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THE HOUSE OF LORDS THE ENEMY…

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THE HOUSE OF LORDS THE ENEMY OF THE WORKING MEN. It is to be feared that the Workmen's Com- pensation Bill, for which so much was expected of right and privilege for the working man, is very much like a mirage in the desert. The high sounding, hopeful disposition which was our delight some few months ago when Mr Chamberlain advocated the Bill, and the evident sincerity that was apparent in the energy and push with which the Bill was promoted in the House of Commons gave hope that this too long delayed justice to the workman in his relationship to his employer would be at last conceded. We must also recognise how very energetic and successful have been the various miners' representatives, how faithful and assiducus they have been in their respective duties, sitting up night after night waiting and watching in the House of Commons in the full and appreciable expecta- tion that these beneficent principles would be at last an enactment of this country. It has gone well as far as the House of Commons was concerned. There we find it has gone through hard fights with regard to vital principles, but on the whole it is recognised that the workmen's representatives, like Mabon and others, have been more or less satisfied with the main principles, of course, always in the hope that an act is an amendable thing by subsequent legislation. But this week wo regret to find that it has been taken before t ie House of Lords, and that its very pith and marrow have been destroyed. Has Lord Salisbury shown that he is in sympathy with what has been said by Mr Chamberlain and Mr Balfour ? Has he, as the head of the Government which pretends to confer a bona fide boon upon the working man, been equal to the sincerity of these privileges ? Two clauses of vital importance have been rejected by the House of Lords, and it can be said without possible denial that the very essence and vitals of that Bill have been knocked out, and that compensation is now compensation in a most emasculated and uncertain form. The side doors have been made wide enough and easy enough of exit to take away all that is beneficial to the working man. The Government hurriedly passed that clause of individual responsibility at first without really understanding the terrible responsibility in connection with it, but when protests from the miners' representa- tives were made they put it in this form which said that unless accidents were solely attributable to the workmen that compensation would be paid to the workmen. The Lords have struck out that little word solely," and by so doing they undermine and shiver the very timbers which went for supporting the Alpha. and Omega principles of the Bill. Many instances of accidents can be shown in which accidents were attributable to workmen, but not "solely" attributable to them. The question, therefore, is as to the value of the word "solely" to the workmen. Compensation would be paid before unless it could be proved conclusively that the man himself was solely attributable to the accident. In 90 cases out of a 100 it could not bj proved. In many cases the workmen could be said to be contributory to the accidents, although not solely, and it would certainly open the door fcr compensation to be contested in all cases, which in practice means endless and expensive litigations. The other clause in the scheme contained the following subsection of vital importance:â "If the funds payable under any such schema (of agreement between employers and work- men) are not sufficient to meet the compensation payable under the scheme, the employer shall be liable to make good the amount of com- pensation which would be payable under the Act." Now the Lords have struck out that compulsion, and if mutual arrangements are made the employers in many instances will bo able to entice the workmen into contracts that they shall pay so much, and their liabilities will cease there. However inadequate the the amount might be, the employers will not be responsible for anything. The privilege as it enamated from the House of Commons was satisfactory and a sound arrangement, if the employers could compel the workmen to pay mutually, they themselves would be responsible after all. Once more, therefore, we have an object lesson oft repeated that the House of Lords must be swept away before the workmen can have any chance of equality, of fair and equitable treatment from the laws of this country.

EGLWYSILAN SCHOOL BOARD

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