HC Deb 06 March 1863 vol 169 cc1208-10

Order for Second Reading read.

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


said, he understood that, practically, the operation of the Bill was confined to Scotland. Nevertheless, he viewed it with great alarm, for it was introducing the thin end of the wedge for the purpose of upsetting the Factory Act, which limited the labour of children to ten hours a day. The Bill proposed to extend the labour of children in factories in Scotland to ten hours and a half a day on three days in the week. As it was entitled a Bill for the Education of Factory Children, he had no hesitation in saying, without meaning offence to the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), that it had been introduced under false pretences. He had received a letter from a manufacturer, who had done more, perhaps, than any other man in England for bettering the condition of factory operatives, in which the writer characterized the Bill as a barefaced attempt to make children of eight years and upwards work on alternate days ten hours and a half, while the law limited them to ten hours. It had been stated, that the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Cobbett) had agreed to withdraw his opposition to the Bill on condition that it should be confined to Scotland. Nothing could well be more suprising than that the hon. and learned Member, for whom he had a high respect, should consent to allow the working population of Scotland to have a burden placed on their shoulders which he would be the first to protest against in the name of the factory operatives of England. He hoped the hon. Member for Montrose would postpone the second reading until the public were made acquainted with the nature and objects of the Bill.


said, he believed that great advantages had been derived by all parties from the Factory Act, and he had not the slightest intention to interfere with it. The hon. Gentleman was labouring under a misapprehension as to the objects of the Bill, which he had not brought forward in the interests of the masters, but in consequence of certain communications which had passed between the Factory Inspectors and operatives themselves. The truth was, that owing to the lateness of the dinner-hour in Scotland, the half-time system could not be worked in that country. There were, consequently, a large number of children growing up in idleness and ignorance, who would be far better employed on alternate days, going to school the rest of the week, which was all that was proposed by this Bill. The existing evil could be remedied only in one of two ways—either by such a Bill as the present, or by passing an Act for altering the dinner-hour in Scotland, which was of course impossible.


hoped that the Bill would not be pressed at that hour (twelve o'clock), as it, in fact, altered the framework of factory legislation under a title which was calculated to mislead. He moved that the debate be adjourned.


said, he put on the paper last night a notice of an Amendment that the Bill be read that day six months, because he thought it a bad Bill. Practically speaking, the half-time children in England were only worked five or six hours. But in Scotland it appeared, from the arrangement as to the dinner-hour, they could not adopt that system; and it being stated that an alteration would be agreeable to the workpeople themselves, and was recommended by the Factory Inspectors, he was willing to withdraw his Amendment if the Bill were confined to Scotland. He thought, however, English millowners would have a right to complain of the Bill, and he hoped the hon. Member would either withdraw it or postpone it until there had been time to learn what was the general opinion with respect to it.


said, the Bill did not provide for an increase of the hours of labour, but only for a fresh distribution of them, which had been strongly recommended in the Report of the Factory Inspectors. He did not know whether his hon. Friend would postpone his Bill; but if he did, he hoped that those Members who objected to it, and who had not, evidently, read the report of the Factory Inspectors, would in the mean time read it.


joined in the request that the discussion should be deferred for some time.


said, the Bill had been brought forward in the light of an English Bill, and had not attracted that attention in Scotland which it would have done if it had been expressly confined to Scotland. He thought it would be better to postpone the Bill.


said, the difficulty in Scotland arose from the dinner-hour being from two to three o'clock, which was a most inconvenient time. He suggested that the hon. Member should bring in a Bill that an hour and a half be given for meals before two o'clock, which would obviate the difficulty.


said, he would comply with the wishes of his hon. Friend, and agree to postpone the debate till Wednesday week, the 18th.

Debate adjourned till Wednesday 18th March.