§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. John Jones
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It has fallen to my lot, having been successful in the Ballot, to have the opportunity, with some of my hon. Friends, of proposing this modest Measure, which I hope will meet with the sympathetic consideration of all sections of the House of Commons. As an old worker in the building trade, who, before the Workmen's Compensation Act came into operation, suffered accidents in consequence of my employment, and knowing what it was to be laid on a bed of sickness through an accident for which nobody was responsible, but which might be described as an act of God, I appreciate the position of people who find themselves in a similar situation today, although the law has been considerably altered. The Workmen's Compensation Act was the first recognition by the Government of the country of a man's right to compensation when he met with an accident. Previously the situation was that, if a man met with an accident while following his employment, those whom he left behind were left absolutely derelict. Unless it could be proved that there was culpable negligence on the part of the employer or his agent, no compensation whatever was given to the worker or his dependants, and everyone in the House will know how extremely difficult it is to prove that an employer or his agent has been culpably negligent.
When the Workmen's Compensation Act was finally placed on the Statute Book, it abolished all that, and recognised in law that the man was entitled to compensation, and his dependants also. But, as in the case of every other Act, it took years to discover any anomalies that might arise in its administration, and we who belong to the Labour party, most of us experienced in the trade union movement, have everyday experience of what is happening as a consequence of workmen meeting with accidents in the course of their employment. In this Bill we 740 attempt to remove some of the anomalies that have been met with in our experience. In examining the present situation as regards compensation for a man who meets with a very serious accident, although I have had some experience, I have been greatly surprised to discover what an enormous number of cases there is in the country of men who are totally disabled as the result of accidents. I have had letters from mining areas with regard to such cases, and it actually makes one cry to read the details described—men with broken backs who will never be able to work again, who will never be able to enjoy the ordinary amenities of life, and some of whom are receiving as little as 27s. a week as compensation to keep themselves and their family. I venture to suggest that the mere fact that these men are not receiving the justice that they ought to receive makes it impossile for them even to bear the burden of their physical infirmity.
In making this proposal we want to amend those parts of the Act which at present do not operate fully in the workman's interest when he happens to be injured. We want a general increase in the amounts provided. At present the maximum scale is 300. per week and £300 at death. In the event of a man being totally disabled or losing his life, it may be possible for the judge, at his discretion, to increase the amount to £600 if dependants are left, but I venture to suggest that that is a very low sum when we realise what happens in the case of a motor accident. I happen to be connected with a union a large number of whose members are men who work on the road—municipal employes and so on. Numbers of our members have been killed while following their employment, mostly through the action of other people, and we have obtained as much as £2,000 compensation for loss of life in cases of that kind. I cannot for the life of me see why, while a workman working on the road is entitled to £2,000 according to the wisdom of the judges, in the case of the same man, if his duty is ordinary duty, and he is not run into by a motor car but is killed by some consequential result of his work, the compensation is limited to £300 for his dependants. We propose that the weekly payments should be increased to £3, and that £600 should be fixed as the basis in the case of permanent or fatal injury.
741 We also ask for the compulsory insurance of employers. One of our worst experiences has been, particularly in the case of small employers, that, although a verdict has been given in favour of the man or his dependants, the employer has gone bankrupt and has not been able to pay. That may have been wilful or otherwise, but, anyhow, the victims are the dependants. We therefore press that insurance be made compulsory upon all employers of labour, so that, when men meet with accidents in the course of their employment, they will be certain to receive what the law says they are entitled to. We also propose certain provisions because of the experience we have had in the matter of lump-sum payments, which often work out very unsatisfactorily. We have had in our union members receiving 500, 600, or perhaps £700 in certain eventualities, but before very long the whole of that money has disappeared. Sometimes they have been inveigled into investing the lump sum in some business; there are numbers of "sharps" about who are very clever at finding out when people have got sums of money like this, and in putting before them various suggestions as to how they can invest it. Sometimes they have gone into a public house—in more senses than one—and they are very soon out of it, because the little bit of money they have received as a lump sum has been frittered away in speculations of that character. We want to see some guarantee that the money which a man receives as compensation shall not be thrown away or squandered, but that it shall be invested in order to provide for his wife and family for a considerable period of time, at least until the children are 16 years of age.
We also want the system of compensation altered, so that it shall be based on normal earnings. At present it is based on the average earnings for the previous 12 months. Very often certain trades and industries are subject to periodical depressions. We know cases of members of our own trade union who have had compensation cases, and they have found that they have been entitled to only 30s. of the 40s. which they would otherwise have got, because the amount has been worked out on the basis of their average earnings over the preceding 742 12 months. We know that in this country lately there has been great depression. Many of the people have been working only half-time, and in calculating compensation half-time is the basis on which it has been reckoned. We suggest in this Bill that the basis should be the normal weekly earnings. The amount of compensation should not be calculated upon special, fortuitous circumstances, or unfortunate circumstances, but on the normal weekly earnings of a man in the particular industry in which he is engaged. That proposal should recommend itself to any fair-minded man. In the next place, we propose that all the arrangements for alternative light work should be altered. Sometimes men are offered light employment, and, like drowning men clutching at straws, they accept any kind that is offered. We have discovered that men are kept on for a short time at light work, and then told that they are no longer required because they are not fit to do even that. Automatically, their compensation disappears, and the only thing they can turn to is the public assistance committee, or support out of the rates. Anomalies of that character ought not to exist in any Act of Parliament which we have the power to alter. Therefore, we suggest in this short Bill that the law should be rectified.
We also suggest an alteration in the system whereby a workman meeting with an accident, if there is any dispute as to his disability, has at present to accept the verdict of a medical referee, one particular gentleman. We do not make any charges against these gentlemen, we do not say that they are unfair or prejudiced, but we do ask that, instead of one having the power of life and death over the victims of accidents, we should have a board, just as in the time of the War, when there were medical boards established for the purpose of doing similar work connected with men from the Army and Navy. In the next place, there is the question of allowances for funeral expenses. At present, these are limited to 5. Nobody can be buried decently on The cost of dying has increased. We venture to suggest that that limit should be increased to 20, which, we think, is a moderate request, because otherwise it simply means that the man will be buried practically on the basis of 743 what used to be described as a pauper's funeral:Rattle his bones over the stones;He is only a pauper whom nobody owns.There is one part of the problem which affects invalid children. I know cases in my own constituency where men have been killed in the docks, and where, unfortunately for the family, some of the children are physically and mentally unfit. They are at home, not too bad to be under the care of their mothers, but, unfortunately, they will never be of earning capacity. They will never he able to bring a full week's wages into the house, and, therefore, the woman has to struggle along as best she can with the small allowance made to her under the Workmen's Compensaiton Acts. We ask, therefore, for a substantial increase in the allowance for invalid children's maintenance. Then, we wish special arrangements to be made to facilitate opportunities for workers to have their payments reviewed as time progresses. We know very well that, in the conditions which prevail in the mining industry, men find themselves in a very unfortunate situation because of the crises that periodically arise in connection with the industry. We want a review, so that compensation shall be calculated, not on the basis of a particular crisis, but of normal circumstances. I understand that the miners have, to some extent, made arrangements with the mine owners, through their organisations, for dealing with this matter, but we want it stabilised through the law of the land.
I think I have briefly covered most of the points connected with this small Bill. I do not pretend to be sufficiently well educated in the law to go into all the details connected with the legal side. Some of my hon. Friends will be better able to do that, but I want to commend the Bill on broad human grounds. When the War was in progress I remember sitting in the Gallery of this House, where I was an interested listener to the speeches and appeals made on behalf of the men who fought the country's battles in the various fields of war. Everybody was enthusiastic for those men, everybody was sympathetic to them, and everybody wanted to do all that was possible to relieve the soldiers who were fighting our battles in the War. I think 744 we ought to do equally well for the soldiers who fight our battles in peace. Without the men who carry on the industries of the nation, we would have no soldiers to fight in war, or they would have nothing with which to fight. We ask that the same amount of sympathy should be displayed in dealing with the soldiers of industry as was displayed for the soldiers who fought during the War.
Those who listened to the Debates on the question of protection against air raids know that this country is prepared to spend money lavishly in every possible direction to avert the dangers of what might happen in the event of another war. There is a war going on every day—the war of the workers against disease, poverty, and the unfortunate circumstances that might arise in the course of their employment. We think that protection against the possibilities of poverty, privation, disease and death is just as important as all the other machinery we adopt for making ourselves secure against the possibility of invasion by foreign Powers. We are being invaded now by all the things that attack a worker's life. We say that that invasion ought to be prevented, and I, therefore, move the Second Reading of this Bill, in the hope that the House will give it all the support which it deserves and which we think it ought to receive.
§ 11.25 a.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson
I beg to second the Motion.
I cannot claim, as the hon. Proposer can, any practical association with industry in this country, but I can claim a fairly long practical association with the operation of the workmen's compensation system in this country. I maintain that it is in no sense a disparagement of that system to bring forward a Bill such as has been brought forward to-day, in order to remove some of the anomalies that have grown up during the past 20 years. Anyone who has had practical association with the operation of the Workmen's Compensation Acts must realise that a great deal of hardship has been occasioned, and is being occasioned to-day, in the homes of thousands of working-class families as a result of the inadequate amounts of compensation that are payable under the Workmen's Compensation Acts and the restrictions that are imposed upon the right of injured workmen to obtain their 745 compensation. Eighteen months ago, when the House last discussed a Workmen's Compensation Bill, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he spoke in opposition to the Bill, based the opposition of the Government to the Bill upon two grounds. He stated in effect that it was a very big and complicated Bill and one which would make a revolutionary change in the principles upon which workmen's compensation in this country was based.
The Under-Secretary then devoted the best part of his speech to a consideration of two points of general principle, in order to show why, in the view of the Government, the Bill should be rejected. The first principle, he said, was the proposal in the Bill to establish a system of State Insurance, and the second principle to which he objected was the proposal to provide for the settlement of all claims and disputes under the Workmen's Compensation Acts by a statutory board, instead of by the Law Courts of the country, as is the case at the present time. There can be no doubt that he thought that those two main proposals raised issues of a fundamental character, upon which doubtless it would be impossible to expect agreement on both sides of the House. But the Bill of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) cannot, I suggest, be in any way described as revolutionary, to use the term of the Under-Secretary. It does not in any way raise fundamental principles upon which there may be strong feeling on both sides of the House one way or the other, and I submit that this modest Bill should, on its merits, receive the support and approval of all sides of the House.
It is not because we on this side of the House have changed our views in any way whatsoever, but we have deleted the two revolutionary principles referred to by the Under-Secretary. It is because we desire, as soon as possible, to secure some measure of justice for the victims of industry, if you like, merely by way of instalments, rather than that they should receive any amelioration at all. It is with confidence that I second the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill, and suggest that it should receive the general support of the House. What does the Bill seek to do? First of all, it proposes increases in the amount of compensation in the case of death, total incapacity and 746 partial incapacity. Secondly, it proposes to alter the rules for determining the weekly earnings upon which the amount of compensation may be based, and also in regard to the rules governing the reviewing of weekly payments. Thirdly, it proposes the establishment of medical boards in place of the medical referee, as is the case to-day; and lastly, it proposes compulsory insurance of employers against liability in respect of their workers.
I will take the first proposal—the amount of compensation. The position under the present law, as was mentioned by the hon. Proposer, is that the total aggregate payment that may be made under the Act in respect of death cannot exceed £600. It may be £300 for the widow where there are no dependent children, and, if there be dependent children, that sum may be increased to, but not exceeding, £600, according to the number of dependent children. Incidentally, it is interesting to remember that in 1920 the Holman Gregory Commission, which was composed of some very able and very experienced gentlemen on this particular subject, recommended that the maximum sum should be increased to £800, and from that it seems to follow that, in the opinion of the Holman Gregory Commission, £600 was not an adequate sum, when in fact 17 years ago they suggested that it should be increased to £800. We would go even further than £800.
First of all, we propose that the system of lump-sum payments should be terminated. I believe that, whatever may be the view of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who have practical experience of workmen's compensation, at any rate there are very strong and cogent arguments for supporting a proposal to terminate lump-sum payments. Therefore, we suggest that, instead of a lump-sum payment to the widow and dependants of a deceased workman, there should be paid a weekly sum, and we suggest that that weekly sum should be 30s., or one half of the weekly earnings of the deceased workman, whichever is the greater. In the case of children, we propose additional payments. I believe that I am correct in saying that under the present law, taking the calculation of 15 per cent. of the amount, which is arrived at by 747 multiplying the number of weeks which will elapse between the present age of a dependent child and the date on which it reaches the age of 16 as against the weekly average earnings of the deceased father, it works out that the dependent child to-day receives an average of 6s. per week. The Holman Gregory Report suggested that 7s. should be paid for the first child, 7s. 6d. for the second child and 6s. for the third child.
In this Bill, we go a little further than that. We propose that there should be paid in respect of each child up to the age of 16, the sum of 10s. per week, but we put in the limitation that in no case shall the normal weekly earnings of the deceased be exceeded. Those are the proposals in respect of death.
In the case of total incapacity, where a workman is prevented from earning any wages, under the present law the sum payable is 50 per cent, of the pre-accident earnings. The Holman Gregory Commission recommended that that should be increased to 66⅔rds per cent. We suggest that it should be 75 per cent. It is very interesting to observe that not only hon. Members on these Benches take the view but that independent Statutory Commission, containing representatives of all political parties, were of opinion, 17 years ago, that the amount payable under the law was inadequate. They recommended a maximum of £3 a week and we recommend it should be 3 as a minimum, unless the normal weekly earnings of the workman prior to the accident were less than that sum. In the case of partial incapacity we recommend that instead of 50 per cent. of the difference between the pre-accident and the post-accident wages the injured worker should receive the whole of the difference, because we take the view that the standard of living of the injured workman and his family should not be lowered as the result of an accident which has come upon him during his work. Therefore, by this proposal we seek to safeguard the standard of living of the injured workman and his family.
We seek to improve the rules for determining the weekly earnings of the injured worker. Under the present law the test is the average weekly earnings during a period of 12 months prior to the accident. We maintain that that is 748 not a fair test. In these days of short time and weeks of intermittent unemployment hardship has been caused by making the calculation over a period of 12 months prior to the accident. We propose as the basis the normal weekly earnings of the workman in his regular industry, in a normal week, a normal number of days and a normal number of hours in each normal day. By that method the courts will be able to obtain a fairer estimate of what the workman was reasonably entitled to expect as his remuneration if he had not been the victim of accident.
We also deal with the question of medical boards. Under the present law, where there is a dispute or where agreement cannot be reached between the employer and the workman, or between their respective representatives, as to the actual physical condition of the workman, the matter is submitted to a medical referee. The medical referees are qualified doctors, men of standing in the medical profession, and no one on this side of the House seeks to cast any reflection upon the individual medical referee as such. Our case is that some of the questions that have to be decided by the medical referee, such as suitability for employment, and so on, are so important that it is not right to leave the decision in the hands of one man. Therefore, we propose that instead of the matter being submitted to one doctor it should be submitted to a medical board of three doctors.
We also make provision with regard to compulsory insurance. We consider that every employer who employs workmen in a factory, a mine or a workshop, should be compulsorily insured. Hon. Members must come across cases of great hardship as a result of small employers not being insured, and therefore not being in a position to meet their liabilities under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. There is nothing revolutionary in the proposal to require every employer to be insured. I doubt whether anyone could accuse the Government of being revolutionary. I have never heard of them doing anything revolutionary, at any rate during the last five or six years, but they have provided us with a precedent for this proposal. In 1934 they were responsible for putting on the Statute Book legislation requiring every coal owner to be compulsorily in- 749 sured. We are simply following their precedent, only we want to extend the area of compulsory insurance. There is no conflict of principle between hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on these benches, because the principle of compulsory insurance has been accepted by the Government. In adopting that principle and seeking to extend it, we are paying the Government a compliment, and we are paying them an even greater compliment in the fact that Clauses 7 to 11 of the Bill are taken from their Act of 1934. If lawyer Members of the House on the other side think that the legal profession will have a good time under this proposal, I would advise them to be careful, because this provision is taken word for word from their own Act.
The only objection that I can possibly conceive against this Measure is that of increased cost. That is an objection which will be raised in this Debate. It always has been raised and always will be raised whenever a Measure is proposed which will help to raise the economic condition of the working classes. Whether it be a question of health insurance, unemployment insurance or pensions, inevitably the objection is raised that it would increase the cost of production. But all these Measures are on the Statute Book and the employers are still making profit and find it worth while to carry on with their industrial undertakings.
We believe this Bill to be a modest instalment of reforms which are inevitable, sooner or later, in the system of workmen's compensation. We cannot agree that workmen who have been injured on the industrial front should be condemned, together with their families, to undergo greater hardship than was the case prior to their accident, and that they should be called upon to endure a lower standard of life. That is not in their interest or in the interest of the community. This Bill would bring a greater measure of happiness into tens of thousands of working class families, and because we believe that I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill, and with every confidence I second the Motion.
§ 11.44 a.m.
§ Mr. Lyons
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 750this House, while recognising that some of the provisions in the Workmen's Compensation Act call for review declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill containing proposals of a complex and far-reaching character, which depart widely from the principles of the existing legislation and would throw on industry a heavy burden, the extent and effects of which it has had no adequate opportunity to investigate.I am sure that I shall be voicing the feelings of the whole House when I say how much we appreciate the temper and the cogency of the arguments with which the hon. Member who introduced the Bill stated his case. Whatever may be the result of this Measure, the discussion will be of interest to the whole House and one from which I hope there will come some of the improvements which we all desire. The terms of the Amendment make it quite clear that hon. Members on this side of the House, just as much as any hon. Member opposite, realise that some review of workmen's compensation is necessary. Some of the matters have been mentioned by hon. Members already, but there are many other points which require review. Certain matters dealt with in the Bill should be the subject of a Government Measure passed by all sections of the House after proper inquiry by the Department. Let me say at once to the hon. Member for Kinswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) that it is not quite right to say that while we gladly accepted the principle of compulsory insurance in relation to the Bill of four years ago we must also accept the principle in the Bill which is before us this afternoon. I can assure him that we are not going to take any point about the drafting of the Clauses to which he referred.
May I remind the House of the very different circumstances in which the Bill of four years ago introduced by a private member, dealing with compensation in the mining industry, was considered? It was known to many hon. Members on this side of the House, and we gave our experience of the cases which were within our own knowledge, that after a time of great depression in the coalmining industry, when one company after another was going out of business, injured miners were suffering great hardships, and there were many tragedies through miners being unable to recover their compensation. The actual instances of men damaged in industry provides a flagrant case for action. We recognised that there was a situation which must be remedied by the House.
751 The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) will bear me out when I say that it was a crying scandal which we all desired to meet, and we had this advantage when we considered the Bill four years ago, that the Government had before them what a Committee had said on this important point, and that without there being any chance of unfavourable repercussions we were able to give support to a Measure which dealt solely with compensation in the coal-mining industry.
§ Mr. Lyons
I have made it clear that it was a private Member's Bill introduced into the House on a Friday. It was a Bill which received support from all sections of the House, and subsequently time and support were given to it by the Government because they had before them the representations and recommendations of a committee which had gone into the whole question thoroughly. That was the foundation upon which that 'Bill was based. But the Bill to-day goes much further and seeks without any examination by any committee, without any material on which we can give a reasoned judgment, to put upon industries all over the country, upon every industrial organisation, the necessity for compulsory insurance. We should be very alarmed indeed if what occurred in the coal trade four years ago were going to occur in every concern in the country. Is that really suggested? Is it seriously suggested that we are now going to find the same depressed conditions prevailing in every industry in the country as we found in the coalmining industry four years ago, and that we should, without inquiry, without any representations, without any co-operation of the parties concerned, put on the Statute Book by a private Member's Measure a Bill which will apply to every industry the same principle as was applied to the coalmines four years ago?
If it is really thought that the dangers are such that compulsory insurance should be a liability for every industrial organisation, I hope the Government will at once take steps to inquire into the matter and give the House the result of their deliberations. I should have thought that of all things this is a matter 752 on which we must have complete cooperation, and I hope we shall be told by the Government during the Debate whether this danger is really in our midst or not. There has been no attempt made by either of the hon. Members who have spoken to give us a single piece of evidence in support of what they have indicated might be a danger to those who are injured in industry.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
The hon. and learned Member will remember that the depression in the mining industry with the many bankruptcies which followed meant that the men lost their compensation. What guarantee can the hon. and learned Member give that no industry in this country will not be affected by such depression? What guarantee can he give apart from insurance that all employés in the future will be guaranteed their compensation?
§ Mr. Lyons
Of course I can give no such guarantee, but I do say that if there are any real fears of such a thing happening—I hope under the guidance which the country has at present they will not occur—the Government would at once inquire into the matter in the same way as they inquired into the coalmining industry. The hon. Member will remember that when we discussed the Bill, I think in 1933, we had not merely fears of what might happen in the coal industry, but we had throughout the country most glaring examples of what had happened, and many of us who were not concerned with the industry but with the litigation arising out of it gave our personal experiences of the many tragedies we had found on account of the bankruptcies which were occurring. If there is a need for protecting the workmen in this country and for giving a uniform system of compulsory insurance against risks, it must be inquired into by the Government, and provided for after their inquiry by the Government. I have not the slightest doubt that every piece of evidence on that matter is being watched and collected and will be dealt with by the Government in due course. Any alteration in workmen's compensation is a matter for comprehensive action by the Government.
There are, I agree, things which call for immediate action. I have never agreed that the rate of calculating the weekly wage is satisfactory, and I should welcome a change. I never have been satisfied that the original wording of the 753 Workmen's Compensation Acts, which give a man a right to compensation in respect of incapacity which arises "out of and in the course of his employment," is sufficient to safeguard the workman. That is one of the first matters which require clarification, to give the injured workman far better and wider protection than he has to-day. I hope that when a comprehensive Measure is introduced, that matter will be tackled at the beginning of it. There are many matters, such as accidents while absent from duty, mealtime accidents and Many risks incidental to employment, which are wholly unsatisfactory at the present time, and those matters are not dealt with in any way in the Bill before us. I hope they are matters which will be primary considerations of the Government when they give their attention to the introduction of a revising Measure.
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. Jones) said that he hoped these matters would receive the sympathetic consideration of all sections of the House. The hon. Member is right, for they are matters that ought to receive sympathetic consideration. Whatever may be the fate of the Bill to-day, I am sure the whole House is anxious to give all the help it can to people who are injured through no fault of their own in the industrial undertakings of the country. We do not want to deny the rights of those persons. There is, however, one thing of which I would like to remind the House. It has already been pointed out that the Workmen's Compensation Act, in certain circumstances and subject to certain proofs, which I have said I think ought to be materially altered, gives compensation without proof of negligence. The question of the employer's negligence does not arise, and it should not; but it is hardly correct to compare a claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act with a right to damages for injuries received in a motor accident. On the one hand it is necessary to prove negligence, and on the other hand is not necessary to do so. I would remind the hon. Member for Kingswinford that if negligence can b established in the case of a fatal accident, no question of a limitation need arise. The Fatal Accidents Act knows no such limitation. Having said that in order to clarify the whole position, I readily concede that it is no argument against altering and improving the rules for workmen's 754 compensation. I have referred to the matter merely to remove what I thought might be a misapprehension.
I maintain that these are matters which cannot be dealt with by a Bill of this nature, but can be satisfactorily tackled only by a comprehensive Measure introduced by the Govt. on their responsibility, after they have gone into every one of the topics with representatives of the industries concerned. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion made several prudent observations on lump-sum settlements, and the hon. Member for Silver-town indicated to the House how easy it is, in the case of a lump-sum settlement, which is now possible in certain circumstances, for the beneficiary to be swindled out of the compensation. Of course, that is so, but I should have thought that there might be cases of death where it would be in the widow's best interests to have a lump-sum settlement, whereas in other cases it might be in her worst interests. I think that it would be better to give to the court some discretion as to whether, if a lump-sum payment is asked for, it should be given in cases in which it would be likely to operate in the interests of the beneficiary. This Bill does not do that, and the matter is one which should come up for consideration by the Government, and for such action as they think fit, at a later stage. Much more has to be gone into. The present scales of benefit may well be queried. It might be considered how far a sliding-scale could be employed in the case of invalid children, for example.
The hon. Member who spoke before me ridiculed the argument about the burden on industry. The expression burden on industry, "has been used", whether in its right application or not, many times in this House and elsewhere. Not long ago, one of our colleagues, a gentleman the loss of whom the House now mourns, introduced a Bill of another type, and I, in supporting that Bill, ridiculed the expression "burden on industry" as being one which was likely to be too freely used in relation to any proposed industrial reform; but if ever there was a case where it has some real meaning, it is to-day, when it is sought to place on insurers and on industrial undertakings a new burden, without any co-operation and without any inquiry as to what the likely repercussions would be. Every industrial improvement represents a charge 755 upon industry, but there is very grave danger in putting upon industry a charge which it cannot properly bear, especially if it is done at a time when there is not the slightest evidence that such a charge is necessary.
Whether we like this Bill or not, we are grateful to the hon. Member for enabling us to discuss these important topics to-day. There is not an hon. Member on this side of the House who wants to draw back any one of the social service benefits now existing. Hon. Members on this side want to increase those benefits and to give better conditions to those who are injured in their emplyoment through no fault of their own. All we say is that, however good the improvements may be, they must not be bundled together with the suggestion of compulsory insurance at a time when there is no evidence that compulsory insurance is necessary, or that it is a burden that industry can bear, or that it will operate in any way for the good of the people most directly concerned. I hope that in the course of this Debate we shall hear from my hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary of State that all these are matters which will not be ignored by the Government, but that in due time the Government, desiring both national progress and the safety of the persons engaged in industrial undertakings, will give consideration to the question of introducing a far-reaching Measure containing many other matters than those mentioned in the Bill before us. I hope the Government will not tinker with compulsory insurance until it is necessary in order to protect the persons interested. This is a question on which the co-operation of those concerned is vital. In those circumstances, I hope the House will not give a Second Reading to the Bill, however much it wants to bring about the many reforms which we know to be necessary in improving the provisions in the Workmen's Compensation Act.
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Higgs
I beg to second the Amendment.
I support the opening remarks of the hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons). Although I appreciate the spirit which inspired the framers of the Bill, I consider that their enthusiasm has run 756 beyond their reason. I think a reform of this description is very necessary, but for reasons which I shall explain later, I do not consider that this Bill is a desirable Measure. I represent an industrial division, and the electors' interests are mine. I have given them a promise to do anything I can to improve their conditions. The Workmen's Compensation Acts do require modification and the time has arrived when reasonable modifications could be made. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) has already exploded the theory that industry could not stand it. Industry can stand it and the majority of industrialists are prepared to foot the bill for a reasonable measure of improvement in workmen's compensation. Last Friday we discussed a Bill to provide annual holidays with pay. We were discussing that Bill at a time when a committee was sitting to deal with the matter. To-day we are discussing workmen's compensation at a time when, I understand, there is a committee sitting under the chairmanship of Judge Stewart considering such questions as medical arrangements under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, miners' nystagmus and lump-sum settlements. It is undesirable to bring forward a Bill of this kind when those problems are under the consideration of the committee.
Most employers desire to see their workers in better circumstances. The majority of us do what we can for our employers and even give them the benefit of the doubt. I would remind hon. Members of the number of claims for workmen's compensation that has been settled. In 1935, for instance, of 2,616 cases, 75 per cent. were settled in favour of the applicants. Workmen's compensation is a relatively new statutory provision. The first Act was that of 1897 under which the maximum allowances were 1300 and 4:1 per week. There were further Acts in 1906 and 1917 and the maximum weekly allowance was increased first to LI 5s. and then to LI 10s. per week, which is the present figure. With regard to the present Bill, in Clause we find a proposal to increase the allowance for funeral expenses, to which reference has already been made and also to increase allowances for medical and nursing attendance. That might involve a limitless sum. With all respect to the medical profession, this might be 757 made a very lucrative additional branch of that profession. The question of deciding what is a reasonable demand is left to the county court judge. Then in paragraph (b) we find that where a deceased worker was earning £4 per week the wi low is to get per week and there is no restriction at all upon remarriage. It would be a nice thing if a woman got married two or three times. She would made quite a good thing out of it. Paragraph (c) deals with the case in which a deceased worker leaves a widow and, say, three children. Suppose the deceased has been earning £5 per week. The widow is to get 10s. and 16s. 8d. for each child, making a total of £5 per week. She would be better off then than she was when her husband was alive.
§ Mr. Cassells
Does the hon. Member realise that in no circumstances will the pre-accident earning capacity be exceeded?
§ Mr. Higgs
But the woman will no longer have the husband and she may be better off without the husband. In cases where the deceased left more than three children the payment proposed here would be the same as the normal wages of the deceased. The Bill proposes to substitute weekly payments for lump-sum payments, but it does noi. prohibit commutation of those payments. There may be something to be said in favour of weekly payments but as the Bill stands they can be commuted in the same manner as the present payments and this proposal simply resolves itself into a proposal for greater compensation. I am not opposed to improved benefits. I think some improvement is very desirable and I say, here and now, that I do not think 30s. a week is enough. But if we are to consider the question of an increase we must know the amount to which the employer and the insurance company are limited. Suppose the deceased's earnings to be £5 per week. The widow's weekly payments would be £2 10s. Assume that the widow is aged 35. The annual value of that payment would be £130 and I believe that under Section 13 of the 1925 Act in case of redemption she would get 75 per cent. which would be £97 10s. The redeemable value of that annual sum, according to the Post Office, would be £2,154. The highest figure that has been mentioned in this Debate so far is £2,000.
758 We want to know the limit. We want to be reasonable. The amount of compensation payable now is £300 and hon. Members apparently propose to increase it sevenfold. The industry is prepared to pay more but it cannot stand sevenfold increases. I do not believe the framers of this Bill realised what they were doing. If I were not in favour of a moderate increase I would not have accepted the role of seconder of this Amendment, but I believe that as industry progresses we have to improve conditions of this kind. I was one of those who advocated holidays with pay before that principle was subscribed to by the engineering industry. I now advocate a reform of workmen's compensation, but not on the lines here proposed.
As regards paragraph (e) there is no doubt about being able to find foster-mothers in these cases. It would be a profitable employment. We wish to do the best we can for these children, but at the same time we have to make reasonable provision for other purposes besides workmen's compensation. We have to consider the rise in the standard of living, holidays with pay, national insurance, and so forth. All these must be balanced when we are considering the problem. Paragraph (f) I regard as morally bad because it invites separation. The law still is that a man shall maintain his wife' and family, but under this proposal the payment to an unmarried partner after a workman's death is to go on without limit. That means placing liabilities on the employer which he cannot afford, and in that case he cannot insure. It is necessary that he should know his responsibilities and limitations before an insurance company will accept his obligations.
Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the amount to be paid in cases of total and partial incapacity. These are the majority of cases which we have to consider. At present, there is a waiting period of three days. I know it is hard in some cases, but I also know that we have to give consideration to the fact that there are people who are not as straight as they ought to be, and a waiting period discourages people from ceasing work for trivial accidents. I know people who if they lost a hand would continue to work with the other hand. There are also people who on the slightest pretence will cease work. I submit that the 759 proposal in the Bill would simply encourage such people in malingering. I do not think it is desirable to do away with that three days' waiting period. If other Clauses in the Bill were satisfactory, I would not argue about that, but owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the Bill in general I consider these points should be raised now.
Another point to be considered is that under paragraph II the large majority of people will get a week. I am not making any definite suggestion as to what should be the amount of compensation, and I would emphasise again that I think that £10s. od. is not enough in the majority of cases. I should think that 50 per cent. of the people employed are permanently employed, and that 25 per cent. are floating. A bricklayer does a job and then moves on to another job. A fellow working on a job to-day as a rough fitter may be working as a navvy next week, and the week after that be doing labourer's work in some other district. It is practically impossible to ascertain the amount of wages he gets unless you go on the basis of what he is getting at the present moment. Those are the fellows that meet with accidents in industry. If you analyse the accidents—I have done it in the case of those coming within my own experience—you will find that it is the fellows not regularly employed who meet with accidents. I think we shall meet with difficulties in that way if this Bill passes.
Compulsory insurance against liability for work and compensation, I think, is a desirable provision, and I should be pleased to see it carried out. You generally find that the people who do not insure are the real culprits and I think they should be made to insure. I would subscribe to a provision of that kind in any Measure. I have had letters from my constituents pointing out the necessity of supporting this view, but they are reasonable people, and when they consider my reasons I am sure they will see that I am right in my attitude. I hope to be able to contribute to some Measure that will be of benefit, not only to workers, but to industry. Insurance premiums are based on the wage roll. If this Bill passes it will be absolutely impossible to calculate premiums on that basis, because the employer's liability will be unknown. If the Bill passes in 760 its present form employers will probably reject those workers who cannot pass a medical examination, those with large families, those with invalid children and those separated from their lawful wives.
It is quite possible that some employers will take that attitude. I am not an ideal employer myself—please do not think that I claim that—but I can see the other fellow's point of view. I do believe in giving a fellow a just reward for his labour, but I think you will find that some employers will give preference to those for whom they will have less responsibility. I do not know what the increase in the employer's liability is likely to be—it may be 300, 400 or 500 per cent.—but at any rate it is going to be very considerable, even without taking into account those claims which would be made owing to the elimination of the three days waiting period. The proposed weekly compensation at the figure given in the Bill would be demoralising in my opinion. In many cases a man would get almost as much for being idle as he would get when he was working. Workmen's compensation does not cure accidents. The remedy is increased co-operation. Under the circumstances I have to support the Amendment and oppose the Bill.
§ 12.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
I desire to support the Bill. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down used arguments which are invariably used by anyone who opposes a private Member's Bill. If the House proceeded on that basis no private Member would ever have a chance of getting passed into law a Bill which would be of service to the community at large. The hon. Member has said that he is in favour of most of the proposals incorporated in this Bill, but he says that this is not the proper way to do it and that it ought to be done by somebody else at another time. I think, however, that the promoters of this Bill may derive satisfaction from that statement, and from the statement of the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment, who said that what was wanted was a far-reaching and comprehensive Measure. If a far-reaching and comprehensive Measure is required, then quite clearly some Amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Acts is required now. it seems to me that this Bill does not incorporate any 761 principle of such a revolutionary character that the House can say that this is not the sort of Bill which ought to be passed at the instigation of a private Member.
It is generally agreed, I think, that the payments under the existing law are not sufficient. Those who have experience of the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts will almost unanimously agree with that. If it be said that the figures in this particular Bill are larger than those recommended by the Gregory Commission, that surely is a matter which can be put right in Committee. There are some very valuable suggestions in this Bill. One of them is in regard to total incapacity. I think that everyone must agree that the present arrangements in regard to that are not satisfactory. There are cases of great hardship and distress in the country arising out of the present position of the law in the case of total incapacity. In the matter of compensation in the case of fatal accidents, I think there is a great deal to be said for substituting weekly payments for a lump sum. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that that ought not to be made compulsory. That again is a matter worthy of consideration and one which can be considered on the Committee stage. If, however, the matter is left in a state of uncertainty I think it would cause a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst those who would benefit by this Amendment of the law, and it would impose upon judges great difficulty in exercising discretion.
The biggest question of principle in the Bill is that of compulsory insurance, but, as my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, there is nothing new about this. It is a principle to which Parliament has given its assent in other directions. We are told, "Oh well, a very large number of employers already do it." That is true, but that, so far from being an argument against the incorporation of the principle of compulsory insurance in this Bill, is an argument in its favour, because it is the wise employers, the careful, conscientious employers, who are determined that they will not be lacking in meeting any liability that may fall upon them through their workmen—it is these wise ones who do it, and what we are doing by incorporating the principle of compulsory insurance here is to protect the unwise employers from the consequences of their own folly, consequences 762 not only to themselves, but also to those whom they engage.
I think a word of caution, however, is necessary, and I hope that this Bill will have a Second Reading, if for no other purpose than that of directing the attention of the House and the country to the need for a more careful examination of the present system of insurance. It is quite possible that what is meant here as a precaution may prove to be a snare and a delusion. Insurance is a very ticklish business. It is all right for large companies which have lawyers and other expert advisers who can check their policies and see that the risks they hope to cover are properly provided for, but the small employer has not got that assistance, and very often he does not see the documents at all. It really is time that these documents, which give in small print that is most difficult to read a lot of conditions affecting the main purpose of the contract, were very much more carefully examined than has been the case in the past. But while that word of caution is necessary, the principle, as I say, is one which deserves our support at the present time. I think it is a great pity that many of the difficulties should arise, not from any ill will on the part of either the employer or the workman, but out of legal technicalities which prevent, possibly, the sympathies of the employer being put into practical operation on behalf of his workmen.
The other matter that has been mentioned is the question of cost. I agree that it would be very much better if we could have some idea as to what the cost of this Bill is likely to be, but here again I think it can be considerably reduced by an examination of our insurance methods. Employers of labour nowadays undoubtedly pay very large sums of money to insurance companies as premiums under the Employers Liability and Workmen's Compensation Acts, and there is no doubt that it is a very profitable matter for the insurance companies. I quite understand that an insurance company, when it is asked to undertake a new venture in insurance work, should be hesitant and cautious and should err, if at all, on the side of caution in the matter of premiums, but in regard to insurance of this character, we have now had years of practical experience of it, and I think anybody will agree that that experience has established that premiums 763 are unnecessarily large and that there ought to be a closer relation between the amount of the premium and the degree of risk that is incurred. If that were done, one might very well find that the cost would prove to be considerably less than is anticipated by some of those who think only of the very heavy burden that this Bill might throw upon them. There are many matters which will require consideration in Committee, but I heartily support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Sir Alan Anderson
I support the Amendment. One could say that and stop: but we are debating here a great and difficult question. I agree with most of what the Mover and the Seconder of the Second Reading said, but not with their methods. Their Bill is both abrupt and partial and, therefore, open to serious objections. The seconder of the original motion, said, when speaking about compulsory insurance, that there was no conflict of principle involved. On that point of compulsory insurance, I am not advised why employers should object to it, if they do. In my particular trade of shipping, we do insure. We join together in mutual clubs, and we cover this risk; we conduct a trade which is surrounded by unknown risks. We are thoroughly used to insurance, and it appears to us to be the proper thing to do, so that, so far as I am concerned, I do not object to compulsory insurance at all. The hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) said that the difficulty of this Measure was the increased cost that it would involve. In one sense that is the difficulty, but I venture to suggest to him the argument that the cost lies in the injuries and not in the compensation. In this Bill we are asked to recognise something that has happened. Our Measures for workmen's compensation and unemployment and health insurance do not increase the cost of those troubles; they are an attempt at better book-keeping. It is true that, if you are not very careful, you may, in collecting the money, lay an exaggerated burden on one section of society, but the cost is incurred when the man is injured or falls ill or out of employment. We are constantly reducing the number of accidents, but we shall never avoid them altogether. Accidents will always be there, and in my view it is 764 extremely important that we should proceed steadily to secure a proper cover against these risks to people engaged in industry.
I think the method suggested in the Bill is, as I have said, both abrupt and partial. What is the risk? The real risk is that the breadwinner is deprived of his chance of winning bread for his family, it may be by accident, for which no one is to blame; a man may find himself alongside a mate who has influenza or tuberculosis, and he himself gets the disease; or he may be thrown out of work. We cover all those three risks. It is not perhaps a very logical system that we have. It has not all been evolved by one great brain, but it has been hammered out by one generation after another. It is a pretty good patchwork quilt, but it is patchwork, and it is, I believe, the admiration of the world and much better than most other nations have. In improving it, as we all want to do, it is necessary to preserve balance and judgment.
In my view this sudden increase of compensation for one particular risk, the risk of accident, puts it completely out of balance with the others. There was some question about the cost, and one hon. Member said that he did not know what the cost was, which makes me rather shy of quoting estimates given me by expert persons. I give them, however, for what they are worth. The cost of workmen's compensation for a seaman at present is 32s. 2d. per man per year. This Bill will bring it up to about £4. The cost per man in the docks is 54s., and this will bring it up to £6 15s. The cost for a coalminer is 755., and this will bring it up to £9. The total cost, I am told, will change from £9,000,000 a year to £22,000,000. That will mean a sudden increase for one particular item of compensation. If you look at it from the point of view of a single man with £3 a week wages, he would receive under the existing law under workmen's compensation, if he were damaged by an accident, 30s. a week; for national health, if his neighbour gives him influenza, 15s.; and for unemployment, if trade is bad, 17s. a week. He would under this proposal, if he were damaged in an accident, receive 60s. a week—four times as much as if he were laid up by influenza. I see no reason for that.
§ Sir A. Anderson
It may be, but what I am trying to put, particularly to hon. Members opposite, is that there are three expressions of the same risk. It may be that the other estimates are too low, but you do not put that right by suddenly exaggerating the payment for one item of risk. You do not put it right by putting the whole burden on one of the parties to the risk. In workmen's compensation the employer pays the whole of the cost, whereas in the other two, which are more modern schemes, the State and the worker join. If it is necessary to expand the payment of compensation, it is necessary to look at all these rusks and to see that the payment is correctly spread. I a m quite prepared in a discussion on economic theory to agree that not only all these risks but all the money with which to meet them must come from industry and that the more direct you can get it the better. That is a theoretic argument for charging everything straight up to the employer. There is, however, this to be said against it, that you may throw out of gear a very delicate machine. We have found in all our efforts at social improvement and at general taxation that the art of spreading the burden and collecting the money is a very delicate art. It is largely because I think this Bill ignores the danger of an abrupt and sudden partial change that I support the Amendment.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
The hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons), in moving the Amendment, seemed to base much of his argument against the compulsory provisions, and he wanted to know whether compulsion was necessary in insurance. I would assure him that in the distributive trades we consider it is absolutely necessary to make it compulsory, because it is a common thing among small traders not to take the precaution to ensure their employes against the risk of accident. The legal profession must be fully conversant with that. I am glad that the Seconder of the Amendment held that compulsion was necessary. He seemed to think, however, that it was terrible to contemplate widows marrying two or three times, and that this Bill would lead to a sort of industry to get more compensation. On a previous 766 occasion when we introduced a Workmen's Compensation Bill, the opponents seemed to be more concerned about the machinery than with the just claims contained in the Measure. The legal fraternity were well in evidence.
We know that insurance companies run for profit with the idea of keeping claims at the lowest limit. They are constantly taking advantage of the ignorance of the workers of the law of compensation. Therefore, trade unions have to spend a considerable amount of time and money in fighting claims. The experience of my union has been that it is far better to fight claims under the Common Law than under the Workmen's Compensation Act because of its limitations. The Workmen's Compensation Act is not for the injury itself but for the loss of earnings resulting from the injury, and then only within the limit of the Act. I could quote many cases of members of my union who have secured as much as ten times more under the Common Law than they could have got under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I will give a few illustrations. One member was injured at a cross-roads in a collision between a bicycle and a delivery van during his employment. Under the Workmen's Compensation Act he would have been entitled to only £65, but he received £650 under the Common Law.
§ Mr. Leslie
My point is that if it is right for him to receive €50 in compensation under the Common Law, why should it be wrong for him to receive it under any Act? Another member of our union was engaged on repairing a carpet in a private house. During the course of his employment a dog attacked him. Under the Compensation Act he would have been entitled to receive only £30, but we secured £110 for him. In another case a traveller would have received only £34 under the Workmen's Compensation Act, but we secured £210 under the Common Law. In a recent case in the House of Lords—Rose v. Ford—the precedent was laid down that damages can be claimed by dependants for loss of expectation of life and mental anguish. I wish that that were possible under the Workmen's Compensation Act. 767 If negligence can be proved, therefore, the damages recoverable would be far in excess of the dependant's benefit which can be claimed under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
Men injured in the course of their employment have, because of the meagre allowances, in thousands of cases to resort to public assistance. In the mining areas particularly that becomes a serious burden upon the local authorities. The amounts payable to-day under the present law are considerably less that the amounts recommended by the Holman Gregory Commission. That has been dealt with by the Seconder of the Motion. That Commission recommended as a maximum. We think that 43 should be the minimum, for it is certainly little enough for any family to exist on, particularly where extra expense is entailed for the unfortunate victim. When a worker is injured compensation is supposed to be based on his average weekly earnings. Holidays and broken time are taken into account, and instead of having the maximum of 30s., we find that in many cases it amounts to a few shillings, very often under 20s. a week.
We also contend that the allowance for widows should be raised. How long will £300 last if the widow is unable to provide for herself otherwise. When the bread-winner is taken away adequate provision ought to be made for his widow and dependants, and the Bill proposes not less than 30s. a week, which is small enough in all conscience. The Bill seeks to remove existing anomalies and I think the just claim we make for it ought to appeal to every hon. Member.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
When in 1880 Gladstone introduced the first Employers Liability Bill he began by saying that of all subjects that could be brought before that House, this was the least fit to be used as an instrument of party attack. He went on to say that by the Second Reading the Government hardly understood the House to pledge itself to more than this—that the present state of the law was not satisfactory, and that further protection… was required. I wish that to-day we were in a position, on both sides of the House, to accept the Second Reading of this Bill on the same 768 basis, but I cannot support it, for reasons very different indeed from those set out in the Amendment. The real defect in this Bill is that it is not sufficiently revolutionary, that with National Health Insurance established in this country, and nearly 60 years' experience of Workmen's Compensation and of Employers' Liability Acts, the time has come for action on far more comprehensive lines than this Bill proposes. Indeed, I prefer last Session's Bill on the same subject as a more hopeful approach to a most difficult subject.
I agree that lump-sum settlements ought to be prohibited, save in exceptional cases. I agree that there should be a medical board, and not a medical referee, but I hold that the medical board should be under a lay chairman and not consist exclusively of medical men, because there are many matters which are altogether outside the normal experience of a busy medical man. We are constantly told that it is not only necessary that justice should be done, but that it should be seen to be done, and a legal chairman with two medical assessors would probably be a better medical board than three doctors, however highly skilled. I do not support the proposal in the Bill that £20 instead of shall be allowed for burial expenses. Undertakers will charge just as much as is allowed. Unfortunately, it is not' infrequently the case, when a death occurs, that the undertaker asks first "How much have you got? Is there anything on the old man?" If there is an insurance policy for £20 he will say: "I will give you a nice funeral for £20." If the policy is for 5 only, and there is no more money available, it can be done for £15.
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) was correct in saying that undertakers put up their charges. In the London area they have done so, with little excuse, by 10 or 20 per cent., by means of a confidential circular sent round among themselves. The cost of dying, as I had the honour to remark in this House not long ago, has been steadily increasing, and it is becoming something like a scandal. Trade unions and local authorities could do much to check it. In a recent investigation in South Wales it was shown that the money invested as a provision against burial expenses amounted to something like 4 per 769 cent. of the earnings of those in the lower wage-earning categories and that is not exceptional. To add another £5 will not help us at all in this respect. The subject requires far more drastic treatment, on very different lines.
As for the burden which the Bill will cast upon industry, the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) suggests that it will be from £9,000,000 to £22,000,000 a year, and I am inclined to think that the figures suggested in the Bill are excessive, but I am bound to point out that, according to the figures published annually by the Home Office, of £12,000,000 paid as premium by employers, 35 per cent. goes in overhead charges, not including medical and legal expenses, and at least a further 10 per cent. in medical and legal expenses—not in curing the man or ascertaining his rights, but in an endeavour to avoid or reduce claims as far as may be. Thus of £12,000,000 a year no more than a little over £6,000,000, if that, ever reaches the injured workmen. That compares with an overhead charge of less than 5 per cent. in Ontario, and in certain States in the United States, where national and compulsory schemes are in force. It is not tolerable, to my mind, that the City of London should take a brokerage of £1,250,000 out of the moneys paid by employers and should then claim that the burden on industry is excessive.
The standard of living of an injured worker is inevitably lower, by reason of his injury alone. In the past two years I have had the handling of half-a-dozen cases in which injured workmen have been placed on half their weekly earnings—not half their real weekly earnings, but half their statutory weekly earnings. The money was not enough to pay the rent and to keep the family in health, and I have watched the gradual deterioration of the health of those men. It was due to the purely psychological consequences of debt, of inability to feed himself or his family properly, or to provide himself with transport necessaries of a decent life, and therefore was desperately anxious, at any cost, to get a lump sum, in order that he might have something with which to carry on. When an a particular case the Registrar refused to sanction the lump sum which had been offered, as not being reasonable, the man turned to me and said "It is 770 all very well to say that I may get £100 in six months time, but by then I may be dead." I said to him "Why not go to the Poor Law?" He answered "No, Sir. I and my people have kept out of the Poor Law for a hundred years, and I am not going to start applying to it now. I would sooner die and take my chance than go on the parish and go before one of those Committees. If I have any rights at all for my injury I ought to have'em, and have'em now, and I won't go to the Poor Law." That is an honourable expression of opinion which is far more widely held than some of us imagine.
It has been suggested that malingering will increase. The real reason for malingering, which does exist, and is largely unconscious, is a psychological consequence of the fact that our whole insurance system to-day is really on the false basis of "Employers' Liability" and "compensation." When a man goes to hospital his first reaction is "How soon shall I get well?" Within about a fortnight the question becomes "What shall I get?" and from that moment his recovery begins to be handicapped. Our real object should be to convert Employers' Liability and Workmen's Compensation into a genuine insurance scheme closely connected with National Health Insurance and other insurance schemes. I believe, although I fear that the trade unions and the Opposition benches will disagree with me, that it would be worth their while, and 100 times worth the workman's while, to have a contributory scheme to which the employer and the workman would both contribute. The employer could contribute according to the risk of the industry and would enjoy a periodic retrospective rebate on a no-claim basis, so that firms which were most efficient or fortunate in preventing accidents would benefit. There would be a smaller but substantial payment by the workman. Then and only then the workmen, through the trade unions or other representatives, would have the right to sit side by side with the employers to consider how the fund could be administered most fairly.
Let us get away from the idea that the employer must pay every penny and that Parliament must tell him how much he must pay. If the workman will pay his 771 share—eventually practically all of it comes out of his wages—the whole attitude of the workman towards compensation would change. Miners' nystagmus has increased by leaps and bounds and it has been suggested that it is often a form of malingering. It is, but a purely psychological form. We know that there is less of it when wages are good and employment is plentiful than when wages are poor and employment is irregular. The moral is that we must place these things upon a new basis, the primary basis being rehabilitation. Let us say: "Our first job is to make you fit again, and make you fit we will if by any possibility we can before we discuss compensation. Treatment for your injury in order to put you back into the category of the regular wage-earners will be followed by training in a new job if you are unable to follow your own job, and, finally, by placement in suitable employment."Subsistence while under institutional treatment should be and could be on a liberal basis.
Henry Ford, in his own works, and the Western Electric Company in theirs, recently made a very close investigation of the nature of the work of their employes. They came to the conclusion that nearly half of all the jobs in the factory did not require a fully capable able-bodied man, and that it was possible for Henry Ford—and there are other firms who are doing this—to say: "No man is refused employment in this factory on the ground of his physical disability." The effect was profound. I know men with one arm and one leg who are earning full wages because they have been properly treated orthopaedically and have been well trained. They have the will. We must sometimes create the will, but the question: "How much shall I get in compensation?" often destroys the will to get well. A man is pestered by his own solicitor and his own doctor, and he is asked leading questions which gradually convey to his mind that he is an invalid and that the more of an invalid he is the more of a lump sum he will get.
Employment of partly disabled men can be immensely developed in this country by the Ministry of Labour, if there were a regular system under which the insurance companies realised that it was to their benefit. At present few of them do so. The insurance companies 772 have defeated their own ends by discouraging the employment of partially disabled men on the ground that such men are more liable to the risk of fresh accidents and of a fresh recurrence of the same disability. I am convinced that we shall not get away from this position until we recognise that workmen's compensation is not a suitable subject for private enterprise and private profit. A national Government that do not hesitate to take the view that the national interests require unification of coal royalties, and have not hesitated to apply compulsion in many directions which a large number of their supporters view with anxiety and disapproval, should not be estopped on grounds of principle from at least considering the possibility of amalgamating workmen's compensation and national health insurance into a single coherent scheme.
Our system of workmen's compensation, said the hon. Member for the City of London was the admiration of the world. I have spent a good many months in reading all the available literature on the subject of workmen's compensation. I see no sign whatever of the admiration of the world. It is recognised that our intentions are admirable and that our administration is good but expensive, but we are behind the great Dominions to-day. We are behind certain States of America, and we are certainly behind Canada and Australia. We have never caught up with Germany, to which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain went for the ideas which were embodied in the Act of 1880—in the light of the great Bismarckian legislation of the 70's and 80's.
The possibility of combining national health insurance, workmen's compensation and compensation for accidents generally, to give us a form of accidents security should not be lost sight of before the Government decide, as they doubtless will, to introduce a further comprehensive Measure. Judge Stewart's committee has been sitting now for about two years, dealing with one aspect which is covered very closely by the Bill. Another committee under Sir Humphrey Rolleston, dealing with rehabilitation, has already issued a most interesting interim report. I do not think the Government can do much until these committees have reported. I wish their evidence were in the Library of the House of Commons, but it is not; it is confidential. When these 773 committees report, I beg the Government to consider the appointment of a further committee, at least as authoritative as that of Sir Holman Gregory, to take the reports of Judge Stewart's and Sir Humphrey Rolleston's committees and the vast amount of practical experience which has been collected in the past 17 years, and to try to draft a far more comprehensive Measure.
When the hon. and learned. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) said that the words, "Arising out of and in the course of employment" were not satisfactory, he was echoing the words of Lord Wrenbury in the House of Lords in an English case of 1920—Retford versus Armstrong Whitworth, and in which he said that he found it impossible to interpret these words:on grounds convincing to myself or satisfactory to others, such is the accumulation of conflicting judgments delivered by your Lordship's House,or words to that effect.
There are some 30,000 pages of Law Reports dealing exclusively with the Workmen's Compensation Acts and largely with those words. It passes the wit of man to find words to cover what we wish. What we really wish to do is to say that insured persons should be covered against the risk of accidents of all kinds, and that those responsible should pay in varying degrees and to the extent of their responsibility. I should like to see the workman himself a responsible party to insurance. Once this principle is established there would be a great difference in his outlook. We should no longer hear "What can I get?" from the one side, and "How much must I give?" from the other. I see from this morning's "Times" that, in the case of the greatest company engaged to-day in employers' liability business, its shares, 5s. paid, are saleable at 70s., and a broker told me this morning that they are a good "buy" at that price. I see that their dividends average about 80 per cent. per annum. There is a great deal of room for economy there. Ony the other day we were told that Imperial Airways was making too much when it was paying a dividend of g per cent. Insurance companies do not regard themselves as being in a happy position unless they can pay a certain 50 per cent. every year. Do not, therefore, let us talk too much about the burden on industry.
§ Mr. Maitland
May I ask my hon. Friend whether the company to which he has referred, whose 1,1 shares, 5s. paid, have a market value to-day of 70s., restricts its business entirely to workmen's compensation?
§ Sir A. Wilson
There is no company in England which restricts its business entirely to workmen's compensation insurance. I can only say that that company is one which devotes more of its business than does any other to workmen's compensation and, even if it is not making its full money out of that class of business, I think it is clear that the burden on industry is partly imposed by the financial system under which it works.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Cape
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) has made a very interesting speech, which has given us a good deal to think about in the future, but he rather spoilt it when he said he was not prepared to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I gather that he was more in sympathy with the Workmen's Compensation Bill proposed from these benches last year, and I want to assure him that we still stand by that Bill. It was, however, rejected last year, and our reason for bringing forward the present Bill is that, with the constitution of the House of Commons as it is to-day, there would be no likelihood of getting last year's Bill through. One of the objects of this Bill is to remedy the anomalies which exist, and I assume that the hon. Member for Hitchin would be willing to help us to get some of those anomalies removed.
With regard to the Amendment, I have heard many speeches from the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons), but, although wise men are supposed to come from the East, I am bound to say that he did not do himself justice to-day. In fact, I think he made one of the poorest cases for his Amendment that could be made. We are asked to declare:That this House, while recognising that some of the provisions in the Workmen's Compensation Act call for review, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill containing proposals of a complex and far-reaching character, which depart widely from the principles of the existing legislation and would throw on industry a heavy burden, the extent and effects of which it has had no adequate opportunity to investigate.775 I suggest to the hon. and learned Member that most of the points that he raised in his speech—and the same applies to subsequent speakers in support of the Amendment—are really Committee points. I am quite prepared to agree that this is not an ideal Bill, but I do not think that any Measures of importance has ever come before this House which did not need drastic changes.
§ Mr. Cape
There are many points that I should like embodied in the Bill, but, in view of the situation to-day, our proposals are largely confined, as I have already said, to the removal of some of the anomalies which exist, and we want to get the Measure through as expeditiously as possible. If all the Bills that were brought before this House for Second Reading were perfect, there would never be any need for a Committee stage. We say quite frankly that this Bill, if given a Second Reading, would be submitted to careful scrutiny in the Committee stage, where the various points which have been raised in the House this morning could be examined, and we think they could be met.
The hon. and learned Member for East Leicester does not regard with favour the proposal as to compulsory insurance, a proposal which seems to have attracted more interest than the other side of the Bill in which we are very much interested, namely, that of the payments to the injured person. I would point out, however, that already compulsory insurance has been advocated in Parliament, and that that condition was imposed on the coal owners of this country. It is a very good institution, and has made the position of the miner much safer, if he is subject to an accident, than it previously was. Surely it is not assumed by hon. Members that the mining industry is the only industry in which there are bankruptcies and arrangements with creditors. Cases of bankruptcy and cases where people have made agreements with their creditors or gone into liquidation occur in every industry, and the people who 776 are most likely to be left without compensation in case of accident are those who are working for small employers. Therefore, in our Bill we deal, not only with the workmen in large industries, but with those working for all employers, whether large or small, with the object of securing for them, if they are unfortunate enough to meet with accidents, a continuance of their compensation payments. Figures were quoted by the hon. Member for Hitchin in regard to the huge profits that are made by insurance companies, and to the prices of shares and the nominal prices of shares. Everybody who follows these things knows that what he said was true, and I cannot see that there need be any extraordinary burden involved.
I said at the outset that I did not intend to make a minute examination of the Bill. The Mover and Seconder of the Bill put fairly to the House what it requires. But in regard to one or two points, I think it is well that they might be emphasised. Take, for instance, the man who is incapacitated from following his employment. He gets paid on his average earnings for 12 months. Slack time, and such things as that, have to be taken into consideration when arriving at the average wage. In a large number of industries, owing to bad trade, breakdowns and other things, men may work three, four or five days a week for a considerable number of weeks in the year, and it may be that a man who is earning a pretty reasonable wage when working in the normal way would, consequently, receive only 50 per cent. of the normal wage. We want to change that. We ask that he shall receive 75 per cent. of the normal wage. We are quite satisfied that some hon. Members may find it difficult to define what is meant by the normal wage, but in the Committee stage that should be very easily worked out. What we want really is that the man who is injured shall have at least 75 per cent. of the wages that he earned under fair conditions.
In regard to the amount of money paid to widows and dependants of men who lose their lives in industry, there is something to be said. Many of these payments are set aside and then left to discussion as to how they shall be paid. I think that every hon. Member who has expressed an opinion has said that the 777 lump sums paid now to widows and dependants are not adequate, so that in Committee, if the Committee thought it desirable to specify what the lump sum should be, Amendments might be moved, and probably might be accepted. I see in the Bill great possibilities for a really good searching inquiry on the Committee stage, and at the end, probably with some alteration, the Bill could be made workable, and would, at any rate, bring some immediate relief to those who really need it.
Coming back to the question of insurance. I would point out that the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester, in his Amendment, said that these people have not had time to make adequate inquiries. Surely he does not think, and the House does not think, that insurance companies had not an idea of what the costs would be; but, in any case, let them bear in mind that this Bill is not to take effect until 1st January, 1939. Therefore, there is from November, 1937, to January, 1939, for them to make all the arrangements and preparations for giving effect to these Clauses. We are told by some hon. Members that there are certain committees sitting; a committee on this, a committee on that and a committee on the other. Believe me, although I am a Member of this House, I have lost count of all the Committees that are now sitting, inquiring into matters which this House would be able to deal with itself, but has anybody any assurance that, with the time taken for the committees' inquiries and then for the House to consider the reports, it will be anywhere within the immediate neighbourhood of five years before effect is given to the recommendations. We shall be prepared, if all these reports come out and the Government take the responsibility of bringing in a wide measure, to go into the matter at that time, but there is need for an immediate change in the methods of compensation.
That is what we are out for. We are not trying to persuade anybody that the Bill is ideal, or that it in any way meets the full requirements of men who are unfortunate enough to be injured in industry. We are asking that something should be done immediately and expeditiously, so that men now suffering from injuries and disabilities connected with their work shall get some more ade- 778 quate compensation and recognition between now and the time when a larger and more comprehensive Measure may be dealt with by the House. Therefore, I beg to support the Bill.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Bull
I agree with almost every hon. Member who has spoken that the whole of the workmen's compensation system needs immediate reconsideration, and I sincerely hope that the Government will take note of the almost unanimous opinion of the House in that regard, that we would like to see soon some revision of the law in regard to workmen's compensation. It has been obvious for some time that the 30s. weekly limit for total incapacity is too low in many cases, and that it makes for hardship, and, as has been mentioned many times this morning, the giving of lump-sum payments in the case of accidents resulting in death is probably undesirable. If we do adhere to lump-sum payments, I think they are too low, but the whole law should be re-considered, and not just any particular part. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) suggested that we should have some comprehensive measure for insurance: for example, that it should go in with National Health Insurance. He suggested that the workmen should also pay contributions. That may or may not be advisable, but I still think that workmen's compensation should be put in with National Health Insurance, even if the workmen did not pay a contribution in this regard. Of course, the employers in some of the dangerous trades would have to pay a higher rate for insurance than other employers. The hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Motion referred to the amounts that were being spent upon air-raid precautions, which did not seem to me to have a great deal to do with this Bill, but I would remind him that it would not be worth while discussing Workmen's Compensation at all unless we spent whatever amounts are required for air-raid precautions. In Clause 1, Subsection (r, e) the question of the foster-mother is mentioned and the payment that she should receive, and I really cannot see why she should get as much as a widow.
§ Mr. Bull
On page 2 of the Bill it provides, for example, in the case of a widow and three children, that the widow shall get 50 per cent. of the earnings of the deceased husband and each child one-third of the amount which the widow receives, and that means that they would be receiving the total earnings of the workman if he were alive. Surely, the most expensive unit of the family as a rule is the father, and it does not seem quite right that the family should be a great deal better off on account of the father's death. Clauses 5 and 6 suggest various minor alterations as to medical referees by the substitution of a medical board in certain circumstances. I entirely agree that the existing provisions as to medical examination of workmen need serious reconsideration with a view to simplification and the removal of technicalities on account of the many decisions of the Courts and the regulations which have been made on this subject, but it would be hopeless to deal with the question piecemeal. There are, for example, in the regulations for medical referees issued in 1932, 46 different rules, some of many clauses, and the whole question requires to be gone into.
With regard to Clause 9, which deals with the effect of certain contracts of insurance, it would be a good thing that employers should have to insure in principle, the same as motor drivers, and insurance companies should not be allowed to wriggle out of their contracts on technical grounds. I entirely agree with that, but according to the Bill, however great the conspiracy or fraud of an insurer, the insurance company would always have to pay without the right of appeal to any tribunal, such as is provided in Section ro (3) of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, under which you can get a declaration from the Court as to fraud etc. There is not even any provision in the Bill by which you could cancel the insurance even before a claim is made, because in Clause 9, Sub-section (4,a) it says—The insurer shall be deemed not to be, and never to have been, entitled to avoid the contract.
§ Mr. Silverman
Will the hon. Gentleman read the whole of the sentence—To avoid the contract on the ground of any misrepresentation or non-disclosure of material facts.The hon. Member said that you could not Cancel it before any claim was made.
§ Mr. Bull
However that may be, I still think that the matter wants looking into further. Many insurance companies would be most reluctant to undertake insurance of that nature. If such a provision as that contained in Clause 9 dealing with insurance is to be brought into the Bill, I seriously suggest that a closer study of the road traffic provisions is required to see whether its provisions should not be adapted to this class of insurance.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Dobbie
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), in introducing this Bill, dealt with the principles of it in a way which only one with a long experience could do. It is a modest Bill; it does not ask for much, and that for which it asks is long overdue. The hon. Member dealt with the question of the meanness of existing payments, and every subsequent speaker has admitted that the payments in compensation for injuries received are mean and not at all adequate to meet the situation. I hope that the Government and their supporters will give the Bill a Second Reading, and consequently provide an opportunity, if it is so desired, to amend it in Committee. The illustrations that were given by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), in which he dealt with the deterioration of workmen in receipt of compensation benefit and of the dependants and of their homes, could be multiplied by hundreds by those of us who have had experience in the workshops and in the factories in dealing with the question of compensation and compensation allowances. Illustrations have also been given in regard to the difference in allowances made in respect of death in the workshop and on the highway. But nobody who is opposing the Bill has yet been able to say why death should be so much cheaper if it comes in the workshop than it is if it comes on the highway.
There are only two other points in the Bill with which I wish to deal. One is the question of light employment after a man has been deemed competent to return to industry and to take up light employment. The railway industry with 781 which I am associated is peculiar to the certifying of men for light employment. When we come to the position of a man who probably has lost an arm or a leg or part of an arm or a leg, that man, being certified for light employment, is probably given a job as crossing-gate keeper. He is generally a 24-hour-a-day man. It may surprise hon. Members to know that in these days people are called upon to be responsible for duty for 24 hours a day. Nearly all the crossing-gate keepers are in that position. All that the crossing-gate keeper gets is his wages as a gatekeeper, plus half the loss in earnings. He suffers physical discomfort. He is cut away from all social life, called up at all hours of the day and night and becomes a social outcast, and suffers a loss in his income, all because he has been unlucky enough to be a victim of industry.
Here is the case of a man who lost his right leg below the knee. He was an eight-hour-day roan. He had six turns of duty a week, making 48 hours a week. His average wages were £3 a week. Work was found for him at a crossing-gate when he was certified for light duties. That man now has to do 24 hours a day. He has to be responsible on duty for keeping the crossing-gate open to let the trains pass. He is on duty 24 hours a day for seven days a week, but by a concession the companies have agreed that he may have one day off once a month. Apart from the loss of his leg and the general inconvenience, that man suffers under the Compensation Act as it exists to-day a loss of 5s. a week. That case is only typical of many instances that one could give.
Last Wednesday we heard hon. Members opposite defending the continuity of private ownership and control of industry when we were discussing the question of public ownership. This Bill presents a great chance for them to demonstrate that they are fit to control industry and that they have something more than private profit as their outlook. They can demonstrate their sincerity by voting for the Bill and giving an opportunity for it to be dealt with in Committee. The hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment was full of sympathy. It used to be an argument when we brought forward a Bill that it was a badly drafted Bill and that we had better take it back and draft something better. Hon. 782 Members opposite used to attack our capacity for producing a decently framed Bill. They have not done that to-day. They have not said that this is a case where employer and employed ought to settle the matter by agreement. They are full of sympathy, but they say that this is a case for a major Bill and that the Government should be responsible. Will the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment give us an assurance that in the immediate future the Government will produce a major Bill containing all the things that are in this Bill? Will the Minister who replies give us that assurance? If they will not do that, they have no right to ask us to depend on the Government doing it. Unless the Government are prepared to to it, then it is the sacred duty of hon. Members opposite to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.
The hon. and learned Member thinks that this is an undesirable Bill, but he agrees that 30s. is not enough to allow an injured workman, and he suggests that industry is prepared to pay more. He has a good opportunity to-day of proving that industry is prepared to do that, by voting for the Bill. I hope that other hon. Members on the Government side will show their sympathy in the same way. They profess their sympathy, but their attendance at the present time would not seem to prove that. Therefore, I must address my appeal to the one supporter of the Government who sits opposite. The hon. and learned Member points to the clock, indicating that it is feeding time. I would point out that the men and women whose interests we are representing to-day have also their feeding time, and we are desirous of so improving the conditions that when they become victims of industry they will be able to have an assured meal time. Thousands of our people when they become victims of industrial accidents, together with their wives and children, are often short of food. That is a reflection on the hon. and learned Member opposite and those associated with him.
The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that the accidents were predominantly accidents to unskilled and casual workers. I worked in' a railway workshop for 35 years, where thousands of men were employed, highly skilled engineers, locomotive constructors, wagon and carriage builders, saw-mill 783 workers, joiners and carpenters, men of high skill and technical knowledge, yet the incidence of accidents was very high among those skilled, permanently employed men. One hon. Member said that the cost of this Bill to the employers would be considerably raised. That is the kernel of objection from hon. Members opposite. The cost may be raised, and it is right that it should be raised, and we are determined to prosecute this cause until we get justice for the men and women who are the victims of industrial accidents.
The Bill would make the controllers of industry more careful in regard to the safeguarding of machinery and more careful about conditions inside the factory as regards cleanliness and other matters which would tend to prevent industrial diseases. I welcome the substitution of a medical board for the medical referee. I, like most other members on this side, have had many experiences in cases of industrial disease, especially when the disease known as dermatitis was very rife. We have had many instances of a doctor certifying a man or woman as suffering from an industrial disease and the medical referee disputed it, and against his decision there was no appeal. We should feel more confidence, and the workers generally would feel more confidence, if a board of three independent men, apart from the medical referee and the worker's own doctor, could sit in judgment and decide the case on its merits. We should be more satisfied. I would ask the two supporters of the Government who are now listening to me, and I would ask those who are dining and probably wining—they are always whining—to support the Bill on Second Reading and give an opportunity for its amendment in the Committee stage.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Fleming
I think the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) rather spoilt his speech by his concluding remarks about hon. Members who were not in the House but who had taken the opportunity to have something to eat, because 'when I came into the House at Eleven "o'clock this morning there were far more hon. Members on the Opposition side than there are now. I am sorry that the hon. Member who seconded the Second Reading of the Bill is not here because I 784 have one or two observations to make on what he said. Indeed, the hon. Member for Rotherham disagrees as I do, with one remark which the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) made. The hon. Member for Rotherham said that the question of costs was the one question involved in these changes. That is exactly my opinion. Surely when we are considering a Bill dealing with workmen's compensation, a Bill which is bound to affect not only those who are going to obtain compensation but all the industries concerned, we must remember the varying periods of slump and prosperity which overtake industry and that there is bound to be a time in the most prosperous concerns when the margin of safety becomes very small indeed.
When I was practising in Manchester in the matter of workmen's compensation—I hade a large practice—I became aware of the grave danger of firms going bankrupt. There is a great danger indeed, but there is also the danger of insurance companies going bankrupt. That point has not been referred to so far. Actually people who have insured their motor cars against third party risks have found, when the insurance company has gone bankrupt, that they have been called upon to pay up, although they were technically insured but not legally insured. Is such a contingency covered in this Bill? This may be a Committee point but it is an exceedingly important point when you are considering compulsory insurance. I have raised it before. To-day motorists, although they are enjoying, that is the phrase, compulsory insurance in regard to accidents, find that there is nothing to cover the case of an insurance company suddenly going bankrupt and leaving them in the air.
§ Mr. Silverman
As I understand the point of the hon. and learned Member it is that there is a danger not merely of the employer going bankrupt but of the insurance company going bankrupt and that therefore an injured workman will not get his claim paid. Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that if you make insurance compulsory and the actuarial basis on which the premium has been worked out has been correctly worked out, in no circumstances can an insurance company go bankrupt? That is why you have the principle of compulsory insurance, to see that every 785 possible claim is covered by the appropriate actuarial premium.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
The principle was laid down in the 1934 Act and the hon. and learned Member did not oppose that Act.
§ Mr. Fleming
The hon. Member for Nelson and Co/tie (Mr. Silverman) or some other foreign parts misses the whole point of my argument. I am not suggesting that a workman under compulsory insurance might not be covered, but that as regards compulsory insurance, so far as motorists are concerned, there have been cases within the last three years where an insurance company has been allowed to issue premiums and where the person insured has not been covered when the company has gone bankrupt. I myself had a motor insurance with a company which had to be taken over by another company. It was done within 24 hours, but technically I was not insured and if I had taken my car out I should have been liable to be prosecuted. Compulsory insurance is a very difficult and complicated matter and should be thoroughly investigated. Although I am in favour of compulsory insurance I do not want to make it a burden either on the worker, as it might be, or on the employer. I want the matter to be thoroughly investigated before any such scheme is adopted. That is why I have mentioned the question of costs which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson). He belongs to a party which never considers costs until things become so difficult that the electors make them think. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) said that the principle of compulsion has been admitted, and he quoted the Measure of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) in relation to the coal mines.
Surely because this House introduced compulsion in regard to military service during the War we cannot be held up as being in favour of conscription to-day. I served in the Army during the War and I was spoken of as a volunteer. Other men came in who were spoken of as conscripts, a word I never liked. Compulsory military service during the War was not strict enough to rope in some of those I should like to have seen roped in. However, there was a system of compulsion as regards military service, and 786 to-day I have heard hon. Members talking about compulsion as regards insurance as though, because it has been adopted in one direction, it is bound to be adopted in another. That is not at all the case, and I do not follow that sort of reasoning. [Interruption.] The reasoning of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is never worth following, but I am sure that hon. Members opposite who understand the subject of workmen's compensation will agree with me that in dealing with this vast subject, which has covered years and years of litigation in our courts, which has filled book after book of decided cases, and in connection with which the law has become thoroughly chaotic, the time has arrived for dealing with the matter in some other way than the patchwork fashion in which this Bill does it. That is my view, although perhaps it is not the view of the hon. Member for Fife.
In my view and that of the majority of lawyers in the North, who have dealt with workmen's compensation for years, this Bill would not improve the position to the extent that some hon. Members imagine. What we have wanted to see, ever since the Holman-Gregory Report was issued, has been some handling of the matter of workmen's compensation in the way adumbrated by the late Lord Birkenhead when, as Mr. F. E. Smith, he was a Member of this House. The matter should be dealt with from the beginning. The time is ripe for that. It is of no use trying to patch up the old original structure of workmen's compensation, which has now been rendered almost unrecognisable in some parts by decided cases. However, from those decided cases it should not be a difficult matter for a Government that wants to tackle the job—
§ Mr. Fleming
It would not be difficult for a Government in this country—I will put it in that way so that there will be no mistake—to bring forward a Bill on a comprehensive scale which would deal with the matter of workmen's compensation in the way in which it ought to be dealt with. I make no complaint as 787 regards the limit of 30s. a week mentioned by the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones). As far as I am concerned, that is as old as the hills. I have never heard it said by any lawyer in Manchester that £600 is sufficient as a maximum in the case of death. Reference was made in the Holman Gregory Report to £800. I should take the round figure of r,000 to-day, because things have tremendously changed in our part of the country since that report was issued.
I differ entirely from the hon. Member who seconded the Motion on the question of costs. The question of insurance, which has been treated so lightly and in some cases flippantly, is to my mind of fundamental importance in a Bill of this character. The hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal Benches referred to the question of insurance, and I quite agree with his statement that a more careful examination of the question should be made by Members of the House. The hon. Member referred to the small employer. I do not expect hon. Members opposite give much consideration to any employer, however small he may be; but I was not surprised that some thought was given to the small employer by the hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal Benches. There are thousands and thousands of small employers in the part of the country from which I come, and perhaps in the future they will he big employers. Some of the biggest employers in this country have come from Lancashire and Yorkshire—
§ Mr. Fleming
Most of them have started as small employers. If the initiative of these men is to be crippled at the begininng, when they are employing only a few workmen, industry will be stultified, and that is the last thing which I, as a member of the Conservative party, want to see.
§ Mr. Fleming
The hon. Member is wrong. He could not mention anything I have ever said or done which would justify him in saying that I wish to stultify any man, woman or child in this country.
§ Mr. Fleming
Not in the least. That is where the hon. Member's reasoning is so different from mine. Time will show that the reasoning of those who support this Bill is wrong. There is no lawyer who knows this subject and who has had practical experience of it, who wants to see workmen's compensation tackled by patchwork Bills of this nature. I do not intend to deal with the Bill in detail, but I would like to refer to one provision in order to prove that it is a patchwork Bill. If hon. Members will look at Clause r, they will see that it states:Section eight of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925 (hereinafter referred to as 'the principal Act') is hereby repealed.That is a familiar expression, and I am sick of seeing it in Bills. I assure hon. Members opposite that there are very few lawyers in this country—or perhaps I should say, out of respect for some of the lawyers on the other side, barristers in this country—who are not sick and tired of seeing that provision in our Statutes. There is a general feeling that where there is a big collection of decided cases in any particular branch of law, at some period it should either be codified or dealt with afresh. This matter was touched upon years ago by the late Lord Birkenhead when he was still practising, and his idea—one which is still sound—as to what should be done with the Workmen's Compensation Act was not that it should be patched up by Private Members' Bills, but that it should be tackled by the Government of the day, whether a Conservative Government, a Liberal Government—if ever there should be such a thing again—or a Socialist Government, and put on a proper footing.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
May I point out to the hon. and learned Member that this is a Bill to amend the 1925 Act? If the hon. and learned Member had been drafting a Bill to amend that Act, how would he have done it?
§ Mr. Fleming
Once again the hon. Member has missed entirely the idea behind my remarks. I said that I am sick and tired of amending Bills. So why should I bring in an amending Bill? I do not want to see any more amending Bills regarding workmen's compensation. I want to see the whole matter dealt with pro- 789 perly in a new Bill. I hope that is clear even to the hon. Member who is leading the Liberal party at present. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) spoke of how insurance companies fight cases and there was a good deal of truth in what he said about insurance companies trying to settle cases on the cheapest possible basis. I know that from experience and so does every man who has taken part in these cases, but surely that is a business way of looking at these matters. It is another reason why I would like to see insurance put on a proper footing, so that instead of individual companies coming into court the whole thing would be properly administered by one representative body.
The hon. Member also mentioned the question of malingering, though I do not think he called it by that name. I entirely disagree with him about that, let him call it what he likes. I have had more experience of workmen's compensation matters than he has had, and I have appeared more often for the workman than for the employer. I say frankly that although I met several malingerers during the War—we called them "lead-swingers"—after the War I never met one case of malingering, as regards workmen's compensation. I tell the House this from my experience, that it is extremely difficult, as things are, for a workman to be a malingerer. If he succeeds against the medical evidence, or I should say the medical weight brought by the insurance company, then I think he is entitled to be a malingerer. But as I say I have not come across a single instance of such a thing succeeding. On the other hand, I have time and again seen cases in which the weight of medical evidence has compelled the judge to say that a man was fit for light duty, when he was palpably, to us as laymen, unfit for any duty at all.
That brings me to the point mentioned, I think, by the Seconder of the Motion regarding the medical referee. He said referring to this "modest little Bill" as he called it, that the question in these cases should not be left to one man in the person of the medical referee. It is not so left in the county courts. Once in my ignorance I submitted to a learned county court judge that a case was being decided by the medical referee. He soon put me on the right lines. The medical referee 790 never decides any case in any county court—I am speaking now of course of workmen's compensation. The final decision is with the judge and the medical referee does not decide.
§ Mr. Fleming
I gave way quite willingly when the cohorts opposite rose, but now they seem to have subsided.
§ Mr. Silverman
Does the hon. and learned Member say that when a case under the Workmen's Compensation Act has been referred to the medical referee and the medical referee has given his certificate that the man has or has not recovered, the county court judge is not bound by that certificate?
§ Mr. Fleming
Again the hon. Member has missed the gist of my remarks. I never used the word "certificate"—[Interruption]—Of course the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has not the slightest idea of what we are talking about.
§ Mr. Fleming
It is a purely legal point and the hon. Member is thoroughly enjoying it, but those who are taking notice of what I am saying and particularly those with legal training, will have observed that I did not mention anything about certificates.
§ Mr. Fleming
I think I agree with the advice just given to hon. Members opposite by, I thing, the hon. Member who seconded the Motion and others. [HON. MEMBERS "You are not worth it."] When there are medical assessors sitting with the judge—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, that is where the confusion arose and it arose on the other side.
§ Mr. Fleming
I say that when these medical gentlemen are sitting with the judge then the judge has undoubtedly the final word in Court in the majority of cases. There is a tendency to have cases 791 of compensation dealt with in that manner with medical assessors sitting with the judge. Now the suggestion is made that these matters should be left to a sort of medical board, following I suppose the old idea of the Army or Navy. It has not been made clear however what the duties of such a board are to be. I do not wish at this stage to deal with any Committee points but I am certain that if you base your case for the adoption of a medical board on the ground that you cannot trust one medical man, even one of great eminence in his profession, then you might as well put forward the argument which has been put forward in some other countries, that a judge should never sit alone to deal with any case, because it is not safe and that there should be at least three judges. I do not subscribe to that doctrine.
As regards the medical referee's certificate, time and again we have sent forward complaints on this very point, and have submitted that it should not be final. On that particular aspect of workmen's compensation, there is undoubtedly room for improvement. But to suggest that because of trouble in that one instance of the certificate, the whole system of medical referees should be washed out and something like a board substituted for it—that again is a proposal which needs very thorough investigation and it is no use suggesting that there is time for such investigation between now and 1st January, 1939. I would sooner see investigation into these insurance and other matters completed before the Bill receives a Second Reading. I would sooner see investigation before Second Reading in every instance. I had an experience in the last Parliament. I was very much opposed to the Government on one Bill and I found that after the Second Reading it was too late to get the views which had been advanced on behalf of Lancashire adopted by the Government although I was a supporter of the Government at the time. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) spoke of insurance companies taking advantage of the ignorance of applicants. There is no doubt there have been instance in which insurance companies have taken advantage of applicants.
§ Mr. Fleming
I agree with the hon. Member. I do not speak from my own knowledge, but I have heard of such cases. There have been a few in my experience. Again I put that forward as a matter which should be investigated, not after the Bill is halfway through, but before the Bill receives a Second Reading. Points which have been raised by hon. Members on the other side clearly support my view that it is before and not after Second Reading that there should be thorough investigation of all these matters before a headlong plunge is taken into a new province such as that of compulsory insurance under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
Another question raised was that of the investment of lump sums of money paid under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I think this matter was mentioned by the hon. Member for Silvertown when he introduced the Bill. I agree with what he said about what has happened in the past in many parts of the country. There is no doubt that there are sharks waiting for those with lump sums of money. A particular device is that of offering to sell a small business. Around Manchester and in Lancashire generally it is a fish and chips business. The idea is that if you set up a widow in fish and chips all will be well. I know that in these matters the county court judge now has a great say as to what should be done with the money, but of course he cannot prevent any one of mature age from doing what she likes—it is generally a widow—with her money. County court judges do their utmost to persuade people in those circumstances to invest the money in Government stock, or at least to wait before buying particular businesses dangled before their eyes, but there is no doubt that the law needs tightening up to prevent sharks from battening on ignorant people who find themselves wealthy with a few hundred pounds.
I wish to compliment the hon. Member for Silvertown upon the way in which he introduced this Bill. To my surprise he dealt with the subject in a most temperate manner, and I particularly welcomed one phrase which he used. The hon. Member did not refer to incapacitated persons as lawyers do. He spoke of them as disabled, and I prefer that term because it puts the workman on the same plane as the soldier injured during the 793 War. I agree entirely with his concluding remarks. I see no reason whatever why a man who is injured in peace time doing lawful work should be any worse off than the soldier injured in war time. (An hon. Member: "And he is very well off, is he not?"). The hon. Member has taken the words out of my mouth. At the present time every ex-soldier, I think, will agree that the disabled man is not too well off. I would like to see the question of disability arising out of peace work or war work treated in the most comprehensive manner by the Government, so that the disabled man or the partially disabled man who did his bit during the War and has come back to take his place in industry would be properly looked after in case he suffers another injury whilst earning his livelihood during peace time.
That is a point which has not been mentioned by any hon. Member on the other side. Yet in many cases shortly after the War the partially disabled soldier was far worse off than the man who kept his job during the War and was injured after the War. The position of these people, although they are growing less and less in numbers, should be considered when we are dealing with workmen's compensation. All these points which have been brought forward by speakers on both sides of the House satisfy me at any rate that before any step is taken towards reforming the law relating to workmen's compensation there should be the most thorough investigation of every point that can be raised. Then we should be in a position to put forward a really comprehensive Bill.
§ 2.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Cassells
In speaking on this Bill, which I shall do with a full sense of responsibility as a Member of the House and a member of the legal profession, I feel that I should be failing in my duty if I did not say, so far at least as the last speech is concerned, that it was irrelevant to the discussion. The Amendment which is before the House is rather an interesting one. The first point of objection which it raises is that the House should decline to give a Second Reading to a Bill containing proposals of a very complex and far-reaching character which depart widely from the principles of existing legislation. I should have expected, when an Amendment of this character was brought forward, that some tangible 794 evidence would be adduced to justify the various points of objection, but there has not been one title of evidence adduced by any of the objectors to justify the statement that by the proposals in the Bill we raise questions of principle widely different from existing legislation.
The next point of objection is that it would throw on industry a heavy burden. Where is the evidence adduced to establish that point? The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that industry can stand it. I think we are entitled to draw the attention of the people of this country to the admission made in this House that the industries of the country can financially meet the demands which we insist should be made upon it. They say they object to it because the extent and effect of it are of such a character that they have had no adequate opportunity of investigating the whole matter. That seems to me to be typical of the objections invariably emanating from the Government side to any Measure of any sort emanating from these benches. If the last speaker is to be consistent when he says that it should be the bounden obligation of the Government of the day to deal with a vexing problem such as this, how comes it that the Government of the day are not dealing with this issue at all?
The only answer which we have received is that there are two committees of inquiry sitting, namely, the Stewart Committee, which was set up in the early months of 1935, and the Committee dealing with the question of the treatment of individual workmen who have been injured. Repeatedly in this House, as the Under-Secretary of State knows, I have raised questions demanding from the Home Secretary to tell us particularly when the Stewart Committee's report is to be available, and we have had the astonishing suggestion made by one of the objectors to this Bill that after these two Committees' reports are received, the Government should consider the advisability of appointing another committee to deal jointly with these two reports. What are we sent to this House for? Are we sent here for the purpose of foisting, for that is what it amounts to, our individual responsibilities on matters of the utmost moment and importance upon persons who have absolutely nothing to do with this House?
795 Do the objectors to this Bill agree with these points—first, that there should be a system of compulsory insurance; secondly, that in so far as payments for compensation are concerned, in cases either of total or partial incapacity or of death, that these payments are inadequate; and, thirdly—
§ Mr. Cassells
Allow me. Thirdly, with regard to the system of medical referees, are they or are they not in favour of saying that that system has proved wholly ineffective? These are three perfectly simple points upon which any responsible Member of this House should be able, here and now, without waiting upon any Committees' reports, to stand up honestly and say that he agrees completely with them.
§ Mr. Cassells
Just allow me, please. Now I want to refer to the last speaker, who said that he agreed that the payment of 30s. a week was inadequate, that a lump-sum payment of £600 was inadequate, and that he was prepared to increase it to i,000. It is a very simple thing for me to stand here and say that I believe that things are wrong, but it is an entirely different matter for me to be sufficiently courageous to say that, not only are they wrong, but that I shall immediately see that they are rectified.
§ Mr. Cassells
Allow me to finish. I come then to the third point to which the hon. and learned Member referred, namely, the question of compulsory insurance. Is he aware that since the year 1934 there has been in existence in this country, in so far as the coal mines are concerned, a system of compulsory insurance? If that be the case, and if it has proved admirable for that industry, what cogent and reasonable argument of any kind can be brought against the self-same principle being advocated for other important industries in this country? There is absolutely none.
§ Mr. Cassells
In the first instance, what is the main point in this Bill? In my opinion, the main point is that of compulsory insurance by one of two methods. On Friday last we were discussing the question of holidays with pay, and one of the main criticisms levelled against us was that, although we advocated the inauguration of such a principle, we did not, in the Bill then before the House, lay down the machinery whereby that principle could be put into operation. That argument certainly cannot be urged against us to-day, because, as the hon. member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) stated, we have laid down in this Bill proper machinery whereby this particular system of compulsory insurance can be set into operation. Is it necessary to have a system of compulsory insurance? I think I am entitled to say that, in so far as practical experience of the Workmen's Compensation Acts is concerned, both in and out of the courts, in practically every inferior court in Scotland, I have had a very considerable and wide experience of the subject. I do not put that before the House from any self-praise point of view, but, after all, is the House not prepared to pay due and proper attention to the opinions of persons who have had that particular type of experience?
I find, on referring to Willis's "Workmen's Compensation Manual," that the object of the Section dealing with the insolvency of the employer is to extend to an injured workman some remedy against loss of compensation arising from that insolvency. Furthermore, in that same volume, which is the most important volume dealing with workmen's compensation law, there are no fewer than nine full pages devoted to cases arising in the courts as a result of the insolvency of employers. Does that not prove that we are completely justified in coming before this House and submitting for consideration the statement that things as they are are not precisely what they should be? Apart from that, if one refers to the Road Traffic Act, 1934, the last speaker from the Government benches 797 said that there were cases under that Act in which the insurance company itself became insolvent. I do not dispute that at all, but I do say—and I defy contradiction upon it—that the Home Office regulations with regard to the financial standing of insurance companies are certainly much more strict to-day than they were in the past, all for the one purpose, a very proper purpose indeed, of seeing that if an insurance company is to carry risks of any sort, it shall be of such a financial standing as to be able to meet its financial commitments if and when the demand arises. If it is a fitting and proper thing to demand compulsory insurance under road traffic conditions, is it not much more fitting and proper to demand that there should be a similar system in regard to industrial accidents? May I put it another way? Are not the hazards undergone by, for example, a workman in the mines of a much more serious character than the hazards undergone by the average pedestrian?
Let me refer hon. Members to such an industrial disease as silicosis, a desperate disease, as the Under-Secretary has previously admitted, from which in the average case there is no recovery. Reference was made by the last speaker to the scheduled industrial disease of nystagmus, to which the Under-Secretary referred on 13th November, 1936, when he stated that, from the information he had received, it was what he described as a psycho-neurotic condition. Medical men who specialise in that disease admit that once a man has contracted it he may for a short time outwardly recover, but that at all times there is still the latent possibility of another disabling attack. Benzol and lead poisoning are in a similar position. The suggestion in this Bill lo inaugurate the system of compulsory insurance is a forward step. I put it even further than that, and say it is in the interests of the State that all injured men should be so protected as to permit of their obtaining proper and adequate compensation when they are disabled.
I had intended to refer to the question of the scale of payments under this Bill, but in view of the shortness of time and the fact that other hon. Members have referred to it, I shall not dwell on it except from the point of view of the case where a workman is in receipt of partial compensation. My purpose in raising the 798 point is to deny flatly the statement which was made by the Under-Secretary when speaking on our last Workmen's Compensation Bill on 13th November, 1936. He then said:As regards the system of lump-sum settlements, there seems to be no doubt from inquiries which I have made that lump-sum settlements are popular among the workmen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, £3th Nov., 1936; Col. 1298, Vol. 317.]It is correct to say that there are many cases where workmen are compelled through force of circumstances over which they have no control to effect lump-sum settlements. Le me postulate the case of a workman who is in receipt of partial compensation. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman for his information that the average payment of workman's compensation in Scotland is between 10s. and 12S. 6d. per week and no more. Visualise a workman living with his wife and family of three or four endeavouring to subsist upon such a paltry sum, with, I admit, help from public assistance or unemployment benefit. Ultimately, the wife becomes disgruntled and says to her husband, "John, we cannot go on living like this; something has got to be done about it." The inevitable result, so low are these payments under the 1925 Act, is that the man is compelled unwillingly to settle his claim with the employer's insurance company for a much smaller sum than that to which he is legally entitled. It may be said that the memorandum of agreement ultimately comes before the registrar of the court in England or the sheriff clerk in Scotland and that he is bound to consider whether the lum-sum settlement is adequate or not.
My experience of these settlements has taught me that, unless there are objections from the workman's trade union, the settlement goes through. Only a few weeks ago I had a case of a man who lost the fourth finger of his right hand above the knuckle. He was on partial compensation of 15s. a week and was forced to go to his late master and suggest a settlement. He settled it for himself for £17 10s., although he had a neuroma on the site of the original amputation. Objections were stated to that settlement by the representative of the man's trade union, and the matter was properly referred by the sheriff clerk to a medical referee. He stated that the probability was that in a short time the man would. 799 be recovered. As a result the settlement for 17 10s. went through. When that money has gone, as no doubt it has already to meet past liabilities, upon whom does the man become chargeable? He becomes chargeable to the public assistance authorities, and the very people who complain about high public assistance rates are Members on the other side who are, to say the least of it, mainly responsible for such a condition.
The effect of these low rates of payment makes for domestic unrest, for inability to obtain nourishment, for brooding and neurasthenia. They make for easy lump settlements and for men being thrown on to public assistance relief. There is a case pending before the Scottish Courts raising an important point concerning public assistance relief. A man living in the Edinburgh district is in receipt of partial compensation for roughly a year. At the end of that time the man, who is permanently disabled through a compression fracture of the spine, goes to his employer's insurance company and negotiates a lump-sum settlement of 200. The partial compensation paid to the man was very low, and when he was receiving it he did not have unemployment benefit, but had public assistance relief. The position in Scotland now is that the public assistance department are demanding from the 200 every penny which they have given to the man in public assistance. I understand that that system operates in England also.
Reference was made by the last speaker to the position of medical referees. I begin to wonder whether the hon. Member is as conversant as he would ask the House to believe with the substantial difference between a medical referee, qua medical referee, and one who is sitting as a medical assessor. There is all the difference in the world between the man in the one capacity and in the other capacity. Where a medical referee is sitting as medical assessor he is advising the presiding judge only on what he personally thinks is the medical position, and the presiding judge is not bound by his opinion; but when there is either a joint application or an ex parte application made to an individual medical referee, and that medical referee's report comes back to the Court, if the report is unambiguous the presiding judge has absolutely no discretionary power of any 800 kind, and is compelled to accept the findings of that medical referee. Are hon. Members opposite honestly satisfied with the present system of medical referees, when all who have experience know that the whole future destiny of the workman, and of his wife and family also, depends almost exclusively upon whether or not the medical referee accepts the view of the workman's doctor and the workman himself.
Reference has been made to the question of the bona fides of medical referees. I am not going to attack in any way the bona fides of medical referees, but I know of many instances of medical referees who, when they are not acting as medical referees, are actually called upon by insurance companies, as representing employers, to examine workmen on behalf of the employers. Let us be fair to these medical referees. Let us realise that if a medical man has been in the habit of examining workmen on behalf of employers he acquires, unwittingly, but quite honestly, the employer's complex. He does not see the case from the workman's point of view at all. He is unwittingly compelled to see the case from the employer's point of view.
Let me give these typical illustrations, because illustrations prove the case. I can quote a case of a workman suffering from what is known in medical language as traumatic spondylitis, compression fracture of the spine. His own medical adviser is a medical referee. The employer's doctor examines the man and certifies that he is fit and recovered for work. He goes to his own doctor, who is a medical referee. His own doctor states, "You are totally disabled for any employment." In the medical dispute which arises the case goes before an arbiter, and he remits the question, on joint motion, to another medical referee. The other medical referee completely jettisons the opinion of the mans' own medical adviser, who is himself a medical referee, and certifies that in that particular case the man has recovered and is fit for his ordinary work. What would have been the position if that case, instead of having been referred to the outside medical referee, had been referred to the man's own medical adviser? That medical man, who has been appointed a referee by the Secretary of State, a man of unbiased opinion, a man of wide experience in 801 surgical matters, knows that so far as that particular case is concerned his medical opinion does not matter one little bit.
I could quote case after case to justify the attitude which we take up. I can quote a case dealing with the bona fides of medical referees. A man suffering from a injury to the cartilage of the knee went before this particular medical referee and I sat in the medical referee's room during the medical examination and saw happenings there which simply horrified me. The medical referee said to the man, who was writhing in agony on the floor, "Unless you can dislodge your cartilage here and now, you are going to be certified as fit for ordinary work." The man was unable to dislodge his cartilage at that particular time, and the report came out "Fully recovered, fit for ordinary work," and so the case ended. It is a perfectly simple thing for hon. Members on the other side to say that they believe that things as they are are wrong, and that in the near future this Government may possibly bring in the necessary legislation. We are sick and tired to death of hearing promises emanating from the Benches on the other side. Promises cost absolutely nothing. It is action we want, and it is action which we insist upon.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I am glad of the opportunity of saying a few words [thought I should have been able to compliment all the speakers on brevity having characterised the entire Debate. Up to about half-past one things had gone on remarkably well, and I thought they would continue to do so, but several hon. Members did not take that point of view, and extended themselves to the detriment of others who seek a chance of speaking. I want to tell the House of the difficulties with which we have been faced in trying to deal with workmen's compensation. For several years we brought in a large comprehensive Measure, and every time we did so we were told by hon. Members opposite and on the Liberal Benches that if only we would bring in a narrower Bill we could get the House to agree to it. So we put our heads together and decided to draw up a Bill dealing not with the larger issues but with some points which ought to be cleared up at once, and as soon as we do that we are again assailed 802 by both sides, one saying that we do not go far enough and the other that we have gone too far. What we had better do in future is to present the Bill we want and take the chance of the House accepting it or rejecting it.
I have been amazed at the knowledge displayed in regard to medical referees. The hon. Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), for whom I have a great regard on other matters, does not seem to have a grasp of this particular point. When a man is said by the employer's doctor to be fit for light work and we dispute that and supply a medical report to the opposite effect, it is left to the Registrar. to submit the case to a medical referee, and whichever way the medical referee decides, his decision will prevail in 999 cases of out £000. There is no hope of success in taking the case to court after it has been submitted to the medical referee, and therefore neither party attempts to do it. So many cases have been decided that in the main we agree to accept the medical referee's decision. We want the present position altered, because we say that in place of leaving it to one person to decide a man's destiny, it should be left to three men to do it.
I want to give a number of instances in which men have gone before medical referees and have been dissatisfied with the ruling of one man. They have felt that their livelihood depended upon the case, and it has made a bad impression upon them when he has decided against them. I am not saying that he is not right but, in fairness to the men, and because of the feeling aroused, it would be far better that three men were called in to give the decision. Should three men give a unanimous decision, the sense of grievance would be removed from men's minds. In view of the many instances, I suggest that the Home Secretary should attempt to do something in this direction, whatever be the fate of the Bill. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has power to do so and that it would not require an Act of Parliament to alter the number of referees from one to three.
I have referred on previous occasions to the subject of the amount that is paid in fatal cases. It is true that the Act allows the payment of £600 in certain eventualities, the amount to be paid to the widow being £300 and a similar sum for dependent children, but if the workman was injured for a certain length of 803 time and has drawn his weekly amount of compensation, this amount can be deducted from the sum paid to the widow, if this sum does not fall below £200. That seems a travesty of compensation. The man has been lying upon a sick bed, dying all the time, and the amount that has been paid to him in weekly compensation can be deducted from the sum paid to his widow when this sum is between 200 and 300. That was never contemplated in the Act of Parliament, and I question whether hon. Members are aware that it can happen.
Whatever may be the fate of the Bill—and I do not think we can carry it, to judge by the opposition—I hope that the agitation from these Benches, and our statement of the facts of what is going on in workmen's compensation, will appeal to hon. Members opposite as something that needs the immediate attention of Parliament. When the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) seconded the Amendment he said that employers could be depended upon to look after the interests of their workmen. Is he aware of what has happened in this House? Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was the first man in this House to agitate for the protection of the workman against the employer. West Birmingham was represented by his son. Now the hon. Member who represents West Birmingham uses that argument that employers will look after the interests of their workmen. They will not do so, and that is why we ask the House to provide that the workman is protected more than he is at present.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Gridley
I hope I may be forgiven if I present rather hurriedly the remarks which I would like to contribute upon this very important subject. A most forceful appeal was made from the Benches opposite in the moderation of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Bill. The way in which they put their case made a far greater impression on these Benches than the somewhat more exaggerated claims sometimes made from the other side, and I found myself very largely in agreement with most of what they said. As an employer, I am convinced that the Compensation Acts, as they now stand on the Statute Book, have long needed improvement and bringing up to date, and I hope that in the lifetime 804 of the present Parliament that alteration will be achieved. After a perusal of the Bill I am not at all sure that what hon. Members opposite and on this side are anxious to bring about could be done by the Bill.
What, as prudent and careful legislators, ought we to safeguard in a new Measure? I think we have to consider what risks should be covered. I am not sure that the present Bill covers sufficient risks. What compensation ought fairly be given, and to whom? There again, considerable improvement could be made in the Bill. Thirdly, what form should the compensation take, lump sum or weekly payment? Opinion is divided on this point on both sides of the House. Lastly, what industries should be included? All industries, or certain specified industries? There are widely diversified risks, such as in high explosive factories on the one side and in the comparatively free-from-accident industries such as glove and hat making, on the other. All these questions are very important and they should receive the most careful consideration by wise legislators. Some of them are at the present moment being investigated by Committees.
Having decided what we wish to achieve, we ought to know what the cost is likely to be. As an employer, I am not prepared to face what is to-day an unlimited liability. The question of cost has already been raised to-day, as its always is on Bills of this kind. It is an old bogy, but I am not ashamed of referring to it again. We have been taunted by hon. Gentlemen opposite in various ways during the past few days about what is being done on this side of the House to plan for the next depression, when it comes. What is the answer of the Opposition? The day before yesterday, it was "Holidays with Pay"; the day before that it was "The Forty-hour week" and now it is "compulsory compensation". All such items are bound to involve us in extra costs. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsboro (Mr. A. V. Alexander) who, giving evidence before the committee which is now sitting, admitted that the society which he so well represents would have to face, if they gave one week's holiday with pay, an addition to their expenses of between 1600,000 and £700,000 a year. If the two-weeks demand were conceded, ob- 805 viously his society would be faced with an increased cost of something like 1,500,000 per annum.
It is not, however, the cost of bringing about the new method of compensation that I am troubled about, because I do not know what it is going to be. It may be that it can be done without inflicting any injury whatever upon industry, and if, after the matter has been thoroughly gone into, it is proved to my satisfaction that that would be so, I should find myself wholeheartedly in support of what hon. Gentlemen opposite desire to bring about. My own view is that we have now a long experience of the well understood and satisfactory working of the mutual insurance system, in the Unemployment Insurance Acts and similar measures, and I am not at all sure that the best method of tackling the problem before us to-day is not by means of some extension of that system whereby the State, the employer and the employé would contribute. If, after investigation, that method seems to us, as careful legislators, to be right, I think we should not to-day take a leap in the dark and support what I cannot for a moment consider is a good Bill, but one against the true interests of the workers. For that reason I regret that I am unable to support it.
§ 3.7 P.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
I would like, first of all, to congratulate the hon. Member for Silvertown. (Mr. J. Jones), who introduced this Bill, and the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson), who seconded, on the moderation of their speeches. Indeed, I noticed that both of them referred somewhat pointedly to what they described as the modest character of their Bill. I can only think that they were making that point in contradistinction to the Bill referred to by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), which has been brought forward by the party opposite on several previous occasions. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It is only an instalment."] Even if it is only an instalment, it is, from the Home Office point of view, an advance upon the Bill that used to be brought in, although I am afraid I shall have certain observations to make regarding it a little later. I think that, even if hon. Gentlemen opposite do not really believe in their hearts that it will be passed to-day, 806 though the hon. Member for Leigh said he hoped it would, they hope if possible to elicit some statement regarding the intentions of the Government. I shall come to that in due course.
I would also like to congratulate my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Amendment, and particularly, if I may say so, my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), to whom I do not think full justice has been done, particularly by the hon. Member for Leigh. The hon. Member took up my hon. Friend's remark that employers could be trusted to look after their own people, and rather gave the impression that that was the substance of my hon. Friend's speech, whereas I thought the most important thing in his speech was his observation, speaking as an industrialist, that industry, in his view, could stand a further burden, and would be prepared to stand a further burden, in regard to workmen's compensation, though not to the extent laid down in this particular Bill. I think that that statement, coming from an employer who, I think it may be as well to say, in view of his own modest self-abnegation, is regarded in Birmingham as a very good and progressive employer, is a statement which the House will appreciate. I do not quarrel with the hon. Member for Leigh, but I do not think he did full justice to my hon. Friend's speech.
§ Mr. Tinker
If I have misunderstood the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), I apologise, but I took it that he wanted the whole matter left to the employers to look after the interests of the workers. I do not agree with that.
§ Mr. Lloyd
My hon. Friend certainly committed himself to the positive statement that he thought 30s. was not enough. I think that that is within the recollection of the House.
I think perhaps I ought to refer shortly to the point made by the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells), in regard to my statement on the attitude of the workpeople to lump-sum settlements, when I said in a previous Debate that, from our information at the Home Office, lump sums were to a considerable degree popular with the workpeople. In spite of the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am afraid I cannot retract that statement, because we have a good deal 807 of information on the subject, but it will be put beyond doubt soon, because it is dealt with by the Stewart Committee, whose report will soon be available. They have taken very considerable evidence on the point, and it will be made quite clear.
I should like to deal with a number of subjects raised in the Bill and discussed to-day. The first is the question of compulsory insurance. I think all hon. Members appreciate the point that is made in regard to compulsory insurance, because it is a terrible hardship on the workman if, when he is supposed to be getting the benefits laid down by law, they are suddenly not available at a moment when he particularly needs them, owing to the bankruptcy of the employer. Our information is that only sporadic cases of this kind occur. I am just giving that statement because it is our information.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Surely the Minister has no information from South Wales, where workmen lost hundreds of thousands of pounds?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The hon. Member is proceeding on a misunderstanding, because I was just coming to the specific case of the coal industry, which has been dealt with in an Act. That has passed into the realm of history to some extent. I was referring to industries where the workers are not affected by compulsion. But, although the cases may be sporadic, they are so serious when they do occur that we have to take them into account, even though they may be few. The workman ought to be able to rely on getting his compensation. Turning to the coal industry, the facts are that there were 28 cases of liquidation in which loss of compensation occurred, affecting between 1,500 and 1,700 workmen and their dependants, and the loss of compensation amounted to '192,000. The circumstances in the coal industry were wholly exceptional. There was grave depression in trade, and there was a rather peculiar organisation of insurance arrangements in that the mutual indemnity associations had a rather limited type of insurance, in which very often the liability did not begin for six months, and occasionally an employer who was a member of the "mutual" ceased altogether to be a member, on bankruptcy. Therefore protection did not apply.
§ Mr. Lloyd
They actually refer to a period of approximately five years previous to the 1934 Act. That was the position in the coal industry; and the Home Office had a conference with the mutual indemnity associations, and were able to arrange, in consultation with them, an approved system. That was the really essential prerequisite to the passing of a satisfactory Bill. So far as our information at the Home Office goes, the Bill has been working satisfactorily, but I must point out that a "very big question is raised when you come to consider the extension of compulsory insurance over the whole field of other trades and employments. We must remember that workmen's compensation covers employments as well as trades. It is quite wrong to remain under the impression, which so many people have, that the insurance companies, for example, are the big factor in workmen's compensation. The actual figures with regard to the seven big industries which make returns to the Home Office show that 20 per cent. of the total is comprised of insurance companies, 61 per cent. of mutual indemnity associations of a nonprofit making character, and 19 per cent. of employers who insure their own risks.
The point that I wish to make is that the insurance companies, under the Statutes, have to make a very elaborate financial return to the Board of Trade and are liable to special examination and so forth. I hold in my hand one of the elaborate returns which have to be made by insurance companies conducting business in this country. That is all right, but as far as mutual indemnity associations are concerned, there is no safeguard of that kind. Many of these "mutuals" are quite small affairs, and there is no similar safeguard with regard to mutual indemnity associations. The point arises, therefore, whether it is right to lay a statutory obligation for insurance, either with an insurance company or with a mutual indemnity association, upon employers with a view to safeguarding the benefit of the workmen without having also taken steps to make sure that the "mutuals" are in a similar position with regard to guarantee of solvency as the insurance companies. [HON. MEMBERS: 809 "Why not?"] Because you would be holding out as a safeguard an instrument which might break in your hands when applied.
There is a number of solutions and possible ways of meeting this problem, and I am not wishing to debate them on this occasion, but it is essential that we should know where we are going in a matter of such importance. It might be possible to deal with this matter in one or two ways, but I pass on to one other aspect of the matter, which also raises considerable difficulties, and that is the question of enforcement, before I come to possible remedies. At present the provisions of the Bill are the exhibition of a certificate on the premises concerned and also a penalty provision. Are we at all sure that that will be a sufficiently good machinery for enforcement? Perhaps, for example, you could think of ways of getting over it in that you might bring in various types of Government inspectors with regard to certain jobs in factory, mine, or workshop, but what are you going to do with the smaller and unorganised trades or the private employments? There was a solution that was propounded in connection with an association in the motor trade dealing with this subject of the possibility of a central fund which might be used in case of bankruptcy, which might occur even under a system of compulsory insurance. The House will see that the matter is rather complicated and raises a number of difficult issues, and all that I am in a position to say to-day in regard to it is, that much fuller inquiries will be necessary in order to elucidate this problem. But the Government will examine the matter further in the light of the report of the recent Board of Trade Committee on compulsory insurance.
Now I come to the question of benefit and costs. The House will expect from me some information of as reliable a kind as possible on which to base their consideration as to the cost of these proposed new provisions. The Government have consulted their expert adviser, the Government Actuary, as to what would be the actual effect, in cost, of those provisions. He estimates that the new scales of benefit in fatal and non-fatal cases would, in themselves, apart from other changes proposed in the Bill, have the effect, roughly speaking, of doubling the 810 cost, which at present is estimated at something like £9,000,000. Therefore, the Government Actuary largely agrees with the estimates which the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) put before the House.
This estimate takes no account of the effect of certain other provisions proposed in the Bill. First, there is the indirect effect which might be produced by bringing the income of the insured worker with 3 or less up to the full amount of his normal earnings. Secondly, there is the proposal in Clause 3 for altering the basis on which compensation is to be calculated. By that proposal compensation would cease to be based on the weekly earnings of the particular workmen, and would be related rather to the weekly earnings of workmen employed for the full working week normally worked in the industry. Again, there is the proposal in Sub-section (2, iii), on page 4 requiring the compensation of the partially recovered workman to continue on total incapacity rate unless equally light work is available in some suitable employment, irrespective of whether the inability to get work is due to injuries or other causes, such as the condition of the labour market. Lastly, Clause 4 (3) provides that a workman, irrespective of age, would be entitled to apply at any time or times more than six months after the accident for reassessment of compensation on the basis of wages which he contends he would probably have been earning if he had remained uninjured.
The Government Actuary advises that these changes are bound to have a material effect on costs, but the precise increase is incalculable. He is inclined, however, on the whole to the view that the combined effect of the changes would hardly fail to put up the costs figure to considerably more than double the present figure. I thought that the House ought to have that information.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The figure of £9,000,000 is the actual sum received by the injured workers. Now I come to the actual procedure under the Act. and I should like to inform the hon. Member for Dumbarton that I do not think there has been undue 811 delay in the work of the Stewart Committee. It was appointed, not in the Spring but in the Autumn of 1935. They have held sittings on 60 days and have examined 80 witnesses. There are very powerful trade union and labour representatives on the Committee, and I think the hon. Member on inquiry would find that they would not agree with any charges of dilatory conduct on the part of the Committee.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Now I come to the medical referee. I appreciate the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Leigh. The issues that can be put into the power of a single man under the present system are very great, and it may be the case that some alternative course ought to be worked out, but ought that alternative system to be a medical board? I suggest that there is a good deal to be said for an alternative method of keeping the medical referees but having an appeal tribunal. I suggest to the House that that is reasonable. Obviously it would be on a more economical basis than the one proposed. With regard to a great many of the cases, I think, with regard to the vast majority, they are quite simple and straightforward and a medical referee is competent to deal with them. It is when we get to the smaller number, although they may be a considerable number, of difficult cases, that we want some greater authority than one man. Therefore it may be that the best way of dealing with this is by a rather improved system of referees with a larger number of specialists in the service, and by allowing appeals to an appeal tribunal.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Does the Under-Secretary know the Canadian system of a referee, with an employer and workman to assess as a board?
§ Mr. Cassells
Does the hon. gentleman not consider that under such a system there would be an appeal practically in every case?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not think so. There is a parallel from the number of legal disputes which arise under workmen's compensation. There was a great deal of talk as to the number of appeals which would arise, but the vast majority go through without any appeal at all. The Home Office are not opposed to the principle of a board. Boards are used in the case of silicosis schemes, and in certain aspects of this Bill they may be used. I now come to a point which was put in a most interesting way by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson). He put a new and important aspect of this subject before the House when he concentrated attention on bringing back to recovery and work the injured workman. He was referring to the same kind of work which is now under the consideration of the Rehabilitation Committee. There is no doubt that a new school of thought is growing up among students of workmen's compensation. They are moving away from the old conception of a system which aims simply at paying a workman compensation for the time he is away from work, to the idea of looking after the workman from the time of the injury until he is taken back to work. That is a difference in conception.
Indeed, there has been a great growth in modern knowledge on this subject, particularly with regard to the question of fractures. It will be remembered that in the old days even technical medical opinion was to immobilise the injured limb for as long a time as possible, and the effect was that the whole muscular and nervous system of the injured workman was devitalised. The idea developed by Sir Robert Jones during the War, which has been allowed rather to lapse in the treatment of industrial cases but which is now coming back, is that there should be the minimum of immobilisation of the injured limb. The results are very striking. I was talking recently to a medical authority, who told me that you can see people with broken ankles walking out of the hospital the next day, and I was told by a member of a committee who visited a clinic in Newcastle, where a large number of miners are suffering from compression fractures due to things 813 falling on their backs and spines while they are bending down, that he saw the remarkable sight of these men having plaster casts applied to the actual part of the spine and back affected, and that they were actually allowed to do gymnastics which kept the rest of their body in good condition.
That is only one side of it. Just as important is the actual treatment of the man when he has left the hospital. Then, as all hon. Members know, the man is in a difficult position. He is on workmen's compensation and is not getting full wages, he is at home, getting in the way of his wife—everybody knows the human problems that arise—and he tends to get into a state of anxiety and to become self-centered, so that he has not the initiative which will get him back to work. A great deal can be done by the employers considering more carefully the provision of suitable light work, for most of the men desire to get back to proper light work as quickly as possible. The ideal thing is for the employer to provide light work which will lead the man back to his old job whenever possible, and not to give him what may he called a blind alley job. Undoubtedly this is easier in the case of a certain type of large employers than in the case of other employers. Many large employers have made very great progress in this matter. I suggest that the employers' associations in various trades should carry out further investigations for the purpose of seeing whether they can do more in the way of providing light work for men, after they have been incapacitated, which is suitable to lead them back to their old jobs.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Has the hon. Gentleman any figures available to snow what the employers have done in this direction?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think the Committee will deal with that matter. I could furnish the hon. Member with some information privately. I suggest that in cases where it is not possible for the employers lo do this themselves, it may well be that the line of progress in future will be on the lines of some reconditioning clinics for the purpose of enabling the men to bridge the time when they leave the hospital, and leading them back to a condition in which they may take up proper work again. Undoubtedly in certain cases the 814 men need that additional help. What I suggest to the House is that at a time when new ideas are coming forward as regards the treatment of workmen's compensation and when those ideas are being investigated by two of the strongest Committees that have ever been set up by the Home Office, we should not deal with the question of workmen's compensation simply on the old lines. Therefore, I conclude by saying that when the reports of these Committees are received, the Government intend to consider as early as possible any recommendations which they may make for the amendment of the Acts, and if they accept those recommendations, to take steps with a view to introducing legislation to implement them. On the basis of that statement, I most strongly advise all my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.
§ 3.34 P.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I have listened to the speeches that have been delivered during the Debate, and I think the Debate has been a very remarkable one in some respects. My hon. Friend the Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) made a moderate, clear and explicit statement. He was followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswinford Mr. A. Henderson) and other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells), who have close contact with compensation cases and know very fully the compensation law. If the House had been willing to listen from II o'clock until the present moment, it could have acquired a reasonable knowledge and education on compensation law. However, I cannot say the same thing with regard to the speeches of hon. Members opposite. They were in violent contrast, which commenced with the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that the compensation law requires some reform. It would appear from some of his remarks that his heart almost bled for the workers, but apparently he spends all his waking hours in finding excuses for opposing Measures of this kind. The burden of his song to-day was that he had no case against, the Bill except the flimsy excuse that no consideration should be given to our compensation law or to the position of the millions of men, women and children who are dependent upon the meagre payments that are made under it until we 815 have had a thorough investigation of the insurability of certain sections of workers. He said that we had no information on the problem and that we ought not to legislate until we had the information. If the hon. and learned Member were closely identified with this subject, even in his own profession, he would find that there was plenty of information available and plenty of cases on record to justify the changes proposed in this Bill.
Here are one or two cases of the type which we have in mind when we ask for compulsory insurance in respect of compensation. A boiler-scaler meets with an accident and becomes almost blind in one eye. He is awarded compensation of 30s. a week but the employer immediately files a petition and "gets away with it" and the injured man received no compensation. A farm-worker aged 16 receives injuries as a result of which his leg is amputated, and compensation is assessed at £550. He receives £185 after which his employer goes into bankruptcy and there is nothing further available for him. Then there is the case of a plasterer who meets with an accident and gets an award of 30s. a week. But his employer who had made no provision for compensation, dies and is buried in a pauper's grave, and the injured person receives no compensation. There are many other cases of that kind to show that the information is available if the Government had the will and determination to say that, the law having been passed whereby injured persons are entitled to compensation, that law should be faithfully carried out.
The hon. and learned Member made the kind of speech that one might have expected from him, because I can never feel that his speeches are sincere or that he feels for the workers those sentiments which he frequently expresses. If the hon. and learned Member really did want the compensation law faithfully observed and carried out, he would not be putting up opposition to a Bill of this description. He would have gone to the Conservative party Conference and tabled a motion there asking the Government to secure the information which he says is required, in order that the law should be altered at the earliest possible moment. But the hon. and learned Member did not do that. Neither did the Seconder of the Amendment. Neither did the hon. Member for 816 the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) and when the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) said that what we wanted in this matter was a balanced mind, I could not help feeling that what he and his friends were thinking of was a "bank balanced" mind otherwise they would be more sympathetic towards these unfortunate people.
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. and learned Member must improve his spectacles. I have not been out of the House to-day and I heard every word of his speech. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) said he was going to oppose the Measure because he thought it was not nearly revolutionary enough. Yet when the Labour party introduced a Measure which was characterised as revolutionary hon. Members on the benches opposite opposed it because it was revolutionary. The hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), another member of the legal profession, entertained us for a considerable time this afternoon, but the only thing I could gather from his speech was that he would not be much worse off if he forgot all that he ever learned about workmen's compensation law. His excuse for opposing the Bill was that we ought not to pass amending legislation until we have prepared a Bill that will include every ex-service man—presumably not only those who were in the conflict from 1914 to 1918 but every ex-service man who happens to be alive who was in any previous war. That was his excuse for doing nothing. I know that the Under-Secretary will accept what I am going to say in the spirit in which it is intended. I have heard him speak before on compensation Bills and always he has had to deal with the Government's attitude. The Government's attitude is always negative. I am sure that he satisfies himself that he does very well, and from the point of view of expression and delivery I know that he does very well. I wish him nothing 817 worse than to be compelled to spend 12 months as a miner, or alternatively 12 months as a miners' secretary, when he would come into daily contact with men and boys brought to the surface with ribs broken, heads broken, arms broken, legs broken, bodies twisted. He would then get real close contact with the human side of the problem, and I am quite sure the Under-Secretary would make no more speeches similar to the one we have heard to-day.
We are told that with regard to compulsory insurance they want more information, and they may try and get it some time—to-morrow, sometime, never. Why did they not make inquiries earlier? The fact is they do not intend to make inquiries because they are concerned with the next item on the balance sheet, the question of cost. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary where he gets his figures from. He said the actuary's suggestion was that if the full terms of the Bill were complied with the cost would be doubled, and he said the existing cost was some 9,000,000. I happen to have a document issued by the Home Office which deals meticulously with the seven major industries but explains that as far as many other industries are concerned it is not possible to get even an approximate figure of the total premiums paid for compensation. But they did reach some sort of estimate, and this is what they say:After making allowances, however, as far as possible for these and other unascertainable items it is estimated that the total charge would be something under £12,000,000.Then the document goes on to explain that 33.14 per cent. of total payments are for commission, management, and other expenses.
My mathematics may be weak, but on my calculation if you deduct 33.14 per cent. the total cost of compensation payments direct to the individuals would be £8,000,000 and not 9,000,000. Therefore, I am not prepared to accept the actuary's statement. The actuary's statement is apparently on a par with the statement of all the experts who in 1897 declared that the Act passed that year would cost 3d. per ton on every ton of coal produced in this country. As a matter of fact, from 1897 to 1914 it just cost rid. per ton, so that the experts were only 50 per cent. wrong. I do not argue that the actuary is 50 per cent. wrong, 818 but certainly his estimate of cost is wrong. In every speech made from the opposite Benches, when hon. Members have been reaching their conclusions, the only excuses they have been able to offer to the House have been no information about insurance, indeterminate cost, and the heavy burden upon industry. They never say a word about the burden upon the injured workman; not one solitary human thought or consideration is given to him, but only to the terrific burden that may fall upon industry. I may return later, if there is time, to this question of cost.
In 1923, when the original Compensation Act was passed, we informed the then Home Secretary, Mr. Bridgeman, that we would never rest content with the terms of his Measure. Certain improvements were made in 1923 as compared with the Act of 1906, but in certain particulars, as I shall try to prove, compensation law to-day, to the person totally incapacitated, is actually worse than it was in 1914. The law is there, but it fails in every particular, so far as its effects upon working-class homes are concerned, and there is neither fair play, justice, nor equity in a fatal case, a case of total incapacity, a case of partial incapacity, or a case where, because doubt exists, it is committed to a medical referee. Take the case, for instance, of the fatal accident. Hon. Members in all parts of the House know that the maximum payment at the moment is £600 for the widow of a man who has been killed where he earned so much and the number of children is so many. This lump sum payment is not sufficient in 1937. We ought to give a guarantee to the woman who has lost her all, to the children who have lost their all, not of five years' economic security, but of economic security for all time, and no Compensation Act that fails to give that woman at least such money payments as will remove her beyond the necessity of public assistance or other income will satisfy hon. Members on this side.
The estimate of human life when applied to a workman is based upon the cost of a very low commodity indeed. During the last 10 years, for instance, in the mining industry there have been 9,600 persons killed, and just over £3,000,000 have been paid in compensa- 819 tion, an average, say, of £300 per person. There have been 9,600 human lives given in the production of coal, without which our industries are nil, and during the same 10 years 4,300 persons have received £52,700,000 in royalties and way leaves. Why hon. Members do not have a more level, balanced sense of proportion in these things, I really cannot understand. Take the case of the man totally incapacitated. Under the existing law he is fined 50 per cent. of his wages for having met with an accident. If he is lucky enough to have a wage of £3 a week over a period, he secures a maximum of 30s. compensation. He bears the physical pain, the expenses of nursing, and all that comes against his condition, and he is also called upon to bear the burden, or the fine, or the infliction of the loss of 50 per cent. of his income. It seems to me that whether one thinks in terms of the £2 per week person or of the £7 per week person, it ought not to be a difficult matter to persuade either the Government or any hon. Member opposite that the present compensation law is not only a scandal, but an infliction upon all those who give physical service to the industries of this country.
I remember the Home Secretary of 1923, speaking from that Box for the Bill which increased the income limit from £250 to £350, saying that they expected men with a wage of £4 a week to save up for these accidents so that they would not need full wages as compensation. It is ridiculous to expect men to pay for their own repairs, to suffer physical pain and agony, and also to save up during their healthy period so that they can maintain themselves when they are injured. I wonder how many hon. Members know that one in every five miners every year has an accident which calls for compensation, and that if one in five does not have an accident he is missing his turn. Since 20 per cent. of the miners meet with an accident, it means that 20 per cent. for a period must regard compensation as an indirect reduction in wages. If one happens to miss his turn, it means that on the law of averages, some one else has to have two turns of injury. I am a member of a family in which there are eight brothers. There is not one of them who has not been carried out of a coal mine on a 820 stretcher. I have been carried out, and I have helped to carry out one or two of my brothers. That is critical. All the miners' families have one in five who are injured every year and need compensation. Yet the Under-Secretary says that we must have more information. He says that it will cost so much to increase the compensation.
What do we ask for? We say that the man who earns £300 per annum is, if he meets with injuries when following his occupation, entitled to 75 per cent. of his wages for compensation. The man who receives £3 a week wages is entitled not to have to suffer physical pain as well as financial loss. The obligation should be fully borne by the industry. The man who receives 50s. or less in wages is certainly entitled to no less than his normal average wage. I said a short time ago that the compensation is actually worse than it was in 1913. At that time the maximum was £1 a week. To-day it is 30s. Here is a Government document in which it states that the cost of maintaining unchanged the pre-War standard of living of working-class families at 1st October was 58 per cent. above the level of July, 1914. The compensation is only 50 per cent. above the level of 1914, so that in real value it is less to-day than it was then. There ought to be no more shuffling by the Under-Secretary or the Home Secretary. The time has come not for investigation, not for seeking any more information; we have all the information on the things that matter; it is time that the Home Office acted. The case of the man who is partially incapacitated is, perhaps, the most tragic of all. He loses his job, he is relegated to the employment exchange and the miserable portion of his wages he receives as compensation is wholly inadequate. Certainly the law ought to be amended to deal with that particular case.
I have a word to say about Clause 5, which deals with medical boards. In 1923 certain very illustrious members of the legal profession in this House not only resented the Clause which is now part of the original Act but opposed in the division lobby what they regarded as an imposition upon the workers of this country. Most hon. Members will remember a former Member of the House called Greaves-Lord, by no means a 821 Socialist, and well learned in compensation law. He not only spoke against the Clause but he acted as a teller against the Government. Not only Greaves-Lord but the present Minister of Health spoke and voted against the Clause. More important still, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer voted against it. I am rather anxious to know whether the Minister of Health and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are now going to vote for what they voted against in 1923. It would not be the first time they had changed, of course and I should not be surprised at anything which they did.
Finally, a word on the question of the cost. My estimate is that the figure may be double the existing figure, that is to say, another 8,000,000 per annum. Eight million pounds spread over 16,000,000 employés means 10s. per person per year. Is that too much to
§ ask for, in order that injured persons may receive justice? Is it too much to ask of this Mother of Parliaments that when men are prepared to give life and limb in order to produce the things without which none of us can live they shall have economic security and the knowledge that in adversity they will be cared for by society? A bank-balance mind is not enough, we ought to have a society mind in this case; and I am hoping that all those who profess to be kindly disposed to the workers, who have kindly thoughts for human beings and kindly thoughts for their own nation, will find their way into our division lobby to-day.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 205.823
|Division No. 18.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Groves, T. E.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F, W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Price. M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, C. H. (Aberdare)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hardie, Agnes||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Ridley, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ'e.)||Riley, B.|
|Barr, J.||Hayday, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Belay, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Bann, Rt. Han. W. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Hills, (Pontefract)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Bevan, A.||Hollins, A.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hopkin, D.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jagger, J.||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Short, A.|
|Cape, T.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Silkin, L.|
|Cassells, T.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Jones, J. J. (Silvertown)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Close, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lanabury, RI. Hon. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dagger, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Stephen, C.|
|Dalton, H.||Leach, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Debbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thorne, W.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maclean, N.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Evans, D. 0. (Cardigan)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Watson, W. MoL.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Wedgwood, RI. Hon. J. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Marklew, E.||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Mothers, G.Maxtor, J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallacher, W.||Messer, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibbins, J.||Morrison, RI. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Muff. C.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Tinker and Mr. A. Henderson.|
|Adams, S. V. f. (Leeds, W.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Ellis, Sir G.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Allen, Col. J.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Munro, P.|
|Sandeman (B'knhead)||Emmett, C. E. G. C.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.|
|Assheton, R.||Everard, W. L.||Orr-Ewing, I. L. Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Findlay, Sir E.||Patrick, G. M.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Petherick, M.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanat)||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Goldie, N. B.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cower, Sir R. V.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Grimston, R. V.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Blair, Sir R.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hambro, A. V.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Brocklehank, Sir Edmund||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Higgs, W. F.||Scott, Lord William|
|Brown. Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Holmes, J. S.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hewitt, Dr. A. B.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hulbert, N. J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hutchinson, G. C.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Joel, D. J. B.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Kerr, Colonel C. (Montrose)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Spens. W. F.|
|Chapman, A. (Ruthergien)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W.'m'I'd)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Latham, Sir P.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith. S.)||Levy, T.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cooper, RI. Hn. A. Duff (W'ea'r S. G'gs)||Lewis, O.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Cox, H. B. T.||Liddall, W. S.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Lloyd, G. W.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Touche, G. C.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Loftus, P. C.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Groom-Johnson, R. P.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Cross, R. H.||Mabana, W. (Huddersfield)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Maitland, A.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Wells, S. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Marsden, Commander A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|De la Here, R.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Donner, P. W.||Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wragg, H.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Duggan, H. I.||Morgan, R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Mr. Lyons and Mr. Fleming.|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.824
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Ten Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 22nd November.