HC Deb 09 March 1847 vol 90 cc1103-6

rose, according to the resolution of which he had given notice— To move for a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the 8th and 9th Victoria, chap. 77, being 'An Act to make further regulation respecting the tickets of work to be delivered to persons employed in the manufacture of Hosiery in certain cases.' It would be remembered that during the last Session he brought the condition of the stocking weavers of the midland counties before the House, and showed that in consequence of the work passing through the hands of a bagman or agent, the workman was defrauded in the price paid to him. To prevent this the Act of last Session was passed, requiring the hosier to give out a ticket with his work, stating the price to be paid for it, and which the agent was bound not to keep back from the work. This Act was, however, found to be practically inoperative; for although it was passed with the unanimous consent of the House, high legal authorities had put such a construction upon it as defeated the purposes intended to be effected by the Act. His object, then, was to repeal the ticket provisions of the Act of last Session, and, in lieu of it, to require an entry in a book to be kept by the manufacturers, and to which the workmen were always to have access; and thus always might have it in their power to know the price paid for their work. This mode would be no inconvenience to the manufacturer, and he hoped would protect the workmen from having their miserable pittance plundered by the bagmen. The distress of the framework knitters of the midland counties was unequalled in any part of the British empire, unless it was in Ireland. They had heard a great deal of agricultural labourers only being paid 7s. or 8s. per week; but that was affluence compared with the wages obtained by these poor framework knitters. The chairman of the board of guardians of the Leicester union had forwarded him a statement of the actual wages received by 500 stocking-makers of that union, which showed an average of 4s.d. a week; and in many families, seven in number, the average earnings were no more than 6s. 6d. per week. This state of poverty was not to be accounted for by fluctuations or depressions such as are encountered at intervals by other trades, like that of the handloom weavers, for instance, who were ruined by the competition of steam power. On the contrary, they had no such competition to contend with; and the article they manufactured was one of general and universal necessity. The distress arose solely from the vicious mode in which the manufacture was conducted, and the heavy deductions made from the nominal wages of the workmen. The principal and most oppressive of these deductions was a charge called frame-rent. In no other trade was the machine by which the workman produced the article of manufacture subject to rent; and it was, in fact, just the same as if the ploughman were subject to a deduction from his wages under the name of rent for the plough he drove or directed. There was a general desire among the workmen, which was participated in by many masters, to see this impost abolished. It often induced persons to embark in the trade without a sufficient capital or credit; and by means of the frame-rent they were enabled to obtain a trade by a depreciated price, at which the fair manufacturer could not compete with them in the market. Besides this, a numerous class of workmen were reduced to a state of distress approaching starvation. To remedy these manifold evils, if possible, he sought to bring in this Bill; and for that purpose moved that the Speaker do now leave the chair.

House in Committee.


moved the following resolution— That the Chairman be directed to move, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Act 8 and 9 Vic. c. 77, intituled, 'An Act to make further Regulations respecting the Tickets of Work to be delivered to persons employed in the manufacture of Hosiery in certain cases,' and to make other provisions instead thereof, and to make further provisions to secure the wages of persons employed in the manufacture of Hosiery.


said, he should not oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman for bringing in the Bill, but should not consider himself or the Government pledged to support it. The hon. Gentleman had asked for much more than appeared on the Vote. He proposed now to interfere with other trades than those included in the Act of the 8th and 9th of Victoria. [Sir H. HALFORD: NO, no!] At any rate, he proposed to interfere more with the relations of master and workmen than did the Bill which the hon. Gentleman was instrumental in getting passed last Session. Under those circumstances, it was impossible to say what course the Government would take respecting the present Bill, until it had been further considered. He, for one, had always been opposed to this species of legislation; and was sure last Session, when the hon. Gentleman undertook to meet all the evils of which he complained with an Act of Parliament, that he would soon come back for an Act to amend. If they passed this Bill, he felt certain another Act to amend that would be required next Session. It was impossible to meet evils of this nature by Acts of Parliament.

Resolution agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution reported, and Bill ordered to be brought in.

House adjourned at Eight o'clock.