HC Deb 15 February 1831 vol 2 cc584-6
Mr. Hobhouse

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal the laws relating to Apprentices in Cotton and other Factories, and in Cotton and other Mills, and to make further provisions in lieu thereof. The House had upon a former occasion given its sanction to a bill which he had introduced for regulating the employment of apprentices in factories. With a view to render more effectual the purposes of that measure, he was now induced to move for leave to bring in a Bill to consolidate and extend all the former laws on this subject. It was a satisfaction to him to be now enabled to state, that whereas, when he first proposed to Parliament a measure on this subject, it was opposed by some of the most respectable master manufacturers, he now knew, both from private sources and from the petitions which had been presented to the House, that in proposing this Bill, he did so with the consent of all the master manufacturers who were most interested in the trade, and who were the best judges of what was most calculated to serve it. In the Bill which he intended to bring forward, he should endeavour to carry into full effect the provisions of the former measure, and he should endeavour by means of it to put down in all factories a system which had given rise to the most calamitous—nay, cruel—results, which he conceived too painful to detail to the House. He understood from the master manufacturers, that unless the House should step forward and interfere so as to put an end to the night-work in the small factories where it was practised, it would be impossible for the large and respectable factories which conformed to the existing law to compete with them. He should also endeavour to carry into effect the provisions of the law, by extending the age under which apprentices should be entitled to the protection of the law, from sixteen, which was the age specified in the existing law, to eighteen. The next point with regard to which he wished to introduce an improvement, was the hours of working. Under the existing law they extended to twelve, and in most factories they were extended to thirteen and a half hours, allowing to the workmen half an hour for breakfast, and half an hour for dinner. He should propose in his bill to limit the hours of actual and constant employment to eleven and a half hours, which was as much as any person under eighteen should be called on to work. Such were the objects of the Bill, which he hoped would procure for it the assistance of the Government, for the more the subject was considered, the more would the necessity appear, of adopting some measure that would put an end to the present practice. The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Mr. Fyler

seconded the Motion, and thanked the hon. Member for bringing the subject under the consideration of the House.

Mr. Hume

expressed a doubt as to the propriety of the House of Commons coming to the resolution, that no manufacturer should be permitted to have children at night-work under any circumstances.

Mr. Sadler

gave his cordial concurrence to the proposed measure, and expressed great satisfaction at having heard the statement of the hon. member for Westminster.

Lord Morpeth

said, that a petition had been forwarded to him from Bradford upon the subject, which as yet he had not had an opportunity of presenting to the House. He was convinced that some measure of the sort was necessary, for both manufacturers and operatives combined in recommending it. He hoped, therefore, that the House would receive the proposition with all the attention which the justice and humanity of its object required.

Mr. Littleton

said, that he also had petitions in support of the measure from Stockport and from Chester.

Leave given to bring in the Bill.