced into the Legislature in Ontario in 1927. The present Bill coincides with that Measure, except in one Clause, so far as my researches go. That was followed by a draft Bill which accompanied a Memorandum of the Trades Union Congress Research Department in 1928. After that, the Bill disappeared from history, as far as one can find out, until it was introduced into this House in 1933. The period between those two dates include that interesting time when, for 2½ years, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were sitting on these Benches. It is curious, and no doubt we shall hear the reason in due course, that the Bill was allowed to slumber so peacefully from 1929 to 1931.
I would follow my hon. Friend just a little further into the financial provisions of the Bill. As I understood the Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), attack is made upon the present position on two main grounds, first that the present method is expensive to the country generally, and, secondly, that it is full of legal technicalities which prevent its sound working. With regard to expense, we have to consider what information is at our disposal. In 1934, which is the last year for which we have figures, only 22 per cent. of workmen's compensation claims was paid by insurance companies, while 38 per cent. was paid by mutual indemnity associations and 40 per cent. by persons who had carried the risk themselves or in association with other people allied with them. The complaint with regard to insurance companies applies therefore to only 22 per cent. of the channels of compensation.
The figures for that year were that some £4,800,000 was received in premiums by the insurance company. Of that sum, £3,065,000 was devoted, as the hon. Mem- 757 ber mentioned, to the payment of compensation and incidental expenses, and £1,700,000 was payable in managerial expenses and commission. What the hon. Member for Springburn omitted to tell us, but what is a most material point, is that, in 1934, only £46,000, or.97 per cent., went in profits to the insurance companies. To take the figures that were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), during that year, of the 400,000 cases, only 6,000 came to litigation; only 2,500 of those proceeded to a conclusion, and of that number 1,750 were terminated in favour of the workman. It has been said, because of those figures, that cases have been fought unreasonably and unnecessarily. A number of hon. and learned Members are sitting here, but I venture to say that a percentage of cases in which the plaintiff was successful in three out of four, is only what one finds in any field of litigation at which one cares to look. The person who initiates the litigation is more likely to be successful, and, in fact, is so.
When we take those two sets of figures, it becomes very difficult to see where the great complaint of expense lies. The insurance figures, as I say, deal only with 22 per cent. of the whole and the expenses figures for indemnity societies and for those who carry their own risk are much less. The complaint of the hon. Member for Springburn relating to the 22 per cent. is the gravamen and the kernel of his case in support of the Bill. I agree that the expenses figures are high. They warrant examination when they come within the region of 37 per cent., but it is only fair to compare them with the figures that must result from the bringing into play of the Bill. When one considers the suggestions put forward in other places and those put forward here, it is apparent that the central body to be appointed under Clause 61 would have the right to appoint various servants and agents for the carrying on of its business. It would have to engage a staff, and keep a procedure ready to deal with appeals. It would not merely have to state what the assessments are and to levy those assessments, but it would have to collect information from all sorts of employers and big industries, and even from householders who had a staff liable to be covered by the Measure.
758 When it has done those things, the central body will be only at the commencement of its expenses. We come next to the local bodies and the compensation officers. In all these respects there is going to be throughout the country a machinery of which the expense is bound to be very heavy in every way. The hon. Member has brought before us the figures that have been given in Ontario and in some of the States of the American Union, but I would ask him to consider whether it is really of any advantage for this House, when it is considering a financial burden that may be placed on an industrialised country like ours, to compare the position in Ontario, with 450,000 workers and with the much larger proportion which agriculture represents in the life of the State, with the position of this country, where 16,000,000 workers would have to be dealt with under the scheme. Can we rightly envisage any saving under this Bill as against the average effect, not only of insurance companies, but of mutual—
§ Mr FYFE
The exact amount, as my hon. and learned Friend will appreciate, does not seriously vitiate the argument. What I am putting to the House is that it is no guide to take States of that character and to say that we shall automatically have the same ratio of expense when we apply such a scheme to this country. We are bound to face the fact that the expenses of the Bill will be as large a proportion of the amount available for compensation as is the average proportion represented by insurance companies' premiums, contributions to mutual indemnity societies, and the provision that is made by industries and employers who carry their own risks. Moreover, that is only the beginning. Under the present system, the charge on industry amounts to £11,000,000 a year. What would be the result of applying reasonable actuarial 759 calculations to the Bill as it is at present before the House? Taking first the death claims, and reckoning the number under the present system as 100, the number, according to the calculations of the Bill, would be 237, so that the Bill would be nearly two and a-half times as expensive as far as death claims are concerned. As the hon. Member knows the proportion of death claims to claims involving injury only is as one to seven, and in the case of injuries, again reckoning the present position as 100, the figure under the Bill will be 188. On the whole, therefore, the Bill would more than double the expense, as compared with the present system, of providing for injuries. Therefore, if my figures in regard to expenses are anything like right, the expense which this Bill would impose upon the industry of the country must be more than £20,000,000 a year.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
Is the hon. Member inviting the House to say that the burden of which he speaks should be borne by the injured or deceased workmen and their dependants, rather than by industry as a whole?
§ Mr. FYFE
The hon. Member must really permit me to develop my argument. That point comes much later in the argument which I am trying to follow out. It will be realised that it comes in in deciding what is the balance which must be maintained within the different parts of industry, and I hope, if I do not detain the House too long, to deal with that point very shortly in a moment or two. At present I am trying to deal with the first question which was raised quite sharply in the memorandum of the Trades Union Congress, and which has been repeated to-day, that is to say, the question of expense. The expense of the present method is complained of, but when it is analysed I submit to the House that under the Bill this country would have to deal with at least twice the burden on industry which falls on it under the present system.
I will now deal very shortly with the question of legal technicalities. I hope there will be general agreement on what I am about to say, but in any case I put it forward as a suggestion well worthy of consideration. The main points of the present law with regard to workmen's compensation, the definition of "acci- 760 dent" and the definition of "arising out of and in the course of," are settled matters. I can only give my own experience, but, in the many years during which I went into county courts at least once a week, and sometimes oftener, 80 per cent. of the cases that came into my hands were cases involving purely medical questions, and with regard to those medical questions the tribunal was either the county court judge alone or the county court judge sitting with a medical assessor. In either case, taking a run of experience over a number of years, I submit that hon. Members will find, whether from the point of view of my own profession or from the point of view of the trade union official who deals with large numbers of these cases, that that tribunal decides fairly reasonably and with due regard to the points raised on behalf of the workmen.
I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider the procedure that may result from their own Bill. The hon. Member for Springburn pressed upon us the Clause which lays it down that the Board are to have regard to the justice of the case, and not to legal precedents, but I would put to him very sincerely the consideration that the justice of the case requires the consideration of precedents. I have never been immodest enough to claim that lawyers are the keystone of society, but I do claim very respectfully that lawyers are the cement of any system of society which is going to give fairness. If they are the cement, there must be something to which it is applied; there must be some consideration that is taken into account in trying to use the accumulated wisdom which has been stored up in the past. I would ask hon. Members to consider that submission, and also to consider what must happen under their own Bill. One compensation officer allows a claim. In the next area another compensation officer—because no new Bill will ever get rid of the imperfections of human nature—may disallow a similar claim. The workman may appeal, and the officer may be upheld by the local committee, and the local committee in turn may be upheld. It is not a fantastic proposition. You will have a workman in one area able to say, "I got compensation," and a workman in the next area will say, "I did not get compensation," and that will be a 761 great cause of bitterness. I ask. hon. Members whether it is the right approach to the problem that they have taken.
I agree that there are matters in the Act which we want improved. May I make one or two suggestions? There is the decision in the Hewitson and the St. Helens Boiler Company, which means that a workman who uses a, means of access to the employment which is provided by the employer, but which he is not compelled to use, is not entitled to compensation. That ought to go. We have schemes directed to silicosis and asbestosis, but they do not cover general dust diseases. There are many cases where men suffer injury from dust diseases without compensation. We ought to have a scheme generally for dust diseases. Another point which is very near the heart of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) is that of greater power for the county court judges to reopen matters. The quantum of compensation is a matter that we should discuss by itself taking into account the position of industry at present. These are three matters of practical importance on which there would be almost unanimity in the House if they were brought forward. I entirely agree that everything that can be done to prevent human wastage should be done, but I do not know that I agree with some hon. Members opposite that the present system is as black as they paint it. Lump-sum settlements have bad effects in some cases. In others they have the effect of changing the mentality of the workman and making him decide that, instead of thinking of himself as a compensation case, he will go out into the world with his £200 and find some other method of making himself a reasonable and healthy-minded, though not, unfortunately, a, healthy-bodied citizen. Sometimes it works like that and does good.
With regard to medical attention, I think employers and their representatives are beginning to see that one of the best ways of tackling the matter is to see that everything is put at the workmen's disposal in the way of the best medical opinion, convalescent treatment and the like. We pride ourselves on the fact that these saner views are becoming more generally held. But finally we come back to the point: How far are we going to 762 consider the wastage in the industrial struggle in itself, or how far are we going to consider it against the chances of employment? I ask hon. Members to accept the sincerity of this even if they disagree with my view. Where I find myself troubled is this: If you regard only the human wastage, if you take into consideration only whether the person injured should have indemnity or not, you may put such a burden on industry that you will hurt the chance of employment, or the chance of maintaining employment, of those who are left in the industry. The hon. Member for Springburn has obviously carefully read the Debate on the last occasion. He must have been struck, as I was, by the admission of one who then sat in that part of the House that there was a real danger that increased payments must either come out of lower wages or less employment, in addition to less profits. That danger of less employment is one which must be very near the heart of anyone like myself who sits for an area like Liverpool, where unemployment is so rife. I ask hon. Members to consider this attitude of mind that, sympathetic as we are towards the removal of anomalies, we are yet seriously troubled by the possibility of doing permanent harm to industry, and removing people still further from the chance of employment.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMES GRIFFITHS
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) criticised the Bill because there is a Clause in it which denies the right of appeal to anyone who is not a member of a trade union. I have had 20 years' practical experience in dealing with compensation cases. I have been associated with lawyers who have rendered yeoman service to trade unions in that period. May I put this point to the hon. Member? He objects to a workman who is not in a trade union being deprived of any rights. There are men on these benches who have had 20 or 30 years of practical experience in industry and in the handling of compensation cases. Sometimes a case goes to court which involves not merely knowledge of the law but knowledge of the industry in which the accident occurred—perhaps a complicated industry like that of mining. I have often felt that, because of my practical experience of the industry, I should be more com- 763 petent to put that case to the judge than the solicitor or the barrister who has been briefed. Should I be permitted to do that by the trade union to which the hon. Member belongs? I should not, because his trade union has the kind of protection that we think all trade unions ought to have.
§ Mr. FOOT
Surely the question is simply this, that before you are allowed to perform a certain function, to practise at a certain trade, you must have the necessary qualifications. It is the same condition that is insisted upon by any trade union, in bricklaying or any other trade. Here you have a right of appeal which you are giving to one man and denying to another. Surely that has nothing to do with qualifications.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I am obliged to the hon. Member. He knows from his experience of compensation law what kind of right a man who is not in a trade union has to take a compensation case. The injured man who is not in a trade union is at the mercy of his employers with regard to compensation. Several hon. Members have referred to the possibility that this Measure, which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), may be an intolerable burden upon industry. That sort of thing has been said of every Measure which has been brought forward in this House. I have not searched the records, but I am sure that, if we looked up the records of Hansard at the time when the first Workmen's Compensation Bill was introduced in this House, we should find that hon. Members speaking for the employers of this country said that it would ruin industry. I have never been a party to any negotiations to ask employers for an increase in anything without being told that it would mean ruin to the industry. However, industry seems to have survived the ruin, or at least hon. Members on the other side of the House are always telling us so. If workmen's compensation is a burden upon any industry, that industry is the mining industry.
May I remind hon. Members who have made that objection, that the payment of royalties to people who give no service to the industry is a much greater burden upon the industry than the cost of work- 764 men's compensation. I have never heard from hon. Members opposite or from people interested in the industry a single complaint that the industry is being ruined by the intolerable burden of royalties.
We in the mining industry know definitely the cost of workmen's compensation, because it is provided for in the ascertainments, and on the average it is not more than half the cost of royalties. Hon. Members have no right to talk about the burden of providing for workmen's compensation when they suffer in silence the burden of royalties. Why do we in this Bill suggest the setting up of a Board? I am sure that hon. Members who have objected to the proposal will agree when I say that the trade union movement in this country has an unparelled accumulative experience of work on compensation cases. This suggestion is a consequence of their experience. We ought to remember in this House that when a workman, who has been injured and has been deprived of his compensation, has to appear before a court, the whole atmosphere of the place beats him. There is the judge with his wig and gown, counsel and solicitors, and the procedure, and he becomes confused and worried. In 95 per cent, of the cases in my experience, the applicant for workmen's compensation who has to give evidence in court does not do justice to his case in the witness-box because of that atmosphere. I suggest that to have a Committee, sitting without any legal formality, with nobody being dressed up, and without any of the atmosphere which frightens people, and welcoming these men by inviting them to sit down and tell them how the accident happened, is the best way of administering justice in workmen's compensation cases.
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
If what the hon. Member has said is true, why is it that provisions made in the earlier Act for Committees have in so few cases been put into force?
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I am not quite sure. The Under-Secretary of State may be able to reply to that question. All that I am saying is that it is because of our experience that we are making the suggestion, believing that the ordinary county court is not the best kind of court for dealing with cases of this kind. The judge in that court sits with medical 765 assessors, which is an admission that the county court judge, sitting alone, is not competent to deal with these cases. The court that decides cases of this kind ought to be representative of every phase involved in the case, so that the court may be competent to deal with it.
I wish to refer to one or two questions which are of such urgent importance that I hope the Under-Secretary of State, when he replies, will indicate that the Government are willing to let the Bill be committed to a Standing Committee, if only in order to remedy the grievances which have been urged upon the Home Office in the last few years. In sections of the mining industry of this country, owing to the effect of a decision, there are hundreds of totally disabled men who are not, receiving anything like 20s. a week in full compensation. The effect of that decision and the unemployment in the industry have caused a reduction in compensation, until there are literally hundreds of men—I am not exaggerating—who get only 15s., 20s., 22s. or 25s. a week because they are disabled.
When reference is made to the burdens upon industry, it should be remembered that these men are a burden upon local authorities. They become a burden upon the county councils of Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire, which bodies ought not to be called upon to bear them. They should be borne by the industry. I urge the Secretary of State to agree to the Bill being allowed to go to Committee in order that that injustice shall be remedied. The man who happens to be unlucky enough to be injured at the end, say, of 12 months of bad trade, and who has been idle three days a week, receives only 17s. or 18s. a week disablement benefit. That is an injustice which ought to be removed at once, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will agree to the Bill going to Committee, so that it may be remedied. Reference was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Mr. Fyfe) that lump-sum settlements were, in some cases, of advantage to the workmen. Generally speaking I have discouraged the computation of lump-sum settlements, but I say frankly, that there have been cases where the effect of the accident has preyed upon the mind of the workman, and where there has been a prospect of the man 766 finding a new job and a new life somewhere else, in which it has been an advantage to commute the pension to a lump-sum settlement.
But that is not the problem which worries us. Most of the compensation business of the coal owners in South Wales is now handled by employers' liability who employ men—I will not use the term to describe them here as is used outside—to go round to men who have been disabled. They knock at the door, talk to men who have been injured for six, 12 or 18 months and have been receiving compensation of 18s. or £1 a week, who are perhaps harassed by debt or worried by the people to whom they owe money, who have to live on that miserable pittance, and to whom £50 is almost a fortune, and induce them to settle for a much less sum than the value of the commuted compensation to which they would be entitled.
§ Mr. MAXWELL FYFE
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would, like the House to bear in mind that any such settlement has to be approved by the registrar of the county court.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I am well aware of that provision. The registrar very often will be persuaded by the fact that the man himself makes the application. The man may not be in a trade union. What will the registrar do? The man himself will settle with the representative, and the representative will file the settlement.
The registrar will write to the man and say "this settlement has been filed, and if you have any objection, please write." The man never writes. The consequence is that settlements are made. Occasionally objections are raised. The other day our compensation secretary for the South Wales Miners' Federation discovered a case in which a man had been persuaded by one of these representatives—men employed to rob the workmen—although he had a permanent injury, to settle for £50. The secretary discovered the case in time and raised the matter with the registrar. The case went to the judge sitting at the Bridgend County Court, and I would advise the Under-Secretary to read the comments of the judge on the action of the sort of representatives that I have described. The Board that we suggest in the Bill would be an infinitely better method of dealing with these cases than the method now pursued.
767 The time is overdue when the Home Office should take steps to remedy the injustices arising out of the Silicosis Order. I come from an anthracite district which for two generations was agreed to be the safest coalfield to work. The coal worked was regarded as almost free from danger of explosion, but to-day, instead of being the safest coalfield to work, the anthracite district is becoming more and more dangerous. We have a Gresford every year. From June, 1931, up to the end of last year we had a rate from silicosis of more than 35 deaths per annum, and 250 men certified as disabled each year from that complaint. Hon. Members who know anything about this particular disease know that if you are certified as disabled through silicosis it is practically being certified to die, because there is no cure. There is, however, prevention. There is something that the Under-Secretary could do, and that is to bring tardy justice to these men.
I asked the Minister recently to give me figures, and he stated that 311 men in two years, over 150 a year, were not certified by the medical board, but were suffering, because their occupation had exposed them to silicosis. Those men have had to work very often in seams that are in advance of the general current of ventilation, in seams where there is fire damp, surcharged in the air, seams in which men are firing 100 shot-holes per year. Some 2,250,000 shot-holes, with modern explosives, are fired each year, and the fumes from these explosives mean that the men are breathing a very foul atmosphere. The result is that after 25 years they become the victims of this disease. The medical board says that they have examined the men and seen the X Ray photographs and that they are not suffering from silicosis, but I am positive that the medical board would say that they are suffering from fibrosis of the lungs. They are as unfortunate as the unfortunate men who were caught in the Gresford pit, and they are as much entitled to compensation as any other man who has fallen a victim in the mines.
I would urge the Government to take advantage of this Measure in order to remedy the obvious grievances in workmen's compensation. I trust that hon. Members in all quarters of the House will combine in an effort to remedy the existing injustices. The hon. and learned 768 Member who preceded me indicated that there were grievances that he would like to remedy. This is the opportunity to remedy them. Let us act for the sake of the people who are suffering, give a Second Reading to the Bill, hammer it out in Committee and make it a good, workable Measure.
§ 2 p.m.
§ Mr. EALES
I find myself in complete agreement with some of the observations which have fallen from hon. Members on the other side. I do not suppose that there is anyone who will deny that there are anomalies and injustices in the working of the workmen's compensation laws which ought to be remedied. Certainly, every hon. Member on this side would be only too willing to co-operate in that direction. I have been very much impressed by some of the speeches, especially the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and the speech of the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie), but I do not find anything in the Bill that is going to satisfy their demand for the removal of the injustices. I do not propose to go into detail, but there are a considerable number of criticisms of the Bill itself which one could offer, especially of some of the provisions with regard to increases in compensation.
What I am more concerned about is the suggestion to create a bureaucratic board, to be called the Workmen's Compensation Board. Where is the necessity for that? Has it been established that any injustice is caused to the workmen of this country by the present system? Looking round on hon. and learned Members of the House, I suppose that I should be right in saying that I have probably had a longer experience in the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts than any of them, and I have still to learn that, speaking generally and almost universally throughout the country, one does not find sympathetic tribunals anxious always to see that justice is done to the working man.
The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that in the courts it was the atmosphere that beat the workman and that in 95 cases out of 100 he was unable to do himself justice. I think that upon reflection the hon. Member would admit that the latter statement cannot possibly be justified. Figures have been 769 given in regard to the cases that go into court. I have information from the latest civil judicial statistics for 1934 and I find that, excluding applications from the City of London Court and taking the Provinces, the total number of applications for arbitration heard and decided is returned as 2,014, of which 1,594 were decided in favour of the workmen. There we find something between three-fourths and four-fifths of the decisions were given in favour of the workmen. Anyone who has had experience of the county courts must in fairness concede that there is a desire always on the part of every county court judge to do justice. In nearly every case the county court is a sympathetic tribunal towards the workman. In these circumstances I ask where is the necessity to substitute the scheme suggested in the Bill? In the county courts we have a system which is very speedy, which is cheap and, in my opinion, very efficient. We have come to the year 1936 when there are very few legal problems outstanding and when the number of cases which go to the Court of Appeal or the House of Lords bear no kind of relation to the number which went in years gone by.
I have risen to-day in order to urge upon hon. Members opposite the consideration as to whether they will not be doing great dis-service to working men if they press such a scheme as is outlined in the Bill. The hon. Member for Llanelly spoke of an expression which has been used more than once, "the intolerable burden on industry," and said, possibly it was a slip, that one might complain that the burden of compensation was a burden upon industry. I do not think anyone has suggested that compensation itself is an intolerable burden on industry. What we are objecting to is that by the scheme in the Bill you are going to substitute something which, in my opinion, is far less efficient and which would be very cumbersome and costly.
§ Mr. J. GRIFFITHS
I spoke with particular reference to the mining industry, and I said that in the mining industry, from the figures which are available, mining royalties were a much heavier burden on the industry than workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. EALES
I think the hon. Member is not quite correct. He was undoubtedly talking of the mining industry, but he 770 used the words "the burden of compensation," and it is not quite the same thing as the other point, the force of which I appreciate, as to the burden of royalties on industry.
I desire to make one or two observations with regard to the provisions of the Bill and to support the Motion for its rejection. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite really appreciate the effect of the provisions in Clause 30 (1). They are worthy of the most serious consideration in contemplating what would happen. The Clause says:The Board shall have exclusive jurisdiction to examine into, hear and determine all matters and questions arising under this Act and as to any matter or thing in respect to which any power, authority or discretion is conferred upon the Board and the action or decision of the Board thereon shall be final and conclusive and shall not be open to question or review in any court and no proceedings by or before the Board shall be restrained by injunction, prohibition or other process or proceeding in any court or be removable by certiorari or otherwise into any court.That means that if the Board comes to a decision in any case which is not only flagrantly unjust but is obviously illegal, there is to be no remedy of any kind. It might affect a workman as well as an employer, but the Workmen's Compensation Board is to have exclusive power to decide, and there is no right of review. A proposal of that kind, which gives no right of appeal or review, and no right to prevent a tribunal going hopelessly wrong, is arbitrary and might well be oppressive. It has been found in the past to work great injustice upon the very side that has made the suggestion. That is the first objection I desire to take with regard to the powers proposed to be given to the Board. Reference has been made to-day, and it is not without importance to look at it again, to Sub-section (4) of Clause 42 which gives an unrestrained power to the Board, if they come to the conclusion that:the ways, works, machinery or appliances of any industry are defective, inadequate, or insufficient, the Board may so long as such condition in its opinion continues to exist add to the amount of any contribution to the accident fund for which an employer is liable in respect of such industry or undertaking such a percentage thereof as the Board may deem just and may assess and levy the same upon such employer.Without anybody knowing how the Board has arrived at this decision, or 771 what steps or inquiries they have made, they may perpetrate a great injustice on a perfectly innocent employer or company.
§ Mr. EALES
I shall be perfectly willing to debate that point if the necessity arises, but whatever may be said about the constitution of the Board, that is the power which you propose to give. One word as to the general working of the scheme. I prefer to start with the man who actually comes into touch with the injured working man. A scheme is made which is set out in Clause 61, where the compensation officer comes in. In an ascending scale it comes from the compensation officer to the local committee and from the local committee to the Workmen's Compensation Board. If the subject were not so serious I should be inclined to think that the proposal had been put forward by somebody with a considerable sense of humour. The claim is, in the first place, to be decided by the compensation officer. However wrong or however unjust his decision may be, the employer apparently has to sit down under it. He has no right of appeal whatever, but in Sub-section (2) it is provided:In any case where the claimant is dissatisfied. with the compensation officer's decision, the matter shall be referred forthwith to the local committee appointed under this Act.If a workman is dissatisfied with the decision of a local committee we get the same kind of provision again. In any case where a claimant is dissatisfied he has a right of appeal to the Board itself. It has never occurred to anybody responsible for the drafting. of the Bill that there may be some decisions which are unfair to the employer, which are obviously wrong, but nobody has provided that there shall be a right of appeal given to him, and, as far as the Board is concerned, their decisions, as I have pointed out, are incapable of, review. Then there is the question of finance. It is not only the increased compensation which the Bill contemplates which is to fall on industry but, as hon. Members opposite will appreciate under Clause 50, the Board has an unrestrained and unlimited power of assessment, and they 772 can make an assessment on an employer for an accident fund.
What has the accident fund to provide? Here is one of the greatest objections we have to the Bill. The fund has not only to provide for compensation payable to the workmen and also for the creation of a reserve fund, but under Clause 65 the accident fund, contributed to partly by the employer, imposed by a tribunal from which he has no right of appeal, has to payall salaries and other payments authorised to be paid to members of the Board, to officers and to other persons employed in the administration of this Act, and all other administrative and other expenses incurred under this Act by or on behalf of the Secretary of State, the Board, the local committees or the compensation officers.So that the sum of money which the employers have to provide and which will be assessed upon them without any right of appeal, has not only to provide for the payment of compensation to workmen, but has to provide for all the expenses of the bureaucratic system to be set up by the Bill.
§ Mr. EALES
Of course this Bill is on a par with much of the legislation which has been suggested in past years by hon. Members opposite. They seldom stop to contemplate the expense or the consequences of their suggestions. I have spoken of the burden that is to be put upon the accident fund. Very respectfully I suggest to hon. Members opposite what my experience teaches me, and I ask them whether they would not probably be bestowing a far greater benefit upon industry and upon the workmen engaged in it by advocating a system of compulsory insurance rather than a scheme of this kind? However, this is not the occasion for developing arguments on that matter. For the reasons I have advanced I hope the House will refuse a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Mr. PRITT
I want to answer some of the things said by various hon. and learned Members opposite, mostly with great fairness and reasonability. It has been said that under the Bill there is no appeal by the employer, whereas there is an appeal for workmen who are not satisfied with a decision. The hon. and learned Member who makes that complaint proves conclusively one of two things—either he has not read the Bill or he does not understand it. At first sight it sounds a most reasonable objection, but as soon as one reads the Bill one sees that this is not a contest between employer and workman at all. The employer is levied to provide a fund. When that fund is provided the contest, so far as there is a contest, can fairly be described as a contest between the workman and the fund and its managers, in much the same way as the contest between a workman and a fund and its managers when the workman is unemployed and goes to the Unemployment Assistance Board. The employer, except in a very indirect sense, has no more to do with that particular piece of litigation that the hon. and learned Member for Erdington (Mr. Eales). The hon. and learned Member claimed to have a great deal of experience of the Workmen's Compensation Act, and I am sure he has. I do not want to enter into any rivalry with him. I started my professional work in that Act, and if the lawyers had not captured that Act I should never had got going at the Bar at all. I remember the Act very well from my early days and I have studied it since.
The hon. and learned Member drew attention to Clause 30 and said that it was very unjust to exclude the courts. I could make a very long speech on that subject, but I shall make only a very short statement on it. It is a very common tendency now—every Government indulges in it; the modern development of legislation makes it absolutely inevitable—to try to withdraw cases from the courts and to leave them to other bodies composed as best they can be composed. It is a very big subject and I do not want to develop it at length. There are advantages and disadvantages in both courses. But if you are going to adopt the one course which is now so common, of, setting up a special tribunal or quasi tribunal 774 to deal with matters, there is nothing unreasonable in trying to do it by providing that if you do it the Court shall not interfere.
The hon. and learned Member and one or two other hon. Members raised the point that under Clause 42 (4), if your "ways, works, machinery or appliances "are in bad order you are compelled to pay more premiums, and how, if you go to the High Court, you spend seven or eight times the amount of the premium in litigating about it. That is exactly what happens to-day. You get some "ways, works, machinery or appliances "which are in bad order and your accident rate goes up. See how many inquiries the insurance company will make. Or will they simply write you a letter and put you on a higher premium? This is a perfectly legitimate and just part of the Bill. Other parts of that Clause are designed to see that various employers and various groups of industry are put into classes, so that a particular group that has a more serious accident rate pays a more serious proportion of the premium. That is a special provision that if any particular individual manages his business badly he shall pay for being worse than the others. An insurance company would treat him in exactly the same way. With regard to any particular injustice in the making of proper inquiries and so on, the Board is very carefully constituted. and all interests are represented, and it is to be presided over by a member of the profession to which the hon. and learned Member for Erdington belongs.
Let me turn for a moment to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Mr. Fyfe). I am sure he will forgive me if I say that, notwithstanding the fact that I have been in the House a shorter time than he has, I appreciate what he said very much, and if he claims sincerity in what he says no one is likely to deny it to him for a moment. Being a Scotsman he invoked an interesting question of principle. He said that justice demanded. the consideration of precedents, and implied that it involved the consideration of the vast amount of case law which exists in England. Almost every country in the world, except those countries in which the 775 system derives from our system of jurisprudence, manage to administer in general very tolerable systems of justice —I am not speaking of political cases—in which they follow their law and work out their principles without burdening themselves with more than a negligible collection of precedents.
The hon. and learned Member also put forward a very reasoned case for the proposition that litigation at present is not really excessive. He said that cases were not fought unreasonably to any great extent and that the fact that three out of four cases were won by the claimants was no more than an ordinary proportion. Indeed, he suggested that the law was so well settled now that there was a good deal less litigation on points of law. All those statements are partly true, but it still remains a fact that after many years of this litigation 6,000 cases are fought a, year and, taking the big ones with the small ones, cost. I suppose, £50 a case. It is true that there are not a great many cases fought unreasonably, but it must be remembered that when one side has a much longer purse than the other, cases are sometimes fought unreasonably and, what is much worse, cases cannot be fought reasonably because one side has no money with which to fight them. If the law is by now well settled, three victories in four for the claimant is rather high, when you set on one side the sympathy and on the other side the unconscious major premise of the fact that judges are generally drawn from the same class as the employer. I will not say more than that, but it is some indication that there are some cases fought which ought not to be fought.
The hon. and learned Member made one point which I suggest is a bad one. He asked why we did not bring this Bill in during the years 1929 to 1931. The hon. and learned Member is still in political communion with at least two or three people who can best answer that question—the Lord President of the Council, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and Lord Snowden. I think that anybody who had anything to do with the Road Traffic Act, 1930, even in a humble way, will realise that the immense weight of the vested interests of the insurance companies would present to a Government which was not in a 776 majority and had many things to do day by day very good reasons for fighting the serried ranks of the insurance companies only on one major issue in 18 months and not on two, because the insurance companies do not want to lose the modest profit of £46,000 and the enormous sum with which to carry their establishment charges of £1,700,000. The hon. and learned Member and various other hon. Members said that if this Bill were passed it would mean putting such a burden on industry that great harm would be done to it. Even if one produced a Bill for the improvement of the shape of mouse-traps, one would be informed that industry could not stand it and would break down if the Bill passed into law. I have a very clear memory of the 1906 Act coming into force, and every opponent of it explaining that it was absolutely bound to cripple and ruin British industry in 18 months.
I would like now to consider what the hon. and learned Member said about the question of expenses. I was interested to hear that he agrees that carrying one's own insurance or insuring by mutual indemnity is a good deal cheaper than insuring with insurance companies, so that we may take it that, as to the 22 per cent., we shall get rid of the most expensive form of modern cover. With regard to the other two forms, it (must be remembered that the people who carry their own insurance are unfortunately divided into two classes. There are the tremendous well-organised and well-financed organisations which carry their own insurance making, as it were, a, noise like an insurance company but avoiding a great many of the expenses; and undoubtedly they do it reasonably with regard to expenses. There is the other unhappy class of people who carry their own insurance because they are too stupid to insure and too poor to pay; and they cause a great deal of trouble and expense to everybody. I think the House will agree that if you set on one side the expenses of this Board and on the other side what will be saved by not making profits, commission and overhead charges for a, group of insurance companies, you will perhaps balance in that respect, and that the only saving of money, which at present has to be borne by industry in the long run, either in the form of lower wages to the workmen or lower profits to the employer, or both, 777 will be in legal costs, which will drop to practically nothing. These costs must at the present time be simply appalling. I am speaking, as I am sure the hon. and learned Member did, without the slightest regard for my own professional interests, and simply from the point of view of the public interest.
Where will the expense come? It will come in paying better money to injured men and to the dependants of murdered men, murdered, of course, by industry. That can only be of tremendous advantage. Every penny of that money will be spent in necessities and almost every penny will save the country a corresponding sum which would otherwise be paid by the public assistance committees, either inside or outside the institutions, and spent by the voluntary or public hospitals in attempting to nurse back to health people who have been starved either because of inadequate compensation or because of having to wait for compensation claims to be decided. I would suggest that in fact probably the total burden on the country and on industry of the larger compensation paid under this simplified and broader scheme will be less than the present claims altogether.
The hon. and learned Member and other hon. Members suggested, perfectly fairly, that the system would work unequally, and that in one district there would be one decision and in another district a different decision. That is the case to-day. Human nature is imperfect, as we all agree, and judges are human. I am not sure that the more human they are the less imperfect they are, but I need not go into that now. At the present time it is a commonplace for it to be said that in one district there is a workman's judge and in another district an employer's judge, and all that that means is that if the judges with all the fairness they could command devote their minds to an impartial judgment, the one will arrive at a decision different from that arrived at by the judge in the next district.
The hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) had some singular complaints to make about the Bill. He said that the contributions of the employers were not limited in amount. Are they limited in amount now? If employers carry their own insurance, they most certainly are not. If they entrust their fate to an insurance company, as a general rule, the 778 premium will vary with the number of men employed, and if they have a bad accident rate up it will go. In some cases, they may not be able to reinsure at all. At any rate employers and workmen, under the Bill, would be able to have this feeling. "Well, we have paid our assessments and the matter is out of our hands and there will be no more friction. It has been my experience that insurance companies vary from reasonable generosity to the most unscrupulous terms, and often when employers are sympathetic with the workmen they have threatened those employers with the possibility of being deprived of their right to cover, in order to force them to provide evidence in support of their case. Under the Bill all that would go entirely, and one can imagine many a good manager sitting back and saying, "Thank Heavens all that friction, anxiety and worry has gone. All that we have to do is to pay some money, which very likely will not be any more than we have been paying, and if it is any more, it will be worth it to end the friction and the disputes."
§ Mr. ERSKINE HILL
But is it not the case that under the Bill there is more than one assessment? In the course of 12 months there may be two or three further assessments.
§ Mr. PRITT
Certainly and I can understand the hon. Member being annoyed at the idea of being asked to pay what he owes in three "dollops" instead of in one, but if the thing is worked properly by the Board the employer will not pay any more than he pays at present. If anything he will probably be better off than a great many of the 40 per cent. who are now carrying their own insurance and he will be better off than a great many of the 38 per cent. who are in some mutual benefit scheme, which often involves additional costs, perhaps once a month. He will be just as well off as the 22 per cent. who are paying too much to the insurance companies. Hon. Members may be relieved to hear that I do not propose to proceed to deliver the speech which I came to this House to deliver. I think it is very much better to deal with that which is actually said in a debate than to make any kind of prepared speech. I have done my best not to cover the whole field—God forbid that I should keep hon. Members for the 779 length of time which would be necessary for that—but to answer such points made earlier in the debate as have appeared to call for answer.
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Mr. H. STRAUSS
Like all the speakers who have intervened in this debate so far—with two exceptions—I have to admit that I am a member of the legal profession and I can say that, in supporting the rejection of the Bill, I am conscious of voting against my professional interests. It has been assumed without the slightest ground that the effect of the Bill will be to diminish the employment of lawyers. I hope to show that it is calculated enormously to increase that employment. Measures are introduced from time to time which are regarded by opinion in the Temple as likely to diminish employment, but this is not one of them. It is confidently anticipated in the Temple that this Bill will largely increase the employment of barristers.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
The hon. and learned Member cannot have discussed these matters very recently in the Temple or else my learned friends with whom I have discussed them are better informed than his.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I regret having to differ rather emphatically from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) on this, because my experience in the courts in this matter has been to some extent connected with a body with which the hon. and learned Gentleman is very honourably associated, and which takes up certain cases for poor litigants, especially cases of this class. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his eloquent and sincere speech, said the fact that a judge often sat with a medical assessor, proved that a judge was an unsuitable person to preside over the hearing of cases of this character. I submit that it shows nothing of the sort. In cases of collision between ships at sea His Majesty's judges sit with Brethren of Trinity House. Does anybody sug- 780 gest that that shows that the Admiralty Court is incapable of satisfactorily performing its functions?
I have a good deal of sympathy with the views expressed by hon. Members opposite as to the useful part which can be played by trade unions and their officials in connection with these matters. My experience is that counsel arguing these cases derive the greatest benefit and most excellent information from trade unions and their officials, and I shall certainly say nothing whatever against trade unions for their interest in this great subject. I do not hold the view that criticism against them on this point would be fair. I also think that attacks on my own trade union, the English Bar, in this connection are unfair. I believe that even if this Bill went through the workers would desire, in general, to be represented before the Board by a member of my profession, and I shall tell the House why I think litigation would be increased.
We have heard from the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) that litigation at present takes place in only two per cent, of the cases. That is because the law is on the whole settled and the, trade union official or the lawyer or whoever is advising the applicant, can tell him, in the vast majority of cases, what is likely to be the effect if proceedings are brought. That is only because legal precedent is binding on the courts. Once you say that a court is bound by nothing whatever and can produce new decisions on any case brought before it, what is to stop any man who is dissatisfied with a decision in his own case taking it before the Board and employing a lawyer? In that event litigation will take place, not in two per cent. but in 90 per cent. of the cases.
§ Mr. CASSELLS
Has the hon. Member anything to say in regard to the question of expenses under the Bill?
§ Mr. STRAUSS
If the hon. Gentleman gives me time I will come to that, but I am dealing with one point at present, and it is not very useful to try to take me to another point. I submit that you will increase the expenses which the fund will have to bear, and therefore you will endanger the benefit of the workmen seeking redress.
§ Mr. CASSELLS
We submit from these benches that there will be no encouragement for members of the legal profession to appear.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I am quite confident that we shall appear without that encouragement, because we shall be employed by the workmen who will compel us to appear before the board. The two speeches from hon. Members opposite that made most impression on my mind were the two made by those hon. Members who were not lawyers, the hon. Member for Llanelly and the hon. Member who introduced the Measure, and I greatly regret that I missed the beginning, though only the beginning, of the latter's speech. I gather from what they put forward that in their opinion this is a very urgent matter indeed, that at the moment there is a great number of workmen suffering the greatest hardships and under grievances which it is the urgent duty of this House to remedy. I want to call the attention of the House, in spite of what was said by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith, to the history of this matter and to repeat what he considered to be a bad point, but which I believe a great many Members, even on the Opposition benches, will consider to be a good point. This Measure was fully drafted in 1928. It was put in 1928 and 1929 before the electors in pamphlets which had the approval of the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress, and I shall quote one sentence from what they said:The present Tory Government would not be likely to pass the Bill, having regard to the powerful vested interests which must he disturbed in the process, and it is intended to present the Bill to Parliament at the earliest favourable opportunity.From 1929–1931 there was not the slightest attempt, when the party opposite were in office, to present it to Parliament. I will deal with the point made by the previous speaker, who said that if they had, they could not have carried it. Very well, let that be so.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I do not, of course, wish to misrepresent the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I accept what he says. I think it was, and I am certain it is, the impression in the minds of many that that was the excuse put forward. If that is not so, what is the excuse?
§ Mr. PRITT
I will tell you. There is the vested interest of the insurance companies, which have been so long in it, that we should have had a great waste of time over it, and my further point was that the reason should be inquired of from the gentlemen who were responsible, the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
As I understand that answer, for which I am very grateful, it is twofold. First of all, they were quite right not to introduce it, and, secondly, they were quite wrong, but it was the fault of the Lord President of the Council. I think I am representing the hon. and learned Gentleman fairly, and if he thinks his interruption assisted his side, I congratulate him. I am going to suggest the true reason why it was not put forward in 1929–31. The leadership of the right hon. Gentlemen to whom he referred was not throughout that period being resented by his party. With regard to waste of time, it is obvious that if they are right as to the weight that vested interests have with the Conservative and Liberal parties, it would have been defeated on Second Reading, sad therefore it would not have wasted very much time, but if they say "What is the good of introducing a Bill which will be defeated?" let me point out that they did so in the case of the Trade Disputes Bill. I believe that throughout this country, and not least in the constituencies represented by hon. Members opposite, there are many who are getting a little tired of the excuse that such and such a Bill was not brought in in 1929–31 because they would not have got a majority for it. If they had believed in the Bill, it would have been brought in, and they would have risked defeat on the floor of the House.
I agree with the hon. Member for Kingswinford in some of the criticisms he made on some of the Statute law on the subject, including the draftsmanship 783 of the 1906 Act. The great litigation to which it gave rise in the early years was far more the responsibility of the House of Commons than of the Law Courts. However, the majority of those questions have now been settled, and the main questions remaining are disputes on facts and medical evidence. Part of the case for this Bill put forward by hon. Members opposite is that there are a great many cases where benefits should be greatly enlarged. They plead eloquently and with great sincerity for hard cases, which I am certain are very near their hearts and which are in their experience, and they say, "Surely that is a hard case with which everybody in this House would sympathise." I think that largely they are right, but when they go on to say that, because we should like to give relief to all these cases, and possibly much greater relief than can at present be given under the existing Statutes, that should be given by Statute and should come from the pockets of the employers, regardless of cost, I think they are wrong. It seems to me that there are two possible schools of thought. I could understand hon. and right hon. Members who believe in the Socialistic State saying that all workmen should be adequately insured against all accidents, but I think that if they had the courage and logic of their convictions, they would go on to say that that should be from a fund provided by the State and levied by taxation.
That is not what this Bill proposes. This Bill still leaves it an obligation, not of society, not of the State, but of the employer. If you are by your Bill leaving the matter in that way, as an obligation of the employer, it is quite idle of the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith to say that the employer is not in the least interested in any decision of the Compensation Board which it is proposed to set up. If the employer is not represented and has no right of appeal in this matter, as is admitted, then in this class of litigation nobody will be representing the interest of the fund at all. There will be nobody saying, "This is a case which ought not to be met from the fund." The fund will be without anyone watching its interests, and that is not only contrary to the interests of the employers, upon whom 784 a greater levy will have to be made, but it is also obviously the concern of the workers, whose prospects of employment will be directly affected. This was recognised on the last occasion when the matter was debated in the House in speeches by hon. Gentlemen who sit on the benches opposite to-day.
It is an error to believe that questions of finance and of what the fund will have to meet are of no concern whatever to the workpeople. They are of the greatest concern to the workman in his prospects of employment and his interests generally. I have dealt with what the hon. and learned Member who preceded me said as to the admitted absence of any right of appeal by the employer under Clauses 61 and 62. The hon. and learned Member suggested that the employer was not concerned. I sugest that he is very greatly concerned, and so are the interests of the fund. Let me call the attention of the House to the provisions in regard to the powers of this Board under Clause 30 (1). It not only gives the Board supreme and unappealable jurisdiction in all matters and questions arising under this Bill, but it also provides—and this is vitally important—that there should be no remedy whatever if the Board goes outside its jurisdiction. Let me give an example. The Board may get very tired or a particular applicant who is constantly appealing to it and say, "We will imprison him." Obviously it has no jurisdiction to do so, but if it in fact does it, there is no remedy in the courts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] I admit that that is an extreme example of what can be done, but it is a fair way of testing the powers as laid down in the Clause.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
Obviously, it cannot be done except in a case of contempt of court, and by a court with authority.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that if the Board, acting outside its jurisdiction, put a man into gaol, the Habeas Corpus Act would have no validity and the man would have to suffer?
§ Mr. STRAUSS
We could have an in teresting litigation on this subject, but my own belief is that, if the words in 785 Clause 30 mean anything, they mean precisely that. Unfortunately, the matter will never be decided because, even in the unlikely event of the party opposite coming into power, they would never be so injudicious as to introduce this Bill. The only matter which gave me and many of us on these benches any hesitation as to how to vote on this Bill was the appeal made in the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Llanelly that if it goes to Committee we might be able to do some good with it. That, to my mind, is the only argument that has been put forward in support of this Measure. There are matters in connection with workmen's compensation which many of us would like to see altered, but when a Bill is put forward such as this, so erroneous, so wrong in theory, so contrary to the public interest, and so inconsistent with any school of philosophy, including that of Socialism, I believe that it is the duty of the House to reject it unhesitatingly on Second Reading.
§ 3 p.m.
§ Mr. LESLIE
The opponents of the Bill seem to be more concerned about the machinery than the just claims contained in the Bill. The legal gentlemen on the other side have been well in evidence endeavouring to find flaws in the Measure. They might assist us by voting for the Second Reading and then using their ability upstairs to improve the Bill where they find it is lacking. The hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) found fault with Clause 42, but he evidently forgot that the employers are represented on the Board and that they are likely to look after the interests of their friends there. Surely, the first concern should be to safeguard the lives and limbs of the workers, and that is what Clause 42 seeks to do. It is true that the courts have, in the majority of cases, given decisions in favour of the workers, but we want to get rid of this vexatious litigation. All cases are not brought into court, and very often the worker accepts a sum because of the threat made to him by the representatives of the insurance company that unless he accepts it he will have to fight the case in court. We know that insurance companies are run for profit with the idea of keeping claims to the lowest possible limit. If a worker is not wise enough to be in his trade 786 union and to have a union to take up his case, the insurance companies take advantage of his ignorance of the law.
I want to quote one or two cases by way of illustration. A man who fell through a glass roof, hurt his back, sustained concussion and lost his job, was cajoled by the insurance company into accepting £10. When the agreement came to us we at once took up the matter, and instead of the man receiving only £10 we were able to secure £250 for him. A woman canvasser fell down an area steps and injured her leg; neurasthenia developed, but the insurance company declined to agree that the illness was due to the accident and offered her £15. We took the case up and were able to secure £350 for her. We find that it is far better very often to take cases under Common Law rather than under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I have here the case of a police constable who entered a canteen. Unfortunately the steward served him with a bottle of flat beer. Its effect on the policeman can be understood, but the steward, in endeavouring to return the beer to the bottle and to replace the stopper, broke the bottle and cut his arm. Under the Workmen's Compensation Act he would have been entitled to £3 only, but he took the case under the Employer's Liability Act and was able to get £10.
The Compensation Act is not for the injury itself, but for loss of earnings resulting from the injury, and then only within the limits of the Act. Therefore, we say it is far better very often to take a case under the Common Law than under the Compensation Act as it is at present. An hon. Member mentioned what a serious matter this would be to small employers. When we endeavoured to get shop assistants under workmen's compensation the Home Secretary of that day, Mr. Herbert Gladstone, suggested that assistants in shops where more than three were employed might be included, though surely it was just as serious a matter for an assistant who met with an accident in a shop where only three were employed as in a shop where 300 were working. Fortunately, the then Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, threw overboard Mr. Herbert Gladstone, and shop assistants were included. Now over 1,000 cases a year are dealt with in our union, which proves the need there was for including 787 shop assistants. I have a case where a traveller received £210 compensation under Common Law whereas, under workmen's compensation, he would have been entitled to only £34. I could quote a number of cases of that kind.
This Bill seeks to remedy these anomalies. Cases would be decided on their real merits. The Board would not function as an insurance company and it would have no incentive to keep down claims and to deprive the workers of adequate compensation. The experience of Ontario has been mentioned. The working of an Act there similar to this Bill has demonstrated the simplicity of the procedure, how it eliminates the expenses of litigation, gives wide protection to a workman and his dependents and provides expeditious payment of benefits. I hope that we shall be able to get a Second Reading for this Bill, because then all the members of the legal fraternity who have spoken against the Bill to-day will find a chance in Committee to put it into the shape in which they would like to see it.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
This is a very big and complicated Bill and one which would make a revolutionary change in the principles on which workmen's compensation in this country is based. Therefore, I do not propose to indulge in any niggling criticisms of details of the Bill, but to deal with one or two points of principle. I do not think hon. Members opposite will be surprised when I say that the objections to giving this Bill a Second Reading seem to us to be overwhelming. Several of my hon. Friends on this side of the House and on the Benches below the Gangway opposite have, it seems to me, submitted the proposals in the Bill to damaging and, I might even say, devastating criticism. They have pointed out a great number of really valid objections to this great new organisation which is proposed, but while associating myself very largely with what has been said, particularly by the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine Hill) and some other hon. Members on this side I should like to devote myself to two points of general principle 788 to show why, in my view, this Bill should be rejected.
First there is the question whether we are to have State insurance or private insurance companies; and, let us not forget it, the other agencies for settling workmen's compensation claims which exist at present. The hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) and the Mover of the Bill suggested that the expenses of the existing insurance companies are very large. We must remember that the insurance companies are only part of the agencies which are engaged in settling workmen's compensation claims. They pay only 22 per cent. of the compensation in the seven groups of big industries which make returns to the Home Office. The rest of the compensation is paid by self-insurers or by the big mutual associations. I think there is very little doubt that the big self-insurers, the railway companies and others, would, in fact, have a simpler problem. A good many of the mutual associations are another kind of insurance company. It would be natural that that part of the business of the insurance companies would be more expensive, by reason of the fact that they are dealing with isolated individual employers in all parts of the country, and that is a difficult administrative problem. They cover a good many industries as well, which is an aspect of the subject which we ought to bear in mind. Following upon some observations by the Holman Gregory Report, it was decided that there should be some financial arrangement. It is the practice of the Home Office to review that arrangement from time to time, in consultation with the Government actuary.
I have been asked to consider the recommendations of the Holman Gregory Report, but I would remind hon. Members that the attitude of the Report was not similar to that which the party opposite take up. For example, on page 12 of the Report, appears the following:We endeavoured to ascertain from the witnesses whether insurance companies have, on the whole, dealt reasonably with employers and with justice to the work-people. We found that employers are satisfied with the way insurance companies have dealt with claims, and the payment of benefit has, generally speaking, been prompt and satisfactory to the workpeople.Representatives of the workpeople appeared before the Commission and there were, in fact, three representatives of the 789 Party opposite on the Commission and they agreed with that statement. The Report goes much further on page 19, where it states:We are of opinion that these defects can be largely remedied without resort to a State system of insurance We do not, accordingly, recommend the establishment of a State system of accident insurance.That authoritative Commission which has been brought to our notice this afternoon, therefore reached conclusions diametrically opposed to one of the main proposals of the Bill, in spite of the fact that there were three Labour Members of Parliament on that Commission.
What about the alternative machinery which is proposed in the Bill for the settlement of claims and disputes? I am not a lawyer, and therefore I am in exactly the same position as the hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill. I am a layman in these matters.
§ Mr. LLOYD
I have approached the matter from the layman's point of view. I know well, and, on occasion, have no doubt shared the feeling of momentary irritation at a particular decision reported in the newspapers, no doubt inadequately. Without knowing the full circumstances it appears to be an absurd decision. Many of the decisions of this House, when reported inadequately in the newspapers, appear just as absurd, but if one knows the actual circumstances of what took place, there appear perfectly good reasons for what has happened. From that point of view I would like to examine the proposals of the Bill.
The governing factor in this matter is what happens in disputed cases. It is the disputed cases which have to be decided in the Law Courts of the country. We must never forget that the vast majority of claims go through without question, and in a reasonably businesslike manner, and that it is only a very small proportion in which there are real difficulties. The very subject matter and the points that have to be decided are difficult, and it has to be decided in com- 790 plicated matters what is right or wrong. Sub-section (3) of Clause 30 of the Bill says:The decisions of the Board shall be upon the real merits and justice of the case, and it shall not be bound to follow strict legal precedent.There speaks the real layman, with a feeling of dissatisfaction against the system of law, and that is the real motive behind the Bill. As I have said, I can understand a mood in which one might wish to put in a provision of that kind, but let us consider where it leads us. It leads us to this, that the matter is to be decided without regard to strict legal precedents, and simply upon what are called the real merits and justice of the case. I find that as a matter of fact, in the early development of English law, there was a time when some of the great equity courts of this country worked upon a principle rather similar to that. It was the time, in the Middle Ages, when the Lord Chancellors worked on what they called equitable principles, and based their decisions upon what was too often mistakenly termed their conscience. At that time it was well said by the great jurist, John Selden:Equity is a roguish thing for that it varies as the length of the Chancellor's foot.The Lord Chancellor's power to follow the dictates of his conscience resulted in this court being known as the twin sister of the Star Chamber. It was only after those principles were abandoned, and the courts took to following definite, strict legal precedents, which had to be followed irrespective of the state of the Chancellor's liver, that the courts gained their great reputation in this country. I hope the party opposite will excuse us on this side if we draw a certain humour from the fact that, in their natural irritation at the present system in this country, and with a full and serious desire to set up a better system, they have gone back and committed a mistake which was abandoned in this country several hundred years ago.
Having explained as best I can the reasons why we cannot accept this Measure, I want to say at once that there is a double aspect in this Debate to-day. There is, first, the aspect of the proposals of the Bill; and there is, secondly, the aspect of the grievances 791 which some hon. Members may feel with regard to certain aspects of workmen's compensation and their desire to improve the system. While I must say that my attitude to the Bill is one of complete rejection, my attitude to the desire to improve the workmen's compensation system is extremely sympathetic, and I think the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) hit the nail on the head when he drew attention to that dual aspect of the Debate. If, however, we are going to discuss some of the anomalies which may exist in certain aspects of our workmen's compensation arrangements, let us not forget that the background against which we are discussing them is that we have a great and effective system of workmen's compensation, which I think was really the pioneer system in the world, and many of the provisions of which, including the legal phraseology, have been used as a model and adopted in country after country in many parts of the world; and in actual practice it gives a measure of protection which is greatly valued to some 16,000,000 of our fellow-subjects, and approximately £9,000,000 is paid each year in compensation.
Having said that, I turn to some of the difficulties of the situation. I am sure the House listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and I should like to give him some satisfaction on some of the points that he raised. He raised, first of all, the question of what we may describe as the normal weekly earnings. At present, of course, workmen's compensation is based upon the average weekly earnings of a particular worker. He said, rightly, that the Trades Union Congress had been in communication with him over that matter. My right hon. Friend has promised to examine the basis of compensation in the light of further information which the Trades Union Congress can send to the Home Office. With regard to silicosis and the cases of workmen who, the hon. Member believes, have silicosis or allied diseases, I cannot give him more satisfaction than I did at question time the other day, because it is not possible to schedule those diseases until we know what the disease is, and we must wait till the expert medical committee which is working on the problem has given us some further data to go on.
§ Mr. J. GRIFFITHS
Would it not be possible for the gentlemen who form the Medical Research Council to come to South Wales and examine these men? I and my colleagues would be very glad to place our knowledge and information at their disposal.
§ Mr. LLOYD
I quite appreciate the hon. Member's desire that we should get on with the problem as quickly as possible. I will convey his suggestion to the Committee, and I will see that there is also conveyed to them the feeling there is in the House of Commons that this is a very urgent matter. The hon. Member also raised the question of lump-sum payments by insurance companies. This, of course, is a matter upon which genuine divergencies of opinion exist. Some people quite genuinely believe that, to take merely the recovery aspect of the matter, if a man is drawing weekly compensation and there is a prospect of a lump sum later on it may retard his recovery, not in a conscious way but on some deep psychological basis. Other people hold the view that there is nothing better in the world than a quick agreement on a lump sum and the man starts to face the world afresh.
It would be improper for me, not being an expert, to express a view, but this is one of the subjects that have been put before a very strong committee which is investigating this among other things. It is a committee presided over by Judge Stewart, on which there are representatives of all the interests concerned—trade unions, the medical profession and so on—and I think we shall not get very much further until we have that committee's report. It may very well be that there ought to be further control by county courts of any agreement between insurance companies and workmen. The hon. Member said that in some cases the attitude of the courts in this matter was rather perfunctory. Without associating myself with that view, it may well be that it might be put to the committee., and I am sure it will receive full consideration. I believe, from my own examination of the matter, that there might be ways in which the county court could play a more constructive part.
There have been a certain number of complaints about the existing medical 793 procedure and whether one man ought to be in a position to decide certain aspects of workmen's compensation. This whole matter also has been referred to this very strong committee, and we hope to have a thorough examination of the subject from them. The committee is also inquiring into the whole position with regard to miners' nystagmus. As the hon. Members and the House know, that is an extremely special problem and cannot be dealt with satisfactorily in the ordinary Schedule of industrial diseases, and we are very much hoping that some workmanlike and practical scheme may be evolved by that committee to which we shall give very sympathetic consideration.
There is one other aspect of this matter with which I should like to deal. I know that it interests the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), who has now left the House, and I am sure that it interests other Members of the House, and it has been raised this afternoon. It has been said with regard to the Bill, "Your existing system does not deal with the restoration of the workman to health," and incidentally they say, "It does not deal with the prevention of accidents." But I must at this point remind the House with regard to these provisions in the Bill, which the hon. Gentleman who spoke on this side of the House reminded the House had been largely copied from some experiments in Canada, that in some foreign countries where there is an accident prevention service, I do not think there is a very highly developed service for restoration to health in connection with compensation. The whole field of social legislation and organisation is different from what it is in this country. In some countries they did not have a similar national health insurance system or voluntary hospital system, and, therefore, it was essential that they should make some health provisions in regard to workmen's compensation, and similarly in regard to accidents. It is one of the least good features of this Bill not to recognise that work on accident prevention, the subject of a whole series of Acts of Parliament and almost undivided attention of a great and extremely progressive branch of the Home Office which has achieved good results and is working with the greatest energy to reduce accidents. An hon. Member pointed out that accidents increased between the years 1931 and 1934, but he 794 will realise that that was due to great industrial revival and to the enormously great amount of industrial work going on at the present time, in exactly the same way as road accidents increase if there is double the amount of traffic on the roads. That is why these particular aspects have not hitherto been directly associated with workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to remind him that one of the recommendations of the Holman Gregory Report was that, where necessary, medical and surgical treatment should be afforded to the injured workman, in addition to the treatment to which he may be entitled under the Health Insurance Acts, and that the Commission recommended that a scheme should be formulated for that purpose, and will he consider that recommendation?
§ Mr. LLOYD
I was coming to that point. I was only pointing out in general, that perhaps the reason why we had not had the special services directly in connection with workmen's compensation was because other services existed; but I am far from saying that it would not be right to try to get closer co-ordination between the health services and workmen's compensation schemes in order to secure what everybody wants on all sides of the House, irrespective of compensation, that the workman should recover and be able to get back to work as soon as possible, though not before he is fully fit for it. It happens that medical opinion in this House has been moving on this matter in recent years. A short time ago the British Medical Association issued a most interesting report called the "British Medical Association Report on Fractures." It was really rather revolutionary reading, I believe, for some of the more conservative practitioners. It made this point. It said that the enormous advances in the treatment of fractures—which, after all, are the greater part of industrial accidents in the country—due largely to a great surgeon called Sir Robert Jones had been allowed to fall rather into disuse. These special up-to-date technical methods are apparently not being applied all over the country as they might be. It is true that they are being applied in particular cases. I believe there is a special clinic at 795 Norwich, another at Bristol, and another in my own city of Birmingham, which has extended very rapidly and has treated 2,000 cases by these up-to-date methods in the last year. The Committee have made certain recommendations, and one is that these up-to-date methods of treatment should be, if possible, extended and that the technical method of treating fractures should be adopted at the beginning.
The re-education of the injured limb, for instance, is of vital importance. I came across a rather curious case yesterday when I was looking into this matter at the Home Office. One of our senior medical inspectors of factories broke his ankle a short time ago and he found that, although the time had come when he knew perfectly well that he could walk, and from the medical point of view the ankle was completely physically satisfactory, he found the utmost difficulty in walking. It that is the case with a man of medical knowledge, how much more is it likely to be in the case of the average layman and particularly of the injured workman who has not that medical knowledge? Therefore, the Committee say that it is very important that these particular methods in the up-to-date clinics of educating the injured limb in the hospitals and at the beginning of treatment and immediately afterwards should be brought into operation. There is also the question of the psychological dangers resulting from accidents.
Our attitude to these new branches of knowledge at the Home Office is far from unsympathetic. My right hon. Friend has set up a committee, and again it is a very powerful committee, which contains members of trade unions, employers, and a number of forward-looking doctors, who have had practical experience of these matters and made a special study of them, such as Dr. Hey Groves, of Bristol, and Dr. Souttar, of the British Medical Association. The terms of reference of the committee are:To inquire into the arrangements at present in operation with a view to the restoration of the working capacity of persons injured by accidents, and to report as to what improvements or developments are desirable, and what steps are expedient to give effect thereto, regard being had to the recommendations made in the report issued by the British Medical Association in February, 1935, on Fractures.'796 We very much hope that a workable scheme may be produced by this committee, in which case we shall hope to take action upon it.
I will conclude by saying, in general, that before passing this Bill it would be necessary to establish the fact that the existing scheme of workmen's compensation in this country is bad and incapable of improvement. Both these statements would be completely untrue. On the contrary, the whole history of workmen's compensation from the beginning, when the first scheme in 1897 was introduced into this House by the Home Secretary —the real author was Joseph Chamberlain—has been a history of improvement and emendation. Agriculture was brought in, then manual workers generally, then there was improvement of benefit, then the silicosis scheme was brought in, and the last time that the House debated this particular Bill complaints were made about the insecurity which resulted from employers going bankrupt, especially in the coal mining industry, with the result that a proposal was carried and put in the Coal Mines Act which has largely abolished that particular evil from the coal mining industry. Our proper course is not to pass this Bill but to await the reports of these committees and then consider what workmanlike improvements we can make in what is already a very fine system of workmen's compensation.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. PALING
The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) said that he was making an entirely different speech from that which he had prepared. I am in the same position. Every point that I have made seems to have been answered during the course of the Debate, and the one or two points which seemed to have been left were taken from me by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith when he spoke and answered them himself. But we have had some vigorous criticisms recently, and one of the most vigorous came from the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss), who asked a number of questions. I do not propose to answer them, because I understand the hon. Member is a barrister with a great knowledge of the law which I do not pretend to possess. Like the rider-Secretary of State, I speak as a layman, but as one 797 who has had some experience of how workmen's compensation works out in actual practice. It seems to me, however, that the hon. Member for Norwich was not quite correct when he said that the Board could do something outrageous and even outside the Act itself without being called to account. I imagine that if they did anything outrageous and outside the Act they would come within the law and could be dealt with.
§ Mr. PALING
I am informed that they would. I admit that under the Bill the Board are given extremely wide powers. We want to get away from the law courts and lawyers, and as there must be some finality in the matter we propose to give the Board these wide powers; otherwise everyone who may be dissatisfied with any particular decision would have the right of appeal and we should have all the difficulties and delays which we have experienced during the past years. That is what we want to avoid. The hon. Member also said that the Bill was prepared before 1929. He is right. In our Election manifesto we actually made reference to it and to the necessity of it being passed. Then the hon. Member asked why did we not pass the Bill. He is quite justified in asking that question. We made special reference to a number of other things in our manifesto. We want to control the banks and nationalise the land, and, as a mining representative, I want to nationalise the mines. We have not done these things, but we did just as much in the circumstances as the two opposing parties allowed us to do. We were a minority Government, and probably we did as much as we could. Our power to do things was extremely limited, and in two and a half years you cannot revolutionise the world. The hon. Member belongs to a party with an overwhelming power to do things. They got in on the policy of supporting the League of Nations—and they have not even done that. If we are open to criticism, how much more are hon. Members opposite open to criticism because of their remissness?
Another point which has been made has been partly answered by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Hammersmith. It is one in which I thought there was some small substance. 798 It was said that while there is an appeal for the workman there is no appeal for the employer. But there is this difference, apart from what the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith said. It is the workman who meets with the accident. If he loses a leg he is the one who is injured and he is much more concerned with the ultimate decision than his employer can be. After all, the only concern of the employer is to contribute a sum that will include all his insured workmen. He may think that if he does not contest an individual case he may have to pay more than he would otherwise pay. That is possible. But the concern of the workman is overwhelmingly greater than that of any employer. It reminds me of the story of the workman who had a brick dropped on his head. He went to the legal fraternity, who fought and won his case for him. He got about £100 in compensation and the lawyers charged him £80 for fees, and the poor fellow wrote back asking who it was that got the brick.
The biggest criticism levelled against the Bill is the general criticism on the question of cost. It is said that the cost is likely to be overwhelmingly heavy. I recall that since I came to this House years ago nearly every Bill that has been introduced for the benefit of the people, and for the working classes in particular, has been met by that objection. Almost always it has been the chief objection. It has been put forward to-day. When it comes to sympathy, or expressions of sympathy, hon. Members opposite are with us. They say "We think that a workman who is injured ought to have good compensation and ought to be looked after and treated well." Hon. Members opposite always claim to have as much sympathy with the working man as we have. When I go down to my constituency or any other constituency I always tell the electors that hon. Members opposite claim that we on the Labour side have no monopoly of sympathy with the workers, but that when it comes to expressing that sympathy in practice hon. Members opposite always manage to find themselves in the wrong Lobby. That is our complaint. In the history of compensation legislation and nearly every other social service it has been said that we cannot afford the cost. One hon. and learned Member to-day said that this Bill would double 799 the cost. It is difficult to arrive at an estimate, but I think the hon. and learned Member was extravagant in stating that it would double the cost. Would that be equal to the cost of one battleship?
§ Mr. PALING
That means £10,000,000 above what it is now. The hon. and learned Member thinks that is extravagant, but is it really much when it means lifting the burden of misery and poverty from the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of our people to-day? Did the hon. Member say anything about the cost when the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked for the untold millions which we may have to spend in the future? Hon. Members opposite are willing to spend any amount of money in the direction which the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated, but when it comes to giving a square and decent deal to thousands of poverty-stricken people in this country, who have to exist on totally inadequate amounts of compensation at the present time, we hear the old cry, "We cannot afford it."
The question of mining royalties has been raised. The royalty owners now ask for £150,000,000 in compensation for their royalties. When that question comes to be discussed before very long, I wonder whether hon. Members opposite will put forward the same criticism as they have this morning, or whether they will be disposed to support their friends the royalty owners. I wish hon. Members opposite had some sense of proportion and were as inclined to give justice to the people whose need is greatest as they are to give it to their friends whose need, to say the least, is much less than that of the poor people with whom we are dealing. Admittedly this Bill would increase the amount of compensation, but why should it not be increased? I have worked in the mining industry, where there are probably more accidents than in any other industry, and in present circumstances, particularly with short time and the method of assessing compensation, thousands of people get compensation which is not sufficient to keep body and soul together. In many cases they have to go to the public assistance board for relief. It is wrong that a man who 800 has an accident and suffers from the pain and misery and sense of insecurity which it causes should be told that we are so Nor in this country that we cannot afford to increase the miserable pittance that he is given at the present time. The hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) said that we cannot afford to put this increased burden on industry, depressed as it is at the present time.
§ Mr. PALING
The hon. Member miles a great play on the phrase "depression in industry "when it is a question of increasing compensation, but when he goes to Elland to talk to his constituents, he tells them we have recovered.
§ Mr. PALING
I am very glad the hon. Member said that, and I will deal with that question in a moment. The Under-Secretary said, among other things, that in one of our proposals we are going in flat contradiction of the Holman Gregory Report. That may be so, but in how many cases have the Government acted in contradiction of it? It was proposed in that Report to increase it, but that has not been done. The hon. Gentleman contented himself with telling us some of the things that have been done, but they do not amount to much in reality. It is true that we had a Bill last year with regard to cases of bankruptcy and that kind of thing but the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Home Office on this question three years ago made promises, not many of which have been carried out. The Under-Secretary told us to-day about what they propose to do with regard to silicosis, nystagmus and one or two other admitted hardships.
§ Mr. PALING
I cannot quote it, but I remember reading the speech. He said that cases of hardship had been mentioned in the Debate to which he would 801 give his attention with the idea of remedying them, and the only thing that has been done has been to deal with this question of bankruptcy.
§ Mr. PALING
I am not saying that it is not, but the hon. Gentleman has referred to silicosis and nystagmus and research generally. For years we have been asking about them and we are always told, "We are attending to the matter and giving urgent attention to it, and hope sometime to arrive at a conclusion." This Government have been doing nothing except giving consideration to everything and they never arrive at a conclusion. We are rather tired of waiting. The state of the compensation law is a disgrace to the country and there is no good reason why it should not be altered fundamentally on the lines indicated and altered now. The legal fraternity has been mentioned. I am not gibing at them. I suppose they look after their interests as well as they can, just as I look after the interests of my own trade union. There is no doubt that they have contributed something to Society as it is at present constituted We think that the present position of compensation in this country does not any longer necessitate their help and advice. They have contributed something in the past and we give them credit for it, but we have arrived at a stage at which we think their assistance can be dispensed with. It may be that only two per cent. of cases reach court. We have to remember that of these cases 75 per cent. are successful, which would seem to indicate that most of them might never have been taken to court. Moreover, the number of these cases is 5,000 and we have to remember what those cases mean to the people affected and their wives and families, because in many cases the applicants are married men. If we could avoid that by adopting the principles of the Bill it would be a very good thing.
Furthermore, as the law stands now, when a man is injured, there may be some question as to whether he will get his compensation or not. The lawyer to whom it is submitted may advise that there is no case because of a certain practice that has been laid down. I believe that even lawyers will admit that lots of these are cases in which the party concerned ought to receive compensation. 802 We want to better that and I do not see any reason why we should not better it now. We want to take the private profit motive out of this question. Hon. Members opposite stand for that motive more unashamedly now than ever. They come here and beg for subsidies and the rest of it for industries in which they are interested. Would they lose anything if at least, in spite of their belief in private profit, they agreed to eliminate it from a business like this? Do they really agree that private profit should be made, either by insurance companies or by anyone else, out of the miseries of these people?
There is another feature about it that I want to see eliminated. I want to see doctors put in a rather better position than some of them are in at present. Some of them are what are called compensation doctors. I had a case before me last Sunday of a man who had been injured. He had the front of his skull fractured, and he had to go to the compensation doctor. He had been told, what he already knew, that his eyesight was deteriorating as the result of the injury, and he told this to the compensation doctor, who said, "Oh, now there is a strike on at your pit, and you will want to keep on the Fund, and you have developed bad eyesight." The doctor freely admitted afterwards that it was his job to get men back to work. That is not a desirable state of affairs. These people are suffering enough, and their case is bad enough in all conscience, without being subjected to pressure and tyranny of that description, and without being told, as they are in many cases, in effect, that they are no better than malingerers. The hon. and learned Member opposite shakes his head, but I wish he had had my experience. I have been injured myself, and I have had to draw compensation, and I know what these men have to go through.
§ Mr. MAXWELL FYFE
Has the hon. Member had any case in his experience in the last 10 years when any trade union has allowed any man to see an employer's doctor without the man's own doctor being present?
§ Mr. PALING
I am as sure as I can be of anything that there have been many cases where there has been an insurance doctor and no other doctor present. These things exist, and it may be that 803 hon. Members opposite are not aware of it. Hon. Members opposite are afraid of the cost. It is my belief based on some experience, that if full legal preventive measures, even with the knowledge which they have got now, were put into operation to prevent accidents and industrial disease, the amount of compensation necessary to be paid could be reduced enormously, in addition to reducing the tremendous amount paid in commissions and administrative expenses to your insurance companies. We submit that, from every angle from which you care to criticise this Bill, there is a case made out for it, and we ask hon. Mem-
§ bers to support the Bill in the interests of one of the most deserving sections of the community.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 111; Noes, 167.805
|Division No. 187.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hicks, E. G.||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Holland, A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Hollins, A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hopkin, D.||Riley, B.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Jagger, J.||Ritson, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Rowson, G.|
|Bellenger, F.||John, W.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Bromfield, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Short, A.|
|Cassells, T.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Compton, J.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F.||Stephen, C.|
|Davies, R. [...]. (Westhoughton)||Leslle, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Day, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacLaren, A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Frankel, D.||Marklew, E.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Marshall, F.||Walker, J.|
|Garro-Jones, G. M.||Mathers, G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gibbins, J.||Maxton, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Messer, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Milner, Major J.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Groves, T. E.||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Paling, W.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hall. J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parker, H. J. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hardie, G. D.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Potts, J.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Albery, I. J.||Brass, Sir W.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Craddock, Sir R. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Assheton, R.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Crooke. J. S.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cross, R. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bull, B. B.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Bullock, Capt. M.||Crowder, J, F. E.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Carver, Major W. H.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Castlereagh, Viscount||De Chair, S. S.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||De la Bère, R.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Denville, Alfred|
|Bernays, R. H.||Channon, H.||Donner, P. W.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, A. (Ruthergien)||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cobb, Sir C. S.||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universlties)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Eales, J. F.||Leighton, Major B. E, P.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lloyd, G. W.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Savery, Servington|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Scott, Lord William|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Foot, D. M.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Macquisten, F. A.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Maitland, A.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Smith. Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Goldle, N. B.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Maynew, Lt.-Col. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Spens, W. P.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Moore, Lieut. -Col. T. C. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fyide)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Storey, S.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Munro, P.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W,||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crlchton- (N'thw'h)|
|Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Peake, O.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Penny, Sir G||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Pilkington, R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Plugge, L. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Harvey, G.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Turton, R. H.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Procter, Major H. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Purbrick, R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Ralkes. H. V. A. M.||White, H. Graham|
|Hope, Captain Hon, A. O. J.||Ramsbotham, H.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Rankin, R.||Windsor-Cllve, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Wise, A. R.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Reid, W. Allen (Derby)|
|Hunter, T.||Remer, J. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jackson, Sir H.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Mr. Levy and Mr. Erskine-Hill.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Words added:
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to; Second Reading put off for six months.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.806
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Eight Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 18th May.