HC Deb 02 March 1900 vol 79 cc1539-42

I have to ask leave to introduce a Bill to amend the Factory and Workshop Acts, and I will endeavour to explain as briefly as I can what the object of the measure is. The Bill makes new provision for regulations with regard to dangerous trades, in substitution for the existing method of special rules and arbitration. I propose to do away with the objectionable system of arbitration, and to provide that the regulations, when made, shall apply uniformly, subject, if need be, to specified exceptions, to all places where machinery, or the process certified to be dangerous, is used. The Secretary of State will publish a draft of these regulations, and give time for objections to be made by all persons who are affected, which I think is a mast reasonable proposal. He will then try to settle the objections, and if he fails he may appoint a referee, who must not be an inspector of factories or be affected by the regulations which are at issue. Powers are taken for the referee to hear the objections in open court, and upon his report the Secretary of State may make his regulations. Those regulations may be applied to tenement factories and workshops, and may, if necessary, make owners or occupiers as well as employers liable. The regulations may also prohibit the use of any material or any process which is dangerous—a great step, I think, in advance. With reference to sanitation, I propose to deal with out-work in unhealthy places by an alteration of Section 5 of the Act of 1895. That section provides for interference where there is risk to the health of the person employed "and" of the district. I propose to substitute the word "or" for "and," which I believe was really intended by the Act of 1895. There are other provisions with reference to employment, consequent on the passage of the twelve years of age rule last session, to make the law generally applicable wherever the Factory Acts apply, and there are certain provisions also with reference to overtime. Although the question of the protection of boilers is dealt with by several Bills which are before the House, I have put a clause into this Bill providing that there shall be proper steam valves and gauges, and that the boilers shall be overhauled periodically by a competent person and the account of the inspection properly certified in a register. I propose also to deal with laundries, to take power to repeal the present unworkable provisions, which were somewhat hastily concluded, and to apply to laundries the appropriate provisions of the Act with such modifications as may be necessary. The scope of the provision, e.g., as to the inclusion of charitable institutions, I do not propose to alter in my Bill. I propose to take power to extend the "particulars" clause to outworkers. At present certain emergency processes in fish-curing and jam-making in England, Scotland, and Ireland are exempted altogether from the Acts either for the whole or part of the year. This Bill brings them all into the Acts, thus giving that sanitary protection to the worker's which, I think, is absolutely necessary, and from which they ought not to be exempted. Extra hours are allowed in the emergency processes of these trades when it is necessary to work overtime to prevent the materials from being destroyed by circumstances of weather, and so on. There are various other provisions in the Bill, which contains forty-six clauses, simplifying the registers, reducing the number of returns, which are unnecessarily voluminous, and for enabling the Acts to be consolidated, which cannot be done, however, until there has been some amendment of them. The general object, indeed, of much of the Bill is to fill up the gaps where the Acts do not fit into one another, to amend imperfect wording, so as to facilitate administration, and to prepare for consolidation.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Factory and Workshop Acts."—(Sir M. White Ridley.)

* SIR CHARLES DILKE () Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean

The Bill does not touch the Lancashire Saturday stop.



MR. SYDNEY BUXTON () Tower Hamlets, Poplar

I am not going to enter into the details of the Bill, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say, speaking for myself, and at the same time, no doubt, for many of my hon. friends, that we are very glad indeed to find he is going to introduce a Bill which, judging from his speech, will really be a substantial step in advance in certain matters in connection with the Factory Acts. Everybody who has had any experience of the working of this Act, and who has paid any attention to the question of factory legislation, will be delighted to find that the system of arbitration, which in regard to dangerous trades has been the one chief obstacle in the way of improving legislation applying to those trades, is to disappear. As I understand the Bill, the employers will have ample protection under the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and at the same time the difficulty experienced in insisting upon proper legislation with regard to these matters will disappear. I am very glad, too, to find that the right hon. Gentleman also proposes to deal with the laundry question. Those who were members of the Grand Committee in 1895 will remember that the Laundry Clauses were then so knocked about and amended as to render them practically useless for the purposes for which they were originally introduced. I am glad it is now proposed to bring them under the Factory Acts. On other matters, such as the "Particulars Clause" and "Emergency Processes," I should like to reserve my judgment. The latter, especially, will want careful watching. All I will say now is that we all agree that a step is taken in the right direction by placing a larger amount of power in the hands of the Home Secretary, for we thus get rid of many of those stumbling-blocks which have hitherto stood in the way of carrying out provisions which would be to the public advantage. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman last year delayed the introduction of this Bill. We understood that had the measure been brought in twelve months ago it would have been but a small one. This seems to be far more satisfactory, and to its general principle I give my hearty support.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Secretary Sir Matthew White Ridley and Mr. Jesse Collings.