HC Deb 17 July 1843 vol 70 cc1247-51
Mr. Gladstone

moved the second reading of the Coal-whippers Bill. It was intended by the measure to enable the captains of colliers to discharge their own vessels, to allow them to be unloaded by machinery, and other regulations were contemplated for the unloading of colliers in the Thames. It was supposed that the new system would be expensive, but it was intended to establish an agency to regulate the hiring of the men employed, and to defray the expense by a charge of 2½ per cent. upon their wages, which, compared with the present system, would be a very slight commission. Commissioners were to be appointed by Government from among the coal-trade, such as merchants, factors, or coal-owners, who would obviate the objection that the delivery of colliers would not be so rapid as formerly. Again, the corporation of London were to have power to purchase ground for the erection of proper offices; but before completing the whole arrangements contemplated under the bill, it was proposed to hire temporary buildings to give the experiment a fair trial. He had reason to know that the persons who would be more immediately affected by the measure were most anxious that it should pass. He would not, however, go further into the subject at present, hoping that the House would allow the bill to be read a second time, in order that he might have it reprinted in an amended form, until which time he would not ask the House to proceed further with the measure.

Mr. Hawes

objected to the principle of the measure. as well as to the course which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to pursue. The evils which the bill sought to remedy had long been known, and affected a class of persons who were well able to take care of their own interests. The bill sought to establish a corporation for the remedy of evils affecting, not the public generally, but a particular class of adults. These evils, like other evils affecting classes, were not in any way to be remedied by legislative enactment; and if they passed this bill they would find that the result would be a speedy return to the state of things now existing—a return, too, very probably aggravated by ill results not now anticipated. Besides this objection, there was another, and a most forcible one,—he referred to the contemplated tax to be levied on the wages of the men for the construction of the expensive machinery which the bill would create. To try to pass a measure of such doubtful expediency in an imperfect form would be, he thought, highly inexpedient, and on that ground he should suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the desirability either of withdrawing the bill altogether, for the purpose of introducing another in an amended form, or else of referring the bill as it stood to a select committee up stairs. If the hon. Gentleman did not adopt the former course, he should himself propose to the House to pursue the latter.

Dr. Bowring

opposed the bill. He considered it an undoubted interference with the freedom of the labourer.

Mr. Philip Howard

supported the bill which had been introduced by his right hon. Friend, because the stern principles of political economy must sometimes yield to the cry of misery and to considerations of humanity. The bill under discussion went to propose a system of registration or enrolment which would render the laborious class of men whose interests it was their aim to protect, less dependent on the publican for employment and less subject to fraud—it would give relief to the families of those whose substance and whose means were now wasted in intemperance.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, it was a species of truck system of which they had to complain. They ought to make the truck laws more stringent. If they did they would find that complaints would be made. The same system was in existence in Staffordshire. There the labourer spent nearly the whole of his money in the public-house, where he had to pay for music and drink. They proposed to make a deduction from the labourer's wages in order to defray the expence of the commission. Why, that was a kind of income-tax upon the labourer. These commissioners were to have salaries. [Mr. Gladstone, they are not to be paid.] He was glad to hear it. He understood that many Gentlemen were already canvassing for these commissionerships, but as the commissioners were to be unpaid, they would hear of no further canvassing.

Mr. Hutt

felt the bill was necessary, and thefore would support it. He believed that the coal-whippers and merchants were universally in favour of the measure.

Mr. W. Williams

thought that the right hon. Gentleman had shown too great a disposition to meddle with the details of trade. It would be much better if the right hon. Gentleman would let those persons look after their own affairs. This was the only free class of labourers in the city or port of London, for none could work in other pursuits than coal-whipping without obtaining a licence from the city. The whole body of the coal-owners were opposed to it. He could not conceive bow the right hon. Gentleman could prevent this class of persons from visiting public houses and spending their money. If the right hon. Gentleman would relieve other classes of labour in London from the restrictions which were imposed upon them by the corporation, he would do some good, but he certainly would not by a measure like the present.

Mr. Wawn

opposed the bill, and moved that it be read a second time that day three months.

The House divided on the question, that the word "now" stand part of the question. Ayes 50; Noes 9: Majority 41.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Aglionby, H A.
Ashley, Lord Hutt, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Jermyn, Earl
Blake, M. J. Knatchbull rt. hn. Sir E.
Boldero, H. G. Lincoln, Earl of
Bramston, T. W. Lowther, J. H.
Brotherton, J. Mackenzie, W. F.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Mc Geachy, F. A.
Clements, Visct. Meynell, Capt.
Clerk, Sir G. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Cripps, W. O'Connell, M. J.
Darby, G. peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Denison, E. B. Rushbrooke, Col.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Scott, hon. F.
Duncombe, T. Sheppard, T.
Eliot, Lord Sibthorp, Col.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Smith, rt. hon. T. B. C.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Stanley, Lord
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Vesey, hon. T.
Greene, T. Wilbraham, hn. R. B.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Wood, B.
Hawes, B. Wood, G. W.
Herbert, hon. S.
Hindley, C. TELLERS.
Hodgson, R. Freemantle, Sir T.
Howard, P. H. Pringle, A.
List of the NOES.
Bowring, Dr. Morris, D.
Duke, Sir J. Pechell, Capt.
Forster, M. Scholefield, J.
Henley, J. W. TELLERS.
Johnstone, Sir J. Williams, W.
Mitchell, T. A. Wawn, J. T.

Bill read a second time and referred to a select committee.

House adjourned at a quarter to two o'clock.