HC Deb 13 August 1833 vol 20 cc583-6

The Order of the Day, was read and the House went into a Committee on the Factories' Regulation Bill.

On the 16th Clause describing the powers and duties of inspectors under the Act,

Mr. Egerton moved an Amendment, limiting the powers of Inspectors, by leaving out all the words of the clause after the words "whom it may concern or regard," in the 41st line.

The Committee divided on the Amendment—Ayes 18; Noes 4.6: Majority 28.

Mr. Hardy moved the following Amendment:—That after line twenty-two of the Clause, should be inserted the words, "and such inspectors shall have power to direct in what manner the machines may be so fenced off as to protect the persons of those employed about them."

Mr. Poulett Thomson

thought the Amendment unnecessary. If there was any culpable negligence on the part of the proprietor of the mill, and any life was lost in consequence, he would be responsi- ble at common law. No practical good, therefore, would be effected by the clause; and it was not likely that the inspectors would be able to examine the machines, so as to know whether they were in proper order or not.

Mr. Hardy

said, that the inspectors could hardly be so ignorant, as not to know whether a dangerous part of the machinery was or not well fenced off. Surely, when a man was punished for manslaughter, if he drove over any person, he ought to be liable to some punishment if he left things in such a way that accidents must almost necessarily happen.

Mr. George Wood

objected to the Amendment. The proprietors of these mills had every wish to protect the children, and yet they of all men were marked out to be put under the ban of the law. The hon. member for Bradford, when he proposed this Amendment, seemed to forget that the collieries in the neighbourhood of the town he represented were, at least, as dangerous as cotton-mills, and instead of this Bill being confined to four trades, it should embrace all trades whatever. Yet there was no Act compelling the owners of coal-mines to see that those places were properly ventilated, and the ropes of the machinery lowered down the pits.

Mr. Robinson

observed, that so far as concerned those manufacturers who now took every proper precaution, this Clause would have no effect. It could not hurt their feelings that the Committee should have thought fit to introduce such a Clause, and as to others, they would have no right to complain of it.

Mr. Hume

said, that the inspectors would not probably know anything of machinery, and their interference might be more injurious than beneficial. Suppose he were to offer himself for an inspector, he might be a good inspector as could be as to the health of the children, and their food and time of labour, but he should not be able to judge of the machinery, and he might think there was danger where there was none, and he might order fences to be put up which would stop the machinery. He thought it a good rule not to interfere in the management of a man's private concerns. They might just as well appoint inspectors to every great kitchen to prevent the little girls from scalding themselves. He should oppose the Amendment.

The Committee divided on the Amendment, Ayes 18; Noes 65:—Majority 47.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Henniker Lord
Attwood, T. Morpeth, Viscount
Barnard, E. G. O'Dwyer, A. C.
Benett, J. Penruddocke, J. H.
Brotherton, J. Robinson, G. R.
Cayley, E. S. Willoughby, Sir H.
Cobbett, W. Young, G. F.
Estcourt, T. G. B.
Fryer, R. TELLER.
Gaskell, J. M. Hardy, J.

Clause agreed to.

On the 17th Clause being put.

The Committee again divided. Ayes 44; Noes 31:—Majority 13.

The Clause agreed to.

On the 18th Clause, which provides that children in factories should be taught reading and writing,

Mr. Thomas Attwood

objected to the Clause. It went to take away one-half of the wages of the children and two hours of their time, in order to teach them reading and writing. He thought they would derive more benefit from keeping their wages and having those two hours for repose or healthful amusement. At all events, that matter should be left to their parents. He, therefore, moved, that the words, "if the parents of such child shall require it, and not otherwise," be inserted.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

considered the provision for educating the children one of the best features of the Bill.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

said, that the arrangement would, in fact, compel the children to work ten hours a-day, as the two hours devoted to education would be in addition to the eight hours. He thought the expense of education ought to be paid by the State, and not by the children.

Mr. Robinson

protested against the idea that the time to be occupied in education was an aggravation of the labour.

Mr. Cobbett

would vote for the Clause; that would prevent the children from being so much worked as they otherwise would be.

Mr. Hume

supported the Clause, and took this as a first instalment towards a general system of education.

Mr. Attwood

withdrew his Amendment.

Mr. Phillip Howard

moved as an Amendment, that the deduction from the children's wages should not exceed one penny a-week. The pupils in the national schools did not pay more than a penny a-week.

The Committee divided on the Amendment, Ayes 40; Noes 55:—Majority 15.

The Clause agreed to.

The Clauses to the 23rd were also agreed to with verbal Amendments.

On the Question that Clause 45 which provides that a list of mills be sent to the county treasurer with a view to defray the charges of the different superintending officers, the Committee divided—Ayes 32; Noes 40:—Majority 8.

Clause negatived.

On the Preamble being proposed,

Mr. George

Wood objected to it as being of a criminative character, and proposed another to the effect, that "Whereas, at present, children were worked for too long a time consistent with their health and the purposes of necessary education, it was expedient to alter such time."

The amended Preamble agreed to.

The House resumed; and the Report ordered to be brought up.