§ House in Committee (according to Order).
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
said he knew it required a certain amount of indulgence on the part of the House for him to raise any question in connection with this Bill, because, after all, it was purely a legal matter, and he did not know whether or not he ought to appeal to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill for an answer. The noble Lord (Lord Courtney) had made himself responsible for the Bill, and had introduced it at a very late period of the session, and under circumstances which, he thought, were not altogether convenient. But it might be that the point on which he wanted information was one upon which only someone learned in the law could satisfy him. The words of Clause 1 were very wide. They enacted that there should not be taken into account any sum paid or payable on the death of a deceased person—deceased by accident, of course, that meant—under any contract of assurance or insurance, whether made before or after the passing of the Act. They had all recently had very serious obligations put upon them, as householders, with regard to their domestic servants and others, if they should happen to meet with death in the course of the discharge of their service. The point he wanted to put was this. Supposing, as a prudent man, he had insured his servant's life against accidents, and he was killed. He thought he was right in supposing that if he paid the premiums, and took out the policy in his own name, the amount insured would be paid to him, and he could use it as a set-off against the amount in which he was cast for damages. For instance, if the verdict of the jury said that the widow was to have £500, and he had taken out a policy for £300, he understood that in that case he would only have to pay £200. Against that he had nothing to say. But if, before the passing of 272 this Act, he had givem his servant the premiums, or had taken out the policy in his servant's name, then would not the effect of the Bill be that he would not only have to pay the whole £500 which the jury awarded to the widow, but that the widow would also get the proceeds of the policy of insurance? If that were so, he thought it was very unfair, and at any rate he thought they ought to know what they were doing. That was the first of the two questions to which he wanted an answer. Then there was a larger question even than that. Men dealt with then-savings in different ways. Some men were provident by laying up sums year by year, and investing them. He could understand a man young in life thinking he had a better chance of getting a better sum for those he might leave behind him by taking that course than by insuring his life, and if it was the case that a man did that, and accumulated a considerable sum, and left it behind him, would not that be regarded as a set-off in the same way as if he had taken out a policy of insurance? He spoke with diffidence, but he understood the definition of Lord Campbell's Act was this—that the damages given were not to be sentimental damages, but that the widow, or other person left behind, was to be put in the same pecuniary position as she would have been in if the husband had not been killed. Now if the interpretation of the law was amended—as he was afraid it was—by the Bill, he thought they would be giving a wholly undue preference to thrift by insurance as compared with thrift by any other means. He did not wish to enlarge upon it—he was painfully aware that it was a matter which was perhaps rather too intricate and subtle for a layman to deal with—but he thought that considering the number of people affected by the Act which had been passed last year, obliging them to pay compensation in the case of the death of their servants, the case was one of sufficient importance to have been dealt with earlier in the session, and with greater deliberation than was possible at the present time. However, he had done his duty in calling attention to the matter, and he would feel very much obliged if those who were really responsible would answer his question.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
said the noble Lord had appealed to him, 273 but he had also, at the same time, appealed to a higher authority. He confessed that he himself was not so learned in the law as to be able to give the noble Lord a perfectly satisfactory answer. But in answer to the first Question, he might say that the Bill, of course, only applied to actions taken under Lord Campbell's Act, and the effect of it was simply that in assessing the damages which might be obtained by the friends and dependants of a deceased man under that Act there should not be deducted from the amount of damages payable to the deceased's representatives any amount which might be paid under a policy of insurance taken out on the deceased man's life. In the case put by the noble Lord, of a man taking out a policy to provide against a loss which might be sustained under the Workmen's Compensation Act of last year, there could be no doubt that in such a case the master took out a policy of insurance, and the master received the amount of that policy of insurance, which helped him to pay the compensation awarded. In that sense it was deducted from the amount which he had to pay, but it was not deducted from the amount received by the deceased man's representatives. That, he took it, was the right view of the case. Then the noble Lord had suggested that possibly a master might have taken out a policy and given it to his servant. If that was the case—and he confessed he thought it was an extremely unusual and unlikely case—then a question might arise as to whether the representatives of the man would not be entitled both to the policy and to the compensation. But if such an unlikely case should occur—he was not aware that it had occurred—it was one which could be immediately rectified, because the policy could be dropped, and a new policy taken out in the name of the master, to insure him against the loss to which he was subject, in certain events, under the Act, and to the extent of that policy he would receive the money to help him to pay the compensation which would otherwise be payable by him without any such help. Then the noble Lord had asked whether the provisions of the Bill did not give preference to thrift by insurance as against thrift by saving. He had no doubt it was open to question whether there should be any deduction whatever from the compensation paid to the representatives of deceased men 274 through negligence of another, on account of the fact that the deceased man had saved money. But this Bill was directed expressly to the injustice which had arisen under the operation of Lord Campbell's Act in respect to policies of insurance, which he might remind their Lordships had been dealt with in two private Acts this year. It was to that purpose, and to that purpose alone, that the Bill was directed, and it was that evil alone which was sought to be remedied. A further Bill might hereafter be necessary to make the law logical in all its application, but he submitted that it was no reason for delaying the present Bill to say that it was possible to conceive of other cases in which the operation of the law of damages told improperly against thrift exercised by a man who saved money otherwise than by taking out a policy of insurance.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE
thought that the noble Lord had answered the questions of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, but he himself would have liked to hear something about the provisions of the Bill itself. It appeared that a man might be absolutely insured against the very accident that killed him, and yet the master might have to pay compensation in full, even though the dependants of the deceased man might be receiving the full amount awarded under the policy of insurance. That principle might be right or it might be wrong, but it was a principle to which he did not think the House ought to assent without argument.
LORD STANLEY OFALDEKLEY
quite admitted that if a man insured his servant, and took out the policy of insurance in the name of his servant in January of this year, the policy to run to December, there might he a few months during which the servant might get the amount insured under that policy and also get compensation. But that was a very transient risk, because of course no employer would in future dream of taking out a policy in the name of his servant. Therefore it was a very accidental and chance risk that might arise, and not one of any great importance with reference to permanent legislation.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said that this was a Bill which both he and the other members of His Majesty's Government 275 were very anxious to see passed. The noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) had asked—he did not know whether he was aware of it—questions in reference to one of the most difficult points of the law, namely, the measurement of damages. He would answer the noble Lord's questions in three sentences. The noble Lord's first question was whether, if he insured himself against having to pay damages to a servant under the new Act, he would have to pay not only the damages to the servant, but also the money he got from the insurance policy. No, he would get that for himself. The second question was whether, if he were bountiful enough to hand over to his servant a policy taken out at his own cost, the servant would then get the benefit of that policy. Yes, because he would have made a present to the servant, and it was his own act which had conferred that benefit upon the servant. The third question was, what was the difference in fairness between the case of a man killed by the negligence of another, he being himself a wealthy man, leaving his dependants well off by invested money, and the case of a man who had insured his life? The answer to that was that under Lord Campbell's Act the law took into account the sum of money, or the other advantages, left to the widow and children. But in the case of an insurance policy, there was a difference in some respects, because it was a policy effected against the accident, the benefit of which only arose upon the death itself, and to give that benefit to the person who was in the position of being the defendant in the action would be to give the benefit to the wrong-doer—the person guilty of negligence.
Bill reported without Amendment. Standing Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a to-morrow.