HC Deb 18 February 1891 vol 350 cc945-99

Order for Second Reading read.

(12.40.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

I beg to move the Second Reading of the Factory and Workshops Act Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Act of 1878. Before I call the attention, of the House to the provisions of the Bill and the object for which these provisions are submitted it will, perhaps, be well that I should briefly explain how it is that I, who have no practical knowledge of factory operations, should have been entrusted with the charge of this measure. It happened that in 1889 I and other Members representing Lancashire and Yorkshire were requested to meet and consider certain propositions which the operatives employed in textile manufactures were desirous of submitting to us. We came to the conclusion that it was our duty to comply with the request in order to discover if there was any particular evil in existence which called for a remedy, and, if so, to endeavour to provide it. I was appointed Chairman of the Committee of Members who met on that occasion, and in that way the Steam Prevention Bill of 1889 drifted as it were into my hands. The Members who were associated with me joined with me in rendering the Bill non-contentious. We communicated with the employers. I take no credit to myself for the manner in which the Bill was framed. It is true that I had to draft it; but the credit for it is also due to my hon. Friend the Member for South Manchester (Sir H. Roscoe), whose great scientific knowledge was of the utmost importance, and also to the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester (Sir W. H. Houlds-worth), whose practical knowledge as an employer of labour assisted us materially. That Bill came into operation in the course of time; but it was a Bill that had a limited operation only, and its application was of a limited character. It applies only to those works into which artificial humidity is introduced. In consequence of the success of the steps which were then taken in the spring of last year, the operatives again placed themselves in communication with the Representatives of the constituencies to which they belong. They desired a further amendment of the Act of 1878, and they had found from experience that the best way of securing the objects they had in view was to enter into no contentious struggle with their employers, but to endeavour to arrive at an amicable arrangement. Under these circumstances, the Members to whom they applied endeavoured to carry out their views and wishes. Communications were opened with the employers of labour in order to accomplish this object, and a Committee selected from Lancashire and Yorkshire Members united in a strenuous and earnest effort to procure an agreement between all those who are interested in the subject. We met upon four days in April last; there was a full and complete discussion between the representatives of the employers and employed, but on certain matters of crucial importance we found that no agreement could be arrived at. Under the circumstances, it was decided that there should be a delegation, and that persons who had a practical knowledge of the subject and of all its details should again meet and endeavour to arrive at an agreement. In July there was such meeting, but no agreement was arrived at. The operatives, finding that they could not introduce a Bill that would be non-contentious, at last decided that they would bring in a Bill of their own. They applied to me to take charge of the measure. I represented to them my want of practical knowledge, but they refused my plea, and almost insisted I should consent to their wishes. Accordingly, I accepted the responsibility of introducing a Bill. A great deal has been said about my presumption in interfering in the matter, but I only reply that I am acting at the special request of those who are most deeply interested in the question. I have now to state, further, that when the operatives presented to me the heads of the Bill, feeling that I was not adequate to deal with the details, I suggested that a Committee of some 12 or 14 in number, many of them employers of labour, should be called together. A Conference was held, at which several Members of this House were present, and we discussed the details of the Bill, various objections being pointed out. I now come to the clauses of the Bill, and I respectfully invite hon. Members to follow me, although this is a Second Reading discussion. First, let me state the general provisions of the measure, and the directions in which they tend. The operatives are desirous that better provision should be made for the sanitary condition of the factories. I feel that that is an object which ought to be encouraged, and which every employer of labour is desirous of carrying out. The words sanitary arrangements include the subject of ventilation, which is of the utmost importance. The operatives also wish in the Bill to deal with the greater safety of the factory hands by affording them greater opportunities of escape from fire. The extent to which that shall be provided may be a matter for discussion, but the principle is one which, I presume, all are disposed to accept. In the next place, it is sought to secure greater protection from injury in consequence of the use of dangerous machinery. Then there is a claim on the part of the operatives that they should have an opportunity of testing the rate of payment for piece work, and there is a provision for a minimum fine in the event of an infringement of the Act, so that mere nominal fines shall not be imposed which will not meet the justice of the case. These are the principal objects the operatives have in view, and this Bill has been framed for the purpose of placing before the House the complaints they have to make against the existing system, and the remedies, they wish to apply. There is every willingness to meet objections of a practical nature that may be founded on the possibility of injury to the employers' interest, and the operatives are prepared to make concessions, so as to secure that the measure shall not be taken out of the range of friendly discussion. The first clauses in the Bill relate to the sanitary condition of factories, and I think the House will regard them as reasonable. Upon Sub-section 3 of Clause 4 I believe that some contentious debate may possibly arise. As the present law stands, there is a provision that in every textile factory into which humidity is artificially introduced provision shall be made for the admission of 600 cubic feet of fresh air per hour for every person employed. Objection has been raised to the clause now proposed. It is said, in the first place, that 600 cubic feet of fresh air per hour cannot practically be introduced. I take exception to that statement, but I know it is said that in cold seasons the operatives do not require the introduction of such a large quantity of fresh air. I also agree that anything which interferes with the satisfactory carrying on of the work of a factory will be quite as detrimental to the interests of the operatives as of the employers. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham has made fun of admitting 600 cubic feet per hour of a Manchester fog into a factory, but I may explain that the reason why 600 cubic feet has been fixed upon is that that is the quantum provided in the case of steam factories by the Act of 1889. Still, the operatives are willing that the Inspectors shall lay down the limit, and, at any rate, the operatives of Lancashire have full confidence in Her Majesty's Factory Inspectors. All they desire is that, if increased duties are imposed on the Inspectors, there shall be an increased staff, and that they shall be men of practical knowledge, both in regard to the wants of the operatives and the interests of the employers. The operatives are quite willing to meet the objections of those who may pass a legitimate criticism upon the provisions of the Bill, and I am prepared to substitute for Sub-section 3 of Clause 4 a provision that it shall be the duty of the Inspector of Factories in each district to ascertain the state of ventilation in every room of a textile factory, and direct such arrangements to be made for the admission into such rooms of such quantity of air as may be sufficient to secure the health of the persons employed therein. Are there any employers of labour who can object to a provision of that kind? It is a simple proposal to leave the matter in the hands of the Factory Inspectors, and I think the concession made by the operatives is of a character that ought to bring any discussion upon this head to an end. The reason for the insertion of Clause 5 is, I think, apparent to every one. The duty of seeing that certain provisions of the Act of 1878 are carried out is cast upon the Sanitary Authority, which is composed of local gentlemen, many of whom, as a rule, are factory owners. What the operatives propose in Clause 5 is that where the Sanitary Authority is not sufficiently active the Factory Inspector shall have the power of representing the fact to the Local Government Board, in order that the Board may direct that proper provision shall be made for carrying out the Act. Clause 6 applies to the nature of the machinery that is to be more securely fenced, and Sub-section 5 provides that adequate provision shall be made for the escape of the operatives employed in a factory in the event of fire. It is proposed to amend the clause by making the Act apply only to rooms in communication with which there is not more than one staircase. Every building which provides more than one staircase would consequently be exempt from the operation of the clauses. A suggestion has been made that the clause should only apply to buildings erected after 1892, but I believe that a strenuous opposition will be offered by the operatives to that proposition. If the principle is right, surely we ought not to say that it shall not be applied to any existing structures. All that is asked is that, in the event of a fire in a factory, there shall be adequate means of escape for the operatives. Such a provision is enforced in the case of theatres, and I think it is not too much to ask that it shall also be applied to factories. I now come to Clause 7. It is a clause which does not take away any portion of the hours of labour, but it proposes to devote a greater period of time to the cleaning of the machinery. I am told that such a provision is not required in the worsted or woollen trade, but it certainly is required in the cotton trade and in other trades which require that the machinery shall be cleaned upon one day per week. In the case of cotton mills the cleaning takes place on a Saturday, but only half an hour is allowed, and it sometimes is done while the factory hands are at work and the machinery is in motion, the result of which is that accidents frequently occur. If that is not the system in the factories in which the woollen and worsted trade is carried on the clause need not apply. With that explanation and modification I hope the demand made by the Bill will not be deemed unreasonable. Clause 8 is comparatively an immaterial one, applying only to the question of holidays; and 9 is a clause confined simply to matters of procedure. Clause 10 is, I think, the only clause in the Bill which refers to factories generally as distinguished from textile factories, but I have heard of no objection in reference to it. Clause 11 is one which I believe is objectionable and obnoxious to several Members of this House, whose opinions are entitled to the greatest weight. I hope I may be allowed, in the first place, to say a few words in defence of the clause as it stands. It is said to have been introduced into the Bill in the interests of Trades Unionism, and that it is calculated to inflict great injury upon the commercial interests of the country. I may add that in regard to this clause I have been subjected to a great amount of personal abuse, not only for my ignorance, but for the bitter spirit of animosity with which I must be actuated. There is no foundation whatever for that statement, and I may remind the House that the matter dealt with by the clause has already been the subject of legislation. As far back as 1840 a Linen Manufactories Bill was passed by this House, and, although it only applied to Ireland, it was a Bill which was passed in compliance with the demands of those who were interested in the linen manufacture. Clause 16 of that Act provides that every warp given out by the manufacturer to a weaver shall be accompanied by a ticket signed by the manufacturer or his agent stating the length, breadth, and particular pattern of the work, the number of shots in a weft, the time at which the work is to be finished, and the price agreed upon for every yard of work, imperial standard measure, performed in a workman like manner. The fact that such an Act is in existence is, I think, an indication that Parliament has not been of opinion that such a provision ought to be scouted from its doors. I believe there have been numerous occasions in which the operatives have had cause to complain that the payment they have received has not been a correct payment. I ask, is there any other trade in the country in connection with which it would be permitted that the worker should not have the opportunity of knowing whether the payment made to him is a proper payment or not? It it a simple right that these men ask for. The argument against it is that every good employer does it already. But I am proposing to legislate not for good employers only, but for every employer. There is one hon. Member who has criticised the Bill with great intelligence—the hon. Member for Stalybridge. I take it he is one of the "good employer" class. I have had placed in my hand a little document, which reads— Slashers No. 5; sorts 69, width 35, length 34, cuts 19, weft 35, pick 16½ web 30, &c. Materials given out. For Mr. T. H. Side-bottom, M. P. Now I ask, can there be any objection to a system which is carried out already in the works of a model Member of this House? But the operatives ask for less than what my hon. Friend thinks it right and reasonable to give as a matter of justice to his own men. When I can appeal to the justice which is done the operatives by men not on my own side of the House only, I think I have made out the case on behalf of those classes. I have received a letter from a representative of the Galashiels Chamber of Commerce, who informs me that this very clause now so much objected to is universally carried out in Scotland. There are Scotch Members in this House, and I venture to say that some representations have been made to them as to the justice or injustice of the clause, and I appeal to them to say whether what I have stated is true as to the practice in Scotland. The Scotch manufacturers, no doubt, are able to take care of their own interests, and their representatives will see that no injustice is done them. I hope I have proceeded step by step to show that this clause is not unreasonable if it is persisted in as it stands; but I will now state the concessions I am authorised to make on the subject. I am anxious to avoid using language which may be regarded as anything approaching clap-trap. When the operatives and those who represent them were informed that there were certain Members of the House who said that if all these particulars were given our manufacturers would be placed at the mercy of foreign competition, and of rival traders, they said, "That is not our object; the trade of the country is sufficiently handicapped already, and we have not the slightest wish to obtain any information which may place any employer in any worse position than he is in at the present moment." Let me remind the House, in the first place, that this clause does not apply, even in the case of the cotton trade, to all the departments of that manufacture. It says that every person engaged as a weaver in the cotton, worsted, or woollen trade, or as a winder, warper, or reeler in the cotton trade who is paid by the piece shall have this information. It does not apply to the spinner or to the card-room hand. It is objected that this is rather a Cotton Operatives' Bill, and that the woollen and worsted trades will suffer if this information is given. But I only want to secure that operatives employed in textile works shall have sufficient information to enable them to ascertain what rate of wages is paid. The concession I shall be prepared to move in Committee is as follows:—That everyone of the persons included in the clause as employed in a textile factory— And paid by the piece for work done by him, shall have delivered to him with all such work particulars thereof sufficient to enable him to ascertain at what rate of wages he is entitled to be paid. A proper authority can be chosen to see that the information given is sufficient. The provision I shall thus suggest will give the operative only the information every good employer now gives him, and the operative will get no information which will enable him to disclose any secret. I can only say that if this question had been approached in an amicable spirit it would have been found that this Amendment would have been earlier proposed, and I think no one will now say that it is an unjust clause. Very little remains for me to say in respect of other clauses. There are some as to minimum penalties which will, I think, be very acceptable, but they are not of sufficient importance for me to deal with them in this discussion. I venture to recommend the Second Reading of this measure and its future stages to the favourable consideration of the House. I am aware that the Government have introduced a Bill which I have only had an opportunity of considering for a few minutes, as it was not placed in the hands of Members until this morning, but it scarcely deals with the matters with which this Bill deals This Bill is only for textile factories; the Bill of the Home Secretary deals principally with workshops. There is a necessary Amendment which I have prepared and which I will put on the Paper to-day, namely, that the Act of 1878 is repealed only with respect to factories, not workshops. This Bill has been introduced for the purpose of stating what are the demands of the operatives in those matters which are important to them, and to which I now ask the attention of the Home Secretary and hon. Members. They will have to be dealt with sooner or later, and the Bill of the Government scarcely touches them. The fortune of the Ballot has been very good to me in giving me a selection of dates, and I think it will be a failure of duty on my part if I have secured a place I do not make use of the opportunity. I ask the favour of a Second Reading for the Bill now, and I will put its future stages down according to the opportunities offered me. I hope the House will meet these proposals in the spirit in which they are made. We know the conflicts now carried on between capital and labour. We hear accounts of existing conflicts and rumours of conflicts likely to arise in the future. I know no way in which we may hope to prevent those struggles except by showing ourselves ready to deal fairly with demands which are just and reasonable. I believe there will be a great aggravation of these struggles if Parliament closes its ears to such just demands. To refuse to consider such a Bill as this would be to throw these men into the hands of interested agitators, and the responsibility for the evils which might result would rest upon Parliament if we do not do our best. It is in the spirit I have indicated that I have endeavoured to place the demands of these operatives, many of them being constituents of my own, before the House, and I venture again to recommend to its favour this measure, the Second Reading of which I now beg to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Bill be now read a second time."

(1.30.) MR. OLDROYD (Dewsbury)

There will not be lacking ample opportunity for the discussion of the grievances to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has just referred in his concluding remarks. We have not only the Bill which is now before the House, but also another Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Poplar, and also this morning we have one circulated by the Home Secretary, and I am only apprehensive lest in the multiplicity of the Bills introduced for this purpose the tendency of the House should be in the direction of getting mixed rather than having the subject simplified. I must say that the very temperate speech in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury introduced the measure has very much simplified my position, and, with a little concession, I have no doubt that the almost unanimous support of the House, and especially of those Members who are interested in the technical subject of textile manufactures, will be secured. I have personally been anxious to support this Bill, because I think I detect within its four corners important objects and very worthy ones. I think it aims at achieving several important regulations connected with the conduct of textile manufactures, and will be of essential importance and benefit both to employers and employed. With regard to the clauses bearing upon the sanitary question, I am sure that most hon. Members heartily concur, and so also with regard to the clauses respecting ventilation and escape during fire. With regard to the fencing of machinery, and also with regard to the clause last referred to by the introducer of the Bill—Clause 11—dealing with the subject of specifications of contracts and of prices. I am quite sure that, put as it is in a new form, the House will heartily approve of it. But, although the objects of the Bill are, in my judgment, worthy ones and good ones, I think that there are discernible in the Bill itself and the way it is drafted traces of that want of experience to which the right hon. Gentleman has duly referred. And, more than that, there are indications in the Bill that it has been drafted specially with reference to the cotton trade, because some of the clauses are particularly ill-adapted to the woollen and worsted manufactures. Moreover, I think in some respects too much importance is attached to the opinion and discretion of the Inspectors, and there is a little tendency to depose from authority and control the owners and occupiers of the factories. But, notwithstanding all the difficulties which naturally attach to a Bill of this sort, involving a large amount of technical detail, I shall feel disposed to give my support to the Second Reading, but I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the propriety, the expediency, and, in fact, the necessity of referring this Bill to a Select Committee rather than leaving it to be dealt with across the floor of the House. There are intricacies connected with our textile industries—intricacies that are daily increasing—which it is almost impossible to discuss across the floor of the House, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will take a step promotive of his measure if he consents to it being referred to a Select Committee, because then expert evidence can be brought before that Committee, who will be able to thoroughly digest and understand the points raised. As amended by that Committee the Bill would ultimately be presented to the House in a form not only acceptable to employers, but to employed. I will not detain the House more than a few minutes in referring to some of the clauses which the right hon. Gentleman himself has referred to, and from some of which he has removed very pertinent objections which had been raised already. With regard to Section 4, which deals with ventilation, I would point out that the injection of 600 cubic feet per head employed in each room would mean the removal by displacement of the whole of the atmosphere in some rooms once in eight hours. I believe that such is the case; but there are other cases where larger numbers of hands are employed, and where the 600 feet per head would necessitate the displacement of the total in a given room in one hour rather than in eight hours. It seems to me that in cases of this kind some modification would be necessary. It is very necessary that the atmosphere of such rooms be kept very steady, and, with such displacement, it would be impossible to maintain an equitable atmosphere. My experience now is that in most cases the maintenance of the temperature necessary in winter takes something like 10 or 15 per cent, of what is consumed in motive power; but, if this Bill were passed in its present form, I am quite sure that that would be raised to 20 or 25 per cent. I am sure we should have very general complaints from the workpeople themselves, whose health would be endangered by so constant a change of temperature. But the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman in his introduction of the Bill gives one the hope that some modification may be arrived at which will be acceptable to all parties. With regard to Section 6, I think there is very little objection indeed; but with regard to the fencing of hoists this is another case where it is impossible in any Act of Parliament to draw up a clause which will meet all cases. There are hoists and hoists. In some cases they are on the premises but in separate blocks of buildings, which are used only as warehouses—where only a few people have access—and it seems almost unnecessary, in fact absolutely unnecessary, that they should be protected. In cases where there is a large amount of traffic there might be danger, but these hoists are attended all day, both in ascent and descent by one man, who is responsible for its proper working. As regards the fencing of machinery, it seems to me that the terms of that clause are very broad. The owners and occupiers would be at the mercy of any nervous Inspector, it might be of an Inspector such as we heard of the other night, who had obtained a gold medal at a University, but who, in the matter of machinery, was ignorant and inexperienced, and who might fancy dangers where dangers do not exist. I am glad to find the right hon. Gentleman is willing to alter Subsection 5 of Clause 6, dealing with fire escapes. I know that there are sometimes what are commonly called fireproof mills where it seems that a second escape is entirely unnecessary, and in those cases the modification which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested is a reasonable one—that where two staircases are provided it is not necessary that further security should be taken. But there are in some mills a hoist and a staircase, and it seems to me that those two would perhaps be satisfactory for the purposes of security. With regard to Section 7, I think that even the modification which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested would scarcely meet the case. It seems to me that it would constitute the thin end of the wedge that would lead to an agitation for a reduction of the hours of labour. I am not one of those pessimists who think that such a reduction of the hours of labour in our textile factories would lead to the destruction of the industry; but I do think that, in face of the competition that exists, it seems tempting Providence to reduce the hours of the existing Factory Acts. There are one or two sub-clauses in Section 7 which would also require attention in Committee. I see it is provided that where there is machinery in motion the presence of operatives shall be deemed as signifying that they are employed in that room. I speak within the knowledge of a large number of hon. Members when I say that employers find great difficulty in getting their employés to leave the premises at meal times, and, although some of us have provided dining-rooms, a great many of the operatives are averse to using them. They do not like dining in public, but prefer to do so privately. They do not like exposing what they have in the way of victuals to the scrutiny and criticism of those about them. It appears, also, that there must be a large number of premises in this country where the provision of rooms for purposes of refreshment would be a matter of very great difficulty. And now I come to Clause 11. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested a very important modification of the clause—a modification which I think will meet with the approval of the House—but I wish to point out that the alteration now suggested by the right hon. Gentleman was rejected by a majority of the operatives who met at the Westminster Palace Hotel. As drafted in the Bill Clause 11, although in many cases acted upon by manufacturers, is a provision which is impracticable. It is not possible to draft a clause which will meet every case, and so far as my own works are concerned, I may say that there are several matters connected with weaving, and which bear upon the amount to be paid for the work done by the weaver, which are altogether omitted from the clause. There is one department of weaving—namely, the blanket trade—which I find is conducted on entirely different principles. The operatives in that trade are paid by weight entirely, which shows how difficult it is to draw up a Bill, or even discuss it across the floor of this House, so as to meet every emergency. I am, however, very anxious that the object aimed at by Clause 11 should be secured, because I believe it necessary for the protection of the workmen against fraudulent and ill-disposed employers that this legislation should be enacted, not so much for the good employers as for those who are less scrupulous in their dealings. I believe Clause 11, if acted upon, would be one of the best clauses in the Bill, and would tend to the removal of what now constitutes a subject of considerable friction between employer and employed. But the clause as it ought to be drafted should imply that the workman should have a right to expect and receive from the employer with a batch of work such information as would lead him to know what remuneration he would receive for the work, but no further information which might tempt him to disclose particulars to unscrupulous competitors. I shall be happy after the modifications announced to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill; but I hope it will be sent to a Select Committee, it may be in conjunction with the measure of the Home Secretary. Evidence can then be given both on the part of the employer and employed, so that we may be prevented from passing legislation which may hamper or harass industries which are of such great importance to the prosperity of the country.

(1.50.) SIR W. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)

I confess, Sir, it appears to me that the objections that have been taken against this Bill, even it its original form, are not at all justified by its provisions. I am quite sure that those of us who are supporting the Bill cannot complain of any criticism that may be offered, but I do think that the objections that have been taken against the Bill, even in its original form, are not at all justified, and have been founded on some misunderstanding, and the practical working of the measure in some instances has not been understood, even by practical men. I am very glad to find that there is likely to be a consensus of opinion with regard to the main provisions of the Bill, and that no serious opposition is to be offered, but I cannot help thinking that although the employers may, in the first instance, have looked upon the Bill as to some extent hostile to their interest, it will really be a protection to the good employers, who at the present time are voluntarily expending considerable amounts of money in the erection of mills and in various improvements for the benefit of their workpeople. It will do a great deal to protect employers who are handicapped by others who are not inclined voluntarily to do the same for their workpeople. Not only will the workpeople be benefited as they ought to be, but the Bill will prevent those who voluntarily give these conditions to-the workpeople from being handicapped by competitors who are less scrupulous in the matter. The outcry which has been raised against Clause 4—the Ventilation Clause—has very much astonished me. The clause deals with the 600 cubic feet of fresh air to be admitted, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has stated is the quantity of air provided in the Cotton Cloth Factories Bill passed a few years ago. Well, if there is one class of workroom in which it has been contended that the admission of a large quantity of cold air in certain conditions of the outside atmosphere will be prejudicial to the work, it is in those very factories as to which Parliament has already legislated, and has provided that that amount of air shall be admitted. After all, practical experience is probably the best guide. I notice that a member of the deputation who waited on the Home Secretary the other day objected very strongly to this ventilation, whilst, as a matter of fact, the quantity of air this gentleman admits, throughout his factories is considerably greater than that provided by the Bill. I can also give an instance within my own knowledge where the quantity of air that is admitted into the factory is not less than 9,000 cubic feet per minute, which, under the Bill, would permit of 900 people being in these rooms. That is in an industry of very great delicacy, although I admit that it is not on all fours with the factories under this Bill, but it requires special conditions of temperature and moisture. I think there is some misunderstanding with regard to the mode in which it is proposed that air should be admitted, and I think there is a word in the clause which might well be altered if the Bill is going to stand in its original shape. To my mind, "admission of air" is not the proper way to describe the process which I believe is the true one to adopt in order to secure good ventilation. It is really the exhaustion of air, because if we exhaust a large quantity of air from a place fresh air must find its way into the building, and there must be "admission" of it; but that is a different thing to supplying special openings. There is nothing like a process of absolutely compelling fresh air into a room; and, as a matter of fact, in the manufactory to which I have referred the fanners for exhausting air have been in operation for a considerable number of years, and there has been no complaint of them from the workpeople, who, on the contrary, have experienced very great advantage from them. There was a time when provision was made for the admission of air, and the workpeople objected very strongly and asked that the openings should be closed. They were closed, but the fanners were kept in operation, and the rooms remained well ventilated without the slightest inconvenience to the workpeople. I am glad to find that the argument of expense has not been used very seriously, because I have here a catalogue of mechanical instruments for providing for ventilation, and I find that even in a shed where there are 600 workpeople, the largest number employed in any workshed, for £16 a fanner can be placed there to take out 600 cubic feet of air a minute. With regard to Section 7, providing for an additional half hour for cleaning, I think the best course would be to withdraw the clause absolutely from the Bill. The practical effect of the clause would be to reduce the working time in the factories of this country by half an hour, and it is not in the interests either of employer or employed in this country that the hours of labour should be further reduced. At the Berlin Conference there was an attempt made to reduce the hours of labour throughout the countries of Europe to 66 per week as a minimum; but in this country the hours of labour are only 56 per week, because half an hour is devoted to cleaning, and I am quite sure that both the operatives on the one hand and those engaged in manufacturing trades on the other must feel that they cannot afford to be handicapped any further with regard to the hours in their competition with foreign countries. It seems as though the argument of the operative is that the cleaning is done now at other times, and that if this half hour is taken for cleaning on Saturday these other times will be devoted to work and not to cleaning but I doubt very much if that course would be taken. There are very few factories in the country where the half hour is at present devoted to cleaning at all. It is the custom in an immense number of factories, at the request of the workpeople themselves, that the doors should be opened immediately after the hour at which the engine stops, and as a general rule the workpeople devote part of their meal times to cleaning, and are ready to go out when the engine stops, so that the half hour is not used practically for cleaning purposes, and to increase that half hour to an hour would not mean more time devoted to cleaning, but an additional half hour of play instead of work. Every employer would be glad to give the operatives another half hour for play if he could do it consistently with his own interests and those of the workmen, but under present circumstances he cannot make the sacrifice. If any proposition of the kind is seriously contemplated, I believe it will have to assume an entirely different form, because there are stoppings, during the week at present for cleaning purposes, and in many trades it is found to be more convenient to clean twice a week rather than to leave the cleaning to be done entirely at the end of the week. I strongly urge upon those in charge of the Bill that the simplest course would be to withdraw the clause altogether, as I believe it is a clause not desirable in the interest of the trade to pass. With regard to the particulars of work, that is a subject which will have to be very carefully considered. In the great majority of trades, and in those I know best, these particulars are given. The principle, I think, is thoroughly right that the workpeople should know as far as can be what are the wages they are being paid, so as to be able to calculate when put on new work the amount they should receive; and I think it quite right that those who defend the interests of the workpeople should be able from time to time to examine the various lists and data upon which the work is paid, in order to see that there is fair play between employers and employed. With regard to the minimum penalties, I think the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill forgot to mention rather an important matter. As the clauses stand, they are of an excessively drastic character. It has been represented, and very fairly represented, that there are cases where an employer can be brought up for a contravention of the Act when it is not intentional or wilful on his part, and in fact in opposition not only to his regulations but his personal wishes, and in cases of first offence of that character large penalties should not be imposed. But the right hon. Gentleman forgets that there were clauses drafted and practically adopted at the Conference to which he has referred which would have met this difficulty. They would provide that on the first offence the minimum penalty should not come into play, but that it should be left to the discretion of the Magistrate, and that only when a second offence was committed within a period of two years after the first conviction should this high minimum penalty come into force. There is no doubt it is desirable that the law should be enforced, as it is a protection to good employers against bad ones. It is well known that there are employers—and especially Limited Companies, which being Corporations have no consciences—who persistently contravene the law, the fines, which are on a small scale, being paid freely; and I have even heard of cases where those who were interested have actually sat upon the Bench to adjudicate—if not in their own, in their brother's cases—and that most insignificant fines have then been imposed for very grievous offences. If the minimum fines are guarded in the way I have mentioned, I think minimum penalties might very properly be inserted in the Bill. In my opinion, no exception can be made with regard to fire escapes in the case of fireproof mills. The danger is quite as great in fireproof mills as in non-fireproof mills. It is, indeed, a fact that the most disastrous fires take place in fireproof mills. But without arguing the question on that point, it should be remembered that the great difficulty in the way of people escaping in case of fire is not so much the flame as the smoke, and that difficulty might occur just as much in a fireproof mill as in a non-fireproof mill. Care should, therefore, be taken that there are sufficient exits. The clause should not be too drastic, so as to require useless new staircases to be made; but there are many factories, especially old factories, which are complete traps—where in case of fire there is very little doubt there would be loss of life. In those cases the proposal of the Bill is a very fair and reasonable one. I hope the House will accept the Bill, especially with the considerable modifications which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated. The proposal has been made that the Bill should be referred to a Select Commitee. At one time I was inclined to think that would be the best course; but the question has now been reduced to such small proportions, especially after the concessions which have been announced to-day, that I do not think a Select Committee is at all necessary. Of course, when we have an opportunity of looking into the Bill of the Government we may find there are certain points—although from a cursory glance at it I do not think there are—which might make us disposed to send this Bill to a Committee, but after what has taken place I think that would be an unnecessary waste of time. I hope there will be a conciliatory spirit on both sides, and I earnestly trust the House will read the Bill a second time. (2.15.)

(2.32.) MR. CALEB WRIGHT (Lancashire, S.W., Leigh)

I shall be very brief in my observations. I think I know a little of the spinning business as a practical spinner, having been in the trade nearly 70 years, 45 of them as an employer. I have always been in favour of all necessary means to promote the health of the workers; but I must ask the House to hesitate before it make laws which are not likely to improve the trade, but may hamper employers. I object decidedly to the clause dealing with ventilation, though I admit it is essential that all workshops shall be properly ventilated. I think the ventilation of workshops has very much improved in the last 20 or 30 years. My impression is that if 600 cubic feet of air per head per hour were admitted into a mill the result would be great shrinkage in the fine spinning; while in cold, and wet, and foggy weather the breakage would be great, and the resulting work would be very imperfect. I was in favour of the Ten Hours Bill, and have been in favour of reducing the working hours since that Bill was passed. Before 1847 the hours of work were 72 per week, but now they are 56½, which is a reduction of 15½ per week. Although there has been that large reduction of hours the wages of the workers are very much better now, and the purchasing power of their wages is much increased, so that I say the working people in factories have been very much benefited by the Ten Hours Bill. But that is no reason why we should still further contract the hours of labour. We must remember we have keen competitors on the Continent and in other parts of the world, where working hours are very long and where wages are low; and if we in this country are to maintain our pre-eminence in the cotton manufacturing industry it must be by the workmen and the employers doing justice to one another, and avoiding any acts which may hamper the trade. I am very glad some of the clauses are to be modified, and I think the best possible solution of the whole matter would be for the present Bill and the Government Bill to be both submitted to a Select Committee.

(2.41.) MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)

I can say of my own knowledge that no measure now before this House has caused more lively interest or deeper discussion outside the House, particularly in the great manufacturing districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, than the present Bill. In my opinion, it is a wholesome sign of the times that such a measure as the one before the House should be thought worthy of attention. There are several Bills on the same subject as well as the Government Bill. Whether it will be found expedient to refer them all to a Select Committee I know not; but I would venture to urge on those who are responsible for them the necessity of separating questions of detail from the main principle which is involved in them all. It is not generally known that both parties interested in this legislation complain of the provisions of the present Bill. The employers, on the one hand, complain of the harsh and drastic character of the measure, while the operatives think it does not go far enough; and I think the duty of the House will be to hold the balance fairly between the conflicting opinions. On the part of the employers it is urged that in the present days of foreign competition and disputes between capital and labour the conditions under which the manufacturing industries of the country are carried on are already at a point of very severe tension and that what is required is rather that they should be set free from special legislation than that they should be further hampered in that respect. In that spirit the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, at a special meeting convened on Monday last to consider the provisions of this Bill, passed a resolution to the effect that, while welcoming any reasonable provisions tending to the safety of the workpeople, the Chamber, having regard to the very objectionable nature of Sir Henry James's Bill, requested the local Members to oppose it, except on the condition that a Select Committee should considerably modify the objectionable clauses. I think that resolution might not have been passed if the Chamber had been aware that such a moderate and conciliatory tone would be taken by the right hon. Gentleman in proposing the Bill. The most objectionable clause to employers of labour in the Bradford District is Clause 11, and the proposals the right hon. Gentleman has suggested will no doubt considerably modify the opposition raised against it. It is impossible, in the course of a Debate like this, to do more than lay down certain principles on which legislation shall proceed, for anything like a discussion of the clauses in detail must of necessity be deferred until the Committee stage is reached, or the Bill is read a second time, or referred to a Select Committee. The employers—certainly those in the West Riding of Yorkshire—are, I am sure, anxious to promote the comfort, convenience, and sanitary wellbeing of their workpeople. I believe what are called bad employers are very rare. On the other hand, I must claim for the operatives a disposition to meet the employers fairly and honestly, and to adopt in the negotiations with them a conciliatory and commonsense attitude. As an instance of the difficulty of dealing with this question in a Second Reading Debate, I may mention that Mr. H. B. Priestman, in supporting the resolution of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said that if there was one thing a Bradford spinner or weaver objected to more than another it was a draught; while, on the other hand, I have this morning received a letter from a workman urging me to do all in my power to pass the present Bill, stating that at the present time the thermometer in the shed where he is working is at 80 degrees, while in the summer it is sometimes at 105 degrees. He says that in the carding room there is no fresh air whatever, and adds— We who work in it are like hothouse plants—poor and sickly looking—and cannot stand cold weather. I think such testimony as this must be invaluable to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, as showing that, with regard to the provisions for the better ventilation of these places, he has the earnest good wishes of a large body of working men. The whole question of factory inspection is involved in the Bill. The truth is that the condition of the Factory Inspection Department of the Home Office has been for a long time past in a most chaotic condition. I obtained a Return in 1887, from which it appeared that the number of Factory Inspectors was totally inadequate for the duties required of them; that each Inspector was enormously overburdened with the population to which he had to attend, and that the areas in which the Inspectors worked were unascertained, and were unascertainable, by the Home Office. There were at that date only 56 Inspectors and Sub-Inspectors for the whole of the country. In some cases the population amounted to upwards of 2,000,000. For instance, the Inspector in charge of the South Metropolitan District, including Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, had to look after a population of 2,905,000. The Dublin District Inspector had a population of 2,221,000 to deal with; the Glasgow Inspector a population of 2,690,000; and the Cork and Munster Inspector a population of nearly 2,500,000. The Return also showed that 37 of the Inspectors were unaware of the areas in which their work was supposed to be done.


Nothing of the kind.


I find it stated in the Return that in parts of Berks, Wilts, and Somerset the area, acreage, and population "cannot be ascertained." The same is the case with part of the Notts District, part of the North-East District, part of the North-West Division, part of Stirlingshire, and part of the Leicester Division.


I do not quite know that this is material to the present Bill; but it is a serious matter as regards administrative efficiency, and I cannot allow the hon. Member's remarks to go uncontradicted. The Return does not profess to give the geographical area of the Inspectors' districts; because, as I told the hon. Member at the time, this could not be given, as the districts are not coterminous with the parish or other district boundaries. It was only because we had not had a special and expensive survey of our Inspectors' districts that we could not give it.


I am obliged to my hon. Friend, but I note that he does not touch the grievance of the enormous amount of population confided to the care of one Inspector, and the consequent total inadequacy of the staff. I hope in the discussion this question will not be lost sight of, and that the Home Secretary will find it in his power to recommend to the House, as a result of the discussion, an adequate increase in the staff, rather of the sub-inspecting than of the chief inspecting class. For that purpose I would suggest that working men themselves might be advantageously employed in that capacity. Some time ago I took occasion to interview a number of representative working men in my own constituency in regard to this question of factory inspection. One of them said he had been a worker for 40 years, and that he had never for 30 years of that time seen an Inspector. Another, who had worked for 50 years, had seen an Inspector only once. Another, who had worked for 30 years, had not seen an Inspector for 20 years of that time. All of them were in agreement that the present system of inspection was merely an apology for inspection, and, indeed, from the facts stated in the Return to which I have referred, I do not see that anything else could be expected. It will be idle to pass this Bill unless concurrently you increase the number and define the areas of the Inspectors. I think that this side of the House, which has always been honourably identified with legislation for the benefit of the workers in mines, and mills, and factories throughout the Kingdom, will, by carrying into law during the present Session such a measure as this, assisted by whatever amount of experience it may command, add yet one more laurel to the wreath it may well be proud to wear, as crowning the honest hard work it has so well and worthily done for the toiling masses of the country, many of whom are so often unable to help themselves. I beg, therefore, to offer my general and sincere support to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, which I hope will be allowed to pass its Second Reading to-day without a Division. I trust also that in Committee, and upon the lines laid down by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. James) in the very temperate speech in which he introduced the measure, it may be so amended as to meet all reasonable objections, and that in the end a very practical piece of legislation will speedily be added to the long roll of similar measures that have been passed by the British Parliament.

(3.3.) MR. J. A.BRIGHT (Birmingham, Central)

It would have been a matter of great pain to me to have felt it necessary tooppose this measure, but as it stood when it was first printed I should have felt compelled to take that course. I am now, however, enabled to offer it a general support. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to me at the beginning of his speech; and I may here say that I am sorry that from a somewhat jocular remark I made when the deputation referred to was before the Home Secretary the right hon. Gentleman should have thought I treated the subject with anything like levity. Nevertheless, I think I succeeded in dispelling a little of the fog which obstructed the question of which we were then talking. The subject of ventilation was mentioned by the hon. Member who preceded me, and it was stated that it would take eight hours to change the amount of air in a room by means of the ventilation proposed. I calculate that in some parts of a factory it would be changed in less than an hour. The hon. Member for Manchester (Sir William Houldsworth) has alluded to the works with which he is connected, and has stated that more than this amount of air is there introduced already; but the works of the hon. Member are very different from those of many other manufacturers of textile fabrics. In most cases a very small number of persons are employed in the rooms of his factory, and it is easy to introduce 600 cubic feet of air per head per hour without making the air unduly moist or unduly dry. 600 cubic feet of air is not a very large amount, but it should be remembered that what is right at one time of the year and under one set of conditions, can hardly be right at another time of the year and under a different set of conditions. The appliances for admitting a certain amount of air should be supplied and kept in working order, but their application and the setting of them to work should be adapted to the circumstances. If the workpeople complain of the air being too close I am sure that every cotton spinner would willingly admit more; because if it were found that the admission of air stopped the progress of the manufacturing process no one would find it out sooner than the working people, and they would be the first to complain of the hindrance thereby caused to their work. Prom what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has proposed I gather that it would be left to the Inspector to judge whether the amount of air was sufficient or not, and I suppose the Inspector would be prompted to see to this by the representatives of the workpeople. It is much more likely that the master would be the first to complain of the ventilation than the workmen. According to my knowledge and experience, the workpeople are very slightly educated on the subject of ventilation. They hardly ever open the windows of their houses, and when I have provided ventilators for them I have found that the very next day they have been stuffed with rags or brown paper. Clause No. 6 of this Bill, which relates to the fencing of machinery, is one of the clauses that has attracted my attention. It appears that under it the Inspector will have an arbitrary power to order the fencing of machinery as he may think fit. I think that that proposal is much too arbitrary. The Inspector is, generally speaking, a gentleman of great cultivation and knowledge, but he has not, at any rate when he commences his duties, much practical acquaintance with the things he has to inspect, and it might be that with the idea of increasing the safety of the workpeople he might order a guard to machinery which would practically prove a source of danger to them. I think that there ought to be means of arbitration in regard to these matters, and I am not quite sure whether it is provided in this Bill, and that someone well acquainted with all the facts and circumstances ought to be called in whenever any difficulty arises on these questions. Another point I desire to refer to is the extra half hour for cleaning. I find that the present difficulty is that of keeping the people in the factory when the cleaning hour arrives. They will do the cleaning at any time rather than during the cleaning hour. I should think it would be a great improvement if instead of stopping the engine half an hour sooner than at present the workpeople were allowed to remain in the factory half an hour longer if they care to do so. At present the engine stops at half past 12 on Saturdays, and the people are supposed to leave the mill at one, but if they were to let the people remain and if they liked to clean until half-past 1, the difficulty would be obviated. Another point on which I think the Bill requires amendment is this: during mill hours the owners of factories should not be compelled to turn out the workpeople in wet or inclement weather. Of course, at present if the people remain in factories to eat their dinners it is almost impossible when they have finished eating to prevent their doing little odd jobs to the machinery at which they have been working, such as tieing threads and attending to other such matters. If you were to compel the engines to stop during that time, as at present, and not compel us to turn the workmen out, I think it would be an improvement. I remember some years ago when the Inspector came into a factory I was connected with and found the people doing small things in the room during the dinner hour, he compelled the people to go out, and the consequence was that he was hooted out of the place. I think, therefore, that the arrangement I suggest is one that would be welcomed not only by the masters but also by the workpeople. I come now to Clause 11. I noticed that when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. James) was mentioning some Act that had been passed a great many years ago referring to the linen trade he said the information sought to be given by this Bill was given then; but I think he will find that in the case referred to the accounts of the warps are not given, which proves that it was not considered necessary that the people should know all the particulars here asked for. I maintain that it is not necessary to give them these particulars, and that if they know the length of the warp, the number of picks, and the fineness of the reed, that is all it is essential for them to know. I understand, however, that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to modify this clause. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the Bill relating to steaming sheds, which is only a small part of the question. This Bill, in reality, deals with a great many trades besides the cotton trade, and I am rather surprised that before bringing it in my right hon. Friend did not consult the representatives of some of those trades, which are so different from the cotton trade. This Bill appears to have been brought on almost exclusively for the purpose of meeting the wants of the workers in the cotton trade. But there are a great many different sorts of textile trades. There are the silk trade, the carpet trade, and the lace, woollen, flax, and jute trades. These are all different and require different regulations. It appears to me it would be absolutely necessary, in order to arrive at any just conclusion in these matters, that the Bill should be considered by some sort of Committee. The questions of ventilation and cleaning and of the information to be given to the workers are all very different in the different trades; and, therefore, I trust the Bill may be submitted to a Committee which will take account of all these differences. Under these circumstances, I shall have pleasure in supporting the Bill of my right hon. Friend, though I must confess that as a manufacturer I naturally feel a little jealous of the multiplication of points it proposes upon which the Factory Inspector may come into collision with us. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed) spoke as if we who own the factories are a species of ogre always trying to extract more than we ought from the working people, and thereby necessitating the appointment of a vast horde of Inspectors to supervise our proceedings. I fancy, however, that the workpeople would not endorse this view. I think that as it is the Inspectors we already have perform their duties exceedingly well; at any rate, so far as the district in which I live is concerned, the Inspector is most attentive, and some of us have occasionally thought a little too attentive. I certainly should object to an enormous increase of Factory Inspectors, who could do no good, and would probably be led into collision with the working people quite as often as with the masters who employ them.

(3.15.) MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)

I think, Sir, that the conciliatory speech in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury introduced this Bill has gone a great way towards disarming opposition, and I do not suppose that there will now be any serious resistance to its passing the Second Reading stage. The right hon. Gentleman, in his introductory remarks, referred to certain criticisms that had been passed on his action in bringing forward this Bill. I do not suppose that any one of us is altogether exempt from criticism in regard to the course he has taken on this question; and, for my own part, I may say that I have been subject to a good deal of hostile criticism, because some time ago I took upon my self the responsibility of introducing an important deputation of employers to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in order that their views on the matter might be made known. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury made a pathetic appeal to this House to consider and do justice to the claims of the working man. Now, Sir, I do not think that in the present House of Commons there is the slightest fear that the interests of the working man are in danger; perhaps, on the contrary, the temptation to which we are exposed is that we should think the working men are the sole class in the community whose representations are to be considered at all, and that we should go down on our knees to the working men and accept implicitly everything they dictate, because they are to the employers as, perhaps, a thousand to one in the manufacturing constituencies we represent. I, however, introduced that deputation, because I considered that even employers in these days still have their rights, and that it is perfectly proper that they should represent their views to the Home Secretary on a Bill brought in, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has admitted, solely in the interests of the working men. The right hon. Gentleman has made most important concessions in view of the criticisms of that deputation, and I think that this Debate has been a very curious and instructive one, in this respect: no hon. Member has risen to support this Bill in its entirety. On the contrary, it has been so much whittled away by the concessions that have been made, not only by the concessions made by the right hon. Gentleman himself, but by the remarkable concessions of the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester, who actually proposed that one of the most important clauses of the Bill should he struck out altogether, and said the Bill had been drawn in much too drastic a form, that I do not consider it a matter of great importance whether after the Bill has passed its Second Reading it is sent before a Committee or not. It seems to me that by the time this Debate is over very little of the Bill will be left, and that what is likely to happen will be in the nature of that unfinished Resolution, which was before the House the other night, and of which only the fragment of a sentence now remains. With regard to the character of this Bill it has been spoken of as if the grievances with which it deals are of a very similar character to those which first induced the House of Commons to interfere with the regulation of the hours of labour in factories. But I would point out that we are no longer called upon, in Lancashire at all events, to rescue working men from the slavery of hard taskmasters. There is no sweating there, and no oppression on the part of employers of labour. On the contrary, as a rule a very kindly feeling prevails, and the employers and workmen recognise that they have interests in common, and that in any discussion which may take place between them it is essential that a mutual understanding should be arrived at; because if by further legislation anything like injury is inflicted on either employer or employed, that legislation will either become a dead letter or it will damage the prosperity of the trade in which both classes are so vitally concerned. At the present time the condition of the working men in Lancashire is as good as in any other part of the world, and perhaps better; they have good wages, their hours of labour are easy, and the mills in which they work are, as a rule, very comfortable. A good deal has been said as to the Ventilation Clause in the Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed) is seriously alarmed lest there should not be enough Inspectors appointed to meet the wishes of the working classes. For my part, I am quite sure that he need be under no such apprehensions, for, if the Bill is passed, as at present proposed, it would be necessary greatly to increase the staff of Factory Inspectors. In fact, I think that regulations of this kind, which are for the most part vexatious and unnecessary, could only be carried out by having a Factory Inspector to watch over the fortunes of each particular mill. I have myself been in many mills where the air is much sweeter than that which we are often compelled to breathe in the House of Commons, and very much better than that breathed by thousands of bank clerks and others in London who go to the City by the Underground Railway, and work below the level of the street with gas burning all day. We ought to consider whether we have not gone as far as we are justified in going in interfering with matters of this kind. I must say that I applaud the prudence exhibited by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Bury in altering Clause 4, so as to provide that only as much fresh air is to be admitted as will secure the health of the operatives, although that is a rather vague phrase, but at the same time it is one which we are all willing to accept. The hon. Member who last spoke has told us that it is the operatives who are opposed to obtaining as much fresh air as is needed for the ventilation of the mills. Many of us have probably had the experience derived from going into new houses here in London where the most scientific ventilation is adopted, and have seen that in a very short time the inmates have been very glad to block up these scientific ventilators. That is very much the same view as is taken by the operatives themselves. When the deputation was before the Home Secretary the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual shrewdness, asked whether if the ventilators were blocked up the operatives or the employers would have to pay the fine?


The question that was put to the deputation was whether if the window was closed it was the operatives and not the master who would have to pay?


At any rate, we should be very glad to know who would have to pay. With regard to Clause 11, which introduces an entirely new feature into our factory legislation, I desire to say a few words. Hitherto factory legislation has been mainly directed to the protection of young women and children upon sanitary grounds; but this is a clause which is to protect all workpeople employed in the mills not on sanitary grounds, but because it is said that if they do not have the information which is to be given under this section they will be liable to be defrauded by unjust employers. I think that every one in this House will agree to the modification the right hon. Gentleman proposes to make in this clause. He has told us he only desires that sufficient information should be given to the workpeople to enable them to know whether they are being paid fairly. For my part, I doubt whether it will be of any advantage to the work people to have a clause of this kind inserted in the Bill. It seems to me that it would be necessary to define very clearly in the Bill what information is to be given to the working man when he has a piece of work given out to him, because otherwise there might be any number of disputes. With regard to the clause which proposes to shorten by half an hour the period during which work is done in English mills, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester has in a very pleasant frame of mind proposed that this clause be struck out altogether. I was glad to hear this suggestion from him, because to my mind this is the most important clause in the whole Bill. The representatives of the working men are, as a rule, moderate and able men, but, like everybody else, they are liable to make mistakes, and in the present instance they appear to me not to have fully realised—not considered what the effect of such a change would be. The fact is that at the present moment the hours of labour in this country are very much less than in foreign countries; and one of the employers of labour who waited on the Home Secretary the other day has made an important statement on this head, to the effect that so much of the machinery used now is automatic, that with 66 hours' work a German artisan can turn out as much as an English artisan in his 56 hours of work, in spite of the greater skill of the latter. If that is the case, it would be very dangerous to reduce by even half an hour the time devoted to work in mills in this country. Our people now can only keep a few strides in advance of their foreign competitors. I have recently been told by an Anglo-Indian who had a great deal to do with starting mills in India, and made a great deal of money out of them, that nothing would delight him more than the passing of an Eight Hours Bill for the textile trades, because, were such a Bill passed, they would at once be able to double the number of mills in India. That fact ought to be known to the leaders of the working men, and is, I believe; for the very men who have drafted this Bill refused, much to their credit, at the Trades Union Congress in Liverpool, to accept an Eight Hours Bill for the factory operatives of Lancashire. In the existing state of things, we cannot afford to reduce by even half an hour in the week the amount of time given to work in the mills of Lancashire. If changes of that kind are introduced, our trade will succumb to foreign competition, and then our working men will regret having made unnecessary demands. It was my intention to propose that the Bill before the House should be referred to a Select Committee, together with the Ministerial measure which has been circulated this morning; but after the discussion that has taken place, it appears to me that there is so little of the Bill left that it does not matter much what course is taken with respect to it. Such provisions of the Bill as are unobjectionable might be incorporated in the Ministerial measure; and if the Home Secretary could see his way to following that course, we might have a measure which would give satisfaction to both employers and employed, and not leave ill feeling rankling in the minds of any one.


I think the House is to be congratulated upon the tone of the discussion, for it has been not only eminently practical, but temperate and conciliatory as well. In one respect it has hardly been a Second Reading Debate, because it has not been possible to discuss this measure without entering largely into details. In fact, it is difficult to know what principle there is to discuss, except this—that, by general consent, some amendment of the Factory Acts is requisite in the interests of the health and safety of workmen, and also possibly for the purpose of preventing any irregularity—I use a mild word—in the payment of their wages. The first point which I will consider is the subject of ventilation. I suppose we shall all agree that there are many factories in which the ventilation is not satisfactory. Sometimes the defect is remediable, but in many cases I believe that a complete remedy cannot be hoped for, the conditions of the work being such that an even temperature cannot possibly be maintained. It is well, therefore, not to attempt to lay down a hard and fast rule to fit all circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has done wisely in proposing that the clause in the Bill shall be altered, and that the requirements shall be that the ventilation of every factory shall be sufficient for the health and safety of the operatives, as far as the nature of the process in which they are engaged permits. But when the right hon. Gentleman proposes that the ultimate judge of the sufficiency of the ventilation shall be the Inspector, I part company from him. The Inspectors are fair men, and, to a great extent, impartial men; but they are, at the same time, the champions of the workmen and the guardians of their interests. Their natural function is to protect the workmen, and to insist upon the law being observed for their benefit. Almost every Inspector appointed since I have been at the Home Office has been a working man himself, and many of them are not men of great scientific attainments. Consequently, they would hardly be competent to point out to an employer what would be the best system of ventilation to adopt in a large factory. For these reasons, I cannot accept the suggestion that the Inspector should be the final judge of the means of ventilation. That he should suggest means in the first instance would be right and proper; but there ought to be another tribunal to appeal to in the last resort, and in the Ministerial measure the machinery of arbitration has been adopted. Under the Coal Mines Act arbitration has been found to work satisfactorily as between employer and employed, and it is only rarely that it becomes necessary to have recourse to it. In nine cases out of ten an adjustment of the question at issue is arrived at amicably beforehand. The next point for consideration relates to the means of escaping from fire. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bury that the operation of a provision for that purpose cannot be confined to future buildings; but I think that there should be some difference between our treatment of existing buildings and our treatment of future buildings. In the case of future buildings, it would be fair to insist upon two exits, but that would be too rigid a condition to impose in the case of every existing factory, for many small factories are so built that to compel the construction of a new staircase would be tantamount to closing them. As the Bill stands, it insists on a separate staircase for every room in a factory.


No; that is not the effect of the clause.


The proposal is too rigid as applied to every existing factory, and some other mode of meeting the difficulty should be devised. I now come to the subject of minimum penalties, and I must point out that the system of minimum penalties is a retrograde system. The House has abolished those penalties deliberately in the case of the last Summary Jurisdiction Act that it passed. Certainly, I am not enamoured of the system of minimum penalties; but I am obliged to admit that cases have been brought to my notice in which the penalties imposed for breaches of the Factory Acts have undoubtedly been inadequate, with the result that justifiable dissatisfaction has been caused in the minds of working men, who are apt to attribute to the circumstance that the tribunal is more in sympathy with the class of employers than with themselves, the fact of the imposition of inadequate penalties. The conclusion which I have come to is that, in cases where a breach of the Factory Acts results in profit to the employer, so that he would gain if he paid only a small penalty, minimum penalties might well be imposed; but that in cases where no profit can result to the employer from an infraction of the Acts, it would not be wise to apply this system of minimum penalties, which in principle is objectionable. The next point is very controversial, namely, the extra half hour a week for cleaning. From the inquiries which I have made, I think that half an hour for cleaning is sufficient in the bulk of the trades which we have in view. That applies to the silk trade, the woollen trade, and the worsted trade. It may be that in cotton factories half an hour is not sufficient, or only barely sufficient, confess I am strongly opposed to cutting down the limited number of hours operatives now have to work in the face of the daily growing competition which we have to contend against on the part of foreign manufacturers. It would be greatly to be regretted if half an hour were to be cut off from the working hours of Saturday. Perhaps it would be enough to say that on Saturday, as now, every manufacturing process should stop at 1 o'clock, and I believe the result would be that in most cases the cleaning would be done in half an hour, and, if not, some children or young men might stay to finish it as quickly as they could. The next debateable subject is the one with regard to particulars of work. The Member for Dewsbury correctly interprets the Act of 1840, when he states that the ticket given in the Irish linen trade under that Act was a ticket given to the advantage of the employer, and it furnished conclusive evidence against the employé of the quantity of work which was mentioned in the ticket, he getting the benefit of that in order to recover penalties for the proper amount of the work. I think it is to some extent a novel provision in Clause 11 of the present Bill, but I am by no means prepared to say it is for that reason a wrong provision. I listened with the greatest attention to the deputation of masters and of workmen who did me the honour to come to me and inform me on that subject last week. The conclusion I came to after listening most patiently to all they had to say was this—that the real grievance of the operatives is that the particulars are in some cases untruly stated. I can hardly imagine a state of things in which a workman does not hear truly or untruly the particulars on which the payment of his wages for his work is founded, for he could not go on if the particulars were not stated in some way, but the grievance is that the particulars are untruly stated. Everyone will agree with me that to state untruly the particulars is as mean and shabby a fraud as could be; in my opinion, it would be a good ground for civil action; and although at present I believe it could not be brought under the Criminal Law, I would not dissent from the suggestion that so shabby an act should be made punishable summarily by Act of Parliament. If any one untruly states the particulars he might well be subjected to a fine. But I would submit to my right hon. Friend and to other hon. Members that to have the particulars defined in the clause is impracticable, the difference between trade and trade, and between the conditions under which work is done in different places, such as Bradford and Oldham, being considerable. If a dispute should arise as to whether the ticket does contain the necessary particulars, some tribunal ought to be devised for sifting the matter, and deciding between employer and employed. Such a method of arbitration has been found to work well in other industries. It follows from what I have said that I am not prepared to adopt the whole Bill. I do not suggest to my right hon. Friend what course to pursue. It is entirely for my right hon. Friend to say what he will do in the interest of those whom he represents. There is a Bill of my own before the House which I intend to press, and I hope before Easter to get it read a second time, and then to refer it to the Standing Committee on Trade. I believe to refer any of those Bills to a Select Committee means the sacrifice of the Bills for this year, so many details and difficulties would crop up. If the House will content itself with setting forth in the Bill the general principles upon which we ought to proceed it will be much more satisfactory. That was done in the case of mines. The ventilation of a mine is much more difficult than the ventilation of a factory, and yet by means of special rules which have been drawn up the satisfactory ventilation of mines has been worked out without coming to Parliament on every occasion. I do not see why factory legislation should not follow the same lines. Perhaps I might be allowed to suggest to my right hon. Friend that the best way for him to proceed would be to present the clauses to which he attaches importance as Amendments and additions to the Government Bill before the Standing Committee, and if my right hon. Friend will accept the suggestion I will meet him in no unsympathetic spirit. Upon the half hour question I cannot promise any concession; but with regard to the particulars of work, I shall be quite ready to co-operate with my right hon. Friend in framing a satisfactory clause which will secure what my right hon. Friend desires. I really believe, in the interest of those he represents, that the right hon. Gentleman by adopting the course I have suggested to him would carry all the essential objects he has in view much more speedily than if he perseveres with his own Bill, or takes it to a Select Committee.

(3.57.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

I think that the operatives who are seeking to promote legislation in this matter are very much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for the painstaking care with which he has examined every one of the proposals of this Bill. I am disposed also to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury for the modifications he has so promptly and candidly announced, for I think the result will be to do away with any disposition on the part of the House to oppose the Second Reading. Indeed, I take it that that stage will now be formally agreed to. The subsequent procedure upon the Bill has been indicated by the Home Secretary. I agree that there would be great danger in referring it to a Select Committee, and I am in favour of referring it to a Standing Committee, so that legislation may take place as speedily as possible. With regard to the drafting of the Bill, I must say it is evidently intended for the cotton trade, as its main provisions would be inapplicable to other trades. As to the question of ventilation, upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has made a very satisfactory concession, I must say that the great majority of the employers of this country desire to study the wellbeing of their workpeople in these matters. The conditions under which the work is necessarily carried on do not admit of such rapid changes of air as some might desire. The House must never forget, in dealing with these matters, that they affect an industry upon which the prosperity of the country depends, and that the masters have already much difficulty in maintaining their position against foreign competitors. For this House to do anything that would injure the employers in conducting their business with the only instruments they can use would be cruel, and would prove ruinous to the interest of the masters. I believe there is. scarcely one case in a hundred where the employer, when met by the workmen on the ground of some defect or want of provision, has not promptly met the wishes of his workpeople, and that without legislation. As to the question of cleaning, it is the employer who suffers if the machinery is not thoroughly cleaned; and it is, therefore, to the employer's interest to make such regulations in his factory as to ensure, within the hour permitted for that work on Saturday, that the machinery shall be cleaned. For this House to determine by some arbitrary rule that machinery shall be stopped would, in my judgment, be a very foolish and short-sighted policy altogether. English manufacturers are now so pressed by foreign competitors, who have so many advantages in their favour, that England really cannot afford capriciously and unnecessarily to interfere further with the hours of labour. The workpeople of this country are enlightened and sagacious. enough to realise that if these industries are not prosperous their own prosperity will come to an end; and if any action of this House were to impose new and severe conditions on employers, factories might have to be closed, and this would prove most injurious to the working classes of this country. The spirit that is manifested by both workpeople and employers shows the immense advance that has been made in these matters, and it is a subject of congratulation that there should be this happy understanding between employers and employed. As time goes on we all desire that the condition of the working classes will be continually improved, and that they will have higher wages. This, however, is a slow process, which will not be accomplished by legislation, but by the growing intelligence and improved understanding between employer and employed. I think that this House will be wise in doing as little as possible to meddle with the industries of the country, leaving the improved good sense and increased power of the workmen to bring about any change that may fee necessary.

(4.8.) MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I think a more interesting and temperate discussion has seldom occurred in the House of Commons, and I merely rise to direct the attention of the Home Secretary to a request which has often been made to me by some of my constituents. I have had occasion very often to speak to the leaders of the operatives—both spinners and weavers—and they nearly unanimously represent to me the importance of urging the Home Secretary to increase the number of Factory Inspectors. They further desire me to urge on the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of the Factory Inspectors being taken from the class of men who have a practical knowledge of the work. I was extremely pleased to hear that the right hon. Gentleman has been pursuing that policy for some time past, and that he looks upon the Inspectors more or less as the champions of the workmen. In Lancashire there will be no difficulty in finding workmen of the greatest intelligence, moderation, and ability to undertake the discharge of the duties of Inspectors, not only to the satisfaction of the employer but of the employed, and I hope the Home Secretary will take into his consideration the appointment of a large additional number of Inspectors. During the last quarter of a century I have been much impressed with the desire which the spinners and weavers of Lancashire have always shown to consider the interests of their employers. Now, I have to-day received the Bill of the Home Secretary, and I find it is almost impossible to dissociate that Bill from the Bill before the House. There are some matters which the Home Secretary has dealt with, such as that of certifying surgeons, in which my constituents feel a strong interest, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having dealt with them in this 19th century. We cannot discuss the Government Bill now, although after reading it I must compliment the Home Secretary upon a Bill which is more admirably and clearly drawn than any Bill it has been my good fortune to read for a long time. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to press forward the Government Bill, and to give the House a pledge that this matter shall be dealt with during the present Session. There is such an approach in principle between the clauses of the present Bill and the clauses of the Government Bill that it will probably be most convenient if they were considered in Committee at the same time.

(4.14.) MR. HOYLE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)

I do not wish to take part in this Debate as an employer. It is true I am and have been for the greater portion of my life part owner of cotton factories. That has compelled me to acquire some knowledge of the matters dealt with by the Bill of the right hon. Member for Bury, but I hope that will not be regarded as an absolute disqualification for speaking on the measure. I am one of those who firmly hold that Thomas Sadler, Richard Oastler, Lord Shaftesbury, and John Fielden of Todmorden, in their devotion to the cause of humanity rendered imperishable service to the country, and I wish to approach the question of factory legislation in the spirit and on the principles which guided them, taking note of the changed and changing conditions of the problem to be dealt with. I wish to speak as the representative of more than 50,000 persons who have committed their interests to my keeping. When the trust passes out of my hands and when I am no longer a representative, I hope I may look my political friends and political foes in the face with full confidence that according to my lights I have tried to do my duty to every one of them. What was the condition of things when the reformers named entered on their work? At that time workhouses were being frequently swept of their juvenile inmates, and under the mild name of apprenticeship young children were subject to great hardship, not to say cruelties. Children grew up to manhood and womanhood with little or no education. The number of adults who could neither read or write was very large. Working people were badly housed, poorly clad, often under-fed, always overworked. It was to a large extent work and bed, week in and week out, and work, too, in factories ill-constructed and badly lighted, and in unsanitary buildings. There was discontent amongst the mass of the population which sometimes found vent in violent outbreaks. Less than 50 years ago riots broke out in Lancashire, and the industry of the whole county was forcibly suspended. For once Lancashire chimneys were smokeless. The streets of Manchester were held by night and by day by troops of the Line. In county villages the Military were called out and the Riot Act was read. These things I saw and heard myself. These were the facts which gave force and point to the eloquent appeals of Richard Oastler and his colleagues. No one will pretend there is anything analogous to that now. Children of tender age are no longer treated as if their only use is to earn money for those who dispose of their young lives. Now that the cost of education is to be borne by the nation we have a right to raise the age at which children shall be allowed to commence work. I should hail that as an invaluable boon. The evils so rife half a century ago either have passed or are passing away. Discontent has given way to happier conditions, the chasm between class and class has been narrowing, sympathy and sense of common brotherhood has grown up, boards of conciliation have been established to prevent estrangement between manual labour and mental labour, and Chambers of Commerce have taken council with members of Schools Boards, head masters of grammar schools, professors from the colleges, bishops, and clergy, to devise methods for bridging over the passage from school life to industrial life; and now youths may obtain certificates which will enable them to take high positions either in this country or in the colonies. Some who remember former days have been thinking they are living in a better era, and that the old bad days are gone like an evil dream never to return. Employers have learned much, and working men have not been behind their employers. It seems as if the ameliorating, the humanising, processes going on will certainly lead to as great an advance during the next quarter of a century in all that makes for the enjoyment of life as that which has taken place during the last quarter of a century. If that were not a mistaken hope why does the right hon. Member for Bury bring in this Bill? It is only 20 years since Mr. Forster's Education Act came into force. But what changes it has effected. The young people of 17 to 22 are better in, every way than their predecessors of the same ages half a century ago. Crime has diminished, the prisons are on sale, and pauperism is steadily diminishing. Why does not the right hon. Member for Bury leave these beneficent forces to do their work? What is the genesis of this Bill? At a meeting held in December last to discuss the draft of this Bill, and presided over by the right hon. Member for Bury, a question was asked why the practical manufacturers were not present—had they not been invited? The answer was given by a gentleman who has the right to speak, for he largely helped to prepare the brief from which the clauses of the Bill were taken. He said they would not meet the masters any more.


The hon. Gentleman is entirely misinformed. The masters of Lancashire and Yorkshire were invited.


Why were they not there? It was said they did not want to meet the masters any more, and to make it quite clear what was meant the gentlemen said, "Sooner than have a Bill to which the masters would agree they would have no Bill at all." I challenge contradiction. [Sir HENRY JAMES: I never heard it.] The hon. Members for Preston and Bethnal Green will know whether it was said or not. One would have thought that a declaration like this would have given the right hon. Member for Bury warning, and led him to pause.


I never heard it; it is new to me.


I accept the right hon. Gentleman's denial, but I could not be mistaken, because I asked the question, and that was the answer I got. One would have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have said, "If the tension is such that the operatives will not meet the employers, I must meet them myself and hear what they have got to say. I will fairly weigh the evidence on both sides, and I will not give the authority of my name to a Bill based only on one-sided statements." When I saw this Bill it seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman was inviting the House to enter upon an industrial war. I am very thankful for his speech to-day. It shows that the right hon. Gentleman has made great progress since December. He has abandoned a great part of the Bill which was so very offensive. There are some things to which I think attention should be called. One cannot say much about Section 4, because it is pretty well given up. But this I may say, the fibrous materials used are produced in hot climates, and are therefore specially susceptible to changes of temperature. A west or south-west wind is favourable, while an east wind takes the nature out of them. In an east wind both materials and tempers are brittle—less work is done and the work is inferior. This Bill takes no note of that. Alike at Christmas and at Midsummer Day, 600 feet of "fresh air"' must be "admitted." If the machine gets out of order and only pumps 590 feet, the proprietor will be an offender. Clause 5 gives the Inspector power to flout the Sanitary Authority—an authority popularly elected and amenable to public opinion. Her Majesty's Government has given Local Government to the counties. This Bill proposes to supersede Local Government, and set up Centralised Autocratic Government in its place. That is a retrograde step. Clause 6 provides that if in the opinion of any of the persons employed in the factory a machine is not securely fenced, such person may give notice to the Inspector. By this clause the workpeople are expected to become spies on the employer. Of course, every workman can complain now. I am in favour of fencing and ventilation, but I object to the House of Commons taking the management of the business. Here, again, the Inspector is to be the authority. What sort of men may the Inspectors be? I will just read to the House a correspondence which recently took place. One of my constituents, employed in a factory, received a letter, of which I hold a copy. The letter was written on Government paper and was as follows: —

"113, Tweedale Street, Rochdale,


Dear Sir,

I was away from home when your last letter came, but I suppose you know it has been attended to.

I am very much obliged for the information, and shall be glad at any time to receive further communications from you, and you may rest assured that if I do not seem to attend to them at once it is only because I am watching an opportunity, so that I may succeed when I do move.

I shall esteem it a great favour if you will take particular notice what time they start first thing in a morning during the next two weeks, and send me word next Saturday, and also the Saturday after.

I should like to know when they begin to light up in a morning. I have sent this in a plain envelope, as I thought it better than an official one, and you may depend on me treating any communication in strict confidence.

Please state the exact time they start each morning, so that I may judge what is the best day to visit.

Yours truly,


The person to whom this letter was addressed returned it, stating that there had been some mistake. The Inspector replied —




I am extremely obliged to you for returning my letter, which was by mistake addressed to Bury instead of Oldham.

I am, &c.,


Now, I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to institute such a system of espionage as that. I hope that the system of inspection may cease to be defective, that it may become a useful intelligence department, to which both employers and employed may turn for information, and for mutual support and guidance in difficulties that may arise. Let me refer for a moment to Clause 11, which contains the matter that was chiefly in dispute on December 10th. It is totally impossible to comply with the requirements of that clause without playing into the hands of one's competitors. At the Home Office the other day a member of the deputation said he would give a thousand pounds any day to get such particulars as are contained in this clause from some of his competitors. I do not know that I would give that sum for the information or that I would attempt to get the information in that way, but this I will say, that there have been occasions in the course of business when I would not have taken a thousand pounds for such particulars as are herein described. Wherever there is a speciality in manufacture the fact of disclosing such particulars lays you open to the competition of your rivals in the trade. The productions of the loom are becoming more and more the work of science and art every day. Year by year looms are improved, and they are made to do almost anything. Wherever a loom is improved and adapted to the production of a special article the statement of these particulars would enable your rivals to compete with you, using all the advantage of your improvements. I object most strongly to such legislation, and I believe it is injurious to employers and employed. We should never forget we have industries in this country which employ large numbers of workpeople; the materials we use come to us from all parts of the world, and the greater part of the manufactures are exported. Legislation of this kind will ruin this trade.

(4.33.) MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

I may claim a hereditary interest in these matters, for I am a native of one of our large manufacturing towns, and my early recollections are of factories and their operatives. I confess when I look at this Factory Bill now before the House, I cannot but think we may congratulate ourselves upon the progress we have made in a short time. It is an act of presumption on the part of any man to make' in Debate allusion to his own career, but I confess I cannot shut out the recollections of my childish days. I remember that the window of my room looked upon a large factory. When I retired to rest the factory children of my own age were still at work, and when I arose in the morning the same children were working under the same conditions at their monotonous toil. Different indeed are the conditions of work for the operatives—men, women, and children, now. Legislation has progressed on parallel lines to public opinion, and whatever proposals are now made to the House of Commons for factory legislation can be but of a supplementary character—finishing touches to legislation which has been in operation with success for many years. In relation to this Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the situation has greatly changed during the last 48 hours. The discussion of last week and the Debate of to-day have been of so conciliatory a character—so many concessions have been made, that I hope we shall hear no more of angry recriminations in the House or outside. In the interest of employers and workpeople I trust these controversies may be left to past history and may not prejudice that accord at which we all desire to arrive. I am glad to hear that it is the intention to leave out the clause excluding workshops from the operation of the Factory Acts. I should like to refer for a few moments to the provision of the Factory Act in relation to overcrowding. It was introduced in 1867 by a Select Committee, on which I had the honour to serve, and I know the great benefit that clause has produced. But at the same time it is impossible to read the Report of Factory Inspectors—impossible to read the Report of the Committee on "Sweating"—without feeling to what extent the evils of overcrowding still exist. Without unduly occupying time I may refer to the Report of Mr. Redgrave, made in 1887. He there says that the amount of space insisted upon where there was overtime was 400 cubic feet and the minimum amount in other cases 250 feet. Then Mr. Redgrave proceeds to give cases where there were only 134 cubic feet allowed for the unfortunate work people, and other cases where the largest allowance was 170 and 180 cubic feet. In a subsequent report Mr. Redgrave still speaks of the same evils in what he calls domestic workshops. He says— Instead of large factories and workshops such as we have successfully contended for in many classes of industry we have these domestic workshops dark, dirty, and overcrowded, and they cannot be improved by factory legislation as it now stands, because at the time of the passing of the Act of 1878, the present state of things was never contemplated. Now, there is sufficient proof of the position I am endeavouring to maintain—that no Factory Legislation can be complete, no future enactment satisfactory, which does not greatly improve the condition of all employment as regards over-crowding. Passing on with my cursory observations let me touch upon the subject of ventilation. I cannot claim to have any large practical experience, but I have the privilege, with its duties and responsibilities, of owning a considerable number of houses in which workpeople dwell, and I know the great difficulty, almost the impossibility, of inducing workpeople to ventilate their own dwellings. As the result of my experience I can say that, though you give the people every opportunity, yet you find every window closed, every opening stopped. When we are dealing with ventilation in factories I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman—

MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

Not in workshops.


I have passed from workshops, I am now dealing with ventilation in factories. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman has acted wisely in making this clause more general. I believe it is impossible to deal with this matter by specific directions in an Act of Parliament. The knowledge of one day is superseded by the science of the next; defects are remedied as experience widens from year to year, and I believe the best plan is to insert general words and leave discretion with a thorough system of inspection. As an Inspector has pointed out, you may apply the best theory of ventilation and yet find no effect in the room the atmosphere of which you desire to purify. It is a subject full of difficulty, and I am glad that we shall not be bound by rigid provisions in the Act, but that much will be left to the discretion and responsibility of those who administer the Statute. I was glad to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester, who spoke against the shortening of the time of labour by half an hour. It is impossible, I think, that Parliament can enforce in a manufacture of this kind a diminution of hours of work. That which took place before the Berlin Conference is common knowledge, and I need not refer to it, but I confess I was somewhat struck by the latest information placed at our disposal by the Board of Trade Journal distributed a few days ago. There is some reference to factory work abroad, and we find that 11 hours in Switzerland is not the full extent of the number of hours during which workpeople may be employed. There is in Switzerland a good deal of elasticity in the regulations, and it is stated on authority that the power of lengthening the working day is largely exercised, and that many licences are issued for work on Sundays and at night. I rejoice that here in England the hours have been curtailed; but I believe—having before us the facts which were disclosed at the Berlin Conference, and which are described in powerful language in this report of the Board of Trade Journal—I believe we should be acting rashly if we were still more to impede the motion of our machinery or the discretion of our employers. In reference to Clause 11, I confess that from want of technical knowledge I am reluctant to make any remarks; but I cannot help feeling there is justice in the claim of a workman that he is entitled to know so much of the mysteries of his craft as will enable him to judge of the value of the labour he expends upon it. Nothing struck me more during the discussions of last week than the attitude of the workpeople on this subject. They all with one voice, and in a manner which has been ably represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, disclaimed any desire for the disclosure of trade secrets which might bring upon them dangerous foreign competition or prejudice the interests of one employer in competition with his neighbour. The position is now, I hope, clearly defined, and I hope we may be able to satisfy the claim of the worker that he shall know the nature of the work upon which he has expended his energies. It seems to me that the policy we have to adopt in factory legislation may be described in a very few words. We have to regard the safety of our people in our factories as we have done and are doing in our mines. We have to watch over the health of those employed, as we have through decades of years with a success eminently gratifying and encouraging. At the same time we have to protect the industries of this country against foreign competition, difficult enough to meet under the most favourable circumstances. With these principles as our guide, we have to deal with the interests of employers and employed, and shall do so, I hope, in harmonious discussion; and ere the Sessian closes I trust we may add another wisely written page to our Factory Legislation.

(4.43.) MR. A. J. MUNDELLA

It is due to the House, after the speech of the Home Secretary, that something should be said on behalf of those whose names are on the back of the Bill, as to the course we propose to take. But, before saying this, I may be allowed to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the admirable Debate we have had this afternoon, the temperate character of which, I think, is in large measure due to the lucid, conciliatory, and exhaustive manner in which my right hon. Friend moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I think we have nothing to complain of in what has been said by hon. Members who have criticised some of the provisions in the measure. The criticisms have been of the most moderate character, and I think, with the exception of those offered by the hon. Member for the Heywood Division (Mr. Hoyle), under some misapprehension—and I observe he is not now in the House—have tended rather to the elucidation of several points, while conveying general support. The Home Secretary last week and the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) again to-day complained that some of the clauses might be infringed by the workpeople, and employers be held responsible for that infringement. There, is a plain and simple answer to that objection. In the Factory Act, 1878, there is a clause which remains unrepealed, and which it is not intended to alter, making ample provision for such a circumstance where the occupier of a workshop is charged with an offence which is proved to have been committed by another person. It is in that clause provided that if the occupier proves, that he has used due diligence to enforce the execution of the Act, and that the said other person committed the offence without the owner's knowledge, consent, or connivance, then the said other person shall be summarily convicted for such offence, and the occupier shall be exempted from any fine. So there is no danger of an employer being punished for the offence of his workpeople so long, as that clause remains on the Statute Book. There are only one or two other matters of detail to which I need1 briefly refer. The Home Secretary, with reference to the Irish Linen Act, cited by my right hon. Friend, said the provision which furnishes a precedent for Clause 11 in the present Bill was inserted for the benefit of the employer. Admitting that, if such a provision is good for the employer, why should it not be good for the workman in the present case? If it affords security for the one party, why should it not afford security for the interest of the other? There is no novelty in the demand proposed to be recognised under Clause 11 that a workman shall have necessary and sufficient particulars to enable him to judge what shall be his earnings when his contract is completed. I can hardly think that any hon. Member will seriously contend against a provision of that kind. Now the Home Secretary has proposed that the Bill shall be read a second time, for which we thank him, and that then, together with his own Bill, it shall be sent to the Standing Committee upstairs to be considered with his Bill.




If that is denied it alters our position very much. We certainly understood that was the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that it might be possible that clauses from this Bill might be moved as Amendments to the Government Bill, therefore the two Bills would be concurrently considered.


The Committee cannot consider more than one Bill at the same time.


But the Committee can have the two Bills before them at the same time.


What I understood my right hon. Friend to contemplate was not that the two Bills should be referred to a Grand Committee, which would be most unusual, but that his own Bill should be referred, and that the right hon. Gentleman's clauses might be moved as Amendments or as additions to the Bill in Committee.


I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The Home Secretary distinctly stated that this Bill might also be referred to the Standing Committee to be considered, together with his own Bill. That there would be a great advantage in having the Bills so dealt with all of us who have had experience of the work of a Standing Committee know. It is an open Committee, reporters are present, the proceedings are public, votes are taken, and the form of procedure resembles that of Committee of the whole House. It will be a great advantage to have on that Committee a number of practical experienced lawyers, together with representatives of the interests of particular industries, so that every branch of the measure may be considered. I have, therefore, urged upon my right hon. Friend that he should consent to the proposal of the Home Secretary, and I am glad to say he is disposed to do so. The understanding is that this Bill when read a second time shall be referred to the Standing Committee with the Bill of the Home Secretary. I hope the House will now read the Bill a second time.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.


With the permission of the House I will now ask leave to take the Committee stage to-morrow, and upon the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair, perhaps the leader of the House will say whether, in accordance with the statement of the Home Secretary, it is proposed to take the Second Reading of the Government Bill before Easter. After full consideration with my friends, I am willing that this Bill should be referred to the Standing Committee, together with the Government Bill.

(4.55.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed for to-morrow."


There are practical difficulties in the way of referring the two Bills to the Standing Committee, which can only deal with one Bill at a time. My right hon. Friend can attain the object he desires by bringing before the Standing Committee on the consideration of the Government Bill clauses from his own Bill, and proposing them as additions to the Government proposals. This will practically be the same thing as the consideration of both Bills. My right hon. Friend will find that many of the clauses are incorporated in the Government Bill already, and other clauses may be treated as I suggest. It is not possible to deal with the Bills, together.


But my right hon. Friend will see that I must do one of two things. I must take the Bill into Committee, or I must abandon it. I will not abandon it, so it must go through Committee, either Committee of the House or Grand Committee. The latter is thought to be the most convenient, and, at the same time, I will do all I can so to deal with the matter as to obviate any difficulty arising from having to consider both Bills.

(4.56.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

A similar course to that now proposed was followed last year in amending the Companies Acts. A Government Bill, and one introduced by a Private Member, were both read a second time and referred to a Grand Committee. This enables the Grand Committee to deal with them by incorporating clauses from one Bill into the other, or by reporting them separately. Clauses from this Bill might be proposed as Amendments to the Government Bill, and when it is seen how much of the present Bill is added to the Government Bill the right hon. Gentleman can judge whether it is necessary to proceed with this Bill.


Still, it will be necessary to send the Bill to the Grand Committee.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill committed for to-morrow.