§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That a sum, not exceeding £96,499, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices."
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that if it were in order to move a reduction in respect of omission to legislate on matters suggested by the Home Office Vote, this certainly would be done, but as they could only deal with administration, his reduction was rather intended to keep the debate together than to express an unusual measure of dissatisfaction at the proceedings of the Home Office during the year. It was, he believed, the intention of his hon. friend the Member for the Clitheroe Division to deal on the Amendment with the administration of the cotton cloth factories clauses, and it was possible that 559 he might make a case which would force them to a division. If so, he should support him. For some time past the first and principal topic dealt with annually on the Vote had been the use of raw lead in potting, with its admitted dangers. The arbitration, under the old law, on the Home Office draft rules had been postponed by Lord James for a prolonged period in order that the employers might, as he put it, set their house in order. In November, 1901, in adjourning the inquiry which was to be resumed next week, Lord James said—I appeal to the employers, first in their own interest, because they must look forward to the dealing with the rule in eighteen months time, to do their best to lessen the evil. I would also appeal from a higher motive and would ask them to do the best to make the world around them a better world, and the condition of the operatives a better one than it has been.Last year there was a great reduction in the figures of lead poisoning, but he had to show, from the medical inspector's report, that the reduction was in the processes affected by the reforms upon which they had successfully insisted in the past; those in which fans removed dust in the dry processes. Suffering still remained from wet glaze, and the consideration of the rules dealing with the wet processes had been, and was still, postponed. This fact is additionally illustrated by the figures and by the new Report. The medical inspector, at page 249 of the Annual Report showed that while—Only one case was reported from the fourteen factories using glaze of solubility less than 5 per cent.," … "the bulk of the cases are due to raw lead;and at page 248 he told them that, while the number of reported cases on the whole showed diminution, as regarded women, the reduction was one of only two cases. There was no improvement in earthenware, and more that twice as many women engaged in ware cleaning had been suspended as compared with the previous year. In other words, the unsatisfactory feature of the Returns was that they had not made a serious inroad on the suffering in connection with the wet processes, and that the lessened incidence of suffering was on the men, not on the women; while suspension fell entirely on the women. The total number of permanent suspensions had 560 not declined at all. The number of attacks of lead poisoning, occurring for the first time in 1902, was exactly the same for women this year as last. Under the present conditions the liability of women to lead poisoning had reached an rreduciblc minimum.
The great resource of the opponents of the restriction of the percentage of lead was suspension; the one resource urged in the circular of the employers to the House of Commons, in which they told hon. Members that if the certifying surgeons would only suspend a sufficient number of persons, that was women, all would be well. But that solution was an unfortunate one, for suspension meant starvation. The suspensions ought to have begun to decline; but, while they slightly decreased in 1901, the improvement was not maintained in 1902, and in some figures which had been brought up to date in the present year, by the kindness of the Medical Department, he found that there were fifteen suspensions from January to April, as compared with ten for the similar four months of 1902. The same figures, which were those which had been prepared for the arbitration, show that while last year there was a gratifying diminution in the severity of the cases, in the first four months of the present year this diminution had entirely disappeared, and for the first time on record the severe and moderate cases of poisoning, taken together, enormously outnumbered the slight cases. The employers pointed to their compensation scheme; but only ninety employers, in the Staffordshire potteries alone, out of 364 had joined the scheme, four firms being otherwise insured; and while there was a majority of persons employed there in the processes in question who were insured, there were almost as many not insured. The employers' scheme was not retrospective. It was unsatisfactory to the workers, who were discontented with it. They had no representation. The compensation was computed on the earnings of thirteen weeks instead of on a full week's earnings, so that in slack seasons the compensation was very small. There was no compensation unless there had been employment for thirteen weeks by firms under the scheme, though they knew how frightfully sudden cases of lead poisoning sometimes were among women. The workers complained that 561 persons were discharged to prevent their coming under the scheme, and the total number actually compensated was only a small proportion of those who were admitted to have suffered. They had asked for the actual numbers, publicly and privately, and had not received them. His own private application was only answered by a question for what purpose he wanted them, and, when he explained, the figures were not sent.
There was one reform, for which they had pressed year after year, which was still withheld from them—the appointment of a woman inspector in the potteries. The peculiar incidence of the suffering which was among women, and was emphasised by the figures of the last and the present year, made this essential. The suspensions, which pressed wholly upon women, enforced that view; and he asked for an assurance that before the Estimates for next year were framed this inspection of this most dangerous women's trade should be provided. It was, however, needful that there should be a general increase in the staff of women inspectors. The Report opened with the statement that the inspecting forces, which were on paper increased (page 144) by one additional appointment, had in effect been no more than they were in 1900. The consequence of the shortness of staff was that complaints had necessarily to be neglected; a considerable number being left over in each year. Now this was, of course, disheartening to the organisations and to the individuals whose assistance to the Department was admittedly most valuable. The clergy and the ladies and other active members, for example, of the Christian Social Union were forced to send the same complaints of absence of warming in the winter months until, the coldest weather having passed, the complaints grew to be out of date; and those of the informants of the Department who were themselves workers, and who in the case of the women inspectors were seldom animated by the spirit of mischief or malice (as they were in the case of some of the men inspectors, as they saw by the Report), were also disappointed by their complaints not receiving prompt attention. He pressed, then, not only for a woman inspector in the potteries, but for a gradual and steady increase, by carefully thought-out appointments of 562 women as to whose suitability there could be no reasonable doubt, of the overworked staff of the Department which had been so extraordinary a success.
A matter which they had continually brought before the House, and in which there was not much improvement as yet manifested, though he had no doubt of the evident desire of the Department to act upon the promise of the late Home Secretary, made to him on the Standing Committee when the Consolidated Act was passed. The matter was one of which both the Christian Social Union and the women inspectors had complained bitterly in the past. At page 5 in the Report of the chief inspector there was a terrible story, to which it was necessary to call the attention of the House. A Report of the Special Committee of the Research Committee of the Christian Social Union was the subject of heated controversy in 1900 and 1901, and he and his hon. friend the Member for Battersea had some trouble with some local authorities upon the subject of what were called their charges. Now nothing that they said was so strong as that which was to be found on page 5, in the account of Great Yarmouth, given by a special inspector working under the most moderate control of the superintending inspector for the southern division. The total lack of sanitary accommodation in connection with fish-curing yards was disgraceful. At Great Yarmouth last autumn the inspector told them that—It is where the gutting is done that things are worst. No sanitary conveniences are provided. A few loads of stones would make all the difference to those who have to work in such abominable places.In the case of the South Denes, where ninety of the plots belonged to the corporation,Gutting troughs stand on the ground, round which the women work in slush and filth, a disgusting state of affairs which might be remedied were the ground round and underneath the gutting troughs concreted and drained. On these plots I found 210 males and 1,100 females working, Not a single sanitary convenience for either sex; the nearest is the fish wharf, a mile away.This disgraceful state of things was described by hon. Members in 1900 and in 1901, and apparently nothing had yet been done. In the Scottish Report the same state of things was described 563 in more general terms, and without reference by name to special cases. Now there was a power to enforce sanitation where the local authority neglected its duty; and he had to ask whether, both in the case reported by one of the sub-inspectors at Edinburgh and in the Great Yarmouth case, Home Office action had been taken. There was a most damaging statement made by the special inspector sent to Yarmouth—that as regarded the kippering houses (page 6)—In nearly every place illegal hours were worked.But they were not told what followed in the way of prosecution.
Another subject which they had brought forward year by year was not dealt with so fully in the Report. It was another trade in which, as in fish curing, young women in great numbers worked under unfortunate conditions as to wet and dirt. It was almost a pity that Miss Paterson, at page 161, had not told them where was the place which she described. There had been a curious proof of their longstanding contention that fruit preserving was not now a season trade, and did not now deserve the exceptional treatment which was given to it by the law, in the enormous seizure of bad fruit intended for jam-making at Liverpool in the month of January. He hoped that the fact that women inspectors had not reported fully on jam this year did not mean that they had been too busy with other subjects to attend to it, but that there had been a real improvement. But he should be glad to know how the new rules were being carried out.
He had again to comment on the slowness with which the Particulars section was extended to the trades that needed it. In some cases books giving particulars of the rates of wages were supplied to the workers voluntarily, though the workers were charged for them. But in a vast number of instances where that check upon fraud and on misunderstanding was specially needed by women, there was no check at all, and prices varied from week to week for work which from week to week was exactly the same. The particulars had at last been extended to outworkers in the wholesale tailoring 564 trade; but the need was just as great in the handkerchief, apron, and blouse trade. There were an immense number of London piecework trades which had now been carefully investigated, and which needed particulars, brush-making, mantle-making, corset-making, cap-making, the manufacture of paper bags, and other trades paid at low rates; while, in addition to these London trades, particulars were greatly needed in the small hardware trades of Birmingham, such as button-making, and also in the pin trade. The Report of Miss Squire on the wholesale tailoring trade, in the middle of page 189, applied to most piecework trades. She said that the real need for outworkers to have a written statement of the price was abundantly proved, and that without it—The door is open for fraud,while,Outworkers need particulars even more than the workers inside the factory.The most important new departure which was made, and made very much against his wish, in the last Factory Act concerned the handing over to local authorities of duties which were so connected with those of the factory inspectors that he feared for the result. He was struck throughout the Report of the Chief Inspector by the confirmation given to his views. Many of the local authorities were admirable. Nothing could be better than the London County Council and some of the Borough Councils of London, and many of the great provincial cities. But, on the whole, the local authorities seemed to expect the law to be transposed in practice, and that the Home Office should report to them sanitary defects affecting workshops and out workers. Now, there was a certain clashing between the Home Office and the Local Government Board. There were a great number of inspectors now, appointed by local authorities, who did work which partly came within the business of each of those Departments. The Returns moved for some years ago, some of them by his hon. friend the Member for Bat ersea, some of them by Mr. Provand, and some by himself, ought to be brought up to date, and, if possible, consolidated into one Return. 565 They not only concerned those two Departments in England; but they also concerned the Scotch Office and Dublin Castle. Several circulars were needed to obtain them, and he wished to suggest that the Committee which was now considering the functions of the Local Government Board in connection with those of the Home Office should consider this matter, and that they should also have the promise from the Home Office of a joint circular to authorities and a joint Return. Among other matters which they required were a complete Return of sanitary inspectors or inspectors of nuisances, particularly women inspectors, appointed by local authorities, but doing Home Office work. For example, in connection with the Factory Inspectors in workshops and the homes of the outworkers; in shop hours, under Provand's Acts; in seats for shop assistants under the Shops Seats Act, and so forth. Now, even the Local Government Board only knew of those women inpectors of nuisances, doing work under the Factories and Workshops Act, who were "appointed with the Board's sanction." He pressed, then, for the consideration of this matter by the Departmental Committee and the preparation of a common Return by the Departments concerned which will give later and full information to the House. He would move his Amendment, but, as far as he was concerned, he did not wish this year to make any special complaint against the Home Office, and the question whether the Committee would be asked to divide or not would depend on the case which would be submitted by his hon. friend.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Secretary of State."—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
§ MR. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
said it was exceedingly inconvenient that there should have been a discussion that day on a subject which would be arbitrated on next Tuesday. The arbitration was held eighteen months ago by Lord James, who adjourned it for eighteen months; and his decision was announced for Tuesday next. He was, therefore, 566 surprised that the question should be re-opened now. Where was the necessity? The Home Office brought forward a case which completely broke down; and now it was to be re-opened. He did not wish to blame the Home Office in any way except in regard to this particular question of lead. This discussion was altogether premature. The Report for 1902 stated that the full effect of the rules could not yet be ascertained, as they were still in an experimental stage with reference to many points. Under those circumstances he did not see that any useful purpose would be served by having another discussion this afternoon. The right hon. Baronet had said that the figures were inconsistent, and that this improvement that was shown in the Report was not shown in his figures. But they were told that a new moistening process was being prepared, and therefore it would be better to defer the discussion to some future time. Everybody would admit that the figures showed there had been a most decided improvement in late years, and that lead poisoning had greatly decreased. They could not expect that it would decrease much lower. Between 47,000 and 50,000 persons were employed in the potteries, and whilst in 1901 there were 106 cases of lead poisoning, last year there were only 87. That was a most gratifying decrease, and the comparison of the first five months of last year with the first five months of this showed that that improvement was steadily increasing, and that there was no reason whatever to complain. There were many other dangerous trades in which lead poisoning occurred, and it certainly seemed to him rather hard that the potteries should always be singled out for the purpose of attacking the Home Office. One great complaint with regard to the arbitration before Lord James of Hereford, being resumed next week, was that the Home Office, by the rules of 1902, for the first time had attempted to dictate to the manufacturers as to the materials they were to use. That was a great departure from the rules of the Home Office, but the manufacturers would agree if Dr. Thorpe could give them a formula which in his view they might accept. But though they had asked for such a 567 formula they had not succeeded in getting it, because it was not yet discovered.
The manufacturers had done their best to meet the Home Office; they had spent thousands of pounds in the endeavour to discover a leadless glaze, and in trying fritted lead, and yet they had failed to discover any glaze to suit the Home Office. If any success was to be achieved in getting rid of lead poisoning it must be by the co-operation of the workers themselves. A great deal depended on the habits of those who worked among the lead. Those who were intemperate or dirty in their personal habits, and who neglected to wash their hands before eating, were more liable to lead-poisoning than those who were clean and temperate in their habits. They could legislate for the worker so long as he was within the walls of a factory, but they could not carry out legislation over him in his own home. It all depended on the workers themselves. He did not think the manufacturers had received sufficient recognition for what they had done. They had made, great efforts, but it must be remembered that they carried on their business not for philanthropic purposes, but for commercial purposes, and if they were handicapped in this way it would be impossible for them to carry on their trade. If the result of the arbitration was adverse to the manufacturers, and the right hon. Gentleman insisted upon their using the minimum of lead suggested by the Home Office experts, they would close their works, because they could not carry on their trade under such impossible conditions. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to follow out the policy of his predecessor, which would only have the effect of playing into the hands of Germany, but if he did, in the coming general election the people of Staffordshire would do their best to remove from office a Government which had sought to cripple and destroy and to drive out of this country one of the finest and most useful and interesting of our great national industries.
§ *MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said the matter to which 568 he desired to call attention was of a technical character, and required some explanation. It was the operation of the cotton cloths law under the Factories Acts. As a result of a strong agitation at Blackburn, an Act was passed in 1889 for the proper ventilation of the cotton cloth steaming sheds, but the workpeople were not satisfied, and a strong effort was made by them to abolish the entire system. They wished to act in a manner which would least injure trade, and least harass the employers, and a meeting was held in London between employers and employees, the result of which was a suggestion on the part of the employers that an inquiry should be made by the Home Office into the working of the Steaming Act, as it was called, and its effect on the health of the operatives. That inquiry took place. After considering the evidence the Committee made certain recommendations, including the suggestion of a limit of 9 volumes of carbon dioxide in every 10,000 volumes of air, this would secure an amount of ventilation corresponding to about 2,000 cubic feet of fresh air per head per hour, and they expressed the belief that such a requirement would bring about a material improvement in the health and comfort of the workers, without imposing any serious burden upon the trade, or asking for more than was already voluntarily done in well-regulated sheds. As the legal limit was only 600 cubic feet, it could not be denied that the operatives had good ground for complaining that it was considerably under the proper standard from a health point of view. In 1897 an Act was passed empowering the Home Secretary to embody the recommendations of the Committee in the form of an Order, and in 1898 that was done. Knowing that the Order would involve considerable alterations in many of the sheds, and being naturally anxious not to cause disturbance, the operatives' representatives gave time for these changes to be carried out. For more than two years they said little or nothing about the matter, but in 1900 they thought the time had come when a determined effort should be made to bring about the alterations, and they communicated 569 with the Home Office. The employers at once waited upon Sir Kenelm Digby, asking that the Order should be so far varied as to allow the carbon dioxide admitted into the sheds to be five over the outside air. The operatives' representatives, having considered the matter, also visited the Home Office, and, while asking for the Order to be carried out, accepted this modification, which they found could be allowed without serious risk to the operatives. It was hoped that after all these delays something would be done. He admitted that something had been done, but the Order had not been enforced in the manner they had a right to expect. The laxity of the administration was evidenced by the fact that during 1900, the number of inspectors specially appointed to deal with this matter was reduced from three to one, and, according to the Inspector's Report—The Inspectors in charge of the district were, for the first time since the passing of the original Act of 1889, called upon to assist in the enforcement of the enactment.The only way in which the general inspector could assist was in checking the entries of the employers on a particular day; he had no practical knowledge of the subject from a scientific point of view; he took no tests, and did nothing in the way of a scientific examination of the conditions of the place. The number of factories and so forth under supervision had increased from 600 to 1,597, in addition to which there were a number of rooms in flax mills subject to inspection. He held, therefore, that if it took three men to do the work connected with the smaller number of mills, it certainly required more than one man to see that the Act was faithfully carried out in the larger number. Another of the provisions of the Act was all in favour of the employers. By Section 95 of the Factories and Workshops Act, 1901, it was laid down that no prosecution could follow an offence unless a second offence was committed within twelve months. As these 1,597 places were spread all over the country, it was extremely difficult to detect an employer in a second offence, and it would have been thought that when such detection was made a prosecution would follow. But what were the facts? 570 In February last, in reply to a Question, the Home Secretary stated that in 1902 there were sixty-two cases reported in which employers had exceeded the standard, but that the excess in many cases was in only one part of the shed. The law, however, made no exemption in such cases, but declared that an excess in any part of the shed constituted an offence. As to the suggestion that the law should be altered in that respect, he would only say that when such alteration is proposed the operatives' representatives will offer it their strongest opposition, being convinced that if the average of the shed was permitted to be taken it would entail serious consequences in many weaving sheds. He knew scores of places in which one part of the shed would be fairly healthy and agreeable, while another part was absolutely intolerable. In reply to a subsequent Question, the right hon. Gentleman stated that in sixteen of the cases the employers had been warned in the course of the preceding twelve months. Why were prosecutions not instituted in those sixteen cases? There ought not to be the slightest hesitation in instituting prosecutions on the part of a, Department having charge of a matter so seriously affecting the life and comfort of the operatives. He held that the Home Office had neglected its duty. Why had there been no prosecutions for more than eighteen months? Had instructions been given to the inspectors not to prosecute? Was there any understanding in the Department that this Act should not be enforced? Why were the employers in this of all the departments of the cotton trade permitted to please themselves? The patience of the operatives was almost exhausted. They had never yet agreed to this Act, the only Resolution they had passed having been in favour of the total abolition of the system, and he assured the right hon. Gentleman that unless the Act was enforced in a straightforward manner it would be very difficult to induce the people to give the measure a fair trial. After all the concessions they had made, he thought they were entitled to expect the earnest assistance of the Home Office. He should be glad to hear from the Home Secretary that this Act would be given a 571 proper and a fair chance. He could not conceive why these prosecutions had not taken place. The cases he had mentioned had been tried before magistrates who were employers and had a direct interest in this matter, but it the Act which had been carried through the House of Commons was to be set at naught by the magistrates he did not know what position the workers would have to take up. They had their own remedy, and that was to refuse to work under those conditions. The only other alternative was that the Act should be put in force and made to do the work it was intended to do.
§ *MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said as a rule the case of the potters was put before the House by his hon. friend the Member for Stoke, who, though he had made his usual speech, seemed to have omitted to tell them upon this occasion that the more lead they used in the trade the better. By that omission he had deprived him, he was almost going to say defrauded him, of one of his best arguments. His hon. friend had stated that it came as a surprise to him and his friends that Lord James was about to continue the arbitration upon this question. Why should he be surprised, for it had been repeatedly said that the inquiry had only been adjourned. The inquiry was adjourned simply to see how the rules worked and how the operatives were affected. Surely that was not an unreasonable course to adopt. The hon. Member went on to say that this was a premature discussion of this subject. Personally, he should have been better pleased if this discussion had taken place a week after instead of a week before the arbitration. But that was not his fault. The hon. Member for Stoke had also said that the wet processes were thoroughly innocuous.
§ *MR. TENNANT
said that was common ground. The rules had to be very stringent in the dry processes, but it had been shown that injurious results were produced from the sludge of wet lead running through the troughs. The hon. Member for Stoke went on to say that 572 this was the first occasion when the Home Office had attempted to dictate to manufacturers what materials they should use. He believed that the year 1901 was the first occasion when Parliament decided to impose special regulations upon manufacturers as to the use of certain articles. He thought the Home Secretary would confirm that statement. The hon. Member went on to say that when the manufacturers applied for a formula from which a glaze might be made which would be innocuous the Home Office said they could not give it. That was not in accordance with his information or recollection. It was some time since the Report of Dr. Oliver and Dr. Thorpe was issued, but his recollection was that there was in the appendix to that Report a formula given by those two scientists derived from in formation from a great Swedish manufacturer who had employed lead in his glaze in sufficiently large quantities to make it a commercial success with almost complete harmlessness to the operatives engaged.
§ MR. COGHILL
said that the manufacturers in his constituency had not found it possible to use such a glaze to advantage commercially. If the hon. Member knew of such a formula he should be pleased to know what it was.
§ *MR. TENNANT
said he could not give him the formula, but he would look through the Report and see if it existed there. The hon. Member for Stoke said that manufacturers had not found it possible to use such a glaze with commercial advantage. Manufacturers had got the chance of making a glaze without lead. Would the hon. Member state that that was impossible? The other day at a meeting in connection with a hospital with which he was connected they were discussing the purchase of earthenware materials, and he suggested that they should be of leadless glaze, and the Committee at once asked the question: "Can you get them as cheap as the other sort?" He obtained prices for them, and later on to his astonishment the Secretary to the hospital informed him that he had bought the articles cheaper in leadless glaze. That showed that the example set by the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the 573 public Departments had been a good one, and had resulted in this remarkable circumstance, that in the open market they were able to purchase leadless glaze cheaper than lead glazed goods. He had himself a dessert service made with leadless glaze, and both for cheapness and quality it was as good as those made with the use of lead. The hon Member for Stoke said that they were always going to Germany for information. With the prospect of dearer food and dearer raw materials before them the bowels of his compassion yearned towards the manufacturers not only of pottery but of everything else, and if he felt that these rules were likely to prevent them carrying on successfully their industry at a profit, and would have the effect of closing up their works, he should not have another word to say upon the subject. They ought not to sacrifice the supremacy of their commerce, but at the same time they must not wholly ignore the safety of the worker. He did not think he needed to say anything more about the potters. He desired to congratulate the Home Secretary upon the most admirable Report which he had placed before the House. He had a good many questions to ask which he was afraid were rather technical. He wished to refer to two matters which related more to the future, and were really not so germane to this discussion, namely, reporting of accidents and ventilation. On both these subjects the right hon. Gentleman had received Reports from Departmental Committees. He asked what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do in regard to these matters. He would content himself by remarking how deplorable it would be if he were to accept the invitation which was made in the Report of the Departmental Committee on ventilation and take a retrograde step.
An important matter mentioned in the Report at page 29 related to small laundries. This question had been brought before the notice of the Home Secretary in the past as often as they got the opportunity of doing so. On this matter Mr. Edward, Southampton, said—In all the twenty-two cases where hand laundries have been crossed off the register it has been because the occupiers have reduced 574 their outside hands to two so as to be outside the provisions of the Act.This was the only trade in the country which was exempted from the Factory Acts owing to its dimensions. It was most ridiculous, and really iniquitous, that by dismissing all employees except two the people who kept these small laundries should be able to compete against the other laundries where the restrictions imposed by the Acts were complied with. Was it not as necessary to protect the two workers as twenty or thirty? Another matter which he would mention in passing was that relating to precautions against fire. He could not go into that question because it involved legislation, but he wished to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the following observations by Mr. Younger at page 23 of the Report—The chief difficulty at present is the treatment of dangerous factories and workshops in which fewer than forty hands are employed. In some cases the number of hands is deliberately kept just below forty as an alternative to the provision of a second exit; this practice involves the absurd assumption that a building which is dangerous for the employment of forty persons is safe for thirty-nine.He sincerely hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give attention to that point. At the inquest which took place after the fire at Stockport Cotton Mills Sir Charles Firth, of the Fire Brigades Association, said—He had no hesitation in saying that one-half of the mills in the country were worse off than the Vernon mills were in respect of fire equipment.That was a very strong statement, and one which ought really to sink deep into the minds of those responsible for the safety and welfare of persons employed in factories and workshops. These were matters on which he could not enter very minutely.
He would now turn to other questions with which he was personally acquainted. They were technical, but they were subjects into which the Committee, over which he presided, were directed to inquire in 1895. In regard to dry cleaning, Mr. Rogers, Derby, stated in his Report, which appeared at page 61 of the Blue-book—One fire occurred at a dry cleaning works in the daytime. A woman was lifting a metal vessel containing garments 575 soaked with benzine from the floor, when, from some unknown cause, flames appeared underneath the vessel, and, rapidly spreading, the fire burned out the interior of the room before it could be extinguished by the excellent local arrangements of the factory. A notable point in this case is that two vessels of benzine, simply covered with loose lids, were in the room, and though they were enveloped in flame for several minutes the spirit did not take fire. This shows the advisability of providing lids for machines and vessels containing benzine, as recommended by the Dangerous Trades Committee some years ago.The Committee reported on that subject in 1897 and 1898, and, so far as he was informed, nothing had been done beyond making inquiry in regard to the dangerous trades with which he was dealing. He admitted there had been inquiry, but that was not sufficient. Something Should be done beyond mere inquiry. He called attention to the following passage in Mr. Hilditch's Report in regard to basic slag—There is still a tendency to improvement in the matter of allaying the dust at basic slag works, and it is gratifying to report that, although excellent results have been obtained compared with the old order of things, the firm is still giving the matter attention. It is encouraged in this by the great saving of valuable dust which was at one time dissipated through the air.He must say that it did strike him as an extraordinary thing that here where the Home Office had practically an invitation from the firms engaged to issue regulations, nothing had yet been done. He called attention to the enormous number of accidents resulting from the use of locomotives in factories. It would be seen from the statements made at page 82 of the Report that—Twelve out of forty-nine inquests attended by one inspector during the past year were in connection with deaths of persons caused by moving locomotives or trucks on private rails.The inspector for the Midland Division said at page 63 of the Report—Year by year the observance of the Special Rules becomes more noticeable and the difficulties of administration diminish. Employers and employed alike have begun to recognise the justice and necessity of their enactment and the benefits to be derived from compliance.Though inspectors and employers said these things the only people who took no action, so far as he understood, were the Home Office authorities. He had the pleasing duty of being able to congratulate the Home Secretary on the 576 appointment of a new electrical inspector Six years ago the Committee to which he had alluded made a Report on electrical generating stations. The gentleman appointed by the Home Office reported that last year there had been ten fatal accidents and 126 non-fatal accidents in electrical generating stations. Ten fatal accidents seemed to him a very considerable number, the Inspector added—The notices of accidents received during the year in respect of electrical stations do not, I have reason to believe, represent by any means all the cases which should have been reported, managers of some stations having expressed their ignorance of this requirement of the Act.Therefore ten might not represent the whole of the accidents that resulted fatally, and in all probability 126 did not represent anything like the number of nonfatal accidents. He drew attention to the following paradox brought out in the Report—The greater number of the accidents happened to persons when working on 'live' switchboards or conductors, mostly at low pressure, short circuits occurring and resulting in severe burns, in one case terminating fatally.He would now pass to what the Inspector said about transformer stations. He remembered being asked in this-House by the hon. Member for North Louth why they wanted to claim certain powers during the passing of the Factories Bill dealing with transformer stations. He informed the hon. Member at that time that it was because they were extraordinarily dangerous places. They had it stated in the Report that they were almost more dangerous than the larger generating stations. That entirely bore out his old contention that the transforming stations were as dangerous as, if not more dangerous, than the generating stations. The Inspector said that—The larger number of the electrical accidents were of a preventable nature, and, in some cases, gross negligence was evident in that totally unskilled and ignorant persons were put to work upon or amongst 'live' conductors, whilst in other cases obvious and elementary precautions were neglected.He had always maintained that nearly all these cases of accident could be prevented if the Home Office would only enforce the powers at their disposal. Nearly all these points had been brought before the Committee over which he presided six 577 years ago, but nothing had been done. Might he read one other statement, in regard to electrical works? The Inspector said that—The space behind switchboards is also in some instances so broken up and obstructed by cables, resistance frames, etc., as to render the application of sand, in the event of fire, almost impossible, whilst in others it offers a dangerous trap in case of accident necessitating a hurried exit.One thing on which the Committee laid stress in their Report was that there should be more space behind these switchboards, and they drew up a draft regulation to that effect. He would read a final extract from this Electrical Inspector's Report—Two fatalities have recently occurred from shock 'to earth' on a 250 volt two-phase system, in one of which the victim was proved to have been quite sound, and was killed when accidentally touching a charged conductor with the little linger of his left hand.He would earnestly suggest that where they were dealing with electrical force of such extraordinary danger, which worked silently, suddenly and relentlessly, there was a corresponding duty lying on those whose prerogative it was to protect the workers of the country to employ every means in their power to discharge that duty efficiently.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said they all admired the many qualities of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and sympathised with them in their efforts to improve the condition of the workers of the country; but he thought there was no necessity for the attacks which had been made on the Home Office for not putting their regulations into force. The Home Office, it should be remembered, might, in trying to improve the condition of the workers in certain trades, improve these trades out of existence altogether. He should like to look at the position of trades in this country, and to consider whether or not certain of them were not inspected enough; whether, at any rate, the interference of the Home Office would not carry away the very slight margin that was left to them of profit. He wished the right hon. Gentleman in making his statement had given par 578 ticulars. His meaning was that in the application of certain rules and regulations, however admirable, to certain trades, there was a danger of carrying them to such an extent that they became unworkable and ridiculous.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that he alluded to the smaller hardware trades, especially to the manufacture of pins and buttons.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said that if people would only spend a few days at Birmingham they would see that the inspectors did their duty, as far as possible, to such trades as had been mentioned. The criticisms made showed that regulations which were good in themselves as applied to certain trades, were worthless when applied to other trades. He did not understand what his right hon. friend meant when he spoke about sanitation of small domestic workshops. Did he mean that the sanitation of Birmingham, which was the home of these small industries, was defective? In passing, he might remark that these small industries were most valuable. They formed, he would not say a middle class, but a lower middle class of people who were their own masters, which was a great thing for those who were working on their own account; and although their condition and gains were not altogether what he would like, yet to destroy that class would be regarded as an infinite injury. There was a great desire on the part of a large section of persons to shut up all small workshops, and by means of rules and regulations to force the workers into the large factories. If ever that came about it would, in his opinion, be a great misfortune. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman, he wanted to have the sanitary matters of these small workshops — these domestic houses where work was carried on—placed under factory inspectors.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he did not go into any question of legislation, for that would be outside this discussion. He said that the great municipalities were doing their work well; and so far as Birmingham was concerned he had no cause of complaint. But some of the 579 smaller municipalities were apt to wait for the Home Office to call their attention to sanitary defects.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said he was bound to say that he was surprised to hear the frequency of the expressions of distrust of the local authorities. They must either be trusted, or an inspector should be sent down from the central authority.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that what he had stated was that in many cases both the factory inspector and the local sanitary inspector were already sent.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
thought that that was an error, if over it did exist. He was not aware that under the present regulations a factory inspector could go and do the work of a local sanitary inspector. If so, it was a great mistake, in his opinion. The right hon. Gentleman said very truly that in Committee on the Estimates they were confined to criticism of the administration of the existing law. He wished that all the factory inspectors, particularly the women, would confine their work to the administration of the existing law. He had complained for years past, he complained now, that a good portion of their time and energy was taken up in dealing with matters which were outside the administration of the existing law, and that there was inadequate time left for their regular work, while demands were made for more inspectors. We should soon be becoming the most heavily inspected nation in the world. He was bound to say, on reading these Reports, that they appeared to him, though nominally addressed to the Home Office, to be really addressed to the public outside. There was a good deal of sensational matter in them; many of the statements were greatly exaggerated; isolated cases were given leaving the impression that that was the general state of things; and altogether they formed an ex parte statement. He found that the brush trade was now being attacked. And here he might remark that in this last Report there was a minute, technical account of the manufacture of brushes in Germany which was very interesting, but he did not think that 580 a factory inspector need have given that information in carrying out the administration of the law. It was outside his province. Brushmaking as a home industry was outside the supervision of the inspectors at present, and yet it was mentioned in this Report that the inspectors had visited some hundreds of homes where these brushes were made. Why did they want to interfere with the homes of the people who were trying to get an honest living? And why should they introduce in their Reports these remarks to get some restrictions placed upon them? Then there was an extract from Mr. Sidney Webb's book, very interesting, but quite outside, in his opinion, the province of inspectors who were paid to discharge certain definite duties. There were also statements with reference to brushmaking which, he was afraid, was carried on under very bad conditions in Germany, and in a manner which had squeezed out of existence all the lower forms of brushmaking in this country. He did not see that that was a very good argument in favour of preferential tariffs. He was not advancing the argument himself—he was only quoting; but that trade, which could only be carried on with the utmost care and application., and with hardly a living margin in this country, was now to be interfered with. In his opinion the Report should be presented to the Home Secretary as a private document; and the inspectors would be better advised to confine their zeal to the work entrusted to them.
The right hon. Gentleman alluded to laundries, and said that small laundries which only employed two persons, apart from members of the family, should be protected. That meant that such laundries should be brought tinder the Workshops Act, and that would mean that every one of those small home industries—almost the only home industry that was left—would be squeezed out of existence. They should look at the question, not from the point of view of everything that might be ideal, but in connection with the poverty of the people who were trying to get their living, under circumstances and conditions which the House of Commons would like to see improved, but which it would be cruelty to deprive them of altogether. He was aware that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean and his 581 friends had set their minds on bringing those small laundries under protection, which would amount to ending their existence. The women inspectors of the Home Office had made up their minds to the same effect. The right hon. Baronet and his friends had great influence with the Home Office. He had heard them described collectively as an outside branch of the Factory Department of the Home Office. Their aim was to close every one of those small laundries, and it was supported, in his opinion, in the Report in a manner which was unfair. There was a long quotation about a small laundry carried on by some Italians, who had evaded the law by employing persons under the pretence that they were members of the family. Probably that was true; but he had tried to get the addresses of some of those terrible cases, and he had not been able to obtain them.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said he should like to get the addresses from those who wrote the Report. He did not say the cases were incorrect, but he said that they were isolated and rare, and to found general legislation on exceptional cases was always a mistake. Then it was said in the Report in regard to these domestic laundries—It is difficult not to be struck by the discomfort and wretchedness of these homes when turned into unregulated workshops.They were considering the cases of tens and hundreds of thousands of women who were really not laundresses at all, but washerwomen who at the present time got a humble living. In every part of the country they would find that the one successful, though humble, home industry was carried on by women who took in washing. That was what right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted to destroy. It was the merest quibble to say that they did not want to destroy them, when they proposed to bring them under the Workshops Act. There were steam laundries now within reach of almost every village in the country, and if the home industry was extinguished the work would be sent to the steam laundries. When the Factories and Workshops Bill was before 582 the House, there was an attempt to bring those small industries within its scope, and he received scores of letters from clergymen and others, praying that they should not be interfered with. Again he would say it was unfair to quote exceptional cases, and then suggest that, in order to rectify them, all the thousands of the poorer industrial classes should be interfered with. He hoped there would be an improvement in future Reports as far as sensational statements were concerned, and that the inspectors would report only on the work entrusted to them, and not on missionary work which should be left to those to whom it properly belonged. It was very interesting and very clever, but its proper place was not in the Report. He hoped the Home Office would bear in mind that, after all, it was a poor result to improve the conditions of trade, if, at the same time, it meant squeezing trades on which poor people were engaged out of existence. If they looked round they would see at the bottom of the social system of the country a condition of poverty that some of them did not perhaps fully realise. If they found people struggling to get a living, let them not adopt means which might be good if applied where they could be applied, but which would take away the means of earning a living from those people. He particularly referred to laundries, and to the hundreds of thousands of people who earned a humble living by them at the present time. That industry, if the Workshops Act regulations were applied, would no longer be able to continue.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
said he was at one moment afraid that his right hon. friend who had just sat down was going to succumb to the influences so prevalent in the atmosphere just now, which seemed to lure every speaker, whatever might be ostensibly the subject of debate, in the direction of preferential tariffs.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said his right hon. friend had seemed to be on the verge, at any rate, of succumbing to that temptation, and, warned by his example, he 583 would endeavour to give a clear berth to that particular topic. His right hon. friend took an interest in the welfare of these small industries. He entirely shared with him the view that it was most undesirable, either by legislation or administration, to do anything to curtail the sphere or diminish the prosperity of those industries. But his right hon. friend's imagination in these matters was, if not exclusively occupied, dominated by the figure of the poor woman who took in washing. After all, no one wanted to put any unreasonable obstacles in her way, but there were a number of these small industries in regard to which investigation had shown there were ample reasons why the persons engaged in them should be protected against vital danger as regarded sanitary condition, hours of labour, and the general terms of their employment. Allusion had been made to brush-making, and there seemed to be an impression that an unwarrantable intrusion had been made into that trade. But what was the reason for that intrusion? It was because it was in relation to this trade that the terrible disease of anthrax became more and more prevalent and dangerous, particularly where the work was carried on by out-workers. Could anyone say that was not a matter for investigation? When his right hon. friend compared our brush industry with that of Germany, and stated that one of the effects of this legislation was that in some of the lower branches of the brush industry it enabled German manufacturers to successfully compete with the British manufacturers, was the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Germany these very processes were safeguarded by stringent rules with regard to disinfection such as did not exist in this country? He thought we might legitimately take a leaf out of Germany's book in this matter.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said he had no objection to inquiry into brush-making or anything else—into any other industry; but let that inquiry be conducted under the authority of the Home Office under proper instructions. What he objected to was that inspectors who complained that they had not time to do their administrative work, went of their own 584 accord into a trade, making inquiries and publishing a Report. It was not their business to do so unless they had instructions to do so.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said he did not feel much wiser after the right hon. Gentleman's explanation than he did when he resumed his seat. Who would be more qualified to make inquiries than the inspectors who existed for that purpose. The inspectors of the Home Office were well qualified to make inquiries, and there could be no reasonable objection to the result of those inquiries being embodied in a Report to the Department. The principles of factory legislation were now practically settled, and there was continuity of administration. This, of course, made the annual debate turn more and more upon matters of detail, and it was useful as indicating directions in which settled rules should be extended in application. He was strongly of opinion that whenever it was shown, after due inquiry, that the conditions of particular trades were insanitary or dangerous, whether carried on in factories or outside, and that there was a risk of workers losing their proper measure of remuneration, it was not only the right, but the duty of the State, in compliance with uniform tradition, to take effectual means to safeguard the workers. There was nothing dangerously socialistic in that principle—there was abundant evidence for it in the policy which had been carried on by this country for many years. He was not one of those who believed that British industries were handicapped in their struggle for existence by extension of the regulations. It was a position, however, which though not often enunciated in this House was often put forward outside, and he challenged evidence in support of it. The more matters were investigated—if they were to form part of the comprehensive inquiry into things in general—the more it would be shown that British trade had been emancipated and improved; and the fact, that workers who fifty or sixty years ago owing to insanitary conditions carried on their work with shortened lives and impaired energies, now, by wise legislation and careful administration, were safeguarded and carried on their occupations under healthy conditions 585 which they had not previously enjoyed, would form a great commercial asset for Great Britain in the struggle with other nations. His hon. friend the Member for Berwick had alluded, not for the first time by many, to the fact that the Report of the Committee on Dangerous Trades had in some points not been acted upon by the Home Office; he knew from experience the difficulty of framing special rules for particular industries, but he impressed on his right hon. friend the urgency of dealing with trades where avoidable dangers to life and health existed. He was not at all satisfied with the progress that had been made in this matter, and he hoped an assurance would be given by his right hon. friend that further steps would be taken. For many years the hon. Member for Stoke had taken part in the debates on lead poisoning with credit and versatility, shifting his ground with admirable perception of the line it would be in the interest of his clients to take. He did not, however, understand the line the hon. Member had taken on this occasion. Some years ago the late Home Secretary promulgated a movement which resulted in an arbitration, conducted by Lord James of Hereford, who adjourned the hearing for eighteen months. That period had elapsed, and the hon. Member was surprised that proceedings should be resumed; he thought, perhaps, that proceedings which were adjourned for eighteen months were postponed sine die or to the Greek Kalends! Why did he think the inquiry was adjourned?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said this was ingenious, but not complimentary from a supporter of the Government. He gave Lord James credit for a large intention. He thought he adjourned the inquiry to allow those concerned the opportunity of reaching a state of things in which special rules or legislation would not be required, and it was reasonable that, a sufficient time having elapsed, Lord James should desire to know what had been done. He would make one other remark. Ten years experience of the experiment of appointing women inspec 586 tors for trades where women and young persons were employed justified an extension of the practice. The communications between the women operatives and these inspectors had been much more free than they would have been if these women inspectors had not been appointed, and the result had been a much better administration of the law. He desired to see the women inspectorate still further extended. It had been productive of incalculable benefit to a large class of operatives in the country, and he did not in the least share the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division that women inspectors had gone out of their way to publish to the world ex parte and sensational statements in reference to certain trades.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said the right hon. Gentleman certainly suggested it, otherwise he could not understand the purport of his remarks. At any rate, he declared that they had gone beyond the duties of their office, and devoted to the preparation of Reports time which might have been more usefully employed in the routine work of the Department. He did not at all agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It was one of the duties, as it had been the practice, of inspectors, no matter with what Department they were connected, not to confine themselves to the mere routine of their daily work, but, as intelligent observers, to send to their official chief, in the form of Reports, such observations as they might be able to make with regard to the condition of the particular form of activity with which they were charged, whether social, educational, or industrial, adding suggestions for the improvement or removal of such evils as were brought to their notice. He would be sorry for it to be suggested that inspectors were going beyond their proper sphere in reporting to their chief, and through him to the Secretary of State, the existence of evils, their magnitude, and suggestions for their remedy. By making such Reports they were performing a most useful function, and he earnestly hoped the Home Secretary would not give any countenance to the discouraging remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the 587 Member for the Bordesley Division. On the whole he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the progress of the Department and the excellent work it had done, and he hoped he would be able to reassure the Committee on the special points of detail to which reference had been made.
§ *MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
was understood to say that the greatest credit was due to the women inspectors for the excellent work they had done, especially when it was remembered that some of them received remuneration which hardly came within the description of a "living wage." He entirely disagreed with the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division on the question of the inspection of laundries. It was unreasonable to suggest that small laundries would be squeezed out of existence if they were compelled to conduct their industry in a proper and sanitary manner. All small laundries would be, or ought to be, glad to comply with the reasonable requirements of the Home Office.
§ *MR. TALBOT
believed they could afford it. If they could not, they ought to be closed, as no industry ought to be conducted at the expense of the health of the community. On the larger question of the inspection of laundries generally, the Committee would remember a remarkable scene which occurred two years ago on the last stage of the Factories and Workshops Regulation Bill, when the Home Office surrendered the position they had taken up, and declared that they could not carry the measure if they insisted on the inspection of laundries. The then Home Secretary practically promised to deal with the question in a very short time, but that promise had not yet been redeemed. He therefore desired to ask the Home Secretary whether he was prepared, and if so when, to deal with this question. It was a matter of considerable difficulty, and one which raised serious considerations in the minds of those connected with certain charitable institutions. It was only right to say, however, that recent revelations as to what had happened in another country had given rise to some alarm lest there 588 should be in this country, unknown to the public, scandals of a similar nature, and it would tend to relieve the public mind if the right hon. Gentleman would give an assurance that the subject would be dealt with within a reasonable time. The fact that it presented difficulties was no reason why the subject should be neglected, especially when it affected the welfare of a specially helpless part of the community. With reference to the fruit preserving industry, he thought the law was hardly sufficiently stringent for the protection of the health of the youngest class of workers. That, however, was a matter for legislation, and could not be discussed on the Estimates. But he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Reports he had received led him to the conclusion that the existing law was really carried out. He believed that in some places there existed a condition of things which ought never to be tolerated—fruit preserving being carried on under in sanitary conditions not only prejudicial to the health of the workers, but causing a danger to the preserved fruit which might be described as disgusting. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give this matter his attention.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R., Keighley)
desired to refer to the remarkable but reasonable complaint of the hon. Member for the Clitheroe Division with reference to the cotton steaming mills. The hon. Member had approached the matter from the workers' point of view; he (the speaker) could look at the matter from the opposite point of view, because, although not actually an employer of cotton labour, he had been part holder, and had had under his control the management of factory sheds of the kind described by the hon. Member, The ground of complaint was that the Home Office had not been sufficiently active in enforcing the regulations, and that the inspectors had not done all they might and ought to have done. There were two very good reasons, and in giving those reasons, he might be able to make some useful suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman. Many Members were probably not familiar with the object of steaming cotton. The fact was that it was necessary to put a large quantity of steam into these sheds while the goods were 589 being produced in order to help the weaving and the laying down of the fibre, and at the same time to get a certain amount of moisture into the cloth, that being extremely valuable to the manufacturer. It was much better for the manufacturer if the goods could be turned out in a damp condition than if they were turned out dry. Under those circumstances, when a man had a direct interest in keeping the place moist, it was difficult to keep him on the right line. It was exceedingly difficult to detect what the inspectors were expected to discover. Hon. Members knew that the small fractions of impurity which were said to exist in the sheds were exceedingly difficult to arrive at. The hon. Member for Clitheroe had been asking for a more efficient inspection and a more careful consideration of the conditions under which the cotton industry was now carried on. Unless the punishment was very severe manufacturers would continue to ignore the law. He knew some of the difficulties with which owners had to contend, because many of the alterations were difficult to carry out, and very expensive, but he was quite convinced that there was no reason whatever to consider that the regulations laid down in regard to steaming in cotton sheds were unreasonable, and there was no reason why the Home Office should not use more energy in having the Act carried out.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University disputed that these regulations would squeeze the small laundries out of existence. Take the case of a widow with a couple of daughters calling in two or three outside assistants to carry on washerwomen's work. She would probably occupy premises of a humble nature, and perhaps carry on the washing business in an old coach-house. If they applied factory regulations in this case, as to sanitation and other matters, they would squeeze her business out of existence, because she probably would have no money to carry out the alterations required. The cost would fall upon the owner of the property, and the result would be that owners would bar washerwomen from occu 590 pying their premises. He agreed with his right hon. friend the Member for Bordesley with regard to what he said about the extinction of these independent workers. He desired to thank the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean for kindly giving him notice of his intention to bring the subject of fish-curing at Yarmouth before the Committee. He regretted that, owing to his public duties calling him elsewhere, he was unable to be present and listen to the right hon. Baronet's remarks upon the Inspector's Report. There were peculiar circumstances connected with the industry at Great Yarmouth which rendered it very difficult to meet the points which had been brought forward. In the first place, it had to be remembered that fish-curing was not pleasant work under any circumstances. The fish had to be cleaned and gutted, and that was not agreeable work in any sense of the word. He would not dispute the fact that, although the work might be disagreeable, everything reasonable should be done in the direction, not of making it less disagreeable, but of making it as sanitary in its operation as possible. The Report said that a large number of women were carrying on the work under disgusting circumstances, and it went on to speak of mud, filth, rain, storms, and of the work being carried on in the open air. No Home Office could control rain or wind, but what could the Home Office do to mitigate the unpleasant results referred to in the Memorandum? He did not think they could do very much in this instance. In the first place, the area of the ground upon which this work must be carried on at Yarmouth was very, very restricted. What was described as the South Denes where the work was carried on in the open air, was but a very few acres. It could not be carried on at a very great distance from the landing-place because of the additional cost that would be added to the curing by the carriage. The congestion, consequently, must be nearest to the river. The ground could not be extended. They could not limit the number of fish to be treated, nor could they delay the process. However willing the private owners and the Corporation might be, they were met 591 with the greatest possible difficulty, and he did not think the case admitted of very much remedy. If his right hon. friend suggested that the work should be done under sheds, he would point out that that might inflict considerable outlay by a number of people concerned. In pointing out that women worked in mud and slush, and in storms of wind and rain, the inspector mentioned that a few loads of stones might mitigate the evil. Knowing the operations of fish-curing, and the conditions under which they had to be carried on, he doubted very much whether the inspector was right. It would not do to put down rough stones, because the women would cut their feet, and they would interfere with the work of cleaning, because the stones would have to be constantly removed and fresh stones substituted.
The inspector was actuated by the best intentions, and was a very able man. He was, doubtless, extremely anxious to see some mitigation of the evil, but he did not think a remedy would be found in putting down rough stones which must in course of time become insanitary, and could not be changed while pressure of work was on. He could not help thinking that if this inspector had a more varied experience of the fish-curing process, and went up and down the coast, he would not have expressed himself so strongly. It was useless to use strong words without suggesting a remedy for the evil. The fish-curing was different from every other industry, and he would again ask the Home Secretary to consider whether it would not be desirable to employ one inspector to look after it and to travel after the fish. Such an official would understand the different conditions at different places and would accumulate experience that would prove most useful. The Home Secretary had not seen his way in the past to act upon this suggestion, but it might be possible that little things could be done by an inspector with experience of other districts. Without in the least wishing to quarrel with the inspector or to controvert his statements, he repeated that he differed from him as to the possibilities of the remedies that were suggested in the report. Where-ever there was a likelihood of danger to the community it was right to make regulations to obviate it, but he contended no 592 plea could be put forward by anybody that the fish-curing process carried on at Yarmouth was insanitary, or that it had an ill effect upon the health of anyone engaged in it. It was a most agreeable sight to see the arrival of a corridor train from Scotland crowded with young women who by their appearance, dress and conduct gave an impression of a very high type of civilisation. Their respectability and moral conduct was beyond all doubt, and yet they went to Yarmouth to work under the conditions which the inspector so condemned. Those girls and the people of Yarmouth were most healthy, and surely, therefore, there could be no plea raised for precipitate interference by the Home Secretary. He made those remarks because the inspector's Report would lead to a wrong impression if it were not met by observations from one possessed of local knowledge upon the subject. It was quite recognised in Yarmouth, both by private owners and the Corporation, that it would be greatly to the advantage of everyone concerned if, without interfering with or hampering the industry, some method could be found for its amelioration or improvement. But it had to be remembered that the fishery was a very precarious business, and permanent arrangements could not be made for it, although the people concerned always did their best. He hoped the Committee would understand that he was only doing what he considered his duty in endeavouring to put before it the facts as they concerned Great Yarmouth.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said the right hon. Gentleman opposite had made a slight allusion to the question of convent laundries. That question raised a good deal of feeling some time ago, and that feeling was largely due to a want of appreciation of the facts. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Home Secretary had exercised a wise discretion in exempting these laundries from the ordinary inspection provided for by the Act. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to some scandals that had recently been published in connection with convents in France. If he followed the right hon. Gentleman, he meant to suggest the possibility of such scandals in the establishments in England, Ireland, and Scotland. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman 593 that, if he believed there was such a possibility he would join in any measure to prevent such scandals. But he did not believe in that possibility, and he would confirm what he had to say in regard to laundries in conventual institutions by one or two extracts from the Blue-book now before the Committee. It contained four Reports, from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dublin, and they all agreed in stating that these institutions were extremely well conducted from a sanitary point of view Mr. Bellhouse (Dublin) stated in his Report:—I have had an opportunity during the year of visiting a good many of these places by invitation, and I have been enormously impressed by the excellent arrangements that are made in all of them for the workers. In no case have found any instance of excessive hours, the regulations as to holidays are fully met by the observance of all the Church holidays; the only point in which there is not absolute compliance in this respect being in connection with the compulsory Easter holiday. This is never observed, but the want of it is more than counterbalanced by the extra number of other days which are observed instead. I have always found the rooms to be exceedingly well ventilated, high, lofty, bright, and airy; the wash-house flours are admirably laid and drained. In those places where machinery is used I have been surprised to see how well it has been guarded, and bow well the ventilating fans have been arranged. Much of the opposition to the Factory Act on the part of these institutions has been due to ignorance of what the law might mean to them. They have been afraid that we might interfere with their religious ceremonies by binding them to certain definite and unalterable hours, but I have always carefully explained matters and pointed out that they were, as a matter of fact, already complying to the fullest, extent with all the provisions of the Act, and that its application to them could make no possible difference in their arrangements. I do not believe that there is any opposition to or feeling against visits by an Inspector, male or female. In this district they are already well accustomed to such visits, for there is nearly always attached to the convent either an industrial, national or technical school, to which visits are paid by Government officials, or the convent is under the control of the Congested Districts Board, and subject to visits by officials from them. My experience is that a very hearty welcome is always offered by the Reverend Mother and the Nuns, who seem only too anxious to show everything about the premises.He thought that would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman that there was no ground for the apprehension that any scandals such as had been alleged in regard to institutions in other countries 594 were possible in the conventual establishments of this country. He might say that the opposition to the intrusion of inspectors into these convent laundries in the ordinary way was on account of the fear which was entertained by the authorities that much inspection in the case of persons of ill balanced minds might have an injurious effect, and lead them to desire liberation and to return to their old ways. That was the basis of their opposition. So far as inspection of convents in relation to machinery and hours of labour was concerned, the report of Mr. Bellhouse showed that there was no objection on the part of these establishments to inspection.
Some time ago, when the Factories Act was before the House, they succeeded in getting Section 104 introduced, the result being to make the Act apply to dockers and practically to all forms of employment on ships and in docks. And in addition they got it applied to dockets as men engaged in a dangerous trade. Further, it was provided that a wharf, quay, warehouse, and all machinery and plant used in loading or unloading any ship were included in the word "factory"; and, finally, by the second sub-section the expression "plant" was interpreted as including any gangway or ladder used by any person to load or unload or coal a ship. That was the legislation on which the House agreed. The trade of dockers was one of the most dangerous in the country, and the statistics which were submitted on that point constituted the reason why the then Home Secretary assisted in getting this section introduced into the Factories Act. He was sure that the present Home Secretary did not fall behind his predecessor in his anxiety to see the Act carried into operation. What he wanted to know was how far the right hon. Gentleman had been able to see that the proposals of the Act were given effect to. The narrow point with which he was most concerned at present was the ladder one. A ladder was really one of the most important parts of the machinery in the docking industry, and also in shipbuilding yards, and it was a matter which required the serious attention of the Home Office. He would confine his remarks to the case of the dockers. What happened? In large ships holds 595 were 35 to 40 feet deep, and in some cases the ladders did not reach to the full depth. He had seen ships in which it required something like an acrobatic performance to reach from the deck to the first rung of the ladder. The result was that the docker would miss the first rung of the ladder and fall forty or fifty feet into the hold, and if not instantaneously killed, he would be grievously injured. That was a disgraceful state of things. Furthermore, the ladders had frequently the rungs very widely apart, or broken; in fact, they constituted death-traps to these dockers. He understood that the Home Office had a set of rules in regard to this matter under consideration, but which had not yet been issued, and he was sure that the right hon. the Home Secretary would do everything in his power to make these regulations effective. The right hon. Gentleman had been courteous enough to give him an invitation to go to the Home Office and inspect an improved ladder. He declined to do so, because he did not consider it the business of any Member of Parliament to recommend any particular form of ladder. That was a matter on which the Home Office should exercise their own judgment. What he wanted was that the Home Office should see that the best kind of ladder was adopted. When inquiry was being made, he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his inspectors had put themselves in communication with the representatives of the dockers themselves. It would be highly desirable that that should be done, because the inspectors had no practical experience in these matters, while the leaders of the dockers, who had been themselves dockers, and had gone through all their trials and bore in their own persons the marks of the wounds which they had received in the exercise of their calling, had that practical experience. There was also the danger of open hatches, which led to many accidents, both in the docks and in shipbuilding yards, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see that the regulations as to these were modified and improved.
§ SIR J. L. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow, College)
said he hoped his right hon. friend would take this opportunity of making an explicit statement 596 as to what the Government were going to do in regard to the question of the inspection of laundries. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool had said that the Catholic institutions were willing to come under general regulations, but he was not at all sure of that. All the evidence that he had was that these institutions were not of a very satisfactory nature. There was no doubt that the case for dealing with laundries had been more than made out. In the House of Lords two years ago, Lord James of Hereford, in the course of a debate on an Amendment to the Factories Acts, said—My noble friend, Lord Windsor, was perfectly correct in saying that the Home Secretary had declared that the state of the law with regard to laundries was most unsatisfactory. My right hon. friend still entertains that view, and he has pledged himself to do his utmost to bring about an amendment of the law.And a little later Lord James said—
Order, order! I would remind the hon. Baronet that matters dealing with fresh legislation cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply.
§ SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL
said he would then leave that point alone. He however, insisted that the laundries were not in a very satisfactory state. In reference to what the hon. Member for Bordesley had stated, he did not think that anyone wished to see this industry so regulated that the small laundries were squeezed out of existence. The laundries, however, must be made sanitary, and they should be so regulated that they should not be prejudicial to the health of their patrons or the community.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said that the significant feature of the debate on the Home Office Vote was that only three hon. Members had spoken adversely of the Reports of the Inspectors of Factories, of the method of their doing their work, and of the general administration of the Factories and Workshops Acts. Curiously enough in these three instances the speakers represented the view of local trades, and might fairly be charged with taking the narrow view of their trade constituents rather than following the broad 597 principle which ought to weigh with a Member of the House of Commons. He ventured to say that on that point, the trades' constituents were not always the best guides, philosophers, and friends in regard to industrial legislation. It was significant that these three adverse speakers had always, for constituent reasons, been urging the Home Office to be cautious and slow in the administration of the factory laws, but above all, to remember that foreign competition was walking with giant and irresistible strides. There was a converse view to that position. This House contained many captains of industry and princes of commerce, men who had succeeded well in various branches of industry; and the three speeches to which he had referred had been received by them with great coolness. These speeches had influenced in no sense the audience to which they were addressed. But there was one of these speeches which no one could help noticing—viz., that of the hon. Member for Bordesley. That speech was in keeping with the low-water-mark of industrial organisation which distinguished the right hon. Gentleman, both in and out of office. The speech was an obvious rider to the hon. Member for Stoke and another hon. Member, who were under the impression that the Home Office were inclined to go further than they ought. That speech proved that the Home Office was not a revolutionary office and that the atmosphere of the Home Office did not provoke its occupants "to scorn delights and live laborious days," and to press for further legislation for the improvement of the condition of the workers of the country. It proved that if the Home Office had erred at all it was on the side of caution and slowness, and that they did not pioneer reforms until long experiment justified them in doing so. It threw a side-light on the tardy way in which the right hon. Gentleman gave concessions to reforms in the years that were gone; and a very interesting side-light on the difficulties which some hon. Members had to encounter in securing reforms from the right hon. Gentleman in many dangerous trades.
The right hon. Gentleman urged one argument which ought to weigh 598 with one or two hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Home Office had something else to protect than the workers; that they must not by these restrictions and regulations improve certain trades altogether out of existence; that the margin of profit in these trades was so small that he was not sure that over-inspection would not destroy that margin. He thought that that theory had been discussed when the first Factory Act was passed; and that it had then been discredited. It was opposed to existing facts; and he would suggest to the right hon. Member for Bordesley that if the trade of Birmingham was suffering—as it might be—that might be due to the fact that in the small trades of Birmingham the garret-master still prevailed, and that in that environment there was a lack of that sub-division of labour and precision which alone could be secured in large factories. Birmingham had not followed the example of Manchester and other large manufacturing centres in the North of England where, by that sub division of labour and precision of method, their trade had improved in proportion as they had abandoned the old garret-master methods There they had instituted large workshops, employed foremen technically trained, and worked out the specialisation of industry. He would suggest to the right hon. Member for Bordesley that instead of devoting attention to preferential tariffs, his constituents should spend more money on the education of their artisans; and that instead of going round the world in search of Imperial fireworks they should send over the workmen of Birmingham to Germany to study the organisation of labour. If Birmingham was suffering from German competition it was due to the fact that Birmingham had not got such splendid technical schools and colleges as Charlottenburg and other cities of Germany. The right hon. Gentleman should remember the old adage—which was also the law of life of the nations—that the large fish lived on the little fish and that the little fish ate mud. That, too, was the law of the life of industry. The small garret-masters would have to go, and Birmingham would have to follow the example of other cities which had got over that stage of industry.
599 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division talked about small laundries. He had great sympathy with washerwomen, and with all, especially women, who were obliged to work under bad conditions; but it was no kindness to them that they should be allowed to work under insanitary and noisome conditions. On the contrary, the more the standard of industry was raised, the more the people engaged therein were elevated. If hon. Members only knew the places where small laundry workers did their work, out of sheer sympathy they would improve the standard of work. When the right hon. Gentleman talked about over-regulation and over-inspection, he had only to look at the Report to find that, as regarded laundries in France, that country was abreast of this country in many respects, and excelled it in others; and as regarded brush-making, Germany was far ahead of this country from the point of view of health, sanitation, and hygiene. He did not believe, and never would believe, that expansion of Empire was to be had by the ill-health of the citizens of that Empire. On the contrary, he believed that insanitary conditions of work, low wages and long hours, constituted a reactionary condition of things from which the country in which it existed was certain to suffer. Such a condition of affairs would not be improved by walking about like Jeremiah, bemoaning the fate of England or crying "stinking fish." This country would not hold the commerce it had by following the reactionary course suggested by the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent deserved great credit for the manner in which he persistently stuck, not with the best of aims, to the question of lead poisoning. He had little to say to the hon. Member after the proper criticism he had already received. For five or six years the hon. Member had delivered similar speeches to that which he delivered to-day; but his speeches were not now so strong as they were two or three years ago. What was the reason? Five or six years ago the hon. Member said that all this inspection in connection with lead poisoning was not necessary. The Home Secretary, however, following the late Home Secretary, who deserved great credit for what he did in this particular industry as in many other 600 industries, insisted that regulations-should be carried out, that control should be exercised, and that inspection should be extended. What had been the result of the action of the Home Office? In 1899 there were 249 cases of lead poisoning, when the control of the Home Office was being introduced. In 1900 the cases dropped to 200; and after three years they had fallen to 106. The hon. Member should remember that was done in the teeth of his annual cry that the industry was going to be ruined.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said he believed that if the Home Secretary had a free hand and more vigorously enforced the regulations, the 106 cases would be reduced very soon to forty or fifty cases. That should encourage the Home Office to pursue its policy more vigorously in the future than in the past. He could not congratulate the hon. Member on the way in which he had been a snag in the stream of industrial reform; and he thought that the hon. Member was almost as reactionary as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division. The last point he wished 10-refer to was that of underground bakehouses. The Home Office was the authority for the inspection of bakehouses, both above and under ground. In certain circumstances the Home Office deserved credit for its part in carrying out the reforms inaugurated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife nine or ten years ago. He had been very frequently criticised for his condemnation of underground bakehouses, but he was glad to say that, like Othello, his occupation in that direction was gone, because underground bakehouses were disappearing, and in a year or two very few would be left. But he would ask the Home Secretary to remember the fact that many of the places which were condemned by his own inspectors as bakehouses, and which could not, therefore, be used as bakehouses, were now being used for making confectionery, a branch of industry which certainly required just as much protection as that of bread-making. It was 601 a remarkable condition of things that they could not have underground bake-houses for the baking of bread, but could have them for the preparing and making of pastry, and the hundred and one toothsome morsels with which people regaled themselves. He thought the Home Office ought to construe underground bakehouses or kitchens, where they were used for the cooking of food other than bread, as a place where no edible article ought to be made or prepared. The Medical Officer of Health for the City of London, in his Report on underground bakehouses in 1902, stated that in many cases the w.-c. accommodation was in a very defective condition. Twenty-six lavatories either opened or were ventilated into the kitchens, and in one case the lobby of the lavatory was used for the storage of meat. Those were the places where City merchants most did congregate. The medical officer said that there were cases in which kitchens were badly ventilated, walls dirty, floors defective, w.-c.'s without ventilation or light, and used by both sexes, cisterns not covered, and cisterns needing to be cleansed. That revealed a condition of affairs which was simply disgraceful and scandalous, and one on which the Home Office inspectors should be turned as soon as possible. The master bakers' organ said that the persons who denounced underground bakeries ought to see underground kitchens within a few hundred yards of Charing Cross; and the St. James's Gazette also described them unfavourably. He could quote instance after instance in which the condition of underground restaurant kitchens was really disgraceful. This House had perhaps the best kitchen in the world, but when they walked through that kitchen they were struck by the pallid appearance of those who carried on their work there, even under the best conditions. What, then, must the condition be of those who worked in the insanitary underground kitchens to which he referred. His view was that law and administration should deal with these places in precisely the same way as with underground bakehouses, and that they should henceforth be placed, not at the bottom, but at the top of buildings. In conclusion, he congratulated the Home Secretary and the officials of the Department on the continuous improvement in the Report.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. AKERS DOUGLAS,) Kent, St. Augustine's
, who was very indistinctly heard in the gallery, was understood to say he would be hard to please if he had any fault to find with the tone of the debate. Although faults had been found, which he would endeavour to put right, the debate on the whole had been one of congratulation. Speaking, in the first place, of the date at which the Estimates were brought on, he pointed out that the Estimates which were taken first were those in which the greatest interest was taken, and they were taken when they were at the suggestion of right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite. He referred to the undesirability of taking this Vote extremely late, and said he did not think that the Report in connection with Lord James's inquiry would be available in so short a time as a fortnight or three weeks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife had mentioned a fact at which the Committee would rejoice—namely, that nowadays the question of administering these Acts was no longer to be considered one of Party politics. Continuity of spirit, policy, and administration was maintained by successive Secretaries of State. He thought that was a matter for congratulation which tended to better work being done by the inspectors and the Department. With regard to lead poisoning, he thought there was, generally speaking, reason to be satisfied with the steady decline in the number of cases. In 1899 there were in all 1,258 cases; in 1900 1,058; in 1901, 863; in 1902, 629. The diminution in the Potteries was even more remarkable. The effect of the special rules (first established some ten years ago) had been, he ventured to think, most marked, especially since the revision of 1898. This subject could hardly be thoroughly discussed just now, as the arbitration of Lord James was not jet concluded, but would be resumed next week, and the case was, so to speak, sub judice. He admitted that the position could not yet be considered to be entirely satisfactory, but there was certainly much satisfaction to be found in the figures quoted. He really thought that even the hon. Member for Stoke, with all his gloomy anticipation as to the effect of the restrictions on trade in this country, would agree that the improved state of affairs was 603 worth some sacrifice. Further progress must be made, further precautions were necessary, and it would be necessary to frame further rules to secure them. Something was being done with regard to insurance, and he had reason to think that the number of those who were insured would increase year by year. He assured the Committee that he would spare no effort to combat the evil of lead poisoning.
As regarded fisheries, he was bound to say that the conditions of the premises used for pickling herrings at Great Yarmouth were not very satisfactory, and in some cases there was an absence of sanitary convenience. The matter had been brought to the notice of the sanitary authority, and he had every reason to be satisfied with the way in which they had received the suggestions and demands made by the Department with regard to putting their house in order. At Lowestoft, though the conditions shown in the Report were better than at Yarmouth, there were still unsatisfactory points; pressure was being brought to bear to secure the necessary improvement, and for the enforcing of the law. As regards fruit-preserving it had been suggested that very slow progress was being made, but it should be remembered that the rules were only made in June last, and he had little doubt that the next Report would show a more satisfactory result. The instances quoted by Miss Paterson certainly showed a striking disregard of hygienic considerations, and inquiries would be made. The new conditions under which fruit-preserving was now carried on seemed to require further consideration. If it were the fact that the factories were practically working all through the year it was possible that the special exemptions ought to be cut down or removed. That was a matter for consideration, and a primâ facie case for further inquiry had perhaps been made out. The extension of the "Particulars" principle to various trades must proceed gradually as need was shown. The complexity in the conditions of many trades made careful inquiry essential. Since the Act of 1901 was passed, which made extension to out workers possible, several branches of trade had been under consideration; extensions had been made 604 in four trades, and he hoped when the subject came up again for discussion, progress would be found to have been made towards meeting the wishes of the right hon. Baronet. Of course, many trades were acting voluntarily in the matter. As to the inspectorate, there was always room for the increase of inspectors of both sexes, and recent years showed a continuous increase in appointments. The appointment of a permanent lady inspector for the potteries had been considered by his predecessors who had not seen their way to place a lady inspector there permanently. In that view he concurred, believing that the staff of lady inspectors could be best turned to account by sending members of it where their services were most needed from time to time. Under that system the potteries had received their fair share of attention. In reference to the preparation of certain Returns, there was certainly some overlapping of authority between the Home Office and the Local Government Board; but he anticipated a removal of this objection from the report of the Committee which had been appointed under Lord Jersey to inquire into the distribution of work among the Departments.
The hon. Member for Clitheroe, in a most moderate speech, had brought under notice the condition of the cotton cloth or steaming factories and the question of ventilation. He had also received useful suggestions privately from the hon. Gentleman on this subject some time ago. An inquiry was going on, and he fully appreciated the points the hon. Member had raised. The absence of prosecutions was no indication of neglect. There were difficulties in the way often which made success doubtful, and the Department had preferred to rely on warnings rather than on prosecution, with probability of failure to obtain conviction. The question of ventilation had careful attention, and he ventured to think that the fears of the hon. Member with regard to a detrimental lowering of the standard were groundless. With regard to the subjects referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire, they had been proceeding to a certain extent on the lines suggested 605 by the Committee over which he had presided. Theright hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife had also pressed the matter on his attention, and he could assure him that he would not forget the suggestions made. He might say the same with regard to the suggestions made by the hon. Member for the Scotland division of Liverpool. They had not only considered the question of safety in docks out had prepared rules dealing with the subject. He should be glad of any suggestions which the hon. Member might make to him. With regard to the question of laundries, he had been asked why they had not proceeded with legislation, and whether he was prepared with any announcement on the subject? He had gone carefully into the matter three or four times with the full determination to deal with it. He was glad to think that the voluntary inspection of many of the exempted laundries had been attended with considerable success. They had found that the public inspection had not the terrors which were anticipated, and this had greatly improved the feeling on the matter. Although there were still many difficulties, it was a subject which would have really to be taken up, and he hoped that would be soon. He sympathised to a certain extent with one point which had been raised by the right hon. Member for Bordesley, but he thought they would be agreed that they could not allow even the smaller laundries to remain without their being put into a sanitary condition.
§ *MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
Well, the local authorities could be stirred up. Although he had no desire that these small laundries should be cut out of existence, he thought it was not too much to demand that sanitary conditions should be enforced. The only other question which he recollected was one raised by his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth with reference to the appointment of a peripatetic inspector of fisheries. He had had a correspondence with his friend on this subject, and he could only repeat that he believed that to have a wandering inspector would greatly interfere with the inspectory system of the country. The hon. Member for Battersea raised the question of underground bake- 606 houses, and he had complained that these underground places, which had been condemned as bakeries, were now used for the making of confectionery and as kitchens. This was a matter which rested with the local authority, but the instructive Report on the matter which the hon. Member had quoted would no doubt form ground for enquiry.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
asked: Did he understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was not satisfied with local inspection of the small laundries as regarded sanitary arrangements, and was he in some way or other going to put them under the Workshops Act?
§ *MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
No. What he had said was that he agreed with his right hon. friend in a desire to keep them going, but that he hoped they would be brought into a sanitary condition. He did not know whether, after the assurances he had given, the hon. Member for Clitheroe would deem it necessary to go to a division. They were all anxious to proceed in the direction the hon. Member had indicated, and he assured him that the matter would be thoroughly inquired into.
§ *MR. SHACKLETON
said he did hesitate about pressing this matter to a division. He thanked the right hon Gentle man for the courteous way he had received him upon previous occasions. The right hon. Gentleman had not said anything about the inspectors, and he would like a few words from him upon that subject. Previously there were three inspectors, and a general inspector was appointed to assist. These inspectors, as a rule, had no knowledge of the work. The number of mills worked upon this system had considerably increased, and it was absolutely necessary that more men, with a practical knowledge of the work, who understood how to take samples and check them, and make returns upon them, should be appointed. The right hon. Gentleman's reply in regard to the failure to prosecute offenders under the Act was not satisfactory. He was afraid that the courts of justice in Lancashire were not sufficiently independent to apply the Act in an honest and fearless way.
§ *MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said that a large number of magistrates were, on account of being connected with particular trades, disqualified from acting in these matters.
§ *MR. SHACKLETON
said he understood the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. It was also said that the prosecutions having failed in previous cases they did not desire to bring up other cases and fail again. He knew that it was difficult to get the law administered in the Courts in Lancashire, but that fact gave no satisfaction to those who felt aggrieved. No assurances were given. The fact that an inquiry was going on had nothing whatever to do with the present Act. An inquiry was held some years ago and, a definite agreement having been come to, the agreement was embodied in the Act to which he had referred.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
directed the attention of the Home Secretary to one point which had been raised in the debate. In regard to most of the subjects raised the right hon. Gentleman had given assurances or pledges, but on the question of the inspection of laundries connected with conventual institutions he had given no promise at all. It had been suggested that, owing to the difficulties in the way, there was no possibility of legislation being brought in this session or next session, and he supposed they would have to look to another Government for it. In any case the question was a burning one, not only so far as the Ulster representatives were concerned, but this country also. The argument advanced against the inspection of conventual institutions was that there were good and holy people in them. All the more reason why they should be inspected—for if good and holy people were in these places there was nothing to hide. The argument of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool was that there was at present sufficient inspection, and in support of that contention had read the report of an inspector who gave credit to the authorities of the institutions visited for having equipped them with all the necessary accommodation and improvements. He desired to point out to the 608 House that the report was given by the individual who had been specially invited to see the institution, and the places would consequently be in the good order of a house when a friend was invited to tea. Inspection by invitation ought not to be considered sufficient to justify exemption from the ordinary inspection. The feeling was very intense on this matter, inasmuch as within the past twelve months great scandals had taken place in an institution known as the "Good Shepherd," and in connection with which an attempt to get a Question on the Paper of the House had been ruled out of order. He took that opportunity of entering his protest against such a proceeding and of asking the Home Secretary whether he could not, in the interests of the Protestant community of the United Kingdom, see his way to put Catholic laundries on a level with other laundries, and have them worked under the Factories and Workshops Act. A great Land Bill was now before Parliament. Suppose they exempted Roman Catholics from that Bill, what a hullaballoo there would be—and rightly so—from the Benches opposite! Why, if they were putting inspectors into the workshops—
§ MR. NANNETTI (Dublin, College Green)
asked whether the hon. Member was in order in dealing with a question of future legislation.
I was just going to interrupt the hon. Member. I understand that this is a matter which can only be dealt with by fresh legislation, and, therefore, it would be out of order to discuss it on this Vote.
§ MR. SLOAN
submitted to the Chairman's ruling, though he quite felt that when the Home Secretary referred to the fact that he could not under the present circumstances promise legislation, he might be in order in entering his protest against that decision. He would not pursue the subject further than to say that, as representing an Ulster constituency, it would not conduce to the best interests of the people of this country, nor to the good feeling which 609 ought to subsist amongst all religious denominations, that one party should be exempt and another put under the rule. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to use some means, or enter into some understanding, whereby these difficulties might be removed and all institutions inspected under the Act.
§ MR. NANNETTI
said he desired to call attention to the grievance of a class of people in Ireland, who were not able to defend themselves, namely, the female workers. He had on several occasions brought under the notice of the House the inadequacy of female inspectors with regard to Ireland. He was told by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor that the complaints would be looked into, but he was sorry to say that anything done so far to redeem that promise had not been satisfactory. In Ireland, so far as female workers were concerned, the Factories Act was a dead-letter. He was hopeful that the present Home Secretary would look into the matter, and that, if he could not appoint inspectors exclusively for Ireland, he would at least appoint additional inspectors in England, so that more assistance might be given in Ireland by visiting inspectors in order that a stop might be put to sweating, overcrowding, and long hours. Overtime was not only worked by adults but by young girls who were apprentices in several establishments throughout the country. He claimed that Ireland should be treated in a more generous manner than at present with regard to female inspectors. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to state the number of visits made to Ireland by female inspectors, and the amount of time they had spent in the country. It was only last week that a meeting was held in a town in Ireland to protest against the present condition of things. The meeting was presided over by a Roman Catholic curate and he was supported by a clergyman of another denomination. The reverend gentleman who presided stated the grievance felt by the female workers through the failure of the authorities to enforce the Act. The outcome of the meeting was that the poor girls immediately formed a trade union for the purpose of protecting themselves. What was going on in that 610 town was typical of what was happening all over Ireland. He urged that a permanent female inspector was required in Ireland, and he hoped the Home Secretary would give this matter more generous consideration than his predecessor had done. At their recent Conference in Derry the Irish Trades' Congress passed a special resolution on the subject, a copy of which was sent to the right hon. the Home Secretary. The same conditions existed in the country places as well as in large cities like Dublin and Belfast. He submitted that the right hon. Gentleman should give the people of Ireland that protection which the law provided for them, and which they did not get, simply because inspectors were not sent to that country.
§ *MR. AKERS DOUGLAS
said he had listened very carefully to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman as to the appointment of a female inspector in Ireland. He could not give any definite promise at that moment, but he could assure the hon. Gentleman that he would make it his business to fully inquire into the facts, and to give the most careful attention to the matter.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he agreed with all that his hon. friend had said in regard to the necessity of inspection in Ireland. He begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said it was rather inconvenient for hon. Members to discuss the Mines Report unless they had it in their hands at an earlier period of the session. The right hon. the Home Secretary would remember that the hon. Member for Mid Durham and himself had the honour of introducing to him a deputation of colliery winding enginemen, who put before him two resolutions. The first referred to sanitation. There were some colliery engine-houses where there was absolutely no sanitary convenience about the place. The other point to which the right hon. Gentleman's 611 attention had been directed was the necessity of two men being in an engine-house when men were ascending or descending the shaft. That was a very important question, because an engineman might be overcome when alone, and a fearful accident take place. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he had, as he promised the deputation, consulted the inspectors on these matters, and whether any progress had been made in drafting regulations in regard to them.
§ *MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS
said he agreed that the hon. Gentleman had some reason for saying that it was very desirable that the reports of the inspectors of mines should be in the hands of Members before the Home Office Vote was discussed. He would make inquiries, and, if it could be done, it should be done in the future. As to the other points raised by the hon. Member for Wansbeck, he had not before him the final reports from the inspectors whom he had asked to inquire into the grievances. When he had come to a conclusion in the matter he would communicate with the hon. Member.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)
said that while acknowledging the courteous reply of the Home Secretary in regard to the earlier presentation of Reports, he wished to strongly endorse all that had been said by his hon. friend. There was no reason whatever why not only the Home Office Reports but those of all other Departments should not be in the hands of Members before the last day of April. The Committee could not discuss the administration of the Reports without having these Reports in their hands. He wished to draw attention to quite another matter—viz., the administration of what was known as the Gruelty to Animals Act of 1876. A great agitation took place twenty-five years ago, and public opinion was very much excited by disclosures as to the terrible pain and suffering inflicted on many animals for the purpose of scientific investigation. A Royal Commission was appointed, which obtained useful information on the subject. The 612 Report of the men of great eminence who sat on that Commission was very far-reaching, and Lord Cross, then Mr. Cross, Home Secretary in the Government of that day, than whom no man had ever filled that position better, founded on that Report a very good Bill, which went through the House of Commons. But when the Bill reached the House of Lords, the scientific "interest" raised such an opposition to it, that Mr. Cross, very much against his own judgment, consented to a considerable mutilation on Clause 3 in order to get the Bill through at the end of the Session in 1876. The hon. Member for Peckham some time ago introduced a Bill which would restore the Act of 1876 very much into the condition in which the Bill left the House of Commons, and, speaking broadly and generally, he would support that Bill. Section 3 of the Act placed the whole control of vivisection in the Home Office. There were some people who said that no painful experiment on a living animal should be made under any condition whatever. That was not his view. It was established before the Royal Commission of 1876 that it might be expedient to treat a living anima with a certain amount of pain under certain conditions for scientific investigation, but that the operation should be strictly guarded. There was always an inclination on the part of scientists to try and make out that they were alone the judges in this matter; that the scientific mind should be supreme; that pain on the part of animals should not be regarded in comparison with the pursuit of knowledge; and that, therefore, they should be free from all restrictions. They resented the provisions of the Act, and he did not say they tried to elude them, but they were in a constant state of dissatisfaction with them. He remembered that when the Act was being discussed in 1876, Mr. Robert Lowe, afterwards Lord Lowe, moved an Amendment that any graduate of a university should be permitted to obtain a licence for making experiments on living animals whensoever he desired. But that Amendment was lost by a vast majority, and the House decided that the lay mind should be predominant. The right hon. 613 Gentleman the Home Secretary was a layman and single-minded, whereas most of his predecessors in office had been professional men.
§ And, it being half-past seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.