HC Deb 14 March 1832 vol 11 cc204-5
Mr. Sadler

presented Petitions from the inhabitants of Dean-street, Soho, from the Flax Spinners of Edinburgh, and from the inhabitants of Debtling, in favour of the Factories' Regulation Bill.

Mr. John Wood

wished to take that opportunity to correct an erroneous impression which had gone abroad in the manufacturing districts, that those hon. Members who insisted upon a full inquiry into the question were enemies to the Bill. It had also been stated, among the operatives of those places, that all those who voted for inquiry were enemies to the working people, and that their sole object was, by delay, to obstruct the progress of the measure. He wholly acquitted the hon. member for Aldborough of having been a party to the creation of such an impression, but that did not diminish his regret that it existed. If a charge of delay could be established against any person, it must be the hon. Member himself who had resisted the Bill being sent to a Committee. He was aware that it was easy to procure popularity by proposing to abridge the hours of labour, but it was not so well understood that wages must be abridged also, and he believed the effect of the hon. Member's Bill would be, if passed in its present shape, materially to reduce the total earnings of a family, and to throw many persons wholly out of work. He was, therefore, anxious to have it improved, so that it might fully answer its purpose, and finally settle the question. It was notorious that perjury to a considerable extent prevailed at present, of parents evading the law for the employment of children, by swearing they were much older than they really were. If all these details were to be discussed in the House, they would never get through them, and, therefore, it would Ire much better to have the Bill referred to a Committee, where all the bearings of the measure could be inquired into. It was likely, by that means, that the whole matter would be made as perfect as circumstances would permit, so as to prevent the necessity of future legislation on the same subject.

Mr. Hunt

differed from his hon. colleague, when he said, the delay of the Bill had been caused by the hon. member for Aldborough. The fact, in his opinion, was quite the contrary. The delay had been caused by those who proposed a Committee; but let that be as it might, he hoped no further time would be lost disputing about, that which had already been, wasted, when the misery of poor children was the consequence.

Mr. Hume

had never objected to the principle of the Bill, so far as the protection of children was concerned. On the contrary, he approved of legislating in their behalf, but, like the hon. and learned member for Preston (Mr. J. Wood), he wished to make the measure complete by having it referred to a Committee.

Mr. Sadler

begged to be allowed to say, in his own behalf, that he was most anxious to proceed with the Bill, and had only put off the discussion to suit the convenience of Ministers. He was afraid, when he remembered the time during which the hon. member for Westminster's Bill was before a Committee, that if the present Bill was referred to one, it would not become a law this Session, and the necessity of legislating was so apparent, that he was unwilling to submit to the delay of a Committee, when he considered they could obtain no new evidence on the subject.

Mr. Philip Howard

said, the question was a very delicate one, as it interfered between the employer and the employed. He was decidedly of opinion that no legislation was necessary for persons above the age of fourteen years: they could make their own contracts, or their parents for them, he was very unwilling to interfere, and there was such conflicting interests, that the various bearings of the measure could only be dealt with by a Select Committee.

Petitions to be printed.

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