HC Deb 29 July 1887 vol 318 cc669-74

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Act to apply to Scotland only) agreed to.

Clause 2 (Farm servants to be entitled to four holidays).

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

With, regard to this clause I find that there is a certain objection taken to it by the farmers in my constituency, in respect that there is no suitable provision made for live stock upon the farm. It has occurred to them that if the holidays were arranged as they arc here in the Bill the employer would have no power to command as much service as would be required to attend to the live stock. I therefore propose to add, after the word "otherwise," in line 8— The master shall be entitled to require such reasonable service; as may be necessary for the proper care of the live stock, provided always that this shall not deprive the servant of at least one complete holiday every three months. I understand the promoters of the Bill are prepared to accept the Amendment, and so, without detaining the Committee further, I move it accordingly.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 8, after the word "otherwise," to insert the words "the master shall be entitled to require such reasonable service as may be necessary for the proper care of his live stock: provided always, that this shall not deprive the servant of at least one complete holiday every three months."—(Mr. Esslemont.)

Question. "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 (New Year's Day, the first Saturdays in March, July, and October to be the holidays).

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words "the first Saturday of," and insert the words "one day, not being Sunday, in."—(Mr. Thorburn.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'the first Saturday of' stand part of the Clause."

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I am rather opposed to the Amendment of my lion. Friend (Mr. Thorburn), because I am afraid that, if it is carried, it will introduce a very awkward state of things. Probably, you will have various holidays at various places, and servants visiting each other on the farms will prevent work being done. It is much bettor, in my opinion, if you are going to have statutory holidays, to have the days fixed rather than to have changes in this way. One set of holidays in one district and one set of holidays in another will only introduce perplexity into a very simple matter.

MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)

I have to say in reply to my hon. Friend (Dr. Clark), that I have moved this Amendment in consequence of representations made to me by many farmers in my constituency. They seem to think that the fixing of one unalterable day will cause a great deal of inconvenience, and they are convinced that the alteration proposed would make the Bill more workable. I hope my hon. Friend will not press his objection.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, "That the words 'one day, not being Sunday, in,' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.


For the reason I have just stated I beg to move the next Amendment on the Paper. It is consequential upon the one which has just been passed.

Amendment proposed,

In page 1, line 11, after the word "October," to insert the words "The employer shall determine the day of the month on which the holiday is to be held, and give the servant at least ten days' previous notice of the day so fixed; and, if such notice be not given, then the second Saturday of the month, in which it is herein provided the holiday shall be hold, shall be the holiday for that month."—(Mr. Thorburn.)

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Other days may by agreement be substituted).

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

Now we come to Clause 4, and although I do not wish to oppose the clause, I do not think it is altogether necessary, especially considering the position of the masters and the circumstances under which they arrange with their servants. Unless the promoters of the Bill can prove any occasion for it, I hope the clause will be withdrawn.

MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)

If my lion. Friend and the House generally is in favour of that course, I have no objection.

Motion made, and Question, "That Clause 4 be added to the Bill," put, and negatived.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I beg to move the now clause of which I have given Notice. The object of the Amendment is to secure for farm servants in Scotland one half-holiday in every month—that is to say, that on the last Saturday in every month they shall cease work at throe o'clock in the afternoon. The Scotch farm servant is hired by the half-year, he works practically every day, and he has no holidays. The artizan gets his holidays every Saturday afternoon, and what I now propose is to give to the Scotch agricultural labourer, once a month, what other labourers have four times a-month.

New Clause—

(Half holiday of farm servants.)

On the last Saturday of every calendar mouth farm servants shall be entitled to a half-holiday, and the day's work on such Saturdays shall end at three of the clock. No deduction from the wages of a servant shall be made in respect of such half-holidays,"—(Dr. Clark,)

brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the said Clause be now read a second time.

MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)

I am sorry I cannot accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I have consulted a great number of farmers and also labourers, and so far as I have been able to judge, there seems to be no demand for this on the part of the servants, while the employers think it unreasonable. I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw his Amendment.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I cannot think my hon. Friend (Dr. Clark) is serious in moving this Amendment; because, being one of the promoters of the Bill, and this matter having been before the public of Scotland for some time, he has sprung this Amendment upon the Committee with very little Notice. The Amendment is more far-reaching than the Bill itself, and I cannot suppose the hon. Member intends seriously to advocate this new clause. If he does we shall have to discuss a very large and important principle, introduced for the first time into an Act of this sort.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

I regret that I was not in the House when this Order was reached, so that I might have moved the Amendments standing in my name on the Paper. But I shall certainly have the greatest possible pleasure in supporting the proposal of the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr.Clark). I should like, in the first place, if the Committee will permit me, to state my reasons for having interposed an obstacle to the progress of the Bill. Believing in an old and well-known motto, when I saw a Liberal Unionist introducing a Bill like this, then, certainly——[An hon. MEMBER: Question.] Hon. Members may call out "Question" if they like; but, at any rate, when a measure like this is introduced by an hon. Gentleman belonging to the Unionist Party, of course we have to look at it with a certain amount of suspicion and doubt——


Order, order! I must point out that the hon. Member is not speaking to the Amendment introduced by the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark). That is the question before the Committee.


Certainly, Sir. I was trying, as far as I could, to confine myself to the Amendment, and I hope to be allowed, with your indulgence, and the indulgence of the Committee, just inflict these few remarks as being pertinent to the present occasion. I really must say that when we have a Bill of this sort introduced by a Unionist Member——


Order, order!


Well, Sir, I will not pursue that line of argument. I really want to back up the Amendment of the hon. Member (Dr. Clark), for I think we should try and gain as much as we possibly can for these agricultural labourers of Scotland. When I see hon. Gentlemen, who I know to be associated with the cause of Ireland, associated also with a proposal of real benefit to these agricultural labourers, Tarn anxious to stand by them to the end of the chapter. I sincerely hope that the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend (Dr. Clark) will obtain the consideration and support of all true Libe- rals, and there happen to be some true Liberals even on the other side of the House. I was not here to move the Amendments I had put on the Paper; but I trust that we may still get what I there suggested—that is, six holidays in the year for these people instead of four.


I must press this Amendment, and I must point out to the Committee that you are giving nothing to the agricultural labourer by the Bill. You are simply making statutory what we had in the past in the shape of fast days, when people did not fast, but did the reverse; and you are now going to recognize it, and place it on a different footing. Now, as it is not proposed that they should have any more holidays than they previously enjoyed, I suggest that they should have a half-holiday once a month—a dozen in the year, that is. Can you suppose that farm labourers will work day in and day out, week in and week out, without any holidays? They want some time for amusement, for education, for the cultivation of their minds. They are at the bottom of the ladder; they bear all the agricultural burdens, and I know they will not stand it much longer. My hon. Friend (Mr. Esslemont) represents the farmers' view here; but I tell him that if he continues to do so, the labourers will have something to say to him at the next General Election. These men are not in the same position as the agricultural labourers of England, who are paid a weekly wage and go home at night. They live on the farm; and they are pigged in places which you would not put your dogs or your horses into. I have asked for an inquiry into their condition; but the Government will cot give it. They work seven days a-week. They are never out of their employer's house, or off their employer's land; they have no time to themselves, and I do not think it is too much to ask that once in each month they shall be released from their work at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and have the rest of that day to themselves.


Perhaps the hon. Member (Dr. Clark) will allow mo to deal with my own constituents, and concern himself more particularly with Caithness. I believe that in my constituency there are a much larger number of agricultural labourers than in Caithness-shire; and I may inform my hon. Friend, lest he should be in any doubt about it, that I have consulted a large number of the farm servants of East Aberdeenshire—who are a rather intelligent and independent set of men—and with regard to having a half-holiday on certain Saturdays, of course they are willing enough; but they want to have some sort of Home Rule on the subject Probably my hon. Friend forgets that these men are not under the Factory Acts, and consequently not limited to any fixed number of hours per week. Without, perhaps, professing so much, I think I have the interest of farm labourers at heart just as much as my hon. Friend has, and I claim for them that this matter shall receive more consideration before we give them a half-holiday of only three hours monthly by Act of Parliament.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 22; Noes 66: Majority 44.—(Div. List, No. 336.) [2.15 A.M.]

Remaining Clause agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.

House adjourned at half after Two o'clock till Monday next.