I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I should like to recall briefly the circumstances which have led up to the introduction of this Measure. No comprehensive review of our system of workmen's compensation has taken place since the Holman-Gregory Report in 1920. There have been many Debates in this House on private Members' Bills, and many Motions, since the Act of 1923, and there have been one or two amending Bills of a minor character which have been carried into law; but the main lines of the structure of workmen's compensation remain the same to-day as when the original Act was passed in 1897. It is very widely recognised that the time is ripe for an overhaul of this system. With that end in view the Government appointed the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Hector Hetherington in December, 1938.
In ordinary circumstances, it would be difficult to justify the introduction of a Measure of any substantial importance while the subject of the Measure in all its aspects was under review by a Royal Commission. In present circumstances it is clearly recognised that there is justification for an exceptional course. In the first place, as hon. Members are aware, the work of the Royal Commission was interrupted and suspended for a period of several months on the outbreak of war. While it is a source of considerable satisfaction to the Government that the Royal Commission has now been able to resume its labours, some valuable time has been unavoidably lost. Moreover, there is the further point that the Royal Commission may very likely advocate far-reaching changes in the general structure of workmen's compensation. It would obviously be impossible to carry out, during war, changes involving perhaps a new system of administration. It may therefore be some time, and it will certainly be much later than was anticipated when the Royal Commission was set up, before Parliament will be in a position to deal with the problem as a whole.
For those reasons, and bearing in mind the dissatisfaction which exists with the scales, of which we have had evidence from all quarters, I announced in the Debate on 30th January last that the Government had entered into discussion with representatives of industry with a view to devising a temporary scheme for meeting cases of hardship. Those discussions duly followed, and on 18th March I outlined to the House the main provisions of the Bill now before us. In the Debate on 30th January I, and I believe my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, endeavoured to make clear the limitations by which we felt bound, and we laid down certain conditions. They were that any scheme which might be in view would have to be of a simple character, and should be capable of being brought into rapid operation in the existing circumstances of the war. Further, it should involve no vexatious inquiries as to means and should not impose a burden on industry which industry could not sustain. I furthermore made it clear that any obligations which might be imposed on industry must be in keeping, according to the view of the Government, with the general standard of obligations assumed by the Government in cases where they accept responsibility, as for example, under the scheme of compensation for injuries to civilians in time of war.
I think we can fairly claim that the scheme embodied in the Bill does fulfil the conditions laid down in regard to it. Hon. Members opposite appear to be claiming that all cases of workmen's compensation are ipso facto cases of hardship, and as such are equally deserving of an increase in benefit rates, irrespective of any responsibilities that an injured workman may have. I am bound to say that this view does not seem to be confirmed by reading the speeches which have been made in this House for many years past on this question. The individual cases of hardship which have been cited have been invariably and, I think I am right in saying, without exception cases of men with wives and families. Even in the Debate of 30th January when they were pressing for an
all-round increase irrespective of the question of need, almost every speaker on the other side of the House quoted a case of a man with a wife and family. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said:
I put to the House this test; I put it first concretely and then in terms of general principles. If there be a Member of this House who honestly believes that a disabled man and his family. …ought to have no more than 30s. a week, let him rise in his place to-day and say so. That is a challenge to which we require an answer today."—[Official Report, 30th January, 1940; col. 1,000, Vol. 356.]
It was followed by the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who asked:
Who will suggest that 30s. received as half-pay by the man earning £3 is sufficient to maintain a family?"—[Official Report, 30th January, 1940; col. 1021, Vol. 356.]
A little later on the hon. Member for Claycross (Mr. Ridley), who has special knowledge of this subject, asked:
Is 30s. a sufficient weekly income for a totally disabled man to feed, clothe and shelter himself and a wife and three children?…Does any hon. Member, does the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs, think that 30s. is enough in those circumstances? Would anybody on the other side of the House like to make a martyr of himself by getting up and saying so?"—[Official Report, 30th January, 1940; col. 1081. Vol. 356.]
I am sure it will give the hon. Member satisfaction to know that under the provisions of the Government Bill a man with a family such as he describes will have 44s. in place of 30s. a week.
That was the case put—a man with a wife and three children living on 30s. a week. Finally the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) drew our attention to a case of a totally disabled workman with a wife and eight children. He will be gratified to know that under our Bill supplementation in respect of a wife and children in such a case can amount to as much as 29s. I suggest that hon. Members opposite can hardly complain if we have taken them at their word and dealt as a matter of urgency with these cases which they have so often cited. What we have not done is something that they have demanded but something, I suggest, for which they have so far utterly failed to make out a case. We have not provided an all-round increase. If there is a case for such an increase, why is it that the only argument which we have heard so far is an argument based on hardship arising in individual cases?
It will be interesting to hear what hon. Members have to say in support of the Amendment on the Paper. My hon. Friend will have an opportunity in due course of dealing with their arguments. In the meantime it should be sufficient for me to point out that no argument in favour of an all-round increase can be based on any change in conditions since the present rates were fixed by the Act of 1923. The cost-of-living index at the end of 1923 was about 175. On the 1st of this month the figure was practically the same, 178, greater by 1¾per cent. The general average wage rate for the first quarter of this year is, I understand, about 15 per cent. higher than in 1924. That, of course, means that on the whole rates of compensation are higher under the existing law on the whole.
I do not like to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he is putting a bad argument. If it be true that wages have risen by 15 per cent. and that the standard of life has gone up by that amount, it ought equally to follow that the 30s. has gone up.
I dealt first with the cost of living and then I went on to the level of wages, and the two have to be distinguished. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am using a bad argument, then it will be all the more easy for him to answer it. My conclusion, admittedly come to before hearing the case which I understand that the right hon. Gentleman will develop on the Amendment, is that no statistical case can be made out for an all-round increase.
I do not think I need give any detailed description of the Clauses in the Bill. They are simple, they speak for themselves and the Amendment takes no exception to anything that is in the Bill. I may, however, draw the attention of the House to a very important fact that this Bill will provide these substantial new benefits, not only in respect of accidents occurring in the future but in respect of accidents that have occurred in the past over a long period. There are great inherent difficulties in dealing with past cases. Employers as a rule cover themselves by insurance against their liability for workmen's compensation. They pay a premium calculated in accordance with the liability as it exists at the time when the premium is paid. When they have insured these risks they are justified in considering that they have fully discharged their duty. We are bound, of course, to place any additional liability arising under the Bill upon the employer in the same way as the principal Act places the liability upon him. Where employers are associated together, as they often are, in arrangements for mutual insurance, there ought to be no insuperable difficulties in finding the additional money in respect of these cases.
So far as the insurance companies are concerned we have had many useful and helpful discussions with the Accident Officers' Association, an association which comprises some 50 or 60 companies who conduct this class of business. The Association have assured me that they are quite ready to pick up these old cases and to meet them, even where the employer has ceased to insure either through going out of business or because he has transferred his insurance elsewhere. I think we may be confident, therefore, that although in a few individual cases, possibly of the uninsured employer, difficulties about finding the extra money may be encountered, the great majority of these old cases will receive their benefits with very little delay as soon as the Act comes into operation. We are anxious to bring it into operation at the earliest possible date. We are not proposing to deal with cases arising before 1924, since in those cases the worker will be receiving the higher rates of benefit provided by the War Additions Act of 1919. I feel that handling past cases in this way will give the greatest possible satisfaction to injured workpeople. To have dealt only with cases occurring after the passage of the Bill would have set up a line of demarcation which would inevitably have given rise to much complaint. I regard this as one of the most satisfactory features of the Bill.
With regard to the retrospective effect of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman tells the House that cases farther back than 1924 will not be dealt with because they receive the war additions given through the Great War, but where the whole compensation received by a pre-1924 case is less than 30s., is the right hon. Gentleman still not prepared to deal with such a case?
We have to draw the line somewhere, and I think we have gone a long way back and taken a logical view in drawing it at 1924, but the point raised by the hon. Member is in the nature of a Committee point which one might look at then. If, like the Opposition, we had felt unable to proceed except by way of a flat increase, we should have been faced in regard to these old cases with the choice of either giving the really hard cases of the men with heavy family responsibilities far less than this Bill gives them, or pitching the all-round increase so high as to give the men without dependants something wholly disproportionate to their relative needs. In that case we could not have justified imposing on industry the burden involved in the retroactive application of the improved scales. Under our Bill every case in which an additional allowance will be given is a case in which hardship may be presumed, and that makes it easy to establish a claim in respect of past accidents. Moreover, I would point this out, that we have provided for dealing with past cases not merely where the workman is still totally disabled, but where he is partly recovered, and in doing that we have done something for which there is no precedent at all. In the Act of 1917 and 1919 provision was made for dealing with past cases, but it was limited to cases of total disablement.
Even after the Debate of 30th January, when we announced the lines on which we intended to proceed, doubts were expressed as to whether it was in fact possible to achieve our object without a means test. Well, those doubts have proved ill-founded. Not only is there to be no means test, but we shall, I hope, be able to avoid altogether anything in the nature of vexatious inquiry. The procedure proposed is of the simplest character, and it is dealt with in Clause 3—a declaration by the workman in a prescribed form, subject to a penalty for wilful false statement. The form will show whether he has a wife living and the number of his children below the age of 15, the particulars being given in a way which will be capable of verification from the Registrar. There will be no reference whatsoever in the form to means, and the right to allowances will not be subject to proof of dependency. Those are all, I suggest, features which should commend themselves to hon. Members opposite.
I want to be quite brief, but before I sit down I should like to say a few words about the Amendment on the Paper. As I have already indicated, the Amendment has one curious feature. It does not, it seems to me, condemn the Bill or anything contained in the Bill, and one might suppose that as far as the Bill goes it is an agreed Measure. The reason given why the House should refuse a Second Reading is that the Bill does not contain provision for single men and women and fails to recognise what is described as the admitted necessity for an immediate all-round increase. I should make it clear to hon. Members opposite, if it is not already clear, that if their Amendment is carried, this Bill is dead, and it might be many months before any satisfactory Measure could be found to put in its place. [An Hon. Member: "Another threat?"] There is no menace in that. If the House is to be asked to vote for this Amendment, I hope that its sponsors will at any rate be good enough to tell hon. Members exactly what they mean by "an all-round increase." Although hon. Members talked' in favour of an all-round increase throughout the Debate on 30th January, I have been quite unable to find any clue as to what they have in mind; I am reduced to the unprofitable and unaccustomed task of speculation. Possibly what hon. Members mean is an addition to the compensation of a flat-rate percentage such as was made by the War Additions Acts of 1917 and 1919. If so, what should be the amount of the addition, and on what basis should it be calculated?
The percentage additions made in those years were justified by an increase in the cost of living, amounting to a much higher percentage—an increase of, I think, 75 per cent. in the case of the first flat-rate increase and of 125 per cent. in the case of the second increase. In any case, if that is the sort of plan that hon. Members have in mind, I should like to point out that the highest percentage increase theoretically possible would be 33⅓ per cent. To add more than 33⅓per cent. would bring the compensation for loss of earnings to a figure in excess of the earnings themselves in the case of workers at the lower end of the scale—an absurdity that no one has yet suggested. [Interruption.] If hon. Members want to suggest compensation in excess of wages, let them say so. Yet a flat-rate increase of 33⅓ per cent. would mean that all workers in the higher range of the compensation scale would get less than this Bill gives them where there are a wife and two or more children. That is the sort of case that has always been brought forward.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman remember the interjection of the hon. Member for Hemsworth, when he talked about the 30s. for a single man, asking him, when the man was paying 27s. 6d. board, what he was to do with the other 2s. 6d.?
I remember that perfectly well, but that does not alter the fact which I have just stated, that this Bill will give every worker in the higher range more than would be given by a flat-rate increase of 33⅓ per cent. in every case where there are a wife and two or more children. It may be, however, that what hon. Members have in mind is the scheme which the Labour party have from time to time, indeed many times, embodied in Bills which they have brought forward in this House. The effect of those proposals—which have been to give full pre-accident earnings in all cases where the earnings are less than 60s. and 75 per cent. of pre-accident earnings in all cases where the earnings exceed £4—would be to give an increase of 33⅓ per cent. to the man at the bottom of the scale with earnings of 25s. or less, and of many hundreds per cent. to the well-to-do artisan earning £6 or £7 a week. I wonder how many hon. Members in any quarter of the House would regard that as a satisfactory form of war-time increase.
Not by any means exactly the same. The point I am making now is to show how unequal is the effect of such a plan, and that it would give far more to the man already well off than to the man at the lower end of the wage scale. But putting aside the gross inequalities to which such a scheme would give rise, I would point out that it would increase the burden on industry by more than 100 per cent. It would be quite impossible to apply such a scheme in respect of past cases. However welcome it might be for the future, all those hard cases would remain untouched. However, there would seem in fact to be two views among hon. Members opposite as to the merits of such a scheme. I have noted with interest that the evidence tendered to the Royal Commission—I think, only about a month ago—on behalf of the co-operative societies by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) and his associates was in favour of a scheme of a much more moderate character. I need make only one comparison. The official Labour party scheme, which was put forward in evidence by the Trades Union Congress, would have given 60s. a week compensation to a man whose earnings were 60s. The scheme sponsored by the Co-operative societies would give precisely half that figure, that is to say, 30s., the amount payable under the existing law.
It may be, of course, that hon. Members opposite have succeeded in agreeing upon some new scheme as yet undisclosed to the House. If they have done so, I think it only fair, before they invite us to join them in the Lobby, that they should tell us what it is. In any case, I hope that all hon. Members who take part in this Debate will keep clearly in mind the problems to which we are addressing ourselves. We are not trying to devise a new scheme of compensation; that is the task of the Royal Commission. The Bill is a war-time Measure, dealing only with a limited aspect of workmen's compensation, but conferring immediate and substantial benefits upon a section of the community whose misfortunes have long excited the sympathy of Members of all parties. The cost to industry of what is proposed cannot be estimated precisely. The burden will vary from industry to industry, according to the age and sex of the workers employed. It should not represent more than a 25 per cent. increase in the case of any industry, and the total cost should be rather under £2,000,000. That, indeed, is a substantial sum to add to the other burdens that have to be borne in war-time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point raised in the last Debate concerning the different circumstances of different workers, according to whether the worker is married or not, as it might affect the attitude of the employers towards the employment of certain categories of workers?
I did, in fact, deal with that point in reply to a Supplementary Question after the statement I made last month. I said that, whatever risk there might be in ordinary times of economic interests acting in that way—although I think that in most cases the trade unions are strong enough now to protect their members—in war-time the risk seemed to be so small as to be negligible. But I have had two assurances on this point—one, from the Confederation of Employers' Organisations, that they would discountenance any tendency of that kind on the part of the people for whom they speak, and the other, from the insurance companies, that they would not be influenced by that consideration at all.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is already a tendency on the part of some employers to increase blind-alley occupations by putting men off when they reach certain ages, and that that would be aggravated by the present Measure, and can be prevented only if the insurance companies give a guarantee that they will not adapt their premiums to different age groups in any industry?
I am sure that there is no intention of altering any premium rates at present. The insurance companies have given me the fullest assurances that they will not discriminate in their premium rates on the basis of the family responsibilities of the employés of those whom they insure.
I am sorry, but this, I think, is a point of profound importance. Can we have from the insurance companies a written guarantee to the effect that they will not vary the premium rates in any industry, or group of industries, on account of the ages of those employed? If we have that assurance, employers will not have any inducement to dismiss workers as a result of the Bill.
I cannot answer that off-hand; but we are dealing with a wartime problem, and I think that the risk of discrimination in time of war is very small, and that it will grow less as time goes on. We are not legislating for the future. If the Royal Commission come to the conclusion that this plan of family allowances is a good one—and this scheme will provide them with experience which they would not otherwise have had—well and good. If they think it is a good plan, it will be easy to effect a transition to peace-time conditions. If they think it is a bad plan, we shall be no worse off. It can be scrapped, and no harm will have been done.
I shall, of course, consider anything that is put forward by way of Amendment on the Committee stage, but I must say that I do not feel that it would be at all easy to frame any statutory provision of that kind.
Accepting what the right hon. Gentleman has said as being fair, can he explain why, if the employers are not disposed to prejudice the workers, he has considered it necessary to incorporate in Clause 1, Subsection 1 (b), the provision that, in order to qualify for an allowance, children must be born within nine months of the accident?
Surely that is a different proposition altogether. It seems right that the liability of an employer should be related to conditions existing at the time when the liability accrued, and that it should not vary with changing circumstances after that date.
I do not think it is a birth-control problem. But if that is all that hon. Members opposite have to be afraid of in the Bill, it must be a good Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman says that it is right that compensation should apply only to circumstances which existed before the accident, so that children born afterwards should not benefit. May we take it that if a child dies after the accident, the 3s. in respect of that child will not be stopped?
No, Sir. The scheme makes provision for payment in respect of a child until it reaches the age of 15. It is a necessary condition that the child should be in existence. That is obvious. But hon. Members will have an opportunity to make these points in the form of speeches; that, I think, will be a more effective method. I was pointing out that the total sum of money which this Bill will put into the pockets of injured workmen will be of the order of £2,000,000—a very substantial sum, and a sum which will be paid in cash, subject to no deductions for expenses or anything of that kind. It is a net addition which the injured workmen will receive per annum. A very substantial burden is thus being added to the other burdens which have to be borne by industry in the war, but we justify that burden by claiming that the money will be well spent, since it will go in every case where it is most needed, in order to relieve hardship.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof,
this House cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Workmen's Compensation Bill which is limited to a system of supplementary allowances in respect of wives and children, excludes any provision for single men and women, and therefore fails to recognise the admitted necessity for an immediate all-round increase in the rates of compensation payable.
The right hon. Gentleman appears to be quite satisfied with his effort. He appears to think that, in some way, he has convinced us against our will. I want to disabuse his mind of that. Almost his last words were "a £2,000,000 burden
on industry." Two million pounds given to the injured workmen, the casualties of industry; £2,000,000 over the whole field of industry. If justice were done to the miners alone, they would have another £2,000,000 a year. Really, this Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman said was a war-time Measure, is a very little wartime Measure, considering that in war time one thinks of £2,000,000 as being a bagatelle. The right hon. Gentleman has not done much to recommend his Bill on this side of the House. It is a far smaller Bill than we have expected. I was shocked when I heard that the amount was going to be £2,000,000, because I had thought that it would work out at a much higher figure than that. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Amendment does not condemn the Bill. In fact, it does condemn the Bill roundly. We take exception to a Workmen's Compensation (Supplementary Allowances) Bill, and we take exception to a Bill which, in its long Title, is described as a Bill to
provide for the payment of supplementary allowances in respect of wives and children to male workmen.…
and confines it to that. We are against the principle of supplementary allowances, and we are against the narrow terms in which the Bill has been drawn. The right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech went over a little past history. I propose to go over it, and to remind the House of what I said when I last spoke on this question. The maximum present figure is 30s. a week. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have not made out any statistical case for an all-round increase. He alleges that our only concern has been for the married man with one or two children. That is not true. Our case has always been that the single man and single woman were being badly and ungenerously treated on the 30s. a week basis; and we have then claimed, after showing that 30s. was inadequate for a single person, that it was obviously even more inadequate for a person who has dependants—and those dependants may not necessarily be wives and children. It is one of the most abominable sides of this Bill that there is no provision whatever made for dependants who may be fully maintained by single men and women workers. If that is the best that the right hon. Gentleman can do, I do not think much of it.
However, there is the 30s. That, he said, was the result of war conditions, and the increased cost of living. Then he went on to say that, since the figure was reduced in 1923—by an amount which was far greater than the reduction in the cost of living, if my memory is correct—wages have increased by 15 per cent. That may well be, but those wages have not been hoarded. They have been devoted to developing the standard of life of the workers. Therefore, if those workers become liable to compensation, the compensation ought to take into account the standard of life that they have to maintain for themselves and, if they have dependants, for their dependants. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman were logical—which he is not—he would have come forward with an all-round increase of 15 per cent. He has not done that, but has crept away, as did the Minister of Health on old age pensions, behind this discovery of hardship.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Holman-Gregory Report in 1920, 20 years ago, before the Government of the day had reduced workmen's compensation to the 30s. maximum. What were their proposals? They were that an injured workman should get two-thirds of his wages up to a maximum of £3 per week. The reply of the Government at that time was to reduce the maximum 35s. to 30s., at which point it has stood ever since, and from that day onwards, long before anybody ever dreamed of Herr Hitler or this war, there has been continuous agitation for improvement in the standards given under the Workmen's Compensation Acts. A Bill has been introduced on this side of the House on three different occasions—in February, 1933, and twice in 1936. The scheme of that Bill, which I assume the right hon. Gentleman calls the Labour party scheme, was in fact worked out by the trades union movement on the basis of their intimate experience of this problem, and was very proudly accepted by this party; we regard ourselves as the Parliamentary sponsors of the Bill which originated from the trade union movement. In those Debates—and I was present on all three occasions—I do not remember one speech on the opposite side of the House defending the existing 30s. There were criticisms of certain particular aspects of the scheme. A certain amount of ridicule was thrown upon our general plan, but there was no speaker who argued that the present rates were too high.
No doubt as a result of this prolonged agitation, nearly two years ago, the Government established a Royal Commission to go into the whole problem. That Royal Commission, as the right hon. Gentleman explained, suspended its operation for a time in the first month of the war, and has now resumed its activities. But before it went into abeyance for the time being, it had received a very large amount of evidence, and I have still to learn that any evidence so far received ever contemplated any reductions. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), who gave evidence before the Commission, and who has no affiliations with this party, wholeheartedly pressed for a substantial increase in the amount of maximum compensation payable. When the question was raised again we considered that the attitude of mind taken by the Government was a very dangerous one.
Let us look at the position as it is to-day, just before the Bill is passed, and then I shall have something a little later to say about when the Bill is passed. Take the people who to-day are on light work. They are among the most tragic workmen's compensation cases, not perhaps as tragic as the cases of those who are fully disabled, but their lives are tragedies none the less bitter. What is the position of these people to-day? Where there have been war increases under the terms of settlement of their compensation, which depends partly upon their wages, if, say, there has been, because of increased cost of living or war conditions, an increase of 5s. per week, that man—and his plight is a hard one, and his comrades in the workshop know that his plight is a hard one—gets 2s. 6d. That, in my view, is not a matter that can be ignored now, and I know from my own experience that many trade unions are having to face this very problem. It is a real human problem which this Bill does nothing whatever to touch, and it is a matter which might rightly be brought within the scope of the present Measure.
We have, time and time again, asked for an interim report from the Royal Commission on one point, and on one point only. The point was, Is 30s., or less than 30s. in many cases, sufficient? The Government got up very ponderously and told us: "There are very grave issues concerned in all this, vital principles would have to be taken into account, and so on, and therefore we cannot have a Royal Commission interim report." But it must be remembered that we are only asking for it on the question of £ s. d., of money in the pocket of the injured workman. We are not wanting a discussion of principle. That was the last thing that we were wanting. We were prepared to await the result of the findings of the Royal Commission as regards the major structure of the workmen's compensation scheme in the future.
Here we have a Bill, not a simple one to raise the level of payment of compensation, but one flaunting the Royal Commission, putting ideas into its head and accepting a new principle. All that the Government have said about the difficulties of dealing with the position in wartime on the purely financial basis ought to have barred them from bringing in a Bill which accepts a new principle unknown to the workmen's compensation law of this country, and we are entitled to criticise that particular attitude which they have now taken. It is a new principle—being the principle adopted in the Old Age Pensions Act, of not admitting the basic injustice of the existing rates, but trying to save their own consciences from pricking them too much by saying, "We will deal with hard cases." How many times are we to say in this House that all cases of poverty are hard cases, and the fact that a workman may have £10 in the bank does not mean that, if he is injured, or if he becomes aged, he is none the less barred. Our great objection to this Bill is that it has not accepted, what we regard as absolutely vital at this time without disturbing the present machinery of the workmen's compensation, an all-round increase. I submit that the work of the Royal Commission has now been prejudiced by the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman in embodying this principle of supplementary allowances in this Bill, and its mind is bound to be guided by this in future because it will have to take into account what is the law of the land at the time, and I am sorry that that should have been done.
Let us just look at what the Bill actually does. The right hon. Gentleman was subjected to criticism which implied some suspicion of employers and insurance companies. The right hon. Gentleman has a pathetic faith in them; I have not, and, in passing, I am going to refer to Clause 2, which deals with redemption, because of information which has come to my knowledge this afternoon. Insurance companies—patriotic people as they are—are now doing their best to force cases to accept redemption before 1st July, when this Bill comes into operation, so as to avoid the necessity of paying supplementary allowances. If that is so, then that for which my hon. Friends have asked, something more specific in the way of assurances, is necessary both from employers' organisations and from the insurance companies. The Bill establishes a maximum payment to be made in compensation and allowances of seven-eighths of the average weekly earnings contributed in exactly the same way. Under the present law—and it does not always work out very favourably, as many of us know—that is the maximum. There is to be included in compensation a payment of 5s. for the wife, and 3s. for each child under 15 years of age. No single male or female can get allowances whatever their commitments are. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman is talking about hardships, he is ignoring a large area where hardships may be very severe. If he were to go to the textile areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire he would find many single women, and married women too—a very large number of married women, especially in Lancashire—maintaining their old people, and yet for these cases there is to be no sort of additional payment whatever. If our proposals were adopted, they at least would share in the advancement of the general level of compensation.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was not clear what our proposals were and he wondered whether we had some secret ones up our sleeves, and so on. Our proposals are those by which we have stood in this House for some years now, and for which the Trades Union Congress Joint Council stood when it gave its evidence before the Royal Commission. Our proposals—and I am not going into details because we must keep to general principles—are that workmen's compensation should be 75 per cent. of normal weekly earnings, with a minimum of £3, or full wages, which ever be the less sum. The right hon. Gentleman replies to that and says, "It is dreadful; you might be giving £3 per week to people with less than £3 per week." That is not our dilemma, but is one created by the capitalist system which admits such abominably low wages, and we have never found it necessary to depart from what we regard as human standards because an efficient, greedy industry chooses to pay people something less than is really required to keep them in health, and which certainly could not possibly keep them if they suffered disablement, and I would have thought that £3 a week was a reasonable payment. If there are people, as there are on the land and in certain other industries here and there, with less than £3 a week, then I would have thought that in time of disablement the community ought to see that they got at least £3 per week.
Irrespective of wages? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that £3 a week should be payable under Labour party proposals where wages were less than £3?
No, what I am saying is that they would receive full wages if it is below £3 per week. I would be prepared, if the right hon. Gentleman says people might get more if their wages are below £3 a week, to allow them, as compensation, £3 per week.
No, our plan is full wages, 75 per cent., with a minimum of £3. If it is below that, the full wage. But if it be the case that under any proposals any of our miserably paid workers might, when they are disabled, get a little more, then, so far as we are concerned, we should not complain. The right hon. Gentleman tries to put us into a dilemma which is the creation of a system which he supports, but we have to stand, so far as we can, for these human standards. Under our proposals if a man is earning £3 a week he gets £3 a week. Under the Government's proposals he could not possibly get, whatever his circumstances, more than £2 12s. 6d. But to get that—and this is an important point to remember—he would have to get his full 30s. for himself—and large numbers of people on compensation do not get that—then 5s. for his wife, and would have to have six children under the age of 15 in order to get the maximum sum under this Bill. I believe I have worked out the arithmetic exactly. Under this Bill he could not possibly get £2 12s. 6d. unless he had six children under the age of 15.
The right hon. Gentleman stated that as regards the better-to-do people they were going up by hundreds per cent. under our proposals, and so on. That is not true. Let us take the case of a man with £7 per week. Theoretically, he should receive £6 2s. 6d. under the Government's scheme, which is seven-eighths of his normal weekly earnings. We admit that under our scheme he could get only £4 15s. but, at least, he would get that amount. What are the conditions under which this £7 per week man could obtain his £6 2s. 6d.? He has to have his full 30s. himself, 5s. for his wife and 3s. for each of 29 children under the age of 15. Mr. Speaker, in this Malthusian age this seems to me to be completely impossible. Therefore, this idea of the right hon. Gentleman, when he tells us that our proposals would be a really great advantage to the highest paid artisan, is incorrect. Let me take an intermediate case, that is, of a man with £5 per week. To get the full amount he was entitled to under this scheme he would have to have his full 30s. compensation, 5s. for his wife, and 3s. for each of 17 children under 15 years of age. The £5 per week man is an intermediate case between the lowly paid and the higher paid. If he was a man with six children he would obtain £2 13s. under this particular scheme; under our scheme he would receive £3 15s. It is quite clear that the Government proposals will not yield that enormous addition to workmen's compensation. We know now how the trick is done. It is done by saying, "We will give everybody seven-eighths of their normal wages up to—." That, it seems to me, shows the defects of this scheme.
I want for a moment or so to deal with other anomalies in the Bill. We have the 5s. for the wife and 3s. for each child up to the age of 15. Very recently evidence was given before the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation dealing with this point. They took the British Medical Association's own scale and they considered it in relation to the scale established by a very scientifically conducted survey on the Merseyside. According to these authorities the actual cost of maintaining a child as a member of a family varies from 5s. a week for a child of one year of age up to about 9s. 6d. a week for a boy about 15 years of age. This schemes gives 3s. whatever the age.
Now, as hon. Members know, the Unemployment Assistance Board's scale for children varies from 3s. 6d. a week—higher by 6d. to begin with—at one year of age to 6s. 6d. for boys of 14, 15 or 16. Under unemployment insurance the amount is 4s. per week for the first two children, not 3s., and there is 3s. for each other child. I submit that when the Government are playing with legislation of this kind they really ought to do something to bring about justice as between different classes of people who obtain State help from whatever fund it may be. Is the child of a disabled man to be treated in a more niggardly fashion than the child of an unemployed man? We do not wish to see the unemployed treated harshly, but at least we ask that the disabled man's child should be treated as generously, with the most generous treatment that may be given where a family becomes afflicted.
We have put in our claim for an improvement of all-round rates—a claim that we have consistently made for 17 years. The Government have chosen to reject a long overdue demand, a demand which Members on all sides of the House have admitted. We are being driven back to the same policy as the policy adopted in the Old Age Pensions Bill, and I say that in the circumstances of to-day this Bill is a meanly conceived Measure. In circumstances like these, when industrial risks will become the greater as the war proceeds, we might have expected a little more generosity. What the Government are doing in this Bill is to trade on the public by telling them they are caring for wives and children. As I have tried to show, it is perfectly clear that what comes out of this Bill will be very little, especially to the aching hearts following on industrial accidents in the mining villages and industrial areas. We put down this reasoned Amendment after considerable reflection; we have phrased it in a way which would exactly express our views and for this Amendment we shall vote in the Division Lobby to-night.
May I ask for that indulgence which, I understand, is normally afforded to one who seeks the attention of the House for the first time? It is my desire to try to make some contribution to this discussion for one reason which I hope the House will think a not unsatisfactory one, namely, that in the last 15 years I have had a very ample opportunity of observing the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts in the county courts, especially in the North of England, where arbitrations under those Acts are numerous and varied. The primary object of this Bill as it appears in Clause 1 is to provide supplementary allowances for those injured workmen who have wives and families, and is one which I should have thought would have commended itself to all sections of the House. I confess that for some time—and it is plain that the Government now hold the same view—I was of opinion that the maximum sum of 30s. a week compensation, irrespective of an injured workman's family circumstances, was inadequate. That inadequacy is now to be made good. I do not gather that the proposals which are now put forward are being put forward on account of the increased cost of living. If that had been the case, no doubt there would have been many demands from other sections of the community.
As I say, the main principle of this Bill is one which I would have thought would have been welcomed. It requires, however, no very acute perspicacity to observe that there is some dissatisfaction on the other side of the House with the provisions of the Bill, and I desire to say a word or two in support of these proposals, which, in my humble view, constitute a real benefit to workmen who are injured at their work. I think it must be conceded that in these cases the scales must be held fairly as between workman and employer. Such of my hon. Friends as are also my learned Friends, on both sides of the House, have, very frequently I imagine, when addressing a jury on behalf of a defendant in regard to the assessment of damages, said this: "Do not forget that you are dipping into the pockets of others, and if you feel sorry for the injured man and would like to give a little more, there is no reason why you should not dip into your own pockets and make a collection on his behalf." It is necessary and only right, in my submission, to bear in mind two salient features in regard to the whole of workmen's compensation legislation. The first is that it is essentially unilateral. You may search through the innumerable Sections of the many enactments passed since the first and principal Act of 1897, and you will find no single benefit accruing to the employer. The second is that this is one of the few instances, if not, indeed, the only instance in our law, of a liability being placed upon a person in respect of injury received in an accident for which that person is in no sense responsible, an accident which may have been caused without the slightest neglect or default on his part. In such circumstances it is inequitable to require extravagant increases in the quantum of compensation.
Having made those few observations upon Clause 1 of this Bill, there are two comments which I desire to make. They are not adverse comments but are intended to be constructive suggestions for the consideration of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. One has already been touched on by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and it is in connection with the question of redemption. In Clause 2 of this Bill it is observed that the redemption of supplementary allowances is a matter for the discretion of the tribunal. It will be recalled that by Section 13 of the principal Act, as construed by the courts, there are certain circumstances in which an employer has an absolute right to redeem. I venture to call attention to this point, since it was referred to by one of His Majesty's Judges at the recent Liverpool Assizes as a matter deserving consideration here, and it seems to me that the Government might consider the desirability of amending Section 13 of the principal Act in order that there should be substituted for that absolute right to redemption a power to ask the court for redemption, the court having discretion to say "Aye" or "Nay" to that application. That, of course, would be in line with the proposal in Clause 2 of this Bill, which makes it a matter of discretion whether redemption shall be allowed or not. The dangers of lump-sum payments are, I think, well recognised. They arise, unhappily, from the frailty of human nature. All too often an injured workman may be unable properly to handle a large sum of money, and it is a melancholy fact that there are many unscrupulous persons often waiting and watching to see that as little as possible of that lump sum reaches the pocket of the person entitled to it. It seems to me, if I may make the suggestion to my right hon. Friend, that the Government might, in time, think it right to consider some form of alteration of the law in regard to this question of redemption.
The second comment which I desire to make is one which, I am afraid, cannot be said to arise directly out of these proposals, but it is, I submit, germane to this discussion. It is in regard to the effect of Section 29 of the principal Act, that is, the Act of 1925. Under that Section, as construed by the courts, a workman may not claim both workmen's compensation and damages. He must elect which of those two remedies he will pursue. What exactly constitutes an election is a matter of considerable uncertainty. A man may receive compensation for a long period, and then the question has to be determined. "Has he elected to receive compensation so as to be barred from his Common Law remedy in damages?" That uncertainty, while attracting commendably concrete advantages to the profession to which I have the honour to belong, provides real embarrassment as between party and party. The simple suggestion which I would submit for the consideration of my right hon. Friend is that it should be provided, either in this or some later Measure, that in order to bar a workman from his right to damages, there should be in existence a recorded memorandum of agreement. It is obviously unfair that an employer should pay a workman compensation for a long period, perhaps six months, and thereafter be met with an action for damages when much of the evidence which would be useful in resisting that claim may have disappeared. It is also unfortunate, if the workman in ignorance of his rights, chooses the less valuable remedy. I suggest that it would be a safeguard to the employer if the recording of the memorandum were the only bar to an action for damages, and it would also be a safeguard to the workman who upon the application for the recording of the memorandum would be made alive to the alternative remedies possibly open to him.
I have, I fear, rather strayed from the immediate purview of the proposals in the Bill in making these suggestions, but I did desire to bring these points to the attention of the House. As I say, I am happy indeed to support what, in my opinion, is a substantial contribution towards the betterment of the position of the injured workman and his family. In conclusion, I would express the hope that that indulgence for which I asked at the beginning of my remarks and which has been so generously accorded to me should not operate to prevent hon. Members on either side of the House from criticising or even condemning, if they are so minded, any of the points to which I have ventured to call attention.
The hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) had very little need to ask for the indulgence of the House, and I know I shall have the agreement of every hon. Member here in offering him my congratulations upon the lucid maiden speech which he has just delivered. I listened with great interest to many of his observations—observations which were obviously drawn from a considerable experience of the working of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the doctrine of election under Section 29 of the principal Act. That is an anomaly in our present law to which we on these benches have frequently drawn attention in recent years. We hope that before too long we shall see are form in that respect, and we also hope that when we come to deal with that matter, we may have the assistance of the hon. Member for Chester.
I shall not detain the House long in expressing the attitude of my hon. Friends and myself on this Bill. In 1917, as hon. Members know, an Act was passed providing for a flat-rate increase in workmen's compensation of 25 per cent., and I am bound to say that we would greatly have preferred it, if the Government had followed the precedent of 1917. When we discussed this matter—I think at the beginning of this year—the right hon. Gentleman announced the Government's intention to bring in legislation to deal with what he called cases of hardship. Our view is that under the existing law every case is a case of hardship. You cannot avoid hardship when you have an injured man who has not only to put up with the consequences of his injury, but who suddenly finds his income reduced by 50 per cent. That is something which is bound to happen under the present law. I know that powerful arguments have been brought forward about providing for the wives and children of injured men, but we must take this Bill on the basis that it represents the Government's policy on this matter for a considerable time to come. The right hon. Gentleman did not throw out any hint that there would be further legislation, whatever increase might take place in the cost of living during the course of the war. That is to say that, as far as we can gather, the Government have no proposals whatever to make to meet the case of the single man or woman who is injured and is not able to prosecute a claim for damages.
I have listened with a sense of impatience and exasperation to a good many Debates on workmen's compensation in this House. There has been so many years' delay in bringing in reforms which every hon. Member who has studied the question knows to be long overdue. The Royal Commission is, in many respects, merely an excuse for further delay. No doubt there are certain matters which may properly be subjects for prolonged inquiry. There is the issue raised a year or two ago in the Bill presented by hon. Members above the Gangway, who suggested that workmen's compensation, instead of being a liability imposed upon industry, should become, in effect, a form of social service. That may properly be a matter for inquiry by a Royal Commission, but, apart from that, we all know many obvious, indeed glaring, defects in our workmen's compensation law—the hon. Member for Chester has just reminded us of one of them—which could be set right without any inquiry by any commission or committee. We have drawn attention to many of them in recent Debates. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, reminded us of one. He referred to the bankrupt employer who is unable to pay what is due under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, so that the injured man loses his rights. It was proposed in 1923 by the Holman-Gregory Commission that every employer should be compelled to insure against risks under the Workmen's Compensation and Employers' Liability Acts. That was a perfectly simple recommendation, and it was actually carried out in the year 1934 in the case of injured coalminers. Is there any conceivable reason why a simple reform of that kind should not have been included in this Bill? I feel great disappointment that nothing of the kind has been done.
I have indicated that my remarks would be brief, and there are just two matters of detail to which I should like to refer. The first was raised by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) when he said that information had come to his possession, I gather only a short time ago, showing that employers are doing their best to force lump-sum settlements before 1st July, when the Bill is intended to become an Act of Parliament. If that be so—and I do not doubt the accuracy of the right hon. Member's information—it seems to me that it could be dealt with by a simple Amendment to Clause 1, that instead of the words in the Bill "While this Act is in force" there should be inserted the words, "after 1st May, 1940." I hope the Home Secretary will consider the advisability of an Amendment of that kind. I know there are objections in the ordinary way, which I feel as strongly as anyone, to retrospective legislation, but in cases like this the persons concerned would have been given perfectly fair warning, and no injustice would be done.
The second point to which I want to draw the attention of the House is also in Clause 1. We are introducing a new principle into our compensation law. Under the Bill the rates of compensation are to be based, not on incapacity, but on need. I am rather puzzled as to the way in which this principle is carried out. It is provided that the injured man may draw 5s. per week in respect of a wife and 3s. a week in the case of any legitimate child. Naturally we do not want to do anything to encourage illicit liaisons, but there is a difference in principle between the attitude of the Home Office and some other Government Departments. Since the beginning of the war we have had a good many discussions on the plans put forward by the Ministry of Pensions for dealing with soldiers and soldiers' wives and with disability pensions and allowances. No such distinction is drawn in the Royal Warrant as has been drawn by the Air Ministry or the Navy, between legitimate and illegitimate children. After all, the test that is being taken in this Bill is a test of need. It may be improper that the injured man should be living with a woman who is not his wife, but if there are illegitimate children, their needs are just as great as if the children had been born in wedlock. I really cannot see why we should have this exhibition of prudery which seems to be existing in Whitehall on the part of some Government Departments. I hope that in this respect we may look forward to some amendment in the Committee stage. These are the only observations I want to offer to the House on the Bill. As far as my friends and I are concerned, we do not think it goes far enough. It does not deal with the problem of the single man or with the hardship which must arise from the present rates of compensation and the rising cost of living during the war. For those reasons we shall support the Amendment.
I fancy that the House is sharply divided between those who want the Bill and will support it and those who want the Bill and are going to vote against it. No one in the House doubts that the Bill will confer some benefit upon a number of his constituents, and at heart we all desire to benefit our constituents. Personally, I shall be numbered among those who want the Bill and will vote for it, but I can quite understand the motives and the political technique of those who take the opposite view; and I make no complaint. But there are comments, perhaps even caustic comments, which I want to make on the nature and scope of the Bill. It is one more example of the piecemeal process of providing allowances for children. As the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) pointed out, we are simply dealing bit by bit with allowances for children and building up a mosaic of different schemes. The one necessary feature in any Bill dealing with children's allowances appears to be that it shall disagree with the scheme of the last Bill; the allowances must not in any case be identical with those of the previous Measure. And all the while, as hon. Members know, it is quite inevitable that at some time we shall have to deal with children's allowances comprehensively under the form of a unified family allowance scheme. That is absolutely inevitable.
I am reminded of an analogous situation in the years before the last Great War. There were two Measures, which I think most forward-looking minds thought were bound to be passed, one relating to summer time and the other to votes for women, and both would normally have taken about 20 years to pass, having regard to the standard speed of British legislation. In point of fact, the war forced them on the Statute Book within five years. I believe we are in a similar situation as regards family allowances. They are bound to come some day, and if the war goes on for three years, they will come within the duration. But we all know that it is not our habit to accept the inevitable until it is forced upon us by the circumstances of the hour, and while to many of us the goal of family allowances seems to be wide open now, we know that British statesmanship demands that Ministers shall dribble the ball resolutely and firmly along the side line in a gradual approach towards the ultimate destination. Meanwhile we have this particular scheme of quite useful allowances for certain children, which I accept as a step in advance. The right hon. Gentleman will not think I am blaming him for the delay in introducing family allowances. That is a matter which the economic control in the War Cabinet must decide. It is not possible for the Home Secretary to introduce it as a Departmental measure.
The Bill is criticised on the ground that it is a piecemeal Measure and quite inadequate, and criticised also from the human point of view. I cordially agree. The existing scales of workmen's compensation are hopelessly inadequate, but I am not so sure that I should like to see the palliatives introduced which would make the present workmen's compensation scheme satisfactory for a time to hon. Members opposite. I believe that the whole system is fundamentally unsound, and that we shall never obtain a satisfactory scheme of workmen's compensation so long as we proceed by the means of insurance. That is a matter for the Royal Commission, and I trust that their conclusions will lead us to concert a wide reorganisation such as the right hon. Gentleman referred to. In order that that may be brought about, I think it would be a pity if we made the existing law work too well for a short time. I think that would be a mistake. If you merely increase the existing scales step by step, you will never get a proper solution of the problem, and I do not want to see progress on lines that do not lead to the true goal.
There are two points, appropriate to the Committee stage, which it is perhaps worth while referring to now in order that they may be considered. It will be observed that Clause 1 follows the customary procedure of paying these allowances to men. Everybody knows that if a system of family allowances is introduced, the allowances will be paid to the mother of the children. It is she who is responsible for their food and clothing. I do not suggest that the Bill is an appropriate occasion to introduce that general principle, but I do suggest that it would be worth while dealing with exceptional cases where the purpose of the Bill would be defeated if the money is taken by the man. There will be cases where there are broken-up homes, where the man is an unsatisfactory character. I do not say that these cases are frequent, but these allowances are for the benefit of the wife and children, and the benefit should be secured to them. Again, if they are taken for the payment of liabilities such as hire purchase or the mortgage on a house, the purpose for which we are passing this Bill might be defeated. I suggest as an Amendment for the Committee stage that the court should have power to direct that these allowances should be paid in particular cases to the wife.
In cases of compensation the money is paid by the employer. In what respect does the hon. Member suggest that it is possible for the wife to do this any more than in the case of ordinary wages? This is part of the ordinary wages of the man. The hon. Member's suggestion is a remarkable contribution to domestic felicity.
The hon. Member knows how extremely easy it is to get such cases dealt with in the courts. There is no difficulty in making an application to the court in respect of workmen's compensation payments. The other point to which I want to refer is the age at which these payments are to end. The age of 15 is a clumsy moment to choose, because it may be either too early or too late. What is really wanted is that the allowance shall be paid until the child is earning wages and making a contribution to the family budget. I should like the allowance to be payable in the same way as Income Tax allowances are deducted in respect of children who are in receipt of whole-time education. I should like to see education made the test. So long as children are being educated and are unable to earn wages, so long should the allowance be paid. It would not be possible to go so far under this Bill, but I suggest that the school-leaving age would be better than the age of 15.
No. I have never suggested that, and it is wholly irrelevant to the point. The hon. Member's interruption may perhaps be a happy example of Irish wit. I was referring to the age at which these allowances should cease. The school-leaving age is the age at which the child enters industry, and the allowance certainly ought to be continued up-to that age. There are even now parts of the country where the school-leaving age is the end of the term in which the child attains the age of 15. In such cases the allowance will end too soon. In other cases, where the children leave at the end of the term in which they become 14, the allowance will go on for an unnecessarily long time. I suggest that the age should have relation to the time which the child stays at school. Those are the two suggestions, I wish to make in regard to the Committee stage of the Bill, and I have only to repeat that I shall vote for the Bill because I recognise it will be beneficial to a number of my constituents.
I shall not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) on the question of how the supplementary allowances should be paid, because I want to deal with one or two more important aspects of the Bill. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that ever since 1923, whenever we have had Debates in the House about the inadequacy or otherwise of the existing law, there has been almost invariably unanimity of feeling that the Bill under discussion in those Debates did not fulfil expectations; and on this occasion some hon. Members have been disappointed that, even though there is a Royal Commission sitting, we have not had some action by the Government before now with regard to workmen's compensation. I am bound to say that, although there is some advantage in this Bill, it certainly is not as good as it ought to be. It is drawn far too narrowly and it is contrary to the spirit of the times. For instance, Clause 1 states:
Subject as hereinafter provided, where any male workman…
Why limit the provision to male workmen, especially at a time when there are more women engaged in industry than there have been for many years? There are in the country thousands of women—widows for example—who are working in industry and who have children at home dependent upon the mothers' earnings. If the mother is hurt at work, no supplementary allowance is to be paid in respect of her children. Does the hon. Member for Central Leeds agree with that? I wonder why the provision is not extended to women who are at work in industry. There is, then, the question of single men. I do not know what experience the right hon. Gentleman has had of working-class life and of industry, but my hon. Friends and I know of hundreds of cases of single men in industry who are keeping younger brothers and sisters. In my own case, for instance, when I first entered industry, I had a young sister to bring up. I know of scores of single men working in industry who have families dependent upon them. Why are these single men to be debarred from the benefits of this Bill? There is also the condition that the men must be married at the date of the accident. I can imagine a number of cases in which the men get married after meeting with an accident or after contracting
an industrial disease. I have in mind the case of a young man who was certified as suffering from nystagmus, and who, before being certified had arranged to get married. Under this Bill, a young man in such circumstances would be entitled to compensation, but not to supplementary allowances. I cannot understand the reason behind that sort of legislation.
I would remind the Home Secretary that after the last war there was a big outcry in the country with regard to that same principle in a Royal Warrant which laid down that if a man, after leaving the Army, got married and afterwards died as a result of war wounds or disability incurred in the war, nothing was to be paid to his widow. Thousands of protests were made in 1923 and 1924 with regard to that rule. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) said that this is a birth-control Bill. That may not be strictly accurate, but I cannot see why, if a man gets married after having an accident or contracting an industrial disease, his wife and children should be debarred from the benefits of the Bill. This afternoon I have heard stated what I have always believed to be true; the right hon. Gentleman said that employers have a right to know and to bear liability at the time of the accident. I suppose he means that any increase of family which takes place after the accident is not the concern of the employers. If it is a question of discussing this matter purely and simply from the point of view of the employers on that hard material basis, let me remind hon. Members that there is also a human side to the problem. I cannot understand why the Bill has been drawn so narrowly. With regard to children, I want to refer to a point which the right hon. Gentleman did not mention. On the Committee stage, there must be an Amendment to Clause 1, Sub-section 1 (b), which states:
If he has any legitimate children born to him not later than nine months after the date of the accident….
What about adopted children? Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that within the last two or three years the House has passed a small Measure under which an adopted child is a child within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act? The right hon. Gentleman could have been advised of that by the Department, if he did not know it himself. If the Bill is passed as it is, no adopted child will get
an allowance. There is, then, the question of illegitimate children. The Under-Secretary of State knows something about collieries. All the men are not married. It has been proved in law, and it is part of the law to-day, that if a man gets killed, those dependent upon him are entitled to compensation. Even a colliery owner does not ask the men, when they go into his office, whether their children are illegitimate. I would remind hon. Members that illegitimacy is not all on one side; there is some on the employers' side as well. I can tell the House of a case where one colliery manager refused to give a coal allowance to a man because the man was living with a woman to whom he was not married. Mr. Herbert Smith, the miners' leader, went down to the office with the man in question, and he said to the manager, "I understand you refuse to give coal to this man because he is not married. Well," Mr. Smith added, "tha' not married tha' sen." The man got his coal without any more argument. I say that in these days this Bill is drawn much too narrowly. The Bill falls far short of what it ought to be. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the compensation is 5s. and 3s. We have a long way to go before we reach the position of some parts of the Empire in that respect. In New South Wales, there is £1 a week for the wife, and 8s. 6d. for each child up to the age of 14, in addition to compensation. Under that Act, a man can get up to £5 a week of full wages. This Bill is not good enough. The Under-Secretary, who is connected with the mining industry, knows that the Bill will not give full satisfaction to injured workmen in his locality.
When we talk about past cases, let us not forget the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) with regard to cases before 1924. The cases before 1924 are mostly incurable cases, cases of men who for years have been in basket chairs because they have spinal injuries, men who will never get better. Let it be remembered also that it was exceptional if, in 1923, a man drew the full 35s. a week, because in 1922 and 1923 there was a slump in wages. In Yorkshire wages fell from £7 a week to £3 2s. 6d. between 1921 and 1922. The man who, before 1924, received 35s. a week is to be debarred from the small bit of advantage which there is in this Bill. It is not good enough. We shall go on agitating until we get a much better Bill than this one. Hon. Members opposite are bursting with sympathy, but some of them have not got the guts to go into the Lobby against the Government. There are hon. Members opposite who know that if they go to their constituencies they can find industrial derelicts in almost every place to which they go. Yet they will walk into the Lobby like docile sheep to defeat this Amendment, and believe that they have done something good. The Under-Secretary may smile. I say to him frankly that if he went through the same things in industry as some of the hon. Members on these benches have, and as the people in the country have, it would make him far more sympathetic in matters of workmen's compensation and social reform generally. I do not mind saying that before he became Under-Secretary, he could be relied upon to do the Government's dirty work. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) is responsible for this Bill, because he moved the Amendment with hardship in it; he was the man who was doing the dirty work for the Government at that time. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has rested his case upon that Amendment with regard to hardship. Let me say that nearly every compensation case is one of hardship.
When the right hon. Gentleman talks about what this Bill will confer upon a man, he ought to examine his arithmetic a little more. I could give one or two cases where they will not even receive the full allowance under this Bill. Take the case of a man with £2 a week who has three children. He draws 22s. 6d. workmen's compensation, but with the seven-eighths limitation he can draw only 12s. 6d., no matter how many children he has. Seven-eights of £2 a week is 35s. He draws 22s. 6d., but the most he can receive is 12s. 6d. a week. I am one who believes that industry can afford a compensation Act which would enable the injured to live in decency without resort to any form of public assistance. We are told that it costs £2,000,000 a year, but it is only one-third of one day's cost of the war per year. I say it is not good enough and I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had been big enough to bring in a much more comprehensive Bill than this.
This Measure will create a good many anomalies, almost as many as already exist to-day, and it will create injustices. Suppose a man proposing to get married meets with a serious accident and postpones his marriage until he is able to start work. Whatever partial compensation that man is entitled to, his wife and kiddies cannot receive any supplementary allowance under this Bill. Again I say, quite frankly, this Bill is not good enough. I would much rather have had an amending Bill with an all-round flat-rate increase, and that increase to be fairly generous. When we talk about cost let us be perfectly frank in admitting that everything you put on industry becomes a cost on production. In the mining industry, which has more than its fair proportion of accidents, the cost on production is about 3d. per ton. Let us assume it is made 4d. a ton, as it certainly will not be under this Bill. Under our present agreement, whatever the cost of compensation is, it is deducted before wages are paid. Why should you be so mealy-mouthed with regard to insurance? If some of the insurance companies took less in administration costs, there would be something more to give to the injured in industry. On balance, I prefer an all-round flat-rate increase, and I hope that hon. Members on the other side of the House will recognise that this Bill is inadequate and that they will have the courage to go into the Lobby and vote for the Amendment. When the right hon. Gentleman said that if we carry the Amendment, the Bill is dead, my reply is that we are not standing for threats of that kind. If this House expresses an opinion regarding this Amendment and the Bill becomes dead, the right hon. Gentleman can soon bring in another based more on the wishes of the House. I hope this House will be big enough to carry the Amendment and tell the Government to bring in a bigger Measure as quickly as possible.
To-day, as on prior occasions when this topic has been discussed, I do not want to take part in the Debate from any party angle, because I believe the question of workmen's compensation is a great national problem to which we should all give the best we can to make the position better and easier than it is at the present time. I hope the hon. Member who has just sat down will allow me to say that with a good deal of his criticism in regard to the narrowness of the Bill I would offer my own complete agreement. The need for amendment of the law of workmen's compensation is grave, imperative and insistent, and there are many matters which have to be altered sooner or later. Fundamental amendment is long overdue and, I trust, will come. I realise, however, that this is not the time when there can be brought in any big, comprehensive Measure to make such alterations as many of us would like to see. We know that a Royal Commission is sitting on this very vexed question, and we have to await its report before any vast and complete Measures can be introduced. However, I would like to hear that there is to be an interim report from the Commission, so that some of the very pressing matters discussed time and again in this House might be remedied earlier before the larger general scheme.
Fully realising, as I do, that the only Bill which could be introduced to-day is some simple Measure, increasing benefit and not dealing with those other matters which will have to be dealt with sooner or later, I would ask why it is there should be the narrowness this Bill contains and which takes away some of the reality of the advantages it purports to give. There are advantages in this Bill, but why is there this narrowness in dealing with these industrial casualties which are caught in the vicious spiral of costs which exists to-day? Why should there only be the extra benefit given to a male workman at a time when hordes of women are being employed, as in industry to-day? They are just as liable to meet with accidents, so why should they be excluded? They may suffer the same. Why should it extend only to married workers? Is anyone going to suggest that an unmarried worker who meets with incapacity because of an accident arising out of, and in the course of, his employment is not entitled to such benefit under this Bill as his married fellow-worker? There is no case for such inequality or differentiation.
There should be some increase in the benefit of workmen's compensation given to all people working in industry who fall by the wayside as industrial casualties. I wish to say again, and I shall never tire of saying it, that I can never understand
or defend the position whereby, because a man is injured in the course of his employment, he should not only be crippled in body but crippled as well in his income. I have never understood the defence of that position which says that while a man has been injured in his work under the scheme of workmen's compensation, he shall only have some smaller income during incapacity, which depresses the standard of life of himself and of his family and dependants. It is an indefensible position, and I have never heard any argument put forward which alters the criticism I make. I am bound to say that I was disappointed when I saw this state of affairs continued to some extent in this Measure. Why should we find this qualification:
Provided that the total amount of the supplementary allowances payable in respect of any weekly payment shall not exceed such sum as would, together with the said weekly payment, amount…in the case of total in capacity, to seven-eighths of the average weekly earnings of the workman before the accident….."?
I quite appreciate that a Bill of this nature, introduced in present circumstances, cannot be a comprehensive Measure, but I would like to see the Bill improved with the approval of all sides of the House. It can only be to-day a Bill making some real increase in the amount to be paid to the men crippled in industry, Why must there be this qualification? I suggest that when a man is injured he wants at least the same income as before and in many cases more. If a man meets with an accident on the highway and is knocked over by a motor car, one of the items which are allowed to him if he succeeds in his claim is "special food and nourishment"—extra costs arising from the injury he has received. That is recognised by law, but under the Workmen's Compensation Act, because a man has had an accident at work you depress at once the whole standard of living, not only for himself but for his dependants. It is an indefensible position, and when a comprehensive Measure is introduced that intolerable position will have to go. I would like to see these stipulations and limitations on income taken away.
The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) referred to the case of adopted children, and I hope in this Bill we are not going to fall into the position which we had to remedy by a private Measure some years ago. It was a former Member of this House who was supported by many of us who introduced a private Bill to remedy the position which arose from a decision taken in another place. Of course, an adopted child must be considered a child for this purpose. This House will appreciate how difficult it seems to be for the Government to introduce a Workmen's Compensation Bill at this time, but a matter of this kind should not be left to a private Member even in peace time. It is too big a problem. Workmen's compensation is a great national problem which must exist so long as industry lives, and it gets wider and bigger as industry expands. In my years as a Member of this House this is the first time the Government as a Government have ever produced a Measure dealing with workmen's compensation. It is a matter of great national satisfaction that in a time of war, in a life-and-death struggle, the Government can find time and resources to introduce this Bill, but I ask that the narrow limitation which still keeps impoverished the injured industrial worker should be removed. However, this Bill has some advantages in improving the position, but I do not believe it can reflect the real hope the Government intend to give. If there were no Measure at all, the position of a man to-day, with the cost-of-living increasing, would become absolutely intolerable.
Those who have been concerned with the administration of workmen's compensation law are moved by the great hardships they encounter, and they are as determined as anybody to overcome the difficulties which they know exist. Here is an opportunity for the Government to make this Bill such that it will get rid of those injustices which stand out. I would like the Bill to meet with unanimity, and it should be the intention of the Government supported by all parties to secure that by trying to give some real help to those crippled in industry by a small but fair Bill. Why should this Bill give a small weekly allowance to the wife and certain children but nothing to the unmarried worker and the female worker? An hon. Gentleman said that the Bill would create anomalies. It may create as many anomalies as it seems on the face of it to abolish. Bearing in mind the difficulty and delay which must ensue before another Bill is brought in, I would ask the Government to pay heed to this, not as a matter of acrimony on one side of the House or another, but because of the genuine desire in all parts of the House to do something which will materially benefit the lot of the man who has to receive workman's compensation. I will not dilate upon those many other points which I should like to see dealt with, because I realise that in present circumstances we cannot deal with them. Lots of reforms are needed. The Government, however, admit the need for this Bill, and it is admitted on all sides that there must be an increase of the 30s. maximum which now exists.
I ask the Government to consider whether in these days of rising prices this Bill really gives the benefit which the Government would like to give to those who come under it. It would not be a big matter to take away the vexatious limitations to include married as well as unmarried women and men, and adopted children as well as other children, never mind whether the marriage came after the accident or not. Let us have a general and real increase of benefit. I visualise the case of a man who meets with an accident and is probably crippled for life having to separate from the woman who desired to nurse him because she could not get an allowance. I hope that the points which are obvious now on Second Reading will be met by the Government and that the Bill will not be sponsored in its present form by the Government without serious amendment. Dealing only with this one aspect of the amount, let the Government take the opportunity it has and alter this Bill. I am not impressed by the argument that this is a charge on industry which it cannot afford. We have heard that so often. We have heard it about pensions, and on the question of holidays with pay, and about other increased allowances. I think that industry can and gladly will shoulder whatever burden there is in connection with reasonable and decent treatment of those injured in industrial work. Most people on industrial work to-day are taking part in the great war effort. Those who are injured are industrial casualties and we should have regard for them in that connection.
I am not impressed by the argument that the insurance companies will not like it. There may be a case sooner or later for compulsory insurance for workmen's compensation. We have had compulsory insurance for mineworkers by another recent Act, The insurance companies are getting big benefits to-day in more ways than one. I wonder whether any insurance company would tell us the value they are getting to-day from motor-car insurance policies when owners are paying only for risk of a few days a month instead of on the whole 365 days. I ask the Government to give an undertaking that the anomalies shall be put right. We are glad that they have brought in a Bill to give some increase, and we realise that the increase must necessarily seem little, but I beg the Government to take the opportunity to get unanimity on this important subject by undertaking to get rid of the narrowing limitations which will bring about hardship which I do not think the Government want in their desire to ease the conditions of the injured man.
I am afraid my contribution to this Debate will please neither side, because, as I have listened to the speeches, I have felt that there were many holes that could be picked both in the case for and in the case against the Bill. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, I could not help wondering whether, if he had been on the Government Bench, in power in time of war, he really would have brought in a Bill on the lines to which he said the Amendment is intended to point the way, that is to say, a Bill that gave compensation of at least £3 a week even in cases where the man's wages were less than that.
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say a minimum of £3. Anyhow, he foreshadowed a very bold Bill. Would he have introduced a bold Bill of that sort in war-time? He was not so bold when he was in power in 1931, when the country was also in difficulties. He was particularly hard upon the Home Secretary because he said this Bill was meant to concentrate on the cases of greatest hardship. Surely, the case of a married man with a wife and children is a case of greatest hardship. The right hon. Gentleman said that all poverty was hardship, but is not poverty, as measured by a given income, a greater hardship when the income has to be divided between three, four or five people than when it is concentrated on one person? The feeling shown by the right hon. Gentleman in his criticism of the Home Secretary's proposals is a feeling I have often criticised when I have seen it in the Labour party, and it is not worthy of them. It is the feeling that they plead for the wives and children whenever they are working for wage increases, but they are awfully annoyed when the logical conclusion is drawn that they should concentrate on increased benefits for wives and children. If they will come out for a full-blooded scheme of family allowances, they will be in a far stronger logical position in criticising a Bill of this sort.
May I turn my criticism in the opposite direction and ask whether from the Home Secretary's point of view, this Bill does what he professes it is intended to do? Although it might have been impossible to introduce in war-time such a Bill as the Opposition would like, surely this Bill errs in the opposite sense. Was there ever so niggardly a Bill? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the hardship of the wife and children, but what is he doing to relieve it? Five shillings for the wife and 3s. for each child. Five shillings will not keep a woman, and 3s. will not keep a child. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the figures, which I think I have done a great deal to work out, showing the actual cost of the maintenance of wives and children. Sir John Orr's figures are the best known calculations. He calculates that under the existing wage system 25 per cent. of the entire child population are living on incomes where the amount spent on food is not more than 4s. a week, and he says that that amount is not enough to secure a diet which contains any one of the important constituents necessary for health in sufficient quantity. Food is a child's only need, and if it cannot be kept on 3s., still less can a woman be kept on 5s.
The immense variety of scales for dependent wives and children is becoming quite embarrassing, and they are all based on principles which nobody can understand. There are the scales for Service pensions, for unemployment statutory benefit, for assistance under the Unemployment Assistance Board, for widows under the contributory pensions, for evacuees, and now here is the latest instalment of allowances for wives and children under workmen's compensation. They all differ. I admit that all the other cases are allowances paid by the State and that this is a case where the allowances are paid by the employers. Really, the public is beginning to feel that there is something unsatisfactory in this meaningless, illogical jumble of differing rates worked out on principles which nobody can understand. Surely, more than £2,000,000 could have been squeezed out of the body of employers who are making immense profits in many cases and paying immense wages. Surely, it is a hardship for a man, putting all his best into war work, to have to be reduced to a miserable 30s. a week, 5s. for his wife, and 3s. for his child, if he meets with an accident.
Let us imagine the case of two brothers. One joins the Army and gets 2s. a day, 17s. for his wife and 5s., 4s. and 3s. for his children. If he is killed, the widow and children get allowances on something like that scale—but a different scale, of course. The man's brother stays at home, goes into a munitions factory and earns £6, £7 or £8 a week. An hour ago a man living in a rural village which has a big factory near it told me he knew men of 23 who were earning £8 a week. Suppose a man of that sort has an accident because he has worked very hard. The most he can get is 30s. a week, with 5s. for his wife and 3s. for his child. The soldier, who is risking his life for relatively small pay, gets rather better allowances for his children. The civilian, who gets enormous pay, comes under this preposterously inadequate scale if he suffers from an injury.
I will not stress them, but let me go over some of the other little meannesses in the Bill, if I may venture to call them so. First, there is the exclusion of a widow's children. Supposing a woman is a widow, and not a pensioned widow, and her children are entirely dependent upon her. Why is she not to get her 3s. for each child? Supposing a man or a woman has an orphan brother or sister who is dependent? It is said that it is desired to keep this Bill a simple one, and in many cases where there is total dependency of children upon grown-up people it is quite easy to establish that there is dependency. I should have had more sympathy with the Bill if it had dealt with them though refusing to recognise difficult cases of partial dependency. But why should not the adopted child, the illegitimate child, the child of the widow, or the orphan brother or sister, be allowed to benefit even by this miserable little 3s. a week?
The cruellest and pettiest economy of all is the limitation of the Bill to wives and children who came into existence before the accident. A man who becomes a total invalid needs a woman's care even more than does a healthy man. It may be that a young man was engaged to a young lady before the accident took place, and it really is cruel that he should be deprived of even this petty allowance because he had not married before his accident. Is it really supposed that this concession would prove to be expensive for employers on the view that men would adopt matrimony by reason of this immense bribe of 5s. for a wife and so much for each child? I suggest that there might be an Amendment of the Bill to cover that point, and also one to include children who are really dependent upon women workers.
May I turn now, not to the other side, but to make an appeal to both sides? Does not the whole business point to this, that in every question which concerns wages we are brought up against the need for providing for wives and children, or at least for children, otherwise than through wages? If we had a system of children's allowances—not limited to employed or unemployed, or any one section of the community—which was paid for by the State how much it would simplify every one of the problems which we spend so much time in discussing. Where there is only a limited amount of money available, whether it comes from the State or from the employer, the greatest need is for the wives and children. Money is best concentrated on the married men, who are bringing up the generation of future citizens and future workers; but always we have these partial arrangements which deal with little bits of hardships in this case and that case and cause endless difficulties and confusion. They absorb money which ought to be used in industry for the remuneration of the workers and not in making provision for future generations, which is really the nation's business.
Mark my words, this is a war-time question, because does anybody doubt that we are going straight for inflation? There are enormous increases of wages—not everywhere, but in industries that are able to apply the squeeze, and in industries where the trade union can put the squeeze on the employer and the employer can pass the squeeze on to the Government. It really does not pay an employer nowadays to resist a demand for higher wages, even though it be unreasonable, because it all goes on to the cost of the production, on which the employer is paid. But we are sweeping towards inflation, and we all know what it means—that race between wages and prices which we saw in the last war and which France saw in the last war. France, much more logical than ourselves, drew the logical conclusion that the way to deal with the question was to provide otherwise than through wages for the upbringing of children. I believe people who are trying to avoid that necessity are not facing up to what is going to happen, the cruelty of what is going to happen, the enormous pay that many people will get while others are paying for the increased pay for the few in higher prices and growing malnutrition. Their vitality will be so sapped that if ever there does come another war we shall not have citizens who are able to stand up to it—not that that is the main argument, because we do not want citizens to fight but to work, and to secure that future of which we have made such a mess.
We shall never really bring that about unless we face up to the problem of the best way of maintaining the children of the nation. In the meantime this Bill is a very small instalment towards making provision for the children. Personally, I shall vote for the Bill. I cannot vote for the Amendment, because, poor and mean as the Bill is, I can still hope that after it has passed the Second Reading it may be improved in some respects in Committee, and I should be sorry if even this little measure of justice should be taken away from the women and children who are the victims of industrial accidents.
The Minister, when he introduced this Bill, thought there was justification for taking an exceptional course, but in his speech I do not think he gave us either the justification or any evidence that this was an exceptional course. He appeared to indicate that there were exceptional advantages, whereas we think there are exceptional disadvantages. A few moments later the Minister said that the Bill was designed to meet cases of hardship, and it appeared that he felt considerable satisfaction in introducing it. His attitude reminds me of a kindly old lady in my division. She saw a man standing at the end of the street holding up the wall and trying to sell matches. The old lady said to him, "Here is sixpence. This is not charity, it is given out of the kindness of my heart, and I want you to enjoy yourself." The man looked at the "tanner" and looked at the old lady and said, "Blimey, missus, if you want me to enjoy myself, won't you make it a couple of bob? "If the Minister wants us to enjoy ourselves, why does he not make the Bill worth while and cut out all these odds and ends?
The Minister also said that the scheme must be of a simple character. I think it has already been shown that it is by no means simple. We could have had the simple method of a percentage increase on the existing rate. The Minister asked what the percentage should be. Why should we not follow the example of the last war and give, say, a 75 per cent. increase on the existing rate? That is a figure which I throw into the pool for consideration. The hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Nield), in a maiden speech which interested the House very much, made the remarkable statement, talking about unilateralism and so on, that when a man is injured he gets something out of the arrangement, whereas no benefit accrues to the employer. I submit that employers get a considerable amount of benefit out of the man's work every day that he is working, and if he gets a little bit of advantage over that which the employer gets when he is injured, that is not very much to cry about.
Several points in the Bill to which we object have already been dealt with, but at the risk of repetition I feel they ought to be stressed a little more, in order that the Minister and the Government may know exactly what it is to which we object. I draw attention to the restriction of the Bill to male workmen. It rules out all women workers, regardless of their age and responsibility. There are women with invalid husbands. In my own industry I know of many cases in which women have turned out to work when their husbands became sick. Those women may meet with accidents and ought to have some consideration. There are also spinsters with dependent parents to be considered, and sons with dependent parents. Then there is the injured workman who is a widower. If he has children, someone will have to be brought in to look after them, and consideration ought to be given to that person. We have heard about the adopted child, but what about the step-child? If a man married a woman with two children, he is responsible for looking after them, because if he neglects them, he can be brought to court and punished, and therefore he ought to be given the means of maintaining them.
Illegitimate children are ruled out. We are not looking at this from the moral or the statistical point of view, but from the humane point of view. A single man may be the father of an illegitimate child, and a court may have made an order upon him to contribute towards its maintenance. If he is injured, he still has to provide that money; if he does not do so, the court comes down upon him. Surely a child ought to have consideration in that case. One of the Clauses in the Bill dealing with provision for wives says that the amount is to be a sum "not exceeding 5s. a week." I hope the hon. Member who is to reply will tell us in what circumstances it could be less than 5s. a week.
I should like to give the House one or two examples of how the scheme will work in the case of married men without dependent children. I give these cases from my own experience in dealing with workmen's compensation for 30 years. We look at these questions not as matters of statistics, and not even as lawyers would look at them, as cases, but as absolutely human problems concerning men whom we know personally, who have been employed in our own trades and of whose circumstances we are aware. The first case is that of a man who had injuries to his ribs and hips in April, 1937. His wage then was £5 4s. He is still totally incapacitated. He is married and has no dependent children. He has been receiving 30s. a week, and therefore his loss of earnings has been £3 14s. per week for over three years. He is unable to walk, and he has to pay a rent of 16s. On the 14s. which is left he has been living for the last two years, assisted by the cheerful charity of his workmates, a charity—if you will permit, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, a boastful reference—which is notorious in the printing industry. Other industries will no doubt say the same. Under the Bill this man will receive 5s. a week.
Another case is that of a man who lost his right eye and whose left eye was injured in December, 1937. He was a highly skilled workman earning £5 2s. 6d. He is still totally incapacitated. He is married, and has no dependent children, and has been receiving 30s. per week. His loss of wages has been £3 12s. 6d. for more than two years. In this case the rent is 13s., and there is 17s. left. This man has also been living on charity and has not yet had to go to public assistance. In this case also, all that the man will get will be 5s. per week. Another case is that of a man with dermatitis of the hands and arms. He became incapacitated in October, 1938. He was one of the best workmen in my branch of the printing industry. His average wage was £7 10s. per week. He has no dependent children. He is receiving 30s. per week and thus has been losing £6 per week for one and a half years. He has now used up his life savings. What he will get under the Bill is 5s. a week.
Now let me give cases of injured workmen with dependent children. The first condition imposed by the Bill is that the children must be legitimate and under the age of 15. I have already indicated that a wife may have been the mother of several legitimate children before her marriage. The injured workman is responsible for them, and I hope the Minister will be able to see his way to bringing them into the scope of the Bill. The allowance stops at 15 years of age. As was said by an hon. Member who has already spoken, the Bill ignores extended education. In some cases, which I will quote in a moment, injured men may have formerly entered into some arrangement with local education authorities for keeping children until 16 and sometimes till later. Surely these cases ought to come in for some consideration. Further, what of the man who has invalid, crippled or mentally defective children over 15 years of age? He has to keep them, and the older they are, in these circumstances, the more it costs to keep them; but they are all ruled out by the Bill. We hope that they will be brought in.
No doubt when the Minister replies he will indicate that he sees these matters more or less as theoretical problems. He and his advisers sit down to examine the problem with legal representatives of insurance companies and statistics of all sorts of things; but we see this matter as a human problem and not one that is statistical at all. We see these men, we know the kind of work they have been doing and possibly we know their lives and family circumstances. Believe me when I say that, although one may become hardened after many years from seeing the suffering and misery of other people, it is still very difficult to keep calm when one realises the kind of workmen these are and the tragedy of the lives they are trying to live upon the allowances that are given to them.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) gave instances of children's allowances. Let me give one or two definite cases of how this thing operates. Here is the case of a man who injured his left knee in July, 1934. He was employed upon a large newspaper and was earning £9 a week. He has had intermittent periods of fitness and has had so-called light work, but for some time he has been totally incapacitated, and he is not likely to work again. His present age is 49. He is married and has two children under the age of 15. His loss of earnings is £7 10s. a week, and he has already lost in wages since the accident happened over £1,500. He has no chance of making that up. He has had to take his children away from high school because he was unable to meet the expense. He has spent all his savings. He has one son aged 19 years of age who is a completely helpless invalid, and for whom he will get nothing. At the moment, the man is faced with a summons for rates which have accrued to the extent of £14 10s. He is now going to a public assistance committee for help. His hospital expenses have been £70 up to date. Under the Bill, he will get 5s. for his wife and 3s. for one child for a few months. He will get nothing for the invalid who is completely crippled.
I can give a number of examples with varying rates of wages. Here is the case of a man whose right hand is useless as the result of an accident in November, 1932. His wages were £4 12s. 6d. and his compensation was 30s. His rent was 28s. 6d. Now I will recite something which is rather unusual. When the landlord heard about this case he agreed to take £1 per week while the man was incapacitated. The landlord seems to have showed more sympathy even than the Government. The man had one son under 10 years of age who was attending a higher educational school, but he had to take him away and let him go to work at the age of 14. This man's wife had never been to work before she was married, but, as a result of the man's injury, she has had to go out to work. The whole of this man's savings has been expended. He is now on so-called light work and is a complete wreck. The whole of his future is completely upset.
There is one other point relating to the simplicity of operation of the Bill. The Minister wants simplicity of operation, and in all probability he is satisfied that he is getting it here. Let me refer to Clause 3, where is some question about the requirements in furnishing information. It says that the employer may require a declaration. This is one of those Measures where you put in "may" which is always construed as "shall. "In many other Acts of Parliament, local authorities may do certain things, but they do them not. Here an employer may do certain things, and he will. In effect, it will not be employers who do them but the insurance companies. The declaration is to be in a form prescribed by the Secretary of State. I shall be glad if the Minister will tell the House whether the form will be submitted to us, so that those who have experience in these matters will have an opportunity of making suggestions or criticisms of the form. The second point is whether it will be an ordinary simple declaration, and the man can sign it himself, or whether he has to go before a justice of the peace, or a minister of religion in order to get the declaration made O.K. I am asking for information on this point. Many people find difficulty in locating a justice of the peace, and some would rather run away from one than go to one.
Then there is the reference to a material change in circumstances. May we be told what is considered to come under this term? Surely there are only two such changes of circumstances. Either a man's wife has died, and therefore there will be no further allowance made for her, or his children have reached the age of 15 years. We should like to have some assurance that, in the event of the. Bill going through, supplementary inquiries by the employers shall be controlled in some way. One does not want an employer to send forms to men every two or three weeks, asking for further information with the rapidity with which some of them like to send men for further medical examination. We ought to have an answer as to what is the material information referred to and what information should be asked for.
The penalty is imposed of suspension from benefit for delay in making the declaration, without reasonable cause. I can visualise a nice little crop of law cases as to what is to be considered reasonable and what is not reasonable in the circumstances such as these. If in order to get 5s. or 3s. a week, a workman makes a false statement, he may be prosecuted and suffer a penalty up to £20 and three months' imprisonment. There ought to be a penalty on the other side, too. If we propose to penalise a man who makes an attempt to get more than he should it is time we penalised some employers and insurance companies when they deliberately pay less than they should and force workmen to go to law in order to prove that they are wrong. In a case within my own experience an insurance company has taken a man to the county court in South London not less than seven times in five years, alleging each time that he was a malingerer, and has endeavoured to get his payments reduced.
We ask the House to do better than the proposed Bill. We ask that there should be a simple percentage increase. It would not mean introducing a new and complicated principle, and would avoid legal arguments and interpretation. The third reason is that it would follow existing methods of computation by weekly amounts. It would be quite simple and would not cost very much more than is contemplated under the Bill. Even if it did, it could be justified because the suggested £2,000,000 would not be an onerous burden on industry if one considers the advantage in other ways. The Bill makes one useful declaration, which will be remembered and referred to later on, when it visualises, however impossible it might seem, that an injured man might, in some circumstances, receive seven-eighths of his pre-accident normal wage. I hope that we shall bear that point in mind and that, in any future Bill promoted by my hon. and right hon. Friends, we shall find the figure seven-eighths instead of 75 per cent., and that the Government will accept that figure.
I do not want to detain the House any longer, but I must refer to the fact that the Bill gives money only in respect of children who are born within nine months of marriage, and excludes men who married since their accident. The Bill must have been drafted by a man who has lived like Robinson Crusoe, on a desert island, or is like a mule, with neither pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity. It is difficult for one to choose one's words in speaking of this kind of thing, but it seems that if a man is injured he has to practise some kind of restraint or of birth control, in case he costs his employer another 3s. per week. Those of us who have to deal with these problems have seen decent workmen with a good standard of living in their homes and looking to their future by means of endowment insurance policies, meet with an accident. Their home goes and they sell up their insurance policies. They stop their children's education and go from bad to worse. A man who is earning £4, £5, £6 or £7 a week is usually living up to it and has no margin. Housing conditions in recent years have made it necessary for men to buy their houses because they cannot get decent houses to rent. All these things have to go by the board when men are injured. We hope that the Government will see justice and fair play in what we ask and that they will bring in another Bill to cover the points that I have tried to raise.
I hope that the House will bear with me if in my argument I show less acquaintance with the subject than its importance deserves. I only knew last night that I should be free to come to the House to-day, and there is no subject on which I should more desire to address the House than on this. Some ten years ago I wrote two volumes of history. I called the first volume "Loyalties" and the second "A Clash of Loyalties." I am in my own person deeply conscious of that clash of loyalties to-day.
I anticipated that the Amendment which I moved on 30th January last would have a very different result than is represented by this Bill, and had I thought that this would be the only result I should not have put my name to it. It is a very small Bill and not adequate to the occasion. The Amendment which was accepted by the Government invited the Government to consult "representatives of industry. "The right hon. Gentleman when he was moving the Second Reading of this Bill made a very cursory reference to those discussions. I beg him to publish or place in the Library of the House of Commons the minutes of the meetings and the discussions which he had with "representatives of industry. "I question whether he has had any discussions such as can be so described. I doubt whether any industrialists in this House would recognise the Confederation of Employers Organisation as such. This I do know, that after two years the Royal Commission is still waiting patiently for employers to be so good as to come to the Royal Commission and give evidence. If the Confederation of Employers Organisation is empowered to represent industry, why has it not tendered evidence? If not, why are consultations with it regarded as adequate? I suspect that the people with whom the Government have really been dealing are the Accident Offices Association and no one else. In any case, I deny altogether the competence of the Confederation of Employers Organisation to represent anybody in a matter such as this. I am confident that had the Government taken into their confidence real representatives of industry of the seven great groups of industrialists and had they brought them into a round table discussion with trade union representatives who also represent industry, the employers would have very readily consented to something much better than this Bill.
I have in my hand the evidence given to the Royal Commission on Workmen's Compensation by the Accident Offices Association and the Incorporation of Insurance Brokers. It is quite clear that they are wholly unaware that there is any social problem at all. I cannot improve on the words which the Minister of Labour uttered in a recent obiter dictum in reply to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams): "An average may be a mathematical fact, but a social and spiritual fiction." The Accident Offices Association are dealing with mathematical averages, but we as a House have to deal with the social and spiritual factors. I am sorry that I ever moved that Amendment if this is the only result, but I am not without hopes that the Government may improve upon it. The best that can be said of the Bill is what men say of beer, that if it was any worse they could not have drunk it, and if it was any better they would not have been able to afford it.
It is not often that I find myself in wholehearted agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), but there is little in the first three-quarters of her speech as to the anomalies in dependants' allowances with which I did not agree. I also found it hard to understand why employers, if consulted, found it necessary to insist upon the very elaborate limitations to dependency which appear in this Bill. I do not believe that employers have discussed the question as to whether a stepchild, or a child born after the marriage, or an illegitimate child or a bona fide dependant should or should not be included. This pettifogging hair-splitting is the work of the Accident Offices Association solicitors, not of employers. It is not right that the employers should go down in history as having been in any way responsible for the text of this Bill. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will place upon the Table of the House the Minutes of his discussions with them. Let us bring the employers into the open and let us see how far they have really been brought into this discussion at all.
I assume that the Bill will go through. I hope it will be modified in Committee, but I want to make an alternative suggestion which I hope may possibly appeal to those outside the House who have great responsibilities in industry and who, so far as I have ever had any discussions with them, are very anxious indeed to see conditions of workmen's compensation improve. I would ask the Accident Offices Association and the mutual associations forthwith to place before all employers a statement showing what they would have to pay extra if—then would follow five or six different scales—and give employers an opportunity of insuring their liabilities on a basis of compensation substantially higher than that at present laid down by law. At the present moment it is exceedingly difficult for any employer to insure his workmen for anything but the legal scale. Many employers would like to know what it would cost if they were to pay 25 per cent. more to all men who have been injured for more than a month, 50 per cent. more for men injured over three months and 75 per cent. more for men injured over six months; also what it would cost if the maximum was raised to 40s. instead of 30s. in the case of anybody earning more than £3 or £3 10s.
Let the Accident Offices Association come into the forefront and accept their social responsibilities. The employers would not be backward in saying, "Let us insure our men and women on the more generous scale." At present it is almost impossible to do it. The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to a number of points to which, had he not spoken, I should have been tempted to refer myself. He has had the advantage in having been almost continuously occupied on this subject for the last two years and I do not doubt that the cases that he quotes are well justified. But that sort of case could be covered, if not by the Bill by Accident Offices Association policies. There is no reason whatever why the Accident Offices themselves should not draft better terms to workmen and tell the employer what it will cost. If an insurance company offered to pay double the present rates it would not mean that the premiums would be doubled. They certainly should not go up by more than 25 per cent., and the cost of workmen's compensation per £100 wages is smaller to-day relatively to wages than it ever has been before, for wages have been going up and premiums are based upon wages and accidents occur mainly to those in the lowest wage categories. It would not be increased in proportion for the simple reason that the overhead charges are from 37½ per cent. to 45 per cent. of the total premium payable and it is only on the other half that there will be any increase.
Under Section 31 of the Act there are contracting-out schemes. Some of the best firms and companies have good contracting-out schemes which enable them to pay 25 to 50 per cent. better benefits than are payable under the Act. There is no reason why the companies should not get together, particularly those organised under mutual associations, and start a contracting-out scheme, enabling the employers to get substantially better benefits. If under the contracting-out schemes men's representatives as well as the employers' representatives dealt with each accident as it occurred it would promote safety. In some gas companies there is no greater safeguard than the fact that every accident is examined by representatives of the men and of the employers before a grant is made. The minimum laid down by the Act is always given whether there has been negligence or not, but the extra payment may be withheld if in the opinion of the men's representatives as well as of the employers there has been gross negligence. I feel strongly about this case about workmen's compensation. I have been speaking on it and studying it for the past seven years. It has been discussed here for the past 17 years and this is as far as we have got! Once more we are assembled, the benches on one side of the House almost empty, in order to listen to a discussion which I fear will have no useful result. I wish it were otherwise. As I came to the House this afternoon there passed through my mind a text from a verse in Ecclesiasticus which I commend to the House. I give it in a free but accurate re-translation:
Two things there be that make me angry.
A man of war in poverty, and
A man of intelligence who is treated as refuse.
And one which makes me sore at heart.
A good man who has taken the wrong road."—[Ecclesiasticus xxvi. 28.]
The man of war in poverty I understand in this context to be our industrial army; the man of intelligence treated as refuse is the man earning £5, £6 or £7 a week who is thrown on the industrial scrap-head with 30s., and the good man who has taken the wrong turning is the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. It is not too late for him to retrace his steps and to improve this Bill very greatly. If he will consult the greater employers' organisations he will
not be told that they cannot afford to do more. If we are to put forward our best effort in the war, in view of all that is yet before us, we must deal far more liberally with the victims of industrial injuries. I am sure that I shall not be expected to vote for this Bill. I can only abstain and earnestly hope that if and when I come back for the Third Reading it will be sufficiently worthy of the Government for me to be able to vote in its favour.
I cannot believe that the Home Secretary feels happy. All the speeches which I have heard except two have been in opposition to this Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman sat down at the end of his speech he seemed quite content, but I feel certain that that contentment will vanish rapidly. I desire to respond to his appeal, and I will confine myself to what this Bill is expected to do and to the question whether it does what it is expected to do. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us many times that this Bill is introduced in war-time and that we cannot expect to receive a Bill introduced in time of war such as we should expect had it been introduced in peace-time. I do not think it is for the Home Secretary to keep on reminding us of that. He has a very large responsibility for having delayed the production of such a Bill in pre-war days. We have been pressing for years for something to be done to improve the position of the injured worker. I was exceedingly pleased with the speech of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), because he has been much criticised for the attitude he has taken on this question in the past. The responsibility for this Bill has been placed on his shoulders to some extent, and he has very wisely repudiated it.
I oppose the supplementation part of this Bill, because it introduces in wartime a drastic change in compensation principles. I am not yet converted to the principle of family allowances; but, even if I were, I should protest against bringing them in by a subterfuge—which is what this Bill seems to do. No doubt, there is something to be said for family allowances, and there is very much to be said against them. The effect of them is not to increase the total wages, but to divide those wages up differently, and to penalise the single man or the man without children, in order to give a little more to the man with children. I do not think that now, in the middle of a war, is the time to introduce such a drastic change in the principles of workmen's compensation. I hope the Home Secretary will not tell us that there will be no anomalies when this Bill is passed. It will create its full share of anomalies. The Royal Commission which is now sitting has been made the excuse, times out of number, for failing to introduce a Bill to deal with compensation. This present Bill is an indication to the Commission of what the Government think about compensation. The Commission will have to report at some time, and they cannot disregard the law of the land when they do so. I consider that a suggestion to them, conveyed in this way, is very unfair; and I think it is also very unfair to use the war as a pretext for such a suggestion. I am quite convinced that when the trade unions were consulted by the right hon. Gentleman they never agreed to such a scheme as this.
When I look at the rates provided for in the Bill, I am staggered. Why did the Government decide on 5s. for a wife and 3s. for a child? Who determined that? The insurance companies? It was not the public assistance committees. They would never agree to 5s. for a wife, or 3s. for a child. If anybody asked me what should be the rate of compensation for an injured worker, I would say that it should be sufficient to enable him to maintain his wife and children decently, and also to enable him to recuperate and return to work. Does this Bill do that? It will be said that it is an improvement on the present position. In so far as it is an improvement for some, I welcome it, but surely the Home Secretary will not suggest that, in laying down these figures of 5s. for a wife and 3s. for a child, he has done what ought to be done for the injured workman. I know a case of a workman who was injured after working for 12 months on short time. His pre-accident earnings were 38s. per week. For that, he worked every day that the pit worked during those 12 months. He is now getting 22s. a week compensation. He has a wife and three children. Under the Bill he would get 36s. but for the fact that that amount is more than seven-eighths of his pre-accident earnings. That man, with a wife and three children, may receive only seven-eighths of his pre- accident earnings of 38s. a week. Does the Home Secretary consider that a Bill which allows such a payment to be made is a good Bill?
The Bill permits the compensation to include an allowance for a wife only if the man was married at the time of his injury. That is very unfair. I know of scores of cases, as other hon. Members do also, of young men who meet with injuries when they are expecting to get married. They are to be told that they cannot participate in the small benefits provided by this Bill, because they were not married at the time they were injured. Why is the benefit allowed in respect of children to end when the children reach the age of 15? Why should the Income Tax payer be more generously treated in this respect than the injured worker? The Home Secretary said that all pre-1924 cases enjoyed the benefits of the Act which was passed in the last war, and, that therefore, they were not to benefit from this Bill. But I can show him a case of a man who was injured before 1924, who has never done a stroke of work since, and never will again, who spends most of his time in bed because of an injury to his back, and who is getting no benefit from that Act. Why should not such a man, who has suffered agony for 17 years, be allowed to benefit under this Bill? If there are men who would be better off under this Bill than they are under previous legislation, will the right hon. Gentleman consider bringing them under the Bill?
We are dealing with a very fine body of people, men who have been injured in serving this country's cause, and I do not see why their children should be treated in a more niggardly way than the children of other people. I have friends in North Wales who are receiving 8s. 6d. a week for each evacuated child in their households. I may be told that the position of the children of the injured worker is different from the position of the children of other fathers. You may agree, but the position of the injured father is entirely different from that of the unemployed father, and the right hon. Gentleman has no right to use that argument. He will find that in many cases these men are anxious to get back into industry, which will need them back to strength and vigour at their job if this war continues. My opposition is not based upon party lines. My sole opposition to the Bill—and I appreciate all the good things in it—is based on the fact that it does not provide for a very deserving class of this country that to which they are entitled.
Most of the details of the Bill have been covered by speeches by hon. Members from this side of the House, and I do not propose to keep the House for any great length of time. I would like to ask hon. Members to take their minds back for a moment or two to our last discussion on this question, and they will remember that on that occasion we accused the right hon. Gentleman of importing a needs test into workmen's compensation. In the course of his speech this evening he denied that, and pointed out that our worst fears were unjustified, and that in fact there was no needs test in this Bill. When the right hon. Gentleman was appointed to his position it was suggested by some people that although he had been an excellent civil servant he would be a bad politician. I think that the prophecy was entirely unjustified. He has proved to be a first-class politician because he has laid a very good snare for the House at the moment, and he knows what it is very well. He could do either one of two things—either introduce a needs test into workmen's compensation or increase the flat rate. He found a needs test was so unpopular that he dare not do it, and, at the same time, he did not want to do the more ambitious thing and make a flat rate increase in all workmen's compensation payments, which would have been agreeable to us.
He has introduced a Bill, which, as it stands, is ridiculous. It creates so many anomalies, and there are so many people who are able to claim compensation under existing legislation who will not be able to claim supplementation if the Bill becomes law as it stands. In Committee there is bound to be a big row, or Amendments. If Amendments are accepted, he can get rid of anomalies. What will be the nature of the Amendments? They are bound to be Amendments to introduce a means test into workmen's compensation, and he knows that very well. The right hon. Gentleman is laying a trap for this House. At the moment the reason why the Bill is unreasonable is that it has to be a sort of black-and-white affair. It says that the only people to be taken into account for supplementation are wives and children, and hon. Members will notice that the word "dependants" does not occur. Why does not that word occur? Because, once it is introduced into the Bill, it will have to be defined. Once you start defining a dependant you are in the whole morass of the means test.
Therefore we have either to permit a perfectly ridiculous Bill to go through this House, creating a whole mass of injustices in the country, or we ourselves have to face the unpleasant necessity of moving Amendments importing into the Bill principles to which we take exception. That is the difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman is therefore a very good politician. It may be that it is not fair that he should treat the House in this way. No general election is to be held until after the end of the war, so hon. Members opposite are entirely irresponsible. They do not care what discussions occur here, and they really do not care what legislation goes through this House. The benches opposite are empty most of the time. But if we cannot effect things by discussion inside this House, it is high time that the Trades Union Congress started to say to the Government, "We are not going to put up with this kind of double-dealing very much longer. "It is a very discreditable practice. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that we bitterly resent the introduction of this principle into workmen's compensation, and he is doing it by sleight of hand.
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) was quite wrong when he suggested that the employers of the country are ready to have a very much more generous workmen's compensation Bill. The employers of the country are hoping that this drifting of compensation towards a needs test, and of the principle to the rest of our social services, will continue, because they do not want to relate workmen's compensation to wages; they want to get away from it. There are employers who still think in terms of the old, orthodox amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Acts by an increase of compensation and a slight increase in premium, and there are some employers who now have their prices cartelised and who do not really seriously object to an increase in premiums. I agree therefore that there is some kind of justification for the point of view of the hon. Member for Hitchin, but the vast mass of employers, the political-conscience employers, have gone far beyond that phase. They are appreciating the desire of the Government to bring workmen's compensation into line with the general body of social services.
The right hon. Gentleman told us in January that that was the principle that was going to form his Bill and that he could not possibly raise the flat-rate scales because, if he did so, it would bring about a greater disparity between workmen's compensation and other forms of social insurance and social services. Did he not say so? The right hon. Gentleman, I think, agrees. We are witnessing, therefore, an attempt to embody that principle by bringing workmen's compensation into conformity with the rest of the social legislation by means of a long-range policy. The right hon. Gentleman dare not do it at once. If he did, we would see through it and there would be too much row about it, and so he is doing it slowly. Take, for example, the instances given by some of my hon. Friends this evening, especially the case' of the young man who has dependent parents or dependent brothers and sisters. The case has been made out for them. There is no doubt about it, but if we bring them in, we shall have to define dependency. We cannot merely say that we bring in a brother or a sister. It must be a dependent brother or sister, and if he or she is mainly dependent, must you take into account the resources the brother or sister, or father or mother, might have? At once you have the whole inquisition into family means and the whole difficulty of what to take into account and what to leave out in assessing those means.
When we come to the Committee stage, and try to make this Bill intelligent, we shall find ourselves having to amend it in the direction in which the Minister wants us to amend it, although he may resist a particular Amendment we put down. As in the Old Age Pensions Bill the Government have not raised the basic rate; they have put on supplementation which takes into account certain resources and leaves out others. In future every time we attempt to reform old age pensions it will be in the direction of ignoring this or that item of a family's resources. It is the same thing with regard to workmen's compensation. If this principle is allowed to be imported into the structure of workmen's compensation in future, what will happen? We shall be arguing more and more for this or that dependant to be taken into account. How can you explain the extraordinary distinction between a man and a woman, say, a widow in work who has an accident? The easier thing to do is to speak of the husband and wife. Take the woman in work having an illegitimate child. If she has an accident, the illegitimate child is taken into account. Why is that? If you take into account all illegitimate children, you must get away from the simple formula of the Bill. Take the case of a child born 11 or 12 months after a man has had an accident. If you do this, you upset the actuarial calculations upon which insurance companies have consented to the Bill. Later on we shall be driven to bringing in these children because their position will be completely anomalous.
Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted any gynaecologists about this nine months after marriage? I do not know whether the period of gestation is as exactly ascertainable as that. I remember a lot of discussion in the last war about men in the Army and whether a child was illegitimate or not. I must say that the right hon. Gentleman seems to have access to information which is concealed from all the medical profession. The nine months in this way seems to me to argue either the lack of a sense of humour or information which we do not possess. I hope he will look more closely into that and leave a certain margin for natural error.
Most of my hon. Friends have covered all the points that really matter, but I want to remind them that we have been tricked and that this Bill is a snare. It is the intention of the Government to bring all social service of various kinds under one simple formula—that public money shall be paid out, or assistance given, only to those persons who can show they are in need of assistance. This is a long-term piece of strategy to bring workmen's compensation legislation into conformity with the same principles of unemployment assistance, old age pensions, dependants' allowances, ex-Servicemen's pensions, and things of that kind.
When we go into Committee we shall find ourselves in a dilemma. Either we shall have to insist upon Amendments, and do what the right hon. Gentleman wants us to do, or, if we do not insist upon them, we shall have to demand the withdrawal of the Bill on the Third Reading. If the Bill goes through as it is now, it will be stupid and full of silly anomalies and grave injustices. The right hon. Gentleman, unless his intelligence is wholly at fault, will not be able to resist the argument that a man, after an accident, must be allowed to get money. You cannot make enforced celibacy a condition of legislation to-day; it is utterly unreasonable. If a man is married, you must take into account subsequent children. If you do not, the whole thing is foolish and silly, and it will be apparent on every industrial platform in Britain. Fancy any meeting of a mining community and a man saying, "I have another child, and I have been to the colliery office, but they will not give me another 3s." When this matter is raised we shall have to explain it by saying, "The insurance companies will not pay because this was not taken into account when you had your accident. "Has the right hon. Gentleman realised the psychological effect of being able to show that wealthy, swollen and profiteering insurance companies are withholding 3s. from an additional child? He must realise it and protect himself against it. If he does not, he is irresponsible. I do beg him to reconsider this Bill once more. He will not get peace in industry on these grounds. When we come to the Committee stage it will be necessary for us to consider this from the angle I have suggested, and I hope the representatives of the trade unions outside the House will pay more attention to this Debate than hon. Members on the opposite benches have done.
I wish to express the opinion of a Scottish Member in connection with this Bill. It is perfectly true to say, as has been said by several hon. Members, that the Bill does give certain financial benefits, and any criticisms which I have to make I shall make in a thoroughly unbiased and dispassionate way. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will, at least, give a little attention to certain comments which I have to make, because I have had almost daily experience for some 15 years in the Scottish courts of the problems of workmen's compensation. I do not approach the subject, therefore, from a theoretical, but rather from a practical point of view. Although it is true that the Bill confers certain financial benefits, in my humble judgment the Measure, as it stands, is thoroughly bad. It is a further illustration of the Government's attempts to mislead the public into the belief that they are doing all they can to assist the solution of a problem, in face of certain very difficult conditions. It is precisely the same trick as that which was foisted on the general public in connection with the problem of old age pensions.
This is not the first occasion on which the subject of workmen's compensation has been discussed in the present Parliament. On at least four occasions the Government have been asked from this side of the House to accept Measures designed to improve various aspects of workmen's compensation law. On every occasion we have been faced with the same arguments. First, we have had a historical survey of the reasons why workmen's compensation law came into being, just as we had to-day from the Minister. Then we have had an abundance of sympathy which does not cost anything, and on every occasion we have had the thread-bare argument that the time was not ripe at that moment for the particular step proposed. Again, this afternoon from the Minister and from other hon. Members who have spoken on the Government side, we have had the argument that nothing material can be done at the present point of time owing to the war. My humble opinion is that the Government do not intend to do anything materially to assist in the solution of the problem of workmen's compensation.
What are the facts? The Minister must have known that in 1935 the Stewart Committee was set up to inquire into certain aspects of workmen's compensation law. That committee presented certain unanimous findings early last year. Not one step has been taken by the Government to adopt any of those findings. The subterfuge has been resorted to again by the Government of delegating many of the points which were considered by the Stewart Committee, to a Royal Commission. In my belief that, as has been said already, is only an attempt on the part of the Government to delay matters even further. What is the present position in relation to the rights of an injured workman? He has three possible claims. First, he has a claim at common law, the amount of which, financially, is unlimited. Secondly, he has a claim under the Employers' Liability Act, restricted to the amount of his wages over a period of three years. Thirdly, he has a claim under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
The hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Nield), in a maiden speech this afternoon, said that the effect of workmen's compensation law was unilateral from the employer's point of view, in the sense that the only person adversely affected by it was the employer. As the hon. Member invited criticism of his speech, I would say that I admit that the present workmen's compensation law is, definitely, unilateral but it is unilateral not from the employer's but from the worker's point of view, for the simple reason that the worker is the man who suffers, physically and financially, and de facto as the Minister must know, all this argument about the difficulties of insurance companies and employers is thoroughly irrelevant at this time. In the end not a penny piece of the workmen's compensation charges is paid by the employer. If a certain amount is paid in premiums, or, as in the case to which the Minister referred, is paid by employers who carry their own mutual liability, at the end of the financial year whatever financial commitments have been incurred in respect of compensation, are charged by the individual employers against the industry. In the end the employer pays nothing. Accordingly, if workmen's compensation law is unilateral, it is not unilateral in the sense suggested by the hon. Member for Chester.
Much has been said about Clause 1 of the Bill. The Minister did not even attempt to justify Clause 1 (1 a). Let me ask him, frankly and openly, to state what justification there is for restricting the right to these financial benefits of persons of the male sex. There is an age-old Latin expression, Propter eminentiam masculini sexus, which means "On account of the pre-eminence of the masculine sex." But we are living not in the days of the Romans but in modern times, and the Minister must realise that to-day there are probably as many women as men engaged in industry. I cannot see, then, why the male person should be placed in a privileged position. If there be any doubt in the mind of the Minister on this question, let me remind him that in the Married Women's Property Act, 1920, Parliament legislated to this effect, first, that a married woman was entitled to enter into contractual relationships without binding her husband and, second, that if her husband became indigent and unable to support himself, there was a responsibility on the wife to maintain him. There is the argument of an Act of Parliament passed in 1920. All we ask is that the right hon. Gentleman should, at least, be consistent.
A further point is this. Can the Minister explain why no provision is made in the Bill to deal with cases of death in relation to the question of lump-sum payments? The law at present is that where there is a death, due to injury following an accident arising out of or in the course of a person's employment, in case of total dependency the widow gets £300 and the children get certain allowances at certain percentages, up to the time when they attain the age of 15. Those allowances give a gross possible payment in respect of children's allowances of £300.
Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: Why should children in that particular case be treated in any way differently from the children of a man who has been fortunate enough to survive his accident? There is no logical reason why there should be differential treatment. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman should reconsider this point. It seems to me thoroughly inconsistent to argue that members of a family should be penalised if the parent dies, and benefited financially if the parent lives. In case there is any doubt in the Home Secretary's mind in regard to this matter let me explain it again, because I think it is most important. This Measure is designed to deal with the case of death due to accident. At the present moment the maximum payment for a wife and children is £600. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman, assuming that he is not going to increase the £300 to the wife, consider the case from the point of view that if there are children under the age of 15 they are entitled to their £300, and settle children's allowances under this Bill in the same way as under the Act of 1925? That is only asking that children who are affected by workmen's compensations should be dealt with in precisely the same fashion.
My third point is in regard to the rates of compensation in respect of total incapacity. The right hon. Gentleman was correct when he said that the maximum payment is 30s., but he knows that the average payment in respect of total incapacity is not 30s. but 24s. That shows that the average weekly earning capacity over the whole of industry is at the present moment £2 8s. Does the right hon. Gentleman really have the same simple faith in employers that he asks us to possess? Does he really understand what is happening in many cases of injured workmen? I do not believe that all employers are bad, for they are not; but we are legislating to prevent the bad employer from doing what he ought not to do. What is happening? I will tell the right hon. Gentleman from my own experience. A man is on full compensation at 28s. a week for a year or 18 months. Debts begin to collect, and he is occupying a house owned by the colliery company; a service tenancy. The employer says that under the Truck Act he agreed to allow certain payments per week. He cannot get the cash because no wages are being paid. He says, "Your service tenancy has expired because you are no longer in my employ; you are £15 to £20in arrears; what about it?" We know from our own experience that the workman cannot pay because he has not the money, and the result is that the man is compelled to play right into the hands of his employer. The ruse which employers in Scotland are constantly using is to compel this unfortunate workman to accept an inadequate lump-sum settlement. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the workman is protected by the registrar or the sheriff clerk. I have had experience of registrars and sheriff clerks, and I say with a full sense of responsibility that if a memorandum of agreement in respect of a lump-sum settlement is presented to the sheriff clerk he generally allows it to go through without any charge of any kind.
The Home Secretary did not deal at any great length with the question of partial compensation, but the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was perfectly correct when he pointed out that the lot of a man on partial compensation is in reality much worse than the lot of a man on full compensation. The Minister invited hon. Members to place before him cases and facts which would justify that view. The Home Secretary admitted that in industry there is an increase in earning capacity of about 15 per cent. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the effect of that admission? It simply sweeps away the financial argument of the Bill. What is the justification for my statement? Take the case of a man in receipt of 24s. a week compensation; that is £2 8s. earning capacity. The man goes before the medical referee, who certifies him fit for light employment. There is no responsibility in law upon the employer to furnish the injured workman with light employment. He says, "It is no business of mine whether you can get employment or not; all I know is that in the light labour market you are capable of earning at least £2 per week." The result of that is that £2 is deducted from the average weekly earning capacity, that is £2 8s., leaving 8s., which is divided by two, giving a net weekly payment of 4s. It immediately follows that the position of a man on partial compensation is infinitely worse than the man on full compensation.
I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary of State is trying to apply a perfectly dispassionate opinion to this problem, but is it possible for him to do so, seeing the position he occupies in the coal industry? Is he capable, no matter how willing he may be, of approaching this problem from a thoroughly dispassionate point of view? He may be a thoroughly good employer, but I ask him to realise that there are many bad employers. Let me give him a glaring example of what some employers of labour are doing in the Scottish coal-fields. The case to which I refer is that of a man in South Ayrshire, about 60years of age and employed as a slater-plumber with a colliery company. Working on a roof in winter he fell to the ground a distance of 15 feet and sustained very severe back injuries, a compression fracture of the spine. He is a man who does not want to be on compensation but was compelled to lie off work and had to do so for a period of 12 months. Still unfit, he wanted to get back, and he went to his employer and asked to be taken on. Before he was injured his wage was £3 2s. 6d. per week. Ho went back to work at a wage of £3 5s. a week. He continued at work for a period of six or seven months, although, as his foreman said, in cross-examination, he was not fit for his employment. At the end of that period, the employer dismissed him, and on an application being made for compensation for him, the employer said, "I am not here to deal out sympathy or compassion; I am here to deal out compensation and you, by your own act in returning to employment and receiving and being paid wages in excess of your pre-accident wages, have established that you have no loss of earning capacity."
The Minister did not say very much with regard to Clause 2, Sub-section (1), of the Bill. A more slovenly and loosely drafted Clause one could not conceive. It is a Clause which gives authority to a committee—I assume a committee dealing with a specially appointed scheme—or a judge—to do what? To deal with the question of allowances from the point of view of redemption. I ask the Under-Secretary, what are the instructions to be given to that committee, to the registrar or to the judge? Absolutely no lead is given from the House; no time is fixed, no method of calculation is fixed. Hon. Members on this side constantly argue that we want to keep down litigation. All I can say, with regard to Clause 2, Subsection (1), is that if the Home Secretary wants to make litigation, he will get it here in abundance. I can also visualise that shocking differentiations will arise between one court and another. One judge will apply one principle, and another judge will apply another principle. If we are to give that authority to judges, why do we not do what is done in Section 13 of the principal Act? Why not lay down hard and fast rules binding the judges? If that were done, it would give considerable satisfaction. What a wonderful provision there is in Clause 3, Sub-section (1). What wonderful trust the Government have in workmen. This Clause compels the workmen to send in declarations, and if those declarations are found ultimately to be wrong in any material degree, what is to happen? The penal consequences are that they
shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
If that is all the faith the Government have in the workmen of this country, the sooner the workmen realise it the better. There is only one other point I want to make. A very proper Amendment has been moved. The Home Secretary, who is responsible for the Bill, challenged my right hon. Friend the Member for Wake-field, and asked him, "What is your scheme?" Perhaps I may be allowed to reply to the Home Secretary. This party is not the government of the country at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman is at present the responsible Minister. What we say is that the terms of this Measure are shockingly inadequate, and when we say that, it is no answer for the right hon. Gentleman to ask, "What is your scheme?" On five occasions in this Parliament we have informed the Government what our scheme is. If the Government are not prepared to accept the terms of the Amendment, hon. Members on this side will be only too willing and glad to go into the Division Lobby against the Government to-night.
I rise to support the Amendment. I do so because this Bill attempts to wed the principles of workmen's compensation to the general principles of a needs test system. The one is based on compensation for the loss of earnings; the other is based on the principle of relieving the needs of the household. I prophesy that this attempt to make these principles run in double harness will result in the creation of even more anomalies and more injustices than exist under the present legislation. There is one point I should like to make in passing. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary promised that no discrimination will be exercised in regard to the employment of men because of the varying standards of the allowances provided for in this Bill. He said that he has had these undertakings from the mutual indemnity societies. Some hon. Members on this side of the House have had a great deal of experience of indemnity societies. Those societies have been busily blackmailing our men into accepting lump sums, and then, when they have accepted those lump sums, debarring them from the industry in which they have been working. We should be the last people to recommend those assurances to the men in the mining industry.
The House must consider this Bill not only from the point of view of the criticisms of general principles that have been made from this side, but in relation to the intended purpose of the Bill. How far does the Bill secure to the injured workman those benefits which were promised in the recent Debate? The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) spoke to-night as a man who has been tricked. In the recent Debate, he moved an Amendment which the Government accepted and, in describing the purpose of his Amendment, he said:
The third duty of the Legislature should be to provide such a scale of cash compensation, in the form of weekly payments, as would enable men to maintain their civil obligations, to maintain their families, if any, and to ensure that they or their relatives should not become a charge on the State."—[Official Report, 30th January, 1940; col. 1004, Vol. 356.]
That was the hon. Gentleman's description of the intention of his Amendment. The Home Secretary himself formulated the thing when, in accepting the Amendment, he said that it was the Government's intention to devise a temporary scheme for meeting cases of hardship arising as a result of the existing scales of workmen's compensation. He formulated that as being the intention of the Government's scheme when the Amendment was carried in the recent Debate. It will be recollected that, on that occasion, the Under-Secretary was very truculent, and at times very petulant. He formulated the intention of the Government when he said:
The Government now announce that they are going to endeavour to meet cases of hardship."—[Official Report, 30th January, 1940; col. 1098, Vol. 356.]
We were told by the hon. Gentleman that the object was so to deal with the problem as to meet hardship and to meet it in such a way as to save the injured workman and his dependants from the tainted assistance of either the Public Assistance Committee or the Unemployment Assistance Board. The Under-Secretary was quite truculent. He said the Government were coming forward to save the injured workmen from the means test, and he taunted hon. Members on this side for opposing the Government in that intention. He will probably remember that during the Debate he offered to send me a postcard
containing certain information. He may have been a little petulant when he said that, but I invite him now to send me a postcard when he has discovered a single case of an injured worker who will be saved from going to the Unemployment Assistance Board as a consequence of this Bill. That was one of his intentions. He taunted this side of the House, but I challenge him when he replies to show us a single case which will be saved from going to the Unemployment Assistance Board as a result of passing this Measure. He may have to tell us that he has scuttled that undertaking, but let us follow it a little further, and see how these promises and intentions have been redeemed.
By the Title of the Bill, all single men and women are to be left to the tender mercies of the public assistance means test. Are the Government going to say there is no hardship in the case of single men when they undertook, in accepting an Amendment, to deal with cases of hardship? I have a case of a single man with silicosis who is receiving 24s. a week. He is waiting for death, and living with strangers. Is that a case of hardship? He is a single man, but you did not say, in accepting that Amendment, that cases of hardship of that sort would not be provided for in that Bill. You left this House to believe that cases of long duration would be dealt with in this Bill. In that sense I say that you tricked this House into accepting an Amendment which apparently you had no intention of putting into effect. A single son with a dependent widowed mother, or dependent sisters and brothers, may have a fractured spine. Is not that a case of hardship, using your own figure of an average of 24s. a week full compensation? It was a case of hardship in January; you said so in the Debate.
I am very sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but, as you know, I am rather new to the customs and practices of the House, and I apologise if I said anything wrong. Even in the Preamble of the Bill the Government spokesmen have adopted the German method of scuttling. They have adopted the method of scuttling their undertakings. We do not mind if they apply it generally so long as they do not apply it to compensation men. It will be recollected that in the last Debate on this question we were repeatedly informed that it was not the intention of the Government to interfere with the structure or principles upon which the workmen's compensation system is based. Yet the first thing done in this Bill is to limit the persons to whom the Bill shall apply. We had an undertaking that there would be no interference with the principle of workmen's compensation, but in the very Title of the Bill the principle in interfered with and applied in such a way as to deny benefits to those people entitled to them under workmen's compensation. The widowed mother, the adopted child, the illegitimate child, the employed widow and her children are all excluded from this Bill, and excluded at a time when the First Lord of the Admiralty is calling for the introduction of 1,000,000 women into industry. These women are to be told that whatever sacrifices they may make in the national effort in which we are engaged, the benefits of this Bill shall not apply. Promises and intentions of the Minister are thrown aside in all the categories I have mentioned.
That is not the end of the story. A workman who has married since his accident is also excluded, and the children of such a union are shut out. Is the hardship of such a wife and children less virtuous, less needy of relief than the wife, and the children who have been born of a man who has had an accident subsequent to his marriage and their birth? Why make this distinction? The funny thing about it is that it means that a man who may have sustained the loss of a leg in 1925, because he has lost his leg, must not marry. He may have married subsequent to his injury and had children, but he will have nothing, whereas another man who met with an accident after his marriage will benefit. Are we to say that this is to be the reward to these men for their employment and for their contribution to the national wealth? This again is a fresh limitation of the principles of workmen's compensation and another failure of the undertaking to limit hardship. I would ask the Under-Secretary to take note that this Bill fails to provide relief for hardship in the following nine categories—single men, women, married men who have taken wives subsequent to an accident, children of such unions, children who have been born since an accident, widowed mothers dependent upon sons, adopted children, illegitimate children and stepchildren. In the case of each of these categories the Government have failed to carry out their undertaking to this House, that is, to provide for the relief of hardship.
This matter has been considered in the mining industry, and it is very peculiar that some coal owners have agreed to pay a flat rate of 8s. 6d. a week to all cases, partial and total. Other coal owners have also been discussing the matter. Inquiries have been made in South Wales as to what would be the effect of the principles contained in this Bill, and only 22 per cent. of the injured workers in South Wales coalfields will have any benefit out of this Measure. Perhaps it was the intention of the Mutual Indemnity Society that only 22 per cent. should get it I know it may be contended that the principles of workmen's compensation ought not to be applied to these allowances. What other body of principles may be applied? Under unemployment benefit these dependants would be entitled to benefit, as they would be under unemployment assistance and public assistance. Need, apparently, is to be the test. Hardship, we were told, is to be met, but in order that it shall not be met the Government violate all the principles of workmen's compensation and social legislation. They break every precedent in order to deprive these people of the allowances or benefits under this Bill. The Government having used all these devices to limit the number of people to whom the Bill shall apply, it would be imagined that for this 22 per cent. there would be some generous treatment.
I must again stress the point, because we were taunted with it, that the intention was that these people should be taken from the means test. How do the Government do it? Let me take the cases of four men earning different wages, but each with a wife and six children. The four become injured and go on to compensation for total disablement. The man earning £4 10s. a week would get weekly compensation, plus allowances of 53s. The man earning £3 10s. would get the same. For the man earning £2 10s. a week the Government bring in the safety valve of an overriding proviso, namely, the seven-eighths rule. That rule is introduced in cases where the need is greatest compared with the income. The man earning £2 10s. would, therefore, get 43s. 9d., and the man earning £2 5s., to whom the same rule will apply, would get 39s. 4d. That is on the assumption that they would get the full benefit under this Bill. In respect of the same size family there are thus four completely differing rates of compensation and allowances. In the last two cases the allowance is less than that afforded by the Unemployment Assistance Board. The total income is less than if the injured workman had never gone to work and had remained unemployed. He would get less in compensation allowance than if he had refrained from contributing his quota to the national effort. It will be noted that the seven-eighths proviso operates in those cases in which the need is greatest compared with the income. In general its range of application is in the class of cases below the average pre-accident average of £2 10s. The Under-Secretary's fond hope has not been realised, for they still remain on the means test level.
Turning to the partial cases, the provision for these consists of a long rigmarole of legal jargon. The Government have chosen a long-standing principle of workmen's compensation to reduce the allowances in partial cases to the smallest proportions. The effect is that in the four cases I have mentioned, if they went on to partial compensation, with light employment wages of £1 19s. each, the allowances would be: in the first case 19s. 10d., second case 10s. 7d., third case 3s. 9d., and fourth case 2s. 1d.—all differing amounts whittled down by an application of a principle of workmen's compensation. While the Government abandon the principle of workmen's compensation in order to deprive certain people of benefit, they use the principle in order to whittle down the amount of allowances to be paid in partial cases. Where there is the greatest need there is the smallest relief; where there is the greatest hardship this Bill provides the smallest help.
This Bill is the embodiment neither of the principles of workmen's compensation nor of the principles of social relief. It combines the worst elements of both and fails in practically all the objects which were set for it. It excludes many categories of cases in which hardship exists. It applies an over-riding proviso to limit the allowances in the range of cases covering the lower earnings. It fails to save those below the £2 10s. wage from the privations of the means test rates. For the vast majority of the workmen concerned it will not provide adequate relief, and judged by the standard set by the Government themselves the Bill should be rejected. Men in the mining industry, to whom workmen's compensation applies to a greater extent than in any other industry, where the accident rate is always climbing higher and higher, are being asked in these days of national emergency to produce 30,000,000 tons of coal extra. They are being asked to increase their work and the risks that they run, and the rate of accidents will go higher and higher. What reward do the Government offer them? They tell them that if, in this great task of helping the nation they fall by the wayside, or are injured or wounded in industry, they will be treated worse than the men who are on unemployment assistance. This Bill will cause great dissatisfaction among the miners, and will go far to prejudice the co-operation the Government are now getting. The miners will not willingly help those people who openly insult them as the Government do in this Bill.
We on this side strongly condemn this Bill. We fought the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, when it was going through this House, because we felt it was far from the type of Bill we wanted. Ever since then we have been clamouring for a new and better Bill. Naturally we have been pestering the Government not to wait until the Royal Commission on the subject had reported. We were afraid that that Commission would take four or five years before producing a report, and we felt that the workmen could not afford to wait all that time, and that there were some things the Government ought to do without waiting for the report. When the Government said they were prepared to bring in a Bill we expected that it would remove at least some of the difficulties, weaknesses and hardships connected with the existing legislation. We never expected a Bill like this. It is like a man who wants a meal going into a restaurant and ordering salmon and being given instead a sardine. The Government
have disappointed us to an extent that it is not possible to express. It surprises me to compare this Bill with the statement which the Prime Minister made in June, 1938, when he said:
''I think it is obvious that, if we set up a Royal Commission, it would not be proper to introduce any legislation which affected the general system until we have had its report."—[Official Report, 22nd June, 1938; col. 1065, Vol. 337.]
This Bill will do the very thing which the Prime Minister said it would not be proper to do. It is introducing into the general system things which I venture to say the Commission have not accepted and which it was doubtful whether they would favour. This Bill means the introduction of family allowances in connection with workmen's compensation, and from that to family allowances in connection with the payment of wages in industry is a very short step. Therefore, I submit that in this Bill the Government are doing the very thing which the Prime Minister led us to believe they would not do.
The Bill is not worth the trouble that it will cause. Yesterday I met an official of a local authority who brought up the subject of workmen's compensation and said, "You have no idea of the amount of work that Bill will throw upon our department. We shall have to make inquiries of every one of our workmen to find out whether he is married and what are the ages of his children in order that we can insure against anything happening to him in the future." That will be the case not only with local authorities but in industry generally. I am also objecting to the Bill because it is so near akin to the family means test. I know that one cannot argue frankly that there is a means test under this Bill, but it comes very near to it. Under the family means test the family have to help to keep an unemployed person. Under this Bill the single men and those married men who are fortunate enough not to meet with an accident will have to provide the allowances for the wives and children of the married men who do meet with accidents.
As the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) said, we in the mining industry have a special interest in this question, not only because so many of our workmen are injured, but because the miners provide the money with which to pay workmen's compensation. In the arrangements under which the miners are paid there is a provision for the ascertainment of "costs other than wages," and in those costs are included the amount of money paid for workmen's compensation. In the County of Durham in the year 1936 the amount that went into the ascertainment for workmen's compensation was £480,618, equal to 3·56 pence per ton of coal; in 1937 the amount was £412,503, equal to 2·88 pence per ton; in 1938 the amount was £406,240, equal to 2·99 pence per ton; in 1939 the amount was £363,205, equal to 2·75 pence per ton. For the single month of January in this year there went into the "costs other than wages "in respect of workmen's compensation £33,638, equal to 3·19 pence per ton. I submit that when there is 3d. per ton going into the "costs other than wages" for the purpose of the ascertainment it is the miners in the county, the young men, the single men and those married men who have been fortunate enough not to suffer from an accident, who are providing the money.
Who will be relieved? The local authorities—but not altogether, because I agree with the hon. Member for Caerphilly that many of the injured workmen will still have to seek aid from the public assistance committees. In the County of Durham last year we had 602 men drawing poor relief who were also in receipt of workmen's compensation. Of that number, 588 were married. This shows that it is the married men who go to public assistance committees and that the local authorities will get the benefit. We should not pass legislation setting up bad principles and injuring our people simply to relieve the local authorities, and it is not wise of the Government to ask us to do so.
The last speaker argued the question of partial incapacity. I do not want to say more about total incapacity than that I am of opinion that seven-eighths of the average weekly wage of the workman concerned ought to be fixed without anything attached to it. Where a man is totally incapacitated he is entitled to more than the Trades Union Congress has asked for, and ought to have seven-eighths of this wage. Under the Bill, the partially injured workmen will suffer even more than the totally incapacitated workmen. I can cite three cases taken from the agenda of a committee of owners and workmen which sits in the County of Durham to decide compensation cases. At a meeting held on Tuesday, 23rd January, they dealt with a number of cases, including those which I am going to cite to illustrate the case of the partially incapacitated workman. Here is the case of a man of 42 years of age, who was a filler. On 27th September, 1935he suffered a fractured spine through a fall of stone. It is one of the worst things from which a man can suffer. The doctors reported that he had partially recovered from his accident and might do light work, but not heavy lifting. The decision in that case was that no suitable light work had been offered. The man claimed full compensation, but he was awarded 17s. per week. When the Bill of 1923 was going through this House, we argued that where colliery owners were unable to provide light work for men who had partially recovered from accidents the men were entitled to full compensation. We are still in that position. I do not know whether the man to whom I have referred is badly off, but suppose that he is married and has two children. Under the Bill, there will be 5s. for the wife and 6s. for the two children, making 11s. With his 17s. that will be 28s. I ask whether the Under-Secretary considers 28s. sufficient for a man, wife and two children to live upon for a week, especially when the man, through no fault of his own, has suffered an injury to his spine. The Bill does not meet such a csae.
Take another case, of a man aged 52, a stonehand. On 28th February, 1939, he sustained injuries to his back, left side of chest, right hip and left ankle, through a fall of stone. He had a pretty bad time of it. I venture to say that when they picked that man up he was in a rather sad state. He has been awarded 16s. per week. No suitable light work could be provided for him. The same argument applies here as in the other case. I have a further and similar case in which 16s. a week was awarded and in which no light work was available or provided. It is disgraceful that the Government should suggest that people should be satisfied with amounts like those, on which it is impossible for them to live.
Now I want to let some of my colleagues get in, but first I must say that I object that if a man suffers an accident, one of the first things he must do is to get someone to seek out his marriage certificate or the birth certificates of his children, and then to go to the colliery office and hand in those certificates. Some of us have been too long connected with colliery offices, and the Under-Secretary of State knows them as well as we do. He also knows workmen's compensation as well as we do. One will be surprised to find him backing a Bill like this. It is not fair to put workmen in the position that, as soon as an accident has been caused to them, someone has to trot up to the colliery office with certificates. Besides, colliery managers might raise difficulties in regard to some of the marriage certificates. There was a question before the House some time ago of a woman who had been married for 39 years, and the Ministry had questioned whether the marriage was legal. Colliery managers usually know every man in the village, and every man in the village knows something about everybody else. I consider that this kind of thing should not be brought into the industry.
My chief objection to the Bill is that I hold that married men who are injured should receive better treatment. The time will come when men will be seeking work again, and when the time comes for the men to go to the colliery offices one of the questions put to them will be, "Are you married? "A man will say "Yes," and the manager will say, "How many children have you got?" The man will say "Three" or "Four" as the case may be. The very fact that the man is married and has three or four children and is liable to an accident and. therefore liable to receive this extra payment means that the manager will say, "We have not any work. We cannot start you. "It will be a barrier between men with families and work. What the Government should have done is what we expected they would do, to face this matter and give a flat-rate increase. If they had given a flat-rate increase we would have been satisfied, but we shall never be satisfied with a Bill like this.
I have taken part in most of the Debates on workmen's compensation since I have been in the House. I must admit that I have opposed many Bills which have been brought forward by hon. Members on the opposite side simply because I thought they were unworkable propositions. I regret the delay that has occurred in bringing a revised Workmen's Compensation Bill before this House, but I am not altogether satisfied with the Bill that is brought here to-day. However, I am thankful that something is being done, and I will vote in its favour. I do not want to lose this Bill; we want improvements in workmen's compensation forthwith. Compensation has not kept pace with other social services. To-day an unemployed man with three children gets more compensation than one who is injured in an accident. A fellow who is injured in an accident cannot help it; it is not his fault. There are many occasions when a man can get work and does not take it. I have far more sympathy for the fellow who is injured in an accident than with the fellow who is unemployed and will not take work.
In countries such as Australia and the United States, particularly where we know the social services have not kept pace with those of other nations, workmen's compensation is as high as two-thirds of the rate of wages. A Bill of this description is putting no charge on the Exchequer. It comes on to the industry. I venture to say that in the engineering industry workmen's compensation is not as great as 10s. to £1 in a £1,000 burden—something in the order of ·1 per cent. Therefore, an increase in workmen's compensation will not be a serious burden. I am not advocating doubling the present figure, but I say that if it was doubled industry would not suffer; industry would benefit from it because the worker would be more satisfied. I cannot follow the line of argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) when he suggests that the employer would differentiate between those he engaged and those he did not engage solely on the point of workmen's compensation, but I did follow his line of argument when he suggested that it was bordering upon family allowances. If we have a Bill of this description it is another step in that direction.
As the law stands the proportion of compensation is altogether wrong, inasmuch as the lower-paid worker gets a greater percentage. A man getting 25s. a week gets 75 per cent. compensation, one getting 35s. a week gets 61 per cent. compensation, one receiving 45s. a week gets 53 per cent. compensation, and one getting 50s. a week gets 50 per cent. compensation. This is absolutely wrong and this Bill will not correct that anomaly. I am sorry that in a Bill, even if it is introduced as a temporary Measure, compulsion is not included. Why should compulsion be applied solely to the mining industry? I am under the impression that the Government have not taken sufficient notice of advice from insurance companies. They should have consulted the whole of the insurance industry and the industrialists also. Tariff companies only have been consulted. While tariff companies are responsible for some £4,500,000 of premium income, that is only 24 per cent. of the country's risks. I believe that that is where the Government have gone wrong. They have based their Bill upon the advice given by the tariff companies.
Seventy-six per cent. of workmen's compensation to-day is non-tariff. They are the mutual offices, the self-insured trade indemnity association, railway companies and so forth. Those are the people who ought to be consulted, in addition to the tariff companies. Tariff expenses, according to the Holman-Gregory Report, are in the order of 37½ per cent. Hon. Members opposite and elsewhere have criticised that high percentage. As a matter of fact, the expenses of tariff companies do not exceed that, but non-tariff companies are somewhere in the order of 28 per cent. and mutual assurance companies in the order of 18 per cent. Should not those people have been consulted in the framing of an important industrial and domestic Measure of this nature? Discussion should have embraced the whole of the industry.
Unfortunately, I have been in Committee and have not been able to attend the early portion of the Debate, but from what I have heard I support what hon. Members opposite have said, namely, that we should have a flat-rate increase and keep away from these family allowances. There may be something in favour of family allowances when it comes to men in the Services, but I regret any indication of family allowances coming into industry. The result will be that the employer will have a man with a large number of children who have been more or less kept by the State, and he will reduce his remuneration accordingly Accidents are for a short duration and a Bill of this description will alter the income of families for a short period, which will considerably dislocate the method of living of that family. A family is likely to suffer more from variations of this description than by a flat-rate increase. Family allowances are undoubtedly a misguided benevolence.
With regard to the Bill itself, the employer does not keep any accurate information with regard to the men, whether they are married or single or how many children they have. Therefore, the premium assessment will be difficult. One must know the risk before making an assessment. Without this information insurance companies will not know where they are and possibly there may be delay in the payment of benefits. Under the present law, compensation can be paid immediately. I am in very close touch with this problem, in a practical manner—not from the insurance standpoint, but from an industrial standpoint. The ordinary artisan must have his money every week, for he has no reserve. This type of legislation will not simplify his problems. There is provision for redemption, but the method of redemption in regard to these extra allowances is not the same as the present method. It is probable that the workman will seek redemption under the existing Act, and leave redemption under the new Act. Then we shall get a state of confusion again.
All hon. Members know the difficulty there sometimes is in getting members of the fighting Services to pay the correct allowances for their dependants. Such experience, surely, is sufficient to impress upon as the difficulty of operating such a Measure as this. The way in which it is drawn will add unnecessary complications. I am thankful that we have the Bill, and, as I said, I shall vote for it, but I hope that my criticism will be heard. I should have preferred to see a flat-rate increase. Simplification seems to have gone altogether out of fashion. It would have been a simple matter to increase the flat rate from £1 10s. to £2 10s., or £3, whichever you like. I doubt whether there would have been any serious debate about it; it would have been acceptable to all. I hope the Government will give this matter still further consideration. I see no advantage in family allowances, and I hope that there will be some modification of these proposals before the Bill becomes an Act.
When he said that he was against family allowances, I turned to my hon. Friend beside me, and said, "One should be suspicious when the hon. Member for West Birmingham is against any particular principle; we should examine that question again. "If the Bill is fundamentally bad and contains an unsound principle, the hon. Member should have the courage to vote against it. We have been threatened that if we carry this Amendment, the Bill may be killed. We are taking the risk. We know that if we defeat the Bill to-night no Government dare go on for long without doing something better than this for the injured workman. We deserve something better than this for what we are doing in industry to prosecute the war. There are two fundamental principles that we require in any Bill of this kind. Normal weekly earnings should be the basis instead of average weekly earnings. Average earnings are taken over a period of 12 months. Let us consider our recent experience. There was a. heavy fall of snow in January, and many of the pits could not open at all as a result. When a workman is injured, broken weeks, due to causes of that kind, are taken into consideration in calculating the average earnings. In a normal week, a man might be getting £3 10s., and, as a result of broken weeks, the average might come down to under £3.
Would it not be better to take as a basis the last full week's work, rather than average earnings? In cases where a man has left one job to go to another, I think it would be better to take the last full week as the basis.
We think that the basis should be the amount which a man would receive if the colliery were working a full week. We have always argued, on any Bill of this kind, that normal earnings should be considered, and not average earnings. I am afraid that many hon. Members opposite are not aware of what the Workmen's Compensation Acts mean. In the second place, we have argued always for a flat-rate advance. The Home Secretary said that the principles of workmen's compensation had not been changed since 1897. Surely, at a time like this, he should have brought forward a flat-rate advance. The principle has always been a flat-rate advance, and such a proposal would have been accepted by hon. Members on our side. We have no desire at a time like this to hold up the House on such a Measure. Agreement could have been reached, pending the final findings of the Royal Commission; but, instead, we have a conglomeration which is very confusing.
First, there will be an allowance of 5s. a week for a wife and 3s. for each child. That does not apply, however, to every injured workman. A man who was injured before the 1924 Act will not enjoy the benefit of this legislation, because, it is argued, he may benefit under the War Additions Act. As my hon. Friend pointed out, there may be cases where the War Additions Act does not give benefits equivalent to this. I hope something will be done to meet that point, because injured workmen, no matter when they were injured, ought to get equal benefits under any new legislation. There is another point which affects partial compensation cases, and I hope that the Minister will pay attention to the wording, as the position requires to be remedied. I refer to Clause 1, Sub-section (2, b), which says:
in the case of partial incapacity, to seven-eighths of the difference between the amount of the said average weekly earnings of the workman before the accident and the average weekly amount which he is earning or is able to earn in some suitable employment or business after the accident.
That means that if the employer does not find the man work according to his ability to work such a man will not get any benefit out of the Act. It is evident in a case like that, where the employer knows that he has to make up the wages of the man to seven-eighths of what he received before, he will be very careful in taking on partially incapacitated workmen. I ask the Minister to pay some regard to that matter.
These are some of the points that we wish to bring to the notice of the House. There is the question of single men. One wonders why they are to be debarred from any benefit under workmen's compensation. They have to work for their living like everybody else, and there ought to be some responsibility if they are injured. The Government are saying to these men that there will be nothing for them until the decision of the Royal Commission, and probably after this Bill has been passed it will be the means of the Government refusing to do anything more for a long time to come. Surely, some consideration ought to be given to other classes of labour besides married men and their dependants. Single men may also have dependants. I know personally of a son, who, because of the loss of the father, determined not to take on further responsibilities by getting married because of the position of his widowed mother, yet such a man, if he is injured, will not receive any benefit under this Measure. Is not that a wrong view to take? There is also no mention of female workers, yet, owing to the war emergency, a large number of women are being employed. I noticed when I was coming from St. Helens this morning the arrival of a workmen's train which was filled with women munition workers. Many of them have responsibilities, but under this Bill females are debarred from benefit. If females are compelled to work during the war period they ought to have the same treatment as married men.
We must oppose the Bill in the hope that we may get a sufficient number of hon. Members behind us in order to defeat it, and get something better in its place. We have laboured hard and long. Since 1932 we have been constantly striving on these benches to get something done with regard to workmen's compensation, and now the Government have brought forward a Bill that does not give us any satisfaction at all. One wonders whether the Government are taking advantage of the position. They ask us to do all we can to help them in their difficulty, and we are doing that as much as is possible, and yet, when the time comes for them to do something for those whom we have to defend, we are faced with a Bill of this character. The Home Secretary, for whom I have great respect, seemed to take a good deal of smug satisfaction in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. He used the argument that, when we have been stating cases from this side of the House, we always used those relating to the hardships of married men. That is true. They have been extreme cases, but that is not to say that there are not other hardship cases. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was taking advantage of this House in taking up such an attitude. I thought that he would have met us in a more hopeful and reasonable way by saying that at a time like this the Government would see their way to take over the full responsibility. To say that we were responsible for what they have brought in is hardly fair, and because of the unfair attitude of the Home Secretary and of the Government, I have no hesitation, whatever the consequences may be, in going into the Lobby to try and defeat this Measure.
Some months ago, when this House was considering the question of dependants' allowances for men in the Forces, it was crowded. The benches on both sides of the House were packed, because every Member of the House was rightly determined to see that the dependants of men serving in the Forces were fairly treated and their interests properly looked after while their men were engaged upon that service. I do not know what justification could be attempted of the contrast between the state of the House during that Debate and the state of the House during the Debate that has been running this afternoon. I think that it is symptomatic of the state of mind that one invariably finds in evidence on social questions on the other side of the House. Let war come and nothing is too much trouble for Members of this House to take to see that the men in the Forces are happy, content and fairly and reasonably treated, but when the House is asked to deal with those same men and their fates and fortunes, and the fates and fortunes of those dependent upon them in a matter in which war is not concerned, then every scrap of sympathy seems to go out from their minds. Why should that distinction be drawn? If a man in the Forces is injured or wounded, is there any Member of the House who would advocate that, because of that, allowances paid to his wife or for the maintenance of his children should be reduced?
One has only to ask the question to see how ridiculous the principle is, and yet, when the Home Secretary was moving the Bill this afternoon, he seemed to regard it as self-evident that, if a soldier of industry is wounded in peace-time in the service of the community, the standard of living of the man himself, and every dependant upon him, should be smaller than if he had never been wounded at all. No one has ever attempted any justification of that, and the case that has been made on these benches for many years, about workmen's compensation, is precisely that what is regarded as self-evident by everybody in the case of dependants of a wounded soldier should equally be self-evident in the case of a wounded or injured workman. This is not the occasion to debate at length that aspect of the matter, but I am sure we all hope that the Royal Commission now sitting will not overlook that point. We are concerned to-night with some immediate measure of relief, but it is Right that we should consider what the Government propose as an immediate measure against the background of the whole approach to the problem. I am not a bit impressed by what is said about the burden on industry. I never could understand that argument, but I may say, in passing, that so far as this Bill is concerned, it will not cost industry one penny.
We are told, and, of course, we accept it, that the insurance companies have undertaken to the Government that premiums will not be raised. Industry meets its liability to injured workmen by paying premiums to insurance companies in order to cover the risk, and it therefore follows that if an undertaking has been given that premiums are not to be raised, whatever else may be said of this Bill it must be stated that it costs industry no penny beyond what it was bearing before it was introduced. The extra money, such as it is, is being found by insurance companies themselves, and what a commentary it is on the system that has been allowed to rule so far—that it is possible for insurance companies at the end of it to contribute out of their surplus assets, because there is nowhere else from which they can contribute, a sum of no less than £2,000,000 per annum without passing one penny of that charge to the employer. You have this position, that it must now be regarded as a confession that all the misery, suffering and tragedy that have filled the working-class homes of hundreds of thousands in the course of the last 10 or 20 years have been so that this workmen's compensation system can be run to swell the uncontrolled profits of insurance companies.
The point I would make about this cost to industry is this: that when an accident happens the cost has been incurred. It is quite a fallacy—and I hope I have the Minister's attention about this, because people say the burden on industry will be too great—to divide industry into two parts. People put capital, finance and the managing side into one part, and workmen into the other, and they say, not expressly, but the argument can only be understood on this basis, that if the injured workman is paid nothing, then there is no burden on industry, and that the burden on industry starts only when the financial side of it is called upon to contribute to the loss. We have no right to separate industries in that way. The mining industry, surely, consists just as much of the miners employed in it as of the actual owners and the other side of the industry. The question about workmen's compensation is not whether the loss shall be incurred, or whether there shall be a burden on industry. The occurrence of the accident imposes a burden on the industry, and the question is whether that burden shall be borne solely by the workman and his family or whether it shall be shared equally with the industry as a whole, so that the consequences of the accident shall not fall on the already over-laden shoulders of the workman who happens to be involved. It seems to me that while Ministers of the Crown go on arguing that an addition to the rates of workmen's compensation cannot be paid because it increases the burden on industry, we shall make no progress at all.
Let me say a word about these particular proposals. If the Government believe in the system of family allowances, let them say so and bring in a Bill dealing with the system so that the House may express an opinion one way or the other. If they do not believe in the principle of family allowances, then let them make that clear. There is much to be said both for and against family allowances, but I submit that it is the height of irrationality to refrain from introducing that principle for uninjured workmen and then, by way of improvement of the existing system, to introduce it for injured workmen. Surely it cannot be right to say that it is anomalous to pay a single workman with dependants who is injured the same sum as is paid to a married workman who is injured and who has the greater responsibility of having to maintain a wife and family, unless you say it also about the uninjured workman. Surely it is equally anomalous that two men should be paid the same wages for doing the same work, when one is responsible only for himself while the other is responsible for a wife and family.
Everything that has been urged in favour of the principle of family allowances in connection with this Bill is an argument in favour of family allowances as a mode of reward to workmen for their work. If this Bill and the principle in it were allowed to pass unchallenged, one wonders how long it would be before, by the very force of their own logic, the Government were compelled to apply the same principle to wages as a whole. If they do, then I think we shall have fallen from the frying pan into the fire. Much as I detest and abhor the means test, much as I would rebel against any proposal to introduce the means test into workmen's compensation law, I am not sure that I would not prefer it to introducing a system of family allowances into workmen's compensation law, with the inevitable, ultimate consequence of applying that principle to wages and altering our whole social system on that basis.
The only defence attempted by the Government for introducing into workmen's compensation, as a temporary measure, a principle which is wholly new and alien to it is that they want to meet cases of hardship. Will the Under-Secretary then give us a better explanation than has so far been offered, for limiting the proposal to male workers? If it is desired to relieve the particular hardship of the dependants of the married worker who is injured why have the Government chosen to exclude from that relief, merely on the ground of sex, workers who also have families dependent upon them? That is the only distinction. No other has been suggested as far as I have heard. Nobody has attempted to justify that distinction. In my constituency, and in many parts of Lancashire where the textile industry predominates, there are, I imagine, almost as many married women at work with children dependent on their earnings, as there are men. I have not the figures, but I do not think that is an exaggeration. A large proportion of the workers in the textile trade are women workers with children and often husbands dependent upon them.
By what logic can the Government justify the proposal that a man, employed in a cotton mill, who has a wife should have five shillings added to the maximum weekly compensation payable to him, whereas if the worker is a woman, with a husband who is sick or who has been disabled in the war, then the addition is not to be paid in respect of that spouse? Is it because the insurance offices, to whom the Government apparently confined their negotiations, felt that to bring in the women would cost them a little more? If not, what is the explanation? I assure the Government that all over that part of Lancashire where the textile industry prevails, this proposal will be regarded with complete puzzledom. They will not understand it, and there has been nothing in the Debate so far to enable them to understand it.
I was born in Lancashire and have lived much of my life there, but I suppose I cannot pretend to understand it as well as an hon. Member who represents a Yorkshire constituency. Obviously, the hon. Member will know far more about Lancashire than anybody else. But there is plenty of time, and if the hon. Member really does understand why a married man should get something for his children, while a married woman cannot get anything for her children, I hope he will explain it to a Lancashire audience.
The hon. Member should not put something into my mouth which I did not say. I said I had a better idea of the intelligence of Lancashire women than to think they would not understand the Bill. I am not saying that it is right, but I am saying that they will understand what the Bill means.
They will understand what the Bill means, but they will not understand why this proposal should be made, and I take it now that the hon. Member does not understand that any more than I do. The Government have had a very bad House to-day, and if they are wise in their generation, they will, even at this late stage, withdraw the Measure and, in accordance with the opinions expressed in all quarters of the House, introduce another with a little more sense and justice in it.
I have sat throughout this Debate, and I expect that when the Division takes place the Members on the Government side, who have not heard the discussion, will decide in favour of the Bill. But if the case which has been presented to this House to-day were presented to the country and the country were asked to vote upon the question, I have no misgivings about what the decision would be. I am satisfied that the case as presented from these benches would be overwhelmingly accepted. I do not think that the Government are to be congratulated on the case they have presented. At the same time I think we ought to say that there are parts of the Bill which are acceptable, but even the good parts have been so steadily delayed that it makes one wonder whether the Government have been trying to prevent any of the costs of this compensation falling on their well-to-do friends and to prevent any of the benefits going to injured workmen and their dependants, who so badly need them. The effect of bad legislation in the question of workmen's compensation is mainly felt by the injured worker and his dependants, and I think there is a desire on the part of many hon. Members to see some improvement. I was very concerned to hear a supporter of the Government, who throughout the whole of his speech criticised this legislation, say that he would walk into the Division Lobby in support of the Bill. That might square with the hon. Member's opinions, but I wonder what his constituents will think about it. We are told that actions speak louder than words.
I have referred to the effect of bad legislation upon the injured workmen and their families, but one must also remember that the districts in which industry largely exists to-day have in the past been subject to a levy on account of workmen's compensation. Indeed, various institutions in these districts have suffered. We believe that the failure of employers to pay adequate workmen's compensation in the past in our industrial districts has been one of the prime factors in the failure to get rents, and certainly in the case of council property in these localities this has been much deplored. There has also been a lower purchasing power in these districts, and the trading community, the shopkeepers, have suffered as a consequence. The rate levy too has been a prime factor. I represent Barnsley, not a very large borough, and recently we have been paying through our rates 10s. per week in subsidy by way of the public assistance committee to injured workmen because of their failure to receive a proper living standard out of workmen's compensation.
There was a suggestion from the Home Secretary—I think he put it forward in praise of his friends—to the effect that insurance companies at the commencement of the operation of the Measure were not likely to increase premiums. I should think not. I share the view of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) that in view of past advantages which they have received there is no necessity for them to increase premiums. The system of compensation as we have it in this country is often embarked upon by people as a profit-making agency. As a contrast, I will mention that in Canada, in the Province of Ontario, the premiums paid to the State result in the injured workers or their families receiving 98 per cent. of the premiums back in the form of compensation. In this country, less than 60 per cent. of the premiums are returned as compensation. In this instance, the Mother Country ought to be glad to follow the example of the Province of Ontario, and to follow it soon.
I should like to refer to the position in the mining industry and to show how heavily bad workmen's compensation falls upon the miners. I speak of this industry with knowledge, because, when I came to the House a little less than two years ago, I came from the pit. In Yorkshire, the county from which I come, the average figures show that the miner is injured once in every 4½ years of his working life. If one miner is fortunate enough to miss an accident, then some other miner has a double dose. Hon. Members on this side of the House hold the view that if workmen's compensation were made more costly, the mining industry might perhaps devote more time and money to research into the means of preventing accidents. That is no new thought, for one of the first Members of this House to come from the mining industry, Alexander MacDonald, expressed a similar point of view in the 'seventies of last century, when he said that if accidents were costly, we could perhaps then say to ourselves that economically it would be wise to prevent them rather than endeavour to allay the suffering by meagre compensation. This high incidence of accidents in the mining industry means more family commitments for single men. I have in mind many cases where a father has been involved in an accident which has ultimately led to his death, and where a son has taken on the household burdens. This Bill will mean that an action of that sort will be set at nought; there will be no payment to an individual who does that.
I was sorry to hear the Home Secretary make a comparison with the 1923 standard. When that compensation Measure was introduced in 1923, hon. Members on this side opposed it on the ground that the standard was far too low. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the 1923 standard was one which we on these benches respected, he is very much mistaken. Another matter I want to mention is this. Have hon. Gentlemen opposite thought of what the position will be if an accident befalls a single man who is engaged to be married? Have they thought of the probable discord there will be if, before the marriage takes place, the man is involved in an accident, and the position is that, if that couple go on with the marriage, they will be denied the benefits which this Bill gives to married people? There is some dubiety in the country as to the possible safety and advantage offered by what is known as the Anderson shelter in the case of air-raid attacks, but there is certainly no Anderson shelter provided under this Bill for the injured workers in industry. There is nothing in the Measure to meet the crying need of industry, where accident is so rife, so far as the abolition of the three days waiting period is concerned. I am sorry to see no provision for the dependants of workers who have been fatally injured. About three weeks ago, on reaching my local railway station after travelling back from this House, I saw a funeral procession wending its way to the graveyard. I went with them and saw a man placed in the grave who five days before was as physically fit as any man could be. After a fall of stone, which pinned him down for nearly 12 hours—he was fully conscious all the time—he was rescued and died. His widow and children have received none of the advantages of this legislation, but if that accident had not been fatal they would have received the benefit.
I do not base my arguments on sentiment but on absolutely cold facts, to show why the Government should take back this Measure because it fails to remove hardship which the Government have pledged themselves to this House and the country to remove. It fails to remedy hardship in the case of a single man, whether with family hardship commitments or not, for the wife married after an accident, and for children born nine months after an accident. In bringing forward this legislation the Government seem to have fallen into line with the views of a certain lady on birth control. There is no improvement for the widow and children of a fatally injured man. Their hardship was bad enough before the war, but their position, with the increase in the cost of living and other things, is now considerably worse. Adopted children are not catered for in the Measure. In my constituency, which I am privileged to represent, three pits in one colliery combine, unfortunately, had three explosions. As a result children were made orphans and well-meaning colliers and their wives undertook to keep them. Is their action, in the event of an accident, to be repaid in this fashion, because if a coal miner has an accident no financial provision is made for his adopted children? The point was ably adduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) that this Bill makes no provisions for the ever growing number of women who are being induced to take part in industry to assist in the war effort. I am at one with the country and the Government in the major issue that we are confronting in the resistance to Fascist aggression, but if we want to strengthen the morale, not only of the workers, but of the men in the Fighting Forces, so many of whom are ex-workers and, we hope, will be workers again soon when the victorious peace comes, I suggest that the Government could do no better than to take back this Bill and bring in a better and more humane Bill which will give the people better standards to enable them to meet life's difficult tasks.
I have listened to every speech in the Debate with the exception of one, and I am sure that, while frequently a Minister from that Box declares at the end of a Debate that he has no reason to complain about the reception of the Bill, that observation cannot be made by the Under-Secretary to-night. With the exception of two hon. Members, one of whom criticised the Measure, the Minister has not found a supporter in any part of the House. It is true that the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) said that he would vote for the Bill, but he was the most hearty critic of the Measure. He was not a destructive critic either; he was a constructive critic and proved his points not from figures derived from his own imagination, but from an inquiry which covered a long period. Therefore, the Minister and the Under-Secretary have little or nothing upon which to congratulate themselves. I noticed earlier that the Minister was complimenting himself, and the Under-Secretary, too, seemed to be very happy with himself, and I am sure the pair of them thought they had accomplished a big job of work and were about to receive a Royal welcome for having done their good deed for this day and perhaps for this year and this Government. So discontented are Members of their own party, however, that for six hours the average attendance on the National Government Benches has been about seven, including the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister. They have no interest in this Bill. They were so thoroughly disturbed as to what would be their fate when they went back to their divisions that they could not bear to sit in the House and listen to the truth.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) said that he listened to each Debate on workmen's compensation with impatience and almost with exasperation. I think I can say for those who listened to the Debates in 1923 that we have listened without patience and with super-exasperation ever since. One of the first big Measures which the then Government of 1923 passed—and I was privileged to pay some little part in criticising the proposals—was a compensation Measure which indicated as clearly as anything could what the governing classes thought about workmen when they met with injuries. In that Measure they deliberately set about to reduce the weekly payments for compensation. The scales settled in 1923 are still in operation in 1940; despite all the evidence which has been forthcoming in the 17 years, nothing has been done until to-day. The Minister did at least confess that there was ample evidence of dissatisfaction with the existing scales in all quarters of the House. Something like that statement has been made by every Home Secretary since 1922. I can recall an interview I had in 1927 with the late Sir William Joynson-Hicks, as he then was, in which he promised faithfully that in a very short time some Measure would be produced which would materially benefit injured persons. That was 13 years ago, but nothing has happened until we have become involved in war. Many of those who fought in the Great War and who have been industrial victims in the interim period have suffered acute hardship as a result of the old scales. They are now to be made to continue to suffer because apparently the Government are not yet in possession of the general feeling on the subject in the country.
The Home Secretary said that in present circumstances the Government were justified in taking exceptional steps, and both he and the Under-Secretary appeared to be very happy at the steps they were taking. I say to them that they could not have done much less than they are doing. The Home Secretary said that what he wanted was something direct, something simple, something that did not involve a needs test or a means test, and that he wished to see the available money go where it was most needed. We shall see whether the object which he has in mind will be achieved. On paper the scheme may look good to the Home Office, but the Under-Secretary knows full well that it will not look very good on a pit top, or in a Lancashire factory where so many women are working.
How does this Bill really work out? First, it establishes a new principle in compensation law. I am not necessarily against the introduction of any new principle in any new law, assuming that it is an improvement upon an old principle. I do not condemn this new principle because it is new, but because it is a general deviation from the normal compensation law and is calculated to create more anomalies than it will remove. Though the right hon. Gentleman did not want any needs test or means test, he starts in Clause 1 to apply four tests before any person can enjoy any of these allowances. First, he must be a married man; secondly, he gets no allowance unless he has a wife and children living; thirdly, the amount of the allowance depends upon the size of the family; fourthly, it depends upon when the children were born. With these limitations the Bill, as every speech this afternoon has gone to show, is only a tiny, partial cure for a general disease.
In a short time we shall hear the Under-Secretary repeating the Minister's statement, telling us how beneficial this Bill will prove to the man who has a wife and one, two, three, four, five or even six children. He will say, "Think of it, a man with a wife and six children with only 30s. a week. As a result of the generosity of the Home Secretary and myself, we are about to give that man round about 52s. 6d. a week. "He will claim that that is a gigantic step forward. I admit that some families will benefit. That is conceded, but the Under-Secretary will also have to agree that hundreds of thousands of single men and women, widows and others will derive no benefit whatsoever. There is the case of a man with a wife. He is now in receipt of the maximum compensation of 30s. per week, and he will get a 5s. per week increase under the Bill. That will be a one-sixth increase on a terribly low income, which is either less than 50 per cent. or is 50 per cent. of his previous income. There is not much for the hon. Gentleman to write home about there. If the married man happens to have one child, his increase is from 30s. to 38s.; starting with that 30s. per week, there will not be a gigantic increase, but, to the extent that there are more children in the home, and all the other conditions are fulfilled, some slight advantage will come.
For these princely allowances, the man must first of all be married. His children must be legitimate; they must not be illegitimate, adopted or step-children, and he must have had no children earlier than nine months after the date of his marriage. I am not going to suggest that the Government desire to support the theories of Dr. Stopes or of anyone else, but I suggest that the Government have produced a Bill of which they would have been very sorry in the days behind them. I would ask the hon. Gentleman one or two questions relating to an industry that calls for more compensation cases than any other, because the workers in it suffer more injury than in any other industry. I know that he knows something about coal mines. It is generally understood that, by the law of averages, one miner out of every five is injured every year. If a man does not meet with injuries during five years, somebody must be having overtime injuries. The number of people injured in the mining industry is very large, weekly, monthly and yearly.
Imagine for a moment a single man who has been courting, perhaps for years, and has made every preparation for his wedding. It may be that the wedding gown has been bought. Unfortunately, that man meets with an accident. The Home Secretary now says that that man must not now marry. He says: "If you dare to marry, none of the allowances in my wonderful little Bill will be available to you. "That is the sort of thing which the Under-Secretary thinks we ought to do to men in an industry with which he is closely identified, and with which his family has been fortunate in being so closely identified. When a single man is injured in a mine, that is one not of a small number of cases, but of a very large number of cases. When he is partially recovered and resumes work, if he dares to be a Daniel and a man, it is only to find that, in a week or a month his injuries break out again, or he breaks down as the result of his injury. He is now a married man, but he met with the accident when he was single. Will his wife get the allowances? I hope that when the Under-Secretary comes to reply he will tell us whether in such a case a married man will receive the allowances, because there is nothing in this Bill to indicate whether he will or not. In fact, as I read the Bill, it completely rules him out, and he cannot obtain compensation if he was single when the accident actually occurred. I hope the hon. Gentleman will tell us what the position of the man will be.
It is known to the hon. Gentleman and I think to many hon. Members in this House that not every child is born within nine months of conception. No three doctors would agree on the period of 36 weeks, or nine calendar months, or whatever it may be. Assume that a child is born 10 days beyond the nine months. Who is to settle the issue—the Under-Secretary or the Home Secretary, or both? They have put nine months in this Bill. Perhaps the Attorney-General will tell us who is to solve that problem when it arises. I want to ask the hon. Gentleman, before he tells us of the generosity of the Home Office, to look at the maximum benefits that certain people can receive from this Measure. Let us think in terms of the agricultural labourer with his wages of 36s. a week. Supposing he meets with an accident; occasionally agricultural labourers meet with accidents. His compensation will be about 21s. 6d., and now the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary step forth and say, "Here, my lad, here is 5s. extra. "It does not give him justice, and it does not give him fair play. It gives him 5s. on the 21s. 6d. If there is a child, 8s. is added to the 21s. 6d., which makes 29s. 6d., and that is nothing to write home about.
I notice that in this Bill there is no improvement in the case of fatality, whether this war goes on for months or years—we all hope it may be weeks—and that widows who lose their partners do not benefit even to the extent of a three-halfpenny or a two penny stamp under this Bill. A widow may not even be enjoying a pension of any kind in respect of her late husband, and she is working to maintain her children. Suppose she meets with an accident. She receives no benefit for herself or for her children under the terms of this Bill. I hope hon. Members opposite will try to understand what the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary are foisting upon them, because they are bound to get it back in their constituencies sooner or later. There may be a wife whose husband has completely broken down through no fault of his own. She is working in a factory or elsewhere to help maintain her invalid husband, and she meets with an accident. Not a penny does she get out of this Bill, not a bit of encouragement for having done the womanly job of maintaining her invalid husband and steering clear of public assistance. A single man staying at home and helping to maintain his mother and children, should there be children, meets with an accident following his normal occupation, and not a penny does he get out of this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he wanted the money to go where it was most needed. Where a son is staying at home, and doing the proper thing by caring for his mother and her other children, he will not receive a penny under this Bill; and an unmarried man who has children to support—and there is not an hon. Member who does not know of unmarried men who have children to support—will receive not a penny of benefit under this Bill. It has been established for many years that once a boy attains the age of 21 we call him a man. He is through his apprenticeship, he has reached the age of maturity, and he is qualified for the top man's wage. He is receiving a man's wage, he may be preparing to get married, making all the necessary preparations in advance; and yet, should he meet with an accident, we are told, it is proper that he should not receive any benefits under this Bill. He must suffer the hardship and physical pain of injury, and financial hardship as well. The Under-Secretary will tell us of the advantages of the Bill; I want hon. Members to know one or two of the disadvantages.
A single man, who may be a £3-a-week man or a £7-a-week man, cannot draw in compensation more than 30s. a week. If he lived in lodgings, it is obvious that, to the extent that the cost of living is increasing during the war, the cost of his lodgings will increase. Why should he not be entitled to any increase in the amount paid to him by way of compensation? The Minister said that no case had been made out for the single man. No case needs to be made out for him. The existing scale is in itself a sufficient case. A man earning £5, £6 or £7 a week in wages—and employers do not pay those wages unless a man earns them—will receive 30s. a week in compensation. There is nothing to write home about in that. The man suffers physical injury, perhaps disfigurement; he may lose a leg or an arm or an eye; and the maximum he can draw in compensation is 30s. a week. I will leave that to the conscience of the Under-Secretary.
Then there is the case of the young women who leave home to enter industry. That happens in the case of thousands of women who enter the textile industries in Yorkshire. In the West Riding of Yorkshire, wages for these women have ranged from 35s. to 40s. a week—more often 35s. than 40s. If such a woman meets with an accident, she will receive £1 a week compensation. Her lodgings will cost her more than that. Therefore, every week while she is incapacitated, she is falling into debt. She must either leave her lodgings and return home, or continue falling into debt. There is not a penny for that young woman out of this Bill, and I hope that Yorkshire and Lancashire will have something to say to the Minister about it later.
I want to return to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). He referred to the question of redemption by a lump sum, and he warned the Home Secretary of what was actually happening. I want to submit to the Under-Secretary a case which will be typical of thousands in the country unless something is done very quickly indeed. It is the case of a person who met with an accident to one eye. He did not claim any compensation for that. He continued to work, and met with an accident to the other eye, and went on to compensation, and now he is totally blind. The insurance company have taken steps to get him into court to compel him to receive a lump sum and get the case settled before this Bill becomes law so as to escape their allowance obligations. The Minister is entirely responsible for that situation. The Title of the Bill reads as follows:
A Bill to provide for the payment of supplementary allowances in respect of wives and children to male workmen entitled to weekly payments by way of compensation.
If this insurance company can get that man, who is totally blind, as a result of working for his employers, into court in May, they will compel him to accept a lump sum, and when this Bill becomes law he will derive no benefit or advantage from it. What are the Under-Secretary and the Minister going to do about this, because under the terms of that Title there is no remedy, and unless they alter the Title of the Bill nothing can be done? If an unscrupulous employer or insurance company, between now and the coming into operation of this Bill, can use the original Act to get settlements of this kind, they will rob injured persons of any benefit they might derive from this Measure. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell us what, if anything, the
Government will do to prevent a whole mass of similar cases taking place. So far as I can see, unless the Minister is willing to alter the Title so that nothing done after the introduction of this Bill shall remove the obligation from the employer or insurance company to pay these allowances, then the court will be full of cases trying to secure the compulsory redemption of claims and thereby robbing the people of that to which they are entitled.
There is only one other type of case to which I want to refer, namely, the pre-1924 cases. This Bill limits benefits to persons who were injured from 1924 onwards. There are a few cases in the country, some of which I know, where injuries were received before 1924 and where the injured person is still totally incapacitated. Such persons are those who have become totally blind, or who have a fractured spine, or have lost their legs and live in carriages, or who have had their legs or arms amputated, and who have suffered every known physical agony and have been denied the joy of all recreation and the good things in life. They have lived throughout the period on 30s. per week or less, and now apparently they are not to derive any benefit from this Measure. I hope that the Under-Secretary will say, at all events, that, since the number of cases will be so few, and the families have suffered so much, they will not hesitate to change this Bill if they can satisfy themselves that it will not be a terrific hardship on insurance companies or employers in this country. After all, those people have been veritable martyrs of compensation law ever since they met with their injuries.
I can speak with some experience in this matter. When I was working with my own father he met with an accident to an eye and within three months went totally blind. Three years after the accident he fell dead, 20 years earlier than he would otherwise have done, and not a penny compensation was paid after the time of his death. I have at this moment a brother who has been living in a carriage for 28 years and I know that this case can be multiplied by others. I know not only of the hardship which the injured persons are enduring but the hardships which their wives and families are enduring because of the compensation law of this country. This Bill will help the minority but will disgust the large majority and retain the worst anomalies of the compensation law. The Minister and the Under-Secretary will be blessed by a few, but cursed by many, and I have no hesitation in voting for the Amendment since it is our only means of entering a violent protest against such a slip-shod Measure as this.
We have had a fairly long Debate upon this rather unimportant Measure. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) spoke of the patience with which he and his fellow Members have put up with the workmen's compensation position since the Act of 1923 was passed, and I can only say, in regard to that, that I have never admired his and his hon. Friend's patience more than I did during the years 1929 to 1931, when they sat for two and a-half years on these benches, and continually pressed the then Home Secretary the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) to introduce some amending Measure in regard to workmen's compensation.
Many of the points raised in the Debate have either been of such a wide character as to be to some extent outside the scope of this Bill, or of such a minor character as to be Committee points. I may mention, as being in the former category, the points raised in the very clear and interesting maiden speech of the hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Nield). He particularly referred to the doctrine of election under which a workman has to choose between his Common Law remedy and his workmen's compensation, and to compulsory commutation, under Section 13 of the principal Act. Both these questions are very interesting, but the Government, at this stage, regard them as primarily for the Royal Commission, which is inquiring into the wider aspects of this subject.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House—perhaps more on the benches opposite than on this side—have raised a large number of points, which can, I think, be described as points for the Committee stage. From that I deduce that hon. Members generally, expect that this Bill will get a Second Reading and that the Opposition Amendment will be rejected. Should that not happen, then their efforts in bringing forward these Committee points, will have been wasted and so will my efforts, in indicating the general attitude of the Government towards those points. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) and the hon. Member for Don Valley raised the question of the position of the married woman and asked why we were doing nothing in the Bill for the married woman as such. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne described what I can only call a matriarchal system of society, which, apparently, exists in Lancashire. I gathered from his speech that there a large number of married women go out to work and support their children and the husbands stay at home and earn nothing but do the cooking and generally look after the children and the household.
There may be a few such cases, but I do not believe that that state of affairs is by any means general in any part of Lancashire to-day. If we were to try to provide for those cases we should be forced at once into making inquiries into the means of the husband and how it was that he had no income and the whole question of the means test and of Inquiry into means would be opened up at once. That is the reason why we excluded the married woman as such, from the benefits of the Bill.
I have listened to speeches from hon. Members opposite for six or seven hours and there have been only two speeches from this side of the House. I hope I may be allowed to make a few remarks without constant interruption. The position of the widow was greatly improved by the Act of 1923. The position of the ordinary man on weekly payments was not improved by that Act. His maximum weekly payment was reduced from 35s. to 30s. but in respect of widows with young children, there was a substantial improvement, because, for the first time, a system of allowances for young children was introduced with workmen's compensation law. In 1925, the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act came into operation. Hon. Members have not, I think, appreciated the fact that, initially, when widows' pensions were given, allowances were also given in respect of young children. It was provided in the 1925 Act that if a widow was already receiving, or had received by way of a lump sum, under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, some allowances in respect of children under 15, then she should not also draw the children's allowance under the Pensions Act. In 1929 the position was again considered. It was thought to be wholly unfair to deprive a widow of children's allowance under the Widows' and Orphans' Contributory Pensions Act which had been in part earned by the contributions paid by her husband before his death. Therefore the disqualification from receiving children's allowance under the Widows' Pensions Act was removed in 1929. In effect after 1929 it has been possible for a widow to be in receipt of two sets of allowances in respect of children under 15. That is the reason why we are not providing a third set of children's allowances to a widow in this Bill.
Is it not possible for a widow to have neither of these allowances? In the case of a pre-1926 widow she receives nothing for her children after they have reached a certain age, and may it not be true that such a widow may be one to whom we have referred as earning her own living; whose husband was not killed in battle and therefore gets no compensation at all?
In the case of a pre-1926 widow it is very unlikely that at this time she would have any children under 15 years of age. Let me turn to the question of the unmarried wife. The considerations which apply to her apply also to other dependants. In respect of all such dependants we should have to set on foot inquiries which I think would be of an extremely objectionable character and particularly objectionable if carried out by the employer.
Hon. Members opposite have often objected to inquiries into family relationships, and if they read the evidence which the Miners' Federation tendered to the Royal Commission they will find that they were vehemently against the type of inquiry as to dependency which is sometimes made in fatal cases under workmen's compensation. The Government have no desire to extend this sort of inquiry into the class of cases which hon. Members have mentioned. The hon. Member for the Don Valley asked what about the hard case of a young man courting a girl, with perhaps even the wedding dress ordered; he gets injured, marries after the accident, and gets no allowance. That obviously is a very hard case, but in this Bill we are following an old and well-established precedent which has been followed, in respect of Service pensions for war wounds, by every Government of every complexion since the last war. That is to say that you crystallise the man's position as regards his wife and children at the date of the wound or the date of the accident, and it is in regard to that that the obligation of the State to the man is assessed. Whether that be a good thing or a bad thing, what I am clear about is that we cannot, in a Bill of this kind, place upon employers a higher degree of liability than the State itself is prepared to undertake.
The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) raised one or two points in regard to procedure. He asked whether there is to be a very formidable list of questions which the workman will have to answer. The position in regard to the forms to be prescribed under Clause 3 is this. We have the draft forms ready. They may have to be amended as a result of the Debates in Committee in this House. For instance, there is the question of children. Several hon. Members have mentioned the position of adopted children, step-children and illegitimate children. Our minds are by no means closed in regard to the question of children. There are some difficulties involved. We have given this matter some consideration, but I am by no means disposed to say here and now that we are not going to include any further classes of children under the Bill.
The forms to be filled up by the workmen will obviously become more complicated with every extension that we make to the Bill as at present drawn. We are anxious to keep the forms as simple as possible. We shall this week submit the forms to representatives of the Trades Union Congress, the Employers' Confederation and the Accident Offices Association, which, as hon. Members know, represents the organised insurance companies, who will have to handle a great many of these cases. We want to keep the forms as simple as we can. We want to make sure that there are no inquiries of an embarrassing character. My view in regard to these inquiries is that the employer ought not to put to the workpeople any question which he himself would not be prepared to answer if it were put to him by one of his employés. With the co-operation of the organised employers in the mutual insurance associations and the Accident Offices Association, I think arrangements can be made under which, on the very first normal pay day after 1st July, which is the date of operation, these payments will be made smoothly and quickly without any undue delay. That is the object which the Government have in view.
The hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) criticised us a good deal on various points, and in particular for not having consulted the non-tariff insurance companies. Something like 70 per cent. of the whole field of insurance in workmen's compensation is covered by the mutual associations of employers. Of the remaining 30 per cent., something like 8 per cent. are self-insurers—that is to say big employers who carry their own insurance risks—and of the remaining 22 per cent., something like three-quarters is undertaken by the Accident Offices Association. We have been unable to consult everybody in regard to this Bill, because we wanted to get it on to the Statute Book as quickly as possible, but I hope that the non-tariff insurance companies, whom we have not been able to consult, will co-operate as heartily as the organised insurance companies have done in endeavouring to make these arrangements work smoothly and well.
I should like now to deal with some of the more general issues that have been raised. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) moved an Amendment which he described euphemistically as a reasoned Amendment. It is a curious Amendment, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, because it contains no criticism whatever of anything contained in the Bill. The only condemnation which it does apply is to what is not in the Bill. It is just as if you invited a hungry man to have a sandwich, and he said, "I do not like your ham sandwich because there is no egg in it." Our sandwich is not intended to have any egg in it. It is a ham sandwich.
Whoever drafted this Amendment must have been catering for a good deal of differing opinion in regard to the principles of this Bill, among Members of the party opposite. The Amendment reads:
This House cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Workmen's Compensation Bill which is limited to a system of supplementary allowances in respect of wives and children.…
There is neither praise nor blame for the system of supplementary allowances in respect of wives and children as such, and I feel that Agag himself might have drafted the Amendment. The Amendment goes on to speak of the admitted necessity of an all-round increase in the rates of compensation, and my right hon. Friend challenged hon. Members opposite as to what, if any, system for an all-round increase they had in their minds. We have had a number of differing views expressed from the benches opposite as to the type of all-round increase which they favoured. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), and the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) apparently favoured a flat-rate percentage increase—a uniform percentage added to all workmen's compnsation payments.
The dilemma in which the hon. Member for Normanton is in is that at the present time every workman whose earnings are at a rate of 25s. or less is in receipt of compensation for total disability amounting to 75 per cent. of his pre-accident earnings. You can therefore add only 33⅓per cent. to his disability payment before you arrive at his pre-accident earnings. If you are going to add a flat-rate increase as suggested by the hon. Member for North Southwark—he favoured a figure of 75 per cent. as a flat-rate increase—and add that to the workmen's compensation payment, you will provide compensation which is half as much again as the man was earning before the accident took place. I must confess that this is the first time I have ever heard it seriously suggested that by way of compensation for loss of earnings you should pay a man half as much again as he was earning before.
Some hon. Members opposite were more orthodox and stuck to what is known as the Labour plan, the plan given in evidence by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress to the Royal Commission, and the plan which has been embodied in Bills presented to this House on innumerable occasions by hon. Members opposite. Such a plan was favoured by the right hon. Member for Wakefield and the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Cassells). They stuck to the old, traditional, orthodox Labour plan. An interesting scheme emanating from hon. Members opposite has only recently been placed before the Royal Commission by the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress, and it is only a month ago that the right hon. Member for Hills-borough (Mr. Alexander) went in person to the Royal Commission to tender evidence on behalf of that body. I must confess that there are most striking discrepancies between the official Labour plan and the evidence tendered by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough. For instance, whereas the official Labour plan gives three-quarters of pre-accident earnings in every case where the earnings are £4 and above, and gives 60s. or full earnings in every other case, the Co-operative plan gives a much lower scale. It gives a maximum of £3 as workmen's compensation, and a minimum of 30s. The most striking example of the discrepancy between the two plans is that to all the workmen, of whom there is an enormous number, earning £3 a week, the official Labour plan gives as compensation the pre-accident earnings, whereas the scheme of the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress gives one-half that figure—that is, the figure of 30s. given by the present Act.
I cannot quote all of it, but I would like to recommend hon. Members to read it, because there was a pretty passage of arms between the right hon. Member for Hillsborough and the Labour representatives on the Royal Commission, Mr. Lawther, the president of the Miners' Federation and Mr. Smyth of the Trades Union Council as to who spoke with the authentic voice of Labour. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough said his evidence voiced the views of 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 Co-operatives, while Mr. Lawther and Mr. Smyth pointed out that all those members were affiliated to the Trades Union Council and their evidence had already been tendered to the Royal Commission. I will not endeavour to decide between the two. What I am pointing out is that, whereas the Amendment asks hon. Members to vote for an all-round increase in the rates of compensation, we have heard from the benches opposite to-day at least three different methods of giving an all-round increase; and there is yet a fourth method, namely, that proposed by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough, which I do not think would be acceptable to anybody in any quarter of the House.
It is obvious that if this Amendment were carried we should have to have further inquiries and discussions as to which was the best of these various methods of applying a percentage increase. We should have to investigate the difficult question of whether we should apply these increases to cases of partial compensation as well as to cases of total compensation. We should, moreover, have the difficult question of deciding whether to apply the percentage increase retrospectively to old cases or only to cases of accident arising in future. With regard to the application of such a percentage increase to past cases, I really do not believe that any hon. Member believes that it would be possible to apply the official Labour scheme for a 100 per cent. increase in compensation rates to old cases going back to 1924. I do not believe it possible for the simple reason that in the Bills which the party opposite have introduced in the last five years no provision has been made for applying the proposed new rates to accidents which happened before the passage of the Bill.
Take, for example, the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) on 11th November, 1938. It came before the House for Second Reading on 18th November and provided that the Bill should come into operation on 1st July, 1940, that is 14 months after the date of the Second Reading. It would not have applied to any cases of old accidents, so that not only would old hard cases have remained, but new hard cases would have continued to arise for a further period of 14 months after the passage of the Bill.
Exactly the same thing applies to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) two years previously. That Bill, again, was cast in such a form as not to come into operation for 14 months, and it stated in terms:
This Act shall apply to all accidents happening on or after the first day of January, 1938.
On the back of this Bill I find the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton who has made a plea this evening that we should endeavour to deal with cases of accidents occurring even before 1924. There is not a very large number of these cases, but in going back into the past we have had to draw a line somewhere.
The hon. Member cannot get away with it by quoting Bills like that. They represent a plan which is entirely different from existing workmen's compensation, and make a complete revolution in workmen's compensation. The plea that I made was for the few incurable cases that must exist arising from accidents before 1924.
If the hon. Member says those two Bills are more extensive than this one, I have here a third Bill with his name on the back which provided for an increase in the scales of benefit and for nothing else. That Bill was introduced by the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. W. Whiteley) on 21st June, 1938, and was to come into operation and apply to accidents occurring on or after 1st January, 1939. That is to say, six months were allowed before that Bill was to come into operation., and then it covered no past cases at all. Compare that with the Measure we have introduced, which will come into full operation within six weeks of its introduction into this House and will apply to past accidents going back for 16½ years.
Two criticisms of the main lines of the Bill now before the House have been made. The first is that what we are now doing will prejudice the work of the Royal Commission. It really is not for hon. Members opposite to say that, because ever since the Royal Commission was appointed they have pressed us to introduce duce legislation dealing with workmen's compensation.
Whatever action may be taken at the present time, whether it is simply an all-round increase in the rates of benefit or a scheme such as we are proposing, it must, of course, to some extent affect the position of the Royal Commission; but it is only fair to point out that we have had communications with the Royal Commission, the terms of which have been disclosed to the House, and the Royal Commission have indicated that they have no desire themselves to produce an interim report and that they would not consider their future deliberations to be seriously prejudiced by some interim legislation introduced by the Government.
I am afraid that I cannot speak for the unanimity or otherwise of the Royal Commission. It is composed of a number of elements which might be thought to be somewhat out of harmony, but at the same time we hope they will produce a valuable report. The other objection made to this Bill by the right hon. Member for Wakefield and one or two other speakers was that it introduced a completely new principle into workmen's compensation. I should not have thought it was for the party of the Left in this House to object to a new principle as such. I should have thought that something which introduced a new principle would prima faciebe welcome to hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I can imagine it being a matter for condemnation to some of my hon. Friends behind me to say of a Measure that it introduces a new principle. Hon. Members opposite must try to disguise their preference for the well-trodden paths of precedent and of tradition. They must try to conceal their extreme conservatism.
It is true that to some limited extent there is a new principle here, but in case some hon. Members behind me may be alarmed I had better explain, in the first place, that this is not wholly a new principle in workmen's compensation. In 1923 the needs of a family were recognised and children's allowances were introduced in the case of fatal accidents. Moreover, the principle of need was also to some extent recognised in the same year. A tapering scale was adopted under which the poorest-paid workman got a higher percentage of compensation. It is not wholly true to say that hitherto compensation has in all cases been related only to the earnings of the worker. As regards weekly payments, it is true that this is a novelty in legislation, but we do not claim complete novelty in introducing it as regards weekly payments, as I shall now proceed to show to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield.
This plan of introducing dependants' allowances into workmen's compensation was first mooted no less than 21 years ago. The principle has now been condemned wholeheartedly by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), but there are two other hon. Members in this House whom I can see at the present time, and they have sat as quiet all day as though butter would not melt in their mouths. I refer to the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Cape) and Blaydon (Mr. W. Whiteley), who were on the Executive of the Miners' Federation in 1919. That was a stormy year in the history of the coal industry. The Sankey Commission was sitting, and it was not a time when agreement was readily reached between coal owners and miners upon anything. It may, therefore, surprise the House to know that the coalowners and the miners did agree in 1919 upon a system of dependants' allowances in workmen's compensation.
In 1919 the question of a second War Additions Act was under consideration. The cost of living had risen about 125 points during the war. The only addition to workmen's compensation was that in 1917: 25 per cent. in cases of total disability. The miners approached the then Home Secretary, Lord Cave, with a view to further increases in workmen's compensation, and he advised them to get together with the mineowners to see how far they could agree. They met at the General Buildings, Aldwych—I hope the hon. Member for Workington remembers it—I was not there, but I expect he was—on 28th May. Two alternative schemes were put forward, both by the coalowners. One was for an all-round increase of 75 per cent. upon the scales of the 1906 Act. That was the Measure which was eventually adopted. The alternative was for an increase of 50 per cent. in the scales with in addition a sum of 5s. in respect of each person wholly dependent upon the worker. The Executive Committee of the Miners' Federation, led by Mr. Robert Smillie, who I venture to think was respected and honoured by hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey)—
—decided in favour of the dependants' allowance scheme. They took that scheme to the Government and it was the Government of that day who prevented the system which we are now adopting being put into operation 21 years ago. I would draw the attention of the House to this point, that the scheme agreed upon in 1919 provided for payments being made to dependants. There would have had to be a test of dependancy. Dependancy would have had to be proved, and that would have involved inquiries of a kind which we, in the
Finally, let me commend the Bill to the House not as a great Measure of social reform—for that we shall have to await the report of the Royal Commission—but as a limited Measure which will confer immediate and substantial benefits on many who have encountered misfortune in the service of industry. I believe it will give considerably more satisfaction in the country than it appears to have given to hon. Members opposite this afternoon. It is also, I venture to think, something more than a mere limited Measure for increased workmen's compensation. It is, I think, a proof of our determination to alleviate, as far as lies in our power, any just grievance of any section of our people, so that we may pursue as a united nation the great task which lies before us.
|Division No. 59.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Leech, Sir J. W.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Ellis, Sir G.||Levy, T.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Emery, J. F.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Little, Sir E. Graham-|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Etherton, Ralph||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Fildes, Sir H.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Fraser, Captain Sir Ian||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||McKie, J. H.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Magnay, T.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Bull, B. B.||Guest, Maj.Hon.O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Medlicott, Captain F.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hannah, I. C.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Harbord, Sir A.||Munro, P.|
|Cary, R. A.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nall, Sir J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Christie, J. A.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Nield, B. E.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hepworth, J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Higgs, W. F.||Peake, O.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Holdsworth, H.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Holmes, J. S.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Horsbrugh, Florence||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Crooke, Sir J, Smedley||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Pym, L. R.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Jennings, R.||Radford. E. A.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Drewe, C.||Kerr, Lt.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Duncan, J. A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Dunglass, Lord||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Robertson, D.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Rowlands, G.||Smithers, Sir W.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Snadden, W. McN.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Russell, Sir Alexander||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Spens, W. P.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Storey, S.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Schuster, Sir G. E.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Selley, H. R.||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wragg, H.|
|Shakespeare, G. H||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Thomas, J. P. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Touche, G. C.||Mr. James Stuart and Mr. Grimston.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Paling, W.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parker, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hardie, Agnes||Pearson, A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Harvey, T. E.||Poole, C. C.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hayday, A.||Price, M. P.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ritson, J.|
|Benson, G.||Hollins, A. (Hanley)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland. N.)|
|Bevan, A.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bromfield, W.||Horabin, T. L.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Buchanan, G.||Isaacs, G. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jagger, J.||Silkin, L.|
|Cape, T.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cassells, T.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||John, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Stephen, C.|
|Collindridge, F.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leach, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leonard, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leslie, J. R.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Douglas, F. C R.||Logan, D. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lunn, W.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||McEntee, V. La T.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||McGhee, H. G.||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||MacLaren, A.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Foot, D. M.||Maclean, N.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Frankel, D.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Marshall, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Messer, F.||Wilmot, John|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Milner, Major J.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gibbins, J.||Montague, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Woodburn, A.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Mort, D. L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, T. E.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Mr. Adamson and Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
Bill read a Second time.