§ On the Vote of £128,156 for the salaries and expenses of the Home Office,
§ * MR. TENNANT (Berkshire)
Mr. Lowther, in rising to move the reduction of the Vote which stands in my name I wish at the outset to disclaim any personal feeling against the right honourable Gentleman opposite, and to assure him of what I think he knows already, namely, the great personal regard in which he is held as a courteous and generous political opponent; but, Sir, in spite of this feeling towards the right honourable Baronet, I have felt it my duty to take upon myself this task, because, in my judgment, the Department over which the right honourable Gentleman presides has, for a considerable period of time, failed to satisfy the demands which the House and the country have a right to make of it, and because in consequence of this treatment of a pressing and grave issue many impotent people have been the sufferers. I will endeavour within the narrowest limits possible to state my case. It is this, that in respect of the administration of the law, both with regard to lead poisoning and to phosphorus necrosis, the action taken by the Home Office has been dilatory, mistaken, and, above all, inadequate. What, Sir, are the facts? So long ago as upon the Second Reading of the Compensation Bill I called attention to the grave state of affairs in the Potteries district, and in moving an instruction on the subject a week later cited four cases of blindness from lead poisoning in that district. The Home Office, therefore, has had at least 14 months notice that the state of things was very bad. The subject was debated early in March in the present year, when we were assured, in answer to questions by honourable Members on both sides of the House, that the gravity of the subject was fully recognised, and that efficient measures would be taken as soon as possible to remedy the evils and to relieve the distress. All the evidence given before the Potteries Committee in 1893 was before the right honourable 451 Gentleman; all the reasons for the compromise arrived at before the issue of the Special Rules of 1893 were before him. The breakdown of those rules had become apparent, and the truth or inaccuracy of the reasons alleged against some of the proposed special rules of 1893 must have become manifest in the experience of five years' working. With all these facts before him surely it is not an unreasonable position to take up that we had a right to expect that something more than the issue of special rules, something more than the appointment of two experts to inquire, should have been effected; because that is all we have at present. After five years' experience of the existing special rules, after more than a year's notice of the serious condition of affairs in the Potteries, after many demands from Members of Parliament, and the awakening of the national conscience on this question, all the right honourable Gentleman can point to is the appointment of these two experts and the issue of a set of special rules, which I shall have to show later on are quite inadequate to meet the case. The next chapter in this history is the demand that was made for a special inspector for the district. The deputation introduced by my right honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean [Sir Charles Dilke] asked that a woman inspector should be appointed. Surely, Sir, it is not a very extreme demand when it is remembered that of the 46,000 workers employed 20,000 are women, and 11,270 are young persons, and when it is also remembered that women are infinitely more susceptible to lead poisoning than men, as has been proved by the works of eminent scientists as well as by the evidence taken on the subject, and that in spite of the fact that in the dangerous processes double as many men are employed as women, three-fifths of the illness has been among the women. The right honourable Gentleman as good as admitted that if ever a case had been made out for the appointment of a woman as district inspector it has been made out in this case, but he went on to say that it had never been intended to make a woman a district inspector and that there were departmental difficulties which 452 were insurmountable. But, Sir, are there not departmental difficulties in nearly every new departure of a great department? And as to the intention when the women's department was inaugurated, I can only say that my right honourable Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) distinctly stated that when the right time arrived he would be able to appoint one of their number for particular purposes in a particular place. Does the right honourable Gentleman suppose there were no administrative difficulties in the creation of the women's department? Surely it is the business of a Minister of State to overcome departmental difficulties. Now, Sir, I come to the inquiries which the right honourable Gentleman instituted. Instead of referring this matter to a departmental committee he sent his chief inspector for a few days into the district to consult with the employers. It became a matter of common knowledge that this officer was there, and his advent, with that of Mr. Walmsley, who for some years has been the inspector for the district, was anxiously looked for. Sir, I think we have reason to complain of the method of the inquiry, and I cannot think that there was any justification for the continuance in the district of the officer who has shown himself so little capable of dealing with the grave issues at stake, and under whose jurisdiction the district has fallen into so deplorable a condition. Sir, I have in my hand a plate which has been glazed without lead, and I have been assured by an expert that for all practical purposes it is as good as any glaze containing lead. [The plate was produced for the inspection of Member.] I also have before me the special rules proposed by the Secretary of State, but before submitting them to the criticism to which they are open I think the House ought to be informed whether any criticism of these rules, however effective, is not really a begging of the whole question. The question, as I understand it, is this—the dangers of this trade and the gravity of those dangers are admitted. They are either absolutely preventable by the removal of the cause, or, the cause remaining, they are preventable only in such degree 453 as excellence of precautionary measures can ensure. If it is possible to provide an absolutely secure fence at the top of this cliff, it is wrong that we should give time to discussing the form of ambulance to be used at the bottom; and that is what we shall do if we devote time to the criticism of the rules, while the Home Secretary is in a position to state whether the experts, upon whose advice he indicated his readiness to act, have recommended that the cause should be removed. The first of the special rules deals with the question of the raising of the age. The right honourable Gentleman has agreed to the principle of raising the age up to 14; but why is it that he does not raise it entirely to 18 and exclude young persons altogether? One of the largest manufacturers in the Pottery district has informed me that the pottery trade would not be influenced adversely if young persons were quite excluded; it would not embarrass the manufacturers themselves, and it would not embarrass the young persons, who would thereby have their lives safeguarded and would be in a better position to earn wages. I do not see why the new rule should not be also introduced into the match industry. The next point with which the special rules deal is that of medical inspection, and I quite agree with the right honourable Gentleman that this rule should remain in force. I only wish he had inserted a provision that all persons should be previously or preliminarily examined before they are taken on to work. At the present time a young woman who becomes ill is discharged from the lead factory, and her name is inserted in a register, but it is very easy for her to go to another factory under another name and to obtain employment there. I think some steps should be taken to require the production of a certificate of health before employment is given. A great deal of unnecessary suffering might then be avoided. Another important point is that time should be given to the operators for washing. What, Sir, is the position of the right honourable Gentleman in these matters? He must either claim that his special rules are efficient and adequate to the situation—a position which I hold is untenable—or else that 454 he specially made them easy for the acceptance of the employers, or that since their issue he has been converted to our views that they are deficient, but that they cannot be altered now owing to the delay which their withdrawal and re-issue would cause. Well, Sir, with regard to that I should say that there is really no reason for the inefficiency of the present rules, inasmuch as the views of the deputation were before the right honourable Gentleman prior to the issue of those special rules and before anybody else except the officials of the Home Office, so far as I know, had seen them. All the points put by that deputation and emphasised in black and white in a letter which I wrote to the Times were before him, and I would further remind the House that the action of the right honourable Gentleman on a previous occasion is not encouraging as to the chances of strengthening or improving special rules when they are issued. Last year a code of special rules was issued to control the process of the bottling of aërated waters. I was one of the members of the Committee who made the recommendations. Those rules required certain persons to wear face-guards, but exempted one class whose inclusion the Committee had recommended. About two months afterwards a boy, employed in that very class, lost his eye. I asked the right honourable Gentleman if he would alter the special rules to include this class; his reply was that I knew perfectly well that it was not in his power to make and unmake special rules. Very well, then, if he cannot make special rules, and if the rules made are so constructed as to be easy for employers to accept, the right honourable Gentleman ought to take the earliest available opportunity to ask for the requisite powers without which he is unable to provide safeguards for the protection of the operatives. Is the right honourable Gentleman going to give us any such assurance? The House may be interested to know that for all fencing of dangerous machinery employers had the right of arbitration from 1844 to 1878, and even then this provision was only altered for certain classes of machinery. It was not swept away till 1891, when, having been proved unworkable for machinery, it was adopted for special rules created by the Act of 455 that year. Now, Sir, I come to deal very briefly with cases of phosphorus poisoning. No doubt some honourable Friends around me will have more to say upon that point than I shall, being more intimate with the question than I am, but what I wish to call the attention of the Committee to is the fact that these cases of necrosis poisoning are by no means confined to Messrs. Bryant and May's factory. It is notorious in certain parts of the country where there are match factories that the disease has not been extirpated, and that the factories are not conducted in conformity with the special rules. But, Sir, the first requirement of the special rules is that no lucifer match factory of this class shall be carried on without a certificate that it is in conformity with those rules. Therefore, in the cases to which I allude, the Home Office have committed a grave breach of duty in one of two ways: they have either unjustifiably granted a certificate, or they have sanctioned the carrying on of factories which are not in conformity with their requirements. The lesson, I think, to be drawn is that our system of inspection has broken down. My honourable Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley, whose illness no one regrets more than I do, was going to suggest that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the whole system of factory inspection. Sir, the recent disclosures are quite serious enough to justify a demand for a Committee of Inquiry of this House into the system of factory inspection. But in drawing attention to the breakdown of the system I wish to emphasise the excellent work done by a section of the staff. It is hard for these most capable, earnest, and energetic officers, such, for example, as Captain Hamilton Smith, whose work I have had the best opportunity of appreciating, as I have been in close association with him for the last three years, to see their Department taken to task for dereliction of duty in which they have had no part. I know that there are a good many of my honourable Friends who sit around me who are perfectly alive to the gravity of the evils in the Potteries district, and among those I would certainly number the right honourable Gentlemen opposite, but for the benefit of others there are 456 three or four figures it may be well that I should mention. A certain institution called the Labour Church, formed at the beginning of this year, has had reported to it 160 cases of acute lead poisoning—cases in which the person suffering was not able to earn his daily bread, and that does not represent the total number of sufferers. I have heard, through the Women's Trade Union League, of 13 persons totally blind, and six who are rapidly becoming so. Since November of last year there have been 11 deaths from lead poisoning. I could, if time had permitted, have given other cases of persons suffering in this way, but I do not desire to detain the Committee any longer. During my visit to the Potteries this week it was obvious that great improvements, or approaches to improvements, had been undertaken by the manufacturers. These improvements we welcome, but they only more strongly bear out the view that if the Home Office had taken firm and systematic action in time much misery, suffering, illness, and death might have been avoided. Mr. Lowther, I beg to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £100 in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State.
§ * SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow, College)
I rise to second the Motion, and in doing so I wish to disclaim the least intention of making anything in the nature of a personal attack on the Home Secretary. I find myself in a rather curious position. On the one hand I support an Amendment which urges that the Home Secretary's salary should be reduced by £100, and, on the other hand, I feel satisfied that no adequate sum of money is expended upon his great public services. My object in speaking is to call attention to the great and unnecessary danger to which a large section of Her Majesty's subjects are exposed in the Potteries. I also wish to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the rules which have recently been issued after considerable delay by the Home Office, although showing, I believe, a real desire to remedy the evils, at the same time give one reason to fear that they will not be adequate for the purpose. I will not follow the honourable Member for 457 Berwickshire into the statistics he has given, nor do I intend to harrow the feelings of the Committee by further reference to the great sufferings of those who have become affected by lead poisoning in the pottery industry; I would rather appeal to the common sense of the Committee, and I shall therefore confine my observations to the consideration of the new rules. The first and most important of the rules relates to the limit of age of those who are employed in the dangerous operations of pottery process. The new rule fixes the age at 15; that is not high enough, it should be 18. I will give the Committee two reasons which have strengthened me in that belief. The first is that there is nothing whatever in any of the statistics which I have been able to see to show that persons between the ages of 15 and 18 are less liable to lead poisoning than those younger or older, and the second reason is that it does not seem to me right that persons of that age should be allowed to choose for themselves an occupation which may deprive them of the use of their limbs or the sight of their eyes. I know that the objection to doing so is that by raising the age a large number of persons may be thrown out of employment; but I would urge that as there is a certain, elasticity in this industry, by which persons are easily transferred from one process to another, there is reason for supposing that the objection on this ground may not be so great as would appear. The second rule, which refers to medical examinations, appears to me to establish a satisfactory practice, and the rule which refers to the covering of the head also seems satisfactory, except in that it makes no provision for the washing of these garments, which, in my opinion, should be made compulsory on the employer in every case. The fifth rule refers to the preparation and eating of meals in the workshop, and seems in every way satisfactory. The sixth refers to the erection of exhaust fans in shops where certain processes are carried on. In some processes the fan is not sufficient, and I think other means of getting rid of the dust ought to be adopted. Washing is, also a very important matter. At present the 458 arrangements for washing in the Potteries seem to be a farce, but with efficient inspection I hope the new rules will put that right. Still, there remains one question not dealt with, and that is the washing and keeping clean of the towels on which the operatives can dry their hands after they have washed. The towels are frequently permeated with dust, and I believe that under the new rules the same state of things would arise. The last point to which I desire to direct the attention of the Committee is the question of the sweeping of floors. At present the sweeping of floors is mainly an obligation upon the workmen themselves. Under the mew rules the obligation is divided between workman and master. I submit that a joint arrangement like that proposed is not likely to work well. The duty of sweeping the floors ought to be thrown altogether on the employer. I say that fully realising what I am saying, because I feel that where a man organises an industry and derives a profit from it, it is only fair that he should have the whole duty of undertaking work of this kind. Having called the attention of the Committee to these details, I should like to direct their attention to some general considerations which may weigh with them in criticising the conduct of the Home Secretary in dealing with this industry. I fully realise that when we discuss questions of this kind we are on thoroughly debatable ground. At the same time it must be admitted that there has been a steady advance of public opinion on this subject in all parts of the country. If, therefore, public opinion has advanced, the question arises whether such suggestions as those which I have made fall within the generally accepted scope of factory legislation. I submit that they do. If I had to define the objects of factory legislation I should say that they were two. The first is the protection of women and children, on the principle that if there must be danger in our industries—and we all admit there must be—women and children are not the right persons to incur that danger. The second object is the limitation, where possible, of danger in the occupation of the adult male.
459 I have purposely kept down my suggestions to what I thought were immediately practicable, and I have refrained from pressing other changes which, personally, I should be glad to see made. For instance, there is the question of women inspectors. It is thought that where so many women are employed in a dangerous industry it would be useful if a special woman inspector could be employed in the Pottery districts. Well, Sir, we urged that on the Home Secretary some time ago, and he replied that there were grave difficulties of administration in the way of granting our request. For that reason I shall not press the subject now. Then there is the suggestion of the total prohibition of lead in the Potteries district. There, again, is a proposal which I will not press upon the right honourable Gentleman, because I think that the subject is not sufficiently ripe. As to the other suggestions that I have made the Home Secretary will no doubt reply, with the sympathy which he always shows, that he is ready to consider them, but that they unfortunately arrive too late to be embodied in the rules which are now to be submitted to the employers. Sir, I wish to say that I think it would be much better that some time should be lost in order to have an efficient set of rules than that we should have a set of rules which will not bring about all that we desire. Therefore I for one will do all I can to urge by my vote and otherwise upon the Home Secretary that he should revise the rules and make them more stringent in the direction which I have indicated, and make it clear to the employers that if they do not see their way to accept the rules they will be enforced by legislation.
§ * SIR C. DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
My honourable Friend, in moving this Resolution in his able speech, dealt with two trades, and two trades only; and the honourable Baronet, in an equally able speech, in seconding the Motion dealt with one of those two trades only. Now, Sir, with regard to one of the trades with which my honourable Friend dealt more lightly—the match industry—which no doubt will be fully dealt with later by speakers who 460 represent districts in London where it is largely carried on, I would point out that every fact which is now alleged with regard to that industry was known to Parliament more than 50 years ago, and it is a disgrace that no sufficient action has been taken during all those years. As long ago as 1845 there was a Report laid before this House with reference to this industry, and the facts laid before this House at that time were as startling and deplorable as those of more recent date. I believe, also, that as large a proportion of people were suffering from the effects of the industry then as now. Well, in 1848 Dr. Letheby reported on the subject, taking the case of Bell's factory. Dr. Letheby reported that the Bell firm were employing 238 persons, 174 of whom were young persons, and that the majority of the employees were suffering in a greater or less degree from necrosis. This Report, which is in the Library of the House at the present time, seems to have been forgotten for 40 years. We are told that this firm have a certain measure of exemption from disease. I am quite willing to accept the assurance that they are better than their neighbours, but when they inform us that they have only had one slight case among men and none among women I can assert from my own knowledge that cases have recently been brought forward as to the substantial truth of which I am myself convinced. At the time of further inquiry in 1862, the results of which are also in our Library, Bryant and May were quoted as the best firm. We all know what are the facts which have been revealed with regard to Bryant and May's firm, and I am sorry to say that some of those who have written papers in defence of this firm have failed to deal with the main charge against them, namely, that they have systematically concealed the cause of death, and that the firm has been engaged in what I cannot but call—though I do not like to use strong language in this House, where we are protected by the privileges of the House—a conspiracy to defeat the bringing to the knowledge of the State the cause of death. That firm now admits 47 cases and nine deaths 461 during the last 20 years. But the danger is not confined to a single firm, or even to London; it exists in provincial factories, and I am sorry to say that in the immediate neighbourhood of my own constituency there is a firm whose methods will not bear investigation for a single moment. I think there can be no doubt that a primâ facie case of inefficient, or insufficient, inspection has been made out as regards the trade, and that the facts of the recent case to which. I have referred go to show that Mr. Vaughan, the inspector, could not have done vigorously the work which the House expects him to do. Now, Sir, I imagine that it would be possible for the Home Secretary to establish different rules for different classes of phosphorus. This is one of the suggestions made in the recent discussions which have taken place on the subject, and I think from his own side of the House. It is a valuable suggestion. Sir, I have one complaint here to find with the Home Secretary. He received a deputation the other day from a meeting which took place under the chairmanship, I think, of the Chaplain of this House, and in his reply he went out of his way unnecessarily to almost pledge himself against the total prohibition of a particular kind of phosphorus.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. WHITE RIDLEY, Lancs, Blackpool)
I did not.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
I am very glad indeed to hear that declaration, as it would be a matter of regret if, after the appointment of a Committee to investigate, he were to show any prejudice in his mind against suggested remedies. The state of things which has recently been revealed is so serious and so disastrous that it demands prompt administrative remedy, and if it is not within his power to remedy it administratively this year there should be legislation next year. Now, Sir, I turn to the other trade of which the honourable Baronet has been speaking, and which was also the subject of the greater portion of the speech of my honourable Friend. Here, again, as in the case of phosphorus, there is nothing new in the revelations with regard to that trade. As long ago as 462 1841 there was a Report of a Mr. Scrivin upon the various forms of paralysis among workers in the pottery trade. In 1860 Dr. Greenhow reported on the special causes which developed diseases in the pottery districts of Staffordshire. In 1862 Dr. Arlidge reported to the Board of Health upon local diseases, and these Reports also can be found in the Library of this House. Now, Sir, I have read with the utmost amazement a report in the Staffordshire Sentinel that at a meeting of the Polteries Chamber of Commerce Mr. J. W. Bishop informed the Chamber that, "in his 34 years' experience he had never heard of a case of blindness through lead poisoning until the recent agitation. Two other manufacturers of high standing, Mr. Woodall and Mr. Copeland, of Stoke, had also told him that they 'had never heard a case of blindness until now!'" Now, Sir, I venture to say that is impossible that my honourable Friend the Member for Hanley (Mr. Woodall) should have made that statement, because the effect of the Act carried in 1895, by a Government of which he was a member, was that notification of disease, however imperfect it might have been when it first came into force, caused the reporting of these very cases of blindness. It is quite impossible, therefore, that the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce should not have been aware of the facts of this subject. Mr. Cramp, the chief inspector for the Midland district in 1896, immediately upon the Act coming into force, made inquiries on this particular point and into the working of section 29 of what is called Mr. Asquith's Act. His Report largely deals with the very point of blindness, and it is on this very ground that he recommends that women and girls should be stopped from working in the dangerous processes in the Potteries. There is in the report of the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce almost an innuendo that these oases are not true, or that they are exaggerated to such an extent that they are substantially untrue. Well now, Sir, it has long been known that the most terrible fact concerning these diseases in the Potteries is the suddenness with which blindness and death attack the workers, and more especially the women workers. There was a 463 case mentioned by the deputation which I introduced before the Home Secretary. There was a case mentioned there which had the most startling effect upon everybody in the room, and I can speak of its truth personally. A young married woman, who before marriage had worked in the dangerous processes, after marriage went back to work; she was suddenly struck blind one day, and died the next—she became blind one day and died on the following day. She was 21 years of age. Cases like that are so notorious in the district that it seems absurd to suggest that the statements have been exaggerated in any way, or that they are not perfectly known to everybody engaged in the trade. My honourable Friend who made the Motion for this reduction mentioned his Amendment last year, and all honour to him for it, on the necessity for dealing in the Compensation Bill with those cases of sudden death from dangerous processes. He made a proposal to the House on that subject which was not accepted, but I think that the months which have passed since have shown the mistake that was made, because if any death from accident is made the subject of compensation it seems to me that deaths caused by these dangerous processes, whether they occur from the paralysis of lead poisoning or from phosphorus, are especially objects of compensation. Suggestions have been made by those in the Potteries, by my friend Mr. Owen for instance, that compensation might apply in the cases where the death is caused by the use of specially dangerous glazes, but it seems to me that there would be an immense difficulty about such a partial application of the Act. But, Sir, of course, blindness caused by that particular form of lead paralysis is not the main disease caused by those processes, for we know that the workers suffer from other diseases which are caused by lead poisoning, and we know that an enormous number of the men die from the "potters' rot," which seems to me as formidable as the paralysis. Now, take men and women all together. From the one cause alone of "potters' rot," there was a greater proportion of deaths than from all other causes among the general population. A question was asked by the honourable Mem- 464 ber opposite upon this matter the other day. I think it was a question as to the number of lead cases recently-occurring, and the answer was that there were 230 cases of lead poisoning among women in the Staffordshire potteries in the last year. Now, Sir, I have been watching the official monthly returns published by the Government, and those monthly returns appear now to add up to a larger number. The monthly returns for the whole country add up to over 400 a year, or nearly 500, and if we take a fair proportion for the Staffordshire district alone, that would seem to give us more than the 230 cases mentioned in the reply to that question. I imagine that that fact is not due so much to the disease increasing, but to the fact that our knowledge of the disease is increasing, and therefore the monthly averages are likely to be higher, because we know more about the cases. Now, Sir, I come to the point raised by the honourable Baronet opposite. He went very carefully through a large number of the rules, and he has made it unnecessary that I should follow him with regard to most of them. I think he did not deal as fully with the sixteenth rule as possibly its importance requires. Sir, the honourable Baronet spoke of the sixteenth rule, which has been proposed, as creating a joint responsibility on the part of the employer and employed. There is no doubt a shadow of truth in that, but it does not throw much of the responsibility on the employer at all. The rule reads—The persons employed shall be responsible for the daily … sweeping of the floors of workshops and of stoves … and for the daily removal of dust, scraps, ashes, and dirt; and for the weekly cleansing of … stairs leading to workshops. Each person shall be responsible for the cleansing of that portion of the room in which he or she is employed. The sweeping of the floors of potters' shops, stoves, dipping-houses, and majolica painting rooms shall be done after working hours by an adult male, employed and paid by the workers, and approved by the employers.So that it is hardly right to describe it as a joint responsibility, because it is thrown almost wholly upon the persons employed. Now, Sir, I do not think from the point of view of justice that that is a fair arrangement, but 465 I am quite sure, from the more definite and tangible point of view of securing the immunity of the workers from the disease, it is most injurious; in the first place, the working of the Mines Act, and Acts applying to many other trades, goes to show that the right way to deal with this question is to throw the responsibility upon one person who is responsible by law, that is the only safe way of securing the efficient carrying out of Acts of any kind. The latter portion of the rule tends to continue the practice of a virtual deduction from wages for performing duties which are constantly made in these works the grounds for a charge which is larger than the amount actually paid. In connection with the agitation in reference to the Truck Act, it was proved that far more is taken from the workers than is paid to the persons who do the work, and almost invariably in cases where the person is fully paid he is not employed the whole of his time, but he also does other work, so that I most earnestly add my voice to that of my honourable Friend who made this Motion for a reduction that the responsibility ought to be put on the employer or his manager. Now, Sir, these rules it must be remembered are interpreted by the existing inspectors. In the cases in the Potteries, where the inspector is Mr. Walmesley, in whose district these things have continued, he must lie under our suspicion that he is not able to prevent the abuses of this disease which has led to this great loss of life and to such lamentable results. Mr. Walmesley takes all his cases against the men. I daresay the way in which the rules are framed leads him to take his cases against the men to the extent to which he does. The figures show that out of the prosecutions of last year in the Staffordshire district, out of 64 prosecutions 60 were against the workpeople, and only four against the employers. Well now, Sir, I think here, as in the match case, there is a primâ facie ease of breakdown in the inspectorship, which justifies the Motion which my honourable Friend has made, and which deserves the serious attention of the House. Of course, there are other remedies suggested by my honourable Friend and the honourable Baronet oppo- 466 site. The workers themselves in the pottery district, so far as they have ever expressed their view, speaking through their own organisations in those districts, are in favour of raising the age to 18 years and over, and they are against employing people under 18 in the dangerous processes of their trade. We have some of us asked that the doctors who have to report upon these cases—that is, the certifying surgeons—should be paid by the State rather than by the workers or the employers, so as to make them entirely free from any influence in reporting these cases, and we have all of us joined in asking, as my honourable Friend asked—.and as the honourable Baronet asked the deputation—for the appointment of a woman inspector for the district. Well, Sir, now there is a further suggestion made by my honourable Friend, and suggested by the answer to a question yesterday as to Dr. Oliver's report, that raw lead should be prohibited, or that a greater restriction would be placed upon the use of all except fritted lead. This is a technical matter upon which we shall hear those speak who are more competent to speak upon it than I am. Here, as in the phosphorus branch of the match trade, it might be possible to have rules far more stringent for works in which the dangerous processes were employed than in regard to works employing the safe processes. Here, Sir, again we must ask whether the facts that have been given to this House, not suddenly, but through a great period of years, do not prove the necessity of our obtaining from the Home Secretary a distinct statement that the loss of life and health is so great that immediate measures must be found to put an end to this loss of life and health by legislative steps early next year. And now, Sir, with regard to the question that a woman inspector should be appointed for the district, which point has been so ably argued by the honourable Baronet opposite. In reference to that suggestion the Home Secretary said, in answer to the deputation, that there would be friction under any such arrangement. Now, I hope that my right honourable Friend who passed the last Factory Act, and who instituted the Women's Department at the Home Office, will tell us whether he thinks that 467 is so or not. He has had great experience in this question. He took the responsibility of starting this new departure, which has done such valuable service, and which has the confidence of all classes of workers. I should like to ask my right honourable Friend whether he believes that this friction is an insuperable objection to the appointment of women inspectors for that district. There is one subject besides this to which I should like to allude before I sit down. If you cannot appoint, or will not appoint, a woman inspector, is it necessary to continue the present system of the diminished powers of the Women's Department at the Home Office? There was a great change made, as the House knows, by the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary. I put a question to him when the change was made, last August or July, at the end of the Session, and he made a statement in reply in regard to what the changes were, and that question and answer were debated in March this year. Now, we have the opportunity at present of judging what have been the results of the change. The honourable Member opposite put the question as to the inquiries and the visits, and the results of those visits made last year, of which the figures are known to the Home Office. Comparing the answer the honourable Member obtained with the previous Report I find that a most extraordinary change has taken place between 1895 and 1897 with regard to the work done by women inspectors. The Report of 1896 shows that in 1895 the women inspectors paid 2,358 visits to factories and 4,599 visits to workshops. The reply to the question of 15th July shows that in 1897 they paid 1,496 visits to factories and 2,191 to workshops. It therefore appears that there has been a falling off from 6,947 to 3,687 visits, or about one-half. One of the main consequences of these visits was the reports of the women inspectors to the local authorities. Nothing could be more important; it has produced valuable results. In 1895 the Women's Department made 425 reports, in 1896 they made 669, and in 1897 only 285. That is a very curious change, and it may be due to a diminution in the number of places visited; but on the other hand the complaints have 468 very steadily increased. There were 198 in 1895, 361 in 1896, and 426 in 1897. These figures show that there has been an increase in the complaints, but a falling off in the result of those complaints. In the absence of any explanation it looks as though the needs of the Department had greatly increased and its efficiency greatly diminished. That is what the figures bear on the face of them. When I asked specifically about the power of women inspectors to interfere with regard to structural alterations I was told that the taking away of the power to order such alterations left the women inspectors free for what was called other and more important work. What is that more important work? Does it mean the making of special reports? If that is so, I may say that these reports, which, perhaps, are in favour of our view, are kept back and we never can obtain them. But we knows from answers to questions in this House, and from reports in the local papers, that reports have been prepared by the women inspectors. Many of us have asked in this House for these reports, but we have failed altogether to obtain them. The result of the special inquiries only appears to be the production of suppressed reports, and I cannot but think that many of these special inquiries into dangerous trades might be remitted to the Departmental Committee. A case has been made out by the speakers who have addressed the House, in moving and seconding this reduction, for some inquiry with regard to the local inspectorate, because it has been shown that the local inspectorate in the most dangerous trades has broken down. The case of these dangerous trades is exciting the interest and attention of the country. I think I have produced facts with regard to the Women's Department which show that that also deserves inquiry. We will welcome such inquiry, whether it is specially into the work of the Women's Department, into the possibility of having local women inspectors, or into the question of the general inspectorate.
§ * MR. DRAGE (Derby)
I think the House is to be congratulated on the fact that year by year party spirit is more absent from the discussion of these subjects, which really affect the welfare of the people, and diminish the misery and increase the happiness of the masses; 469 and if there is no room for party spirit neither is there room for class spirit on either side. Those who have examined the figures and reports laid before the Home Office will agree with me that in this trade, as in all other trades, if there are bad employers there are also a great many of good employers, and, as the Report to the Home Office last year showed, there are branches of trade in which, though the employers may do what they will, the workmen will circumvent them by refusing to obey the regulations. I know of a case in which one great employer made a suggestion in order to secure the certainty of the rules with regard to periodical baths being obeyed, and the workmen circumvented him by producing false "tallies." But if the employers are fairly blamed in many cases, the workmen are still more unfairly blamed. Brought up from early youth in close contact with danger they get to despise it. There is another class who are often held responsible for these evils, and concerning whom I venture to suggest that there should be some hesitation before undue blame is placed upon them—I mean Her Majesty's inspectors. The work of the inspectors will, I think, compare favourably with that of inspectors in other countries, though the difficulties under which they labour are enormous. They have to carry out the most difficult regulations. The workmen of this country, and the employers, too, unlike those in foreign countries, who are brought up under, a military system, are not easily manageable, and it is difficult to get the most simple and the most necessary regulations carried out. The real responsibility for the existing evils rests upon public opinion and upon this House. If there were discussions of the subject more often, and persons of great knowledge, like the honourable Member who moved this Resolution and the right honourable Baronet [Sir Charles Dilke] opposite, would give the House the results of their investigations, a very great step would be taken towards educating public opinion, and bringing the pressure of that opinion to bear upon employers. It is idle to blame a large class of our fellow-subjects for evils for which this House is to blame. As regards the evils of lead and phos- 470 phorus poisoning, I need not trouble the Committee with further statistics. For the last 50 years, and even longer, every fact brought before the House has been within the official cognisance of the House, because they were embodied in Reports laid upon the Table. But I would suggest certain regulations with regard to processes and inspections which, I think, would have been brought home to the Committee by the Reports not being compiled with regard to these processes in foreign countries. I would remind the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary that a step has been taken in Belgium of the utmost importance and the most striking value, which, I think, the right honourable Gentleman might take into his consideration. If the whole process cannot be prohibited, owing to the difficulties of legislation and difficulties in the matter of time, will the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary consider whether he will not regulate the percentage of dangerous materials employed. Ever since 1890 the percentage of phosphorus, white or yellow, has been strictly regulated in Belgium, and as I have recently learned from a communication from the Department responsible the results are highly satisfactory, although full statistics are not available. Another important point is the regulation of the machinery to be employed. The House may be aware that American machinery has been introduced and is at work in some parts of the country. It has been found absolutely harmless to the worker. Such is the nature of the machinery that the workers do not come into contact with the dangerous materials, and in these cases the poison has been altogether avoided. I think that is an advantage which the Home Secretary might take into consideration. Then there is the further invention mentioned in the Report published last year, and perhaps the right honourable Gentleman will tell us whether he thinks it possible to take any steps towards following the inspector's recommendation in his Report of 1896. The inspector states that where the dry stores are used in the white-lead industry the mortality to a great extent disappears. Further, I would suggest that 471 the Home Secretary should ascertain, between now and next Session, whether it be not possible, either by regulation or legislation, to do away with the employers' power of referring special rules to arbitration. It does seem hard on the workers and all those connected with them that when the Department is convinced, and the House is convinced, that such and such a process should be forbidden and such and such rules adopted, it should be possible for any body of persons to stand in the way of the Department in carrying out these rules. Then there are regulations which have been adopted abroad which I would bring to the notice of the Home Secretary. There is the raising of the age at which children and young persons may be employed, which might be followed with advantage, not only in the white-lead industry, but in every other industry in which there is danger to be apprehended from dust. In the Report of the Home Secretary, which he will shortly present to the House, there will no doubt be mentioned a regulation to which the utmost importance is attached abroad, and that is in regard to the employment of married women. The House is probably aware that the Swiss Federal Council, in 1897, prohibited the employment of married women, not only after confinement, but for a considerable period before confinement. I am informed by those who are competent to judge that the utmost importance should be attached to this regulation. With regard to regulations affecting adults and the details entered into by the honourable Baronet, I would hardly like to delay the Committee by criticising them. As to the enforcement of the ten minutes' interval for meals and requirement of special employees to clean the workroom, I think the Home Secretary might be allowed time to reconsider his decision. I believe that with all our British love of freedom we shall eventually come to the same conclusion in regard to these dangerous trades, and adopt the German system of a formal certificate in which the history of the family of persons engaged in them and their families shall be duly recorded. Under present circumstances it is almost impossible to ascertain the physical character of those thus employed. Sooner 472 or later some such certificate as this will have to be recognised; and I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether something cannot be done in this direction now. There is another subject I would like to call the attention of the Committee to, and that is the subject of inspection. I think the inspectors have been unduly blamed.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
I said nothing against inspectors generally. I said there was a case against certain of them.
§ * MR. DRAGE
Well, there I agree with the right honourable Baronet. I tried to elicit from him an expression, because we should be reluctant to award any measure of blame against any body of Civil servants without the fullest proof. In my opinion these inspectors will compare most favourably with Government, inspectors abroad. With regard, however, to the Women's Department I think there are some suggestions which might profitably be made to the Home Secretary. The Committee will recollect that some months ago a discussion took place in this House, and stress has since been laid by Mrs. Tennant in The Nineteenth Century on the new regulations for women inspectorsi—and her remarks most of us will agree with. Steps should, I suggest, be taken to reinstate the women inspectors in the powers they formerly exercised. I am told that a great hardship has been inflicted on the Women's Department, and a real difficulty has been placed in the way of the proper execution of their work by the withdrawal of the power to prosecute without reference to the chief inspector. The delay owing to this change has been very great. The right honourable Baronet, if I may say so, somewhat stole my thunder in that regard. I do not wish to labour the point; but I think it can be shown, if the Committee will compare the figures, of the present year with those of past years, there does appear—unless the Home Secretary has some explanation of it—a great diminution in the efficiency of the Women's Department. It is not on the withdrawal of the power to prosecute, however, that I desire to lay greatest stress. I would appeal to the late Home Secretary to say whether he does not consider the withdrawal of the 473 powers of the women inspectors in regard to structural alterations a most serious blot on the present administration. The smooth working of the employees depends on their absolute confidence in the women inspectors. If the women workers see that their inspectors have not the power to enforce the carrying out of alterations which they deem necessary in matters on which I need not dwell, it is a palpable defect in the system. There are many things which women cannot possibly be expected to communicate except to members of their own sex; and I ask whether the efficiency of the Department is not seriously hampered by the change which has taken place. Another question that occurs to me is that, after we have seen the results of the new regulations, will it not be possible for us to go a step further and prevent the manufacturers and employers from being injured in their trade by the regulations which this House has thought fit lay down? Honourable Members who follow this subject are doubtless familiar with what is going on in foreign countries. They are probably aware that matches forbidden in certain countries are also forbidden in other countries. What I desire to impress upon the House is the desirability of a common agreement being come to hereafter between civilised Powers that no matches in which yellow phosphorus or dangerous product is used should be imported into those countries. I am confident if the Home Secretary will take into consideration the recommendation which I hope the Science Committee of the Paris Exhibition will make to him, namely, that on that great occasion, when every civilised country in the world will be reviewing the progress of the century which has gone before, steps should be taken to secure some international control, he will see the good there is in it; and in the result let us hope there will be raised up a body of international inspectors who will be able successfully to grapple with some of the most pernicious effects of modern civilisation.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I agree with the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down that it is very much to be regretted that discussions of this kind are 474 not more frequent in this House. I am quite sure that the Home Secretary himself would welcome such a discussion and avail himself of the suggestions, which have been extremely instructive on the present occasion, and which have been made in the most perfect good faith. I desire, in the very few observations I wish to make to the Committee, to maintain the same cordial attitude in this matter, and the more so because I wish to place no difficulty in the way of the discharge of the difficult and arduous duties the right honourable Gentleman has to perform. Knowing also, as no man knows better, that the same spirit animates the inspectors and staff of the Home Office, I am anxious, not so much to criticise what has been done, as to make suggestions as to what can and ought to be done in mitigation of these evils. We have had brought before us to-day two dangerous trades—peculiar and dangerous; and it is a curious thing that we appear to be on the eve of discoveries which may remove, and which we hope will remove, a principal source of danger in both these dangerous trades—glaze from fritted or innocuous lead being now produced commercially, and also a match which will strike anywhere, yet having no yellow phosphorus in its composition. Although the manufacture of such a match is not yet an industry, I am glad to know from the papers this morning, in reference to Dr. Oliver's theory, that the French Government believe they are on the verge of solving the difficulty attached to this matter before very long. I do not think there will be any difficulty whatsoever in the Home Secretary taking advantage of the Acts of Parliament and putting an end to the use of these dangerous elements. Now, that brings me to making one general observation, which, is this—I do not quite know whether the Committee quite realises the statutory difficulties of the position in which the Home Secretary stands with regard to this matter. I know something about it, because it was my fortune to put the Act into operation. In the usual way, proceeding under the Act of 1891, although the Home Secretary may make rules, it is in the power of the individual employer to take the Home Secretary through the laborious and 475 unsatisfactory ordeal of an arbitration, which often in the end leads to the whittling down of the substance and scope of the provisions which the Home Secretary has laid down. I remember, when I was at the Home Office, that under another Act, the Coal Mines Act, we were engaged in a certain district in South Wales, if I remember rightly, something like two years in an arbitration in connection with a special set of rules applicable to Welsh coal mines, which, as the Committee knows, are of the most dangerous character, and in the end we had to compromise, because we found it impossible to arrive at a satisfactory result in any other way. It is only fair that these difficulties should be borne in mind. It was in the year 1893 that I attempted to institute a set of special rules for the governing of these particularly dangerous industries, but I was compelled to abandon them. There was no such spirit of public opinion then as, I am glad to say, there is now; the public conscience was not then aroused to the same extent; and the rules had to be watered down until they became a most ineffective safeguard. The right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary has now put forward a set of rules much more stringent in character, and they have been criticised with great intelligence and knowledge by several of the honourable Gentlemen who have spoken today; and I think the right honourable Gentleman will feel the strongest desire to give effect to those criticisms, proceeding as they do, not only from a zealous desire to improve the efficiency of the rules, but also from the careful and dispassionate study of local conditions which these Gentlemen have given to the matter. There is one point, although I do not profess to be an authority upon the subject, which has been referred to upon which I should like to say one word, and that is the prohibition of the employment of persons under a certain age. There can be no doubt that it is a clearly-established fact that young persons under the age of 18 or 21 are much more susceptible to this form of danger in all its various forms than are persons of a greater age. It is absolutely essential that in all workshops and factories where this raw lead 476 is employed, so long as it is continued to be used young persons under age should be prohibited from working. When I was Home Secretary I made certain rules to that effect; but the employers have these matters more or less in their own hands, because, as I have already said, they can take the matter to arbitration, and then one has no means of ascertaining how it will be decided. This is a policy which ought to be decided by those responsible to Parliament and one which ought not to be determined in a hole-and-corner manner by the process of arbitration. But, as I say, the Home Secretary in the existing state of the law is in the position that he is to some extent at the mercy of the employer; and I do most earnestly impress upon the right honourable Gentleman the necessity of, by legislation, altering the conditions under which these rules are made. If he would bring in a short Bill simply to amend that particular section of the Act of 1891, and provide that, instead of the employers being allowed to take the special rules to arbitration, they should lie upon the Table of the House for honourable Members to criticise them, so that the House of Commons made the rules, I believe that that would be a change in the law which would enormously increase the power which the right honourable Gentleman possesses at the present time, and one which would create a beneficial change in a great many of the industries in this country. I would remind my honourable Friend who has already spoken that the experience and information which we have had during the last two years is due to the Industrial Acts of 1895; we know more of the magnitude of the evil. The experience which we have had during the last two years proves conclusively the justice of the contention put forward by some honourable Gentlemen during the discussion of the Compensation Act last year—that you must bring injuries to health within the scope of the compensation law if you are to do justice to the employees of that country and to provide employers with adequate incentives to precaution and diminution of that evil. Now, before I leave this subject I will just make one further remark. It 477 certainly does seem to me that there is a great deal to be said for the suggestion made, I think, by the right honourable Gentleman who seconded this Motion, but certainly made by my honourable Friend behind me, that the Home Office must differentiate, if I may make use of that expression, or discriminate in their special rules between these factories where dangerous substances are used and those where they are not, and even those places where the percentage of danger exists or falls short of a certain dennite standard. I think that there would be no practical difficulty in carrying that out if you put something of that kind into the special rules which would give the employers an incentive to look after these places and make the percentage of danger less. Now, upon the subject of women inspectors, I take a very keen personal interest in the success and efficiency of that department, and I am sure it is unfair to say anything calculated—and I am sure that the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary is the last person in the world who would entertain the intention—to derogate from the status or diminish the authority of the women inspectors. When we established this new department it was our intention—it was certainly my intention—that as the institution developed these ladies should be employed, not necessarily and exclusively as itinerant inspectors wandering about the country—detective inspectors, as they have been called—but where and when required there should be that power to adopt the system of female inspectorship, and that for the time, whatever time might be necessary for the purpose, these lady inspectors should be planted in the districts where these special dangers may exist. Take these particular cases referred to. I think there are—I am speaking from memory—employed in the pottery districts of Staffordshire alone 20,000 women, besides young persons, of whom there are some 11,000, that is, over 30,000 in all, for whose benefit, to safeguard whose interests, and to watch over whose health and lives these lady inspectors were created and appointed. You have got the large congregation of female and youthful labour in this particular area, and you 478 have got at the same time, as is now disclosed upon unimpeachable testimony, the existence of industrial conditions which are a standing menace to the lives and health of the young, and particularly to the lives of women and girls. Putting those things together, my opinion is that a primâ facie case has been made out for the strengthening of that department of the female inspectors to allow of there being a lady inspector placed for the time being in that particular district in order to safeguard the interests of these women and young persons. Then I am asked, "It may run for 10 years; but what do you say about friction?" Well, I think very little of it. When we created these lady inspectors we were told that there would be nothing but friction between them and the rest of the inspectorate. The House would be amused to hear the variety of reasons that were dragged up to show why there should be no lady inspectors—it was a shocking thing for them to go out alone at night, that their petticoats would be caught in the machinery, and so on, and that there would be perpetual friction between the itinerant lady inspector and the fixed male inspector of the district into whose territory she would from time to time swoop down to discover with effect the evils which he had not observed and abuses which had escaped his notice. I say that there must not be friction, and if there is friction, then the persons who are responsible for that friction are persons who cannot be retained and who must quit the public service. I do not doubt, as experience shows, that there was friction, but it could be worked without friction. I do not hesitate to say that, whatever difficulties would be introduced with regard to these lady inspectors, they are not worth considering for one moment. I would say one other word in reference to these lady inspectors. I confess, although I am fully aware of the reasons that have led to the changes that have been made, I do regret that, as regards the institution of prosecutions, the principal lady inspector is not placed in the same position as the male superintendent inspector. There is, I admit, a great deal to be said in favour of no prosecutions being instituted without the 479 case being first referred to headquarters, but the question is so important that, if there was to be a reference to the chief inspector, the efficiency of the Act would be interfered with. That being so, I do not see why there should be a distinction between the position of the male superintendent and the chief lady inspector. I am confident that there are probable cases in which serious results might ensue in consequence of the inability of the lady superintendent to order prosecutions on her own initiative. I think I should not be straight or fair with the Committee if I did not say that, although I have very carefully weighed the arguments in favour of the change, a sufficient case has not been made out for withdrawing from lady inspectors the power to order structural alterations. But I believe that the result of this discussion will be to stimulate the efforts of the officials to administer the Act effectively, and also to strengthen the hands of the Home Secretary. I am sure that is what he wants.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. WHITE RIDLEY)
Sir, I agree with the right honourable Gentleman that this has been an interesting and important Debate, and I have no complaint to make of the tone of the speakers who have supported the Amendment and criticised the administrative action of the Home Office. But I do repudiate any charge of dilatoriness on the part of the Home Office. I join, moreover, in the observations made by more than one speaker, that the factory inspectors of this country are a most useful body of den, who have done most valuable public service, and against them no kind of imputation ought to be made. I have never attempted, nor would I ever attempt, to minimise the disastrous effects of lead poisoning in the potteries. I do not think it is material to discuss what the exact figures may be, but I should mention to the House that in the month of June there were 14 men, 19 women, and five young persons reported as poisoned by lead. Whatever be the figures, there is no doubt that those employed in the trade are exposed to much danger both permanent and temporary, notwithstanding the fact that there are many em- 480 ployers who adopt all the means possible to minimise the danger. Now, Sir, the real truth is that in consequence of the notifications under the Act of 1895 we become much more aware than formerly of the state of things in the Potteries. That aroused the Home Office. Not only were special inquiries made by officials on the spot, but assistant, inspectors were sent down, and the chief inspector himself went down; and, notwithstanding what the honourable and learned Gentleman may say, I say that that was a ready and practical remedy to ascertain what new special rules were required. Then, Sir, I lost no time, as the result of the Report of the chief inspectors of factories, to frame and serve special rules, and, as the right honourable Gentleman opposite knows, it is not easy in the first instance to frame special rules, and in the second, to carry them into execution. There must be give and take in such matters, and care must be taken to frame special rules which are likely to be confirmed in any arbitration promoted by employers who take exception to them. Therefore, if the special rules which I have laid upon the Table of the House, and which are now the subject of 150 arbitrations in the Potteries, are not as strong as some honourable Members would like to see them, and as I would like to see them myself, it must be remembered that I had to do the best I could under rather difficult circumstances. I should like to tell the House that as the result of the visit of the chief inspector, and of the knowledge we have on the subject, I saw that there is a great deal that might be learned by scientific investigation both in this country and abroad. I lost no time in asking Dr. Oliver and Dr. Thorpe to proceed to the Potteries to inquire how far existing dangers might be diminished by different compounds of lead from those now used. The questions I put to them were—(1) How far the danger may be diminished or removed by substituting for the carbonate of lead ordinarily used either (a) one or other less soluble compound of lead, e.g., a silicate, (b) leadless glaze.(2) How far any substitutes found to be harmless, or less dangerous than the carbonate, lend themselves to the varied practical requirements of the manufacturer.(3) What other preventative measure can be adopted.481 Their Preliminary Report contains certain very important recommendations, but as further experiments were necessary, and as the experts wished to obtain more knowledge as to what was done abroad, I did not think I should be justified in publishing the Report at once. I told the right honourable Gentleman yesterday that the recommendations included the suggestion that the use of raw lead should be prohibited. As the right honourable Gentleman opposite has said, we are apparently on the eve of discoveries in this industry that may obviate the danger, and, at all events, as regards seven-tenths of the output of the Potteries, the use of leadless glaze is in all probability within a measurable distance. In view of the fact, then, that the Report goes to that extent, and that we have before us the probability that raw lead can be dispensed with, the question is, What is the action which it will be incumbent on the Home Office to take? What action can we take? There is, of course, in the first instance, legislation, but nobody will suggest that, when we were in the middle of the task of ascertaining these facts, which are of the greatest importance, it would be just for any Minister, upon a sort of interim report of scientific experts, to come down and propose legislation. How can it be done? By special rules; that is the only way in which the Secretary of State can prohibit the use of a particular article, to propose special rules whereby certain classes of persons shall not be allowed to be employed in that business; and not only has he to face the question of arbitration, as to which the right honourable Gentleman has made a suggestion well worthy of consideration, as to whether there should not be some legislative change in another year, a question which I am most free to consider, because I have suffered like the right honourable Gentleman from the conditions which are imposed upon me, but there is the further limitation, in the case of any such special rules affecting adults, that those rules must be laid upon the Table of the House for 40 days. Therefore fresh regulations in that direction are very closely fenced round by conditions Parliament has imposed. My position, therefore, Sir, at the present moment is this: I have proposed certain 482 special rules. I will speak a word or two about them presently. It is alleged by some honourable Gentlemen and some right honourable Gentlemen that they are not sufficiently stringent and severe, and I am asked to amend them. Well, I do not know whether, as a consequence of the inquiries which are going on, it will be found—after the special advice I shall take—desirable to propose special rules or to ask this House, if necessary, to legislate; but, at all events, I am going to proceed with the special rules I at present propose, and I think honourable Gentlemen are forgetting what increased stringency there is in these rules over the rules which the right honourable Gentleman succeeded in establishing in the year 1893. As to limiting the age to 15, that proposal is a new condition I should like to state that although I have not got any evidence to support it, and certainly could not support it before an arbitrator, my sympathies take me very much to the proposal, which I understand is general, that 18 would be a right age; but I cannot go as far as the right honourable Gentleman in saying that young persons between 15 and 18 are more susceptible than older ones, because I have seen an interesting Report—one of the Swiss reports, I think—from which it appears probable that they are less susceptible if they would keep to the regulations; but they will not keep themselves clean, and it is much more difficult to impose regulations upon them; they will not take the same trouble that older people take to keep themselves clean and generally to conform to the regulations. Certainly scientific persons abroad have taken the view that they are less susceptible. I only say that by way of caution, and I do not mean to say that that is the fact. I have proceeded on this question of age as far as I thought I could get. I have had, of course, to negotiate on the subject with those who are interested in the trade; but when I remember the great number of young persons employed in this trade, and the great disturbance of the industry that would follow if the limit were raised further, I think it is a reasonable thing that I should proceed gradually, watching the operation of the next rule to see whether it is wise or practicable—I do 483 not much doubt the wisdom—whether it is practicable to proceed further. I leave out of the question at the present moment the question of legislation. At the present moment I propose to act by special rules. I believe I am correct in stating that if the age had been raised to 18 it would at once have had the effect of taking some 8,000 young persons away from their employment. It cannot be expected that such a rule as that could be carried out without a great deal of trouble and disturbance in the trade. I contend that the reasonable way of proceeding is to go on increasing the age, watching at the same time the operation of the next rule, which provides for a periodical medical examination. I say that is a reasonable and proper way of proceeding. I do not know whether I should call the attention of the House to the next rule under which there are to be periodical medical examinations, providing at the same time for a register in which the names of the parsons who are unfitted for the industry should be entered, and taking means to provide that they shall not be able to re-engage in it. I do not think is disputed that what the new rules provide in the way of better accommodation for meals and better means of washing are satisfactory. I think I am challenged about the rule which throws upon the employees, the employed themselves, the duty of cleaning the floors. Well, I have only to say that that is the custom of the trade in that part of the country. According to the best of my information, and I discussed it at considerable length with the inspectors, there have been no complaints made of it I took great pains to inquire whether any complaint whatever reached the Home Office or reached the inspectors on the subject, and I was assured that the custom of the trade in that part of the country was to work according to those lines, and accordingly I saw no reason why I should disturb a state of things which gave no cause for complaint to any human being so far as I was aware. I consulted two or three inspectors, and my information was distinctly to the effect that there was no desire on the part of those employed to make a change, and certainly I was not aware that the in- 484 spectors on their side made any complaint of the way in which the work was done.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
If it is not satisfactorily done it will give rise to illness.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
Somebody must do it. No doubt it is a dusty occupation. That is one of the suggestions of this new Report which I hope I shall be able to lay before the House—that there has not been sufficient attention paid to the watering of floors. Sir, I do not want to labour the point of these rules much further, but it comes to this, that so far from being dilatory or unreasonable in this matter, or unaware of the difficulties in the Potteries, I believe we have done everything we could possibly do to get information and to make things ripe for further action. Unfortunately, the use of fans which was insisted upon by the special rules I have imposed, is very much objected to in some quarters. I think I have served these notices upon something like 600 or 700 employers, of whom 450 or so have accepted the rules, but about 150 are forcing on arbitration, and especially on the question of fans. I do not know what the result will be, I hope for the best. Whether they are successful or whether they are not, it is idle to suppose that we can stay where we are. It is perfectly certain that upon further information, further reliable information, further action will be taken by the Home Office or by this House. I do not know that I need say anything more upon this question of lead, but I should like to say one word or two upon the question of phosphorus, because although that is a much simpler question, one not fraught, I believe, with half so many difficulties, yet it is one which occupies at the time a great deal of public attention, and one which it is quite right the Home Office should pay attention to. Sir, it is unfortunately true that upon the part of 485 that firm' which has been mentioned there has been for a long time a concealment of the state of things arising in their factories from necrosis, which is highly to be deplored. But I venture to say this for the inspectors that, as in the case of lead poisoning, it is very insidious and very difficult to trace—it is most difficult to ascertain the truth. One of the lady inspectors, if not two of them, who have been making special inquiries among the women in the match industry, dwells more than anything else upon the difficulty of tracing cases of this sort to the home of the girls who have been affected. It would be difficult, very difficult, to get at the truth and to find out the real number of cases that have existed. It is true that a great deal was known of this disease some years ago, but the only Parliamentary Paper on this that I was aware of was dated about 1863, when there were conflicting views taken as to what was the cause of necrosis, and when the theory, which I believe to be the best theory on the whole, was strongly combated, namely, that it came through defective teeth or when old defective teeth were taken out and the persons returned to work with raw gums before the time instituted under the special rules had passed by. I think it appears from the Report of Dr. Oliver upon his visit to Paris and Marseilles, incidentally, that the teeth have a great deal to do with it. I have already had one Report, an incomplete Report, from Dr. Cunningham, of the London Dental Hospital, who has seen a great many cases, and who has been making a special inquiry into the state of the teeth of the employees at Bryant and May's, and I regret to state that at all events he arrives at this conclusion, that the teeth of those persons employed were far worse than we had ventured to anticipate. I understand that already a dental room has been established at Bryant and May's factory for dealing from time to time with defective teeth, and an attempt is going to be made to remove that cause of necrosis at all events. There are other things, of course, that can be done, but without wearying the Committee I think they will see from the same Report to which I have alluded, that of Dr. Oliver, that the doctor who had been in charge of two of the Government match factories near 486 Paris states that, whereas there had been formerly continual cases of necrosis, there were none at all in the year 1897, and he attributes that to the attention paid to the point of the careful selection of those who were really fit—having good mouths and teeth—to safely begin such work. Now, Sir, it is said we ought to prohibit the use of yellow phosphorus. Well, of course, that carries with it the necessity of prohibiting the import; and considering that nine-tenths of the matches which are bought in this country are "strike-any-where matches," and considering it is quite problematical whether you can ever get the people who buy this large quantity of matches to deny themselves the use of those matches, the only solution of the difficulty is the discovery of a safety match that will strike anywhere. I agree with the right honourable Gentleman that the evidence which we have in that Report, no less than the evidence which I have seen from other quarters, points to this, that when a strong necessity exists such as exists in the case of these matches, of finding a safe method of providing that which the public want to have, in all probability it will be found. A similar thing occurred in the case of the use of gunpowder in mines. The House knows that has been a subject which has been engaging the attention of the Home Office for some little time; and whereas in the first instance, in the explosives they were able to allow, and which passed the test, gunpowder was not included, they have now found it possible to add a cartridge in which gunpowder can be used with the same safety as high explosives even in a dangerous mine. I only give that as an instance to show that, when we have a great demand for a match which can be made in the factory without danger to the workpeople, it may be considered highly probable that such a thing will be brought about. I do not think that anybody who really looks at the evidence will imagine that we have arrived at a period when it would be right or possible to prohibit the use of this yellow phosphorus altogether. We have evidence, the evidence I have have just quoted of France, that by the selection of workers women can be employed in these factories without getting necrosis or with- 487 out being injuriously affected by phosphorus. I cannot say I have been able to have the full information we ought to have, but I feel I am perfectly safe in saying it is notorious that in many of the best-conducted match manufactories, which have the best machinery and do take the greatest precautions, there are no cases, or comparatively few cases, of necrosis. That being the case I do not think anybody could seriously contend that the time is ripe for the prohibition of yellow phosphorus, but that we ought to look to making the best regulations we can to ensure safety to life and health in this industry, and to see that every manufacturer so far as we can by law force him comes up to the high standard adopted by the best manufacturers in this trade. The efforts of the Home Office are directed to that end. I hope before long I may be within measurable distance of trying special rules in this industry also, and all I can assure the House is that, as in the case of lead so in the case of phosphorus, what I feel it my duty to do is to ascertain what are the right precautions which ought to be adopted; and, leaving legislation as a subject to be considered in the future if found necessary, to endeavour to enforce those rules to protect, so far as possible, the workers in this industry. I should like to say a word about the women inspectors, and I regret extremely the view which has been taken by some right honourable Gentlemen and honourable Gentlemen in this House, not as to my intention, but as to the effect of the regulations issued from the Home Office. Some time ago a deputation headed by the right honourable Gentleman came to me on this question of lead poisoning. I explained to them it was impossible to appoint a lady district inspector. I told them then that I understood that the precedent, and I believe the intention of my right honourable Friend who preceded me was that the lady inspectors should have their headquarters in London. They are employed upon the business of endeavouring by special inquiries to point out weak spots in such industries, and in industries where we have reason to believe that women and young persons have not the same means of making their wants known as we would wish them to have.
488 I agreed with the object of the right honourable Gentleman, and I loyally carried it out. I quite agree with him that it is extremely desirable that women and young persons engaged in factories should have the opportunity of explaining their wants and desires, and making their complaints to women inspectors rather than to men inspectors. That is a conceded point, and I may say in parenthesis that I think I have appointed two lady inspectors since I came to the Home Office, and during the last month I have appointed another, and I hope the Treasury will next year give more money for lady inspectors. If it were to be a question of a lady inspector going for a temporary purpose to reside in a particular district, and to be open to receive the complaints of the women workers, and to hear what they had to say, that is a matter which can be easily arranged, and there is no objection to it at all. In fact, that is the principle on which the staff is worked. It is a limited staff, and it is worked from, London, but wherever we think lady inspectors, can be usefully employed, there they go. I think when we are talking about the constitution, of the Department we ought to remember what a huge network it controls. There are 50 districts in the United Kingdom, each with a district inspector, who is responsible to a superintending inspector, and I say most strongly that, although you may send a lady inspector for a temporary purpose to look out facts, you must take very great care that the jurisdiction of the two district inspectors, especially the superintending inspector, is not interfered with. What I have endeavoured to do is to keep the lady inspectors distinct from the men inspectors, and to regulate the proper amount of correspondence and co-operation between them which is absolutely essential to the successful working of the whole system of factory inspection. As the right honourable Gentleman has said, it is the rule that no prosecution is to be entered on without the sanction of the chief inspector, and I do not think it is unreasonable to say in the, case of lady inspectors, with perhaps only two or three years' experience, and also in the case of the new medical inspector, that they should not have the power to initiate prosecutions without going to the chief 489 inspector in London, not to the superintending inspector of the district. Perhaps I may say here that, feeling very strongly the necessity for strengthening the inspection department, I have got the sanction of the Treasury, and have appointed a medical inspector to assist the chief inspector in many of the inquiries it is necessary to make. He will be under the command of the chief inspector, and it will be his duty to advise on such oases as we have been discussing here to-day, and also to go around and see what the certifying factory surgeons are doing. He will, I think, be a most satisfactory addition to the factory inspection staff. He will not have the power to initiate prosecutions, but, like the lady inspectors, will have to act through the chief inspector in London, and through myself. Allusion, has been made, to structural alterations. What is the practice now? Let us take the case of some distant town—say, Newcastle. A lady inspector visits a factory there, and finds that a structural alteration is necessary. Under the present system she notifies the district inspector, and it is his duty to follow the matter up, and to see that the alteration is carried out, and also to take care that the lady inspector is kept informed of what is being done. Under the other system the lady inspector would return to London, but would have to pay perhaps several further visits to Newcastle to satisfy herself that the alteration was being carried out. The district inspector is on the spot, and he is the proper person to see it carried out. I do not see that any complaint can be made that power is being taken away from the lady inspectors. That is not the intention of the Home Office. My intention is to economise time, save these visits, and see that the lady inspector is brought into relation with the district, inspector, and that there should be confidence and arrangement between them. In the only instance which has been brought forward, I think if the present regulations had been in force there would not have been any friction at all. With reference to the number of inspections made by the lady inspectors, I think the reason is that many special inquiries had to be made, and there was also an interregnum, and I am not at all prepared to admit that 490 the lady inspectors are either less efficient or less useful than they were. It is not my desire to weaken but to strengthen this department of inspection. I have endeavoured to show to the Committee that in regard to both these special trades the Home Office have not been neglectful, and have been endeavouring, by the adoption of means which they consider reasonable and right, to secure the health of the workers in both the match-making and lead industries.
§ * MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
Like other honourable Members who have taken part in this Debate, I have no fault to find with the temper in which it has been conducted. On the contrary, the discussion appears to me to be conducted in eminently good faith, which ought to be very satisfactory to all concerned. I ask the indulgence of the Committee in putting forward some statements on this subject, which has enormous interest, not only for the large population of Staffordshire, but also for those engaged in other parts of the country. I am not here to challenge the existence, of a state of things which justifies the most serious concern, and calls for the most practicable and efficient remedy. In a case of this kind exaggeration is inevitable. I heard, for example, from the Secretary of State the number of cases reported to him during the last month. As I understood the right honourable Gentleman, he gave recent figures. We are all familiar with a largo number of cases. They are reported in the annual returns. But what I should like to ask the Committee to realise is that these are cases reported by medical practitioners, and investigated partly by certified surgeons, but the House and the country know nothing about the subsequent and more careful reports. For example, the right honourable Gentleman confirmed me when I called his attention to two cases to which I know he has given personal attention, and which occurred within the last few weeks. One was the case of a woman employed in one of the lead processes. She was reported as suffering from lead poisoning, but, as a matter of fact, she had eaten some bad fish, which brought on an attack of colic, which was not unnaturally attributed to the employment in which she was engaged, and was 491 afterwards found to have no relation whatever to lead or anything in her employment. Then there was the case of a very large employer, who was astonished to hear that one of his workmen was suffering from lead poisoning. He had not missed the man from his employment, but the man himself indignantly protested against any such suggestion, and stated that he had an attack of colic brought on by eating bilberries in an unsuitable state. I wish the Committee to realise that persons suffering from other diseases are sometimes included in these returns because they are employed in glazing and other works, but if we could get the confidential reports submitted to the Home Secretary they would be very much minimised in importance. I am told that the reports of the certified surgeons are to be decried because they receive, under Act of Parliament, payment for their services from the factories which they inspect. I would call attention to the fact that they are appointed by the Home Office, that they are exclusively responsible to the Home Office, and that the employers have not the smallest control over them. I am sure every Member who has followed this Debate, will realise the position in which we are, and how highly important it is that there should be action on the part of the Home Office which will ensure the confidence of all concerned, and secure the co-operation of employers and workmen. I am very glad to be able to report that the day before yesterday the Manufacturers' Association of North Staffordshire passed a resolution pledging themselves to carry out without any objection the new special rules. On the other hand, as the right honourable Gentleman knows, there are other manufacturers who think that, if the rule for the employment of special power to work the ventilating fans is enforced, they will have to close their factories. I fancy my honourable Friend the Member for Stoke has some information on that point. There are further changes beyond those proposed which may be prudently introduced, and which would prove very beneficial in the interests of the workpeople. I quite agree with what fell from the right honourable Gentleman with reference to the importance of the age limit, and if it can be shown that girls 492 and boys under 18 years of age are more susceptible to injury from lead than persons over that age, my constituents will carry out the age limit. I am prepared to welcome the recommendations, when they appear, of the two experts who are inquiring into the employment of raw lead, but I am of opinion that the practice of "fritting" the lead would greatly diminish the danger. It is a curious thing, though perhaps not generally known, that the position of the English potteries has been so completely recognised that the table and other ware made by any of our competitors in any part of the world is identical in composition with ours, and to a very large extent the material is exported from our own country. Now, Sir, there has been a remarkable amount of knowledge displayed on this subject by honourable Members who have taken part in this Debate, and who cannot have the advantage of being very intimately acquainted with the processes of which they have spoken. I confess I would rather look to the deliberate verdict of the two distinguished men who have been entrusted with this inquiry, and who, in the course of their investigations have been brought into contact with those actually engaged in these manufactures, and who will report to the Home Office and to the House with a large sense of responsibility. I rejoice that the right honourable Gentleman has accepted the suggestion to extend this inquiry to other countries. It will aid very much indeed, as there have been important experiments in the direction of minimising this danger elsewhere, as there have been in England. I have no doubt whatever that the result will be of very great value. When I said that it was important to have general concurrence of co-operation between the Government and all those concerned, I regret very much that the tone of some of the discussions which have taken place in the papers and elsewhere has been of so bitter and exasperating a character that it has tended rather to prevent this concurrence in the Potteries that would have otherwise been brought about. I regret it as much as anybody, but as my name was mentioned in regard to that question it was a startling surprise to me, and to some of the oldest employers in the Potteries, to learn that blindness 493 was a consequence of any of those processes. I have said we look with very great interest to the reports of the two distinguished experts. May I call the attention of the Committee to one of the most striking passages in the Report circulated this morning, giving the result of a visit to French match factories? Dr. Oliver, quoting Dr. Courtois on the absence of any case of illness at Panton Aubervilliers during the preceding year, says—The fact deserves attention, since the methods of manufacture have remained the same, and the installation of the factories has not been sensibly modified. A methodical selection of the workers, constant and rigorous supervision of them, and a close attention to the hygienic regulations have sufficed to lead to this result.One of the most important special rules which the Home Office is about to bring into operation is that suggested from these benches by my right honourable Friend [Mr. Asquith], in Which he urged the importance of the periodical examination of those working in these branches of trade. I am told by medical men that it is impossible to detect any susceptibility on the part of young people, but that it would be detected within the time which the right honourable Gentleman has specified; and once shown that there is that susceptibility then they should be prevented, not only from continuing that employment, but from returning to it. Now, how curious this question of susceptibility is may be shown from the paper which I have in my hand, and which is at the service of any honourable Gentlemen who would like to inform themselves, showing the ages and circumstances of a large number of women employed in one of the factories of which. I can speak. At the head of the list is a married woman, 68 years of age, with one child; she was at work at this particular trade for 33 years without any interruption on account of illness. There are other oases of women who have worked 25, 20, 19 years, and so on, following exactly the same employment, and without at any time suffering any inconvenience. That, I think, goes to show that the susceptibility to those influences is peculiar to certain conditions, and that a periodical examination by the certifying surgeon under 494 the regulations of the Home Office would tend very much to eliminate these cases. Now, Sir, I will only say one word about the employment of women inspectors. Those who know anything of my views or public life will not need from me any assurance that I have always desired to sea women have their fair chance in competition for all public offices for which they are suited; but I do hope there will be no friction or conflict of authority between the itinerating lady and the permanent resident inspector. I trust that, by the help and sympathy of intelligent women, we shall be able to guard against existing apprehensions on this particular ground. I hope I have not trespassed unduly upon the attention, of the House. I have a great mass of material in my possession, but I only desire to say that while we fully recognise the extent of the mischief done we are most anxious to co-operate in an endeavour to carry on this important industry with the maximum of safety and comfort to those employed.
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hullam)
There has been the fullest recognition in the course of the Debate of the zeal and humanity of the present Home Secretary, and I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will not be pressed to a Division. One of the most interesting things which has come out in the Debate is the disadvantage under which the Home Secretary labours in respect of his administrative action, and the possibilities which are open to him under his present powers on account of the fact that, in proposing new rules and regulations in dangerous trades, he is obliged to submit to what is called arbitration. Well, Sir, it is a curious process, and it may be well to recall its history. It was in the Mines Acts that this process of special rules by arbitration was originally brought into existence. I believe it was always found very successful, and that no one has ever complained of it, and it is interesting to remember that when the honourable Member for Leicester, as Under Secretary for the Home Department in 1886, brought in a Bill to amend the Mines Act, he did not propose any alteration of the process. Some process of the kind is absolutely necessary. Suppose we want to bring the Labour laws up to date and into conformity with the 495 requirements of modern science. If you do not want to come to tine House perpetually for leave you must do it by administrative action, and there must be some means by which administrative action may be brought into conformity with local opinion amid the necessities of the trade. This is the way in which the Legislature has hitherto sought to solve that problem. No doubt the arbitration process does tend to elicit local opinion, and the curious thing about it is that we practically entrust the ultimate decision as to What our laws shall be to the arbitrator, a person who is not in any way responsible to this House, and who has rarely had the political training which is necessary to qualify him to arrive at a wise decision. That is conceded to be an undesirable state of things, but it is right that we should remember, in justification of the present Home Secretary, the fact that the extension of this process to the Factory Act in 1891 was in itself an enormous step in advance, and that since then the Executive Government can practically legislate for the factories, as it has done for the mines, without coming to this House for leave. After four years' experience of that process as applied to the Factory Acts the late Home Secretary, when reviewing and amending the factory laws of the country, did not propose to get rid of this process of arbitration.
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY
Well, Sir, the want of courage of the late Home Secretary is the best possible justification of the present Home Secretary's failure to give a more advanced standard. Proceeding, the right honourable Gentleman said not only did the late Home Secretary not get rid of the arbitration process but in some of the enactments of his Measure he gave representation to the working men before the arbitrator, and nobody can say that that did not add to the length and complexity of the arbitration proceeding. The late Home Secretary has said that he has had experience under the Factory Acts of the undesirability of going to arbitration. He also quoted the case of the Mines Acts, and mentioned the differences with the coal 496 owners at South Wales. I am one of the dwindling number of Members who remember the Debate on the Coal Mines Act of 1887, and South Wales was then strong enough in this House to prevent our making the enactments to restrict the use of high, explosives in mines quite as stringent as they would have been. If the House has been restrained by local opinion in such oases as that, is it not right that there should be some reference to local opinion such as is provided by the arbitration process in the various Acts? As to the general criticisms that have been offered, I would ask whether we may not consider the difference between the Home Secretary and his critics such as is usually found to exist between the men who are not responsible and the man who is for the administration of the Acts?
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
The right honourable Gentleman was quite up to the public opinion of the times and the necessities of the case on the occasion of the legislation to which the honourable Member has just referred. His illustration of the case with regard to arbitrators as experienced in 1887, in connection with the Coal Mines Bill and the proposed limitation of explosives in South Wales, is a perfectly legitimate one. I was partly responsible for the Bill that was introduced a year before on the vary subject. Now, I entirely agree with the Home Secretary in the reason he has given for not presenting the Report—namely, because it is not yet a complete Report; but while we are waiting for that Report, and while the Long Recess is about to be entered upon, I fear loss of life and permanent injury will continue unless some temporary measures are taken in the meantime. We now know beyond doubt the deadly effect of some of these processes, and I believe that the country, as well as the House of Commons, would support the Home Secretary if he said—"I will take some temporary steps to arrest this evil until I can deal with it as a whole and in a complete manner." Now, a very remarkable admission was made by my Friend the honourable Member for Hanley, that it has been supported by honourable Gentlemen on the 497 other, side of the House. The honourable Gentleman has expressed his willingness to have the trade included in the Act of last year.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I hope the Home Secretary will take special note of that. My honourable Friend says he will give it his distinct, earnest, and unanimous support. We have the advantage of the Leader of the House present with the Home Secretary, and I should like to point out to the Leader of the House and to the Home Secretary that there is an Order on this Paper, namely Order 39, which refers to a Bill which would meet all the necessities of the case. It is a Bill of one clause only, and why should we not—we hare now 10 or 14 days left to the House for legislative purposes—wihy should we not settle down and pasts this Bill of one clause, which would give protection to the workers between now and the time that the matter can be fully dealt with, on the Report which the Home Secretary is having prepared for the House? I have already stated that this proposal is supported by both sides of the House, and there is no one in the House with such full and complete authority to speak for the manufacturers as my honourable Friend the Member for Hanley. I wish that the Government would take this matter into consideration. We might take the Second Reading of the Bill tonight or tomorrow, and I am sure that the Bill could be got through its early stages in probably three or four hours. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary is fully alive to the fact—indeed, I think he mentioned it in discussing his Report—that there is a process of glazing which is asserted to be equal to the lead glazing, in which no lead material is used in the manufacture of china or earthenware. Now, I presume that the Report of the right honourable Gentleman will deal with that invention. I understand that there is also another invention of somewhat the same kind—that, I believe, is likewise known to the Home Office. Now, I have no doubt that the right honourable Gentleman will require considerable time for investigation and consideration 498 before he can deal with this question of glazing, but when we have a Bill before us affirming the principle which was adopted by a majority of the House in the Bill of my right honourable Friend less than four years back, there is no reason why the House, at this end of the Session, should not pass that Measure, and thus give the advantages of the Act of last year as to compensation to all persons engaged in dangerous trades if they suffer in health whilst engaged at those dangerous trades. Of course, the object is to prevent danger and injury to life and limb. That is the object of almost all our legislation. It is preventive. It is not a question, of compensation; it is to prevent the necessity for compensation. Now, I do wish that the Home Secretary would tell us whether there is any insuperable difficulty in the suggestion I have made to him. With regard to his speech on the whole question I am bound to say that, while there is nothing in its tone or spirit which is not quite up to what one could desire, the outcome of the speech is that he fully intends to deal with this subject when he has complete and full information. But in the meantime the process of injury to these young workers is to go on uninterrupted. That is the weak point of the case as put by the Home Secretary. I am sure that he would be one of the last to wish such a state of things to continue, and if he can agree to the Bill I have already alluded to it would do much to arrest the existing mischief. Now, Sir, I have only one other observation to offer. I have no desire to enter into the Debate as to the whole question. But I have one other suggestion to make, and I make it as the friend, not as the unfriendly critic, or factory inspectors. It is this. I think it would be well, and many others think it would be well if in crowded districts like the Potteries and many other industrial centres the inspectors were changed from time to time. My suggestion is that they should be transferred from the district where they have resided for four or five years to another district, and other inspectors put into their places. It would not imply mistrust of the inspectors, but it would be good for all of them that they should be changed, and it would have the additional advantage of securing closer 499 application to the investigation of complaints under the Factory and Workshops Act. This change of district would not, of course, imply that you desired to find fault with a particular man. At the present time, however, inspectors remain in a district for a long number of years, and we should be the same, no doubt, if we were in their plaices—get into a rut—and associations, social or otherwise, unconsciously influence them in the discharge of their duty, or, at any rate, some of them. I think that if the Home Secretary were to give some attention to that suggestion he would find it received with great consideration, and in many places with very great favour indeed. I will only repeat again the hope that the Government will allow the Bill of my honourable Friend to pass before the House rises. I am sure all of us would stay as long as we possibly could in order to assist the Government in passing the Bill. I do not think it would take very long, and it would be welcomed throughout the length and breadth of the land, by Conservatives and Liberals, as a direct and earnest attempt to protect the lives of our workers in the pottery trade.
§ MR. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
I think that the statement of the Home Secretary has out away much of the ground from under the feet of the honourable Member for Berwickshire and of others who took pant in, this Debate. It is true that there has been invented a glaze of which lead is not a component part. Whether rightly or wrongly the manufacturers in North Staffordshire have always believed that there must be a certain amount of lead in glaze. The honourable Member for Berwickshire has flourished a plate in the House early in the day, but pottery manufacturer would like to know what is the history of a plate like that, when, it was made, how long the glaze has been on it, and whether the plate is likely to stand wear and tear?
§ MR. COGHILL
It makes all the difference in the world whether these plates have been used. Years ago oases of lead poisoning were extremely rare, but it is impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that of late there has been a lamentable increase in the number of such cases. I trust the Home Secretary may see his way to raise the age to 18, or even higher; and, personally, I should be glad to know that women were prohibited from going into the glazing house altogether. I have one word to say on behalf of the manufacturers in the Potteries. At the present time they are not making very enormous profits. They are subjected to very severe foreign competition, and I hope that if restrictions are imposed they will not be such as to drive the trade from the country altogether.
§ * MR. BURNS (Battersea)
I am exceedingly glad that the honourable Member who has just sat down, though I believe he represents a constituency in an affected district, has taken the gloss off the speech which was made by the honourable Member for Hanley. It is indeed a matter of great pleasure to the House of Commons, and especially to the Members who have interested themselves in this question, to find a gentleman like the honourable Member who has just spoken concluding his speech by asking that the age of child workers should be raised, and that the Home Secretary should take vigorous steps to combat a disease which he, from his own experience, believes is rapidly increasing. I am afraid that there is a danger that after these speeches have been made, and the momentary impression of them has passed away, we shall all go away for 501 our holidays to find, at the commencement of the next Parliamentary Session, the special rules only slightly improved and the new legislation of an insufficiently drastic character to stop that which we have all been talking about this afternoon. But this I will say, I have never listened to a Debate in which partisanship has been less apparent. I have never heard honourable Members on both sides of the House so agreed as to the necessity of something drastic being done, and I sincerely trust that the Home Secretary will be guided by the unanimous spirit of this Debate and will not be influenced by local opinion from the Potteries, from whatever quarter it may come. If he wants any opinion, that of the honourable Member for Stoke is the kind of opinion he should rely upon, rather than the opinion that may be manufactured in the districts where these dangerous industries are carried on. But, Sir, what does this Debate indicate? It indicates, to my mind, that more inspection—more vagarious inspection—is required, pending new legislation and pending the adoption of new special rules. The Home Secretary ought also to apply his mind to some new legislative projects that will bring England into line with Belgium, Germany, and France, as indicated in the Report, part of which was disclosed to us. Certainly the new legislation ought to place English workers in dangerous trades in the same protected position as the American workpeople employed in similar industries, and I would suggest to the Home Secretary that he should apply his mind in that particular direction. But, Sir, I do believe that the Home Secretary ought to appeal, pending new legislation, to the manufacturers of pottery to get rid of raw lead at once. I would support him, and I think public opinion would, if he either brought in a Bill at the commencement of next Session prohibiting by administration, pending the passing of such legislation, the use of such dangerous processes. He could, if he Chose, abolish the use of yellow phosphorus in the match trade to-morrow, and I believe that on all sides of the House he would receive a volume of support, strong and intense, if he took any steps to prevent Bryant and May from repeating in the next six months what 502 they have been so scandalously guilty of during the last three or four. If he can do anything in that direction I trust that he will take the matter strongly in hand. We find that suffering, death, and, what is worse to me, the transmission of disease to future generations, goes on to an extent that the House has cheerfully recognised, and I would ask the Home Secretary to put behind him, as a Scriptural character did, any suggestion that the difficulties to be overcome are insuperable. It will be urged this is a difficult question. The House of Commons was created to get over difficulties either by new legislation or by the administration of permanent officials such as those at the Home Office, assisted by the right honourable Gentleman. If difficulties can be surmounted by administration, what cannot be done by law? When the Home Secretary tells us, as he has done to-night, that there have been 14 men, 19 women, and five young persons affected seriously by lead poisoning in the last month, I believe there is not a working-class family or a West-end drawing-room who would not wish the Home Secretary God-speed in any attempt to put a stop to that condition of things. That brings mo to a remark made by the honourable Member for Hanley. I could not help smiling when I heard a special case cited and general application given to it. We had 400 or 500 cases of lead poisoning last year, and the figures which the Home Secretary gave to the House disposed of the suggestion that some persons had tasted fish which did not agree with them. That is too "fishy" for me to believe.
§ * MR. WOODALL
I said that a particular case was certified by a medical practitioner as being attributable to lead poisoning, but that subsequent and more careful reports showed that death was due to eating bad fish.
§ * MR. BURNS
Well, there are medical men and medical men. I prefer those who have proved the prevalence of lead poisoning. With reference to the other case, in which the honourable Member says that death was not due to lead poisoning but to eating unripe bilberries, I am just as likely to believe 503 it as the first story. Then we were told that if official reports were made accessible there would be another side to be put to some of the statements which have been made by certain Members of the House who have spoken this afternoon, and by newspapers like the Times, Star, and the Daily Chronicle, which have had the courage to agitate against phossy jaw and lead poisoning. But why does not the honourable Member go deeper into this question? Let him ask the medical inspectors themselves; let him go to Dr. Prendergast, to whom I am extremely grateful for probably one of the best booklets ever written on dangerous trades, and for writing which Dr. Prendergast deserves every thanks and praise. But what does Dr. Prendergast say? He says that young people are more susceptible to lead poisoning than older people, and, what is more, he says that young girls are more susceptible to lead poisoning than either grown-up women or grownup men. And what does Dr. Prendergast say further? He says that the age is too low; that women and young girls should be excluded from the dipping houses altogether; and that the history of women working in contact with lead proves that maternity is denied them. That is the opinion of the most competent authority on lead poisoning in regard to the effect of this particular work, and I say that the honourable Baronet the Member for Glasgow deserves every credit and praise for the manly and courageous way in which he has identified himself with this movement for the protection of the workers from such deadly consequences. Now, Sir, we come to what can be done. Though the Home Secretary has made a sympathetic speech, I do not attach much importance to it from the practical point of view. He has not yet promised us legislation. He says that he could not promise it until the Report has been digested, certain experiments made, and certain facts tested, but I want to call the Home Secretary's attention to the fact that for 50 years at the table of the House of Commons we have had similar speeches made while these women are dying of phossy jaw and lead poisoning. The time has 504 arrived when, in the absence of legislation, we should have administration to put a stop to this terrible condition of things. The right honourable Gentleman ought to get rid of arbitration altogether. No one has condemned arbitration more vigorously than I did four years ago in the Grand Committee, when I begged Mr. Matthews to abolish arbitration altogether. Why do you want arbitration? What does the sanitary inspectors do in, regard to drainage? When drains are bad and health is imperilled, the inspector deals with the matter immediately—there is no question of arbitration—and if you can do that for drains why not for human life? We have seen the effect of arbitration in the Mines Regulation Act in Wales, where eight-men per million tons raised are killed, while the rate in Northumberland and Durham is only four. I sincerely trust that the Home Secretary will get rid of arbitration altogether. He ought also, in the matter of the special rules for dangerous trades to take the most competent opinions, based upon, international experience, formulate them into an industrial code, issue them to the dangerous industries, and, if not complied with. I will support the right honourable Gentleman if he closes any industry until the rules and conditions have been agreed to. We will pass from the question of arbitration to inspection, and hare I would warn the Home Secretary against the honourable Member for Hanley, who has expressed the hope that "discreet" persons will be appointed. I know the class of inspectors meant—men who "whisper the word of reform to the ear, and break it to the hope," men of the Mr. Facing-both-ways type, who pretend to be solicitous about the workmen's interest, but, curiously enough, are hospitably received by employers. What the Home Secretary has got to do is to send his nastiest but firmest inspector down to the Potteries, the man who has got a jaw of iron, and will take the worst employers, so to speak, by the scruff of the neck and run them before the magistrates in the event of their not carrying out his special rules as the Home Secretary insists, and justly insists, they ought to be carried out. If an industry can only be carried on by the 505 destruction of the health of the potential mothers of many of our working classes, well, then, I say Germany can have that industry; and if the people object to the industry being carried on in a clean, healthy, and proper condition, then I say these people have been so much demoralised by the conditions of their industry that they ought not to be listened to. When I find the honourable Member for Stoke advocating an age 18 or 20, I am positively convinced that the working classes of his district, and certainly educated opinion in his neighbourhood, would be strongly in favour of adopting his particular view. The honourable and gallant Baronet from Scotland gave one or two instances of the way in which these rules were ignored. He spoke about washing being a farce. He gave one or two instances of men being compelled to wash in dark places, with utensils that were miserably insufficient for carrying out the special rules. I must say to the Home Secretary that is due either to insufficient or inefficient sanitary and factory inspection; and if what the honourable and gallant Baronet said be true—and I would rather believe him than the factory inspector of the district—he has got to see that this kind of thing must cease. Then we were told by the honourable and gallant Baronet that the towels either were not clean enough or were insufficient in size, and not generously enough distributed. If so, that is a violation of the special rule, and should be stopped. We complain about the sweeping of the floors. It is made a joint duty now. I agree with the honourable and gallant Baronet that the men ought not to have anything to do with it at all. The occupying owner or manufacturer ought to be responsible for the sanitation and cleanliness of every place in which these dangerous trades are carried on. Let me be practical and give the Home Secretary an illustration. I go to a fever hospital. What do I find there? I find that in some of our fever hospitals we have built for the stopping of infectious disease from £250 to £400 per bed has been spent—in doing what? In getting better buildings and preventing microbes and germs and bacteria from getting from patient to patient. I venture to say there are some factories in the Potteries where for engines, buildings, 506 plant, and material an expenditure of £40 to £50 per head of the operatives would be the outside figure. It seems to me that what we ought to do is to compel these dangerous industries to follow the example of our infectious hospitals. Let them have a solid floor, dovetailed together, that would not accumulate dust in the cracks. Let them do away with square corners in workshops and factories, and have round corners in the rooms, in which dust cannot collect, and let them be periodically swept or kept clean by down-draught ventilating fans. If the Home Secretary hears from workmen that they do not care for the draughts, and from employers that they do not care for them, then he must tell both masters and men that in the interest of the health of the community they must carry on their trades under conditions which will not impose on the community permanent injury to their health. If he does that I am sure all sensible workmen will support him. The question of making injury to health a compensatory and pensionable clause in the Compensation Act has been raised by the honourable Member for Leicester. The Home Secretary has got a chance now of distinguishing himself at the late end of a Session not particularly notable for labour legislation. If there is passed a small clause bringing injury to health through working in dangerous industries within the Compensation Act he will go a long way to make a number of employers put their workshops in order. He will possibly say he cannot do it this year. I am under the impression that he could do it just as easily as two years ago the Poor Law Officers' Superannuation Bill was smuggled through this House in about five minutes. If you can give to those that have, as was done in that case, if the House of Commons can pass a Dynamite Bill and get the Royal assent to it within twenty-four hours for the protection of their own bodies, surely they can do this for 31,000 men, women, and children, who are engaged in these dangerous trades. I have one suggestion more to make. I do not like these medical practitioners who are jointly paid by men and employers. I think in these dangerous industry districts the medical officer ought to be a State authority; I think he might 507 receive more pay, and should do his work more regularly than he does at present; and I think, generally speaking, he should have more power than he now possesses. Whether the Home Secretary can do that administratively or not I do not care so long as it is done. But when the Home Secretary wished me to understand that Bryant and May were doing something in the direction of protecting the health of their people, when he told the House that the only thing they had yet done was to institute a dental room that workpeople might have their teeth drawn out——
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I did not say it was the only thing they had done. I said, when alluding to examination of the teeth, that that had been done.
§ * MR. BURNS
I can assure the right honourable Gentleman that that is the only thing they have done; but when we have it given out as a benefit to the workpeople that they have got to have their teeth out as a condition of employment for a woman, I do not think that is a benefit which the workpeople are going to give heart-felt thanks for—with teeth 12s. a week, or without teeth 25s. for a man! If they would abolish yellow phosphorus altogether it would be better. I venture to submit to the House my hearty concurrence in the general tone of the speeches delivered, I am glad to say, on the other side of the House to-night. I am very glad to see the absence of partisanship that has characterised the whole Debate. Well, the Home Secretary cannot leave the House of Commons in the month of July and not be profoundly impressed, as he must be after this Debate, as to the way in which he has got public opinion on his side. If it were necessary to stop the importation of foreign-made miatches—well, I am a Free Trader generally, but I tell you frankly, I would support that like a shot to-morrow. If to stop this death-dealing industry going further you were to abolish altogether the importation of these dangerous matches, I believe public opinion would be with you. But this the Home Secretary can rely upon, after the excellent deputations that he has received from all conditions of men and women during the 508 past month, he can rely upon it that public opinion is far ahead of the manufacturers, miles ahead of the workpeople themselves engaged in this industry. If he will only take this matter in hand, as he ought to, and must do, he not only will have the blessing of the children in the factory districts 30 or 40 years hence, but will convey a message of hope and mercy and happiness to hundreds of workpeople in the Pottery districts, whose wages are too low, whose hours are too long, whose organisation is now so imperfect that they cannot assist themselves, and who look to the Home Secretary to stand between them and these commercial gradgrinds, who often occupy public positions, and who have no right to be considered in any Measure that has for its object the stopping of these deadly processes about which the House of Commons has heard this afternoon.
§ MR ALLEN (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I very much regret that the Home Secretary to-night still maintained the uncompromising attitude which he took up when a deputation from the Potteries waited upon him a few weeks ago. He was asked then to consent to appoint a woman inspector for the Potteries district, and he took up the ground that there would be friction between the woman inspector and the local male inspector down there, and that was the ground upon which I understood he refused to make the appointment. I think the late Home Secretary to-night demonstrated to him very clearly how he could deal with inspectors between whom friction arose. In the Potteries district there is a very strong case for special treatment. Sir, you have hundreds of these women working in lead shops suffering from this lead poisoning, suffering in a manner it is impossible for them to describe to the male inspector, and unless there is a woman inspector in the district to whom they can go, and to whom they can explain their condition, you cannot hope to have that efficient inspection and that efficient knowledge of the conditions of health under which they work and live that you ought to possess in order to draw up rules for the proper regulation of the pottery industry. I was very glad to hear that the honourable Member for Stoke supported the proposal made by the honourable Member who 509 moved the reduction in this Vote in regard to the raising of the age of women and children working in these lead shops in the Potteries. In pottery works there are a great many departments, and in nearly all these departments there is labour for children and young persons, and I do not believe it would cause the least dislocation of the pottery industry if they were prohibited from working in the more dangerous processes. They could easily be taken on in other parts of the factory, and there would be very, very few, if any, thrown out of work. I do not agree with one criticism of the honourable Member who seconded the reduction of the Vote. He spoke of the process which he called "ware cleaning," the chipping of the comparatively dry glaze from the ware before it is put in the ovens for a second time, and he said that he thought the rule that is drawn up should be altered, and that the only way of clearing the atmosphere of these particles should be by fans. I do not think that the honourable Member can have a very intimate knowledge of that process, and I think there is very much less likelihood of dust and of poisonous atoms in the works if the Home Secretary permits the plan which he has laid down in this rule of allowing this dust to drop into water to continue. It is not in very small particles as a rule, it is in considerable pieces, and I am afraid that if that was drawn off by fans it would only cause more dust even than there is at the present time. Now, Mr. Lowther, I wish the Home Secretary could see his way to adopt the suggestion that has been made of including injuries caused in these occupations in the Compensation Act. I do not believe that he would find there would be very much opposition, to this course. There has been a great awakening to the dangers arising from the lead trade in the Potteries, and I believe public sentiment both in the Potteries and throughout the country has been so stirred that he would practically meet with no opposition if he endeavoured to bring some of these poor people inside the Compensation Act, and if he did that I believe it would do a great deal towards forcing the employers to render the conditions under which the people labour more healthy than they are at the present time.
§ * MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
Mr. Lowther, I agree that this Debate has been most interesting, and I also think that no one can accuse any speaker of showing any partisanship; but for all that I do not think that we who take a keen interest in this matter have got very much out of the Home Secretary. We have had exchanged across the floor of the House compliments as to his humanity and good intentions. Well, Sir, all these qualities pass without any controversy; but what the workers in the Potteries district want is some protection, some remedy for the terrible evils which afflict them. Now, the honourable Member for Hanley admitted the evils of which we complain. I am bound to say I think he would have done his cause more good if he had stopped at that admission, and not gone on, as I regard it, to pare away, to tone down, the statements which from time to time have been made on good authority. I was particularly sorry that he should trot out old persons of 33 years' service, who had suffered no injury from working in this employment. I have taken some little interest in my town in sanitary improvement, and I well remember we were always met by a person who had lived about 30 years in some slum, who looked as fresh as any country woman, and who apparently appeared not to have suffered at all from living amid slum surroundings. But that is not an argument for the existence of slums, and no one suggests that all the pottery workers are killed off. Therefore, I do venture to suggest to the honourable Member for Hanley that when he quotes such instances he is conveying a false impression; and I feel sure he does not want to do that, or to attempt on his part to minimise these great evils. Now the workpeople of this country are not afraid of necessary risks. The sailor, though he desires that his ship shall be as safe as possible, is perfectly aware that there are dangers that no human ingenuity can prevent, and he faces death like a man; so the miner does; so the railway man does. But, Mr. Lowther, I contend that nothing that is unnecessary, that is absolutely unnecessary in the extreme sense of the word, should be allowed to be made by processes which bring about the terrible results which are proved to be brought about in the 511 Potteries district, as well as in the match trade. We have had a frank admission from the Home Secretary concerning the Report that he is not prepared to produce. I admit one can quite understand his desire not to issue it, but the right honourable Gentleman has told us distinctly that the experts in their report have decided against the use of raw lead in. this glazing process. Well, now, Sir, if that is so, surely we cannot help calling to mind the fact that, as has already been stated, many of these evils are not new evils. They are old ones, and they are sufficiently intense and sufficiently pernicious and injurious to have led the honourable Member for Berwickshire, I think it is, to appeal to the Government to include these workers in dangerous trades in the Compensation Act. The right honourable Gentleman, I think, had charge of that Bill. He refused these appeals, and, therefore, Sir, much as I respect his good intentions, I am bound to say that the suffering workers in those trades have very little to thank him or his Government for in this respect. Just see how it works out. I am sure it must appeal to any honourable Member who thinks about it. You may have the best employer in the kingdom, the man who has endeavoured on every occasion to protect the life and limb of his workmen. I have known many such employers, and I would be very sorry to associate myself with any wholesale attack on employers because they are employers. This employer of whom I am speaking, who has exhausted all the resources of science and obtained everything that money will procure in order to protect the life and limb of his workers, one morning comes down to his office and finds that one of his most careful workmen, by a pure accident, for which the employer is in no way responsible, has been killed; and yet the law of the land makes that employer responsible for compensation of from £150 to £300, though he had nothing whatever to do with the contributory cause that produced that man's death. Now, we workmen are not going to quarrel with you for giving compensation; but look at the other side of the picture. Here is an employer in the pottery trade——
§ * MR. MADDISON
Well, we will take the shipping trade, or any other trade. Here is a man that is an exact opposite to the other employer that I have instanced. He is a man who dodges every Act of Parliament that is passed. He is a man who regards his workmen as mere dividend-making machines. He always speaks of them as "hands"; they have neither heart nor soul nor conscience to him; they are merely "hands," and when they cease to be able to use their hands they are no longer of use to him. This man, although he knows his glazing process is a deadly one, and that by an expenditure of money he could at least reduce the dangers of that process, takes no steps to do it. A man is blinded, paralysed, or killed. What does the law compel that man to pay? Not a single farthing. Now, I want to give all credit I can to the right honourable Gentleman and his Government. I want this question of life and health to be taken away altogether from the domain of party. But, Sir, it is impossible for the workers of this country, with these facts before them, to be satisfied; with the fact before them that the Government, with their great majority, could, if they had liked—because they would have had the undivided support of the Opposition—have included these workers in the Compensation Act, and could have included them before the Session ended—because all of us are not going shooting grouse. I will guarantee on our side of the House—I suppose it is presumption on my part—to keep a fair number of honourable Members who will stop to help the Government to pass an Act. I believe we shall have—indeed, I know it from his speeches—the hearty support of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ * MR. MADDISON
I am glad that I am right. We have the assurance of the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that he would assist, even now, in the carrying of a short Bill of this sort. Now, Sir, if the Government refuse this, then, whether it is partisanship or not, I am here to say that the horrors of the pottery trade are largely upon their heads.
* THR CHAIRMAN
Order, order! It is not permissible for the honourable Gentleman, to discuss legislation; only administration may be discussed on this Vote.
§ * MR. MADDISON
I thought, Sir, the path was very beaten which I was following, but I think I have explained my view, and I will obey your ruling—as I would if I had not. I want to say a word about these horrors. They are horrors. I cannot forgive men like the honourable Member for Hanley endeavouring to minimise these Horrors——
§ * MR. WOODALL
I beg my honourable Friend's pardon. I did not for a moment desire to minimise such evils as exist. What I did say was that a very large proportion of the cases cited in the return were unreal.
§ * MR. MADDISON
I quite accept the statement of the honourable Gentleman. Mr. Lowther, I was saying that these were horrors. A man or woman may be compelled to give up work; the father of a family may be stricken with paralysis in the very bloom of his manhood, with a young family around him absolutely dependent upon that man's work. Now, I know that honourable Gentlemen in this House are quite as well able as I am to realise the horrors of the physical condition of a man in this state, but I doubt if the majority of the Members of this House are able to realise the social side of such a case. Remember, physical infirmity is always bad, but it is never so bad as when it is accompanied by grinding poverty, where a man has no money to relieve its horrors. Why, Sir, what do we find? Something has been said from time to time about there being no desire to make a class question of this. I am the very last to desire that; but I cannot help but say that the employers in the Potteries district have been unutterably mean to their employees, that their treatment of their employees has not been in the main what one would have had a right to expect Why, only the other day a woman stricken with blindness while working ii the lead, came up to a London hospital and in order to do so she had to pawn her wedding ring. The name, if neces- 514 sary, could be given. This poor, wretched woman, who had been working at comparatively low wages for the profit of an employer, had actually to pawn her wedding ring in order to get medical assistance in a London hospital. I know of another case where a poor fellow, struck down in the prime of his manhood, was relegated to his miserable little home, where the only work he could do was to mind the children while the wife went to earn a few shillings to keep the home together. That man, again, when he had to come to the hospital, had to borrow a few shillings from neighbours to do so. Now I ask, and I ask it solemnly, why should men's lives be wasted in this useless fashion? I assert here—I think I am right—that the great majority of cases of loss of life in dangerous trades is in the production of articles which in themselves are not absolutely necessary. These articles of luxury might be made in other forms, which, though they might not suit the æsthetic tastes of ladies and gentlemen, would answer the purpose very well. I am sorry to say, from information I have on what I believe to be very good authority, that this evil is increasing in the Potteries district, in spite of the publicity that has been given to it. I have the name of a prominent, if not one of the principal employers in the Potteries district, who has increased the number of boys and girls, and at the present moment chiefly young girls are employed in his dipping house. Now, if that is so, and I have very good reason to believe it is, it is only another reason why the Home Secretary should use his influence and his power; it is only an additional reason why the Government should, even at this stage of the Session, give some guarantee other than mere sentimental expressions of regard for the workers, that they are really in earnest in this matter. For my part, I say it deliberately, I would not allow a woman, I would not allow a married woman especially, to be employed in any trade which, broadly speaking, could be called a deadly and dangerous trade; because, Sir, we have heard here that it is only since this agitation took place that these cases have come to light, and that recent years have shown an increase in the number of the blind, the paralysed, and so on. But surely we all know that, 515 after women have been working for generations in these dangerous trades, their offspring become weaker and weaker, and more susceptible to these deadly poisons, and if you go on long enough you kill these people altogether. That is the natural law, and you cannot alter it. We stand here, not for the manufacturer, not for the workman, but for the health and welfare of the nation; and I am bound to say that if the Home Secretary does no more than he has told us to-night the Government has lamentably failed in its duty.
§ MR. McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
Perhaps the Home Secretary may not object to a slight variation of that form of compliment he has received to-night. He certainly has been sympathetic, but I hope he will forgive me if I say he was also somewhat vague. Amongst the various questions that have been raised I hope he will allow me to address to him three particular questions. Will he, in the first place, undertake next Session the abolition of the arbitration clause in the 1891 Act? I understood from his speech that he was distinctly in favour of repeal, but that he was not able to give any definite assurance. Can he tell the Committee now what reason there is that stands in the way, and give us an absolute pledge upon that point? The next question I wish to ask is as to whether he can promise the appointment of a female factory inspector in the potteries? He told the Committee that a temporary appointment might be possible, that he would have no objection to a temporary appointment. Will he actually go so far as to promise that temporary appointment? His objection to a permanent appointment. I understand to be twofold. In the first place, the headquarters of the female factory inspectors are in London. In the second place, there is a danger of friction. The rule—if there is a rule—that the headquarters should be in London has already been broken in the case of Glasgow, and it appears to me to be a rule more honoured in the breach than in the observance. As to the second point, that there would be friction. I would like to ask, whence that danger arises? We have got certain admitted facts with regard to the female inspectorate. We know the very high degree of favour with which they 516 are looked upon by the working classes. We know the extraordinary excuses that used to be made, and we know the particular circumstances with regard to the inquiry into the grossest case we have heard, and we know that female inspectors have been successful after great dim-culty where the male inspector was altogether unsuccessful. These facts point to the conclusion that the average work done by the female inspector is higher than that done by male inspectors. I do not say they are not both equal to their work, but on the whole the work done by the female inspectors has been more successful than that by the male inspectors. Is it not possible that friction may have arisen from comparison of the work done by the male inspector and the superior zeal exercised by the female inspector? Now, Sir, the conditions of labour in the Potteries are such that, if there is real danger of friction, is it not advisable to have a single permanent woman inspector rather than a single permanent male inspector? The figures quoted by my honourable Friend distinctly point to the advantage, and if this danger of friction is not a mere bogey I would certainly suggest that the male inspector be replaced by a permanent female inspector. My third point is whether the right honourable Gentleman will agree to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the system of inspection, and particularly into changes which might be made in the women's department? I do not propose now to go again over the question of the women's department, but the right honourable Gentleman is fully aware of the strong feeling on both sides of the House upon that question, and I would urge upon him that, before the Division is taken, he would give an answer which might in the result not render a Division necessary.
§ * SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL
Without desiring, like the honourable Member opposite, to put a series of precise questions to the Home Secretary, the tone of whose speech was satisfactory, and, I think, somewhat surprising to some of us, I should like just to put this general question. Supposing that the report of the experts at present in preparation do not justify him in prohibiting altogether the use of dangerous substances in the Potteries, and in the 517 match trade, will he undertake that the special rules applying to the potteries and to the match trade shall be strengthened at an early date, and that he will resort to legislation if he sees no reasonable prospect of arriving at the result desired by means of the issue by the Home Office of a special Order?
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I cannot complain of what has passed in the course of this Debate. The honourable Baronet who has just sat down asked me to give another undertaking on what really I granted when I spoke before. I think I made it plain to the House that I had already begun to find out, in the inquiries we are making, that there was a chance that these special rules were not likely to be effective, and it will be, of course, a matter to be considered by me when I am in possession of all the facts, whether it is possible by special rule to arrive at the end we all want to arrive at—namely, to secure greater safety to persons employed in the potteries; and the same in reference to phosphorus. Of course, things cannot rest where they are. What I have to do is the same as in the case of red lead—to get the best information I can, and as speedily as possible, as to regulations, if regulations can be sufficient, and to enforce them by special rule; and if it is found upon this question of arbitration, in consequence of the difficulties which attend it, legislation is desirable, I for one shall not be averse to undertaking it. But honourable Gentlemen must really understand that I am not in a position to explain what may take place in the next Session of Parliament. I think the difficulties which surround any Secretary of State in enforcing special rules by arbitration are so great that he, at all events, is not the person to object to its repeal. Whether the House of Commons is disposed to give him greater powers than he already has is another matter. Of course, I know that in both matters we must go further, and I am going to do so. Then I was asked whether I would promise to appoint a female factory inspector for the Potteries. What I said before, and what I now say again, is that wherever it can be shown that a female 518 inspector would be useful in a district for a temporary purpose, as I think the right honourable Gentleman opposite put it, the despatch of such an inspector is a subject that I am perfectly willing to consider, and to consult upon with the chief inspectors and the lady inspectors.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I meant a resident female inspector. The whole advantage derived from the presence of a lady is that she is in actual daily contact with persons engaged in the dangerous trades.
* THE SECRETARY OP STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
So long as it would be useful, I could quite understand that; but I was asked that the man should go away and the woman should take his place. If the position is as the right honourable Gentleman has now put it, that is a different thing altogether. So long as there are pressing questions affecting women employed in these dangerous trades, I admit it might be desirable to station one of the female inspectors in the district, and that she should reside there. I cannot make any promise on the question, but, in my own mind, it is one which deserves consideration. I am afraid I cannot give any undertaking to the honourable Baronet about an inquiry into the whole question of factory inspection and the women's department at a moment's notice. I am not at all disposed to assume that there is any necessity for it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I wish to ask a question of the right honourable Gentleman. He spoke upon the question of arbitration. Now, all that he has expressed, as I think I gathered from him, is his own mistrust of that principle.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I did not go so far as "mistrust." I said that very often it hampered freedom of action.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes, I had hoped the right honourable Gentleman would have gone rather farther than "mistrust"——
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I wish rather to remove the caution of the right honourable Gentleman. I think he said that, as far as he was concerned, he should be willing to deal with this subject, but he did not know what the view of the House of Commons would be upon it. In order that the view of the House of Commons should be taken upon that question it is necessary that the Government should make a proposal upon it, and what we want to know from the right honourable Gentleman is whether he will give an undertaking in the next Session of Parliament to deal with that question of arbitration, which is not a matter, I understand, of inquiry by experts or anybody else. He is the expert. He knows from his own knowledge what are the evils, and how far they hamper the action that it is desired to take. I do think that before we go to a Division we should have a definite statement from the right honourable Gentleman that he will propose on the part of the Government to deal with this question of arbitration, which is now blocking the whole of this system. That is what we ask. Of course the responsibility will rest with the House whether they will accept the proposals of the Government upon it. What we want to know is whether the Government, and the right honourable Gentleman on the part of the Government, will next Session make legislative proposals.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
If the right honourable Gentleman were in my place I am sure he would not make a promise of that description without further consideration than I can give to it in the course of this Debate. I have already said I am favourably disposed towards it, and presume that anybody else in my office would be of the same frame of mind; but I do not think it is a light matter to undertake to bring in this legislation next, Session. All I can say is that it is my present intention, and I hope to be able to do so, but I cannot go further.
§ * MR. FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
Sir, the main question before my right honourable Friend appears to have narrowed itself down to a question of arbitration.
§ * MR. FORTESCUE FLANNERY
At all events that is the one which strikes my mind as the main question which my right honourable Friend is asked to take up. We have heard in the earlier part of the Debate from the right honourable Gentleman the former Home Secretary that the rules which he made from the Department under his care were greatly weakened—I think those were his words—by the fact that he had before him the prospect of arbitration if employers did not approve of those rules. We have had the same statement made in almost identical words by my right honourable Friend the Home Secretary. Now, Sir, what does that point to? It points to a state of things in the Department which I shall not hesitate, speaking in the interests of the workers, to characterise as lamentable and deplorable. The admission, Sir, is that the Legislature having given the Home Office powers to enact rules for the protection of the life and health of the workers the Home Office is in some degree paralysed by the possibility, the probability, almost the certainty of those rules being weakened by arbitration hereafter. Now, I venture to say that that is not a condition of things which ought to be allowed to continue. The right honourable Gentleman the late Home Secretary has stood absolutely independent of party in the course of this Debate, and we have the testimony of two administrators who have been at the head of the Home Office, who unite in expressing that belief as regards the rules which they would desire the officers of that Department should establish in the interests of the workers. Now, I cam quite understand that my right honourable Friend cannot be expected, with all the responsibility which is upon him, officially to give a definite pledge upon this matter at the present time. It is true that he has said much of a sympathetic character. He has said much to encourage honourable Members on this side of the House, like myself, to believe that after he has had full opportunity of considering the matter he will come to the conclusion to ask his colleagues for legislation in the next Session; and it is, Sir, with that hope, and in that belief, that I shall vote against the reduction, 521 with full confidence that this matter will be carefully considered, and that in the next Session of Parliament we shall have proposals for legislation which will strengthen the hands of the Home Office. Certainly we cannot permit, the country would not permit, that we should have comparatively unrestrained this trade being carried on which in a single month produces the amount of injury that the right honourable Gentleman has himself spoken of in the course of this Debate, a trade which leads in a very large degree, especially among the younger workers, to blindness, paralysis, to lunacy, and death.
§ has already considered the question of appointing a permanent female inspector for Belfast, but I would like to urge upon him the desirability of making this appointment. There is a very strong feeling in Belfast, and I should like respectfully to urge upon the right honourable Gentleman the almost universal feeling in Belfast upon this subject, and the desirability of making the appointment as early as possible.
That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Secretary of State.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 90.—(Division List No. 269.)523
|Allen, W. (Newc.-und.-Lyme)||Hayne. Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Reid, Sir Robert T.|
|Bayley, T. (Derbyshire)||Hazell, Walter||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Hogan, James Francis||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Holburn, J. G.||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Caldwell, James||Holland, Hon. Lionel R.||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Joicey, Sir James||Steadman, William Charles|
|Cawley, Frederick||Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Macaleese, Daniel||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.)||MacDonnell, Dr. M A(Queen's C)||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||McKenna, Reginald||Warner, Thomas C. T.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||McLeod, John||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Maddison, Fred||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbro')|
|Duckworth, James||Norton, Capt. Cecil Wm. O'Malley, William||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Malley, William|
|Flower, Ernest||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Tennant and Mr. John Burns.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Randell, David|
|Allhusen, Augustas H. E.||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.|
|Ambrose, W. (Middlesex)||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Henderson, Alexander|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cranborne, Viscount||Hermon-Hodge, Robert T.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Curzon, Rt Hn. G. N. (LancsSW)||Howell, William Tudor|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J.(Manc'r)||Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Davenport, W. Bromley||Lawrence, Sir E Durning (Corn.)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H.(Brist'l)||Donkin, Richard Sim||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Loder, Gerald Walter E.|
|Brassey, Albert||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverp'l)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Fisher, William Hayes||Lowles, John|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Flannery, Fortescue||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs)||Folkestone, Viscount||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Cavendish. V.C.W.(Derbysh.)||Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||Gilliat, John Saunders||McArthur, C. (Liverpool)|
|Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||McKillop, James|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Milton, Viscount|
|Chaplin. Rt. Hon. Henry||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Monckton, Edward Philip|
|Charrington, Spencer||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Monk, Charles James|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)||Wentworth, B. C. Vernon|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Strauss, Arthur||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Sturt, Hon. Humphry N.||Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)|
|Purvis, Robert||Talbot, Rt Hn. J. G. Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Renshaw, Charles Bine||Thornton, Percy M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. T.||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Rutherford, John||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Ryder, John Herbert Dudley||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
§ After the usual interval Mr. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk) took the Chair.
§ LORD H. CECIL (Greenwich)
I desire to call attention to the important question of the religious education given in industrial and truant schools. This is a question which, I am afraid is coming to be thought a rather feeble one. We often have the duty cast upon us of calling attention to various matters connected with religious education in one school or another, but I think that, although religious education in industrial schools is by no means so wide, and therefore, in that sense, by no means so important a question as religious education in elementary schools, yet it has aspects which raise it to a quite peculiar position in England. The children who are sent to these schools are those who are deprived, sometimes through their own fault, but more often through the fault of their parents, of their home, and of their surroundings, of religious instruction; they are children crying for their natural rights and left to what moral and religious training they may get at these institutions. Doubtless it was a consideration of that kind which induced Parliament to arrange for religious education in industrial schools, but while religious education in elementary schools, except in Voluntary schools, is founded on a denominational basis, in industrial and reformatory schools it is not so. The ideal of Parliament was not an undenominational one, but a denominational one, as is apparent to anyone who studies the Acts' Government education in these schools. In the first place it is required by law that the magistrates should, in the order of committal, specify what is the religious persuasion of the child committed to the industrial school, and power is given, not merely to parents and guardians, but, 524 when these are not available, to god-parents and next friends, to remove a child from any industrial school where the teaching is not in accordance with the religious persuasion to which it belongs to another——
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The noble Lord can raise the question of religious teaching in industrial schools, for which there is a special Vote, when, the Vote comes before the Committee. I do not think he can raise the question on this Vote.
§ LORD H. CECIL
I raised the question as one of policy and because of the answers which the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary recently gave to a deputation which waited upon him in connection with this very matter. There are three defects in the administration of these schools by the Home Office to which I desire to draw particular attention. In the first place the Home Office apparently permits orders for detention to be filled up in a manner that is quite unsatisfactory. Although the religious persuasion of the child is stated, it is not stated in so definite a manner as the law evidently contemplates, so that there is no check upon the kind of religious education that is given in the schools or upon the extent to which the rights of children belonging to different denominations are respected. The classification is Roman Catholic and Protestant; and in the copy of these orders laid on the table of this House there is no further designation——
§ LORD H. CECIL
The order of detention in a very large number of cases states Protestant or Roman Catholic; if there is any other classification, we have no official means of knowing it.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! Any question regarding industrial and reformatory schools ought to be raised upon the Vote for these institutions. It cannot, I think, be raised upon this Vote.
§ LORD H. CECIL
I understood that any question could be raised that affects the policy of the Home Office.
§ LORD H. CECIL
I understand it is relevant to call attention to references of the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary on his salary, otherwise I do not see what opportunity is possible.
§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
I desire to call the attention of the Committee to a matter of very great importance to Scotland and to Scottish working men. I mean the refusal of the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary to receive a deputation last winter from the representatives of the Trades Councils of Scotland, who wished to bring under the notice of the right honourable Gentleman certain points affecting his department and affecting the administration of the Factory Acts, the Mines Acts, the Conspiracy Laws, and the earlier closing of shops, and seats for shop assistants. These were points affecting entirely the right honourable Gentleman's Department, and his Department alone, but I am sorry to say he did not see fit to receive the deputation. In a letter which he wrote from the Home Office on 13th January, 1898, the right honourable Gentleman, after saying he would take an early opportunity of consulting with the Secretary for Scotland on the matter, added that "at present he did not think any useful purpose would be served by receiving a separate deputation of persons resident in Scotland with regard to the subjects of the resolutions passed by them." I must traverse entirely the conclusion at which the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary seems to have arrived. I hold strongly that there are points affecting Scottish working men on which they 526 have a perfect right to entertain distinct opinions, and which they are entitled to lay before the Home Office, apart altogether from the views of English working men. In fact there are many points which originated in Scotland, and I cannot see any valid reason for the Home Secretary's refusal to receive this deputation. There are matters in his department of quite as much importance to Scottish working men as to English working men, and the Government ought to understand that the distinct opinions held by the Scottish workers on these points ought to be considered by the Home Office. As the annual conference will be held in Scotland shortly the matter is of greater importance than at first sight appears, because the whole of the organised bodies in Scotland hold, and rightly I think, that they have a clear right to be heard independently of the English working men. Pending the reply of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, I do not move any reduction of the Vote; and I hope the right honourable Gentleman will be able to give a satisfactory explanation of his refusal.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I am rather astonished at the attitude of the honourable Member. I thought I had already explained the situation to the people of Scotland, who seemed to be altogether under a misapprehension as to the action I have taken. It has been the custom for Secretaries of State about October or November to receive representatives of various trade councils, with whom up to the present Scottish trade councils have always been associated. So far as I can recollect this request from Scotland was made to me in the month of January of this year. The honourable Member will know if I am correct in my statement.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
The resolutions which it was intended to bring to my notice were passed by the trades councils in March, 1897. I think the honourable Member will admit that I am correct in that statement.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
In the interval, as usual, I had received at the Foreign Office a deputation of trade unionists representative of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, and there was more than one Scotch speaker present. Therefore, when in the following month, at the opening of the Session, I was asked to receive a deputation from Scotland specially to put before me resolutions passed in the previous March, nine months earlier, similar to those put before me at the general deputation, I naturally hardly saw my way to grant the request. Recently another application has been made to me to receive representatives from Scotland, and I have signified that, if it is desired that the Scotch deputation should come separately regarding questions affecting my Department, I am ready to receive them.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
I desire to call attention to an item which comes up under the heading of metalliferous mines—namely, the allowance of £100 a year to each of six of the 13 inspectors of mines. As a practical mine owner I have had the opportunity of forming the highest opinion of the services of these men and the danger they face. They are paid a salary at from £600 to £800, surely none too high, but what I wish to know is why six out of 13 gentlemen are singled out for an extra remuneration of £100. The Quarries Act of 1895 imposed additional duties on the mines inspectors, but why is it that only six of the 13 inspectors got this extra £100? There is no Department of the Civil Service which is so cheaply conducted as that of the inspection of mines. I think that for so small a sum as £700, which would have put the whole of the inspectors on an equal footing, and given satisfaction all round to a highly-educated and scientific body, it was a pity that an invidious selection was made.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
I wish to call the attention of the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary to what I consider to 528 be the still excessive loss of life annually in our coal mines. I recognise the very considerable improvement made in this respect in recent years. Last year was a phenomenal year in mining. It established two very important records. In the first place it was a year of unprecedented outputs. The output of coal reached the highest point ever touched in the history of coal mining, either in this or any other country. It was over 200,000,000 tons—the actual figure was 202,119,196 tons. Another and still more satisfactory fact in connection with this enormous output is that it was attained with the lowest death-rate hitherto recorded—1.41 per 1,000 persons employed underground; or, taking those working above and below ground, the death-rate was only something like 0.71 per 1,000 persons.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I think it was 1.34 per 1,000 persons employed underground.
§ MR. FENWICK
I accept the figures of the right honourable Gentleman. But although these figures are satisfactory, the loss of life is still very considerable. I would also remind the right honourable Gentleman that last year accidents in coal mines carried off 930 people.
§ MR. FENWICK
I have taken these figures from the inspectors' reports, but I may have made an error in a case or two. I accept the right honourable Gentleman's figures of 923, and I think the Committee will agree with me that even that number is very unsatisfactory. The greatest number of fatal accidents, as the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary is aware, arise, not from explosions of fire-damp, but from falls of roofs or sides. About 480 of the fatal accidents of last year were due to that cause alone, and, in the opinion of practical miners, and also in the opinion of most of the inspectors of mines, many of these accidents are preventable, and with suitable precautions and superintendence would not occur. When the 529 Mines Regulation Act of 1887 was under consideration we called special attention to the subject of timbering, and insisted that a sufficient quantity of timber should be placed in the working-places, ready at hand in case of emergency. Anyone who reflects on the fact that the miner is paid by the quantity of mineral he produces will at once admit the great danger, and will understand that miners persist in risking life and limb rather than trouble to secure his working-place by proper timbering when there is no timber at hand of the proper lengths for making the place safe. What we insisted on was that there should be a sufficient quantity of timber, out in suitable lengths, for use on emergency, and placed at the working-place, the gate head or pass-by, or the siding. I do not know that legislation is necessary to remedy the present defect—the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary will be able to say whether it is or is not—but I imagine the right honourable Gentleman can remedy the defect by an Amendment to the special rules. If that cannot be done, a very short amending Act will be necessary. The mining inspectors have repeatedly called attention to the defects in the Act in this respect, and the Royal Commission which was appointed in 1886, to inquire into the causes of accidents in mines, called special attention to the subject of timbering, and recommended the maintenance of adequate supplies of timber in localities convenient to the working places.
§ MR. FENWICK
I do not speak as a lawyer, but my impression is that the Secretary of State for Home Affairs can remedy this defect by amending the special rules, which have all the effect of an Act of Parliament. If the Home Secretary says that cannot be done, my contention falls to the ground; but as the working-places come under Rule 22, I must claim to be in order in discussing; the point. My object is simply to ask the right honourable Gentleman the 530 Home Secretary whether he thinks that this defect can be remedied by Amendments of the special rules, which, as I have said, have all the effect of an Act of Parliament. If not, I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to consider the advisability of introducing a short Amending Act next Session. Another point is, whether the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary could insist, by the amendment of the special rules, upon the appointment of deputies, such as the right honourable Gentleman is aware we have in the two northern counties of England. The Royal Commission, to which I have already referred, called special attention to this matter, and Mr. Wardle and other inspectors have called attention to it. I feel certain that if these two precautions were taken—the appointment of deputy inspectors and the provision of adequate timber near the working-places—something would be done to reduce still further the number of fatal and more or less serious accidents which take place in our coal mines year after year. I approach the subject in a friendly way, and I am sure the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary will give it his full and careful consideration. There is one other question I desire to ask, and that is, whether the right honourable Gentleman will be prepared early next Session to introduce a Bill to amend the Metalliferous Mines Act of 1873?
§ MR. FENWICK
I do not wish to discuss the point, but, perhaps, the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary will be able to answer it in his reply to my observations.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
The question of timbering is one of serious difficulty. There is no doubt that the honourable Member for Wansbeck was right in saying that a large number of the accidents which occur in coal mines are due, not to explosions, but to falls of roofs and sides, but, as far as I am informed, it is doubtful whether the Home Secretary has power under the Mines Act to make 531 these special rules with regard to timber which the honourable Member has suggested. I will, however, give the subject my attention. With reference to observations of the honourable Member for the Falkirk Burghs as to the salaries of mining inspectors, I should not like to commit myself to any statement as to whether these salaries are adequate to the work done or to the ability shown by these gentlemen. I have been for a long time desirous of acknowledging the services rendered by these gentlemen and came to an agreement with the Treasury to acknowledge the services of those who had the largest districts, or who had, like Dr. Foster, special duties to perform. Under the circumstances, I think I have come to a fair conclusion.
§ MR. J. WILSON
I may remind the right honourable Gentleman that my point was the making of an invidious selection of six out of the 13 inspectors to receive an increase of £100 to their salaries. Several of those in seniority were passed over, including two Scotch inspectors, one of whom had charge of a district as large as that of one of the gentlemen who received an increase. I think, on the whole, that when these special duties are performed by a company, the whole of the inspectors would receive the same salary.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
I am sorry to say that I have got a difficult task to perform, as my voice is so much out of order; but I will do the best I can. Now, Sir, I beg to move the reduction of the Home Secretary's salary by £200 in order to call the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to a case which occurred in the Bristol Channel last year, when two seamen were sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. There are circumstances in connection with this case which are exceedingly painful, and to give the House an idea of what the case is, I shall have to mention what the charge was, who the men are, who were brought before the court, and also to pass some remarks on the unjust sentence which was passed on these men by Mr. Justice Ridley.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The honourable Member is not entitled to reflect on the judgment of the High Court.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
I am not going to cast any unjust reflections upon the judge. I am going to call attention to the unjust sentence, which is not casting any reflection on the judge.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
I will take my time over it. I have not got to the stage of reflecting on the judge yet. A dispute occurred in the Bristol Channel last year. The seamen were contending for £4 per month, and one or two owners insisted on having their men at £3 5s. per month. In the month of June, one of these £3 5s. vessels wanted to engage a crew at Penarth. The owner of the ship could not engage the men at the shipping office, and so preferred to engage them on board the ship. It appears that a number of men congregated near the ship, and three men went on board and signed for these wages. When they came ashore they walked to the top of Penarth Dock, where it appears four other men who had followed joined them, and in the tunnel there a fight took place. One of the men who took the low wages used the knife on one of the strikers. Another of the strikers in return struck out with a piece of wire rope. One of the low-wage men ran off to the police station and reported the matter to the police. About an hour afterwards two policemen came down to the Dock Head at Penarth, where a number of the men were standing, and one of the men named Jones, on seeing the policemen, immediately made off. The two policemen gave chase. Jones, however, went smartly to the top of the hill, got into a ferry boat, which crosses from Penarth to Cardiff, and when half-way across the river one of the policemen hailed the ferryman to turn back. The ferryman reversed his engines and Jones, eager to escape, jumped overboard and swam to the opposite shore. On landing he took off his coat and waistcoat, threw them on the ground, and bolted. Parsons, one of the policemen on the boat, followed the man over, and, directly he landed, went in 533 pursuit of the fugitive, and never troubled to touch the coat and waistcoat. The other policeman, Headen, followed about half an hour afterwards, but by the time he got over the ferry some men who were mates of Jones picked up his coat and waistcoat and took them away to Cardiff, so that neither of the two policemen touched Jones's coat or waistcoat. Jones thus had nothing on but his trousers and shirt; that is, he had neither coat nor waistcoat. The policeman Headen arrested Jones and took him to Penarth police station. There was another man named Lynch—and this is what I would call the right honourable Gentleman's special attention to, because I am in a position to declare absolutely that Lynch was innocent, and was never away from the Penarth Shipping Office. I was at Penarth Shipping Office myself the whole of that morning, and Lynch was never three yards from it; yet the policeman arrested Lynch and Jones; they were indicted and tried at the Swansea Assizes. Now, when the policeman Headen went into the box, he produced a piece of wire rope, and he swore that he took this piece of wire rope out of Jones's coat pocket on the shore at the Cardiff side of the harbour. As a matter of fact that policeman never saw the coat, because it had disappeared from the scene half an hour before Headen got there. This was given in evidence too. Eleven witnesses were put into the box to prove that Lynch was never there at all. But observe, there were only three men to give evidence against him, and they identified him in consequence of some blue marks on his forehead, and said they recognised him in the dark tunnel—a place where you could not tell whether a man was white or black at two yards' distance. Those 11 witnesses, Sir, declared on oath that Lynch was never away from the shipping office the whole of that morning, and so it was impossible for him to be in the tunnel two miles away. I was confident that we had a pretty easy case. We thought we had any amount of evidence to prove the innocence of Lynch, and we also felt sure in regard to the coat incident—from which the policeman swore he got the wire rope—we thought all this sufficient 534 to secure the discharge of the two men. But in spite of the overwhelming testimony in their favour these two men were found guilty and sentenced—a terrible sentence—to seven years' penal servitude. Now, if it had been that the prosecutor had been seriously injured I do not think there might have been so much to complain about, supposing the men had been guilty; but I assure the right honourable Gentleman that the man only got two or three scratches on his head, was on board a ship that evening, and going to sea, when the policeman went on board and detained him on shore as a witness against the two men. Now, if the two men had been proved guilty right up to the hilt, and a sentence of six weeks had been passed on them, it would have been a very severe sentence indeed. But to the astonishment of all in court they got seven years. Well, Sir, we felt we had a very good case for perjury against the policeman, and he was tried at the assizes last November. Now, we had a gentleman on the Bench who is not over sympathetic towards trades unionists——
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
Well, I am not going to pass any comments. We brought as evidence against the policeman the man at the turnstile, who took the fares from the people going over the ferry. He was able to see the whole affair. He was a respectable man, and saw all that took place, and he declared on oath that the policeman did not see this man cross the ferry, that he did not call the ferryman back, that he never saw the coat, because Jones had disappeared half an hour before he arrived on the scene. That was No. 1 witness. Then we placed in the box No. 2 witness—the ferryman who took them across. He swore that when Headen crossed the ferry Jones's coat had disappeared, had been taken away over half an hour, and that Headen did not touch that coat. But, Sir, we put a more important witness up than these two men. We put a policeman in the box named Saunders, employed by the Penarth Dock Company. Now, Saunders proved the guilt of this policeman thoroughly. He said he was 535 at the turnstile when P.C. Headen brought the man over after the capture. When he pot over to Penarth Headen said to Saunders, "I want you to assist me to the police station with this prisoner." On the way there Saunders said to Headen (who committed the perjury), "I found a piece of wire rope up in the tunnel with blood on, it." "Oh," says Headen, "that is just what I want." "All right!" says Saunders, "you can have it to-night"; and at five o'clock in the evening this policeman went to Saunders, got the wire rope, produced it in court at the trial, and swore he found it in Jones's pocket. In addition to this man we put 10 men into the witness-box, who went to prove that the man Lynch was not anywhere near the scene at all. He had only been recently discharged from the hospital; he had been severely scalded on board his vessel, and had only recently left the hospital, and he was attending at the shipping office trying to see the engineer in order to try and obtain some evidence for the prosecution of a claim for compensation. The man was scarcely able to walk, and yet P.C. Headen swears that the man Lynch was at the scene of the affray and that he had chased this man. There are one or two other questions, and I am very sorry that the gentlemen who defended these men are not here to speak for them. I am certain that if they had been here to-night they would have put the case with much more force, and with much more telling effect, than I have been able to do myself. I am perfectly satisfied upon this point—that the policeman committed wilful and corrupt perjury. It was not explained, and never has been explained, where this man picked up this coat. This is a case which has excited a very considerable amount of interest in all parts of the country, and I should have taken an opportunity of bringing the matter before the House at an earlier date but on account of the perjury proceedings which were commenced last July I was prevented from doing so. I could not bring up the matter then until after the trial, and subsequently I was absent from this country in America, and consequently I have not had an opportunity of bringing the matter forward. I say that a very 536 great injustice had been done to two men, and that the man Lynch is, I honestly believe, as innocent of the crime as any honourable Member of this House. I speak from my own knowledge in this matter, because the man Lynch never left my side the whole of the morning. With regard to the man Jones, there is not the slightest shadow of doubt that he was at the scene of the affray, although he was not the man who used the wire rope. He was there truly, but the policeman secured the conviction of Jones by declaring that he took the wire out of Jones's pocket. He did not take it out of his pocket, he never saw or touched the coat, and there was abundant evidence of that, and yet upon the policeman's evidence Jones was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. The right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary has done something in the matter; he has reduced the sentence from seven years to four years, but if he freed these men entirely he would only do them justice, because there is a great doubt whether these men are guilty or not, and, if they are guilty, then I say that the sentence is far too severe for the crime which they have committed, if any crime has been committed at all. I do hope that the right honourable Gentleman will take this into his earnest consideration and make us a promise that something shall be done, in this matter. The men have been in prison now over 12 months, and have suffered sufficiently for any offence which they may have committed. I shall take the sense of the House upon the matter, and shall endeavour to bring the question before the country. I hope that the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary, taking all the circumstances into consideration, will be prepared to do something in this matter in justice to these men.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I do not think that this House can, under any circumstances, be a proper tribunal to re-try this case, and while the honourable Gentleman may feel in his heart, as he does, that these men were innocent, he must feel that he is under this difficulty, that this House is not a court of law, and it is not for honourable Gentlemen to say 537 whether the men are guilty or not of the crime of which they have been convicted. When the honourable Gentleman brought the matter before me, and I gave him every facility for visiting the prisoners, his only complaint was that they were not released. These men were tried, found guilty, and sentenced. The honourable Gentleman said that, in the case of one of the men, Lynch, there was an alibi pleaded, in which he believed; the jury did not believe the alibi, and found Lynch guilty. It is not for me to say whether he is guilty or not guilty; all I say is that I see no reason to doubt the justice of the verdict of the jury. These men were found guilty partly on the evidence of a policeman, and the policeman was subsequently charged with perjury by the honourable Gentleman himself. He was tried and acquitted. But without the evidence of the policeman, in my opinion, there was sufficient evidence to uphold the conviction. I have not a doubt in my own mind but what these men were properly found guilty. Then comes the question of the sentence which was passed upon them; it was a heavy one, and I reduced it. It was a sentence which was passed at a time when there were several trade union outrages, and it was passed with the object of showing that men must not jeopardise or endanger the lives of others. It was a gross outrage upon the persons whom they assaulted, and the judge sentenced these men to seven years. I, having reviewed the case and satisfied myself as to the facts, considered whether, some time having elapsed, there was a case for advising Her Majesty to reduce the sentence, and, with the concurrence of the judge who tried the case, it was reduced to four years. I merely wish to say, in conclusion, that this is hardly the tribunal to try the case again; I did my best to look into this evidence, and I do not find myself able to do more than I did then.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
I admit that the right honourable Gentleman gave us every facility to do what we could for the men, but I was present at the trial of the policeman for perjury, and it took the jury half an hour and 10 minutes to consider their verdict, so that whether the policeman was guilty 538 or not that is evidence that there was some doubt in the minds of the jury who tried the case. I am not asking the House to try this case over again; I am asking the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary, who has the power, to liberate these men. I remember, in the early part of this year, there was a case of a man who had committed some offence against a lady who was tried and found guilty and sentenced by the judge; I have heard that the man was released. That shows that the right honourable Gentleman does take upon himself sometimes to undo what a judge and jury have done, and I ask him to consider whether these men were guilty or not, and to do something to reduce their sentence.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I am very familiar with the case mentioned by my honourable Friend; a great many of the documents made at the time came under my notice, and I read a large number of them. I rise now for the purpose of saying that I am certain that no one was ever convinced more strongly of the innocence of another man than my honourable Friend is convinced of the innocence of the man Lynch. I am bound to add that, so far as my own poor capacity can assist me in the matter, I think that there is a very strong case made out as to the innocence of this particular prisoner. I fully recognise what the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary has done in mitigating what was a very severe sentence for the offence which was committed, but it naturally does appear to my honourable Friend, who is a very conscientious man and a very strong friend to all those who do this work, if he believes, as I am sure that he is thoroughly convinced, that the man Lynch is wrongly convicted and is falsely imprisoned for an offence which he has never committed, that he is very hardly dealt by. I think that we must bear with my honourable Friend and his condition of mind upon this particular sub- 539 ject, and must excuse his advocacy for a further merciful consideration of this case. But I should, however, rather advise my honourable Friend, having regard to the foot that the right honourable Gentleman the Home secretary has done something in the matter and that the right honourable Gentleman is a man of good intentions. [Laughter.] I do not mean "good intentions" in that sense; I mean that the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary is a man who always, to the best of his ability, deals with every case upon its own merits, and that he is always open to further consider any new evidence or arguments that may be submitted to him with a view to exercising further clemency in any sentence that has been passed. Under those circumstances, I should doubt whether my honourable Friend the Member for Middlesbrough would be well advised in further dividing the House upon this question. There is one matter which I really must take exception to. The right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary, in his statement, said that there were several trade union outrages being committed at the time. Now, that is a rather alarming statement, and, as a very peaceful trades unionist myself, who has been associated with these matters for 42 years without interruption, I should be aware of any outrages that might have been going on. I ought to have some knowledge of them, and I fail to remember any outrages at the time which would justify any judge on the bench giving a longer sentence than that offence warranted, because other people had committed a like crime at the same time, or are alleged to ha TO done so. I am anxious not to prolong or provoke any controversy in regard to this matter, and I do sincerely hope that the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary will modify the allegation which has been made against the combined trades unions of the kingdom by alleging as the excuse of this vindictive judge that he was aware of a number of trades union outrages which had been committed. I do not think that there were any, so far as I know, and I do not think that this crime could be described as a trades union outrage under any circumstances whatever. So far as I know, there was no epidemic of 540 the kind in the country, and, so far as my memory carries mo back, there was not a single case. These are not usually called trades union outrages; I have not hoard that expression used since 1865; that was the last time that I heard the expression made use of until I heard the term used to-night by one of the most peaceful and fair-minded Home Secretaries that I have known. It is no more trades union outrage than it is a Church of England outrage, or an Army and Navy outrage. I am sure that the right honourable Gentleman would not use an expression which is so unjustified, and I hope that he will be able to see his way to saying that he regrets having used it, because it is a reflection upon the most peaceful and law-abiding organisations that were ever instituted, and which embody many of the most law-abiding and peace-loving of Her Majesty's subjects. None greater. I do not care to sit here and hear these phrases thrown about, as if they were of no consequence. They are of great consequence to those who, like myself, have the honour to belong to these institutions, which have done so much to promote the technical education and the social prosperity of the British workman. I object to them. At the same time I am not going to allow my mind to get away from the justice of this particular case, and I appeal to my honourable Friend and say that he would be well advised not to labour the subject to the extent of dividing the House against the Home Secretary.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I apologise for raising the ire of the honourable Gentleman by describing what had occurred as trades union outrages. What I intended to convey was that there was an agitation going on at Cardiff at the time. There was a very strong feeling at the time, and those who tried the case thought it was a case for an example. I cannot give the honourable Gentleman any further hope as at present advised, but, of course, I will listen to any new facts which he may wish to bring before me.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
I protest against the charge that there was 541 at the particular time any disturbance whatever in the Bristol Channel. There was no disturbance and no dispute at all, except that one man used a knife to another, and that another man hit him over the head with a piece of wire rope. I would have done the same myself, only I would have knocked his head off, and so made a job of it. There has been a great injustice done to these men, and I intend to divide the House upon it.
§ MR. STEADMAN (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I do not think that anybody who has listened to the honourable Member for Middlesbrough will deny that he has stated his ease in a very concise manner. I have been a trades' unionist for years past, and my honourable Friends who have been identified in the movement will bear me out when I say that there is not a man amongst us who encourages violence as between workman and workman, but no doubt there have been disputes when leaders are not recognised. The right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary has admitted that the sentence inflicted upon these two men was passed in consequence of something which was existing at Cardiff at that particular time as an example to other men. Assume for a moment that these two men are guilty, and that the sentence was passed practically to frighten other men out of doing ditto; that is now all past and gone. I have never known in any case of a trade union dispute severer sentences passed upon either unionists or non-unionists than six months. That being so, is not this far too severe a sentence, according to the evidence? I make my appeal to the right honourable Gentleman. I do not think that we want to discuss the matter with any feeling upon either one side or the other, but, after all, I make my appeal to the Home Secretary whether he does not himself in his own conscience think that these two men have sufficiently suffered for the offence for which they have been convicted, and whether he will not be able to see his way to reconsider and review the whole position and liberate them.
§ Question put.
§ Motion negatived.542
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
We have been discussing for some time the dangers to the health and life of a certain portion of the industrial classes. I want now, in as short a way as I possibly can, to place before the House the dangers to which those animals are exposed that are subjected to vivisection. I am not going to argue the point as to vivisection at any great length, as I know that the sense of the House is against me. I have brought the matter before the House once or twice upon previous occasions, and it is quite evident at the present time that certain persons are in favour of experiments upon living animals. I hope I shall see the time when England is as, averse to experimental operations upon living animals as to cruelty to animals in any other shape. People tell us such experiments are necessary because of the good which can be done to the human race thereby. I dispute those premises, and say more good has been done to humanity by the application of science in other ways. Take, for instance, the Röntgen rays; they have done more good than any amount of vivisection, which means, in a great number of cases, only cruel and oft-times needless operations on inoffensive dumb creatures. In the Return which has been laid before the House the authorities lay great stress upon the safeguards which were introduced, and which they think ought to satisfy those who are opposed to vivisection. At first, I confess, I thought they were sufficient, but when I come to look into them I do not think they are such safeguards as the authorities would have us believe. The first is that licences are only to be granted upon the recommendation of persons of nigh standing, but many of those recommendations are made by vivisectors, or those who wish to follow vivisection, and a licence granted under those conditions is not satisfactory at all. The sufferings of the animals are entirely disregarded, and the men who believe in vivisection grant licences to follow the trade. The second condition is that the licensed person shall be fitted by training and education to undertake experimental work and profit by it. I should like here to observe that at Cambridge no fewer than seven men among those who experi- 543 mented in 1896 had no apparent connection with the medical profession at all, and that while three of them were M.A.'s, four of them were only B.A.'s. I should hardly think that those men came within the definition of persons fitted by training and education to undertake experimental work. There are many names appearing in this list of licences once only, and then they disappear. Those persons are probably pure amateurs, and are not fitted by either training or education to undertake experiments of this character. The third condition refers to suitable places, and provides that all these experiments shall be conducted in suitable places. I learn from the Returns that a Mr. Brown is licensed to conduct experiments at the Royal Veterinary College, but that he cam also conduct experiments elsewhere, provided that he afterwards reports the names of the places where the experiments are conducted to the inspector. The inspector knows nothing of the place beforehand where these experiments are to be performed, and it is not likely that the men who perform the experiments would make any other report than that the place was a suitable place. Experiments of this kind should be conducted only in places which are certified as suitable by the inspector under the Act. To illustrate former discoveries by means of vivisection a certificate D is necessary, and for many years past very few of these certificates have been taken out. It is clear to anyone who peruses the medical papers that more experiments are performed in this direction than are certificated. I confess that I think it very likely that men perform experiments for illustrating lectures who have not taken out the necessary certificate D, and I should like to know if the Home Office or the inspector takes any trouble to see that these operations are carried out under the conditions of that certificate. I complain that the Act of 1876, the Act to which I am alluding, is not administered in anything like so stringent a manner as the Coal Mines Act or the Factory Act. Experiments should only be allowed for the purpose of alleviating the actual suffering of humanity, and the whole of the particulars of the experiment should be named 544 in the return. Vivisection ought not to be allowed for the purpose of merely illustrating a lecture. Such experiments are often known to the youngest student, and are, therefore, needlessly cruel; many of them are utterly barbarous. The laboratories should be open to a limited number of university graduates and medical men, who represent the public, when experiments are to be performed, in order that they may see that they are carried out in a humane manner, and under proper anæsthetics. This Act should be carried out in a much more stringent manner than at present, and I hope the Home Secretary will be able to modify the present system.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
Mr. Lowther, I can assure the honourable and gallant Member that the Act is not loosely administered. So far as my knowledge goes—and I have taken great pains to inform myself on the subject—we endeavour to administer the Act as strictly as any other Act. I cannot admit, however, that university graduates, representing the public, should have the right to be present whenever there is to be an experiment. It is provided that the experiments shall be real experiments, and shall be performed in a proper place, that the experimenters shall be recommended by competent scientific men, and that a return shall be made of what is done. All these requirements are strictly enforced. If the number of experiments has increased in the last few years, the increase is due to inoculation experiments. The surgical experiments, properly so called, have very much decreased. I do not know whether inoculation is really an experiment, but it is so considered. I shall be ready to meet any reasonable suggestion as to the better working of the Act.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
Mr. Lowther, I should like to say that some scientific men complain that the Act is carried out too strictly. Lord Lister, who has rendered great service to science, has been compelled to leave his own country and go abroad in order to make experiments. Personally I think the Act is administered as strictly as it ought to be, and that the Home Secretary is entirely free from blame in this matter.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Mr. Lowther, I venture to deprecate at this stage a general discussion on vivisection; and I am sure that my honourable and gallant Friend, in raising this point, did not desire to initiate any such discussion. After the declaration of the Home Secretary that he is administering the Acts with the strictest regard, not only to their letter, but to their spirit, I think the House might be content to allow the subject to drop. I may say I am extremely anxious to give those gentlemen who have a wish to discuss the Board of Trade Votes an opportunity of doing so, and in the interests, not of the Government, but of the House, I would venture to suggest that the discussion on the Home Office Vote may now be brought to a conclusion.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy)
Mr. Lowther, I am sure we all sympathise with the desire of the right honourable Gentleman, but he must remember that the Home Office Vote is one of the most important Votes that we can give consideration to, and that the discussion to-night has been limited to one particular subject. I desire to raise two points, which I hope will not occupy the House for any considerable time. The first is one which I promised to bring under the attention of the right honourable Gentleman, and I am bound to redeem that promise. It refers to the grievances of the officers in attendance at the Broadmoor Asylum.
* THE CHAIRMAN
There is a special Vote dealing with the subject to which the honourable Member refers. He can raise the point on that Vote.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I desire also to ask the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary whether he has recently given any attention to the case of Mrs. Maybrick. [Laughter.] Honourable Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but it is not a laughing matter for any woman to be 10 years in prison, whatever her crime may be. I do not see why my question should amuse the honourable Member for North Ayrshire.
§ MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
I beg the honourable Member's pardon. I was not paying the slightest attention to what he was saying.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I do not wish to press the right honourable Gentleman for any declaration on the subject to-night, but I would ask whether, having regard to the fact that Mrs. Maybrick has been imprisoned for 10 years, and of the grave doubt which existed, and which undoubtedly still exists, as to her guilt, he could not once again look into her particular case. If this woman had been guilty of murder she ought to have been executed. If she was not guilty she ought to be free. Of course, we have had this pointed out before in this House, and I do not wish to go over the ground again. I am informed that she is in very bad health at the present time, and I rise on this occasion to ask the right honourable Gentleman if he will be good enough to inquire into the condition of her health.
§ MR. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
Mr. Lowther, I would like to support the appeal addressed to the Home Secretary by my honourable Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy. We should remember that a woman must necessarily suffer more than a man while undergoing penal servitude. I think that as this unfortunate creature has now undergone 10 years' penal servitude the question of her release might well be reconsidered. There is a very large volume of opinion in America in favour of her innocence, and in support of the belief that she was a victim of circumstantial evidence. There is supposed to be in this country a desire to bring about a union between England and America. Let me suggest that it would be a small step in the direction of establishing a kindlier feeling towards England by America if we were to release this American woman after the terrible punishment she has undergone.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I am quite aware of the strong opinion entertained not only in America, but by certain persons in this country, that this woman was innocent. This case is constantly 547 receiving my attention, and I have consulted with many authorities in endeavouring to satisfy myself as to the right course to pursue. A communication was made to me last week that this woman was in a state of health which made it dangerous for her to be kept longer in prison, and I have directed an inquiry to be made on the subject. I have no reason to believe that the statement is other than exaggerated, but when such a statement is made I always consider it my duty to inquire into it.
§ MR. DALZIEL
I thank the right honourable Gentleman for his very kind reply. So far as I am personally concerned, I am satisfied that whatever decision the right honourable Gentleman comes to will be the right decision.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I have no communication from the Lord Chief Justice which it would be proper for me to lay before the House.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote to complete the sum of £189,544 for the salaries and expenses of the Board of Trade,
§ * MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
Mr. Lowther, I desire to draw attention to the administration of the patent laws by the Board of Trade, with special reference to the manufacture of aniline colours. Thousands of tons of raw material are sent from this country every year, and they come back in the shape of fine chemicals, pharmaceutical products, and dye stuffs to the extent of something like £2,000,000 worth per annum. The patent laws operate in favour of the foreigner and to the detriment of British trade. In a recent case that has been before the Board of Trade a manufac- 548 turer in my own constituency applied for a licence to work a patent that had been granted to a German firm, who could not get a patent in Germany. This patent was granted by the English Patent Office, and was not put into operation for nine years. When one of my constituents wanted to put it into operation he met with opposition from the German firm, who said they did not care to have a licence in England. In the first instance they said they worked the patent in England themselves, which was proved to be incorrect. In the second place they said that if they had to supply my constituent with the material he wanted they must have a price which would have prohibited my constituent from using it. The only way in which an English firm can get a licence to use an article patented in England, but not in Germany, is by applying to the Board of Trade, who appoint a referee to see if the application is valid. My point is this: it cost my constituent £1,800 to make an application to the Board of Trade, and I want to know from the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade whether everyone who wants a licence to work a patent which has been granted in this country to a foreigner, and has been refused in Germany, will have to go to this enormous expense. German manufacturers have a monopoly of this trade to such an extent that three firms in Germany employ 12,000 hands, and nine firms in Germany have a capital of £3,000,000, the market value of which is to-day something like £11,000,000. Millions of pounds of capital and thousands of workpeople are employed in the manufacture of aniline colours, and our patent laws make it impossible for English manufacturers to carry on this trade. I should like to know whether in future applicants to the Board of Trade for licences to work a patent that has been granted in England but not in Germany (and out of every 100 patents granted in this country 40 are refused in Germany) will be able to get those licences without going to this enormous expense.
CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devon, Torquay)
Mr. Lowther, I desire to endorse the remarks that have fallen from the honourable Member opposite. I think anyone who looks into our patent laws 549 must see that they are in such an unsatisfactory condition that our trade is seriously hampered thereby. Patents are given not only for inventions but also for discoveries which would never be granted in any other country, either on the Continent or in America, and a great deal of mischief is consequently done to manufacturers in England. The law, moreover, is so uncertain that no inventor and few manufacturers, unless they are people of great wealth, will venture to appeal to the Board of Trade to set aside any patent that has been granted to a foreigner. I trust the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will take this matter into serious consideration, with a view to some inquiry into the present unsatisfactory state of the law.
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY
Mr. Lowther, I should like to touch for one moment upon the need for fuller Parliamentary control over schemes promoted under the Light Railways Act. The right honourable Gentleman may remember, when we were discussing the Light Railways Act in Committee two years ago, that some of us then took strong objection to the proposal to take away Parliamentary control. The President of the Board of Trade, however, after taking the advice of his Departmental advisers, resisted our appeal, and eventually the Act was passed with no Parliamentary control being reserved. I read a case in the newspapers the other day of an appeal to the Board of Trade against a decision given by the Light Railways Commissioners, and I gathered from the account of the proceedings that the appeal was practically to the Secretary of the Board of Trade sitting alone. I contend that an appeal to the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade sitting alone is not a good enough substitute for Parliamentary control. I want to know if this is intended to be a common practice under the Light Railways Act. Although I have great respect for Sir Courtenay Boyle, I do not think this House intended to surrender its control over these schemes in favour of the mere review of the Light Railways Commissioners' findings by a single permanent official of the Board of Trade, sitting alone.
§ MR. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
Mr. Lowther, I desire to put a question to the President of the Board of Trade with regard to the Cheap Trains Act. The right honourable Gentleman has been asked a good many questions this Session in regard to that Act, and he has given fairly satisfactory replies to the effect that he is giving attention to the matter. I should like to ask him what steps the railway companies are taking to supply cheap trains for the working classes. The House of Commons practically came to an agreement with the railway companies that, in consideration of the railway duty being abolished for the third-class, they (the railway companies) would give better accommodation for the working classes in regard to cheap trains in the morning and in the evening. So far as one can judge from the ordinary sources of information with the exception of one or two railway companies, amongst them being the Great Eastern, no proper accommodation is provided for the working classes in the matter of cheap trains. This is a question which day by day is assuming more importance, because, happily, a much larger number of working men are able to live outside the metropolis than formerly. I am bound to say that I think it is the duty of the Board of Trade to insist that these companies shall be made to do the utmost that they can be compelled to do under the Act of Parliament. I trust that the right honourable Gentleman will be able to inform the House that not only has he taken action in the matter, but that that action has been of material advantage. In another matter to which I have to refer the Board of Trade has not the same power, but by a little worrying and by giving publicity to their remonstrances the Board might greatly benefit the very unfortunate passengers who travel oil many of the southern lines—I refer to the unpunctuality of the train service. I have myself the misfortune to have to travel on the London and South Western line, and I do not recollect, during the many years I have travelled on that line, having once arrived at my destination at the advertised time. I think it is monstrous that these great monopolies should be allowed to be run entirely in the interests of the shareholders, and in 551 no sense of the term in the interests of the travelling public. The London and South Western Company pays, I believe, the highest dividend of any, and has absolutely no consideration of any kind for the convenience of those who travel by that line. I only mention the London and South Western because it is one of the worst offenders, but the London and South Eastern are almost as bad. They have very little excuse, because the line to which I referred just now—the Great Eastern—which has a much larger suburban traffic than the London and South Eastern or the London and South Western, is practically punctual, and the trains arrive at the stations at the advertised time. I say it is a pure fraud on the travelling public that a person is obliged to allow an extra hour or two to ensure catching a train on another line. I trust that some good may result from our drawing the attention of the House to this matter, and that in the interests of the working classes, as well as of other members of the community, the right honourable Gentleman will give the matter his serious attention.
§ MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
joined in appealing to the President of the Board of Trade to use his influence for the improvement of the service of workmen's trains, especially on the lines to the south of London.
§ * MR CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
Before this Vote is passed I venture to draw the attention of the Committee to one or two matters which I think demand attention. I put some questions to the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade the other day to elicit from him figures in continuation of a Return, which I obtained in 1894, of the number of fatal accidents to railway servants connected with the movement of vehicles upon railways. That Return showed that in the 10 years before 1894 there had been 4,815 such fatal accidents, and out of that number only eight had been inquired into by the official representatives of the Board of Trade, who are paid by the nation in order to secure 552 the lives and liberties of railway servants and passengers. That showed that only an infinitesimal proportion of accidents to railway servants had been inquired into, whereas it is well known that in the case of accidents happening to passengers there is an inquiry in every case. That Return led to the appointment of practical sub-inspectors by Mr. Mundella. I asked the right honourable Gentleman what was the number of such fatal accidents since 1894, and the number of inquiries carried out by the Board of Trade. I regret to find that, while the fatal accidents have not been materially diminished, the old policy of not instituting inquiries seems to be continued, for I find that the number of inquiries held by Board of Trade officials has only been one for every six or seven of these fatalities. Now, Sir, I think that that amounts to a public scandal. I have repeatedly drawn attention to the difference between the treatment of these cases by the Board of Trade and the principle applied to the similar cases of fatal accidents in mines or factories. If honourable Members take the trouble to examine the figures with regard to accidents in mines and accidents on railways they will find that the fatalities in mines slightly exceed, in proportion to the number of men engaged, the number of accidents on railways; whereas the fatal accidents on railways greatly exceed those in factories. Yet the law of the land is that, in the case of all these fatalities in mines and in factories, a scientific expert is employed by the Home Office, the Department concerned, to attend the coroners' inquests. In the case of railway accidents, on the other hand, the inquiries are too often left to the untutored judgment of coroners, who are, some of them, little fitted for carrying out inquiries involving skilled and technical knowledge. Again, in the case of mining and factory fatalities the representatives of the men's union are absolutely entitled to put questions before the coroner as to the cause of the accident, but the same course is not pursued in the case of fatal accidents to railway servants. I have had very painful instances brought before my notice where 553 the relations of the man who has been killed have been deliberately prevented by the coroners from putting questions calculated to throw light on the cause of the accident. An inquiry limited in that way I hold to be entirely inadequate, and I think the Board of Trade should lay down the same principle in the case of railways as in the case of mines and factories, and see that in each case the evidence should be tested by scientific experts. It has been admitted repeatedly by Presidents of the Board of Trade that they practically depend upon the judgment and experience of the coroner in these cases as to whether the accidents should be inquired into by the Board of Trade or not. I think it is a public scandal that this system should be permitted any longer, and that when there is this vast proportion of fatal accidents in this class of employment inquiries should be made in only one case out of six or seven. The number of these fatalities is not diminishing; on the contrary, it is increasing. Accidents in connection with coupling and shunting operations have considerably increased. I shall be delighted if the President of the Board of Trade can see his way to some inquiry, which may lead to a diminution of accidents of this nature. The administration of the Board of Trade, in relation to railway labour, ought to be placed on exactly the same footing as is that of mines and factories. Already the administrative powers of the Board of Trade are of a very drastic character; it is within their power to insist upon the receipt of telegraphic reports of accidents to railway servants, and at once to send down an inspector to inquire into the case on the spot, and, either jointly with the coroner or independently, to hold an inquiry into the real cause of the accident. These matters ought not to be left to the unassisted judgment of coroners, who have again and again shown themselves entirely unfitted to conduct-inquiries calling for scientific expert evidence. In the case of mining and factory accidents it has more than once 554 been due simply to the evidence tendered by the men's unions that the real cause of the accident has been made known. As I have said, though there have been wise exceptions, most of the coroners refuse to allow representatives of the railwaymen's unions to take any part in the inquiry. It is quite time that this anomalous state of things should be put an end to, and I trust the right honourable Gentleman will be able to give us some satisfactory assurance.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The question raised by the honourable Member for Prestwich, and the honourable Member for Torquay, as to the administration of our patent laws is undoubtedly one of the most difficult of the many questions with which the Board of Trade has to deal, but although I sympathise with my honourable Friends in the grievance to which they have called attention, I am bound to say that it is much more easy to point out the grievance than provide a remedy. I rose, however, rather for the purpose of calling attention to a matter which, in one sense, is not quite ripe for discussion, but we are getting towards the end of the Session, and this may be the only opportunity we have of referring to it. I allude to the very important question of the amalgamation between two great railways—the London, Chatham and Dover and the South Eastern. A few days ago I put a question to the right honourable Gentleman on this subject, and he read me an answer, which stated that the companies had power to make this agreement under their existing statutory powers, and that it would not be necessary for them to submit it to Parliament; and the companies appear also to contend that the agreement does not amount to amalgamation, or a fusion of interests. This is a question of very great importance, because it largely affects the interests of two of our most important home counties, and especially because these two companies carry the great bulk of the passen- 555 ger traffic to the Continent. I wish to entirely disclaim any idea of any hostility to the principle of fusion. It may be that it will turn out to be most advantageous to the public. I hope it will not be supposed that I make these remarks in any spirit of hostility to the companies or to the principle of amalgamation. It may, and perhaps ought to, enable them to give a better service, and at cheaper rates; but the point to which I am anxious to draw attention is this: I hold that Parliament has a right to be fully informed with regard to an agreement of this kind; it ought to be submitted to this House, and it ought to be very carefully examined by the Board of Trade, in order to ensure that the interests of the public are fully and adequately safeguarded, bosh as regards passenger fares and facilities, and as regards the adequacy of the service to be supplied. Whether such an agreement as this can be entered into by the companies under their statutory powers without the necessity of obtaining Parliamentary sanction to it is an exceedingly doubtful question. I should have thought that it probably required the approval of Parliament, but almost certainly I should say that it required the approval of the Railway Commissioners. If the companies went before the Railway Commissioners they would, I presume, give notice to all parties who had locus standi to appear. Probably the county councils and local authorities of various town; might have something to say to it, and at any rate there would be a proper investigation before a competent tribunal. I am inclined to think that the companies would have to come to Parliament also. It is a noteworthy fact that never has Parliament sanctioned an amalgamation of any two great railway companies.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
Yes, in the case of the Bristol and Exeter Company and the Great Western.
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY
I rise to order. I wish to know whether the Board of Trade have any jurisdiction in the matter referred to by the right honourable Gentleman opposite?
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY
I submit that the right honourable Gentleman has not shown any way in which the Board of Trade can intervene in a matter of this kind except by legislation.
§ * MR. STUART WORTLEY
I say that in a matter of this kind the Board of Trade cannot interfere otherwise than by legislation.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I am afraid I am really not competent to decide the matter. If a former President of the Board of Trade held that the Department had this power, and the present President does not deny it——
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
But I do deny it. The right honourable Gentleman opposite, in the latter part of his observations, seemed to rely upon our general right to protect, the public interests. That is another matter, but I certainly say that we have no statutory power at all.
§ MR. BRYCE
The Department has no statutory power, I admit; but the Board of Trade has power which, in several cases, it has used most effectively to remonstrate with the companies, and to suggest what they ought to do, although there is no statutory power to make them do it; and anyone who has been connected with the Board of Trade knows that many of the greatest changes that have been made have been brought about by the Board of Trade interfering in the mere sense of remonstrances. I desire also to say this, that Parliament has not only in some cases refused to permit amalgamation, but I am not aware of any case in which an amalgamation of two cases of this magnitude has been effected without an Act of Parliament, and I doubt whether there has been such a case. In this case all I suggest to the right honourable Gentleman is that he should endeavour to obtain from the companies—and I have not the smallest reason to think that the companies would refuse it.—the text of this agreement when it is settled, and that then the agreement should be made public and presented to the House, in that way the House and the public will have an opportunity of forming an opinion upon a question which everyone must admit is one of very great importance. I do not think the right honourable Gentleman will deny that it is in the power of the Board of Trade to do that. I think also that the Board of Trade would do well to represent to the companies that it is to their own interests that there should be no secrecy in the matter, and that they ought to lay an agreement of this magnitude before Parliament. The position of railway companies is very peculiar. We have given them much greater facilities than railways in other countries have secured, and there is nothing unreasonable in our expecting them, in return, to be amenable to representations made by a Government Department in the public interests. There is one other point of much less magnitude, but still a point of consider- 558 able importance to a large body of the public, and that is the neglect of the railway companies to meet the convenience of the public in a matter of the storage and conveyance of bicycles. Everyone must have noticed how very large a part of the pleasure and exercise of the public is dependent upon the use of bicycles, and I cannot think that it is unreasonable to expect that the railway companies should meet the wants of the public, and provide adequate facilities for the storage and conveyance of these machines. This is a matter in which we are much behind other countries. In France bicycles are conveyed free of charge. In the United States, again, the president of one of the greatest, and probably the best managed, railway companies told me that his company, which had formerly charged for the conveyance of bicycles, had ceased to do so, and that their receipts had risen very much since they had adopted the change of policy. No one would press the companies to deal at once with what, it must be confessed, is a new and somewhat perplexing problem, but it is now some years since the matter first began to be pressing, and it is certainly time that the companies took steps to meet the convenience of the public. One very energetic company—the North Eastern Railway—has already taken steps in this direction, and I hope that their example will be followed by other companies. I trust the Board of Trade will not lose sight of the matter, and that the right honourable Gentleman, when the House meets again, will be able to say that progress has been made. There is one other topic about which, if it were in order to discuss questions of legislation upon this Vote, which I believe it is not, I should have had some remarks to make. I confine myself to expressing the hope that the Board of Trade will take steps in the coming Session to press on some Measure for the amendment of the law of companies. It is three years ago since the Report of Lord Davey's Committee was presented, and it will be little short of a public 559 scandal if much longer time elapses before direct and effective alterations are made in the present law.
§ MR. BRIGG (York, W.R., Keighley)
I would appeal to the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade for his sympathy and help in procuring, in other parts of the kingdom than London, the adoption of the system of cheap trains for workmen. In many of the large towns the privileges given to workmen in London in the way of very cheap fares for short distances, or comparatively long distances, are not given. I can imagine nothing more important in connection with the housing of the working classes than this question of the cheapening of railway fares. It is far more important than many of the Bills that have taken up so much of the time of the House, and I think we have a right to expect that the Government should turn their attention to a really important matter of domestic legislation.
§ * MR. MADDISON
I think the Committee can hardly realise the terrible waste of life that is going on on our railways. The men engaged in shunting on the railways in the United Kingdom number about 19,000, and out of those 604 were killed in the course of their duty, and no fewer than 9,362 were more or less seriously injured during the last eight years. I venture to say that the dangers of shunters are far greater than the dangers run by the average British soldier. In the last reported year no less than one in every 209 shunters was killed, and one in every 12 was more or less seriously injured. I am sure the President of the Board of Trade needs no reminding that these figures are very serious indeed, and I do not know any more practical question for Parliament to consider than that of the safety of railway workmen. When one remembers the terrible amount of suffering that these figures indicate, not only on the part of the men themselves, 560 but on the part of their wives and families, one appreciates what a very strong case it is. The right honourable Gentleman was good enough to grant me a Return of the statistics of the fatalities due to shunting, and he was also kind enough to state that he intended during the autumn to send out an officer to the United States to inquire, among other things, into the automatic method of coupling, which appears to be doing a great deal of good there and saving a vast amount of life. Coming to another very practical question, I would draw attention to the great necessity there is for allowing representatives of the railwaymen to appear at all inquests arising out of fatal accidents due to shunting. In the case of mining accidents that course is allowed, and a great deal of good is done by it. In the case of railways even more good can be done, because these accidents happen more or less in the open, and the evidence of eyewitnesses could be utilised by the man's representatives, and thus materially assist the coroner. Some of the coroners do give facilities, but others refuse to allow any independent representative of the men's union to have any locus at an inquest. A fellow workman, who may have been an eye-witness of the accident, may be called, but one can imagine that, with his immediate superiors in the court, his evidence is not likely to be given very boldly. I believe that in a number of cases the verdicts that have been given would have been altered if some representative of the men's union had been permitted to take part in the proceedings. I would appeal to the President of the Board of Trade, not necessarily, of course, to give a final decision to-night; but I do ask him that, as in the case of mining accidents, and in the case of factory accidents, the facilities I refer to should be afforded to representatives of railwaymen. The operation of shunting is a difficult one at best, but it is a scandal that, owing to the refused of the companies to light their shunting yards, the danger of the operation is enormously increased. It is 561 a burning shame that the lives of the railway workers in this kingdom should be imperilled simply because wealthy corporations, such as our great railway companies, decline to incur the comparatively small expenditure which would largely diminish the danger of shunting. Take the case of the London and North Western Railway. If the right honourable Gentleman refers to the Returns, he will find that out of eight recommendations made by the Department to that company for the lighting of goods yards three alone were attended to and the defects rectified. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman whether he has not some power by which he could enforce compliance with his recommendations. I submit that if there was a real inspection of railways a large number of serious accidents which happen might be prevented. I do not wish to occupy the time of the Committee any further, but I would again appeal to the right honourable Gentleman, and ask him to give more serious consideration than I think he has so far done to the absolute necessity of making the Board of Trade control of railway administration a reality instead of the sham it seems to be at present.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
If I may deal first with the observations of the honourable Member who has just sat down, the question of the inspection of railways is one which excites a very large amount of interest, and is undoubtedly one of a very important character. It must, however, be understood by the Committee that the powers of the Board of Trade with regard to many of these matters are of an extremely limited character, and I think rightly so, because it would never do for the Board of Trade to take upon itself the responsibility of attempting to deal with all the various details of railway administration. I am quite sure that, having regard to the responsibility and liabilities resting upon railway companies, in connection with these matters, they are 562 much more likely to attend to them efficiently than could be done by any permanent Government Department, however powerful it might be. But, Sir, whilst I think that that is so, allow me to say that the Department over which I have the honour to preside takes every opportunity that presents itself of making representations to the companies with regard to matters of this kind, and I am bound to say that our recommendations are, as a rule, well received, and efforts are made by the railway companies to meet the recommendations which we make. The honourable Gentleman who has just sat down has alluded to the perils connected with coupling and shunting operations, and he has drawn special attention to the fact that those perils are greatly increased if the operations have to be done in the dark. Many representations have been made by the Board of Trade upon that subject, and I am glad to say that there has been considerable improvement in that respect, although I am far from saying that the present arrangements are all that could be desired; but I can assure the honourable Gentleman that whenever representations are made to us we investigate the facts and represent the matter to the companies, and do all in our power to see that the neglect is remedied. With regard to the question of coroners' inquests, I do not at all agree with the criticisms made by the honourable Member for Northampton of the coroners' courts. I think, on the whole, we may regard the coroners' courts as quite efficient. Although I cannot say that every one of them is efficient, yet I think that, on the whole, they carry out their investigations in a manner fairly satisfactory to the public. The honourable Member asks me why we cannot have, in the case of railway accidents, the same facilities given to representatives of the railwaymen's union as are given to the union representatives in the case of mining and factory accidents. I fail to see any great analogy between the two matters. The Home Office have far 563 greater powers in regard to mines than the Board of Trade have in regard to railways. At the same time I can assure the honourable Member that the Board of Trade are always most anxious to assist the coroners in their inquiries in any way that is desirable in the interests of justice. When the coroner asks the Board of Trade to send down an inspector to assist at an inquiry an officer is invariably sent. Further than that, the coroner has to send a report of the inquest which he holds to the Board of Trade, and if it is found that further investigation could be undertaken with advantage, then the Board of Trade send an officer down to hold an independent inquiry. In the great majority of instances the accidents are not of such a complicated character as to require a second investigation. As to the two sub-inspectors who have been alluded to, they have been of the most valuable assistance, and I am sure their services have tended to reduce the number of accidents.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
It would, of course, be impracticable to give them unrestricted powers. If it is necessary to increase the number of sub-inspectors we shall be quite agreeable to make an addition to the staff, but the two gentlemen who are now appointed report that they have not too much to do. On the general subject I am bound to say that I feel that it is necessary that some further inquiry should be made with a view to seeing whether the large number of accidents that occur cannot be reduced. An official of the Board of Trade—Mr. Hopwood, the very efficient head of the railway department of the Board—is being sent by me to the United States in the coming September to inquire, amongst other things, into the shunting, coupling, and railway methods employed there, so that we may see whether it is possible to recommend the railway com- 564 panies here to adopt any of the methods now adopted in the States. Then, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen has raised a very important question in connection with the preliminary agreement that has been arrived at between the South Eastern and the London, Chatham and Dover Railways. He has rightly inferred that the Board of Trade has, strictly speaking, no power in the matter, but I do not doubt that when the agreement is signed—I believe it is not yet finally settled—but when it is signed I have no doubt whatever that the railway companies will, with the usual courtesy which they show to the Board of Trade, supply the Department with full information as to the terms of the agreement. I recognise that the proposed arrangement may be of considerable advantage to the public. It ought, for instance, to lead to a reduction of the cost of management, and the saving thus effected ought, to some extent, to be shared in by the public. There has been no application made to Parliament yet, but I am informed that the matter cannot be really finally settled without some application, and when that application is made the Board of Trade, being charged with a duty and responsibility in the matter, will, of course, endeavour to discharge that duty to the public. I do not believe myself that there is the slightest desire on the part of these companies that there should be the least secrecy in the matter, and no doubt they will be willing to give the Board of Trade and the public full information on the subject. The right honourable Gentleman next spoke about the question of bicycles. There is no doubt that the railway companies have had to encounter very great difficulties in connection with the matter. They have not moved, perhaps, very promptly, but as the right honourable Gentleman himself has pointed out, with regard to some of the railways, they are now moving in the direction of improving the means of storing and conveying bicycles. Experi- 565 ments are being made on some of the lines. The right honourable Gentleman has referred to what is being done By the North Western Railway Company. No doubt all the companies will profit by the results of that experiment, which, I hope, will be that the bicycling public will have much better facilities than they now have. Certainly, I confess I do think it is a matter of complaint that whilst in France a bicycle can be conveyed for one penny from one end of France to the other, we in this country should have to pay almost a third-class fare for the conveyance; and I cannot help thinking that the railway companies are neglecting their own interests in not offering cheap conveyance of bicycles. Then the right honourable Gentleman spoke of the question of the patent laws. No doubt there are many difficulties and perplexities in connection with the patent laws, and our system has been attacked because patents have been granted here after they had been refused in Germany. Well, that is due to our system of free trade in patents; when a patent is applied for in this country, the question whether it has been refused elsewhere is not asked. If there is no novelty of course the patent will not stand, but nothing is asked as to the result of an attempt to patent the same invention in another country. Where a patent is not worked a remedy is provided by section 22 of the Act, giving power to grant a licence if the patentee native or foreign, does not work the patent. Then the honourable Gentleman for the Hallam division of Sheffield asked for some information about the administration of the Light Railways Act. I can only say that the notes of the inquiries are submitted to the Board of Trade, and it is for the Department to concur in, or dissent from, the decision of the Gentleman holding that inquiry—a gentleman by the way, who is one of the most efficient officers in the service. I do not know whether my honourable Friend thinks that the President of the Board of Trade should himself preside over these in- 566 quiries. Of course, that would be quite impossible. Then, as to the question of cheap trains, the honourable Member for Poplar asked me whether we had made any representations to the companies. We have addressed a communication to all the railway companies asking for full particulars of the arrangements that they have made with regard to cheap trains, and when the replies are received and the information is complete, we shall consider whether it will be necessary to hold a Government inquiry into the matter. With regard to the question of the un-punctuality of trains, I am afraid the Department has very little power, and I am inclined to think that the critics of the companies are not always very reasonable or inclined to appreciate the difficulties under which the companies work. For instance, the London and South Western Company, which has been specially mentioned to day, no doubt find great difficulties owing to the inconvenience of their station at Waterloo.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
Well, they have the good fortune to have a large number of race meetings on their lines too. I will not further detain the Committee except to assure them that all the points which have been raised in the course of this discussion will have our careful consideration.
§ DR. CLARK
I desire to draw the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to an infraction of the law by the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company, and to ask him whether he has the courage to make that very powerful company obey the law as it ought to do. Under the Merchant Shipping Act, every ship must have 72 cubic feet of space for each seaman under a penalty of £20. The P. and O. Company are evading the Act in two ways. They ship their seamen from India under the Indian Act, which 567 only compels them to provide a cubic space of 36 feet instead of 70 feet. The ordinary Lascars do not sleep down in the forecastle at all; in a hot country they prefer to sleep on the deck. But, so far as regards British seamen shipped from India, I want to know whether it ought not to be the function of the Board of Trade to see that the P and O Company do not evade the law in this manner. There are two great companies which are in this position. The British Indian Company, like the P. and O. Company, carry the Australian mail under a contract with the Queensland Government, but the P. and O. Company try to come under the Indian law, although I think their ships are all registered in this country. The P. and O. Company is the only one of our companies that has not given the 72 feet of cubic space, and I want to know whether the Board of Trade will proceed against the company for not carrying out the law?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I understand that the P. and O. Company do, as a matter of fact, allot an amount of space to their Lascar seamen far in excess of what is required by law. I am told that what they give is 72 per cent. in excess of what they are bound to provide, and not much less than is by law allotted to English seamen.
§ DR. CLARK
The right honourable Gentleman must be referring to the Indian Act. My point is that these ships are all registered in England under the English Act, and they have no right to take refuge behind the Indian Act.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I understand that the British seaman has 72 cubic feet given to him, and the Lascar 62 cubic feet, which is more than the company are bound to give under the Indian law.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not propose to discuss the question of law. If there is any evasion of the Act, no doubt it can be raised in the Courts. Now, Sir, I do want to put it to the Committee that we ought not to keep up the discussion longer, especially in view of the early meeting of the House to-morrow. There are only one or two non contentious Votes to be taken, and after that I think the House might adjourn. I am very unwilling to bring this Debate to a premature close, and I do not ask that the House should accept the Vote to-night, I should desire to withdraw it, and just take one or two non contentious Votes.
§ * MR. CHANNING
I feel bound to move a reduction in this Vote in view of the unsatisfactory statement of the President of the Board of Trade. The right honourable Gentleman was asked whether it was not possible that the inquests upon fatal accidents to railway servants could not be made as effective as they are in the case of accidents in mines and factories. His reply was that the Home Office had considerably greater power over factories than the Board of Trade had over railways. If that be so, it is time that the powers of the Board of Trade were extended. I agree that the coroners' courts are on the whole efficient as far as they go, but I maintain that technical experts ought to be present as assessors in the case of inquiries into fatal accidents to railway servants. In order to emphasise the necessity of the Board of Trade acquiring as much control over railways as the Home Office has over mines and factories, I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made.
That Item A be reduced by the sum of £100.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 78.—(Division List No. 270.)569
|Brigg, John||Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)||Williams, John C. (Notts)|
|Clark, Dr. G.B.(Caithness-sh.)||Macaleese, Daniel||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Dillon, John||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Channing and Mr. Maddison.|
|Duckworth, James||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale||Ure, Alexander|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goschen, G. J. (Sussex)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J.(Manch'r)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Ridley. Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Gretton, John||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H.(Brist'l)||Henderson, Alexander||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Lawrence, Sir E Durning (Corn.)||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Bill, Charles||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)|
|Brassey, Albert||Lees, Sir E. (Birkenhead)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lancs)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry N.|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs)||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Cecil, E. (Hertford, E.)||Loder, Gerald Walter E.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Warkworth, Lord|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Maclure, Sir John William||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Charrington, Spencer||McArthur, C. (Liverpool)||Wentworth, B. C. Vernon|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Malcolm, Ian||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Cooke, C. W. R. (Hereford)||Milbank, Sir Powlett C. J.||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath)|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Milton, Viscount||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Monckton, Edward Philip||Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Murray, C. J. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Nicholson, William Graham|
That a sum, not exceeding £189,544, be granted for salaries and expenses of the Board of Trade.
§ By leave, withdrawn.