HC Deb 17 February 1891 vol 350 cc844-5
MR. J. MACLEAN (Oldham)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he can give the House assurances that the Government of India will pass into law a Bill to amend the Indian Factory Act before the Viceroy leaves Calcutta for Simla, and that the provisions of this Bill will include as a minimum the rules adopted at the International Labour Conference of Berlin regarding age, hours of labour, and hours of rest and refreshment?


I have to inform my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State in Council for India has been in communication with the Viceroy, and he is informed that legislation will be proceeded with immediately to amend the Indian Factory Act. The provisions of the Bill will follow, speaking generally, the recommendations of the International Labour Conference at Berlin, with this limitation—that it is proposed to raise the age for the employment of young children from seven (at which age they are now employed) to nine. The employment of women and children at night is to be prohibited, and the Secretary of State in Council has urged that the limits of work for children shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Berlin Conference.


With reference to one point in the right hon. Gentleman's answer. May I ask him whether, as the minimum age of employment of children in some European countries was fixed at 10 years by the Conference at Berlin, and as Indian children are of a weaker and more delicate frame than children in European countries, the right hon. Gentleman will press upon the Indian Government the importance of fixing the minimum at 10 years instead of 9?


I have no hesitation in saying that the Secretary of State is impressing that view upon the Government of India, and will continue to do so.


May I ask whether the recommendations of the Berlin Conference were stated by that Conference not to be applicable to the case of a tropical country, and whether they are consistent with the people of India, or whether they are only urged upon the Government by a few Lancashire Members?


I am not aware of the limitation to which the hon. Member refers; but I am under the impression that the sole object the Government of India and the Secretary of State have in view is that the regulations of labour in factories in India is consonant with humanity and in the interests of the Indian people themselves.