HC Deb 19 June 1835 vol 28 cc894-6
MR. Brotherton

rose to present a Petition from an individual of the name of James Turner, residing at Manchester, complaining of certain practices connected with the Factory Bill, and which he was confident the House, when informed of them, would be of opinion ought to be dispensed with. It would be in the recollection of the House that an Act had passed two years ago for regulating the labour of children in factories. That Act required that no children under eleven years of age should be employed in factories, without producing a certificate of a surgeon, to prove that they were of a proper age. The surgeons, it appeared, were empowered under the Act, to charge sixpence for each certificate they gave. A practice had obtained of requiring the children to produce certificates every time they changed their employers. This he conceived to be a very injurious practice, and, generally speaking, it was so considered—for his part, he thought it also a very unjust one.

Mr. Mark Phillips

considered that the matter complained of was a very great hardship on the poor people. He had never expected that the Bill would give satisfaction to the class of people for whom the House was legislating, and he now regretted much that he had been so true a prophet. The House would surely think that the payment of the 6d. was indeed a hardship upon people whose average earning did not amount to more than 3s. per week—it actually operated as a preventive on the poor children from going from one employment where work was scarce to that of another master. He was sorry that the petitioner had not pointed out some means whereby the money for the certificates might be furnished, in case the House should consider it necessary to retain that clause. The matter was well deserving the attention of the House.

Mr. Hindley

was also of opinion that the matter was well deserving the interference of the House, because in many cases he thought the inspectors had far exceeded their duty. One of them, Mr. Richards, who was in the populous district of Manchester, had laid down a rule, whereby he had appointed one hundred and fifty surgeons, from whom only he would receive certificates. He had also made it imperative upon boys or girls of sixteen years of age who changed their employment to produce a certificate; and yet if, from any cause, they were within the month again to change they must again produce a fresh certificate, which made such a patronage as the appointment of surgeons valuable. In his report that gentleman stated, as his reason for always requiring fresh certificates, that the children were much in the habit of changing from one master to another, and he thought the tax would have the effect of making them more steady; but he doubted whether the Bill gave him any such powers. The hon. Member for Manchester regretted that a remedy had not been suggested; but the amendment of the Act of last Session which he intended to propose would be a remedy. If some limitation were not fixed as to the age at which children should be employed in these factories, the relief the House was anxious to afford them would not be obtained. He had been told by a respectable manufacturer in Manchester, that even if a child was under ten years' old the surgeon would grant a certificate that the child was twelve years if the manufacturer said that the child would be useful to him. He was determined, when the estimate for the payment of the inspectors was brought forward, to oppose it until their reports, which he had frequently moved for, were laid upon the Table.

Mr. Aglionby

bore testimony to the respectability of the petitioner and should most cordially support any measure of the hon. Member opposite for the relief of the working classes.

Petition laid on the Table.

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