HC Deb 27 July 1896 vol 43 cc767-71

"(1.) The Secretary of State, if satisfied that the provisions of this Act are unnecessary for the protection of the workmen employed in any trade or business, cither generally or within any specified area, may, by order under his hand, grant an exemption from those provisions in respect of the persons engaged in that trade or business, either generally or within that area. (2.) The Secretary of State may at any time amend or revoke any such order. (3.) Every order made under this section shall be laid as soon as may he before both Houses of Parliament, and if either House, within the next forty days after the order has been so laid before that House, resolves that the order ought to be annulled, the order shall, after the date of that Resolution, be of no effect, without prejudice to the validity of anything done in the meantime under the order or to the making of a new order.

Clause road a First time.


said that it was an unfortunate fact that some of the Lancashire operatives had been divided from others in their view of the operation of this Bill. The spinners had been one way and the weavers the other. It was unfortunate because there was no reason why a distinction should be drawn between one part of the country and another with regard to truck. The Lancashire cotton industry was as a house divided against itself. He did not blame the Home Secretary for having tried to meet the difficulty that was thereby caused, and, if any geographical concession was to be made, this, he admitted, was the least objectionable way of meeting that difficulty. But the reason why it had become necessary to make the concession was, he feared, that certain of the Lancashire operatives had not understood clearly the present condition of the law. He had received resolutions from Lancashire affirming that this Bill would legalise fines and deductions. As a matter of fact there were no fines or deductions made legal by this Bill which were not legal now. The words of the Bill were express upon the subject. Holding, as he did, the strongest possible opinion against all fines and deductions, and looking forward to the time when they would be entirely abolished, because he believed that all remedies short of total abolition must fail, he certainly should not support this Bill if it legalised fines and deductions which were not legal at the present time. With regard to this clause, if a Division were taken he should vote against it.

* MR. JOHN RUTHERFORD (Lancashire, Darwen),

as representing a constituency which comprised quite a quarter of the looms of Lancashire, desired to support the clause of the right hon. Gentleman. He did so because he understood his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport did not intend to move the clause standing in his name. He believed the clause met with the approval of the representatives of all the operatives engaged in the different branches of the cotton trade, as it enabled the Home Secretary (should he think fit) to exempt by an order that particular cotton industry from the operation of the Bill. The operatives wished to do away with fines altogether, and they objected to this Bill, which recognised and regulated fines. This clause would remove that objection, and therefore he cordially supported it.


said he had received a letter from the Northern Counties Amalgamated Association of Weavers and other subsidiary societies, representing, he believed, about 140,000 operatives, and they having considered the matter very fully, came to the conclusion that while they would accept the clause as a sort of pis-aller, they much preferred to return to the original Bill introduced by the Home Office and modified by an Amendment introduced by an hon. Member from Scotland. He would be obliged to move the Amendment that stood in his name in consequence of the intimation he had received from these societies.


contended that to exempt those who did not seek to be protected was not a new departure and not an unreasonable thing. It was in accordance with the Factory Acts, and considering this Bill was brought in to protect certain workmen in certain cases, if representations were received that they did not desire to be protected, he did not think it was unreasonable to take power to the Home Office to exempt them at all events for a time from the operation of the Act.


asked what would be necessary to exempt workmen from the operation of the Bill, because the matter was left very indefinite.


explained that when the Secretary of State was satisfied that in any particular branch of trade certain Acts need not be applied he had the power to exempt them. This power he proposed to take. As the Bill was intended for the protection of the workmen it was hardly likely to be applied if it was generally desired that it should not, be.


denied that the objections of the textile trader had been met, by the Home Secretary, and read a letter dated May 28th enclosing a resolution representing the views of 150,000 of the textile workers of Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire protesting against the Bill becoming law, and, asking, at any rate, for the exemption of the interested parties in the cotton trade. The second letter was dated July 9th, and these were from the representative associations of the Manchester weaving industry.


said the letter which he had in his possession was dated 22nd July, so that what the hon. Member bad referred to was ancient history.


said he had understood from them in the last few days that if the Bill could not be altered, this Amendment would be satisfactory to them. He did not think it was the unanimous desire of the spinners to be placed under this Bill; the spinners were really not affected at all by this Truck Bill. It was a practice which never had been put in force in Lancashire, and it was only in the weaving department of the cotton industry that fining was carried on.

MR. J. WILSON, (Durham, Mid)

asked by what machinery the workers could bring their views to the Home Office?


said that where there was any real case he did not think he should have any difficulty in satisfying himself. Permission was given to the Home Office with reference also to factory operatives, the linen trades, and other branches of industry,

Clause read a Second time.

On the question, "That the clause be added to the Bill,"


desired to ask the Home Secretary whether he was satisfied that the, words "any trade" would do without being guarded? There was, undoubtedly, a difference of opinion between the spinners' organisation, as represented by Mr. Mawdsley, and the weavers' organisation, as represented by Mr. Holmes, and taking power to exempt any trade would seem to him, for instance, to apply to the whole of the cotton trade. Ought they not to say "any trade or any branch of any trade."


saw no objection to adopting the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman.


That should have been moved before I put the Question, "That the clause be added to the Bill."


I rose immediately before the Question was put, "That the clause be read a Second time."


I put the Question, "That the clause be read a Second time," and declared the "Ayes" had it before the right hon. Baronet rose.


I rose at the time, Sir. I think my hon. Friends can bear me out in that. ["Hear, hear!"] In fact, Sir, I rose too soon on purpose to be in time.


The right hon. Gentleman sat down again, and I put the Question and declared the "Ayes" had it. I then put the Question, "That the clause be added to the Bill," and the right hon. Baronet then rose and addressed the House.


said he would undertake that the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman should be looked into.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Pill.

MR. HAROLD TENNANT (Berwickshire)

brought up the following new clause:—