HC Deb 13 May 1830 vol 24 cc704-6
Mr. Fyler

said, he rose for the purpose of moving for leave to bring in a Bill to do away with the present system of Half-pay Apprentices in the Manufacturing Districts. His Motion was founded on the reports of two Select Committees of that House, extracts from which he would read. The first was from the report of the committee which sat in 1804, and was as follows. "The system prevails amongst the calico printers in the Counties of Lancashire, Derby, Chester, and Stafford in England; in Scotland—in Lanark, Renfrew, Dumbarton, Stirling and Perth." The masters, continues the report, "decline entering into any indenture, but merely take the boy to serve upon a verbal agreement for seven years, to enforce the performance of which agreement, he takes a bond from the boy's parents for 501. and also withholds a certain portion of the boy's earnings in his hands, generally about 10l., until the period of servitude agreed upon shall expire, and thus a fraud is committed on the Revenue by evading the Stamp-act upon indentures. Your Committee feel themselves particularly bound to call the attention of the House to this practice, as it, involves a violation of the principles of common equity. The master taking care to subject himself to no legal obligation towards the apprentice can dismiss him at pleasure, and such dismissals actually take place; on the other hand, apprentices serve sometimes no less than eight or ten years instead of seven, for if the master wants employment for the apprentice at any time he obliges the apprentice to serve over again that time during which he may have been unemployed, not from any disinclination on his part to work, but from the inability of his master to furnish him with employment. Your Committee felt surprised that any parents could be persuaded to apprentice their children on such terms, but the surprise soon ceased when they found that masters have compelled journeymen in their service so to bind their children, under the threat of dismissal from employment if they refused." The report of the committee of 1818 states "That a system of half-pay apprenticeship has been resorted to; which has been attended with ruinous consequences to the morals of such apprentices, and is exceedingly injurious to the trade. That in order to enable the weavers to support themselves and their families, and also for protecting the parishes in which these trades are carried on, some legislative interference should take place." These extracts shewed the House what were the evils of the system, and how necessary it was to take the step he proposed. He would make no further observations, but move that leave be given to bring in a Bill "to amend the Law relative to Half-pay Apprentices."

Motion agreed to.