§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (4.30.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS, Birmingham, E.)
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I do not think it will be necessary to detain the House at any length—firstly, because the subject has been discussed already on the 1713 Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James); and, secondly, because the changes made by the Bill are changes of detail, and do not need lengthy Second Reading discussion. I will deal, in the first place, with the question of the sanitary provisions of this Bill. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of provisions of this kind. There are three leading factors in the workman's life—his work, his wages, and his health. Unhappily, legislation can do but little with regard to the first two. It cannot alter or improve the quantity or the quality of the work, and it cannot otherwise than mischievously interfere with the question of wages. We have done much on the question of health, and we can do more. The question as to the sanitation of factories and workshops rests in a peculiar position. There have been for years provisions applicable, not merely to workshops and workplaces, but to houses and dwellings of every kind, and these are contained in the Public Health Act; and with the gradual improvement in that Act those provisions have been brought up to a higher level and improved from time to time. I think it is fair to say now that every house, whether workshop or not, factory or not, is tolerably secure from what I may call nuisances. There have been special provisions with regard to sanitation introduced in factories and workshops. Those provisions applied mainly to ventilation, to overcrowding, to cleanliness, to lime-washing, or the painting of the walls. The design and object of the Bill is to bring all workshops and all factories up to the same sanitary level, and to require the same conditions as to ventilation, overcrowding, lime-washing, and cleanliness to be applied to all kinds of workshops in which men alone, or women, children, and young persons, are employed, and with regard to which some, but not all, of what I may call the sanitary provisions apply. The Bill does not deal with what is commonly called domestic workshops. That is a point which does not, I know, satisfy some hon. members who take an interest in this subject; but there will be opportunity for discussion later. The President of the Local Government Board will before 1714 long lay before the House a Bill in which the public health provisions will be brought to a still higher level of improvement, and it occurs to me that the House may rest content with leaving what is called the domestic workshop—that is to say, the working man's home in which he works with the members of his family—subject to the provisions of the law of public health alone. It is obvious that in the domestic workshop you have not got the presence of the employer and the employé. You have the members of the same family, and, of course, it is possible that some ill-treatment may arise from a father to his child; but, I repeat, as far as the sanitary provisions are concerned, now that we are improving the law of public health, it seems to me that we may allow him and his family to work in a place which is sufficiently good, so far as sanitary conditions are concerned, for him and his family to live in. But that is a point which will be discussed in Committee. It is intended, therefore, to bring the law of public health as to workshops up to the level of the factory legislation. This is done by Clause 4, which enacts that every workshop, as defined by the principal Act (including any workshop conducted on the system of not employing any child, young person, or woman therein), shall be kept free from effluvia or other nuisance, and the Sanitary Authority is empowered, if it considers lime-washing, cleansing, or purifying necessary for the health of the persons employed, to give notice in writing to the owner or occupier to do it. If there is any failure on the part of the owner or occupier, he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding 10s. for every day of default, and the Sanitary Authority may cause the workshop to be lime-washed, cleansed, or purified, and may recover the expenses incurred. The only other subject with regard to the sanitary provisions of the Act is the authority who has to enforce them. At the present time the factories and certain workshops are under the sanitary inspection, to some extent, of the Factory Inspector. On the other hand, the factory Inspector is obliged to call in the Local Authority in order to remedy anything that savours of a nuisance. 1715 By this Bill I propose to leave the factories as they are, entirely under the existing Inspectors. The system works well, and it has been found that the inspection of Factory Inspectors, although they are not skilled officers of health, has been on the whole satisfactory, and agreeable to public opinion. Now that we are extending the sanitary provisions of the Factory Act to all workshops throughout the country, of whatever kind they may be, except the domestic workshop, so that every cobbler's shop, every blacksmith's shop, every tailor's shop in towns in the country will come under the provisions of the Sanitary Law, it seems to me to be foolish not to take advantage of the existing machinery provided by the Local Authorities; and the enforcement of the sanitary provisions, so far as workshops are concerned, is by this Bill given to the Local Authorities. The Local Authorities are already abundantly equipped. They have an officer of health, an Inspector of Nuisances, under the surveillance of the Local Government Board, which has large powers of control. The Bill of the President of the Local Government Board would still further strengthen those powers of control; and in the event of its turning out, in spite of those precautions, that the Local Authorities fell short of what they ought to do, I have by the 1st and 2nd clauses of this Bill taken what I may call dictatorial power—that is, power to send to any workshops, or class of workshops, in a particular part of the country where the conditions of the law of public health and the provisions of the Sanitary Act have not been enforced, a Factory Inspector, or any number of Inspectors, in order that they may visit those workshops and, as it were, sweep the Augean stable clean, and do so swiftly, without power of appeal, and without interfering with the ordinary jurisdiction of the Local Authorities. Those powers are intended to be used in such districts as came before the notice of the Sweating Committee. There are some minor matters in which we have adopted the recommendations of the Sweating Committee of the House of Lords. The Bill requires that notice of the opening of workshops—of men's workshops as well as of others—shall be given; and that a list 1716 of out-workers in any factory shall be kept, so that it may be seen where the work of that factory is prepared, and care may be taken that the sanitary conditions are enforced in the places where the out-workers perform their duties. But these provisions do not exhaust the whole matter. Gases, vapour, and impurities in workshops are already provided for; but the condition of temperature in workshops, which may be dangerous to health, is not provided for. It was suggested that it might be left to the Factory. Inspectors to determine arbitrarily and finally what course should be adopted to remedy defective ventilation. I think that that is too arbitrary and despotic a power to give to the Factory Inspectors, who, though well-qualified men, are not men of science, and have not sufficient authority to determine such difficult questions as this. The machinery adopted by this Bill is contained in Clause 8, under which the Inspector has power, with regard to questions of ventilation, to suggest what he deems to be the proper requirements. But an appeal is given to a tribunal of arbitrators who are selected as specially competent to deal with the subject. This plan is not entirely new; but I have in Clause 8 considerably enlarged the scope of this scheme of arbitration with regard to sanitary requirements in a workshop. With regard to certain specific subjects, such as the proper fastening of grindstones and the fencing of vats in which hot liquids are contained, this system is adopted in the existing Factory Act; I think that an extension of this system is the most convenient course. The system is introduced on a large scale in the existing Coal Mine Regulations Act, where the most difficult questions of ventilation arise, and my experience at the Home Office teaches me that, on the whole, it works well. I have accordingly extended the provisions of Clause 8 not only to questions of ventilation, but also to any machinery or process used in a factory, and to the means of escape in case of fire. This is opening out a very large and considerable responsibility for the Executive in regard to the control of manufacturing and trade operations. I am not prepared to say myself that I am altogether in sympathy with legislation 1717 of that sort, though it has become of late more and more agreeable to this House. Such interference might possibly turn out mischievous, unless great discretion were used; but, on the other hand, in experience it has not been found to work unsatisfactorily in the very complicated industry of mining; and it may also be said that it is a far more convenient mode than that of constantly coming to Parliament for regulations in regard to a particular trade. Last year, or the year before, a very useful Act was passed with regard to steam-weaving in Lancashire, and to that Act a Schedule was appended laying down the temperature to be maintained in workshops. It may turn out that the provisions of that Schedule are unsatisfactory, and, if so, they can be set right by Clause 8 of this Bill, without any necessity for asking Parliament to pass a repealing Statute. I embark, however, upon this kind of legislation with some degree of hesitation and doubt; but I have introduced these provisions in the hope that they may be useful, and I hope that I have been frank with the House in stating the difficulties which I apprehend. I now pass to the very different subject of hours of employment. I make one change only to which I need draw the attention of the House. The House is aware that, at the present moment, in a workshop in which women only are employed, or in which women and men only are employed, the hours of labour for the women are 15, with 4½ hours taken out for meals, but with no other limitation. The effect of this provision is that it is impossible for the Inspector to tell whether or not the hours of employment for women are being enforced; and the change I introduce, though it seems simple, is practically a most effective one. It requires a specified period of 12 hours to be fixed by the employer, within which a specified hour and a half are to be allowed for meals; so that the hours of employment for women can at once be checked. But I have thought it better to allow the 12 hours to be taken in the same extended period as at present, because there are a great many women working in workshops of this sort, whose manner of life compels them to attend to their homes and families in the morning and to go to the workshop later in the day. 1718 I have thought it convenient, therefore, that they should be able to take their 12 hours at any time between 6 o'clock in the morning and 10 o'clock in the evening. Then as to the age at which employment may take place. I have observed allusions in connection with this Bill to the recommendations of the Berlin Conference. No doubt the recommendation of the bulk of the delegates at Berlin was in favour of raising the age at which employment should begin to 12 years, instead of leaving it at 10 as now. But anyone who looks at the deliberations of that Conference will see that what the delegates had in their minds was full employment in a factory such as exists in foreign countries. The only foreign country where our half-time system is known is, I believe, Denmark; and I find that the representative of Denmark, while this matter was under discussion at the Conference, pointed out the excellence of that system, and said that the age of full employment in Denmark did not arrive until 13 or 14 years. The law at present in this country is that a child can work only as a half-timer until he is 14, as a rule; but he can work full time at 13 if he obtains a certificate of proficiency under Section 26 of the existing factory Acts. The hours of work a week in textile factories are for children 28 and for women 56; and in non-textile factories, for children 30 and for women 60. In the intervening years between leaving school and working as a full-timer the half-time is spent in the school. I am told—and it is the unanimous opinion of the Inspectors—that the health of the children on the half-time system is as good as, if not better than, that of those who spend their whole time in school; and it is also found that the education of the children is better. They are sharper and more intelligent, and they make equal progress in school with the full-timers. This system is, in fact, a combination of the technical education, which so many people desire nowadays, with the scholastic or literary education, and the mixture of the two sharpens the child's wits. In the judgment of the Education Department the half-time system is for the benefit of the children themselves. My hon. Friend (Sir W. Hart Dyke) approves of it, and the 1719 parents are vehemently in favour of it. A large number of parents whose children are at this moment employed in the factories of the North are of opinion that it would be in every way a loss if this system were done away with. I would ask the House to observe that while there is nothing further from my desire than to fall short of even an implied undertaking which we may be supposed to have given at Berlin, our proposition is better than that put forward at Berlin, which was that full employment should begin at the age of 12, and the work to which children were to be admitted at the établissements industries would be of greater length than our full length of work in this country. For instance, in Belgium the number of hours of employment is 72 in the week; in Denmark, where the half-time system does prevail, the full period is 63 hours; in the Netherlands it is 66, and in Italy and Hungary 48. Therefore, if the recommendations of the Berlin delegates were followed to the letter, the consequence would be that a child of 12 might be employed in England to that number of hours without departing from the letter or the spirit of the recommendations of the delegates, whereas under our system he is at work a fewer number of hours up to the age of 13 or even 14. I may add that our delegates expressly reserved the half-time system. Mr. Scott said, when the proposal to fix 12 as the age for admission to industrial establishments was under discussion, that—In the actual state of English legislation, which allows, under certain restrictions, the work of children between 10 and 12 years of age he gives his approval to the proposal ad referendum"—that is, subject to a reference to the Home Government. Sir, I have come very nearly to the end of that with which I need trouble the House. There is a small matter connected with holidays to which I may call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James). He proposes that notice of the occasional or extra half-holiday should be given on the 1st of January. I suggest that that is not necessary to the convenience of the workpeople, and would be inconvenient to carry out in practice; all that is required is that the notice shall be given 1720 sufficiently long beforehand, so as to allow the workmen to enjoy that holiday completely. I have, therefore, suggested that a fortnight's notice should be given, or, if necessary, it might be made three weeks. There is one other subject about which I should like to say a word, and that is the question of the initial certificate of fitness for employment. I notice that pressure is being brought to bear upon the House by the ordinary means, and what may be described as an agitation is being initiated on the subject; but I have not come to the decision at which I have arrived without considerable reflection and inquiry. I have received deputations on the subject, and have listened to the representations made to me both from employers and operatives. Nothing is clearer to my mind than that the provisions requiring a certificate of fitness on the entry of a child into a manufactory—not at any subsequent period nor during the continuance of the work, but on entering into it for the first time—have become a purely unmeaning form. Since the establishment of the Education Act a species of inquisition has been held into the age of every child and the ages are set forth, so that the certificate of the surgeon is unnecessary. I propose, however, that the certificates of birth of children shall be obtained for a nominal sum—a sum lower than the fee now charged. Both employers and operatives have told me that such a thing as a child being rejected as unfit for employment has not been known for years, the certificate being an initial step, only guarding against initial incapacity and not supervening incapacity. During the course of his employment the child may get ill, and yet no certificate is required, while the present practice gives considerable annoyance to the parents, and is an expense to the employers which, if it is unnecessary, they ought to be spared, the fees amounting to from £20 to £30 or £40 a year in connection with these certificates. This certificate I hold to be unnecessary, and I will tell the House why I have come to this conclusion. I do not say that you may trust to parental affection, though that is one safeguard not to be left out of sight. The next safeguard is the interest of the employer himself, who is not likely to pay wages to a child 1721 who is unable to do his work. The third safeguard is that no one of these children can be employed unless he is daily going to school, and in this way we have a constant check, as the child would not be able to attend work unless he was well enough to go through his school attendance. Lastly, I propose to keep the check contained in Section 29 of the existing Act, which gives a valuable safeguard in that it empowers the Inspector at any moment to call in a surgeon to say whether a child whose fitness for work is doubtful is or not fit for work. I do not complain of the action of the certifying surgeons in this matter. On the contrary, I fully sympathise with their complaints against this proposal; and if they have any claim to compensation I would recognise it cheerfully, but I trust that we shall continue their services in the matter of accidents, and in other matters as to which they can be of use, and I hope to be able by an adjustment of the fees in these respects to make the proposed changes, which they seem to view in a serious light, of less consequence to them than they think they will be. There are some minor Amendments in the Bill to which I need hardly refer.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the question of fire escape.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The Act comes into operation on the 1st of January, 1892. With regard to existing factory buildings, I propose to deal with them under Clause 8, and the question of what the means of escape from fire should be will have to be decided by arrangement or arbitration. In future buildings a second staircase, independent of the ordinary entrance, is required. The point as to whether the clauses dealing with these matters should be imperative must be decided in Committee. I do not know that there is anything more with which I need trouble the House. This is essentially a Bill of details, but I believe I have now mentioned all the changes of any importance, and I ask the House, if it is pleased to read the Bill a second time, to refer it to the Committee on Trade. I have no doubt that the Committee of Selection will take care that it shall be considered by persons who are cognisant of all the great industries affected by it, and also 1722 by persons who are in touch with the operative class and understand their wishes and desires. I again repeat the suggestion I made to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury, when his Bill was under consideration. I have not put into this Bill the clauses which he suggests and which we discussed the other day, because it was too late for me to do so, and I would much rather that he himself undertook the task of proposing in the way he may consider best the clauses with regard to particulars of work for the purpose of ascertaining wages and a clause with regard to a half-hour for cleaning. It seems to me that the safest course is to leave these matters to be decided by the Standing Committee. I would also appeal to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Sydney Buxton) to excuse me if I have not referred to his Bill in detail. I am conscious that he goes further than I do, but I would venture again to suggest that, though it is easy to devise clauses which are plausible and take the mind when you read them, and though the House is bound to extend its protection to the widest degree that real necessity demands when the health and welfare of children is in question, nothing can be more mischievous than to harass and hamper trade with minute regulations that are not imperatively necessary, and I have endeavoured to avoid that in this Bill. I beg now to move the Second Reading, and to express the hope that the measure may afterwards be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Matthews.)
§ (5.15.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I think I may say with regard to the Bill introduced the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, it was of a very limited scope, and dealt only with the aristocracy of labour, and entirely left out in the cold a large section of unskilled labour, which is less protected and less capable of protecting itself than any other labour. Now the Home Secretary presents a Bill which, although good as far as it goes, is guilty of many serious omissions, and I think, therefore, I am justified in rising to say a few words by way of criticism, though 1723 it is not my desire to unnecessarily prolong the Debate. The House will agree that the time is ripe for taking the whole question of the protection of the workers in hand, and a good job ought to be made of it, so that Parliament may not be called upon to tinker at this great question again in a few years. I am not going to delay the House by arguing the question as to whether a considerable reform such as that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman and proposed by other Members is necessary in the Factory and Workshops Act. I think the Report we had on Sweating, and the practical experience and knowledge of every Member of the House, will suffice to enable us to decide that the time has arrived when this question ought to be dealt with. We have seen in the past the great advantages that have sprung from the Factory Acts. It has raised the condition and improved the position of a vast number of workers in the Kingdom, and what we desire chiefly in regard to any Amendment of that Act is this: not only further to improve the position of those persons, but by further legislation to bring under registration, inspection, and regulation a vast amount of labour which at present is outside the law and practically unregulated and uninspected. I think that one very good reason exists for a great extension of the Factory Acts to workshops and home work. It was proved before the Royal Commission that the result of carrying factory and workshop regulation down to a certain point, and no further, has been, that, to a large extent, work has been driven out of the regulated establishments and into places unregulated and uninspected. Therefore, the fair employer, the regulated and inspected employer, is placed at a disadvantage as compared with the unfair employer, who escapes observation, and is, therefore, able in many cases unduly to compete. This should not be so. The other day the House by Resolution declared that in its opinion, in reference to the question of Government contracts, the fair employer ought to be placed on an equal footing with the unfair employer, and what I ask in reference to this question of the regulation of workshops is, that those employers who desire to act well by those in their employ should be 1724 placed on a fair footing with those who, at present, being unregulated, are able to a large extent to carry on their work under conditions of economical insanitation. We desire to enlarge the net and to make the meshes smaller, so that all these employers may be brought under the eye of the law. I have heard this Bill described as a milk-and-water Bill, and certainly in some parts I do think the milk is rather thin; nevertheless, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in having introduced the Bill as far as it goes. I hope that when it is discussed in the Grand Committee he may be able to insert some provisions which are necessary to render it more complete, and that the Home Secretary may receive in a friendly spirit the proposals made on this side of the House. With regard to the sanitary provisions of the Bill, I think the measure will be most satisfactory in working. In the first place, it brings under the provisions of the Sanitary Act those places where men alone work; and, moreover, it brings within the purview of the law those workshops where women, or women and men work, and where children and young persons are not employed. With reference to matters of cleanliness, ventilation, over-crowding, and so on, it is, to my mind, a scandal that for all these years such places should have been exempt from the provisions of the Factory Acts. I congratulate the Home Secretary on his proposal to strengthen the provisions of the law with regard to Local Authorities, by giving summary powers to the Home Office Inspectors to take action where the Local Authorities neglect their duties. I wish I could think with the Home Secretary that it is only in a few cases that duties in regard to sanitary matters have been neglected. I am afraid the Local Authorities neglect their duties in very many cases; and I think they will be more likely to perform their duties when they know that, if they neglect them, the Home office will have powers to enforce the regulations of the Act. I am pleased to see the improvements the right hon. Gentleman has introduced with regard to the employment of women, and which he has explained, but I regret that he should have thought it necessary to extend the limit of time up to 10 o'clock at night. I should 1725 have thought it would have been wise to have simplified the provisions of the law by making the hours in these workshops where women work the same as those now obtaining in non-textile factories; that is to say, the 12 hours to be either from 6 in the morning until 6 at night, or from 7 in the morning until 7 at night. There is another good point in the Bill to which the Home Secretary did not refer, namely, that for a period of four weeks after child-birth a woman should not be allowed to be employed in a factory. I am glad the Bill provides for the registration of workshops, although I do not think the provision in that respect is adequate, and I doubt whether the clause on the subject, unless amended, will have a very great effect. Finally, the Government propose a system of registration of outworkers. A proposal most excellent in itself, but falling far short in execution. And this is the first of those sins of omission that mark the Bill. The evidence given before the Lords' Committee on Sweating shows that domestic workshops and home work are at the bottom of the evils of the sweating system. The reason being that there is no responsible employer and no responsible owner of the premises; the work being done through a middleman, who has the unfortunate workmen entirely under his control without being responsible for the work they do. Now we do not desire to prohibit this home work; prohibition is not possible. But every one would desire, if possible, to restrict, to regulate, and to discourage it, for we believe it to be at the bottom of the sweating system. What we want chiefly is publicity, common knowledge as to where the work takes place, and who gives it out, and responsibility placed on the original employer. We want to trace out where the work goes to, and to make the employer a sort of sign-post in the matter, though he may be an unwilling signpost. The only way to do this is by an effective system of registration of the names and addresses of all persons to whom work is given out. The Government admit in principle that that is the right way of dealing with the matter, but I do not think 1726 the details of their proposal are sufficiently thorough or sufficiently stringent. As I understand the Bill a register is to be kept by the employer who gives out the work to be done in domestic workshops or at home, but this register is to be open only to the Inspectors or the Sanitary Authorities. Now it does seem to me that in order to have a check on the accuracy of this Return, that the workers themselves, at all events, ought to have access to this register; for if they do not, I do not see how anyone is to say whether the register is correct or not. I think also that the accredited representatives of the workpeople—the Trades Union officials and others—ought to have access to the register. The Home Secretary will agree that it will be impossible for Inspectors, overworked and undermanned as they are and will be, even though their number is increased, to look oat the addresses and inspect all the places where this work is carried on. If you are to attain success by this system of keeping a register, then undoubtedly you can best attain it by the aid of those vigilant watch dogs who represent the interests of the workers through the Trades Unions. The workmen themselves would make the best Inspectors to ascertain whether the premises are in a sanitary condition, whether there is any contagious disease in the district where the work is carried on, and whether there is compliance with the law. It seems tome no inconvenience would be caused, there would be no undue satisfying of curiosity simply, but information obtained that cannot be obtained in any other way. By throwing open the register to the workers and to their accredited representatives you would obtain the publicity you desire, and would be enabled to force employers if they would not do so on their own initiative, to have some regard to the conditions under which home work is carried on. But I understand the Home Secretary to say that be does not see his way, through the means of this register, to insist, so far as the Home Office is concerned, on these places being kept in a sanitary condition. I confess I should like to see the Bill go further, and declare that responsibility attaches to the employer who habitually gives out work, for the sanitary condition of 1727 the premises where the work is carried on, and provide a penalty against sending work to a place known to the employer to be in an insanitary condition. More important still. The employer should be prohibited, under penalty, from sending work to a place where a contagious disease—such as scarlet fever, for instance—is known to be raging. Nothing is more clear from the evidence given before the Lords' Committee than that the community, putting aside the risk to the individual workers, run the greatest risk from the spread of a contagious disease by means of home work being done in a place where disease is raging, the work going back to the factory, and thence to the consumer—the germs, of disease with it. Without attaching responsibility to the employer, and with it a penalty, I do not see how this register will become of practical value; and I fear it will become a dead letter, and this important provision become inoperative. There is a further serious omission from the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman entirely excludes domestic workshops from the provision of his Bill; but I am glad to hear he thinks that is a matter which may be discussed in Grand Committee, and that he is open to the friendly reception of arguments for bringing these workshops within the scope of the Bill. We believe that these domestic workshops where members of a family, or nominally members of a family, work together, should be brought under some sort of inspection and regulation; but, so far as I can judge, the Bill does not deal with these matters at all, but leaves them entirely to the Sanitary Authorities. I would have these matters included in the duties of the Home Office Inspectors. We are, I suppose, all in favour of decentralisation in regard to these matters, but unfortunately in London—and I am afraid I am speaking almost entirely from a London point of view—in London our Sanitary Authorities are unreformed, and in many cases uninterested, and unintelligent; while the areas are so small that they are often unable to afford to engage sufficient or efficient sanitary officers. We know, from experience how local sanitary matters are neglected. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the President of 1728 the Local Government Board is going to introduce reforms into this part of our local government; but we have waited long for District Councils in London, and I do not think that we should delay dealing with the evils of the sweating system until we get these District Boards. The suggestion on this point that I venture to throw out is one I put in the Bill which I have introduced, a Bill to which, of course, I must not now refer. Taking into account the vast number of small workshops in the East of London, would it not be possible to appoint a Special Commission to deal with this special part of the subject, which should undertake the office of searching into these matters and obtaining the registration of these domestic workshops and other places; and, having thus placed this matter on a proper basis, hand it over to the Home Office to be subsequently transferred to the Local Authority when reformed? Another point. I am very much surprised that the Home Secretary has not, in his Bill, dealt with the question of overcrowding. We could have wished that the Bill had contained some such provision as that to be found in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), for securing a minimum amount of cubical space for each individual worker in a factory or workshop. I know he said in the Debate upon the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman last week, that it is impossible to fix a hard and fast line to fit all circumstances, and nobody asks him to attempt to do that. But we have a minimum of cubical space fixed in relation to our elementary schools, for instance, and there is every reason why there should be a minimum in the case of factories and workshops. I believe there is already a non-official limit, recognised by the Home Office, of 250 cubic feet for each person with deductions for gas burners; why not have that inserted in an Act? I have, in reference to this Bill, endeavoured to show that, while the Bill does go a considerable way, there are considerable sins of omission. I have referred to the question of registration and inspection of home work and domestic workshops, overcrowding, and would add that there should be provision for greater publicity for those notices which are to be put in workshops. But there 1729 are two still more serious omissions, as to which I will only say a few words. I regret to find that the Home Secretary has not dealt in any way with the question of overtime. I refer not so much to the overtime in large factories, but to the overtime work in small factories and workshops. I think we all agree that it was not intended that this overtime was given in order to be so much work which the employer could take out of his workpeople; but it was given in order to render somewhat elastic the limit of the fixed hours of work. But it appears from the evidence before the Lords' Committee, that in too many cases this overtime is looked upon simply as so much additional time to be got out of the workers; and that is worked off day by day until the time allowed is expended, and is not used in the ordinary sense of overtime. I could have wished that the Home Secretary had seen his way to introduce some restriction, some regulation, so that the overtime should be used for a legitimate purpose, and not be simply so many hours added to the number of hours that may be worked in the year. But the final omission from the Bill is very astonishing, and the right hon. Gentleman himself alluded to it in an apologetic tone. He has not proposed anything to improve the conditions of the employment of children in factories and workshops. We certainly understood, not only from what happened at the Berlin Conference, but from the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission on Education, from the majority and the minority Reports, that the minimum age below which children may not be employed would be raised from 10 to 12, or at least from 10 to 11 years. The Home Secretary went into considerable detail upon this matter in his speech and endeavoured to prove two things: first, that the Berlin Conference did not know what they were talking about; and, secondly, that the system of sending children to work half time at 10 years of age was the very best possible thing for the children themselves. As to the last point, I rather wonder that, if he has satisfied himself of the enormous advantage of half time to the children, he did not propose to lower the limit of age to 8 or 9; for surely, if there is such a great advantage in 10 over 12, the advantage would be greater of 9 over 12. 1730 With regard to the proceedings at the Berlin Conference, I confess I could not follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. We certainly understood that at the Conference, the Representatives of this country supported the proposition that 12 years should be the minimum limit for employment. The Resolution arrived at by the Conference in relation to the regulation of child labour is clear in its terms that every child of either sex should be excluded from employment in factory or workshop until the age of 12, except in certain Southern countries, where the limit was placed at 10 years; and I find among the signatures the names of John E. Gorst, Charles Scott, and W. H. Houldsworth. We naturally expected to see this Resolution given effect to when factory legislation was proposed, and are greatly disappointed to find no reference to the matter in the Government Bill. The Government are pledged by this Resolution of the Berlin Conference, but they have ignored this as they have ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission on Education. I must apologise for having carried my remarks to such length, but many details are necessarily included in the Bill. The Home Secretary says he is prepared to accept practical proposals, but he does not wish to harass the trade of the country, and in that view we all agree. In any proposal we may have to make for improving the position of the working classes, especially those in certain parts of London, we shall be influenced by no intention to harass trade, but with the intention rather of fostering trade and improving production by elevating the condition of the people; by getting industry out of the rut of home work and domestic workshops, and transferring it to large workshops and factories where it can be carried on, as we believe, under conditions more healthy, as well as more economical, better for trade generally, and certainly better for the workers.
§ (5.50.) MR. FIELDEN (Lancashire, S. E., Middleton)
Since this Bill was introduced I have had the advantage of a visit to Lancashire, where I have heard the views of those engaged in the Lancashire cotton trade in reference to the measure before us. I may congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the 1731 manner in which it is received. It is declared to be a good Bill, though there are one or two objections entertained, and it may not be out of place if I just refer to these. Clause 1 deals with the same subject-matter as Clause 5 in the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), and I am advised that the latter clause is preferred as being more "understanded of the people" than Clause 1 in the Government Bill. This, I presume, is a matter of phraseology, pertinent to discussion in Committee. In reference to Clause 17—cessation from work—I am advised rightly or wrongly, I am myself unable to say—that one day is more than sufficient. Upon Clause 18—that a woman shall not be allowed to work at a factory within a month of giving birth to a child—I am strongly urged to support an Amendment making the period six weeks. There are other suggestions which have been made to me on points of detail, suggestions which no doubt are valuable as coming from practical men in the Lancashire cotton industry, and which may more properly be brought forward in Committee; but I may say that the feeling among both operatives and owners in my constituency is in favour of the Government measure.
(5.55.) EARL COMPTON (York, W. R., Barnsley)
In the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Buxton) most of the omissions from the Bill have been mentioned, and I agree with my hon. Friend in almost all that he said, except that I cannot join in congratulations to the Government upon their Bill. We had, in the evidence given before the Sweating Committee, a disclosure of some of the greatest evils that could exist in many branches of industry, and we had strong recommendations from that Committee. We waited many months—I do not say there was undue delay on the part of the Government, naturally they had to take some time for consideration—to find remedies proposed for the evils disclosed, and now we have in this Bill what I suppose, in the view of the Government, are the remedies to be provided by legislation. I am aware that the intention is that the Bill is to be submitted to a Standing Committee, and then the subject is to be threshed out; but again I assert that the Bill, as we have it before us, 1732 contains the view of Her Majesty's Government with regard to alterations in the Factory Act, to meet the evils brought before the Committee on "sweating." We have had from the Home Secretary a willingness expressed to look into any matter brought before the Standing Committee, and we shall have in the Bill, introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury a means at hand to strengthen the Bill of the Government; and we shall have, I hope, on that Committee men who will be prepared to proceed on the lines laid down by the hon. Member for Poplar, and still further strengthen this milk-and-water measure, upon which I cannot offer the Government any congratulations. The chief omission brought forward by my hon. Friend had reference to home work and domestic workshops, and as he spoke of the evils to be remedied I understand that some of our friends seemed to think that it would be unwise to attempt legislation affecting domestic workshops. But have they read the evidence given before the Committee? I will just mention three instances which scarcely need comment. In one room, 9ft. by 15ft., a man, his wife, and six children slept, and in the same room ten men worked; in another room ten men worked and a family of eight slept; in a third six people, men and women, slept and worked. Such cases as these will be left untouched by the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. We shall have, no doubt, a better system of inspection under the Bill. We shall have, I suppose, a large number of Inspectors appointed to look into the state of factories and workshops. I understand from the Home Secretary that we are to have a system of registration so that Inspectors may trace the work to the places where it is sent. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that Inspectors will be able to follow up the work given out by employers; but when they do thus follow it up, when they arrive at these unhealthy places where men, women, and children live, and sleep, and work, what will the Inspectors be able to do? So far as I can see they will not be able to do more than they have done in the past. At all events, I understand the Home Secretary has excluded altogether from his Bill domestic workshops and home work, 1733 therefore I cannot see that Inspectors can do much in the matter. There will never be an adequate system of inspection until sub-Inspectors are appointed with trade training and knowledge. I believe that under Section 67 of the Act of 1878 the Secretary of State has power to appoint "clerks and servants" for the assistance of Inspectors. I do not know what "clerks and servants" means; I believe it refers to officials under the Inspector. I believe the Home Secretary has power to appoint, as well as Inspectors, men who have a practical knowledge of the trade to be inspected, and I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would tell us that he intended to take some such course. The Sweating Committee doubted whether it was practicable to have a division of responsibility, but as long as you have Inspectors with a knowledge of the trade, the sub-Inspectors should be distinctly under the Inspectors. Personally, I think the best system would be that the Trades Unions should select two or three for the office, and that the Secretary of State should then make the selection. I had hoped, also, to hear something about women Inspectors, who are most necessary. I do not believe we shall have justice done to women workers who have been overworked to a horrible degree, particularly in London and other big towns, until we have women inspectors who are able to ferret out the true conditions under which they work. As to the horrible evils which exist in our large towns, I think the Home Secretary would do well to consider the suggestion of the hon. Member for Poplar. London and Glasgow and perhaps one or two other centres should be taken separately, and dealt with in a more drastic way; and I believe that a large body of the working classes of this country would acknowledge that to be a just way. We know that in a great many of our large towns the employers have done all they possibly can to ensure that their employés shall work under sanitary conditions. Then I had hoped that we were going to have from the Secretary of State a hint as regards "the dictatorial authority," I think he calls it. One of the recommendations of the Sweating Committee was that the various Departments of the Government which had in 1734 one way or another to deal with labour questions should be brought into closer relation with each other. I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing this Bill, would say that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to have a Minister to look after the labour question. I read the other day that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Gorst) recommended at a political meeting that working men should insist upon the Government having a separate Minister to look after labour questions. I thought that perhaps a hint would be thrown out as to the intention of the Government in this direction. Perhaps another occasion will be embraced, though I should have thought that this was a proper one. With the hon. Member for Poplar, I regret that the question of the age of children has been omitted, that the question of overtime has been omitted, and that other essentials have been omitted from the Bill. I confess that if there were no prospect of amending it in Committee, or of its being strengthened in the Standing Committee by the Bill of the right hon. Member for Bury, I should have been impelled to move its rejection. I hope the Home Secretary will give way on a good many points in Committee, and I hope also that by the time the Bill comes back to the House of Commons it will, instead of being a miserable and inadequate measure to meet the evils under which people have suffered for so long a time, be strong as well as fair for both employer and employed.
§ (6.20.) MR. BAUMANN (Camber-well, Peckham)
Sir, as I drafted a Bill and introduced it to this House last year, containing several clauses which the Home Secretary has embodied without acknowledgment, and probably without consciousness, I hope I may be allowed to congratulate him upon the construction of this Bill, which will prevent some of the worst evils of the sweating system. It is, I think, a splendid Bill, reflecting great credit upon the Department from which it emanates, and it cannot fail to add to the reputation which the Home Secretary earned some years ago in connection with the Mines Regulation Act. Considering the complicated character of the principal Act, I think the drafters of this Bill deserve 1735 to be congratulated on the simplicity of its arrangement. It is divided into two branches—the sanitary provisions, and the periods of employment. The sanitary provisions are excellent. The infamous Clause 61 in the principal Act disappears, and is repealed by this Bill, which provides that all workshops, whether they employ young persons and children or not, must be kept clean, sweet, and wholesome. As by another clause, notice of occupation of a workshop must be given to the Inspector. I am not without hope that all workshops will be brought under some kind of control. But I was sorry to hear that the domestic workshops are to be excluded from the purview of the Inspector. Some of the worst cases of sweating have been found among the domestic workshops. I cannot for the life of me see why, if a man chooses to employ in a workshop his sisters and his cousins and his aunts, he is to be allowed to poison them with bad air and foul drains.
§ MR. BAUMANN
I shall be glad to learn that the Public Health Act will be sufficient, or that domestic workshops can be included in the operation of Clause 4. Then we come to the periods of employment and the hours of labour. I rejoice that under this Bill women are to be protected as women, and if it becomes law women employed in all workshops, except domestic workshops, will receive the protection of the 12 hours day, and I hope that will have the coincident effect of reducing the labour of men to 12 hours a day also. With regard to the employment of children, I am sorry that the Home Secretary has not given the coup de grâce to the alternate day system, which still lingers in some parts of the country. The alternate day system is not a good system even with the amount of rest that is allowed. For children to be at the disposal of their employers for 12 hours is too severe a strain on their young and tender frames, and moreover it must operate in such a way as to seriously intercept the course of their education. I, for one, should like to see all children made half-timers. But there is one other important branch of the subject 1736 with which I wish to deal. I allude to the question of overtime, which has already been touched upon by two hon. Gentlemen opposite. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has not dealt with that subject in a manner which we should all have been glad to have seen. It is true that he has introduced a very important; clause by which the employer is bound to post a notice that he intends to work overtime before 8 o'clock on the evening on which the overtime is to be worked. That I regard as a most important clause, because according to the evidence before the Lords Sweating Committee what used to happen was this: the Inspector would catch the workpeople working overtime, and would say to the employer, "Have you posted your notice that overtime is to be worked?" The answer was always, "No; I have not posted it yet: I was just going to do so when you came in;" the fact being that if the Inspector had not looked in no notice of overtime would have been posted at all. But there is a much larger question of overtime dealt with in the principal Act than this. As the House is probably aware, the employers in certain trades are allowed to work their hands overtime for a period of 14 hours for so many days in the year. These trades were such as dealt with articles liable to be spoilt by the weather, and those which are subject to a sudden press of orders arising from what is called the season pressure. Those which were liable to season pressure were allowed to work overtime 48 days in the year, while those which dealt with perishable articles were allowed to work overtime 96 days a year. But in addition to the trades specified in the Schedule of the Act of 1878 as entitled to this indulgence in regard to overtime, it is provided that the Home Secretary may, at his discretion, grant an order of overtime to any trade or firm in either category. Now, Sir, I know, as a matter of fact, that the law as regards overtime is greatly abused and systematically violated in London. There is an enormous amount of overtime worked in London—not only in the sweating dens of the East End, but also in the fashionable shops at the West End—not only in Whitechapel, but in Bond Street. An important safeguard which was intro- 1737 duced into that Act provides that before issuing his order the Home Secretary shall satisfy himself that overtime is necessary, and also that it will not be injurious to the employeés. Now, I want to know by what process of pre of the right hon. Gentleman satisfies himself that overtime is necessary, and that it will not injure the employeés, before he grants an overtime order? A well-known upholsterer in London told me that he always worked 96 days overtime in the year. I presume on the score that the chairs and other articles of furniture in his establishment are perishable articles. But I want to know by what process the Home Secretary satisfies himself that that upholsterer's chairs and tables are perishable articles, or that overtime would not be injurious to the employeés in that establishment? I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should endeavour to abolish overtime altogether, although I am not one of those who believe in its necessity. Indeed, I believe that if people would only be a little more humane and considerate in giving their orders to the shopkeepers, and, if instead of rushing into a shop and saying "I want a frock," or "1 want a coat within three days" they would only order in the Autumn and Spring what they want for the Winter and Summer, what is called the season pressure might be avoided, and the work might be spread over a much larger portion of the year. What 1 want to impress on the Home Secretary, and what I intend, if necessary, to propose as an Amendment to the Bill, is that an annual Return should be laid on the Table of the House embodying the number and nature of the cases of overtime orders granted or current during the year, so that the House may see how many of them there are, and for what reason these overtime indulgences have been granted, and in order that my friend the upholsterer may not in future c aim a privilege which I am sure the law never intended him to have. I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had extended the operation of the Bill to domestic workshops; but 1 am sure that if he will accept my suggestion with regard to an annual Return of the overtime orders, the Bill will thereby be greatly improved and rendered much more effective. In that case 1738 I believe it would be one of the greatest and most beneficial of the long list of measures dealing with the health and labour of the working classes which the Conservative Party has, during the last 40 years, engrafted on the legislation of the county.
§ (6.20.) SIR H. JAMES
While this Bill is before the House it may be convenient if I state what is the course which I and those who are interested in the promotion of the Bill on this subject, which was discussed last week, propose to ask the House to adopt. When our Bill was before the House last Wednesday there had been no sufficient opportunity for hon. Members to read, or, at any rate, to consider fully, the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. But while that Bill was before the House those who had taken part in its promotion, and the operatives who had displayed the greatest interest in its preparation, suggested that the course to be taken should be left in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester (Sir W. Houldsworth), and myself. It was thought right that we should lose no opportunity of having the Bill of the Government considered by the representatives of the operatives, and they have accordingly taken it into their consideration. I think I may say that there is an agreement on the part of my hon. Friends and myself and the representatives of the operatives that it would be much better if these attempts to legislate on this subject should result in the passing of one Act instead of two. It is thought that in the interests of those workpeople who are to be protected by the proposed legislation, as well as in the interests of the manufacturers who will also be brought under its provisions, it would be very undesirable to have two Acts of Parliament in the same Session dealing, to some extent at least, with the same subject-matter; and, therefore, what I propose to do is this. While I shall maintain for the present the position of the Bill which the House thought right to read a second time last Wednesday, and shall move, in pursuance of the notice I have given, to refer it to the Grand Committee on Trade—for I do not intend to part with it entirely—I shall, 1739 in the first instance, endeavour to amend the Government Bill, and shall accept the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and attempt to introduce the clauses of the Bill of last week into the Government measure. I cannot say that I quite agree in the term applied to the Government Bill by the hon. Member who has just sat down, when he characterised it as a "splendid" Bill, and I think that even the Home Secretary himself would not go so far as that. In fact, I feel some diffidence in expressing any opinion on the measure. I may, however, say that the Bill I submitted to the House last week was framed mainly in the interest of those who are employed in the manufacture of textile fabrics, and does not touch other workshops nor various matters included in the Government Bill. As far as the operatives have considered the Government measure, they do not call it a splendid Bill. They deem it a good Bill, and they wish to throw no opposition in the way of considering its details, which they think are worthy of the attention of this House. That being the case, I accept the invitation of the Home Secretary, and I will say, in regard to the much mooted matter as to the quantity of air to be admitted into the workrooms, that now the 600 feet proposal contained in Clause 8 of my Bill has been abandoned there is a fair opportunity of arriving at a satisfactory settlement on the subject of ventilation. There is, however, one subject on which I wish to say a word. I allude to the question of dust, which is one of some importance in the manufacture of textile fabrics. I am sorry that there is no proposal to deal with it in the Government measure. My desire is merely to extend to the textile factories a clause in regard to this important matter, without which it is impossible to deal satisfactorily with the question of ventilation. The Government Bill is, unfortunately, silent on this point; and I must say that I shall press upon the Grand Committee when dealing with my Bill the necessity of some provision in relation to this important subject. I do not take the same view as the right hon. Gentleman with regard to fire-escapes and I hope we may hereafter be able to deal with that matter in a more satisfactory manner than is proposed by the 1740 Government Bill. As to the time the machinery is to stand idle for cleaning, I do not think we need trouble much about that, as in the worsted and woollen trades, but little time is required for the cleaning of machinery; but I am delighted at the invitation of the Home Secretary to introduce clauses from the Bill of last week into the Government Bill, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will favourably consider the clause contained in the Bill of last week with regard to the cotton manufactures. As to the matter of certifying surgeons, I must ask the Government to keep an open mind, for this is a very grave question. Employer and employed may each, from his own point of view, think the certificate unnecessary; but this House must remember that it has to deal with another interest—the interest of children, who are not quite satisfactorily represented even by their own parents. There are many other minor matters, such as the subject of minimum penalties, and the interference of a Central Body instead of the Local Sanitary Authority, which are essentially questions for the Standing Committee, and I should not be wise in now expending the time of the House in dealing with them. I thank the Government for the way in which they have met my Bill. I accept, to a certain extent, the invitation given by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to draft the clauses of that Bill into the Bill of the Government; but, for the present, I shall retain my Bill for the purpose of pressing it if necessary.
§ MR.BROOKE ROBINSON (Dudley)
We have heard from hon. Members something of the operation of this Bill in the case of Lancashire and the East End of London, and I should like to say something, therefore, as to what its effect will be in Staffordshire, more especially in connection with those engaged in the nail and chain trades—persons who occupied a very considerable portion of time of the Parliamentary Committee presided over by Lord Dunraven, and in connection with whom there are several exceptional provisions in the Bills brought in by Lord Dunraven and Lord Thring dealing with this subject. It will be also difficult, I fear, to apply to these trades some of the provisions of this Bill; whilst, on the other hand, 1741 some of the provisions would fail to achieve the object they have in view. The nail trade in this district has existed for more than 400 years; and in the reign of Elizabeth the nailers employed in it were so poor that a Bill at that period was introduced into Parliament with the object of remedying their condition; and that this was the state of things at this period, we have the corroborate testimony of the eminent Nonconformist divine, Richard Baxter, who in his early youth was a schoolmaster in the town of Dudley, and records in his diary the poverty of the nailers. Such as the nailers were then, such they are to-day; and the attempts to bring the old customs of the trade into line with modern commercial life has brought about such a conglomeration of customs that no one can understand these industries who has not lived in the district, and certainly no one can do so by simply going there by a morning train and scampering back in the afternoon. These people are, however, all looking forward that some factory legislation may do something for them. But when you come to apply this legislation you have two difficulties to deal with. There is, first, the poverty of these people. Hon. Members have heard about the chain makers, but if the chain makers are badly off the nailers are still worse off. I believe myself there are no class of men, I was going to say upon God's earth, but certainly in this country, so badly off as the nailers, for I am not using the language of exaggeration when I say that let these people work as they do work, from the earliest hour of dawn to the latest hour of night, and they cannot earn more than from 8s. to 10s. a week. They are far worse off than the agricultural labourer, because not only have they more rent to pay, but the agricultural labourer has also gardens and allotments, whilst these people have to pay for everything they require. There is also the difficulty that these people are for the most part but poorly educated. At the last election my borough gained rather an. unenviable position, from the fact that out of a poll of about 12,000 more than 1,000 voted as illiterates; and it is therefore extremely difficult to bring men before Magistrates for not having given written technical notices if they plead that they lived in the days when 1742 education was not general, and are unable either to read or to write, and have no money to pay anyone to read or write for them. You must remember also that in these industries the employer lives not in the workshop, but in the warehouse, and that the workmen themselves are the owners of their workshops, carrying on their business as a domestic industry; but in a workshop which is a workshop without the word domestic. There must be three conditions laid down in any factory legislation dealing with these people. That all sanitary work must devolve upon the owner; that no unnecessarily harassing technical provisions must be applied to them, nor anything that will take one farthing out of their pockets; and, that they require protection quite as much against the employer in the warehouse as against the employer in the workshop. These are, however, matters for consideration in detail before the Grand Committee; and looking at the unfortunate position of these people, perhaps it is not too much to suggest that some Representative of Staffordshire or Worcestershire may be placed on this Committee, so that the condition of the nailers and chainmakers may be properly considered.
§ (6.40.) MR. RANDELL (Glamorgan, Gower)
This Bill appears to me to be incomplete in several particulars. At present there is difficulty experienced in obtaining certificates for children between the ages of 13 and 14, arising in consequence of the Education Code of 1891. Formerly, children were examined separately, but now a class passes or fails en bloc. When children pass from Standard IV. to V. an employer of labour has great difficulty in obtaining from the education authorities the certificates of proficiency for labour. A school master is very anxious to retain grant-earning boys at school; and, therefore, he is not likely to offer facilities in giving certificates. He very naturally says, "I am not in a position to say whether a particular boy or a particular girl has passed the standard, because the class is passed en bloc." It is said the only way to get over the difficulty is for the child to make application to the inspector to be examined separately; but what child will willingly undergo such a trying ordeal? 1743 The point is an important one, and deserves the attention of the Home Secretary. As to the question of ventilation, I am very pleased the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury has abandoned his clause, because if his clause had stood as drawn, there would have been in the smaller factories more fan than factory. In regard to special rules as to fencing machinery, I think the Bill ought to go very much further; it should include steam locomotion, because in some districts, notably in South Wales—and I think, perhaps, too much attention has been paid to textile factories and too little to non-textile factories—the percentage of fatal accidents on railways and sidings which intersect many of the large non-textile factories is abnormally great. In 1889 one-third of the fatal accidents in South Wales occurred on railways and sidings; and I am informed that the percentage will be higher in the next Report. I hope special rules will also be framed, with a view to reduce the number of accidents due to explosions and burns in large steel factories. I cannot help regarding the proposal of the Government with respect to certifying surgeons as retrogressive. I certainly am of opinion that the existence of the certifying surgeons' certificates of fitness is a safeguard. I do not mention the matter in the interest of the certifying surgeons. No doubt they have been irritating and annoying to the Home Department. ["Oh, oh!"] Perhaps I have used too harsh a term, but at any rate they have made complaints. Again, at present the fee for the certificate of birth of young persons and children is far too high, it is 3s: 7d. I have brought in a Bill which reduces the fee to 6d. in the case of young persons between 14 and 16 years of age. That Bill is down for Second Reading to night and in view of the proposals of the Bill under discussion I trust it will be assented to. I think the Government might even reduce the fee to 3d. and offer greater facilities for obtaining the certificate. At present in many districts a working man has to walk many miles to a Superintendent Registrar's office to obtain the certificate. Such difficulty ought to be removed, and I suggest that certificates might be obtained at the Post Office 1744 of the district in which the child was born. Such an arrangement might easily be made and it would save many thousands of pounds to the working classes. As to the publication of the special rules I hops the Home Secretary will pay some respect to the wishes of the Welsh people. It is desired that an abstract of the Act, and also the Special Rules, should be published throughout the Principality in the Welsh language. Personally, I am of opinion that in factories where foreigners are employed the abstract of the Act, if not the rules, should be published in their language. Respecting the appointment of additional Inspectors, I trust that, as far as Wales is concerned, other considerations being equal, preference will be given to men who speak Welsh. I do not suppose my views upon the question of the limitation of the hours of labour will obtain much approval in the House, but I am satisfied they will gain considerable approval outside. This Bill proposes to deal with the period of the employment of women. I hope at a future stage, possibly on Report, to raise a far more important issue, namely, the limitation of the hours of labour of adult male workers. Having regard to the disturbed feeling in the country, to the conflicts between capital and labour, to the expressions of opinion on the part of the working classes, and to the resolution of the Liverpool Trades Congress, it is high time for an opportunity to be afforded for the discussion of this much-vexed question which has needlessly caused alarm to many employers. It is a great misfortune that the English representatives at the Berlin Conference were not permitted to discuss the question of the statutory limitation of hours, especially when it is remembered that the argument used against a statutory day is that of foreign competition. There is really no insuperable objection to the principle of State regulation of labour. A statutory enactment if it ever does come, and I believe it will come before many years are over, will not, as alleged, necessarily be an arbitrary measure which cannot be relaxed according to the exigences of the case or the pressure of emergency.
§ MR. RANDELL
I was, Sir, dealing with the clause in the Bill limiting the working hours of women, and I thought I might be permitted to extend my remarks to male adult workers, but I accept your ruling, and I will pass on to the question of protection. I hope that the rules as to fencing will not be confined to driving gear, but extended to the operative part of machinery. If this were so, no hardships would be inflicted upon employers, for I find that now on laying down new plant and machinery manufacturers stipulate that machine makers shall provide safeguards or shields according to the requirements of the Inspectors of Factories. Lastly, I will refer shortly to the question of the administration of the Department. The supervision at the present time is very inadequate, for I believe there are only four or five superintending Inspectors, and they have to go over a very large area. What I think is needed is an increased staff of Sub Inspectors. It is impossible for the present staff to do their duty. Take the case of South Wales: one gentleman has to cover six counties and a part of Monmouthshire. When we remember the enormous development of industry in that part of the country it must occur to us that it is impossible for one Inspector to do his duty thoroughly and satisfactorily. I think it would be well to appoint a new grade of Inspectors, men taken from the ranks, and who thoroughly understand machinery. By a careful re-organisation of the Department the increase may be made without any additional expense. I have made these remarks in no hostile spirit, and I press them on the attention of the House in the mutual interest of employer and employed.
§ (6.55.) MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
As one of the representatives of the most important manufacturing centre in Ireland, I venture to offer a few observations principally in respect of Clause 19, which relates to certifying surgeons. Little has been said on the subject, and I do not think it is fair to a deserving body of men that the House should labour under the misapprehension that they are actuated by self-interested motives in performing their duties. It is right the House should bear in mind that the children who are most largely affected by the action of the certifying surgeons have few persons to 1746 speak for them. When hon. Members look back upon the history of the past, and remember all that has been done by Lord Ashley and others to emancipate children from cruelty and to mitigate their position in factories, I hope I shall be excused for intervening in the Debate. Of certifying surgeons, Inspector Cameron, concerning whose opinion I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary at Question time, stated before the Royal Commission that—An able and willing certifying surgeon is of the greatest assistance to the inspector of his district, and can and does render most important aid in the carrying out of the Factory Act.This gentleman was for 15 years inspector of factories in Belfast. He worked most harmoniously with the employers of labour, and I think this testimony borne by him to the usefulness of certifying surgeons ought to have influence with the House. A letter has been written by Dr. F. H. Walmsley, in which he says—I had to visit one of the finest and best-appointed factories in England, and there was presented to me a child 10 years old to be passed as a half-timer. I observed that he limped as he walked, and asked the cause. He replied that his foot had been scalded. 'How long ago?' 'A tidy time,' was the reply. On examining the foot I found two deep inflamed painful ulcers, which must have existed for some weeks. I refused to pass the boy.I hold in my hand a return by Dr. Charles F. Moore, an eminent Dublin certifying surgeon, concerning the Dublin factories for 1889 and 1890. The total number of certificates of fitness refused in the two years was 198, and I will not enter into the reasons for such refusals. Some were for general disease, some for diseases of the eye, and some for other forms of disease. A distinguished surgeon in Belfast states that at the beginning of an outbreak of smallpox in that City, he is fully occupied in watching that no one is employed who is suffering from that complaint. Often he says he has got delicate children put from one room to another place which is more healthy. I am glad this Bill has been introduced, but I trust the House will pause before it does away with Certifying surgeons.
§ (7.2.) SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was about to sit down without explaining to us the reason for the with- 1747 drawal of the skilled protection of the young persons about to enter factory employment. But he did give us a few words of explanation. He based the withdrawal of that protection on these grounds: he thought that parental affection in itself is to be very much trusted, and that the interest of the employers will deter them from taking improper persons. Surely he knows perfectly well what the history of factory legislation has been. These two reasons of his were advanced against factory legislation in 1802; but it was then found that neither parental affection nor the interests of the employer was sufficient to prevent improper and disqualified persons from being exposed to the danger of labour for which they were unfitted. In 1833 you introduced a measure by which all persons who were too young, who were too diseased, who had infectious diseases, who were deformed, should not be allowed to go into factories until they had their fitness certified by a medical man. In 1878 you passed the existing Act, but before doing so the whole question was submitted to a Royal Commission, which inquired—first, as to whether an initial medical examination was necessary or not; and, secondly, as to the way in which the certifying surgeons had discharged their duty, That Royal Commission expressed its belief that the important share taken in the administration of the Factory Acts by the members of a profession distinguished by its scientific knowledge and intelligence, had contributed to the general acceptation of those Acts. A previous Home Secretary (Lord Cross), on the same political side as the right hon. Gentleman, has also spoken plainly enough, declaring his unwillingness to pass a law to abolish the certifying surgeons, and adding that they would do in the future its they had done in the past—namely, afford the greatest aid in carrying out the Factory Acts. With these facts against him, the Home Secretary ought to have told us why he is making such a, great change in the administration of the Factory Acts. But, that I am afraid of wearying the House, I could cite quotation after quotation from the opinions of Factory Inspectors against the present proposal. When the right hon. Gentleman sweeps away all the certifying surgeons, how is he going to replace them? He proposes to put practi- 1748 cally nothing in their room. The Inspectors will in future be expected to do the work now performed by the certifying surgeons, the proposal being to abolish the latter at one fell swoop so far as initial entry is concerned. The surgeon is only retained in cases of accidents, the duty in respect of which though important in itself is quite insignificant when compared with the other duties at present performed. A look at the figures shows that accidents at present constitute only one twenty-fifth part of the work performed by the certifying surgeons. I consider the proposal of the Government altogether retrogressive in factory legislation. The object of the Factory Acts is to protect those persons who cannot help themselves, and let us see how the certifying surgeons act. Their primary duty is to see that any young person going into a factory is of full age and physically fitted for the work. The certifying surgeon has to see if a child is physically fit to go to work; to see also that he does not convey contagious disease into the factory. Take the celebrated case at Accrington, where a child suffering from scarlet fever was admitted into a mill, with the result that there was a serious epidemic, which in a week or two resulted in large loss. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said—and I was surprised to hear it—that refusals were seldom or never given by certifying surgeons. I had expected to hear from him statistics on this subject. In the year 1888–9, in the Dublin district, there were 66 refusals on account of age, 84 on account of infectious disease and debility, 35 for diseases of the eye, and 13 on account of disease of the heart. The right hon. Gentleman may be right in saying the refusals are few; but I do not think he was right in bringing before the House such a sweeping change without producing proof that the certifying surgeons do not do their duty. Has he any Return to show that the refusals were either few or many? We have no official statement whatever on the subject. There is one reason why the refusals may be few in number, and that is that the system prevents cruel parents and factory owners who do care much about the health of those they take into their employment from bringing unfit children forward. Now, what does the Home 1749 Secretary propose to substitute for the system which has been in operation since 1883? The right hon. Gentleman says, in the first place, there is no necessity for the certificate of a surgeon with reference to age, because that can now be ascertained in other ways. That was perfectly true, for we now have compulsory certificates of birth, which we had not at the time the present system was started. But the opposition to the certificates which has induced him to propose this change is certainly not general throughout the country. It exists in Lancashire pretty strongly, but there is special reason for protecting the young in that county, seeing that 70 per cent of the employés in factories are women and children. In Yorkshire opposition comes from Keighley, but from Leeds and other centres, as well as in Scotland, the proposal to abandon the certificates is strongly disapproved. I can understand the objection to paying for these certificates. I think their unpopularity is partly due to the fact that the fee for obtaining a certificate of birth for children between 14 and 16 was 3s. 7d. It is now to be 6d. There are other matters for which protection is required. This change will by no means be an economical one, for a much larger number of ordinary Inspectors will be required. The certificates of birth and education are to be lodged at the factory, so that the Inspector may see them from time to time. But there are 134,000 factories and workshops registered, and the number of visits paid by the Inspectors is 114,000, or on an average less than one visit each per year. But even if the Inspectors pay a visit every three months, what real use will that be? How can they in their few visits in the course of the year find out the deformed or the diseased children who have been admitted to the factory? One of two things must happen—either the whole system of initial protection must be abandoned; or you must increase the number of Inspectors so largely that the cost upon general taxation will become very heavy. The fact is you are giving up altogether the protection enjoyed by the young under existing factory legislation; you will, under your new system, have no medical security, and until the right hon. Gentleman give us some proof that 1750 the present work of certifying is done badly, I think he would be well advised to make no change.
§ (7.20) SIR F. MILNER (Notts, Bassetlaw)
I can assure the Home Secretary that this proposal in Clause 19, which has been dealt with by several hon. Members already has not only raised the opposition of all surgeons but also the indignation of the friends of that excellent organisation, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and of all interested in the welfare of the young. I have collected some statistics which I will produce in the Committee, and I think they will startle the House, for they show the working of the system which it is now proposed to abolish. I hope and trust that the Home Secretary will [re-consider his decision and not insist on this provision. When we consider that something like 70 per cent. of those employed in our textile factories are women and children, it does seem to me a retrogade movement to do away with one of the most important provisions of existing Factory Acts. Hon. Members on both sides desire to see the young protected, and it is useless to educate them unless you at the same time look to their bodily health. This proposal, if carried, will mar an otherwise excellent Bill, and I trust that when the right hon. Gentleman in charge sees the statistics I shall have to produce he will consider the advisability of withdrawing it.
§ (7.22.) DR. R. MCDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
As a factory surgeon of 10 years' standing, I may be able to to give the House a little insight into the working of the Factory Acts. I join in thinking that it would be a retrograde step to abolish the certifying surgeon. There is considerable difficulty in preventing employment of children under the legal age in our factories. Many such cases of employment are reported to the Home Office, and no action is taken on them. When an Inspector goes into a factory he finds sometimes that those whom he is called upon to certify have been at work for months, although they are instructed to say only a few days, in order that the breach of the law (which fixes the time in which a certificate must be obtained at seven days) may not be discovered; again, in the shipbuilding industry a rivetter will often employ a young boy three or four days 1751 a week to assist him, and these lads are not presented for certificates simply because they have not been, seven days continuously at work. I am glad to see it is proposed that no child shall in the future be allowed to commence work until the birth certificate has been produced. Even these certificates have proved to be open to abuse in the past. In my own experience I have known one certificate to do duty for three different boys. One wants to be constantly watching to prevent the employment of boys under age. But what will be the use of an Inspector merely visiting a factory twice a year. There may be hundreds of children tinder age working there and he be none the wiser, for he may be told they have been so employed a day or two. If the Home Secretary does not retain these certifying surgeons he will find the expenditure under the Act increase enormously. The surgeon is now paid sixpence for every child he certifies, and of that sum the employer can recover one half from the boy certified. The State pays for nothing but attending to the injuries of people in the factories. Another reason why the certifying surgeon should not be abolished is that he is always on the spot and can see the condition of the machinery, whereas if his services be not retained it may happen in the future that after an accident a proper guard is put to the machinery before the arrival of the Factory Inspector. I can assure the House that this is an important point, for it is very difficult indeed to arrive at the real facts as to the condition of the machinery at the time of an accident. I think the certifying surgeons should have more powers vested in them, especially in regard to sanitary matters. Age, after all, is not a criterion of the fitness of a child for work, and a Factory Inspector certainly could not decide so well as a surgeon as to whether a boy should be admitted to work. Again, an employer often cannot tell whether or not a boy has been rejected. Many of the boys I have had to examine have come to me at my private surgery, and in cases I have refused certificates, but it does not follow that the employer was made acquainted with that refusal. He only knows of the rejections made when the examination takes place at his own factory. Supposing factory surgeons abolished, there still must be some means 1752 provided for inspecting factories one ea month at least, and as this work of inspection must be paid for by the State, I do not see that it can be done at less expense than under the present system.
§ (7.30.) MR. ELLIOTT LEES (Oldham)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) has made a strong appeal in favour of the retention of certifying surgeons, and he asks if you abolish these what will be set up in their place. I may say that something has been set up in their place—the standard under the Education Act has been set up in their place. I understand that since the Education Act has come into operation the occupation of the certifying surgeon has practically become obsolete. So I am informed by those well qualified by experience to form a judgment, and this cannot be called a retrograde step if you abolish an office which in process of time has become of no value. My hon. Friend (Sir F. Milner) tells us that this particular provision is condemned on grounds of humanity, and that the Society for Preventing Cruelty to Children have taken up the question; but I would say to him and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, if they can show that the certifying surgeon has been of value in preventing unfit children being set to work in factories they will make out their case for the retention of the office. But I do say that this clause in the Bill gives expression to a general wish in Lancashire, and that the opinion is that there is no longer occupation for the certifying surgeon. None of us, of course, would wish to inflict any hardship upon children working in factories; and if it can be shown that the occupation of certifying surgeons still survives, and that there are still a large number of children who are prevented from undertaking work injurious to their health by the intervention of the certifying surgeon, I should certainly favour the retention of that officer. But, as I have said, it is believed in Lancashire that there is now nothing for the certifying surgeon to do.
§ (7.34.) MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
The redeeming part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was that in which he expressed his willingness to consider amendment, and I sympathise with the 1753 desire that in Committee the Bill may be strengthened in many of its details. If the right hon. Gentleman remains true to the opinions he has thus expressed, I think the Bill may be made a very useful measure, but as it now stands it is very empty, and requires a great deal of furnishing. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen his way to increase the age for half-time employment of children, and on this point I think the general opinion is as strong as is that condemning the abolition of the certifying surgeon. I should like to say, in regard to Clause 8, which refers many new subjects to arbitration that are at present under the control of Factory Inspectors—I think I read the Bill aright in this—
§ MR. MATTHEWS
A large class of subjects are submitted to arbitration under Clause 8, but I do not think that any subjects now under the direction of Inspectors are withdrawn.
§ MR. BROADHURST
As I read the Bill, the subjects include the safety to women and children, protection from injury by machinery, the state of ventilation, and other matters are included. The safety of workpeople from machinery under the present Act, is now a matter for the Inspector, he can make an order which the employer is bound to obey.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
If the hon. Member will look at Section 6 of the existing Act, he will find there arbitration applied to the fencing of machinery, and practically the proposal in the Bill is the same thing as exists now.
§ MR. BROADHURST
It would be interesting if the right hon. Gentleman would give us a return showing the effect of this arbitration power in the Act of 1878. I think he will find it has been practically worthless and useless. At any rate, common sense will tell us that if an increased number of subjects are referred to arbitration, the Factory Inspector's influence will diminish greatly with proprietors, and if the power of the Inspector is diminished the welfare of the factory people will be seriously affected. Coming to the subject of the certifying surgeon, I admit that it is true that the Home Secretary has been assured by large numbers of workmen and employers that they would not oppose the abolition of that officer; but they have only consented to agree to the abolition on the condition 1754 that the number of Factory Inspectors should be largely increased. I remember when this subject was first discussed by the representatives of trades in Congress and by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Congress, there was an agreement come to—rightly or wrongly I am not capable of saying for I have not had practical experience—but it was the opinion of a large number of workpeople that the certifying surgeon might be abolished, but on the condition that the number of Factory Inspectors should be largely increased. This was a condition always attached to the proposal, and there can be no mistake about this. The visits of certifying surgeons of factories for the purpose of granting certificates have been of the utmost value, for they have kept factory proprietors on the alert. The certifying surgeon's visit to a factory or workshop has to some extent the effect of the Inspector's visit. Therefore if we abolish the certifying surgeon we ought to increase the number of factory and workshop Inspectors. We have heard that some factories are only visited by the Inspector once a year: but there are many that are only visited once in three years, and still more that are visited only once in two years. The fact is, it is impossible for the present Staff of Inspectors to do more. We have been often promised that the Staff of Inspectors should be increased, and the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman expressed the willingness of the Home Office to make the increase if the Treasury would find the means. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is equally willing to agree to the increase if the Treasury sanctions it. The right hon. Gentleman gives ho indication of assent or dissent. I do not think he will find very considerable objection to the increase at the Home Office. This has been a matter for which the trades concerned have contended for years past, and yet we find that while the proposal is made for the abolition of certifying surgeons, whose duties are analogous to Inspectors, neither the Bill nor the speech of the right hon. Gentleman gives any indication of an intention to put anything in the place of the office to be abolished. I wish to know the intentions of the Government with reference to the strength of the Inspector's Staff, and unless the right hon. Gentleman is pre- 1755 pared to promise some increase in that Staff his legislation will probably be met with considerable opposition in quarters where otherwise it would meet with a friendly reception. I think those who have interested themselves in the welfare of our workpeople must be well pleased with the general expression of opinion on both sides of the House to-night and the desire for the protection of young children in factories and workshops. This proposition of the right hon. Gentleman to abolish certifying surgeons, if it has done no other service, has called forth this universal expression of opinion which should be a guidance to the Government and an encouragement to Ministers not to hesitate, when bringing forward Bills connected with the subject, to largely extend the legal protection to the children of our working population. The expression of opinion we have had here will, I am sure, find a response in all parts of the country, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will, in connection with his proposal to abolish certifying surgeons, give us an assurance that the Staff of Inspectors shall be largely increased.
§ (7.45.) MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
My remarks will be limited to the question of the employment of children in factories. I am much disappointed that the Government have failed to make use of this excellent opportunity for embodying in legislation the resolutions arrived at by the Berlin Conference, and I cannot help thinking it is somewhat of a discredit to this country, which took a leading part in that Conference, which excited the attention of all Europe. It was the factory legislation of this country which formed the basis of the discussions which took place at the Berlin Conference last year. I am glad to see in his place my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for India (Sir John Gorst), who took such a prominent part in that Conference. His interest in all labour questions is well known, and I appeal to him—was it not the case that there was practical unanimity at the Conference as to the necessity of raising the age of half-timers from 10 to 12, and some went so far as to advocate 13? I have gone over the Report of the proceedings at the Conference, and I must say that in my judgment it does not bear the construction put upon it by the Home Secretary. There was practical unanimity in in- 1756 sisting that the age should not be fixed lower than 12 years. In Switzerland I am told the age is fixed at 14, and in Germany the age is 14, though exceptions are made in some cases, and 12 is the lowest limit. It is highly discreditable to this country now that we have an opportunity, in a legitimate way, of reforming our factory legislation, that we do not give effect to the recommendations of our own delegates at Berlin. What will be the effect of our action in Europe? I understand that in most European Legislatures Bills are being introduced to give effect to the decisions of the Berlin Conference. What will be thought of England, the originator of this factory legislation, standing still and refusing to walk abreast with other nations? It is going counter to popular feeling which will in a short time force us to take up this subject afresh. But why defer it to a later period now that we have a fitting opportunity while we are revising the general factory legislation of the country? The recommendation of the Berlin Conference is most reasonable. All who have taken an interest in the subject will agree that 10 years is too early an age for children to enter the hot unhealthy atmosphere of a factory; their growth is thereby stunted, their physical development prevented, and the standard of the national physique is lowered. They are deprived of that fresh air and exercise essential to their age; and while being prematurely forced into labour the burden of education is at the same time doubled. I quite disagree with the Home Secretary in the idea that the half-time children make better progress in education, and a short time since Mr. Heller, one of the ablest members of the Teachers' Association, told me that it was the unanimous opinion among teachers that 10 is much too early an age for children to undertake factory work, and that their education is thereby much impeded. I say that children of 10 having been at work from 6 a.m. to 12 cannot go through the afternoon at school with advantage; the fatigue is too much for their tender frames, they are often worn out and can scarcely resist sleep. It is cruelty to expect that a young child after six hours' labour can give another three or four hours more to intellectual exertion, and I am glad to see there is a strong feeling evinced in the House and outside 1757 against a continuance of so harsh a system. The Royal Commission on the Education Acts recommended that the age should be raised to 11, but since then public opinion has progressed and I feel sure that a Commission sitting now would raise the age to 12. I do not believe there is any general feeling against raising the age. I never heard in Lancashire any great importance attached to the work of a child before 12 years of age. The only part of England in which much importance is attached to putting children early into factories is in some parts of Yorkshire; but national progress ought not to be arrested on account of such places which I am afraid are in a somewhat benighted condition. It might be possible to lay down the principle that 12 ought to be the age as a general rule, but that some temporary exceptions should be made in the case of a few districts. It is a cruel thing to allow children to be put too early to labour. I hope the working class representatives will give expression to the wish of their constituents in this matter, that they do not desire their children to be prematurely forced into labour.
§ (7.55.) SIR W. H. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N. W.)
I am not surprised that there are complaints that the Bill omits to provide for the raising of the age of children entering factories. I am not surprised that the proceedings of the Berlin Conference have been referred to; but I am not disposed to exclaim against the Government for not venturing on this occasion to make any proposal on the subject in question. It is no doubt true that the Berlin Conference came unanimously to the conclusion that the minimum age should be raised from 10 to 12, and that in that conclusion the English delegates concurred. I do not think that either the delegates or the Government will recede from that conclusion. But although the conclusions of the Berlin Conference ought to have great weight, and there is a moral obligation on the various Governments which joined in those conclusions to take steps gradually and, according to the circumstances of each country, to carry them out, it must be remembered that the delegates reserved to their Governments the discretion to determine for themselves when such steps should be taken, and admitted that local circumstances 1758 might make it impossible for all to follow in the same line. The raising of the minimum age is a question of principle, and I have no hesitation in saying that this country, along with other countries, should make a move in that direction. That being the case, the question is limited to the consideration whether this is the time to make that move, and whether the proposal ought to be embodied in the Bill of the Government. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last seemed to think that there was no difficulty whatever in adopting the proposal, though he admitted an exception might be necessary in certain places. Now, I venture to say, there is a very great difficulty indeed, but that difficulty will not come from the employers of labour, the real difficulty will come from the operatives themselves. Although the leaders of the operatives who joined in the delegation to Berlin supported, very much to their credit, the conclusion at which the Conference arrived, still they did very rightly impress upon their colleagues that very careful steps would have to be taken in this country to carry it out so that the hostility of the operatives would not be provoked, and they distinctly assured their colleagues that there would be a very large amount of opposition if that care were not taken. I think a little time would be well spent in allowing the subject to be discussed and considered by all classes of the community, especially those engaged in industries, whether employers or operatives. 1do not think sufficient prominence has yet been given to the subject. No doubt the decisions of the Berlin Conference are known in the industrial centres, but I do not think those decisions have become a burning question, carefully considered by the classes most interested. And the suggestion I have heard made by those as earnest as the hon. Member for Flintshire or any other Member is that the question of minimum age should be thus dealt with. Let the question first of all be ventilated throughout the country, let the objections be heard and listened to. Then if a Bill is at any time brought in and passed to carry out this proposition, let a little time be allowed before it comes into operation, the object being that the industries affected shall be able to accommodate themselves to what will be an enormous change in the management of these 1759 large industries. Then I think another thing will be necessary, and that is that the change should be effected by steps. I do not indicate these changes, but I think it would be a mistake to raise the age from 10 to 12 by one Bill. I do not know whether the hon. Member who last spoke is aware of the proportions of the subject. We have 86,000 half-timers in this country. If we suddenly raised the age from 10 to 12 I do not know what proportion of that number would be affected, but I suspect it would be a very large one. We have also to remember that the parents of these children will be affected by the loss of weekly wages coming into their homes, and that the various industries will have to be regulated and managed in an entirely different way from the present; and, that being the case, it is quite evident that time must be given before any such operation as this can be taken in hand. I think it is an interesting fact, which can be taken as an argument for not hurrying this matter forward, that the number of half-timers has, without any legislation whatever, been gradually diminishing in this country. I find that it was 125,000 in 1875, and that now it is 86,000, so that there has been a reduction of 31 per cent. which I think we are all very pleased to see. If we compare it with the total number of workers, the half-timers, who in 1875 were 13 per cent. of the whole, are now only 8 per cent. by a gradual process of reduction. Every practical man knows that that has not been done without very great changes, indeed, in the means of doing work in the various industrial establishments, and how far the process can be carried on without diminishing the half-timers is a problem very difficult to guage, but certainly it is a question of time and of ingenuity on the part of the managers in those establishments. I, therefore, think the House will do well not to press this subject too hurriedly on, for I am afraid that if we do we shall find a strong reaction on the part of the operative classes themselves against an interference which, though it may ultimately benefit them, will, in the first instance, affect them by reducing their weekly income. Perhaps I may be allowed, passing from that subject, to say a word as to the certifying surgeon, which seems to be the only other burning question in the Bill. 1760 I think that some benefit arises from these surgeons passing children and examining into their fitness so far as they do it; but I am very sceptical indeed as to the extent to which it is done in this country. It is a remarkable thing that the only statement made by the certifying surgeons themselves about the number of children who are refused admittance into factories for other reasons than that of not being of the legal age has come from Ireland. No statement or Return has come from England or Scotland showing the number of refusals, although a certifying surgeon must know perfectly well how many he has refused. The absence of these statements confirms my own opinion that only to a very slight extent indeed have surgeons exercised their power of refusing children because of their unfitness. Probably one reason is that unfit children are not presented. The other day I inquired at one very large establishment, a typical one in every sense, and the statement made to me was that there had only been one case in the last 20 years in which the certifying surgeon had refused a child admission into a factory owing to unfitness. I am very glad to see that the Home Secretary has introduced minimum penalties into his Bill, because. I believe them of very great importance, and I hope we shall be able to extend their area. Not only are insufficient penalties given, and fines enforced against manufacturers and employers who persistently and wilfully disregard the law, but there is a very great injustice done at the present moment by the want of anything like uniformity in the penalties that are imposed. Curiously enough that applies not only to England, where it may be supposed that the benches of Magistrates in some districts may possibly deal leniently with cases when themselves connected directly or indirectly with the trade involved, but also to Scotland where the decisions are given by the Sheriffs. I hope that the Home Secretary will allow the minimum penalties to be extended in order that, and we are strengthening the Factory Laws for the benefit of the operatives without injury to trade, we may, at the same time, have taken all the steps we can to see that these laws are enforced and carried out, so that the people will have the full benefit intended by Parliament (8.13.)
§ (8.45.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
In dealing with this important question we must remember what it was that has led to the introduction of this measure, and the evidence that was taken before the Sweating Committee of the House of Lords, which induced the public to suppose that something like a drastic attempt to deal with the condition of things then displayed would at least be attempted by Her Majesty's Government. Those who take the trouble to read through the evidence adduced before that Committee, and who have also read the Report and recommendations of that body, must naturally have felt that those recommendations would have been embodied in the Government Bill. But not only have we had before us the evidence taken by the Sweating Committee as to the terrible state of things which exists in London and other large towns in this country, but there have also been the expectations that were aroused by what took place at the Berlin Conference. In view of these two events we cannot but express our regret that the Government have not tried to do more than they have endeavoured to do by means of this Bill. We hope, however, that when this measure goes before the Grand Committee we shall be enabled to materially alter and enlarge the scope of this measure. I do not think it possible that its scope can be reduced, as it is so small already, but it might be materially enlarged with very great ad vantage. Of course, I welcome the extension by this Bill of the existing sanitary provisions applicable to factories and workshops. That is the least the Government could have suggested. Over and over again the Factory Inspectors, and other witnesses whose evidence could be relied upon, endeavoured to press upon the Committee the necessity of an entire alteration of the sanitary arrangements hitherto enforced. But, as has already been pointed out, the endeavour to deal with the state of things which has been revealed as existing in the sweating dens of London is hardly attempted in this Bill by Her Majesty's Government. I admit that what is proposed with regard to the registration of the outdoor workers is likely to prove beneficial; but, at the same time, that part of the Bill might be strengthened by 1762 the Grand Committee, so that there would be the means of getting at the middlemen who have undertaken contracts, sometimes unfortunately Government contracts, and who send out their work in parcels to the East End sweaters. If the addresses of those men can be registered, so that they may be overhauled by more than one set of persons, we may then be enabled to find out what is going on in the whole of these sweating dens, so that the responsible employers may be dealt with. There is one point which has not been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary upon which I think we ought to have from him a definite statement to-night, and that is as to the intention of the Government with regard to an increase in the number of Inspectors. In. my opinion, if the best possible Bill had been introduced and passed into law, it would be of little value unless an adequate staff of Inspectors and sub-Inspectors was also set up. The want of such a staff was very strongly brought out in the evidence given before the Lords Committee. I will not weary the House by reading that evidence; but if any hon. Member desires to know what an Inspector tries to do at the present time—I use the word tries advisedly, because it is impossible for him to do all he is called upon to do—let him turn to the evidence of Mr. Lakeman, one of the London Inspectors, and it will there be seen what that gentleman had to accomplish with the assistance of only one junior. Within the area of his district, which extends on the north of the Thames into several adjacent counties, there are no less than 4,000 factories and 10,000 workshops. I ask the House to consider whether it is possible for one Inspector, however hard he may work, and however zealous and industrious he may be, to visit so large a number of workplaces and inspect them, so as to assert the necessary control over what goes on within them? Unless the Government are prepared to ask the House to empower them to create an adequate staff of Inspectors, so that they may deal thoroughly and efficiently with the work before them, all the Factory Bills they may introduce and have discussed in this House are not worth the paper on which they may be printed. I therefore insist most emphatically on what is one of the most important points to be dealt with, and I 1763 hope we shall have at least a statement from the Government in regard to it. Another point to be considered by the right hon. Gentleman in reference to the Sanitary Clauses of the Bill is how far it may be possible to make the owners of the sweating dens responsible for letting unsanitary buildings as workshops. In the evidence before the Sweating Committee you will find it stated over and over again that the men who take these places are men of no substance and not easily to be got at. We know, however, that an excessive amount of rent is obtained by letting these premises, and we know also that they are not capable of being used as dwelling houses even by the very poorest families. They can only be used as workshops, and even for that purpose they are altogether unfitted. I therefore put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether steps cannot be taken in Committee on this Bill to make the owner, who obtains an inordinate rent from these establishments, responsible for the unsanitary condition in which they may be found. I now come to the omission of provisions for raising the age at which children can be employed in factories. I do not think any sufficient reason has been given for that omission. The hon. Baronet the Member for North-west Manchester endeavoured to palliate, to some extent, the conduct of the Government in not carrying out what was really a recommendation of the Berlin Conference. I agree with the hon. Baronet that what we are asking Her Majesty's Government to do is some what difficult. No one wishes that it should be done in such a drastic manner that you will turn all the operatives against you who happen to have children working at the lower age, but that it should be done in such a way as to win over those who might be otherwise against you. The hon. Baronet admitted distinctly that the principle is a good one, and that an attempt should be made to level up the age to 12 years instead of keeping it at 10. The only difference between us is, that he is afraid that the time is not yet arrived, while we regard this as a fitting opportunity to carry out the changes. The hon. Baronet said there were 86,000 half-timers at the present time, but that the number had decreased 30 per cent. since 1875. I contend that this decrease shows that parents are not so anxious to 1764 get their children to work at an early age as formerly, and that the Government would not meet with so much opposition from the parents as they think if they attempted to raise the age at which children can be employed. I remember, before the Education Act was passed, that if you advertised in your window for an errand boy, your doors were besieged, and the proverbial widow, rarely a widow at all, made her appearance in favour of her son's application for employment. Immediately after the Education Act was passed, and the School Board officers had opportunity of doing their work, the children in search of work were not so numerous. And I hold, that if the Go-vernment were now to insist that the age of children beginning to work in factories should be 12 and not 10, benefit would result to our race in the development of its men and women. The Home Secretary says that the "half-timers" are smarter than the children who go through the daily routine of school. No doubt work in the factory does brighten those children; but what we are fighting for is not that they shall cease to be half-timers, but at what age shall they begin work. By raising the age, more adult labour will be admitted to the market; and whenever the Government deals with this question it will be surrounded with difficulties, and the sooner, therefore, they begin with it, the better it will be. I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to Clause 18, Sub-section A, of this Bill, which, I think, wants a little amending. It says that women shall work 12 hours a day, and eight hours on Saturday. I do not think that carries out the intention of the draughtsman, because it is specific that the hours shall be 12 hours a day, and eight on Saturday. I think the clause is capable of modification. I regret that the Bill does not go further than it does, and that the intention of the Berlin Conference is not carried out. I hope that the measure will be amended in Committee, and that it will come back to this House strengthened and improved.
§ (9.0.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
Representing as I do a constituency very largely interested in this question, I desire to express my sympathy with the objects of the Bill and to give the measure my support. I 1765 do not say that the Bill is a strong one— I do not know the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary himself would assert that—but with Amendments such as those suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury and by the hon. Member for Poplar, it may prove a very good one. As to its actual proposals, to all but one I give hearty support. That one exception I need hardly say is the abolition of the certifying surgeon. I confess I have objected to this from the first, but what has been said in to-night's Debate, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, has more than confirmed my view that these officers constitute an immortant link in the system by which protection is secured to young children under the existing Factory Act. I know that the late Lord Shaftesbury used to say that he regarded the institution of the medical officer as the most important feature of the policy which he carried out. He considered it more important in securing the protection of children than any other part of his policy. That being so, and in view of the prevailing tone of the Debate on this point, I would seriously suggest to the Home Secretary whether he will not do well to drop the proposal to abolish the certifying medical officer. I think it would be impossible to abolish that institution without providing some substitute for it. I do not, however, see any alternative plan proposed in the Bill. I think the only possible substitute would be a large increase in the number of Factory Inspectors. For my part, I am not strongly in favour of a large increase in the number of Inspectors, although to some extent, no doubt, an increase might be made with advantage. But the Home Office has already much to do in looking after the Inspectors, and if any material addition were made to their ranks, the question would be how to inspect the Inspectors. It is objected to the existing system that it is not fair that employers of labour should be made to contribute towards the cost of inspection. I should prefer that the Government should undertake whatever payment may be necessary in this direction rather than that we should do away with a protection which I believe to be of great value to the children of this country. I was very glad to hear the suggestion 1766 made by the Home Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, that instead of proceeding with his Bill he should endeavour to engraft its provisions into the Government measure in Committee, and I was still more glad to hear my right hon. Friend assent to that suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman has made a very important concession to the woollen and worsted trades, which I think were not sufficiently considered in his Bill as first drafted, and by so doing he has got rid of a serious objection to his proposals, which now, I am happy to say, I shall be able to heartily support. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar has made some important suggestions, which I hope will be favourably considered by the Government. He has very properly pointed out that the provisions dealing with overcrowding are very inadequate. I agree with him that they must be amended and strengthened. Further, I hold with him that something requires to be done in the direction of inspecting domestic workshops, so as to enable us to cope with the evils of the sweating system, which a Committee of the House of Lords found recently to prevail to such a fearful extent. To the general proposal for extending the inspection to workshops now excluded under the present Factory Acts I give my hearty support. It has long been a scandal that so hard and fast a line should be drawn between factories and workshops which are subject to inspection and those which are not, for I cannot but think it is in a great measure due to this fact that the evils of sweating have grown up to the extent they have. But these are subjects more fit for discussion in Committee. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that our object should be not unduly to harass manufacturers, while securing greater protection for the life and health of the working classes.
§ (9.10.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
I am quite prepared to recognise the good intentions of the Bill and their fulfilment to a certain extent. For instance, I thoroughly approve of the excellent sanitary provisions which it contains, but I must also protest, in common with others, against Clause 19, withdrawing from young children who may be introduced into factories the protection hitherto given by the factory surgeons. The able and comprehensive 1767 statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds has most completely exposed the objection to this proposal, and I shall do no more than adopt a phrase already used pretty freely in this Debate, and say it is a highly retrograde proposal. Many of the improvements which have been effected by the Factory Acts have been due to the operation of the Medical Authorities under those Acts, and to the operations of those surgeons who are now, at one stroke of the pen, to be disestablished and disendowed and abolished out of existence. Not only do the surgeons stop directly unfit cases, but they do more; they have a deterrent influence which prevents parents from bringing up children whom they know to be unfit or who are, perhaps, suffering from disorders which might otherwise have caused great and serious detriment to the health of those by whom they might be surrounded. I cannot agree with the assertion that the examination by the factory surgeons has become an unmeaning form. Evidence on all hands can be cited testifying to the admirable way in which they have done their work. Something has been said about parental affection—no doubt a very high and ennobling charactaristic, but I fear that self-interest occasionally prevails over it, and those who know human nature will agree as to the necessity of continuing to protect children against their parents. The whole current of the most recent legislation, such as the Cruelty to Children Acts, shows that strong though parental affection is, it is nevertheless necessary to protect children against the self-interest, the greed, the poverty, and frequently the ignorance of parents. I do not see that there is any less reason now to protect children from their parents than there was under the original Factory Acts 50 years ago. We are told employers will not employ children who are too weak to work. I should be sorry to say anything hard of employers; but they are not always able to detect physical infirmity—heart disease or incipient consumption, which are only patent to the skilled eye, but which certainly unfit a child for work. Even a parent might think a child fit for work when a medical man would detect in that child weakness or disease which rendered it quite unfit. It has been suggested that some of the doctors scamp their work. I do not believe it. Although 1768 there may, in some instances, be hurry owing to the numbers to be inspected, yet I believe that, on the whole, the factory doctors do their work fairly and well. It is said there are very few cases of rejection of children as physically unfit. The reason instances have not been forthcoming is that the surgeons have not had time to get up their case, owing to the Bill having been hurried forward. I will undertake, if a reasonable time is given, to show that the rejection of children as physically unfit is of frequent occurrence. I know of one surgeon in a large town in the North who rejects, on an average, two children a week. Instead of diminishing the powers of the medical men, I am in favour of largely increasing them. I think they should inspect the sanitary condition of the factories, and also from time to time see the children they have passed, to know whether the work is injuriously affecting them. I am bound to say that the remedy proposed by the Government is a very futile and ineffectual one. Age is a very inconclusive test of fitness, unless it is accompanied by a medical certificate that the person is of the development usual for that age. No doubt medical inspection is unpopular, but so are most other kinds of inspection which prevent a man from doing what he has a mind to. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to deprive a class of men of employment upon which many of them are entirely dependent for their livelihood, and I will ask the right hon. Gentleman what he proposes to do in the way of compensation for those men? It is hopeless for many of them to return to private practice, which they have entirely given up for many years. It is only right and proper that they should be compensated. Although I speak as a medical man for medical men, I believe I speak also in the interests of the poor and of the community at large. I am convinced that many ill-conditioned, weakly, and diseased children will pass Inspectors who, however worthy and conscientious, are not medical men. It is said the present system does not work well in Lancashire, but Lancashire is not the whole Kingdom; and, speaking best for that part which I know—Scotland—I believe the old system works extremely well, and the people there view with alarm the proposed change.
§ (9.25.) MR. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
I have not risen to find fault with, the Bill as far as it goes, but I think it incomplete and disappointing. I am convinced that the vast majority of the working people of Wales are opposed to reducing the age of children for the purpose of getting employment. I have had good opportunities of learning their views on that point. With regard to the 19th clause, I may say I have received a letter from a factory doctor of 25 years' standing on this very subject He thought that I, as a Labour Representative, would favour the idea of reducing the age, and he therefore wrote to me to give me certain information before I committed myself to that view. He says—I understand the Home Secretary has a Bill before the House, Clause 19 of which will abolish the medical certificate. After an experience of 25 years I am of opinion that this is a step backwards. I have rejected many young persons suffering from contagious and infectious disease, not omitting affections of the lung.That is the testimony of a factory doctor of long experience. Medical Members of this House have given similar evidence, and I therefore ask the Home Secretary to re-consider his decision to abolish the practice now existing. If he adheres to the clause I fear it will have a disastrous effect upon the young in our manufacturing towns. I have a word to say upon the question of safety. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and myself was simply a difference of degree. I am prepared to recognise to the full the right hon. Gentleman's intention to improve the condition of the working classes. The Bill is a step in the right direction; but as to safety, it does not go far enough. Protection to life and limb is the very essence of industrial legislation; and, therefore, such protection should be afforded in no halting or hesitating manner. Unreasonable provisions would harass the employers, and possibly hamper trade: but the House will agree with me that it is possible to go much further in placing obligations upon employers to fence and safeguard machinery than is done in this Bill, and yet not be guilty of imposing what may be termed unreasonable restrictions upon them. I suggest that the Home Secretary should include in Clause 30 every integral part of the machinery likely to prove dangerous to 1770 the attendants upon the machinery. I would like the Home Secretary to provide that all the operative parts of machinery should be fenced so as to make it almost impossible for accidents such as occur now to happen. Some-may suppose that this fencing would cost a great deal. I, however, am informed upon very good authority that it would only entail a very trifling expense indeed. It is a well known fact that machine makers, when called upon to do so, send out machines fitted with shields and safeguards, and make no extra charge. I regret that there is no provision in the Bill in regard to the cleaning of machinery in motion. By the principal Act a young person is prohibited from oiling mill gearing in motion. Nothing can scarcely be a more prolific source of danger to life and limb than the oiling and cleaning of machinery when in motion. Therefore, I trust that in Committee the Government will be prepared to strengthen the Bill—this good Bill, I admit. I am anxious to see the Bill made better, and therefore I hope the Government will consent to strengthen it, in the interest of those whose daily duty involves constant attendance in close proximity to engines and machines, by prohibiting the cleaning of machinery when in motion. There is another omission, and it concerns administration. In view of what has been said by the Home Secretary and his predecessors, I am somewhat surprised to find that no reference is made in the measure to the means whereby a more effective administration of the Act can be secured. The South Wales district included 12 counties and a part of a 13th—Monmouthshire. Glamorganshire, which is one of the 12 counties, is the most populous county for its size in the United Kingdom. There is but one Factory Inspector, a good man, I admit. A better Inspector the Government never had; he works in season and out of season; does his duty to the Government and to the community at large to the very best of his ability. But it is ridiculous to have only one man for 12 counties in which there are 12,000 factories and workshops. Inspection has done wonders for the working people. Legislative interference has reduced the danger to life and limb to an extent which we can scarcely comprehend; still, if inspection in the South 1771 Wales district is to be thoroughly effectual the present Inspector must receive very material assistance. The Home Secretary can do nothing for which the people will be more grateful, than increase the number of Inspectors of factories and mines. There is another point I wish to press upon the right hon. Gentleman's attention, namely, to adopt in this Bill with respect to Wales, the same excellent principle as he applied in the Mines Act—to give the preference in the appointment of Inspectors to the man, all else being equal, who is conversant with the Welsh language. The right hon. Gentleman can scarcely comprehend the gratitude that is felt in the Principality at the concession he made on this point in the Mines Act, and I am sure the Welsh people will be grateful to him if he extends the principle a little further. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman nods his assent to that proposition. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman to consent to the publication of the special rules as well as the abstract of the Act in Wales. No doubt on many occasions it has come under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman himself that the Inspectors sometimes obtain considerable assistance from the men when they are making their inspection. If the men do not understand the language he speaks, oreven if some of them do, they may very well shelter themselves by saying: "I do not understand the English language, and therefore can give no evidence." If you appoint Inspectors who are conversant with the Welsh language, and if the rules are published in Welsh, it will be of material assistance to the officials in finding out true facts of the case. I may be allowed to say that from the West of Glamorganshire, through Carmarthenshire, and the Northern part of Pembrokeshire, and to Cardiganshire, the majority of the people, while they understand Welsh, are not able to read the English language. That at once proves the necessity of applying special rules to Wales, and if the right hon. Gentleman assents to my suggestions he will earn the thanks of a very grateful nation.
§ (9.44.) MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen University)
I agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken, that this is a good Bill, but my main object in rising is to assure the 1772 right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that the disapproval which has been expressed in regard to the 19th clause is shared by many Members on both sides of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for South Belfast has objected to the clause on behalf of Ireland, and I, also a supporter of the Government, must express my objection to it on behalf of Scotland. The objections to the existing system seem to have come exclusively from Lancashire and part of Yorkshire. I think it rather significant that no such objections have come from the rest of England or from Scotland or Ireland. Two years ago there was a demonstration in opposition to the present system on behalf of Lancashire factory owners, who stated that they represented the operatives as well. There has been no movement in Scotland or Ireland in support of that demonstration during the two years that have since elapsed. It is said there is a lack of evidence as to the amount of useful work done by certifying surgeons in refusing unfit applicants for employment. Well, it has been no part of the duty of the certifying surgeon to make a Report of the cases he deals with. The instance has, however, been quoted to-night of a Dublin certifying surgeon who, while he rejected in two years 66 children as being under age, rejected no fewer than 132, or exactly double the number, on account of physical unfitness. It has been justly said that the frequent visits of the certifying surgeons to the factory ensure the paying of greater attention to the general observance of the Factory Laws than would otherwise be paid, and that if he were to be dispensed with, we should be left without any sufficient security that the Factory Laws were regularly observed. The visits of Factory Inspectors are made at very rare intervals—once a year, if even once—and if we are to substitute for visits of the surgeons frequent visits from someone else, we shall require, not a few, but a whole army of additional Inspectors. For the whole of Scotland I find there are altogether only six Factory Inspectors, namely, one Superintending Inspector, no Inspector of the first-class, three of the second-class, and two junior Inspectors. That is the entire inspectorial staff for the whole of Scotland, while for the City of Glasgow alone there are seven certifying surgeons. I do not 1773 know how many surgeons there are for the whole of Scotland, but the number must be great; and if their visits to factories and workshops are to be discontinued, a very large staff of Inspectors will be required to take their place.
(9.50.) SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
As I represent a district of Lancashire which is more interested in factory legislation than almost any other part of the country, and in which a very large number of half-time children are employed, I think the House will grant me its indulgence whilst I say a few words on this subject. I think the House is fortunate in having three Factory Bills before it, namely, that which has been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that brought forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Sir H. James), and that which has been prepared by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. S. Buxton). I cannot but hope that if the best parts of each of these measures were woven together, a very important statute might become law during the present Session. The hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester (Sir W. Houlds-worth) seemed to think that the Government do not deal with the question of the half-time age in any way in this Bill; but obviously, by removing the check of the certifying surgeons, they run the risk of lowering the age, and thus the question is dealt with practically if not directly. I regret that the hon. Baronet has not used his great influence to press on the Government that now is the time to take some steps with the view to carry out the decision of the Berlin Conference. It will be a thousand pities if this opportunity of taking a step in the direction of the recommendations of the Berlin Conference is lost. We in this country occupy a special and exceptional position on this question. We have taken the lead among the countries of the world in regard to factory legislation, thanks to the efforts of Lord Shaftesbury and others. I wish to ask whether we ought not to retain the lead? I think the Members who represented this country at the Berlin Conference are bound to impress on the Government the importance of dealing in reasonable time with the recom- 1774 mendations of the Conference. What is the good of sending a right hon. Member of the Government and other Members of this House to join in that Conference and its recommendations, if our Government is afterwards to introduce a Factory Bill which ignores them? There is no reason why too large a stride should be made in the first instance. When the half-time age was raised from 8 to 10, time was given before the Act came into operation. There can, I think, be no doubt that if we adopted the recommendations of the Berlin Conference we should take two bites at the cherry, first raising the age to 11, and afterwards further raising it to 12. I can assure my hon. Friend (Sir W. Houldsworth) that, so far as the part of Lancashire which I represent is concerned, I do not think there will be any great opposition on the part of the operatives to the raising of the age, if it is done, as the hon. Baronet himself suggested, with prudence, and if some little time is allowed before the Act is put into operation. In speaking of foreign competition, I think people are apt to overlook the fact that, unless we take every precaution that our working classes are as well instructed, and as well developed physically, as those in other parts of the world, we shall be heavily handicapped. We know that children are not allowed to go to work in Switzerland until they are 14 years of age, and in many other countries of Europe the age limit is higher than in England. The doctrine that half timers are taught more than full timers, was, I think, exploded long ago. My old friend Sir Edwin Chadwick was a great advocate of that doctrine, but I thought it was now entirely abandoned. I would invite the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Matthews) to visit the part of Lancashire in which I have lived all my life and make the acquaintance of the school teachers. If he does so, I venture to say he will not find a single teacher, who has experience in teaching half-time scholars, who will bear out the view he has expressed. Teachers can only pass half timers through the standards by dint of great exertions, and those children who attend school full-time suffer from the attention which has to be bestowed on half-timers. The omission to alter the age is the more remarkable since the Royal Commission on Education, which 1775 was presided over by Lord Cross, a member of the present Cabinet, unanimously recommended that the half-time age should be raised to 11. I pass on to the question of certifying surgeons, and I must express my regret that a retrograde proposal on that subject has found its way into the Bill. I think it can be shown that certifying surgeons reject many children whom it is proposed to send to work, but who are not fit to enter the factory. My hon. Friend says that unfit children are not presented for employment in factories, but is not that because parents know that children will have to pass the examination of the certifying surgeon? Does not the existence of this official in itself provide an effective preventive, and check the employment of children who are unfit for the work to which parents might otherwise put them? My hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham and for Rhondda have both pressed upon the Home Secretary the importance of appointing an increased number of Inspectors. I believe that what is wanted is more Sub-Inspectors from that class from which the right hon. Gentleman told us the other day that he has lately been making appointments, from the ranks of the working classes—men familiar with the dangers of industrial occupations against which the system of inspection is to guard. In making their observations my hon. Friends represented not only the workmen with whom they are specially brought into contact, but also the opinion of the operatives in the district which I have the honour to represent. It is a strong conviction, founded on fact and personal experience, among these people, that it is absolutely necessary, if the Factory Acts are really to be carried out effectually, that the number of Sub-Inspectors must be considerably increased.
(10.3.) MR.H. S.WRIGHT (Nottingham, S.)
I desire to urge upon the Government to reconsider their decision in reference to the certifying surgeons. Medical evidence is entirely against it, and it seems to me to be a concession to employers at the expense of the children employed. I hope the Government will not insist upon retaining this Clause 19 in their otherwise excellent Bill. I have a letter from a very competent certifying surgeon doing duty in my own constituency, and he confirms my own opinion 1776 that the parents among the working classes generally are grateful for the protection afforded by the certifying surgeon, and the owners of factories are, perhaps, still more grateful when that gentleman points out any danger of infection running through a factory, doing incalculable damage. We have the alternative of ending or mending, and I cannot see why, if there are faults in the system, these faults cannot be amended and certifying surgeons everywhere made to discharge their duty as well as I know they do in my constituency. If you take away this official you take away a safeguard against the spread of an infectious disease from factory children through a whole town. I, therefore, respectfully urge the Government to consider the withdrawal of this clause.
§ (10.5.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
The introduction and passing of a Bill on this subject requires the greatest care, for it touches a statute which is one of the greatest glories of Parliament. I am anxious that the high standard of the past should be maintained in future factory legislation. The protection of life and health in our industrial occupations has been the object in all our Factory Acts, but in this Bill I do not see, I am sorry to say, that the same spirit is sufficiently displayed. I had hoped that there would have been a more determined endeavour to do away with the pernicious system of "sweating" in our large towns. I should have been glad to have seen the Bill follow more the lines of the Bill of the hon. Member for Poplar, but there is no indication of an adequate attempt to grapple with the evil. I hope we may yet persuade the right hon. Gentleman to accept Amendments which will give force to the Bill in the direction we desire. I am sorry that the sanitary aspect of the Factory Acts is not extended by this Bill. There is an opportunity in a measure of this kind for making the sanitary supervision of all places of industrial occupation much more effective than it is. We have an opportunity of taking care that all people shall be employed under the conditions least hurtful to health. It is the duty of the State to take the greatest care of the sanitary conditions under which Factory labour is carried on. Both employers and employed are insufficiently acquainted with this sub- 1777 ject and I doubt if the appointment of an increased number of Sub-Inspectors will meet the case. If the right hon. Gentleman were to appoint a large number of Inspectors from the ranks of the profession to which I have the honour to belong, he would obtain the kind of skill necessary for the sanitary improvements of workshops. I do not suppose that any such enlightened idea has entered the right hon. Gentleman's mind, and I am rather led to think so, because the factory surgeons seem to have incurred his displeasure in Clause 19. The question for the surgeon very often is not one of age, but of physical fitness for a particular occupation, and the medical officer alone, I maintain, has a sufficient insight into individual peculiarities to enable a right judgment to be arrived at on that matter. I hope from the general expression of opinion on both sides of the House that we shall have some alteration in the proposal to abolish certifying surgeons. The case of these surgeons has been stated again and again with considerable force, and I need not dwell upon it. I should be very sorry to see such a retrograde step taken in factory legislation as their abolition. I do not say that the present system cannot be improved, but I do say that we should not do away with the medical safeguards which the Factory Acts at present contain. The importance of this goes beyond particular trades, it is a matter of health and well-being to the population generally. Recently an hon. Friend of mine went down to Lancashire, on a sad occasion, to attend the funeral of Mr. John Bright. He had not had previous acquaintance with the physical aspect of the operatives in great Lancashire towns, and he told me on his return that he was painfully struck with the injurious affect of factory work upon the persons employed, and remarked upon the striking difference in physique between the men of the Lancashire manufacturing district and the men of the South and the Midlands. Well, his observation was just; and such a result can only be prevented in the future, by strengthening instead of weakening the check, by which certifying surgeons will keep oat the young, who are unfit for labour.
§ (10.14.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I wish to say a few words in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clitheroe (Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth). My constituency is in the same part of the county as his, and the occupation of the people similar in character; the conclusions at which I arrive, however, are not identical with those he has put before the House. I think the Government have done wisely not to introduce the recommendations of the Berlin Conference into this Bill, but have limited it to an Amendment of the Factory Acts. They could not, for example, raise the age for protection without dealing at the same time with the subject of education, because they would incur the risk of producing a condition in which the children would be no longer required to go to school, and yet would not be allowed to go to work. With reference to half-timers, I also have often conversed with the late Sir Edwin Chad wick, but I did not understand him to place the education of half-time children quite so high as the right hon. Gentleman supposes. I know he had a strong opinion in favour of the half-time system, but I do not believe he seriously maintained that half-timers learned more in their half days than other children with all their time at school. But if there was an "element of exaggeration" in Sir E. Chad wick's views as to the advantages of the half-time system, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman errs as much on the other side. The information I have received is that, though half-timers find it difficult quite to keep pace with the full-timers, they do very much more than half the proportion of work, but I believe it is generally understood that though they have only half-time at school, the children learn more than half as quickly. No doubt some extra exertion on the part of teachers is required to keep them abreast of their full-time schoolfellows, but if the 'standards were slightly eased in the case of half-timers, the teachers would say that they had no reason to complain. With regard to the question of certifying surgeons, there is no doubt that in my constituency opinion, both of employer and employed is strongly in favour of the Bill in its present form, and to the effect that the certifying surgeon's test 1779 is of very little good. Whether that opinion is well founded or not I do not know, but if it is so, I should regret it, because I think that the work of certifying surgeon ought to be so managed as to be of considerable use.
§ (10.18.) MR. BURT (Morpeth)
I have no intention of entering into the merits or demerits of the Bill. I have no doubt that some of the provisions relating to sanitary matters are improvements so far as they go, and I am very glad that the Factory Act is to be extended to workshops. I have risen, however, merely to express my deep disappointment that the Government have not raised the age at which children are to be employed. This country is in many respects in advance of nearly all other nations of the world, and some of our industrial legislation is, I think, the glory of our country and our Parliament. There is, however, one point in which we are behind Germany, Switzerland, and some nations in the North of Europe, and that is the age at which we allow our children to begin work. At the Berlin Conference there was a unanimous recommendation in favour of raising the age for work in mines to 14, and in all other employments to 12. The Home Secretary has said that the bulk of the delegates to that Conference agreed in that recommendation, but my belief is that the recommendation was unanimous; at all events, it was unanimous so far as the British representatives were concerned. I see in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chatham, who was to a large extent the spokesman of this country, and put forward his views with great ability, and with the very great sympathy which he has always evinced so far as industrial legislation is concerned. I suppose it would be inconsistent with party discipline and Government etiquette, but I wish that the right hon. Gentleman could have risen and answered the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary has spoken of the difficulty of carrying out a change of this kind. No doubt there are always great difficulties in such a matter; there is the loss to the parents, and some of them may object. I do not say that we can view without consideration the feelings of parents, and, I believe that there are parents who, owing perhaps in a large measure to the necessities of their own 1780 circumstances, are not sufficiently considerate with regard to their children; but I think that it is the duty of Members of Parliament and of Governments in some cases to educate public opinion to the proper standard on matters of this kind. With regard to the Berlin Conference, I think that the cotton operatives of this country were very well represented; Mr. Birtwistle knows thoroughly what are their views and feelings. The Home Secretary has argued as if the half-time system relieves us of the necessity of carrying out that recommendation, but I do not think so. There may be educational advantages, I believe there are, in that system; but the recommendation is absolute not to allow any children to enter any employment before they are 12. The hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester says the delegates reserved to themselves the question of when this should be brought into operation, and he says it is a question of time and ingenuity and should be done by degrees. I entirely agree that it should be done by degrees; but what I complain of is that the Government are not taking a step in advance. The hon. Baronet says that parents, rather than employers, would object to the alteration. With regard to the parents, my opinion is that it will only be the less thrifty and careful of them that will object to a change of this kind, and I think that we should make such a change gradually. We had always done it in a very gradual way. When the law was altered as to the employment of boys in mines, those already employed were allowed to go on as before, and a year and ample time was allowed in order that the employers should adapt themselves to the change. Nobody will object to time being allowed, but the Government ought to have endeavoured to raise the standard of age, and thereby have effected a great improvement on the existing condition of things. No doubt Germany and some other countries on the Continent are influenced in the action they had taken very much by military consideration, but it is surely not less important for us as a great industrial country to care for the physical and mental development of our people. I should like to remind the Home Secretary of what took place two or three years ago 1781 with regard to the Mines Regulation Bill. As introduced it left the age at 10. I submitted an Amendment raising it to 12, and that Amendment was carried by an overwhelming majority. The question was again raised on Report, and it was again carried by a diminished majority, but still a very substantial one. But in the meantime we had representations from the employers and also from the men specially affected urging that we should maintain the age at 10. But I and my colleagues did not listen to those representations at all. We believed that they were dictated by narrow and selfish considerations. We believed the great mass of the miners would support us in our endeavour to raise the age of the half-timers; and for my part I quite believe that the same thing would happen with regard to the cotton trade, where the great majority of the operatives would also be in favour of raising the age. I am quite sure that the opinion of this House and the general opinion of the public outside will support Her Majesty's Government if they can only be induced to take a more courageous course in dealing with this matter. There is just one other point to which I should like to refer. I think that, considering that one of the difficulties we have to face in the foreign competition we are subjected to arises from the long hours and the low wages of the Continental workpeople, together with some other factors which I need not go into, we, having entered into the Berlin Conference, and having thereby become a party to the recommendation it made with regard to the limitation of age, are in honour bound to give effect to that recommendation. I ask Her Majesty's Government how they can expect other nations, who are behind us in. regard to many other subjects, to come up to our standard in those matters if we refuse to take a step in advance in some of those questions in which we are far behind them?
§ (10.32.) COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
In regard to the question of age, to which reference has been made by the hon. Member for Morpeth, I may state that I saw some of the deputations of miners which came up to London to request that the Secretary of State might still permit boys to work in the thin 1782 seams at 10 years old, and that I gathered from them that the fathers wished their boys to work with them in the mines, because if they did not do this they would have to go further away and work in the mills. I am certainly of opinion that there should be a uniform age established for all the great industries throughout the country, and that that should be 12 years rather than 10.
§ (10.34.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester. Cirencester)
The tone in which this Bill has been received on both sides of the House is, I think, a matter congratulation for the Government, of Having myself been a manufacturer for a quarter of a century, I think I may say that we also should take credit in that there has been on this occasion nothing like the selfish opposition from employers which greeted the old Factory Acts when they were introduced. I have only three serious objections to advance against this Bill. The first is that it excludes the domestic workshops. That is a matter which I hope the Government will very carefully consider. It is a very grave and important matter, but it is one which only affects the large towns and. cities, for which special arrangements might easily be made. I think it would be a thousand pities if this Bill were passed without something being done to put a stop to the abominable sweating which takes place in workshops outside the ken and control of the Factory Inspector. Secondly, I want to add my word of protest about the half-timers; and here I endorse every word which fell from my hon. Friend when he urged that we should not lose this golden opportunity of raising the standard of age at which the children are permitted to work as half-timers. In the West of England—in Gloucester shire and Wiltshire—there are practically no half-timers. We do not employ children there until they have reached the age of 13 or 14, and I do not think there would be any opposition worth talking about on the part of the working classes if we were to raise the age to 12, as recommended by the Berlin Conference. I do not believe it would in the result hurt my brother manufacturers in the North, for I believe that the rising generation of industrial hands would by a development of technical and evening continuation schools be enabled to grow 1783 up far more capable than they are at present of maintaining the manufacturing supremacy of this country. My third objection is to Clause 13. I certainly think that to insert a 12 hours clause in an Act of Parliament as the recognised period of daily labour for women is a monstrous thing at this time of day. Of course, we shall in the Grand Committee have an opportunity of ventilating all these questions one by one; but I should have liked to have heard more expression of opinion from both sides of the House in reference to Clause 13, to the effect that the maximum number of hours during which women should be employed away from their homes should be 10 instead of 12. I have a word also to say as to Clause 7, relating to fire escapes. Although this is only a matter of detail, I cannot help making this protest, that if the lives of the operatives are so endangered that we ought to provide a second escape in case of fire, that it is quite as necessary in existing factories as in those which are to be erected after the year 1892. Either this second escape is necessary or it is not. If it is not necessary do not impose the obligation; if it be necessary, put upon us—the manufacturers—the obligation of providing it. I will only add a word about the doctors. After what has been said the Government will be obliged to give in. No one will be more surprised than the doctors themselves when they see the love and affection they inspire in hon. Members on both sides of this House. With regard to clause 17, as to the half day's holiday, I think a fourteen days' notice is too long, and that it will be well to reduce it to seven. In country districts the people sometimes do not know 14 days beforehand the occasion on which they may desire a half-holiday, and it would be better to require only a week's notice. As to the other details of the Bill I will not detain the House; I congratulate the Government on having brought in the Bill; it is a small but useful measure, and I congratulate the House that it has met with so much, approval on the part of the Representatives and employers of labour. I can only hope that when this and the other Bill proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) have been considered by the Grand Committee upstairs, the 1784 result will be the passage of a measure that will do at least something to make the lives of those who work in our factories and workshops more happy and more wholesome.
§ (10.40.) MR. HINCKES (Staffordshire, Leek)
I only desire to call the attention of the House to one point which I think is deserving the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. I know from my'own experience as an Inspector of private adventure schools that a large number of schools were started for the express purpose of enabling the certificates to be given by means of which the children are allowed to go to work. It has hitherto been found hardly possible to suppress these schools which practically serve no other purpose, because the Factory Inspectors have been in the habit of recognising the certificates obtained from them as sufficient authority for sending the children to work. I hope we shall be enabled to obtain some assurance from the Home Office, that in future the Inspectors will be instructed to inquire into-the character of these schools, and to refuse to recognise the certificates obtained from really worthless sources.
§ (10.42.) MR. LENG (Dundee)
If the half - time system is a had system, then I represent one of the worst cities in the Kingdom; but if it be a good system then I represent one of the best cities, because I believe that in proportion to its manufacturing operations we have a larger number of half-timers in Dundee than are to be found in almost any other manufacturing town. The reason why I have risen to speak on this subject is that, on account of this large proportion of half-timers in Dundee, this question is a very serious one for my constituency. My own sympathies are all in favour of raising the statutory age at which children may be employed, but at the same time, I cannot but recognise the fact that if a sudden change were made, it might cause a serious derangement in the conditions under which the factory system is at present carried on. While. we have in Dundee so large a number of half-timers, the employers have been exceedingly liberal in the erection of half-time schools; these have been in existence for many years, and having been efficiently conducted have produced the best possible results. Therefore, I think 1785 the employers would object to any sudden change which would materially interfere with existing arrangements. I am aware, however, that outside the employers there is, especially among the Trades Union class, a general desire that the age should be raised. On the other hand, I am certain that if the parents generally were polled on the subject at the present moment, the majority would be found to object to this proposal. Therefore, I think, that in view of these varied interests it is desirable that while we should aim at raising the age, this should be done in the gradual manner which the hon. Member who represents one of the Manchester Divisions has recommended. I will only say one word upon the question of certifying surgeons. In connection with this half-time system, so eager are the parents, and so eager are the children to obtain employment at the earliest possible age, that there have been numerous cases in which the certificates have been transferred from those to whom they rightly belonged, to children of much younger years, who produced them, though really false certificates; and unless we have surgeons to check these certificates there is very little doubt that a very large number of children of much younger age than ought to be employed would be employed. I certainly agree that with these surgeons to attest the age of children there would be few children who would be employed at too young an age. I understood the Home Secretary in reply to my question to say that he has already the power to appoint women Inspectors, but that on grounds of nexpediecy, economy, and practicability, he did not see his way to exercise it. These reasons are generally advanced at the earlier stages of a new proposal. I can only say that feeling among the female operatives of Dundee is strongly in favour of the appointment of Inspectors of their own sex. A deputation of these female operatives waited upon me and my hon. Colleague,and they stated that they seldom if ever saw an Inspector, or if they did see him they had no opportunity of speaking to him. They added that there were numerous sanitary matters on which they would like to speak to Inspectors of their own sex which they could not well bring under the attention of a man. Of more than a 1786 million operatives engaged in factories, 700,000 are women, and yet there is not a single female Inspector. I am quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman, who spoke of economy, could employ a large number of women as Inspectors at rates with which they would be perfectly satisfied—and lower than are paid to the male Inspectors. There is no doubt that if you are to have an efficient system of inspection, especially if you extend the Factory Act to workshops, you must add to the staff of Inspectors. A number of well educated and intelligent women could be employed as Inspectors. The deputation of female operatives said that frequently some of their number were injured by pieces of machinery, but they had no opportunity of gaining the attention of the Inspector, who was generally talked over by the mill foreman. I am sure this work of inspection would be appropriate for those ladies who are leaving our colleges and universities, and for whose abilities there is at present some difficulty in finding an outlet.
§ (10.52.) MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I should like to impress upon the Home Secretary the necessity of considering very seriously the position of the staff of Inspectors at the Home Office. It is at present wholly inadequate to perform the duties which devolve upon it, and I hope the Home Secretary will be able to give some assurance to the House that, in the event of this Bill emerging from Committee in a form which will justify his acceptance of it, he will secure a sufficient staff to carry its provisions into effect. Considerable dissatisfaction exists among the working classes with the system under which Inspectors are at present appointed. The candidate for an inspectorship is called upon to pass an examination such as makes it generally impossible for a working man to become an Inspector.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware that the scheme of examination has been revised with the very object of meeting the case of working men.
§ MR. BYRON REED
I was not aware of that. Has it been placed before the House as a Parliamentary Paper?
§ MR. BYRON REED
Then perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will lay it on 1787 the Table and let the House have an opportunity of examining it. I desire to give earnest support to this Bill, and I hope that its details will be threshed out upstairs, with the result that we shall speedily have an improvement in our system of factory inspection, and above all a definition of the duties and areas of Inspectors responsible to the Home Department.
§ (10.55.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The duties of Inspectors will be considerably increased by this Bill, and, seeing that the number of women employed in these factories exceeds the number of men, the right hon. Gentleman must no doubt be aware that there has been for a long time very much dissatisfaction among workwomen and among those interested in their condition, that there should not, among all the Inspectors, be one female Inspector. I can bear testimony to the interest which exists in this matter among a large number of workwomen. They feel that there are many matters connected with their well-being in workshops and factories which can only be inquired into by women. I believe frequent representations have been made on the subject by women's societies and trades' organisations, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear them in mind, and that if reasons exist in his mind against making this concession, he will state them to the House in order that we may be able to meet them. I certainly commend this matter of female Inspectors very earnestly to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, assuring him that it will give us great satisfaction if he can see his way to make this amendment.
§ (10.58.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
I am sure the Home Secretary must feel thoroughly satisfied with the discussion, and that it would have been a great mistake to have taken the Second Reading sub silentio. congratulate him and the House on the tone and temper of the discussion, which has been free from any Party feeling. There has been no desire on either side to minimise the benefits of the measure or to deprecate the efforts of the Home Secretary, or to condemn severely any defects that the measure may exhibit. I am very glad in that respect that the House of Commons has not followed the example of some hon. and right hon. 1788 Gentlemen who sit on the Treasury Bench, and who, since this measure has been introduced, have made Party speeches, which I very much deplore, and which, if made in this House, would have set a very bad example. This question is above Party, concerning, as it does, our industries, and the physical, moral, and mental wellbeing of the great mass of the population. Now, Sir, while there are many features in the Bill which I am very glad to see, I hope when we get it upstairs we shall be able to amend it in certain others of its features. I confess to a feeling of disappointment, when I opened it, at its shortcomings. There are many shortcomings in the Bill. It does not, for instance, contain adequate provisions for dealing with the Report of the Sweating Committee and the dreadful disclosures which were made during the progress of the inquiry by that Committee. The proposals of the Bill in regard to this matter are extremely meagre. In the matter of the age of children the proceedings of the Conference of Berlin have been entirely ignored. The right hon. Gentleman, with a wave of his hand, disposed of everything done by that Conference. I congratulated Her Majesty's Government the first moment I heard that, at the invitation of the Emperor of Germany, they intended to go into the Conference. It was the first opportunity that England had ever had of going into an International Conference upon the labour question, and no country will gain so much by international cooperation on the labour question as England. It is our interest to bring other nations up to our level of factory legislation, and it is our interest, where they have gone beyond us in the protection and education of children, to follow their legislation and to try to come up to their level I congratulate the Government, therefore, on what they did. But I must say, also, I congratulate them, and I did so from the first moment, on the persons they appointed to represent them at Berlin. I have read the Report of the Conference over and over again, and have saturated my mind with it, which I am afraid the Government have not done—the right hon. Gentleman has not got the whole of the facts. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Chatham for the admirable manner in which 1789 he conducted his part of the proceedings, and to the hon. Member for Morpeth and the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester for the way in which they supported him. There is no more useful record on the labour question in modern times than is to be found within the limits of the Blue Book on the subject, and I wish that every Member of Parliament and every Minister on the Government Bench would inform, themselves thoroughly of its contents. According to the Home Secretary there is no moral obligation on the Government, from what happened at Berlin, to carry out the agreement signed by our representative. The right hon. Gentleman said that, so far from our being in any way bound, Mr. Scott only gave his consent to the proposal as to age ad referendum. But if the right hon. Gentleman had pursued the Report a little further he would have found that Mr. Scott only made that statement in Committee of the Conference. The Conference was divided up into subsections, and Mr. Scott was appointed member of that sub-committee which dealt with child labour, and when they came to the question of raising the age he said he could not agree to it except ad referendum, and it was raferred to Lord Salisbury. Sir J. Gorst, writing on the 13th of March, said that the subcommittee discussed the age of the admission of children to work in factories, and passed a resolution for the absolute limit of 12 years. There were eight votes in favour of the resolution, namely, those of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Prance, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, and no votes against it; but the representatives of England, Spain, and Italy abstained from voting. Sir John Gorst added—We are all, including our experts, in favour of the above resolution, and shall be glad to receive instructions as to whether we shall be supported in plenary conference.Our Factory Inspector (Mr. Wimper) was in favour of it, as were also Mr. Birt-wistle, who represented the operatives of Lancashire, the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester, and Mr. Burnett, of the Board of Trade. Two days after, on the 15th of March, Lord Salisbury telegraphed that he approved the course proposed in the sub-committee. Sir J. Gorst wrote on the 25th of March that they understood they had his Lordship's 1790 authority to assent to three proposals which were in advance of our present law, namely, raising the minimum age of child labour to 12, raising the minimum age for underground labour to 14, and the cessation from labour for four weeks for a woman who had been confined. Lord Salisbury's answer was:—"Your attitude approved. You may consent to the proposals." Can anything be more explicit than that? There is no reservation about it. The right hon Gentleman has adopted in the Bill one of the proposals. He has adopted that relating to women, but he has not adopted that relating to children. Children have no votes, but their parents have; and 1 know the grounds of the right hon. Gentleman's action and have some sympathy with him. Twenty years ago I brought forward a Factory Bill. At that time children were employed in factories at the age of eight years, and in North of England towns—in Lancashire and Yorkshire—the sound of their little clogs could be heard passing through the street at half-past 5 in the morning, in order that the factory gates might be reached when the bell rang, and work might be commenced at 6 o'clock. I brought in a Bill to lower the hours of labour for women, and to raise the age of children. Some workpeople came to me and said that they needed the children's labour; and the employers also objected to the restriction. I told those people that it was at their request I had brought forward the Bill, and that I had inserted the clause which had been objected to on my own resolution; and I told them that if they opposed the clause raising the age of the children I would drop the entire Bill. I said "Take which you please." They allowed me to persevere, and I carried the Bill. The Government took the matter up in 1874—it became a test question at the elections, and we carried the Bill. How was it done? Precisely as you might carry this Bill, with provisions further restricting child labour. We did not do it rashly, proposing that the new provisions should take effect in a day or a year. What the right hon. Gentleman might now do is what Mr. Cross did when he was Home Secretary. The legislation was not sudden in its effect or retrospective. The children who were in the mills were allowed to remain 1791 there. After a year the age was raised to nine, and after two years to 10; and from that time to this there has not been a word of dissent uttered against the change. In the Bill the House is now discussing, as I have said, only one of the recommendations of the Berlin Conference has been adopted, although we are pledged to carry out those I have enumerated. What were the resolutions of the Conference as to child labour? They were seven—Children of either sex not having reached a certain age not to work in factories, and the limit of age to be fixed at 12 years, except in southern countries, where the limit maybe 10.All our representatives at the Conference objected to this limitation in the case of southern countries, and they fought the question persistently. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Gorst) objected to anyone in southern countries employing children of 10 years of age—we shall see what you do in India by-and-by—Children below 14 years of ago shall work neither at night nor on Sundays, and their work shall not exceed six hours a day, and shall be broken by a rest of at least half an hour; children shall be excluded from unhealthy and dangerous processes unless effective measures are taken for their protection.An hon. MEMBER: We are beyond them?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
How are we beyond them? We commence working children at 10 years of age; they recommend 12, and 14 in the cases I am referring to. There is nothing more discreditable than the low standards, the passing of which enable children to work half-time. It is not the fault of the Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Sir W. Hart Dyke) is not in the Cabinet, and does not control the decisions of the Cabinet. I observe that the Vice President has not said a word in support of the Home Secretary's statement that half-time education is as good as whole-time education. He is far too shrewd a man. Now, what was the conclusion of the Conference after all the agreements .were signed? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Gorst) said—We can pledge ourselves for Great Britain. Our Government, faithful to its action in the past, will conform resolutely in the future, even if it does not go beyond them, to the benevolent resolutions of the Conference.I wish the Government were willing to 1792 conform to the benevolent resolutions of the Conference. As it is an unpopular duty, I am quite prepared to have as much responsibility as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Matthews) pleases placed on the Opposition. We have already been instrumental in raising the age for factory work, and we are quite willing to take the responsibility of further action of the same kind. I want to know what is to be said about the effect of Royal Commissions? There is going to be a Royal Commission on Labour. Is it going to do anything, or is it to prevent anything being done? I hold in my hand the Report made by the Royal Commission on Education appointed by the Government in 1885. Lord Cross presided over it, and the Report was unanimously agreed to by every member of the Commission. The majority of that Commission were in favour of raising the minimum age of half-timers to 11 years. The minority would have been willing to go further, but in order to secure unanimity they agreed to that. Three years ago, then, a Commission reported that the half-time age should be raised to 11. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that? That is surely not too advanced a step for him. I hope he will allow that alteration to be made in Committee. I would like to give the right hon. Gentleman a little encouragement on the point. Some years ago I was the guest of the late Sir Titus Salt, who was one of the largest manufacturers of Bradford goods in the world, and he impressed on me that the time had come for raising the age to 12. Immediately after the Report of the Berlin Conference was circulated I met one of the largest employers in Lancashire, Mr. Thomas Ashton, of Manchester, and he said he was quite prepared to go to 12 for half-timers. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, need not be apprehensive of any great opposition if the alteration is made temperately and by steps. It was shown by the hon. Baronet opposite that the number of half-timers has decreased by nearly one-third during the last 10 or 12 years. That is because parents are now more in favour of education and are more considerate of their children. Surely the House ought to do what it can to educate public opinion, as was well said in the most manly and able speech of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), and to 1793 encourage these temperate, wise, and thrifty parents by gradually raising the age at which children may be employed. The right hon. Gentleman said to-night that his desire was to bring all factories and workshops up to the same sanitary level. I wish that was likely to be the effect of the Bill, and I hope when the measure leaves the Committee that will be its effect. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he thinks that Clause 19 is likely to raise the standard. I hold no brief for the certifying surgeons. I have paid their fees for the greater part of my life, and I believe they have earned them well and done excellent service to the country. Lord Shaftesbury, when I spoke to him about certifying surgeons, was always strenuous in maintaining that their services should be continued. There is abundant evidence not only that they frequently reject children, but that their work has acted as a great deterrent against the employment of sickly, weakly, and diseased children. Parents know now that it would be useless to take such children to the certifying surgeons. In many cases evidence has been placed in my hands that children suffering from scarlet fever and other infectious diseases have been presented to and rejected by the doctor and sent home to be cured. Surely this is most important in the interests of the health of the country. I think the right hon. Gentleman has made a great mistake in this attempt to abolish the office of certifying surgeons. I do not say these gentlemen have done all they might have done, but I think that, instead of abolishing their office, the right hon. Gentleman might turn them to very much better account. They ought not to be retained merely for certifying the fitness of children for work. They ought also to occasionally walk through the factories and report to Her Majesty's Inspectors if they find any child in an insanitary condition or suffering from infectious diseases. I feel very strongly on these questions, because when I read the excellent addresses delivered at the Berlin Conference by men like M. Jules Simon, whose life has been devoted to improving the condition of the children of his country, and the admirably sympathetic response of my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir J. Gorst), I feel sure that if we are to make 1794 the people of this country a vigorous, happy, moral, and intellectual population we must begin by taking care of the children. The responsibility rests with this House. What we do in the present will decide the conditions of the future and the sort of population that will ultimately carry on the government of this country.
§ (11.36.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART WORTLEY,) Sheffield, Hallam
I think that before this Debate closes the House ought to know what was resolved at the Berlin Conference before it accepts the strictures of the right hon. Gentleman. It would appear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that it was resolved at that Conference that until the age of 14 all whole-time work should be prohibited; but that was not the case. It was simply resolved that no child should be employed by night or on a Sunday, but except in that connection the age of 14 was not mentioned as the minimum age at all. The resolutions contemplated that children of 12 should have their hours of labour limited to 36 in the week, which is beyond the limit at present fixed by the law in England. Therefore, as regards children between the ages of 12 and 13, our law is better than that laid down at Berlin. At the age of 13, if a child cannot pass a given standard it may not be employed more than 28 hours a week in a textile factory, or 30 hours in a non-textile factory. But under the resolutions of the Berlin Conference any child between the age of 12 and 14 could be employed for 36 hours a week in any industry except mines. What, then, becomes of the reckless and indiscriminate charge that not one of the very important resolutions of the Berlin Conference has been given effect to? It is true that the first resolution—to the effect that children of either sex shall be excluded below the age of 12—is only partially carried out by the Government's Bill; but that is the only instance where the recommendations of the Berlin Conference are not fully realised. That Conference required that the children should satisfy the Local Authorities as to their education, and that those under 14 should not be employed at night. The Berlin Conference, too. fixed a higher maximum period of employment than this Bill, and it also 1795 prohibited the engagement of children in unhealthy occupations, but so, too, does the existing Factory Act. The Government have simply carried out the understanding of the Berlin Delegates that, in giving effect to the resolutions of the Conference, the different countries shall be able to pay some regard to special difficulties and circumstances. Therefore, we are entitled to look at this Bill from that point of view. Side by side with the remedies proposed the mischiefs which call for those remedies ought to be considered; and before making a revolutionary change in the industries of the North of England, the English Government have a right to demand that, in the numerous other matters of health and danger dealt with at the Conference, foreign legislation shall be more nearly brought up to English standards. It ought to be remembered that in, most of these matters foreign laws do not come up to our standard. The Government are ready to acknowledge the sympathetic spirit with which their sanitary provisions have been received, but it would have been fairer if hon. Members, when declaring the shortcomings of these resolutions, had specified what those shortcomings are. I venture to submit that they are very inconsiderable. The whole question of the sanitation of factories and workshops is almost inextricably complicated with the provisions of the health law. In the desire to get uniformity of administration the Government have been obliged to hand over the workshops entirely to the Local Authority, and in doing that they have revived and brought into operation a quantity of most important and valuable provisions which do not appear on the face of the Bill. It is only fair that this should be borne in mind. And now I come to matters of detail. With regard to the question of fire-escapes and the distinction between present buildings and future buildings, there is abundant precedent for it in the legislation of all times. Great structural alterations cannot be enforced in existing establishments without reasonable inquiry into the necessities of the case. No such consideration, however, will hinder action in the case of future buildings, all of which will have to conform to a fully sufficient minimum standard of provision against fire. The hon. Member for 1796 the Rhondda Division thinks there is not adequate provision for the fencing of machinery. But not only do we strengthen existing provisions in that respect, we also, by our Arbitration Clauses, deal with cases where for fencing purposes a great expenditure of capital may be necessary. As to overtime, it is only fair that the views of the public should be brought to our notice. It is undoubtedly necessary to provide against a standing increase in the hours of labour. The provision relating to certifying surgeons has not been put into the Bill by my right hon. Friend for his own amusement. It was urged upon his attention by the largest, most influential, most unanimous, and most widely representative deputation that I have ever seen—a deputation representing the employers and the employed in all the textile industries of the Kingdom. That deputation was introduced by the hon. Member for West Nottingham, and, remembering the speech delivered by the hon. Member this evening, I should like to know whether the hon. Member is still of opinion that these certificates are a meaningless form and a burden upon industry, and that they ought to be abolished.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
That, at any rate, was the view of the hon. Member when he introduced the deputation. Some hon. Members have talked as if the present use of the certificate system is an effective safeguard against disease and infection; but that is scarcely ever the case. I submit that the conduct of the Government in waiting until public opinion has unmistakably manifested itself with regard to the minimum age of employment is not unreasonable. But there is no doubt the question is one which the Government are willing shall be considered fairly in Committee. But we desire that the decision come to shall be such as public opinion in this country will support and the necessities, of our competition with foreign industries will justify.
§ (11.44.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I should like to make a suggestion with regard to the 19th clause. Could not the medical certificate be retained, and the charge for it be defrayed out of public funds? I 1797 think that would get rid of much of the objection to it. Also, I should like to know whether it would be in the purview of the Bill to move an Amendment bringing within its scope all engaged in sale shops. Such an extension would do away with the necessity for the Bill of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the London University.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c."
§ (11.46.) MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
May I venture to suggest that it would be better to refer this Bill to a Select Committee? It deals largely with questions connected with the textile factories, and I have found that on the Standing Committee on Trade there are scarcely any representatives connected with those trades. I make these observations for the purpose of calling attention to this matter, in the hope that the Government will see their way to strengthening the representation of the textile trades on the Committee.
§ (11.47.) MR. MATTHEWS
My hon. Friend may perhaps remember that the Committee of Selection have full powers to add members to the Grand Committee, and they will, no doubt, bear in mind the matter to which the hon. Member has referred.
§ (11.48.) MR. ESSLEMONT
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question as to extending the provisions of the Bill to persons employed in sale shops?
§ Question put, and agreed to.