HC Deb 18 February 1901 vol 89 cc306-8

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the fact that the official figures of cases of lead poisoning in the Potteries for 1900 show but slight diminution from those of 1899, and that in the months of April, July, August, October, and December the figures exceed those for the corresponding months of the previous year; and whether, in view of the failure of the Special Rules of 1898 to put a stop to lead poisoning, he is prepared to issue as special rules the whole of the recommendations which were contained in a Homo Office circular to manufacturers dated 14th December 1899, and again submitted to them as proposed special rules in August 1900.


I am aware that in the months of July, August, October, and December, 1900 (but not in April or in any other month), the reported cases of plumbism in the industry of china and earthenware making were more numerous than in the corresponding months of 1899, the totals being 71 and 50 respectively. But the net result for the year as a whole was a reduction from 249 in 1899 to 200 in 1900, and this has fol- lowed upon a previous large reduction between 1898 and 1899. In answer to the second paragraph of the question I think the right hon. Baronet and the House may like to hear in some detail what is the present position of the matter. I have a few days ago formally proposed a set of new rules to the manufacturers following in the main the draft issued in August last but containing certain amendments which appeared to me necessary and reasonable. I might have proposed the rules in this form some time ago, but I have been in negotiation with the representatives of the manufacturers in hope of arriving at a settlement and avoiding arbitration, and I have found them ready to accept with a few slight modifications most of my proposals. On the proposed '"standard of insolubility," however, a serious difference of opinion arose between the Government chemist and the manufacturers' expert advisers, and I have come to the conclusion that this difference I should be settled by arbitration. There are also points on which I am anxious that the workpeople should have an opportunity of stating their views before they are finally settled, and these will be dealt with on the arbitration, at which the workpeople are entitled to be represented.


Arising out of the answer I should like to ask two questions—namely, whether the figures just given tally with those printed from month to month in the Labour Gazette; also whether the arbitration is to be on the rules as they were formerly or on the rules modified.


The rules have been referred to the arbitrator as they originally were, because this would give the workmen an opportunity of expressing their views before the arbitrator goes into the modification which the Home Office might think fit to suggest. I am not aware what the figures in the Labour Gazette are, but I will inquire and let the right hon. baronet know if there is any difference, and, if so, why.

MR. COGHILL (Stoke-on-Trent)

Has there not been a diminution in the number of cases of lead poisoning reported, and have not those reported been less serious than formerly?


I believe that, generally, there has been a yearly reduc- tion, but I cannot say to what extent without notice.

In answer to a query by another hon. Member, Mr. RITCHIE said that if only the modified rules had been referred to the arbitration it would have been impossible to hear the workmen on other points, and he therefore thought it better to lot the whole thing go before the arbitrator and give the men an opportunity of expressing their views on any amendments which might be suggested by the manufacturers.