HC Deb 03 August 1888 vol 329 cc1382-4

, in moving to amend the Reference to the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the sweating system at the East End of London by omitting the words "at the East End of London" and inserting the words "in the United Kingdom," said, he thought he would be perfectly safe in saying that in asking for an enlargement of the field of their labours the Committee were not labouring under any sense of dissatisfaction at the extent of that field already. The reason they wished for an extension was that it was found that business was carried on by individuals or firms not only in the East End of London, but in various other districts in London, and also in various other towns and cities in the country, and in some cases in the rural districts. It was impossible to make a searching inquiry without pursuing the subject through its various stages and branches. That was the principal reason. It was really impossible to carry out the intention of the present Reference without transgressing the bounds of that Reference. It was also more than probable that evils, the same or very similar to those which existed in the East End of London, prevailed also in the other parts of London and in many of the great cities and towns of the country. The Committee therefore thought it was highly desirable, and, in fact, necessary for a searching inquiry, that the field of their inquiry should be enlarged sufficiently to embrace those other cities and towns. If their Lordships were good enough to extend the Reference, of course it would cause some delay in bringing to a conclusion this investigation into matters of great importance to many interests and individuals, but he did not think it would cause such great delay as might be anticipated. He did not think he was over sanguine in hoping that the inquiry, so far as the East End of London was concerned, might be brought to a close in the course of the present Session and the Autumn, and if their Lordships saw fit to reappoint the Committee next Session, he did not think the enlargement of the field of inquiry would add very materially to the length of its sitting. The aspects of the case in the country were very similar to what they were in London, and therefore the consideration of the matter would not occupy a very great length of time. Moved, To amend the reference to the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the sweating system at the East End of London by omitting the words "at the East End of London," and inserting the words "in the United Kingdom."—(The Earl of Dunraven.)


said, he cordially supported the Motion. The Committee, by the original Reference, had had their labours limited to only a small portion of the United Kingdom; but he ventured to observe that the indirect action of that Committee had already benefited a larger number of Her Majesty's poorer subjects than any legislation which had passed through Parliament this Session. If that was the case, he thought their Lordships would act rightly, if they extended the powers of the Committee so that they might inquire into the case of the other large towns of the United Kingdom. Social questions, he believed, were really of much more importance to the working classes of this country than any purely political question could be. What did it matter to ordinary working men whether political Parties quarrelled and bickered across the Benches of Parliament? That affected them very little. It might be an excitement to read in the newspapers that one hon. Member had called another by some un-Parliamentary name, but it made very little difference to the working man, whereas the direct action of such a Committee as this really met the difficulty which he had to contend with. A fair day's pay for a fair day's work was of real importance to the working man, who ought to know that he was receiving fair remuneration for his labour, that competitors would not be allowed to grind him to the earth, and that Parliament would not permit injustice to be done to anybody, however low he might be in the social stele, or however dependent he might be upon society at large. The compromise made by a well-known firm in London the other day was a direct result of the Committee over which the noble Earl presided. His only regret was that that concession was not made earlier. If it were known to-morrow that the scope of the inquiry was to be extended to the whole of the United Kingdom, there would be much searching of hearts, and employers of labour would in many a factory and workshop see that their house was in order. He was not sanguine that much legislation would come from this Committee, but he felt certain that very great benefit would accrue therefrom to the working classes, and therefore it was that with the greatest pleasure he supported the Motion of the noble Earl.

Motion agreed to.