HC Deb 28 February 1853 vol 124 cc738-40

said, in presenting a petition from Todmorden, complaining of the evasion of the provisions of the Factory Act by certain master manufacturers, he would avail himself of that opportunity to put to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department the question of which he had given notice. The House would remember that they had been told on the passing of the Compromise Act, as it was called, in 1850, that that Act would be received by the manufacturers as a final settlement of the question, and that its provisions would be loyally and cheerfully carried out by them. He regretted, however, to see from the last half-yearly Report of the Factory Inspectors that the evasion of the law in some parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire had lately been most systematic; and, he regretted to add, with perfect impunity. Mr. Horner, in his Report, said— I regret to say that the offence of working young persons and women for a greater number of hours daily than is legal, long complained of, still prevails to a considerable extent in some parts of my district. In my last two reports I have dwelt at some length on this subject—on the wilful commission of the fraud by persons of large property—on the mean contrivances to which they have recourse in order to elude detection—and the obstacles which the Inspectors meet with, from the imperfect provisions of the Act, in their endeavours to put down an evil so great as a systematic violation of the law—one so justly complained of by millowners who are strictly obeying the Act. All that I have stated in these Reports is equally applicable to the last half-year and to the present time.


rose to order, because, if this question of the noble Lord's was to merge into a statement of the case, he should ask permission to be allowed to answer it. He had a strong opinion upon this subject, and he did not think it fair that a statement of this kind should be made without any opportunity of a reply being presented.


said, he understood the noble Lord to be only reading an extract from a report.


said, he was merely clearing the way so as to make the question intelligible. The extract he was about to read was this:— This illegal working of young persons and women will never be effectually put down without an amending Act, which shall take away the facilities for evading detection and punishment now existing, which shall make the occupier of the factory alone responsible, and which shall, moreover, inflict, as the lowest penalty, such a sum as will at least considerably diminish the gain by fraudulent working; for the shame of a prosecution appears to be no restraint on such men. In a newspaper published in Manchester only on Saturday last, no less than seven distinct firms were reported as being charged with and convicted of evading the provisions of this Act. He begged, therefore, to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce any measure, or to take any steps whatever, for the preventing of such evasions for the future? On the part of the working people it was evident that these attempts to evade the provisions of the Act would lead to—["Order, order!"]


said, the Government would see that the present Act was duly enforced; and, if it should appear that there were difficulties in the way which prevented the proper execution of the laws, it would be their duty then to consider whether, perhaps, any and what amendment of that Act could be effected.

Subject dropped.