§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
rose to move—That this House is not prepared, without further evidence, to interfere with the free exercise of labour to so great an extent as is contemplated by the present measure.At the present moment the whole question of labour was in a most embarrassed and unsound condition, and it was admitted on all hands that the less they interfered with the rights of labour the better for that labour The present Bill was of very extensive operation, and there had been no discussion at all upon it in that House. It had been sent to a Select Committee, but the Committee heard no evidence upon it, and nearly the whole of the information gained was of the most cursory and superficial character. He was sure that those Members who read the Reports of the Inspectors would be of opinion that more evidence was necessary before legislating upon the matter. It was true the Committee had before them gentlemen representing different trades, who were there to arrange the terms upon which legislation should be proceeded with; but those gentlemen, in answer to him, said that they did not think that legislation would be advantageous either to the employer or workman. If that were so, he thought, on that one point alone, he had made out a sufficient case for further inquiry. Besides, the provisions of the Bill did very much more than the promoters had intended. He believed they might legislate very beneficially in many cases in reference to the labour of children, but this Bill interfered with and touched the labour of children, young persons, women and males, in every large factory throughout the country where they employed more than 100 men. In the case of printers a great pressure of work came at particular times, and then it was required that the workmen should continue their 477 labour sometimes for eighteen hours at a stretch, they receiving extra pay; but this Bill would limit the time to ten or twelve hours, as the case might be; and what was, perhaps, worse, it would put every printing establishment and manufactory in the kingdom under the supervision of inspectors. There was one point more to which he wished to advert. The Bill applied only to such factories as employed 100 hands and upwards, so that in the case of factories employing eighty or ninety hands, the evils of the system, whatever they were, would be allowed to continue. That was so unjust in principle that he could not understand how it could be embodied in the Bill.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is not prepared, without further evidence, to interfere with the free exercise of labour to so great an extent as is contemplated by the present measure,"—(Mr. Moffatt,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that when he introduced the Bill he explained its principles and details very fully. He agreed that the subject ought to be carefully investigated, but there was scarcely any question upon which the House had more information than this one, and that information had been long in their possession. The hon. Member seemed to think that this information was cursory and superficial; but it extended over no less than five folio volumes, and every one of the trades supposed to be affected by the Bill had been invited to give its opinion upon the subject. In consequence of the general desire expressed that the Bill should be sent before a Select Committee, no discussion was entered into on its second reading. No inquiry could have been more ample, nor more pains-taken to arrive at the truth than in reference to the proceedings of the Committee on this Bill. That being so, the hon. Member had not adopted a course calculated to settle the question in trying to throw away the results of the labours of the Committee, and put a stop to all legislation in the present Session. The measure 478 was one of the most important character as affecting the working classes of the country, especially young women and children, and unless the House undertook to deal with it now, he said advisedly that every week's delay would be pregnant with consequences of the greatest mischief as regarded the best interests of the people.
§ MR. LIDDELL
, in supporting the Amendment, said, the Bill extended to almost every branch of industry in the country, and involved, to an unparalleled extent, the principle of compulsory education. That principle might be right or it might be wrong, but he objected to its being admitted into our legislation by a kind of side-door. They were going to extend enormously the principle of the Factory Acts, without knowing anything as to the effect it would have upon the classes who would come under its operation, and without waiting until the voices of those classes could, under the new franchise, be heard within those walls upon the proposed legislation. They were introducing this great and important principle by a sort of tentative and timid process, and by their hesitation they seemed to imply that the course they had ventured upon might be wrong. He wished the principle to be discussed broadly, and if right affirmed by something like the solemn vote of the representatives of the people. If this measure passed in its present shape, there would be no provision for the education of the hundreds of thousands of children coming within its provisions who were now, either imperfectly educated, or not educated at all. Many more schools must be built, and the means found for doing so; but no such machinery was provided. So far as the Bill operated for the protection of women and children, he had nothing to say against it; but it went much further by being extended to young male persons between thirteen and eighteen years of age—a provision which he thought would mischievously affect the training and supply of skilled labour. If boys did not learn their trade between those ages, when could they be expected to do so? and in his opinion the knowledge of the business of a life-time was the most valuable of all knowledge to the labouring class. It appeared to him that at the close of a Session, and on the eve of a new Parliament, they ought to pause, and not undertake a task of this importance.
said, that the argument of the last speaker would go to postpone the passing of this measure, not until next, but until the Session after next, as it was impossible that, until that time, the Reformed Parliament could assemble. The subject of the Bill had been inquired into several years ago, and on the Report of 1863 a measure was introduced and was discussed very fully. It then became the duty of the Government to consider whether they should introduce a Bill upon the publication of each Report, or whether they should wait until the whole of the Reports were published, and then introduce a complete measure dealing with the whole subject. The Government decided to wait, and it then became the duty of the present Government to deal with the question. The present Government felt that it was necessary to divide the subject, and to introduce two Bills dealing with it. It would be found that the Committee had taken the greatest possible care to consider the whole of the circumstances connected with the subject; and, more especially, they directed their attention to the two great objects of the Bills before the House—namely, the limitation of the hours of labour and the education of the children. It was objected that the latter question involved the larger question of compulsory education generally; but, in reality, the measure before the House did not go further than the General Factory Acts, although it applied to a greater number of children. If the House were to wait, before dealing with this subject, until an agreement had been come to as to a national system of education, he was afraid that many years would elapse before the question was settled. He hoped that the House would go at once into Committee upon the Bill.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he could not concur with the abstract proposition of the hon. Member opposite, which would prevent the House from accepting the invitation of the Government to discuss the question of how far it was possible to ameliorate the condition of a large class of their fellow-countrymen. He, however, thought that the Report of the Commissioners was of an ex parte character, inasmuch as they were apparently sent to the country to make an investigation with a view to legislation, rather than to institute impartial inquiries for the purpose of ascertaining whether legislation was really necessary in the case. He regretted that the Committee 480 upstairs had not taken further evidence on this subject, in order to ascertain more clearly the views of the different trades. He thought that the House had a just ground of complaint at the crude state in which the Bill had been laid before them.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he should like to know whether the next Bill on the Paper—Hours of Labour Regulation Bill—was to be the complement of the present measure; whether the two were to be passed in one; and, whether the Government could give an assurance that they would be both proceeded with part passû, and be passed together? He thought that the two ought to be fused into one Bill, and sent up to the House of Lords in that shape. The Bill proposed to give to the Secretary of State power to exempt, not particular trades, but individuals carrying on certain trades from the operation of the Bill. That, he thought, was a strange principle of legislation, which the House would do well to consider before sanctioning.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, it was his intention to refer this and the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill to the same Committee. He would answer the other questions that had been put to him when the House was in Committee.
said, that although this kind of legislation was properly described as exceptional, yet it would be remembered that the country had experience of such legislation, and had found it eminently successful; they had heard of no complaint from either employer or employed in the trades hitherto dealt with, of unwelcome consequences from the Factory Act. Still the Bill was rather a curious one; it had twelve clauses and no less than twenty-seven exceptions or modifications, of which nineteen were permanent and the rest temporary. Those interested in the trades could tell how this would work. Then a clause states that any place where 100 persons were employed "making any article" should come under the provisions of the Bill. It was not easy to say why a brickfield where 105 people worked required looking after when a brickfield where ninety-five persons were employed did not. Besides this the definition was not clear, and it was most important that the language in this part of the Bill should be plain, and that it should properly describe the intention of the House. The 12th clause would cause a great deal of 481 work to some people; it declared that certain places should be deemed factories until the contrary was proved; it would be an exceedingly difficult task to decide such questions in the future. He had asked whether a ship was an article, or whether a building yard came under the description, but had not received a satisfactory answer; but he asserted that it was necessary that these things should be decided by the House and properly expressed in the Bill. He was unable to support the abstract Amendment of the hon. Member for Southampton, and would prefer to get on with the Bill; if it did not turn out to be a satisfactory measure when it had passed through Committee, it could be set aside on the third reading. The other Acts had worked well, however, and he could not see why they should not be extended.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, it had been argued that this large measure was an undue interference with the rights of capital and labour; but, as a question of political economy, it was easy to prove that there was no contravention of the principle of economy in legislation such as was proposed in this Bill. Those who in the first instance had opposed the Factory Acts were now the first to come forward and say that the legislation which had taken place had produced the most satisfactory results. With respect to the working classes his own experience among them had been that the working men were glad to welcome this kind of legislation. Certain it was that no public protest of the slightest consequence against it had ever come from them, and there was no subject upon which he had ever addressed a meeting of working men that excited more enthusiasm than that of the intended extension to other trades of the same legislation which, when applied to the manufacture of textile fabrics, had produced such remarkably satisfactory results. The observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire that this was a Bill of only twelve clauses, but containing twenty-seven modifications, was a proof that the Committee had thoroughly investigated the subject. He bore testimony to the able manner in which the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Works and Chairman of the Committee discharged his duties as such, and also to the great attention paid to the subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr. Every opportunity was given 482 for any person to attend before the Committee and give evidence.
said, he had not heard anything in the course of the debate to cause him to change his views, but he would withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee).
§ Preamble postponed.
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (General Definitions).
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
moved in line 8, after the word "on," to insert the words "and in which ten or more persons are employed." He made this proposition simply to exclude from the action of the Bill small tradesmen, such as plumbers who occasionally cast lead, and who certainly ought not to be affected under a Factories Act.
§ MR. SAMUELSON
said, that would be a dangerous provision to introduce into the Bill, as small factories required more stringent regulations than large ones.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman evidently sought to remove from the action of the Bill not the owners of factories, but small tradesmen, whom the right hon. Gentleman ought to describe by apt words.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that he would propose an Amendment on the subject when the Report was brought up.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
moved in line 25 of the same clause to insert "or" after "city," and in the same clause after "town," to leave out "parish or place."
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. POWELL
moved in line 33 to insert the words "for sale" after the word "making." That would completely and entirely exclude from the action of the clause domestic labour.
said, the words were wholly unnecessary in this Bill, though they were needed in the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ MR. E. POTTER
suggested that the number of 100 employés was too large. The average even in the cotton trade was only 150, and in the trades already under 483 the Factories Act, 120. He was satisfied that the average in those intended to be dealt with was not more than fifty. Tie begged to move to substitute twenty.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
a said, the number had been carefully considered both by the Government and the Committee.
§ MR. REMINGTON MILLS
thought there was more need for the Bill in the case of small manufactories than large ones.
had given notice of a Motion to restrict the number to fifty; but on the whole he thought it better to adhere to the original figure.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
thought the number a very high one, and he should vote for the Amendment, provided that it was limited to cases where the twenty persons were employed in the same building.
§ MR. FAWCETT
hoped his hon. Friend would carry his Amendment to a division, in which case he should give it his cordial support.
supported the views of the Committee which had reported on the subject, and advised the House not to go lower than the number of 100.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, that the greatest objection to this kind of legislation was the unequal manner in which it operated, and he objected to any lowering of the number.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that it was thought by the Committee that it was better not to begin with too low a number, but they thought that perhaps fifty would be the proper number eventually. He objected to the number being at once lowered to twenty-five.
§ MR. E. POTTER
then withdrew the Amendment, and the clause was agreed to, the number being limited to fifty instead of 100, as proposed by the clause.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.484
§ On Motion of Mr. BRUCE additional new clauses added to the Bill.
§ On the consideration of the Schedules,
§ MR. FAWCETT
proposed the insertion of words restricting the employment of young persons during the night to those above the age of fourteen. No person could read the Report of the Children's Employment Commission without seeing that it was most injurious to allow young persons to be employed during the whole of the night. The proposed legislation had two great objects in view—first, to prevent young persons being overworked; and second, to secure some education for the children employed. He thought that great mischief would arise from allowing young persons at the age of thirteen to work all night, since their education must cease at that age.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that the difference between thirteen and fourteen, was not of such importance as to warrant the Committee in upsetting the arrangement which had been come to in the Select Committee upstairs.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Schedules agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.