HC Deb 20 February 1900 vol 79 cc576-7
*SIR CHARLES DILKE () Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether there is any legal authority for instructions lately given to the Inspectors of Factories not to enforce the requirements of the Factory Acts with regard to the hours of women, young persons, and children in the case of firms executing orders for the equipment of the troops: and whether, in accordance with the constantly expressed opinion of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Factories on the subject of overtime, the distribution of the order to a large number of firms and better organisation of the work would meet the case.


The express power given to the Secretary of State by the Factory Acts to grant exemptions in case of a, public emergency applies, strictly speaking, only to factories belonging to the Crown: but I am sure that the right hon. Baronet and the House will agree with me that during the present crisis I should not have been justified indelaying the equipment of the troops by a rigid enforcement of the overtime regulations in factories working for the Crown. The question raised in the second paragraph is scarcely one for me to decide, but I may say that I am in consultation with the War Office, and will take care that, so far as I can secure it, the latitude allowed does not go beyond the necessities of the case. I am not aware of any application with regard to children, and I have given instructions that all cases shall be carefully watched and reports made to me from time to time.


Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire how far these firms have been executing private orders in ordinary working hours and doing Government work in overtime?


It would be very difficult to find out, but I admit it is very desirable to restrict overtime as far as possible.