§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. S. WOODS (Lancashire, Ince)
said, the Bill was one of the shortest measures ever brought before Parliament, but all would agree that it was very broad and comprehensive in its character and operation. The Bill asserted two definite and distinct principles. The first was that eight hours a day were sufficient for any man or boy to work in a mine; and the second was that the restriction must be by legislative enactment. All who were practically acquainted with the subject would agree that eight hours was a sufficiently long time for any person to work in a mine. That had been admitted by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), and by the Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) himself. It was a proposition that even the opponents of the Bill would admit, and he would be surprised if it were denied by the employers themselves. But probably some gentleman not practically acquainted with the work might have some doubts and misgivings on the subject; and to that gentleman he would suggest as a simple expedient for satisfying himself on the point that he should go down a coal-mine and take the place of a collier for one day. There were only two methods of carrying an eight hours day into operation—voluntary arrangement and legislative enactment. If they were satisfied that an eight hours day could be adopted satisfactorily and permanently by voluntary arrangement, he would certainly consider that the best method. But from an experience extending over 30 years and from general observation, and knowing how easy it was for employers and managers to frustrate any attempt on the part of the workmen to get a shorter 1842 working day, he was satisfied that it was utterly impossible to obtain an eight hours day of a permanent character by voluntary arrangement. In March, 1890, the coal owners met to consider their attitude on the question, and decided by every means at their command to prevent the miners getting a shorter working day. Since then a national deputation of miners met the owners, and after the case had been argued at considerable length and proposals put in writing it was found to be absolutely impossible to arrive at any final agreement by mutual arrangement. The next step was compulsory enforcement, and they had examples of that measure at Hull at the present time. Hon. Members were familiar with those terrible conflicts between employer and employed which brought distress, destitution, and ruin to the workman and his family, sacrificed the capital of the employer, and did serious injury to the nation. Even the Scotch railway strike of a few years ago would be as nothing in comparison with the effects of a strike of miners. He was convinced that no sane person would venture to recommend such a policy. Therefore, they arrived at the conclusion that there was no way of attaining an eight-hour day for the miners except by legislative enactment. On that point the question he would ask was—If it was right to have an eight-hour day by Trades Union effort or mutual agreement, how could it be wrong to secure it by legislative enactment? They would be told that the Bill was the thin end of the wedge for obtaining a legislative eight-hour day for all trades. The Bill itself was limited to miners, and he thought they would all agree that by reason of the nature of their work miners held an exceptional position. But, apart from that, he held that if the miners could show that their claim was just, hon. Members should not hesitate to grant it, whether it was the thick or the thin end of the wedge. But what was the position of the workers generally under this Bill? The workers were divided as to the advisability of adopting a legal eight-hour day for all trades. But at the last three or four Trades Union Congresses a resolution in support of the present Bill had been adopted by all the delegates save the small minority representing the miners of the North. Therefore, practi- 1843 cally speaking, the whole industrial population of the country supported unanimously the miners' claim. It was contended that Parliament should not interfere with the labour of men; but he would point to the Factory Acts, which had practically interfered with the labour of grown-up men and women, and to the measure dealing with the hours of railway servants. Only the other night the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella) said that there was no use in contending that the House had not taken up the question of legislating for hours of labour, because the Railway Servants Bill had introduced the principle. There was another very important objection urged against the Bill, and that was that the miners were not united on the question. He deeply regretted that that was so; but the minority against the principle was so very small that it was not worth five minutes' notice by the House. The Prime Minister, in reply to the deputation that waited upon him last March, said that the community at large, so far as he could judge, would certainly be prepared to accede to anything like a unanimous demand from the mining body. The supporters of the Bill rested their case upon that principle. So far as the area of the National Federation was concerned, the miners in the counties within the scope of that Federation had been balloted on two separate occasions, and over 90 per cent. had expressed themselves in favour of the Bill. But some hon. Members would say—What about Durham and Northumberland? He held in his hand a copy of the rules of the Northern Association, printed in January, 1863, from which it appeared that one of its objects was to shorten the hours of labour in mines to eight hours a day, so that, whatever might now be the contention of his friends from the North, 30 years ago they were in favour of the principle of the Bill. At the Conference of miners held in Newcastle on November 22, 1887, and of which the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. T. Burt) was Chairman, a resolution, which was seconded by the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division (Mr. C. Fenwick), was adopted in favour of an eight-hour day from bank to bank. Their friends from the North had had an interview last month with the Prime Minister, when it was stated by the hon. Member for Mid-Durham (Mr. John Wilson) that the 1844 result of a ballot had been that 12,000 voted for and 28,000 against a legislative eight-hour day, and that, as there were between 60,000 and 75,000 miners in Durham, it was fair to assume that those who did not take the trouble to vote were satisfied with their present position. But the Home Secretary, who was also present, discovered that persons under 18 years of age were prohibited from voting, and they were the very persons affected by this Bill! He believed that if an impartial ballot were taken of the whole of the miners in Durham there would be at least one-half, if not a majority, in favour of the Bill. It was also stated on that occasion that the result of a ballot in Northumberland was 2,687 for and 8,720 against the eight-hour day, so that only 11,000 miners voted out of 30,000. He submitted that the statistics he had furnished to the House showed that five-sixths of the miners of the country were practically unanimous in their demand for an eight-hour day. Another plausible objection was that the Bill interfered with individual liberty. He had always been of opinion that the majority ought to rule, and that to destroy that principle would be to destroy all government. Unless the minority, after fair discussion and argument, wore compelled to yield to the decision of the majority the whole principle of government would be destroyed. If the minority were not prepared to abide by the decision of the majority on such a question as this, there would be an end of all Constitutional Government. Was there was a law in the Statute Book to-day that did not, in a larger or a smaller degree, interfere with individual liberty? What did they find in connection with mines themselves? It appeared to be right that the employers should interfere with the individual liberty of the workmen, and to be wrong that the workman should interfere with the liberty of his fellow. The liberty of the workman was interfered with every day. One of the bye-laws regulating mines was that a man should not descend after a certain hour, and should not ascend till a certain hour. He did not say that such a regulation was improper; but by it they interfered with the individual liberty of the miner, and that fact destroyed the whole argument that they should not interfere with individual liberty. And the plausible 1845 argument was that the matter should be left to local option. That simply meant that everybody must do what he liked, and this would be a beautiful country if every man did as he liked. He wanted to know—and no one had yet stated—what proportion of a given number of miners was to decide the question? This method was suggested by the Prime Minister, who, with that fairness of mind which very often characterised him, desired to create a harmony of feeling between the miners of the Midland Counties of England, South Wales, and Scotland and the miners of the North of England. But when five-sixths of the miners were in favour of an eight-hour day, the question of local option was outside of their consideration. There was one question which he wished to address to opponents of the Bill sitting on the Liberal Benches. They had before the House a Constitutional question relating to Ireland, and a proposal by the Government of which he heartily approved. But he wanted to ask hon. Members who voted against what was called the loyal minority in Ireland how they could reconcile that action with their vote in favour of the minority of miners? So far as he could see, there must be inconsistency in voting for the one and against the other. Then they had political economists who argued that if they reduced the hours they would reduce the output. But it did not at all follow that because the hours were reduced the output would be reduced. In proof of this he would refer to the case of Durham and Staffordshire, where the hours were seven and eight per day respectively, and the output at least 100 tons per man per annum greater than in those counties—Lancashire and Glamorganshire—where the day was regarded as good as 9½ hours. Many objected to the proposal that the time should count from "bank to bank," on the ground that in some cases an hour and a-half would be consumed in getting from the top of the shaft to the coal face and back again. But, with 20 years experience in the mines of Lancashire, which were admitted to be among the deepest in the country, he said that that was an excessive allowance. He would put it at half-an-hour—a quarter of an hour each way. The history of industries in England during the last half-century refuted the argument that reduced hours 1846 meant reduced wages and profits, and at least one-fifth of the time worked had during that period been taken off all workers, and their wages had proportionately increased. He asked the House to consider that the miners asked for a common measure of justice, that they had a large majority in support of the scheme, that their work and its conditions were peculiar and dangerous, and that on that ground they desired special treatment. He felt sure that, when they considered that noble body of men, who made so many sacrifices for the well-being of the country, and to produce an article essential to its commercial life—when they remembered the terrible explosions which from time to time took place—they would, as he now asked them, banish from their minds on this memorable day all prejudice, bias, and preconceived opinions, and give the miners what they loyally demanded; and be would undertake to say that many of the feared results would never be fulfilled, and that the House would never have to regret the act which he asked it to perform. He begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. S. Woods.)
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)
said, he rose to move the rejection of the Bill. The hon. Member who had just sat down said that there was a very general impression among hon. Members that the miners of South Wales were unanimously in favour of this Bill; but he could tell the House that such was far from being the case, because there was a great difference of opinion on the subject.
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS
said, the hon. Member said "No," but he thought that he ought to know more about South Wales than the hon. Member did. He moved the rejection of this Bill with the concurrence of an overwhelming majority of the South Wales miners.
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS
Well, it was extraordinary if what he stated were not true, for he could tell the hon. Member that, although he had voted last year against the Bill, his majority had been largely increased at the last General 1847 Election, and that was a pretty good indication of the view that his constituents took of the question. Meeting after meeting of miners' delegates had been held, at which the Bill had been condemned, and he held that in moving its rejection he was acting with the full concurrence of his constituents. He had put the question to the test of the ballot in some of the mines in South Wales, in which it was said the miners were unanimously in favour of the Bill, and the result showed that there was a very considerable minority who were opposed to it. He believed that it if there had been any change in the feeling since then, it had been in a direction opposed to this Bill. When he tried an eight-hour day from bank to bank with the double shift in his colliery, the men came to him and asked him to return to the old system. He did not say they were against an eight-hour day, but they were unanimously against an eight hours day from bank to bank with the double shift. He agreed with much in the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Woods). Eight hours work in a mine were enough for any man, and shorter hours should be obtained as far as practicable. He also believed thoroughly in the competency of Parliament to interfere in such matters. His constituents did not object to Parliamentary interference, but to the bank to bank principle of the Bill, which they considered would inevitably reduce their wages considerably.
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS
said, he did not say the hon. Member had not. The real object and desire of the promoters of the Bill was to restrict the output, and raise prices and wages. The question of bank to bank was quite as much a principle of the Bill as it was a principle that it should not be a Local Option Bill, but a cast-iron Bill, applicable to every district in the country, whatever its circumstances might be. It might be said that this could be altered in Committee, but that was not possible. It was the very essence of the Bill. This was the same Bill, word for word, that was defeated last year. No attempt had been made to meet the objections urged against this Bill last year. Its promoters were determined to have the Bill, the whole Bill, 1848 and nothing but the Bill. It was said that 90 per cent. of miners—outside Northumberland and Durham—were in favour of the Bill. Some further proof was required of that statement. In South Wales an overwhelming majority of miners was opposed to the Bill, and there were large minorities in other districts. He questioned whether the Eight Hours Bill for miners was mooted at many elections last year, and whether, where it was mooted, it had much effect on the result. An analysis of the Division List last year disclosed no evidence that those who voted in favour of the Bill had gained anything by it at the General Election, or those who opposed the Bill had suffered in consequence. The late Home Secretary (Mr. Matthews), who made the strongest and most able speech against the Bill of last year, had enormously increased his majority in Birmingham, whilst one prominent Member who supported the Bill had actually been defeated by a large majority. The hon. Member who moved the Bill last year had had his majority reduced at the General Election, notwithstanding the wave of Liberal opinion which had passed over the country and the fact that he had the active support of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Woods). He did not see any evidence that, since the last Election, feeling was growing in favour of the Bill. As far as his practical knowledge of South Wales was concerned, he was satisfied that feeling was going rapidly against the Bill. He challenged the supporters of the Bill to point to any foreign country or colony where an Eight Hours (Bank to Bank) Bill for miners had been tried with success. Two arguments were put forward which were quite antagonistic. Some supported the Bill on the ground that it would not restrict the output; others supported it on the ground that it would. These arguments were, of course, mutually destructive. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) last year was, if he might say so without disrespect, the only one which needed serious consideration. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward a number of cases in which reductions of hours, secured by means of voluntary arrangements, had not been accompanied by any limitation of production. This seemed, 1849 however, to involve a strange confusion of cause and effect. During the last 40 years in South Wales the hours of labour had been enormously reduced, and the result had been satisfactory; but both employers and workmen had foreseen that it would be so, and the reason they did not wish to go a stop further was because they saw that any further reduction must inevitably lead to a restriction in the output. In the large collieries in South Wales, the winding hours on four days in the week were nine and a-half to ten, and this Bill would reduce the hours for getting coal to about seven. It was said that the time that would thus be lost could be made up in increased efficiency. Personal experience, however, in these matters was worth a great deal of theory. In his colliery, the men on Saturdays worked about eight hours from bank to bank, leaving about seven hours for winding, and on Fridays they worked about nine and a-half hours from bank to bank. He had ascertained the actual tonnage of coal raised during the last five years on Fridays and on Saturdays, and he found that the reduction of the tonnage on the Saturday was almost in exact proportion to the reduction of the hours. The reduction of the hours was 25¼ per cent., whilst the reductions in the tonnage was 25 per cent. In South Wales the colliers were now down the pits about 10½ hours a day, and under this Bill they would be down eight hours. He was satisfied that at least three hours must be deducted for the time occupied in getting to and from the work-place, taking meals, and doing the dead-work—such as setting timbers—that was necessary. The result would be that there would be only five hours of coal-getting. Therefore, this Bill would reduce the output of each workman employed in South Wales by over 30 per cent., and this loss could not possibly be made up by increased efficiency, as the collier worked now as hard as he could. He asserted confidently that any such reduction as 30 per cent. in the hours of work must lead both to a reduction of wages and an increase in the price of coal. In Merthyr they would like the hours of labour shortened, but they were not prepared to have them shortened at such an enormous sacrifice as this Bill would involve. If it was right, justifiable, and expedient for 1850 colliers, by restriction of hours and reducing their output, to obtain more of other commodities in exchange for their labour, was it not equally expedient for workmen in other industries to adopt the same course? Would not that inevitably lead to a restriction in the production of the world's goods? Goods were only produced in order to be consumed, and he asked how workmen, who were themselves chief consumers, would be bettor off if there were less of the world's goods to be divided amongst them? He asked hon. Members to consider whether they were prepared, in order to pass this Bill, to increase the price of coal to the other industries, and thus to tax other industries. There was another point that ought not to escape consideration. There were a considerable number of old men working in mines. These men were now placed at a great disadvantage, as they had not the same physical energy as the younger men, and this Bill would, of course, put them at a further disadvantage. It would also place the older pits at a great disadvantage as compared with the newer ones, the roads in the old pits being longer and more costly to keep in repair, and the haulage being more expensive. He had discussed the provisions of the Bill with a good many Members during the last two days, and had been sorry to find that many of them had pledged themselves to vote for the Bill without having sufficiently studied the matter. He had shown that not merely one, but three or four principles were involved. Many hon. Members had voted for legislative interference in these matters by supporting the Railway Servants (Hours of Labour) Bill, and he asked them whether they would promote the cause they had in view by assisting to place on the Statute Book a Bill that would only bring contempt and ridicule on the principle of legislative interference? Coal was the source of power for most of the important industries of the country, and he asked the supporters of the Bill to pause before, by passing this Bill, they laid a paralysing hand on our commercial supremacy.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. David Thomas.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1851
§ MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
said, the hon. Member who had just spoken had put forward a strong case in opposition to the Bill, and it could not but be admitted that the arguments which he had adduced proved distinctly and clearly that it would have a most disastrous effect upon the coal trade of South Wales. He (Mr. Joicey) had listened to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) with considerable interest, and he agreed almost with the whole of it, for his whole speech was devoted to proving that eight hours in a mine was really a reasonable time for miners to work under such conditions as prevailed there. If his hon. Friend had gone further and said that 8s. a day was little enough pay for the arduous duties miners performed, he probably would have agreed with that also. But the question was, Plow was that to be brought about? This, as had been said, was a short Bill. It merely proposed to bring about that a man should be prevented working more than eight hours a day in the industry of mining. Personally, he was against the principle of the Bill in a broader sense than many other hon. Members who opposed it. He was against any interference by the Legislature with the adult labour of men. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) stated, when the subject was under discussion during the last Parliament, that we had already interfered in the House of Commons with adult male labour. Would anyone, however, maintain that such interference justified the House in interfering to the extent of limiting the daily hours of labour in a particular industry? Anyone supporting this Bill or a Bill embodying its principle must show that, so far as the hours of labour were concerned, negotiations between employer and employed had practically broken down. The House, however, had not heard one word to prove that. He maintained, on the contrary, that the changes which had taken place during the last 50 years proved that the men engaged in the different industries of the country were thoroughly competent to deal with their hours of labour. Therefore, those who attempted to interfere by means of legislation were bound to make out an overwhelming case for it. To use the 1852 words of the Prime Minister, he had "old-fashioned views" in this matter, and believed that they should not inter-fore with economic laws. He knew it was fashionable to pooh-pooh that belief, but he always looked upon economic laws as he would look upon the laws of health. One might interfere with the laws of health apparently without harm for a time; but as surely as disease and shortness of life followed interference with the laws of health, so certainly would injury and disaster come upon those who interfered with economic laws. No one had ventured to bring forward a general Eight Hours Bill, and this was a Bill to interfere with one special industry. What were the arguments in favour of special legislation upon this matter? It was said that there was a majority of miners in favour of the Bill, and therefore the House ought to consider the matter. Was the House going to take up the position that because the majority of those who were employed in a particular industry thought that they should have shorter hours, or that their wages should be increased, therefore the House was to carry these things out? He did not admit the contention of the hon. Member, who had failed to prove the argument he advanced. The hon. Member had made the assertion that 90 per cent. of the miners of this country were in favour of the course he had taken. Why had he not given the House figures to prove it? In Durham they had not hesitated to take a ballot, and the figures were distinctly 28,000 in favour of non-interference and 12,000 in favour of it. The Member for the Ince Division had stated that the boys under 18 were not allowed to take part in the ballot; but he (Mr. Joicey) should like to know where boys under 18 wore allowed to take part in ballots in any of our Friendly Societies, and also what was the proportion of boys in the County of Durham or the County of Northumberland? He could speak from his own experience, and he said the proportion was about 10 per cent. of the whole. He saw from the Return issued by the United Coal Trade of Durham and Northumberland that the number of workers employed in the mines underground in the County of Durham was 74,000. Of these, 40,000 recorded their vote in the ballot; and that left a balance 1853 of 34,000. If 10 per cent. were taken off the whole there would be left no fewer than 27,000 underground workers in the County of Durham who did not record their votes on the question; and he felt justified in considering that those men who did not take the trouble to record their votes preferred things to remain as they were. A gentleman who was qualified to speak upon the subject—Mr. George Collins—had written as follows:—I lived in Yorkshire nearly eight years, and during the whole of the time moved amongst miners. Certainly, I must have come into contact with over 10,000; and from the moment the eight hours question took form and shape I diligently elicited their opinions. And now for the results of my inquiries. About one man in 10 really cares for the Eight Hours Bill, apart, that is, from the leaders of the Union and the officers of the local lodges. This the men freely and openly admit. I may say that the information I have gathered has been acquired within a radius of 10 miles of Barnsley, though I have stretched my inquiries occasionally to the very limits of the Yorkshire coalfield, and always with the same result. I should add that the votes given by the Yorkshire miners, either by ballot or show of hands, in no true sense indicate any desire for an eight-hour day, and if the leaders brought about a strike to secure an eight-hour day, the men would desert them gradually and the strike would collapse.With regard to the evidence quoted by his hon. Friend, he had read an account in The Times of a meeting at Aberdare, attended by 3,000 people, at which a resolution was unanimously passed in opposition to the Bill. What he wanted to know was, what was the justification for giving special legislation to miners? The justification in the minds of many who were supporting this Bill was that the life of a miner was more dangerous and more unhealthy than the life of those engaged in other occupations. There were, however, no facts to prove that. At a meeting of the International Congress of Hygiene, Dr. Ogle, a great authority, read a paper on the relations of occupation to disease and mortality; and all the statistics given by Dr. Ogle were borne out by the Returns of the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England for the year 1885. This statement gave statistics of men employed in various occupations between the ages of 25 and 65, and everybody would admit that it was not until 25 years of age that any injurious effect was shown generally in 1854 connection with any particular occupation, because boys went to their work in a healthy condition as a rule, and, of course, they did not feel any ill effects for some years, The death rate of clergymen, the lowest of all, was taken as the standard of comparison. In this list clergymen were put down at 100, medical men at 202, commercial clerks 179, commercial travellers 171, innkeepers 273, hotel servants 397, brewers 245, wool and worsted manufacturers 186, cotton manufacturers 196, cutlers and scissor makers 235, and file makers 313, while coal miners were only 160, and that included the whole of the accidents connected with mines, so that, instead of having a case in favour of special legislation for miners on the ground that mining was an exceptionally unhealthy and dangerous occupation, he maintained that if they had legislation of this class for miners, they were bound to have it for 50 or 60 per cent. of the industries of this country. In a list published in the Registrar General's Report, out of 100 occupations, including all the principal ones, there were only 30 in which the conditions of life were equally good as in mines; therefore, if they had a case to legislate for miners on account of their work being unhealthy and their condition of life bad, they ought in justice to legislate for 70 per cent. of the working classes. Some of those who were going to vote for this Bill imagined that they would limit this sort of legislation to miners; but he maintained that this was but the beginning of this class of legislation. He would take another point—the comparative mortality from phthisis and diseases of the respiratory organs in the case of men engaged in what were called dust-inhaling occupations, and the mortality of miners from these diseases was represented by the figure 166, while in the case of quarry-men it was represented by 294, of cutlers by 384, and earthenware makers 565. In the Registrar General's Report for 1885, he found it stated that the death rates of coal miners were surprisingly low, in spite of their terrible liability to accident and their constant exposure to an atmosphere vitiated by foul air and by an excessively high temperature. The comparative mortality figure of these labourers was considerably below that of all males. Nor was this only true for 1855 coal miners in the aggregate, but it was true, with one exception, for the miners of the entire coal area. Taken separately, it held good for Durham with Northumberland, for Derbyshire with Nottingham, for the West Biding, and for Staffordshire. In each of these areas the comparative mortality figures of all males within the area was higher than that of the miners. The one exception to the rule was furnished by South Wales with Monmouthshire. There the mortality figure for the miners was slightly higher than that for all males within the same area; but if the deaths from accident were left out of account the rule held good, and the mortality of miners from all other causes together was below that of the general male population. It was, therefore, quite clear that the life of the miner was a healthy life. What would be the effect on the community if this proposed interference by law with the hours of labour in mines were carried out? He quite agreed with his hon. Friend who stated that such legislation would affect the output. The hon. Member for Normanton and the hon. Member for Ince had advocated a systematic restriction of labour in order to decrease the output, and that the price of coal and wages might be increased.
§ MR. JOICEY
For the moment I cannot give the hon. Member the name of the place; but I know that is a policy which the hon. Gentleman has advocated. Of course, if he contradicts me, I am quite willing to accept the contradiction.
§ MR. JOICEY
said, that at all events the hon. Member suggested that the output should be restricted by having an "off" or play week; and if that was not restricting the hours of labour in order to decrease production he did not know what was. But what had been the action with regard to the County of Durham? In 1890 two-thirds of the miners in the County of Durham worked 11 hours per day; but by mutual arrangement between the employers and the workmen it was agreed that the hours should be reduced to 10 per day from the beginning of 1891. That reduced the shifts by half-an-hour each, and what 1856 had been the result? While in 1890 the output of coal per man was 435 tons, in 1891 it was only 401 tons, a reduction of 8 per cent. in the output per man. It had been pointed out that Durham with short hours produced more coal per man than any other county. That was so, but then the coal of Durham was of a much softer nature than in almost any other county, and could be much more easily worked. Would the shortening of the hours be for the benefit of the miner? He maintained it would not. In the first place he would have his wages reduced. That had been admitted. When they reduced the hours in the County of Durham in 1891 the miners assented without the slightest hesitation to a reduction of wages, and each minor in the County of Durham now earned 2d. to 4d. per day less than he earned prior to the reduction in 1890. These facts wore admitted even by the miners themselves, and he believed that if they fully considered the question and these facts, many of them who were at present comparatively indifferent would strongly oppose any legislation of this character. The next point to be put was, would this legislation make the employment of the miner safer than at the present moment? He was afraid it would not. That was clear from the Return obtained by the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division, in which it was stated that during the first four hours of a shift out of 205 explosions there were 125, and during the second four hours only 80. Then as to the deaths that took place. During the first four hours there were 1,202 deaths, against 744 in the second four hours. He could not see, therefore, how they could claim that in the interest of safety they were justified in having special legislation for the miners. Of the accidents that occurred in mines, 485 out of every 1,000 were caused by falls of roof, and, as a matter of fact, it had been shown clearly that the bulk of these accidents took place in the first part of the shift. With regard to Durham and Northumberland, which were so strongly opposed to this measure, it had been suggested that they should have local option. In the County of Durham, when a ballot was taken, there were four to one against any legislative interference. It had been said against Northumberland and Durham 1857 that they worked their boys long hours; but, as a fact, they worked them no longer than they were worked in other counties, and gave them an advantage which they did not get in other counties. Their boys knew that while, during their apprenticeship, so to speak, they worked 10 hours, their hours would, when they were 21, be reduced to from six and a-half to seven hours, and they would get good wages. He was not in favour of local option. He admitted it would settle the difficulty in Northumberland and Durham, because miners there would prefer to work as they were; but, supposing in other counties there was a demand for shorter hours, the employers might say to the men—"If you insist upon taking the benefits of this Bill, we shall insist upon a considerable reduction of wages." The result would be that if this principle of local option were introduced, instead of avoiding strikes it would load to their frequently being brought about. He thought he had shown clearly that there were really no special reasons why they should legislate for miners apart from the rest of the industrial community. He hoped the House would not be led into any such unwise legislation, because, if they did, they would be acting against the interests of the miners, the interests of capitalists who owned mines, and the interests of the general community.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I think the majority of this House, who are necessarily devoid of practical experience on the subject of this Bill, will feel that we are much indebted to the speakers who have already addressed us, because they have been very frank and full and practical contributions to the elucidation of what is, after all, a difficult and enormously important question. The only observation upon which I shall venture with respect to the practical result of a measure of this kind is, that while I really do not know whether the object of the promoters of the Bill is to procure a diminution of output or is not, I, for one, am very slow to believe in this as the double result of the Bill—namely, that there would be a diminution of output with an increase in wages. Further than that I do not presume to go. My hon. Friend who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill 1858 with great ability has spoken of the claims of the mining class. I believe there will be a unanimous opinion that if legislation of this kind is to be influenced, as it must be influenced in a certain degree, by the claims of class, there is no class that is more entitled to put that claim higher than the class of the miners of this country. For, in truth, in one important particular, however high may be the character of the working classes in general, the mining class of this country may be said to enjoy what is, in point of honour, an enviable distinction. Mr. Burke stated in his own time, when the French Revolution came about, that the age of chivalry was gone. But, Sir, the age of chivalry has not gone so far as regards the conduct of the miners of this country. If Mr. Burke himself were alive, I believe he would be the first to say that what we call the age of chivalry never produced more splendid examples of practical heroism than those which have become almost the commonplaces of our mining industry. They show us that when there is a case of danger, and of the extremest danger to those who are down in the mine, and when there is the smallest chance of rescue, there are always found abundant numbers of men ready, at any risk to themselves, to attempt the noble task of saving their comrades. I thought it might be convenient if, early in the Debate, I said a few words on the position of the Government relatively to this matter, and also a few words upon my own intentions with regard to my vote. We all feel that it would be extremely to be deprecated that these Debates should assume anything of a Party colour; and I rejoice to think that, whatever may happen locally, within these walls there has been no indication whatever of such a tendency. Her Majesty's Government undoubtedly in all likelihood, like the chief Leaders of the Party opposite, do not feel that this is a matter in which, as a Government, they would be justified in interfering. The ripeness of opinion, the thoroughness of discussion has not yet been such as to consolidate that discussion in such a way as to justify our taking an official part; but it is the fact, undoubtedly, that a large majority of my Colleagues are favourable to this Bill, and favourable to it, perhaps, with even less reserve than I myself might be able to entertain. That 1859 majority includes my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, one of the most decisive advocates for the Bill, the Minister who is in immediate connection with the mining industry. Some of us, on the other hand, are opposed to the Bill, and some may think it their duty, under the circumstances of the case and in deference to the opinions that prevail mainly amongst their constituents, to abstain from voting; but, undoubtedly, when the Division occurs it will include a large majority of Ministerial votes on behalf of the Second Reading of the Bill. But I still am of opinion that it should remain an open question amongst us, as we believe it does in all sections of the House. For my own part, I only wish to say a few words upon the general considerations which in my opinion bear upon the discussion of the subject, because practical considerations, valuable and important though they were, it would be impertinent on me to endeavour to urge. But, as respects the general considerations that bear upon our entertaining a Bill of this kind, I should say that although my own prepossessions are much in favour of the general doctrine of non-interference with adult labour, yet I am bound to admit that the present epoch is one a little too late for urging that on the House with anything like conclusive force. It does not depend entirely, I think, upon those minor instances which have been quoted, by my hon. Friend who last spoke, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; but there are other more decided and prominent cases which show that, provided that a sufficiently strong case be made, it is too late for us to say we will adhere rigidly to the principle of non-interference with adult labour. I would remind the House that we have recently given an emphatic and, I think, a unanimous sanction to the principle of that interference in the case of railway servants. We have likewise adopted a Resolution which contemplates interference of the same sort, not in a conclusive but in more of an optional form—that is to say, subject to local discretion with regard to adult labour in shops. I, myself, would go a little further, and am prepared to admit that even in the case of factories, although many covered themselves with the doctrine that 1860 the direct legislation on this subject was limited to young persons and women, yet the practical effect upon adult labour was so important that it was impossible for us altogether to deny that there is a certain force in that precedent. Certainly it must be allowed that mining labour is a description of labour that has peculiarities of its own, apart from the simple sanitary question, and that the practice of Parliament has been already to interfere largely with the conditions of mining labour. Thus far, I do not think that the access to this question is barred, and then we come to the next question—whether there is anything in the character of mining labour which gives it a peculiarity of position. Well, Sir, all admit that not only eight hours of work in a coal-mine, but that eight hours underground from day to day seem to constitute a sufficient and even a large allowance of time to be spent out of the light of day, under conditions such as those which coal-mining presents. Moreover, there is something to be said of considerable practical importance in connection with the subject of coal-mining in another particular, and that is the nature of the mine as a local circumscription, sharply divided from everything else, undoubtedly makes it more practicable to deal with mining labour, if it be right otherwise, on special grounds than would be the case in respect to most industries which are carried on upon the surface. The main consideration, however, which acts upon us is the great mass of opinion which has been brought to bear upon this subject, I mean the great mass of opinion in the mining class; and when they make the plea that there are imperative reasons for the laying down of something in the nature of rules by Parliament, and for not leaving it to the individual worker always to assert, on the strength of his own individual resources, his indisposition to be confined in a mine for eight hours in the day, unquestionably the members of this class speak with something of special authority. We next come to the question, What is this mass of opinion?—and, for my own part, I have arrived at this conclusion, subject, of course, to the influence of further experience and information, that a very considerable majority of the miners in this country are in favour of this Bill. I attach so much weight, at least, to that 1861 fact, that on that account I am perfectly ready to entertain the principle of the Bill, and to show that I entertain the principle of the Bill by recording a vote in favour of the Second Reading. [Cheers.] I must not, however, attempt to obtain cheers on false pretences. I must state, therefore, the reservations under which I, for one, record that vote. I have no doubt that the continuance of this discussion has thrown much light upon the state of opinion in the mining class, and in case there should be a delay in the final legislative settlement, we should come better and better to know the state of that opinion. But at the present moment undoubtedly there is some difficulty in ascertaining what the proportion is—the proportions of those who are friendly and the proportions of those who are adverse to the Bill. Ia is certainly a remarkable fact that in the discussions of this House there has been, and I believe there will be again, testimonies from those who are or have been miners themselves in opposition as well as in support of this Bill; and although my hon. Friends who have moved and seconded the rejection of the Bill are not themselves miners, yet they are the Representatives of mining constituencies, and they do not hesitate to appeal to these constituencies in support of the opinions that they have given. Now, Sir, I am bound to say I do feel that this is a question in which the protection of minorities, if they are thus to he called, is a subject having the utmost claims upon our attention. I frankly own that, after every fair allowance for uncertainty and for disputed points, I am not ready to consent upon the Third Reading of this Bill to apply the compulsion it would impart to a community such as that which is represented by the miners of Northumberland and Durham. My hon. Friend the Mover of the Bill ably argued, and justly argued, that the majority ought in all cases to prevail, and that that is the only principle upon which you can rest regular and Parliamentary government. I make that admission freely, but in making that admission I must have some regard to the subject-matter. The majority ought undoubtedly to prevail, but then the assumption is that the matters which will be submitted to its discussion will be those 1862 which are ordinarily understood to lie within the circle of political transactions. Well, but again the limitation of adult labour can hardly be said, except in very exceptional circumstances, to lie within the limit of ordinary political transactions in such a sense as to admit of the full application of the principle that the majority ought to prevail. It is quite plain that there are many subjects upon which this House has legislated upon which it never would have legislated except on the assumption that there was not only a majority, but so general a prevalence of opinion in one direction or another as to support the doctrine of what is sometimes called moral unanimity. For my own part, it appears to me, I confess, that a compulsory measure of this kind ought not to take effect except with the moral certainty on our part that the measure would express the sense of a majority so large in the various districts of the country that it might be said to be the general sense of the community. My hon. Friend the Mover of the Bill contends—but his contention is resisted in other quarters—that, if I heard him accurately, outside the district of Northumberland and Durham nine-tenths of the mining population are in favour of the Bill. If it be so, that is a very fair expression of what I mean by the general sense of the community. It is quite clear that you cannot always have regard to minorities altogether insignificant in their numbers; but, at the same time, I must own I think it would be not only an unwarranted, but, a dangerous, course on the part of this House, in compulsory legislation of this character, and in exceptional legislation of this character, to have no regard to anything except to the fact of a considerable majority of the mining-class at large, and to be prepared to override the local sense of such important communities as those of the Northumberland and Durham miners. I almost think that many of the friends of the Bill, when they come to close quarters on the question, when we pass out altogether from the region of what might be called abstract discussion, and have to answer to ourselves what degree of compulsion and under what circumstances we were prepared to apply it—I almost think some of them will shrink from the application of that compulsion in such a case as I have supposed. My hon. Friend 1863 referred by way of illustration to what we were doing in Ireland, and asked whether in this respect we were prepared to have local option in Ireland. It singularly happens that in the year 1886, in proposing the Irish Government Bill, we did face this very question, and we did state that, if the inhabitants of the north-eastern corner of Ireland, forming; a very small and limited proportion indeed of the general community, were resolutely desirous of being exempted from the operation of that Act, we should be prepared to entertain a proposal to that effect. I believe we made that declaration with the general concurrence of those who are termed the Nationalist Party in Ireland. Nor have we ever withdrawn that declaration, though, of course, we have not attempted to give effect to it in the face of the small disposition, or rather no disposition at all, which has been shown in that north-eastern corner to accept it. I own I do not think it would be safe, until opinion has been far more ascertained and far more matured on this question, for us to attempt, as we should have to attempt upon the Third Reading of this Bill, the passing of a uniform and a compulsory measure. My hon. Friend has spoken with disfavour of what is termed the plan of local option, and has referred to me as having been responsible for a sort of paternity of that plan. He is quite right in saying I have never presumed to make any such suggestion except conditionally. If you find that this is a practicable method of action, and if you find that it relieves you from difficulties that you are otherwise not prepared to encounter, then it appears to me it ought to be entertained. But I assure my hon. Friend that I am sensible it would be an absurd presumption on my part to give an opinion in favour of such a plan, and I have never gone beyond the comparatively modest assertion that if there are these difficulties, and if the opinions which prevail on the one side and on the other cannot be brought together, it would be desirable at least to examine thoroughly and to the bottom a subject of this description rather than to encounter so serious and formidable a difficulty as that of applying the principle of coercion to large communities in a matter of this kind. There is another point which I think has not been referred 1864 to in the present Debate, and possibly may not in any way form an essential part in the view of the promoters, and that is the clause in the Bill which inflicts exclusive penalty upon employers. I am sure that those who have framed the Bill or those among the working classes who have paid attention to the subject have not been led to give that form to the penal part of the Bill from any selfish or interested motive. I admit that there are practical facilities in inflicting a penalty upon the employer which probably have recommended it to their consideration in preference to the far greater practical difficulties that might be encountered in making it applicable to the workman. At the same time, I am bound to say I think the principle of that exclusive application of penalty to the employer is one so doubtful and open to such formidable objections that I trust that some method will be found in Committee to get rid of that exclusive character of this portion of the measure. I shall be very glad, viewing the nature of employment underground, if we do arrive at a state of things such as will admit of the application of a uniform and compulsory rule. I admit that my hon. Friend's doctrine of nine-tenths, if it can be supported, does amount to an expression of the general sense of the mining community to which I do believe that Parliament would be disposed to give the greatest, most respectful, and most favourable attention. I do not know whether that uniform application is essential to the structure of the Bill, as has been contended by the Mover of the rejection of the Bill, and as may very possibly, for all I know, be the deliberate view of its promoters; but I must confess that I cannot get over the obligation to look in the strictest and most practical manner at a subject of this kind and to cast aside everything except an endeavour to estimate and weigh fairly the merits of each particular argument bearing on the case. And, although I am very desirous that we should, if possible, find ourselves able to limit the business of labour underground, which I conceive stands in very important particulars on a distinct foundation from that which is applicable to other descriptions of labour, yet I am not prepared to carry that principle to such an extent as to run the risk of running 1865 counter to the conscientious and the deliberate, and certainly I must admit the intelligent, conviction of very large portions of the mining community.
§ *SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
said, it appeared to him that the Prime Minister, in the observations he addressed to the House, gave a most cogent reason against the passing of the Second Reading of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said they should not entertain legislation of this kind unless there was a large majority in favour of it, amongst the colliers themselves. But he (Sir Alfred Hickman) submitted they had no evidence whatever of any such majority. At any rate, it must be admitted that they had no proof; and to rush upon such legislation without proof would be a wild and dangerous step. In the able speech of the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. S. Woods) the argument throughout was from the point of view of eight hours work being sufficient. He thought everyone would admit that eight hours work in a mine was sufficient; but the proposal was not to limit the hours of work to eight hours, but to prevent any man working more than what would amount in most cases to 6½ hours, and in some cases even to as little as six hours. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Woods) said that boys of 18 years of age in Durham were probably in favour of limitation if they could have polled; but what about the men with large families—what about the men who wished to get on in the world and to improve their position? He agreed with the Prime Minister that a strong case should be made out before legislation of this sort was passed. What were the facts as they stood at present? Take the mining district of Warwickshire, with which he was connected. The colliers there—that was to say, the coal hewers—were at present in the pit about 8¾ hours. But it took 25 minutes to get the men from the top into the pit, as only a few could go down together; therefore, before the full pit's company was down, it took 25 minutes, and another 25 minutes to bring them to the top, and with the best appliances that could be obtained, endless wire rope apparatus, it took 20 minutes to get to the face of the coal and the same time back, so that altogether an hour and a-half was 1866 occupied in that way. The hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) said it was absurd to say it took an hour and a-half to get men from the top to the face of the coal and back; that the average would be half an hour. But this was not a question of average; it was a hard-and-fast line, and the question was, how it would effect those who were at a distance, and where the pits were deep. As the Prime Minister pointed out with great force to a deputation that waited upon him, the great objection was that the Bill proposed to legislate for different circumstances all in the same manner. In Warwickshire, when a pit was in full work, and working six days a week, the average of the individual collier was only 4½ days, and at present the collier worked 30 hours per week. He asked the House was that an unreasonable time for a collier to work; were 30 hours per week too much; was there any other occupation where a man could earn good wages by working only 30 hours a week; and was that such an oppressive thing that it required legislation to put an end to it? It was true that labourers and loaders worked 7½ hours, but their labour was not of an exhaustive character. Now that mining legislation made it compulsory that the pit should be thoroughly ventilated, he said, from practical knowledge of the subject, that a pit was as healthy, and in many cases much more healthy, than most of the factories in the country. The effect of the Bill, if it were to pass, would be not to prevent men working more hours, on the average, than they did now, because if they wore prevented from working more than so many hours in the day they could make it up by working more days in the week. Why should not the workman be permitted to take a day, or two days' holiday, and make it up during the rest of the week? As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. D. A. Thomas), the object of this legislation was really to reduce the output, and that that would be the effect was beyond all question. They were now working in Warwickshire seven hours and 55 minutes—roughly, 8 hours; but under this Bill the hours of working would be reduced to 6½ hours, and the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) and another hon. Member for a Welsh constituency be- 1867 lieved the effect would be to put up wages or keep them at a reasonable amount. If that were so, the collier would really not benefit, because the effect would be to enhance the cost of getting the coal out of all proportion to the demand. The best estimate he could make of the enhanced cost of getting the coal, supposing the wages were reduced in proportion to the reduced hours, would be something like 1s. a ton, which would be an enormous tax on the industry of this country. The exports of iron were decreasing; the imports were increasing; they found keener competition abroad, and they had at this moment the greatest difficulty in holding their own; and to put 1s. a ton on the price of coal would be, in a great many cases, to drive the trade out of the country. The English collier during the last seven years was getting less coal per individual than was the case seven years ago; in spite of all the improved appliances—and they were many—they had for coal getting, the individual collier in Great Britain raised 1 per cent. less coal than he did seven years ago. While that was the case in this country, the French collier raised 15 per cent. more coal, and the Belgian collier 11 per cent. more coal; and while foreigners were straining every nerve to successfully compete with us, it was proposed to reduce the hours of labour which must necessarily lead to a diminished output. Undoubtedly, the miner would suffer in the end, when the manufacturers who were dependent upon the coal industry were driven abroad. When that happened, the miner would wish very much to go back to the eight hours' or seven hours' work instead of being restricted to six and a-half hours. As evidence that legislation was desired, the Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) said the Federation had polled their members; and that Staffordshire, where short hours were worked, were in favour of this legislation, and he said that on the faith of the poll that had seen taken of the Federation. But not a third of the Staffordshire colliers were in the Federation at all; and with all due respect to the House he asked, were they to rush into legislation of this kind without some kind of proof that there was a solid and real wish for it on the part of the men themselves? He disputed the 1868 hon. Member's facts, and said the House ought not to be asked to pass the Bill until it was shown there was a real demand for it.
§ MR. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said, he should not have intervened in the Debate but for the fact that in his constituency there were a great number of miners. His election was fought and decided upon this very point, and the result of that election was to throw considerable doubt upon the assertion of the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) that a large proportion of the miners were in favour of this measure. If that argument of the hon. Member were only approximately correct, he should not have been here today to record his vote, as he intended, against the Bill. It was evident that those who supported this measure were involved in considerable difficulty over one important fact—namely, the output. The hon. Member for the Ince Division supported the Bill to-day apparently on the ground that the output would not be diminished; but they had heard it stated and proved that a few years ago, in 1888, the hon. Member advocated an eight hours Bill because the output would be reduced by 20,000,000 tons annually. Hon. Gentlemen who were in favour of this measure based their arguments in favour of it upon what had occurred in other industries. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. (Mr. J. Chamberlain) cited instances and trades in which working hours had been reduced with great advantage, but the question here was whether the great mining industry was specially suitable for this experiment. In his opinion, it was absolutely the reverse. In other trades, he took it, when a man entered the factory, or his place of business, his work began at once, but that was not the case in a mine. In many instances in a mine half-an-hour or an hour might be consumed before the man began work at all. The contention of hon. Members supporting the Bill was that an experiment ought to be made, and they were prepared to go any length in favour of trying the experiment, and they proposed to select this particular industry as affording a good opportunity of testing it. It appeared to him that was a dangerous argument to adopt. It amounted to this: They were determined 1869 at all cost to try the experiment, and they proposed to try it on the coal trade. If it was a success, so much the better, as they could then introduce the eight hours system into all other trades; if it was a failure, so much the worse for the coal trade. He maintained there was considerable misconception as to the number of hours actually worked. This Bill might be described not incorrectly as a hewers' Bill; it was introduced mainly for the men who actually got the coal. In the part of his district that he was best acquainted with—South-West Lancashire—there was no necessity for the hewers to work more than eight hours; they could go down the pit at 6 o'clock in the morning, and there was nothing to prevent them coming up at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and he wished to know how the Bill would benefit them? It might be said they did not wish to benefit merely the hewers. Well, he would take that view of the case. If they reduced the hours all round to eight, it was obvious that the output must be diminished; and if that were the case, these men who worked at a fixed rate of wage must be employed for a reasonable time and must accept a smaller wage. But he must admit it was not much use employing stock arguments against this proposal; it was not much good talking about obligations or pointing out the results of increased cost of production and keener foreign competition; neither was it much use to give the views of the employer, as they were not fashionable just now on labour questions, and they had to bear in mind there were only some 500 individual employers' votes concerned; whereas, according to the Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods), there were something like 500,000 miners' votes to be obtained in favour of the proposal. He could not help congratulating the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Woods) upon the success that had attended his efforts just now. He did not suppose there was any measure that had made so much progress as this particular proposal. It was a proposal that made many startling conversions. They had been witness to one this afternoon, and he congratulated his hon. Friend upon the prize he had landed to-day. He felt proud, and felt incline to congratulate himself upon possessing so honourable a constituent; for though he could not 1870 reckon upon him as a supporter, he was a constituent, and in these days of rapid conversions might yet become a supporter. Many Members had sought; and some had obtained, salvation on this particular question. The conversions, he must admit, were not confined to one side of the House; there many hon. Members who had found salvation on this question; they had found it very late, and some, he regretted to say, had only found it when too late. In his opinion, the Bill was more valuable as a test of political docility than of anything else. A certain number of hon. Gentlemen had come to a compromise on this question. They were ready to vote for the Bill, but they reserved to themselves the right to alter it in Committee. He submitted that was altogether an illogical position to take up. On this question they must either vote for the principle of eight hours or vote against it, and the moment they introduced amendments and limitations they rendered the Bill nugatory. In his opinion, if amendments were introduced and the Bill became an Act, it would be little more than a farce. If the miners were an unorganised body unable to look after their own interests there would be more to be said in favour of the Bill; but who could contend that the miners were unable to look after their own interest or were a feeble find unintelligent body of men? They were an energetic, intelligent body of men, led by able and intelligent leaders; and if anything like unanimity existed among them on this question, there would be absolutely no reason to come to Parliament with a Bill of the kind. He had no doubt that those who voted against this Bill would be marked men and denounced as wanting in sympathy for the miners. For his part, he wished to repudiate beforehand this accusation. He claimed that he and others who held similar views with him were just as much in sympathy with the miners as those who supported the Bill. He should vote against the measure, because it could do nothing to benefit the men; it would do nothing to enable them to secure higher wages; but, on the other hand, they had the best reason for believing that if it became law it would inflict a serious blow on the mining industry as a whole.
§ MR. C. J. FLEMING (York, W. R., Doncaster)
said, it would 1871 be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this measure. It was demanded by an overwhelming majority of the miners of Great Britain; it was supported by scores of thousands of artisans in other trades; it was approved of by public opinion, and so far, at any rate, as the miners' claim to an eight-hour day was concerned, there hardly seemed to be an opponent of it outside the coal trade. And, to add to all these advantages, he thought he might fairly congratulate the House that, notwithstanding the importance of the Bill, and the far-reaching consequences it aimed to secure, it was in no sense a Party measure. Many hon. Members opposite supported it, and he very much regretted to have to recognise the fact that the most determined opposition to it came from hon. Members on his (the Liberal) side of the House. By the strange irony of fate three hon. Members who had been working miners, and who were sent to Parliament chiefly to advocate the claims of labour, were allied in their opposition to this Bill. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick), and the hon. Member for Mid Durham (Mr. J. Wilson), although earnest champions for the shortening of the hours of miners, as they would naturally expect Labour Representatives to be, were so oppressed by a theory as to the limitations of the functions of government, which they would not primâ facie expect Labour Representatives to be, that they felt bound to oppose this Bill. It so happened that in the Northumberland and Durham coalfields the pits were organised on the double-shift system for hewers of about seven hours each, with a single shift of 10 or 11 hours for the other underground workmen. The hewers in this district feared that if this Bill became law they would lose the advantage they now possessed over miners in other parts of the country, and their leaders had, so far, persuaded a majority of them to vote against this Bill. But the very advantage they enjoyed was the direct and immediate result of an Act of Parliament. Before the Mines Regulation Act of 1872 these men were working longer hours in each shift, and the lads and other workmen were employed 13 1872 hours a day. When that Act came into operation the lads could only be worked for 10 hours a day, so that the employers voluntarily and for the convenience of their system instituted the present short shifts. Those who opposed this Bill recommended the men to obtain the end sought by means of their Trades Unions. But in this case the Trades Unions had little or nothing to do with securing the result. The Miners' Union in Durham had been instituted 30 years, and one of the ostensible objects it was formed to attain was shorter hours for boys. Yet the boys were now working 10 hours a day, and the men opposed this Bill because it would reduce the hours of the boys from ten to eight. Boys over 16 were not within the Act of 1872, and their hours had been increased. If they were to look to the Unions, let him ask the hon. Members why the hours of lads over 16 had been increased; why the hours of the lads under 16 had not been decreased? For the last 20 years those lads had been down the pit 10 hours a day; three hours longer than their fathers and older brothers had to stay. Would hon. Members who referred them to Trade Union effort tell them what attempts had been made by the Union to mend that state of affairs? And how it was that during 20 long years they had had no success? They who supported this Bill were convinced of the wisdom and truly conservative character of the policy it involved. They were impressed by the extreme moderation and justice of the demand; and they would be very unworthy Representatives of the men who made it if they shrank from a full discussion of the question, and did not take into consideration the opposition with which they had to contend. For his part, he regretted to think that the most influential opponent they had to reckon with was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley). He should be glad to know that he was mistaken; and lest he should in any way misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, he would take his own words with regard to this particular measure. Speaking at Newcastle in April, 1889, the right hon. Gentleman said—I think that to work eight hours is better than to work nine hours. I think we must 1873 remember that our working classes are not mere machines. They are not merely hands; they have heads, and they have hearts and homes to look after. Therefore, I am for reducing the hours of labour to such limits as may be practicable. But I, for one, am firm on this: that the limitation must be effected, as some of the greatest reforms have been, by our own firm individual effort, and not by giving to Parliament to do that which Parliament is not well fitted to do …. Mind, I am not against eight hours, but a Parliamentary Bight Hours Bill.The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, supposed that the shorter hours which English workmen enjoyed were due to individual effort alone. So far as they were shorter—i.e., in factories, but not on railways or in unorganised home industries—that result was owing more to the indirect working of the series of Factory Law sending in the Act of 1878 than to the action of Trades Unions. But rather than argue against that statement of the right hon. Gentleman's policy, in words of his own, he would like to point to a previous utterance of the right hon. Gentleman. In his life of Cobden the right hon. Member for Newcastle admirably summarised the case against the Manchester school in an epitome of Mill's own very careful and exhaustive argument in favour of a Nine Hours Bill, and pointed out where the action of the State was required to supplement individual efforts and to guarantee them against abuse by a selfish and spiritless minority—The answer of modern statesmanship is that unfettered individual competition is not a principle to which the regulation of industry may be entrusted. There may be conditions which it is in the highest degree desirable to impose on industry, and to which the general opinion of the industrial classes may be entirely favourable. Yet the assistance of law may be needed to give effect to this opinion, because—in the words of the great man who was now preparing the exposition of political economy that was to reign all through the next generation—only law can afford to every individual a guarantee that his competitors will pursue the same course as to hours of labour and so forth, without which he cannot safely adopt it himself.He should very much like to know which pronouncement of the right hon. Gentleman they were to accept with regard to his action on that Bill? He should hope and trust that it would be in the sense of the latter quotation, because he thought it clearly showed that an eight hours day, which the miners were so desirous of securing, 1874 could not reasonably be expected to be won for them, in any uniformity, all over the country by anything but by State interference. He desired to see this measure passed in order that there might be unanimity secured for this trade, and in order that there might be stability and industrial peace. The men had negotiated with their masters. At a conference of masters and men held in London in January and February, 1891, the men asked the masters to agree to an eight hours day being made a rule by the Home Secretary under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, which would have the force of law. The masters refused to assent to this, and he must confess he rejoiced at that result, because it had forced the men into what he conceived to be the only sound mode of securing their end. The real employers of these miners were not the capitalists engaged in the trade, but the consumers of the coal. And this was the cardinal defect which vitiated all the schemes that were suggested in opposition to this Bill: that they looked upon the question as one to be decided by the capitalist middleman and the workers alone. They disregarded the interests of the community in the dispute. They wanted to manage this business by ignoring the senior partner in the firm. And it was the warrant and justification for the policy of this Bill that the State, acting on behalf of the community, should participate in the settlement of the question. If the State did not undertake its duty and responsibility in this matter, but left it to be fought out between the employers and the employed, after many vain struggles, great loss, disturbance of trade generally—which all depended upon coal—the delegates of the employers' Trades Unions would meet the delegates of the men's Trades Unions; and finding that the State had abdicated its functions of safeguarding the interests of the community, they would patch up their disputes in their own interest at the expense of the community, and would soon learn that it was more profitable to agree to plunder others than to quarrel among themselves. There were not wanting indications of the beginning of a movement in this direction. The trade had already found out how heavily the community could be taxed by the panic with which it was possessed on the mere threat of a strike 1875 by the men. He contended that a measure like the one now before the House would conduce both to the benefit of masters and men. Before the Royal Commission a colliery proprietor from Fife complained that he was working eight and a-half hours, and that he had to compete in the tame market against colliery proprietors in the West of Scotland who were working much longer hours. Although this gentleman was by no means an advocate of a measure like the one before the House, he had to acknowledge that if such a measure were passed it would undoubtedly do him and his brother colliery owners great benefit by putting them on the same footing, establishing an equality in the trade, and preventing the unfair competition of one district with another. They heard good deal about foreign competition. That matter was disposed of long ago, when the Ten Hours Bill was passed, and the dark views entertained by some with regard to that measure had been signally defeated and proved to be unfounded. In a measure like that before the House they need have no fear of foreign competition; but the competition which would prove inimical to the industry and the interests of the community at large was the competition of one district in England which was unduly favoured with another district where the men were working under greater disadvantages. An example of this was afforded in the case of Birmingham. The Corporation of Birmingham purchased 480,000 tons of coal per annum in order to carry on their gas works, and had hitherto purchased this coal by contract in the Midlands. It was now reported they had removed their contract to Durham, because, instead of having to pay 7s. per ton as before, the Durham colliery proprietors had agreed to supply the coal at 5s. 6d. per ton. That was the kind of competition they had to fear. In Durham, where the two-shift system was in operation, although the men might not work as long hours as in other districts, the output per man was greater. This might be due in some measure to the softer nature of the coal, which was much more easily got. There were varying conditions in different parts of the country, and the men felt that all artificial variations ought to be done away with, and that to give them prosperity 1876 some degree of solidarity ought to be given to their trade. This result would be better secured by Parliamentary enactment than by the efforts of the Trades Unions. The methods of the Unions in the last resort were strikes and industrial war, which produced not only great suffering to the men and loss to everybody concerned, but disturbance to the whole trade of the country. If a general strike occurred—and such a thing was contemplated, and was only kept back by the hopes centered in this Bill—he was convinced that it would paralyse the trade of the country, and that in the end the Government would have to interfere, so that there would, in the long run, be no escape from the interference of the State. He hoped the House would to-day give a generous consideration to the demand of the miners, recognising its moderation and wisdom, and in that way bring peace to the men and make the whole trade prosperous.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
I hope the House this afternoon will not think that I am intervening in this matter as an outsider, and that I have little title to endeavour to explain my opinions on this subject. I have sympathised with this proposal for a considerable number of years. I think I was among the first, if not actually the first, amongst those with whom I have the honour to act to declare that to support a movement for obtaining certain modification in the hours of labour by law is perfectly consistent with the sound doctrines and tenets of the Party I belong to, besides being a policy perfectly justifiable in itself. Curiously enough, so far as the coal trade is concerned, I am very nearly connected with two of the largest coalowners in England; and although I quite admit that I have not been able to get those relatives to adopt precisely my own views, this fact will relieve me of any charge of partiality in the matter. The Debate has been of a most interesting character. The hon. Member who last addressed the House travelled over a very wide field, and the most satisfactory result which I have gathered from a general review of the hon. Member's speech is that he strongly favours the Bill. That I consider to be about the most practical matter about the speech he delivered. The most interesting speech that we have been favoured with to-day 1877 was, undoubtedly, the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury. There was great uncertainty as to how the right hon. Gentleman would act in regard to this measure—whether he would be at liberty to oppose it, or whether he would vote for it. The general probabilities, so far as Parliamentary rumour went, were that he would abstain; but I rejoice that the right hon. Gentleman did not abstain. I hold that if ever a gentleman in a great public position was obliged to vote for the principle of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman is that person; because, undoubtedly, at the General Election, before his Midlothian constituents, who embrace a very considerable mining community, he did give them to understand, in a manner which they would not have been justified in mistaking, that his sympathies were, within certain limits, with this movement for regulating the hours of labour in mines by law; and, undoubtedly, it is a matter of notoriety that the declaration then made by the right hon. Gentleman, which was the first declaration that proceeded from him, had the effect of adding considerably to the majority of the right hon. Gentleman at the poll. Therefore I rejoice that the right hon. Gentleman has given the weight of his influence and the sanction of his approval to the new departure by Parliament upon the Labour Question. The right hon. Gentleman objected very strongly to the clause in the Bill which casts the penalty for violation of its provisions, if it should become law, upon the employer alone; and he deprecated, and even condemned, the exclusive application of penalties to the employers. But I rather think that in all our labour legislation employers have had to bear the responsibility for violation of the law. I think that in almost the whole range of our labour legislation, with the exception of underground regulations as to coal mines, the penalty for violation of the law has been up till now cast upon the employers. And the reason is clear. The responsibility of employer and employed cannot possibly be brought into an equality, because of the far greater influence, power, and resources which the former possesses, either to see that the law is carried out, or to persuade those under his influence to evade it. It seems to me a perfectly logical principle, so far as the hours of labour are concerned, that the responsi- 1878 bility should fall on the employers. I think the House will see that in the Bill which regulates the labour of railway employés, if there are penalties they will fall upon the companies. I think, also, in almost all the Factory Acts where the employment of women and children is concerned the penalties fall upon the employers. So that I really venture, in opposition to the view of the First Lord of the Treasury, to argue that to levy the penalty for violating the provisions of this Bill, when passed, upon the employer is no new departure, but a genera? adherence to the principle that has long been adopted by Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman is also strongly in favour of the application of the principle of local option to this measure and to the mining industry. But to apply that principle to such an enormous industry would not, in my opinion, be practicable. You have now an instance of local option in the counties of Durham and Northumberland, where, undoubtedly, the mining community has made special arrangements for itself. Those special arrangements act with advantage to the minors of Durham and Northumberland, but, as I shall show, disadvantage to the, rest of the mining communities, and with a considerable cost to the principle which ought to regulate labour generally in this country. The mining community of Northumberland and Durham are, I believe, united in opposition to the Bill; but what is the arrangement under which they work? It is an arrangement of great advantage to the miners, and, owing to the peculiarity in its system, it does not seem to have worked to the disadvantage of the employers. But this is certain—that the Durham and Northumberland community, which is, after all, only a fraction of the mining community in Great Britain, are acting solely in their own interests in this matter. They cannot be said to be acting in the interests of the general mining community in Great Britain. What is the arrangement? It is this—that by increasing the labour of boys beyond the labour of boys in other parts of England, and considerably beyond the labour of the men, they are able to work two shifts, which means 7½ hours a day for the men and, as shown before the Labour Commission, an average of 10½ hours a day for the boys—one shift of boys serving two shifts of hewers of 1879 coal. This may be an advantageous arrangement, but it is not one which will commend itself to practical men in the House of Commons. It is an arrangement because of which you would prevent the general mining community of the country from attaining the benefits of a measure as to which they have long been unanimous, and upon which they have set their hearts. I put Durham and Northumberland aside. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Morpeth, who represents the Board of Trade, will be able to take part in this Debate; but with great respect to him I think he ought to do so, because the hon. Gentleman is, I believe, a great opponent of the Eight Hours Bill. He is acquainted with the peculiar feature of the Durham and Northumberland arrangement, the feature which alone enables it to be worked at a profit—namely, the longer employment of the boys—the boys working the two shifts of the men. Is the hon. Gentleman's support of that arrangement in consonance with the attitude he took up at the Labour Conference at Berlin? There, if I recollect rightly, he took up the strongest attitude about the employment of boys, both on the ground of limits of age and also the number of hours during which they should be employed. The hon. Gentleman was a party to—at any rate he did not dissent from—the decisions of that Conference, in favour of the regulation of child labour, to the effect that the actual work of children below 14 years should not exceed six hours a day, and should be broken by a rest of at least half-an-hour. Well, that disposes, if the hon. Gentleman agrees with those recommendations, of his ability to give the slightest support to the hours of labour worked by the boys in Durham and Northumberland. A great many of the boys in the Durham and Northumberland mines are under 14 years of age. I think the hon. Gentleman ought to tell the House what there is peculiar about Durham and Northumberland which would justify the hours of labour of boys exceeding those of the men by 30 per cent. and justify the House in not passing this Bill into law. That will be a very interesting point which many hon. Members would like to hear the hon. Gentleman deal with. But I pass away from that to the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr, 1880 who moved the rejection of the Bill. That was the speech of an employer. Through all that speech and the ingenious arguments which he brought against the Bill there rang the note of an employer. There was very little consideration, I thought, for the rights of labour. There was a curious thing in that speech. The hon. Member has great sympathy for the rights of the employer and the capitalist, and the owner of what we may call property in a personal form so far as regards coalmines. But where are his sympathies when other subjects touching personal property come before Parliament? Does he sympathise with the property rights of the clergy, or with the property rights of the landlords in Wales? Does he sympathise with any other form of property, or is he prepared to defend the rights of any other form of property except the particular rights of the coal owners? He talked of the ballot he had taken in a colliery in which he is personally interested—in fact, he used the expression "my" colliery—and even in that ballot it turned out that there was a two-thirds majority in favour of the limitation of the hours by law amongst those miners. No doubt, he said, there were 500 who abstained. That leads me to a much larger question, which was noticed by The Daily News this morning. The hon. Member avers that the number of miners who have expressed their opinion in favour of this proposition is 250,000, and that there has been a much smaller minority of the miners of Durham and Northumberland who have expressed an adverse opinion; but The Daily News asserts that there are upwards of 400,000 miners who have expressed an opinion overtly. I put it to hon. Members, Does the House of Commons suppose that in the case of a great industry like the mining industry, which has been moving to reduce the hours of labour by law, and where a quarter of a million of workers have pronounced in favour of such limitation, the abstention of a minority from absolutely recording their opinions does not denote acquiescence in the principle rather than opposition to it? If this measure is going to bring upon the miners all the evils which the owners prophecy and all the disasters, do you think that 400,000 miners in Great 1881 Britain are so stupid and have such little knowledge of their own business and interests that they will not be as ready to reject it as any employer? The House has before it the fact that an enormous majority of the miners have come to Parliament and have asked for limitation, and that 710 appreciable number have asked Parliament not to yield the claim. That is a very strong fact indeed, and I think we are justified, and people well acquainted with miners are justified, in holding, and do hold, the opinion that the overwhelming, preponderating majority of the mining community are in favour of this measure. Well, Sir, a little difference has arisen as to whether the eight hours is to be reckoned as from bank to bank or as from the face of the coal. I think that is a question which has nothing whatever to do with the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a question of pure detail, which can be decided with the greatest possible advantage in Committee, and the opinions of the greatest authorities on that question will probably then guide the House in its decision. But I would suggest that possibly the theory of local option, which the First Lord of the Treasury is so much in favour of, might be applied to the settlement of a difference of that kind. Perhaps there would be no great harm in trying to make accommodation in the principle of local option in certain localities, some of which might favour the system of limitation of hours from bank to bank, and others of which might favour the principle based on the arrangement from the face of the coal. But, in any case, it is not a matter which ought to restrain the House from dealing with this Bill. The hon. Member for Merthyr differed from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) in his view that the limitation of hours of labour by law would not have any appreciably bad effect on the output of coal. I think that the principle laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham is one which may work out well in practice. I do not agree with the view of the hon. Member for Merthyr that such limitation would necessarily diminish the output. The hon. Member was forced to admit that under voluntary arrangement for limiting the hours of labour no diminution of output has fol- 1882 lowed; but he attributed that entirely to the voluntary character of the arrangement, and he argued that voluntary arrangements between capital and labour have far greater power and usefulness than any interference by Parliament can have. I think that is a very disputable position to take up. If we see that, in an increasing number of industries, from day to day employers and workmen are coming together to diminsh the hours of labour on purely voluntary principles, and that the arrangement is a profitable one and not a losing one, why should Parliament refuse to listen to the demand of an enormous industry which comes and appeals to us to secure to them, without dispute or violence, this tremendous benefit? But is not this a general principle which we can lay down as regards the diminution of the output and consequent loss to the mining community? If the price of coal is low, is it a great disadvantage to the mining community that the output should be limited? Have there not been cases whore employers and employés have come together to diminish the output because the price was low? That is not considered a disadvantage, if it operates when the price of coal is low. But suppose the price is high, then the diminution of the hours of labour cannot produce the smallest loss to the profits. Nothing would lower the price so quickly as a very great output, and a rush into the coal industry, which this Bill would certainly tend to check, and which, if you do not pass it, is always a danger when the price of coal rises. Whether, therefore, the price of coal is low or high, the limitation of the hours of labour will not be a disadvantage, but rather an, advantage. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, speaking from the employers' "plank," like all employers, said he was entirely in favour of the principle that men should not work more than eight hours a day underground. But his support is fallacious, because he couples it with the condition that if the hours are reduced the wages should be reduced. That shows that his support is not very sincere. That enables me to lay down what I consider a principle—that wages have absolutely no connection with the limitation of the hours of labour by law. ["Oh!"] None whatever. The limitation of the hours of 1883 labour is a matter which Parliament, in its position as a great State power, may consider from many points of view—from the point of view of policy, of sanitation, of the interests of Her Majesty's subjects. On the other hand, wages are purely a question between employers and employed. Whatever the hours of labour may be, the men, whether they work eight hours or 10, may make the same bargain for the one as for the other. ["Oh!"] Certainly. It is purely a question for the employers and the employed. The question of wages is one with which Parliament can never interfere, but it may interfere with the hours of labour. That proposition is not denied, and, therefore, I hold it as conclusive that there is no connection between the wages which are paid and the limitation of the hours of work by Parliament. ["Oh, oh!"] Certainly not, because no matter what the hours, if the price of the article about which the law is passed falls, wages will naturally have a tendency to fall, and if the price of the article rises wages have a tendency to rise, and employers will not be able to resist that tendency. The hon. Member for Durham is a great employer of labour, and he turns into ridicule every argument in favour of the men. He does nothing but sneer at the proposition. But I would advise him, instead of sneering at the proposition, to dispute it and argue against it, and show that it is wrong. I tell employers if they think that because Parliament passes an Eight Hours Bill for the mining community therefore they can reduce the wages of the men——
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I took the hon. Member's words down. I say if the employers think that they will be making one of the greatest mistakes they ever made, and will probably land themselves in one of the greatest struggles they ever had to engage in, and in which they are not likely to come off best. I am not one of those—and I am not ashamed to confess it—who attach exclusive and predominant importance in social questions of this kind to the abstract principles of political economy. I do not care for the dry and dusty platitudes to which we are treated continually by the representatives of the laissez aller school. I believe firmly 1884 that the instincts of labour, which in its higher relations, and even in its lower, have gone through a course of intelligent training and education, will guide labour just as intelligently in its own interest and the interest of the mass of the community as the politico-economical doctrines of employers and capitalists. That may sound a very shocking heresy, but it is a heresy I have grasped and embraced for some time, and upon which I certainly shall not relax my hold. The question before Parliament is this—will Parliament, on the application of a gigantic industry, deal with this question by legislation, or does it intend to leave it to be settled by the efforts which mining organisations can make, efforts in the nature of force, of violent combination, and of a universal strike? I put it to this Parliament of 1892 with its great experience in dealing with social questions. Are you going this afternoon, sympathising as you do with the general mass of your fellow-countrymen, to say—"We will not endeavour to settle this great question by legislation—by a measure which will have every chance of being carefully framed, and therefore of being accepted; but we will leave it to be settled by the men themselves." Will you say—"We employers will fight the demands of the men, not caring what maybe lost and how much the industries and the commercial community of the country may suffer?" That is the position you will be taking up if you reject this Bill this afternoon. Such a change has come over the feelings of hon. Gentlemen on one side and the other that I know gentlemen on this side of the House who have expressed sympathy, and some have gone further than an expression of sympathy, with the demand for a limitation of the hours of labour by law. On the other side of the House, who are opposed to the demand except the employers and those who sympathise with the great power of capital? They are absolutely unanimous. Therefore this Bill must be carried, and what makes it a certainty is the direct and unqualified support it has received from the Government. I hail this new departure of Parliament in the view it takes of the labour interests, and I trust that that departure will not be arrested, but that it will pursue its course slowly, steadily, wisely, and, above all, justly. I trust that the demands of labour when 1885 they are brought before Parliament, when they are reasonable, moderate, and intelligent, will receive the favourable consideration of every hon. Member of the House.
§ MR. MATHER (Lancashire, S.E., Gorton)
said, he did not intend to occupy more than a few minutes of the time of the House, and he should not have presumed to speak, only on the ground that he had made labour questions a great study for some years. Though an employer of labour, he desired to express unbiassed and unprejudiced opinions, formed in the interests not of employers, but of working men. He felt that the stability and progress of the great industries of the country depended on a wide extension of Trade Unions. Through these Unions they had obtained conditions of industrial success and peace which they certainly could not have had without them, and in the coal trade the triumphs of the Unions had been marvellous. When he looked at the achievements of the National Federation of Miners he was amazed at the success which had attended their efforts, not only in reducing the hours of labour, but in increasing wages and in other directions. Therefore, as a friend to Trade Unions, and believing they were a necessity to the industrial world, he would suggest that Parliament should encourage them in every way. He was anxious that nothing should be done in that House which should undermine them, or prevent them obtaining in a manly and independent way what they considered necessary for the masses of the workers throughout the country. In relation to the matter before the House, it was admitted that the power of the mining Trade Unions had not been sufficient to enable them to induce employers to recognise the justice, urgency, and necessity of their demand; and he thought that the better and quicker way to carry out their wishes would be not to pass this inflexible and uniform Act, which paid no regard to local circumstances, but to give the Unions power to enforce their demands upon the employers if and after friendly negotiations had failed. The Prime Minister bad said that a demand existed for some such legislation; but he guarded himself expressly against interfering with local control, and said that the Third Reading 1886 would not have his support unless the mining industries in particular portions of the country had power to exclude themselves from the operation of the Bill. If that was to be the outcome of this movement the raison d'âtre for the measure in the eyes of its supporters would disappear, and they would not thank the House of Commons for passing a measure that did not establish equality of hours simultaneously throughout the land. Now, speaking in the interests of the men, and not for the employers, he thought it would be possible to give the Trade Unions by legislation the power they wanted—namely, enabling powers, that after friendly negotiations with the employers on the subject had failed they should be able to decide for themselves what constituted a working day, provision being made that before such decision was enforced attempts must be made in conference with the employers to arrive at a mutual understanding. Trade Unions had proved themselves to be a true Conservative force in connection with the industries of the country, and the time had arrived when they should have the enabling power he had suggested, and assume the responsibility if they exercised it. They had often influenced the House itself, and he had no doubt hon. Members had felt their influence in the constituencies, and he saw no reason why this confidence should not be reposed in them. He objected to a Bill which was a rigid, cast-iron measure, and which would make one uniform regulation throughout the country while destroying the inherent right of Trade Unions to decide for themselves what should be the hours of labour. Though he could not vote for the Bill, he would not vote against it—["Oh, oh!"]—and should abstain from voting altogether. He did not agree that, if they had the power he had suggested, and could determine their own hours, wages would follow in the same groove, for wages depended necessarily upon the state of trade, and not only on the number of hours worked. Capital possessed not only money but property, but the labouring man had but one possession in the world—that was, his skill and labour—and he believed he had a perfect right to dispose of that skill and labour according to his own will and pleasure in great combinations—not individually—com- 1887 binations to whom should be committed altogether the ultimate decision as to what should constitute a working day. They had done that by agitation in the past, and the time had now come when the House should give legislative sanction to Trade Unions to that extent—that in matters dealing with hours of labour they should have the ultimate decision for themselves. If that were done, employers would take up a different attitude with regard to labour. Knowing that the ultimate power must be exercised by the great combinations of working men, they would approach questions affecting labour interests in an amicable spirit with a view to arrive at a settlement and to avoid dispute. But if a measure of this rigid character were passed, it would drive in a wedge between capital and labour and create a greater breach than had ever separated them before. It would establish a fixed, rigid, universal rule of trade from John o' Groats to the Land's End, and in his opinion that policy would be injurious to the interests of the miners and of the trade by which they lived. Holding these views, he could not vote with his friends in support of the Bill, but he would not register his vote against it—["Oh!"]—because, as he had already said, he was in favour of legislative action to a certain extent.
§ *SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, the hour of the afternoon was so late that he would not do as he should have liked—that was to say, follow other speakers through many points. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was, in his opinion, right in saying that, holding the opinions he did, he should abstain from voting for the Second Reading of the Bill; but, at the same time, the hon. Member was justified in abstaining from voting against the Bill, seeing that he was in favour of State intervention for the control of the hours of labour in mines. He should have liked, had there been time, to have gone into the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, and to have dealt with the figures as to Welsh opinion, as he knew something about the opinion of the Welsh miners. Indeed, he had twice been sent for to the constituency of the hon. Member himself to help in the organisation of a very feeble union of Aberdare and Merthyr miners. The hon. Member's opinion was an opinion which in 1888 South Wales almost stood alone. It was the opinion of a district that was not well organised—which was not worked up as was the remainder of South Wales. In the Rhondda district the men were entirely in favour of the limitation of the hours of labour. As a matter of fact, the objection of Aberdare and Merthyr to the Bill was the objection of one man. It was as to the "bank to bank" question, which, as the noble Lord opposite had said, was a matter that did not touch the principle of the Bill, and which could be dealt with in Committee. But the hon. Member had not made a suggestion as to how it should be dealt with in Committee. The view of the hon. Member, on this question, was certainly not shared by more than 10,000 or 15,000 miners in the whole of Wales. The case with regard to local option was a very different matter—indeed, it seemed to him exclusively the matter upon which the history of the Bill would turn. The real objection to the Bill was that taken by Northumberland and Durham; but the hon. Member who had just sat down had suggested that the proper way of carrying out local option would be to give it all over the country, and to give it to Trade Unions. The suggestion conveyed in the Prime Minister's speech was of a contrary kind, for he seemed to point to the exemption of Northumberland and Durham from the Bill. Now, it seemed to him (Sir C. Dilke) that any such exemption would be grossly unfair. It would be unfair and dishonest on the part of the promoters of the Bill, and those Members whose names were on the back of it, to throw over the case of the boys and lads in Northumberland and Durham, as to which they had said so much. Theirs was a case for which, above all others, the promoters of the Bill were solicitous. They had gone up and down the country advocating the claims of those young people, and the case of the boys was the one for which, above all others, they asked for the Bill; therefore, it seemed to him that to come to terms with the objectors and to throw over the boys would be monstrous. He was also bound to say that he sympathised with the objections of the colliery owners to local option, and that it would be unfair to some owners in some parts of the country there could be no doubt. 1889 What was the strength of the objections of Northumberland and Durham? If there was an overwhelming opposition there, no doubt the difficulties in the way of the supporters of the Bill would be greatly increased. Judging by the test of numbers, he admitted that Northumberland and Durham were against the Bill; but he wanted to ask whether that was an opinion which time would not change? The Prime Minister carefully avoided going into details on this question. He had not gone into the difficulties of local option. He had merely thrown it out as a suggestion. No doubt, when trade was good, the eight hours could be won in large parts of the country, but the miners were not only not favourable to, but they were bitterly and rightly opposed to a partial acquisition by law of shorter hours; and he might warn those who gave some countenance to the Bill, but who were favourable to limiting its application to certain districts, that they had better carry their votes to the other side, for the miners were rootedly opposed to any such treatment of the subject, and it might even be better that the Bill should on the present occasion be lost, without the support of those who held those views, rather than carried by their help with the certainty of its being altered in Committee. To those who honestly believed in the wisdom of accomplishing the change by Trade Union effort, he must point out that, when so won, the shorter hours would extend again if the trade was bad. There would be no security, none of that certainty which the owners themselves much needed. There would be strikes to get short hours, strikes to keep them; and, after they were lost in moments of bad trade, strikes to win them back again. It was doubtful as regarded very many districts whether they could be won by Trade Union effort, that was by strike. The case of the Glasgow blast-furnace men was most instructive. Scotch Unions were not good; but, for Scotland, the Glasgow furnacemen had been well-organised. While in parts of England blast-furnace men worked eight hour shifts for seven days a week, the Glasgow men worked 12 hour shifts for seven days a week; and when they changed from the day shift to the night shift (that was once a fortnight), they worked 24 hours straight on end. We were greatly 1890 behind other countries in this matter. In France, for example, the hours worked in the neighbourhood of Glasgow by the blast-furnace men were prohibited by law. Yet, although they struck upon the particular point of Sunday labour, on which they had, it might be thought, Scotch public opinion with them, and although their good Union carried out a well-managed strike, they had failed—they had been beaten. The greatest of all the objections to Trade Union effort in the matter was that it meant local option, and that local option would be monstrously unfair, and ought to be opposed by all their efforts. Sooner by far wait; let this Bill be beaten, and let local optionists be converted, than carry it as a local option measure. How monstrously unfair it would be to owners like the Member for West Nottingham, or like his hon. Friend the Member for the Chesterfield Division of Derbyshire, that his Friend the Member for the Chester-le-Street Division of Durham, who competed with them, should be unaffected by the restrictions of the Bill, while they should be put to the cost and trouble which must be involved in any change of system! His hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield supported the present measure; but he doubted whether it would be possible for that hon. Gentleman to support it unless it was to apply to all alike. He himself had opposed two Bills in the present Session; one of which affected all trades, and the other the coal trade only (namely, the Mining Boards Bill). The difficulty of working local option was considerable. One scheme was to take the opinion of the men only. But in this ease there could be no doubt, for example, that blastfurnaces would he damped-down or blown out on Sundays, and the masters said that if this was done, it was impossible to carry on their occupation. He thought, for his part, that Parliamentary interference would be far better for the masters than this arrangement of local option. Local option might be applicable to shop hours, and had been so applied in the Colony of Victoria; but coal-getting was not a local matter like retail dealing, and local option in coal-getting would mean local strikes. The Bills he named had not successfully overcome the difficulties. The Conservative Bill proposed that all 1891 over 21 years of age, among the men, should vote. This excluded the boys and lads, and included the bank-hands and the stone-men of Northumberland and Durham, so that all the pit-brow women and top-men voted who worked in the light of day, but not the lads who slaved as hand-putters in Northumberland, and for whom the change was needed. A hewer, who worked five hours and twenty minutes for his total day at the coal face, would vote, and vote very possibly in the way which was described by his leaders as "against eight hours"; and the stonemen, who had a fixed day of eight hours, would vote with some indifference to the result. But the lad, who voted in the minority in the Northumberland Trade Union ballot, would not even be allowed to vote in the minority under this Conservative Bill. The Liberal Bill proposed much the same mode of voting, but applied to Unionists only, and excluded all the non-unionist workers. When he spoke of the minority in Northumberland, he was answered by the Member for the Morpeth Division of Northumberland, who had declared that local option in this matter was necessary, because there was a minority—a powerful minority, he hinted—in the Federation districts. Those who were supposed to be favourable to this Bill, according to the hon. Member, were not agreed among themselves. So far as he knew—and he had been in every mining county except Cumberland, and had talked to the men in great numbers of different pits—the dissent, so far as the men went, practically consisted of one individual. He was an excellent friend of his, for whom he had twice been down to speak towards the strengthening of his Union, which was rather weak, although it should be strong, being situated in the district of Merthyr and Aberdare. The gentleman of whom he spoke was the agent for some thousand miners; but he had to regret that only half the miners of the small district were in union, and that, their contributions being only 6d. a month, instead of 6d. a week as they ought to be, the Union was a feeble one. For the sake of argument, let them agree, if they liked, that this small Union agreed with his good friend. What was their dissent? Only that they wished for eight hours' work at the face, by law, instead of eight hours from 1892 bank to bank. Supposing that this was the opinion of this little district, they could hardly be claimed as opponents of the Bill. The real objection to the Bill was the objection from Northumberland and Durham. The Northumberland and Durham representatives maintained that the Federation districts were not agreed. He, knowing something of the matter, ventured to assert that the minority in Northumberland and Durham was far greater, not only relatively but absolutely, than the minority in the rest of the county. North Wales, South Wales, Scotland, and all the mining counties except Northumberland and Durham, were in favour of the Bill; but he had never known any question upon which there was so small a minority. The Members for Northumberland and Durham pointed to the evidence before the Royal Commission of a "buttyman" from Derbyshire; but the opinion of Derbyshire would be collected in the Constitutional way from the votes of the Derbyshire Members in the Division. The Members for Northumberland and Durham of whom he spoke were favourable to Home Rule and to the Welsh Suspensory Bill. When the Ulster Protestants maintained that nearly half the people of Ireland were against Home Rule, and when the Church Party argued that a large and increasing portion of the Welsh people favoured the Established Church, those gentlemen always pointed to the votes respectively of the Irish and of the Welsh Members. He applied to them the same test, and asked whore, in any mining districts in the Kingdom outside Northumberland and Durham, were the minority who were opposed to the eight hours by law? The only question really worth examining in detail was that of Northumberland and Durham. Their opponents from those counties argued on two lines; on principle, which he had already dealt with, principle which was real from Lord Salisbury, but which was hardly real from them, as they had formerly advocated Trades Union effort to shorten hours everywhere, by a pressure which amounted to the same compulsion on the individual as State compulsion, and the impossibility of applying the new system to themselves, which he had partly dealt with under the head of local option. The evidence from Northumberland and 1893 Durham before the Labour Commission, so far as it had been published, could not be trusted. He regretted for his part that the Federation miners, and especially those of Yorkshire, had not been represented on the Commission, because if the Yorkshire President, or Secretary, or Agent, had been on the Commission there would have been examination on that evidence which would have turned it inside out. His hon. Friend the Member for the Rhondda Division of Glamorganshire was on the Commission, and was favourable to statutory limitation of hours, but it was a long way from South Wales to Durham, and the circumstances were very different. He had gone to Northumberland and Durham because the evidence was, on the face of it, unsatisfactory, and at many pits which he had visited, without giving his name, he had asked the questions which it had suggested. The men worked, as he had said, a very short day. The stonemen who did the repairs to roof and put in the timber were day-men at eight hours. The boys worked 10 hours a day, with a sufficient limitation on one day a week, by means of extra boys, to bring them within the legal 54; and the lads worked 10 hours a day on 11 days in each 14. All admitted that this was hard on the hoys and lads; but their Northumberland and Durham friends told them in the House that it was impossible to adopt any other system. There were those who thought it was selfish for hewers who worked six hours, and stonemen who worked a fixed eight hour day, to vote against the extension of short hours to the boys and lads who worked for 10. The reply made before the Commission was that the boys' work was not so hard, although it was wished that their hours should be shortened: a highly Platonic wish was this, when it was declared in the same breath that there were no means of shortening them. There were no means indeed except by the Bill, for they would never be shortened, it was admitted, otherwise. A plan had been suggested at the Commission by which the hours of the boys and lads might be shortened. At the present moment in the two counties the system of working which was usual, which was indeed falsely described to the Commission as being 1894 universal, was that there was one shift of boys to two shifts of hewers. It was suggested that there should be three shifts of hewers and two shifts of boys. The reply was that there was not enough boys, that it would involve early-morning calling, and that it would not give time for cooling and ventilation and repair. Asking questions which seemed to have other motives, he had found that there were "plenty of boys," and that great numbers could be obtained at the present rate of wages. A Return which had been prepared showed that in Durham this system was adopted in 14 pits which were named, and that in addition a large number of pits, the names of which were not given, had been working on this system since the Durham strike. He visited three such pits himself. These boys worked over eight hours, but in a considerable number of cases their hours were reduced, though not sufficiently by this plan. In Northumberland and Durham at the present time the men were working a very short number of hours—in many cases less than six hours, in some instances not more than five hours and 20 minutes—and yet the boys were working for 10 and 10½ hours.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid.)
The right hon. Baronet would be more correct in stating that the men were down the pits seven hours and the boys 10 hours.
§ SIR C. DILKE
said, he would accept that statement of the case to the extent that the men were down the pit over six hours and the boys 10 hours. The boys worked at least nine hours a day. He had been down a good many pits and had talked to a good many of the boys. It was admitted by the hon. Members for Wansbeck, Morpeth, and Mid Durham that the present system was hard on the boys, and they said they would be glad to see it changed, but asserted that it was impossible to change it. They made no proposal to change it, and did not even indicate that at some future time a change would be proposed. There was great difference of opinion as to whether the work of the boys was hard or not. But if the work was not hard, why should the miners be so careful to put in the second place on the programme of their Association a reduction of the hours to eight? No doubt some of the witnesses 1895 who gave evidence in London said the work was not hard, and that the hewers and stonemen had much more laborious work. That was a very misleading statement, for the work for boys was really hard. Many of them were under 14 years of age. There were, he knew, not many boys, in the technical sense of the term, in the Durham and Northumberland mines, but there were an enormous number of persons who did work which caused them to be classed as boys. Some of these persons were over 21; but the great majority of them were under 20, and the work they did, both as hand-putters and pony-putters, was very hard. He asserted that without fear of contradiction. It was as hard as anybody could do, and it had to be done stooping in narrow and ill-ventilated passages. It was simply horrible work. Boys of 20 were not, as a rule, doing hewers' work; but on Mondays and Tuesdays hewers often took holidays, and then the boys did hewers' work, and there was no doubt they preferred hewing to putting. [An hon. MEMBER: They got better pay for it.] No doubt they got better pay, but they also had shorter hours. Then the work of the boys was not only hard, but it was dangerous. In Northumberland last year 17 were killed and 98 wounded on the roads, and he took it that most of these must have been boys. The hon. Member for Morpeth had said he would support legislation if it could be proved that hours were excessively long, and that workers could not protect themselves. He maintained, without fear of serious contradiction, that the hours of boys and young men were excessively long, and that they were incapable of protecting themselves. They did what they could in voting in largo minorities; but; many of them were only half-members, and they had no votes. He should like it to be shown how they were capable of reducing their hours of labour for themselves; but the opponents of this Bill did not say in what way they proposed to meet the evil. He would have liked to deal with other objections to the Bill, but felt that he ought to give way for one of the Members for Northumberland or Durham, whose position he had been assailing.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid.)
said, the right hon. Baronet had made out a strong case for interfering on behalf of 1896 boys in the County of Durham; but, still, there were certain classes of work in the mines which could not fairly be described in the manner he had done. Of course, he and other Members knew all about the work, because they had themselves served an apprenticeship to it. It would not be right of him to say they were satisfied with the hours of work, for if he did, he might be misrepresented or misunderstood; but for a long time he had been a Trade Unionist and a Trade Unionist leader, and he had come to the conclusion that these things were best done and done most permanently when they were done gradually. Whatever charges might be made against them as leaders, it could not be said they looked at these things with the eyes of capitalists. However clear and convincing the arguments on the other side might appear to be, they were fully convinced in their own minds that to appeal to that House to fix the hours of labour of adult miners, long though they might be and hard though the labour might be, was not only a wrong way in itself, but was a way which would sap the self-dependence the miners should seek to maintain. The right hon. Baronet made a large assumption for the sole purpose of knocking it down. He assumed that we were ready to accept local option; but that assumption was made on mistaken evidence. He believed the great body of miners objected to State interference with the hours of labour in the rigid manner proposed by the Bill. The supporters of it must have been confused by the conflicting opinions which had been stated during the afternoon. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington had said it would make no difference whether the eight hours were adhered to or not.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I did not say that. I said the point was one which ought to be examined in Committee, and need not affect our vote on the Second Reading.
§ *MR. J. WILSON
said, that that did not affect his argument, or in any way minimise its force. As he understood the position of the promoters of the Bill, it was "the Bill, the whole Bill, and no-thing but the Bill;" and this position was so rigidly stated that there could be no alteration in Committee. If the hon. Member for Ince were correct, eight-and- 1897 a-half hours would not be accepted for any class of labour in the mine. Whilst he fully appreciated the beneficence of many Acts passed by the Prime Minister, of whom he had for many years been an admirer, he believed the right hon. Gentleman's advocacy of this Bill would not be accepted by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain; they were against any local option whatever; and he believed they would not be satisfied if even an insignificant county like Durham were exempted. That they were fully alive to the desirability of short time was proved by the fact that they had shortened the hewers' hours to seven per day, and by the fact that in 1889 they shortened the hours of boys in 130 collieries from 11 to 10, in lieu of a 10 percent, advance in wages. Having passed through all the grades of employment in a mine, knowing well the dangers which surrounded the life of the miner, admitting that eight hours was much too long for a coal-getter to be in the mine, he still believed that the voluntary method was the best for obtaining a still further reduction in the hours of labour. He joined in the expression of regret of the hon. Member for Ince that there should be any division among the miners on this or any other question. The number of Labour Members was too small to be divided, and there needed to be more consolidation of action and opinion. He believed, however, that it was only on the question of methods that they were divided. He would point out that if they abstracted from the Miners' Federation those who belonged to Durham they would only leave 184,000 men in the Union to form the Federation. In the conference of miners at Birmingham last January there were only 269,000 men represented in the Unions; and deducting 50,000 miners from Durham and 30,000 men from South Wales and Scotland who were not in affinity with the Federation, and 5,000 coal porters, it only left in the Federation 184,000 men. Yet it was said that the Federation represented the large majority of the miners in England.
§ MR. WOODS
The hon. Member is right in saving that that is the membership of the National Federation; but will he state how many miners in those areas—who are outside the Federation—have 1898 given in their adhesion to the Eight Hours Bill?
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, he believed those figures had been given by the promoters of the Bill. But there was one way of testing the matter, and that was by ballot, and they had found that this question had not been generally tested in that manner. He could prove that it was not legislative intervention, but Trade Unions, that had shorten the hours of workers generally in this country as well as of the miners. In 1873 there was a Select Committee of that House which inquired into what was called the coal famine. A gentleman named William Brown, an agent for a large district in Staffordshire, gave evidence before that Committee, and stated that the hours of the men in his district were from half-past 5 in the morning till half-past 6 at night—13 hours. Mr. Enoch Edwards, who now represented the same area, at the meeting with the Prime Minister the other day, stated that the hours in the district were eight per day. He wished to ask by what power had those hours been shortened? There had been no State interference during that time. He and his friends had been charged with being hard-hearted so far as the boys were concerned; but if they were, they must be of different material from other men. There was State interference with the hours of boys by the Mines Regulation Act of 1872; but from the time that Mr. Brown gave his evidence to the time when Mr. Edwards made his statement there had not been a single Act of Parliament interfering with either juvenile or adult labour. It was not by the generosity of the coalowners that they had got these shorter hours, but by the action of the Trade Unions only, and always without a strike. He recognised and thanked the Prime Minister for his kind and eulogistic words regarding the mining community, and his testimony to their ready heroism in risking their lives for their fellows in danger. He himself and his two Colleagues were of the same class, and if he was thankful for anything at all so far as this Bill was concerned, it was for this: that it was making the miner and the condition of the miner better known by all classes throughout the country. He believed that the tendency of this Bill, 1899 whether it was carried or not, would be to bring about by the force of conciliation shorter hours for the working miners. But he would like to show that the Bill did not support the arguments and reasons that had been stated in its favour. It proposed an eight-hour day from bank to bank for all men and for every man—eight hours for the man who worked in a three-foot seam, his body cramped up, and the atmosphere around him vitiated, and eight hours for the man at the bottom of the shaft working in the free fresh air. One argument that had been urged in favour of the Bill was that it would give men time for education and recreation; but, at the same time, it was said that with shorter hours the output would not be lessened. Now, what was the meaning of that? It meant that the man who was now working nine hours a day and producing a certain quantity of coal was to crowd into eight hours the same amount of work. That man would exhaust himself through over-exertion; and could it be said that he would be in a proper state to enjoy recreation or to seek education after having worked for that time at the utmost stretch of his energies? Another argument for the Bill was that the work was dangerous. But there, again, the Bill fell short. All portions of the mine were not dangerous alike, and the Bill did not meet the varying requirements of the work. Some hon. Members would vote for this Bill because it was a Miners' Bill. He would ask them first to put their own houses in order. There were men on the omnibuses, on the railways, in chemical works, and in the whole round of labour in the country, working long hours, and under bad, dangerous, and deadly conditions. If they had real regard for the miners they should begin by shortening the hours of their own workers. The experience of this country, so far as the miners were concerned, showed that where the men were most self-dependent the hours were the shortest, and, therefore, he would urge the House to do nothing that would sap that self-dependence.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 279; Noes 201.—(Division List, No. 63.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.