HC Deb 21 February 1881 vol 258 cc1377-9

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is true that, in the case of the appointment of Mr. J. D. Prior to a Factory Inspectorship, the usual examination qualifying for the appointment has been dispensed with, and for what reasons an examination which is, rightly or wrongly, in general considered an unfailing test of fitness, has been considered unnecessary in Prior's case?


I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me this opportunity of explaining my action in this matter. Some time ago a large deputation, representing the various trades in the country, came to me and, among other things, represented that they felt aggrieved in regard to the administration of the Factory and Workshops' Act by the fact that the Inspectors were taken exclusively from a class of persons who had no practical acquaintance with the special interests which it is their business to protect. Though the Factory Inspectors are an admirable body of men, numbering between 50 and 60, and do their work very well, still it is impossible to deny the substantial truth of the allegation I have referred to. The examination which is prescribed practically excludes all but men belonging to the wealthier classes, and who have had the advantages of a University education. That is obvious when I mention that among the subjects of examination are Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, statics, dynamics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, &c. When such an examination is coupled with the condition that the candidate must be under 30 years of age, it is obvious that it must exclude all persons of the artizan class. It seemed to me that there was a defect in the system, and that it was very desirable that if the artizans were to be satisfied with the working of these Acts, passed specially for their benefit, their own class should have some share in their administration. I, of course, communicated this view, in the first instance, to the First Lord of the Treasury, and I obtained his sanction to the general principle. I then made it my business to find a proper person on whom the experiment might be tried. The post of a Factory Inspector is one which requires, not only knowledge and ability, but tact and judgment, to prevent friction between the interests of employers and employed. I believe, from the character I have received of Mr. Prior, that he will fulfil these requirements. I have, accordingly, applied for the assent of the Treasury under the 7th section of the Order in Council of June 4, 1870, by which the Chief of a Department may, if he considers that the qualifications of a candidate in respect of knowledge and ability deemed requisite for such situation are wholly or in part professional or otherwise peculiar, recommend, in the public interest, that examination be wholly or partially dispensed with. I have received the assent of the Treasury; and I am happy to be able to state that this appointment has the cordial concurrence of Mr. Redgrave, the Chief Inspector of Factories. I wish it to be understood that this is an individual instance, and I have not wished to suspend the general rule as to examination in other cases. I do not contemplate making swell appointments the exclusive or even the predominant feature of the system; but I am glad of any legitimate opportunity to give to the artizan and operative classes a share in the Civil Service of the country, especially in matters which peculiarly concern their interests. I think this is such an opportunity, and that it, is an experiment worth trying, and I have every hope and confidence in its success. How far it may be extended will depend upon the event of the trial.