§ Order for Second Reading read.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he should not go much into details as regarded the principle on which the measure had been framed. He had recently made a statement which, so far as he had been able to ascertain, had been received with favour by both sides of the House. The Bill affected a great number of employers and employed, and must therefore be dealt with with great care and caution. Whilst the men had gained something by having their hours of labour reduced, he hoped that they would never forget that their interests were bound up with those of their employers, and that if the latter suffered, that suffering would also fall upon the employed. He believed both sides were fully sensible of this fact. He found that the measure had been most seriously considered both by the employers and employed, and that something like an understanding had been come to as to what would be best for the interests of both. The settlement of this question must be based upon some sound and intelligible principle, and as the Factory Law had been so treated from the be- 1416 ginning, so it should be now, in order that any amendment they might make would be a continuing development of the principle they had already adopted. It was upon that footing that this Bill was based, and it was drawn up after full consideration of the condition of those who laboured in the particular works affected by the Bill. It proposed that the number of hours which children and young persons and women should be allowed to work should be 56½ a week; that they should in their particular factories work 56 hours, the remaining half-hour to be employed in cleaning at the end of the week. The Bill was not framed in any way to limit the hours during which persons might work either at the commencement or at the end of the day. The ordinary work of 12 hours a day might begin at six in the morning and end at six in the evening, or, if more convenient to either the employer or the employed, they might begin at seven and end at seven, provided that ample notice was given of such change in the working hours. Out of those 12 hours, two were to be set aside for refreshment and recreation, but the clause on that subject was drawn so as to give as much elasticity as possible. It had been supposed that, under the clause, an hour must in all cases be given for breakfast and an hour for dinner, and it was thought by some that an hour was too long for breakfast. That was not, however, the real meaning of the clause. Under its terms it would be competent for the employer to commence working at half-past six in the morning, then to give half-an-hour for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and then at six in the evening the employer would have had their 10 hours' work. Again, the employer might take another course. He might begin at six, give half-an-hour for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and then at half-past five the day's work would be completed. In that way the varying convenience of the employers and the employed would be met from one end of the country to the other. A great safeguard for the health of women and young persons which the Bill provided was that they should not be employed longer than four and a half hours without a meal. This would be a great relief to those who were compelled to use the same mechanical operation of the hands and feet which was so wearying, and from which they required relaxa- 1417 tion. They could not be without a meal for more than four and a half hours at one time, nor could they work more than 10 hours for the first five days of the week, nor more than six hours on Saturday. The total quantity of work which the employer would get would be 56 hours. There remained the question whether the persons so employed were to go through the process of cleaning during their working hours, or whether the employer should be allowed to stipulate for half an hours' cleaning at the end of the week. The latter was an arrangement which all the employers were willing to accept, and which he had put into the Bill. He now passed to the case of the children and half-timers. There were two modes in which the half-timers might be employed—either every alternate day—namely, three days a week for the full time that the others worked, or, in all, the half of 56 hours, or they might be employed in alternate shifts on the same day, some in the morning and others in the afternoon. One shift was, however, always a longer time at work than the other, and it would be necessary to put the children into alternate shifts in order to equalize the number of hours. They had given the greatest elasticity, so that there would be no difficulty between employers and employed upon this point. He would not detain the House by going into the details of the various clauses, but he must make a short explanation of the operation of Clause 8. That clause strictly prohibited any employment in the factory during meal times. It had been proposed that the persons employed should not be allowed to remain during meal times in the same room in which they worked. That, however, would be a hardship. Numbers had nowhere else to go to, and many of them liked to sit and talk during meals until work time came round again. The clause followed the existing law, and only prevented the hands from remaining in the room while the machinery was being turned. The engine must stop, or there would be no certainty that the work might not go on during meal hours. It was necessary to allow the recovery of lost time in the case of water-power, although there were not many persons who used water-power, and many of them would be glad to give up the practice of making up for lost time. The next point was as to the edu- 1418 cation of the children, and the Bill contained clauses which, in his opinion, would be valuable in the working of the Education Act. He thought the House would agree with him as to the necessity of children being allowed education in their youth, so that the country would get the benefit of having educated persons when they grew up. Therefore, he thought the time had come when they might fairly extend the age of children before they could be employed in the manufactories touched by the Bill. It was for that purpose, therefore, that the age had been extended from 13 to 14, unless a child could produce a certificate showing that he had the benefit of a certain kind of education. He had not stated in the Bill the actual Standard the child must pass before being employed, and for this reason—that it would not be wise to fix a Standard if that Standard had to be changed from time to time, according to the views of those in charge of the Education Department, and it would be somewhat different if it was allowed to remain an open question in different localities. The House would not, he thought, do wisely in allowing any change to be made with regard to those engaged in manufactures by which the ordinary run of children should be in danger of being at once turned out of employment. During 1875 the age of the children might be taken at nine years, and afterwards they might safely raise by one year the age at which a child might first go to work. He proposed to fix the 1st of January, 1875, as the day for the Act to come into operation. It was necessary to enact that no children now employed should be turned out into the streets, but that the children should, so to speak, work themselves up to the conditions prescribed. The enactments of the Bill would therefore only apply to future children who might enter these factories. So far as the silk manufactures were concerned, the Government had every wish to meet any difficulty that might arise in that particular manufacture, and he had therefore taken care that the age should be raised so gradually that it would be a long time before the Act would come practically into operation. By the time this Act, so far as the silk children were concerned, came into operation, he believed it would be found that all the children would be 1419 able to pass the Standard of education at the age required. He would not enter further into the details of the measure, but simply state that the provisions related, first, to the hours of work; secondly, to the age at which children should enter employment; and, thirdly, to the age at which they should change from the rank of children to that of young persons. He trusted that the Bill would be found to have the merit of simplicity and also of usefulness. It would be unnecessary for him at present to advert to the question about to be raised by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). If it were true, as he believed, that Factory Acts were to be based on sanitary and educational grounds, Parliament would not invade any law of political economy by legislating for women as well as young persons and children who worked in factories. Had not the legislation, he would ask, to which Parliament had already given its assent, done the greatest possible good, not only to the children employed at the time, but to the generations of children who had since been born? He believed that the women who worked in these factories—and anyone who looked at the records of what had taken place in former years would come to the same conclusion—had materially suffered in health by going on year after year and generation after generation working in the factories, and that in the long run if it had not been for the Factory Acts the women and children of this generation would have materially deteriorated. If that were so, how could they distinguish legislation now from legislation then—he meant on principle? It was entirely a question of degree, and that point he was perfectly willing to argue with the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) or any other hon. Member. But the House had given up the principle of not legislating for this particular class, and he repeated what he had already said, that a great number of these women were not free agents in this matter. They were to a great extent under the moral compulsion to support their families, and under the natural compulsion which was exercised by their husbands to go to work in the factories. He knew it was suggested that the law should be made to apply to married women only, and not to others, because 1420 those others were practically free agents. He did not think, however, that that was a distinction which would commend itself to the majority of Englishmen, and he himself could not imagine a more dangerous distinction to make. Now, as to the extent of the trades to which the Bill should apply, he might state that he had received a great number of communications from those employed as book printers and in paper mills and iron and glass works as to whether they should come under the operation of the Act. The House, however, would see that the Bill as drawn was strictly confined to textile trades and those with which they were intimately connected. Those engaged in the bleaching and dyeing trades, who represented that the proposal for legislation had come upon them suddenly, who were not included in the Bill of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), and who asked for a little delay, had, he thought, made out a case for exemption for the present. But nothing would give him greater satisfaction than to be able to place before the House a measure to consolidate the whole of the Factory Acts, which were in such a state of confusion. Although the bleach and dye works were to be exempted from the immediate operation of the Act, he trusted the House would not delay in legislating on the main bulk of the trades included in it. The employers and employed had been expecting legislation on this question, and they were at the present moment able to look at the matter in a calm and liberal way. In fact, he did not think that there was a time when they were on better terms among themselves. He found at the outset that there was a very great divergence of opinion, which had existed for years, between them, with reference to the subject; but in the course of the long discussions he had had with them he had never met with so much fairness of argument as was shown on both sides, or a greater desire to arrive at a fair and sound conclusion. He was happy to say that both parties were now willing to settle the matter on terms equitable to both, just and advantageous to the country, and which would, infringe no principles of political economy further than they had already been infringed by the operation of the Factory Acts which had received the assent of the Legislature.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Assheton Cross.)
§ MR. FAWCETT
, in rising to move, as an Amendment—That, in the opinion of this House, it would be inexpedient to pass those portions of the Bill which impose new legislative restrictions on the number of hours during which adults are to be permitted to work,said, it was evident from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he wished the House to believe that the Bill of which he had just moved the second reading was simply a measure designed to improve the health and education of our factory population. Now, if that were its real object, and if such were likely to be its ulterior consequences, it was hardly necessary to observe that no one in that House would be likely to wish to offer to it the slightest opposition. But although the title of the Bill would lead one to suppose that its objects might properly be described as educational and sanitary, he thought he should be able to show that there was a wide divergence between its title and its true scope. Why, he should like to know, were the great textile manufacturers of the country singled out by the right hon. Gentleman as so peculiarly deficient in independence and wanting in capacity to manage their own affairs that they must be taken under the special patronage of a Government whose peculiar mission it was to harass no industry and worry no trade? He knew it would be said that the provisions of the Bill applied to women and not to men. Nothing could be more pacific than the speeches of the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) on that point; but although the Bill nominally applied to women only, its real effect would be to place a Parliamentary limit on the length of the day's work, and its general application would be precisely the same, in a great majority of cases, as if in every clause after the word "woman" they had inserted the word "man." To say women should leave a factory at 5 o'clock, and that their labour should be dispensed with for a certain time, while the men should continue at work, was to proceed upon a supposition just as unreasonable as that a steam-engine should go on working without fuel, for the labour of the men and women in our factories was inseparably intertwined. It might 1422 be urged, however, that of which he was speaking would simply be an accidental and collateral consequence of the Bill; but in the innumerable speeches which had been made on the question at the late General Election, was not the question constantly put, he would ask, whether a candidate would vote for a Nine Hours Bill? And unless the House was prepared to stand by the principle that the people of this country should be treated as capable of forming a judgment as to how many hours a day they should work, and not as children, the cry for eight hours or seven hours would be raised at the next General Election—a result which would be due to Departmental meddling and official interference. Of late years the social and industrial condition of the people had greatly changed, and no one could deny the fact that the working classes had shown that they knew very well how to take care of themselves. Before proceeding to deal with the facts which the Home Secretary alleged in justification of this Bill, the House might not unnaturally expect that some reply should be made to by far the most effective argument that would be brought against those who were prepared to contend for the principle that no new legislative restrictions should be imposed upon the number of hours that adults should be permitted to work. It had been said—If they were logical they should be prepared to repeal all existing Factory Acts. The Home Secretary laid great stress on this plea about logic. He seemed to forget that one of the most distinguished Members of his own Government had lately thanked God that in this country they were not governed by logic. But the Home Secretary had far too much practical shrewdness and common sense not to know that it was one thing to repeal Acts of Parliament that had been in operation for many years, and altogether a different thing to give a new sanction to the principles that those Acts might contain. In the first place, many who were now Members of the House were not Members of it when those Acts were passed, and, therefore, were not in any way responsible for them; secondly, the condition of the country and of the people might have materially changed since they were passed. Since that time the working classes had been enfranchised, and they had proved in a hundred hard- 1423 fought industrial contests that they were perfectly competent to protect their own interests; thirdly, some who might not object in principle to those Acts might think that legislative interference had already gone far enough, and that it was neither wise nor expedient to extend it. The Home Secretary must see that, after all, it was not so much a question of logical consistency as it was a question of expediency. The right hon. Gentleman himself thought it would be neither wise nor prudent to support a 54 hours' Bill; why, then, were those who thought it neither wise nor prudent to support a 56½ hours' Bill any more bound than the right hon. Gentleman was by logical consistency to repeal all existing Factory Acts? Whatever might be his (Mr. Fawcett's) own individual opinion, he did not ask those who would vote with him that evening to assert that their predecessors were in error because in past years they had imposed certain legislative restrictions on the labour of adults. The Resolution he was about to move made no reference to the past; it simply affirmed that the time had come when it was inexpedient to sanction any further extension of this system of legislative interference with adults. Some short time ago the Home Secretary said that this Bill ought to be passed because it was recommended by the Factory Inspectors, and because it would settle the agitation upon the question; because the Bill was based upon the Report of the Special Commissioners; because it would be safe, wise, and expedient to limit the hours of labour to 56½ hours per week in trades affected by the Bill; and because interference on behalf of women would be justifiable, because they really were not free agents. No doubt Mr. Baker, a Factory Inspector, had said that a Bill limiting the hours of labour to 56½ would stop agitation; but he desired to show how the statement had been received by the working men themselves. One of the leading men in this movement was Mr. Middleton, who was Chairman of the Nine Hours Factory Association in Dundee. Mr. Middleton's reply to Mr. Baker was—" Oh, Mr. Baker, how very little you know of the subject on which you write! How can you suppose that 56½ hours will satisfy us, when our brethren have 51 hours and our fellows in the colonies have 48 hours? "But that was not all; 1424 Mr. Middleton asserted that Mr. Baker had no authority whatever for stating that 56½ hours would satisfy them, and he went on to say that when the proposal was made to Mr. Mundella the offer was treated by him with contempt, and that he would be content with nothing short of 54 hours. And they would probably hear his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, in the course of the evening, denouncing the small concession contained in the present measure, and if it were accepted at all, it would be accepted as an instalment, and not as a settlement. How was it possible by such means to stop agitation, in the face of the great labour movements going on throughout the world? Each concession made to the demands for legislative interference only added new strength to the movement, and gave additional encouragement to further demands. What were the great labour movements going on in the United States at this moment? Why, in America there was no social or economical question which excited so much interest as the Eight Hours Bill. It was only a little while since that 5,000 workmen at Chicago demanded from the municipal authorities that the day's work should consist of eight hours, and that remunerative work at that rate should be found for all who desired to labour. Instead of dealing with the matter boldly, the municipal authorities did much as the Home Secretary had done—they promised to take the subject into their most serious consideration. In fact, it was this paltering with error, and this failure to make a determined stand against such demands, which formed a source of considerable danger. They might depend upon it that it was a great mistake to suppose that this Bill would put a stop to agitation. If they once encouraged the principle that the length of the day's work was to be regulated by the House, they would be adopting a course which would be disastrous to the future of the industry of this country, and be destructive of the best qualities which had characterized a self-reliant and independent race. Again, the Home Secretary urged that this Bill was justified by the Report of the Commissioners; but out of 163 medical men examined by that Commission, 131 stated distinctly that the hours during which the women were employed were not too long. More than that, 173 were asked if there 1425 was anything specially injurious in the labour which they engaged in; of these 99 gave a distinct negative, and 52 of the remainder pointed out sanitary and other defects, such as want of proper ventilation, which as seriously affected the men as they did the women, and which were not touched by this Bill. He was not going to bring forward a single complaint against the Report which had been presented; but he put it to the candour of the House whether the case of the Home Secretary had not hopelessly broken down so far as the medical testimony was concerned. The Commissioners themselves made an admission which threw an instructive light upon the medical testimony, for they stated that three-fourths of the women employed in textile manufactories were engaged in those branches of the work which were not prejudicial to health. It was all very well for Lord Shaftesbury to go with a deputation to the Home Office and state that he knew some manufacturer who preferred to employ married women because he could oppress them. This was a serious charge to make; but the noble Lord seemed always to have some anonymous bogey or undivulged monster at hand wherewith to terrify and alarm the timid and the prejudiced. The hon. Member for Sheffield, again, did not intend his Nine Hours Bill to apply to the borough which he represented, although the mortality in 15 of the principal towns carrying on textile manufactures was from 15 to 20 per cent less than in Sheffield. As an illustration of the sensational and fallacious statistics used when discussing questions such as this, he might say that, although only 7 per cent of the population of Manchester were employed in the textile factories, the city was 24 per cent more unhealthy than such purely textile towns as Oldham, Blackburn, and Preston. Further, it was a fact that Manchester was always included when estimating the average mortality in the textile districts. The facts he had mentioned with regard to Manchester showed that there were causes far more efficient in producing a high death-rate than anything connected with employment in factories. Almost the whole number of operatives employed by Mr. Hugh Mason, an extensive manufacturer of textile fabrics, lived in properly-constructed cottages 1426 which he had caused to be built for them, and the result was a lower death-rate among these people than was to be found in the healthiest rural districts in England. What, then, was the remedy which ought to be proposed? Clearly, one of the first things to be done was to amend the sanitary arrangements of the factories, for it was clear that the passing of a 56 hours Bill would neither empty nor purify cesspools. He should not think either of opposing the educational clauses of the Bill, although on this question he wished to see a much more comprehensive measure passed than the present one, which fixed different ages at which children might commence work in manufactures carried on side by side, although young persons might be employed with equal advantage and no less risk in either. It might, perhaps, be said that the opponents of this Bill were cold-blooded political economists, caring nothing for the lives of those by whom wealth was produced; but he would only say, with regard to questions like the present, that the more the people relied upon State intervention the less would their prosperity be promoted, while the more they were taught to depend upon their own efforts the more certainly would their prosperity be secured. He had no interest in any of the trades affected by this Bill; but when it was said that manufacturers were hardhearted he felt it to be his duty to say he could point out many throughout the Kingdom known for their care and generous efforts on behalf of the people. It had been advanced by the Home Secretary that the state of our English industry was such that it was safe, wise, and prudent to reduce in textile factories the week's work to 56½ hours; but he (Mr. Fawcett) protested with earnestness that it was altogether beyond the province of that House to decide what should be the length of a day's work in any particular branch of industry, because it depended upon a great variety of complicated details, which could only be determined by the employer and the employed. The nine hours movement had succeeded because it was based upon this principle, and resulted from the spontaneous action of the workmen and their masters. Further, in every single instance in which the employed had insisted upon the nine hours movement, they had 1427 taken the most ample precautions to provide for overtime. This Bill made no provision whatever for overtime. He expected to find from the Home Secretary's speech that the right hon. Gentleman based his opinion in favour of reducing the week's work to 56½ hours upon the opinions of business men, but he found that he rested his proposal solely on the Reports of the Factory Inspectors. The opinions of the Inspectors, who were very excellent persons, were exceedingly valuable as to the sanitary condition of a factory or the educational condition of the persons employed in it; but what qualification had they for deciding how long a Yorkshire or Lancashire manufacturer should continue his week's work? He (Mr. Fawcett) protested against the idea of making these gentlemen the arbiters of the question. If he had been charged with legislation upon this subject he would not have consulted the Factory Inspectors, but the manufacturers and the men of business in that House, who could speak with a practical knowledge and a life-long experience. In the case of Ireland there was a considerable difference between the circumstances of industries in that country and in this. The flax manufacturers of Ireland declared that it was inexpedient to impose the same legislative limit upon the two countries, and they showed that if the productive power of their machinery was decreased 6 per cent. as it would be by this Bill, they would no longer be able to compete with foreign countries, employment would decline, and consequently there would be a decrease of wages and thousands would be thrown out of work. The great objection he had to this Bill was that it touched all industries alike, whether they were active or dull. In some branches the condition of prosperity was such that the provisions of the Bill could be carried out without risk being incurred in any direction; but, taking a wider view, would it not be just and expedient to place confidence in the two parties interested, the employer and the employed, to reduce the hours of labour whenever the state of trade enabled them to do so? Considering the intelligence, the independence, and the social power of the working classes, were they not, he asked, better judges than the House could possibly be as to what the length 1428 of their week's work should be and when the hours of their labour could with safety and propriety be reduced? Many of the industries affected by this Bill were in a very critical position. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Crossley), who was a high authority upon this matter, stated that the industries of the West Riding, were in a critical position, and that wool could now be taken from Bradford, manufactured abroad, re-imported, and sold for 3d. or 4d. per pound cheaper than if it had been made in the neighbourhood of Bradford. In that town there were cousequently 20,000 looms idle. The 6,000 men whom the hon. Member employed did not want this legislation; but they were only too thankful to be employed full time when so many others were working only half time. It was a noteworthy fact that no responsible Minister had ever sought to place restrictions upon the employment of married women. He admitted that married women were better at home with their children than they could be working in factories; but ought not the decision of that point in each particular case to be left to the good sense and increasing intelligence of the people themselves? One Factory Inspector had proposed that all married women should be treated as half-timers; but the fact only illustrated the foolish things which very sensible men proposed when they gave way to the mania of legislative meddling. If that proposal were carried out they would see many unmarried women who had children working as full-timers, whilst many married women who had no children would be reduced to the position of half-timers. If the hours of labour were reduced by three and a half hours a week, the productive out-turn of the machinery would be diminished by 5 per cent. unless greater speed were resorted to. The latter was not probable, because it was safe to assume that if greater speed were advantageous it would have been already adopted, and Mr. Robinson, a medical man of Dukinfield, had warned the workers not to exchange less speed and long hours for greater speed and fewer hours. The deputation, moreover, which waited on the Prime Minister at Glasgow last autumn represented that their condition was worse than before the Factory Acts were passed, on account of the greater number of spin- 1429 dles to be attended to and the much greater speed. The workmen had apparently been persuaded by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Callender) that they would receive the same wages for less work; but if Parliament could effect this they would soon demand the same wages for 54 or 50 hours' work. It was absurd to suppose that legislation could control the immutable laws regulating wages. If, however, wages were not reduced, the loss would fall either on the employer or the consumer, and in the latter case it would be tantamount to a tax on the general body of consumers, including the workmen themselves. In these days of competition price was regulated by the cost of production in foreign countries sending goods to us, as well as by the cost in England, and an increase of 6 per cent in price would lessen the demand for our goods in the foreign market, but increase the import of foreign goods into our own, a heavy blow at English trade resulting in the decline of profits and the diminution of wages. An increasing tendency to invest capital abroad was commented on in commercial papers; energetic manufacturers like the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) establishing manufacturing concerns on the Continent, where adult labour was unrestricted. In Germany and Switzerland, where the condition of the factory population was confessedly satisfactory, restrictions were imposed only on the labour of children. If by legislation impediments were placed in the way of any industry, the relative advantage of investing capital abroad would be increased, and the magnitude of the sum of English capital which went to the other countries of the world, being taken away from our own industries, would be enhanced. They might depend upon it that it was not so much the employer as the employed who would inevitably suffer. He was as anxious as any one could be to see the hours of labour reduced; but the best way of doing it was not by legislation, but by leaving the question to the people themselves. There was this significant fact—that in those trades which were affected by this Bill the hours of labour were 10 per day; in the workshops which had been legislated for they were still longer; whilst in hundreds of trades where the working classes had taken the subject into their 1430 own hands they were working a much shorter time. The Home Secretary justified this legislation on the ground that women were not free agents; but if in Lancashire and Yorkshire they were not free agents, then in Dorsetshire, Cambridgeshire, and Suffolk they could not be; and the logical result would be a Bill regulating agricultural labour, especially as women were more likely to be "bedraggled in mud and wet up to their middles" when weeding a turnip-field than when working in a well-ventilated factory. Again, how could the women in London houses and shops be free agents either? Parliament would have to say at what hour domestic servants should retire to rest. Only last week the Home Secretary enabled barmaids, who were not free agents, to be employed three and a half hours per week longer, and now, in his enthusiasm for logic, he wished to reduce the hours of labour of women in manufactories by exactly the same amount. This question suggested an important inquiry—namely, why women were not free agents, and he found the answer in the answer of the Home Secretary. It told that there was something infinitely worse than work, and that was want. Those who took the course which he was advocating were sometimes told that they were pursuing an unpopular course and would be punished at the polling booths; but when the Home Secretary told the people of the manufacturing districts that employers were so avaricious and men were so selfish as to force their wives, sisters, and daughters to work against their will, the plea that they were not free agents would be hurled back with contempt and indignation, unless the people of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Glasgow were deprived of every feeling of self-respect. He would now, in conclusion, appeal to hon. Members who might agree with him in principle not to hesitate to express their convictions, because their motives might be misunderstood. The Governor of California lately, in considering a Bill on a similar subject said—Hard work and underpay are the evils of our imperfect legislation; but I veto this Bill because I think those evils will not be cured, but intensified, by legislation. Blessed indeed would be the law if it could cure them, but it cannot.He and others were not anxious for 1431 overwork or under pay; but they cherished the principle of self-reliance and independence, which was the only sure basis of national well-being.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it would be inexpedient to pass those portions of the Bill which impose new legislative restrictions on the number of hours during which adults are to be permitted to work,"—(Mr. Fawcett.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Although, Sir, I am not specially connected with the factory districts, yet having taken a great interest for some time in the success of our factory legislation, which, I believe, to reflect great credit upon this country, I venture to ask the House—even at this hour—to permit me to offer a few observations upon this Bill. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) has put before the House a Resolution in somewhat general terms; but his speech has made it quite clear that he limits his opposition to this Bill to those portions of it which impose restrictions upon the hours of work of women. But, as the main ground of his opposition is that to impose restrictions upon the hours of work of women must necessarily interfere with the labour of men, I venture to point out to him that to impose restrictions upon the hours of work of children must have a precisely similar effect. Indeed, it is upon this very ground that some of the petitioners to this House, as hon. Members will find if they take the trouble to refer to the Petitions, objected to the Bill of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). I know, Sir, that I may be told that restrictions upon the hours of work of children will not interfere nearly so much with the labour of men as restrictions upon the hours of work of women. But the question which the hon. Member is raising in this House is one of principle, and not of degree; and therefore I say that if the hon. Member carried out his principle to its logical conclusion, he would now be opposing the second reading of this Bill, or, at any rate, those portions of it which relate to the hours of labour. Now, Sir, I differ fundamen- 1432 tally from the hon. Member in regarding this question as not only one of principle, but also as one of degree. We set before ourselves certain great national objects which are likely to be promoted by the passing of the present Bill, and what we have to ask ourselves is, are these objects so essential as to justify any amount of interference? The hon. Member for Hackney says "none," and I suppose that every hon. Member of this House would be disposed to agree with his general principle, which is, that when people can do things for themselves better, or as well as the State can do them for them, it is most unwise for the State to attempt to do them for them. But the practical question for us is—can these poor women do these things for themselves as well as we can do them for them? Let me ask the House, in the first place, to consider if a woman can actually decide for herself whether she will work or not work, or if she is not really under certain influences which prevent her from being placed in the class of free agents. First of all, there is the pressure which was alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the other day. I mean the pressure of the employer, which is often exerted to take women and children also to work. I do not for a moment mean to speak of this pressure in terms of condemnation; because it appears to me very natural that an employer, who has only a limited supply of house accommodation, should wish to draw from that house accommodation as much labour as he possibly can, and what is more, to obtain a class of labour over which he will have more control from employing several members of one family. And again, there is that other form of pressure, which, as every one knows, is very often exerted to the injury of these women, by forcing those out to work who ought not to work, or at times when they certainly ought not to do so. I mean the pressure of the husband. Well, Sir, if this is the case as to working or not working, it is much stronger when we come to the hours during which a woman is to work. Does the hon. Member really suggest that any individual woman is capable of settling this point for herself? Suppose a woman to go to her employer and to say that she found 10 hours' labour injurious to her health, and that she wished to work nine hours; the employer would 1433 reply—"I have no doubt you are right in thinking so; but I want a woman who can work 10 hours." And therefore it is idle to expect that unless there is to be an extensive system of combination amongst women, that any reduction of hours can be effected by them. I know that we are told of certain towns where women, either by themselves, or assisted by the men, have combined, with success, to reduce the number of hours of work; but that only strengthens my argument in asking for legislation on behalf of the women who have failed in obtaining, and who can never within any reasonable time obtain it. The hon. Member for Hackney has raised the question why legislation should be demanded for factory workers when it was not asked for on behalf of women engaged in other occupations, and he somewhat uncandidly called in question women employed in agriculture in Dorsetshire and Cambridgeshire. I say uncandidly, because nobody knows better than the hon. Member, who has taken great pains to inform himself on these subjects, that the reason that legislation is not demanded on behalf of women employed in agriculture is because there has been an inquiry into the subject by a Royal Commission, and the Commissioners have unanimously reported that there is no case on sanitary grounds for interfering with women in the agricultural districts. Nor would I plead for interference on behalf of the women engaged in manufactures if no case could be made out for doing so. Now, what is the case? I believe that I can, in a very few words, put before the House some conclusions, drawn from the evidence in its possession, which will afford great assistance in legislating on this subject. Well, Sir, there is very strong ground for believing that the strain upon each operative, and especially upon each female operative, has very much increased during the last few years. But whether the strain has actually increased or not, there is an enormous preponderance of opinion amongst all the medical men qualified to speak upon the subject that it has an important influence in producing the high rate of mortality which prevails in the factory districts. And lastly, there is a complete unanimity of opinion, shared even by the employers, that it would be a very good thing if restrictions could be imposed on the labour of married women. 1434 And no doubt the case of the married women is much the strongest. I suppose that we should deal with them on the same principle as in compulsory education, when we compel a parent to send his child to school; we do not leave it to the parent to send it to any school, but we say that it must be an efficient one. And we do this because we believe that the poor parent is unable to form an opinion upon what is a good education and what is not. And so in this case, the women themselves are hardly aware perhaps of the injury that they are inflicting, not upon themselves, but upon their families. What is the result of the prolonged absence of a woman from home at work? It means possible injury to herself; it means pecuniary loss and discomfort, making the house no longer a real home to the husband; it means possible injury to the children left at home; a denial to them of any chance of obtaining domestic training; or of becoming fit, physically or morally, for their future duties in life. I hope that the House will not suppose that I mean that all these things can be set right by the present Bill; but we shall be doing something towards this object. But, Sir, I entirely agree with two hon. Members who spoke the other day, that it is impossible to legislate for married women only. And not only for the reasons which have been given, but also because we should be met with the difficulty that we ought to make a distinction between women that have children and those that have not; and we should run the risk of setting a premium upon not marrying, which there are plenty of unscrupulous men ready to take advantage of. But I think that the grounds which I have mentioned give ample reason for including all women. So long as men are men, and women are women, the lot of the vast majority of women will be to marry, and however much we may permit them to injure their own health if they like, we are bound to look after the generation that is to follow them, and to see that their health is not prejudiced. And I think we can take comfort in reflecting that it is exactly these single women who can best afford to dispense with the earnings of which this legislation may deprive them. Anybody who knows the factory districts is aware that one of the greatest evils which attends the high rate of wages is that females, 1435 before they have ceased to be girls, are able to emancipate themselves from parental control. So that it comes to this—that the married women, who can least afford some loss of earnings, require these restrictions the most; and the single women, about whom as strong a case cannot be made out, can most easily afford it. The hon. Member for Hackney suggests that we are going to throw a number of women out of employment; but the House should remember that the whole tendency of recent legislation with regard to children—aye, the clauses in this very Bill raising the age for their employment from eight to ten—must necessarily create a larger demand for the labour of women. The actual amount of earnings which they might lose cannot possibly exceed 5 per cent. and though I do not want to depreciate the loss of the little comforts which it may entail upon them, yet, looking to the high rate of wages, I cannot think it of very great importance. And if we desire some further comfort in this matter, we shall find it in the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester (Six-Thomas Bazley), which have been denounced as "socialistic," when he told us that if we imposed twice as much restriction upon the labour of women and children they would still receive the same wages. And now, if we are to give these women and children an extra half-hour in the day, it is a very important question at what part of the day it shall be given them. After what I have said, I need scarcely express my own opinion that the greatest boon to the operatives themselves would be to give them the half-hour either at the commencement or end of their work, so that they may have more time at home. But I admit that there may be factories in which the work is especially hard, or in which for other reasons it would be desirable to rest from work for an extra half-hour during the day, and therefore on the whole it may be the best plan to follow the provision in this Bill, and leave it to each employer to determine according to the peculiar circumstances of his factory. Having said so much as regards the women, I shall not trouble the House with any remarks upon those portions of the Bill which relate to children, because I believe they command the almost unanimous approval of this House. I venture to offer my thanks to the Home Se- 1436 cretary for having boldly and promptly grappled with this important question. The Bill is in the nature of a compromise, but I hope of a compromise which is made to last. Nothing can be more disastrous than a constant re-opening of this question, because it produces agitation in the country, and is most unfair to to the manufacturers; and, therefore, I trust that in voting for this Bill we shall be expressing an intention to settle this question, if possible, for a long time to come. And now, with many thanks to the House for the kindness with which it has heard my remarks, I would earnestly urge it, looking to the important national results which are likely to be promoted by the passing of this Bill, and to the very small pecuniary loss which we are likely to inflict upon those who are brought within its provisions—I would urge the House to disregard a philosophical crotchet which seeks to make all things subservient to its own selfish theories, and to consider the true interests of these poor women, and still more of their children, upon whose moral and physical well-being the future prosperity of this country so much depends. Let us disregard these considerations, as we have disregarded them before, and we shall find that the good results which have followed our past factory legislation will be amplified and extended by our legislation of 1874.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
, in apologizing for addressing the House after being a Member of it only one week, said, the great body of the employed felt grateful for, and contented with, what the Legislature had done for them hitherto, and the House no longer approached this question in the region of humanity, but was discussing it in the less distressing, though equally important, region of educational and sanitary advancement. No one could fail to admire the well-known abilities of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett); but in such a matter as this an ounce of experience was worth any number of arguments, and the best testimony to the efficient working of the past Factory Acts was to be found in the fact referred to by the hon. Gentleman, that nothing startling or harrowing was to be found in the medical evidence brought before the Commission. The hon. Member for Hackney said that it was contrary to all true principles to encourage legislative 1437 interference in disputes between employers and employed; but Mr. John Stuart Mill, for whose opinions, no doubt, the hon. Gentleman entertained respect, held a different view. In the end of his book on Political Economy John Stuart Mill discussed the question as to what should be the limits of Government interference, and singularly enough he took as an illustration this very question of the limitation of the hours of labour, justifying Government interference with the view not of overruling but of giving effect to the judgment of individuals, by giving to their deliberate resolves the sanction and validity of law, and enabling them to do what they could not do except by concert. It was one of the merits of these legislative enactments that they gave a sanction to the deliberate resolves of the workmen, and tended to remove the necessity for combinations and strikes. The hon. Member for Hackney had spoken of women combining to form trades' unions; but if they could be protected by law without such combinations, there would be no need for resorting to that alternative. He wished to point out to the House that in matters respecting manual labour the wives and daughters of the operative classes were not free agents; for there could be no doubt that, generally speaking, liberty of contract with them meant liberty of coercion. Women were, undoubtedly, goaded on by influences which men did not and could not feel; and, whether they were married or single, they were affected to an almost similar extent. He had received a letter from a constituent of his—a mill owner—asking him to vote against the second reading of the present Bill, on the ground that if the leisure of the women was increased, they would not employ the additional time to good account. He should regret it if some of the women operatives took this course; but he saw no justification for refusing the additional leisure to a majority who would employ it well, because of the existence of a minority who would waste the time placed at their disposal. A woman would work 12 or more hours a day to support the children of a drunken husband, and if she did not do so the children might starve; but did they ever hear of a husband working 12 hours a day to support the children of a drunken wife? No; simply because the charac- 1438 ter of the woman was in this respect entirely different from that of the man. There were cases in which the protection of the law was extended to certain classes of adults who were not considered to be able to take care of themselves. There was an instance of this in the Merchant Shipping Act, which forbade sailors entering into certain kinds of contracts, and Mr. Justice Maule had explained that the law considered persons of that class to be in a state of perpetual pupilage. Those who had watched the working of the Factory Acts, were of opinion that the female operative would for some time to come be in the same sense in a state of perpetual pupilage. Without feeling the slightest anger at the statement of the hon. Member for Hackney, that his (Mr. Ashley's) father raised up anonymous bogies, he would assure the hon. Gentleman that many things were thought to be bogies by statesmen who did not go to the places for which they were legislating, but they ceased to be bogies to the philanthropist who examined for himself. If the hon. Member for Hackney had a little more personal acquaintance with the daily life of the operative class in our great manufacturing towns, he would not have used a word which implied disbelief of the descriptions given of the condition of the working people. It was a curious and interesting fact that during the cotton famine of 1862 and 1863 the mortality among children was considerably lower, notwithstanding the want of food—and, in many cases, starvation—to which they were subjected; and this could only be accounted for by the fact that the mothers, not being engaged in the mills, were able to give more attention to their offspring, the result being that maternal care was more efficacious than good living. This Bill would take away the exemption under which silk mills were now worked. He thought the provision a good one; because, in his opinion, the exemption ought never to have been granted. As to any injury which the silk trade might experience in this respect, he would simply refer to the testimony of Mr. Lister, given before the Bradford Chamber of Commerce last week, in which Mr. Lister, who was one of the largest manufacturers in the world, said that the measure was a wise one, and was a compromise which would settle the ques- 1439 tion for many years to come. In conclusion, he (Mr. Ashley) wished to thank the House for the attention with which they had listened to him. Having carefully read and considered this subject, he had come to the conclusion that the Factory Acts had done an enormous amount of good in the country; and he believed that this measure, if carried, would be of the greatest possible advantage, inasmuch as it would afford the wives and daughters of factory operatives a better opportunity of learning and fulfilling the duties of domestic life.
§ MR BAXTER
I rise, Sir, to give a very cordial and earnest support to the Bill of Her Majesty's Government, believing it to be a measure that is wise, safe, and well considered, which will confer incalculable benefits on the operative class in this country, and which, notwithstanding anything that has been said to-night, I believe will have the effect of settling this vexed question for a long time. I like this Bill because of the elasticity which it gives. It lays down no hard-and-fast line for all parts of the country, but under the Bill, as it at present stands, various arrangements suitable to the wants of the people and of the masters will be able to be carried into effect. I should have been very well contented to have given a silent vote in favour of the second reading of this Bill, but for the very powerful oration of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett); and in consequence of the opposition that is gathering up in various quarters to this measure, I desire to say a few words simply from a practical point of view. Now, we all know that there are those—I am happy to say they are fewer in number than formerly—who are theoretically opposed to all legislation of this kind. Surely my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney is one of them; at all events, his speech to-night has been from a theoretical point of view. They tell us that the Legislature has no right to interfere between master and servant. I am free to admit that primâ facie there is a good deal to be said in favour of that position; but the fact is, that neither that particular point nor the doctrines laid down by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney to-night, are questions with which we have at present to do. Rightly or wrongly, the Legislature of Great Britain has decided long 1440 ago to interfere not only with the labour of children and young persons, but with the labour of female adults; and therefore I must ask the House to descend for a moment from those lofty regions of political economy in which my hon. Friend finds himself so completely at home, and consider the actual position of affairs. Now, Sir, my hon. Friend, the Member for Hackney, began his speech by stating the objection to the Bill from the women's point of view. He said he had no objection to legislate for children and young persons, but he totally objects to the Legislature interfering with the labour of women; because, he said, the labour of women was so inextricably involved with the labour of men that if you restricted the hours of labour for the former, you were as a necessary consequence restricting them for the latter, and he termed it a covert attempt to restrict the hours of labour for adult men. But the labour of young persons and children in factories, as every manufacturer who is now listening to me knows very well, is just as inextricably involved with the labour of men as that of women with men. Therefore, if there is any force in the argument of my hon. Friend, it is just as cogent against that part of the Bill which he says he is prepared to support as against that part of it which he opposes. But he tells us—and all his school of politics tell us the same thing—that if we indulge in legislation of this kind, the tendency will be to discourage and lessen the demand for the labour of women. My opinion is that it has had, and will have, a diametrically opposite effect. That, too, is the opinion of the female operatives of this country themselves—at least, if we may judge from the Petitions which they have sent to this House. They know very well that the labour of women was not discouraged by the operation of the Ten Hours Bill, and I believe that a vast majority of the working women of this country are in favour of legislation of this kind. I know that in our part of the country—and I think I speak with a good deal more practical knowledge of the factory system than my hon. Friend—the female operatives are unanimously in favour of further restricting the hours of labour. Why, I presented a Petition the other day from the town of Arbroath, one of the burghs I have the honour to 1441 represent, containing 20,000 inhabitants, which was signed by 2,700 female operatives in favour, not of the Bill of the Government, but of the Nine Hours Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella); and I am happy to say that not only are the operatives, male and female, unanimously in favour of that Bill, but nearly all the manufacturers in the burghs I represent are cordially willing to support the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) presented to-night a memorial from the Chamber of Commerce of that great manufacturing city, praying that this Bill may be passed into law. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney has animadverted very much upon sensational speeches. I have never made what might be called a sensational speech in my life. I do not think that this cause is advanced at all by attacks upon manufacturers, or by highly-coloured accounts of the misery and wretchedness of the operatives. For my part, I think the manufacturers of this country, as a rule, are very noble men, who are anxious to do their duty; and I do not think there is anything in the present state of the operatives which would warrant us in thinking otherwise; nor do I think that this House should on any account be guided in a matter of this sort merely upon the opinions of Inspectors. But from my own personal knowledge, I believe that at present in the textile factories the hours are too long. The House knows very well that of late years there have been great improvements in machinery—improvements which have added immensely to the productive power of the country, and which have done a very great deal to compensate for any loss that may have been incurred by the diminishing of hours. But do not let us forget that these very improvements require much greater care and attention on the part of the operatives; and I am satisfied from my personal observation that the strain upon both their mental and their bodily energies at the present moment is much greater than it was 25 years ago. That in itself is to my mind a sufficient reason, not for a jump—not even for such a measure as was passed at the period to which I refer—but for a cautious step in the direction of still further lessening the hours of toil. My hon. 1442 Friend talked so much about caution that one would imagine that this was a Bill going further than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. I maintain that if there ever was a cautious measure laid on the Table of this House, it is the measure which we are now discussing. Surely, when we view the result of past legislation, we may derive some encouragement on taking another step in the direction of shortening the hours. I am ashamed to say I am old enough to recollect the dismal forebodings of those Gentlemen who were opposed altogether to the legislation which ended in the passing of the Ten Hours Factory Bill. They told us that foreign competition would ruin our trade; that Great Britain would lose its manufacturing pre-eminence; and that thousands of deluded artizans who were clamouring for shorter hours would be thrown out of employment. Now, my hon. Friend used very much the same sort of argument to-night. I have read all that has been said and written against this Bill, and I find that every one of the old arguments of 25 years ago has been reproduced in almost the same language that was then used. But instead of those dreadful calamities having overtaken this country, what has happened? We have had a series of years of manufacturing prosperity almost unexampled, and wealth has flowed into this country in a manner unparalleled in its history. I see no reason why what happened after the passing of the Ten Hours Bill should not happen again after the passing of the Nine and a-Half Hours Bill. Now, Sir, I myself am a foreign merchant, acquainted with the commerce and manufactures of those countries that are likely to compete with us, and notwithstanding the alarming vaticinations which every now and then are hurled at our heads, I have no fear of trade in this matter whatever. I believe we have the lead, and that we shall keep it, and we shall best do that by reducing the hours of labour for our population, and thus securing the confidence and good feeling of the workpeople. One of the main arguments used against Bills of this sort is that we have already lost from foreign competition part of our trade, and that we are losing it day by day. Well, that I admit at once; but I say that was inevitable in the nature of things. Surely Gentlemen did not expect 1443 that we should go on for ever enjoying the absolute monopoly of manufactures. We have lost part of our trade, but we have kept the lead. We have added enormously to our wealth, and very sure am I of this—that we shall not retain our manufacturing pre-eminence by working long hours. My hon. Friend referred at considerable length to the memorial of the manufacturers in the North of Ireland, and to the interesting speech delivered by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Crossley) on the occasion of the second reading of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield; and he said there were men in the trade who would tell you that their profits were so small that trade was in a very ticklish condition, and that if you reduced the hours of labour they would all be ruined. Precisely the same language was used before. All our manufacturers in all parts of the world believed that they were to be ruined by the Ten Hours Factory Act. Now, I am happy to say, they have changed their mind, and see that those fears were absolutely baseless. Then my hon. Friend has told us that circumstances have very much changed—that legislation is not now required, because the working classes have been enfranchised, have combinations, and can take care of themselves; and that we should not teach them to hang upon the skirts of legislation, but to make voluntary arrangements. I am just as much in favour of voluntary arrangements as my hon. Friend, and where they can be made it is far better they should be made without the assistance of Parliament; but I appeal to any hon. Gentlemen present who are connected with factories whether it is not a fact that the great majority of those voluntary arrangements have proved signal and total failures. It was because of the impossibility, almost, of bringing about anything like uniformity that legislation was called for. I gladly admit that there have been voluntary arrangements which have been successful, and I do so because I wish to call the particular attention of the House and of the alarmist party to the result of an experiment that was tried. I hold in my hand a memorandum from the flax-spinners and manufacturers in the town of Arbroath, the second paragraph of which is to the following effect—Between two and three years ago—in October 1871—the factory owners in Arbroath, at 1444 the request of their workers, unanimously granted them a full hour for breakfast and dinner, thereby reducing the working hours of their mills and manufactories from 60 to 57 per week.Now, what has been the result? I state it, not on the authority of the operatives, but of the masters themselves: the result has been that the production has hardly been diminished at all. That greatly strengthens the opinion I have long entertained, that if you reduce the hours, as proposed by this Bill, you by no means reduce the productive power of the works in the same proportion, and therefore all the statistics which have been quoted on this point I have always regarded as absolutely unreliable. In my opinion, the hours fixed in this Bill are quite sufficient for any man, woman, or child to work in a textile manufactory. I was going to say that it seems sometimes as if the machinery itself got tired. At all events, the workpeople at the end of a certain period—and I have observed it often—will get sleepy, indifferent, and callous; and notwithstanding what has been said by my hon. Friend, I believe that the amount of production is not at all proportioned to the number of hours during which the labourers work. My hon. Friend has also referred to the question of overtime, and I desire to say a word on the subject. One of the main arguments of those who have supported in the country the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield is, that outside legislation there has been a remarkable unanimity on the part of the trade for working nine hours a-day, and it is said,—"Why, surely, if the men find nine hours are enough for them, it is only right that women and children should not work any longer." Aye, but say the political economists, led by my hon. Friend—" In all these arrangements by the men, outside legislation, provision is made for overtime," and he has complained of the Bill to-night, and of similar measures, because there is no provision for overtime. Now, I am here to state that I am against overtime altogether. I do not believe that in any case it is profitable to the master, and I am very sure that in all cases it is prejudicial to the servants. I will give a practical proof of this—in a small way I admit—but still a very remarkable instance. I own a small work in Scotland for calendering and finishing linen 1445 goods for exportation to various parts of the world. We employ only men and lads, and consequently we are under no restrictions. Twenty years ago it was the universal practice—and it is still the practice in many instances—to work 12 hours, and when the trade was good, to work 14 or 15 hours a day for part of the week. Now, I was so convinced that this could not be a good system, that 12 years ago I issued a peremptory order that no man in my employ should, under any pretext whatever, be permitted to work in these premises for more than 10 hours a-day. And what was the consequence? The very first year—and it has continued ever since—we turned out more bales in the 10 hours than ever we had done in 12 or 15 hours. I was a financial gainer by the result, and I am perfectly certain that when we are driven into a state of alarm about these deductions in our hours, we are under a total delusion. I am prepared to accept the Government Bill very much as it stands. There are only two points to which I would invite the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. In the first place, with regard to the extra half-hour on Saturday for cleaning out the mill, the operatives in every part of the country are very strongly opposed to it, while several masters have said they do not care about it, and I should be glad to see it omitted from the Bill. The other is a minor point. There is a strong desire on the part of the operatives all over Scotland that they should have a full hour for their meal on Saturdays. It is the practice for operatives in Scotland to go home to their meals. With these two small exceptions I am prepared, as I have said, to accept the Bill of the Government; and notwithstanding the powerful speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, I hope the House will have no hesitation in passing it, for I am persuaded that it is a measure which will tend to bind the various classes of the community more to each other, and make this country stronger and happier than it has ever been before.
§ MR. HERMON
said, the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had said the Home Secretary had founded this Bill merely upon the Report of the Royal Commission, and without taking the counsel of practical men. But as the 1446 right hon. Gentleman had stated he had heard the opinions of both sides, and of both employers and employed, it was clear that the measure had not been framed in the absence of counsel from practical men. When the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) introduced his Bill, there was a considerable amount of feeling in the borough he (Mr. Hermon) represented (Preston) in favour of legislation in that direction. This was the Bill which affected an industry that had materially contributed to the national prosperity as well as to the comfort and well-being of the community at large, and as it affected interests both of capital and labour, it required to be treated with greater consideration and calmness than could well be given it by a private Member. He therefore congratulated the Government on having taken this measure into their hands. He should give his unfeigned support to the Bill, and he trusted it would soon become law. The employed, without resorting to threatened strikes or undue agitation, had asked the House in a constitutional manner to grant them what was right on that subject. He was not, however, surprised to find that the Government had felt considerable apprehension in taking up the subject; but still the House should bear in mind that the principle of the Bill was not a new one, and, indeed, it was only proposed to extend the operation of a principle which was itself adopted long ago. There was a very strong opposition to the Sixty Hours Bill; but it might now be safely said that there was no manufacturer who wished to repeal it. He entirely disagreed with the Commissioners when they said that by giving more time in the evening to the operatives, there would be an increase in debauchery. No such effect had followed from the Ten Hours Bill; but, on the contrary, since it passed the operatives had improved their position socially, mentally, and educationally, while it had advanced a most important branch of national industry. The present Bill was desirable because the boon conferred on the operative classes had, to a considerable extent, been done away with, not through the fault either of the employers or the employed, but through the exigencies of both—the former naturally wishing to secure as large a return as they could for their capital and machinery, and the 1447 latter to obtain as much wages as they could for their labour. That which had been prolonged labour was now intensified labour, and the increased speed at which the machinery was driven had nearly deprived the hands of the benefit of the Sixty Hours Bill. He believed this measure would be productive of essential good to the working classes, and having in his early life advocated shorter hours of labour, he would only be consistent in supporting it. Taken, as a whole, the Bill would, in his opinion, be satisfactory to both the employers and the employed, and might safely be adopted by the Legislature. There were two or three points which would require consideration in Committee, and he trusted that the Home Secretary would alter the clause giving half an hour's extra cleaning time, so as to make the Bill a purely 56 hours Bill, and not a Bill of 56½ hours. It was said that if this Bill passed we were likely to lose our ground in the field of foreign competition. Past experience certainly did not warrant any fears of that description, and small manufacturers were, perhaps, better judges on this point than the very large manufacturers, because they were personally acquainted with every detail of their business. Take the exports from Belgium for two or three years previous to the Franco-German War. In 1866 the exports of cotton goods from Belgium were 44,000,000 francs; in 1867, 31,500,000 francs; in 1868, 28,500,000 francs. This was a falling off in three successive years. On the other hand, our exports of cotton yarn goods were, in 1850, 1,000,000,000yds;in 1860, 2,000,000,000 yards; in 1870, 3,000,000,000 yards; and, in 1872, 3,500,000,000 yards. Yet this considerable increase of our trade occurred under the restrictions of the Sixty Hours Bill. He believed that this Bill had conferred indescribable benefits upon the country, and that now every manufacturer was thankful for it. It was well known in the trade that more bad work accumulated during the last half hour or hour than during the whole of the day. During this time a drowsiness crept over the factory hands, so that they became themselves like machines, and almost all the disputes and unpleasantness that occurred during the day had their source in the present prolonged hours of labour. He believed that this Bill would increase the stamina and the 1448 health of the people, and that it would benefit the country commercially, socially, and politically. For these reasons, he implored the House to pass this measure as speedily as possible.
§ MR. MACDONALD
said, I will trouble the House for a very few minutes, and I ask its indulgence for that period. In the first place, I beg to thank Her Majesty's Government, and particularly the Home Secretary, for having introduced this Bill. I think it is one well calculated to meet the wants of a great body of the people, and set at rest for a very long time any question of future agitation on the subject. The House must have been delighted to listen to the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett.) It was in itself a model speech, if it had only been on a right subject. During the course of that speech he stated that the Earl of Shaftesbury had produced one of those anonymous bogies he always had ready to frighten the Home Secretary to take up this question. In no speech that I ever heard have so many bogies been presented as in the speech of the hon. Member himself. What was his first bogey? The first was a description of a scene, not in England, but in Chicago, in the United States of America. He attempted to frighten the House by stating that the workmen appeared before the Magistrates, or Council, or Government of the town, and made certain demands. I happen to know something of the United States of America, and of American workmen. I happen to know very well the State in which is situated the very city to which he refers. When he made his statement he forgot to tell the House the extraordinary circumstances in which these workmen were placed, and the character of the men who were leading them at the time. A great body of working people of Chicago were out of employment. Want was travelling towards or had already taken up its abode in nearly every home. A number of persons had gone amongst the workmen and had circulated opinions which I personally repudiate in the very strongest way. These men not only demanded eight hours a day but demanded bread; and some even went the length of demanding bread without work, and a redistribution of property. We are not to take the conduct of a few men in Chicago as an index of the opi- 1449 nions of American workmen. There is more individualism, more true sense, amongst American workmen than will permit such views to weigh with them. The hon. Member presented another bogey—namely, the limitation of production. That has been already mentioned by hon. Gentlemen who have preceded mo, and it is no new one. It is 40 years old and more. It was known in the earliest stage of the advocacy of the short-time movement. It was first attacked by Richard Oastler, and by the noble Earl of whom the hon. Member spoke; and I will venture to affirm that for the good work done by him 40 years ago, and for his continued watchfulness in regard to this matter, both in his place in Parliament and in the country, his name is a household word, and, indeed, is with many a family idol. Another bogey was the loss of independence. The hon. Member for Hackney wanted the House to leave workmen and workwomen to make their own contracts. Now, having passed my life in the ranks of working men, and knowing their views well, I can say there is no wish on the part of adult men that the Government should legislate for them. They have shown, and are showing, that they are perfectly capable of legislating for themselves as to wages and hours of labour, and they only ask that this measure be passed for the protection of those who are not sufficiently independent in themselves—namely, women and children. The next great "scare" is that a limitation of the hours of labour would lead to increase of wages, and the hon. Member implored the House not to pass it on that account. But what does he tell the House before he closes his address? He says he is perfectly agreed with the 10 hours system; nay, more, that he would like to see the nine hours system adopted. While he is willing that the workmen should receive the benefit, he is willing to hand them over to the tender mercies of combinations to establish nine or six hours if they liked. I do not see why that should have the slightest effect upon the House. Another "scare" intended for the working men, was contradictory to the one just alluded to. He said if the hours were reduced the rate of wages would be diminished. I happen to know that the very reverse of this has been the universal rule all over the country, Take 1450 the stonemasons. Their wages, with shorter hours, are nearly doubled. The wages of miners, again, with shorter hours, are greatly increased. But take the factory workers. I appeal to the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) and the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon) whether, with a limitation of hours, the wages have not increased, and, I have no doubt, will increase. That increase has not in any way led to a loss to this country, for while it has given more comfort to the working men and made their homes happier, it has actually added to the national prosperity. The hon. Member, in order to deter the the House from legislating on this question, said the demand would not stop here, but would positively go further. He quoted a statement from a speech delivered by some isolated individual in the town of Dundee. I happen to have met many men connected with the factory agitation, and they desired strongly that the hours should be reduced to 54 for children in factories. I believe that is their lingering desire still; but I feel perfectly satisfied that the House need not be scared from legislating on this question from any fear of the future. One word upon foreign competition. As has been stated, this is an old cry. I venture to say, having watched carefully, and having taken part in some degree with bodies of workmen belonging to other countries, that we have nothing to fear—that the British workman, well eared for—and he is able to care for himself—will be capable of standing against all comers in the industry of the world. I thank the House for its indulgence, and I cordially thank the Home Secretary on behalf of the miners, who are deeply interested in this question, and are anxious to see it settled.
§ MR. TENNANT
desired to thank the right hon. Gentleman not only for the measure which he had brought forward, but for taking upon himself the responsility of attempting to settle a question of so much importance. He was glad to notice the favourable reception it had met with at the hands of the House—a reception which induced him to believe that it would pass through its various stages without undergoing that wonderful transformation which they had occasionally witnessed. So far as he had been able to learn, the feeling of both 1451 employers and employed was in favour of the Bill. It had been arrived at after many consultations between them, and it was considered by both to be a not unfair compromise. To the operatives it would be a decided been; whilst amongst the employers of labour, as represented by the Aggregate Association of Employers of Factory Labour, employing between 300,000 and 400,000 hands, there was a general feeling in its favour. The great objection to it was the bugbear of foreign competition; and though he could not take the alarmist view of some hon. Gentlemen upon this point, he nevertheless thought that we were very heavily weighted in comparison with other manufacturing countries. He had, however, great faith in the energy and manufacturing enterprize of this country, and he regarded the Bill before the House as providing for the educational and sanitary requirements of the working classes without exceeding the limits beyond which it was not safe to go. There were many matters of detail which would have to be discussed in Committee; but to two points he wished to call the attention of the House. He thought it rather hard that the textile trades should have been singled out for legislation, and he should hardly have supported the Bill, but for the assurance of the Home Secretary that next year some legislation would be proposed to extend its operation. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would also take that opportunity of consolidating into one Act all the various Factory and Workshops Acts, which were now so complicated and confused as to be almost unintelligible. He hoped, also, that the right hon. Gentleman would bring forward some clause for insertion in this Bill to prohibit the employment of women within a certain period after their confinement—a subject upon which the Commissioners appointed by the late Government displayed a remarkable unanimity of opinion. "With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), there was great difference of opinion as to whether women should be excluded from the operation of the Factory Acts; but, for his own part, he certainly thought it would be unwise to exempt them. There could not be the slightest doubt that it was for the advantage of married women that they should be included within the scope 1452 of this measure; and as it would be a difficult thing to draw a distinction between the married and the unmarried, he would include them all. That, he believed, was the general feeling of the women themselves. He should certainly give his vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney, and his best support to the Bill of the Home Secretary, which could be considerably improved in Committee, and which would pave the way for a comprehensive measure, dealing with all trades alike and impartially.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, he had some hesitation in addressing the House after so many hon. Members who had such a concise knowledge of the question before the House. One of the principal questions—the main question, it appeared to him—before the House was, whether the State was justified in interfering with the labour of adult women? Now, he thought there were certain conditions under which the State was justified in doing so, and if these conditions could be proved to exist, then they could support the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman had brought before the House. The conditions he referred to were that if it could be shown that a certain number of adult women employed in the textile fabric manufacture were under subjection, and that that subjection resulted in oppression or abuse, then interference was necessary. He supposed they were justified in taking the Reports of the Inspectors of factories for the last two years, since this question had been brought before the country. Well, according to these, a certain number of women employed in certain textile trades were under subjection. He alluded to those named as "child-bearing women." It appeared it was the custom in the textile fabric trade, partly owing to women at an early age earning high wages, for them to marry at an early age, and unfortunately it was not easy to trace all the evils which, if these reports were to be believed, arose from that practice. It was the custom, it was stated, for men employed in the textile fabric trade, not as others did, to provide means to support their wives, but very often they looked to their wives to support them. The result of this was very melancholy—that a vast number of them went to work when far advanced in pregnancy, and 1453 returned to their labours soon after their delivery. They placed their children out under the care of inefficient and sometimes cruel nurses, and the result was there was an amount of degradation brought about which was appalling. The system paralyzed maternal feeling, and as an eloquent writer had said, effected the degeneration of the generation which was to come. He did not wish to trouble the House with quotations, but there were two lines which had been written by one of the Inspectors of factories which would give the House some idea of the matter—namely, "I regard the mother's return to the mill as a sentence of death upon the child." Was not that a melancholy fact? He assumed that they were justified in accepting the Reports of the Inspectors as material upon which they were to form their opinion upon the matter. Well, he could quote line after line, and, if he had time, page after page, detailing the deplorable condition in which these women and children were placed through the evil system referred to, but he would only quote one line—namely, from a statement made by an eminent surgeon—" Nine-tenths of the evils that arise in the textile trade result from these habits of the women." He (Colonel Mure) should like to know why it was that the hon. Member for Sheffield and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Home Department had not tried at least to introduce some provision in the Bill dealing with this the only evil distinctly spoken of in the Reports. He was inclined to believe the reason was this—that it was thought if the hon. Member for Sheffield and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had gone to the textile operatives and said—"We are willing to introduce a Bill in Parliament which shall shorten the hours of labour, on condition that we may interfere with your domestic arrangements to meet these evils;" they would have said, "No, we don't want that; we want a Bill which will shorten the hours of labour for purposes of our own." Now, when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield introduced his Bill, it was naturally discussed throughout the country by factory operatives. Well, there was one provision in that Bill, and there was one in that of the right hon. Gentleman, which postponed the hour of commencing 1454 labour from six to seven in the morning. This would no doubt be considerably discussed by the operatives. It would leave the mothers of whom he had spoken another hour with their children; but this was the only provision in the Bill objected to by the operatives in the North. They agreed to all the other provisions of the Bill, but distinctly set their faces against this one. In other parts of the country, also, the only objection to the Bill was in respect of this provision—namely, that the shortening of the hours was to be in the morning, and not, as they wished it, in the evening. But everyone who had studied the question with an impartial mind, and with a real desire to get at the truth of the case, must come to the conclusion that the originators of the present movement were men who were in the textile fabric trade, who looked with jealousy at the remission of the hours of labour in the case of other workmen in the country, and desired that they also, not merely by the weak regulations of trade unions, but by Parliamentary statute, should have a remission of their hours of work. The real originators of this measure were not the women, but those self-acting operatives, as he had said, who looked with jealousy at the leisure that their brethren in other trades had through the trade unions. This House was asked, in fact, to adopt the dictum of trade unions. Well, he complained that this Bill would make the evils of which he had spoken worse. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) introduced his Bill, and set forth that its principal provision was to shorten the hours of labour, he was met by the argument of the hon. Member for Hackney—then the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett)—that in shortening the hours of women's labour they would, by the results which would follow that, do them an injury. The hon. Member for Sheffield met that argument out of the store of political knowledge which he possessed, by saying if they shortened the hours of women's labour they would increase the demand for it, and no ultimate evil would accrue to the women. What would the result of the increased demand be, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman ignored these evils mentioned, and did not intend to interfere with 1455 them? More mothers would be employed in the textile trade, and more children would be placed under the protection of cruel nurses, and the death-rate amongst infants would be increased; and what was more important to statesmen, there would be an increase in the number of those who, neglected in their childhood, would grow up with feeble constitutions, and become a burden to themselves and to the State. There was not one line in the Reports to which reference had been made which showed that the women the Bill proposed to relieve, were overworked—not one single line. It was logical, he thought, to agree with the evidence and disagree with the verdict as to subjection and want of free-will amongst the women. There were none who were so free as those employed in the textile fabric trade. They earned high wages at an early age, and because of that they were so free that they felt uncomfortable in the homes of their parents, and had establishments of their own. And more than this, they worked where and when they pleased. If they did not like one factory they could go to another, and they could abstain from work when they liked; but as to their oppression and their labour being too much for them, as the hon. Member for Hackney had said, four to one of the medical men who knew anything about factories declared that the work of the women was not excessive. The factory, no doubt, was far removed from a paradise. There were much more pleasant places, but he maintained that these women were in a good position—far better than their sisters in other phases of life; and he maintained that the State had no right to pick out a certain class of women and say—"We find you in a fair position, and we, the State, will raise you to a higher position." The paupers—that miserable body of beings, the paupers who hung like an incubus on the State—had been recognized as a class whom the State was justified in legislating for, but not these women. He would show in another way how this legislation would do harm. Independent of the evil habits of the mothers, many of the factories were in a bad sanitary condition. Numbers had been improved of late, but, speaking generally, there was considerable room for improvement. Well, he wanted to know, whether the 1456 small employers of labour would by this measure be encouraged to spend money in the improvement of the sanitary condition of their factories? Would they do this when they found the State nibbling at their capital? And he would ask the House whether, with the knowledge that most men must have that this was the small end of the wedge which might be driven home, these employers, seeing the State candle burning at one end, would be justified in spending capital improvements on their factories, thereby burning the candle at the other end? The Bill would not meet the spirit of the Reports of the Inspectors of Factories, but would tend to increase the number of female operatives, and do a vast amount of harm. The right hon. Gentleman had once said that Lancashire and Yorkshire were crawling with cripples, and that the State was justified in legislating; and now, because these counties were not crawling with cripples, he said they ought to legislate again. That was not a very logical position. They were all agreed on one point, he thought—that it would be more satisfactory if no legislation was necessary. The right hon. Gentleman would say that the employers desired one hour's more work than the labourers. Well, so little under water was the rock upon which they split, that the difference between employer and employed was only 10 minutes a-day. They had had something to do with a Ten Minutes Reform Bill, and now they were to have a Ten Minutes Factory Bill. He called this, not legislation, but arbitration on a point of difference between employer and employed. One word on the question of wages. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), he thought, would on the whole agree with him, when he said that restricted production was a means of obtaining higher wages. Now, when he spoke of higher wages, he would have to speak of trade unions. They would remember, in 1867, a Commission sat upon trade unions in order to ascertain the effect which this great combination of labour had upon trade. The Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineers, when asked what effect the restricted hours had upon wages, said the effect was to increase the wages, and that was a very delicate subject to speak upon. There were many men in the House, he knew, and many people out- 1457 side, who looked upon the great combinations of labour with dislike and contempt. He could understand men whose property had suffered feeling a dislike to the system, but he thought that contempt was simply puerile. It would be as fair to form an opinion of the French nation from the terrible effects of the Reign of Terror, or from the deeds of the Commune in 1871, as it was to form an opinion of the combination of labour from the melancholy revelation which was made to the country with reference to it some few years ago. He had no hesitation in saying that it was by degrees laying the foundation for a system of arbitration between employers and employed which would some day prove most beneficial. All the witnesses examined said that shortened hours meant restricted production, and consequent enhanced wages. One witness not only said that restricted hours meant increased wages, but that the men would prefer shorter hours and lower wages than longer hours and increased wages, because it gave them more power over the employers. He believed that that evidence was, in the main, true. He believed that when trade was good, and when wages were high, then the power rested in the hands of the trades' unions, and that when trade was bad and wages were low, then the sceptre fell from the hands of the trades' unions and was eagerly grasped by the employers. If by the power of trades' unions, wages were raised and even trade was crippled; as long as these trades' unions did not break the law, and any hon. Member, or any Member of the Government, brought a Bill into the House which had for its object the curtailing of the power of trades' unions, he would give that measure his strongest opposition; and when he saw a Bill to raise wages and give unnecessary power to those trades' unions, he gave that his most determined opposition.
§ MR. ASSHETON
said, he represented a constituency (Clitheroe) in which factory hands and factory masters abounded, and while the opinion of the former was unanimous in approving of the Bill, the opinion of the latter was divided upon the question. The only ground on which he could support such an interference with freedom of contract was that in the factory districts the population were deteriorating. The 1458 Bill provided against the deterioration of the race arising from the overworking of children and young persons; but he did not think it went far enough as regarded the hours which mothers of families worked. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last said there was no evidence to show that women were overworked; but surely 10 or 12 hours were too much, and must have a most injurious effect upon mothers of families. It would be very desirable, in his opinion, if they could include as half-timers all women who had children under five years of age. A woman's labour at home in looking after her children and managing her household was worth more than what she could earn in the factory. He hoped that the Home Secretary would kindly turn his attention to that important aspect of the question and see whether he could not embrace it in his proposed legislation. He would give his hearty support to the Bill.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that having been connected with factories most of his life, he should support the Bill in spite of the able speech of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), and in spite also of the able speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure). The leading argument of the hon. Member for Hackney was that though they professed to interfere only with women and children, the necessary result was to interfere with the labour of adult men. That was quite true, but it was only incidental. Moreover, it was only to a small and limited extent; because the number of men employed in textile manufactories was very small, while the number of women and children was very great. Now, it was not possible for them to have any system perfect in this world. All they could hope to do was to adopt that course in which there was the least evil, and it appeared to him that there was less evil in interfering with a small amount of adult men's labour than to allow the overworking of great numbers of women and children. He remembered all the arguments of the hon. Member for Hackney being used a great many years ago at the beginning of the factory legislation, which he (Mr. Anderson) was sorry to say he opposed at the time, because he considered it a gross interference with the principles of political 1459 economy; but after experience of its working for a number of years he had come to the conclusion that the principles of political economy were not always the best that they could follow, and that in some things it was best to make an exception. There were different classes of factory-owners. Some of them were always willing to do their utmost to secure the well-being of their workpeople, while others had a disposition to grind them down as much as they could; and the result of factory legislation was to compel the bad factory owner to do what the good factory owner would do readily of his own accord. Where formerly the grinding factory owner was able to place his goods in the market on somewhat more advantageous terms than the other, factory legislation had placed them both on the same level. Their machinery now worked at an immensely increased speed—at double the speed, in fact, at which it had worked before—thus producing a very great strain on the employed He thought the time had come when they were entitled to move a little further in the direction that had been found so beneficial before. He remembered in 1847 and 1848, when a much more serious reduction of hours was made, in a few years the mills were producing as much in the reduced hours as they had formerly done in the long ones, and he had no doubt this would also follow the present small reduction. There were just two points in the Bill he would like to refer to. One was the exemption of water-power mills. Now, he disapproved of exemptions. He did not think that the owners of water-power mills had a right to recover time more than the owners of steam mills. Nearly all the water-power mills had assistance from steam, or could have it; and, in point of fact, there were not more stoppages from drought than there were from various causes in steam mills, for which the owner was not responsible, and he knew that when he was engaged in factories it was notorious that under this system of power to recover lost time in water-power mills in country districts that were out of sight of the Inspector, a great deal more work was done than was right. Another point was as to the mode in which certificates as to age were at present given in factories; it was wholly unsatisfactory. A surgeon had to certify 1460 that a child had the appearance of not being under 13 years of age. A few months ago a poor child was killed in a pottery at Glasgow. He had been working there for some time, and, in spite of the surgeon's certificate, the boy was actually found to be only 10 years of age. He knew that that happened often, and he thought when they had, at least in Scotland, a universal system of birth registration, and had had it for 16 years, it would be possible to adopt some better system for ascertaining the age of young persons than at present. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last expressed great sympathy with the mothers of children. He (Mr. Anderson) was sure that the House would agree with the hon. Gentleman, and he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would be most happy if he saw any means of introducing a clause to deal with that great evil. But it was one of those evils that legislation could not reach. He should support the Bill to the utmost of his power.
§ MR. STARKEY
said, that in addressing the House for the first time he had ventured to speak as having had some practical experience of the working of the Factory Act. During the course of his life he had been associated with all branches of manufacture to which the Factory Act was applicable. There were one or two considerations which had been brought before the House during the evening in a very forcible manner, and in which he concurred. One of these was the effect which the Bill might have on property in the country, and this did not apply solely to owners, but also to occupiers of property. If a Bill was passed by Parliament reducing the working hours in factories from 60 to 56, that would to some extent tend to reduce the value of property. And as regarded machinery, if in consequence of the reduction of hours machinery did not run the full time for which it was intended, that would decrease the productive power of machinery, and limit the profits of those investing money in it. Looking at the subject in a general way, it might be asked whether further restrictions were required from a sanitary point of view, and whether the manufacturers could bear curtailment of the present hours of labour. His remarks would be based chiefly on what he knew 1461 of the woollen trade, with which he was more particularly acquainted, and in that trade he was sure that the working hours were not injurious to the health of young people. Allusion had been made in the course of the debate as to the effect of the agitation on this subject carried on in the manufacturing districts by those interested in the matter during the recent elections throughout the country. He had the honour to represent one of the largest constituencies in the country, and a constituency where there was a great variety of trades and industries, embracing the mining, the iron and steel trades of Sheffield, and which extended to the town of Huddersfield, where textile manufactures were carried on. It was in his opinion a notable fact that although the people in a portion of that district might have been supposed to share in the agitation, they had not exhibited any strong interest in it. They usually showed a wonderful pertinacity in wishing to be informed on the general policy approved of by those desiring to represent them, and they put questions on every conceivable subject. But it was a strange fact that in these districts where textile manufactures were carried on there was a great amount of apathy, if not a total indifference to this question—which was then called the nine hours movement—being then associated with the proposals of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella). He would not say that his hon. Colleague and himself had not been asked their opinions with regard to that question, but their constituency had been satisfied with qualified answers, which would not have been the case had there been any great agitation. But when they went to the mining districts—to the neighbourhood of Sheffield, where no doubt the people had become persuaded by the arguments of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) in reference to the Nine Hours Bill, and where the Factory Acts were not in force—there it was they were asked more particularly as to their opinions on the Factory Acts. This was a significant fact, suggesting that the agitation throughout the country had been commenced through the instrumentality of these large combinations, the trades' unions. He did not stand up to say one word against the trades' unions, or the mode in which they carried on their business. They had shown them- 1462 selves well able to conduct their own affairs, and if their business was carried out in a legitimate manner, they might effect some good between employer and employed. But in a matter of this kind, affecting more especially textile manufacturers, it would have been well if the wants, wishes, and interests had been ascertained, both of employers and employed among the textile manufacturers before the serious step was taken of agitating this question. In the woollen trade there was no strong feeling on this question, but he was not prepared to say that in many other branches of industry touched by this Bill a fair case had not been made out in its favour. He was disposed to take a broader view of the subject than had been expressed by some hon. Members. He would not support the suggestion that there should be several Acts applying to different trades—an Act applicable to the woollen trade, one to the silk trade, and so on. If any one trade seemed thus to obtain an advantage over another it would be but a short time before that trade asked to be placed on the same legal footing. He therefore felt the force of the plea which the Home Secretary had used in asking their favourable consideration for the Bill—that he had taken up the matter in a spirit of compromise. Although he did not agree with all the provisions introduced into the Bill by the Home Secretary, still he looked at it in the light of a compromise, and as being a measure which would, he thought, settle the matter for some time to come, both as regarded the operatives, and also as regarded manufacturers. Though the trade with which he was connected—the woollen trade—might not want the Bill, still, after due consideration, he would give it his qualified approval. On matters of detail on which he might differ from the present provisions of the Bill, he might defer observation till they went into Committee.
§ MR. WHITWELL
, as a manufacturer, felt that the laws by which he was at present governed might be improved, and that a Minister of State was justified in legislating for the health of the people at large. He believed there was occasion for the interference of the House on this subject, for children were admitted to employment in factories at too early an age, and he should also support the measure on the ground con- 1463 tended for by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant), that all factories should be placed on the same footing. He should therefore vote for the second reading of the Bill, although he admitted it would require amendment in Committee.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that a measure introduced by the Government would have a much better chance of passing both Houses of Parliament than one introduced by a private Member, and so far from viewing the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman with contempt, as the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had said he did, the difference was so small between that measure and his own that he accepted it with thankfulness and would give it his most cordial and loyal support. Notwithstanding the transcendent ability with which the hon. Member had addressed the House to-night on one side of the question, he had heard the hon. Gentleman speak with, at least, equal ability and greater success on the other side, and possibly in a few years he would say what he had said when sitting on the other side of the House—that it was to the immortal honour of the Conservative party that they had passed the Factory Acts. In the Bill of the Government there were two hours more working than in the Bill which he introduced, and there was also half-an-hour's cleaning. He would oppose the half-hour of cleaning, because it would be better gone, and took away from the grace of the boon. The Government made better arrangements for education than were contained in his Bill. A great deal had been said about adult males. Well, 1,000,000 of persons were employed in those factories, 74 per cent of whom were women and children, and the remaining 26 per cent were not men, but included everyone who minded an engine, every porter, and every lad of 18 in the establishment. Practically, the factories in England were more and more being worked by women and children, and children were being employed every year more and more. We had passed an Education Act of which, on both sides, we were proud, and the hon. Member for Hackney was one of the great advocates for education. That Act was practically a dead lettter as long as our Labour Laws remained as they were. He defied any employer to say that it 1464 was possible for any children to get a decent education while the Factory Acts remained as they were. If school boards were once introduced into the agricultural districts, education there would be better than in the factory towns. The Reports of our School Inspectors said that half-timers were the despair of the schools. The hon. Member said he did not propose to extend the Bill to Sheffield. When personal allusions were to be made it would be only courteous to have personal communication with the individual. But if Sheffield was the most rotten place on the face of the earth that would not justify the rottenness of factory legislation; and if he had taken every shilling of capital that he had abroad that would not justify the state of things at home. But the fact was, more than 19–20ths of the whole of his savings were invested in English industry and would be affected by this Bill, and it was the purest accident in the world that he ever had a shilling invested abroad. That was his answer to the imputation conveyed by the hon. Member's remarks. He maintained that the Bill which the Government had introduced was a noble measure. It was the necessary complement of the Education Act of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). One great advantage of the measure was that it provided for alterations in the standard of education without the necessity of bringing in fresh Bills year by year. The objection of the hon. Member for Hackney to the measure of last year was that it would thrust women out of the factories and leave them no alternative but prostitution or starvation. The hon. Member had not said anything of that kind now, for he had been told better. The absurd project of the equality of the sexes lay at the bottom of his former argument, and that project died with the eminent John Stuart Mill. Then his hon. Friend said the Bill was owing to the jealousy on the part of trades-unionists of female competition. Why, the fact was that the women employed were the wives, the daughters, or the sisters of the very few men who were in the mills. The hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew (Colonel Mure) said that this Bill was the Bill of the trades-unionists. He emphatically denied that statement; employers of labour who were also Mem- 1465 bers of that House were among the principal originators of the measure, and one of them was a partner of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). They had given not only their time, but money to promote the movement. They were ashamed of the overwork of children, young persons, and women, and felt that something must be done. Sixty per cent of the subscriptions for the expenses of the movement came from the women, and nearly the whole of the rest from employers of labour. The case of the young persons had passed almost unnoticed in that debate. They were boys and girls who passed from half time to full time at the age of 13, and the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) said that 00 hours was a right amount of labour for these boys and girls. Only two hon. Gentlemen had spoken directly against this Bill, and neither of them knew anything at all about factories. As for the hon. Member for Hackney, he knew nothing about the internal economy of a cotton mill. He himself had worked in one, and he confessed he should not like to do more than 60 hours a-week. If the hon. Member for Hackney only performed one month's labour in a cotton mill, he would come back to the House an ardent advocate for restricting the hours of labour. The hon. Member had talked about Lord Shaftesbury in a tone of great disrespect, and spoke of his anonymous "bogies;" but he knew of no one who possessed so large a stock of bogies as the hon. Member for Hackney himself. Whatever subject he dealt with he was sure to conjure up a number of terrorisms to frighten people with; he seemed to have a vocabulary of terrorisms on every question he touched. For example, the hon. Member described free education as the first plank of the International, and now he spoke of the present movement as being Socialistic in its nature. Did Socialism reign in Lancashire or Yorkshire, or did it not rather prevail in those countries where there was no legislation of this character? When in Baris, during the Whitsuntide Recess, he conversed on this subject with several eminent members of the French Legislature who had been supporting a Factory Bill on the ground that because of our factory legislation there was less Socialism in England than anywhere 1466 else. The hon. Member for Hackney objected that they were going to derange the uniformity of the industries of the country; but he knew that they could only proceed step by step in these matters, and that it was impossible in one Bill to grasp the whole question. The business men to whom the hon. Member referred had all changed their minds within the last few days. Mr. Hugh Mason was a strong advocate of the Bill minus another half-hour taken off it; and the gentlemen who came from the Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce said—"We were sent to curse, and we do not like to bless, but we do not want to oppose the Bill." He (Mr. Mundella) had never met a single factory proprietor who employed women and children who wished to exclude women and children from the operation of the Act. It was nothing but that vague, senseless crotchet of the hon. Member which was at the bottom of all this opposition to the Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Dr. Lush) had put on the Paper a Notice to the effect that women should not return to the mills until six weeks after their confinement. He should support the proposition. That rule had been adopted in Alsace, and in the following year the death-rate of children fell more than 80 per cent. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fawcett) contended that if the working hours were reduced 6 per cent. the outcome would be reduced in the same proportion unless the machinery or its rate of speed were increased. That was, however, an argument which was answered by Mr. Hugh Mason, who, after he had reduced the hours of labour without adding a single revolution to the speed of his motive power, declared that he had not turned out a breadth less in the year after he had made the change as compared with that which preceded it. It was a mistake, therefore, for the hon. Member for Hackney to say that the proposition which he had laid down on the point was as clear as a proposition of Euclid. The fact was that there was a certain amount of tension which the human frame could bear and beyond which it could not support, and to maintain that view was not Socialism, but plain common sense and the result of every-day experience. In Austria and Bavaria children and women were not allowed to work at night, while the 1467 latter were prohibited from labour for six weeks after their confinement. Six weeks ago an Act was passed in France prohibiting the employment of women in quarries and mines, which was admitting at all events the principle for which he was contending. Belgium had no legislation on the subject, and the result was that while the women in that country were working in mines the men were drinking in the cabarets. A great deal had been made of the bugbear of foreign competition; but the way to meet that was with an intelligent and robust, not a feeble population. Dr. Hübner, of Berlin, had recently made a calculation of the gross total of all the exports of the various nations of the world, from which it appeared that they amounted to £700,000,000, and of these £700,000,000 England exported £250,000,000, while she imported £300,000,000 of the balance. He hoped, therefore, the House would not be led away by theories, however eloquently urged by men who had no practical acquaintance with the subject. Having spoken to his hon. and learned Colleague of the excellent speech which had been made by the hon. Member for Hackney, the reply was that he had heard the same arguments 40 years ago, and indeed Hansard was full of them. It appeared, he might add, from a statement of Mr. Newmarch, that we had within the last five years saved £1,500,000,000, and a country which had done that could, he maintained, afford to educate its children and not to overwork its young persons and women.
MR. ASSHETON GROSS
said, that in rising to close the debate he really had very little to say, because nearly every objection that had been raised to the Bill had been answered ably, practically, and conclusively by the speeches which had been delivered on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) stated that he only objected to that portion of the Bill which imposed new legislative restrictions on the labour of adults; but if women and young persons were to be taken out of a factory for a certain time, nothing would remain for the men to do, and, therefore, his Resolution in that respect practically fell to the ground. The hon. Member had stated several reasons for objecting to the Bill—that it would lead to a diminution of produce, 1468 a diminution of wages, a rise of price, and foreign competition; but the Blue Books printed in 1866, and written long before that date, answered all these objections. As to the argument which had been used by the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew (Colonel Mure), that the House ought to rest satisfied with the result of previous legislation on the subject, he could only say that it was one in which he could not for a moment concur. Those who knew what the state of things was in Lancashire and Yorkshire before that legislation was made, and the difference in their position which was now observable, could not feel otherwise than grateful to those by whose exertions the change had been brought about, seeing that it had effected the regeneration of the race. The hon. Member for Hackney, he might add, had found fault with him for having introduced a Bill based on the Report which he held in his hand; but he had done nothing of the kind. The facts stated there were not sufficient to legislate upon, but were sufficient to call the serious attention of the Minister of the day to the subject of which they treated, and to induce him to make the most anxious and careful inquiries, with a view, if possible, to legislation. In that work he had been engaged for some months past, and the result was that, in concert with his Colleagues, he had felt bound to lay the present Bill before the House. He had himself some knowledge of the trade in question, for he had during many years represented one of the largest of the towns in Lancashire that were celebrated for the industry, and he had also had opportunities of witnessing, in the town close to which he was born, the working of the factory legislation. He had had interviews with men from Yorkshire and Lancashire connected with the trade, and though, at first, when they came to consult with him, they held strong opinions against the Bill, yet, after many and lengthened conferences, they one by one changed their views, and, to their honour be it said, came at last to give a cordial assent to the Bill. In defending the measure it was unnecessary for him to go further than the speeches they had heard that evening. Manufacturers from Yorkshire, Lancashire, and other parts had in the course of the debate given unanimous testimony to the fact 1469 that the strain upon women was at present too great. It was the lengthened strain in the same monotonous work that were them, and it was notorious that their work during the last hour of the day was not to be compared with what they did in the earlier hours, when they were fresh. On this account he had put in a clause requiring that the persons to whom the Bill related should not be employed at the same work for more than four and a half hours continuously, the object being that they might, at all events, have the refreshment of a meal for half-an-hour. He had been accused of having said that women were not free agents in this matter, and he would now repeat that statement. Although the class for whom they were legislating was as independent as any other industrial class in the land, still the actual condition of the mother of a family when the father was working in a factory, and of the children also, was such that as soon as they were able to go to the factory to work they were expected to go. The children might to a certain extent be independent and free; but it was also true that to a certain extent they were under the control of the father, of the employer, and of the habits of the place. With regard to women, however independent they might be, there was that in their character which gave them more endurance under pain, more fortitude under suffering, than men had, and which made them willing to undergo far more than men for the sake of those who were near and dear to them. They would wear themselves down by fatigue, quite reckless of the future consequences to themselves or to their offspring. It was for these reasons that he said they could not deal with women as absolutely free agents. Something had been said about women who had just had children. No doubt, on this point it would be quite out of the question to legislate only for the case of married women. The social evils which would result from such a course would be very serious. It was hard to tell how a knowledge of the fact that the woman had been with child could be brought home to the employer—that was to say, to the person on whom the punishment would fall. He did not say it was impossible; but he should be glad to receive communications from any Members on the subject. He had not been 1470 able to draw a clause to meet the case. [Mr. LYON PLAYFAIR: Registration.] No, that would not do. There were insuperable difficulties in getting Returns of that nature made at the time. It had been suggested that he should undertake the consolidation of the Acts of Parliament with regard to factories. This was a large subject, to which he hoped to give a great deal more attention than he had yet done, and it might be in his power at a future time to propose to the House, at all events, some further legislation which would tend to put Acts which were at present in an almost inextricable confusion into an intelligible form. He hoped the House would read the Bill a second time that night, and that it would be proceeded with in Committee at an early day.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he was not going to say a word against the Bill, for which he was going to vote, although he did not intend to do so when he entered the House. He should not have said a word; but he wished to point out that it was a mistake to say the women were not free agents. The Legislature last year passed the Mines Regulation Act, which provided that women should work some two hours less than the men. He had in one of his mines some 30 or 40 nice girls—intelligent and independent girls—their work was very light, and their pay very good under the old hours, and they were satisfied; but when the new rules came into operation, he asked his manager—"Where are all the girls?" The answer was, that they had gone because they could not get what they wanted. Well, he would have liked to let the girls have what they wanted; but the Act was there to prevent it. What was the consequence? These girls went to the farmers to make butter and cheese. They had to work 17 hours a-day instead of nine, and they were paid 50 per cent less. Some went to the publicans, where their hours were twice as long, and their pay little better, so that the Act of last Session, which was meant for their good, had done nothing but harm to these girls. Might not that be the case also in this instance? The late Government, no doubt, had the best intentions for those girls; but to say they were not free agents was a mistake. He should be sorry for any Member of the late Government who went amongst those 30 or 40 girls—he 1471 would hear what they had to say. He should like to know how this Bill was to be followed up? His own opinion was that the Government ought to have included a clause to shorten the hours of agricultural labour, and had they done that they would have received his support.
wished to say a few words on behalf of the manufacturers in the North of Ireland. The one staple manufacture in that part of the country was the linen trade, which was at present in an extremely critical condition, and if a measure of this kind passed, it might deal a blow from which the trade of the North of Ireland would never recover. Not only those engaged in manufactures, but also the farmers, who were great producers of flax, would be seriously affected by such legislation. He trusted the Government would take this matter into their consideration, and exclude Ireland from the operation of this Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 295; Noes 79: Majority 216.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Tuesday 23rd June.