§ LEAVE. FIRST READING.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS,
in moving for leave, said, that at that late hour it was not his intention to take up any length of time in laying before the House the provisions of a Bill which he hoped he might be permitted to introduce to consolidate and amend the Law relating to Factories and Workshops. Before going into the measure at all, he thought it would only be due to the Royal Commissioners who inquired into this matter for a considerable space of time, that he should thank them publicly for their 757 labours, and for the great mass of evidence which they had got together, as well as for the very able Report which they had presented to Parliament. The Acts of Parliament relating to factories and workshops at present were contained in no less than 16 statutes, and the Commissioners were quite right in saying that the first thing to be done was to consolidate the Acts. Anyone who remembered the way in which these Acts had grown, the tentative processes with which they first commenced, the way in which they had been improved from time to time and from year to year, and the way in which they had been extended to different trades and manufactures, and eventually to include workshops—of course, a very much larger scheme—must see that in passing 16 or 17 Acts of Parliament of that kind, the present state of the law must be very much confused, more particularly when it was remembered that all those statutes were full of exemptions of all kinds and descriptions; many of them most inconveniently placed in Schedules to the Acts, and dealt with in such a way as that, at the present moment, it required really a very great amount of study to find out what the law on any particular point really was. Therefore the first object he had in view was to sweep away all these Acts of Parliament and repeal them, and the Bill which he hoped to present to the House would be a consolidation of all existing statutes relating to these matters. He hoped the House would not think the Consolidation Bill too long when he said that the 16 statutes had been placed in 100 clauses. The next question he had to consider was how far he should extend the provisions of the factory law. Of course, that might be done in one of two ways. They might, in the first place, extend them to every person employed everywhere, but that was too wide a field for him to be inclined to enter upon. The Commissioners did, however, recommend certain extensions of the Acts, and that was the other alternative he referred to. They first recommended that he should take the Bakehouse Acts in and repeal them; and he had also extended that recommendation to certain other trades, such as public laundries, shipbuilding yards, and industries of that kind. Now, if they went into the old law they would find, as the Commissioners stated, that 758 it was drawn in three different ways. First of all, there were textile factories, which were dealt with in a most restricted form. Then they had the application of the law in a modified form in the Acts of 1864 and 1867 to other manufactures; and, lastly, there were the workshops, to a certain extent following the same lines, but vastly different in the way in which they were treated, and creating a great amount of confusion between persons working in one class of manufactory and those working in another. It often happened that children sometimes of the same family, and frequently living in the same street, were working in these factories, and great confusion existed as to their hours of labour and matters of that kind. It was, of course, quite impossible in trying to amend the law, to place everybody upon the same level, and if they did they would be inflicting great hardship in many cases. On the other hand, by relaxing other restrictions in certain cases, they would revive many of the evils which the Factory Acts were designed to cure. He proposed to start by dealing with the textile factories. He had taken it for granted that when the Act of 1874 was passed, so far as those factories were concerned, they had arrived at a satisfactory settlement, both as regarded employers and employed, and it was not his intention in this Bill to interfere with that settlement in any way. With regard to the other factories and workshops, he had endeavoured to draw them together as far as possible. He had done away with the limit of 50 hands, which was the dividing line between factories and workshops, than which a more unsatisfactory line of division could not be taken, for it often happened that persons employed 48 hands in order to escape the provisions of the factory law and to remain under the Workshops Act. He had retained in his Bill the names of "factories" and "workshops," and of "manufacturing processes" and "handicrafts," simply as a convenient nomenclature, but the words would have the same meanings in the Interpretation Clause. There could be no doubt, however, that there must be a certain difference between a manufacturing process and handicraftism, and that some dividing line was necessary, because some relaxation must be given in certain trades. He had, therefore, in 759 the Bill called that a factory—he was not now speaking of textile factories—in which there was any steam, water, or other mechanical power used, and he classed all the rest under the head of workshops. When hon. Members read the Bill they would find that both factories and workshops, so-called, were dealt with precisely on the same basis, although in one or two instance there were certain relaxations, which he had referred to as being necessary, in favour of the workshop class. He did not wish to interfere with adult female labour any further than was necessary, and therefore he proposed to allow women their own hours; and he did not think it was wise to restrict adult women working where there was steam, water, or mechanical power. The other restrictions were of slight importance. Then came the question of how they were to meet the case of domestic factories, where a man had his workshop in his own family, and in regard to that the hours of labour alone would be dealt with. But so far as sanitary measures went, it was very much better, in his opinion, to leave them under the Sanitary Acts. He did not interfere with that or the question of their meals or their registration, because he did not think it was possible to have a sufficient staff of Inspectors to carry it out. These were the main lines upon which the Bill had been drawn. He would now very shortly explain the working of the Bill. The first part of the Bill was given entirely to what he called the law of factories—that was to say, where there was nothing but an ordinary factory or workshop the whole law was given very simply. He would now run over the heads very shortly. There was a provision as to the prevention of the escape of effluvia or anything offensive from a drain; secondly, a provision as to the fencing-in of machinery and matters of that kind; and then they came to the point of meal hours, in which case he had drawn a distinction between the textile and non-textile factories keeping the textile factories to the Act of 1874. There was a great change made in the hours concerning those employed in workshops, because they were thrown into the same category except in the case of adult women, who would remain as at the present moment. With regard to the clause relating to the holidays, and the clause 760 with regard to education, and also with regard to certificates for fitness, and certified surgeons, and to accidents, that was the whole law simply put in the first 33 clauses of the Bill for the ordinary model workshop or factory. He treated them all in the same manner, so that members of the same family and of the same neighbourhood, though working at different places, would be pretty much on the same footing. He next came to the second part of the Bill, which referred to particular classes of factories and workshops. He was alluding to those exemptions which formerly were put at great length in Schedules—exemptions which enabled certain factories at certain times to work at from 8 to 8 and from 9 to 9, instead of from 6 to 6. But there were one or two points of importance in which he had treated those exemptions in a different way from the present law. In the first place, no exemption for the future could be given to an individual manufacturer. The exemption, where it applied at all, applied to a class of manufacturers or a locality, and the reason for the exemption was shown in the Bill. A man did not apply as he used to do to the Inspector for leave; but the exemption was placed in the Bill itself, and the trades to which the exemption applied would be found in the Schedules of the Bill; and the Secretary of State had also power, if he thought fit, for special reasons pointed out in the statute, to extend the exemption to special trades. There were also special clauses in the Bill to show that where these special exemptions were allowed certain special provisions would be added, in order to avoid certain special dangers, as a condition of manufacturers availing themselves of the exemptions in the statute, and before any manufacturer could avail himself of any of these exemptions he would be bound to fix in the factory a notice of his intention to do so. There was a further exemption to which he would allude, and that was as to the question of hours; because there was a class of persons whom he thought it was necessary to deal with in the second part of the Bill, and that was the class of persons engaged in bleaching and dye works. There would be a great objection to putting them on the same footing as persons employed in textile factories, because textile factories had always 761 hitherto stood by themselves, and there had never been in a textile factory any of the exemptions to which he had alluded; therefore, he had put bleaching and dye works in the second part of the Bill, because they had certain exemptions which it was almost necessary they should have by the peculiar circumstances of their trades, because in the trades in which they were employed they could not stop at a moment's notice. They had, by law, an extra half-hour for certain processes, and if that was not granted, the whole of their trade might be put a stop to. Then came the question of hours, and looking to all the circumstances, as to the character of the trades and the engagement of the children of the same families working, some in one, and some in another factory, he proposed that the hours in bleaching and dye works should be the same as the hours in textile factories. That was the course which he had adopted, after much discussion, and he felt sure that it would give great satisfaction to the country. The third part of the Bill took up the administration of the law. He wished to add very little, if at all, to the number of Inspectors, but there was one matter that must be altered, and that was that the whole inspection should be under one head. They had—as hon. Members were aware—at present two co-ordinate jurisdictions in the factory administration. For both the gentlemen exercising it he had the highest regard and esteem; they were both most admirable public servants; they had worked the Acts most judiciously, and deserved the thanks and praise of the country. At the same time he thought that for the future carrying on of the work it would be very much better to have all managed by one head. That really was the Bill. And he hoped that hon. Members when they came to read it, would see that it was clear, and that its provisions were easy to be understood, that no mistake was possible as to the provisions affecting any particular trade, and that it would practically put an end to the confusion which now existed. He had endeavoured to take care that masters should be responsible for the health, safety and comfort of those under their charge, and he hoped on the other hand, that those who were employed would find that they had every consideration, not only for 762 their health and safety, but for their education, and would be satisfied with the change. He did not think he should be justified in taking up any longer the time of the House. Although he had altered the scheme, he had preserved the spirit of the old law, and had endeavoured in the Bill to consolidate it on broad and general principles. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, the measure proposed was of too much importance to be discussed at that hour. He must, however, express his satisfaction that the Home Secretary was going to stand by the educational clauses of the Factory Act of 1874. There was an important exception, however, as to the regulations affecting children in regard to hours of labour and education. He referred to children employed in agriculture. The effect of the Bill would be that children employed in textile manufactories—say, in a village in Yorkshire—would be educated from the age of 10 to 13; while children, perhaps of the same family, employed in agriculture would only be educated up to their 10th year. He thought the House should recognize the fact that education was as important in the one case as in the other, and he wished to know if there was any intention on the part of the Government to supplement this Bill by another, in order to improve the education of agricultural children. If the right hon. Gentleman should find it inconvenient to answer at once, he (Mr. Fawcett) would ask the question on a subsequent occasion.
§ MR. TENNANT
said, that by the Bill one great inequality remained untouched. He should therefore on the second reading move the following Resolution:—That, in any measure for the consolidation and amendment of the Law relating to Factories and Workshops, it is desirable, in the interests alike of employers and employed, that all trades and manufactures employing the same class of labour should be placed on the same footing, and under the same protective and restrictive regulations.
§ MR. MACDONALD
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having placed the whole inspection of workshops and factories under one head. There were several matters which, he considered, would be defects in the working of the measure, but he would, at the present, abstain from expressing any 763 general opinion upon its merits. That he thought the proper course, as, from a mere statement as to what a Bill was, they were often drawn into making statements they often had cause to regret. He should like to know when the Bill would be in the hands of hon. Members.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that the Bill had been printed for some time, and he hoped it would be in the hands of hon. Members by the beginning of the week—say, Monday or Tuesday next. He would not propose the second reading until the country had had an opportunity of considering the provisions a the Bill—namely, on Thursday, the 26th April.
Motion agreed to.
Bill to consolidate and amend the Law relating to Factories and Workshops, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary CROSS and Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON.Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 123.]