HC Deb 28 July 1842 vol 65 cc762-4
Mr. Fielden

wished to put a question to the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) relative to a report in the Morning Chronicle of yesterday (Wednesday), of an interview of the delegates from the great manufacturing towns with the right hon. Baronet. In that report, the right hon. Baronet was made to quote him (Mr. Fielden) as an authority for a statement that the improved machinery had thrown out of employment 35 per cent of the hands formerly employed in the mills where it had been adopted. He wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he had really made such a statement? And if so, he wished to know to what speech of his the right hon. Baronet had referred?

Sir J. Graham

said, that he must protest against being made responsible for anything contained in reports of the kind referred to, and if such reports continued to be published from ex parte statements drawn up from the mere recollection of the parties themselves, confidential, he might almost say familiar, intercourse which at present took place between deputations from the country and the Ministers of the Crown must necessarily be destroyed, and it would be the duty of Ministers, in their interviews with such bodies, to preserve a rigid, he might almost say a sullen silence. The hon. Gentleman said, that he (Sir J. Graham) had misrepresented him. He (Sir J. Graham) had certainly asked a question of the deputation relative to the introduction of machinery into the cotton manufactories of late years, and as to the effects produced by that introduction. He had certainly asked such a question, and if he recollected rightly, he had heard the hon. Member for Oldham state, in his place in Parliament, that within the last five years, new machinery had been introduced into the cotton manufacture, the effect of which had been to diminish the employment of manual labour 30 per cent, and that, consequently, manual labour had been displaced to that extent. He had asked the gentlemen of the deputation if they agreed with the statement of the hon. Member for Oldham. The deputation stated that they differed from the hon. Gentleman in opinion. He (Sir J. Graham) had stated to the best of his recollection what had passed. If the hon. Gentleman asked him to what particular debate he referred as the one in which the hon. Member had made that statement, he would admit that he could not refer to the particular debate, but he had a strong impression on his mind that the hon. Member had made some such statement in his place in Parliament. If the hon. Member contradicted him, he was bound to bow to the hon. Member's more perfect recollection, but he certainly had asked the question bonâ fide, under the impression that the hon. Gentleman had made such a statement.

Mr. Fielden

had no recollection of ever having made any such a statement, either in the House or out of the House. It was impossible he could have done so, because such a statement would be at variance with the fact, and with everything he had either spoken or written on the subject. In proof of this he would refer the right hon. Secretary to the form of a petition he had drawn up in 1841, when it was expected there would be further legislation on the factory question, and a copy of which, with other papers, he placed in the hands of the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, when he honoured him with an interview in October last. In that document he had stated that in 1840, as compared with 1835; in the county of Lancaster the increase of turning machinery was 53½ per cent.; the increase of the consumption of cotton 44 per cent.; and the increase of the number of hands employed in the factories only 21 percent.

Sir R. Peel

could confirm what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fielden) had stated, as it was consistent with what he had said in October last. He protested against the course pursued in reporting those interviews, and, as far as he was concerned, he must altogether deny the accuracy of the report. He thought that if such reports were published, Ministers would be justified on future occasions in refusing any such interviews. It was rather hard that, after giving two hours of patient attention to the deputation, he should be made responsible for a report, which was totally inaccurate in the general impression it conveyed.