HL Deb 21 December 1906 vol 167 cc1821-6

Commons reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments considered (according to order).


My Lords, the first of your Lordships' Amendments to which the Commons disagree concerns elderly workmen. It is— In page 19, line 9, after 'shillings' to insert the words: (c)in the case of a workman who has in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State obtained from a certifying surgeon a certificate to the effect that on account of old age or the loss of an eye, or a limb, or of any other serious physical infirmity or in capacity specified in the regulations, he is specially liable to serious accident if employed in any employment of any class specified in the certificate, and who has entered into an agreement in writing with his employer as to the maximum amount of compensation to be payable to him under this Act, the compensation if payable in respect of an accident happening to the workman whilst employed in an employment of any such class shall not exceed that maximum, but the maximum shall not be less—

  1. (i) where death results from the injury and the workman leaves any dependants, than fifty pounds;
  2. (ii) Where total or partial incapacity for work results from the injury, than a weekly payment during the incapacity, of ten shillings and
The Commons disagree to this Amendment because they consider that the same scales of compensation should be applicable to all workmen without distinction. I had an opportunity during the Committee stage of explaining to your Lordships what was the position with regard to this. Perhaps I might very briefly remind your Lordships that this was a question which was left quite an open one in another place. On that occasion some members of the Cabinet were found voting in favour and some against. Your Lordships decided to insert the Amendment. In this House His Majesty's Government stated that they wished to do exactly as they did in the other House, namely, leave it an open question. We did not divide upon it, and the Amendment was therefore made without actually testing the opinion of your Lordships by a division. The reason given by the Commons for disagreeing with the Amendment is one in regard to which those Members who specially represent labour take a very strong view. I understand that they have from the beginning taken a very strong line with regard to the inclusion in the Bill of all workmen without distinction. I hope, therefore, your Lordships will not insist on the Amendment.

Moved, "That this House do not insist on the said Amendment."—(Earl Beauchamp.)


My Lords, these Amendments seem to us on this side of the House to have been thoroughly reasonable ones, but I do not think anything will be gained by prolonging the discussion of this matter. We do not think them of sufficient importance to justify us in further delaying the progress of the Bill. We shall, therefore, not oppose the noble Earl's Motion.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Marquess who has just sat down that on the whole the Amendments are not of sufficient importance to imperil the measure, but I none the less very deeply regret the decision to which the other House of Parliament has come in this matter. I am sure it is not in the interest of the old men themselves, and that it will accentuate and make more general the reluctance of employers all over the country to keep on the old hands. I do not speak on this occasion from the point of view of an employer of labour, though, as your Lordships know, I am a director of a railway company and interested in other undertakings of the kind. For two or three years I have been greatly interested in the management of the Scottish Corporation, which deals with the case of aged Scotsmen who have been for years employed in London; and it has been our continuing experience for the last few years that our old fellow countrymen are being excluded from employment partly on the ground of the danger of claims being made under the compensation law. In times of depression men who are advanced in life are the first to be discharged, and when these men are once discharged it is getting increasingly difficult to find new places for them. It is past our power to insist on this Amendment, but I hope your Lordships will not be blind to the fact that the provision in the Bill as it stands will make it more and more difficult to get these men retained in their employment or to secure for them new places when through no fault of their own they are discharged.


My Lords, I deeply regret the action of the House of Commons in refusing this Amendment, which was inserted almost unanimously by the House of Lords. I believe the only opponent here was the noble Earl in charge of the Bill, and I am quite certain that in a few minutes' conversation with him I could convince him that the Lords were right on this point. I bow submissively to the action of our Leader on this side when he expresses the opinion that we should not insist upon our Amendment, so as not to endanger the passing of the Bill. It may be said that I speak as a large employer of labour. That is quite true; but those who will be hit hardest are the aged men employed by smaller manufacturers. We have always done everything in our power to find places for those who were incapacitated by accident, old age, or infirmity, and it is possible for us sometimes to do it. I need hardly say that we shall not go back on that; but it must always have a deterrent effect to have large sums hanging over one's head for men who are more liable to accident for the reasons stated. It is, however, on the employees of smaller manufacturers that the refusal of this Amendment will fall most heavily; and it is in the interests of the men themselves much more than of the masters that I regret that the House of Commons have taken this view on the subject.


My Lords, I greatly regret that the Government on this occasion have taken the line of asking your Lordships not to insist on your Amendment. Here is a contract which in itself is perfectly innocent, perfectly natural, and which constitutes one of the safeguards which old men have. By asking your Lordships to strike out this Amendment the Government are signing the death warrant of a great many of these old men. I hope it will be understood in the country generally to whose action it is due that so many of these men will be thrown out of employment. We know perfectly well from whom this proceeds. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill told us that it proceeds from the Labour Party in the other House. The Labour Party presumably fear that if the Amendment were inserted it would have some prejudicial effect upon wages. It must be some reason of that sort which has actuated them. Unfortunately this Government are particularly amenable to the influence of the Labour Party. On the previous occasion the Government were divided, but apparently when this Amendment was sent down to the House of Commons the Government made up their minds to throw in their fate with the Labour Party. If ever there was an innocent contract, one that was right, just, wise, and expedient, it is this contract. I do not think any of the noble Lords opposite really believe that such a contract ought to be forbidden. Under His Majesty's Government this country is becoming very much like a foreign railway station—everything is forbidden; and if they will forbid a contract of this sort, then it seems to me there is no contract which may not be forbidden. I regret very much the decision at which His Majesty's Government have arrived.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, the second Amendment inserted by your Lordships to which the Commons disagree is a much less important one— In page 22, line 3, to leave out the words; "both parties" and insert the words "either party," and to leave out the word "applicant" and insert the word "applicants. The Commons disagree to this Amendment because they consider that it is in-expedient that one party without the consent of the other party should have the power of constituting the medical referee sole arbitrator as respects any matter, in the place of the court of arbitration prescribed by the Bill. We have already discussed the point and divided upon it in Committee. I will therefore not say any more in the circumstances, but will move that this House do not insist on their Amendment.

Moved, "That the House do not insist on the said Amendment."—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.