§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH,), Fife, E.
in intoducing a "Bill to amend and extend the Law relating to Factories and Workshops," said, it was a measure which covered a wide area of ground, and involved the consideration of a number of not very closely connected technical details. The Bill was framed in what the Government believed to be the spirit which had animated the whole of our Factory Legislation. The aim and intention of that Legislation he understood to be to provide for all classes of workers to whom it applied those reasonable conditions of safety for life and health which were in fact observed by wise employers and well-conducted undertakings. But what he might call the standard of safety arose from time to time; and it had been recognised by all parties in the State that it was the duty of Governments and of Parliaments to recognise the advance of public opinion, to recognise what he might describe as the quickening of the public conscience in this matter, which, by general consent, could not safely be left to individual initiative and enterprise. The Government proposed in this Bill to extend in certain directions the existing law, and to make provision for some cases with which that law in its present shape did not attempt to deal. For the purposes of exposition he would group the provisions under two or three heads. First, he would call the attention of the House to certain provisions proposed for further safeguarding the life and health of the workers in factories and workshops, and for improving the sanitary conditions under which they worked. He would begin with the question of overcrowding. To allow a factory to be overcrowded was already an offence; but the term "overcrowding" was vague and elastic, and permitted, as experience showed, of different interpretations in different trades and in different parts of the country. The Government had come to the conclusion, after consulting practical men, and after taking the advice of Her Majesty's Inspectors, 169 that it would be desirable to lay down a statutory definition of "overcrowding" which would be applicable to every factory and workshop in the country. The proposal was, that in all factories and workshops there should be a minimum 250 cubic feet of space for every person, and 400 cubic feet of space for every person during overtime. Further, that the Secretary of State should be empowered to add to this minimum in hours during which artificial light was employed. That provision would make the law uniform, and it would not impose any practical hardship on the employers of labour, while it would secure sanitary conditions in this important respect. Next, there were some points under the same general head relating to machinery. The law at present prohibited children from cleaning machines in motion, and the Government thought that that prohibition ought to be extended from children to young persons. Many accidents of a serious, and some of a fatal, character had been due to the carelessness or inexperience of young persons in cleaning machines. Further—but the Government did not think it fair or advisable to apply this provision to the factories already in existence—it was proposed that in all new factories where there were self-acting machines, such as the cotton looms, the machines should not be allowed to run out within 18in. of any pillar or fixed structure in the factory. A large number of melancholy accidents were due to the narrow space left between the extreme minimum of the machine and the fixed structure towards which it moved, and many children and young persons had been crushed. This was not a provision to which the manufacturers of the country would object. Then, as to the dangers from fire, which were perhaps more common in workshops than in factories, there were provisions in the Act of 1891 which, in effect, left the duty of seeing that adequate means of escape were provided to the sanitary authorities. Experience of the working of that Act showed that the duty had been very largely neglected by those on whose shoulders it was intended to lie. The Government, recognising the difficulties in the way of enabling one of Her Majesty's Inspectors to require structural 170 changes, proposed that a court of summary jurisdiction should, on the application of an Inspector, be empowered to make an order for the provision of movable fire-escapes, not involving structural changes, wherever, in the opinion of the court, the premises were not sufficiently protected in that respect. Next, as to certain provisions in relation to dangerous premises and dangerous machines: the law at present was very defective, not in the matter of inspection, but in the matter of affording a speedy and adequate remedy. The Bill first dealt with premises which were in an unfit state either for manufacturing processes generally, or for the particular process carried on. Power was given to a court of summary jurisdiction, on the complaint of an Inspector, and on being satisfied that any manufacturing process could not be carried on without danger to health, to prohibit the premises from being used until the necessary works had been carried out to put them in a proper condition. This provision was strictly analogous to those in the Public Health Acts with reference to insanitary dwelling-houses, the operation, of which had been found most useful. In the same way the Bill dealt with the case of dangerous machines. He had had cases brought to his notice—particularly in the Sheffield cutlery trade—where grindstones, known or reasonably suspected to be dangerous, the breaking of which was often attended with serious consequences to a large number of persons, went on being worked without there being any effective power to stop them. When the injury had been done, action both civil and criminal could be taken, but the law at present provided no means of preventing the injury. The Bill proposed that powers should be given to a Court of summary jurisdiction to act on the motion of an inspector, and to require such machines to be disused until they had been put into a proper condition, or, if incapable of that, to be disused altogether. The Government thought this matter to be so important that they proposed to go further, and to enable the magistrate, when a complaint had been made, to make an interim order ex parte, until the complaint could be heard in the regular way. Next, as to the question of accidents, still falling within the 171 first category. There were somewhat technical provisions to simplify and extend the law in relation to the notification of accidents. Every occupier of a workshop or factory was to be required to keep a register of accidents open to the inspection of Her Majesty's Inspectors and the certifying surgeons. That provision would be of great benefit in tracing injuries to their causes. There was, further, a provision, to which he attached very much importance, that power should be given to the Secretary of State—a power already possessed by him under the Coal Mines Act in relation to accidents in mines—to direct an inquiry to be made into any accident in a factory or workshop. So far he had been dealing with the internal arrangements of factories and workshops; he now passed to the question of out-work. That was a subject to which much attention had been drawn in connection with what was called "sweating.'' There was a general opinion that our Factory Legislation would be imperfect unless it not only dealt with the arrangements of factories and workshops themselves, but also put some check on the occupier evading his legal obligations by getting his work done outside, where inspection could not penetrate and the law could not be enforced. By the Act of 1891 the Secretary of State was empowered to order that in certain trades the occupier of a workshop or factory should keep lists of the names and addresses of his out-workers, which lists were to be open to inspection. The right hon. Gentleman opposite exercised that power in respect of one trade; and he had done so in respect of one or two others. The result, on the whole, had been very satisfactory, because by means of the new inspectors' assistants it had been possible in a large number of cases, especially in the East End, to track these "sweaters" to their dens. But the law was far from adequate to meet the case. Various proposals had been made. One was that the occupier of a factory or workshop who gave outwork, should be made absolutely and personally responsible for the sanitary conditions in which the work was done. He had given great attention to that proposal; and although he was entirely in sympathy with its object and intention, he believed that that broad 172 and general regulation would be impracticable. In the shawl trade, for instance, work was given out in London, and the shawls were often made in very remote parts of the country. It would be altogether unreasonable to require that a trader in London or a large manufacturing town should not give out-work, except at his own risk and peril, to be done in one of these remote places, in relation to the actual conditions of which lie could have no knowledge, and exercise no control. The Bill took a somewhat milder course, and one which in practice would be more effective. Power was given to the Secretary of State to schedule or order that the provisions which he was about to describe should apply to certain classes of work—where the evil was supposed to exist, and in certain areas to be prescribed. In those cases the law would be as follows:—It having come to the knowledge of one of Her Majesty's Inspectors that out-work was being carried on in an insanitary place, his duty would be to give notice to the employer. Then, after one month, if the employer continued to give outwork to be done in the place, and the place were proved to be insanitary, the employer would be liable to a penalty. The employer would be in this position—that, having received notice, he would be responsible either for putting the place in a proper sanitary condition or for discontinuing to employ the people who worked there. That was an obligation which might be fairly imposed; and, indirectly, it would have the effect of destroying to a large extent the sweater's trade. He would now pass to another head altogether—the provisions of the law which dealt with the period of employment and the hours of labour. Here the question of overtime came in. There are two kinds of overtime—legalised overtime, arid overtime which, in the existing state of the law, was illegal, but which the machinery at the disposal of the Executive did not permit of being found out and punished. There were two kinds of legalised overtime, under two sections of the Act of 1878. The first section (53) dealt with trades where the goods were liable to be spoilt by the weather, or where the trade was subject to sudden press of orders, or to a press of work at recurring seasons of the year. The law allowed to women and young 173 persons two hours overtime a day, provided that overtime was worked not more than five days a week, or 48 days in a year. Under Section 42, which dealt with perishable goods, the law allowed overtime to women only, and in this case the overtime was restricted to five days a week, or 96 in the year. He was afraid it was impossible to abolish overtime altogether, at any rate, as regarded women; but the Government proposed to take as long a step in that direction, as might be practicable, by prohibiting absolutely for the future overtime in the case of young persons; and if this Bill were passed the effect would be that no person under 18 would be allowed to work overtime. In the case of women, with whose power of work it was not proposed to interfere, the Government thought the hours at present allowed were undoubtedly long, and it was proposed, under Section. 53, to reduce them from five days to three, and from 48 days in the year to 38, and under Section 56 to 60 days a year. Experience showed that that would not involve any interference with the actual course of business, for there were few businesses at all, and he might say no well-conducted business, where, in any emergency, overtime was required to be worked for a longer time. Another point in relation to overtime was the overtime allowed to male young persons. Then he came to cases in which the provisions of the law as to the hours of women, young persons, and young children, were evaded by giving out home-work to be done after hours. That was a common way of escaping and infringing the provisions of the existing law. The Government proposed to deal with these cases by prohibiting altogether home-work for children employed in factories and workshops; and, next, to provide against any woman or young person employed for full hours in a factory or workshop taking home work or being afterwards employed in a shop, which was a very common thing. He could not pass from this head of the subject without alluding to an omission in the Bill which was certain to excite some comment. The Bill did not contain any provision for raising the minimum age at which children could be employed. The House would remember 174 that, under the Act of 1891, the employment of children under 11 was prohibited. Many (including himself) thought that the minimum age ought to be raised from 11 to 12. The proposal, if not advocated, was at least assented to by the representative of the British Government at the Berlin Conference, and, as far as the Government were concerned, they would be most happy to see it enacted. It-might be asked why had they not introduced a provision to that effect in this Bill? Their reasons were purely practical. In the first place the regulations as to the school-age and the age of employment for children in factories and workshops were in a state of great confusion, and required to be simplified and made uniform. The Government had given a great deal of attention to the subject and would like to consolidate all the provisions relating to it and bring them into harmony with one another. The Government thought a separate Bill for the purpose would be more appropriate than the present Bill, which only touched one side of the problem. There was another serious practical difficulty. He had had careful inquiries made into this subject in all parts of the country, and he was assured that a proposal to raise the age—after only two years experience of the 11 years limit—from 11 to 12 would excite strong and determined opposition from masters and men, and more particularly from men employed in the textile industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire. They would say:—You have taken advantage of a time when trade is depressed and wages are low to deprive us of earnings which go to the maintenance of our families.Although he did not agree with them, he would be most happy to see the provision introduced; but he was anxious to make this, if he could, a non-controversial Bill, and did not wish to sacrifice the chance of passing what he thought was a useful and beneficial Bill, as he feared he should if he attempted an angry and protracted controversy on a particular point. But if the Government discovered there was anything like a general disposition to adopt the age of 12, and insert it in the Bill, they would be in hearty sympathy with it, and would only be too glad to have their hands forced. He now came 175 to another important subject—the extension of the Factories Acts to industries not now within it. He had expressed the opinion more than once that our factory Legislation should cover the whole area of industry, and, although that was perhaps in the nature of an ideal to be gradually attained, he thought they ought, as far as they could within the limits of what was practical, to get closer and closer to it. This Bill proposed to bring under the Factories Acts for the first time several industries at present outside its scope; and first and foremost were laundries. At present the only enactment applicable to laundries made it incumbent on an Inspector, if it appeared to him that a laundry was in an insanitary condition, to give notice to the sanitary authority, who must take action upon it. In practice this provision had been found to be of little value. He would state in two or three sentences why laundries ought to come within the scope of the Factories Act. In the first place, engines and machinery were used to a large extent in some laundries, and the fencing of the machinery was frequently neglected, and numbers of accidents were caused in consequence. Again, in steam and other laundries there was a needlessly high temperature, due partly to lack of ventilation and combination of heat and humidity, which arose from the stoves for heating irons, which were kept in the ironing rooms, where they ought not to be. Then there were in laundries excessive hours of work. Careful investigation had been made in all parts of the country, and he found that work often went on in laundries for 66, and even 85, hours a week. In many laundries there were no regular meal times. Working all night was not uncommon, and in many parts of the country ironers worked from Friday mornings until midnight on Saturday. By proper organisation of work, double shifts and expedients of that kind, he saw no difficulty in accommodating laundry work to the ordinary statutory conditions. At any rate, an experiment would be made, and if this Bill were passed some laundries would be treated as factories and other laundries as workshops under the Factories and Workshops Act. The only conditions by way of exemption were that the Act should apply only to laundries carried on by 176 way of trade, and not to laundries where the persons employed were members of the same family. Beyond these exemptions he did not see his way to go. He proposed now to refer to another trade, or set of trades at present exempt from the operation of the law—namely, docks, wharves, and quays, and also building operations where machinery was employed. This was a sphere of industry in which accidents often occurred, serious and sometimes fatal; and the Government thought docks, wharves, and quays ought to be brought within the provisions of the Act, certainly as to the fencing of machinery, the notices of accidents, and inspection. He wished now to refer to the tenement factories, which were very common in Sheffield and that part of the country. In these factories one person was landlord of all the rooms and provided the power, and he let off the rooms to different occupiers, occuping none of the premises himself. One of the sub-occupiers hired a room, used the power provided, and sometimes worked for himself or employed a few men under him. The result was, no one being the occupier, in the technical sense, of the building as a whole, it was impossible to enforce the Act. Under the present Bill the owner of the premises would be made responsible as to the sanitary conditions, fencing of machinery, lime washing, posting up of abstracts and notices; and the schedule contained provisions peculiarly applicable to the grinding industry carried on in Sheffield, which had been agreed upon, and if carried into law would prevent a large number of avoidable accidents. Lastly, in dealing with new trades to be included in the scope of the Bill, he came to bakehouses.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
asked whether Section 8 of 1891 would be applied to tenement factories.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH
said, no doubt the section might be applied, and it was very desirable that there should be special rules in such cases. With regard to bakehouses the present state of the law was unsatisfactory. Some of the provisions of the law as to sanitary and other matters applied only to towns of over 5,000 inhabitants, and others only to bakehouses which had been opened 177 since June 1883. The Government proposed that these provisions should be applied to all bakehouses, existing and future, wherever situated and whenever worked. He passed now to the special provisions for particular industries, and he came first and foremost to a question interesting to lion. Members for Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire namely, what was commonly known as the "particulars" clause. Hon. Members representing those districts were aware that the Act of 1891, by Section 24, required that in the case of certain classes of workers paid by the piece the employers should supply the operative when giving out the work with sufficient particulars to enable him to ascertain the rate of wages which he was entitled to be paid for the work. This was a very useful provision, but it had been found inadequate. The right hon. Member for Bury introduced a Bill last year which proposed to amend the law on the subject, and their Bill, he would see, differed from his in being somewhat more comprehensive in character. In the first place, it was confined to a limited class of workers—in the cotton trade, only to weavers, winders, and reelers; and in the worsted, linen, and jute trades, to the weavers only. He proposed to extend it to every worker in every textile factory where payment was by the piece. In the next place, the existing law was defective as to the form and extent of the particulars required. The Act did not say whether particulars were to be verbal merely or in writing, though, he confessed, it was manifestly the intention of the Act that it should be furnished in writing. This had given rise to a certain amount, of trouble, and there had been, still more difficulty in regard to how many particulars the Act required. They proposed to define all these matters. They required the, employer to furnish two sets of particulars to the men; in the first place he was dealing, of course, only with people paid by the, piece—he was to furnish particulars of the rate of wages applicable to the work, and in the next place he was to furnish particulars of the work given out to the individual workman to whom that rate of wages was to be applied. The particulars under each of these two heads were to be furnished in writing at the time when 178 the work was given out. Special provision was made that it should be in writing, and not in symbols, as the latter were liable to misunderstanding. The provisions he had named were subject simply to two exceptions. As to the rate of wages, where the particulars were equally applicable to all workers in one room they might be exhibited on a placard, providing that the placard contained all the particulars as to the rate of wages and nothing else; and then, as to the particulars of the work to be done, that might in appropriate cases be ascertained by what was known as an automatic indicator, which was well known in. the spinning branch of the cotton trade. In order that these indicators should not be misleading, they proposed to make special provisions of a highly-technical kind to secure their accuracy. He thought that when the law was amended in that way it would give satisfaction both to the employers and employed in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and would remove many harassing difficulties which had arisen as to the construction of the existing section. He passed from that to the special provisions inserted dealing with dangerous trades. By these they proposed that where a certificate was given, under Section 8 of the Act of 1891, that a trade was dangerous to life or health, the Secretary of State, by the special rules which he was empowered to make, might prohibit the employment or limit the period of employment of any class of workers engaged in that trade. He had found in framing these special rules that in connection with the lead industries and other dangerous trades he had been very much hampered by not having the power to prohibit altogether certain classes of people from engaging in certain, processes; and some of the, most valuable recommendations of the Departmental Committees which had investigated the conditions of these particular industries he had not been able to carry out because he had not possessed the powers which they were now asking for. The powers were not at all likely to be abused or to be used in any sense that was oppressive or injurious to the liberty of trade, and he recorded his own most deliberate opinion that it was absolutely essential to the health and life of the workers. He would mention in passing some points of detail. They 179 proposed in the case of textile factories, where a great deal of humidity was engendered by the operations of the trade, as was the case especially in linen factories, to bring them under the provisions of the Cotton Cloth Act, 1889. They had heard a good deal of the condition of things in Belfast from this cause, and he had been much shocked to find what a large amount of preventable mortality and illness existed. Mr. Osborne, the gentleman who had been intrusted with the execution of the Cotton Cloth Act, and who was one of the ablest men in the service of the Crown, speaking with a special knowledge of Belfast, was able to report that a large amount of this mortality was due to precisely the same conditions against which the Legislation of 1889 had been directed, and, if a similar scale of temperature as that described by the Act of 1889 could be applied to the linen industry of Belfast a very great change in the condition of things would soon lie brought about. By arrangements and negotiations made with the employers and employed of Belfast, he was happy to say very large and beneficial changes had been already introduced; but he hoped the House would pass this provision into law, so as to enable them in future to apply it to all the textile industries. There was another small point relevant to the same subject; they proposed that in workshops and factories, where wearing apparel was made, the law should in future provide that the temperature should be kept at not less than 60 degrees. The House was probably unaware, as he himself had been until the matter was specially brought to his notice, how large a number of workshops there were in London, such as those where dressmaking was carried on, in which there was no heat of any kind provided for the workers. The women and girls very often arrived at these places in wet clothes; there were no means of drying them, and they carried on their work all through the day without artificial heat of any kind.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, it was so limited in his proposal because it was only in those cases they had evidence that serious evils existed. He thought it would not 180 be desirable to make any hard and fast rules, except where a clear case of necessity was made out; but, of course, if it could be shown that there were other industries in the same condition, he should be very glad to include them. There were also special provisions as to places where arsenic and other poisonous substances were made or used. In future, wherever cases of illness occurred from lead, or arsenic, or phosphorus, or anthrax, it would be the duty of the occupier of the factory to give immediate notice to the inspector or certifying surgeon, and it would be the duty of the medical officer who attended to the case to give notice to the chief inspector in London.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that was what he had in his mind. Then, lastly, they proposed that all the workshops in the country, not only future, but existing, workshops should be registered. It was absolutely essential to the efficient carrying out of the law under this section that annual returns should be made in all factories and workshops of the persons employed and of the particulars as to age and sex. Their proposals, briefly recapitulated, were these:—First, as to factories and workshops, where either the premises were unfit for use or any process or machine was dangerous, the law would make full provision for the safety of the workers, and it would be simpler to apply and easier to enforce. For that purpose they proposed the compulsory registration of accidents and the giving of power to the Secretary of State to make inquiry which would render the evasion of the law more difficult and the hushing up of injuries impossible. As to the outwork, they proposed to prevent the present abuses and ultimately to penalise the giver-out of work if he continued to send it to insanitary places. As to overtime, they had prohibited it altogether for young persons and reduced it for women. As to homework, which was a peculiarly noxious form of overtime, they had prohibited it for children and regulated it for women and young persons, so as to secure that no person protected by the law should work during the 24 hours for a longer time than the law at present permits. As 181 to the new industries, such as laundries, flocks, harbours, tenement factories, the construction of buildings and bakehouses, they had brought them for the first time within the scope of the law. They had made special provision for dangerous trades and textile industries; and by providing for the registration of workshops throughout the country, they took the best step they could take to secure the efficient administration of the law. He trusted that this might be regarded as a matter of equal concern to all parties, and when this Bill reached, as he hoped it would, the Second Reading, they would be able to thresh out its details in a practical spirit in one of the Standing Committees upstairs.
SIR J. E. (Cambridge University)
said, he did not think, with regard to the age limit, that the Home Secretary had fully stated to the House the obligation entered into at the Berlin Conference. It was five years since that Conference, and although it was quite true that we had entered into no international obligation, yet there was no doubt we pledged ourselves at that Conference to a certain course of action in our domestic Legislation, which it was impossible for us to depart from without incurring a certain amount of just censure and odium. The composition of the British Plenipotentiaries to the Berlin Conference was not in any sense of a Party character. It included men of all political Parties and of great commercial experience—men who represented the employers and the employed, including the hon. Member for Morpeth. The British Plenipotentiaries found that in almost all particulars the factory legislation of this country was of a far more stringent character than that which prevailed in the countries on the Continent, and one of their objects was to persuade those nations to bring up their legislation to our level. But in that general superiority of British factory laws there was one exception—that children in this country were permitted to go to work at a much earlier age than in most European countries. A pledge was unanimously given by the British Plenipotentiaries, however, acting under instructions from the Government, that 12 years should be regarded as the minimum age at which 182 a child should be allowed to work in factories or workshops in England. Under those circumstances he desired to ask the House and the Government whether our national character would not suffer if another Factories and Workshops Bill was passed without any provision in it to raise the age of the work-child to the minimum prescribed by the Conference. He was perfectly aware of the opposition which had in-induced the Home Secretary to abstain from inserting such a provision in this Bill. He greatly regretted that opposition, but it should be pointed out in fairness that at the Conference the textile trades were strongly represented, and that those representatives assented to the pledge to which he had referred. He knew that the Lancashire people had long complained of the unfair competition of the Indian factories, in which child labour was permitted to an extent which was not allowed in this country. He could only say that, in his official position when he was Under Secretary for India, and in his position as a private Member, he had always done his utmost to get the age of the child-workers in India raised, and he should never rest until the benefits which had been extended to English children in this respect were extended to the children of India. It was, no doubt, a deplorable circumstance that, with new industries springing up in India, the Government of India should allow those industries to grow up under conditions which had been found to be intolerable in this country. If the people of Lancashire were so keenly sensitive, of unfair competition in India, did it never occur to them that we ourselves were equally subjecting Continental nations to unfair competition by permitting child-labour in our factories at a younger age than was allowed in the textile factories of those countries? He hoped, however, that before long a better frame of mind might be brought about on this question among the textile workers in Lancashire and other parts of the country. And with the idea of reaching some practical result in the matter, if possible, he would readily undertake to introduce a clause dealing with the point before the Bill left the House, and would submit it to the judgment of the House in the same way as the hon. Member for Morpeth submitted 183 a similar clause four years ago. When the clause in the present Factory Act was under discussion the hon. Member appealed to him as a Member of the Government to support it, and he did so. He would now make a similar appeal to the hon. Member for Morpeth to give like support to the clause which he intended to introduce when it came before the House. He trusted they would be able to show the Government that opinion in that House and in the country was so strongly in favour of raising the minimum age of the child-worker that they would feel justified in giving their support to the clause when it was introduced.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury)
said, he had heard the statement of the Home Secretary with satisfaction. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having been able to make that statement, and on having had the opportunity of proposing some further progress in factory legislation. This kind of legislation was not of a humdrum character; it was of practical value, and large numbers would derive benefit from it. There was scarcely any subject more interesting to trace than legislation in reference to labour. Comparing the conditions of textile labour in this country now with those of 60 or 70 years ago, it was impossible not recognise that that legislation had been most valuable and beneficial. But it was desirable to proceed with all such legislation by degrees and with caution, for they could not proceed with it against the opinion of those whom it directly affected and unless backed by public opinion, which had made great progress on those questions since 1891. As to raising the age of the child-worker, the instincts of everyone would be in favour of carrying it out if possible. They must be guided to a great extent in the matter by persons who had direct knowledge of the subject, and among those there was difference of opinion. Moreover, the interests and the necessities of the, persons affected must be regarded, and the matter deserved most careful consideration. He hoped it would be dealt with in a practical spirit, and yet with all regard to the feelings of humanity. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the advance which was to be made in respect of the "particulars" clause of 184 the existing Act. It was said in 1891 that if the manufacturer was forced to give particulars he would have to disclose the secrets of his trade to his rivals, and that his business would thereby be imperilled. But none of these fears had been realised. No instance had been mentioned of injury caused by the disclosure of the facts known as "particulars." By extending the benefit of the clause to all textile trades and by making it more definite great good would, in his opinion, be effected. The proposal for automatic registers would, he thought, be accepted by both employers and employed. The provisions of the Cotton Factories Act of 1889 with regard to temperature and humidity in sheds had proved to be defective in some respects. It was true that the Home Secretary had a power to alter the conditions of atmosphere and humidity in any given place to which the Act applied, but he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had exercised the power. [Mr. Asquith indicated that he had.] Then the right hon. Gentleman had not exercised it to such an extent as to give general satisfaction. The application of the power was most urgently needed in places where a great amount of sizing took place. He was therefore glad to know that this question was to be further dealt with.
§ MR. HENRY MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
said, that when he was at the Home Office his advisers warned him against any attempt to lay down a statutory definition of overcrowding. What would be gross overcrowding in a workshop in a town might not be overcrowding at all in a village workshop which enjoyed an abundance of air. To lay down a hard-and-fast rule on the subject was therefore thought formerly not to be quite wise. He doubted whether it would be expedient to entrust to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction cases involving the question whether particular premises or machines were dangerous to be used. Questions of that kind were rather technical, and he thought that they could be dealt with better in the way of administration than in the way of judicial proceeding. He also had some hesitation about accepting the change which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make in respect of overtime. 185 The clauses against overtime in the Act of 1878 were settled after a full and most elaborate inquiry into the conditions of almost every trade in the country, and were adapted carefully to the wants of different trades. Where was the evidence justifying an alteration in those provisions? As to the age at which children ought to be allowed to work, he agreed with what had been said by the Home Secretary. It would be very injudicious to handicap factory and workshop children as compared with other children. If the age at which a child was allowed to earn his own living by work was to be altered it ought to be altered for all industries, and not for some only. The large step which the Home Secretary proposed to take in the direction of extending factory legislation not merely to industries for the manufacture of products for sale, but to all industries, was a very great innovation, which might lead them further than they intended to go. If they brought under the Factory Acts an industry like the laundry industry, where could they stop? They might have to extend the law next to domestic service and field labour. There were, of course, clauses in the Factory Acts that might be applied to all industries without mischief, but he doubted whether the provisions as to regular hours and fixed times for meals could be universally applied. The sanitary clauses of the Act of 1891 already applied to laundries, and, no doubt, that was beneficial, but he was not sure that a further application of the Act to those places would be wise. The work in a laundry was necessarily unequal. In a cotton mill the flow of work was perfectly regular, and it could be confined within given limits; but in a laundry, especially in the country, the work was often necessarily crowded into three or four days in the week. Instead of applying the Factory and work-shop Acts en bloc to an industry such as that, they would do better to select for application particular and suitable provisions for preventing danger from machinery or overwork. There was another large class of laundries with regard to which they would be bound closely to watch the provisions of the Bill—he meant convent laundries, which were carried on in this country and very largely in Ireland. With 186 regard to special provisions, he had always felt that to prevent a workman from being able to ascertain for himself what wages ought to be paid was a fraudulent thing on the part of the employer, and that at whatever risk, almost, Parliament ought to compel this information to be furnished; and accordingly he should be glad to extend the scope of the particulars clause, at present limited to weavers, winders, and reelers in the cotton industry, to other classes if they had not under the existing Act been able to obtain particulars. He should raise no objection to extending Section 8 of the Act of 1891, relating to dangerous trades, in the manner the right hon. Gentleman had indicated; but it seemed to him there would be difficulty, and perhaps danger, in the application of the large power's which the right hon. Gentleman had asked for. For instance, under the power to prohibit the employment of certain classes of persons in certain employments, the influence of a Trade Union might be brought to bear to prohibit the employment of women in certain classes of work, although there was no reason to think those employments were in themselves either dangerous or undesirable. So long as the right hon. Gentleman was at the Home Office he should have confidence that the section would be used in a proper way. Section 8 had not, perhaps, been used so largely as it might be. His own intention when the clause was drawn was, that it should cover, for example, dangerous conditions arising from excessive humidity. The value of the section was, that it was elastic, and enabled any regulation made under it, as applied to a particular industry which experience proved to be inexpedient or unwise, to be altered without going to the House of Commons and going through the elaborate machinery of a Bill. As to the returns to be made to the Home Office, he was afraid the unhappy owner of a factory or workshop was somewhat overburdened already with returns, and that any additional duty imposed in this way would lead to the work being done loosely arid inaccurately. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on having introduced a Bill which would be beneficial and useful, and assured him that, on the Opposition side of the House, he would 187 receive nothing but assistance in carrying the measure into law.
§ MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
was satisfied that, if the Bill fully carried out what the Home Secretary had stated, it would be welcomed on both sides of the House. There were a few particulars to which he desired to draw attention. And first with respect to the cleaning of machinery in motion. It was quite right that should not be done by children or young persons, but the provision might be carried a little further. Some most distressing accidents had resulted from the cleaning of machinery by women. He had seen the dress of a woman—he had seen the hair of a woman caught in the machinery and torn off her head before any intimation could be made to the engine-house. It was from the dress and the hair of a woman that the danger arose, and he hoped when the Bill got into Committee that they would extend the operation of that clause to the case of women. He did not agree with right hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the sufficiency of the overtime clause in existing Legislation. If one referred to the evidence given before the Royal Commission by Her Majesty's Inspectors it would be seen that the system was almost universally condemned, from the way in which the privilege of working overtime was abused. Take the millinery trade: women and young persons were worked overtime to a scandalous extent long before any notice reached the factory inspector, in overcrowded rooms, with the fumes of gas, and under conditions most injurious to the health of the women and young persons employed. The simple pretext for overtime was to carry work home to be done after the factory was closed. It was an attempt to evade the law. On the question of raising the working age of children, he had always been, he was afraid, in advance of the House, perhaps somewhat in advance of the country. When he came into the House first the age for half-timers was eight years of age, and it had been steadily raised to 11, He believed it was as much in the interests of the parent as of the children that the age should be raised to 12. The whole of industrial Europe was ahead of us on this question. France had adopted 12 years, Germany 13, and in Switzerland he 188 believed 12 was the minimum, and in one canton 14 was the earliest age at which the child was allowed to be sent to work. In this country we had too much of child labour in competition with adult labour, and it was in the interest not only of the children, but of the parents themselves, that the age for half-time should be raised to 12 years. These views, he was glad to say, were also held by many manufacturers in Lancashire and Yorkshire. He believed that half-time labour was not cheap as some people thought it was—and it was against the interest of the nation, who, of course, desired to see a race of strong and healthy people, and altogther wrong to put children of 11 years of age, as was the case now, or of eight years, as was the case down to 1874, into a mill at six o'clock in the morning to work for six hours. That was a monstrous thing to do, and it was not to be wondered at that the children in the districts where this employment largely prevailed grew up poor, rickety creatures, and turned out very diminutive and inferior men and women. He should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would take the necessary steps to raise the age to 12 years for half-timers, if he could so without imperilling the Bill. They ought not to handicap one class of industry, but it ought to be made the uniform law throughout the country that no child under 12 years of age should be employed in any industry, and if the right hon. Gentleman moved a clause to that effect he should certainly give it his hearty support. He sincerely trusted that when the Bill went to the Grand Committee they would thresh it out in the businesslike manner in which that Committee always dealt with factory legislation, and make it a useful, workable measure, and a further extension of that beneficent legislation which had been a fruitful source of good to this country.
§ MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
desired to join in the general congratulations which had been offered upon the main features of the Bill introduced by the Home Secretary. He should like briefly to address himself to three or four points in the measure. First, with regard to the question of registration, he sincerely trusted that the registration of factories and workshops would be carried out in a thorough, satisfactory and minute 189 manner. The statistical examinations, which must necessarily follow from the registration of factories and workshops, would throw a very considerable light upon a number of facts necessary to be in their possession in connection with the consideration of the factory problem, if they were to deal with it in a satisfactory way. The Home Secretary must make up his mind that he would receive a great deal of opposition from certain quarters against the idea of registering factories and workshops, but he must be prepared to meet that. Although the Bill was wide and comprehensive, and, perhaps, more humane in many provisions than previous Factory Bills, he sincerely regretted that, on the question of out-work, the Home Secretary had not made up his mind to abolish homework altogether. If, some 15 or 20, years ago, it had been said that this was impossible, he could have understood it, but the evolution of industry and the rapid elimination of the middleman during the last 15 or 20 years had considerably reduced the amount of homework or outwork in competitive industries. He remarked that, however strict might be the penalty upon homework, however vigorous the enforcement of sanitary conditions, the very fact that work was allowed to be done in domestic workrooms and under home conditions, under any circumstances, led to an evasion, not only of the principle of a Factory Act, but to an evasion of the very elements of sanitary supervision. The Bill dealt with the question of homework in a very modified way, and he hoped in Committee it would be strengthened in the direction he had indicated. He congratulated the Home Secretary upon having determined to take children entirely from noxious work and dangerous trades. Here, again, the right hon. Gentleman would have to be prepared to meet opposition against this drastic provision. They would have parents dragged in, and the poor lone widow again brought to the front. He would appeal to the Home Secretary, however, to remember that there had never yet been a Factory Bill passed in that House but, unfortunately, many operatives, and particularly female operatives, had been put forward to protest against the raising of the age limit for the employment of children, or any 190 proposal for the removal of children from dangerous trades. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would, in this matter, stick to his guns, so that, in future, they should not hear, as they had done in the past, of sad and distressing cases resulting from white lead poisoning, together with other diseases, too frequently caught by immature lads and girls who ought, at their ages, to be at school or in the playground. He desired to ask the Home Secretary whether he could inform them at this or some subsequent stage the age at wich he defined a "child" who was to be withdrawn from noxious and dangerous trades? He was glad that the Bill abolished overtime for young persons. On the question of laundries, he ventured to differ with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birmingham (Mr. Matthews). He thought the right hon. Gentleman's view of the laundry question was hardly up-to-date. For instance, he told them that a laundry should be differentiated from many other industries, on the ground that laundry work was very unequal, intermittent and fluctuating. But why was the washing more unequal than the making of linen? Was it not entirely due to the fact that laundries, for some reason, had been exempted from factory and workshop legislation, and from many sanitary provisions, which had hitherto applied to the textile trades? The washing of linen, he contended, was more permanent than the making of it. He happened to represent a district in which there were four of the largest steam laundries in England. Generally speaking, they gave employment to their people fairly regularly—certainly more regularly than carpenters or bricklayers were employed. But those poor girls, because the. Factory Act did not apply to laundries, were frequently kept at work until a very late hour sometimes, indeed, until one o' clock in the morning. He was glad that, the Bill dealt with the docks. It had hitherto been a reproach that the dock labourers, who were peculiarly subjected to dangerous conditions of employment, should not have the Factory Acts made applicable to them. Again, he should like to know to what extent the baker was to be dealt with in this particular Bill? Of course, one did not expect that the Home Secretary would 191 deal with the question of underground bakehouses, but if he could do so all sides, and particularly London Members, would rejoice at it, and give him their help. He might mention that 96 per cent, of the bakehouses were underground in many London districts. These underground bakehouses should be abolished as soon as it was practicable to carry out such a reform. Then where baking was done continuously, there should be a system of working by shifts, there being, say, two or three shifts. He should like to say a word or two on tenement workshops. He happened to have worked for some years himself in a tenement workshop in High Holborn. It was, he thought, an instance of many tenement workshops that existed in Birmingham and the Midlands. He trusted that rigorous steps would be taken against the men who in tenement workshops frequently had two or three boys and one or two girls at work, and who were able to impose upon his own children conditions of toil and ventilation that no Act of Parliament would allow an employer to impose upon other men's children in a large factory. The Home Secretary did not refer to the nail and chain-making trades. He had witnessed the moral and physical degradation to which girls and boys engaged in nail and chain making were subjected, by the frightful conditions which prevailed, and he believed that if the right hon. Gentleman would at once raise the age to 14 at which boys or girls should be allowed to enter a nail and chain factory, the whole of the adult operatives in the Black Country would bless him. There was one point on which he must press the Home Secretary, and it was whether he would provide in the Bill for what was known as continuous working at dangerous or semi-dangerous trades. Gasworks owned by municipalities, and at which continuous work was carried on, had voluntarily and partly through the pressure of organised public opinion, adopted eight-hour shifts. Such was the case with sewage works, similarly conducted, and he was glad to see that many chemical manufacturers had adopted the system of an eight-hour shift. That system had been generally adopted by railway companies with regard to signalmen, and he could not 192 understand why it should not be compulsorily imposed upon every manufacturer engaged in a dangerous trade. If the Home Secretary had any difficulty in meeting the bogie of foreign competition, the best thing he could do was to say:—Well, gentleman, we recognise the objection that foreign competition must be considered, and as a means of getting out of the difficulty we will at once convoke an international conference to see whether the Governments of all the countries of Europe cannot make up their minds as to an international maximum working day for dangerous industries, with a view to adopting a general reduction of hours.There was just one other point he had to touch upon. The right hon. and learned gentleman, the Member for Bury, at the outset of his speech made a few remarks which were eminently Lancastrian in their object. The right hon, and learned Gentleman said, of course, the House sympathised with every attempt to raise the age at which child labour should commence. They all agreed with it, and the operatives agreed with it, but it was a difficult question and must be carefully interfered with; why carefully?—not out of respect to the parents. Unfortunately the working-class children had been too frequently the victims of their own mothers' and fathers' selfishness and ignorance, and in many parts had been sacrificed to the drunken and dirty habits of their parents. He trusted the Home Secretary would recognise that fact. The hon. and learned Member for Bury said there were two sides to the question. There were two sides, the human and the inhuman side, and he believed no man who demanded that children under 14 years of age should go to work had ever in his own person as a lad of 9 or 10 years of age realised the difficulty and the disadvantage of getting up at half-past four on a winter's morning, taking the train or walking through the streets, possibly wearing bad boots, starting work at six, leaving off at five or five thirty at night, and then rushing home, and attending night school. It only too frequently happened that in this way a child debilitated for ever his physical constitution. It seemed to him a mockery to talk about solutions of the unemployed question when we allowed children of tender years to work, and 193 there were unemployed hundreds and thousands of lads and girls over 18 years of age willing and capable to do work. He would raise the age of child labour and withdraw from the labour market that infantile competition adult labour was subjected to. Why they should hesitate to abolish half-time labour right off the reel he did not know: why they should hesitate to raise the age to 14, at which children should be allowed to work he could not understand: but of 172,000 half-timers, 153,000 were employed in four districts in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and two other districts. There were only a few hundreds in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield, and other big cities. Let the Home Secretary take the bull by the horns, let him deal with half-timers as Lord Ashley in the other House dealt with the factory question 30 or 40 years ago. If the right hon. Gentleman did away with half-timers he would have on his side the whole of the schoolmasters, all the men who were anxious to solve the unemployed problem, and every one who realised what a danger it was to England that children should be sent into the workshop at the early age at which they were now sent. He hoped the Home secretary would stiffen his Bill, for if he did that he would add another testimony to the good work he had done since he had been in office, not the least piece of which was the introduction of this generally admirable Bill.
§ MR. OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
thanked the Home Secretary for the very clear way in which he introduced the Bill, and expressed his intense satisfaction that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to take up so complicated and difficult a question. The Bill, so far as one could at present judge, seemed to have been conceived in a liberal spirit, and if it it became law it would ensure the application of the factory and workshop regulations to a larger number of industries than they had ever been applied to before. The measure would give further relief to children and young people engaged in different trades from the pressure of long hours—indeed it would certainly bring about an improved condition of things in factories and workshops generally. Considerable reference had been made in the, course of the Debate to the question 194 of the employment of short-timers. He had always been an advocate of the abolition of short-timers, for he believed that half time labour was deleterious to the health of children, and was conducive to the deterioration of the race. He did not merely entertain theoretical opinions on the matter, he carried his opinions into practice. The firm with which he was connected had during the last 40 years, and he believed for a longer period, rigorously excluded from their works all half-timers. With regard to the question of the age limit for children he would not enter into the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University as to whether the honour of the nation would be sullied if the House were to pass Factory Legislation without dealing with the matter; but he was glad that on the last occasion the subject was before Parliament they were able at all events to advance the limit from 10 to 11 years. At that time he advocated an advance to 12 years, and he regretted it was not done; and if the Home Secretary substituted 12 for 11 in the present Bill he would most heartily support the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Birmingham referred to the point of submitting to the decision of a court of summary jurisdiction the question as to what machinery was or was not of a dangerous character. He felt there was some possibility of a difficulty arising as to the various and conflicting decisions that would be given by these Courts on the point; and that there was a danger also that the decisions of the magistrates might in some cases be prejudiced by self-interest; still he thought it better to leave the question to some such authority rather than to the sole arbitrament of the factory Inspector. He was gratified with the way in which the Home Secretary proposed to deal with "the particulars" clause, in his Bill. The, right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury referred to the clause, and expressed his satisfaction that it was to be more severe and rigid than the clause in the Act of 1891. He was aware that there had been considerable difficulty in the administration of that clause; and he would like to know from the Home Secretary whether there was any provision in the Bill to prevent 195 certain cases of evasion which he had in his mind. It was found in several cases which had arisen under the operation of the clause that particulars had been given in conformity with the Statute, but the work that had been done was not in conformity with the particulars. In weaving, weight of cloth was determined by the number of picks per inch put into the loom. Case had come into court in which, for in stance, 30 picks per inch were put into the particulars, the wages being based on the number of picks. But it was found that 35 picks were put into the loom, though the particulars gave the number as 30, and the magistrates refused to convict on the ground that the additional number of picks were put in by accident rather than by design. To this decision the magistrates were led by the plea of the manufacturer that the putting in of the additional pick entailed a greater loss to him—by giving more weight than was required in the cloth—than the small saving in wage secured by paying for 30 picks instead of for 35 picks. But it was shown in one case that the additional number of pick were put in by design; that 35 pick per inch were required in the cloth, and that by collusion between the manufacturer and the manager 35 picks were really put in, though the number was given as 30 in the particulars. In that case the maximum penalty was imposed but in other cases the manufacturer got off on the plea that the additional number of picks got in through inadvertence, and that they, therefore, really suffered, though there was a strong presumption that the greater weight of cloth was intended, and thus the workers were defrauded of their earnings to the extend of 10 or 15 per cent. He hoped the present Bill would provide effective machinery for stopping those frauds on the workers. With regard to tenement workshops, he very much appeciated the remarks of the hon. Member for Battersea; and he trusted that when the Bill was printed it would be found to contain effective provisions for punishing those persons, who under the cloak of the home employment of their own children were able to avail themselves of child labour and thus compete at an advantage with others engaged in the same industry in larger workshops which came under the 196 operation of the Factory Acts. He hoped the stringency of the Bill would be such that when it became law there would be such that when it became law there would be no more evasions of the intention of the Legislature to reduce the amount of child labour to reasonable limits. The general consensus of opinion favourable to the Bill which had found expression during the Debate might be accepted as a sufficient guarantee that the Bill would be received with warm approval by the country.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY
said, that in bringing forward this Amendment of the Factory Act, within four years of the passing of the Act of 1891, making the third Amendment of the Factory Laws during the past six years, the Home Secretary had very wisely refrained from uttering any disparagements of previous attempts at Lagislation on the subject. The true reason for the introduction of the Bill was, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, that we have to be constantly bringing legislation up to the rising standard of safety. He confirmed what had been said by previous speakers that the Home Secretary had wisely used his opportunities in evolving from the country's stores of accumulated experience a large and generous measure which would be a valuable acquisition to our social Legislation. He desired to know, with regard to the requirements of cubic space for the purposes of health, whether the clause applied to existing factories or only to new factories. With regard to the age limit for children it had been said that the opposition to it sprang entirely from selfish motives, and that the elements of progress and education were in favour of it. That was not the case, because he had a very vivid recollection of the passing of the Act of 1891, and he remembered that one of the weightiest communications received by the then Home Secretary was from the School Board of Bradford, which urged very strongly that the age should not be raised at all. Bradford was not a Conservative town, Bradford was not an unenlightened place, and it was not a place otherwise than devoted to the interests of education. It had stood in the forefront of progress in matters of technical education, having been one of the first towns to found a great technical college, and yet, it was 197 found among those who sent the most urgent petitions to the Home Secretary against the raising of the age. For himself he was hound to say that, not coming from Lancashire, and not representing a constituency from which he received any kind of pressure in either direction, he was perfectly free to vote, and always should vote, in favour of any restriction of child labour which did not seem to him to interfere with the general prosperity of the country, and was not opposed by any large section of the people. But the discussion that day was an instructive commentary on the heroies that were indulged in in 1891, and it was interesting to remember all the strong things that were said upon that occasion as to not raising the age from 10 to 12, and to remember at the same time the shrinkings that took place when it was proposed as a result of the sudden and unexpected victory of the then minority to translate into actual execution the proposals that had been demanded demanded in such loud tones, and such hyperbolic language As regarded overtime, the right hon. Gentleman proposed considerable changes. His right hon. Friend (Mr. H. Matthews) reminded the House that the existing provisions for overtime followed upon an extremely minute and careful inquiry. He was speaking of the famous Royal Commission upon which the Factory Act of 1878 was founded. What they wanted to understand before they got into Committee on this Bill was whether these similar provisions had been founded on a similarly exhaustive inquiry, and were not likely to be objected to or to be worse or more detrimental to trade than were the provisions of 1878. The Home Secretary was a little hard on Sheffield and upon that honest industry which was practised at the grindstone. They knew that the grindstone was a dangerous machine, liable to have hidden defects, and to fly to pieces suddenly, scattering death in many directions. But the grindstone was not the only machine winch was capable of becoming dangerous. This was not the only machinery in which there was a danger that what might be called the equipment of the industry might be so starved as to constitute a daily and hourly danger lo the workpeople engaged.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
said that if it applied to all dangerous machines, he thought it a very good provision. Section 8 of the Act of 1891 would probably have been applied to the grindstones had it not been discovered since it passed that owing to the grindstones being generally in places where there was practically no occupier, or at least only an occupier against whom it was no use to proceed, Section 8 of that Act was useless for that purpose. For that reason he wished to know how far the Home Secretary in extending Section 8 of the Act of 1891 was going to make it applicable to the case of the tenement factories. If he did make it applicable to them he would be making an extremely useful extension of the Factory Act. In the case of outworkers there were two or three things the House would have to be careful of. Was this a campaign against female labour? Was it an attempt to restrict the supply of labour? In either case he believed the House would only proceed in the direction to which it was invited with the utmost care and considerable hesitation. He believed that the purpose of the Home Secretary's provisions was at all events ostensibly to secure the sanitary surroundings of the places where the out-workers were employed. They had an authority already responsible for these sanitary surroundings, namely, the Local Sanitary Authority, and he should have thought the better policy would be to increase and stiffen the responsibility of the local Sanitary Authority. If they laid parallel and concurrent responsibility upon the occupier of some other place, which might not be situated in the district of that Sanitary Authority, they would do very much to undermine that responsibility which everyone, would seek to enforce. As regarded home work, was that a campaign of the same kind? They knew of many excellent persons who were engaged in doing their utmost to restore and revive what were called cottage industries. Were they to continue to be allowed, because the persons engaged in those industries did not spend any portion of the day in a factory or workshop? Again, how were they to enforce the provision against home work; because it 199 would be a serious step indeed if they were to make practically the private house of a person, who is neither the occupier of a factory nor the conductor of a workshop, for the first time liable to the inspection of the Factory Inspector. He hoped that the new requirements as to statistics and notices would be such as would secure uniformity in the various industries of the country. As regards the dangerous trades to which it was proposed to extend Section 8 of the Act of 1891, it might be a right thing to prohibit the employment of women or children by the executive power, but when that section was drawn up they had regard to the fact that Parliament would prefer—and he should believe Parliament would prefer—that if the labour of any particular class was to be interfered with, it should be done, not by executive action, but rather by the authority of Parliament itself. Section 8 of the Act of 1891 was intended to enable the Minister of the day to bring up the regulation requirements as regards machinery and processes to the best and latest standard of efficiency and protection. He would conclude by saying what he once before had occasion to remark, that the Home Secretary presided over what was, after all, the real Labour Department of the country, and they would see in every clause and line of this proposed Statute a much more active interference with, and regulation of, a larger number of industries, and a much greater amount of excellent public work done or proposed to be done, than they saw or ever would see in the essay-writing and statistic-collecting bureau in another place. He felt sure the House would do its utmost to assist the passing of this Bill.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON, BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
, thought the Home Secretary might well congratulate himself on the cordial reception of his Bill by all sections of the House. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman on the front Opposition Bench had referred to the question of overtime, and had deprecated the idea of dealing with the matter, chiefly on the ground that a Royal Commission came to certain conclusions which were embodied in the Act of 1878. But public opinion had 200 advanced very considerably in the last twenty years, and everyone admitted—though they might not go to the full extent of desiring that overtime should be prohibited—that public feeling had certainly come to the conclusion that further steps ought to be taken in the direction indicated in the Bill. And the intention was in the future to prohibit young persons being employed on overtime at all, and in the case of women to limit the number of days and number of hours during which they might work overtime during the year. Information in the possession of the Home Office went to show that while in some cases the existing powers were abused, it might be taken as a general rule that they were not exercised to the full extent. That was a strong argument in favour of limiting the powers where it showed that they were used and abused by the worst employers, while they were not used at all by the good employers. In answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield, he said it was distinctly provided in the Bill that the overtime worked by women was limited to a certain number of hours, whether the work was done at home or in the factory. The hon. Member for Sheffield asked whether the provision in regard to overcrowding applied to existing factories. Certainly, and the reason for introducing it was that it had been the general rule of the Department to treat 250 cubic feet as a minimum; and it was thought better if that had been the rule of the Department, that it should be made the absolute minimum, not only for existing factories, but also for workshops throughout the country. He attached very great importance to the step proposed to be taken in the Bill to deal with the question of outworkers. The hon. Member for Battersea said they ought to abolish out work, but that could hardly be done at the present time. There was no attempt to abolish home work, but what they wanted to do was to improve the conditions under which that work was carried on, and to bring the worst class of places up to a better sanitary standard, so that better conditions would surround the workmen. They did not, however, see their way to abolish it altogether. The hon. Member for Sheffield seemed to think that this might be applied to the abolition of 201 cottage industries, but it must be recollected that provisions of the Bill would apply to special classes of work only Although some few persons might suffer from these proposals, yet he believed that the general bulk of the working classes, and those engaged in particular industries, would derive great benefit from them. At any rate, their condition in the East End of London would be greatly improved. The right hon. Member for East Birmingham said that he was in favour of the registration of workshops, because it would provide more statistical knowledge on this subject; but under this Bill there would come under the supervision, of the inspectors a very large percentage which hitherto had escaped their attentions. Of course every care would be taken in the application of the new conditions, and he assured the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill would not in any degree injure the laundry trade. With regard to the Docks, they would be brought under the Factory Law as regarded the reporting of accidents and the general system of factory inspection, but the question of hours would not apply because they employed no women or young children. Then there was the point which had been raised about half-time employment. On general principles they were strongly in favour of raising the age, but whether that should be in the Bill or not was a matter of expediency—whether they should risk the danger of losing the Bill, which contained many admirable provisions, by inserting a proposal which might lead to considerable opposition. They were gratified to find a desire that this particular provision be inserted, and if there was a consensus of opinion in its favour he had no doubt the Government, which was entirely in the hands of the House in this matter, would have no objection to its insertion, provided, of course, that it would not interfere with the passing of the Bill.
§ MR. E. F. VESEY KNOX (Cavan, W.)
said, he wished to make one or two remarks with regard to the industries of the North of Ireland. He felt sure the operatives in that part of Ireland would feel indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the advantage which they would derive from this Bill. But there was one thing in it which might give 202 rise to some misapprehension. As he understood the Bill, it proposed to give the Secretary of State power to prohibit the employment of women and children in dangerous trades. The linen industry had been scheduled as a dangerous trade, and he wished to know whether the Executive was to have the power of enforcing in one department of the textile industry stricter regulations than prevailed in the others. No doubt the Bill would remove many of the dangers co which the workers were now exposed, and while both employers and employed in the North of England would welcome the enforcement of stricter sanitary regulations in the linen mills, yet he thought they might have some objection to the Executive possessing the power of prohibiting the employment of women and children in a manufacture in which they were so much more largely engaged than men.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
, in referring to the practise of sweating, said that one of the worst offenders in that respect was a Department of the State—namely, certain departments of the Wai1 Office. The Government Departments ought to set an example in this respect, and he hoped that they would be placed on the same footing as any other factory, and liable to the same inspections. These regulations, however, would have to be carried out very carefully or they would have a tendency to drive work out of the country, for while the right hon. Gentleman might exercise a judicious control over the work which was sent out of the factories, he did not quite see how he could exercise such control as would prevent, work being sent out to foreign countries. That was where they would find the real danger. He knew, as a matter of fact, that a great deal of work had been sent out of the country and was carried on in sweating dens in France, and practically done by prisoners in French gaols, who had been hired out by contractors. The right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had referred to a consensus of opinion that the age of children ought to be raised; but he hoped the Bill would not be wrecked by trying to make any change of that kind. If that were done it would overweight the Bill and place more in it than it could carry. The hon. Member for 203 Battersea had spoken somewhat violently upon this subject, but he seemed to be guided not so much by the humanitarian point of view, as by the competition between child and adult labour. It was hardly fair to Lancashire operatives, who had to contend with Indian mills and import duties laid upon Lancashire goods, to lay an additional burden upon Lancashire labour; but it would be very different if one suggestion that had been made could be carried out, and if you could establish throughout the Continent one set of hours, and, still more, if you could bring about a rise of wages among operatives abroad. The competition would then cease to be as unfair as it is, and Lancashire operatives would be willing to raise the age of the children employed. In these days a good deal was said in favour of technical instruction as against book-learning; and it was about the best technical training you could give to get the children set to work. [A laugh.] He expected that laugh; but surely it was about the best way in which you could give technical training. It might be that there was a good deal of physical deterioration in manufacturing towns, but it was largely due to other causes than half-time employment; and as to the age of employment, great advances had been made in raising it from eight to nine, and then from nine to eleven. The temperature of mills he believed to be one of the smallest of the causes operating to the detriment of the workers. He heartily wished the Home Secretary success in carrying the Bill.
§ MR. S. WOODS (Lancashire, Ince)
congratulated the Home Secretary in producing an excellent Bill, the details of which would gladden the hearts of thousands of workers. As to the extended application of the particulars clause, he knew of a factory in which there were 500 female workers; their weekly wages for the same work varied from 14s. or 16s. to 8s. or 9s.; and yet, if they made any inquiries, they would endanger their employment. There ought to be printed statements showing what they would receive for their work. The registration of workshops and factories would he a good departure. There had been a great outcry against what is known as sweating, and the revelations of the inspectors, especially of female 204 inspectors, showed the enormous extent to which it was carried on. Registration was a step in the right direction, because it would enable sweating to be discerned and a remedy applied. He was pleased with the unanimity with which the Home Secretary's statement had been received, and glad that the Bill was not to be discussed from a Party point of view. He hoped that in Committee hon. Members would give all the aid suggested by their experience to make the Bill valuable for the protection of the working classes.
§ SIR K. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he had understood the hon. and learned Gentleman below him (Sir,J. Gorst) to say that the restrictions and limitations upon certain classes of labour were not equal as between Lancashire and Bombay. We knew that the competition between these two parts of the British Empire was very keen, and if that competition was to be fair, surely the limitations and restrictions upon labour ought to be equal also. If there were restrictions here which did not exist in India, the sooner Her Majesty's Government took up the question of equalisation the better. When he was Governor of Bombay he took up the question of the limitation of labour under certain conditions. Although he did not stay long enough to see very much accomplished, yet since his time he supposed some progress must have been made. His right hon. and learned Friend now said that something had been done by his successors, but possibly they had not clone enough, and something more could be done in the way of equalisation. If so, he was sure that the able Secretary for India would not fail to take the matter up.
Bill presented accordingly and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Friday next, and to be printed. [Bill 153.]