HC Deb 17 June 1901 vol 95 cc629-76

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [11th June], That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed—

MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, East)

When I ventured to move the adjournment of the debate on Tuesday last, on the stroke of midnight, the First Lord of the Treasury, in assenting to the motion, expressed regret that it had been made, and some hon. Members below the gang, way opposite went so far as to challenge a division. I must confess that that was a rather unreasonable exhibition of impatience, for, as the Home Secretary knows very well, I have been anxious to facilitate the Second Reading of the Bill and to have it sent with all possible speed to the Committee, where its complicated details will be thoroughly overhauled. But it should be remembered under what conditions the debate has been carried on. By one of those caprices in procedure from which we all suffer in turn, and while suffering denounce, though no one seems to have courage to grapple with it, the best hours of the afternoon are occupied with private Bills, and this was followed by a motion from the Government to take the whole time of the House, with the result that it was not until half-past nine that the Home Secretary was able to make his explanatory statement on the motion for Second Reading, and only two hours of Parliamentary time were actually devoted to the discussion. I venture to say to those hon. Gentlemen who were so intolerant of my motion, that having regard to the length and complexity of the Bill, and that it is the largest and most ambitious in its scope of any measure of the kind, though it will not I hope prove to be contentious, some allowance should be made for the anxious desire of those who have been responsible for factory legislation in the past to have opportunity for a few words of criticism on its general scope. Let me add that I believe, from the character of the debate the other night, the time will not be un-profitably consumed. I have prefaced my observations with a perfectly frank acknowledgment that the Bill represents a very substantial advance, not only on previous legislation, but in a still more marked and significant degree as compared with the proposals put forward by the Government last year.

The provisions of the Bill, speaking generally, may be divided into two categories—on the one hand, what I may call new development in factory law, and on the other hand amendments in the existing law in the way of defining it in form and enlarging the scope for facilitating enforcement. As regards the new developments, I hail them unreservedly as in all respects improvements on existing legislation. The first and most important is that in the 15th clause, requiring every occupier of a factory or workshop to provide and maintain sufficient ventilation. It would perhaps surprise a great many Members not familiar with factory legislation to find there was no such provision on the Statute-book. A factory at present must be clean, must be kept free from effluvia, must not be overcrowded, and all injurious gases, dust and other substances generated in manufacture must foe rendered harmless; but there is no general provision such as is now proposed for the provision and maintenance of a sufficient system of ventilation. I welcome this as being strictly in harmony with lines of legislation in the past. In the proposals to which I obtained the sanction of Parliament in 1895 were measures for securing, for the first time, that every room in a factory or workshop should be kept at a reasonable temperature—a provision which I am glad to see is sensibly strengthened in another clause of the Bill. Still dealing with the new provisions, there are two others which either bring within the scope of the law trades which are at present excluded, or other operations which are a source of danger. I am glad to see the new provisions in Clause 19 for the periodical examination of steam boilers, and for bringing factory or workshop railways and sidings within the scope of the principal Acts. Both of these are very useful provisions; but I regret that like provision is not made for machinery in docks, loading and unloading from barges—an urgent and necessitous case. I had a difficulty in 1895 in getting a modified amount of security, for shipowners, not unnaturally perhaps, were apprehensive that, while being under a code of regulations and inspection and supervision by the Board of Trade, they would come under another code of regulations supervised by the Home Office, and be harassed in every direction. The apprehension was quite unfounded, and the right hon. Gentleman might well have considered the expediency of enlarging the dock clause.

Before I proceed to deal with alterations in the substance of the existing law, I must refer to the alterations in procedure for the regulation of dangerous trades and the substitution for the existing system of arbitration, which has been denounced year by year for the last ten years, an absolute power with the Home Office to make regulations, subject to the supervision and control of Parliament to make such regulations for ensuring safety. The Home Secretary, when dealing with this part of the Bill, was good enough to credit me with having anticipated this provision, and that is perfectly true as regards the principle, but I must enter my caveat against the proposal in the third clause in its present shape. It would be enough, I think, if the Secretary of State satisfied himself by inquiry through a Departmental Committee, hearing all interests, and then sanctioned a code of regulations instead of calling in a competent person to go over the whole ground again and hear objections. That procedure, if properly followed, would be quite sufficient, and the Home Secretary would see that the code was submitted to and approved by Parliament, Subject to this criticism, I agree that there is a great improvement in the proposed procedure.

As to the alterations in the existing law, some, no doubt, are for the better, others for the worse. I will not dwell upon a number of useful but apparently unimportant changes, such as prohibition of the cleaning of machinery in motion. The extension of that prohibition to the case of children cleaning any place under machinery is a very excellent and necessary change. I am also glad to see the clause requiring the provision of the means of escape from fire, and that the right hon. Gentleman has gone a step further towards securing a proper sanitary condition for bakehouses. In 1895 I was fortunate enough to induce the House to agree that after January 1st, 1896, no new bakehouses should be opened underground. I was then told this would destroy the baking trade, that it would be quite impossible to carry out the law among great urban communities. But there has been no serious objection from any quarter, and the provision has worked very well. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, encouraged, I suppose, by experience, is going to carry the law a step further and provide that after 1st January, 1904, no underground bakehouse shall be used, unless certified to be suitable for the purpose by the district council. That is a very distinct advance in the law on this point. Now I come to two or three matters of great importance, and of somewhat more dubious, or, at any rate, more contentious character. First of all, I will refer to the provisions of the Bill dealing with laundries. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out the other night that in the first sub-section of this clause, as it is now framed, he was reverting to a proposal which I myself made in 1895, namely, that every laundry which was carried on by way of trade or for the purposes of gain should be deemed, according to whether mechanical power was or was not used, to be either a factory or a workshop. The right hon. Gentleman has reverted to that now. If he asks me why that proposal did not become law, I am afraid I must refer him for an answer to his colleague the Under Secretary to the Home Department.


It is not the same proposal.


It is as far as the first sub-section is concerned, but I am dealing now with the main principle, that, subject to certain exemption, every laundry carried on for gain or by way of trade must be subject to inspection either as a factory or a workshop. I made that proposal, but was unable to carry it, largely owing to the strenuous efforts of the present Under Secretary to the Home Department, loyally supported, I must say, by the Colonial Secretary. Many of us who remember the hours and days we spent on that Bill discussing this topic must have it indelibly engraved on our minds. The woes of the wash-tub had never found so eloquent or pathetic an exponent. The right hon. Gentleman drew a harrowing picture of the poor widow with a mangle toiling night and day to support her orphan children, who would be crushed out of industrial existence by the ruthless inspector. What was the result? The Grand Committee, under the alluring but misleading pleading of the right hon. Gentleman, was swept away on a flood tide of emotion, with which I was wholly incompetent to contend. The result was that not only the widow with the mangle, but the whole of the laundries connected with conventual or other charitable institutions, were exempted altogether from the law, and those which remained, the laundries in the strictest sense of the word, carried on by way of trade or for gain, were left under conditions which I ventured to predict at the time would be absolutely unscientific and unworkable. That prediction has been amply verified by experience, for the right hon. Gentleman told us that the law has been practically a dead letter for six years, and these laundries have been living, moving, and having their being in a kind of industrial Alsatia of their own. The general rule now is to be that laundries are to be brought within the Factories and Workshops Act, but while I welcome that provision—I am not expressing on the point a very decided opinion—I confess I entertain very considerable doubt as to the wisdom of the second sub-section which enables the Secretary of State, subject to a maximum, to modify the provisions of the Factory Acts with regard to the periods of employment and meal hours for women, young persons, and children. I am not myself satisfied as to the necessity of treating laundries in this special way. I may point out, and I am sure this is a consideration which will carry great weight with the right hon. Gentleman and everyone concerned with the practical administration of a clause of this kind, that the moment we begin to have a shifting system of hours we practically destroy the value of our system of inspection. With a regular time-table inspection is useful and effective, but with a shifting time-table the work of inspection becomes enormously difficult, and the possibilities of evasion or subterfuge are greatly increased.

There is another matter of great importance in the law as regards laundries which, to use the language which was embodied in the Act of 1895, "employ only the inmates of institutions conducted in good faith for religious or charitable purposes." The hon. Member for Waterford the other night made a speech on this subject. I am sure he did not intend in any way to convey a misleading impression, but he rather conveyed the impression that that was a proposal of mine or one to which I willingly assented. It was nothing of the kind. The exemption of these conventual and charitable institutions from the scope of the law was very reluctantly agreed to by me under pressure, most of it exercised by the Irish Members and as the price of carrying my Bill through the Committee. If I had not consented, I do not believe I should ever have got the Bill through the Grand Committee at all, as the circumstances were somewhat acute. I am not making any charge against the conventual laundries in particular, but with regard to many of these laundries conducted in connection with so-called charitable institutions I have looked into the matter recently, and I am satisfied, from the correspondence I have had on the subject, that there is a vast field for inspection. The sanitary conditions which prevail in many of these laundries are disgraceful, and so long as they are not subject either to inspection or legal control it is very difficult to find any leverage which will effectually operate on the minds or affect the conduct of those responsible for them. In France they have extended the system of inspection to all institutions of this sort. The first result of that inspection was to disclose the existence of enormous and widespread evils in these very places. I quite sympathise, I will not say sympathise, but I quite understand the reluctance, particularly of institutions conducted by Roman Catholics, in which the work is mainly done by nuns or by persons more or less under religious control, to accept the ordinary system of inspection; but I cannot help thinking that the grounds on which that objection rested have been enormously weakened, if not altogether removed, since we have had lady inspectors. I cannot possibly see, if the se institutions are well conducted, and no doubt the majority of them are, why they should object to a lady occasionally coming in and seeing how they are going on. I cannot feel sanguine, or indeed entertain any expectation whatever, of good resulting from the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that managers are to name their own inspectors, and that the persons who are to report whether the legal standard of requirements is or is not being observed are persons who have been appointed by the managers themselves. If that is the only possible alternative I almost think it may be as well to leave the law as it stands.

I pass from that to another clause of the Bill on which I must make a comment not wholly favourable. I mean the proposed amendment of the law with regard to notice of accidents in Clause 35. Under the existing law, as the House is aware, notice of every accident which occurs in a factory or workshop has to be sent to a factory inspector, providing the accident is sufficiently grave to disable the person injured for five hours in the first or three following days. Under a provision inserted in the Act of 1895, every such accident has to be registered by an officer of the factory, and the register is always open to examination by the inspector. The right hon. Gentleman proposes—I do not know why, because we have not had any explanation of this proposed change, which I cannot help thinking is a very retrograde step—he proposes very substantially to relax the stringency of the provisions for giving notice of accidents. Under the clause in the Bill, instead of notice being required of every accident which is sufficiently grave to disable the person injured in the manner specified in the Act, the only accidents, except fatal ones, which it is required should be reported are those belonging to a class "specified in that behalf by an Order of the Secretary of State." What is the object of that proposal? I presume—I can only presume, because I have not the least idea—that it is to diminish the work of the inspectors by doing away with the necessity for their receiving these notices, and making the consequent inquiries in the cases of what are called trivial accidents. I strongly deprecate that change, and I will tell the House why. In the first place, it must be remembered that these so-called trivial accidents are the very class of accidents which, whether for good or bad—I have my own opinion about that—are excluded from the scope of the Workmen's Compensation Act. As the House knows, if the effect of an accident does not last more than a fortnight, the injured workman can get no compensation whatever under the Workmen's Compensation Act. If, therefore, as regards this class of accidents the employer has not the inducement to take that care which results from the liability to make compensation, and at the same time you take away that further inducement which exists in the necessity put on him to report every one of these accidents as soon as it has occurred, it seems to me that it will very substantially diminish the motives which at present operate in the minds of the worst class of employers. What will be the consequence? I am afraid the consequence will be that not only will there be an increase in these accidents, but that considerably less care will be taken than at present in fencing dangerous parts of machinery. I will tell the House why. It is the very fact that a large number of small accidents of a so-called trivial description have occurred that makes it of the utmost importance to have the inspectors' judgment as to whether particular machinery or the state of that machinery is dangerous, and therefore should be fenced, and we have the right to make the inspector's opinion on that point prima facie evidence that the machinery is dangerous. You will deprive by this proposal the inspector of the best means to enable him to form a trustworthy opinion, and you will also destroy, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean mentioned the other night, what I may call the statistical stability of the returns. If you introduce this change into the system of reporting accidents you will not be able to compare the periods after the new system with the periods before it, and if the Secretary of State is able to alter by way of enlargement or curtailment the class of accidents which has to be reported, then one period will cease to be scientifically comparable with another. We have made enormous progress during the last ten years in the fulness and accuracy of our industrial statistics. They are not only of importance to the politician and economist, but also to medical men and all persons engaged in social reform, and I think it would be a very unfortunate step if we were to destroy the fulness or stability of our statistics.

Lastly, I come to another provision of the Bill, which I think requires criticism. It is a new proposal, namely, the partial substitution of a local for a central authority. The clauses in question are Clauses 9, 10, and 11, Clause 9 proposes that the outworker's list is to be sent in every case to the district council. I have no objection to that myself, and, further, I entirely approve of the removal of the existing restrictions on the power of the Secretary of State to deal with unwholesome areas where home work is carried on. But when we come to Clauses 10 and 11 we find that the prohibition of home work in places where there is infectious disease, or in unsanitary places, is in future to be enforced, not by the inspector of the Home Office, but by the district council. I regret that change. I am not going to draw up any indictment against the local authorities. In years gone by they have been grossly remiss in the enforcement of sanitary provisions, but during the last five or six years they have been, in London particularly, much more vigilant in detecting offences against the law. But the local standard is a varying standard. It may be high in one place and very low indeed in another, and although the progress to which I have referred has been undoubtedly taking place in our large self-governing urban communities, we cannot say the same for the rural districts. We must have regard to the fact that there is a growing tendency to plant new factories not in the old congested centres of population, but in new rural districts. You cannot travel along the London and North Western Railway between London and Crewe without seeing dotted about large factories giving employment to hundreds of men and women, and if the authority in regard to places of that kind is to be the rural district council, the members of which often have not the knowledge and training fitting them to deal with insanitary conditions in factories which members of urban councils often have, I cannot help feeling that we will relax our standard of stringency in the enforcement of the law. While we should encourage local authorities to co-operate in every way in enforcing the law, which no doubt materially affects the sanitary condition of their own areas, we should retain, at all hazards, and for all purposes, the supervision and control of the Home Office as the central authority. I am satisfied that that is the only way we can have uniformity of system and a regular enforcement of the law.

I have said all I have to say by way of detailed criticism, and I will only make one concluding observation. This is the latest, or it may be destined to be the last, of a series of enactments which have gradually raised the standard of health and safety which was spontaneously recognised and followed by the best and most humane employers of labour. In all our factory legislation the humane employer, if I may use an Aristotelian phrase, has always been the canon, measure, and standard of health and safety which the State as a State may wisely prescribe and safely enforce. But there has never been a single step taken of which it has not been predicted by its opponents that the next advance would be fatal to British industry in its competition in the open markets of the world. I think it may be worth while to show the House that that is not so. Curiously enough, since this debate was adjourned last Tuesday, in The Times on Thursday morning I happened casually to cast my eye over the report of the annual meeting of a company whose name is not altogether unfamiliar in the House, I mean that of Messrs. Kynoch, which happened to be held in Birmingham on the previous day. The chairman of the company, I need not mention his name, presided, and after denouncing what he called the craze for education, which, as he said in his epigrammatic language, "spoiled good workmen in order to make bad and superfluous managers," he proceeded to discuss the peculiar burthens from which British industry suffered. He said that the first burthen was the constant interference with methods and management now introduced by Parliament and local boards and he proceeded— They were inspected and hampered to death at every step. What economies could be effected if the manufacturer could carry on his business free from local boards and by-laws, free from sanitary inspectors, free from smoke inspectors, free from chemical inspectors, free from School Board inspectors, free from Home Office inspectors and factory inspectors—free, in fact, from the whole brood of officials who not being producers themselves, lived on the produce of manufacturing industry and strangled it. That is the sort of thing which actually at this time of day is believed and uttered and applauded in Birmingham. I have only one observation to make about it. I have no doubt that we shall hear an explanation from the Under Secretary to the Home Department, but as an independent and detached critic, I have only one observation to make, and it is this, that while the chairman of this company does not appear to be aware that the regulations in countries with which we are in acute competition in the labour markets of the world are far more drastic than our own, as regards the age and period of employment and as regards the standard of education required, it is equally true that we ourselves, so far as the evidence goes, have not suffered, but that, on the contrary, leaving outside all higher and wider considerations, our industrial population is an infinitely more efficient productive machine than it was six or seven years ago. In those days women and children worked for unlimited hours by day and night; children in the large majority of our mines and factories were little better than beasts of burden, uncared for and untaught; the most ordinary sanitary safeguards were uniformly neglected, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the whole system was a vast sacrifice of human life. What would Great Britain have been to-day as an industrial and producing country but for the labours of Lord Shaftesbury and those who have succeeded him in this factory legislation? We should have a stunted, sickly, ignorant population, wholly unfitted to hold its own in the growing stress and strain of industrial competition, and it is because this Bill takes a new and substantial step in the direction of reform that I shall support it in this and in all its subsequent stages, for I believe that by means of it we shall proceed one degree farther in the path which it is as much our interest as our duty to travel.

*MR. NANNETTI (Dublin, College Green)

said he must express his regret at the first portion of the first clause. The whole desire of the Home Secretary seemed to be to take the onus upon himself instead of placing it upon the inspectors, and that would in his opinion be a serious blot upon the Bill. In dangerous trades, such as that of the docker, he apprehended, many occasions arose where dangerous plant ought to be removed or protected. This power, he submitted, ought to be in the hands of the inspector, but he found that when attention was called to anything of the kind the matter had to be referred to the Home Secretary, and pass through a system of red tape, and during all that time more accidents might occur. Everything should be done to minimise the chance of accidents occurring, and the best way of doing so would be to have inspectors on the spot, and when such a thing occurred they should have the power to have the plant removed, and to secure satisfactory conditions of employment. He also thought it was unfortunate that the local inquiries should be handed over to the local authorities, for the reason that in the majority of cases the members of the local authorities were precisely those people who were interested in the industries which were very often the subject of inquiry. In these days of trusts and public companies it would be difficult to find some member of a local authority that would not be interested in frustrating the intentions of the Bill. He thought therefore that the Bill should be left in the hands of the inspectors to carry out. Another matter to which he desired to refer he regretted to say was not mentioned in the Bill. The men who worked on the quays and docks were men who had no safeguards against the dangers which beset them in their work, and who, in his opinion, ought to come within the operations of the Act. In the case of these men it would be necessary for immediate action to be taken, because defective tackle, defective planks, and defective machinery had been the cause of a great many accidents. It should be in the power of the inspector, who could only now report, to order the removal of any defective tackle, defective planks, or defective gangways; he should be vested with authority to compel the employer, the stevedore, or the captain to remove the cause of so much loss of file and accident. From a Return which was issued in 1900, he found that out of 74,340 of these men no less than 4,958 had been either maimed or lost their lives. There was surely some reason for a prompt remedy for such a state of things when so many people met with an untimely death, and it was the duty of the framers of the Bill to do everything in their power to minimise the causes of those accidents. So far as he had read the Bill, however, there was nothing to meet the case of the dockers and coal-porters. Something should be done to secure the safety of these people. He asked why the recommendations contained in the Report on the Causation and Prevention of Accidents issued by the Home Office were not adopted and put in the Bill by the Home Secretary. It was an appalling Report, and the suggestions made by the two factory experts—Messrs. Maitland and Erant—should have found a prompt acceptance by the right hon. Gentleman. He appealed to him to adopt the recommendations, and make the prevention of accidents as perfect as possible in the interest of the dock workers.

Another matter to which he desired to call attention was what was called the "particulars clauses." On this point the dockers made serious complaint. These men were sent out to work at perhaps a shilling a ton, and they were compelled to take the word of the captain or the stevedore who employed them as to the number of tons that had to be dealt with. In consequence of that system, it was alleged there had been many cases in which the men employed had been defrauded of a portion of their honest earnings. The Lord Mayor of Dublin had brought the matter before the Port and Docks Board in order that something might be done for these men, but the Port and Docks Board had no power to assist them. He submitted that the dockers should have the same privilege granted to them as was granted to the textile workers and the miners. In those trades the men had a tally-man to keep tally of the work they did, and were paid accordingly. Why should not the same concession be given to the dockers and the coal porters? It showed a most unfortunate state of law when men could be told to load and unload a ship, and had to take the bare word of the captain or stevedore as to the number of tons to be moved. It was only owing to the exertions of the Lord Mayor of Dublin and himself that what might have been a most serious strike had been averted on many occasions, so dissatisfied were the men with the present state of things, and that was only done by their promising to bring the matter before the House, and endeavour to have the grievance remedied. He asked the Home Secretary to give this point his sympathetic attention. With reference to the laundries clause, so far as Ireland was concerned there was no demand for their inspection, and consequently he would oppose their inclusion under the provisions of the Bill. He could see no reason why religious institutions should be brought within the provisions of the Bill. These institutions were not factories in the real sense of the word. Moreover, they were not insanitary; the hours, after deducting the time devoted to devotion, meals, and recreation, were much less than the prescribed number, and there was really no necessity for the application of the provisions of the Factory Acts to these reforming institutions. In conclusion, he desired to state that he shared with other Members the belief that the Home Secretary had brought forward a Bill which, when amended in the directions that had been indicated, would meet with the approval of all classes. As far as he could see, it was an honest endeavour to meet the requirements of the case, and he hoped that in Committee the blots to which he had referred would be removed, so that there might be reported to the House a Bill which should be worthy of the Home Secretary and a benefit to the workers of the country.


I do not propose to go into the clauses of this Bill, as I understand they will more properly be considered in Committee, but I wish to call the attention of the Home Secretary to what I consider and is considered by many of my friends to be an unnecessary interference with and a harassing of the textile industries, namely, the multiplication of inspectors. In the town that I represent, which is almost entirely devoted to textile industries, there are three resident inspectors, each of whom has the right to enter the mills at any time, and to look into the departments which he represents. One is the inspector for "particulars," another is the inspector for "time," and the third is the inspector for "ventilation." In addition to these, there is a lady inspector who comes from London. She comes only now and then, and has, I believe, to do with the sanitary arrangements of the workshops. These sanitary arrangements are well and carefully attended to by the medical officer of health, who also is practically an inspector, and has the right of entering the works exactly as the factory inspectors have. Therefore, there are three inspectors doing work which one man could do equally well. In fact, I believe that one man would do it better than three, because he would know the various managers, and he would be able to talk to them and arrange matters in a way which is impossible with three men, because each man has a different mind and a different mode of procedure. It is intolerable that where one man would suffice three men should have the power of going into the works at any time of the day, interfering with and absorbing the managers' time, and of taking proceedings for offences in regard to which, if there was only one inspector, there would be no necessity to take proceedings, because one man would not have the same interest in getting convictions as is the case when there are three inspectors. Competition, especially in the textile industries, is growing every day. We have competing with us not only Europe, but America. America is increasing her textile industries at an enormous rate, and in that country very little interference is allowed with the working of the factories. We do not complain at all of the Factories Acts; we are quite willing to see them carried out in as perfect and as fair a manner as possible; but we do say that the easier you can carry them out the better it is, not only for the proprietors of the mills, but also for the Home Office itself. I think that if the Home Secretary could see his way to modify this enormous tax upon the country of having so many more men than are required for the work, it would be a great relief to the industries which I particularly represent, and at the same time it would be an advantage to the country, because the less you interfere with trade, so long as you take care that the people are protected in every way, the better it is for the nation at large.

*MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

Not for the first time the present Home Secretary has inaugurated his accession to a new office by introducing a new legislative project, and I venture to think that if Ministers in charge of certain other Departments during the last three or four years had signalised their appointments to office by similar legislative activity, the Ministerial Bench would be more popular in the House, and the Conservative Government more popular in the country than is now the case. As one who has taken an interest in factory legislation, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for this Bill—not because it is a large Bill, for it is not a very large Bill, neither is it a very small Bill; if I used the language of the Regulation of Fish Bill brought in last year, I should describe it as an "immature" Bill—but such as the Bill is, I am reasonably content with it. And when the Bill is connected, not before time, with a Consolidation Bill, I am more pleased with it than I otherwise should be. It is evident, however, from the remarks of the last speaker, that the Bill is not to have the smooth passage that some of us expected. On the contrary, I interpret the hon. Member's speech as the premonitory symptom of an opposition in the Standing Committee, and I sincerely trust the right hon. Gentleman will harden his heart against suggestions of the kind we have just heard. But we must be careful that this Bill is not praised too much. I believe that it is a useful measure, and that it is the logical complement of Bills which have preceded it, but I should be sorry to regard it as a final measure of factory legislation. If it is so conceived by Members on the other side of the House, all I can say is that they are living in a fool's paradise, and will certainly soon be awakened. It is an encouraging fact that factory legislation is being kept out of the arena of party politics more and more every year. That is a very good sign, because it shows that public opinion in the interests of public safety is harmonising the conflicting interests both of labour and of the manufacturers, and that, without desiring to hamper unnecessarily industry, trade, or commerce, there is a general understanding that England ought to be in the forefront of all the manufacturing countries of the world in its charter of industry and in sanitation and ventilation. But I cannot at this juncture refrain from reminding the House of Commons what happened in 1894–95, when the Bill of the late Home Secretary was introduced. The newspapers, especially the technical journals, were most amusing reading. We were told that we were harassing industry, that we were worrying commerce, that trade would be killed; the air was full of vamped-up fears and melancholy forebodings as to the future of British trade and commerce if that particular Bill passed. I said then, and I say now, that the fact is that all industries which lag behind the best employers ought to go under. Anything that good or bad Factory Acts can do to sustain those industries will be ineffectual. What is more, I believe that any industry which is to be kept on its feet only by relaxing Factory Acts and low sanitary conditions cannot last for more than a year or two at the very most. The fact is that the factories which go in advance of the Factory Acts in sanitation, ventilation, safety, hours, and wages are the factories which are able to beat their competitors at home and to dominate the markets abroad. Objection to Factory Acts symptomises commercial incompetency and industrial inefficiency. I believe it was the Factory Acts alone that gave Lancashire its worldwide supremacy in the cotton industry for sixty or seventy years. I believe that it was the fact that in Lancashire the system was based upon a six working days per week of nine hours each, and working under reasonable sanitation, ventilation, and inspection that enabled the manufacturers of that county to put their house in order, and by virtue of the organisation that Factory Acts and fixed conditions imposed hold their own against the competitors in all other countries in the world. Where you find factory owners and employers of labour objecting to factory legislation on the ground that it goes too far, there you generally find commercial incompetency showing itself. The most profitable industries just now are those which are conducted a long way in advance of the Factory Acts, and the object of factory legislation should be to make the worst employers "toe the line." That would be the best thing for the workmen, and would be advantageous to the country. I well remember some time ago the Member for the Bordesley Division and myself wrestling with the question of laundries upon the Grand Committee. Experience, however, teaches, and all those predictions about laundries have been falsified. There never has been a trade in which the profits have been so good all round as in the case of laundries since 1895. I would remind the House of what was said in regard to bakehouses. It was quite pathetic to listen to the deputations of master bakers as to what would have happened if underground bakehouses were abolished. I have not received a single complaint, and I do not believe other hon. Members have received many complaints in regard to bakehouses either above or underground as to the possible danger of the introduction of this particular clause, and I sincerely trust that the Home Secretary will stand by his Bill in that respect. There are some hon. Members, of whom the hon. Member who spoke last is an example, who are under the impression that we have gone far enough in regard to factory inspection. If there is, as he states, overlapping and too many inspectors in Lancashire, then let us get rid of it. If we have four persons to do one or two men's work, that should be a hint to the Home Office to reorganise the supervision of factories, and perhaps by heavier penalties reduce the cost and number of inspectorates; but it is not an argument against the passing of this Act.

I have one other fact to mention. I have been making a statistical investigation into the question of the lengthening of life in the trade to which I belong. During the period in which the Factory and Workshops Acts have been operating in this country the average life of the working engineer has increased remarkably, during the last forty years by ten years. By that I mean that whereas the average age of the engineer forty years ago at death was from forty-two to forty-four years, now the average age at death is from fifty-two to fifty-five years. This great improvement is due to some cause. The fact is the lower death rate the higher wage, the greater and steadier profit the increased employment all testify to value of Factory Acts. In my own trade, I believe it is largely due to raising the age of child labour, to the gradual diminution of overtime, to employers' liability and compensation, to workmen's legislation, and, above all, to the Factory Acts, ventilation, and inspection. I think it is a great advantage to the nation that ten years should have been added to an engineer's life after he has had so many years of experience. I think this is an asset of the Factory Acts which the House of Commons ought to cheerfully welcome and endeavour to extend. I am glad to see that in this Bill the arbitration farce is practically abolished. I congratulate the Home Secretary upon doing, in this Bill what I am sorry to say I was denounced six or seven years ago for advocating, and I am very glad that the Home Secretary has come almost entirely my way. The effect of this proposal is practically to abolish arbitration with regard to dangerous trades. But while I welcome this instalment I cannot see why he wants to do it in this way. He wants arbitration dispensed with, and by the order of the Secretary of State there is to be an inquiry, and the report is to be laid on the Table of the House of Commons for six weeks, and if it is not seriously challenged it is to become law.


Not the Report, but the decision.


Then the decision is to lie upon the Table for six weeks. In my opinion six weeks is too long, and I do not see why you should have an inquiry at all. The most competent investigator is the factory inspector who is located in the district. He sees all the facts, and he is not particularly anxious to worry or harass the employer. I believe that the majority of employers and the majority of workmen would be quite content to accept the decision of the factory inspector, without a long inquiry as to what was or was not a dangerous trade. I cannot help appealing to the House of Commons for increased safety in this respect for this reason. I do not know whether hon. Members look over the casualty list or the butcher's bill of labour in this country. I want to show to the House the necessity there is for inspection. Last year 5,000 workmen were killed by industrial accidents alone. That is more than the actual number of men killed by bullets in twenty months of the war in South Africa. The total number of fatal accidents last year was no less than 5,000. But beyond this, notwithstanding our present imperfect standard of accidents, no less than 100,000 men sustained very serious accidents. I do not want to point out to the House that so long as we have five battalions of men sent to a premature death and three army corps of men seriously injured every year, there is strong reason for Factory Acts and for inspection. I am a member of the Hearts of Oak Society, which is the only society which goes seriously into the question of accidents. Men engaged in dangerous trades are excluded, but of the 206,000 men in the society in 1897, 11,000 were injured and a large number killed. If we apply that number to the army of workmen affected by this Bill we shall have 6,000 men killed and nearly {half a million of accidents in which the men were disabled for more than a week, and when our reports show an increase, a startling increase, in industrial accidents, there is need for better prevention. Add to this the lead poisoning and anthrax disablements, that is the reason why we should have stricter factory legislation than we now have.

I now come to the dangerous trades. When a certain newspaper in London some years ago started a crusade against "phossy jaw" we were told that this kind of thing could not be prevented, that it must go on, and could not be stopped. I have here an advertisement issued by one of the largest match manufacturing firms, whose name I will not give, for they do not deserve an advertisement. I find that after five years of this crusade they state in their advertisement that there will be no more "phossy jaw" and poisoning of their workpeople, and that they are now able to make matches which will not be injurious either to those who use them or make them. If it had not been for the agitation started by the Star and the Morning Leader we should not have had this reform. But it was a reform easily carried out but for the ignorance of vested interest. I should like to know why the Home Secretary wishes to upset our standard of calculation in regard to accidents. There is really no need for it. The present period of notification of injury is long enough, and I believe that all accidents disabling a man for work should be notified. The knowledge of the figures will make for safety. I consider that this alteration will be a serious incentive to the negligent employer to be more negligent, and will prevent some good employers from being still more careful, and I trust that the Bill will be improved in that particular.

I now come to a lamentable omission in this Factory Bill with regard to the docks. My position in life has placed me closely in contact with the dock labourers of this great city, and nothing affects me more than to go to a mass meeting of dock labourers, either in the evening or on a Sunday morning, and to ask some 4,000 or 5,000 dock labourers to vote on any resolution by show of hands. If hon. Members would only go to a dockers' meeting at Liverpool or at Glasgow, and ask the stevedores or dock labourers to assent to or vote against any resolution by show of hands, they will be struck by the large number of mutilated fingers and hands and twisted wrists which they will see, and a more sickening spectacle I have never witnessed. Many of these accidents are preventable, and they largely destroy the efficiency of the workmen. Go to almost any hospital or workhouse in the East End of London, and you will find quite thirty or forty dock labourers incapable of following their employment through injuries. These strong young men are subject to these preventable accidents, and they consequently become a great burden to the ratepayers. I think all hon. Members will agree with me that in this matter prevention is better than cure. We ought to protect them where we can, and then they would not become a burden on the rates, and we should get more recruits for the Militia from the dock districts. The docks should be scheduled by the Home Office as a dangerous trade, because the proportion of men injured in the dock industry is larger than in the lead poisoning industries, wool sorting, mines, or railways.

If great loss of life is a reason for making any industry a dangerous trade, then you ought to do this in regard to the dock industry. If the Home Secretary will come with me down to the Poplar Hospital and see for himself those four accidents per hour which are brought there mainly from the docks and riverside industries, he will see a reason why the dock industry should be registered as a dangerous trade. The dock labourer works under a great disability. If he is working on the jetty connected with the ship he is unloading by a gangway, then he comes under the Acts, but if even a bigger vessel was being unloaded under more dangerous conditions in midstream, that ship ceases-to be a factory and workshop for the purpose of compensation under the Factory Acts. I suggest that the Home Secretary should take his courage in both hands and declare that for all the purposes of the Factory Acts and for workmen's compensation a ship should, be a "factory" when it was being loaded or unloaded in a harbour, in midstream, in a canal, or alongside a jetty or wharf. The admirable report of dock accidents which has been made by Mr. Maitland and Mr. Erant should induce the right hon. Gentleman to make two or three of the present factory inspectors special dock inspectors, in order to concentrate and confine all their energies upon docks. Anyone who goes to Woolwich, Pembroke, Chatham, or Portsmouth, and considers the number of workmen employed in a Royal, dockyard, where the chains are tested, the gangways inspected, and where much of the gear and tackle is subjected to periodical inspection, will find that in the Royal dockyards the proportion of men injured and killed per thousand is enormously less than in the ordinary docks, where the testing of tackle and gear and other precautions are not taken. The inspector on p. 91 of the 1900. Report confirms this by saying that "at some docks the accidents due to breakage of chains have been almost avoided." We ought to have all the shipbuilding yards and docks subjected to the same conditions of tests, inspection, and examination, and that is what I hope will be done. The inspector should be allowed on the spot to condemn defective gear and tackle. If the right hon. Gentleman does this I shall personally thank the Home Secretary on behalf of the dockers of London.

Another point with which I wish to deal is concerning Clause 9, which deals with sanitation, and which gives powers to the local authority. If it happens to be a good sanitary authority I do not object, but if it is a bad one it will be most objectionable. Supposing we have a district council in a district where there is a very large factory employing 1,000 or 1,500 men, and supposing that the owner of that large factory happens to be the chairman of that district council. Perhaps one of his own foremen might be the chairman of the sanitary committee. Are we to allow that big factory owner under Clause 9 to dominate the sanitary and hygienic conditions, not only of his own factory, but of other factories in that district? With regard to home work, I do wish the Home Secretary would take courage and abolish it altogether. That would solve a very knotty problem. Home work is difficult to control and very difficult to follow in the East End of London. It is practically impossible to control it, and it is very difficult to watch. I notice that there are no overtime restrictions in this Bill. There is no limit to Saturday afternoon work, and Sunday work is allowed under certain conditions, and that I regard as a blot on the Bill.

I come now to one of the chief blots on this Bill, and it is contained in Clause 26. I am very sorry to say that I cannot see my way to agree with some of my Irish friends upon this clause. I wish to deal with this question as it affects laundries. I am not ashamed to say that I am the son of a washerwoman. Two of my sisters used to be ironers in the laundry which now does the laundry work for the House of Commons. Therefore, I can look upon the question of laundries from a practical standpoint. From my own personal experience I can speak of the struggles and the worry of the brutal overwork in domestic laundries to which washerwomen are subjected, and I should rejoice to hear to-morrow that every small domestic laundry was abolished altogether. It is mistaken sympathy for the Home Secretary to buttress up these small and insanitary laundries. They are dying, and the sooner they die the better for everybody concerned. Some laundries are now making from ten to twenty per cent. profit by overworking these women. I am sorry to say that only too many of the women working at the washtub and ironing trade and the calendering machine have their willingness to work exploited by lazy sons and drunken husbands, and loafers who live on the industry of their sisters and wives. Let the right hon. Gentleman look upon the laundry as a definite profession and a well-organised industry, and a profitable trade, and let him apply to the washing of linen the same six working days per week, of nine hours each, and the same conditions of labour as are applied to the less profitable Lancashire textile industry. If he does that he will earn the everlasting gratitude of the son of a London washerwoman.

I now come to another defect in this Bill. Before dealing with it, however, I wish to say a few words with regard to conventual laundries. The hon. Member for Waterford said that this clause was a serious one so far as his co-religionists were concerned. His objection, therefore, is only on the ground of religion. [No, no.] I am not going to be embroiled in a religious controversy, because it is generally abortive. The hon. Member for Waterford objected to this clause, and opposed it on the ground that it was defeated in 1895. I think we ought to be clear in our facts upon this point. The laundries clause was opposed in 1895, and conventual laundries were treated in this way because the Factory Bill was hustled through just prior to the dissolution of Parliament, and that was mainly responsible for the way in which these institutions were treated. I want to point out to the hon. Member for Waterford, whom I am very sorry not to see in his place, that he was not quite accurate when he said that no case was made out for this clause. I would remind the hon. Member for Waterford that there are laundries and laundries, there are charitable institutions and charitable institutions, and there are philanthropic laundries and philanthropic laundries. If we give way upon conventual laundries to one religious body, then we shall be driven to give way in the case of other laundries for religious and other reasons. General Booth tried that game on with regard to his refuges and what was the result? Why, that his refuges, shelters, and philanthropic institutions, which were carried on in perfect good faith for a good cause, and with a religious as well as philanthropic motive, became a pest and a nuisance to the neighbourhood in which they were stationed, and the County Council and the Borough Council were compelled to bring General Booth within the law in regard to sanitation and ventilation. I want to call the attention of the Irish Members to the fact that it is not only the refuge laundries we are dealing with. I have here a list of eighty-two institutions, all of which are claiming and will claim exemption. Supposing you give that exemption to one set of laundries, what will happen? Hon. Members will recollect the celebrated Zierenberg case, in which the hon. Member for Northampton instituted a prosecution against a religious institution which was taking money from the public for philanthropic objects. Mr. Zierenberg posed as a philanthropist, and claimed to be a religious benefactor. He had a laundry in connection with his home, and how did he run that laundry? There was no inspection. He got seventy or eighty girls there, and some of them were working from eighteen hours to twenty hours, and in some cases even thirty hours, continuously. He actually got girls to stoke the boilers and look after the engines; they were badly fed and got no holidays, and they were kept in a shocking and disgraceful condition. I think that if you were to inspect some of those institutions which five years ago protested against the Factory Acts being extended to them, you might find one or two Zierenberg cases. I do not think that we should give any man, whatever his religion may be, an opportunity of doing what Zierenberg did. If the conventual laundries are kept in good condition there will be no need for interference. If they are not kept under these sanitary conditions, then I say that, whether they are conventual or philanthropic laundries, or whatever religion they belong to, they ought to be made to "toe the line." Let me point out the inconsistency of some hon. Members from Ireland on this point. Whenever we have had the Home Office Vote what have we always found the Irish Members doing? They have always worked for the humanising of prison life, and making it conform as far as possible with the conditions outside. When the Home Office Vote is taken the Irish Members have always worked for the humanising of prison life, and it seems to be rather inconsistent on their part to endeavour to maintain these religious institutions in their present condition. The hon. Member for Water-ford gave his case away when he said there were certain industrial schools which were inspected by the medical officer and the sanitary inspector of the district in regard to infectious disease and other purposes. Well, if that is not opposed, and the inmates are young Catholics, it seems to me that what they submit to there they ought to submit to with regard to these refuge homes for fallen women. Hon. Members want to differentiate between Catholic industrial schools and five or six conventual laundries used as refuges for fallen women. I want to point out that that is inconsistent. I know the type the hon. Member referred to. I am sorry to think that so long as drink ravages our male and female population in some classes there are sure to be a certain number of people sunk deplorably low. I am for reclaiming these people, whether it be by the County Council or benevolent agencies, but the worst way of reclaiming fallen women, however low they may be sunk, is to put them in institutions where they may be subjected to harsh treatment, and which may go unchecked for lack of knowledge which inspection alone can give. The more humanely you treat them the more likely you are to succeed. The only points on which there could be conflict of opinion would arise between the person in charge of the refuge and the inspector; but the inspector would not be likely to go in the direction of imposing conditions of greater severity on the inmates, whilst he would not interfere with their discipline except where such was desirable. I believe that the Irish Members, whose motives and intentions are good, have been inconsistent in asking that conventual laundries should be withdrawn from the Bill. I am nothing if not a practical man, and I have here the special report on laundries. I find that some of the lady superiors of homes for fallen women in Ireland were utterly indifferent on the question of inspection. This is what the inspector found— Visited two convent institutions where most children are employed. Found hours moderate; no dangerous machinery; sanitation good. The superioress of one has no objection to go under the Factory Act. In the second, superioress indifferent to inspection, but dislikes "Government rules;" hours worked within those of Factory Act. I come to the laundry proprietors in Ireland who are of the same religious views. The inspector says— All the proprietors I visited in Ireland are opposed to inclusion, if the convent laundries are exempted. They complain of the advantages which such laundries would then possess; for instance, exemption from the cost of fencing machinery, and exemptions from the regulations affecting child labour. The latter point was emphasised by the managers of the Rathfarnham and Edmonstown laundries. I say with all due respect that if they can only compete with private enterprise outside their walls by leaving their machinery unfenced and by neglecting the sanitary regulations with regard to the labour of the young, the sooner that philanthropy is done away with the better for the children and everybody else. In the Factories Report for 1900, I find the inspector says— If all the conditions of work are ideal, acquiescence in the general law (which requires a minimum standard far short of ideal) could not be troublesome, while the example set by a body which holds itself superior to the ordinary commercial public would be of far-reaching value. Carrying on his business in a law-abiding manner, and without making any high-sounding claim to philanthropy, thereby incidentally benefitting his employees, he sees other establishments in which the national standard respecting certain elementary conditions is being ignored with impunity. It certainly offends his sense of justice when he learns that the offenders being philanthropists enjoy immunity from the law. I say ditto to the factory inspector. I join with the private laundry owners in London, Ireland, and elsewhere, who are frequently hit hard in the competition in their industry because of work done in religious and charitable institutions. Frequently charity covers a multitude of industrial sins. I would urge my Irish friends not to press the point, and they will find an inspector appointed, most probably a lady of the Catholic faith, and the law will be enforced with all due respect to the religious susceptibilities of those who carry on these homes. It has been so with regard to industrial schools, the prison inspection of Catholics, the supervision of schools controlled by nuns, and the experience of France justifies such control; and in the case of refuge laundries they will be brought up to the best level without irritation to anybody. If they are not able to compete with outside laundries their remedy is not in overworking the girls, not in keeping the laundries in bad sanitary condition, and not in having machinery unfenced, but by appealing to the benevolent for proper sanitary equipment. I sincerely trust that the laundries will be compelled by this very good clause to be properly equipped. I have earned the right to speak on this question, and do it with every consideration for those who differ from me. I have no religious prejudice against convents, because I put all these institutions, of whatever religion, under one head and make them toe the line. I have no animus against Catholics, I have none of the rival prejudices of a competing sect. I am a respectable Freethinker, and I am not, therefore, bigoted.

I leave that point, and I come now, Sir, to an important clause in the Bill with regard to underground labour. I ask the Home Secretary to deal with this seriously. The passing of the underground bakehouses clause in 1895 has done an enormous amount of good in improving the health of the working baker. It has created a great improvement in their industry, and what is more, the masters do not object. But why confine it to bakehouses? This clause should be so extended as to include kitchens of hotels and restaurants. Personally I do not differentiate between bakehouses where a loaf of bread is cooked and an underground kitchen in which an omelet, an entree, or a dinner is prepared for Members of this House when they dine outside. If the Home Secretary is inclined to inspect, let him go through the hotels and restaurants in the Strand and Soho, and see the filthy conditions in which some of your swell dinners are cooked in these underground places. I once worked as a boy in an underground bakery, and that is why I am in favour of the abolition of underground bakeries. But the worst underground bakehouse is sanitation itself compared with some of your underground restaurant cookhouses. What proof have I of that? I have the Master Bakers and Confectioners' Journal of 5th June this year, which says— When the Strand and every one of the West-End thoroughfares are dotted every few yards with restaurants having underground kitchens which the labours of Hercules himself could not cleanse nor any amount of sanitation make healthy, if the persons who denounce underground bakehouses are sincere, let them have a fling at underground kitchens, and they need not walk many yards from Charing Cross to find enough nastiness to nauseate them in real deadly fact. Public health really demands that this should not be allowed to continue. I rarely dine at restaurants; I hardly ever dine at hotels, yet I am anxious to prevent Members of Parliament who do indulge in these luxuries from either serious illness or premature death. In the interest of my parliamentary colleagues I do ask the Home Secretary to place restaurant and hotel kitchens which are underground in precisely the same position as regards sanitation and ventilation as underground bakehouses now are. He can do this because hotels are very profitable. The men are over-worked, and the sanitary conditions are simply indescribable. I sincerely hope the Home Secretary will bring these kitchens within the Bill. I have one convincing argument why they should be brought in. I was talking to a man whose name must be withheld, because the mention of his name would be ruin to his industry. His business is to clear restaurants, hotels, and bakehouses of rats, vermin, and insects of every description. He said to me— If the bakehouse clause was applied to hotel and restaurant kitchens, my occupation, like Othello's, would be gone. If you were to see the places I visit in pursuit of my trade you would be positively staggered at the indescribable filth I have to deal with. I find this in pursuit of my occupation as rat catcher, vermin killer, and insect destroyer. "Well," I said, "you are really the embodiment of disinterestedness, you are the soul of public spirit." He replied— Better that my trade should perish and that my occupation should disappear than that these conditions should continue. On this subject I agree with him, and this Bill should be made the medium of preventing such things.

I hope I have been practical in my criticism. In the proper place upstairs I shall endeavour to give expression to my objections. I hope I shall in respect of hotel and restaurant kitchens, at least, have every Member on my side.

*MR. JAMES KENYON (Lancashire, Bury)

thanked the hon. Member for Battersea for the great compliment he had paid his county with respect to the way the Factory Act had been carried out. He was astonished that the hon. Member was trying to do away with, what, he ventured to think, was a most important employment for poor people in this country. The hon. Member had talked about the conditions in the East End of London, but it was wrong to judge of home industries by the experiences there. The same conditions did not prevail in the provinces, where this class of employment provided work for a great many people, and it was a very great help to them. Some of them were in rather delicate health and not able to do a full day's work. This Bill, like many of the Factory Acts, was too vague. The bulk of the employers he was quite certain were anxious to conform to the conditions of the Factory Acts, but he was confident that they would be much better if plain definitions were given. He pointed out that Clause 15 was particularly vague, for here they were placed entirely at the mercy of the inspector, who might be a very reasonable man, a very decent fellow, or he might be a faddist; and the Lord preserve them from the faddist. For instance, in the Rivers Pollution Bill, they had never clearly defined what was meant by "pollution." They never had a standard of pollution. Let the Bill tell them what they were to do, and they would do it. They had heard references to being "humane." The great bulk of men in Lancashire were humane; and the employers would be very much ashamed not to carry out any sanitary regulations which were asked of them. The great bulk of the mills in Lancashire were something of which they had a right to be proud. He believed the inspectors as a body were able men who did their work well, but some of them were a little wanting in politeness. He mentioned the case of a friend who showed an inspector over his works, and said to him when the inspection was over, "I hope you have nothing to find fault with." The inspector replied, "I have not come here to pay compliments." He thought a little politeness would tend to lessen the irritation which was sometimes felt in carrying out the regulations under the Acts.

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

I would like to draw attention to one matter that has not received much attention up to the present moment. This Bill is connected with the Consolidation Bill, and if the Consolidation Bill passes, the House will hardly be asked again for years to undertake factory reform. Therefore I think it is essential at the present moment that such reforms as are in accord with public opinion should be undertaken by the Standing Committee on Trade and introduced in this Bill. We have had five years experience of the Act brought forward by my right hon. friend the Member for East Fife, and that experience has shown that in certain particulars it was not altogether satisfactory in regard to laundries, home work, and docks. I agree with the Members for Dublin and Battersea that more activity is required on the part of the Home Secretary in dealing with the dockers' question. With regard to labour in docks, the administration of the Home Office has been very limited since 1895, and it will be well worthy of consideration when the Bill comes into Committee whether such labour should be included among dangerous employments and subjected to special rules. At present a dock labourer at work in loading or unloading a ship attached to a quay comes under the Factory Act, but when he is doing similar work on the same ship in mid-stream he is excluded from that Act. This is an anomaly which ought not to exist. The Workmen's Compensation Act followed the same lines as the Factory Act, and a labourer would be entitled to compensation if injured in working on a ship attached to a quay, but not if injured in doing similar work on the same ship, if the ship were in mid-stream. I trust that the attention of the Home Secretary will be directed to this anomaly, which arose out of the compromise with the shipowners in 1895, and that he will give favourable consideration to its amendment in Committee.

In my opinion, the chief blot in the Bill is that it does not in any way deal with the question of overtime allowed in certain industries. We had hoped that the Bill would deal with overtime in the sense of diminishing it. In 1895 the hours of overtime were reduced, and I believe that public opinion, and the employers themselves, are in favour of a further diminution of overtime. The chief inspector said that overtime might be abolished altogether except in regard to work on perishable articles in certain trades; it would be a simple matter of trade arrangement. The other question to which I wish to refer is that of home work. The hon. Member who has just spoken seems to think that it would be impossible to abolish home work altogether; and I agree that at the present time it is out of the question; but what is possible is the improvement of the conditions of home work. The propositions in the Bill regarding home and domestic workshops tend in a wrong direction, and I think makes the conditions worse. In the keeping of a proper register and proper lists there is, however, considerable improvement. The most important matter connected with this question is the control of home work. We have an immense number of regulations for the control of what I would call the aristocracy of labour; but I have been surprised to find, in reading through the reports of the inspectors to the Home Secretary, only one reference, of two or three lines, to any question connected with home work or domestic workshops. The greater part of these reports is devoted to textile trades, and more attention ought to be given to the inspection of domestic workshops in the sweating dens of the east end of London and in other large towns. I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary give a very conciliatory answer to my right hon. friend the Member for Forest of Dean, who was asked to withdraw his particular Amendment on this question, with the assurance from the Home Secretary that he would give the matter favourable consideration in Committee. I trust that when we get into Committee hon. Members will be allowed a free hand in order to strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's position on this question of home work. We want to know where the work given out to be done at home is sent to, and under what conditions; and that can only be done by registered lists and periodical supervision. The Bill follows in many of its provisions the policy of the Act introduced by Mr. Matthews in 1891, and leaves with the local authorities a considerable amount of responsibility for the inspection of factories and workshops. I do not want to say a word against local authorities, but it is quite certain that in rural districts and small towns they had no desire or intention to carry out their duties in this respect. I thought, in regard to this matter, that we had a promise that it would be carefully considered, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do something to reverse the policy of still leaving in the hands of the local bodies the duties of inspection. I trust that when the Bill gets into Committee we will be able to improve it, as was done in the case of the Bills of 1891 and 1895.

MR. RENSHAW (Renfrewshire, W.)

I approach the consideration of this Bill not only from the point of view of an employer of labour, but from that of the local authority. It seems to me that in recent factory legislation, whether it came from this side of the House or from hon. Gentlemen opposite, there has been a determined endeavour to transfer the cost of factory inspection from the Imperial Exchequer, at all events to some extent, on to the shoulders of the local authorities. It is against that policy that I wish to make my protest to-night. The duty of factory inspection was a duty laid on the State, and carried out by the State for a large number of years. In the Factory Act of 1878 provision was made by which the administration of the sanitary laws in respect to factories and workshops rested upon the State Factory Inspectors. By the Act of 1891 that was changed in respect to workshops, and was placed on the local authority, while in 1895 it was placed on the Sanitary Committee of the Local Authority. In Scotland we have a Public Health Act, passed as recently as 1897, which gives to the local authority, independently of any factory legislation, very much wider power in respect to inspection and sanitation than are enjoyed by the local authorities either in England or Ireland. Under the Public Health Laws, as they exist at present in Scotland, I believe it is perfectly possible for the sanitary inspection to be carried out effectively and thoroughly, so far as it ought to devolve on the local authority, especially in regard to out-work, workshops, and work-places. But in regard to factory inspection and the sanitation of factories, I still hold that the responsibility rests with the Imperial authorities. The only point of objection I have to the measure now before the House is that it proposes to impose further duties on the local authority in regard to factory administration. The provisions as to the outworkers' lists, which is most complicated, will throw a large amount of labour unnecessarily on the local authorities. These lists ought to be kept, not by the local authorities, but by the employers of labour, and should be open to the sanitary authorities and the factory inspectors. Then, too, duties are to be imposed on the local authority in regard to prohibition of home-work in places injurious to health, which duties are at present discharged by the State factory inspectors; and in regard to abstracts for domestic factories and workshops, and registers of workshops; and according to Clause 17, the already heavily-burdened medical officer is to report specifically on the administration of the Factory Acts in workshops and places, and send a copy of his annual report, or so much as deals with this subject, to the Secretary of State. By the Act of 1895 certain duties were cast on the local authority in respect to the inspection, in factories, of the provision of means of escape from fire. Now, the local authorities in Scotland have no power whatever to provide fire-escapes or any vehicle for the extinction of fire, and, having no machinery for the administration involved in connection with the inspection of fire-escapes, that duty ought not to be imposed upon them, but ought to be discharged by the State, and dealt with by a special bye-law drawn up by the Secretary of State. I think that great danger will result from such a system of dual control, for wherever you have got dual authority you will always have weak administration. I would have it perfectly clearly established, now that we are rightly taking steps towards the consolidation of the factory laws, that the burden should be laid on one man, and that he should be recognised by all the authorities as the one man to take charge of sanitation and factory inspection.

*MR. MATHER (Lancashire, Rossendale)

said it was not often they on that side of the House were able to heartily support legislation proposed from the Government Benches. As a large employer of labour in various industries he could say that this Bill was calculated to remove a considerable amount of the impediments which created difficulty in the relation between employers and employees. There was no intelligent employer in the country who regretted restrictive legislation as to the conditions of work, but there were some portions of the Bill in which the clauses were not sufficiently definite. He agreed with an hon. Member who had spoken that the phraseology would be difficult to understand in some clauses on the part both of employer and the workmen. Clause 5, which was very indefinite, might arrest the application of some new discoveries to many important industries. It placed in the hands of the Home Secretary the right, under regulation, to prohibit the employment of, or modify or limit the period of employment of all persons, or any class of persons, in any manufacture, machinery, process, or description of manual labour certified to be dangerous, and it prohibited the use of any material or process admitted to be dangerous. But there were so many new materials and new processes invented day by day, that if any great obstruction were placed against their use, the developments of science in its application to industry would be discouraged. That was a clause which would be capable of modification in Committee without disturbing the principle underlying it. Take again Sub-section 2 of Clause 15, which said— In any room in a factory or workshop in which any process is carried on which renders the floor liable to be wet, adequate means shall be provided for draining off the wet. But there were many definitions of wet, and of a floor moist to a degree of wetness, and therefore in that respect the Bill required to be amended. In fact, the draftsman of the Bill had no quite seen the importance of many points. Then as to steam boilers; according to Clause 19, every boiler was to be internally and externally examined by a competent engineer at least once every twelve months. Well, he was an engineer, but they had no standard of engineering skill for the inspection of boilers. Under these circumstances he thought the right hon. Gentleman must admit that he should more clearly define what was a "competent engineer." As to the general tenour of the Bill, he believed that hon. Members on both sides of the House would welcome it as a great step in the right direction and in progressive legislation, to control industries in the interests of both employer and employed. He could say from long observation in many countries where there was the best application of sanitary science, where the greatest care was bestowed, where the largest outlay was made in making the workshops at all times of the year healthy and comfortable to the operatives—there the best work was done, and the best trade was done. He hailed this measure as a distinct step in the right direction for enabling employers of labour to control their industry in the way most of them wished to do. He believed that the chairman of the Birmingham firm whose words had been quoted by his right hon. friend the Member for East Fife stood absolutely alone among the great employers of labour in the United Kingdom in deprecating the interposition of Government in such matters as were included in this Bill, and he was confident that the great majority of employers were quite willing that there should be discreet Government interference to secure for the workers the best results of sanitary science, With regard to dangerous employments, he happened to be connected with an enterprise liable to endanger the workpeople if the greatest care was not employed in the conduct of the business and in the management of the necessary appliances. One of the greatest difficulties with which manufacturers had to deal was the carelessness on the part of the workmen themselves in not adhering to the rules laid down for their safety and benefit, even after the most earnest exhortations had; been addressed to them, both verbally and in printed rules. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make this Bill helpful to employers in inducing or compelling workpeople to take care of themselves, and to bear their share of the burdens. It was of the greatest importance to every industry in the country that these should be conducted under conditions the most perfect for health.


With regard to the exact position in which we stand with reference to this Bill, and to the motion consequent upon it, the House will remember that we were disappointed in not obtaining the Bill on Tuesday last. I explained to the House then how convenient it would be to get the Bill on that day, but we were disappointed. I hope, however, that the House will now consent to close the discussion on the Second Reading at such an hour as will enable us before twelve o'clock to take the Second Reading of this Bill, and also of the Factories and Workshops Acts Consolidation Bill. The discussion has been of a very interesting character, but I trust there will be no objection to finishing it before twelve o'clock.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

Will the Finance Bill be taken to-night?


No, Sir.

MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)

I should like to call the attention of the House to what seems to me a very striking matter in connection with this Bill, and that is the altered tone of the employers of labour in regard to legislation of this character. My father used to tell me that the early Factory Acts were passed in a spirit of revenge, and that it was thought by everyone that they would be injurious to the textile trade; but we have discovered that that is not true, and that factory legislation has been not only good for the workpeople, but also for the employers and for trade generally. Nothing is better for trade than that it should be carried on by healthy workpeople who are not overtaxed. Therefore I say to the Home Secretary that, as an employer of labour myself, I welcome this Bill. I am not speaking at all from the point of view of opposition to it, but I wish to point out a few omissions from it. My hon. friend suggested that there should be some definition of what was sufficient ventilation, but I think it would be very difficult to define a matter of that kind. I think, however, the matter should be under the control of one central authority. Clause 18 will very largely affect trade in my part of the country. It provides that a person shall not be allowed to clean any place under any machinery even when a portion of the machinery remains still. Now I take it, as an amateur lawyer, unless some further explanation is given, that this provision will be extremely awkward and injurious to our trade, and I may say that the operatives and their representatives will feel just as strongly about it, and more so, than I do. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is so. I know the feeling of the operatives as well as he does, and I am not prepared to yield my own opinion in this matter even to such an omniscient authority. Then again with regard to boilers, it is proposed that they should be examined every twelve months. I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the universal custom in our part of the country is to examine the boilers during holiday time, and that time may not always come within the twelve months. Therefore I think there should be an extension of time, say, to fourteen months, which would cover the variation of the holidays. We have been reminded by more than one speaker that if this Bill is passed we cannot expect more factory legislation for a long time. That is a perfectly fair and just principle. We cannot expect the House of Commons and the country to give attention to legislation of this kind at short periods, and therefore we have to take great precautions that anything about which we care shall, if possible, be brought in now, because if it is not we may make up our minds that it will not be brought in for a long time to come.

There are two important omissions in this Bill to which I venture to call the attention of the Home Secretary. One has reference to Clause 32 respecting "particulars." The Home Secretary is well aware that in regard to this there has been an agreement come to in one of our largest industries, namely, the weaving industry, after much discussion and difficulty, between employers and employed, which I believe has been laid before the right hon. Gentleman, and I say it would be a thousand pities, when such an agreement has been arrived at, if the opportunity is not taken to bring that agreement within the compass of the Bill. Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary will see his way to embody that agreement in Clause 32, The Other question to which I should like to refer is, perhaps, too utopian to hope for; but still I will put it before the right hon. Gentleman. It is this: there is a strong feeling among people in my part of the country, a stronger feeling probably than the right hon. Gentleman or other Members of this House are aware of, in favour of shortening the working hours on Saturdays. I should like to remind the House that there has been no change in the hours of factory employment for nearly a quarter of a century. As an employer of labour acquainted with the conditions of trade, I know that the strain and intensity of labour have enormously increased, and that the productiveness of labour has increased more than 10 per cent. during the period I have mentioned. I hope therefore that the right hon. Gentleman will bear this fact in mind. The hours of labour have been decreased in other industries, and it does seem a reflection on Parliament that the one industry in which women and children are chiefly concerned is the one in which no reduction of hours has been made for a quarter of a century. I venture to assure the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter of intense, domestic sentiment. I can speak for my own part of the country when I say that men and youths engaged in occupations are able to return home on Saturdays at twelve o'clock, while their sisters, wives, and children do not get home till one hour afterwards. I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the House to consider this, because it will reflect on Parliament if the working classes realise that Parliamentary care means the prevention of reforms which would be brought about if the trades were free. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to introduce this much needed and moderate reform into the Bill. There was a ballot as to whether the workpeople would be prepared to give up a proportion of their wages, and the result was a majority of twenty-eight to one in favour of the change. I therefore trust that the present opportunity will be taken to include in this Bill a reform so much desired.

*MR. TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)

Though speaking on the opposite side of the House from the Home Secretary, I desire to join in the chorus of approbation that the Bill of this year is so much better than the Bill of last year. I do not know whether, if we had waited a year longer, we should not have got even a better Bill; but, at all events, several of the proposals in the present Bill are distinct improvements. I agree with my hon. friend that the ventilation proposals are useful, although they might be more useful still. As regards the provision with reference to wet floors, I assume, it does not refer to floors which are merely moist, because there are many branches of manufacture in which the floors must be wet in that sense, and I think words to that effect should be inserted. I do not, of course, refer to pools of water on the floors. Clause 17, which authorises the medical officer of health in a locality to give a specific report on the administration of the Factory Acts in his district, seems to be a most excellent clause. I suppose we may take it as being one of the first fruits of the very excellent appointment of Dr. Arthur Whitelegge as His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Factories, and I may be permitted to congratulate the Home Office on that appointment. I welcome the introduction of the medical officer of health into the administration of the Factory Acts, though he must not be confused with the certifying factory surgeon. With regard to the cleaning of machinery, whether wholly or partly in motion, I did not quite catch the meaning of my hon. friend the Member for Bolton. Clause 18 says— A child shall not be allowed to clean in any factory any place under any machinery other than overhead mill gearing while the machinery is in motion by aid of steam, water, or other mechanical power. I welcome the introduction of that clause, which is a very great improvement in the present law, because undoubtedly a very large number of accidents, not only to children but also to adults, have resulted from the dangerous practice of cleaning machinery while it is in motion. Clause 19 deals with steam boilers. It is really almost a reflection on Parliament that we should only now be making it necessary to have a steam gauge and a water gauge on every boiler. That shows how deficient the law is at present. But why should railway companies be exempted? Is it because the railway interest in this House is so powerful? Why should we not endeavour to prevent locomotive explosions? Only a few weeks ago a railway locomotive boiler exploded, and the stoker and the engine-driver were blown to atoms. That might have happened in a crowded railway station; and I should say myself that boiler explosions are more apt to occur when steam is being kept down than when the locomotives are running. There seems to me to be no good reason whatever for excluding railway locomotive boilers, and of course agricultural boilers also. I quite agree that we must have a better definition of what a "competent engineer" means. Many of us employ competent engineers, and I myself might say that inspection by my own engineer of a boiler should be sufficient. But in the interests of the community at large boilers of private firms ought to be inspected not only by a competent engineer, but by some outside independent expert authority. As hon. Members representing manufacturing districts know well, the custom is for all sensible proprietors of factory boilers to have the boilers periodically inspected by the Inspector of the Boiler Insurance Company with whom they are insured. Not only do we insure our boilers, but we also insure our economisers, and I would recommend to the Home Secretary that insurance of economisers is just as necessary as insurance of boilers. Clause 25 introduces a new principle—namely, that the factory surgeon in issuing a certificate to a young person or child may qualify the certificate in such a way as to prevent that child or young person being employed in labour for which he or she is unfitted. I think an option of this kind is a very desirable proviso. I myself know that factory surgeons have very often felt themselves under the obligation, as it were, of certifying children and young persons for work for which they were not fitted, and I am sure that this option will be frequently exercised by the factory surgeons. In Clause 38 we have a very interesting exemption which still continues to be made in favour of factories doing Government work. It is a fact that factories in the north of England have been availing themselves of the power to manufacture goods on their own account by working overtime, when that overtime ought to have been confined to Government work only. I would suggest, in order that this provision should be properly carried out, that whenever it is desired to exercise it there should be sent not only to the local factory inspector a special notice, but that a special notice should be exhibited in the factory itself at the time, so that the workpeople may know to what the proviso applies. I am glad also to see in this Bill that electrical stations and railway sidings are to be brought within its scope. I am only a new Member, and I intend to make short speeches. This is a subject of which I know a great deal, and I have only said a quarter of what I wished to say, but I do not believe in long speeches. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife referred to the speech of that eminent business man the chairman of Kynochs the other day, with reference to inspection. I am not in any fear of inspection, nor is any good employer, as long as we have not to pay too much for it. But in the same speech to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, it is cheering to find that the prospects of the general trade seemed to the chairman of the company brighter than they had been for a long time past. He said— Individual businesses no doubt waxed and waned, but the manufacturers of this country were never, as a whole, it appeared to him, more confident, more energetic, more successful, and—perhaps he ought to say it in a whisper—more wealthy. If this be the case, then we have no more to fear in the future from these supposed restrictions on our liberty than we, have had in the past.

MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)

I am glad that the Home Secretary and the Government have brought forward this Bill at a moderate time in the session, and have not left it to a later period to send it to the Committee which is to deal with it. I hope the Committee will spare no pains in making the, Bill as distinct, as intelligible, and as clear as they possibly can, not only to employers of labour and factory inspectors, but also to employees, and that its consideration will not be in any way hurried. It is not my intention to go into a detailed criticism, especially after what the First Lord of the Treasury has said, but I hope that both Bills will pass their Second Reading before twelve o'clock to-night. I would, however, associate myself with the suggestion that this Bill throws too much power on the local authorities, not because I am afraid of decentralisation, but because of the inconvenience of having several inspectors representing different authorities and causing friction and difficulty. I believe in the local authority, particularly the medical officers of that authority, being able to call the attention of the Home Office to things required to be done, but I believe particularly in having at the Home Office inspectors of higher calibre and greater judgment than can be possibly employed by the local authorities, and in keeping with the supreme power and ultimate judgment in these matters. With reference to Clause 5, I hope great care will be used in declaring what process or material shall be employed or not. I am a great believer in prevention, and in the power of science to overcome difficulties, whether chemical, mechanical, or of any other kind. Prohibition will never advance the commercial prosperity of this country. I should regard that as the last resort, believing that, if only the right pressure is brought to bear, English science, ability, and dogged-ness will eventually overcome the difficulties and bring to a successful issue what might appear to be a most difficult, dangerous, or intricate mechanical process. That is another reason why I think that full publicity should be given to all such inquiries, and that due time should be given for discussion cither here or in Select Committees upstairs before any ultimately too severe or restrictive legislation is passed affecting the industries of the country.

SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not find this discussion too sweet for his palate. For myself, I do not consider Government inspection to be a good thing in itself, and I Would very much prefer that manufacturers and owners of workshops should keep their establishments in good order than that more and more inspection should be demanded. I think it is a pity that such unqualified words should appear in any Government proposal as those contained in Clause 5—that regulations may be made, among other things, prohibiting the use of any material or process. I have been engaged in taking up new processes for more than a quarter of a century, and I remember very well that process after process that I and my partner have adopted has been at the time dangerous to life and health, but we have fought out our difficulties until those processes have become a benefit not only to those who have carried them on but to the country at large. I would ask hon. Members to consider whether such an extraordinary and unheard of power should be put into the hands of a public official, ignorant, as he is bound to be, of the matter, if it is a new process or material. I welcome the provision that the medical officer of health should report on the administration of the Factory Acts in workshops and work places, but I am reminded of a futile endeavour which I made in 1888 to induce the Government to provide that all medical officers of health should be made independent of private practice. I am afraid that this new power, put into the hands of men of high character and qualifications, but who unfortunately receive at the hands of the public authorities salaries of only £40, £50, or £60 a year, will not altogether tend to the public advantage. That consideration may induce the right hon. Gentleman at a future date to provide that medical officers of health should be put into the thoroughly independent position which they would occupy if they had large districts, large salaries, and no private practice. There are other points upon which I should like to touch, but, in view of the appeal of the First Lord of the Treasury, I will say nothing more than that, viewed broadly, I think the Bill is an improvement upon the present practice.

MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)

The other night my hon. friend the Member for Waterford asked the Government to exempt from inspection a certain class of laundries conducted by the nuns of the Good Shepherd Order. The hon. Member for Battersea, in saying tonight that he disagreed with my hon. friend, said that these convent schools very often did not object to inspection, and he instanced the case of the industrial schools. But the cases are by no means parallel. In the case of industrial schools the Government gives a certain capitation grant for the children, and naturally has a right of inspection in order to see that everything is conducted in a proper manner. These laundries are carried on by ladies who have devoted their lives to the most honourable and charitable of all avocations, and certainly the ladies themselves and those whom they have given their lives to reclaim would resent any intrusion or inspection. I would go further than my hon. friend, and say that there should be no inspection of any of these schools or laundries in regard to which at present it does not exist. This question was threshed out some years ago, and the then Home Secretary, Mr. Matthews, took the stand we are now taking, and asked that these schools should be exempt on the ground that inspection was unnecessary and uncalled for. Moreover, a motion that they should be inspected was defeated in Committee by thirty-eight to ten. Nothing has happened since then to justify the re opening of the question, and we shall resist the proposal in Committee and elsewhere, believing that it is a proposal which will be subversive of discipline, and one for which there is not the slightest demand.

MR. H. J. WILSON (Yorkshire, W.R., Holmfirth)

With regard to the question just referred to, the hon. Member has spoken of only one class of laundries, namely, those carried on by nuns. But there are in London and elsewhere in this country a large number of institutions of a similar character, and I know that there is a considerable apprehension amongst them as to the effect the full application of this Bill as it stands may have upon them. I believe an intimation has been given that some concession may be made, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to receive any representations which may be made by the ladies who are carrying on these benevolent institutions.

  2. c676
  4. c676