§ Order for Committee read.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
stated that he did not intend to press at present the Motion he had put on the paper for an instruction to the Committee on this Bill, to extend the application of the Bill to print works and finishing works. He took that course, not because he did not believe such an extension would be advantageous, but lest the Amendment might interfere with the progress of a Bill, in which he took a warm interest.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. BAZLEY
said, he rose to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. He was favourable to legislation on this subject, but he was anxious that labour 979 should not be oppressed on the one hand nor capital sacrificed on the other. The dyers and bleachers of Lancashire and other parts of the country felt that serious imputations had been cast upon them, and asked for inquiry. He could with truth say that a more respectable class of men did not exist than the master dyers and bleachers, though he was bound to admit that there might be exceptions in respect of the manner in which the workpeople were treated. As a body they were anxious to promote the interests of their workpeople, and did much to improve their position in regard to health, education, and morals. He believed that as the law stood the rights of labour were fully maintained. In factories, work extended from 6 in the morning till 6 at night for five days in the week, allowing sufficient time for breakfast and dinner, while on Saturday cotton-spinning and weaving ceased at 2 o'clock, making a total of 60 hours' for the week. During one week in the year the manufacturers were obliged to give special holidays, when for 7 days the labourers ceased to work altogether. A different Bill applied to print-works, the demand for the productions of which was precarious, and therefore the people were permitted to work within the hours of 6 in the morning and 10 in the evening, though the average hours of work did not much exceed 12 per day. No dissatisfaction existed at the present moment among the operatives in the manufacturing districts. On the contrary, the greatest contentment prevailed. He believed he might say that the most friendly relations existed between the employers and the employed in the dyeing and bleaching works generally though, no doubt, excesses had been committed by individual masters. At the same time he should like to see a relaxation of the hours of labour among this class of operatives, and more opportunities given them for recreation and mental improvement. The factory system of education might be said to be the only national system of education that this country possessed, and he should like to see introduced into any Bill passed with reference to dyeing and bleaching works an educational clause similar to that which was in operation in the factories. He believed the master bleachers and dyers would assent to any reasonable measure, but they objected to being coerced by law into the adoption of a system that would be prejudicial to their own interests and 980 to those of their working people. The hours of labour could not be regulated in dyeing and bleaching works as they were in cotton factories. There were many necessary interruptions to labour in bleaching works, arising from causes over which the masters had no control. There came upon them sudden demands for the bleaching or dyeing of heavy lots of goods, and they were exposed to demands for goods arising in the general market,—thus leading to alternate periods of great activity and interruption in the works. The calico-printers were regulated by Act of Parliament; but calico-printers were also bleachers and dyers. The hon. Member for Bolton proposed that bleachers and dyers should be permitted to work only 60 hours in the week, and yet the printers were permitted to work 80 hours in the week. He was at a loss to understand why a different course was to be pursued with regard to bleachers and dyers as compared with printers, who, to a certain extent, were bleachers and dyers also. He hoped the House would not plunge hastily into legislation on this question, but that they would wait for such further information as might be derived from the inquiries of a Committee. After the inquiries of a Select Committee, it would be easy to frame a Bill which would be acceptable to all parties. It was impossible wholly to dispense with night-work in bleach grounds. He knew that the operatives there employed were an athletic race; the men were strong and active, and the women fair and healthy. Still, he was not an advocate for long hours. After the charges that had been made against the master bleachers and dyers, they had a right to the inquiry he asked for, the result of which he had no doubt would be satisfactory to both employers and employed. In many bleach-works the operatives were only partially employed in summer, and they were sent into the hayfield. The employers only asked for the fair consideration of the House, nor did he ask that the Bill should be rejected. All he desired was that it should be made a just and satisfactory measure.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."—instead thereof.
§ LORD ASHLEY
said, he objected to the appointment of a Select Committee. There was sufficient evidence already before the 981 House to enable them to arrive at a sound conclusion on the subject. The promoters of the Bill threw no discredit on the masters of bleaching works. They were free to admit that they were upright, respectable men; it was the system they complained of, not the men. If in any one bleaching work such things took place as had been brought under the notice of the House, that would be sufficient to justify legislation on the subject. His hon. Friend spoke of the uncertainty of orders as a reason why the bleachers and dyers should not be bound down by regulations as to their working hours; but the same arguments were used when the Factory Bill was before the House. The most fatal consequences to trade were then predicted, but everybody knew how those predictions had been falsified. If the opponents of the Bill were ready to reduce the hours of labour, why should they object to legislation on the subject? The Scotch bleachers were ready and anxious to shorten the hours of labour; but they could not do so unless others in the trade did the same. He saw no necessity for further inquiry. They had already the Reports of two Committees, and he doubted whether any more information would be obtained from a third. It could only have the effect of putting off legislation on the subject. Looking to the complications that might arise in Europe, it was not impossible that we might soon require all the bones and sinews that this country could supply. But in the districts to which this Bill would apply we were slowly but surely deteriorating the physical character of our English women and men. During the Crimean war we had recourse to foreign legions because men were not forthcoming in this country. A recruiting sergeant, in one of these districts had reported that many of the men were inferior in physical power, and it appeared that out of 613 men who enlisted, only 238 were approved. He hoped the present Bill would be allowed to pass; but, if not, the object which it aimed at would be pressed year after year till they succeeded in removing this foul blot from the character of this country.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he would be no party to any attempt to postpone the Bill till another Session. There had already been considerable inquiry into the subject, and he was prepared to legislate upon it at that moment; but he could not see the necessity of applying the same 982 kind of legislation to two very different employments. He did not see why the law regulating factories, where the workpeople were exposed to all the evils of a tainted atmosphere, should be made applicable to persons the greater part of whom were employed in the open air. He acquiesced in the propriety of guarding the labour of the country against abuses; but, at the same time, he was anxious not to do injury to commercial interests. The Bill as it stood would, he thought, unnecessarily and injuriously interfere with an important branch of the manufacturing industry of the country. The House should remember that the trade of the bleacher was by no means one of an unhealthy character. Bleaching, dyeing, and printing were usually carried on in one and the same establishment; and he felt convinced that the best course the House could adopt in reference to bleaching was to extend to it the provisions of the Print Works Act. He believed that an efficient protection would by that means be afforded to young persons engaged in bleaching works. He was aware that there were considerable evasions of the Print Works Act; but he would stringently enforce that measure and all others framed for the protection of the working classes, he was willing to accede to the proposition of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley) if he would give the House an assurance that the inquiry of the Committee should be of a limited character, and should be completed in time to legislate during the present Session. If it were merely to be a renewal of the inquiry gone into on the previous Session he would not be a party to it, and for the simple reason that he would not consent to postpone legislation on this subject when he was himself prepared to legislate on it at this moment. He felt it his duty, however, to say that the manner in which the agitation had been got up did not altogether meet his approval. It happened that those who prepared petitions were not over nice in stating the objects for which they were required. In the present case means had been resorted to which should be anxiously watched by that House. There was a petition presented against Mr. Hardcastle, in the neighbourhood of Bolton. That gentleman had presented a petition in reply, in which he stated he had analyzed the signatures of those who had been represented as his workpeople, and he found that among one hundred signatures many of 983 them were not his workpeople, and some of the signatures were signed twice over. Mr. Hardcastle had been represented as having worked 17 hours consecutively; but, according to a monthly average for the year 1859, the hours of labour were 8½, 11, sometimes 9, but never in any month exceeding 12½. He thought that such petitions ought to be subjected to the most careful inquiry before being made the basis of statements and the ground-work of legislation.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that when the Bill of 1855 was before the House it was proposed to put the bleachers under the Print Works Act. It was said, however, that they ought to be under a Bill framed upon the Factory Act. Now it was proposed to legislate for the bleachers by putting them under the Factory Act, Parliament was told that they ought to be put under the Print Works Act. The object of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley), if the House might judge from his speech, clearly was, not to discuss the clauses of the Bill, but to reopen the whole controversy. What was the reason alleged for referring the Bill to a Select Committee? That some of the master bleachers felt themselves aggrieved by the statements made about them, and they therefore craved an investigation. If the House assented to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman on the grounds stated by him they would reopen the whole question, and plunge the unfortunate Select Committee in a dreary task like that which he and other Members were engaged in for a whole year, which resulted in the two great blue-books he held in his hand. If the Committee were granted hon. Members must make up their minds to shelve the Bill for the present Session. The principle of the Bill, however, had been affirmed by an overwhelming majority, and it was not fair either to get rid of it or postpone it under the guise of referring, not the measure itself, but the whole of the statements made in reference to the Bill to a Select Committee. Let the House, if it thought fit, appoint a Select Committee with the special view of rehabilitating the character of any of the master bleachers who complained of mistatements; but let the Bill go through Committee without any unnecessary delay. He felt convinced that the House would only lower itself in the eyes and affections of the working classes if they entertained the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester. That hon. Gen- 984 tleman, in the face of the laborious investigation to which he had just referred, implored the House not to legislate hastily. Manchester had the character of not being very slow in regard to legislation, and if the hon. Member for Manchester thought that to legislate on this subject now would be to legislate hastily, could the hon. Member ever ask the House to legislate at all? The matter had already undergone a thorough, minute, and laborious investigation; it was now ripe for legislation, and he trusted that the House would go into Committee and pass this Bill.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, he could assure the House he was sorry to be once more involved in a short-time discussion. He had, however, a confession to make to the House. On a former occasion, after hearing a speech from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, he voted with the majority in favour of the second reading of the present Bill. Having given that vote nothing should induce him to take a course which should have the effect of shelving for the present Session a measure the second reading of which he had frankly supported. He had said he had a confession to make. Experience had shown to his satisfaction that many of the predictions formerly made against the Factory Bill had not been verified by the result, and that, on the whole, that measure had contributed to the comfort and well-being of the working classes, while it had not materially injured the masters. That was the conclusion at which he had arrived. He still, however, maintained the opinion that there were many material and necessary distinctions between bleaching and dyeing and other manufactures which required to be considered. In 1845 he resisted the extension of the short-time provisions to print works and bleaching and dyeing works. The Legislature then extended the short-time provision to print works, but recognized the distinction between print works and the great manufactures of cotton, wool, &c. Hitherto the Legislature had not thought fit to extend the short-time provision to bleaching and dyeing works. The House would of course take care that in dealing with such important interests, while on the one hand they did not disregard the welfare and comfort of the employed, they would not on the other hand forget the rights of capital and the interests of trade. There was a great distinction which must be borne in mind be- 985 tween bleaching and dyeing as carried on in different parts of the country. Provisions that wore applicable to bleaching and dyeing in England wore not applicable to Ireland, and only partially applicable to Scotland. In one part of Scotland, for example, bleaching and dyeing was strictly analogous to the same process in Ireland, where it was carried on in the open air and by the natural process of water only; whereas in England and in some parts of Scotland it was carried on by chemical process and in rooms of a high temperature. All these facts were intimately connected with the health and comfort of the workmen and the interests of the capitalists and required careful discrimination and attention. On the whole, he was of opinion that it would be wise to refer the Bill to a Select Committee; not, however, for the purpose of shelving it or renewing the whole inquiry, as the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) predicted. With regard to the inquiry that had already taken place by a Select Committee, he must remind the House that the result of that laborious inquiry, and the contents of the blue-books which the noble Lord held up to alarm the House, was a recommendation by the Select Committee that the House should not legislate at all. With respect to the report of Mr. Tremenheere and the adverse statements on both sides, he felt bound to say that in all the questions much agitated in the country there was great exaggeration on both sides—exaggeration of the evils to which the workmen were exposed, and also of the dangers which the employers apprehended. The result of long experience had led to legislation on this subject, based gradually upon compromise. It had led to an extension of the Short Time Act to print works, and now the time had arrived for extending it to bleaching and dyeing works. Still, for the reasons he had given, that extension ought to be made with great caution and some forbearance. He was opposed to a general inquiry, which had been exhausted, both by the former Select Committee and the Commission. Nor could he agree with the hon. Gentleman who had moved for this inquiry, in the propriety of including, as a subject of reference to the Committee, the grievances of certain gentlemen who were the employers of hands in bleaching and dyeing works and who complained of certain allegations made against them. Those were matters 986 which ought not to be investigated by the Committee to which this Bill might be referred. He would observe, in passing, that he had no faith in general statements with respect to the average number of hours during which workpeople were employed. The statement made by his hon. Friend (Colonel Wilson Patten) that the average number of hours in a certain establishment did not exceed 12 hours and a-half a day for a year, was no satisfactory answer to any allegation that the workpeople, for example, were employed for 48 or 60 hours consecutively. [Colonel PATTEN: I quoted a monthly and not a yearly average.] It was quite possible that with a monthly average of 12½ hours the hands might have been employed 48 or 60 hours consecutively, so that the average was to be regarded with great suspicion. He was anxious that the House should legislate on this subject during the present Session. Still, great caution was necessary in dealing with the details of this measure, which would be best exercised by a well-selected Committee of that House. He thought that the instruction to a Select Committee ought to be drawn with care, and that they should be directed only to receive evidence to such an extent as would enable them to investigate the necessity of a modification of the existing law, and the grounds which might exist in particular eases for special exemption. The enactments of the present Bill ought to approach as near as possible to those of the Factory Act and the Print Works Act in England and Scotland, where the process was carried on in heated rooms; but in Ireland, where the work was carried on in the open air, it was a great question whether there should not be an entire exemption from the Bleaching and Dyeing Act. Wishing, therefore, that the matter should be carefully examined, and disclaiming any desire to shelve the question, being anxious, indeed, to see a law passed during the present Session, he should yet vote for the Select Committee upon the understanding to which he had referred. The noble Lord the Member for Cricklade (Lord Ashley) had talked rather disparagingly of the deterioration of the fair sex in connection with the necessity for this Bill. The noble Lord, being a young man, was a better judge on that subject than himself; but, old as he was, he was not conscious of any deterioration in that sex. With regard to the courage, the endurance, and the high mettle of the male population, it was not necessary to 987 go so far back as the Crimean war, for they had witnessed a recent proof in the pugilistic ring that these qualities existed in as great perfection as ever among our fellow-countrymen.
said, he thought that there ought to be no reference to a Select Committee which did not recognize the principle of legislation already affirmed by the House as equally sound in its application to this particular branch of industry. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir James Graham) that no Committee ought to be appointed to go into an examination of exaggerated statements either on one side or the other. That would be a perfect waste of time. It would also be a waste of time to go into the general question of short time, and the Committee would have to take care that the inquiry was not raised into what lawyers called a dilatory plea. With that understanding he thought it would be safe to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. The clauses were by no means simple, and it was not quite easy to see how some of them would operate. There was no question whatever that the case of bleaching and dye-works carried on in the open air, in which the hours of labour were to a great degree restricted by natural causes, and that of works carried on in a highly heated and close atmosphere was essentially different. But plenty of evidence could be taken if necessary to enable the Committee to frame clauses to meet the different cases. He, like the right hon. Gentleman, had no faith in averages. If the hon. Gentleman (Colonel W. Patten) had given the House the longest number of hours during which the hands had worked on any day in the month, and also the shortest number, the House might form some opinion, but without this an average of the daily number of hours was not worth the paper it was written upon. The Bill might be referred to the Select Committee, and then, if they found they wanted to take evidence on any special point, they might come to the House, and ask for the power to examine witnesses. With a well defined restriction of this kind he had no objection to a Select Committee, but if a Committee were left with a wide instruction any legislation on this subject would be shelved for the present Session.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
was averse to going into any general inquiry on this question, inquiry having been already carried to a great extent. Having 988 voted for the second reading of the Bill, he was unwilling to take any steps which would stop legislation, but he thought the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last was a reasonable one, and he recommended its acceptance to the promoters of the Bill.
§ MR. TURNER
said, he would confess that he had done his best to prevent legislation on this question. Is was with that object that he divided the House on the second reading of the Bill, but he was sorry to say that the highly wrought appeal to the feelings made by the hon. Members for Sheffield and Oldham produced such an impression on the House that reason was put out of view and legislation determined upon. He had no intention of re-opening that question. He was ready to submit to the decision of the House, and to accept it as settled that there was to be legislation in regard to this matter, although he must say his opinion on that point remained unchanged. It had been said that there was no necessity for a Committee, as this subject had been already fully investigated. But it should be remembered that the former Committee, which was as fairly constituted as any that ever was appointed by the House, and conducted the inquiry in a most thorough and elaborate manner, reported against legislation, and contented themselves with a recommendation to the bleaching trade to lessen the hours of labour and improve the comfort of their hands as far as possible. He maintained that, beyond all doubt, the bleachers had carried out the recommendation of the Committee. He had no wish to throw any obstacles in the way of a full investigation of the whole question by a Select Committee, the result of which, he was confident, would be to clear the bleachers from the aspersions which were cast upon them by hon. Members in the discussion on the second reading of the Bill. The Amendment of his hon. Friend, however, proposed only to remit the Bill to a Select Committee, and they would therefore go into Committee to determine what clauses could be satisfactorily admitted. He observed that various trades—the linen trade of Ireland, and he supposed, also, of Scotland, the Turkey red dyers, and so on—demanded exemption from the operation of the Bill. On the other hand it was proposed to include within its scope the printers, calenderers, &c.; and, indeed, if they imposed these restrictions on the bleachers and dyers, why 989 should they not extend them to all sorts of warehouses and manufactories? Legislation of this nature once entered upon it was difficult to see where it would stop.
said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House that although no recommendation to legislate was made by the Committee, a proposition to that effect was only rejected by a majority of two. He certainly thought they were in the possession of sufficient evidence in the blue-books to proceed to immediate legislation. Very great cruelties and hardships were committed in such works as those alluded to, and the unfortunate workpeople must either put up with them or starve. It had always hitherto been found that the substitution of short for long hours had been attended with great advantage to the workmen, and had been no loss to the masters.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that after the observations of the hon. Member for Forth Lancashire (Colonel Wilson Patten), it appeared to him necessary to say a few words to remind the House of the actual position of the question. It was proposed to apply the Factory Acts to the bleachers and dyers, but it must be admitted that the operations performed by those trades were very different from those which were performed by the persons who came under the operation of the Factory Acts. Therefore, to apply to them wholesale and without modification, the provisions of the Factory Acts would be to inflict injury upon the masters, without benefiting the working classes. He must say that, having read carefully the evidence given before the Committee, he had come distinctly to the conclusion that legislation was requisite. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said he had come to that conclusion also, but he must forgive him for saying that his speech was altogether opposed to that admission. It was clear that in the hon. Gentleman's mind he was really opposed to legislation, although conquered by the majority of the House he and his Friends had succumbed. They now expressed their willingness that legislation should take place, but insisted that the legislation proposed was not altogether fitted for the case. He had no doubt there was some truth in that. He could well understand that the bleachers and dyers required provisions very different from those of the factories, and that, therefore, there ought to be a modification of some 990 of those provisions. Having come to the conclusion that legislation was requisite, and being determined, as far as he was able, it should take place this year, he wanted to know whether to remit the Bill to a Select Committee would completely prevent its passing during the Session? In his opinion, if there was a well-selected Committee, consisting of men all of whom were resolved that legislation should take place at once, and empowered only to discuss this Bill and not to take evidence, their business would be so short that they would have an ample opportunity in a very few days of framing a Pill which would obviate the difficulties pointed out by the bleachers and dyers. Under such circumstances, he thought the Bill might safely be remitted to a Committee, but it must be clearly and distinctly understood that the House was determined to legislate upon the subject this year. And now, he wished to tell the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Turner), who charged him with aspersing the bleachers and dyers, that he never aspersed anybody. The evidence which he read might cast certain imputations upon gentlemen engaged in those trades; he would not say it did not; but that evidence was printed by this House and circulated throughout the country. All he did was to lay before the House evidence which had been given to the Select Committee and to the Commission appointed by the Crown. If the hon. Gentleman thought that was aspersing his friends, all he could say was that he hoped many people, hereafter, would be aspersed in the same manner. That evidence had not been contradicted. He felt deeply the miseries which had been inflicted upon many of his poor fellow-countrymen. As he said, his blood curdled when he read the statement, and he believed that the House strongly sympathized with him when he communicated it to them. That they did so was shown by the large majority which had struck down for ever the fallacy that no legislation was required. Irresponsible power was always abused. When the bleachers and dyers possessed irresponsible power they abused it, and it was the duty of the House to come forward and protect the poor and the young, those who were unable to protect themselves. If they could effect that object by means of this Bill, then it was their duty to pass it. He believed that to remit the Pill to a Select Committee, to consider how the interests of capital and labour might 991 be conciliated, would not postpone the measure for the Session, but only for a few days; and therefore he recommended the House to agree to that course.
§ MR. COBBETT
said, he wished to vindicate himself from the charge of having been careless or inaccurate in the statements which he made to the House in regard to this subject on a former occasion. The facts which he then submitted to the House were furnished by a person who held the situation of overlooker, or something of that sort, in a bleaching work. He had known of the man before; he believed he was one of the witnesses examined before the Committee of the House, and he saw no reason to doubt his statements. They showed that in spite of the recommendation of the Committee the hours of labour in bleaching factories had not been lessened. The hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire had not alleged that that statement was inaccurate. The hon. and gallant Member said that he (Mr. Cobbett) had presented various petitions from bleachers and dyers—among others from some of those employed in the establishment of MR. Hardcastle—containing statements which could not be substantiated. He did not recollect having presented the petition especially referred to; but it was obviously impossible for any Member to make inquiry, before presenting a petition, into the character of the person who sent it to him and the truth of its allegations, he took care always to see that any petitions he presented were drawn up in the proper form, and contained nothing disrespectful to the House; but it so happened that in regard to one or two of the petitions referred to the statements therein set forth appeared to him so startling and incredible that he withheld them until he had made inquiry, and found that they did not overstate the case. He himself visited several of the bleaching works, and examined the various departments as far as he was permitted to do so by the proprietors. He went into the stoves, and endured as long as he could, and that was but a very short time, an atmosphere heated to 130 degrees. He convinced himself by personal observation that what the petitioners stated was true. What more could he do? He denied that he had cast any aspersions on the bleachers and dyers. He merely stated the hours of labour in various works. If that were a calumny, then had he indeed calumniated them. To show that at the present moment 992 the same oppressive system was still being carried on without the slightest abatement he would beg permission to refer to a letter which he had received on the previous day from a person named Stuart Fletcher, 48, Bradshaw Street, Hulme. The writer stated that the bleaching works in that district had not shortened their hours of labour, and referred as an instance to the establishment of Mr. Heywood, Salford, where the hands had been worked from 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. for the last six or seven months. Now, this Mr. Heywood was one of the warmest advocates of legislation in regard to bleach-works, and had assured him (Mr. Cobbett) that the hours of labour in these places would never be shortened until they were brought under the Factory Acts. But, of course, if one master kept long hours the others must do so too. Agreements might be made not to work beyond a certain time; but, as in the case of the Scotch bleachers and of the manufacturers, they were always violated. He could not consent to the Amendment which had been proposed. He knew so much about this subject, and of the pressing necessity which existed for legislation, that he would be voting against his conscience if he consented to send the Bill out of the House for one hour. The Print Works Act, which had been eulogized in the course of the discussion, was, in truth, little more than a dead letter. It was not generally observed, and he knew that in some instances the printers were kept at work all night in defiance of the express provisions of the Act. He was of opinion that the "finishers" were a body of men who ought to be included in the Bill of the hon. Member for Bolton. Stuart Fletcher, the correspondent to whom he had before referred, had given him a statement of the hours of labour of three persons in the house of Messrs. R. Charlton and Sons, Manchester. During the four weeks from the 9th of April to the 5th of May, the "finishers" were repeatedly kept at work from 6 o'clock in the morning till 12 o'clock at night, or from 8 o'clock the one morning till 2 o'clock the next, without any interval for dinner. Surely this class were entitled to protection not less than the bleachers and dyers. As he had said. He was in favour of immediate legislation, I and could not consent to postpone the Measure for a moment.
§ MAJOR EDWARDS
observed, that hon. I Members must know from experience that 993 if they agreed to a Select Committee, the Bill would be shelved, at all events, for the present Session. They could not have forgotten the difficulties which attended the passing of the Ten Hours Bill, and the number of years which were spent in discussing its merits. Again and again it was postponed to satisfy the demands of its opponents for further investigation. Inquiries were repeatedly instituted, but they brought the House no nearer to a conclusion; and so the contest was prolonged, until the Earl of Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, brought the question before the House and carried the measure. Living in one of the most populous districts of England, he could bear testimony to the advantages of the Factory Act. It was one of the greatest blessings ever conferred on the factory workers, who were deeply grateful to Parliament for having passed it. If that Act had operated so beneficially in regard to the woollen and cotton manufactories, why should it not be extended to the bleaching and dyeing trades? He was confident it would prove as great a boon to the one as to the other; and he hoped the House would grant it. He would vote against the Amendment.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
said, that the narrative which the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord J. Manners) gave in relation to the proceedings on this question was not quite as complete as it was accurate. It laid before the House the truth, but not the whole truth. The noble Lord stated that the question was first referred to Mr. Tremenheere, who reported that the bleaching and dyeing trades ought to come under the provisions of the Factory Acts. That the subject was then amply investigated by a Committee of the House, who sat for two years, and afterwards the Bill was brought in, the second reading of which was carried by an overwhelming majority. But the noble Lord omitted to state the material point, which was, that the Committee of the House recommended that no legislation should take place with regard to the trades in question; and therefore the recent decision of the House, of which he wished to speak with entire respect, was in conflict with the opinion of the Committee. He thought, therefore, the House would see that the vote they ought to come to was not quite so clear and obvious as the noble Lord wished them to believe. The present state of the law was this:—Certain trades were subject to the Factory Acts, 994 while the printers of cotton and other goods were subject to the Print Works Act. The bleaching and dyeing trades were affected by neither of these Acts; and the object of the Bill before the House was to bring them under the operation of the Factory Act. It did not, however, profess to deal with the trades which were subject to the Print Works Act. There were, it appeared, certain houses which combined dyeing and bleaching with printing; and the question arose whether, if this Bill were to pass, they would be subject to the Factory Act, or to the Print Works Act, or partly to one and partly to the other. A deputation which he had the honour of receiving had referred very strongly to this difficulty, and the House, in case it undertook to deal with the question, would be under the necessity of introducing some clauses bearing on this point. He concurred with hon. Members who had spoken, in the belief that, after the deliberate vote given on the second reading of the Bill, it was not desirable that evidence should be gone into by a Committee, as this must have the effect of rendering legislation impossible during the present Session. The Question, therefore, narrowed itself into the consideration whether the clauses of the Bill were more likely to be settled in a satisfactory manner by a Committee of fifteen Gentlemen sitting upstairs, or by a Committee of the whole House. His own opinion would be in favour of a Committee of the whole House, but on this point he was prepared to consult the wishes of the promoters of the Bill. The sitting of a Select Committee could not occupy more than a few days, and, as it was not probable that another Wednesday would be obtained for this Bill during the next four or five weeks, while the House would hardly be disposed to proceed with its clauses between the hours of 12 and 2 A.M., no loss of time was to be anticipated in case they decided on referring to a Select Committee.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he was in possession of evidence to show that the bleachers and dyers would not be satisfied with being placed under the provisions of the Print Works Act, and he had received numerous communications from operative printers desiring that the benefits of this Bill might be extended to them. He strongly opposed the Amendment, for it was quite possible that if the Motion for referring the Bill were agreed to, a Select Committee might 995 be nominated, which would be inimical to the measure, and which, as a last resource, would adopt the Print Works Act in preference to the Bill of the hon. Member for Bolton. It was a significant fact that the ton. Member for Manchester had warmly adopted the suggestion, of referring the Bill to a Select Committee, while avowing at the same time that he had always been, and still was, opposed to all legislation on the subject. It was stated by Mr. Tremenheere in his report that, even where the buildings were dry and the localities favourable, the rate of work—eleven or twelve hours a day—in these establishments was more than young girls could properly stand. He was in possession of a letter from an overseer who had thrown up a lucrative situation in a print work in order that his daughters might have the advantage of employment in factories where the hours were regulated by law, and where they would not be exposed to the demoralizing influences of protracted labour. He trusted the House would remember the spirit in which the second reading was carried a few weeks ago; for, if they now refused to proceed with the Bill in the usual manner, thousands of persons who were looking to it for protection would believe that their councils were marked by a vacillating policy.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he thought the time had come when the House ought to legislate on the subject, and he hoped the recommendation of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Cobbett) would be followed.
§ MR. CROOK
remarked, that he saw no reason why the House should deviate from the usual course on the present occasion. With reference to the case of Mr. Hardcastle, which had been referred to in the course of the discussion, he found that the week before last a young man had been summoned for leaving his work without giving notice. It was there deposed before a magistrate that the practice had been to come to work about 6 A. M., and, with the interval of a quarter of an hour for breakfast, to work till 12 o'clock; half an hour was then allowed for dinner, and another quarter of an hour for tea; in all an hour in the day for meals; and the evidence established that the people worked frequently on for sixteen hours in the day. Since then half an hour had been allowed for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and half an hour for tea; but the duration of the work was still extremely severe. He felt certain the House would not refuse justice 996 to the workpeople who sought it at their hands.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, some confusion had arisen owing to the quantity of advice which the House had received, and he did not think the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had contributed to enlighten them. But there were two questions which stood out distinctly, and those were—had the House sufficient facts to legislate upon, and, if so, what was to be the character of that legislation? For his own part, he did not believe that further investigation would be attended with beneficial effect; having read, he was sorry to say, the entire of the three blue-books on the subject, he thought there never was a case in which, allowing for a little exaggeration on either side, it would be easier to arrive at the truth. But, as regarded the nature of the Legislation to be adopted, it must be remembered that there were particular circumstances connected with the process of bleaching to which the provisions of the Factory Acts would be wholly inapplicable. Inasmuch as the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the present Bill had shown no desire to adapt the provisions of that Act to the peculiarities of the bleaching trade, the only alternative was to discuss the matter where it could be more fully entered into than by the whole House—namely, before a Select Committee. He was not blind to the importance of legislating during the present Session, so that processes which were to be exempted, and those whose claims to exemption were not to be allowed, might equally know their fate; but, as the hon. Gentleman could not expect to take up the discussion much earlier than three weeks hence, when these details would all have to be considered, it was a fair question whether the progress of the measure, instead of being retarded, might not be facilitated, by being referred to a Select Committee, which might in the interim report on all points of detail. As to the terms of reference, these would, of course, embrace the consideration of the different clauses, and it should be understood that unless particular questions arose as to which evidence was felt to be desirable, application for power to take such evidence would not be made to the House.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 184; Noes 147: Majority 37.997
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
said, he proposed to add certain words to the clause which would have the effect of exempting from the operation of the Bill the processes connected with bleaching in the open-air. In their case identity in name had been mistaken for identity of trade, for the "bleaching" carried on in England and Scotland was entirely distinct from that which took place in Ireland. To justify the extension of the law to works of the character to which he referred it must either be shown that the trade itself was unhealthy, or that the number of hours during which the employment was continued required the interference of the Legislature. With regard to the first branch, they had the evidence of Mr. Tremenheere that the occupation was very healthy, being principally out of doors, and consisting in hanging up yarns and stretching them on poles, while the various bleaching and steeping processes indoors were carried on in well covered and airy buildings. There was no evidence to show that the employers had ever overworked their hands, or had carried on their operations in such a manner as to be injurious to them. With regard to the operatives themselves, there was no desire on their part to have this Bill extended to them; this was allowed by all the witnesses examined before the Committee. The consequences of extending the measure to open-air bleaching would be most injurious to the trade. And if a measure were passed to unjustly cripple the power and discretion, of the owners of bleaching works, the result would be that they would confine the employment in their works to adult labour. It was said that part of the operations were carried on under cover, but although that was the fact, yet as the work done in doors depended upon that done out of doors, and could not go on faster than the hitter, consequently no overwork could practically take place. He admitted that in the stoves the heat was so considerable—perhaps 80 or 90—that they were not places where excessive labour ought to be carried on; but the fact was, that excessive work was not done there. Very rarely, indeed, was there any excess of the twelve hours of labour, with the allowance of two for meals. What he asked the Committee, therefore, was, not 998 to show a favouritism to certain places, but to distinguish between processes which were entirely different.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.