HC Deb 13 June 1860 vol 159 cc396-417

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 (No Boy under twelve years of age to be employed in Mines.)


said, he rose to move that the ago be fixed at thirteen years instead of twelve. The first clause provided, that no boy under twelve years of age should be allowed to work in mines, except under conditions set forth in the second clause. The second clause enacted that no boy between the age of ten and twelve years be employed in a mine or colliery until the owner had first obtained a certificate under the hand of a competent schoolmaster that such boy was able to read and write. It also required that another certificate should be produced every month showing that they had attended school for not less than twenty hours during the month immediately preceding. In his opinion there would be considerable difficulty in working this scheme, because the certificate of a competent schoolmaster was a very uncertain expression, which might mean anything or nothing. If the section meant that a boy should be able to read and write tolerably well from dictation, the number of children who would be able to produce such certificate of their ability would be very small indeed. From a population possessing the ordinary means of school learning, he had ascertained by examinations, during several years, that the number of children able to read tolerably was not fifteen out of forty-six, which number would be considerably reduced if writing from dictation was required from a boy before he received his certificate. He thought he could show that the system which he proposed would be much more beneficial to the employer than that under the Bill. He proposed that any boy above ten years old should be allowed to work in mines on condition that his attendance at school up to his thirteenth year should be equal to forty hours in a month, the attendance being given not on consecutive days, and not during the evening. From his own experience, he could state that that would give them a very fair amount of education. He had found that children did very little good at school when they were jaded and worn after a hard day's work, and by the plan he suggested they would have some relaxation from their underground toil, and would receive instruction under such conditions as would render it really profitable. In factories the ago to which the education of children was continued was thirteen, and the system had met with a decided success. He had opposed the Factory Bill at the time of its introduction, on the ground that it was an undue interference between masters and employed, but he was now convinced from the experience he had had of its working that its educational clauses had conferred great benefit on the operatives, both mentally, morally, and physically, and he had never met with any person who did not concur in that statement. Great advantage had been reaped by the working classes from the education which had thus been forced upon them, and there was, therefore, fair ground for extending the same system to other trades and manufactures. There was nothing in the circumstances of mining labour which rendered education less necessary to those engaged in it. By the plan he proposed the children would have occasional relief from toil, and would be subjected to wholesome influence, and employers, as experience showed in all such cases, would find them in their work more intelligent, alert, and active.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, to leave out the word "twelve," and insert the word "thirteen,"—instead thereof.


said, the limit of age fixed in the Bill had been adopted upon the almost unanimous recommendation of the Inspectors of Mines. It was thought undesirable to interfere more than was absolutely necessary between the employers and employed. If the age, as proposed, were fixed at twelve, it would deprive the owners, it was alleged, of much valuable labour, and of course the limit of thirteen years would operate still more injuriously. His hon. Friend said this provision had worked very well in regard to factories; but Sir John Kincaid, one of the inspectors, declared that in Scotland children under thirteen years of age were virtually excluded from employment in factories by the enforcement of the educational clauses of the Factory Act. Moreover, from what he knew of mining labour he felt pretty sure that, if children were compelled to absent themselves from work for two days a week, and those not consecutive days, it was equivalent to saying that they should not go down the mines at all, and the whole system would be thrown into confusion. For these reasons he could not assent to the Amendment.


said, he rose to oppose the Amendment. He had an Amendment on the paper to leave out altogether the restrictive Clauses 1, 2, and 3 of the Bill. The first clause was a prohibitory clause as far as children under twelve years were concerned. The second clause was in effect a relaxation of that prohibition under certain conditions, those conditions being either that a boy should be able to read and write, or that while so employed he should attend school two days every week. The third clause was merely a penalty clause. In offering opposition to those clauses he felt he should render himself liable to a charge of antagonism to the moral welfare of the working classes. He, however, considered that a compulsory enactment of that kind would materially affect those efforts of those who were strenuously labouring for the promotion of education in the working classes, and would, on the other hand, tend to disgust the working classes with that education which it was their duty and desire to promote and encourage. It was unfair to apply such a restrictive system as that contemplated by the Bill to any one particular employment. It was unfair to the employer, and it was equally unfair to the employed. On the one hand, it tended to increase the rate of wages on the employers in the special business affected; while, on the other hand, it lessened wages in other employments to which the restrictive system was not applied; because large numbers of children, on being discharged from the mines would flock to those other employments where their labour could be availed of, and would flood the market to which they were compelled to resort. With what reason could they say to the owner of a colliery, "You shall not employ children under twelve years of age," while the owner of the factory next door could employ as many as he pleased, even although it was in the unwholesome manufacture of chemicals. The Committee should remember, too, that they were legislating for the poor, and although much was said of the cupidity of parents in the working classes, they should recollect that the sum which would be earned by a child of ten years old in these districts often made the difference between comfort and discomfort in a poor man's household. He would illustrate the case by the calamity which had befallen the fifty or sixty women who by one fell stroke had been deprived of their partners in life by the recent disastrous colliery explosion. Would it be fair or humane to tell those bereaved widows that the law would not permit their children being employed in mines or factories, because they had not received a certain education up to twelve or thirteen years of age. In a report of Mr. Redgrave it appeared that, out of 499 children certified, only 123 had received their education under the factory system, while all the rest had been educated independently of it. That proved that the working classes were beginning to send their children to school voluntarily, and that the desultory education which these children obtained under the provisions of the various Acts regulating their labour was very unsatisfactory. The result of the evidence was not such as to justify the application of this partial system to other branches of trade. Ever since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had been the advocate of a system of voluntary education as one conformable with the institutions of the country. They were told that the working classes of this country were averse to education. He believed that to be a very great mistake, except to a very partial extent. It was quite natural that a working man should like to have his child earning money; but the best means of inducing the working classes to send their children to schools would be to have good schools —schools where practical and useful systems prevailed; and as under any mode of supervision the maintenance of such systems must greatly depend upon local cooperation, he did not think they were likely to improve the condition of the schools by enactments which would tend to relieve the owners of property from a sense of moral obligation resting on themselves. His objection to the compulsory system was that it would tend to check the voluntary efforts of owners and others who at present exerted themselves very much to forward the cause of education. He had received representations from persons who feared that the effect of such a scheme would make persons give up their customs of subscribing for the maintenance of local schools. They should remember too that they had invited a neighbouring Power to compete with them in certain manufactures, and had even agreed to furnish them for years to come with the raw material. If they desired, therefore, to compete successfully with France they must not hamper themselves with unnecessary restrictions. If they wanted an illustration of the effects of their legislation they had it in the Emigrant Acts, which had deprived the British shipping interest of a source of profit, and had handed over thousands of the persons who emigrated from this country to the tender mercies of the owners and captains of foreign ships. Of all questions in which to interfere the internal economy and regulation of mines was the most difficult and dangerous. Let them not, by carrying their interference too far, relieve the managers and owners from a sense of the responsibility which they ought to have. If the Committee attempted what they were unable to perform he very much feared they would but produce greater evils than those they endeavoured to remove.


said, he thought that, instead of rejecting the clauses, it would be better to postpone them, in order that they might be re-considered. He agreed with the hon. Member who last spoke that partial legislation of this kind was mischievous and unjust; but, instead of that being an argument for refusing to legislate further, he looked upon it as argument for covering the whole field of labour with legislation of this kind. The statute book was in a very anomalous state in regard to this subject. They had the Coal Mines Act of 1842 expiring in the present year, the Factory Act of 1844, the Print Works Act, an Act dealing partially with the silk trade, and this year the Legislature proposed to deal with three other branches —namely, the bleaching trade, the lace-making trade, and the mining trade. He thought such legislation, step by step, unjust and mischievous. It gave a monopoly of labour of a certain class to the unrestricted as against the restricted trades. He had heard from employers in Birmingham that those children who had received education very soon made up, by their superior intelligence, for the time during which they had been withdrawn from work. The system ought to be made general. If they did not do so they perpetrated an injustice to those trades wins were brought under its operation; and held out a direct inducement to those who did not now come within its provision, to refrain from making voluntary attempts to educate the children in their neighbourhood, lest their so doing might destroy their monopoly in their labour. Gentlemen connected with the coal and iron districts had gone so far as to say that if the operation of the Bill were rendered general, they would no longer have any opposition to offer; but the so-called "voluntary educationists" of the House viewed it with disfavour, as infringing the principle for which they contended. This, however, was a mistake, as employers need only be subjected to an alternative—not to employ children under twelve years old who could neither read nor write, unless they gave a guarantee that they should have the opportunity of learning to do so. It must be remembered that £1,000,000 was voted by the House annually towards national education. Did not that give them a right to see that at least, a minimum was done in the way of national education, and that there should be some elementary result from so large an expenditure? He, for one, should not support the annual Vote if it did not at least produce the small result of ensuring that every child of twelve years of age should be able to read and write. That was very little to ask in return for a subsidy of £1,000,000 a year. There was no manner of interference by the provisions of a Bill to effect the object which he sought. It did not stipulate for any particular system or any particular machinery. It merely asked for a result. It proposed to do away with all that was inquisitorial in the Factory Acts, and in that way it was an important improvement in our legislation on these subjects. As soon as they attached to the employment of children everywhere some necessary attention to their elementary instruction, all the evil effects of unequal pressure of restriction would be at once removed. They did not want to say to the employers that they should not employ the children, but they said they should employ them in a manner that was concurrent with what Parliament had decided to be the national system and requirements of education. It was said that they would be throwing on the employer the obligation of the parent, but it was not so. The House stood in the place of the parent of the child, where parental care was wholly absent or negligent, or was in partnership with the parent in the education of the child, where the parent took his share by largely subsidizing it, and therefore possessed, at least to some extent, the parental right to insist upon this arrangement on the part of the child. Words had been suggested by his hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) which would ensure that the employer should not be brought under the penalties of the law till he had absolutely refused to allow a wholly uneducated child any time for his use of existing means of education and put himself into actual and gratuitous hostility with the child's interests. The law would fail to apply until the employer had been applied to and, having the means at hand, had refused to conform to the provisions of the Act. He was happy to say that he was borne out in his views in this matter by Her Majesty's inspectors of schools, who had presented a memorial to Her Majesty's Government on the subject. He thought the question was, whether they should go back and repeal the educational clauses of the Factory Act, or advance and cover with similar provisions equally the whole field of employment. He thought, therefore, that they should postpone the clauses before the House, and see whether they could not carry the principle in a general form, in a Sill by itself for the purpose, such as he had himself already introduced in readiness, should the House see fit to adopt it in substitution for these Clauses.


said, if the principle which it was sought to apply by this measure were a good one, it ought to be extended universally, and not confined to persons engaged in particular manufactures. But the argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) was, that the system having failed, it ought to be extended. That seemed to be his conclusion; but he (Mr. Buxton) thought the logical conclusion from the premisses upon which he had argued was, that the system should be abandoned altogether. The school inspectors had declared in the strongest manner that the effect of the present system, instead of improving the education of children, had been to stop up the channel of employment to which the efforts of the Legislature had been applied, and to widen other channels, in which consequently the supply of labour had increased. He believed that the attempt of the House to promote education by Legislative interference between employers and employed was a mistake, and that, instead of following up their steps, they ought rather to retrace them. Not content with leaving the growth of education to the increasing intelligence of parents, and to the demand for educated in lieu of ignorant persons, Parliament sought to promote the advance of knowledge by imposing criminal penalties on employers; they did not apply punishment to the parents, who were responsible in the eyes of God and man for bringing up their children properly, but to persons who were only artificially connected with them by purchasing their labour in the market. But if the Bill passed and was followed by that measure which had been sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman, what machinery existed for carrying out the provisions? Mr. Norris, in his pamphlet, admitted that it was impossible to maintain an army of inspectors throughout the country, and that, to a great extent, dependence must be placed on the voluntary obedience of employers to the law. The result, of course, was, that the law would only be binding on the scrupulous and high-minded, and would be infringed by all who were not distinguished by those qualities. Instead of being generally respected and obeyed, the law would only be enforced in cases were some informer entertained a spite against a particular employer.


said, that, although an advocate of voluntary education, he could not shut his eyes to the benefits which had resulted under the Factory Act from compulsory instruction, which was not, however, afforded at the Government expense, and therefore did not interfere with the voluntary principle so far as the cost was concerned. But the owners of coal districts in the West Riding of Yorkshire complained that the Bill, if passed in its present shape, would amount to confiscation of their property, as the boys they required for the purpose of going down into coal-pits were hardy, dreadnought boys, of a different class from those who had been trained in schools. He was in favour of the word "thirteen" being substituted for the word "twelve." In the factories, children worked in relays in the morning and afternoon, but there was a difficulty about doing that in coal-pits, which might be avoided by the proposition of the hon. Member for Nottingham, and certain times might he set apart for the education of the children. It was for the coal-owners to say whether they would employ three boys where they now employed two. If so, two boys could always be in the pit, and one at school; each boy could he employed four days in the week and be two days in the week at school. If they did not go into the coal- pit when they were boys, they would never go there at all, because when a man got another trade he would not give up his employment to go down into a coal-pit.


said, he feared the Committee was wandering somewhat from the point under discussion; and as a large number of gentlemen connected with coal mines were then present in London, and were most anxious that the subject should be decided that day, it would give rise to much dissatisfaction if six o'clock arrived without their having attained any practical decision. An enactment was already in force which provided that no child under ten years of age should be employed in mines. The Motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham proposed to extend that age to thirteen years; and if so, he saw no reason why any objection should be raised against the clauses which required that they should be capable of reading and writing at that age. The mortality among children between the ages of ten and fifteen years employed in mines was very great, the proportion being 22 per cent as against the general mortality of 11½ per cent. From the extent of that mortality, therefore, as well as from the number of accidents which were constantly occurring, it was highly desirable that some alteration in the state of the law should take place. The object of the measure was to induce persons in the districts where education was least advanced to follow the example which had been well set in Scotland and in the north of England. In his Report, Mr. Redgrave said that the proposition that children should produce a certificate of being able to read and write was a marked improvement; and Sir John Kincaid concurred in that view. The system which he proposed in the Bill had been actually at work in Scotland, and he held in his baud the report of a Mr. Alexander, a mine inspector, in which he stated that in Scotland boys were not allowed to work underground until able to read and write; in one place that had been the case for more than twenty years, and the arrangements up to the present time had worked most satisfactorily. He trusted that the Committee would not withhold its assent from the clauses proposed by the Government.


said, that as an employer of some thousands of miners, he objected to the clause requiring so large a number of hours to be consumed in education. It would involve great loss both to the masters and the children. At present a suffi- cient number of boys could hardly be obtained. Though the labour of boys in coal mines was not severe, he felt bound to state that he thought ten years was too young an age to take a boy down into a mine. A boy of eleven might be permitted to work; but he objected to the compulsory provision proposed with regard to education.


said, he should support the clause under discussion, as a step in the right direction. Its principle had been affirmed by former legislation. State interference with the parental control of children was often objected to. Still, it had been recognized as a principle of legislation that the State might step in and compel a parent to do his duty towards his child or cause it to be done in its own way if the parent would not discharge it himself. The practice of vaccination had been enforced as a remedy against small pox, and if parents were required to attend to the bodily wants of their children, he saw no reason whatever why education should not, if necessary, be enforced as a remedy against the more frightful evil of ignorance and immorality. According to reports on education England was much behind the continental nations in this respect. In Prance, Austria, and Prussia it was difficult to find a child of twelve who could not read or write. In our prisons and reformatories 30 or 40 per cent of the inmates could neither read nor write, fifty or sixty could do so only imperfectly. To show that the working classes appreciated the advantage of schools, he referred to a petition presented by the workmen in Mr. Akroyd's factory, in which they expressed their hope that others would be enabled to enjoy the same advantages they had derived from the schools established by that gentleman. Many might say that by this education they would give children nothing but the power of reading and writing; that it only enabled a child to educate itself. But even knowing how to read and write gave a child a better chance in the world than that of the child who had not such knowledge.


said, he approved the Bill of the Government; if they asked too much, they would get nothing. The measure was a practical one, and the balance of testimony from the mine inspectors was in favour of it. It was not a Bill of compulsion on the children so much as protection to them. No class of children in the kingdom were in a more wretched con- dition than those who worked in mines. The restrictions of the Factory Acts had proved very beneficial, and he believed at some future period the House would extend the principle of these clauses, and give them a general application.


said, it was extremely important that the Committee should understand the actual question before it. The question was, whether the children under thirteen were to be given up to the uncontrolled discretion of their parents and employers, and whether before that age they were to be subject to a certain protection, so as to prevent what was considered to be a gross abuse of their infantile and unprotected condition. The nature of that protection was the subject of the next clause. At present the question was as to the ago to which it should be continued. For his own part he advocated the higher age of thirteen. Inspectors of mines having directed their investigation to the subject had some of them recommended the still more advanced age of fourteen, and even fifteen. The question was one of religion, morality, and duty, against mere money. It would cost the mine-owners more to deal more tenderly with the children in their employment; but the children ought to be protected, on the principle the Legislature had already adopted in the Factory Act. The Court of Chancery protected children in the higher ranks even against parental control; in the case of the poor the House of Commons ought to perform the like office of guardian.


said, he would address himself strictly to the clause in question, which was whether the words twelve or thirteen should be inserted in the Bill. What was the principle of the Factory Act? He understood the principle to be that it was inconsistent with the health of children under thirteen to make them parts of a system of labour carried on by machinery; it was, therefore, provided that they should be employed only a certain number of hours a week, and that in the other part of the week they should attend school. But the limitation of the present Bill was advocated on the dangers of the employment, and the greater mortality of the children engaged in it. That mortality, however, was reckoned on the ages between ten and fifteen—not from ten to twelve. But where was the consistency of taking half the limit? Why was not the Committee told what was the percentage of mortality between ten and eleven, eleven and twelve, and so on year by year up to fifteen? Then the House would have had some useful information as a guide in determining this somewhat difficult question. It had been argued that it was the duty of parents to clothe, feed, and vaccinate their children; he wondered it had not been contended that the law compelled them to beget children as well. Now, when his hon. Friend below him (Mr. Mitford) entreated the Committee to put a stop to the moral contagion which filled our gaols and reformatories, he was surprised to hear of the remedy proposed. What did the Factory Act provide? Why, that the children should go to schools where the religious element in the education was most likely to put an end to the immorality that was said to prevail. But what did the present Bill? It sanctioned the application of the secular element as a remedy against moral contagion. Was that a step in the right direction? He had some doubt about it. With regard to the question as to whether the age should be twelve or thirteen, he preferred twelve. If, however, the age was to be advanced from ten to twelve, because the work in mines was unhealthy or the children exposed to danger, he could not, for the life and soul of him, understand why that condition should be relaxed if the children could read and write. He could understand the Government when they said that because working in mines was dangerous and unhealthy, therefore children should not be allowed to work in them under twelve years of age. But why a child might be exposed to that danger and to that unhealthiness merely because he was able to read and write, that he could not understand. That went beyond his comprehension. Again, he could not exactly see why a parent might not take his child to a mine as well as let him drive a plough at an early age. However, he did not pretend to be able to decide whether the age of restriction should be twelve or thirteen. Probably the Government were able to determine that point; and he should, therefore, vote for the proposition of the Government—the age of twelve.


said, he thought the Committee was in that position in which Committees were frequently found; it had three courses before it—two extremes and a mean. It would be most convenient to dispose of the two extremes before coming to the medium course, which he thought would be the best to adopt. One extreme was that of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) who objected not only to the provisions of this Bill, but to those of the existing law. He contended that there ought not to be any distinction between coal-mining and any other kind of industry; that there ought to be no restriction on the employment of children in coal mines. It was sufficient to say that that argument would compel the repeal of the Factory Act, the benefits of which had been tested by experience. The opposite extreme is that proposed by the right hon. Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley); he goes with the Bill to the extent of these clauses, but thinks they do not go far enough, and would include them in some more general enactment. No one doubts the right hon. Member's sincerity. Formerly, when any extensive change in an existing institution was proposed, one mode of defending it was to say that the institution, if not quite perfect, was singularly good, and that all change was to be deprecated. But now, when a moderate change was proposed, it was a common mode of opposition to say that the proposal was a half-measure, that it would satisfy nobody, and that it would be better to wait for a more comprehensive measure, by which more extensive objects would be realized. That was a mode of argument often adopted, and not always in the good faith of his right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire. He (Sir George Lewis) believed, if the Government withdrew these clauses, all change would be indefinitely postponed, the clauses would be lost, the right hon. Gentleman's own Bill would not be passed, and nothing would be done. The third course was a limited alteration in the present state of things. He thought the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had not been quite, fair on the relation this Bill bore to the Factory Acts. The extent to which the proposal of the Government went was merely to add two years to the period during which the unconditional employment of children in mines might be prevented, and if the Committee were to sanction that proposal, which he hoped they would, they would not thereby be precluded from advancing the age hereafter from 12 to either 13 or 14 years, if experience should prove such a course to be advisable. Considering, however, the large interests and vast capital involved, he would advise the Committtee to begin with the more limited prosal.


said, it was easier to give advice than to act on it, for both the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and the hon. Under Secretary, while they deprecated discussion on the general question, had themselves gone into it fully. He should oppose the Amendment.


said, he could bear testimony, from personal knowledge, to the healthy condition of the children employed in the mines.


said, he was compelled to decline to withdraw his Amendment.

Question put, "That the word 'twelve' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 178, Noes 71: Majority 107.


then moved the following Amendment: After the 31st day of December, 1860, it shall not be lawful for any person whatever to employ, keep, or allow to remain in any colliery or ironstone mine, any boy above the age of ten years, and under the age of fourteen, for a longer time than eight hours in any one day. In doing this, he would take occasion to say that the greatest improvement in the health of the children employed in the factories had, according to the report of the medical inspectors, been effected, since the hours of labour were shortened in those establishments. It must also be borne in mind that a boy, up to the age of fourteen, must be looked upon in the light of a child, who had, inasmuch as he was not a free agent, a claim to be protected by the State against a system, which must be injurious to his bodily as well as his mental powers. The argument, that to use legislative influence for the promotion of this object, was unduly to interfere with the rights of labour, had, he contended, long ago been triumphantly disposed of; and it was the province of the Government of the country, he maintained, to provide, as far as possible, that its citizens should not at a tender age be rendered feeble for life by excessive exertion, and thereby to lessen the risk of their becoming eventually dependent upon the public funds, for support. The competition for employment in England was so fierce, that, unless the law stepped in to protect the weak against the strong, the former must be, in a great measure, sacrificed. Entertaining these views, he had much satisfaction in submitting his Amendment for the adoption of the Committee.


said, he felt compelled to oppose the Motion. According to the reports of the Inspectors of Mines, the health of the children employed in them contrasted not unfavourably with that of those who worked above ground. The chief cause of the higher mortality arose from their liability to accidents through carelessness.


said, he also must oppose the Motion; though he wished to express his full appreciation of the object which it was sought by its means to effect.


suggested that it was irregular to propose the Amendment at the present stage of the proceedings.


said, he proposed to provide for the object of the hon. Gentleman, but at a different stage and in another manner.


thereupon withdrew it until the proper moment for bringing it forward should have arrived.


said, he wished to move the omission of the proviso at the end of the clause, the operation of which Amendment would be to preclude the employment of children under twelve years of age in mines. He thought that would get rid of a great many vexatious provisions in the Bill, while, with regard to the dangers of the employment, he could not help thinking that a child of twelve years of age, who could neither read nor write, was better able to take care of his life and limbs, than a child of ten, who could do both. Besides, the ability of the child to read and write was to be certified by a competent schoolmaster, but who was to be the judge of such competency. The whole conditions were vexatious; and it would be far better to provide that no boy, under any circumstances, should be employed under twelve years of age.


said, the policy of the clause was obvious. It was not so prohibitory as an absolute prohibition; but its object was to assimilate the Bill to the Factory Act. He thought the fact that there were Inspectors of Mines was a sufficient answer to the difficulties suggested by the noble Lord of carrying out the conditions the clause imposed.


said, he had no doubt the noble Lord had proposed his Amendment out of regard to the interests of the working men; but he could state that there was a deputation from the working miners in the very neighbourhood of the House. He had been at the pains to consult them, and they entirely repudiated the Amendment of the noble Lord as an undue interference with the rights of labour.


said, it had been assumed all through the debate that the mining children were worse than others, and required the special protection of the Legislature. He denied that such was the case. As a proof he might refer to an interesting report of Mr. Fletcher, who had been specially appointed to investigate the amount of the criminal population in different employments, and in the Metropolitan districts. It appeared that the number of committals per 1,000 amounted in the Metropolitan districts to 22½, in the iron districts 1 to 18, in the agricultural districts to 14, in the cotton districts to 12, in the silk districts to 8, and the number in the exclusively mining districts in Durham, Northumberland, and Cornwall amounted to only 6 in every 1000. He was himself familiar with this population, both while at their work in the mines and while in their schools, and he was never struck either by their unhealthiness or by their ignorance. He was certainly opposed to the employment of children under ten years of age, but he hoped the House would not go further. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. F. Crowley) spoke of the children employed in mines as fitted by their peculiar smallness to do the work required of them. He (Mr. Bruce) never yet saw a child employed in a mine in an oppressive or unhealthy way. They were generally employed in opening and shutting doors; a certain number were employed in conducting horses, and large numbers went down into the pit with their fathers, and assisted them in loading the coal. He thought they were more likely to obtain the results which they all wished for—namely, an improved education for children—by constantly holding up to the parents the standard of education required from them, than by endeavouring to force them by any compulsory mode of education. The Factory Act having been appealed to, he must be permitted to say that great injury would be inflicted on those children and their parents if any similar legislation was enforced. The effect of such legislation was only to discourage the employment of children. He was opposed to the Bill because it was partial in its application, and because it would operate most unjustly on one portion of her Majesty's subjects.


said, he objected to the Bill, as he thought they were not justified in interfering with the right of parents to send their boys to work. He had been twenty years Chairman of a Poor Law Union, and had often been obliged to refuse relief to ablebodied miners with large families; but he could not see the justice of refusing relief in such cases if the Legislature interfered, and thus virtually said to them, "We refuse to relieve you, but we claim the right of interfering with your ways and means of keeping house and supporting your family."


said, he would at all times support the cause of education, morality, and religion; but why should the Bill not be applied generally to the whole population? Why restrict its application to one trade only? Miners did not wish to be an exception to the general rule, but he did not see why the education clause should be applied to them exclusively. The complaint in Lancashire was that they had not men, women, boys, or girls enough for the employment of the county. In the district in which he resided, the colliers would suffer very considerably if their hours of labour were reduced by this Bill, and therefore he should vote for the Amendment.


said, he represented a large mining district, and the iron and coal miners had delegated some of their number to attend in London to watch their interests under this Bill in Parliament. He had the best means of knowing that the miners approved the Bill as it stood, and he therefore hoped that the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire would withdraw his Amendment.


said, he hoped his right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) would bring in his Bill making the educational restriction on the age of children for employment general. He would support that proposal, but he must oppose this partial measure as unjust and injurious to the mining population, who were better instructed, better conducted, and more moral than those who were employed either in the silk or cotton trade.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill.


said, he should oppose the adoption of the clause. The effect of it would be to throw out of employment many thousands of children who were getting fair wages and assisting their fa- milies, while it would also, without notice, deprive mine owners of the valuable labour of these young persons. The restriction sought to be imposed by the clause was most vexatious and unjust.


observed that it would be well for the Committee to consider whether in adopting a system of compulsory legislation for one particular class, they were not likely to injure the cause of education by stopping voluntary effort.


inquired whether the Secretary of State for the Home Department intended to maintain the first two portions of the clause.


said, he thought them fair and wholesome provisions. As at present advised he considered it desirable to retain them.


observed that a petition had been presented from 14,000 mining operatives and others whose sons were employed in mines, and they strongly objected to the restrictions imposed by this clause, as likely to interfere with the voluntary exertions of mining proprietors to educate the children in their employ.


said, he dissented from any measure which had for its object the compulsory education of any class of persons. He thought the labour of the mining districts would be much decreased if the clause should be agreed to.


said, he considered the Committee ought to be guided by the opinion of the miners themselves. The miners in his district were satisfied with the Bill. He denied that it was a compulsory education clause as described by hon. Members.

Question put, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 180; Noes 91: Majority 89.

Clause 2 (Exception for Boys between Ten and Twelve who have Certificates as to Education and School Attendance).


said, he would then move the insertion of words limiting the time during which boys between ten and twelve years of age might be employed in colleries to a maximum of eight hours per diem. That was quite as long as it was reasonable to confine children of tender years in mines; and the regulation he proposed could easily be carried out by a system of relays without prejudice to the employers.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 10, after the word "Colliery" to insert the words "for any period not exceeding eight hours a day."


said, he should be glad to hear how long the coal-owners desired to keep young children continuously at work under ground. Was the limit that would satisfy them eight, ten, or twelve hours a day, or was it nearer to sixteen? How would any hon. Member of that House like his child to he employed even eight hours out of the twenty-four in the depths of a mine? There would be no difficulty in working mines under the proposed restrictions of children's labour, if the proprietors would only get rid of the present vicious system, by which the miners spent what was called their "drunken Monday" in idleness and immorality, and then had to make up for it by excessive labour on other days. The work, instead of being thus intermittently and irregularly pursued, should be more equally distributed over the whole week. In certain parts of Yorkshire an improvement had been insisted upon by the men themselves in this respect, and the greatest advantage had resulted from the change. The statistics adduced by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. A. Bruce) as to the condition of the mining districts were most fallacious, because the whole idle and criminal class in the Metropolis had been compared with the persons engaged in a particular branch of industry; but, even if the moral condition of London was very bad, that was no reason why these young children should not be protected against the cupidity, not only of their employers, but even of their own unnatural parents, who often compelled them, for the sake of obtaining their wages, to work far longer than reason or humanity would justify. He trusted they would soon get rid of those miserable doctrines of political economy which led hon. Gentlemen to complain of the interference with the infant labour market, as if these young children were mere animals, to be turned to account like the "negro commodity" in America. The coal-owners, who made enormous fortunes out of the industry of their workpeople, ought not to grudge the small pecuniary sacrifice required to enable these children to be brought up in a manner conformable with health, decency, and morality.


said, he hoped that the opinions he had expressed in regard to the protection of these children had indicated pretty clearly what were the inclinations of the Government. This was, however, essentially a question of degree, and he regretted that he could not accede to the Amendment of his hon. Friend, which crossed the line that could be drawn with safety in this matter. The propriety of extending the limitation of the hours of children's labour contained in the Factory Act to mines had been referred to the mining inspectors, twelve in number; and these officers were unanimously of opinion that it would not be prudent to make that alteration. One of the inspectors stated that the time employed in changing the hands was great, and the risk of injury would be much increased by such a regulation, not to mention the distances which had to be travelled under ground. The difference between the circumstances attending labour in mines and that carried on in factories rendered it difficult, if not impracticable, to apply the same system to both. He trusted, therefore, that the Committee would adhere to the clause as it stood.


denied that his statistics of the condition of the mining population were vitiated by the fallacy imputed to them by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. That hon. Gentleman had asked how long it was desired that these children should work. That point ought to be left to be decided by the humanity of the masters and the feelings of the workmen themselves. No doubt everybody would wish to see the hours of labour reduced if it could be done, to eight per day; but that was wholly impracticable. It would be injurious to the workpeople themselves and would throw a great number of children loose upon the streets.


maintained, in spite of the reflections of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), that the mining proprietors of the northern counties were as much distinguished by liberality and consideration for those in their service as any other class of English gentlemen.


said, it was very desirable that the work in coal mines should be more regular; but it was not in the power of the proprietors, unless they were possessed of enormous capital, which was the case with very few, to make it so. Indeed, the men themselves sometimes assumed the position of masters, and would not allow the hours of work to be made regular.


said, he thought it was incumbent on the Government to say that some limitation should be made of the hours of labour to which these poor children were subjected, because at present, working, as they did, from six in the morning until seven in the evening, positively deprived them of seeing the light of day for eight months in the year. He might add that the parents of the boys had assented to this Amendment.


said, if it were possible to work by a system of relays he should support the proposition to limit the labour of the children to eight hours; but that was not possible. He thought, if it could be accomplished, the best plan would be for the children to work in the mines four days and go to school two days. He was willing to attribute the best intentions to the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird), in introducing his Amendment, but he was of opinion that the Bill would work best by allowing mine-owners and miners to arrange among themselves with regard to the hours of labour.


said, there were many practical difficulties surrounding the subject. As an owner of mines he could state that it was impossible to make the men work six days a week; and the consequence was that, at the latter part of the week, they were obliged to have recourse to excessive work to make up their losses. He thought the Bill as it stood would prove advantageous to the men and boys. There was nothing arduous or unhealthy in the boys' occupations. He should oppose the Amendment as impracticable.


said, the simple question was, did the Amendment fix the right number of hours during which children should work. He thought it did, and therefore he should support it. All the Committee had to do was to fix the number of hours, leaving it to the men and the employers to carry it out by arrangement between themselves, and he understood that this had been done in Yorkshire.


, in reply, said that the argument that mine work was a very healthy occupation was strangely belied by the Register General's reports, which showed that the mortality among the class of children who were engaged in it was 22 per cent, being double the rate of the mortality among other classes of children. That could only be attributed to the number of hours during which they were engaged, and the only remedy he could think of was to limit the hours of labour. He might add that one of the inspectors of mines had recommended that boys under fourteen years of age should not he employed in mines for more than eight hours a day.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 146: Majority 69.

House resumed; Committee report Progress; to sit again on Friday, 22nd June, at Twelve o'clock.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.

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