HC Deb 01 March 1867 vol 185 cc1271-83



Sir, in asking the leave of the House to introduce two Bills upon subjects closely allied, I propose to make a statement of their provisions, so that the details may be fully considered before the measures again come on for debate. The success which has attended on factory legislation has been so great, the beneficial results that have flowed from these Acts have been so marked and are now so universally admitted, and the evils still existing in some trades not subject to these Acts are so flagrant, that I believe the time has come when, with the valuable Report of the Commissioners on the employment of children in our hands, we may extend the principle of these Acts more largely than it has ever been extended before. We may even act, I will not say upon a new principle, but upon one that before the present occasion has never received full recognition. These factory laws were originally applied simply to two great branches of the trade and enterprize of this country—namely, to the cotton and woollen factories. The operation of the Acts was then confined to trades where steam or water or mechanical power was applied in working the machinery. These Acts have since undergone gradual development—first, by the Bleaching and Drying Acts in 1850, then by the Lace Factories Acts, and in 1864 the same principle was extended with some modifications to six other kinds of trade. Among those trades were the manufacture of hardware, of percussion caps, of cartridges, of lucifer matches, and of fustian. Those Acts proceeded upon the main principles contained in the Factory Acts, but they carried the Factory Acts much further—namely, to employments in which steam, or water, or mechanical power was not used, and in one instance even to trades carried on in private houses. The main principles of the Factory Acts are these:—First, to provide on sanitary grounds for the health of those employed in factories; secondly, where dangerous machinery is used to take care that it is properly guarded; thirdly, to adopt what is commonly called the half-time system in regard to children under thirteen years of age, that they might attend, compulsorily, at some school for the purpose of having their education carried on at the same time that they are earning wages by their labour; and lastly, with regard to young persons and all women employed in these factories, that the hours of work should be limited to ton and a half in the course of the day, and those hours should ordinarily be between six in the morning and six in the evening. I say ordinarily, for in some respects that rule has been deviated from by subsequent Acts of Parliament, and, I am sorry to add, it has also, in some respects, been deviated from with regard to the number of hours during which both children and women are to be employed. In extending these Acts, the main difficulty which arises is not so much with regard to the extension of their principles, as to the exceptions and modifications which the special and peculiar circumstances of special and peculiar trades may require. Bearing this in mind, allow me to call the attention of the House to the valuable Report of the Commissioners who were appointed to inquire into the employment of children, and let us see what in their Report they have recommended to the consideration of Parliament. Their first Report was presented in 1863; and it was in consequence of that Report that the six new trades which I have mentioned as having been made subject to the provisions of the Factory Acts in 1864 were brought under their operation. In 1864, in 1865, and in 1866, four other Reports have been presented and laid on the table of this House. Those Reports contain a mass of matter, the value and importance of which cannot be over-estimated. In grappling with this subject a single statement will show the large field over which we have to travel, and the immense variety of interests with which we have to deal. These four Reports embrace 150 separate trades, and they affect, more or less, the growth, the health, the physical, the moral, and the intellectual condition of not fewer that 1,400,000 women and children. It will probably interest the House to know how these 1,400,000 women and children are classified according to their I respective trades. I find from the Reports of the Commissioners that the proportion of them employed in the lace, the hosiery, I and the straw-plait manufactures, and one I or two trades of a similar kind, is 320,000. In the manufacture of wearing apparel, &c, where women are principally employed, the number is 858,000 In the metal trades of Stafford shire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire the number was 91,129. In the paper, glass, tobacco, and other manufactures, it was 72,000. In the printing, book-binding, and stationery trades it was 18,250. In certain miscellaneous trades, including brickfields, it was 38,720;—making an aggregate of 1,398,199. You may, therefore, say that the Bills which I ask leave to introduce affect the well-being of, in round numbers, 1,400,000 women and children. With these facts before us, the question arises how are we to deal with trades so varied, and interests so diverse. The subject may be divided into two branches, which I have endeavoured to incorporate in two Bills, and for the sake of clearness I shall call those two branches, the trades which are carried on in the larger establishments, and the trades which are carried on in the smaller establishments. The dividing line between the larger and the smaller establishments cannot be made with reference to the nature of the work done in them, for it is more or less the same in both. The dividing line, therefore, adopted in these Bills, pursuant to the suggestion of the Commissioners themselves, is to measure the larger establishments and the smaller with reference to the number of persons who are ordinarily employed in them. Accordingly, one of the Bills relates to the larger establishments and the other to the smaller. The larger establishments, speaking generally, will be made subject to the regulations of the Factory Acts. The smaller establishments, also speaking generally, will be subject, not to the inspection' of the Factory Inspector, and not to the provisions of the Factory Acts, which can hardly be made applicable in all their particulars to these smaller establishments, but they will, as we propose, be placed under local supervision. I cannot do better than now briefly explain each of the Bills in their order. The first enumerates six different heads of trade which will be included in it. Then that is followed up by a seventh head, which applies to any building or premises whatever in the same occupation, in or upon which 100 or more persons are employed in any manufacturing process—that means any manual labour exercised by way of trade, or for the purposes of gain in the making, adapting, altering, or repairing of any article. The dividing line between the two Bills will take in on the one side of the line all those establishments where 100 persons or more are employed, and the other side will comprise the smaller establishments, many of which are carried on in private houses. With reference, then, to manufactories included in the first Bill, I propose to make them subject to all the provisions of the Factory Acts as to ventilation, cleanliness, security, health, the length of time during which women and children are to be employed, and as to compulsory attendance at schools for purposes of education. These will be the provisions of the first Bill; and, inasmuch as you are attempting to apply the provisions of the Factory Acts to a vast number of trades which have peculiar circumstances affecting them, and also to a vast number of trades which will require time to adapt themselves to the new requirements which the law will impose on them, there will be found at the end of the Bill certain temporary and certain permanent modifications which will relate to the trades included in them. Among the temporary modifications will be the allowance of intervals of time, beginning with twelve months and going on to a year and a half, for adapting those trades to the new requirements to which they will be subjected. The permanent modifications refer mainly to those special trades which require workpeople to be employed during the night. What we propose to do by the Bill is this—we will not allow children or women to be employed on night work at all but with the sanction of the Secretary of State; and where, in certain specified trades, young persons are required to be employed during the night, it is provided that they shall not be employed on the day preceding or succeeding, and that they shall not be employed above a certain number of nights in the fortnight. It will also be found that the Bill refers to certain particular evils specially referred to by the Commissioners. I allude to the grinding process and to the use of the grinding stone. When the grinding stone is used, it is found that the dust which comes from steel and stone is so deleterious to the workman that in those places where a fan is not used for the purpose of driving the dust from the mouth the grinders, inhaling the particles into their lungs, live on an average only forty years; it is therefore insisted in this Bill that fans, which in some cases are now provided at the workman's expense, shall be fixed to all grinding machines. The accidents arising from the Use of the grinding stone are so numerous, and the injuries caused by these accidents so great, not merely to the workmen actually employed, but to those in his neighbourhood, that it is required in this Bill that the stone shall be permanently fixed in such a manner as to prevent these accidents. This is the first Bill which I shall have the honour to introduce. The second is somewhat novel in principle, though not so much so as at first sight might appear. This Bill, if passed, will, I believe, do more for the benefit and protection of those who cannot protect themselves than any other measure that has yet been devised. I have already stated to the House that those engaged in the lace and hosiery trades amount to 320,000, while those employed in making wearing apparel amount to 858,000—in all, 1,178,000 out of the 1,400,000 women and children so employed. These two trades will be chiefly affected by the second Bill. With respect to these trades the Report of the Commissioners convinces me that the evils incident to the employment of women and children in them are unfortunately greater than the evils which have been found to exist in many of the factories already under inspection. I am sorry to add that we find these evils are aggravated to a tenfold degree in the small workshops where children are found at work. The early age at which they are forced to work, the length of time during which they are employed, the incessant labour which they are compelled to go through, the bad ventilation, the deficiency of air and exercise, the miserable want of education, and all the mischiefs that necessarily flow from these causes, make their appeal to us—they make their appeal to our better feelings—they make their appeal to our benevolence and humanity—they make their appeal to our sense of justice and right and I am sure that appeal will not be cast aside by the House of Commons without an endeavour to ascertain the source of the mischief, and if possible to apply a remedy. There are three objections—objections which appear to be very formidable at first sight—that are urged against the application of this principle. It is said that the number of people in those workshops is so small, and it will be so difficult to exercise a supervision over them, that it will be better to leave them unprotected. In the second place, it is said that the rights of private houses ought to be respected, and that we ought not to interfere with them. In the third place, it is said that we ought not to interfere with the rights of a parent over his child. Now, my answer to the first of these objections is, that it is the duty of the State to protect those who are not able to protect themselves, and that class is composed of those who are employed in the small manufactories, the women and children. Independent of that, I could show that wherever the principle of this Act has been put in operation it has always been found to be beneficial. The very first Factory Act passed in 1802, and introduced, I believe, by the first Sir Robert Peel, was applicable to places where only three persons were employed. The Factory Acts of 1833 and 1844 were silent as to the numbers employed. When you take the subsequent Acts—the Print works Act, the Bleaching and Dyeing Works Act, the Bakers' Regulation Act, and the Acts with reference to chimney sweepers—you will find that they all apply to places where very few persons are employed, so that the Legislature has sanctioned the principle in all of those cases to which I have referred. As to private dwelling-houses, I could quote passage after passage from the Commissioners' Reports to show that those private dwelling-houses ought not to be allowed to remain without supervision. But the principle has been already adopted by the Legislature. The treatment of lodging-houses, the Public Health Acts, the Nuisances Removal Act, and Local Government Acts, are all precedents for our guidance in this respect. As regards parental rights, I must be permitted to observe that there is a parental duty as well as a parental right. The first duty of a parent is to see that his child is physically, mentally, and morally educated, in order properly to fulfil the various duties of life. If that duty is neglected, we must come to the State, the parent of the country, to fill the place of the natural protector of the child. The main objects of the Bill are, in the first place, to secure that no children under eight years of age shall be employed in workshops; secondly, to regulate the hours of labour for children between eight and thirteen years of age; and lastly, the working hours of all young persons, not absolutely, but very nearly, in conformity with the principles applied in the Factory Acts. The question arises how those regulations are to be enforced. If we appoint Inspectors to supervise the whole of the trades to which the measure relates, they would find it a matter of impossibility, so numerous are the workshops scattered over all parts of the kingdom, to discharge that duty with anything like efficiency. What, therefore, we propose to do is to impose a penalty both on the employer and upon the person who, whether parent or not, directly profits by the labour of the children, for acting in contravention of the law. We propose further, that the local authorities shall have the power to see that the provisions of the Act are properly complied with, and, if not, to subject the transgressors to the penalty to which I have adverted. The Bill, like the other, will require to have inserted in it special clauses with respect to the grinding stones used and the grinding process which may be carried on in some of the mills. It will also contain certain modifications of the Factory Acts, in order that it may be rendered workable without interfering unduly with particular trades, which are not conducted in the same manner as the works in factories. I believe I have now stated the chief provisions of these two Bills, and it will be seen that they apply to every case except that of agricultural labour, and of labour in mines, and in ordinary shops. The labour in mines is already more or less regulated by Acts relating to them specially, and ordinary shops can hardly he subjected to the provisions of these Bills, As the Commission appointed to inquire into the Employment of Children in the Work of Agriculture have not yet issued their Report, I think it is better to postpone legislation on that particular part of the question—as I took occasion to say the other night, during the discussion which took place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett)—until we have before us those full details which would enable us to deal with it satisfactorily. I forbear on this occasion from doing more than making such a statement as will place hon. Members in a position to form an opinion on these Bills, which will, I hope, be in their hands on Monday morning, and what is to my mind still more important, will call the attention of the country generally, and of those interested in the trades to be affected, to the proposals which we recommend for adoption. Two remarks I would make before I conclude. The first is that inasmuch as we are dealing with a subject so vast, so varied, and so complicated, I am anxious that every suggestion that can be made with a view to improve these measures should be brought under the consideration of the Government and the House before they are read a second time, or at any rate, before they go into Committee. With that view I earnestly invite all those hon. Members who take an interest in the question to consult their constituents as to what amendments, if any, they would desire to see introduced into these Bills. To facilitate the attainment of that object, I would postpone the second reading for a considerable period, say, three weeks or a month. After the second reading we might put off the Committee for some time; but while, on the one hand, I should deprecate undue haste in dealing with the subject, I should, upon the other hand, equally deprecate unnecessary delay. The other remark I would make is that, fortunate as we may consider ourselves as a Government in having the honour of recommending such measures as these to the consideration of Parliament, the merit of them does not rest so much with us as with those who have been the originators of the Commission, and those who, as members of that Commission, have brought the matter so ably under our notice. In alluding to those to whom I think merit is due, I cannot pass without mention the benevolent exertions of the Earl of Shaftesbury, who, from the begining to the end of all these factory measures, has been the prime mover at every step, through a period of trial and of difficulty, and who now has the satisfaction of seeing his labours rewarded by the prospect which presents itself of having those labours brought to a triumphant conclusion. I must also bear my testimony to the unwearied industry, the careful investigation, the discriminating judgment, and the great ability which Mr. Tremenheere and his fellow Commissioners have brought to bear upon the subject, and I cannot better conclude my remarks than by adopting the language which they use at the end of their Report—.language which I think will find an echo in every part of this House, as well as in every part of the country— We heartily trust that we may have thus in some degree contributed to bring the time nearer when so many hundreds of thousands of your Majesty's poorer subjects of the working classes—especially the very young and those of the underer sex—will be relieved from the totally unnecessary burden and oppression of overtime and night work; will be confined to the reasonable and natural limits of the factory hours, with the established periods for meals and for rest and recreation; will perform their daily labour under more favourable sanitary conditions, breathing purer air, amid greater cleanliness, and protected against causes especially injurious to health, and tending to depress their vigour and shorten their lives; and finally, will be under the obligation, between the years of eight and thirteen, of combining a certain and very useful amount of school instruction with wages, yielding employment, and thus benefiting themselves and their country by reaching, as may be hoped, when they grow up, a higher standard of morals and intelligence. Should it be found practicable to extend the principles of the Factory Acts so as to embrace the large numbers which have come under review in these Reports, the blessings which follow—if at all equal to those which have attended that series of Acts since their commencement in 1802—will largely add to the store that has been accumulated by the beneficent legislation of your Majesty's reign. With these words I conclude. I believe that future generations will look back with pleasure upon that reign—that beneficent reign—in which many good things have been done, but none more gracious and just than throwing the protection of wise and considerate legislation over the women and children of this country.


thanked his right hon. Friend for the large and comprehensive measure he had introduced. The nature of those difficulties he could easily understand, having himself had to deal with the same subject, though on a smaller scale, referring only to five or six trades. With respect to the first Bill, he understood the right hon. Gentleman drew a line of distinction between establishments employing at least 100 persons and those employing a less number. He asked whether there were not certain specific trades which, whether more or less than 100 children were employed, might not properly come under the first Bill. He did not understand whether with regard to trades employing less than 100 the provisions of the Factory Acts as to the protection of machinery would apply. [Mr. WALPOLI:: They will,] He also wished to know, with reference to the second or Workshop Regulation Bill, whether it contained any provision for the education of children; because, if it did not, much diasappointment would be felt. He heartily concurred in the provision prohibiting the employment of children under eight years of age in the trades to which the right hon. Gentleman's Bills referred. It would, he believed, put an end to many grievances not only in the manufacturing but also in the agricultural districts, as he supposed the Act would apply to straw-plaiting. His right hon. Friend would, he had no doubt, find little difficulty in defending the course he had adopted with regard to children working under the paternal roof. When the Act of 1864 was framed the Government had to consider one of the worst cases, that of fustian cutting, which was mostly carried on in private houses, and it was deemed advisable then that no children under eleven years of age should be employed at a trade which could be shown to be injurious to the human frame. No doubt there would be the same objections offered to these Bills which were urged against preceding Factory legislation—namely, that there was an improper and prejudicial interference with the labour market, and that the effect would be to deprive a number of children of employment. Such a cry was in fact raised at the time of passing the great Factory Acts, and it was partly verified. In 1835, when the subject was legislated upon, 47,000 children were employed in factories; in 1838, only three years afterwards, they had dwindled to 24,000; and in 1856, in spite of the great increase in trade and manufactures, the number employed was only 44,000. Yet such was the beneficial effect of a just and true principle that, in spite of this diminution of employment, all classes, employers and employed, were unanimous in their approval of this restrictive legislation. The limitation of labour had led to increased wages; and the improved health and intelligence of the working population were a direct advantage to the employer, more than counterbalancing the loss involved in the increase of wages. To prevent a child of four or five years old from working was not only just to the child, but ultimately advantageous to those parents who eked out their own miserable wages by the premature labour of their infant children. The Legislature, by its interference, would contribute to that even distribution of labour throughout the country, which was the most effectual remedy to existing evils. Some branches of the tree of evil had been lopped off by the previous Acts, but the right hon. Gentleman, by this large measure, had struck at its root. If the right hon. Gentleman would give one more blow by extending l the operation of the Act to the agricultural districts, he would complete a work of which this generation might well be proud.


said, he could only express the extreme gratification he had experienced in listening to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole). He knew not which most to admire—the right hon. Gentleman's talents or his industry. It was a pity, however, that the Bill did not contain a provision for the compulsory education of the children employed in the various trades affected by the proposed alteration in the law. He believed that the compulsory education conferred upon the masses by means of the Factory Acts had been one of the greatest benefits derived from those measures. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman before the second reading of the Bill, would take the matter into consideration, and would see if he could not introduce a clause to make education compulsory among the children employed in the manufactures referred to in the measure. According to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Bills introduced to-night would embrace 1,400,000 persons, which was double the number of those at present under the operation of the Factory Acts. If the right hon. Gentleman could make educa- tion compulsory upon the agricultural population, he believed it would be better than the application of the Factory Acts.


said, he felt much gratified with the reception the Bill had met with. With reference to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bruce), he might say that he had purposely avoided going into the details of the separate heads into which the various trades to be affected by the Bill were divided. The list was as follows:— 1. Any blast furnace or other furnace or premises in or on which the process of smelting or otherwise obtaining any metal from the ore is earned on. 2. Any copper mill. 3. Any iron mill, forge, or other premises in or on which any process is carried on for converting pig-iron into malleable iron. 4. Iron foundries, copper foundries, brass foundries, or other premises or places in which the process of founding or casting any metal is carried on. 5. Any premises in which steam, water, or other mechanical power is used for moving machinery employed in the manufacture of any kind of metal in the manufacture of India-rubber or gutta-percha, or articles made wholly or partly of India-rubber or gutta-percha. 6. Any premises in which any of the following manufactures are carried on—namely, paper manufactory, glass manufactory, tobacco manufactory. 7 Any building, or premises whatsoever, in the same occupation, in, on, or within the precincts of which 100 or more persons are employed in any manufacturing process: and every part of a factory shall be deemed to be a factory except such part, if any, as is used exclusively as a dwelling. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Potter) had pointed out that the Bill contained no clause to make education compulsory upon the children employed in the various manufactures dealt with. That omission was certainly a grave defect in the Bill. The matter bad not escaped his attention; but he had not been able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the means by which the desired end should be arrived at. Not yet seeing the best mode of doing that, he thought it well to introduce the Bill merely with the points in it about which he saw his way, instead of introducing, without further consideration, matters on which he had not yet made up his mind. His notion was, before the Bill went into Committee, to insert a clause to the effect that, before a child should be admitted to any of these employments some certificate should be required for its having made a certain progress in education, and that after it had been admitted another certificate should be required of its attending school a certain number of hours each day. He would also see if some such clause could not be inserted in the Workshop Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill for the Extension of the Factory Acts, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary WALPOLE, Lord JOHN MANNERS, and Sir JOHN PAKINGTON.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 62.]

Bill for regulating the Hours of Labour for children, young persons, and women employed in workshops; and for other purposes relating thereto, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary WALPOLE, Lord JOHN MANNERS, and Sir JOHN PAKINGION. Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 63.]