HC Deb 21 April 1847 vol 91 cc1119-22

On the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Hosiery Manufacture Bill,


said, he was desirous to know whether it was the intention of the hon. Baronet who had charge of it to proceed with the second reading; and, also, whether the Government had taken into consideration any of the representations which had been made to them, by petition or otherwise, in reference to this measure?


replied, that he believed it was not the intention of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Leicestershire to proceed with the Bill that day. He should state, however, that the measure was one from which the Government would feel it to be their duty to withhold their sanction.


wished to have it understood, that if he gave way to the Factories Bill on the present occasion, it was not from any conviction on his part that the Bill he had the honour to introduce was of inferior importance to the operative classes. He would not surrender one jot of the claim which he had made on behalf of the most oppressed class of Her Majesty's subjects. For the present, however, he would consent to the postponement of the Bill until that day fortnight.


wished to know distinctly whether it was the intention of the hon. Baronet to proceed with the debate, and positively to go to a division on the Bill that day fortnight? Day after day Members came down to vote on Bills of that description, but a postponement usually took place. The Board of Trade had now announced their intention of opposing the present Bill, and it was most likely it would be defeated; but it was desirable to know whether the hon. Baronet was resolved on proceeding with the measure and going to a division in any event?


replied, that it was most assuredly his determination to bring the Bill forward, to make the necessary statement in connexion with it, and to take the sense of the House upon it on the day named.


inquired whether the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade was aware that the condition of the hosiery operatives had upon a previous occasion been brought under the consideration of the late Government, and that the case which they had submitted was of so harsh, startling, and oppressive a character, that the Government, sent down a Commissioner to inquire into the truth of the allegations? That Commissioner (Mr. Muggeridge) took great pains in collecting evidence, and hearing the statements of those poor people, as to the robbery and plunder which had been committed upon them by their employers; and his report had the effect of inducing the Government to support the former Bill which had been introduced. That Bill did not, he believed, apply a sufficient remedy; and, therefore, the poor people again applied to the House for protection. It was really a most cruel case, that whenever the poor operatives engaged in manufactures came before the House and appealed for protection against injustice and injury, that uniformly hon. Members were found to step forward and throw impediments in the way. He was prepared to give his zealous support to the Bill of the hon. Baronet; and he was convinced that such a case would be made out in favour of the operatives that the Government would feel themselves called upon to enact some measures calculated to afford them protection.


was anxious to know whether the Bill would come on for discussion that day fortnight in the shape in which it now stood, or whether alterations would be introduced in the interim?


said, that in its main provisions the Bill should remain unaltered, though it was possible it might undergo some change in matters of detail.


observed, that knowing the inconvenience attendant on the prolongation of the present discussion, it was not his intention to protract it by trespassing at any length on the attention of the House; but as the question was one in respect of which considerable interest was felt on both sides of the House, he trusted they would bear with him for a moment while he briefly stated his own opinion in reference to it. He was obliged to the hon. Baronet the Member for South Leicestershire for having postponed his Bill, as it was desirable that ample opportunity should be afforded for considering the principle and details of such a measure; and he was aware that it was the intention of many Members to look carefully into the provissions of the Bill, as well as into the case which would be brought forward to meet it. He cordially concurred in the belief that under the present system of things there did exist certain great evils, in consequence of which the poor people whom he had the honour to represent endured many grievances: this he admitted to the fullest extent; but he was quite as confidently persuaded that the Bill would produce other evils, greater than those which it was designed to cure. Of this he felt quite as confident as of the existence of the evils to which he had alluded. In familiar phrase, he feared that the operatives whom the measure was designed to benefit, would find the remedy worse than the disease. He was glad that the hon. Baronet had put off the Bill for the present; but he hoped that when brought under the consideration of the House, it would receive their best attention. It could not be questioned that great sufferings were endured by the class of operatives who would be affected by the Bill, and whose case undoubtedly demanded and deserved the most attentive consideration of that House.

Second reading postponed to May 5.

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