HC Deb 07 February 1842 vol 60 cc100-2
Mr. S. Wortley,

seeing his right hon. Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department in his place, was desirous of making some inquiry in regard to two subjects of great and general importance. Those two subjects were, the revision of the Poor-law Amendment Act, and the regulation of factory labour. His reason for putting these questions at the present time, was, that with regard to the Poor-law, no reference was made to it in her Majesty's Speech, and this omission —

The Speaker

said, the hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the question he desired to put.

Mr. S. Wortley

said, he was merely anxious to state his reasons for asking the questions. What he wished to ask his right hon. Friend, was, what was the general course the Government intended to take in respect to the revision of the existing Poor-law, and also what were their intentions upon the subject of regulating the labour in factories?

Sir J. Graham

was understood to say his hon. Friend had prefaced his questions by some short, though somewhat irregular, observations as to the omission in the Queen's Speech. The reason that no notice was taken of the Poor-law in the Speech from the Throne was, that it was considered already sufficiently notorious that the present act would expire on the 31st of July next, and as some measure upon the subject must therefore be brought forward, it was not thought that any especial mention of the subject was necessary. In reply to his hon. Friend's question, he had to state, that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to introduce a bill for the continuance of the Poor-law commission; and in that bill he should propose to the House such alterations and amendments in the existing law, as, upon mature deliberation, appeared to him necessary and prudent. With regard to the time of the introduction of that measure, that must depend on the progress of other business which would be previously brought forward. As far as he could at present speak of their intentions, Government did not propose to bring in the bill until after Easter. As to the second question which his hon. Friend had put to him, whether the Government intended to bring in any measure for the regulation of labour in factories, he bad to state in reply, that he had found a bill in his office which had been prepared, he believed, by the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Fox Mettle), in conformity with the recommendations of the committee that had sat on the subject; and he proposed to bring in that bill with some alterations. He might, however, mention, that those alterations would materially affect the regulation of infant labour between the ages of nine and thirteen, as at present by law defined; and it was also proposed to make some alterations as to the regulation of the labour of what were called young persons —that was, persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen; but it was not his intention, on the part of the Government, to propose any such regulation as in some quarters had been strongly recommended, as to the limitation of the time of labour in factories of young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, as some persons hoped, to ten hours a-day.

Lord Ashley

begged to know from his right bon. Friend, whether the regulations he proposed with respect to employment of children between the ages of nine and thirteen, were those which had been recommended by the committee of 1840; and whether he proposed any diminution in the number of working hours in regard to young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen?

Sir J. Graham

thought that his noble Friend would, on consideration, perceive the inconvenience of entering into any explanation as to the detail of the measure at the present time; as if he did not fully explain all the intentions of the Government, much misapprehension might arise. He would, therefore, satisfy himself by saying, that no limitation in the hours of labour of young persons was contained in the bill; and, with regard to infant labour, it would be inexpedient that he should give any further explanation until the bill should he brought before the House.