HC Deb 10 July 1902 vol 110 cc1391-3

I have to present a Bill to make better provision for regulating the employment of children. I have no hope of being able to push the measure forward this session, but I have been pressed to introduce it by those interested in the matter, in order that the proposals of the Government may be ascertained. A Departmental Committee, which sat last year to inquire into the subject, made certain recommendations, and those in the main are embodied in the Bill. The Committee found that special mischief was done where children were employed late at night or early in the morning, and under conditions injurious to health or morals. We propose, in order to remedy this evil, to give power to County Councils and Borough Councils to regulate by bylaws the employment of children. Of course those bylaws will not apply to children already protected in their employment by the Factory Acts and the Mines Act. The making of the bylaws is entirely at the option of the Councils, but when made they will require the sanction of the Home Office before they can come into operation, and the Home Office, before giving its sanction, will ascertain the local opinion with regard to the bylaws. In addition to this it is proposed to prohibit generally, by the Bill, the employment of children in carrying weights which are injurious to health, and also in other occupations likely to be injurious to life, limb, or health, and their employment between nine o'clock in the evening and six o'clock in the morning. Those are the main provisions of the Bill, which I have put forward with a view to making the proposals of the Government public before the end of the session, and not with any hope of pressing it forward this year.

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)

said he had heard with pleasure the statement made by the Home Secretary on a subject that really was deserving of the very serious consideration of his Department. There had been going on now for some years the employment of children under conditions that were neither conducive to health nor beneficial to morality. The streets of our large towns had been crowded very often by those young traders, who had been trading under conditions which all Members of the House must desire to see improved. He hoped that this Bill would be laid before the House very soon, in order that Members might study it before the adjournment, and have full time to consider it before an opportunity was afforded for the Second Reading. There were in connection with this matter various delicate questions to be considered with reference to the livelihood of those children, and he hoped the Bill would be drawn in such a form as not to excite unnecessary opposition on the part of parents with respect to the employment of children after leaving school. There was also another point which he might refer to. He thought the Home Secretary said the Bill was more or less permissive in its character and that it rested with the local authority, to say whether they would make bye-laws. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider that proposal very carefully. He thought that any law of this kind should he made as far as possible universal, so that there should not be varying conditions in different localities. It would conduce to greater benefit, if the operation of the law it was proposed to enact were universal.


I said there are certain provisions that will depend upon the local authorities making bye-laws, but I also said that we propose to deal with the worst evils irrespective of that.

Bill to make better provision for regulating the employment of children, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary Ritchie and Mr. Jesse Collings.