HC Deb 24 February 1859 vol 152 cc834-6

said, he rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to place the employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children, in Bleaching Works, and Dyeing Works, under the regulations of the Factories' Act. The hardships suffered by women and children in these works were clearly set out in the evidence taken before a Committee of the House upon that subject. The master bleachers in Scotland had tried to mitigate the evils, but had only partially succeeded. The Committee had recommended that something ought to be done. The assistance of the Legislature was much needed.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question proposed.


said, he opposed the Motion on sound and sufficient reason. A similar Bill had been brought in in 1854, and in 1857 the subject was referred to a Select Committee. The Chairman of the Committee who took, or seemed to take, the deepest interest in the subject—the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt)—was the very worst attendant of any Member of the Committee. The Committee was of opinion it was not a subject for Legislation, but that they ought to leave masters and workmen to settle their differences between themselves. It was not, and never could be, the interest of the employer to make men work overtime except upon extraordinary occasions, when employers were obliged to pay extra. It was not the interest of employers as a rule to allow labourers to work overtime, although they often ask to be permitted to do so. The Committee had faithfully performed its duties, and yet the hon. Gentleman now attempted to bring in a Bill almost similar. The hon. Gentleman did not attempt to bring the warehousemen in the large towns under its operation, although they in many instances performed the same duties as bleachers and dyers. He moved that the Motion be negatived.


said, he should support the views of the Committee. By a majority of 11 to 1 they agreed to the following Resolution:— The nature of the work for women and children is, with some exception, healthy, light, and cleanly, and is by them preferred to the works of the factory, although in the latter they are protected by law. When an hon. Member on his own responsibility took such a step as this, he hoped the House would pause before it gave liberty to the hon. Gentleman to bring in the Bill.


said, he should oppose its introductionon on the same grounds.


said, that there was no difference of opinion amongst the Committee as to the existence of some grievances in respect of the women and children. The only difference was, as to the mode of remedying these grievances—whether by agreement between the employers and the employed, or by legislative enactment. The Committee came to the opinion that the former was the preferable mode; but he would say that if, after a moderate time, the employers did not adopt the recommendation of the Committee, Parliament ought to interfere to protect the women and children. At present, however, he thought sufficient time had not been given to ascertain whether or not the masters would attend to the recommendations of the Committee, and on that ground he thought the Bill premature.


said, it had been proved before the Committee that young women worked in the bleach works from sixteen to eighteen hours a day, at what the hon. Member for Manchester called "a temperature somewhat higher than was desirable," namely, in rooms so hot that the girls' feet were burned by the heat of the nails in die floor, that they frequently fainted, and were laid on cold stones outside until their turn came round to go to work again. The first report was prepared by him, but the Committee would not consider that; and when they came to the question whether legislation should be resorted to, a doubt was raised as to whether the word "immediate" should be used. He submitted whether the time had not arrived when the difficulty should be dealt with. There was the same necessity now for legislation as ever, and he should support the hon. Member in his endeavours to deal with this subject.


said, he must take leave to doubt the correctness of the evidence with respect to the burning of the girls' feet in the stoves. In Ireland he believed that the employment of women and children in bleach-fields was gradually on the decrease, and that legislation would be found to be altogether unnecessary.


said, he hoped that the House would be favoured with the views of the President of the Board of Trade on this subject. If they were not prepared to legislate, it would be inexpedient to allow the Bill to be brought in. It could only disturb men's minds without settling the question.


said, this vexed question had been discussed for the last three or four years, but always at a very advanced hour of the night, when few hon. Members were present. The natural result was, that it had been sent to a Committee, which sat upon it for a great part of one Session, and for some part of another. The Members were divided in the proportion of seven to five on the main question. He fully concurred with the majority in thinking that the House should hesitate before it interfered between master and workman. He thought it unwise to bring in the Bill, until it had been proved that the masters had neglected the recommendations of the Committee.


said, that great improvements were being voluntarily introduced into those establishments, and things were progressing satisfactorily.


said, he believed the time had not arrived for bringing in a Bill on this subject, and he thought the hon. Member ought to be content with the fact of having called the attention of the House to the report of the Committee which sat on this subject last Session.


also expressed his opinion that legislation at present on this subject would be premature.

Question put—The House divided:—Ayes 30; Noes 108: Majority 78.