HL Deb 24 May 1880 vol 252 cc306-8

, in presenting a Bill to define and amend the law relating to the liability of Employers to make compensation for personal injuries suffered by persons in their employment, said, it was identical in all its important parts with the measure which he had the honour of introducing to their Lordships last year. Their Lordships would remember that a Bill was also introduced by his noble and learned Friend then on the Woolsack (Earl Cairns). It was somewhat similar in character to his own, but more restricted in its operation. On the second reading in that House the measure was referred to a Select Committee, upon the understanding that all the points in both Bills should be thoroughly considered. The Committee only met once; but there was little doubt that, had it proceeded with its deliberations, it would have arrived at a satisfactory issue. But with the Dissolution of Par- liament all Bills naturally dropped; and therefore it was that he had again to ask their Lordships' consideration for the measure he was about to introduce. Now, he must say that he rejoiced to find that Her Majesty's Government had taken up the subject, for he believed it was a subject that could only be dealt with by a Government. But, at the same time, he regretted that it had been resolved to introduce the Bill first in the other House. They knew the fate that generally attended measures brought forward at a late period of a Session in "another place;" and whilst he did not for a moment distrust the intentions of Her Majesty's Government to proceed with the Bill, he was conscious there might be difficulties that would render it impossible for them to do so. He ventured to submit, therefore, whether it would not be desirable to re-consider that step, and to introduce the Bill into their Lordships' House, where there would be more time and opportunity to consider it.

Bill to define and amend the law relating to the liability of Employers to make compensation for personal injuries suffered by persons in their employment —Presented (The Earl DE LA WAKR).


said, the appeal made by the noble Earl to the Government to re-consider their determination to introduce a Bill on this subject in the other House came a little too late; because the Bill of Her Majesty's Government had been already introduced in the House of Commons, and, he believed, an early day had been appointed for the second reading. The Government were sincerely anxious to pass a measure on this subject, the importance of which they fully recognized; and no effort on their part would be wanting to get the Bill through the Lower House in sufficient time to have it fully considered by their Lordships in the course of the present Session. He could not agree that the House of Commons was a less fit Assembly to consider the matter than the House of Lords. No doubt the House of Lords was as desirous as the other House to do what it possibly could to carry a measure that would do justice to workmen without any improper encroachment on the rights of employers; but considering that a large number of Mem bers of Parliament were employers of labour, coming into personal contact with workmen, and that others were direct representatives of labour interests, he thought their Lordships would see that there was no impropriety in the determination of the Government to introduce the Bill in the House of Commons. He might as well say that the difference between the measure of the Government and that of the noble Earl was so inconsiderable that there would be no advantage in proceeding with the latter. All parties were unanimous that the present law was unsatisfactory and required amendment. In the last Session three Bills were introduced—two in the House of Lords, and one in the House of Commons. One of those introduced in the House of Lords was that of the noble Earl; another was that of the late Government. The measure introduced by the late Government was limited to accidents and injuries sustained by persons in the employment of Railway Companies, proprietors of mines, and the owners of manufacturing works. He did not see why a remedy, which was just in those cases, should not also be extended to other kinds of employment. The Bill of the late Government also did not make provision for a class of cases which he thought well deserved to be included—namely, injuries caused by defects, for which employers might justly be held responsible, in the machinery, plant, and stock used in their business. The other Bill was introduced by Mr.Brassey, and that the Government had thought it right to adopt without any substantial change. That measure did not proceed on the distinction between railways, mines, and manufactories, and other cases; but made the remedy more general. He could not but think that was a sound principle. On comparison, he thought the noble Earl would find that the difference between the Government Bill and his own was so slight that it would be scarcely necessary for him to proceed beyond the first reading.


said, that after the satisfactory statement of the noble and learned Lord he should not proceed further with his Bill than had just been indicated until the measure from the other House reached their Lordships.

Bill read la, to be printed. (No. 9.)