HL Deb 22 May 1905 vol 146 cc931-6

Amendments reported (according to order).

LORD HENEAGE moved an Amendment to Clause 3, altering the time in which it was necessary to give notice of the accident from "six" to "nine" days. He thought six days an adequate period in towns but contended that in regard to rural employment a longer time should be allowed after the happening of the accident in which to give the notice. He quoted several instances to show the necessity of extending the period if labouring men in remote country districts, who might not call a doctor in until several days after the accident, were to have the benefit of the Act.

Amendment moved— In Clause 3, page 2, line 37, to leave out the word 'six' and insert the word 'nine.'"—(Lord Heneage.)


reminded the House that when this matter was considered by the Committee very strong evidence was put before them in favour of fixing a much shorter period than six days. Three days were suggested as ample time for the notice, especially as the period could be extended, where necessary, by application to the County Court. Indeed, some who gave evidence before the Committee were pressing the Government to make the time even shorter than three days. The period in the Bill—six days—was suggested by the Committee and accepted as a compromise, and in view of the safeguard giving a County Court power to extend the period, he questioned the wisdom of raising the point now when they had a certain prospect before them, if they did so, of the matter being reopened in another place in the other direction. It was not only in the interest of the employer but also in the interest of the workmen that the notice should be given as early as possible, so that the injury could be medically attended to without delay, and he hoped the compromise which had been come to would be allowed to stand. There was not the slightest doubt that if a case arose in which a labourer in a country district had failed, through ignorance or any other cause, to give the notice in the necessary time the Court would take a reasonable view of the matter and allow the claim for compensation to proceed. Personally, he could not see any difficulty in the injured labourer giving notice of the accident before he left the farm, even though the injury might not appear to be of so serious a nature as to be likely to lead to a claim being made. If, in the future, it was proved that in the case of agricultural labourers the period in which the notice had to be given should be a longer one, that would be a fair case for amending the law; but at present, in view of the careful attention given to the matter by the Committee and the fact that the period of six days was agreed upon by them as a compromise, His Majesty's Government were obliged to adhere to the period in the Bill.


said that one of the principal arguments of Lord Belper appeared to be that if Lord Heneage's Amendment was adopted the question would be sure to be raised again in the House of Commons and difficulties would arise there. He (Lord Ripon) could assure the noble Lord that, if the Amendment was not made, the question would undoubtedly be raised in the House of Commons, and probably the view of the noble Lord (Lord Belper) would not be upheld by that Assembly. The noble Lord had declared that, in his opinion, it would be quite convenient for an agricultural labourer who was injured on a farm to give his notice before leaving the farm. But was that reasonable? It appeared to him (Lord Ripon) that the period of six days, shortened as it probably would be in most cases by the intervention of Sunday, was undoubtedly too short; and in the interests of working men he had hoped the Government would have given way and accepted the reasonable Amendment moved by Lord Heneage. The view of those who desired to limit the period to three days was so unjust that it was not entitled to any consideration at all.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


said there never were any Acts of Parliament which had given rise to so much litigation and expense as the Workmen's Compensation Acts. He did not believe there was a Judge on the Bench who had not had occasion to grumble at the time he had had to spend in construing those Acts. This all arose in his opinion, from the practice that had been growing up of legislating by reference—an evil which was perpetuated in the present Bill. There was hardly a section of the Workmen's Compensation Acts which was not touched by this Bill, and the result would be that the difficulties of construction would be greater than ever. He had proposed to move that the principal Act and the Act of 1900 should be printed as a schedule to this Act, with the additions, omissions, and substitutions required by this Act; but on consideration he thought that a method of dealing with the matter of which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had given notice would meet the case. It was provided in the Bill that the Act should come into operation on January 1st, 1906, except as regards certain parts of it, and as the Act was to come into operation at different times he thought there might be a question as to how soon it might be possible to print the Act as suggested in the Amendment standing in the name of the Lord Chancellor.


reminded their Lordships that the greater tendency in recent years to make reference to Acts of Parliament relating to each other had been adopted from the necessity of minimising opportunities of obstruction, for every additional line gave opportunities for further opposition. He did not deny that this legislation by reference was a very great evil, and was not satisfactory either to the Legislature or to the Judges who had to construe it. But they had to do the best they could. He was himself chairman of the Statute Law Revision Committee, which succeeded in reducing the statutes at large from 100 volumes to ten. That result was of very great advantage to the community, but it was discovered that they were proceeding too quickly and it became the practice to obstruct these consolidating statutes, and they were thrown overboard at the end of the session. The consequence was that for the last ten years the Committee had not met again, for he had never asked the Judges and the other members to proceed further with their thankless and laborious task. His Amendment was to omit Sub-section 4 of Clause 23, which provided that any copy of the principal Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1900Printed after the passing of this Act by authority of His Majesty, may be printed with the additions, omissions, and substitutions required by this Act. And to substitute for it a sub-section directing the Clerk of the Parliaments to prepare and certify a copy of the principal Act and of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1900With the omission of the parts expressly repealed by this Act and with the sections and sub-sections numbered in manner directed by this Act. for His Majesty's printer. The words which he proposed to insert were in the Act of 1885, in which for the first time this practice was introduced, but for some reason or other in later years the certificate of the Clerk of Parliaments had been left out. But it must be understood that this was to be done solely for the convenience of those interested, such as workmen and lawyers; and that authority was to lie solely in the Act as it was passed by Parliament and printed in the form in which it was passed among the Acts of Parliament of the session.

Amendment moved— In Clause 23, page 16, to leave out Sub-section (4), and to insert the following new sub-sections: ' (4) Every enactment and word of this Act which is expressed to be substituted for or added to any portion of the principal Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1900, shall form part of those Acts respectively in the place assigned to it by this Act, and those Acts, and all Acts, including this Act, which refer thereto shall, after the commencement of and subject to the savings contained in this Act, be construed as if the said enactment or word had been originally enacted in the principal Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1900, as the case may be, in the place so assigned, and where it is substituted for another enactment or word, had been so enacted in lieu of that enactment or word; and the expression 'this Act' as used in the principal Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1900, or this Act, shall be construed accordingly. ' (5) A copy of the principal Act and of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1900, with every such enactment and word inserted in the place so assigned, and with the omission of the parts expressly repealed by this Act, and with the sections and sub-sections numbered in manner directed by this Act, shall be prepared and certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments, and deposited with the Rolls of Parliament; His Majesty's printer shall print in accordance with the copy so certified all copies of the principal Act and of the Workmen's Compensation Act. 1900, which are printed after the commencement of this Act.' "—(The. Lord Chancellor.)


said he had no objection to the Amendment, as it was intended altogether for convenience and as without it the amended Act as arranged by the printer, without any certificate from the Clerk of the Parliaments, would have been the actual enactment. He had been more successful than he anticipated, for his action in calling attention to this matter had led to an Amendment being placed on the Paper by Lord Cross as well as by his noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. He would have been glad to accept either of the remedies proposed, but of the two he preferred the Amendment which had just been moved by the Lord Chancellor. The point he desired to emphasise was that the law of the land must be the Act itself as it was passed by Parliament.


said the tendency of legislation by reference was to make the law a sort of Chinese puzzle. He did not, however, desire to express any opinion as to the Amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord. But he doubted whether it clearly expressed what was undoubtedly intended—namely, that the text of the Act was to be the text as passed by Parliament.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill to be read 3a on Monday next; and to be printed as amended [No. 85].