§ As amended, considered.
§ *(4.46.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I beg to move the following new clause:—On and after the 1st day of January, 1893, no child under the age of 11 years shall be employed in a factory or workshop. Provided always that any child lawfully employed under the principal Act, or any Act relating to the employment of children, at the time that the provisions of this clause come into operation shall he exempt from its provisions.804 I think the House will agree that, considering the importance of this question and the narrow majorities against the principle of my clause in the Grand Committee, I am justified in appealing from the judgment of the Grand Committee to that of the House at large. Further, the Home Secretary himself, in reply to one of the deputations that waited upon him, stated that, to the best of his belief and judgment, the House would be against him on this point, as it has been against him in regard to the certifying surgeons, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will prove to have been a true prophet. With regard to the present proposal, it has been necessary, in consequence of the exigencies of procedure on Report, to divide the Amendment into two parts, and to deal with it in the form of two separate clauses—that is to say, to place before the House first the question of raising the half-time age from 10 to 11, and then to take a division on the question of raising the half-time age from 11 to 12. We do not wish, by striving for too much to run the risk of losing all, and I hope that if the House will not consent to raise the age of half-timers by two years that, at all events, they will be able to arrive at a conclusion on the subject in the terms of the compromise suggested by the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester. But the general argument applies equally to raising the age of the children from 10 to 11 as from 10 to 12. There is this, however, to be said, that in raising the age from 10 to 11 you would cause less disturbance to existing conditions than you would by raising it two years; but against that there is the sound argument that when you are disturbing existing conditions it is better to carry the matter to completion. I will not detain the House by going into a history of the half-time system. At the present moment the law stands thus: that in factories and workshops, and, in fact, in every employment except theatres, no child can be employed under 10 years of age, and no child can be employed in factories and workshops full time under 14 years of age unless it has passed the fourth standard of educational requirements, and then only after it is 13. But, subject to these rules, it remains in the power of the local educational authorities throughout the 805 country to fix the standard of exemption both for half-time and full-time children, and I am sorry to say that in many of our great towns, and especially in many of our great manufacturing towns, this standard of exemption for half-time employment has been fixed very low indeed. I find that in 24 municipal boroughs, including such large towns as Macclesfield, Barrow, and Rochdale, the standard for half-timers has been fixed at the second; whilst in towns like Bradford, Salford, Blackburn, Oldham, and Manchester, the standard of exemption has been fixed at the third, whilst in other towns it has been fixed at the fourth. With regard to the number of children who will be effected by this proposal, there is no real dispute. The Home Secretary has accepted the figures I submitted to the Grand Committee, namely, that there are 185,000 half-timers altogether in the United Kingdom, of whom something like 100,000 are half-timers in factories and workshops. Of these something like 25 per cent. are between the ages of 10 and 11, and something like 35 per cent. are between the ages of 11 and 12, making a total number of children affected by the two proposals of some 60,000—of whom, according to a Return which was presented the other day, some 40,000 are in Lancashire and Yorkshire. I desire the House to understand that in making this proposal I have no desire to attack the half-time system in itself, and it will be beside the mark in meeting my proposal to argue in favour of the principle of the half-time system. We desire not to end it, but to mend it; and we wish by this proposal and the subsequent one, to allow children to go into the mills at a later period of life and not to be employed full time at such an early age as at present. But, while I do not desire to attack the half-time system as such, I think that a good deal we have heard in favour—especially in the case of very small children—of the employment of children has been very highly coloured and overdrawn. Indeed, listening to some of the remarks which we heard in Committee, one almost wondered that any children were allowed to go on full time at all when the little half-timers were proved to demonstration to be so much healthier, happier, and wiser than their fellows. But whatever may be the merits as to half-time 806 in regard to the elder children, I think that in regard to the younger children—these mites of 10 and 11—they are not physically fitted to lead the double life which they are now called on to lead—the life of a school child at school and the life of a toiling operative. Take first the question of health. I have no wish to exaggerate either the difficulties of the work or the disagreeable nature of the work, and all I contend is that the conditions under which these small children are employed must be injurious both to their physical and mental development and to their healthiness in future life. Let hon. Members consider the conditions under which these children work. Let them imagine a little child of 10 years of age—an age at which most of us are just beginning to send our children to school for the first time—getting up at a very early hour of the morning in order to be at the mill at 6 o'clock, and working there five or six hours, standing most of the time, and breathing an overheated, vitiated, and oily atmosphere. ["Oh!"] Well, I do not think the hon. Member opposite will contend that it is a very healthy atmosphere, and that even in the best conducted factories the atmosphere is of a very pure description. In many of our great factories, and certainly in our workshops, the atmosphere cannot be anything but unhealthy to children. No doubt the Home Secretary will trot out again, as he trotted out in Committee, the Reports of the Factory Inspectors and of certifying surgeons—those certifying surgeons whose uselessness and incompetency he endeavoured to prove to the Committee when he desired to abolish them. No doubt he can produce plenty of evidence in favour of the half-time system as a whole, but I do not believe he can give the House any direct evidence from these gentlemen in favour of working these small children at 10 or 11 years of age. At any rate, whatever may be the evidence to that effect, it is traversed directly by others who have better means of watching the health and education of these children. I confess I think it was very much to be regretted that the Home Secretary, while he cheerfully received two deputations from employers and others who happened to take 807 his own view on this subject, discreetly declined to receive a deputation from the elementary school teachers of Lancashire and Yorkshire. I think that they would have placed the matter in such a light that, even to his mind, there would have been a great deal more to be said for this proposal than he thinks at the present moment. These teachers have the best opportunity of watching the half-time children and comparing them with the full-time children, and their unanimous opinion is that the half-timers come to school dull, drowsy, and exhausted. As one of them said the other day: "The bright, quick, intelligent child of Standard II. becomes the dull, stolid, I almost said the stupid child of Standards III. and IV." I would ask the permission of the House to be allowed to read a sentence from a letter which I have received from the manager of a Bolton mill, who is quite willing that his name should be given if necessary. He says that children of 9 or 10 years of age are, as a rule, unfit to bear the strain of the high temperature and the monotonous discipline of working among machinery: "after a short time they become pallid, their vitality is not strong, and they become prematurely old, aged, and faded-looking." In the last annual Report of the Bolton Operatives' Association I find that great complaint is made by the operatives themselves of the high temperature and vitiated atmosphere in which they have to work as peculiarly conducive to the contraction of chest complaints and rheumatic affections. Surely if this state of things is bad for adults it is far worse for children. Again, Dr. Tonop, of Heywood, Lancashire, says—Factory work is not so excessively laborious, but it is the heat, impurity, and dustladen state of the atmosphere that injures health. The promising child of 10 degenerates into the lean and sallow young person of 13, and this process is continued until a whole population becomes stunted, and this is a real source of danger for the future.I do not know whether the hon. Member from Lancashire will object to Dr. Tonop's succeeding remarks, but he goes on—In addition to the loss of physique it is instructive to note the deterioration in personal appearance. Of the 2,000 children under notice only 16 had any claim to good looks, and 808 of these a large proportion were girls from Ireland—a small oasis of beauty in a vast desert of plain looks.I also desire to remind the House that these children of whom I have spoken are children who, when they first go into the mill, are picked children. They are bright and healthy children, who have had to pass readily the ordeal of the certifying surgeon and the keen eye of the overseer. It is not only the physical effect on these children which we have to consider, serious as that is, but it is also the effect on the physique of the future generation, and, consequently, the effect on the community at large. On this matter I think the Home Secretary and his supporters will have to adduce rather better arguments than that put forward in Committee by the senior Member for Blackburn. He contended that it was quite impossible that the physique of the population could have been affected, because the Blackburn Rovers had won the International Challenge Cup eight times out of ten. I admit to the full the force of that argument, but it is somewhat robbed of its overwhelming weight when we discover that this team, which proves the physique of the people of Lancashire, consists of five Scotchmen specially imported for the purpose, one schoolmaster, one carriage painter, one professor of music, one unemployed, and two publicans. And of all the number only one—one of the publicans—has been a half-timer. So much as regards the question of health. Education is the next most important point in this connection. The Home Secretary on the Second Reading of the Bill said not only that the health of the children on the half-time system was as good, if not better, than that of those who spent the whole of their time in school as full-timers—which I have attempted to disprove—but, further, that "It was found that the education of the children was better. They were sharper and more intelligent, and they made equal progress in school with the full-timers." Again, I regret that he did not receive the deputation of school teachers, for they would have been able to tell him that while it is true that these half-timers are as a rule at first sharper and more intelligent than the full-timers, and have proved it by being able to pass the standard at an early age, 809 they are soon reduced by the pressure of education and work combined to a state of apathy and nervous exhaustion which makes it difficult to teach them and almost impossible for them to learn. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary declared that they make "equal educational progress with the full-timers." What does his colleague the Vice President of the Council on Education say? The junior Member for Oldham, having been unfortunately deceived by the words of the Home Secretary, asked a question on this point the other day, and the right hon. Gentleman acted on this occasion as a sort of inverted Balaam, for being asked to bless the half-time system he could only curse it by the answer he gave.
§ *MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I understood the hon. Gentleman, who is strongly opposed to this clause, would not have been sorry if the facts had shown that the half-timers made as good educational progress as the full-timers. Well, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Dartford Division of Kent in his reply to the question, said that a comparison of the Oldham and Rochdale districts showed that the percentage of passes among the full-timers was 90 and among the half-timers only 77.4. These figures fully bear out the experience of all inspectors, managers, and teachers who are engaged in the education of half-timers. And they are somewhat unfair, too, to the full-timers, for it is a notorious fact with regard to the half-timers that the larger number of passes are what are called "bare passes," as against many "good and excellent passes" in the ease of full-timers. It is, indeed, perfectly clear that this is the view of the Department, because in the Instructions to the inspectors, issued in 1890. by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council there appear these words:In schools attended by half-time children the teachers have to contend with special difficulties, and in recommending the various grants you may fairly accept a somewhat lower standard of quality than in the case of other schools, both as regards attainments and organisation.Further than that, I should like to point out that these half-timers being clever, 810 forward children, are just those who would benefit most by our national system of education if allowed to do so; yet the ruck of the children, the stupid and undistinguished full-timers beat them in every examination. I do not deny that these advantages may be, and are, occasionally overcome by energy and outlay, and that some special schools, devoted solely to half-timers, have made most extraordinary educational progress. But these schools, and the children attending them, are very few in number; the bulk of the half-timers have to attend the ordinary schools, picking up their knowledge as best they can, and obtaining their education, not only with great difficulty to themselves, but with interruption to the smooth working of the schools, lowering their standard, and doing considerable damage to the educational attainments of the full-timers themselves. "But," says the Home Secretary, "look at the splendid educational training which these little children receive in the mill." We are all technical educationalists, now-a-days! But I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the best authorities on the question of technical instruction have always argued that a child ought to begin its technical instruction not in the workshop, but in the school. Further than that, I think they are unanimously agreed that the foundation of technical instruction is the subject of drawing. Yet, the Science and Art Department, recognising the hopelessness for trying to force the half-time children to keep pace with the requirements of the Code, actually allow attendance at a mill to be a reasonable excuse for not learning drawing. Just as in the case of girls, half-time is considered a "reasonable excuse" for not carrying on their needlework to the useful point of making garments. So that really under the present system the technical instruction received by these children is far inferior to that received by the fall-time children. Is it not certain, too, that the occupations to which these very small children are put, such as fetching and carrying, sweeping and dusting, or some monotonous and mechanical action, are not in any way in the nature of technical instruction. I admit to the full as regards the older children that their presence in the mill is of 811 great educational value, but I hold it is by no means essential that these children should begin work in a mill at such an early age, because, as a manager writes to me, older children are able to learn in three months what these young children take two or three years to learn. Again, with regard to educational matters, I must point out to the Leader of the House that the Royal Commission on Education, which sat a year or two ago, recommended that the half-time age should be raised to 11 years. I have endeavoured to show that the effect of the present system is to stunt the growth of the children, and to injure their intellectual abilities. I wish, also, to point out that it is bad for them from a moral point of view. That is a point to which I attach considerable importance. The children are withdrawn too much and too early from home influence. The "old men and old women" look is often remarked as duo to the precocious independence forced upon them—to the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. It may be argued that, after all, this is very much a question of wages. We have had calculations made as to the losss of wages which will ensue to the parents if this proposal is accepted. I desire at once to say that the proposal is not retrospective: it will not come into force for a considerable time, and I am sure the supporters of it will willingly increase its elasticity if necessary. Are not the operatives of Lancashire and Yorkshire so poverty-stricken that it is necessary they should obtain a greater amount of wages than elsewhere at the expense of the children themselves? I should have thought there was no class of workmen in this country who could better afford to dispense with the wages of young children. Remember, also, that it is by no means the children of the necessitous who are mainly employed as half-timers. The evidence is overwhelming to show that it is not the pecuniary position of the parents but the physical condition of the children which is taken into account by the over looker who engages the child. It is mostly the children of those who have good wages who are employed as half-timers. I deny, moreover, that the result of this proposal would be to diminish the 812 aggregate amount of wages paid. I believe—and I do not think it can be repudiated—that child labour means cheap labour. The child, to a large extent, competes with his elder brothers and sisters, and even with his father and mother; and if we pass this proposal, the class of work they now do will have to be done by older children, and the result will be not only that the wages will still be received, but that the aggregate amount will be greater. Then we are told that the operatives themselves are opposed to this proposal. I do not deny that the bulk of them are so opposed, and it is only natural that they should be so. This custom of half time has been in existence from time immemorial; their fathers and forefathers were brought up under the system, and naturally they resist any change. Still, a very large number of operatives are in favour of my proposal. The facts have not been put properly before them by those who have held meetings, and there have been what I can only call farcical ballots and question-begging petitions. I think there was a great deal of force in the statement of the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester when he said that most of the opposition had come not from the operatives themselves, but from the "operative employers," from the over-lookers and middlemen who make a profit out of the labour of these young children. But if we grant that every single operative is opposed to the raising of the ago, I say that by no means finally disposes of the question, for we must approach it from a national point of view. The Home Secretary said that this proposal is a calumny on the parents, for it implies that they will not do the best for their children. I should be sorry, indeed, if that were the case. But I have not the child-like faith in human nature which the Home Secretary possesses, especially in matters in which the parents have, as Jeremy Bentham puts it, "a sinister interest." If I have calumniated the parents by making this proposal, I have at any rate sinned in very good company, for the Trades Unions at their last gathering unanimously agreed to some such proposal as this, while their executive committees in all our large towns have since passed resolutions in favour of it. Bat is it not child-like to talk of such a proposal as 813 this being a calumny on the parents as a class. Have not both Parties in this House from time to time agreed on carrying legislation such as compulsory education, various Factories Bills, and the Mines Bill, which constitute an equal reflection on parents by forcing them to do for their children what many would not do unless they were compelled? We know that the ambition of some parents—and I am glad to say they are a continually-increasing number—is to give the best possible education to their children in early life, while the object of other parents is to secure a premature profit out of their children's labour. We desire that the good example of the first class should be followed by the latter class; and that if they will not voluntarily follow it, they should be compelled to do so. I have one further point to advance in connection with this matter. We are no doubt asking the parents to make a sacrifice; but are we not as taxpayers and as a nation just now making a very great sacrifice on behalf of parents as a class. We are prepared to vote something like £2,000,000 a year in relief of their pockets in the matter of school fees, and I think we may fairly ask a quid pro quo—we may expect them to keep their children at school one or two years longer. I have endeavoured to discuss this matter on the grounds laid down by the Home Secretary himself. I have endeavoured to discuss it from the point of view of the benefit to the children and to the working class themselves. I am glad to think that the employers have desired that it should be discussed and judged from the same point of view. It is said by some that this will injure their trade, in view of the competition to which they are subjected; but they frankly add that, although they may be put to some temporary inconvenience, they will soon be able to cut their coat according to their cloth, and so arrange matters that the diminution of child labour will not seriously injure them. And when we consider that in many mills there are no half-timers at all, and that in others the system is rapidly disappearing, I think it will be admitted there is no essential reason while children should continue to be employed at this tender age. I need 814 not go into the old question of undue foreign competition, because I think it will be recognised that we are only asking the House to take a very small step indeed. It is nothing like a step of the magnitude of the introduction of a Ten Hours Bill. Further, I think that the opposition to this proposal comes with rather bad grace from those specially interested in the cotton and jute trade. I am surprised that the proposal should be resisted by the senior Member for Oldham, seeing that that hon. Gentleman has himself been demanding an increase in the age of child labour in the Indian cotton mills, and has been basing his proposal on the findings of the Berlin Conference! In India the minimum age has now been raised from seven to nine—a change which very fairly corresponds to the change from 10 to 12 proposed for England. [Laughter, and "Hear, hear!"] Yes; the argument has always been that the competition of Indian operatives and Indian children must be taken into account. The age having been raised in India by two years a similar change ought to be made here. Lastly, and I apologise to the House for detaining them at such length, I believe that the honour of the Government and of England was pledged at the Berlin Conference to this extension of the age of half-timers. Without going into details, it seems clear to me, from the Minutes of the Conference, that when the Plenipotentiaries agreed that no child should be employed in factories under 12 years of age, there was no reservation with reference to the half-time system. It is greatly to the credit of England that until lately she has always been in the van in connection with the emancipation of labour. Now, unfortunately, she is falling in the rear. Germany has passed a law under which in three years' time the employment in factories of children under 13 will not be allowed at all; France is preparing to pass an almost identical measure, and other nations are advancing in the same direction. "Perfidious Albion," however, remains "perfidious Albion" still, for, after urging other nations to take certain steps affecting child labour, she takes no such steps herself. The Home Secretary will probably say that it would not be fair or right to pass such a proposal as 815 this in connection with a Factory Bill; that it would handicap our factories as against other industries; and that when we raise the age at which children can be employed, we ought to raise it for all classes of children and of employments. I, for one, should be very glad to have the age raised to 10, 11, or even 12 for all employments for hire, but at present we have not the opportunity to introduce a rule for universal application. With our present opportunity, limited as it is, we must rest content for the present; but if the House agrees to the proposal before us, it will not be very long before the pressure of public opinion will force the Government of the day, whether Conservative or Liberal, to deal with the question in a thoroughly comprehensive manner. This is not a Party question at the present moment; Members on both sides of the House will support the proposal, and Members on both sides will oppose it. The Government alone can make it a Party question, and I earnestly appeal to them not to exert any pressure on their followers to induce them to reject the proposal. I trust that the Government will allow every Member to exercise an unfettered freedom, so that the question may be decided on its merits and on its merits alone. I beg to move the clause standing in my name.
§ Clause (Prohibition of employment of children under 11 years of age)—(Mr. Sydney Buxton,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be read a second time."
§ *(5.40.) MR. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I am very glad this prolonged controversy is now drawing to a close, and I join most heartily with the hon. Member in the expression of a desire that the question should be treated upon its merits. In the first place, I must congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon his new-born zeal for the observance of International Conventions, because it is not long since the hon. Gentleman and his friends near him were loud in their denunciation of the International Sugar Convention. I wish also to clear the character of our Plenipotentiaries at Berlin from the reproach that they bargained away there the rights of the Lancashire operatives to employ their 816 children in mills at the age of 10 years. It cannot be maintained for a moment that the honour of England was pledged there. I will not use my own words in defending that proposition, because I can refer to the language of one of the Plenipotentiaries in a letter which he recently addressed to a Manchester newspaper. The hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester (Sir W. H. Houldsworth) in that letter denied in the most emphatic terms that we placed ourselves under any legal or even moral obligation at Berlin to meddle with the half-time system, and the words of the Blue Book confirm that impression. The hon. Baronet said—We were only pledged to this, that we would undertake to take into consideration the policy of carrying out the resolutions adopted at Berlin, and every Government in Europe was free either to carry out those resolutions or not, as seemed to it best.The result of the Conference shows that the hon. Baronet was perfectly warranted in making that statement, because the Papers just presented show that with the exception of Germany not a single one of the 9 or 10 European Powers who were represented at the Conference have passed any legislation whatever for the purpose of carrying out the resolutions adopted. Our Plenipotentiaries took care to ensure that the half-time system should not be included in the resolution for generally raising the minimum to 12. The words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Sir J. E. Gorst) when he was discussing the proposal, that before children were allowed to work at the age of 14 they should pass an examination to show that they had fulfilled the requirements of primary instructions, were these—The Delegates of Great Britain, though entirely sympathising with the motives which have inspired the proposal that the children should first of all satisfy the demands of primary instruction, announce with regret their inability to vote for this proposal in its actual form owing to the legislation obtaining in their country. 'The Factory Act' prescribes no previous condition of primary instruction for children; but, as guarantee of good education in workmen's families, parents and employers are absolutely forbidden to allow a child to work except on condition that it receives instruction in a primary school during half the clay, or during the whole of one day in two. The result is that children insufficiently instructed, from the moment of their entry into a factory, are obliged to continue to go to school, where they receive the 817 education which they have missed. This system, known as 'the half-time system,' has been followed by very good results for more than 40 years, and we have no wish to change it without due consideration.
§ *MR. MACLEAN
The hon. Member can read it when he comes to speak. I have certainly read the material passages. Ingenious attempts have been made to refine away the meaning of that protest by the right hon. Gentleman. What is perfectly plain is that an English Plenipotentiary would never have used words of that kind if he had intended at the time to make any alteration whatever in the half-time system of this country. It is impossible to read the speech without coming to the conclusion that the Plenipotentiaries of England at that time were strongly in favour of maintaining the half-time system, and they told their colleagues that that exception must be allowed if the resolution in favour of raising the age to 12 were carried. I am borne out in that by the construction put on the matter by the Government themselves. In reply to a question put by me I was informed that the Government had this special reservation with regard to half-time in their minds when they gave their sanction to the voting of our Plenipotentiaries at Berlin in favour of a general resolution. The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. S. Buxton) taunted me with having proposed in the House that the age of factory children in India should be raised in accordance with the resolutions of the Berlin Conference. But the inclusion of the half-time system was the essence of the whole thing. The Indian Government refused at that time to raise the age to 10 years; they will only raise it to nine, and that is an example of the impracticability of governing the hours of labour or wages in this country by any international obligations whatever. These Conferences are practically of no use. When we cannot carry out in our own dependencies, against the remonstrances of the people there, a resolution that we wish to carry out, in order to raise the level of industrial employment in that country to the English level, what hope have we that any resolution of the kind 818 will ever be effectually carried out in foreign countries? In his Report this year the Chief Inspector of Factories warns us to be on our guard against delusive engagements with foreign countries. He says—In most countries there is some regulation to the effect that children should either attend, or have the opportunity of attending, school, but the statements upon this point are very general, and it does not appear that there is in any country such a defined and strict regulation as the half-time system, which insists upon daily attendance at school. In this country the restrictions in every instance, except of the minimum age at which children may he employed, and for the prohibition of the employment of women after child birth, are more varied and more stringent. They are enforced vigorously, and I think the mode and extent of the administration of the Factory Laws in foreign countries are factors which cannot be omitted in comparing the labour conditions of the countries of Europe with those of this country.That is a warning which certainly ought to be borne in mind when we attempt to make engagements with foreign countries for one uniform system of hours of labour. I may point out that the English Government have really done a very great deal more than any foreign countries to advance the system of factory labour since the Berlin Conference met. This Bill deals with the very important question of the employment of women soon after childbirth, with the better protection of workpeople from accident, and with the sanitary improvement of the mills. All these restrictions impose considerable expense upon employers, and will be of great benefit to the working people. Then, also, a vigorous attempt is made in this Bill to grapple with the evil of sweating. I propose now to say a few words upon what is, after all, the real question, namely, whether the half-time system is a good or a bad one. This system can really be defended on the ground that it is an important factor in supplying the chief defect in our elementary system of education. It engrafts a good industrial training upon the instruction which children get in school. The hon. Member for Poplar made many remarks about the injurious effect of the work in factories compared with the work in the school. I would like the hon. Gentleman to listen to what the operatives themselves say on the subject. 819 The Cotton Factory Times, the recognised organ of the operatives, said the other day—We are not going to defend the ventilation of factories; but if the results of factory air are to he compared with school air we are going to hack half a dozen spinners at running, jumping, or anything else with the same number of school teachers any time.That is a fair challenge, and I am ready, if gambling is not absolutely forbidden in the Legislature, to put a small sum on the spinners. I have made careful inquiry in my own constituency about the condition of half-timers. The earnings of the half-timers there are calculated at about £25,000 a year, and there is not a dissentient voice as to the merits of the system. Not only do employers and employed agree that the system is a good one, but I have conversed with several of the schoolmasters there, and they all unite in telling me that, although they would like the children to be kept at school until a later age, they cannot say a word about the defective results of the half-time system. One of these gentlemen told me he had made a very careful calculation, and he found that in one family of five the wages of the half-timers amount to between £120 and £130 altogether. He added that that is just about the amount of money required to buy one of the cottages in which the family live, and very often the earnings of the half-timers are said to be employed in purchasing the house. What can justify the House of Commons in taking away a privilege of this kind from the working people of Lancashire? I desire to quote a few words more from the article in the Cotton Factory Times, which will be of special interest to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. Mundella). In the article it is said the supporters of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Buxton) "speak as if school teaching was the be-all of a child's existence. That is in accordance with the usual conceit of teachers. But we say that it is much more important that a child should learn to earn its livelihood, as we cannot all have jobs where coats can be kept on and shirt collars worn. We must overlook one or two points in the circular, and, in fact, should not have noticed it further had not Mr. Mundella's name been brought in. He is stated 820 to have said that 'The idea that a child is receiving a technical education by being put into a mill at 10 is a preposterous fallacy.' Then a quotation is given from a paper named The Schoolmaster to the effect that the idea that working in a mill is a species of attractive and agreeable training is a shameless fraud. We say that neither Mr. Mundella nor The Schoolmaster know what they are talking about on this subject. We say it not from walking through a mill with our thumbs in our waistcoat, but from actual experience, that as an operative a child is all the better for going reasonably early—say at 10 or 11—to the mill. In answer to The Schoolmaster, we further say that it is an attractive technical training. We will not appeal to school teachers—they are too ignorant to understand it—but if any sensible man doubts our word, let him come across half a dozen half-timers and ask them which they prefer—school or work. "I think the tone of that article shows us that the House ought to hesitate before making school education absolutely intolerable and odious to the people of the country by using it to deprive them of the right to earn their living. It is said also that the evil effects of the system are felt in after life. Perhaps the House will allow me to read a passage which shows whether the Lancashire operatives are really injured by the half-time system. The Chief Inspector says in his Report—There are no operatives of whom I have ever had an experience who work with so much energy as the Lancashire people, and the contrast between a Scotch and a Lancashire weaving factory in this respect is very remarkable. The Lancashire weaver works with a will; she earns a high wage (on an average double that of her Scotch sister on the same class of work), and is anxious to maintain it. She will take charge of four power looms without hesitation; and, indeed, her energetic industry is not unfrequently an embarrassment to the Inspector, for it makes her indifferent to the provisions of the Act of Parliament which has been passed for her protection. She has practically to be driven from her work, and I believe if a weaving shed in Lancashire were to be opened at 5 in the morning it would soon be filled with workpeople.… Such is the recognised contrast between the two classes of cotton operatives that it has been seriously suggested to me by employers in Scotland that some beneficial consideration should be given to them over their Lancashire competitors in the administration of the Factory Act.821 I believe it would be of very great advantage if this half-time system were extended to the whole country instead of its being destroyed in Lancashire. On this point there is the statement of one of the School Inspectors for South Shropshire, who says—I am sorry to say that the educational authorities in my district continue sadly prejudiced against the half-time system. The more I see of that system the more satisfied I am that in those trades where child labour can be employed there is no better way for a child to learn them.We have similar testimony from the model community of Birmingham, from whom all the rest of the country are expected to learn what is the best way of bringing up children. Major Rhodes, the Inspector for Birmingham, tells us in his Report—I have referred in former Reports to the early age at which children are passing the Fifth School Standard, which is the exemption standard here. I hear the majority pass this at the age of 11, too young by two years to enter a factory or workshop, except as half-timers. As a tentative measure the Birmingham School Board has lately raised the exemption standard to the sixth. The effect of children leaving school before they can enter a workshop as full-timers is that, from the disinclination of both the parents to have them work only half-time, the children become errand boys and girls under the age of 13 years. They thus get into idle habits, are learning no useful handicraft or trade, and run great risks of getting into mischief. The technical schools hero will not take half-timers, and the public elementary schools are generally deficient of accommodation, and so there is always difficulty in getting a half-timer into a school.But I think that shows that Birmingham, after all, may still learn a lesson from Lancashire. One of the great merits of the half-time system is that it keeps children at school at the very age at which parents, themselves employed, have no opportunity of looking after them. The House will remember that two years ago there was an important Act passed called the Protection of Children Act, under which a licence can be obtained to apprentice children in a theatre or circus at the ago not of 12 or 10, but 7 years. If this clause were carried we should be in the grotesque position of not allowing a child to learn a useful trade until he was of the age of 12, while they can be sent at the age of 7 to be trained as clowns or ballet-dancers for the amusement of a pleasure-loving public. I think that is not a sound 822 principle to adopt. The hon. Member for Poplar has said that the aggregate amount of wages will not be reduced if the Amendment is carried. Yes; but the aggregate earnings of the parents who are now employing their children as half-timers will be reduced. Trades Unions in other parts of the country are seeking to relieve themselves of surplus labour, and to take the bread out of the mouths of children employed in towns like Oldham. It is now contended that a Trades Union, or a combination of Trades Unions, shall be allowed to dictate the hours of labour and the rate of wages in a trade with which they have absolutely nothing to do, and the members of which strongly resent such interference. This is the most arrogant and the most unwarrantable contention ever put forward on the part of any body of men, even in the sacred name of the interest of Trades Unions, and I confidently appeal to the common sense of the House of Commons to reject it with indignation.
§ (6.12.) SIR W. HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
Both in the Committee upstairs, and apparently in the House this evening, the opponents of this very modest proposal think it necessary to defend the half-time system. I hope hon. Gentlemen who intend to oppose this clause will not think it necessary to advance arguments in support of the half-time system. Those who support the clause have no wish to end, as the hon. Member said, but simply to mend the present system. It is a mis-impression, and one under which apparently the hon. Member for Oldham labours, that this is the only country which has a half-time system. Those who study the latter part of the Blue Book will see that there is scarcely a country which has not the half-time system in some form or other, with this peculiarity, that the system is carried very much further than in this country. The basis of their system is different to ours in this respect, that from the first they lay down the principle that assistance is to be given by the State in the education of the children, and that afterwards that higher education is to be completed by the adoption of a half-time system. When this Bill was read a second time, the complaint was made that the Government had not introduced 823 a provision raising the age of the half-timers to 12 years. I did not join in that complaint, believing there would be considerable difficulty in carrying it. I suggested that the nature and extent of the opposition should first be ascertained, and having gauged the opposition, which, after all, was small, I think it was the duty of the Government and of the House to pass some provision to advance the age to the modest extent of 11 years. Considerable stress has been laid upon the proceedings of the Berlin Conference, and the hon. Member for Oldham has said that I have stated that there was no legal or moral obligation on England to carry out the recommendations of the Conference. No one will dispute the absence of any legal obligation, and it is difficult to define a moral obligation. I am not prepared to say that there is a moral obligation, because it has been distinctly claimed on various occasions that the countries taking part in the Conference are perfectly free to act as they please, but I do not think that the matter ends there. Unless there were overwhelming reasons for not taking steps in conformity with the Berlin Conference, Great Britain ought, in the interests of her own working classes, to forward and encourage the practical adoption of the recommendations of the Conference. In the Report of a Committee of the Conference appointed to consider how the recommendations could be best carried out, there is the statement that the Conference could not pass a resolution binding on the Governments, nor could it restrict itself to studying the scientific side of the problems submitted for examination. It could only aspire to the first of those powers, and it could not rest content with the second The object of the Conference is distinctly stated in the letter of Prince Bismarck inviting the different Governments to participate in the Conference; that letter stated that it was impossible to successfully create institutions for the benefit of the working classes in one country without curtailing that country's power of industrial competition with other countries; and that such institutions could only be set up by means of international unanimity. The meaning of that is that any nation which is in advance in taking care of the physical 824 and moral condition of the working people will be handicapped in competing with other nations which do not employ the same safeguards. The object of the Conference was to accomplish uniformity of action throughout the whole of Europe. Of all countries Great Britain would reap the greatest advantage from this uniformity. With regard to the conditions of labour obtaining on the Continent—the number of hours worked, and the Sunday labour—no one can doubt that the working classes of this country would reap a great advantage if the other nations were to adopt the standard recommended at the Conference, and were to approximate more to English conditions. The hon. Member for Oldham is quite mistaken when he states that no advance has been made by other countries since the Berlin Conference. In the Blue Book just published there are a number of proofs to the contrary, though the Book also contains some remarkable omissions and inaccuracies. It is stated that in France no legislation has taken place. This is literally true, but it is only half the story. A most important Bill has passed the Committee of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, and in this Bill there is a remarkable recognition of the recommendations of the Conference. Although the age in France for juvenile labour is only 10 years, the Bill, which met with little opposition, actually takes the bold jump of raising the age to 13 years. This is one year in advance of the recommendations of the Berlin Conference. In the discussion on the Bill the proposal was made to raise the the age to 14, but this proposal was withdrawn. The objection, however, was only on the ground that, by the educational law of France, a child was able to obtain its certificate at the age of 13, and it was feared that if the prohibited age of labour were raised to 14 there might be a period of idleness imposed on the children. This Bill was carried in the Chamber of Deputies by a, majority of 384 to 74, and the little opposition it encountered was only raised because some thought the measure pressed hardly upon domestic workshops. Her Majesty's Government cannot escape altogether from what has been done at Berlin. Speaking for myself and the other delegates, it is only fair to say 825 that any credit or blame to be attached to the vote which they gave for the raising of the age does not properly belong to us, but to the Government. We consulted the exports who were with us, and on two occasions referred the matter to the Prime Minister, receiving instructions favourable to the views we had formed on both occasions. Out of the 12 countries participating in the Conference, exclusive of Great Britain, in eight of them the minimum age was higher than in this country. In two countries it was 14 years, in six it was 12 years, in three it was the same as in Great Britain, and in only one case was it lower, and that was the case of Italy. France has now recognised the recommendations of the Berlin Conference, and I have received a large amount of information from manufacturers and employers in France. From all I can learn there is not a single employer or manufacturer in France who has anything but approbation for the proposed law. They say that it will not interfere with their industries, but will be of great advantage in prolonging the education of the children in their factories. The hon. Member for Oldham admits that Germany has passed a law carrying out the recommendations of the Berlin Conference. With regard to child labour, no doubt they come in advance of the recommendations of the Berlin Conference, showing what a strong feeling there is among what I may call the enlightened nations of Europe on this education question—that they consider that education has the first claim, and that work is second. I should like to mention what has been done by the various nations represented at the Berlin Conference. In Switzerland no new legislation is required, as that country is actually in advance of the Berlin standard; but there has been some legislation reducing the hours of labour, and a Bill has been brought in to provide for a more efficient supervision and inspection in regard to the carrying out of the law respecting factories. Italy is taking rather a characteristic step. She has sought to obtain from other countries information bearing on the recommendations of the Berlin Conference, and legislation based thereon. That has an important bearing on this discussion, and is an argument in favour of this 826 proposal. Those countries which are at present not much inclined to go forward will probably do so if they can quote the great example of England. In the Netherlands there has been no new legislation since 1889. In Austria no-actual legislation has taken place, but Bills on the subject were announced last month. In Hungary legislation has been carried out with regard to Sunday rest. In Sweden, Belgium, and Portugal legislative action has been taken. In Denmark a Bill has been prepared; and even in Spain, one of the most red-tape countries on this question, a Bill has-been brought in, and no doubt the Government will wait to see what other nations will do before they proceed further with it. I believe the opposition to the present proposal is really reduced to small dimensions. It is but natural that those who think they are going to be pecuniarily injured by legislation of this kind should oppose it. I think, however, that this is a question on which the House of Commons ought to take a broad view. We must not be soared by the opposition of a few operatives who, I believe, if they understood the question better would be on the other side. A great deal of misapprehension is in the minds of the working classes in Lancashire and Yorkshire. They have fallen into the same error as the hon. Member for Oldham and the Home Secretary—namely, that the supporters of this proposal are going to oppose the half-time system altogether. This has created an immense amount of prejudice among the working classes. Although I do not like to say too much about the position of the leaders of the trade unions in the textile districts, I have a shrewd suspicion that in the great majority of cases they are in favour of the proposal, and that it is only the popular outcry which prevails under a misapprehension that has prevented them from speaking out. On this question, I think the opinion of School Boards is entitled to some consideration, and I have two resolutions, from the Boards at Manchester and Sal-ford, absolutely in favour of this proposal for raising the ago to 11, and expressing a hope that it will be further-raised to 12 years. The Education Commissioners are also in favour of the proposal. Moreover, the owners and managers of mills in Lancashire and 827 Yorkshire are not opposed to the proposal, as they do not believe that the employment of very small children adds anything to the prosperity of the various industries. As the State is about to give large sums for free education, the people may well be required to send their children to school. To take an example in this connection, it will be found on calculation that where a child by his work at half-time earns £3 5s. in the course of the year, the remission of school fees in the proposal before the House will amount to £4 10s. I am very much obliged for the patience with which the House has heard me, I am afraid at great length; but this is a very large and important subject. I heartily join in the appeal of my hon. Friends, and I hope that if the Government do not see their way to accept the clause, they will, at any rate, allow Members on their own side, as well as on the other side of the House, to vote as they think fit. If the Government still maintain their opinion, or do not choose to incur the unpopularity they think this proposal would bring upon them, I believe that if they leave the House of Commons alone the House of Commons will take the responsibility upon itself. In adopting this proposal I believe we shall not only be fulfilling the obligations which the appearance of the delegates at the Berlin Conference placed upon this country, but we shall be doing what the operatives themselves, who are now opposed to this measure, will afterwards thank us for doing.
§ *(6.43.) MR. SUMMERS
With great pleasure I support the proposal of the hon. Member for Poplar. In looking at this Amendment I am astonished at its moderation. It is not retrospective, and if it is carried and embodied in this Factory Bill there is not a single child now being employed in factories and workshops who will be prevented from working in the future, seeing that it is not proposed that the clause shall come into force before January 1, 1893. I hold that the Government are morally bound to support the clause. If the Home Secretary had been aware of all the facts connected with the Berlin Conference when he proposed the Bill, I am sure he would not have opposed this clause in Committee upstairs. There is 828 no room for doubt that the votes of the British delegates at Berlin on the question of raising the age of child labour from 10 to 12 years were not merely the votes of those gentlemen themselves, but also the votes of Her Majesty's Ministers, speaking through Lord Salisbury, who gave express directions to the delegates to vote in favour of that proposition. A reference to the Blue Book will show how Sir John Gorst wrote to Lord Salisbury on March 18, 1890, saying that all the British delegates and experts were in favour of the proposal, and asking whether they should support the proposal in plenary conference. The reply of Lord Salisbury was prompt and decisive in the affirmative. Yet again, Sir John Gorst, in the name of himself and his colleagues at Berlin, sat down and wrote a long Despatch, in which—and this is an answer to the remark of the hon. Member for Oldham—he pointed out that the proposal was in advance of the present law. Lord Salisbury lost no time in replying on March 26th, by telegraph—Your attitude approved, you may assent to the three proposals mentioned at the close of your Despatch of the 24th.Sir John Gorst and his colleagues faithfully carried out their instructions. Are the Government now going to throw over their delegates and turn their backs upon themselves? Docs Lord Salisbury approve the present attitude of the Home Secretary upon this question? If so, how does he reconcile his present conduct with the express directions he gave to the delegates to vote, in the face of Europe, in favour of raising the age of child labour to 12? I invite the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India, before the Debate closes, to tell the House whether he acquiesces in such treatment as the delegates have experienced at the hands of the Government. The British delegates voted in favour of the following propositions:—(1) That children of either sex not having reached a certain age may be excluded from work in factories; (2) that this limit be fixed at 12 years, except for Southern countries, where the limit may be 10 years;" and "(3) that these limits of age be the same for every factory, and that no difference on this point be admitted.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Sir John Gorst) was not even satisfied with his speech in plenary 829 conference, because he made another speech still further pledging himself and the Government of which he was the mouthpiece. He said—We trust that the results of our labours will not end in the drawing up of Protocols, but that the Governments represented will give the most serious attention to the suggestions we have made. We have confident hopes that millions of men, women, and children will derive from it a better future and an easier life, and that the generations to come will be richer, stronger, and more virtuous owing to the effect of the provisions of which the Conference has laid down the first outlines.After all these speeches and all these votes in the sight of Europe at Berlin, Lord Salisbury wrote on May 3rd, 1890, to Sir John Gorst—I have to convey to you the approval of Her Majesty's Government of your proceedings at the recent Labour Conference at Berlin, and their appreciation of the important and valuable services rendered by you as one of Her Majesty's Plenipotentiaries on that occasion.I support this proposition, then, for one reason, because I think this country is under a moral obligation to incorporate this Amendment, or some similar Amendment, into the Statute Book of this realm. The proposition can easily be defended on its own merits. In this matter of child labour we are behind all the principal countries on the Continent. Prom the last Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories we learn that the earliest age for the employment of children in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg is 12 years, and in Switzerland and Austria 14 years. Only in Italy, Hungary, and Denmark were children permitted to work, when the Report was published, at an earlier age than 12 years. No doubt there has been some change since the Report was issued, but the change has been in the right direction. Gentlemen who have watched the progress of this movement very carefully say that in Germany and in France there is a very good prospect that in a very short apace of time children will be prevented from working in factories and workshops under the age of 13 years. The change advocated by the hon. Member for Poplar may be advocated also on educational grounds. Every year we spend £7,500,000 in maintaining our public elementary schools. It may be doubted whether we get all the good we might derive from this enormous expen- 830 diture. Indeed, the Educational Department itself is very dissatisfied with the results produced. In its last Report the Department uses the following significant language: "We are sorry to find on examining the school returns that the examination of so many children of 10 years of age and upwards is discontinued as soon as by passing the prescribed standard they are freed from the obligation to attend school and become entitled to go to work. Out of 481,106 children presented in Standard IV. in 1888, as many as 167,742 disappeared from the examination lists of our schools in 1889, while the 309,388 scholars in Standard V. in 1888 fell in the year to 138,864, and the 127,863 scholars in Standard VI. to 38,362." I say that the great defect in our present system of education is that the children leave school at such an early age, and the principal reason why I am in favour of the Amendment is that I think it is demanded in the interests of education. At onetime we were told that half-timers passed as well, or almost as well, as full-timers. That bubble has been burst. We know now on the authority of the Education Department that the half-timers' passes are from 8 per cent. to 25 per cent. less than those of the full-timers. In former years the Inspectors were in the habit of drawing a distinction between bare passes and good passes, and I am informed that the number of bare passes, as compared with good passes, was much larger in the case of half-timers than in that of full-timers. On every ground then—on the grounds of national obligation, of the interests of education, and the interests of health—I am heartily and strongly in favour of the proposals of my hon. friend, and I trust the House will be left free to decide the question on its merits. If that is the case I do not for a moment doubt that the Amendment will be carried by a considerable majority.
§ (7.10.) MR. CODDINGTON (Blackburn)
Although it has been stated in many places that this is a masters' question, and that it is a selfish motive on their part to keep the limit of age as it is now, the masters have absolutely no interest in this matter. I am a millowner, and it will make no difference to me whether the age is raised to 11 or not. This is 831 entirely an operatives' question, and I have had petitions and letters from all sections of my constituents—from the representatives of Trades Unions and from the representatives of the parents, and I believe if the children themselves could have been polled it would have been found that they themselves are in favour of Clause 10 as it is. I have been attacked in an obscure paper, called the Darwen News, for some remarks I made before the Committee on this Bill. Before the Committee, in support of the statement that the physique of the operative classes was not to be despised, I quoted the fact that a celebrated Lancashire Football Club, the Blackburn Rovers, had won the Association Cup five times, and another Blackburn Club had won it once. I understand that the Member for Poplar, in the early part of this Debate, referred to what I had said on that point, and I believe he quoted from this very paper certain figures respecting the players. I have reason to know that those figures are inaccurate. To show that I was right in my assertion I may say that the Rovers team in 1884 contained three operatives and four sons of operatives; in 1885 it contained two operatives and four sons of operatives; in 1886 two operatives and one son of an operative; in 1890 two operatives and one son of an operative. It is quite clear that the number of operatives in that celebrated team are not so many now as they were several years ago, but that is due to the fact that football has become much more a professional game than it was a few years ago. It is a great misfortune for the town in which I live and for all the other towns which try to emulate each other in this noble game. A very fair proportion of the players in the old times, however, were operatives. The Blackburn Olympic team when it won the Association Cup in 1883 contained five operatives and one son of an operative. These facts prove, at all events, that the physique of the operative classes is not so bad as represented by some people. The hon. Member for Manchester (Sir W. Houldsworth) seemed to infer that the short-timers in this country did not get a proper education. The education of a short-timer in the textile districts is quite equal to that of a full-timer in any other part of 832 England; and I say that a child who has been a short-timer will, when he arrives at the age of 13 years, be better able to take his chance in fighting his own way than other children who go to school the full time. I think as good a test as you can have of the education of the people in this country is to be found in their behaviour at, and their attention to, public meetings, whether political, social, or religious; and I ask any hon. Member in this House who has spoken in Lancashire or Yorkshire, where the textile industries flourish, if they have ever addressed more appreciative and intelligent audiences than are there to be found. I cannot admit that there is the slightest comparison to be drawn between the half-timer on the Continent and the half-timer in this country, inasmuch as on the Continent a half-timer works 36 hours a week, while in this country he only works 28 hours. I hope the House will reject the Amendment, which, if adopted, would be a very great injustice to the workingmen, and I believe almost as great an injustice to the children. It would prevent many a child earning money, which is of great assistance to the family of which he is a member. The children work under such circumstances that their labour is a positive pleasure to them. Between the hours of half-past 12 and 1 o'clock everyone of the children who has to go in the afternoon shift, is to be found waiting 15 minutes and more before the gates are opened, and when they are admitted they can be seen rushing in in a way which shows that the work is an absolute pleasure to them. Children who go to school half a day are practically as well educated as those who go to school full time, because it is impossible for a child who is working at a mill to play truant from school, the regulations being of such a kind that if a child is absent from school he must also be absent from work. In London the rate-payers spend something like 10d. in the £ in a school rate, and the result is only an average attendance of 82 per cent. This low percentage would not happen if the children in London were half-timers. The short-timer if he wishes to work must go to school. I trust the House will reject the new clause.
§ *(7.20.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire)
I was very much sur- 833 prised to hear the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite, because I certainly understood the hon. Member to explain that though he had said "No" to the Amendment in Committee he had meant to say "Aye."
§ MR. CODDINGTON
On the contrary. I have always been opposed to the principle of raising the age of half-timers. I did say "No" when I meant to say "Yes," but that was on another occasion, and not in connection with this subject, and in that case, as the right hon. Gentleman says, I corrected myself.
§ *MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN
I beg the hon. Member's pardon; but I was under the impression that the hon. Member had been in favour of the Motion. I should not have ventured to take part in this discussion if it were not for the fact that I acted as Chairman of the Grand Committee to which the Bill was referred. In that capacity I took no part in the controversy, but listened with attention to the speeches on both sides, and I am, therefore, perhaps, in an exceptionally good position for bringing an impartial mind to bear on the subject. The Committee upstairs were pretty equally divided on the question, the Amendment of the hon. Member only being lost by five votes. But while I entertain great respect for the opinion of these Committees over which I have presided for four years, on points involving special knowledge, I must say that in questions involving the well-being of great masses of men, and on questions of public welfare, I think the parties interested have a perfect right to appeal from the decision of the Standing Committee to a tribunal constituted on a wider basis. Now, it struck me that the objections taken to the proposal of the new clause in the Grand Committee were generally of a commercial character. Some hon. Gentlemen have gone so far as to say that if this Amendment is carried it will practically ruin the whole of the textile trade of Lancashire. Surely that is a great exaggeration. The cotton trade of Lancashire is one of the most extraordinary trades I have ever been acquainted with. It is always on the point of being rained. I have had the honour of knowing several large manufacturers, and have never known one who admitted that he was doing well. And the same with regard to the operatives. It is constantly said that 834 they are badly off; but I have travelled from Manchester to Burnley, through a most populous district, and have Been none but well-fed and well-clothed operatives; and I only wish that one half of my poor constituents in North Wales enjoyed half the ruin that seems to have overtaken those operatives. The strongest point raised in Committee upstairs was that the parents of the children are opposed to the Amendment. Now, I doubt that. It is evident from the course taken by the Trades' Union Congress that the trades are not opposed to it, and I understand that every Member who may be said specially to represent working men is in favour of it. ["Oh, oh!"] I am speaking now of those who may really be called working men representatives. I should doubt whether any of these Members will be found to go into the Lobby against my hon. Friend. And whatever may be the opinion of the fathers of these children, and I cannot help thinking that the mothers—who may be credited with knowing as much about the children as the fathers—are also in favour of the Amendment. [An hon. MEMBER: "Certainly not!"] And after all, the loss to the parent has been greatly exaggerated. A Return has been presented to the House on this question, and I find that the half-timers under 11 in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire—the counties where they are mostly to be found—number 15,821, and that these children earn together £2,102 9s. 6d., or little more than 2s. 8d. per head. Well, that is not a very large sum for the parents to spare, supposing they are called on to do so. The Lancashire operatives clearly get more out of their children than any other class of working people in the kingdom. And it must not be forgotten that at this time Parliament is about to confer a boon on these very persons of no small magnitude. Parliament is about to make them a present of the schooling of their children, and I maintain that a man with a large family will pay in school fees half as much as one child earns. But, after all, this is not a question to be settled according to the wish of the parents. I saw the other day in the Contemporary Review an article by an eminent ecclesiastic, to whose opinion we all attach weight, although we may not agree with him on theological questions—I refer to Car- 835 dinal Manning. His Eminence writing on this subject, said—It is more than vain to talk about the claims of parents to profit by the wages of their children. Their children are not chattels, but human beings with rights of their own, which no parents for their own pleasures or uses may violate. And if parents fail to protect the rights of their children the commonwealth is bound to do so.I think that is the right way to look at the question. This brings me to the question of the effect of the half-time system on the health and education of the children. There has been a good deal of conflicting evidence as to the effect on the physique of the children. The point, however, is one on which the House does not want evidence These little mites are required sometimes to stand for six hours at a stretch in a mill, and I will put it to hon. Members whether they would for a moment allow their own children to do that, and then after six hours' work have the little ones spend the rest of the day at school? As to the effect on the condition of the children, physically and educationally, the whole body of educational opinion is of one mind. I have here a letter from the wife of one of the largest millowners in the North, and she, speaking from experience of hundreds of these children, declares that the effect of the break in the system of school discipline is that the children learn little, and this little is soon forgotten, and she gives instances of both boys and girls in after life being prevented from taking positions that offered because of imperfect education due to the early use of the half-time system. In this district, too, there is an excellent school with a high percentage of passes. It is idle to say that the children receive any advantage in the way of technical education at the mills; the work consists of tying together broken threads and things of that kind; technical instruction there is none. It was impossible to reconcile the attitude adopted on this question by the Under Secretary for India at the Berlin Conference, with the approval of the Prime Minister, with that now taken by the Home Secretary and the Government. Statements and admissions were put forward at that Conference which make it a matter of national honour that some further advance in this work should be made by this country. France, Germany, Italy, and other nations have already, on the 836 faith of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman, taken steps in this direction. Other nations are already ahead of England in this respect; and is it to be said that England should have to wait in such a matter for foreign examples before she moves? Surely our place should be, as it has been, in the van on factory legislation, and not in the ruck. This is by no means a Party question, and I hope that before the Debate closes something will be done by the Government to make their action more consistent with that of the Under Secretary for India at the Conference.
§ *(7.40.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
There was an astonishing passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, in which he gave his view of the opinion of the operatives upon this question. Surely those who sit for operative constituencies may claim to express a representative opinion.
§ *MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN
I spoke of the views of those who represent the working classes in the sense of belonging themselves to those classes.
§ *VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
The right hon. Gentleman deduced the argument that because working class representatives were more or less in favour of this clause, therefore the operatives themselves take that view. Now, I do not think that argument is well-founded. A great deal has been said about the working classes and the opinions they hold on the question. Well, in my opinion, those who represent the operatives in large working-class constituencies are best entitled to speak for them, and for the reason that if we do not speak the minds of our constituents we shall afterwards be called to account for it. I admit that this question is a very difficult one, and that it ought to be very carefully considered before any decision is taken upon it. Therefore, I do not complain that the decision of the Grand Committee has been appealed against in the House, but I submit that, in order to form a correct view on the subject, we ought to hear the arguments on both sides. The arguments on this side of the House have been fully and completely given in the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, but there have been no arguments on the other side. Much has been said but there has been no argument from facts. It has been urged 837 that we should figure to ourselves what we should do if we had children under such circumstances. But we have no children under such circumstances, and, therefore, it is not likely we can judge what we should do in such a contingency. The strongest argument, in my opinion, in favour of the Amendment is that it is supported by the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester. But the hon. Baronet has merely related the opinion, more or less well-founded, entertained by other countries on the subject. The opinion which other countries hold on the subject has been much overrated. It has been stated that on the question of factory legislation generally England is ahead of foreign countries, but that on this specific subject the majority of foreign countries are ahead of England. But, after all, this subject appears to be one of the very smallest of factory questions considered by the Berlin Conference, and the fact that we are ahead of other countries on nearly every other question is of itself a sufficient argument that England has no need to go to foreigners for examples. Moreover, it is scarcely sufficient as an argument to point out what other countries have done or are doing. We do not agree with foreign countries in the great bulk of our legislation; and if we were to take example by them we should have to alter our commercial system and our factory legislation from top to bottom. Our system of trade legislation is based on totally different principles. We believe that people are capable of managing their own business; we think that Protection is a mistake, but other countries do not. At the same time, there is one advantage which may be deduced from the fact that other countries are ahead of us in respect to half-time employment. What has been their experience? Are the children of those countries physically stronger and better than English children? What has been the results of the course of action which those countries have adopted, and which is now recommended to this country? These, I venture to say, are not unimportant considerations. It is upon such arguments that any change of the nature proposed should be based, and not upon idle suppositions as to what we would do if we ourselves had children engaged in factories. In no country in the world 838 will you find children more intelligent and more healthy and vigorous than those in the County of Lancashire—a division of which I have the honour to represent. The hon. Member for Poplar brought forward only one argument founded on fact. He brought forward many based on theory, but only one on fact. He quoted from a letter of a certifying surgeon. [Mr. S. BUXTON: I also quoted the Vice President of the Council.] At any rate, the hon. Member quoted a letter from a certifying surgeon in support of his case. Believing as I do that certifying surgeons are the best judges of what is the best for the health and happiness of the children, I took the opportunity of writing to a great number of them in my county, and one and all of them declare there is no objection from a hygienic point of view, and that the children are well and happy under the present half-time system. The fact is, from the surgeon's point of view, the heavy work of the school is worse for the health of the children. The gain may be great educationally, but sanitarily the children are better off in the mill than in the school. Surely, looking to the health and welfare of the children, it is better that they should spend half their time in mills rather than that they should be kept in close confinement in schools, and should be forced to acquire a mass of knowledge that is too much for their little brains to hold. It is not as though it was proposed to prevent these children from working in mills in order to enable them to play about in the open air, thriving in body and mind; the object is to force them into the schools, to oppress their little brains with school tasks beyond their powers, sowing the seeds of subsequent weakness and disease much more surely than by the work they do in a mill. The hon. Member for Manchester has quoted in favour of the change the authority of the employers, of the Trade Unions, and of the School Boards, but he has not been able to quote the authority of the parents of the children. I know that some employers are in favour and some against the change, but it is not a matter of importance to employers. Certainly the Trade Union concerned with the cotton industry is against the change. School Boards are, of course, in its favour; 839 it is a means to secure unfortunate children for more schooling, the means by which they think salvation is attained. I am rather surprised that the Report of the Education Commission should be cited, seeing that other recommendations of that Commission have been constantly refused. But, as I say, the hon. Baronet could not quote the opinion of parents in favour of the proposal. In my division I know parents are opposed to the change. If there were a disposition on the part of parents to oppress their children, sending them to work to the prejudice of their health, I do not deny that this House should interfere; but there is no suggestion of the kind, and the physical standard of the Lancashire operatives is a practical answer if there were such a suggestion. I suppose the delegates at the Berlin Conference formed their opinion on certain grounds; but what are the grounds? I listened attentively to the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester, and he told us how other countries had done this or that, but I did not hear why this change is to be made. Why is the present system bad for health and education? I mean that larger education, not mere book learning. Where is there the reason for this legislative change, which will have a far-reaching effect in Lancashire? If there is no adequate ground put forward in favour of the proposed change, I fail to see why it should be made; and, therefore, I shall oppose the Amendment.
§ *(7.51.) MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid)
It is an opportune time, I think, for me to say a few words. I have nothing to say about the proceedings at the Berlin Conference except to express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Gorst), who so ably, with his colleagues, represented this country there, will give us his authentic version of what took place and tell us if the honour of England is pledged to carry out this recommendation. The noble Lord opposite has spoken of the great advantage it is to children to leave school early. All I can say upon that point is that I myself had the good fortune to leave school at eight or nine years of age, while the noble Lord has had the misfortune to be kept at school much longer than that, and is, therefore not able to take such large views of the, 840 labour situation as I am. It follows, I think, from the view he expressed. I am not so sure that upon this point the noble Lord does accurately represent the views of his constituents. I venture to think that if the parents in the noble Lord's constituency were to be polled upon this question he would be enormously outvoted. I can well understand the employers opposing this change, because their object naturally is to get the cheapest labour in the market; and, of course, the labour of a child 10 years of age is paid for upon a lower scale than that of a child 12 years of age. I certainly do not think that the leaders of the operatives will be opposed to the change. If it be necessary that children should be sent to work at 10 years of age in Lancashire, how is it that in other parts of the country families can be maintained although the children do not work till they are 12 years old? Is it not the fact that where child labour and female labour are employed the labour of the man is more poorly paid? In Northumberland and Durham the children do not go to work till they are 12 years old, our girls are not employed in factories at an early age, and yet the labour of the husband and the son is sufficient to maintain the family. Not one employer who has risen here this evening to support the Bill has said he is doing so on his own behalf. Every one has said he is supporting the Bill out of regard for the interest of the parent and in reference to the money that the child-workers are bringing into the family. There are, however, other interests higher than those of the parent. This is not a question that should be settled within the confines of Lancashire, but one in which the whole nation has a vested interest. The Bill itself is drawn with a seeming regard to the welfare of the nation. Why do we protect women and ask for better sanitary arrangements in our factories and workshops; why are we asked to say the lads and lasses should not go to work till they are 12 years old? Is it not because we recognise that not the parent but the nation has a vested interest in the subject, and that that vested interest should have the first regard. This country desires to go forward, and it asks that we should raise the age of the lads and lasses higher than it is. One hon. Member spoke of children 841 going to school at 6 in the morning and stopping there till 12, then rushing home as hard as they can to get their little dinners, and then clamouring at the gate of the mill for admission 15 minutes before the bell rings. That may be a picture which rests in the imagination, but I venture to say it has very little foundation in fact. I remember when I was a lad I was not very eager to get to either school or work. If we want to educate our boys we must not divide their time in this way, but keep them at school till their education is complete. We are simply making our educational system a mockery if we take them from school at the age of 10, and plunge them into work at that age. If the standards are too low, and children can pass them and go to work before reaching the proper age, let us raise the standards. I venture to say that if we raise the age and raise the standards we shall find ourselves in a much better position to compete with other countries. The Home Secretary says we must listen to the voice of the people concerned. In 1887, when my friends were struggling to make the Mines Regulation Bill as good a measure as possible, the right hon. Gentleman declined to make a number of changes which were backed by the united demand of the whole of the miners. I ask him to-night not to be led away by the smaller voice he may hear from Lancashire on the present point. The whole nation has a right to be heard on this matter, and the right hon. Gentleman ought not to confine his attention to Lancashire. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) uttered one of the most direct insults on the body of labour in this country that has ever been heard in this House. He said if the lads were not set to work at 12 years of age they would go into a course of immorality.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART WORTLEY,) Sheffield, Hallam
He never said that, or anything of the sort.
§ *MR. J. WILSON
Well, then, in a course of mischief or wrong. What is that but a course of immorality? Surely he did not mean merely a few boyish pranks, such as robbing orchards and so on. I think he meant they would go into wrong courses. The experience of other districts in England proves that to be a wrong statement. 842 The lads of other districts are no more inclined to indulge in wrong-doing than those who are kept at school longer in higher grades of life. I believe this Amendment, if carried, will be conducive to the benefit of the boys and girls themselves, that it will do the parents no harm, and will be of great benefit to the country. (8.11.)
(8.45.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. H. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
I had the privilege to be a Member of the Standing Committee on Trade, before which the provisions of this Bill were very fully discussed. Again, I may claim to have a larger interest in the question of half-time than most other Members, inasmuch as I represent a borough where a greater number of children are employed half-time than anywhere else. Leeds, with a larger population than Bradford, has only 701 children employed on half-time; whereas in Bradford 7,000 are so employed. I approached this subject with an open mind, which, if it had any bias, was in the direction of raising the limit of age, for no man claiming to be an educationalist and humanitarian would wish children to work at the expense of their education. But, as the result of an exhaustive inquiry in my constituency, I came to the conclusion that its interests compelled me to oppose this Amendment, and to support the Bill as it stands. Sentiment is all very well in its way, but my constituents say that there is something worth a great deal more to them, and that is bread and butter. Various Local Bodies, including the Chamber of Commerce, support my present action.
§ MR. H. BYRON REED
I have not the terms of the resolution, but there was a conference between that body and the Trades Council of Bradford, and the latter body was by no means unanimously opposed to the present state of things. Besides, if the Trades Council had given unanimous support to the proposal of the right hon. Member for Poplar, I venture to think that the public opinion of Bradford would not in any way have regarded the Trades Council as fully representative of the 843 working classes of that town. I have received sheaves of letters from all sorts and conditions of men, and I am bound to say that, without a single exception, they are in one direction—against the Amendment. I have a number of letters on this subject, all of them written by working men, and some of which I should like to be allowed to read to the House. In one of these the writer says—I notice that the Factory Bill will come on for consideration after the Education Bill has made headway. I hope you will try to keep the age limit at 10 years. I can assure yon that it will be a great hardship to the poorer parents in Bradford if it is raised. If yon take this town alone, the wages paid to half-time labour is about £54,000 per year; and nearly half is paid to children under 12 years of age, which means that the poorer parents will be deprived of about £25,000 per year of their income with no earthly possibility of replacing it. If the poorer people were better circumstanced, so that they could do without this help from their children, I should not trouble you with this letter; but I know they cannot afford to lose it. I am in a position to judge, having had a life's experience amongst short-timers, and I have had a lot to do with the parents of short-timers. I have young people working under me now, and I know their parents cannot do without the help they get from this source without having to apply for parish relief.Then, in another letter, the writer says—I wish, on behalf of myself and others, to object to the proposed alteration of short-timers' age for beginning work. We think the age should not be risen—at any rate, until the workmen and women are getting a better wage to keep them. If the age is risen, it will entail more suffering for the children themselves, as when they begin working they get better food and clothes, and they look forward to the time when they will be bringing their little earnings to help the small income of the father. I should not have a word to say against it if we were in a monetary position enabling us to maintain our family in comparatively humble comfort. I will give you my own as a typical case, and there are thousands in Yorkshire and Lancashire in a worse position than mine. My wage is 18s. for a full week's work. I pay 1s. school money, rent 4s. 6d. per week, coals and gas not less than 1s. 6d., which leaves 11s. to feed and clothe two parents and four children between the ages of 5 and 11 years, or less than 2s. per head. Then there is broken time which averages at least 1s. per week, as well as the club and other things. So you can guess what a struggle we have to exist—not live—and now, just at the time when we have one or two getting big enough to help us, and when we are hoping to have a rather better prospect, some, no doubt, well-meaning people are trying to alter things in a way that will 844 make our grinding struggle go on for two years longer, or worse, because the older the children get the more expensive they are. I should like some of those who are trying to raise the age to be placed in my position for a single year, and I venture to say that their opinions would alter. I have spoken to many working people about this, and they are all of opinion that it would be a scandal and a shame if that clause were passed.I have here another correspondent of the same class, and before reading his letter I would simply point out that it is astonishing to find the amount of interest taken by the working classes in things of this kind; although it is probably known to many hon. Members that the working men of Yorkshire and the manufacturing towns in the Northern counties exhibit a very keen appreciation of political matters, especially when they relate to subjects of domestic economy such as this—an appreciation which I venture to say would do credit even to Members of this hon. House. This correspondent says—There is a clause to raise the age of children from 10 to 12 years before being allowed to work half-time. I would, as one who has worked half-time at the age of from 8 to 13, ask you to oppose that clause. My experience has been in cotton mills, therefore I know it has been of the worst and unhealthiest kind. With this practical knowledge I affirm that the employment was such that I do not regret it, and could I shape my course and live again I would not desire the five years of half-time to be changed. There are few portions of our lives about which we can say this. The mills are not the unhealthy and vile dens that theorists make out. Here is a sample: a spinning room where 50 men, boys, and girls work. It is 180ft. x 84ft., and 11ft. high; hence 166,320 cubic feet or over 3,000 cubic feet per head. What school, office, home, or even House of Commons will surpass it? The work is light, pleasant, merry—not continuous. In the leisure moments we used to work out algebra, simple and quadratic equations, and problems of Euclid, and that before the writer was 12. In the school I attended the half-timers competed with the day scholars, mill time being the time of chewing the cud of lessons. Half-timers are not little white slaves; the work is enjoyed by them, insomuch that they are eager to leave school and go full time to work as soon as they can. That labour is a factor in education is certain, and that the light labour of the half-timer is not a grind-like school but a pleasure is also true. Work brightens, quickens, and stimulates the young minds; the half-timer learns to be cleanly, prompt, regular. He must be attentive, constant, orderly. Those who are in favour of raising the age are theorists ignorant of the life-labour and work of half-timers. I have 845 not met with a person who has been a half-timer who desires to raise the age.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
Will the hon. Member furnish the names and addresses of the writers of these letters?
§ MR. H. BYRON REED
I shall be very glad to give the hon. Member for Lanark the names and addresses of all these correspondents if he wishes to have them. I will now read another letter, which I think is far more eloquent than any opinions which I could express. The writer says—I beg to acknowledge with thanks receipt of pamphlet containing Amendments to Factory and Workshops Act. I have also to inform you that the Amendments of Messrs. Buxton and Houldsworth on the half-time question were brought before a full meeting of the members of this Society, and it was decided almost unanimously against interfering with the present system. Allow me also to state that having gone through the mill as a half-timer myself, and having had children working half-time, I am satisfied they do not suffer either morally, physically, or intellectually under the existing system in this independent half-time district.I will add the testimony of another gentleman, whose name is a household word in Bradford, and who is the moving spirit in every benevolent and philanthropic movement—Sir Henry Mitchell—who says—In reference to the Factory Bill I believe both our spinners and the parents of the children are practically unanimous in regard to fixing the age at 10 years. It will be a very great hardship to the parents if it is higher, and no benefit to the children. Their employment is in no way injurious to them; on the contrary, their health is more likely to be preserved there than at school.Now I pass to one more reference, which I think bears out the opinion of parents. If objection be made from the opposite side of the House that parents are interested parties and therefore likely to treat their children with cruelty or without consideration, I may reply at once that the working class fathers and mothers of the West Riding of Yorkshire yield to none in their family affections and in their tenderness for their children. I find that in the Greenholme Mills at Burley-in-Wharfdale, the owners of which are William Fison & Co., the mills which once belonged to a firm in which the late Mr. W. E. Forster was chief partner, a ballot was taken with a view to ascertaining the views of the employés on the question of half-timers. Two questions we put, i.e.— 846Are you in favour of the present half-time system?andAre you in favour of the children being kept entirely at school till 12 years old?The ballot paper was circulated amongst the whole body of operatives; the voting was strictly by ballot, no undue persuasion was used, and the result was that 93 per cent. voted in favour of the present half-time system, 6 per cent. against it, and 1 per cent. abstained from voting. I am assured by gentlemen of experience in the neighbourhood that a similar result would follow any well organised system of voting in any mill. I am told that certain engagements were entered into at the Berlin Conference. I dismiss that in one sentence. I care comparatively little about Berlin, and I care a great deal about Bradford, and I do not intend to give a single vote in this House which I think detrimental to the interests of the men whom I represent here. It is because I believe it to be in the interests of Bradford trade, in the interests of the working classes, in the interests of the wage-earning capacity of the people, and in the interests of the country at large, that I take up this position of opposition to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Poplar. It seems to me that hon. Members opposite assume gratuitously that the law as it stands compels parents to send their children to work at the age of 10 years. That is by no means the case, for in very many instances the children of the working classes are kept at school long after that age, where the circumstances of the parents permit it. I think we shall, if we declare no child shall work in a factory before it is 11 years old, inflict a serious wrong on a great many industrious people, and strike a severe blow at some of the most important industries in the textile districts. I, as a Representative of one of those districts, declare I will not by vote or voice sanction such a proceeding.
§ (9.10.) MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
I hold that the questions which were, according to the hon. Member for Bradford, submitted to the Wharfdale operatives, were entirely misleading. The operatives should have been asked if they were in favour of the working age commencing at 10 years or 12 years. That would have been a clear and intelligible way of submitting the question, and a ballot upon it might 847 have been of some value. I think the arguments of the hon. Member might well have been advanced against fixing any limit of age. We have heard them over and over again for all purposes and on all occasions. Of course, if you ask parents, who are hardly pressed in the conditions of life, whose wages are low and whose rents are high, whether they agree to the money-earning age of their children commencing at 10 they will say that they do, and a similar answer would be returned if it were suggested it should begin at eight years. What we have to consider is: what is desirable, and what is beneficial, for the future of the country and for the great majority of the people. I think it would be a great mistake to assume that there is not much feeling among the working people of Lancashire and Cheshire, and in some parts of Yorkshire, in favour of the 10 years of age limit. It would be foolish to deny that. I readily admit that, unfortunately, many of my friends are anxious that the House should to-night maintain the age at 10 years. Those who are well acquainted with the nature of the trade can offer ample apology for those views. The textile trades—the cotton and silk trades of Lancashire—are peculiar, and require a dexterity of manipulation unknown to many other trades. It is necessary that the operatives should begin the work before the bones have become set in their fingers, when the fingers are light and supple. That is the main reason, I believe, why the cotton operatives of Lancashire are so desirous to maintain the present age, and we ought to pay some attention to their arguments. But I cannot help thinking that after many years association with the Lancashire trades that the interests of the workers would be quite served if the age were raised to 11 instead of 12. To fix 12 would be an extreme measure, and I think 11 would be a fair compromise, the change should commence within a reasonable time, and an advance might take place in four or six years. This is a suggestion to which, in the interests of the further progress of the Bill, the Home Secretary and the Government should give serious thought, with a view to securing a general agreement and saving further discussion on this matter. In the case of my friends in Lancashire, I am bound to say that in their advocacy of the present standard of age for half-timers 848 they must not be deemed to be men oblivious of the importance and value of education. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) will agree that among the Lancashire operatives are to be found some of the most devoted friends of educational progress. But it is the duty of this House to take a higher and broader view on this important question, and to say that not only the interests but also the character of this country will depend largely on the decision which is arrived at to-night. An unfortunate argument which was introduced for the first time by the Home Secretary has been largely taken up by other speakers and has thrown much confusion into this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman said that half-timers in the factory showed greater adaptability for educational requirements than children who remained all the time at school. I cannot think we are seriously asked to believe that a child of 10 because he is sent to work in a factory will consequently become a better scholar and a better citizen and a more useful member of society. I am amazed that one so learned and so intellectual in every respect as the Home Secretary should stoop to make use of such an argument. If the proposition were well-founded the children of the well-to-do and the children of the aristocracy, who have scarcely left their nursery governesses at 10 years of age, ought to be sent into the factory if they are to become great scholars, statesmen, or warriors, or if they are to distinguish themselves in literature. I regret that a Cabinet Minister of the rank of the Home Secretary, a man of such enormous if not unrivalled experience, should have been for a moment off his guard and made such a serious error. I have used his words at many meetings I have addressed in recent bye-elections in support of the argument that a Government which is in favour of driving infants into a factory cannot be sincere on the question of free education, and I believe the words were very effective in bringing about the defeat of the Conservative candidates. During the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill opinions were expressed in all quarters of the House in favour of raising the age of half-timers. There were no speeches made against it, and 849 therefore we are amazed at the position now taken up by the Government. We know that their career is now drawing to a close. The Home Secretary knows as well as we do how uncertain is political and especially official life. Let me appeal to him for once in his official career to distinguish himself by making a reasonable and honourable compromise on a question which appeals to the hearts of all, and which is intimately connected with the future welfare of every man and woman in Great Britain.
§ *(9.25.) MR. W. SIDEBOTTOM (Derbyshire, High Peak)
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that this is a question in which my constituents are deeply interested, and I desire to give expression to their views upon it, especially as those views are in entire accord with my own. The supporters of the Amendment have put the matter before the House as if it were compulsory upon all children at 10 years of age to commence work. The measure, on the contrary, is merely permissive, and allows them to do so in certain circumstances. For the last 30 years I have had very intimate relations with the cotton manufacturing population of Cheshire and Derbyshire, and I can say with confidence that it is the universal wish of those people that the age shall remain as at present. In order to show that the rule of working at 10 years of age is by no means universal, I mention the cases of three men in my own employment. The first will not allow his child when 10 years of age to work, but will keep him at school, being able to afford it, to give him a better education. In the second case, the child is rather weakly, and the father does not send her to work in consequence. In the third case, the child, who is perfectly well able to work, is sent to the factory, and I maintain that it would be very unjust to that parent if that child was not allowed to work and add its earnings for the benefit of the family, and surely the retention of certifying surgeons will insure that no unfit children will be employed. What is the alternative? The alternative is full time at school. If the children get plenty of wholesome food, and go into the fields, I admit it would be better for their health than the factories. But the alternative is going to school. We have 850 all heard of overpressure in schools, but who has ever known a case of overpressure in the case of a half-timer at a factory? Assertions have been made, but no facts have been given, still less any proof of facts, to show such a case. In the absence of such facts, and speaking from my own intimate knowledge of the work and the people, I am not prepared to believe that going to work is more detrimental to the health of children than going to school. On the contrary, I believe that going to work half-time is beneficial to the health of the child as compared with going to school the whole time. Many gentlemen who have spoken on this subject seem, from my extensive knowledge of it, to be in utter ignorance with regard to the facts of the case. The hon. Member for Poplar cannot know much about the young women who work in the mills if he thinks they spend their evenings at needlework. My experience of them is that they rarely do needlework. They do not make their own dresses or clothes, and the needlework they acquire a knowledge of at school is, in my opinion, almost thrown away. The hon. Member seemed to think that when the young men and women have finished their work they spend their time in improving their education. That is not my experience at all. When they reach 20, which is the age at which they usually marry, they have generally forgotten the great bulk of what they have learnt. I think we ought to take some notice of the wishes of the population in regard to this question of half-time; and in this democratic age it seems a strange thing that democratic principles should be enunciated as they are to-night from this side of the House and rejected by gentlemen opposite. Now, Sir, what is the wish of the people of Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire in regard to this question? Well, Sir, the wish of the parents is unanimous in favour of leaving the age as it now is. The wish of the children is the same, and such also is the wish of the vast majority of the remainder of the population. The hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) said if the subject had been placed fairly before the people of Bradford by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed) they would have given a different verdict to that re- 851 ported by the hon. Member. Well, Sir, I had the honour to place the matter before a considerable number of Cheshire and Derbyshire people at two meetings. The question I asked them was whether they would like the age to remain as it is, or to be raised to 11, and the unanimous answer I received was "Let it remain as it is." One man, acting as spokesman for others, stood forward and said words of this effect, "I should like any gentleman who votes for raising the age to be in my position. I should like to see him with a family of 12 children dependent entirely on his own work and then hear whether he was in favour of raising the age." The remarks that have been made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn, and others, about the cheerful way in which children go to the mills are perfectly correct. The children prefer to go to the mills to going to school, and if they had their choice there can be no doubt what the decision would be. The consensus of opinion among those who work in factories is that the matter ought to be left as it is. I should like to make one remark with regard to the Berlin Conference. The hon. Member for Manchester (Sir W. Houldsworth) stated distinctly to us that we were not legally bound, and he did not think we were even morally bound, by the decision of the Conference. The hon. Baronet was one of our representatives at the Conference, and if we are not bound by it why should we pay any attention whatever to the remarks of gentlemen who wish to enforce its decisions upon us as binding. What would hon. Gentlemen opposite say if we on this side of the House ventured to advocate protection or conscription because they are adopted in foreign countries, and to say that because they are there adopted we ought to follow their example? In conclusion, I must thank the House for the patient way in which it has listened to my remarks, and will only add that I consider it my bounden duty to support the Government in their objection to the Amendment.
§ *(9.38.) MR. MATHER (Lancashire, S.E., Gorton)
It is a matter of national importance and interest to discuss the question now before the House. If we have done wrong during the 852 last 20 years in keeping the half-half-time age at 10, we have certainly inflicted a great injury on the growing generation; if we have done right we cannot do better than continue as we have done in the past. I feel that the whole question of the treatment of children in this country does not receive as much attention from the House of Commons as it deserves, though we have during the last few years been endeavouring to increase educational facilities in connection with elementary instruction, so that the youth of our country may enjoy better educational advantages. Many speakers have discussed the question as if we were dealing with the whole of the working class children from 10 to 14 years old. As a matter of fact, the Amendment will only affect a portion of the children in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire between 10 and 11 years old, numbering, according to the Returns, 15,000 all told. The textile manufacturers and operatives are those chiefly interested in the question. We have not received from any class of manufacturers or working men opposition to the proposal in the Amendment during the whole of the discussions that have taken place. When we have regard to this circumstance, the question does not present itself to us as a matter of transcendant importance so far as the employed are concerned. We must keep our view fixed on the textile trades, which have formulated certain objections to the raising of the age. Perhaps the best case that has been made out on the part of the employers and operatives was made out at the Home Secretary's Office a few months ago when the right hon. Gentleman received a large deputation from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, which I had the honour of accompanying. On that occasion I frankly admitted—as I admit now before the House—that for years I had held the view that the age of 12 was the earliest age at which children ought to be permitted by law to commence working for a livelihood. But I was very much struck by some of the statements made by the operatives and employers, and I was able to corroborate some of them, especially those dealing with manual instruction as an accompaniment of education. I have always been an advocate of the combination of manual training 853 and class work in our elementary schools, and have been confirmed in my view by the investigations which I made at the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield in the United States. Manual training in combination with class instruction has done wonders there in developing the acuities of the children, and I hold that, in a certain sense, that work in the textile manufactories of Lancashire and Yorkshire will tend to develop the faculties of our children if the manual training is in combination with education and the children are not too young. I admitted when the deputation waited on the Home Secretary that I should be obliged to consider my position both as to the age at which children should go to work in factories and workshops and the facilities which should be given to them for education. Well, during the past few weeks I have paid careful attention to the matter, and have made investigations throughout Lancashire. I have satisfied myself as to the educational value of the half-time system, so far as children between 10 and 11 years of age are concerned, and I came to the conclusion that I was not wrong formerly in assuming that a certain amount of quickness and smartness is imparted to children even of 10 years of age who performed certain operations amongst men and women; but on examining the conditions under which children work, even in the best mills, where everything is done to protect them morally and physically, I came to the conclusion that it is absolutely necessary to raise the age from 10 to 11, and even to 12, before they begin actual work. It has been necessary to pass an Act last year to regulate the amount of steam in weaving sheds, because men and women declare they are working under conditions which bring on premature decay; and if adults suffer from such conditions, how much more must young children do so? The raison d'être of this Bill now before the House is that the operatives of Lancashire have come to us and asked that we should legislate in their interests in order to improve the conditions under which their work is carried on. They have told their dismal tale to their representatives—probably with some exaggeration. But, allowing for exaggeration, it is clear that the 854 Government would not have been moved to bring in their Bill and to urge it through if they had not thought there was something in the demands of the working men, particularly in the textile trades, and desired to meet those demands. So far as that part of the question touching the physical condition of young children who work as half-timers is concerned, the case has been proved down to the ground as regards the past. In the future, no doubt, the children will work under better conditions than they have in the past, even if this Amendment were not adopted. A certain amount of justice has been done to them, but there is still something remaining to be done by raising the age for work. With regard to the educational question Parliament has been engaged for some years in promoting technical instruction, and in bringing to all classes the moans of perfecting themselves in the various trades and industries in which they are engaged. In order to attain the object of the Acts relating to technical instruction, in order to realise the desires of all educationists for the extension and improvement of elementary instruction, we are bound to continue that instruction full time for all beyond the age of 10. We have complained that what was done in the standards of the old Code is not practical enough. We are, therefore, associating drawing and manual training with the higher standards; but children of 10 cannot derive any benefit from this practical instruction. As to the extension of school age interfering with our foreign trade, it would be a poor lookout for this country if its position depended upon the labour of children under 11. This country, blessed by Providence far more than other lands with mineral resources and other wealth, placed as she is at the head of all the nations of the world, will never say that she depends upon the employment of children of tender years for the maintenance of our position in the industrial competition of the world. There is only one competition we have to fear either in trade or commerce, and that is competition in the training of the hand and intellect of children. If we are beaten in this competition not all our national wealth and resources will avail us. It is our duty, therefore, to train the 855 children of the country in manual and technical subjects, and to do this thoroughly I hold that there should be a higher limit of age to the employment of children in factories and workshops. I can say from my own experience that the labouring classes of this country are in favour of the proposed limitation. I have in my employ over 1,000 men, of whom 80 are unskilled labourers. These labourers have 238 children, and although the men are receiving only from 20s. to 26s. a week, only 2 percent. of them send their children to work as half-timers before the age of 12 years. The unskilled labourers entertain a universal feeling that their children should have the opportunity of being properly educated. They had little education themselves, and they now feel the want of it. There is a universal desire amongst the operatives—I will not say amongst the operatives in textile trades—for legislation to enable their children to avail themselves of those higher and better modes of training the mind than has been possible in the past. I am convinced that if the House accepts the Amendment the Lancashire operatives will admit that after all Parliament has done a wise and proper thing, and one which will assist more than any other means, by promoting the better education of their children, in making this country in the future great, prosperous, and true to its professions and instincts of being the leading nation of the world.
§ *(9.57.) MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I believe, notwithstanding what has fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester, that our half-time system does not exist anywhere else in Europe. There may be places where they do not allow children to work full time, but I do not believe there is any place except England where the children pass part of their time at work and part of it necessarily at school. I know employers feel it to be to their interests, apart altogether from the more generous motives, to have a healthy working-class population; and as regards the parents, their natural instincts are that their children should spend their young days in happiness and all the vigour of child life. But I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite are treating these parents in a just and fair manner. Those parents are voters, and are entitled to be treated with 856 confidence in the matter of the employment of their children. It is wrong to the parents of children not to trust them, not to believe that they are fully alive to the interests of their children. In the early stages of factory legislation, in the days of Lord Shaftesbury, and later in 1878, it was the parents who were desirous of the changes made. As far as I know, this is the first time in the whole history of factory legislation when a change such as this proposed is not acceptable to the parents; and in proof of that statement I may mention the fact that, while I have received communications from the operatives of Wigan in opposition to the proposal, not a word is to be heard among them in favour of the change. Nobody who has mixed amongst the factory population in Lancashire and Yorkshire can have failed to notice how vigorous and healthy are the factory children.
§ *MR. POWELL
Well, I have seen very thin boys at Eton, and I know that anxious parents have withdrawn their boys from the severe discipline of that institution. Without attempting to discuss the proceedings of the Berlin Conference I assert that no International compact was arrived at there on this question. In the formal words of the Protocol it is declared that it did not he within the powers of the delegates to sign any agreement settling the question submitted for consideration—Our powers," the President says, "do not extend beyond expressions of opinion and making suggestions which will be laid before the Governments represented at the Conference.As to the changes recently made by foreign countries in their labour laws, it must be remembered that, while we in England rigidly obey the factory law, in Switzerland and in Germany there is so large a power of relaxation as seriously to limit the operation of that law. The employers view this half-time question with indifference, but on behalf of the operatives of Wigan I resist the proposal.
§ *(10.10.) MR. BURT (Morpeth)
I see so many hon. Members are wishful to address the House, and my own views have been so well put in the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Motion, and in the admirable speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester 857 that if I followed my own inclination I should be content to remain silent. I feel, however, that having been so long and so closely associated with large bodies of workmen, and having had the honour of being selected as one of the representatives of this country at the Berlin Conference, I can hardly permit a Debate of this kind to conclude without saying a few words. An attempt has been made to show that this country was not morally or otherwise bound by any decision arrived at in this matter by the Berlin Congress. I am not able to share that view. At the Congress the British representatives found that while in this country we had been the pioneers of industrial legislation, we were behind every other country in Europe with regard to the age at which we send our children to work. This fact was not so fully within my knowledge before. Only one country—Italy—is behind us in this respect. It may be true that there is nothing analogous in other countries to our half-time system with regard to the attendance of children at school, but there is something analogous to the half-time system in regard to the hours of employment of the young. In Switzerland and Austria children do not begin work until they are 14, while in many Continental countries they do not commence until they are 12 or 13, and even then they are not allowed until they are 16 years of age to work more than from sis to eight hours per day. In that respect we are considerably behind those countries. The representatives of this country at Berlin were absolutely unanimous in favour of raising the age. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chatham, shaking off conventionalities, will tell the House really what took place at the Conference. Communications were opened with the head of the Government, and Lord Salisbury gave forth no uncertain sound on this subject. How the Government can in the face of that—they have not declared what they will do—but how they can, after authorising their representatives at Berlin to approve the raising of the age of children, refuse to accept the Amendment I am at a loss to conceive. It has been said by the hon. Member for Oldham that no other country but Germany has carried out the Berlin programme. But other countries are following in the wake 858 of Germany, and that country has gone beyond the Berlin programme. There is no doubt that these Continental nations are influenced by military considerations. They want in their armies strong hardy men, and in order to get them they wish to protect the children and the mothers of their future soldiers. But it is not less important to us, a great industrial nation, to protect and educate our children. Entirely irrespective of what other countries may do, I hold that it is our duty as a nation in the interest of our own population to prevent children from going to work at 10 years of age. I think the evidence which has been submitted, the testimony of medical men, educational statistics, the figures quoted from the Vice President of the Council, the opinions of the Education Commission differing on many points yet unanimous in this; all these facts go to show there is a very strong case indeed in favour of raising the age at which children should be allowed to go to work. Only one other point will I touch upon—the feeling among the operatives. That feeling has been stated to be unanimous against the proposal. The hon. Member for Manchester, who knows something of Lancashire, doubts whether there is unanimity. Even if there is a majority against the change, how far may not the feeling be due to the misapprehension that we are attacking the half-time system? We are not attacking the half-time system. It may be a good thing, I believe it is a good thing, to combine school teaching with manual labour, but the process should begin at a later ago than 10. That is all we contend for. The opinion of the operatives in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and elsewhere must be listened to; they have votes and they can make their influence felt, and if they are unanimous they will in the end have their way. There is no use attempting to blink that fact. But I think the House of Commons, and candidates for future seats, might hold up a higher ideal to workmen. I can quite understand hon. Members contending that the pecuniary interest and the poverty of parents urge them to send their children to work at an early age, but how they can hold that up as a good thing in itself passes my comprehension. Some hon. Members argue as if the workmen belonged to 859 a different species to themselves. I do not put it impertinently, but I ask how would hon. Members like their own children to be sent to the bench or the loom at 10 years of age? I doubt whether in the long run anyone will lose by raising the age, but even should there be a loss to parents, I feel that certainly the parents should make that temporary sacrifice rather than destroy the health and blight the lives of their children for years to come.
§ *(10.23.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST,) Chatham
As my hon. Friend has appealed to me, and other hon. Members have made similar appeals to me, to confirm the statements that have been made of what took place at the Berlin Conference, I feel that it would scarcely be respectful to the House if I did not say a few words on this occasion, but I hope, in consideration of the peculiar position which I occupy, the House will be satisfied with a simple statement of the facts, and not expect me to introduce an opinion of my own into the discussion. The task of the British delegates at Berlin was easy and very agreeable to their feelings of patriotism. They found that upon most of the subjects proposed for discussion at Berlin this country had already legislated, and their task was simply to listen to the generous approbation of English industrial legislation which was expressed by our foreign colleagues, and to encourage them to go and do likewise. But we found, as the hon. Member for Morpeth has said, that while upon almost all the subjects brought before the Conference England was in advance, there was one particular point in which we were behind the great majority of the European nations, and that was in the age at which we allowed our children to go to work, and we further found that our influence in the Conference in inducing other European nations to come into line with England on other points would be seriously diminished if we determinedly refused to come into line with them in the one point in which we were behind. We therefore, at a very early stage of the Conference, set ourselves seriously to consider whether we could agree to the proposed minimum age of 12. Now, I can assure 860 the House that we did not treat that matter in any light or flippant spirit. We considered it carefully, and nearly all the arguments I have heard to-night were talked over and thought over by us on that occasion. We had the advantage of the aid of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, who has given the House in his speech to-night an example of the value of the advice and information which he gave us during the Conference. We had also the assistance of the hon. Member for Morpeth, and of Mr. Burnett, of the Board of Trade, and I do not think two men could have been picked better qualified to express the views and opinions of the working classes of this country, and we had also Mr. Birtwistle, of the Lancashire Weavers' Association, who was able to give us the views of the working classes of the textile districts.
§ *SIR J. GORST
And we unanimously came to the conclusion that we could safely recommend for adoption the minimum age of 12. We thereupon communicated our views to Lord Salisbury in the most precise and clear manner, and we received from Lord Salisbury the most precise and clear instructions, and the consequence of that is that in the Protocol it stands recorded that Great Britain gives adhesion to the proposition that it is desirable that children of either sex that have not reached a certain age should be excluded from work in factories, and that this limit of age should be fixed at 12. We did not agree in an exception which was made for the southern countries—Italy, Spain, and Portugal—that the age should be fixed at 10, for, with the zeal of converts, we were enthusiastic in the profession of our faith, and refused to agree that in Italy, Spain, or Portugal children, however precocious, should go to work at 10. So that in that one point we went in advance of any other European nation. The hon. Member for Oldham has entirely misrepresented to the House the nature of the observations which I made, with the concurrence of my colleagues, upon the half-time system. These observations have no relation whatever to the question of the limit of age. They were put forward to justify Great Britain in declining to be a party 861 to an entirely different proposition, namely, that children must first have satisfied the provisions respecting primary education before being allowed to go to work. That proposition was understood to mean that children, though of the age of 12, were to be still debarred from work until they had passed such an examination as would prove their elementary education to be practically completed: the idea was that the period of elementary education should be finished before the life of labour was allowed to begin. The British delegates refused to accept that proposition, because it appeared to us inconsistent with the maintenance of the half-time system, to which I do not understand any one in the House to be diametrically opposed, and by which elementary education and labour are allowed to go on simultaneously. Candour compels me to admit to the House that these opinions were not generally accepted by the delegates of other European countries. They appeared to think that our half-time system, by which I understand a system under which elementary education and manual labour are allowed to go on simultaneously, might have been a very good makeshift 40 years ago, when it was instituted, but that it is not a method of education coming up to the requirements of these more enlightened days. The universal opinion of all the European delegates, who included men of almost every kind, was almost unanimous upon this point—that the period of elementary education ought to be closed before a child was allowed to go to work at all. They were not adverse to instruction accompanying labour, but the instruction which they had in view was of a technical character. The groundwork of elementary education, which is the groundwork of all further intellectual progress, they thought ought to be completed altogether before a child was allowed to go to work. All Members of the House have been boys. Let them ask themselves whether they could have performed their school work satisfactorily to themselves or their teachers when they were between 10 and 11 years old if they had had to begin the day by spending six hours in a cotton factory. There is one other part of the proceedings at the Conference to which, in justice to the Government and my col- 862 leagues at Berlin, I must call attention. However much the British delegates may have been morally bound by the Berlin proceedings, it was our duty to keep the British Parliament and Government free from anything like an international obligation. As so much has been said in the Debate on this subject, I am anxious to show that the British delegates fulfilled that duty. There was a Committee appointed for carrying out the conditions adopted by the Conference. Before that Committee a proposition was made by the representatives of Switzerland that measures ought to be taken to secure the carrying out of the recommendations adopted by the Conference. They argued that it might be presumed that the States which had agreed upon the several resolutions would render their execution obligatory, and they suggested that the execution of such arrangements should be enforced by international legislation, and where that was insufficient that it should be supplemented by the local Legislature of the country concerned. The British delegates thought that that proposal was too drastic, and was calculated to fetter the freedom of Government in any future consideration of the subject. The opposition to that proposal was led by the British delegates. We said that "Even if the statesmen of Great Britain had the wish to contract international obligations relative to the regulation of labour in factories, they would have no power to do so, as they were forbidden to pat their industrial laws at the discretion of any Foreign Power." In consequence of our opposition the proposal of Switzerland was abandoned, and, in lieu of it, there was adopted a series of resolutions proposed by Germany, which ultimately, with some amendments, were embodied in the final Protocol. That part of the Protocol began with these words—"In case Governments should give effect to the labours of the Conference, the following provisions are recommended." The British delegates took the course I have related with the view of reserving to the Parliament of Great Britain the right ultimately to pronounce on this important question. So far as our labours at Berlin were concerned, however deeply the country may be under a moral obligation not to go back from those philanthropic sentiments which, when they were useful to us, we pro- 863 fessed at Berlin, Parliament is tonight perfectly free to come to that conclusion which will be best for the interest of the people of this country. I trust that the vote of the House of Commons to-night will be such as will promote that interest.
§ (10.39.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I do not rise for the purpose of travelling over any portion of the ground which has been covered to-night; but I wish to call the attention of the House to the extraordinary and unparalleled position, under the circumstances, in which the Government are placed. The House has just heard from the right hon. Gentleman a most interesting speech, in which he confirmed all that has been stated by the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester, and by his other colleagues at Berlin. The right hon. Gentleman has wound up his speech with the hope that the vote of the House will be in accordance with the interests of this country, but the whole of the speech consisted of a most powerful set of arguments for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Poplar. What the House desires to know is, what is the line which the Government intend to take? How does it happen that after six hours' debate the policy of the Government must still be inquired for? The hon. Member for Manchester, in one of the most persuasive and eloquent speeches which I have ever heard him deliver, has pointedly begged the First Lord of the Treasury to assure his followers that this may be an open question. Still, the House is in the dark as to the intentions of the Government. This is not a private Member's Bill; it is a Government Bill, and the Amendment before the House is the first on Report. The time has come for the Home Secretary to tell the House plainly what is the policy of the Government.
§ *(10.41.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have given much attention to the progress of the discussion of this question. The Amendment before the House was debated by the Standing Committee on the proposal of the hon. Member for Poplar, made almost in the same terms as the present Amendment, and it was to a degree supported by the hon. Baronet the Mem- 864 ber for Manchester. The opinion of the Government was declared on that occasion as plainly as anyone could desire. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that I can only speak once on Report, and I was naturally waiting to hear what Members on both sides of the House had to say before I ventured to trouble the House with some remarks. I do propose now to state the line we are going to take, and I will ask the House at starting to observe that there are two distinct schools of thought on this question. There are the uncompromising advocates of improved education, like the hon. Member for Poplar, who has always been consistent in this matter, and who has frankly and fairly pointed out that this half-way house of 11 years is a miserable suggestion, to which he would not consent. The hon. Member told the House plainly that he does not propose to stop short of 12 years. On the other hand, there are the minimizers, the compromisers, and the temporizers, with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, who was a Berlin delegate, and who, in the Committee, voted against the Berlin recommendations, and who has told the House that he is again going to vote against them. My hon. Friend accepted the 11 years limit, but he rejected and refused to raise the limit to 12 years. Then there is that most enthusiastic lover of compromise the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst), who has exhorted me as Home Secretary to end my official career with one virtuous act, and to accept the reasonable, honourable, and valuable compromise of the 11 years limit. The House will observe, therefore, that all these high principles about the necessity of following the recommendations of the Berlin Conference as enunciated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chatham are discarded by these lovers of compromise. The hon. Member for Manchester is opposed to that course. The hon. Member for Nottingham is against it. The hon. Member for the Gorton Division, who has with so much eloquence advocated the 11 years limit, predicted that by this simple change the most beneficent results would follow. These are opinions very recently acquired by the hon. Member for the Gorton Division, because not two months ago, in the most important 865 deputation which has visited the Home Office, the hon. Member expressed opinions diametrically opposite.
§ *MR. MATHER
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but it is on record that I did not recede from the limit of age of 12, but that I would consider the views expressed and probably modify that opinion.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
There was no expression of probable change of opinion by the hon. Member, who desired to corroborate "from his own experience" of manual and technical instruction throughout the country, and especially in the manufacturing districts, the opinion expressed by the deputation that "half-time children have, in comparison with the number of hours at school, uniformly passed more efficiently and more intelligently in all the standards than the children who have remained at school until 11."
§ *MR. MATHER
I was perfectly consistent on that occasion. I simply said that I should seek to modify my views in accordance with the statements made if possible; and as to the comparison of half-timers and full-timers, I distinctly said that in proportion to the number of hours spent in the class-room the half-timers seemed to have a relatively higher position.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
I have no doubt all these ideas were in the mind of the hon. Member, but they did not reach the shorthand writer's ear. Although by the hon. Member for Poplar's adroitness he has put in the first instance the clause by which he will catch those stray votes of the compromisers his real purpose is to follow the Berlin Conference, and go as far as the British delegates went as enthusiastic converts. It is a little remarkable that all those who express an opinion in favour of this change are men some of whom for various reasons are theorists and enthusiasts in the cause of education. I do not mean any disrespect—I have some little enthusiasm in the cause of education myself—but the opinion in favour of the change comes from persons who are not directly connected with the districts concerned. All the Members who represent the districts concerned are almost, without exception—some speak with uncertain voice like the hon. Member for the Gorton Division—against the change. It is admitted, I think, by those who 866 advocate the scheme of the hon. Member for Poplar, that the almost unanimous voice of the operatives themselves is against this change. In the deputation to me, which the hon. Member for the Gorton Division graced by his presence and support, the Operative Associations of every town in the factory districts were represented. There were representatives of the Operative Spinners' Association, the Weavers' Association, the Card Room Operatives of Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Hythe, Moseley, Accrington, Ashton-under-Lyne, Burnley, Chorley, Church, Clayton-le-Moors, Darwen, and many other places. I say the almost unanimous opinion of the operatives concerned is against the proposed change. Why are they against it? I believe that one of the reasons is that in the present condition of trade and state of wages the addition of the slender weekly income derived from the labour of the children is welcome to the parents. Surely that is not an unreasonable motive. I regretted very much to hear the hon. Member for Poplar describe it as a sinister motive. What fell from the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst), however, was a sufficient reply to that remark. But it is not only that the parents feel that the addition to the family income from the labour of their children is welcome, but it is their firm conviction, expressed to me over and over again, that their children, by entering the mill at the early age of 10, afterwards become all the better and more skilful workpeople, and are thereby made more fit for the struggle of life in the future. [Cries of "No!"] All I can say is that that conviction was expressed to me again and again by the operatives themselves, who said that "them Lunnon chaps," as they termed them, were very hard to teach. Now, what is the amount of interest these operatives have in the question? In a Return which has been moved for, and supplied, as to the number of half-timers in the principal operative districts, it is shown that in the three counties alone of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire there are no fewer than 42,471 children between the ages of 10 and 12, who earn per annum a sum amounting to nearly £303,000.
§ MR. SUMMERS
Will the right hon. Gentleman state what are the figures in 867 regard to children between the ages of 10 and 11.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
No, Sir; I cannot. I hope the hon. Member will allow me to proceed. I cannot go through a complicated sum in arithmetic when I am addressing the House. These are the totals between 10 and 12, and I think they are quite sufficient to show that the question is one of considerable magnitude, and that the operatives have a deep interest in it. Of children between the ages of 10 and 12 on the half-time system there are, in the whole country, no fewer than 175,437, and, therefore, it is evident that in dealing with this question we may be seriously affecting a large number of families. We have the almost unanimous opinion of the operatives themselves, of their Labour Associations, and of the Chambers of Commerce in the districts against the proposed change, and I would urge that some very strong case ought to be made out, either on the score of health or education, before the present system is interfered with. But what case for the change has been made out? As to the health of the children, the hon. Member for Poplar deprecated quotations from those best qualified to give evidence—the certifying surgeons and Factory Inspectors. That evidence is very strong and valuable. In the Committee I read Report after Report of both the certifying surgeons and the Factory Inspectors, bearing uniform testimony to the fact that the health of the half-timers was perfectly good. Then as to the employment in which the children are engaged, I do not know whether the hon. Member for Poplar has taken the trouble to inquire into its character, but I can inform him that it is work of the lightest description. Not a third of the time that the children are at the mill are they engaged in what can be called work, and at no time are they employed in a manner that is calculated to injure them. The hon. Member for Poplar has said something about the oily, greasy, atmosphere of the mills. Well, we have for years been legislating and striving in order to secure perfect ventilation in the mills, and the present Bill goes a considerable way in that direction. I should doubt whether the ventilation is as good in many village schools as it is in these mills. Where, then, are the grounds for making a 868 change such as that proposed—a change which will seriously affect the interests of some 50,000 families? What case has been made out—what case of suffering, of injury, or of degeneracy of constitution has been produced by the hon. Member for Poplar? What has he put forward but the vaguest suggestions? It seems to me that the question of health is not worth arguing. Again, are the children so seriously injured as to education that the House should interfere? I agree that there is something of a case to be made out here; and in fairness it must be admitted that children who are half-timers succeed in getting fewer passes than children who are full-timers. The difference, however, is not very material. The percentages, as far as I can make out, vary. In Bury the full-timers have a percentage of 96 passes per cent., the half-timers of 92 per cent.; in Oldham the full-timers have a percentage of 94.5 passes per cent., the half-timers 87.8 per cent.; in Rochdale full-timers 94 per cent., half-timers 84.5 per cent. But when we come to places where the system of education has been specially adapted to half-timers, where the schools are intended for the reception of half-timers, far better results are obtained. In Paisley in 1888 the half-timers had 98.26 per cent. of passes, and in 1889 98.76 per cent. It is true that much depends on the teacher. If he is skilful, and understands how to interest the children brought to him from the mill, excellent results are obtained. At the same time, to be perfectly fair in the argument I think it may be said that if we take the whole of the country together and all the half-time schools the disadvantage of the half-timers is somewhere between 10 and 12 per cent. in the passes they secure. Are there any countervailing advantages to be set against this percentage of fewer passes? There is this great advantage, that the factory system prolongs the school time of these children to at least 13 years. There has been a different system applied to factories, and workshops, and other industries in which children may be employed. We have already placed factories and workshops under a disadvantage. Before a child can go into a factory he must pass the half-time standard, which is not a high one. If the child then enters the factory he is compelled to attend school 869 day by day or week by week, otherwise he cannot be allowed to work in the factory, until he has attained the age of 13. That is a system of compulsory school attendance not to be found connected with other employments. In rural schools, for example, children pass into the world after completing a certain number of standards at an early age, which is generally about 11 years; they then take full-time employment in the stable, in the field, or in domestic service, and school is abandoned. It seems to me that if we raise the age of entering factories up to 11 or 12 years we shall induce a vast number of children to take full-time employment in some occupation outside the factory, and where they will get full-time wages, rather than wait till 12 to go on half-time wages in the factory where schooling has to go on until they have attained 13 years of age. I maintain that factory occupation cannot injure the health of a child, although possibly the surroundings may not be of the best; but, induced by the temptation of steady employment, he is kept at school until he is 13. We cannot expect the parent to keep his child doing nothing between the ages of 10 and 12. Another advantage of the system lies in the manual or technical instruction which the child receives at the factory. The experience of those who have spent their lives in factories is unanimous to the effect that the earlier a child begins the greater is the dexterity he acquires in using his tools in the delicate process of manufacture, and that the child makes a better workman because he has begun work thus early in life. Unhappily, the destiny of these children is to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, and to be themselves spinners, weavers, or winders in these factories, where they begin work at the age of 10. The sooner they acquire dexterity in the processes in which their fathers have been employed, the sooner will they become familiarised with the right way of doing that in which their life is to be spent. Is that no advantage? Therefore, against the smaller percentage of passes obtained by half-timers, I set the prolonged schooling, the manual training and teaching which the children get, and economical considerations which make this half-time system important not only to the comfort of the parents, but to the comfort 870 of the child itself. The testimony from the workers in the factory districts is that the half-timers are better fed than the full-timers, because of the increased earnings of the families. I ask the House to consider such a trade as the silk trade—a trade which I am sorry to say is not very prosperous. The representatives of that trade to a man assure me that this change would be fatal to their interests. In the silk trade of Macclesfield, Leek, and Congleton, 20 per cent. of the factory children are between 10 and 11 years old, and 40 per cent. between 11 and 12 years old. The minimum earnings of the children, 1,800 in number, between the ages of 10 and 14 years, are in those three towns £10,000 a year, and the 60 per cent. who are between the ages of 10 and 12 earn something like £6,000 a year. Employers and employed in the silk trade inform me that if these children were disqualified from working the change would sooner or later lead to the extinction of the silk industry. With regard to the Berlin Conference, I am bound to say that two of the representatives who attended that Congress—the Member for Morpeth and the Member for Manchester—do not seem to have mastered all the details of the subject with which we have to deal. I assert that no country has carried out legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Conference. The only countries which have done anything in this matter are Germany and Portugal. France has done nothing, but in Prance the families are not so numerous as in other countries. With regard to Germany, it is quite true that she has gone beyond the recommendations of the Conference in proposing to fix the age at 13, but she has not carried out the proposals of the Conference in other respects. I would ask the House, therefore, is it to be held that only one recommendation is to be considered as of importance, and that all the others are to be ignored? In Germany, girls over 14 are, under the new law, to be allowed to be employed for eight hours a day in mines. Is the underground labour of women of less consequence than the question before the House? By the new Berlin Act, children over 13 may be employed for 36 hours a week, and that time may be extended by permission of the Local Authority to 10 871 hours a day, while girls may by the same Act have a day's work of 11 hours, with only one hour's rest, all which is contrary to the recommendations of the Conference. Of course, if the change were vital and expedient and for the real good of the persons for whom we have to legislate, then, Berlin Conference, or no Berlin Conference, we ought to make it. But does anyone suppose that the suggestions made by the delegates necessarily bind the Government of this country to accept recommendations which it is not expedient to adopt, and which would not be for the good of the persons concerned? The delegates reserved entire liberty of action to their respective countries. To say that their recommendations imposed any obligation on this country is to take an extravagant view of the position. The delegates have given expression to opinions which deserve the very greatest consideration and respect, but it is plain, from the language the delegates themselves used, that the duty of applying those recommendations and giving effect to them in the different countries is certainly a matter in which, both as to the time and the manner of doing it, the most entire freedom must be reserved to the countries concerned. My right hon. Friend stated that to his mind the question of age was the only concession this country could make to the nations of the Continent, we being on all other matters ahead of them. In the final Protocol, in which the whole results were summed up, the delegates said they would submit the recommendations, under the reservation and with the observations made during the meeting of March 27. That was the meeting at which the powerful and lucid defence of the half-time system was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chatham, although it is true that speech was made with reference to the certificate system, and not with reference to the age. I think it is a singular method of "mending" a system, which results in destroying it to the extent of two-thirds. I hope the right hon. Member for Newcastle is now satisfied that the Government propose to abide by the proposals they have already laid before the House, and have supported in the Standing Committee. We have no fault to find with those educational enthusiasts who would sacrifice everything to get what 872 the hon. Member for Morpeth calls the "higher ideal of education." Combined manual and school work results in but slight educational inferiority, while, on the other hand, the half-timer makes early progress in the trade which is to be the business of his life, and adds substantially to the comforts and prosperity of his home. It appears to the Government that this is rather a social than an educational question. I quite agree that if the system of having finished and done with rudimentary education before commencing manual training could be adopted all over the country and in all trades it might be a very desirable thing. But the Government think that to adopt that rule for some of the industries of the country, and handicap those industries against other employments which are not more healthy, is an undesirable thing. The wishes of this large and deserving population cannot and ought not to be disregarded by this House. In the face of the unanimous feeling they have exhibited the Government would be wrong to put upon them duties and burdens which in their present condition they are unable to bear.
§ (11.30.) MR. MUNDELLA
I have to acknowledge with great gratitude the courtesy of the leader of the House, who gave me the opportunity of addressing the House on this Bill by postponing this stage on a former occasion. I have listened with intense interest to every word of this Debate, and probably one of the most able speeches it has ever been my lot to hear was that just delivered. If the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had been here 20 years ago, when we raised the age from 8 to 10 years, he would have heard very similar arguments advanced. I must say that the Home Secretary has failed to answer the admirable speech of the Under Secretary for India. What a contrast there was between the two speeches! I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who was our Plenipotentiary at Berlin, did not convey conviction to every mind as to the policy we ought to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has spoken of the supporters of this clause as educational enthusiasts. Is the hon. Baronet the Member for Manchester an educational enthusiast? Is the right hon. Gentleman 873 the Under Secretary for India an educational enthusiast? Is the Primo Minister himself an educational enthusiast? I wonder what the Prime Minister will think of the Home Secretary when he reads his speech to-morrow, because it is not merely what was done by the Berlin Conference that the right hon. Gentleman denounces, but the assent which has been given to it by Lord Salisbury himself. The right hon. Gentleman said that the children would turn out better fitted for the work of life if they entered factories at 10 years of age. Now, a list of half-timers has been kept by some doctors. Dr. Tonop has kept a list of every child he has certified during the last 21 years, and another doctor has kept a list for 17 years, and they both say that, owing to the early age at which they went to work, and to the state of health of their parents, the children are weak, debilitated, and stunted, and that they are wonderfully nervous and highly strung. I have had communications on this subject from manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and, among others, from Mr. Armitage, formerly a Member of the House. Mr. Armitage says that during the last winter he has been shocked at tender and delicate children getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning in order to be at the mills at 6, and that many of them have to come one mile, and even two miles, through thick snow. Is that for the benefit of the children? Yet the Home Secretary says it is so conducive to their health. The right hon. Gentleman knows that on educational grounds the arguments in favour of this clause are overwhelming. "But," he says, "yon are going to deprive the parents of these children of these large earnings." Does the right hon. Gentleman himself, or any Member of the House, seriously believe that statement? If this Resolution came into operation to-morrow the effect of it would be that children of a higher age would take the places of the little children of 10, and a larger amount of money would come into the family than is now earned. Mr. Armitage points out that at the present time there are largo numbers of children of 12 years of age unemployed, preference being given to children of 10 and 11. Surely it would be better for the children of 12 to be in the mills instead of those of 10 or 11. Next, the right hon. Gentleman 874 says, "Look to the effect of foreign competition," and he alludes particularly to the possible injury to the silk trade. I should like to ask him if he knows where the great silk manufactories are now situated? Does he know that they are on the Continent, and that Switzerland is gaining an important silk trade every day? The silk trade of France has suflered enormously from the enterprise and energy of Switzerland. Nearly the whole of the French riband trade is at the present moment being done by the Swiss, a people who never employ half-timers, and never allow a child into their factories before 14. It is notorious that Switzerland has a larger textile trade in proportion to her population than any other nation in the world, not even excepting ourselves. She ranks first, and we come second, in the amount per head of exports. With respect to the decisions of the Berlin Conference, the Home Secretary said that no country had raised the limit of age in obedience to the dictates of that Conference. Let me remind him that Germany has; that Portugal has passed her measure; that that of France is through the Chamber of Deputies, has passed the Committee of the Senate, and is awaiting its last stage. I have been assured by M. Waddington that it will be law in a month. What position shall we be in then when these nations have raised the age? We shall be behind every other nation. The agreement amongst the members of the Government is charmingly illustrated. The Home Secretary is set on keeping the age where it is; Lord Salisbury agrees that it should be raised to 12; the Under Secretary for India has made an admirable speech in support of this Motion. The speech of the hon. Member for Manchester was one of the most admirable and convincing speeches I have over heard. There is another member of the Government who does not sit in this House who has used the Berlin Conference pretty freely. The Secretary of State for India (Lord Cross) has been putting enormous pressure on the Government of India to raise the age of factory children, on account of the importance he attaches to the principles of the Berlin Conference. He telegraphed to the Viceroy that this and that must be done, because it was required by our adhesion to the Berlin Conference. 875In the matter of Factory Acts," said Lord Cross, "there should not be one law for India and another for England;and he added—The resolutions of the Berlin Conference have great weight with Her Majesty's Government, and are attracting increasing attention.And so Despatch after Despatch went out to India putting pressure on the Indian Government to adopt more liberal measures than they had hitherto done with respect to the ages of children employed in factories. The Viceroy replied that on account of the Berlin Conference and the importance Her Majesty's Government attached to it, the Government of India had adopted more liberal measures than hitherto. But the Berlin Conference has no weight with the Home Secretary; he has thrown it over. The senior Inspector of Factories, who was at the Berlin Conference, in a Report he has since made, asks whether it is desirable that we, who claim to be the parents of factory legislation and to whom other countries look for an example, should now at last turn round upon our former selves; and he adds it is surely not for us to isolate ourselves in selfish apathy. I regret that the Home Secretary seems determined to do that. If the Government had stood firm, if there had been an ounce of courage on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, if he had not listened to the counsels of some hon. Gentlemen behind him, who, I am afraid, care too much for votes and too little for the children, the factory operatives of Lancashire would not have ranged themselves against this Resolution; indeed, the best of them are not against it, nor are the best employers either. The question is, whether England will in this matter take a really reactionary position? France is ahead of us; so are Germany and Switzerland; only Italy and Spain are behind us, and they are not our competitors in the markets of the world. I appeal to the House, not only for the honour of the country, but for the sake of the children who in another generation will be the rulers of the Empire, to accept this first Resolution of my hon. Friend.
§ *(11.48.) MR. ELLIOTT LEES
I desire to be permitted before this Debate closes to say one or two words. We have heard that the proposed change will affect Lancashire working men to the extent 876 of £102,000 a year. I do not say they will be deprived of this sum; but the amount will be displaced. Now, is not this a question of all others that might be referred to the working men? By July, 1892, the Government will have been six years in office, and if there is one question that might be left to be decided at the General Election, it is this question, which so vitally affects the working classes. If they are competent to decide upon the great constitutional questions of this country, they are equally competent to decide upon a question in which their own interests and those of their wives and children are concerned, and if it is proposed that the change shall not take place until 1892, surely the question may be left to the arbitrament of a General Election. We have been asked how we would like our children to work in the factories at the age of 10 years. My children have not to go to Board schools and, therefore, I say that when my children are compelled by law to attend a Board school, I will begin to consider whether I should like them also to go to the factory. There seems to be considerable ignorance as to the position of these half-timers. Even the Under Secretary for India seems rather uncertain as to what a half-timer does. As a matter of fact, these children only go to the mill six hours in the morning for one week; in the next week they go for four hours in the afternoon. Therefore, every alternate week they go fresh to their school studies, and are not tired by their labour in the mills. Another very important point is this—if the child of 10 years old is not allowed to go to work and earn the 3s. or so a week, what is to take his place? The 3s. very often pays the rent, and the result will be that the mother will have to take the place of the child, and the family will be deprived of her care. With regard to the Berlin Conference, I think that perhaps the Government made a great mistake in sending "men of ability and independence" to represent them at Berlin. Men of ability and independence, as we heard from the Under Secretary of State for India the other night, are apt to become a "danger to the State," and, for my own part, I would rather be guided by the somewhat "mediocre intelligence" of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman the Under 877 Secretary for India. This proposal is entirely the work of educational faddists and pedants in the House, and of pedagogues outside. I believe that by adopting it we shall not advance the cause of education, because we shall be taking away a great means of practical education, and be inflicting a great hardship upon men, women, and children of the working classes throughout the country.
§ (11.57.) The House divided:—Ayes 202; Noes 186.—(Div. List, No. 299.)
§ *(12.10.) MR. SPEAKER
There are no Amendments to this clause, and therefore I propose to put the Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."
§ Further Proceeding on Consideration adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended, to be further considered to-morrow.