HC Deb 16 July 1872 vol 212 cc1275-80

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Secretary Bruce.)


, in the absence of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), who was suffering from indisposition, withdrew the hon. Gentleman's Amendment for the recommittal of the Bill, with a view to the omission of Clause 16, which enforced the payment of wages by weight instead of by measure. He (Mr. Goldsmid) regarded the clause as unnecessary and as a mischievous interference between the employer and the employed. Inasmuch, however, as he could not hope to receive a sufficient support at that advanced period of the Session, he should not feel himself justified in pressing his view upon the House.


greatly regretted the absence of the hon. Mem- ber for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) on that occasion. He deprecated some of the provisions of the Bill as tending to the destruction of the principle of self-reliance on the part of the men. If the agricultural labourers—the class which was in the worst condition, and which had no traditions of self-help—could rise in their own defence against their employers, and show themselves capable of helping themselves, it could not for a moment be maintained that labourers in any other trade required Legislative protection. If the House were wise it would restrain itself in future from interference with many great departments in which it had very unwisely meddled. Let any class of the people be accustomed to believe that the House of Commons might be made a machine for their special interest, and it would be no longer possible to look forward to a state of contentment between classes. Such an interference as this would, in his opinion, do much harm to the labourers themselves. Once they recognized this principle of interference, there was no definite line within which they could stop. All these questions arising between labour and capital ought to be left to labour and capital to settle. When they introduced such questions into the House they became matters of politics and sentiment, and he confessed he had not sufficient confidence in themselves as to suppose that they would stand as fair and impartial judges between labour and capital. He would appeal to the great body of working men not to bring these matters to the House of Commons and give up their good old habit of debating them among themselves. He believed if they gained an advantage for the moment, they would lose more afterwards that would counterbalance the temporary benefit. He would also appeal to the House to look well ahead before they entered on a course of which they could not see the end, because when they wished to stop short they might find themselves unable to do so. At present the House had quite enough upon its hands. Let them give protection to those who could not protect themselves—such as children and animals, that could not escape from cruelty; but let them treat the men and women of the country as grown-up and intelligent beings, whose energies they would only depress and limit by such Legislative interference.

MR. F. S. POWELL moved that the Bill be recommitted with respect to Clauses 11 and 30.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "re-committed, in respect of Clauses 11 and 30,"—(Mr. Francis Sharp Powell,)—instead thereof.


protested against the propositions laid down by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Auberon Herbert), which rested on fallacies which had only to be publicly stated to be exposed. In his opinion, the Bill would confer enormous benefits upon the important class in whose interests it had been framed.


agreed to some extent—and that was not often—with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Auberon Herbert). There was a danger of over-legislation, and especially when it was tried on the "there-must-be-something-done" principle. But this was an exceptional case and involved the highest considerations. He wished he could believe that the most of the colliery accidents were attributable to either crime or ignorance, for punishment might cure the one and education the other. He was rather afraid that they were more to be ascribed to carelessness and the want of presence of mind, and for the latter no legislation could compensate.


said, he could not allow the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Auberon Herbert) to pass without a protest. The point at issue was—What were the functions of Government? The hon. Members for Brighton and Nottingham would reduce them to protecting the pockets of the rich against the attacks of the poor. ["No!"] That was the logical result of all their reasoning if the House had nothing to do with such questions as were raised by this Bill. It was one to protect human life, to protect children, and, as respected the disputed weighing clause, to facilitate the administration of justice. If it was not the duty of Government to do anything but protect society against the thief, as Herbert Spencer—to whom the hon. Members were sudden converts—maintained, what would the result be but anarchy plus the policeman? Seeing that there was no standard measure for coal; that the capacity of corves was a constant source of dispute; and that the miner stood a chance of losing an average of 10 per cent of the result of his labour; and seeing that we insisted upon the use of standard weights in markets and of standard measures in the sale of beer, why should not we say that this particular labour should be estimated by weight? He had told the working men of Yorkshire that he would never be a party to Parliamentary interference with wages or how they should be paid; but all he wished for was to see justice done between man and man. It was running the principle of political economy to an extreme of which its greatest masters would be ashamed to accept the doctrine of the hon. Member for Nottingham.


informed the hon. Gentleman that it was irregular to discuss Clause 16, as he was now doing, when the recommittal of the Bill with regard to other clauses was the question before the House.


apologized, and, in conclusion, added that the only legitimate interference with freedom of contract had occurred in the Irish Land Bill, and in the Bill for giving bank clerks a holiday. The working man had not asked for such legislation.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill re-committed, in respect of Clauses 11 and 30; considered in Committee, and reported; as amended, considered.

On Question, "That the Bill be read the third time,"


said, he saw with regret in The Times of that morning, in the report of a meeting held at Barnsley, a statement to the effect that the provisions of the Bill were not satisfactory to working miners. The Bill contained nearly everything they had agitated for, and the compromises were agreed to with the sanction of those who represented them; and therefore he was justified in saying that, upon the whole, the miners had every reason to be satisfied with the Bill. One point only was not made perfectly clear by the Bill. The miners had long agitated in favour of a more effective ocular inspection by Government Inspectors, but they agreed to give this up on the understanding that, in lieu of it, what was proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Mr. Elliot) should be imported into our legislation—namely, a proposal that a report as to ventilation, &c. should be kept in a certain specific form in every mine. When the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Sheridan) proposed that the Inspectors should keep a record of the number of mines they inspected, he opposed the Motion because he thought it was contrary to the principle of the Bill, which he maintained was not the principle of ocular inspection. Contrary to the wish of the representatives of the miners, he felt it his duty to vote against that proposal; but he did so in the belief that the provision in the Bill with reference to this report would be carried into effect in the way suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for South Durham. However, on examining the Bill more closely he did not think it would do so, as there was no form of the report in the schedule, nor any proviso that a copy of the report should at any stated time be sent to the Inspector. He had privately communicated with the Home Secretary, who said it was not desirable to recommit the Bill in order to insert such a proviso; but he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would cause the matter to be brought under the notice of the House of Lords.


said, the noble Lord had referred to a bargain of some sort; but he, at all events, was no party to it.


did not mean to imply that his right hon. Friend had had anything to do with the bargain.


said, the whole question had been carefully considered in Committee on the Motion of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Brogden), whose proposal was rejected. There were 3,200 mines in the country, and under the operation of this Bill the number would be increased to about 5,000. It was proposed that monthly reports should be sent to the Inspectors. These reports would amount to 60,000 annually, and they would not be of any use whatever, seeing that the books kept at the mines would be open to the Inspectors.


said, that in consequence of the general wish of the Committee he withdrew his Amendment and the schedule attached to it.


could not allow the Bill to be read a third time without tendering his hearty thanks to the Home Secretary for the ability he had displayed in meeting and overcoming the objections of the coal owners, and in protecting the miners. He expressed a hope that the measure would have the effect of reducing to a minimum accidents in coal mines.


denied that there had been any undue opposition by the mine owners, and said that he had not supported any Amendment which had not been agreed to by the men in the first instance.


took credit for having introduced the subject of ventilation in mines, and the necessity of efficient inspection, five years ago.

Motion agreed, to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.

And it being now Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.

House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.