HC Deb 22 February 1860 vol 156 cc1548-51

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill said, that its object was to diminish the danger incurred by servants and others employed in cleaning windows. His attention had been drawn to the subject by a very serious accident in Brighton. The Bill had been drawn with great care, and similar provisions had been found to work very well in Scotland.

Motion made, and Question proposed,—"That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that several of the clauses were likely to cause great inconvenience. By one of the clauses a penalty of 40s., or imprisonment for fourteen days, was proposed to be inflicted on any master who permitted any one in his employment, not being a tradesman, to "stand, sit, or kneel" on the outside of his window, or to be on the outside of any window for the purpose of repairing or painting anything growing thereon, except such window was on the basement or sunk story. It was quite clear that the Bill required to be amended, for if it passed in its present shape a person would be liable to imprisonment for sitting on the sill of a window with his legs inside; or a man could be fined or imprisoned for permitting his gardener to trim flowers growing outside a window on a ground floor. He would suggest the hon. Baronet should be prepared with clauses to meet these cases before the Committee came on.


said, that as the representative of some thousands of housemaids he must express his opinion that some of the provisions of the Bill were the most preposterous he had ever heard of, which it would be a waste of time to pass. For instance, it provided that anybody who permitted his servant to get outside a window-sill to clean or paint anything affixed to or growing to the house should be liable to a fine or imprisonment. What that could mean he could not understand, though, certainly, in walking through the streets of Marylebone he had often noticed on the window-sills dingy geraniums, which would be all the better for a touch of paint to give a tinge of verdure to them. If the Bill passed, any gentleman who might direct his servant to get on to the window-sill and stuff up a pane of glass which might chance to have got broken during the night, might be hauled up before the magistrate, and imprisoned for fourteen days.


said, he wished to point out that it was already the law in the metropolis that any person who ordered his servant to stand on a window, to the obstruction or danger of the passers by, was liable to a penalty or imprisonment. If, however, only the person himself was exposed to danger there was no penalty enacted, and it was to meet this defect and to extend the protection of the present law to servants and others who were employed on such duties that the Bill was mainly intended.


said, he should be sorry to see any Bill brought in by the hon. Baronet who had been so long a Member of this House rejected in so summary a manner, and he hoped, therefore, that it would be allowed to pass a second reading.


said, he hoped the House would not. It was one of the most vexatious and foolish Bills he had ever heard of, and would cause all sorts of quarrels between neighbours.


said, the argument that the law already forbade occupiers to allow their servants to stand on window-sills to the danger of the passers-by was really against the second reading and not in favour of it. He was not aware how the hon. Baronet got his windows cleaned in the country, but if this Bill passed it would prevent any persons in the country, where professional window-cleaners were not easily got, sending his servant up a ladder, as was generally done, to clean the outside of a window. The Bill was open to many objections, and was scarcely one which the House would be disposed to sanction.


said, he believed the Bill was a just one, and founded on humane principles, and that to reject it would be to do a great injury to society. Since he first brought in the Bill, no less than three persons had been killed from window-cleaning. If there were objections to the details of the measure, they might be met in Committee. The Bill had been drawn up with great care by one of the solicitors to the House, and he could not take on himself the responsibility of withdrawing it.


said, that he wished the opinion of the House on the measure, and he should therefore move that it be read that day six months. He gave every credit to the hon. Baronet (Sir C. Burrell) for his humane intentions, but his Bill altered entirely the character of the present enactments on this subject. The present law went upon the intelligible principle, that if any persons did an act, or ordered another to do an act, or did not prevent an act being done when he had the power, which was dangerous to persons passing along the street, he should be liable to a penalty. In populous cities it was very natural that enactments should exist with a view of preventing passers-by from annoyance or danger through the cleaning of windows; but the measures were in no way intended for the protection of the window-cleaner, who was supposed to be capable of taking care of himself. The Bill was not called for in the rural districts, while the measures at present in existence were sufficiently stringent in towns. To make these general, therefore, throughout the country would be a perversion of the legislative principle.

Amendment proposed,— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'

Question, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added. Main question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put of for six months.