HC Deb 09 August 1833 vol 20 cc449-53

The Order of the Day having been read for the further consideration of the Report of the Factories' Regulation Bill,

Lord Althorp moved that the Bill be re-committed.

House in Committee.

Lord Althorp

said, that he thought that to be a convenient time for going into detail on the regulations as to the time of employment. It was provided in the Bill, that no children under thirteen years of age, should work more than eight hours a-day, instead of the previous proposition of working all under eighteen years of age generally ten hours a-day; and that those children who were between thirteen and eighteen years of age should not exceed sixty-nine hours labour in the week. It would be a general rule that all under eighteen years of age should not work longer than sixty-nine hours in the week, and that no children should on any account be employed under the age of nine years. These arrangements would be secured by the appointment of the inspectors, in such a way that no evasion of the law could take place. By this Bill the provisions of Sir John Hobhouse's Bill were extended to all manufactories, except silk in certain cases. The Bill contained three principles—first, that children under thirteen years of age should not work more than eight hours a-day—secondly, that a system of inspection was established by which the Bill would be carried into effect—and, thirdly, it would establish a better and more general system of education among the class of persons employed in factories. He still entertained doubts of the propriety of the Legislature interfering between the master and servant, but he would admit that if children were placed in a situation in which they could not protect themselves, it was the duty of that House to afford protection to them. It was with these views that he offered the Bill to the consideration of the Committee, and he pledged himself to do all in his power to pass it during the present Session.

On the first Clause being read,

Mr. Gilbert Heathcote moved, as an Amendment, that the lace trade be excluded from the operation of the Bill. The hon. Member quoted largely from the Report of the Commissioners, to the effect that, in those districts where the lace trade prevailed, they saw nothing to call for any change in the system. Another argument in favour of his Amendment was, that the Bill would include only one-fifth of the trade.

Mr. Strutt

supported the Amendment, and stated that he had had a letter from one of his constituents largely engaged in the trade, declaring that there were very few young people employed in it; that he had upwards of sixty working for him, and amongst them there were only four under fifteen years of age.

Lord Althorp

said, the statements of the two hon. Gentlemen put the lace trade in a very different light from any other, as the Bill would not include more than one-fifth of it. He would, there fore, agree to the Amendment.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, he was before aware of the necessity of excluding the lace trade from the operation of the Bill, but, as it was originally included in it, he had left it there, in order that it might be taken out in that House.

Mr. Bolling

was opposed to the Amendment, and asked why it was proposed to exclude the lace manufactories? It was said, that there was no great expenditure of bodily labour on the part of the children employed in them. Why, there was none in the cotton spinning. So if that principle were adopted, the cotton manufactories should be exempted as well as the lace manufactories. He took the noble Lord on his own principles, and would, therefore, again ask him why exclude the lace manufactories? The clause of the noble Lord, by which all trades were included, had his approbation; and he could not sanction any departure from principle. Besides, he should not vole for the clause, unless it came into immediate operation, instead of in January, 1834, as it purported. If it came into immediate operation, the country would be satisfied; if not, it would be quite the contrary. If that Amendment was carried, then the power-loom weavers ought also to be excluded; for the hand-loom weavers (a large class) had much harder work, and they were not protected.

Mr. Baldwin

said, if the House consulted the health of the operatives, they should attend to the ventilation and construction of the factories, as much almost as to any other circumstance whatever. Without a healthful atmosphere, it was little benefit to them to have their bodily labour abridged.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

thought, it would be a very hard case to compel the manufacturers to come at once under the restrictions of this Bill, without any notice whatever.

Mr. Briscoe

objected to the Amendment. He thought the House should not subject itself to the imputation of partial legislation, which would be the result if this Amendment were adopted. In his opinion, therefore, the word "lace" should not be left out of the clause.

Mr. Bolling

would divide the Committee on the adoption of the Amendment. It was really the question whether legislation was to be on principle or not?

The Committee divided on the Amendment, that the word "lace" in the enumeration of factories should be omitted, when there appeared—Ayes 40; Noes 29: Majority 21.

List of the NOES.
Attwood, T. Plumptre, T. P.
Baldwin, Dr. Potter, R.
Bewes, T. Poulter, J.
Briscoe, J. J. Ruthven, E.
Brotherton, W. J. Shawe, R. N.
Childers, J. W. Skipworth, Sir G.
Dykes, F. L. B. Stuart, P.
Faithfull, G. Thicknesse, R.
Fielden, J. Torrens, Colonel
Goring, C. D. Tyrrell, C.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Waller, J.
Hay, Col. Leith Wedgwood, J.
Howard, P. H. Willoughby, Sir H.
Lennox, Lord William TELLERS.
Marshall, J. Boiling, W.
Oswald, J. Heathcote, J.

On Clause 2nd, which provided that persons under eighteen years of age should not work more than twelve hours a-day, being read,

Mr. Robinson

considered this a very important clause. The noble Lord proposed that the labour of children under thirteen years of age should be restricted to eight hours a-day, and from thirteen to eighteen, to twelve hours a-day. For his (Mr. Robinson's) own part, he was averse altogether to legislative interference between master and servant, but since the principle had in this instance been agreed to by the House, it was not now for him to offer any further objection to it. As, however, the House was going to interfere, he could not refrain from saying that if there was a tender period at which chilren, and particularly female children, stood in need of legislative protection it was unquestionably the period of from thirteen to fifteen years of age; and it really did seem hard that female infants were to be protected till thirteen, and then, that immediately on their attaining their thirteenth year, they were to be liable to have suddenly an additional labour of four hours a-day thrown upon them. He was afraid he could not propose any substantive Amendment, yet he could not abstain from expressing his opinion, and he hoped the noble Lord would be able to suggest something calculated to continue protection to those poor girls who must be considered quite incapable of undergoing, at the moment they arrived at thirteen, four hours' labour in addition to that which on the preceding day they were able to get through.

Lord Althorp

said, that this clause had been framed in conformity to the general feeling of the public. With respect to the sudden change of the additional work from eight to twelve hours being imposed when a child attained the age of thirteen years, there could only be two modes of proceeding with respect to that, either that the sudden change should take place, or that there should be a graduated scale of removing the extreme restriction; and as it would be impossible to have that graduated scale framed so as to be acted upon, he really did not know how he could amend the clause so as to meet the views of the hon. Member.

Mr. James Oswald moved, as an Amendment, that the period of labour should not be limited as proposed by the Bill to nine hours on Saturdays, but that it should be left to the manufacturers to make it twelve hours, as on other days, if they chose.

Mr. Briscoe

opposed the Amendment. It was intended that the children should have a little relaxation on the Saturdays, that they might be somewhat refreshed from their fatigues on the Sundays, and enabled to keep from sleeping while in school.

Mr. James Oswald

said, he was aware of the object, but he did not think that a sufficient reason, because at the Lanark Mills the children were as well protected, and their morals and health as well attended to, as at any manufactory that could be found, and no such Saturday restriction affected those mills.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 to stand part of the Bill.

On Clause 3, which provides for extending, in certain cases, the hours of labour, at the rate of three hours per week,

Mr. Hyett

proposed an Amendment, which would have the effect of compelling those under twelve years of age, as well as those under eighteen, who only were contemplated by the clause as it stood, to make up, in cases of lost time, at the rate of three hours per week.

Amendment agreed to; the clause to stand part of the Bill.

On Clause 4, which provides for loss of time through accident in certain cases being put,

Mr. Brotherton moved, that it be expunged, on the ground that it would open the door for the evasion of the Bill altogether. He knew that to make the children work to make up for lost time, would expose them to much tyranny, for there would be always time lost.

The Committee divided on the question that the Clause stand—Ayes 60; Noes 20: Majority 40.

List of the NOES.
Briscoe, J. J. Plumptre, J. P.
Benett, J. Potter, R.
Berkeley, Hon. C. G. Poulter, J. S.
Cayley, E. S. Steuart, R.
Fielden, John Torrens, Colonel
Fitzroy, Lord James Walter, John
Faithfull, George Willoughby, Sir H.
Goring, H. D. Williams, Colonel
Marshall, John
Morpeth, Lord TELLER.
O'Reilly, W. Brotherton, J.

The House resumed, the Committee to sit again.

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