HC Deb 11 February 1878 vol 237 cc1454-82

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Assheton Cross.)


in rising to move— 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 he placed upon the same footing, and under the same protective and restrictive regulations, said: I labour under great disadvantage in bringing forward this Motion after the exciting and engrossing discussion we have just had, and I feel, Sir, that I owe some apology to the House for venturing to bring it forward at all, for the subject itself is not an attractive one, and I am afraid I shall tax the patience of the House while I enter into those detailed statistics which are necessary to make my position intelligible; but I will not trespass longer than is unavoidable, and I trust that the importance of the subject, affecting, as it does, all our trades and manufactures, in which many hundred millions of capital are invested, and upon the prosperity of which the working classes depend either directly or indirectly for their livelihood, will be considered as some excuse for the course I am taking. I am told, Sir, that the form of procedure I have adopted may be considered as in some degree hostile or antagonistic to the measure. I beg distinctly to disclaim any such object or intention. I am too painfully conscious, from every day's practical experience, of the inconveniences and disadvantages resulting from the present law, not to welcome with satisfaction any remedial measure that may be proposed; and although this Bill does not, as the terms of my Motion imply, fully meet all that is required, it consolidates and simplifies the law almost beyond the possibility of misinterpretation, and removes and modifies several of the inequalities which now exist. It, however, leaves untouched many grievances which, in my opinion, operate most unfairly and unjustly; and it is to remedy these, and to place, as far as practicable, all manufacturing occupations upon the same footing, that is the sole object of my Motion. There are at present 15 Acts of Parliament in force regulating the manufacturing trades generally, in addition to several special Acts, such as the Agricultural Children Act, the Mines Regulation Act, the Metalliferous Mines Act, and others relating to particular industries. Under these 15 Acts the general trades may be divided into three classes—first, the textile, such as cotton, wool, flax, silk, and which are now regulated by the Factory Act of 1874; second, bleach and dye works, and other trades kindred to textile, iron works, paper works, and almost every other manufacture where more than 50 hands are employed, all of which are regulated by the Factory Extension and Workshops Acts, 1865 to 1870; and third, all handicraft trades employing less than 50 hands, which are governed by what is known as the Workshops Regulation Act, 1870. The total number of persons employed in the various trades under these three classes—men, women, and children—may be taken, according to the last reliable Census, at about 2,500,000, 1,000,000 of whom are under Class 1, and the remaining 1,500,000 under Classes 2 and 3. Of the 1,000,000, rather over two-thirds are women and children, and the rest are men. Of the 1,500,000, the proportions are very nearly reversed, there being but 500,000—or rather over one-third—women and children. There are, however, several trades in Classes 2 and 3 whore the proportions of women and children range as high, and in some classes higher, than in the textile trades—such as the manufacture of pottery, paper, tobacco, hats and caps, millinery, &c.—in some of which women and children comprise more than 90 per cent of the total number employed. So that no general deduction can be drawn from this classification of the proportions of the different persons employed in the various classes, and the discrepancies and anomalies which are created by the regulations and provisions under these Acts are many and various. They relate not only to the age, education, and employment of children, the hours of labour and limit of work, hours for meals and rest, and the number and times of holidays, but also to sanitary and protective provisions, which vary greatly in all the three classes; and I will, in a few sentences, shortly refer to each of these points of difference. Under the Act of 1874, which affects only the textile trades, no child is allowed to work under the age of 10, and then only for half-a-day, either in the morning or afternoon on alternate days, coupled in each case with a compulsory school attendance; and working full-time is forbidden until the age of 14, unless the child has attained a certain educational standard at the age of 13; whereas in the trades, under Classes 2 and 3, a child may begin work at the age of 8 years, and work full-time at 13, irrespective of any educational test. In coal mines, the child may work full-time at 12 years; and in agricultural labour, there is no limit of age at which the child may not work. As regards education, children employed under Classes 1 and 2 are under similar regulations. If the morning and afternoon system be adopted, the child must attend school the other half of the day for three hours. If the alternate system, it must attend every other day for five hours, and the school must be certified as efficient; whereas, under Class 3, education may be at any school, and 10 hours per week is the limit; in coal mining, 20 hours in a fortnight; but in metalliferous mining, and in all other trades, there does not appear to be any regulation whatever. No doubt the Education Act of 1876, which makes a certain standard of education, or a certain number of school attendances, a condition precedent to the employment of children in any manufacturing labour, and fixing the age at 10, will remedy the greatest of these anomalies; but it does not remedy the anomaly of half-time, which still affects certain industries, nor the requirement as to the educational test at the age of 13, and this requirement is most injuriously affecting the textile trade, without any corresponding advantages. It is found by practical experience that a great proportion of children of the age of 13 are not able to pass the examination prescribed, and the consequence in nearly all cases is not that they continue to attend school, and work half-time, as heretofore—for there is no such compulsory power—but they either idle about, doing nothing, or, if there are other trades in the immediate neighbourhood where this requirement is not in force, they generally work there—a system which operates greatly to the loss and disadvantage, not only of the employer—who has taught the child his trade and is then deprived of its labour, but also to the child itself—who is thus driven to learn another trade at the most critical period of its life. As an illustration of the actual working, at one of our largest manufacturing establishments in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where between 2,000 and 3,000 men, women, and children are employed, I may mention that the proportion of children who cannot pass the educational standard was last year equal to 62 per cent of the total children employed, and the loss in wages alone is between £11 and £12 a-year for each child. Now, this, Sir, is of serious consequence to the head of the family at all times, and more especially in these depressed times of short-time and lower wages. The absurdity, too, of this exceptional requisition is the more glaring when it is considered that the children under the half-time system must all have completed their full number of school attendances, and that generally the most stupid or careless child at school is often physi- cally the best fitted for, and the most capable of, work. As regards the hours of labour and for meals and rest, in the textile trade, under the Act of 1871, the limit of work is 10 hours per day, and six on Saturday, with half-an-hour extra for cleaning, making a total of 56½ hours per week. But there must be an interval of two hours each day for meals and rest, and there must be no continuous stretch of work beyond four hours at any time. Under Classes 2 and 3 the day's work is extended to 10½ hours, while the hours for meals and rest are diminished by half-an-hour, and the continuous stretch is extended to five hours in Class 2, and in Class 3 there is no limit at all. The period in which work can be carried on in all textile trades is 12 hours per day—between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M., or 7 A.M. and 7 P.M., and not later than two on Saturday; while in Classes 2 and 3 the period is extended indefinitely in certain oases to 17 hours between 5 A.M. and 10 P.M., and on Saturday till 4.30 P.M.; and in mining and some other trades there is no restriction at all, and work may be carried on continuously at all hours of the day and night. By this Bill several of these discrepancies are proposed to be done away with, but many are retained; and, curiously enough, it is proposed that bleaching dye works should be transferred into the textile class for certain purposes—the hours of work being limited to 10—but the stretch of work and other matters remaining the same as they are now. But why this particular industry should be specially singled out, and partly assimilated and partly not, and all other trades in Classes 2 and 3 be left in these respects as they are now, I am at a loss to conceive, and it will, I think, puzzle the Home Secretary to explain and justify them. With regard to holidays, the distinctions are still more fanciful and anomalous. In the textile trades, besides the Saturday half-holiday, there must be eight other half-holidays during the year, and two full-holidays—namely, Christmas Day and Good Friday; but, singularly enough, there is no regulation against working on Sunday. On the other hand, in Class 2, working on Sunday is specially prohibited, except at blast furnaces, or in works where masters and men are all Jews; but there is no holiday on Saturday until after 4.30 P.M., and four whole holidays may be substituted for the eight half-holidays. And in Class 3, and in all mining trades, there is no regulation whatever as to holidays, so that in these trades work may be carried on from day to day and week to week the whole year through, so far as legislation is concerned, without any break or cessation whatever. By this Bill the holidays in textile and non-textile trades are generally assimilated, except as to the Saturday half-holiday, which, in textile factories, must commence at 1.30, in non-textile at 2.0, and in workshops at 4.30; but the latter can scarcely be looked upon as a half-holiday at all. Sunday work is, however, done away with altogether, except at blast furnaces; and the Jews in future are not to be allowed to work on that day, but they may work till a late hour on Saturday night, or they may have two whole-holidays in succession, as they prefer. The sanitary, protective, and general provisions also vary greatly in the three classes, Class 1 being again singled out for special distinction. Textile factories have, under heavy penalties, to be lime-washed at fixed periods; machinery has to be fenced off; the gearing cannot be cleaned while in motion; meals may not be taken while at work, or even within the mill-rooms; inspection and reports by Factory Inspectors and Medical Officers have to be made periodically; certificates of age and physical fitness have to be obtained; accidents have to be reported; and a variety of other inquisitorial and expensive requirements are imposed, few of which apply to trades in Class 2, and none to trades in Class 3. Here, again, the Bill extends several of the textile provisions to non-textile trades, but not all, and very few of them are extended to workshops. Such, Sir, are some of the irregularities, anomalies, and absurdities in the law as it now stands, many of which will, as has been shown, remain if this Bill be passed in its present form. It is not easy to conjecture how they would have arisen except upon the assumption that the exigencies of the piecemeal legislation resorted to from time to time left no other course open; each Bill being introduced to remedy a special grievance, and being the subject of a special compromise. This being so, it is quite certain that if legislation had now to be begun de novo, few, if any, of these discrepancies would be introduced; and as this Consolidation and Amendment Bill affords a fitting opportunity for dealing with them, it is to be hoped that they will be entirely swept away, and the whole law assimilated. Any legislative interference with the carrying on of trade and the liberty of labour requires justification, and can only be justified on either social, educational, or sanitary grounds. As regards the two first, no one can possibly contend that those employed in the textile trades are entitled to social and educational privileges which those engaged in other trades are not equally entitled to, and it is, therefore, upon sanitary grounds alone that the justification for these distinctions—if justification there be—must be found. I, however, deny that the textile trades can, with any justice, be subjected to the sweeping condemnation which such exceptional legislation stamps them with. The various processes in those trades are not, taking them as a whole, specially unhealthy, nor do they place an undue continuous strain upon the system of the operative more than many processes in the non-textile trades. Taking individual manufactures, there are several in Class 2 and 3 which are quite as injurious to health, and tax the energies and attention of the workman quite as much, and, in some instances, in a far greater degree than in any of the textile processes. I will not attempt to excite the sympathy of this House by detailing any of the harrowing descriptions which the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) used periodically to bring forth on the annual production of his Nine Hours' Bill; but I will give a few plain quotations from the official reports of some of the Factory Inspectors. In bleach works, according to Mr. Redgrave, the Chief Inspector of Factories— The work is carried on in a sort of oven. The women work barefooted and almost naked, at a temperature of 120 degrees. In the Turkey red dye works, the steam, according to Sub-Inspector Henderson is so dense that he had to walk blindfold through the works, and to take hold of the coat tail of the manager to guide him. In salt works, the vapour is described as so thick that you cannot see half-a-yard before you; the men and women working together in the lightest possible clothing; one of the processes which they call "drawing" being carried on close to the pans filled with scalding water, into which there is nothing to prevent them falling—and all this in a place of almost utter darkness. In pottery making, there is one process where "fine dust is thrown off, which creates a disease of the lungs ending in a few years in death;" and the workshops of Birmingham are described by Mr. Baker as a disgrace to the country—long, low, dirty, damp houses, like human rabbit-warrens, into which women and children have to burrow into their appointed holes, and anything more deadening to one's physical and moral energies than to work all their years in such places we could not conceive. In other trades, such as white lead making, silvering of glass, millstone cutting, nail and rivet making, lucifer match dipping, glass works, and many others, the circumstances are equally appalling and far more deleterious to health and morality than any of the textile processes. Now, Sir, I assert that in none of the textile trades are there any processes which can be stigmatized in such terms as these, and yet they are singled out for special restrictions as if they were the worst of all trades, and as if the persons employed in them required special care and. protection. As regards the continuous strain upon the energies and system of the workpeople—of which so much has been said and made—I may mention that in printing and bleach works, hand-loom weaving, pottery making, fustian cutting, nail manufacturing, and almost. all occupations connected with the metal trades, and a variety of other trades, the strain is far greater than in many of the textile processes; and if we turn from particular trades to the general health of the districts which may be said to be the special seats of the textile and other industries, and comparing the rates of mortality according to the last decimal period for 1861 to 1871, we find that, taking 15 of the principal textile towns—as Bolton, Bury, Halifax, Huddersfield, &c.—the average death rate is 25.34 per 1,000 of the population; while in 15 of the large non-textile manufacturing towns—such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, &c.—the average death rate per 1,000 is 26.37; showing a positive balance in favour of the seats of textile trades. I maintain, therefore, that whether viewed as regards unhealthiness of the individual trades, the strain upon the system, or on the general mortality of the district, the textile trades bear a most favourable comparison; and that, at all events, they do not deserve the invidious distinction of being singled out for special and exceptional legislation on these grounds. In my opinion, the true and proper remedy, in case of special unhealthiness in any particular trades, is to enact and enforce more stringent provisions as to the carrying on of that trade by still further curtailing, if need be, the hours of labour and stretch of work, and absolutely prohibiting the employment of women and children in labour which is physically and morally unsuitable for them. And I am glad to observe that as regards some specified trades, in the Bill now before us, some such provisions are introduced. But in this respect the Bill falls short of what is required, and it should be made generally applicable to all processes which are specially unhealthy or unsuitable. Such, Sir, being the state of things now, and difficult of comprehension as their origin is, it is still more difficult to understand the reasons which have induced Her Majesty's Government to retain in the Bill so many of these invidious and irritating distinctions. But the solution is no doubt to be found in the Report of the Factory and Workshops Commission, which was issued in 1876, for it is upon the lines of that Report that this Bill has evidently been constructed. Now, Sir, this Report is unquestionably entitled to great consideration; and though I do not altogether concur in its suggestions and conclusions, yet I join cordially in expressing my indebtedness to the Gentlemen who undertook the laborious duties and responsibilities of that Commission for the careful and impartial manner in which they conducted their inquiries, and for the able and exhaustive Report which they have given. I must confess, however, that upon the first announcement of the constitution of the Commission, I had some misgivings as to the result. I thought, in common with many others, that the absence of Members practically conversant with the working of the laws in relation to the manufactures affected, and to be affected, by the inquiry was a mistake, and that the Report would not inspire that confidence which would make it generally acceptable; and it is a curious fact that the only Member of the Commission who can be said to be connected with trade, in the sense of its being the business of his life—I need scarcely say that I refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Knowles), whom I am glad to see in his place to-day, and the benefit of whose practical experience we shall, I hope, have the pleasure of hearing and receiving this evening—thought it his duty to make a separate Report, and, while agreeing with his Colleagues in their general recommendations, yet strongly and vigorously protested against their being applied to the particular trade with which he is connected and identified; and had there been on the Commission other Members practically conversant with the working of other trades, they, too, might have thought it their duty to have similarly protested and reported; and thus we should have had the extraordinary phenomenon of a series of separate Reports from practical men who, though agreeing generally with each other as regarded other trades, yet each exempted his own particular trade—thus presenting, in the aggregate, a Report which would have been against any opposition or extension whatever. Let us, Sir, however, see what are the views and opinions of the Factory Inspectors and Sub-Inspectors, who, from their great practical experience and official position, are entitled to the greatest weight and consideration. First in importance is the evidence of Mr. Redgrave, the Chief Inspector, who says that— The main difficulties as regards uniformity in the law, arise from the fact that the circumstances of the different trades vary. But," he adds, "the main restriction could he made fairly uniform without injury to the employers at all. And Mr. Baker—the other Chief Inspector—in reference to the unequal conditions of the law, empathically says, "I would equalize all;" and of the 43 assistant Sub-Inspectors, a very large proportion express themselves decidedly in favour of uniformity, many of them giving most cogent reasons in favour of it, and those who do not altogether concur are yet agreed in recommending a degree of uniformity beyond what the Bill proposes. But what are the reasons given by the Commissioners themselves in their Report against uniformity? To my mind they are most meagre and unsatisfactory. First, it is said there has been no general demand for it from other trades. To this argument I altogether demur. It is scarcely to be expected that masters will come forward and volunteer to be put under further restrictions; and as for the workpeople themselves, so far as we know their views—and, speaking for myself, I have had communications from associations and unions from all parts of the Kingdom—they are all strongly in favour of it. If we take the evidence given before the Commission, many masters expressed themselves either willing to come under the same law, or as indifferent to it, and those who objected did so on the ground that they had been interfered with quite enough already—a proposition from which we should none of us, I think, dissent—and the only operatives who expressed contrary views were some strong-minded females, accompanied by advocates of women's rights, who objected on the ground that they were perfectly competent to act and judge for themselves, and repudiated any thought of protection or interference, either by the law or from any other source. But surely, if the general feeling of employers and certain women were adverse, that is no reason why the great majority of women and children in these trades should be less cared for than those in textile trades. Another reason against the change assigned is the smaller proportion of women and children employed in the non-textile trades; but that, as we have seen from the statistics I before quoted, does not apply to all these trades; and, besides, there are, as we have also seen, upwards of 500,000 women and children employed in those trades; and though I do not admit mere numbers really affect the argument, yet surely 500,000 is a sufficient number to be worthy the attention of Parliament. A further reason is assigned that there is already great competition in those trades, and that to cripple trade further would be to cast a burden upon employers which, in the present state of things, they could not stand up against. But this is an argument against all factory legislation whatever, and as the textile trades are now subjected to quite as great, if not greater, competition, and at this moment are suffering under as heavy a depression as other trades, it is scarcely fair, not only to ignore this, but to handicap them still more by subjecting them to exceptional restrictions, as well as unfair competition, in the labour market. It surely cannot be contended that the Lancashire spinner or the Yorkshire woollen manufacturer is less entitled to the consideration of this House or of the country than the Birmingham button makers or the Sheffield steel manufacturers; nor that the wretched girl, so pathetically described by the hon. Member for Sheffield, as trudging to her work on "a cold winter's morning be drabbled up to the waist in wet," is less worthy of our pity and regard because she is tramping to a low, damp, cramped hovel of a workshop, than if she were going into the warm, comfortable, and well-ventilated rooms of the spinning mill or the weaving shed. And now I will add but a few words more, for I feel I have already trespassed too long, and I thank the House for the indulgence it has shown me. I do not ask the House to adopt my Amendment upon the grounds which the Commissioners, somewhat cynically, lay down in their Report—namely, for the sake of uniformity, or for the sake of elegance in the Statute Book, though the latter, if only as a Parliamentary novelty and as a precedent for future legislation, would be much to be desired; but I ask on the more solid and prosaic ground of common justice and common sense that employers and employed should, in all trades, be placed as nearly as possible on the same footing. There must, of course, be exceptions and exemptions. The varieties and exigencies of our various trades and manufactures necessitate this; but these exceptions should be made equally applicable to all trades and processes of manufacture, and to draw a hard-and-fast line between textile and non-textile trades is most unfair. The object of my Amendment might, no doubt, be effected by a modification of the Act of 1874; but that Act having passed so recently with the almost unanimous voice of the present Parliament, and with the general approval of the country, must be considered as a Parliamentary settlement of factory legislation for the present. I must, however, confess that my views as to the general policy of these Acts have been undergoing a great change, owing mainly to the severe competition we are suffering from our manufacturing rivals in other countries, whose freedom from all restrictions confers enormous advantages which it is almost impossible to contend against; and the time will come, and is not so far distant as many of us may imagine, when all these legislative restrictions on the freedom of labour, and all this Parliamentary interference with the right of contract between employer and employed will be swept from the Statute Book, and master and workman will be left unfettered to make their own arrangements in their own way. But that time is not yet. No one appreciates more highly than I do the many and great advantages which have resulted from the passing of the first Factory Act, now nearly half-a-century ago; but no one can contend that the monstrous evils and abuses that then existed would be tolerated for a moment in this present age of enlightenment of public opinion and spread of education, and as these influences make themselves more and more felt—as they are gradually but surely doing—relaxations of these restrictions will assuredly follow. But in the meantime, and so long as labour requires the protection of the State, let that protection be granted equally and universally; and I trust I shall not appeal in vain to the House, not, on the one hand, to subject certain classes of manufacture to invidious restrictions and unfair competition, nor, on the other hand, to withhold from large numbers of operatives those social, educational, and sanitary blessings which should alike be extended to all.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "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 upon the same footing, and under the same protective and restrictive regulations,"—(Mr. Tennant,) —instead thereof.

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


as the Representative of a working-class constituency, offered his warm congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman oppo- site (Mr. Cross) on the introduction of a valuable measure which well deserved their support; but desired to mention two points that were not sufficiently provided for. The first was the "sweating system," under which employers of labour, instead of providing proper workshops, gave the work out to their employés to be done at their own homes. Those homes were dark dwellings, defective in every way, and official Reports showed that their condition was deplorable. Through that system fevers were communicated to clothes, and they thus became the means of conveying disease to other districts. It was a fact that large bundles of clothes so made up were seen every Saturday night at a principal London railway station. He would suggest that a provision should be inserted in the Bill requiring all employers of labour to furnish a list of all those to whom they sent out work, and that all those who used houses for performing the work in should register the houses. A list, too, should be kept at the police stations, so that they might be inspected in the same manner as common lodging houses. The other point he wished to press upon the attention of the Home Secretary and the House was, the point brought before the right hon. Gentleman by a deputation from the Trades Council last year—the employment of women and children in the nail and chain trade. The Report of Mr. Baker revealed the evils connected with the employment of women, and in order that the matter might be fully considered, he would give notice that in Committee he would move that in nail and chain making the employment of women and children be done away with. The Reports of the Inspectors showed that the women earned wages which the men spent, while the public safety was imperilled by weak work and bad iron. In other respects the Bill would have his support. In his idea it was conceived in the spirit of the Artizans' Dwellings Act, and was an appropriate sequel to that excellent measure.


desired to explain that he had protested against the inquiries of the Commission being extended to the coal trade simply because that trade was the subject of special legislation. With regard to the nail and chain trade, he, for one, thought Mr. Baker's Report exaggerated, for the Commission who had reported on the subject took a great deal of trouble in their inquiries, and they were agreeably surprised at the condition of the women and children. He (Mr. Knowles) employed women and children in agriculture cotton mills and in bleach works too, and he was certain that employment in the latter was very nice for women and children. What had been said about those industries by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant) must have been quoted from Reports that were somewhat out of date, for the Commission were surprised to find the people employed in them in such a healthy condition. He thought they had gone far enough in handicapping the trades of this country, seeing the deplorable condition they were now in; but no one would dispute the desirability of consolidating the numerous Acts of Parliament—18 in number—which existed on the subject of labour, and affecting as they did several cognate trades, so as to obviate the discontent and jealousies that arose in some places, and particularly in Birmingham, because one manufacturer who employed 48 persons was under the Workshops Act and another who employed 50 was under the Factory Act. Then, again, the different arrangements which existed for the meal times and hours of going to business caused a heavier expense to be incurred by the father of a family and loss and inconvenience to the employer. It was impossible for the Inspectors to do their duty under the present system, and the consolidation would effect a benefit both to masters and men. What he desired was the consolidation of the existing Acts, and he believed that everyone would appreciate the Bill before the House. It was a wise and judicious measure to which he could give his hearty support, subject to a few alterations in matters of detail which could easily be made in Committee.


warmly supported the Bill, regarding it as most useful and valuable. The country had long felt the want of some measure of the kind, and he was particularly glad that it was proposed to put workshops and factories in the same category. Absolute uniformity being unattainable, the Bill did all that was possible in that direction. Apparently, the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant) did not wish to disturb the settlement effected by the Act of 1874, as he recognized the fact that every branch of industry, great and small, could not possibly come under its operation. Let them take the textile industries—76per cent of those employed in them were women and children; but in a workshop in another occupation there would be three or four boys and 100 men. It would be simply impossible to lay down an absolute rule for those boys as they might in so large an occupation as the textile industries. The law, however, as it stood, was in such an unsatisfactory state, that it was impossible for a parent to tell at what age his child might be employed in the different industries of the country. Some degree of elasticity was necessary, though the Bill did much to secure uniformity—as, for instance, with respect to age, which was fixed at 10 for all industries. The Educational Inspectors last year had spoken very highly of the Act, because it did not allow children up to 13 to work full-time unless they were in the Fourth Standard. At Keighley, the chairman of the school board had reported that out of more than 400 children examined for permission to work full-time no fewer than 340 were rejected. These facts showed that nothing could better stimulate parents to attend to the education of their children, and he was very glad that the Bill put every child under the Act of 1874. He would remind the House that the Bill rather equalized than increased the restrictions on labour; and it was noticeable that, whilst we had been discussing the question, factory legislation had been extended in all industrial countries with the sole exception of Belgium, where, in the branches of textile industry, in which young children were employed, no advance had been made. It was worthy of notice that in that country they dared not open their ports for fear of foreign competition. Switzerland would not benefit in the race of competition by any change which it had made in its factory legislation, for there an Act had been passed by the extremely democratic ad referendum process, by which a child was now forbidden to be a half-timer until it had passed its 13th year, while we began the half-time system at 10 years. The French Factory Act fixed that age at 11 years; while in Germany the age was fixed at 12 years; and children were not allowed to be full-timers till the age of 14, and then they must attend school so many hours a week until the age of 16. In that case it was clear that the Bill could not harm the interests of British labour. Neither did he think it would work any injustice to capitalists. He regarded the Bill as a whole as a very useful measure; but the effect of it, he was afraid, would be—in the Midland Counties, for instance, where there was a mixed agricultural and manufacturing population—that a child on attaining its 10th year would be sent to work full-time in some agricultural employment, and be employed full-time in manufacturing work when it was 14, and thus lose the advantages of receiving a good education altogether. The result, he might add, of so neglecting the education of agricultural children would be to fill the towns with the ignorance of the villages. That loophole he was sorry to see; but he trusted, however, that the provisions of the Bill would be carefully considered in Committee, and that hon. Members on both sides would unite in their efforts to render it a useful and practical measure as well as a valuable addition to our legislation on the subject.


said, he could not allow a Bill affecting the hours of labour in factories to pass a second reading without some remark. This Bill had his entire approval, except in one or two minor points affecting its machinery. The Ten Hours' Bill was a household word in the family of his father; and when, in 1846, his father succeeded to the leadership of that question, it was with the greatest pain and distress that he found Sir Robert Peel throwing the whole force of his Government into the scale against the Bill. However, in the very next year, 1847, it became law, and he (Mr. Fielden) remembered the rejoicings by which the passing of that great measure was celebrated. He wished to point out to the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant), that when he proposed to put all classes of labour upon the same footing, he should remember that in all these matters of factory legislation, progress had been made by very slow steps, and that what the hon. Member now proposed had been discussed over and over again. In all its legislation upon the subject, Parliament had been guided by experience, and had gradually extended the operations of the Acts from one trade to another. It was so far back as 1816 that his father began to take that deep interest in factory labour which he never laid aside, and in 1847 he accomplished the great object of his life, the passing of the Ten Hours Bill, in spite of all opposition. The fact was, that, at this time, so great were the evils of over-working women and children employed in the textile manufactures of the Kingdom, that a great and overwhelming majority of all classes were in favour of restriction. After that other industries were brought under the operations of the Factory Acts; and the results were watched by masters and men with great anxiety, many of the former believing the trade would be ruined, and the latter fearing to lose the great benefits they had obtained. The result was that the effects of the Act were proved beyond doubt to be beneficial not only to the workpeople, but to the trade itself; and in later years the same principles had been legally extended to other branches of industry. The hon. Member for Leeds seemed from his Amendment to overlook the fact that in the application of restrictions on the employment of children, young persons, and women, in all the different branches of industry, the greatest care had been taken to deal fairly and justly and not oppressively with the interests of the masters, and to provide for the health of the women and children engaged in laborious occupations without interfering injuriously with trade. With regard to restricting the hours of labour, he trusted that the hon. Member for Leeds did not imply by what he had said that he hoped the time would come when all restrictions in that respect should come to an end. When the Acts affecting the employment of women and children had come before the House, persons who owned textile manufactories had over and over again protested against owners of bleach works, for instance, not being put on the same footing as owners of such manufactories. But it had been shown before Parliamentary Committees that the circumstances of the trade were such that a uniform rule could not be laid down. He (Mr. Fielden) felt certain that the present depression of trade had nothing to do with the restriction of the hours of labour. It had arisen from many other causes which it would not be fair or right to bring into the discussion on the present Bill. It had not arisen in any way from the legislation which had taken place with regard to the employment of women and children in factories. The fact was that since we began to restrict the hours of labour in this country, we had experienced more prosperous and profitable times—the masters having made larger profits, and the workmen having been better off, enjoying more leisure and better health and higher wages—than we had before. That was extremely gratifying, and he trusted, therefore, that the hon. Member for Leeds would pause before recommending such a course as his observations appeared to suggest, and that he would not ignore the great benefits which the restrictions in question had conferred both on employers and on employed. He (Mr. Fielden) was old enough to remember the miserable condition of the workpeople employed in the factories of Manchester and other large manufacturing towns prior to the passing of the Ten Hours' Bill, and he was ashamed to think that in free England, as it was called, such a state of things could have been allowed to exist. When he noticed the great improvement effected since then, he felt an honest pride that his father had accomplished the great work he did. With reference to the proposal that children might be employed at 13 years of age if they reached a certain Educational Standard, whereas otherwise they could not be employed till 14, he might make one remark. Weak children were often very proficient in brain work; and it frequently happened, on the other hand, that boys and girls who were physically strong were not so quick in the power of acquiring knowledge. The effect of such a clause, therefore, would be to allow weak and delicate children to be employed sooner than robust children. In conclusion, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for having introduced the Bill, which would be a most valuable one, and he hoped the Government would endeavour to pass it as quickly as the Forms of the House would permit.


called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to the employment of juvenile labour in the streets, in selling newspapers, matches, and other small articles. It was very distressing, he was sure, to hon. Members to see some of these small boys, and also in many cases girls, employed in this labour; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to devise some provision for securing the education of the young persons employed in this sort of occupa- tion. He was aware there were great difficulties in this matter, but he thought the School Boards might be aided with such cases by insisting on the production of certificates of school attendance or other education from children employed in selling newspapers and other articles in the streets. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be ready to consider a clause of this kind if it was brought forward, for no doubt abuses prevailed. It was proposed to put other trades under the Factories and Workshops Act as well as the textile manufactures. No doubt there was a great deal to be said for this, and no doubt the Act might be extended with great advantage; but what had already been done had been of great benefit not only in the largest spheres of labour, but in many other smaller trades as well. He quite agreed with the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Fielden) that the present depression of trade had not been caused by the legislation restricting the hours of labour. In the county which he represented, the last Factory Act was hailed by the manufacturers, with few exceptions, as a great boon. It established in the county one uniform set of rules and regulations, to which all the manufacturers, or a great majority of them, were ready to conform. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was conferring a great benefit on the employers of labour by consolidating the Factories and Workshops Acts, and he quite agreed with the hope expressed that the Bill might pass.


begged to add his voice to that of those hon. Gentlemen who had already expressed their satisfaction at seeing such a measure before the House. It was not, as some had stated, 18 or 19 Acts, but from 45 to 50 that were consolidated in this Bill. He was extremely anxious that, if possible, before the Bill went into Committee, the Home Secretary should add some provisions which would meet the case of those who took work from large workshops to their own homes. And there was another matter. In many cases old rags were collected in large quantities and taken to the mills to be worked up a second time into cloth by means of a machine called the "devil." From the way in which the materials were treated while being collected, and even, also, when undergoing that process, if there was one method more likely than another to disseminate fever and all kinds of epidemics through the length and breadth of the land, it was by allowing a process of that description to be carried on without some regulation. When either of those classes of materials were allowed to go to the houses of the poorer classes of workmen, they became the means of spreading disease in all our large towns. He also thought that a clause should be inserted in the Bill to arrange—if possible, without undue interference—the hours at which persons employed in factories should not only have their breakfasts and dinners supplied to them, so as to secure the greatest, and, therefore, the most com-fortable, domestic regulations praeticable. He did not think that the clauses which dealt with sleeping accommodation in the neighbourhood of bakehouses went far enough. He would be glad that where there was sleeping accommodation in connection with mills, factories, or workshops, it should be of the amplest possible description.


thanked the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cross) for introducing the Bill, which he believed would be a great improvement on the present legislation, and would be satisfactory in many respects; and he sincerely hoped that the time would not be far distant when agricultural labourers would also reap the advantages which it was proposed to confer on other classes by the measure, and would be subjected to a like restriction. He quite agreed with what the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) had said with reference to children who sold newspapers, and he trusted that a larger number of those who were employed in that trade and in selling matches would be included in the provisions of the Bill, so that it would be impossible for them to evade the Education Act as they did at present. Besides those, however, there were the children of those who went to sea, and he hoped, also, that the children of bleachers and dyers would be looked after; because he was sure that anything done in their behalf would meet with the approbation of the working classes throughout the country. He had heard that a deputation would wait upon the right hon. Gentleman to-morrow from the master bleachers of the United Kingdom, and that it would have the benefit of the influence of the Member for Wigan (Mr. Knowles). He hoped, however, the right hon. Gentleman would not be seduced to depart from the lines laid down. He (Mr. Macdonald) was well acquainted with the operative bleachers, and he knew that they had agitated for a long time in favour of a measure such as the present. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had introduced the measure, and he again expressed his gratitude to him for doing so, and he could assure him that any aid he (Mr. Macdonald) could give him to pass it into law was at his disposal.


said, he had been a Member of the Royal Commission on whose Report this Bill was mainly founded. He had differed from his Colleagues on certain important points—six in number—and as the right hon. Gentleman had adopted his views on four out of those six points, he certainly did not rise to offer any opposition to the Bill. At the same time, there were certain defects in it which he thought might with advantage be remedied. One principle for which he contended on the Royal Commission was that restriction upon the labour of adult women could only be justified by its being shown that the work in which they were engaged without restriction was injurious to their health, and that they should not, for mere uniformity sake, interfere with that work unless injury was proved. That he understood to be the principle adopted by the right hon. Gentleman when he introduced the Bill. But it was not carried out. The Bill proposed to place new restrictions on women's labour, when it was carried on in workshops in which young persons or children were employed, not, evidently, for the sake of the women, but for the sake of the young persons or children; and if this were fair, the same principle should be extended to men. Again, in Clause 16, which related to what was called domestic employment, it might be necessary to have rules with reference to work carried on in the homes of working people; but it would be extremely difficult to carry out such rules. He presumed that nothing would be done to prevent working people keeping their doors locked. At the time when an lnspector under this Bill knocked at the door the mother and children might be employed in stitching; but they could cease immediately on the knock being heard, and when the door was opened they would be found doing nothing. These provisions, therefore, regarding work in the homes of the people were likely to be of very little use, whilst most inquisitorial in their character; and he strongly deprecated placing any unnecessary restrictions on work in recognized workshops, which might have the effect of driving the work into the homes. He feared the result of the provision with regard to the education of children would be that in many instances they would receive less education than if the Bill never passed at all. For example, in straw-plaiting children were employed not for the value of the work they might do, but in order that they might learn the trade, which they must do at an early age. Mothers who were now in the habit of sending their children to school full-time every day, and of employing them a few hours in the evening at straw-plaiting would be seriously inconvenienced by the operation of the Bill, and would probably send their children to school only for half-time, and then employ them in the morning and in the afternoon every alternate week. With regard to the surgeons certificates, his right hon. Friend proposed that a certificate should be required in factories and not in workshops, and at every change of employment not under the same employer. He himself thought the surgeons' certificates were of very little use, and that the provision requiring them to be given at every change of employment ought not to be upheld. With regard to the nail and chain districts, the Commissioners had inquired very carefully into their condition, and they came to the conclusion that there was nothing in the employment of an unhealthy character. There were no stronger women to be found in England than were to be seen in these districts. He should, however, take another opportunity of calling attention to the various points of the Bill which, in his opinion, required amendment.


as the Representative of a district (Oldham) which contained more factories than any other district in Lancashire or in the country, wished to thank the Home Secretary for bringing in this Bill. He believed it would be a boon to the persons employed in the cotton factories and in other modes of labour. It was important in dealing with this subject not to make the regulations more strict and difficult, but to consider the wants of the various trades and fix the hours of labour so as to make them, as far as possible, compatible with the requirements of the different trades and manufactories of the country. He could not give his support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant), for he regarded it as far more important that time should be regulated from an educational point of view than from the point of view of the actual working hours.


regretted that the Home Secretary did not propose by his Bill to relax any of the restraints imposed by Sub-section 6 of Clause 11, which re-enacted a clause of the Act of 1874, to the effect that no young person or woman should be employed continuously for more than four-and-a-half hours without an interval of half-an-hour for meals. Instead of doing good, that enactment had, in certain light textile industries, done serious harm, and had caused great inconvenience. It imposed far greater fatigue on young persons than the old five-hours' system. In summer time it produced no inconvenience; but in winter time the young persons were compelled, under the four-and-a-half hours' limit, to leave their homes at an early hour, and to get a hurried meal in the factory; whereas, under the old system, they used to get their breakfasts at home, and went to their work refreshed. He hoped the Home Secretary would take this matter into consideration, as the proposal he now made was supported by the Report of the Royal Commissioners.


said, he could not vote for the Amendment. He had no sympathy with those who had wished to extend the operation of this Act. Instead of extending it, the Home Secretary should endeavour to lessen its restrictions. He could confirm what had been said by the hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Coventry (Sir Henry Jackson), and he thought the Bill would operate very injuriously on small industries. As it was legislation made by manufacturers, he supposed it would have the effect of promoting their interests. He was sorry to say that in Ireland they had very few extensive manufactories except in Belfast. There were, however, a good many small manufactories scattered throughout the country. In 1874, when the last Bill was before the House, a concession was made in their favour; but he thought that bringing them under the Act at all would be very injurious to their operations, especially in the South and Southwest of Ireland. In Committee he should ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not except those industries from the Bill? A hard-and-fast line should not be drawn. There had been an exception in the case of mills worked by water power which he hoped would be respected. It would be an immense hardship that the inspection should be conducted by men who knew nothing of the business. A general principle should be laid down, and left as far as possible to the local authorities to be worked out. Adult women and children ought to be relieved from restrictions. He thought they could not go too far in extending sanitary arrangements as regarded factories.


in reply, said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken that nothing could be further from his intention than to do anything which could tend to injure the manufactories of Ireland, and that he entirely agreed with him as to the expediency of not laying down a hard-and-fast line in legislation such as that now proposed. The Bill was, he admitted, a difficult one to understand; but if the hon. Gentleman had had time to master its provisions, he would find that one of its special principles was that no such line should be drawn. He did not think, he might add, that it imposed a single new restriction; indeed, any change which it might effect would be in the direction of greater freedom. In the case of certain scutch mills, to which reference had been made in the course of the discussion, it was under the consideration of the Government whether some regulations should not be introduced; but, in their case, also, there was no desire to have anything like a hard-and-fast line. As to water mills, the provisions of 1874 were simply reproduced. In reply to the hon. and learned Member for Coventry (Sir Henry Jackson)—whose remarks, of course, applied more par- ticularly to the ribbon trade—the question raised by him, together with a similar suggestion from the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), with regard to the hosiery trade, might be considered in Committee; but he wished it to be distinctly understood that in reference to textile fabrics generally, he could not consent to do away with the four-and-a-half hours' limit. He felt it, in the next place, necessary to say a few words with regard to the Inspectors; and he need scarcely tell the House that his object was to secure the services of men in that capacity who would most heartily and efficiently perform their duties. In that respect the Government had been successful, and a body of men who more satisfactorily did their work he did not know. As to the observations of the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), he begged, before replying to them, to thank him and his fellow-Commissioners for the great labour which they had bestowed on their Report. No one could have wished for a more exhaustive Report, and, although the Government could not agree with all its recommendations, it had been of the greatest use to the Government in framing the Bill. He entirely concurred in the view which was taken by the hon. Gentleman with respect to the labour of adult women. The Legislature, he thought, ought to be extremely careful how it interfered with that labour. That view was embodied in the Bill, which contained a great many provisions in their favour. He had been very much struck, he might add, by a suggestion of the hon. Gentleman about drawing a distinction between day-work and piece-work; but, having paid considerable attention to the subject, he had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to introduce any such legislative provision with respect to it as he advocated. As to what the hon. Member had said about domestic workshops, he would observe that in the Bill drawn last year only the word workshops had been used; but when the definition of factories came to be dealt with, it was found absolutely necessary to enumerate certain factories, in order to include which the clause in the Bill was drawn. As to education, the objection which had been raised as the Bill stood before was, that it was quite in the power of the parents to take care that their children never went to school until the afternoon, when they would probably be so tired that they would not receive the same advantages as if they had attended school in the morning. The sub-section was drawn, therefore, so as to make such a shift in the time that they might receive the benefit of education in the morning as well as the afternoon. As to the question of certificates, he held a strong opinion that they must be retained; and whilst not going the whole length of the views of the Commission, the Bill, to his mind, provided all that was necessary in this respect. An hon. Member had asked what was meant by a recognized school? There were certain schools which for ordinary practical purposes were real schools, though they did not come within the scope of the Education Act; and it was proposed that, in order to prevent children having too far to go to school, Inspectors should have power to recognize certain schools of that class for the children to go to. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) suggested that provision should be made for all working children in the country dining at the same time. That, he feared, would be a piece of tyranny which would scarcely be submitted to.


explained that what he meant was he should be glad that children who worked together should have dinner together whenever they conveniently could.


said, he was glad to hear his hon. and learned Friend's explanation, in which he quite concurred. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), and he thought for Walsall (Sir Charles Forster), too, spoke about the "sweating system." Now, that was a question that was taken into consideration, and, to a great extent, the real evils in that system had been met. All the deputations he had received had been satisfied with what he had laid before them. He did not much wonder at people not finding out what had been done, because the definition clause had been altered in one instance. He had also the half-time question before him, and it was quite true he had received a number of deputations with respect to it; but until a great many more good reasons had been given him for doing so, he could not alter his view of it. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) had also referred to the sleeping places in connection with bakehouses; but that provision had been introduced not for the sake of the people, but for the sake of the bread. The hon. Members for Forfar (Mr. Barclay) and Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) expressed a wish to see the educational provisions of the Bill extended to street children and agricultural children. Well, as to the latter, he hoped that under the recent Act, Boards of Guardians would look after them and see that they were educated. It would certainly be impossible to include all within the scope of the present Bill. They should, however, be content to proceed by steps. But, with regard to street children, he ventured to suggest that the school boards would really form a very great power, which, in the course of the next few years, would see that all children who worked in the streets were sent to school. He was much amused at hearing one day that a school board, desiring to ascertain whether all the children of a certain district attended school, sent there four or five men with "Punch" shows about midday, and with the result that the shows were surrounded by children who ought to have been at school. That, however, he thought was taking a rather unfair advantage of them. In regard to the remark of the hon. Member for Walsall, as to the chain and nail makers, he was bound to say, on reading the Report, that he agreed with the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) that they did not need any legislative protection. He would now briefly refer to the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant). He thanked his hon. Friend for the manner in which he had brought his Motion forward, but could not regard the proposition of his hon. Friend from the point of view he did. To introduce absolute uniformity would fatally interfere with the working of the Factory Acts, as had been clearly shown by his hon. Friend the Member for Yorkshire (Mr. Fielden), the labours of whose father they all so entirely recognized, and whose memory would long continue to be regarded with reverence. His hon. Friend had accurately described how the system of Factory Acts had been worked up. It had, no doubt, been somewhat of a tentative system. Had the course now suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds been originally followed, the Factory Acts would have been found so oppressive that they would soon be inoperative. It came to this—that they should lower all trades to the same level, or raise every trade and bring them under the provisions of the Act of 1874—a fact which would work extreme hardship throughout the country. He could not, therefore, consent to the adoption of his hon. Friend's Resolution, and hoped it would not be pressed. He begged to thank hon. Members on both sides for the cordial reception they had given to the Bill, and trusted it would do one thing which was so essential in all those trades—namely, enable people who were under the law really to understand it. As the Acts now stood, he defied any person who was not a lawyer—and he defied most lawyers—to say as to any particular point what was absolutely the state of the law. There had been about 45 Acts to be dealt with, and he was bound to say that he received from the draftsman to whom the framing of the Bill was committed, and to whom it was a labour of love, the greatest possible assistance. He would conclude by expressing a hope that hon. Members who might have Amendments to propose would kindly consult with him before they placed them on the Paper. Nothing was more disheartening than 20 or 30 pages of Amendments; and if hon. Members took the course he ventured to suggest, their labours would, he trusted, be greatly lightened.


said, that he had not expected that the Home Secretary would have accepted his Motion. He was, however, quite satisfied with the discussion that had taken place, and reserved to himself the right to propose such Amendments in Committee as would meet the principle laid down in his present Motion. He was quite willing to withdraw his Amendment upon the second reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed, to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday 21st February.