HC Deb 12 August 1833 vol 20 cc527-31

On the Motion of Lord Althorp, the House went into Committee on the Factories' Regulation Bill.

On the 6th Clause relating to the quantity of time to be allowed for persons working twelve hours a day to take their meals.

Mr. Goring moved as an Amendment, that an hour and a-half for meals be deducted from the said twelve hours.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, if the Amendment were carried the hours of labour would be only ten and a half per day, and he was sure that that was not the wish of the House. Respecting a similar clause in Sir John Hobhouse's Bill, some doubts had been entertained, although legally speaking, there was no doubt at all; and it was his (Mr. Poulett Thomson's) intention to add after the words hour and a half, "exclusive of the twelve hours for work."

Mr. Plumtre

regretted, that the question of the morals of the rising generation was not suffciently considered in this Bill. He should support the Amendment.

Mr. Edward Stanley

said, the Bill, so far from neglecting the morals of the children, went very far to improve them. He thought the Amendment would be productive of the most injurious consequences, and he should oppose it.

Sir Alexander Hope

begged to say, for the honour of many masters in his neighbourhood, that they, had not waited for a compulsory clause, having engaged schoolmasters at their own expense to educate the children employed in the factories.

Mr. Cobbett

approved of the Amendment of the hon. member for Shoreham, and only wished that hon. Members could see the children dragged weeping through the snow to their work—the child and the mother both weeping—the child at being forced, and the mother at being obliged to force it.

Mr. George Wood

begged to say, that the Amendment did not apply to such cases as the hon. member for Oldham mentioned.

The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 17; Noes 53—Majority 36.

List of the AYES.
Bewes, T. O'Dwyer, A. C.
Brotherton, J. O'Reilly, W.
Cayley, E.S. Plumtre, J. P.
Cobbett, W. Poulter, J. S.
Evans, Colonel Sinclair, G.
Fielden, J. Torrens, Colonel
Gaskell, J. M. Walter, J.
Hardy, J. TELLER.
Henniker, Lord Goring, H. D.
Lennox, Lord W.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 8th enacting that children under thirteen years of age shall not work more than eight hours a-day being read.

Sir Henry Willoughby

said, the suggestion framed on the Report of the central Commissioners, with respect to double relays of children, was in the teeth of the great mass of evidence collected by those Commissioners who had gone through the country. Commissioners, masters of mills, managers, impartial witnesses, parents, and operatives, all wonderfully coincided in declaring; such a system ineffectual and impracticable. There were various errors and discrepancies in the Report of the central Commissioners, and perhaps there never was in the whole range of Parliamentary inquiry an enactment framed more clearly and more decidedly against the evidence to support it than that of the relays. The great objection to relays was the deficiency of supply, and the necessary fall in wages, what they gained in time being lost in diet and clothing. The clause would operate greatly to the prejudice of the children, and have a tendency to drive the factories into crowded and unhealthy places. He was anxious to ask the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), what guarantee could be given that children who worked only eight hours in factories would not work elsewhere? The evidence showed, that pin-heading was a tedious, laborious, and monotonous employ, but parents hired out their children at 15d. to head a pound of pins. Such a course might be pursued, and after eight hours' labour in a factory a child might be let out for hire to head pins. Believing the clause to be ineffectual and impracticable, he should vote against it.

Lord Althorp

always had entertained very great doubts whether the Bill would increase the comforts of the labourers. The country had decided, that they ought to protect the children from over-work, and on that ground he had taken up the Bill, when the noble Lord opposite (Lord Ashley) abandoned it. He agreed with the hon. Baronet who had just spoken, that there was great difficulty about the relays, and that it would not be beneficial to the children; but he had always thought Parliament could not legislate on this subject without incurring the risk of producing mischief.

Sir Henry Parnell

advised the House to take some time to reconsider this subject, that the clause might not be allowed to come into operation until the subject could be brought before the House again next Session. With that view he should move, as an Amendment, to insert in the clause instead of the words "1st of January, 1834," the "1st of July, 1834."

Mr. Poulett Thomson

said, it was his intention to move an Amendment, to the effect, that the operation of the clause should be postponed till six months after the passing of this Act, instead of the 1st of January, 1834, This would have a much bettor effect than the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet. If, however, his object were really to defeat the clause altogether, it would be much better to propose it directly. He considered the measure to be an evil forced on the Government and the House; he looked upon its operation as very doubtful indeed; but the public and the operatives themselves had declared in favour of a legislative interference on the subject of a restriction in the hours of infant labour in factories, and leaving the question open for agitation till another Session of Parliament would be productive of the greatest possible evil to the trade itself and to the public.

Colonel Torrens

would support the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet. In the manufacturing districts the impression was general, that the Ten Hours' Bill was required; and they were determined to have it. He denied, that the passing of this Bill would satisfy the operatives or the country.

Mr. George Wood

wished, that instead of the clause commencing at nine years of age, it should commence at eight, by which means twenty-five per cent more labour would be obtained. He intended, after the present Amendment was disposed of, to move, as an Amendment, which was perfectly in accordance with the marginal note to the clause, that the Bill be brought into operation as regarded children of eleven years of age at one period, twelve years at another period, and thirteen years at another period.

The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 18; Noes 64: Majority 46.

Mr. George Wood

moved, that the words "within the factories or mills" be left out. The object of the clause was, that the children should not take their meals upon the premises, in order that fraud might be avoided; but he did not think it was to be apprehended.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

feared by the Amendment the law would be evaded, as it would be difficult to obtain information of what went on within side the mills; for the parties who would be likely to complain would be under the control of those against whom the complaints should be made. It would be impossible to say, whilst the children were within the mill, whether they were employed all the time or not.

The Committee divided—Ayes 42; Noes 44: Majority 2.

House resumed—Committee to sit again.

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