§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
Sir, upon the occasion when this Bill was introduced into the House, I was precluded by the lateness of the hour from making any statement as to its objects and provisions. I was anxious, in deference to the wishes of those whom the Bill concerns, that there should be no delay in its circulation; and not being prepared for the opposition which was offered to the Bill by the hon. Member for Devenport (Mr. Ferrand), I laid it on the table without observation. For this reason I will, with the leave of the House, refer very shortly to the circumstances under which this Bill is submitted to its consideration.
Sir, this Bill is the natural, or, at least, the not unexpected result of an inquiry that was announced several weeks since as intended by the Government with the view of ascertaining whether there was not something in the condition of the towns and populous places in the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire which might, in the improvements they require, offer resources for the employment of the unfortunate operatives who have been so long deprived of their occupation. That inquiry was prompted by the anxiety which was felt by the Government, and which any Government must have felt, at the continued dependence of so large a portion of the working population at a given spot 1051 upon charitable and parochial relief. Though we have many reasons to be satisfied and even grateful that adequate and ample means were found for the maintenance of this numerous body of working men when the calamity first befell their trade, from the munificent contributions that were received, I may say, from all parts of the world and from all classes in this country; yet it is impossible not to be alive to the evil consequences of so large a number of people continuing for so long a time to derive their maintenance from these sources. Moreover, with the slight prospect which seems to present itself of the revival of trade, it becomes an urgent question how these men are to be kept from a continued state of idleness and want of occupation. The House will remember that in the discussion that took place on this subject it appeared there was a very general feeling in the country at large that something should be done, with the view, if possible, of changing the condition of those people and placing them in healthier relations to the rest of the community. Various measures were mooted on that occasion, such as the dispersion of the people over the country, emigration, and their employment on independent labour near to their homes. It was in order to ascertain whether there were any facilities for such employment near their homes that the Government sought for information with a view to these people being relieved from their humiliating position of dependence on charity, and of being placed in a situation where they could obtain employment at remunerative wages. The Government was entirely opposed to the establishment of any system of public works over which they would be the superintendents thus relieving the localities in question from their legal obligations to support their own poor. Still less would they be instrumental in superseding labourers who were already engaged in a particular industry, for the purpose of providing occupation for the unemployed cotton operatives. For this reason the Government were determined to direct competent persons to proceed to those districts where it was supposed that independent labour might be provided, and to institute the inquiry that has been made. It was this reason that induced my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to issue his instructions to the civil engineer attached to the Department over which he has control, in connection with the 1052 local government of the towns of this country, and direct him to inspect the towns, ascertain their general condition, the character of the drainage, the extent of the water supply, the state of the streets, the provision made for parks and pleasure grounds for the recreation of the inhabitants, and the general sanitary arrangements of such localities. My right hon. Friend directed the engineer to form an opinion as to the works of utility which could be executed; to give an estimate as nearly as possible of the cost of such works; to lay suggestions on the point before the local authorities; to explain the results that might be obtained by the execution of the works both in the improvement of the towns and the employment of the distressed operatives at a fair rate of wages; to explain also what the Government intended to do, and to mention that the Government had no intention to establish works, such as guardians of the poor and overseers are obliged to establish, as matters of discipline or tests for the discovery of imposture. We hoped that by the information thus obtained a plan of employment might be devised which would provide for the execution of works of public utility and lead indirectly to a great demand for labour.
There was no delay in the course that was pursued, for I think within a few days after the discussion that took place here, the gentleman selected as civil engineer—Mr. Rawlinson—proceeded to the districts where he was to make his inquiry, and we were able within the time in which it was calculated that a competent person could make his Report, to place his Report upon the table of the House, stating generally the result of his inquiry. I think that that gentleman was well and happily selected. He is a native of the county, familiar with the districts in question, alive to the deficiencies of those towns, and well acquainted with the particular circumstances under which they are placed at present. He was accompanied by a Commissioner—Mr. Farnall—whose services have already been the subject of notice and commendation in this House, and who is also well acquainted with the districts inspected. I think I may say, that wherever those gentlemen appeared in the course of their mission they were welcome. They were well received by the local authorities, and every aid was given to them in collecting the information which was required. Local overseers were placed at 1053 their disposal, and it was very generally admitted that their inquiry might be attended with useful results; that the works, if undertaken, would be of great advantage to those districts, and that they would present an opportunity whereby the distressed operatives might find independent labour. I mention this circumstance in order to claim confidence for the correctness of their reports, by showing that they were possessed of all the means of obtaining accurate information; and this I think is an important consideration when taking into account what the results of the inquiry have been. I find by the Reports which have been returned that everything that was anticipated has proved to be correct; that these towns are in a state which presents a great opportunity for the employment of unskilled labour; and that a wide field exists for the occupation of those operatives who are now deprived of their ordinary means of livelihood, in the construction of works of permanent advantage, without superseding any existing labour. The first Report of Mr. Rawlinson led me to the conclusion that this was the case, and I find that throughout to the last, Report, which I believe has this day been placed in the hands of hon. Members, he has adhered to the opinion that there is ample opportunity in works required and needed in those districts to give employment to all the able-bodied operatives now out of occupation. In the first Report he says—If Government can pass a short Act (independent of the Local Government Act) to enable money to be advanced at some fraction per cent more than will secure the country from loss, work may be found for every able-bodied distressed operative now out of work, and the districts will be permanently benefited. Property will be improved, and the sanitary state of every locality operated upon will be vastly bettered. Local rates will be reduced, and the Registrar General will find the effects in an improved value to life now and in future years…. There is abundance of Work to be done, and a willingness to do it.The engineer, not satisfied with the Reports made to him by the local authorities, communicated daily with the operatives himself, and from them he received the most satisfactory assurances that there is nothing they desire more, or are more ready to accept, than work of this description. Mr. Rawlinson says—Many of the cotton operatives are now at work for wages of 3d. per hour, spade and barrow labour, levelling land and excavating foundations. I have been over these works with the engineer to the Corporation, whose card I enclose. I have 1054 watched the men at work, and have spoken with them. All the men at work are volunteers from the relief schools. The only complaint made to me was that they, the men, 'were not allowed to work all day;' they would 'far rather work than sit stewing in the schools.' I examined some of the men's hands; they had been blistered, but they did not care for this—the blisters soon get well. I remarked to one gang, 'Some people say you cannot do good outdoor work.' The reply was, 'But we both can and will, if we have the chance;' and I sincerely believe this.…. Much of the money required will necessarily be expended on skilled labour and on materials. But within one month after commencing fairly to work the best of the distressed cotton operatives will have become, in a degree, 'skilled labourers,' in excavating, in trenching, and in street and road forming. There are difficulties to be overcome, but most of these difficulties rest with the local authorities. But a vast amount of useful work may be beneficially undertaken, and be executed by the best of the distressed men out of employment.That was the first impression produced on the mind of the engineer sent to investigate the matter. The statements which I have quoted were made at the beginning of last month, and on the last day of the month he states, in the Report delivered to hon. Members this morning—My experience in town improvement works generally, and my recent inspection and inquiries in the distressed cotton district, lead me to the conclusion that one million and a half sterling may be expended in permanent improvements of a beneficial character, such as main sewerage, drainage, new reservoirs for water supply, forming and completing streets, forming suburban roads, forming parks, recreation grounds, enclosing waste lands, draining lands, cleansing and improving rivers, and other similar works.This assertion is not made vaguely or rashly by Mr. Rawlinson, but he has proceeded with the caution which becomes a professional man, and he states that these works may be advantageously executed. He does not pretend to say that they are works which unskilled operatives could alone perform, and he classifies the works requiring skilled hands and those on which the unskilled may be employed, and he says—The class of works which will find employment for the largest number of unskilled hands will be levelling waste lands, forming parks and recreation grounds, baring rock for quarrying, forming suburban roads, draining agricultural lands, cleansing and improving rivers, forming reservoirs, and other such works.That is the result of the inquiry which this gentleman has made, and which I think justifies the propriety of the inquiry, and the wisdom of the expectations of those who believed that by the means of such works in the distressed counties full 1055 employment might be given to the operative classes now unfortunately unemployed. I must say that the Report which the engineer has made is one which I believe will bear the test of the most critical examination either on the part of those who are members of the same profession, or of those who have considered the question how far these works are likely to be conducive to the end of employing the operatives. In a previous Report he has assumed that £1,500,000 might be placed at the disposal of these different towns for the execution of the works; and in his concluding Report, when calculating the application of this money, he certainly has come to the conclusion that not more than £431,000 of the million and a half sterling would be directly paid in labour to the unskilled workmen. At the same time, after mentioning that upwards of £690,000 would be employed in the purchase of materials, and £175,000 in skilled labour, he states—The expenditure of so large a sum of money as one and a half million will apparently only relieve the rates to the extent of £431,756 in the direct employment of distressed operative labour. The actual relief will, however, be to a much greater extent, as all the money paid for skilled labour, and probably fully 75 per cent of the money paid for materials, will be expended in the district, so that the local rates will be relieved to an extent much larger than the figures 28.8 per cent on unskilled labour indicate. Stone, gravel, flags, bricks, paving-stone, curb-stone, tiles, and similar materials will be provided, and the money paid will to a great extent be expended in the district.That, it appears to me, must be the effect; and if money is advanced for the execution of these works, not only does it give direct employment to the distressed operatives, but it would also lead to a considerable expenditure in the districts, and in that way be of advantage to those who are now peculiarly oppressed by contributions required for the support of the unemployed. In the Report presented today, Mr. Rawlinson has shown that from the vast number of places included in the districts to which I refer there have proceeded expressions of satisfaction and hope arising out of the execution of those works, which it is believed are positively needed, and are essential for the health, comfort, and general convenience of the districts, and which will be the means of also giving employment indirectly to a vast number of persons who now remain idle. I strongly recommend the last Report presented today to the perusal of the House, in order that the House may know of what advantage 1056 these works will be. I think the statement in this Report with respect to one of these districts is worthy of notice. It seems to me to be a fair sample of these places, where large populations have grown up, and where no form of local government exists, and a fair representation of what would be the consequence of not executing the works now proposed to be undertaken. Mr. Rawlinson, alluding to the case of Haslingden, states—There is no local Act in force, nor any form of local governing body other than the parish authorities. The population of the township of Haslingden is about 10,000, and the ratable value upwards of £20,000. The population of the town proper is upwards of 5,000. There are some main drains, but no system of main sewers. House drains are an exception, not the rule; and from the defective forms and construction of sewers and drains, when used for draining water-closets they become nuisances. Many of the streets are unformed and unpaved. Cess-pits are crowded behind cottages, and as a consequence fever and other diseases of a similar character prevail. There is to be a supply of water from a company. In site, in sub-soil, and in the purity of the surrounding atmosphere, Haslingden possesses advantages which, with proper sanitary arrangements, would secure to the inhabitants a higher state of health than is now found to prevail. Haslingden is a type of many other places to be found in the County Palatine of Lancaster.That is, as I have said, a fair specimen of the state in which these towns are at present, and every person who hears that description can readily imagine what necessity there is for these works. Indeed, throughout these Reports there is nothing but evidence to show that there is a positive necessity for these works. There is a lamentable need of all those requirements which, according to our modern views of civilization, are essential to promote health, cleanliness, and general convenience. Whatever may be the reason—whether it is that the working classes are absorbed by the more profitable labour of the district, or that the leading men are absorbed by attention to their business—the fact is certain that the most prosperous times are not those in which improvements of a permanent character make most progress. This naturally leads one to the conclusion that the present is not an inopportune moment for urging these districts to construct works which are much needed, and which are being generally carried out elsewhere. When you connect that with the employment of the poor, and with the anticipated advantage to the health of these districts, you will see that the question deserves your consideration, whether, 1057 if there are any means by which such works can he promoted, and without which they would not be undertaken, they should not be adopted.
But I am bound to state, not withstanding the confidence with which the engineer and the commissioner employed by us to visit these districts declare that the proposed works are essential and might be accomplished at this moment, that they accompany that declaration with a statement to the effect that there are obstacles in the way which must be removed in the first instance, or there can be no hope of the improvements being adopted. Those obstacles are described as partly financial and partly legal. It is easy to conceive how the financial difficulties arise at this time. When we consider how depressed trade has been for the last year, how burdened many of these districts are with debt, and how the pressure of the rates is increasing upon them, it is not wonderful that they should be anxious to escape the additional charge which would be entailed by new works that might be avoided. The universal opinion has been, that unless such works could be constructed by means of public loans, there would be little hope of their being undertaken at all. These districts, according to the best information I can obtain, cannot raise the money upon the security which they offer at much less than five per cent. I do not think it is unreasonable for them, looking to the circumstances in which they are placed, to ask the assistance of the State to enable them to raise the money requisite for the execution of the proposed improvements upon more advantageous terms. It is no slight consideration to them to raise large sums at a difference of nearly 1½ per cent; and considering the purposes for which loans have been advanced in past times, I do not think their request is one which ought to be refused, that the Loan Commissioners should be authorized to assist them in the present emergency. This concession the Government are disposed to make. We believe that these districts have established their case, and I, for one, can see no reason why theirs should be distinguished from other cases in which loans have been advanced. There have been some criticisms upon the application, and an attempt has been made to distinguish between the case of towns and other places for the purposes which have generally been in question where loans have been granted; but I really cannot 1058 see the distinction. I cannot understand, as it is part of our policy to place a certain sum of money at the disposal of the Public Works Commissioners, why a preference should be given to one class over another in the advances that are made. The last occasion, I remember, on which there might have been some question in this House was when Sir Robert Peel, on the repeal of the Corn Laws, introduced a Bill authorizing the Lords of the Treasury to place at the disposal of the Loan Commissioners a sum of £2,000,000, for the purpose of enabling the proprietors of land to drain their estates. That was supposed to be in compensation for some loss that was anticipated in consequence of the removal of protection. I need not remind the House that no such loss was ever sustained. Nothing but advantage has followed from the repeal of the Corn Laws; but still the Bill introduced by Sir Robert Peel was thought to be justifiable as compensation for what was anticipated at the time. Not only was a sum of £2,000,000 placed at the disposal of the Loan Commissioners, with the view of assisting the proprietors to drain their lands, but when that was exhausted, another sum equal in amount was devoted to the same purpose. I do not object to that; on the contrary, I believe that great advantage was derived by the country from such application of public money; the improvement of the land added to the wealth of the country, and not a sixpence was lost by the advances that were made. But, if you can make advances to a class in expectation of evils that have not occurred, I think it would hardly be reasonable, when great evils exist and great advantages may be expected from the application of such means, to demur to a repetition of the same course of proceeding. I do not anticipate, however, that there will be any question of that sort. The hon. Member for Devon-port appeared to be very critical upon our present proposal the other night. I do not know whether he will repeat his statements, but I do not except that the House generally will object to the advances that are now proposed to be made.
The difficulties which are stated to exist to the undertaking of these works are both financial and legal; and I am afraid that whatever financial facilities might be afforded would be of little use unless it was determined to remove the legal difficulties which present themselves to the 1059 accomplishment of the works. These legal difficulties consist in a deficiency of power in particular places either to borrow the money or to carry out the works. When public works are to be executed in a particular district, the ordinary course is to appeal to Parliament for a Private Act giving the requisite powers, both for raising the money and executing the works. It is quite clear, looking to the great variety of the districts in question, to the period of the Session, and to the expense and delay incident to the passing of Private Bills, that it would be utterly impossible for all these different places to procure Private Acts for the purpose of raising money and executing works within their limits. One might have expected, that, in lien of Private Acts, it would have been possible for these districts to adopt the Local Government Act, passed in 1858, which is a most valuable measure—which, being permissive, may be adopted by any place, and which, when adopted, confers all the powers and rights obtainable by a Private Act. But, in the first place, there is a most extraordinary prejudice against that Act existing in these districts. It has been found, moreover—such are the formalities connected with its adoption and application—almost impossible to give it any effect under a shorter period than three months. In the present instance the legal difficulties arise from the peculiar forms of local government which exist in the distressed districts. There are corporations which have no power to borrow. Some places, not incorporated, have adopted the Local Government Act, but have exhausted their means of borrowing. Other places, which have adopted the Act, have no other authority than that conferred by the parochial system. The proposition is, to allow all these places to have advances of money for the purpose of executing works; but, under the present state of the law, some have no power to borrow, and, still more, have no power to carry out works if they had the means. Hence the necessity for fresh legislation. It was not easy by any special Act to attain all the objects in view. This Bill meets, I believe, the requirements of the case as nearly as possible. It provides for any difficulty in adopting the Local Government Act in respect of time. With respect to the places that have Local Acts, they have power to adopt clauses of the Local Government Act for the purpose of borrowing and executing their works, 1060 and which give them all the authority which they would have if they had adopted the Act itself; and with respect to those places that have only parochial authority, and where it is found that they have under an Act or by the common law power of executing works out of the rates, power is conferred by this Act for borrowing money and mortgaging the rates. We therefore confer at once a facility upon all those places of borrowing the money that may be advanced, upon the terms which the Commissioners may choose to advance it, and of giving the security that is required. Sir, there has been an observation made, that although this Bill provides for the case of municipal corporations and particular places, yet that there are many outlying districts suffering from distress in Lancashire which would receive no advantage from its operation. That, however, is not the case, because there is no place where parochial authorities do not exist, and where, by means of the vestry, an authority could not be constituted through whose instrumentality money might be borrowed. There are places, nevertheless, in which these authorities do not choose to take upon themselves the responsibility of borrowing money to execute these works, but power is given to those places, by agreement with the authorities of corporate towns having power to borrow money under the Bill, to obtain a loan and apply the money in their particular parish, the rates of the parish being mortgaged for its repayment. They will, under these circumstances, have the advantage of providing employment for those who stand in need of it, without incurring any further responsibility than the repayment of the loan, with the interest due upon it. There are, I am assured, several places which are likely to profit by this agreement, so that the apprehension that the Bill will not include all those whom it is desirable it should in the distressed disticts within the scope of the benefits which it is intended to confer will thus be removed.
There has been another argument urged against the Bill which is, I think, hardly fair. I have seen the complaint made in a public journal that it affords the proprietors in the districts in question no opportunity of taking advantage of the loans advanced to the towns. It is, however, a very different thing to make inquiry as to the policy of lending public money to towns for sanitary purposes and general public objects, and to institute an investigation 1061 into the condition of the private property of particular individuals. For my part, I do not think it would have been very seemly if Commissioners had been sent to see what was the position of particular properties in those counties, and if Reports had been laid before this House specifying by name those properties, and perhaps holding the owners up as having neglected to improve them in some instances. I am not aware that any claim has been put forward by the proprietors themselves to have the same advantages which it is proposed by this Act to extend to corporate towns. Nothing, I may add, could be, in my opinion, more advantageous to them or to the country at large than that they should make those improvements. I have not heard the statement which I was authorized to make in this House on a former occasion, in reference to the extent to which improvements in land might be carried on in Lancashire, and the extent to which unemployed labour might be beneficially occupied, in the slightest degree questioned. That statement I believe to be perfectly true in all respects; nor have I heard of any difficulty on the part, of the proprietors, either with respect to obtaining money or carrying out those improvements. I observe that in the last report of Mr. Rawlinson he says—In the distressed cotton districts there are many thousands of acres of agricultural land which may be beneficially drained. Such land is to be seen bordering every line of railway in the county. This is a landlord's question mixed up with tenure, tenancy, leases, and other difficulties. As, however, the land must pay its quota of increased poor rates, it may be advisable to have labour in return for payment of wages, rather than to give relief for comparative idleness.This, however, is a matter which owners of property in the county must decide for themselves. The Bill is not intended as a panacea for all the evils that have arisen out of the distress which prevails in the manufacturing districts. It certainly does not strike at the great root of the evil which has befallen that county. It is intended only as a precautionary measure. It is intended in some degree to mitigate both the distress of Lancashire and to relieve the suffering and humiliation of the people, who are now living as paupers, and who are dependent upon charity. It is a measure which, in my opinion, may be turned to good account. Of course, it will depend very much on the local authorities how far it will operate beneficially. 1062 We propose it as a measure of amelioration, which must be taken in conjunction with other means of improvement, such as emigration or the revival of trade. It ought not to be condemned simply because it, does not accomplish all the good which any one may desire. I have, at all events, reason to be satisfied with the manner in which it has been received in the districts to which it particularly relates. I cannot help stating to the House, to show it is not simply a measure which the Government have brought forward without due consideration, that only this day I have seen that what is called the Central Committee of Relief at Manchester have considered this Bill, and have also considered what were the necessities and requirements of the county, and they have given to the measure their most unqualified approbation. Now, that Committee is composed of all the, persons of the highest position in the county of Lancashire, and of persons most extensively engaged in business. Indeed, I do not know of an association that more fully represents the opinions and interests of the county than the Central Relief Committee at Manchester; and I do say it is encouraging and highly satisfactory to find that that Committee should consider that this Bill does very much to embody the views they have entertained for some time past; that they consider there is ample opportunity afforded in the condition of these municipal corporate towns, and of the districts there, for the employment of the operatives; and they believe that the only thing that is necessary in order to lead to this result is precisely that alteration of the law and the course generally which the Government propose should be adopted. They believe that ample funds will be found for the employment of the operatives who are now idle if the alterations are made in the Local Government Act which are proposed in this Bill, and if advances are made by the State at the low rate of interest and upon the terms of repayment here proposed. When the House, considers the apprehensions entertained last year, when we consider how distant and slight are the chances of an improvement of trade, when we think of the prospect afforded of paupers becoming independent labourers, and of how much anxiety will be relieved in the coming winter by so many being able to find employment, and thus support themselves and their families, there can be but little reason for rejecting a measure 1063 which seems, on high authority, to provide for the accomplishment of that object. The last Return shows that upwards of 300,000 people are now living upon charity. Of that number one-half appears to be receiving relief from Committees, and one-half from the guardians of unions. If that is the number, with the present state of trade at this season, who are receiving relief, what, I ask hon. Members to consider, will be the prospect when the present season has passed away, and the winter returns, if no means are adopted to meet the emergency? If, then, we could look forward to the prospect of some 70,000 or 80,000 men being employed, representing families to the extent of four times that number of individuals, it would, I cannot help thinking, be a source of great satisfaction, not alone to those who are responsible for the conduct of affairs, but to the country at large. The object of this measure is to diminish, as far as we can, the misery and distress which now prevail in Lancashire, and in the hope and belief that it will effect that object I now beg leave to move its second reading.
§ MR. FERRAND
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not acted with much fairness towards himself personally in the remarks which he had just made. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that when the Bill was laid on the table, he (Mr. Ferrand) had declared it to be his intention to oppose it; but he had done nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he had no idea of opposing it, and had simply objected to so important a measure being introduced at half past two in the morning, without any statement having at the time been made with respect to its provisions. When he, upon that occasion, asked the right hon. Gentleman what was to be the amount of interest charged on the money lent, his answer was, "You will find it stated in the Bill." The right hon. Gentleman had not, therefore, when bringing in the Bill, answered him courteously in reply to a very natural question, nor had he that evening given a correct account of what had taken place. The fact was, that he not only approved the Bill so far as it went, but regretted that it did not go far enough; nor would he have taken any part in the debate on the second reading had it not been for a meeting which was held at Manchester on Monday last, at which the most alarming statements were made. If those statements were correct, 1064 the right hon. Gentleman was not dealing fairly with the House in not bringing them forward; and further, if they were correct, they bore out what had fallen from him when he addressed the House on the 27th of April in bringing forward the subject of the distress prevailing among the factory operatives. He then stated that the operatives were weary of idleness, that they saw no hope of employment for a long time, that they were not only degraded into paupers, but had no clothes and were literally starving, and that they entreated the House to vote a sum of money which would enable them to emigrate to the Colonies, where they could earn an honest livelihood by their own industry. He also warned the right hon. Gentleman, that if they remained in this state of destitution until next winter, they would be ruined both physically and morally. No one could tell what serious results might not occur, and he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to take their request into consideration. The right hon. Gentleman replied to his statements in the most cavalier manner, and told him that his remarks were obsolete, and that he spoke as if he was, as he no doubt thought he was, addressing the House fifteen years ago. The remarks which the right hon. Gentleman had himself made that night were obsolete as far as free trade was concerned, because he was asking the House to protect the cotton interest and provide means to keep the native industry of Lancashire within its borders. If the right hon. Gentleman could find employment for all that were now living idly, and who had been heretofore employed in the cotton trade, he would not object in the slightest degree to this Bill or to its provisions; and, as he had said before, he only objected to them because they did not go far enough. The right hon. Gentleman, on the former occasion, declared that emigration was unnecessary and would be injurious, promised that work should be found—not for 40,000, but for 70,000, indeed for the half million of destitute factory operatives—and pledged himself to send into the manufacturing districts an eminent engineer, who should in three weeks make a Report to the House upon the subject. By that promise of the right hon. Gentleman the Government became responsible either to find work for these people in Lancashire, or to remove them to a place where they could find it for themselves. As far as sending an engineer 1065 into the factory districts went, it appeared that the right hon. Gentleman had redeemed his pledge, because on the 29th of April Mr. Rawlinson received instructions from the Secretary of State for the Home Department to visit the cotton-manufacturing districts to inquire what works of utility, profit, or ornament could be executed there with especial reference to providing employment for the distressed operatives at a fair rate of wages. On the 4th of May Mr. Rawlinson reported to the President of the Poor Law Board, stating, that if a short Act were passed, enabling money to be advanced at a fraction above the rate of interest which could secure the country against loss, could work be found for every able-bodied operative On the 16th of May Mr. Rawlinson for warded another Report, which the right hon. Gentleman had taken care not to read. In that Report he said, that "the able-bodied men now out of work must either be maintained out of the poor rates or by work in the towns. The present system will ruin the men if persevered in another year." Upon the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire, there had been laid upon the table a copy of a Report addressed by Mr. Baker, a factory inspector, to the Home Secretary. Probably but few hon. Members were aware that Mr. Baker had been sent into the manufacturing districts to inquire into the state of the population; but a short time before he had received private information that Mr. Baker had been instructed to go into the Lancashire districts and draw up a Report, repudiating as far as he could, the idea of emigration; and he thought that a few extracts from the Report would show that his information was correct. Mr. Baker's letter, which was in anticipation of the regular annual Report, which, as a factory inspector, it was his duty to submit, was dated "Leamington, April 22, 1863," and the House ought not to forget, that although it was five days afterwards when he (Mr. Ferrand) brought before the House the condition of the factory operatives, not a word was said about that letter. In it Mr. Baker stated that he had just returned from visiting districts in which 8,000,000 spindles were usually at work, and that in all those districts, including Bolton, Bury, Colne, Padiham, Radcliffe, Leigh, Hyde, Stock-port, Wigan, and many other places, the people hoped that they would be able to carry on until the termination of the 1066 American war, or until a supply of suitable cotton from other countries was brought into the English market. In Bolton, Colne, and Padiham, and more or less all round about, new mills were being erected and new spindles added to old ones, and all these were intended to commence working as soon as a supply of the raw material reached this country, Mr. Baker stated that when trade revived there would be a demand for more hands than could be obtained, which would make them unreasonable in their demands and render them the masters, "for already they are thinking of the time when things will be different." The letter concluded—In 1860 the weekly consumption of cotton by the spinners was 48,300 bales; at present it is about 23,590 bales; but as we appear to export about 8,000 bales a week, it cannot be estimated that more than 535,900 of the 802,350 bales in stock and coming will ever reach the consumers' hands, which, at the usual rate of 9½ oz. consumption of cotton per spindle per week, and for full time, would employ all the cotton spinning hands in the United Kingdom about twelve weeks, or half time to about November next. You will see, Sir, that these calculations are made independently of the quantity of cotton supposed to be stored in America. If that could be obtained, the mills would be running full time immediately on its arrival; and, under any probability of such an event, to emigrate the hands would be a fatal step for these districts.Mr. Farnall's Report had been only placed on the table that morning. It was hardly fair to the House to call on it to approach the consideration of the state of Lancashire, where nearly half a million of human beings were in a condition bordering on starvation, when such a scant interval was afforded to hon. Members for becoming acquainted with the documents essential to a right understanding of such a momentous question. The right hon, Gentleman on a former occasion had pledged himself that work should be found for the operatives in Lancashire almost immediately, but there was one passage in Mr. Farnall's Report with which the right hon. Gentleman had taken care not to acquaint the House. Mr. Farnall said, "Mr. Rawlinson has read this letter, and he permits me to inform you that he concurs in the statements it contains." Mr. Farnall went on to say—The inference, therefore, is that an outlay of £1,500,000 on the works adverted to would employ about 27,400 men for one year who are now out of work in the cotton districts; and further, that this employment would remove about 82,200 persons from the poor rates and from the charitable funds, the annual cost of whose maintenance, in 1067 comparative idleness, is at present not less than about £320,500.There was a plain statement as to the amount of work which could he provided and the relief it would afford. Hon. Members were no doubt aware that a meeting of the Central Relief Committee was held at Manchester on the previous Monday. At that meeting Sir J. Kay Shuttleworth, who throughout had taken an active and praiseworthy part in the onerous duties of the Relief Committee, declared that "it had not been anticipated by the public generally that next winter would present as great difficulties as the last." After the speech made by the President of the Poor Law Board, on the 27th of April, it was not likely that such anticipations would be entertained. But Sir J. Kay Shuttleworth continued—Those passages of the Reports of this Committee which anticipated that the resources of the working classes would be exhausted, that the means derived formerly from private charity would no longer be available, and that we should have nearly the same number of cotton operatives dependent on the relief funds or some other assistance than the ordinary sources of labour—those views were not generally entertained in society or in the House of Commons.Mr. E. Ashworth, a gentleman largely engaged in the cotton trade, and a member of the Relief Committee, named the exact amount which Government meant to devote to the relief of Lancashire distress. The House of Commons at that time had never even heard the sum which the right hon. Gentleman intended to propose should be voted. When the Bill was laid upon the table, he in vain endeavoured to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman the amount which would be asked for under its provisions; but he refused to give that information, and the House therefore learned for the first time through the report of a meeting at Manchester the extent of the proposition to which its assent was invited. Mr. Ashworth said—The million and a half was likely to be only a small portion which would be required to tide over the difficulties of Lancashire next winter, provided there was no extra supply of cotton, from the American difficulty being ended, of which there was no prospect at present.Within the last quarter of an hour the right hon. Gentleman had given the House to understand that there was a prospect of the termination of the American difficulty. Mr. Ashworth, who was engaged in the cotton trade, declared that there was none. He now came to Mr. Commissioner Farnall, a public officer who had been reporting 1068 every week an improved state of things, thereby deceiving the house and the whole country. Mr. Farnall now reported as the result of his inquiry, that—The number employed by the million and a half of skilled and unskilled labourers would be 30,000 at the very outside. The probability was that in the winter we should have 400,000 people to provide for. If we could get 30,000 to work in the summer and autumn, the utmost extent to which we could suppose each of these men would lighten the burdens of the relief committees or guardians would be two other persons with himself.He spoke of getting 30,000 to work in the summer. Why, the summer had nearly gone, and the Bill had not yet been read a second time! Mr. Farnall proceeded—Assuming that 90,000 or 100,000 would thus be provided for, we had still 300,000 mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, which was 250,000 above the average pauperism in the cotton districts. If this did not convince people of the difficulties we had to meet next winter, he did not know what would.The next speaker was Mr. H. Mason, a gentleman largely engaged in the cotton trade; and he said, he was sorry to be obliged to anticipate that next winter would be the time of the greatest trial in these districts. The Town Clerk of Manchester embodied his views in a resolution—That, looking to the certainty of a greatly increased pressure on the rates which will arise during the ensuing winter, it is in the opinion of this meeting desirable that Parliament before separating should provide additional facilities to boards of guardians or overseers for borrowing at a low rate of interest, and upon satisfactory terms as to repayment, such sums of money as may be required.Now, let the House hear what was said by Mr. Farnall. He stated, that "such a movement as the present was likely to create a vast amount of difficulty in the House of Commons." The House ought to know the truth and the whole truth, and ought not to be kept in darkness as to the intentions of the manufacturers and the Government. When he brought forward his Motion on the 27th of April, he was aware of all these facts, and the right hon. Gentleman must have known them too, or else he was deceived by his subordinates. From that dilemma there was no escape. Mr. Farnall went on to say—Parliament was at present engaged in passing into the hands of the Loan Commissioners a sum of a million and a half of money, and it must be well known that the House was not altogether composed of the friends of Lancashire, and Mr. Villiers's Bill was not likely to be carried without 1069 considerable opposition. Now they were asked to go to Parliament with an extra measure, asking the Loan Commissioners for, probably, another million and a half. [The Town Clerk: Very likely,] This would make £3,000,000. His impression was that this would be taking a dangerous course, and that it would be better to let the Government have an opportunity of passing one measure through the House before they brought forward a fresh suggestion for loans at a low rate of interest.He should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman what was the amount of money which Parliament would be asked to vote before the end of the Session. He should like also to ask whether these 300,000 people were to be kept in idleness in Lancashire during another winter. Mr. Rawlinson had warned the House of the consequences; he had told them that to keep them in idleness another winter would be their ruin. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, in a speech made in that House twenty years ago, said the working population of England would endure anything but a sense of pauperism. That night he had told the House repeatedly that the working population of a large part of England were paupers. The operatives felt that they were paupers, and they were watching the action of that House in calmness, in quietude, in peace, and in hope that they might be removed from the category of paupers, either by work being found for them in Lancashire, or else by the means of emigration being afforded to a considerable number of them. His impression was, that if the factory operatives were kept in a state of idleness in Lancashire, that £10,000,000 would be insufficient to meet the demands upon the House of Commons. According to the right hon Gentleman's own statistics, it would require £4,000,000 to keep these persons during the next twelve mouths; and he did not believe there was any likelihood of the trade of Lancashire being in a prosperous state for the next three years, if it ever entirely recovered itself. While Lancashire was in this pitiable condition, while the agricultural interests in Scotland and Ireland were not only depressed but nearly ruined, while there was fearful distress in the Midland Counties of England and in large cities like London, Glasgow, Paisley, and others, the noble Lord at the head of the Government came down to the House on Monday last and asked it to vote half a million of money to buy those old, rotten buildings at Kensington. The noble Lord might 1070 depend upon it that famishing factory operatives would make some such remarks as this—"If the noble Viscount can fool money away in London he might at least spare half a million to enable some of us to emigrate." The operatives would feel that they had been deceived and betrayed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, and it was sadly to be feared they might show a spirit which would be anything but calm and peaceable. He was justified in that remark, for the workmen had been repeatedly told that if they would only be peaceable and well-conducted employment should be found for them. In what kind of work did the Bill before the House propose that the operatives should be employed? Among others, any pond, pool, open ditch, any river, stream, or brook might be widened, deepened, or cleansed; any sewer or drain might be made or improved; any common lands used or intended to be used as places of public recreation might be drained, laid out, planted, or otherwise improved. Now, who were the people to be employed in these works?—a body of factory operatives, who, by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman himself, had been in a state bordering on starvation for the last twelve months, who were to be fed and clothed at the public expense, whose own clothes were little better than rags—and had been little better for many months—and who previous to that fearful destitution were accustomed to work in a temperature varying from 80 to 120 degrees. Such men were utterly unfit for the occupations contemplated by the Bill. He made that statement advisedly, for he had employed large numbers of factory operatives on many occasions. In summer time, in warm, fine, open weather, and at dry work, such as digging and trenching, they could earn a fair day's wages, and retain their health. He found that whenever they set factory operatives to dig drains they were attacked by the most violent rheumatism; yet it was now proposed to make them do work in rivers and works where they would be wet up to the waist, which would kill them by thousands in a very few months. That was a kind of employment which scarcely the strongest men, accustomed through life to out-of-door labour, could undergo for any length of time. The right hon. Gentleman ought to take measures, in conjunction with the Boards of Guardians and various local 1071 bodies, to employ these men where they would have dry work. As they had a second million and a half, he would not say "looming in the distance," but near at hand—for no doubt the House would be asked to vote another million and a half before the end of the Session—he would ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether it would not be fair and reasonable that a considerable number of the men, women, and children who were to be kept in idleness, in wretchedness, and only half fed, for another winter in Lancashire—whether it would not be a mercy to these people themselves, and a security to the country, that they should be removed to the Colonies. He had, on two or three occasions, asked the right ion. Gentleman whether he had a Return of the unmarried women out of work, and the right hon. Gentleman said he had no power of enforcing it; but as he had Returns of the other classes of the unemployed, men, women, and children, what impediment could there be to his obtaining similar information respecting the single women? It appeared that there was a very large number of totally unemployed single women in Lancashire. They had been gathered from many parts of England; some of them had no relations or friends in Lancashire, and were in a state of the greatest destitution. He had been told by the manufacturers of Lancashire that it was the positive duty of the Government to remove a considerable number of these unmarried women to the Colonies. On the 27th of April, when he moved his Resolution, and appealed to the House to vote a sum of money for the emigration of the unemployed factory operatives, the right hon. Gentleman treated that proposal as an extreme one; yet it would seem that at that very time the Government had been making inquiry in the different Colonies as to the number of these operatives which each Colony should receive. That showed that the Government had some apprehension of the distress which was likely to occur in the ensuing winter. He would therefore entreat the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman to propose a Vote for the emigration of these poor factory operatives, by which they would only be doing an act of justice towards peaceable and well-conducted men and women, as they were now performing an act of justice towards the manufacturers in moving the second reading of the Bill. He gave his hearty support to the measure; and although 1072 Amendments, no doubt, might be made in its details, he did not intend to interfere with them, but would leave them to be proposed by hon. Gentlemen connected with the district and those who were well qualified for such a task.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he should not have risen if he had not thought it his duty to tender his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board for the trouble and labour he had taken in reference to the matter. He did not think that the Bill was calculated to do the vast amount of good expected, and though it might not do the amount of good which the hon. Member (Mr. Ferrand) wished for, still it was a step in the right direction, the proposal being to give employment for wages instead of relieving the people in the unions. A leading article in The Times of that morning was calculated, he believed, to mislead the House and the public. The writer stated that at the present time there were only 167,000 persons in the cotton districts receiving relief, and that on the 7th day of December last the number was 270,000. Arguing upon these figures, the article went on to question the accuracy of an estimate that had been put forth, to the effect that there would not improbably be 400,000 persons requiring relief next winter. Now, the writer in The Times had fallen into an error in his statistics. Instead of there now being only 167,000 persons receiving relief, there were 289,975 receiving relief in the week ending on the 50th of May last; while the real number on the 7th of December last was 458,696, instead of 270,000. The error of the writer had evidently arisen from his taking only the numbers receiving relief from the boards of guardians, and not taking into account the numbers receiving relief from the various local committees in Lancashire and Cheshire. The Report made up by the Central Relief Committee on the 30th ultimo showed that there was still great distress in the cotton districts. During the month of May last the total sum expended by the guardians and the local committees in the relief of the poor was £101,730; whereas the total sum expended on the relief of the poor for the same period of 1861 was only £38,000, or little more than one third of the present amount. In the Union of Ashton-under-Lyne there were 57,183 operatives, of whom 30,870 were unemployed in the last week of May, while 1073 only 9,239 were working full time. At Glossop there were 7,068 operatives, of whom 5,900 were out of work. At Preston the number of operatives was 32,251, of whom 15,680 were unemployed At: Rochdale the number was 20,527, of whom 11,121 were out of work. These figures showed, that although since the 7th of December last there had been an improvement from week to week, things still remained in a very bad state. He certainly had been not a little surprised at the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ferrand), who was an advocate for emigration, objecting to the people being employed in the kind of work which had been adverted to. Why, if the operatives emigrated, they must be prepared for all kinds of work, and for a hot or a cold climate. It had been shown that there was work to be done in those districts, and that the operatives were willing to do it; and further, that the only requirement was money to accomplish those works. The right hon. Gentleman had asked for power to lend money upon the security of the rates. That was not the first time in this country that property had been improved by the lending of public money upon the security of rates. As a Lancashire man, he for one would have been unwilling to support the Bill if it had asked for a grant of public money, as from the first he felt anxious that Lancashire should support itself through the distress; and if the Government would lend to the public bodies the money they required, it would be the means of enabling the distressed districts to get over their difficulties. He was surprised to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Devonport in reference to the building of new mills in Lancashire during a period of distress. The hon. Gentleman had no right to cast aspersions upon the manufacturers. He (Mr. Hibbert) would have thought, that if any persons were injured by the erection of new mills, it would be those who built them. In doing so they employed many persons who would not otherwise be employed, and therefore he was surprised to hear at the present time these aspersions cast upon the manufacturers. The building of these new mills showed faith in the future of the cotton trade. If they could get over their present difficulties, and wait until better times arrived, they would all have cause to rejoice. The Bill of the Government would confer a benefit upon Lancashire and Cheshire, and it would confer a lasting benefit upon 1074 those towns which would be improved by means of its provisions. There could be no work in which the operatives might be employed which would be more useful than that of improving and beautifying their own towns. He should therefore support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he desired to express the great satisfaction which he felt at the course adopted by the Government. He should be happy to support the general principle of the Bill, which was to render assistance to the manufacturing districts in this season of distress; but he must express a hope that that system of legislation would be considered strictly exceptional, because, having had some experience in dealing with distress, he was quite sure that it would be most unwise to raise undue expectations in the minds of the operatives, which might eventually lead to disappointment. He had always thought that in legislating for Lancashire they were building a fictitious superstructure on an abstract principle, and had thus given rise to great misapprehensions. Great difficulty had arisen from their acting on an exaggerated principle in one direction, and he now warned them against acting on an exaggerated principle in another; because if they excited among the operatives an expectation, that inasmuch as their employment had been destroyed through events beyond their control, therefore Parliament would undertake to maintain them in a state even of comfort until the cotton trade revived, he was sure that they would place themselves in a false position, from which they would find it very difficult to retreat. He must say that he had heard with regret that large sums had been recently expended in building more mills, because, unless he was totally misinformed, the manufacturing power which existed in the country was already superabundant, and, indeed, exceeded the means of supply as respected the raw material. He thought they would do well to inculcate caution on those speculators who seemed to anticipate a speedy return to prosperity; for certainly no information which they possessed would, in the least, justify the expenditure which had been made on new mills. The course which the Government were adopting was a proper one, and he should cordially support the principle of the Bill before the House.
said, he rose to make a single observation. He thought that the House would be embarking in a very 1075 questionable course of proceeding if they sanctioned the employment of public money to be borrowed by corporate or other public bodies, for the purpose of undertaking work for private people. So long as the outlay of money was confined to the execution of works of a public nature within the area of those places in which the money was borrowed, he had no objection to the course proposed. Such a course, indeed, was well calculated to meet the emergency. But it would be very dangerous to permit boards of health and various other bodies of that description to borrow money, and then to act as agents to execute works for private persons. If such a proceeding did not lead to jobs, it would lead to a suspicion of jobbery, which was nearly as bad a thing as the actual perpetration of jobs. That the unemployed operatives should be led to look forward to this artificial work being found for them was in itself a bad thing; but the experience he had had of the employment of public money in the execution of private works was quite sufficient to warn him against such a course as that he had alluded to, which he considered would be highly dangerous. While, therefore, he willingly supported the main principle of the measure, he should take the opportunity in Committee of making some objection to its details; and in the mean time he hoped the Government would consider the expediency of embarking in a description of labour agency which might be carried on without limit, and do a great deal of mischief.
§ SIR BALDWIN LEIGHTON
said, he had always thought that the people of Lancashire advocated the principle that money was only to be supplied to the unemployed operatives in return for labour, but that did not seem exactly to be the principle of the Bill before the House. It was very undesirable that the Government should go into the money market and underbid the regular money-lenders. He had recently had occasion to borrow £30,000 for public purposes, and had no difficulty in getting it at 4 per cent. There was no reason why Lancashire should not borrow at the same rate. By far the wiser plan was, that in advancing this money to the manufacturing districts, it should be advanced by way of loan at 5 per cent, and that Government should reserve to itself the power of reducing the interest to 4 per cent, or even a lower rate, if the money were punctually repaid at the time specified when borrowed. That 1076 was the principle adopted by the Loan Commissioners, and it would be a great inducement to the borrowing districts to pay up if they knew they would have to pay 5 per cent if they were not punctual. Some few persons might be induced to emigrate from the distressed districts, but he saw no reason why they should not be encouraged to emigrate to other counties, where a demand might exist for their labour. The manufacturers, the owners of cottage property, and shopkeepers, however, were all averse to the operatives leaving the district. He was informed that a gentleman had addressed a communication to the relief committee in one of the most distressed districts in Lancashire—namely, Wigan—in which he offered to take fifty or sixty of the Wigan operatives and employ them in agriculture, at the rate of five shillings or six shillings a week wages. The relief committee of Wigan, however, had returned for answer that it was not desirable to promote the migration of any large number of operatives, because all the old hands would be immediately wanted when the mills re-opened, and from present appearances (that being last November) that would shortly occur, and the hands were already several thousands short. That might be very discreet policy, but those who acted in that way ought not to go about the country begging, but ought to keep their own poor. He did not think that the wages given to persons employed under this Bill ought to be larger than the average amount given to spade labourers in adjoining agricultural counties. If they gave the operatives of Lancashire the rate of wages usually given in manufacturing districts, what chance had they of inducing them to turn their hands to agriculture? It was stated that 300,000 were in receipt of relief, but that probably 100,000 would be struck off the relief list if the present measure were carried. There would, therefore, be still 200,000 on the poor rate, and it was most desirable, under those circumstances, to reduce the wages given in manufacturing districts to the rate of wages given for spade labour. There was no doubt that a great many of the operatives were wholly unfitted for spade labour, but many could find employment in the agricultural districts. He had heard that many gentlemen offered to take some of these people last winter; and one noble Lord in his county took fifteen of them, but in the course of a few months only one remained. Again, a large landowner 1077 in Cheshire had tried to employ many of these men, but he had failed; and one gentleman at Preston, when applied to, said he was so disgusted with their conduct in returning home, that he would not be answerable for the sending of any more into the agricultural districts. What was the reason of all that? Why, the fact was the men could obtain in Lancashire as much or more for doing nothing as for a day's work in Shropshire. He had himself employed some of these men, and one of them remained four months, but the others returned to Lancashire. He (Sir Baldwin Leighton) blamed the manufacturers for this state of things. Now, every means should be taken to find labour for the people under the provisions of the Bill, but they ought not to be paid too high a rate of wages. The price of labour, like that of everything else, must depend on demand and supply, and would naturally be lower when there were 100,000 or 200,000 persons out of employment. He trusted, therefore, that wages would not be kept up above the average amount on these works, so that the poor people might be induced to look about them, to migrate, and do what they could to help them selves.
§ MR. COBDEN
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has raised a question which has a much wider bearing than appears on the surface. He has alluded to the high rate of wages paid in the manufacturing districts. That is no doubt one of the difficulties which meet us in this case. It affects the question of emigration—it affects the question of relief—it affects the question of migration from one part of the country to another. The population, about which we are speaking have been probably receiving, in ordinary times, a larger amount of wages, taking the earnings of the whole family into account, than any body of labouring people in England, or probably in Europe. The industry in which they have been employed is one that gives convenient, healthy, and constant occupation to the different members of a family. Therefore, the earnings of a whole household are greater in the cotton manufacturing districts than in any other part of the kingdom with which I am acquainted. Since this unfortunate trouble has come upon us, I have taken some pains to ascertain what are the ordinary earnings of a family when the people are fully employed. It is not an extra ordinary case to find a family earning from 1078 two to three guineas a week. It may be an extraordinary case, but it is a possible one, to find a family earning upwards of £4 a week; and I am satisfied that the average earnings of an ordinary family engaged in the cotton manufacture exceed 30s. a week. I asked a friend of mine, engaged in the manufacture of cotton at Bolton, to give me from his books some-particulars of the wages he is paying, and I have received from him the following statement:—In 1840 our average wages was 10s. 3d. a week for men, women, and children, working seventy-two hours. They are now 12s. 4d., working sixty hours Taking the difference of time and the difference of money into account, it is a rise of nearly 50 percent.When you have to deal with a population earning such wages, and consequently living in a state of comfort compared with the population of the agricultural districts, there arises the difficulty to which the hon. Gentleman refers. You cannot bring them down suddenly to the rate of wages with which agricultural labourers are content. It would not be compatible with their health and strength to do so. It would be hardly consistent with the peace of the district to bring the population of the cotton manufacturing districts down to the rate of wages to which I refer, or to the amount to which the hon. Gentleman proposes to reduce them. I do not mean to say that he does this from any want of charity or good feeling. No one can doubt that, as a permanent rule, his view is correct, that the price of wages should be left to find its level, and rise and fall, like other things, according to circumstances. But you have this difficulty here, that you have to deal with a population which has been accustomed to a higher rate of living than the population of agricultural districts. I am not going to say a word against emigration in the interests of the capitalists. My doctrine with regard to labour is, that wherever it finds its highest reward that is its true destination. The capitalist will take care of himself. I say to the labourer, if yon cannot get as much for your labour in one place as in another, take it where it is of the highest value. But when you talk of the cotton manufacturers emigrating, you must consider whether a population bearing the character and description which I have given will improve their condition by emigration. If you were dealing with an agricultural labourer—with, for example, 1079 a Dorsetshire labourer, who in his normal state earns from 9s. to 10s. a week, and has been brought up with the knowledge of farming operations, you could not confer a greater blessing upon that man than to transfer him to the wilds of America. With his labour in great demand, he instantly doubles his wages. The man's position is in every respect improved by being transferred to the regions of America or Australia. But if you were to transfer the weaver or cotton spinner to Australia or to Canada, where there are no cotton mills or factories, or demand for the man's labour, the result would be different. As a rule, no man benefits himself by changing his business after he arrives at years of maturity; but he may benefit himself by transferring his labour to, a field of operations where there will be more demand for the skill which he has acquired. If you should remove these families, who have been earning at the rate of 30s. a week at the least, and in some instances £3 or £4 a week, to agricultural regions, inasmuch as they can neither plough, nor reap, nor mow, nor thresh, and are not fit even, as you say, to dig, and know none of these occupations, the consequence would be that they would sink in those countries to which you would send them, until they became about the most helpless people in the world. But besides the objection to the emigration of this particular class, as a rule all wholesale systems of emigration have proved not only abortive and disastrous, but sometimes most cruel. We had in 1847 a wholesale system of emigration. What was the consequence? The destitute people were hurried away from Ireland to Canada and America, and they were adapted to the occupation for which they were destined. What happened in consequence of their having been thus sent forth in a body, with the most charitable intentions I do not doubt? Several thousands died on the passage. Upwards of 10,000 died of those who landed in Canada and America; a cry of horror came over the Atlantic, and a law was passed both in Canada and America to prevent emigrants from coming to those countries in that state of helplessnes. If you propose now to send those cotton spinners to Canada or to America, have you made provision for them when they land? It really is the cheapest kind of philanthropy for these gentlemen, who date their letters from Wessex, to call out, "Send the people away to America." But how, I 1080 ask, do you propose to provide for those people when they reach America? There cannot be a cheaper mode of being benevolent on a large scale than is resorted to by these gentlemen who write letters to newspapers or make speeches in this House advocating wholesale emigration, and who throw the responsibility on other people, in case the writer's or speaker's most genial and amiable plans should not be carried into effect. Have the working people been consulted? I will just ask the hon. Gentleman opposite, who speaks as if he represented the entire body of operatives (though he has not shown us his credentials), this one thing—has he ever found any great body of the working population expressing themselves desirous of emigration? My experience is that almost everybody wants everybody else to emigrate. A public meeting might be got up at Rochdale in favour of emigration; but the idea with each would be that somebody else should emigrate, that the ranks of labour might be thinned, and thus it would be better for the remainder. When men emigrate of their own accord, they make arrangements for their arrival. When they land, they have preparations made to initiate themselves in the ways of the country, and they know persons to provide places for their reception; but, be assured, when you have this wholesale system of emigration got up by public bodies, and more especially in an emergency, it usually turns out disastrously and very often most miserably for the emigrants. Besides, who is to pay the expense of emigration on this multitudinous scale? It is not enough to send people away and disembark them on the coast of America. You must send them out with capital to secure food and shelter for them. Even if you send them where land is cheap, you must supply them with everything for a year; you must give them tools and seeds; otherwise you send them there to perish from destitution. That will cost a sum of money that you have not calculated, and for which no person makes provision. The writer in the papers or the poet that sits down in Dorsetshire to write a receipt for the cure of Lancashire distress, do not send any calculation or trouble themselves with arithmetic, but throw wholesale blame on the people of Lancashire because they do not follow their prescriptions. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not speaking of emigration in the interests of the capitalists, and do not mean to say it is 1081 a bad thing of itself for people to emigrate. On the contrary, if they can better themselves, I would advise them to emigrate. But emigration is an expedient not worth a moment's consideration unless you come down with your calculations, and say how much it is to cost when you have landed the people on the other side of the Atlantic. And now one word with respect to the question more immediately before us My right hon. Friend has brought in a measure which has met with almost universal approbation, and I do not intend to offer any criticisms upon it at its present stage. But I do not think my right hon. Friend's plan, any more than the emigration plan, will cure our distress. I have been always under the impression that there is no specific for the evil under which we are suffering. It is something which does not admit of a simple and complete remedy. But I hope my right hon. Friend's measure, coupled with emigration, together with additional powers of borrowing given to the Poor Law Guardians, and supplemented by the individual efforts that may be made by the landowners and capitalists in Lancashire, will do all for the mitigation of the evil that can be done. But my right hon. Friend proposes to meet the case by enabling the districts to borrow money in order to supply the people with labour. I think that a most important thing. It is as important to devise means of employment as to provide the money. To keep these people for another twelve months in idleness would be demoralizing to them, and I would almost prefer seeing thousands of them take a voyage over the Atlantic, with the certainty of their coming back when the cotton trade revives, than see them languishing thus in idleness. The project therefore is a wise one; but it is only a permissive measure, and can be carried out only by the co-operation of the local authorities. My right hon. Friend having done his part, I hope every parish and district will feel it its duty to do its share, and to apply the powers which my right hon. Friend proposes to place in its hands. It has been attempted to be shown that we are not likely to have such a bad winter in the coming one. But, I am assured there are causes which justify the expectation that next winter will be worse than the last, supposing we do not receive cotton. The reason is, the people's means are almost exhausted. Last year the operatives had some savings, the result of their economy. They are gone. In the 1082 next place, there was a large and munificent public subscription. We cannot expect that to be repented. Then there is another resource which has failed. There is no doubt that at the commencement of the distress the working people got considerable credit from the shopkeepers, who expected that trade would revive soon, as it had often done before. I am afraid that aid cannot be repeated. So that you have the savings of the people gone, the credit with the shopkeepers stopped, the public subscriptions at an end. Next winter, therefore, those districts will have to face this great difficulty, and to rely solely on their own resources. It is a wise step, then, to offer those facilities for the employment of the people on reproductive labour, for we must not shut our eyes to this fact, that though there may be a diminution in the number of the unemployed, the distress, I am afraid, will have spread into a portion of the community which hitherto have been able to keep their ground—I mean the humbler classes of shopkeepers, and those who thus far have been able to bear up. Therefore, you must enable something to be done for these classes by advancing money on the rates and allowing a long period for repayment. Before I sit down, I would ask my right hon. Friend to give a week before going into Committee, so that the public may understand the purport of the measure, and, in the end, I trust it will be made satisfactory to all parties.
§ MR. FERRAND
said, he rose to explain. The hon. Gentleman had asked him whether he had any authority from the operatives to recommend any specific in that House. His reply was, that at a meeting which was held in Manchester there were twenty-seven delegates from the operatives of Lancashire and Cheshire, who informed him that the population generally looked upon emigration as the chief remedy for the evils under which they were suffering, and he had presented many Petitions to that effect on their part to the House.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I will not occupy the time of the House for more than a few moments while I make some remarks upon objections which were taken to details which may more fitly be considered at a future time by the House. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Ferrand) is the only person who really objected to the Bill. But the hon. Gentleman entirely misapprehends the object 1083 of it. I should not wonder at the opposition of the hon. Gentleman, if I could agree with him that it is the duty of the Government to find employment for the distressed operatives. Her Majesty's Government, however, have always declined the responsibility of providing employment for the people, at the same time that they have said they were willing to assist the local authorities in giving employment out of their own resources, and in maintaining the people by means of temporary occupation, not as paupers, but as independent labourers. The principle of this Bill, as has been well observed by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr Cobden) is not to provide employment for all, but by advancing money upon favourable terms to enable the local authorities, each within their own districts, to afford employment, if they think fit to avail themselves of the facilities of obtaining loans for a long period at a low rate of interest. I earnestly hope, if Parliament should grant those facilities, advantage will be taken of them by the local authorities, so that employment may be given to the unemployed; and, if that is done, I think the wages paid for the work done ought to be on the same scale as that by which similar work would be remunerated in that part of the country. I believe a great portion of that work may be taskwork, and thus a greater stimulus to exertion may be given. An attempt has been made to raise a prejudice against the kind of work. It was said that some of the work was not suited to those who were to be employed upon it, such as the deepening of rivers and emptying of drains, as if those were the only works contemplated. The Local Government Act provides means for borrowing money for certain works, but it had been suggested in Lancashire that it would be desirable to extend the description of works to which the loans might be applicable, and this is done in this Bill. It was not intended, however, that persons should be employed upon works for which they were unfit. The greater the variety of works, the greater the probability of giving employment to all. One word now with respect to Mr. Baker's report. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Ferrand) said that Mr. Baker had been sent down with private instruction from Government to make out a case against emigration. Now, that suspicion is totally unfounded. Early in the Session—I believe before the 1084 hon. Member for Devonport took his seat—the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) asked me whether I had received any information from the Factory Inspectors with regard to the adaptation of the machinery of the cotton mills to the various kinds of cotton which took the place of the American product. I applied to Mr. Baker, the Inspector of the district, and he informed me he had very little information on the subject, but the purport of that information I stated to the noble Lord. I had not the slightest communication with Mr. Baker after that, until I received the Report which has been referred to. On receiving that Report I showed it to the noble Lord who asked the question, telling him that if he made a Motion for the production of it, it should be laid on the table. With regard to emigration, I very much agree with what has fallen from the hon. Member for Rochdale. The Government would do extremely wrong to endeavour to make a case against emigration, or to place obstacles in the way of persons willing to emigrate; but for a large and useful system of emigration these conditions are essential:—You must have not only persons willing to emigrate, but fit by age and capacity for the purpose, and you must also have colonies which are willing to receive them, and where there is employment for them. Unless these conditions are fulfilled, it would be useless and cruel to encourage emigration. With regard to Australia, it has been said that large sums are coming over to this country to be applied to the purpose of emigration. In that case the Government, and, I presume, the local authorities in various parts of the country, will not oppose the slightest obstacle in the way of the agents of the Australian colonies in their endeavours to induce persons whom they think would be useful in them to go out; but I believe that any attempt on the part of the Government to foster general emigration by funds voted by Parliament would be injurious to the emigrants themselves, and meet with a very unfavourable response in the Colonies. They might desire to obtain labourers of a particular class; but if they thought that we were sending out persons merely because they could not get employment in this country, it was not likely that such emigrants would be received with much favour. With regard to the present Bill, though it is not proposed as a complete remedy (for, indeed, it is impossible 1085 to propose a complete remedy), I think that it is calculated, in the best and most unobjectionable way, to mitigate the existing distress, and I trust that it will receive the assent of Parliament, and be acted on by the local authorities.
§ MR. SCULLY
said, he should be sorry to offer the slightest obstacle to the passing of the Bill, but he hoped that when the subject of Irish distress came under discussion, no English Member would be found to plead the principles of political economy as a bar to affording relief to his (Mr. Scully's) starving country people. But whenever funds were voted to encourage emigration, Ireland would be a good country to begin with. The Irish peasantry were fit to emigrate, and had already left the country to the extent of 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 persons. When the distress loan was lent to Ireland, it was specially stipulated that no part of it should be expended on reproductive objects, and some very plausible reasons were given. One was that it would be idle to expect a fair day's work from men who were starving, and he wished to warn English gentle men not to expect that full value would be given in the shape of manual labour for the proposed loan of £1,500,000 they were going to advance; for it would be absurd to expect a good day's work from cotton operatives who were wholly unused to such employment. He presumed, however, that the value of the expenditure would be that it would apply a stimulus to local exertion He thought there was something in the objection pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) to the character of the 9th and 10th clauses, which referred to the employment of the operatives, under the local boards, in the improvement of private estates. Under these provisions there was great danger of jobbery. ("No!") His Friend below him said there were no jobbers in Lancashire; but he was of opinion that there were more jobbers in England than in Ireland, only English jobbers did not openly call each other so, as was the habit with his countrymen. Judging from the amount of the payments to the poor rates in the distressed districts, he did not think that the distress in Lancashire at all approached to an equality with the Irish destitution in the famine years, when the people died of starvation in the ditches, or even at the present moment. The excuse made by those who would not relieve Ireland was that the distress in that country 1086 was chronic, and the people were used to it. Unfortunately that was true. Even if the coming harvest should be a good one, there would be greater distress in Ireland next winter than had been experienced in the famine years. During the famine years some classes were thriving; but latterly no class had been thriving except the holders of Government places and officers. He had no wish to interfere for the purpose of stopping the small relief proposed by the Bill to his fellow-countrymen—for he hoped he might call them his fellow-countrymen—in Lancashire and Cheshire. There had been a beautiful and promising spring in Ireland. That, however, was nothing new. Every spring was beautiful and promising there; but when the time came for getting in the harvest, favourable weather was a miracle. They never could get in their harvests in Ireland. If a Motion were made in that House to help Irishmen to emigrate, there would be a great deal of political economy nonsense spoken in opposition to the proposal. He remarked that those who attended statistical societies, and wrote on political economy in their garrets or other purlieus, knew nothing of what was practically going on in the world, and be regarded their arithmetic in the same light as he did much of the political arithmetic of the day—as so much rubbish.
§ MR. BAZLEY
observed, that if the reports of returning prosperity in the cotton districts went forth to the world unexplained, they would be calculated to give rise to very mistaken notions as to the actual state of affairs in Lancashire. The greater employment of labourers was to be accounted for by the absorption of labour from other pursuits and by the migration of labourers from one place to another. The increased employment of which they were told did not represent increased employment of the operatives at that labour to which they had been accustomed, and which was their ordinary pursuit. There was no better criterion of the extent of employment in cotton manufacture than the consumption of the raw material. That did not amount to anything like 25,000 bags per week, while there was an ability to consume 50,000 bags per week. Then, with respect to what had been said by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire on the subject of new mills, it must be remembered that a mill could not | be built and fitted with machinery so as to make it ready for work in less time than 1087 two years, or from that to three years. The mills then opening must have been planned and commenced two or three years ago; and therefore they were rather to be attributed to the state of things that had existed three years ago than to be looked upon as indicative of a desire to make further investments in the same manner. He could have wished that a great and courageous effort had been made in the Indian and Colonial Departments to meet the existing want, by obtaining a larger supply of the raw material; but he gave his cordial support to the proposition of his right hon. Friend, though, tested by economical principles, it was somewhat irregular; and he was exceedingly gratified to find that it gave general satisfaction to the House.
§ SIR FRANCIS CROSSLEY
said, he rose in consequence of a remark which had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale. His hon. Friend had anticipated great distress during the ensuing winter from three causes:—First, that the savings of the labourers were diminished; secondly, that the shopkeepers were no longer able to give credit; thirdly, that the subscription lists were closed. With respect to the latter of the above three causes, he was sorry that the idea should get abroad that the subscription lists were closed. He thought that on every ground it was necessary that the subscription lists should be kept open, and he doubted not that public benevolence would not fee checked.
§ Bill read 2o.
§ MR. COBDEN
said, it would be satisfactory to the country if his right hon. Friend named a day for proceeding with the Bill in Committee.
§ Bill committed for Thursday next.