HC Deb 21 February 1870 vol 199 cc584-5

said, he wished to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to a paragraph in "The Times" of February 14th, headed Factory Discipline, being the report of a case decided upon Saturday at the Ilford Petty Sessions, in which Hannah Andrews, a girl aged 15, employed in the; Barking Jute Factory, was plaintiff, and Mrs. Ann Mills, the forewoman of the factory, was defendant; whether the statements in "The Times" are correct—namely, that the girls are employed at separate frames in parties of four and five each, and the girl who is last in finishing her work at any particular frame receives ten or a dozen strokes with a two-foot strap, the end of which is cut into strips, so as somewhat to resemble a eat-o'-nine tails; that the girl Hannah Andrews, having on Tuesday been last at her work, on two occasions received fifteen strokes the first and ten the second time; that it was proved for the defence that this flogging was the custom of the Establishment; that all the girls who were engaged agreed to submit to it when the work was given to them; that the magistrates held that as the complainant had clearly consented to the use of the strap she could not afterwards complain of the punishment inflicted, and dismissed her complaint; whether the system alleged to be pursued in this factory is not clearly illegal? And, whether, if the facts be as stated, he will cause the owners and managers of this factory to be prosecuted in some other court than the Court of Potty Sessions at Ilford?


said, in reply, that he had made inquiries into the case, and was happy to say the facts with respect to the assault had been greatly exaggerated, and with respect to the conduct of the magistrates had been entirely misrepresented. The facts were, that at that jute factory a lady had charge of the girls, who appeared to have imported from Dundee a practice of administering some amount of personal chastisement if the girls and children were idle or misconducted. That chastisement consisted of a certain number of blows, generally three or four, inflicted on the hand with a strap. It was not true that the girl who was the last in finishing a particular work was punished, nor that as many as fifteen or even ten of these blows were ever given; but certainly the infliction of any amount of such punishment, however slight, was altogether illegal. It appeared that on a certain day the mother of Hannah Andrews assaulted the forewoman and gave her a black eye. The forewoman applied for a summons, in consequence, against the mother, and the girl thereupon took out a cross-summons against the forewoman. The magistrates heard both summonses, and came to the decision that they would satisfy the justice of the case by dismissing both. At the same time, so far from approving the conduct of the forewoman, or in any way sanctioning it, they expressly stated the opinion that it was not only illegal, but altogether wrong. Under those circumstances, and without expressing any opinion as to the propriety of the decision of the magistrates, he did not think it necessary for the Government to take any further step in the matter.

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