ABSTRACT

A CLOSE examination of the many suggestions that were made during a half century of experience reveals one, and only one, proposal that would radically have altered the system, and that was the demand for some form of state control. During the debate on the 1897 Bill the dangers of leaving the onus on the individual employer were realized, and the suggestion was made that a trade insurance fund should be established to which employers would be obliged to contribute, but this was rejected. When the Farrer Committee met in 1907 to consider whether the General Post Office should provide facilities for insurance under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, the trade unions, who gave evidence, would have welcomed a system of state insurance, but their recommendations were ignored when the report came to be written. At the end of World War I the famous Holman Gregory Committee was appointed with the specific duty of inquiring into the voluntary system of private enterprise col?- pensation, whether it should continue with or without compulsory insurance, whether a state system should replace it, or whether some state control should be superimposed on the existing system. The trade unions came out clearly in favour of a state system on the grounds that the profits then going into the pockets of the insurance companies should be available to the workers. The employers, on the other hand, were unanimously against it because they thought it would be more expensive to them, even though the evidence proved that for every £100

Statutory System oj Benefit jor Industrial I1!Jury and Disease contributed by them to the insurance companies, only £ 5 I went back to the workers in compensation. The committee decided against a state scheme mainly because the existing system was popular with the employers, who preferred private enterprise to state management. Moreover, the employers had declared that any state system would be rigid and slow, and would quickly become inefficient and expensive through lack of competition, an argument that moved the committee. Further, they thought it undesirable for the state to be a party to disputes with workers in circumstances which so frequently led to litigation, and anyway the trade unions were strongly opposed to a scheme that involved workers in contributions to a state fund. This meant that any state scheme would have had to be financed directly out of the taxes, or be paid for by the employers. As the former proposal was unlikely to receive parliamentary support in the climate of the period, this left the onus on the employers. And as they were opposed to it, the committee felt obliged to accept their view. Professor Levy and Sir A. Wilson blamed the committee for the attitude they took, as they felt too much weight had been given to the opinion of the insurance companies and the employers, and not enough to the trade unions and the workers who time and again showed how unfairly the scheme worked. In view of the trade union opposition to any workercontribution, it is difficult to see what proposal the Holman Gregory Committee could have suggested that would have had any hope of a successful outcome. In the event they advocated state intervention to the extent that all employers should be obliged to insure against the risks of workers' injuries, and that insurance companies should have to work a system in which at least 70 per cent of employers' premiums were paid in compensation to the workers. Compulsory insurance was never implemented (except for mines) and the 70 per cent was achieved for a time by voluntary agreement.