HC Deb 05 August 1845 vol 82 cc1450-3
Mr. Greene

moved the Third Reading of the Silk Weavers' Bill.

Mr. Hume

knew nothing of the object of this Bill, and he believed the House generally was in the same situation. He was not even aware that it had been printed.

Mr. Greene

said, in the absence of his hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire, who had charge of the measure, he had undertaken to move the third reading. The Bill was one which had come down recently from the House of Lords, and was a counterpart of the measure which had passed some time ago for regulating the working of framework knitters.

Mr. Bright

said, it was quite evident that those who had introduced this Bill into Parliament were either ignorant of the subject upon which they sought to legislate, or were pandering to the prejudices of that class who would be affected by the measure. They might depend upon it that the measure would do no good, but would disappoint the silk weavers in the expectations it would excite in their minds. But for the late period of the Session he should oppose it.

Sir J. Graham

remarked, that the Frame Work Knitters Bill, upon the model of which he understood the present measure was founded, had received the fullest consideration, and had resulted from the recommendation of a Commission appointed by the Crown, in compliance with an Address of the House of Commons. Though the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bright) thought it would lead to disappointment, he was informed that the workmen who would be affected by it were most anxious for this legislation. The principle was in no way novel; it had existed in regard to the hosiery trade for a long time, and he did not consider that he would have been justified, on the part of the Government, in resisting a wish so generally expressed by those for whose benefit the measure was brought forward.

Sir John Easthope

said, that some time ago he had received from several of his constituents a communication requesting him to support the provisions of this Bill. He had occasion to leave town immediately afterwards; but before going away, he informed his hon. Colleague of the contents of that communication. The Bill should receive his support.

Mr. Borthwick

said, the Bill had only come down from the House of Lords on the 30th of July, and it now appeared that nobody in that House was responsible for it. It was too much to expect the House, at that late period of the Session, to pass a measure of which they knew nothing. For his part he could not conceive in whose prolific brain the Bill had originated. They had heard from Punch, who had recently become a high authority upon such matters, that there was a certain noble person in another place who went about crying "old laws to mend;" he could only suppose that it had originated with him. He wished to know whether the Board of Trade approved of the measure?

Mr. Greene

said, when he took charge of the measure for his hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire, he took the precaution of inquiring of his right hon. Friend (Sir G. Clerk) whether the Board of Trade approved of it, and was informed by him that he had read the measure, and that it had his approbation.

Mr. Warburton

said, it was not a sufficient reason with him to consent to a measure of which he knew nothing, that the Board of Trade approved of it. He would move that the third reading be deferred till that day three months.

Colonel Rolleston

said, the object of the Bill, as he understood, was to protect the working silk weavers against the master manufacturers.

Mr. Hume

objected to the issuing of such complex tickets as those contemplated under the measure before the House. He hoped that the Bill would be allowed to stand over.

Mr. Duncan

thought the measure a dangerous one. Such a Bill would form a precedent for other measures which would fetter the liberty of trade.

Mr. Villiers

objected to the passing of the Bill, coming as it did so late in the Session, and so objectionable as it was in many points.

Mr. Brotherton

thought that the Bill should be postponed until next Session. He was of opinion, however, that it contained many admirable propositions.

Sir John Easthope

said, that representations had been made to him in favour of the Bill. It had been generally known in the districts principally concerned, that such a measure was pending in Parliament, and he apprehended that no objection had been raised to it, either on the part of the masters or that of the operatives. He had been told that the measure was a sort of compact which would tend to produce a better feeling than that which had previously existed between employers and employed. Whether it might prove a sound remedy for the abuses which prevailed, he did not pretend to say—he might have some doubts upon that point; but he certainly did think, that as no objection had been started by the masters, and as the measure had been held out to the men as one of security for them, that unless any hon. Member were prepared to state that there was any practical objection standing in the way, it would be hard to interfere with the passing of the Bill.

Sir J. Graham

suggested that further debate upon the subject should be adjourned until Friday, by which time he would have had an opportunity of consulting his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade upon the Bill. The effect of the proposed alteration in the law would be to make compulsory that which was optional under the Bill of the hon. Member for Montrose. The feeling of the working classes he understood to be strongly in favour of the Bill.

Amendment withdrawn. Debate adjourned until Friday.