presented a petition from a deputation from the weavers of Rochdale, who had arrived in London, praying that they might be examined before the committee to whose consideration the Combination Laws had been referred. The hon. gentleman observed, that in the course of the evening a petition would be presented from above 4,000 weavers of Rochdale, praying that the act for the repeal of the Combination laws, which had passed last session, might not be rescinded. It was evident that even the repeal of bad laws, if those laws had been long in existence, might, in the first instance, have an unfavourable tendency; and therefore that it would be extremely unjust to pronounce upon the expediency of such a repeal after only six months' experience. He confessed that he was astonished when he heard the other evening, the president of the Board a Trade complain of the enactments of last session upon this subject, as if he had not been a party to them. Now, he had attended the committee upon it pretty regularly, and he considered the 150 right hon. gentleman a complete party to what had been done. He was, therefore, astonished to hear the right hon. gentleman disclaim any participation in it. He was confident, that the more the House and country considered these important topics, the more they would be convinced of the propriety of continuing the repeal of the Combination laws.
presented a petition from the operative woollen manufacturers of Rochdale, against the re-enactment of the Combination laws.
§ Mr. Sykes
observed, that, on a former evening, remarks had been made on the conduct of the committee of last year, on the Combination laws, which, had he been present, he certainly would have answered. He thought that committee had been very hardly used. It was a committee composed of a number of most intelligent gentlemen, with the exception of one; and they had most carefully investigated the subject. Some evils did undoubtedly arise from the operation of the new law; but those evils were nothing, when compared with the state of things which existed before the law was altered. By that measure hundreds of thousands of people had been released from the unjust shackles which had before been imposed on them. He was not so much surprised, under the circumstances of the case, that a few acts of violence had been committed, as that they were so small in number. If an attempt were made to reenact those laws, it would, he was sure, be prejudicial to the peace and tranquillity of the country.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
thought it right to say, that the committee had no such intention, as that to which the hon. member had alluded. They had only considered what the effect of those laws had been. To that simple inquiry they confined themselves, without indulging in any idea as to what their future conduct should be. They had opened their doors to petitions from all quarters; they had endeavoured to get as much information as possible; and, whatever they might ultimately recommend to the House would depend entirely on that evidence.
Ordered to lie on the table.