§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £108,629; 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, 1906, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices."1351
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
moved to reduce the Vote by £100, and said that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and members of the Government had alleged that our Factory and Workshops Acts, our Mines Acts, and our Truck Acts were altogether in advance of those of rival countries, and that the stringency of our laws formed a handicap against our trade. The Amendment he was proposing would be mainly supported on the ground of the conduct of the Government since the debate of last year in regard to the International Labour Conference lately held at Berne. Would it be believed that our Government had declined all opportunities of co-operating with those Powers which were trying to improve the standard throughout the world? Foreign countries had brought up their legislation very rapidly to our level. In the dangerous trades, and as regards the coal mines, France and Germany had gone past this country, and were making the most strenuous endeavours to bring up the backward countries to our and their level. They had brought immense pressure to bear upon countries like Italy and Belgium, in the case of Italy with marked success. There had never been, except perhaps in the case of Japan, so rapid a development of manufactures as in Italy, which was rapidly coming to the front, though she was behindhand both in legislation and in the enforcement of it until three years ago. But through French pressure and by means of an actual treaty between the two countries she had been brought well into line. M. Fontaine, the Director of Labour in France—whose work in connection with the international regulation of labour was worldwide work—had been intimately connected with the origin of the first international conference, which had followed the first international treaties with regard to labour legislation, and the British Government were represented at the conference. But the nucleus of this international action was the work of persons who had, no doubt, been stimulated by the Governments of France and Germany. The French Government were increasing their annual contribution towards that office or nucleus from £200 to £400 a year, and other 1352 Governments were now contributing towards the committee that called the conferences together. Our Government alone stood behind, while it was represented at the recent conference by delegates of lesser rank and authority than those of the other Governments.
Last year it was the opinion of those-who took part in the debate on that Vote, that as it was known France was to be represented by statesmen of the first rank and highest authority the representation of our country should be on a similar scale, for we had a greater interest in this question than any other country. We were the greatest manufacturing Power, and we ought to take the lead in bringing up other countries to our level We had led in the past in factory and workshop legislation, and if it was our pecuniary interest it was also our duty in the interests of humanity, which, after all, were at stake, to lead in this movement. Senator Richard Waddington, who stood out supreme for his knowledge of these questions, who as chairman of the French Permanent Labour Commission enjoyed the absolute confidence of both masters and men, represented France, and he was accompanied by M. Millerand, formerly Minister of Commerce and Industry. The Home Office was represented by two delegates against whom personally he had nothing to say. He wished to point out that they were of inferior rank to the delegates sent by other Powers, and the instructions given to them were to be seen in the protocols which, although published in the French tongue, had not been circulated to Members of this House.
In the discussion on phosphorous necrosis that took place the first British delegate stated that so successful had this country been in its legislation that there had not been a single case in 1905, and he thereupon proceeded to lecture his international colleagues on dentistry, and to argue that international action was unnecessary. Then he added the startling assertion that—My Government has not thought fit to. authorise us to sign a treaty.That sentence contained an absolute veto on the result of the deliberations before the British delegates even knew what was to be proposed at the 1353 conference. He did not know how far that represented the general policy of the Government, but he hoped that the Home Secretary would be able to explain the Government view to-day. The position of the British delegates at the conference reminded him of the familiar case of Tweedledum in Through the Looking Glass, who said it could rain outside but it did not rain under his umbrella. In the same way the British delegates said there could be no phosphorous necrosis here, and therefore we were disinterested and did not care about what happened in other countries. But the British delegate added a foot-note on the proof of the protocol, stating that there had been one recent case of phosphorous necrosis, and since then two cases had been admitted, though he contended that there had been three recent cases all in the same factory—a factory which was now admitted to be well conducted. On being questioned the Home Secretary stated that in the factory stringent special rules were in force, and the right hon. Gentleman added that the rules had been violated in certain cases. The fact was that the precautions laid down under the new regulations never could be or would be strictly observed. It was admitted by everyone that the disease arose immediately from decayed teeth and their removal. Let them take the case of a poor woman, who had a decayed tooth extracted and concealed the fact in order not to be put off her miserable work. Such cases would always happen. All European countries, except Great Britain, had said, or were going to say, that yellow and white phosphorus were to be proscribed; and the question before our Government was whether they would continue to refuse conditional adherence to a unanimous agreement on this point. The Director of Industry, Labour, and Commerce of Hungary had said in reply to our delegates that—The most minute and the most perfect appliances are powerless to suppress necrosis. Other States which make matches by the same improved machinery as the best in Great Britain had been forced to prohibit yellow phosphorus.To this the German delegates assented. The Hungarian delegate warmly appealed to Great Britain, without whose adhesion the convention would be useless. 1354 He pointed out that Great Britain could yield more easily than Belgium or Hungary, each of which had more match-makers than Great Britain, or than Italy, which had nearly three times the number. The German Director of the Interior said—It is a fundamental error to believe that protective measures can stamp out necrosis. The British cases prove this. In Germany also there was strong opposition to the prohibition but nevertheless it was carried out.The Belgian Inspector of Labour said that—His country was making a heavy sacrifice, but thought it necessary for the good of the world, though much more difficult than it would be for Great Britain.Nine countries voted for the resolution and two against—Great Britain and Sweden. Sweden had since withdrawn her opposition and had agreed to come in if Japan came in, and Japan was coming in. Why should not the Government sign with every other European Power the conditional agreement to act if Japan came in? Why not do even as Sweden had done?
On the second question submitted, which was that of the night labour of women, our regulations were ahead of those of other countries with the exception, perhaps, of our exemption of fruit and fish trades; yet the British delegates stood severely apart and refused to sign. But, as M. Millerand pointed out—It is impossible to argue from the goodness of national legislation that one should remain outside international understandings.Was not that the. position which the House would desire to see the Government take up? When he questioned the Home Secretary on the subject the right, hon. Gentleman said—In accordance with the instructions given them, the delegates of this country abstained from voting on either of the resolutions when finally put to the vote.Was the Home Secretary now in a position to make the statement the then promised as to the Government's attitude towards these proposals? This was the first international conference of this kind, and only those subjects were brought forward on 1355 which there was a probability of general agreement. No one could doubt, how ever, that if this international movement proved fruitful in this case it would be extended. A diplomatic conference, for drawing up the general treaty, was to follow. By whom was the British Government to be represented at that conference? By men of rank and standing, capable of enunciating a policy, or by mere Home Office clerks, bound up by definite instructions to agree to nothing? Some people wanted to see labour itself represented in these conferences, but other Governments had not followed that course. He did not know, indeed, if we could select a man so universally acceptable to all classes as was Senator Waddington in the case of France. At any rate, let them at any future conference be represented by men who had a policy to propound, and who would not be fettered by such instructions as had been given on this occasion.
He had dealt with this matter at some length because it was one of first-class importance, and he held that it was the duty of the Committee to force on the Government some definite policy. On the question of lead poisoning in the china and earthenware trades, the Government had been forced by pressure in the House of Commons to adopt stringent regulations, but those regulations had not been sufficient to prevent lead poisoning, though they had diminished the number of cases. A new departure was made under the bold and entirely novel scheme struck out by Lord James of Hereford; but the Home Office failed to obtain the prohibition of lead in certain processes or its reduction to a very low figure. After a considerable decline in the number of cases as a result of the regulations there had been a rise again, and the number—106—was now the same as in 1901, a fact which, considering there had not been much change in the number of people employed during that period, was a source of alarm to some of them. He was not blaming the Home Office for their proposals were not accepted. This increase had taken place in face of a stringent enforcement of the new regulation such as suspending workers susceptible to poisoning.
1356 In cases of suspension for susceptibility there was no compensation under Lord James's scheme, and generally none where the suspension was for sickness in which lead was a contributory cause only. These suspensions must involve great hardship in a district like the Potteries, in which there was only one trade. Suspension meant starvation or dependence on charity. If they looked at the Report they would find, on page 311, that Dr. Arlidge said that a woman once suspended should not be allowed to return to lead work, certainly for a year or two. Compensation depended on a certificate of plumbism, which was not easy to obtain, because very often lead was only a contributory cause to the condition of the worker. Where the worker was suspended and then certified for light work, the compensation was reduced or stopped. The report cited the case of a girl of eighteen, whose work was stopped on the 20th October. She was granted 4s. 2d. weekly, but was certified on February 16th as "fit for light work," and the compensation stopped. She could not get light work and was dependent on charity at the present time. In another case the girl was twenty-two. She was stopped working on December 29th, and was awarded 7s. weekly. She was certified as fit for light work on February 6th. She was offered majolica painting—not a harmless form of work, but she was prevented from taking it by the doctor, and was still dependent on charity. The third case was that of a married woman of twenty-three, a majolica paintress, who was stopped in March, awarded 6s. 7d. weekly compensation, and declared fit for light work in May. She could not get any for seven weeks, then she had some for one week only, and lost it again through inability and power to carry it on. The compensation was stopped because there could be no certificate of plumbism, and she was consequently dependent on the Lead Fund. The Committee could judge from cases of that kind what a large number there must be on the border line.
He and his friends had pressed very much in the last three years in the discussion on this Vote for the appointment of additional women inspectors, as the main portion of the workers there were women. Last 1357 year some concession was made to the demand. It appeared from the Report now before them that the woman inspector, who did such excellent work, was taken off the duties in which she was engaged and sent to Ireland, where, indeed, there was need for inspection, and where he for one had always thought they should face the facts and have inspectors belonging both to the Roman Catholic and the Protestant religions so that no religious question would arise. He was sorry to say that it had arisen in some cases. They were promised one-third of the time of a woman inspector and they should not always get the same woman inspector. It was not satisfactory that this woman inspector should have been sent to Ireland, and they must press for more satisfaction of their views in that matter. He. remained convinced that the solution of this question was the gradual abolition of lead in this dangerous industry. He saw from page 261 of the Report that Miss Anderson, the principal lady inspector, declared that "improvement in health of women and girls not yet noticeable." Miss Martindale, the inspector employed in the Potteries, reported that it was disappointing that manufacturers had not pursued more vigorously their quest of a glaze which had less dangerous results.
The subject on which hon. Members were most agreed was the necessity for a continued increase in the staff of women inspectors. The work had been greatly increased, as was shown by the report of Miss Deane in regard to her laundry area in London. Miss Deane referred to the curious fact that there were in it 286 factory laundries in 1904 as against 185 four years earlier. The women inspectors. had not all their time for the work which they did so well. They were set to make special inquiries for the Home Office on matters of first-class importance. The Report showed that this year they had had to make special reports on the laws as to employment of women after childbirth; the number of persons rejected for physical unfitness and their after-employment; and fustian cutting. He mentioned these as examples of the subjects in regard to which these ladies rendered admirable service 1358 apart from their ordinary work. In her report Miss Anderson had a pathetic paragraph in which she said that two temporary appointments were made permanent. There had been no increase of inspectors' time, rather less being available. There were 1,500,000 women in the factories and workshops of this country, and the services of the women inspectors had by universal admission been admirable. The women workers expected that the Government would provide for their interests being more carefully protected under the legislation which had been passed regulating their employment. He begged to move.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £108 529, be granted for the said service."—(Sir Charles Dilke.)
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said he wished to call attention to a matter of urgent importance. Since the session began he had succeeded in getting from the Home Office a Return in regard to laundries in conventual institutions, and from that it appeared that there was no possibility of inspection taking place, or of the Home Office knowing exactly what was being carried on in them. There was a Bill known as the Factories and Workshops Act, brought in in 1901, which contained a clause including all charitable and religious institutions doing laundry work. The circumstances of that day prevented the then Home Secretary from carrying that Bill with that clause included. Hon Gentlemen from Ireland took great exception to the inclusion of that clause, and the Government took it out. He regretted to say that the Bill was passed without that clause, and it was for that reason he ventured to engage the attention of the Committee for a short time to bring before its notice what he believed to be an essential thing, namely, the inspection of these institutions which competed with outside labour. It was not a question of religion at all. It was a question as to the advisability of having the employees in these institutions safeguarded by Act of Parliament similar to employees in all other institutions.
1359 The Questions he had put to the Home Secretary were very simple. Was there any such inspection at all? He was well aware there was voluntary inspection, and some of the institutions did not object to the inspectors going in and seeing what was going on. In Ireland the greatest courtesy and kindness was shown to the inspectors at some institutions. But that could not be very satisfactory, because there were a number of these institutions in which inspection of a voluntary character was not taking place at all. Consequently there were places in which abuses were likely to occur. He would like to know where there was inspection attempted if it was resented, and where it was most in favour, in this country or in Ireland. It ought not to be a difficult thing for the Committee to see the advisability of including the clause that was excluded from the Bill of 1901, seeing the large number of institutions which were at the present time under voluntary inspection. Supposing there was an accident in these places, there was no possibility of getting to understand whether the individual should be compensated or what had been the cause of the accident. There was no possibility of getting at the number of hours worked by these persons, and there should be no objection to the passage of a small measure for the purpose of bringing these religious and charitable institutions under the law.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
May I rise to a point of order? The hon. Member for Belfast is recommending legislation. May I respectfully say that is not in order when we are discussing a Vote in Committee of Supply on services actually rendered and matters arising there on. I would respectfully submit that as the House has rejected this provision it is not in order to make a Second Reading speech on the subject. The House having rejected that clause, discussion ought to be confined to the topics that are strictly relevant.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right. There is no doubt that is so. I did not notice that the hon. Member for Belfast was recommending legislation. Of course it 1360 is not in order to discuss in Committee of Supply matters which would require legislation.
§ MR. SLOAN
said they had a Return before the House which gave the names of the places where work was being performed. The Home Office was in possession of the fact that inspectors might make voluntary inspections; that that inspection was resented in. some laundries, while in others it was carried out. With all respect to the House he wanted, to know whether he would be in order if he were to put some Questions to the Home Secretary in regard to the necessity of compulsory inspection, because of the voluntary inspection not being satisfactory.
I think clearly it would require legislation, or else the late Home Secretary would not have thought it necessary to put a clause in the Bill of 1901 to make inspection compulsory.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Our time is very limited. We have only till 10 o'clock to-night to discuss this Vote, and therefore every moment is precious. I think the hon. Member should immediately obey the order of the Chairman and not discuss irrelevant matters.
§ MR. SLOAN
said he was not desirous to transgress the ruling of the Chair or keep the Committee from its work. He thought he would be in order if he asked the Home Secretary a few Questions with regard to these institutions. In the first place, was there any inspection at all? If so, to what extent? Was it satisfactory? How was it carried out? And was it resented? He submitted that there was no reason for refusing to bring any of these institutions under the law which at present applied to other laundries.
again called the hon. Member to order on the ground that he was on the point of transgressing his ruling, and the hon. Member thereupon resumed his seat.
MR, T. RICHARDS (Monmouthshire)
said in supporting the Motion for the reduction of the salary of the Home Secretary, he wished to call attention to "the necessity for the Government to appoint some person or persons to conduct a special inquiry into the cause of the Wattstown colliery disaster, where 120 lives had been lost during the last few weeks. The reason why he asked for the special inquiry was because of the enormous sacrifice of life continually involved by explosions in the collieries. The Home Secretary was good enough the other day to give him the numbers of lives lost in collieries in South Wales and Great Britain generally during the last fifty years. There were 9,294 deaths from explosions alone. Since then he had found out that in South Wales alone they had had 109 explosions in the last sixty-one years with a loss of. 4,104 lives. The loss of life was very great, but through fortunate circumstances not so great as it might have been. For instance, they had had three explosions in South Wales this year, with a loss of 160 lives. Were it not for the fortunate moment at which two of those explosions occurred the loss might have been 1,000 and not 160. That, in itself, was sufficient justification for calling attention to the matter.
1362 His object in drawing attention to the matter was not to fix any liability either criminal or otherwise on those who had the management of this unfortunate colliery, because it must be known to everybody that the chief manager thought everything had been done for the safety of the workmen and risked his own life at the time. Neither did he rise for any Party purpose, because the administration of a Government had as much influence in the country as its legislation. While this Government would go to the country after an almost barren session, here was an opportunity for the Home Office to relieve that barrenness by humane administration. His sole desire in this matter was that every advantage possible should be taken of scientific research and investigation to grapple with the problems of these great disasters. In that spirit he asked if everything had been done that might be done to prevent these explosions. People had thought for many years that all had not been done that might be done to prevent these disasters. Whenever a large body of miners congregated together one of the most important resolutions submitted to them was upon the prime need of legislation to prevent these accidents recurring. They had not merely called the attention of the House of Commons to the matter. They had sent deputations to almost every Home Secretary for a great many years.
He was not going to quote his own opinion. He had been fortunate enough, but he hoped the Home Office and the colliery owners had seen an article written in the London Standard last week by a gentleman who was one of the greatest authorities in Great Britain upon the causes of these disasters. That gentleman had been a colliery manager, a consulting mining engineer, and was now a professor of mining. Therefore he was well up in the theory and practice of mining. He meant Professor Galloway, who, in a very lengthy and able article on colliery explosions in the Standardlast week, in dealing with the regulations which were at present in existence, said that—These regulations, if well and faithfully earnied out by those responsible for the 1363 safety of the mines, would render the recurrence of great explosions practically impossible.He ventured to say that that was a very grave and serious indictment to be made by one of the ablest engineers and scientists who had given his life study to this question. He asked the Committee to consider against whom that indictment was brought. In one instance it was brought against the Home Office, because he maintained that the Home Office was the joint partner with the colliery owners in what Mr. Galloway described as the proper carrying out of these regulations. They had had three great explosions this year in South Wales, the violence of which had been almost as great as that of any explosion that had occurred in this country. Still, they had this eminent scientist saying that this explosion ought not to have occurred if there had been a proper administration of the regulations relating to the management of the mines.
He ventured to say that both the Home Office and the mineowners were quite incompetent to secure an intelligent, careful, and effective administration of the rules for the management of collieries referred to by Mr. Galloway. He called the attention of the Committee to this fact. Take the particular district where this explosion had occurred. In that district there was only one chief inspector and two assistant inspectors. They had to supervise the mines and quarries employing 85,275 workmen, producing 24,109,205 tons annually. In that district alone last year there were 137 fatal accidents and 227 non-fatal. This chief inspector was supposed to inspect these mines and quarries periodically and report upon them to the Home Office. But, in addition to the multiplicity of other duties he had to discharge, he had to attend to the inquests on these 137 fatal accidents. That necessarily meant a great deal of time for him and his assistants. Then he had to write reports, and there was a large amount of correspondence between the office and the colliery owners. In that inspector's report last year he said that the whole of the mines had been inspected except four, but two of those were small mines.
1364 He supposed it might be taken for granted that the other two were large proprietary mines. And yet during the whole twelve months neither the chief inspector nor his two assistants had been able to pay a visit to these large collieries. It must not be understood that he was in any shape or form blaming the chief inspector, but he wanted to call attention to the impossibility in a large area to get very efficient inspectorship by the present staff.
Then they came to the next parties who had power in the enforcement of the rules. He had said in that House before, and he repeated it, that if he was spared to be a Member of that House for any length of time, and if these reforms were not carried out, he prophesied that the firemen in these collieries, who were the most important men connected with the mines, and who spent a large portion of their time at the top of the pit, would rebel. The firemen were in the colliery day by day and night by night; and they had to act in cases of emergency and at times of crises, at a moment's notice in many instances, and yet these men, entrusted with those responsible duties, had no examination to pass, and they had to satisfy nobody but the colliery manager, who might be satisfied with them for various reasons other than those connected with the duties he had named. He did not want to go into details, but he could give some instances of extraordinary appointments made. One would have thought that, seeing they had to perform duties of such importance, seeing that they had to examine every nook and corner of the colliery for the enemy that destroyed so many lives, no manager would put upon the shoulders of firemen any other duties. He did not know how it was in other parts, but in Wales the firemen appeared to be the general servants of the colliery and had to spend a large portion of their time in performing other multitudinous duties. It might ha be been necessary in previous years to appoint men with practical knowledge and with no scientific training, but now, with the great advantages of our technical instruction system, there was no excuse for appointing men who were not 1365 thoroughly equipped from every standpoint; especially in view of the continued and regular explosions which occurred.
He had heard it said in former debates that this country ought to lead in matters relating to the Army and Navy, and the right hon. Baronet had that afternoon said that we ought also to lead in other matters, but he ventured to say that there could be nothing more important than the proper training of the firemen in collieries. There were, he believed, seventy students from the South Wales collieries at present on the Continent, and they had been taken by their teachers to the various colliery undertakings and institutions. They were there for dealing with mining for the purpose of improving their education, and the following was what was said about them—There was a keen interest taken in the visit to a colliery, where the Government has apparatus for testing the effects of air currents containing varying percentages of fire damp on safety lamps and explosives. Several experiments were conducted by the expert in charge, and naturally there was a unanimous desire amongst the students present, all of whom worked in the mines, that application should be made to the British Government to establish similar apparatus in the most dangerous of our coalfields. Who can tell how many lives would have been saved in the South Wales collieries during the last few years if such a testing apparatus were placed at Cardiff. Colliery firemen must be trained to report the presence of small quantities of firedamp. How are they trained?That was only in little Belgium, and he asked the Home Secretary and the Committee whether it was too much to expect that in the most dangerous coalfield in the world, producing the best quality coal in the world, they ought not only to have those responsible properly trained, but every apparatus for the safety of the workmen.
He wanted to call the attention of the Committee to what seemed to him the absolute indifference that had been displayed by all parties to this great quesion in recent years. In 1881 there was a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the cause of explosions, their prevention, and generally into the whole matter. It sat for five years—he thought 1366 the hon. Member for Morpeth was one of the members—and it took all the possible evidence, and great credit was due to the gentlemen forming it for the exhaustive inquiry made and the excellent Report presented. He was not going to say nothing had resulted from that Commission, because the Coal Mines Regulations Act of 1887 was largely based on its findings, and that Act, he thought, had done much to reduce the number of accidents from, all causes in mines, but very much less had been done than the importance of the subject demanded. He would give one instance. It was proved to the satisfaction of that Commission by two very able experts, one being Mr. Galloway whom he had just quoted, that the presence of 2 per cent, of coal gas in the atmosphere of a mine under certain conditions would cause an explosive mixture that would result in a violent explosion. Having found out that fact, they made investigations to find an indicator or a lamp that would detect that percentage of gas, and it would be seen in their Report that they found an indicator, which they recommended, that would detect 0.25 per cent, of gas. It surprised him—and it was, he thought, some cause for reflection by the Home Office and the Committee—that although that was twenty years ago, and although there could be no doubt about the Commission's authority and ability to speak about the matter, they were still putting in the hands of firemen, who had to look for gas, instruments that would not detect 2 per cent. of gas. He thought that was a serious matter, and that the Home Secretary ought now in the last days of h s office to do something. The miners of the country would bi grateful. The Government had entirely ignored them from the beginning of their life tilt now so far as legislation was concerned; but here was an opportunity for the Home Secretary not only to distinguish himself, but to render the miners of the country great service by again calling attention to the fact that the recommendations of the Commission had not yet been adopted. The Royal Commission said—These considerations have impressed upon us the need for the establishment of some permanent arrangement by which the continuous pursuit of this highly important class of work 1367 may be secured in order to test the merits of suggestions and inventions.There had been twenty years since then, but nothing had been done. The Commissioners continued—We consider that if the arrangements we have referred to were used systematically in connection with the usual official inquiry, complete investigation would be greatly promoted in dealing with the difficulties which frequently. arise in elucidating the causes of disaster.There was a recommendation that they should have in existence a permanent authority that should from time to time take advantage of everything that presented itself, whether it was an improved lamp, or a discovery with respect to coal dust, gas, or ventilation, a permanent authority whose business it should be to test from time to time the efficiency of those inventions or suggestions; but although that happened twenty years ago or more, they still had nothing of that kind. They were still satisfied after explosions with the coroner's inquiry. If some 100 men were killed, they got a coroner and a few incompetent jurymen to inquire into the cause of death. Personally he would prefer to have impartial scientific men to see if something further could not be done for the prevention of disasters. The workmen of the country were not satisfied with having simply the coroner's inquiry. There was great outcry and sympathy in the country at that time, and large sums were at that moment being given for those suffering from one of those great disasters, but that was not enough. It would pass away in a few days, and the men in the collieries would be forgotten by the Government and the country until another disaster took place. They could not be satisfied with that method of doing business in the future.
Granting, however, that everything that it was possible for an intelligent country to do in order to protect the lives of miners was done, and that there were certain causes of disaster which could not be obviated, he would then ask if they were doing all that they could to minimise the effect of disasters when they did occur. He would try and make the Committee understand the absolute neglect and indifference that had been shown in regard to disasters when they 1368 did occur. The Home Secretary referred him the other day to a Report by Dr. Haldane, but he was inclined to ask him if he had read it. If he had, he really could not understand his calling his attention to it; for, if any one thing more than another called attention to the indifferences of the Home Office it was Dr. Haldane's Report. Dr. Haldane, nine years ago, called special attention to the want of some apparatus and organisation for dealing with the disasters when they did occur, but absolutely nothing had been done. Let the Committee consider what happened: 500 or 600 men were down a mine 100 or 200 yards deep. The explosion in a mine resembled a flash of lightning which filled every chamber and expended itself immediately, and in all these explosions practically all the men escaped the first flash and were living after it had expended itself. But after the flash had gone there came impenetrable darkness unillumined by a single ray of light, and through that darkness the men attempted to make their way to a place of escape, seeing nothing and hearing only the groans of their unfortunate comrades. Let him give one illustration in the case of the Aberlysswg. William Clewer Tirphil, one of the injured men in that explosion, said—I was working on the main level and had just loaded a truck of coil when I heard a noise as of a rush of wind. Immediately after I was struck by a lot of stones and a flame like a flash of lightning passed by me. I heard no report. The train which I had filled was knocked over and I was blown into the side of the road to the height of about four feet. There were seven or eight of us working within about twenty yards of each other. We tried to get out by the main level, but the after damp was too strong and we had to go to the face. We did the about five times, but the air continuing to improve we managed to get out by the main level, but with the greatest difficulty. Two men were overcome and had to fall out. I had gone so weak that if I had had to proceed another step I should not have been able to manage it.That was enough to show what the position of the men in a pit was after they had escaped the explosion, and somebody ought to be responsible to give them a helping hand. In the meantime what happened at the top of the pit? The men at the top either heard the report or saw the smoke and flame issuing from the pit or some other indication of something having happened below, 1369 and every one lost his head and consternation reigned. One ran one way and one another seeking assistance, and the lampman, who ought always to have his lamps ready for the explorers, set to work to trim his lamps. All this time the men below were struggling for their lives. No preparations were ever made, although these explosions took place year after year. The present condition of things in this regard was a perfect scandal. In the case of a wreck on our coasts no time was lost in attempting to save life, every preparation having been made, and an immense organisation was kept in readiness to cope with fire and rescue anyone who might happen to be in the burning building. Even in places of amusement every precaution was taken against any unfortunate accident occurring, but in the case of the mines they had half a million people going down the pits every day, and there was absolutely no provision made to combat these disasters. Was not that sufficient to cause the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to get up at once and say that they would order an inquiry into these terrible explosions and see what could be done. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think this matter might wait until after the inquest. There was no waiting in the case of the accident at Liverpool. He demanded of the Home Secretary that he should use the powers vested in him and have an inquiry into the cause of these disasters.
As a working man he would like to give the right hon. Gentleman a few practical suggestions for his consideration when the inquiry took place. In the first place they might well take up the work laid down by the Royal Commission m 1886, there being a number of inventions which that Commission advocated which ought to be taken up. Take the lamp. Surely the Government were rich enough to take up all the patents there were and concentrate them in one lamp which should be safe. Then there should be closed trams to carry the coal, because it must be borne in mind that they had now no large accumulations of gas. It was not large accumulations of gas that caused these violent explosions which caused such great loss of life, but the coal dust which, hanging in the 1370 atmosphere, acted as a feeder and carried the flame along, increasing its strength as it burnt up the atmosphere. That was a practical suggestion that might be considered when the inquiry was held. It was time also that the whole system of inspection of the mines was revised, and there should be properly trained firemen. Some of the men left alone in a mine after an explosion lived for hours, while the men at the top, who were anxious to assist them, were unable to get at them because of the flames. If they had an apparatus which would enable them to go down the pit, a great loss of life would be prevented. Surely such an apparatus might be provided. He had in his hand at that moment some illustrations sent to him by a Frenchman who knew of this agitation, of an apparatus which would enable a man to go down a mine after an explosion and remain there two or three hours, and some such apparatus might be adopted. He thought he had said sufficient to prove that an investigation was necessary, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would realise the importance of it and grant the inquiry desired.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
desired to call attention to the official Paper issued in 1903 with reference to the inspection of laundries. According to the official figures there were 82,652 women and girls under the regulations of the Factory Acts, while 144,132, of whom a large number were in religious institutions, were subject to no inspection at all. He asked whether the voluntary inspection to which a comparatively few of these institutions were willing to submit had proved satisfactory, and, if not, what remedy was to be proposed. In view of the ruling of the Chairman he did not intend to pursue the subject at any length. He only regretted that the Party opposite should take every opportunity of preventing light being thrown upon this subject, which urgently demanded attention, and he should be very glad if the Home Secretary was able to give the Committee some assurance that he was awake to the reality of the question, and would promise that if voluntary 1371 inspection had failed, as he would probably admit it had, something practical should be done.
§ MR. NOEL BUXTON (Yorkshire, N. R., Whitby)
said the general trend of the reports of the factory inspectors seemed to indicate an urgent need for greater stringency, and also the existence of some obstacles or interests which prevented that greater stringency being applied. Speaking as an employer of the kind of labour which came under the control of the Factory Acts, he could say that the attitude of many employers was one of cordial appreciation of the work done by the inspectors, and of the interference sanctioned by those Acts. In large factories it was impossible for directors to control the details of conditions of labour and of modes of payment; they were bound to rely upon the interference of the Factory Acts. If the employers wished to be humane and to avoid the competition of lax employers who were willing to take advantage of the liability of labourers to give way to unjust conditions, Home Office intervention was of great assistance. The system of moral suasion which had lately been in vogue was most unwelcome to the good employers, because it failed to bring up all to the same level. What was wanted was equal treatment, and, so far as his experience went, if equal treatment were meted out employers would be in favour of greater stringency. Laxity favoured the worst employers and was the enemy of public health.
There were many topics on which one felt inclined to touch after a perusal of the reports of the factory inspectors, but he would confine himself to two—the administration of the Truck Acts and the extension of the Particulars Order. In regard to the former, much might be done apart from legislation in the way of greater activity as to prosecution. The uncertainty of the law had come under the notice of the inspectors, who had called attention to the large number of cases dismissed as compared with the number of successful prosecutions under other departments of the Factory Acts. Almost anything might be deducted from wages under the heading of "justifiable payments." 1372 In one case, mentioned by the inspector at Bristol, a woman engaged in making boot-uppers by a power-driven machine earned 14s. 6d., from which 4s. 9d. was deducted for "other workers' work, doctor, room and machine, and thread," and the bench dismissed the case, saying that the deduction was not unfair. With regard to defective control, one of the women inspectors said—It was a relief to find one firm candid on this point. When I reached the point as to not making a profit out of the worker, the manager coolly said, 'Then I should not touch it, because I thought there was. £200 a year in the business.'A somewhat similar case appeared in to-day's Proceedings. It appeared that deductions could legitimately be made for such items as concert tickets, insurance against compensation for accidents, fees of certifying surgeons, rent, fines, for all manner of offences, such as talking in the factory, and so forth. The Christian Social Union gave a case in which a sackmaker earned 8s. 5d. r from which was deducted no less than 3s. 4d. for thread, oil, and hot water for tea.
With regard to the Particulars Order which had been justly described as the charter which prevented the people from being robbed, the Chief Inspector in 1902 strongly urged its extension to many trades outside the textile trades, a suggestion the justice of which was shown by the great success which had attended the extension granted on January 1st, 1904. Why should there not be a general extension to all piecework trades? As examples of the kind of grievances which needed to be removed, the Christian Social Union instanced brush-drawers, where payments were "according to the mood of the employer;" and jam-filling, where less money was received than was expected, it being "a case of the fireman's word against that of the workers." Low prices in many trades had been largely modified when a protection order had been enforced. The 5d. per dozen paid in the sack-making trade compared very unfavourably with the price paid in trades where the Particulars Order had been applied. The fact that during the last two years a large number of 1373 trades had voluntarily established a system of granting these particulars, largely answered the objection that in some trades the application of the Order was not feasible.
No doubt influences were brought to bear against the extension of powers of this kind. Certain interests were supposed to be opposed to greater stringency. But there was no interest in which the whole country was more deeply involved than the health and character of the workers, and that they were in danger could not be doubted by anyone familiar with the homes of the workers in the East End of London. Those who knew the suffocating conditions under which the workers through their poverty were compelled to live could not deny that the stringency of the Factory Acts had been to the general advantage of the public health, and therefore to the advantage of capitalist as well as employee. He had seen the deplorable result of conditions of employment upon the physique of the worker's children, and there was a very real danger of losing what was really our national capital by permitting such inroads upon the health and character of the people as were made by the conditions under which the people worked.
There were two main lines of defence by which those inroads could be opposed—viz., the voluntary combination of labour in its own defence and the protection of the operative by the State. This certainly was not a matter in regard to which any laxity ought to be permitted, or where Party principles should lead the Government to oppose stringent legislation. If to-day the nation accepted the principle of the control of labour by the State might they not gratefully acknowledge that it was the work of Conservative statesmen in the past. Nobody ever denounced more vehemently than Mr. Disraeli the horrors of the track system. Lord Shaftesbury, whose name would always be associated with this beneficent law, said this legislation dealt with the most tragic realities of our national life and went home to the real 1374 pleasures and sufferings of every family in the country. He said—It is a great political, moral, and religious question: political, because it would decide whether the poor should be left in just discontent; moral, because it would determine whether the rising generation should be raised above the enjoyment of mere brute sensualities; religious, because it evolved the means to tens of thousands of being brought up in the faith and fear of the Almighty.
MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
urged that more opportunities should be given for the discussion of these questions, and the Home Secetary ought to have more time given to him for repaying to debates of this kind. It was impossible for any Minister to reply to all the points raised over the wide field of labour, and certain subjects ought to be selected for one day, and then everybody would get a reasonable opportunity of stating his views. These labour questions would loom larger in the discussions of the future.
He wished to refer to the question of time cribbing, which meant that instead of working 55½ hours a week sometimes the workpeople were obliged to work on for 60 hours by the employers "nibbling" at the starting and stopping time. He once worked in a mill himself where by starting the engines before the proper starting time and running them after they ought to be stopped he worked about fifty minutes a day overtime, and this practice was going on to-day in Lancashire. This was very unfair to the decent employers, because where this practice prevailed the pieceworkers earned better wages and thus attracted the best employees. Employers had complained to him of this system of "nibbling" time. In fairness to the decent employer the Home Office should be on their guard. Last year he was told that the employees themselves were responsible, because they had scouts to watch for the appearance of the inspector. Personally he doubted the truth of that charge, and he had caused careful inquiries to be made. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was not those operatives who were complaining of the overtime. There 1375 were operatives in the position of overlookers and foremen. At the mill he used to work at there were four members of the firm employed, and all the four of them were scouting when the engines were set on and stopped. They had made suggestions to the Home Office for checking this evil. There was a machine in use in many cotton mills which automatically registered the number of minutes an engine was running, and the employers had these machines in their own interests. In this way the employers could tell whether the engines had worked fifty-five or sixty hours, and they could judge whether the amount of their production was up or down, and they could obtain these results for weeks back. These registers might be taken by the inspectors as evidence of the time the engines had been running, and when an inspector found this practice going on and he was confronted with the excuse that it was a mistake, he could look at the register, and if it recorded more than the legal time for weeks back, that ought to be conclusive or additional evidence before the magistrate that this was not an isolated case, but a deliberate breach of the law. He made that as a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, and he hoped the matter would be attended to.
With regard to ventilation, he would not criticise anything which had been done during the past year, because they had been changing the system of inspection, and he wished the new system to be given a, fair trial. He thought it would be admitted that the effectiveness of inspection was largely due to the help given by the operatives, and in regard to ventilation their assistance had enabled those who broke the law to be prosecuted. Therefore he thought more confidence ought to be placed in the operatives. He thought they were entitled to have a copy of the report of the inspector's visit as well as the employer, and if this request was granted there would be much more satisfaction with the operation of the ventilation clauses. He thought the table which would shortly be issued ought to give some evidence of the number of tests made and the results of them. These particulars might be given in tabulated form and supplied 1376 in a public document, so that they would know how they were going on.
With regard to machinery accidents he was pleased to say that some inquiries had been made with regard to the spinning room, and he was hopeful that certain regulations would be issued which would do a great deal to lessen accidents in the spinning rooms. The results of these inquiries in the Oldham district had been satisfactory, but they would have been still better but for the opposition from the Masters' Federation in Oldham and neighbourhood. He thought the fact that there had been considerable opposition in regard to the fencing of machinery by some of the employees in the Oldham district ought to be noted. It was most unfair that a man who held the dual position of solicitor to the employer should be magistrates' clerk to decide charges brought against employers. That gentleman should give up one or other of the offices, and there ought to be some power to tell him not to act as Judge and jury in what was practically his own case. The Home Secretary appreciated the unfairness of the position, but he had no power to alter it. In regard to the carding-room operatives, he was sorry to say that very little improvement had taken place. He would call the attention of the Committee to six cases of accidents to workers whose ages ranged from nineteen to forty, most of them being under thirty. Loss of right hand; loss of right arm; fatal—right arm fearfully mangled; loss of right hand; loss of left hand; loss of left hand. The report stated that these terrible accidents were all preventable. That was the opinion of the inspector for the district who was responsible for making the report. The people whom he represented in that House had done their best to bring before the Home Office the seriousness of this matter. There were machines in the market which would prevent many of these accidents. About eight or nine months ago a deputation visited the Home Office and showed a model of one of those machines. Not only the maker, but employers who had used it gave the assurance that it would be impossible for these serious accidents to happen 1377 if this "cover" were put over the machine. If accidents could be prevented surely no effort should be spared to save the lives and limbs of the people who were engaged in factories.
The recent legislation in regard to the Particulars Clause had been of great benefit to the textile operatives, and he was pleased to be able to state that many other trades were now receiving advantage from it. Employers in the cotton trade would agree with him when he said that it had been a great preventive of strikes. Formerly an employer who did not pay the proper price got an advantage over a decent employer who did, and the operatives had no remedy except by closing the mill. If the amount in dispute was only 3s. or 4s. they hesitated about taking that step, and the result was that an unprincipled man got the benefit of the position. Now all that was changed. They had simply to add up the total deficiency and take the men into Court, a strike being in this way averted. It had not in a single case in his experience been necessary to go into Court yet, each dispute having been settled out of Court. One of the inspectors stated in his report that the average penalty imposed when convictions were obtained under the Factories and Workshops Act was 3s. 6.8d. Unless employers looked upon appearance in a Police Court as a source of degradation, such penalties would never act as a deterrent. It was nonsense to fine a man 3s. 6d. for he could make more next day by means of deductions.
He wished to call the Home Secretary's attention to a case from Belfast to which reference was made in the report of the Chief Inspector. He had had a tremendous amount of correspondence in regard to this case, and he had also had an opportunity of examining the minute-book of the operatives association, and therefore he knew how the matter stood. Briefly, the facts were these. The Home Office some time since—he did not know when—decided that handkerchiefs were wearing apparel; but how they came to say so he did not know. It had, since that decision was given, been possible for firms to bring in a claim for exemption from the regulations affecting 1378 overtime work for quite a number of other articles besides handkerchiefs. It was alleged in connection with this particular case that the law was continually being broken, and that this firm or these firms—he did not know how many of them were concerned—had been going on in work in a way that was not legal. It was legal to work overtime in the making of handkerchiefs, but it was illegal to work overtime in making bed-linen, table-linen, and things of that sort. It was difficult for an inspector, when he went into a factory, to say what overtime was being worked legally and what overtime was being worked illegally, because one girl might be working at handkerchiefs and another at other articles. The ordinary common-sense way of dealing with this matter would have been to make overtime work on handkerchiefs illegal, especially when it was known that the operatives did not desire overtime. In his opinion overtime work ought to have been made illegal for all the articles. It appeared that in Belfast a warehouse was said to be a non-textile factory while the other part was a textile factory, and that overtime was allowed in one part of the same works and not in the other. It appeared to him that the proper course would have been to say that handkerchiefs were not wearing apparel. No amount of argument could convince ordinary persons that they were wearing apparel. It must have been a legal mind that had been convinced.
He complained that the Home Office took this action without the knowledge of the operatives. He knew it was not so easy to obtain information from operatives in Belfast as in Lancashire, but it was possible to obtain it. There was evidence to show that what had been done was not in accordance with the desire of the operatives themselves. Resolution after resolution had been passed protesting against overtime, and nowhere could he find any expression of opinion in Belfast by the operatives asking this extension to be granted. He thought the best way out of the difficulty would be to revert to the regulation which, made overtime in regard to handkerchiefs illegal. It appeared to him that that was the most sensible course to take in 1379 this matter. If it was decided that all these things could be brought under the head of the overtime clause he did not know where it was going to stop.
The hon. Member called attention to what had occurred at Liverpool in connection with the dock labourers' strike, and stated that the course pursued by the employers amounted to a breach of the Truck Act. A number of men were imported to take the places of the labourers on strike, and the employers provided them with clothes, boots, and tobacco, deductions being made in respect of the goods from the wages of the men. They received only the balance of money due to them. The Home Secertary had told him this was illegal, but, as the case was not one arising in a factory or workshop, an inspector had no power under Section 13 of the Act of 1887 to take any action in the matter. If that was so, there was nothing to prevent the Home Secretary from instructing one of his clerks to prosecute. He spoke as a layman, but he did not agree with the decision of the Home Secretary in the matter. He thought that that could be shown to be a part of the duty of the inspector. He referred to Section 119 of the Act to prove that. He thought it was most unfair that any preference should be given to one side or the other; and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the Answer which he had given.
§ MR. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
said that he did not propose to follow the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean in the line which that right hon. Gentleman had traversed. It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman had presented his case in regard to china and earthenware factories in some what strong colours. It appeared to him that the cases of lead poisoning were slowly dying away and there was every reason to believe that the causes for these would disappear. The chief causes of that improvement were the greater cleanliness inculcated in the workpeople, the greater use of fans, and the power of suspension which the doctors now enjoved. If workpeople could only be induced to 1380 thoroughly cleanse themselves after being in contact with the lead, cases of poisoning would be almost entirely eliminated. But that was difficult. It was all very well to make rules; the difficulty was to get people to obey them. The right hon. Gentleman went on to quote, from the official report of Mr. Shooter, particulars with regard to a case at Plymouth. He insisted that there were two reasons for the diminution of colic cases in the dockyard. One was the provision of more washing appliances, and the other was the order issued to the effect that men who had once contracted lead poisoning should not be employed in any process which would bring them in contact with the lead. That was very similar to what was being done in the Potteries. Mr. Shooter went on to say that it was surprising to find how indifferent workmen were to the need for personal cleanliness, and he mentioned a case of workmen eating with filthy hands in a room which contained all the appliances for washing. Time must be allowed for men to get accustomed to the new rules and to see the necessity for using the conveniences which were now placed at their disposal for cleansing themselves. He also gave instances of people who neglected to adopt precautions; of a plumber who persisted in chewing tobacco at work, which tobacco became contaminated, and of girls who ate sweets which became contaminated with lead from their pockets.
He believed that the power of suspension had had a most beneficial effect. The right hon. Baronet seemed to suggest that that power was being used in a somewhat wholesale fashion; but he showed, by references to the reports, that that was not the case. The hon. Baronet contended that the use of yellow phosphorus should be forbidden altogether; but he thought in the present state of knowledge it was absolutely impossible to prohibit its use. They were told two years ago that the use of lead would gradually disappear, and that leadless glazes would become almost universal. So far from progress having been made in that direction, the use of leadless glaze was actually going back. The reason was that great 1381 losses had been entailed upon manufacturers by its use. People using leadless glaze could not possibly make the ordinary trade profit, and could not meet the severe foreign competition to which they were subjected. In fact, leadless glazes had broken down. They would be glad if they could be used universally; but they were a long way from that. A great deal more had to be learned about the industry, and further discoveries must be made before the Home Office, however anxious it might be to do it, could forbid the use of lead in the process of pottery manufacture. So far as they were concerned in North Staffordshire, the prevailing opinion was that the present rules were working very satisfactorily and that there had been a very gratifying diminution in the number of cases of lead poisoning.
§ MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said lie thought it would be acknowledged that the debate had been of a most interesting character. On his own part he must confess that it would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of this question, and he regretted that this debate had been delayed to the last days of an exciting session. He might be allowed to say that he could not congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the progress he had made in regard to the employment of young children in the streets. At one time he carried an Amendment prohibiting altogether the employment of children under sixteen in the streets; but they were told by the Government that they would leave it to the local authorities to make the best provision they could for their protection. In many cases local authorities had suggested that it would be wise to prohibit altogether girls under sixteen being allowed to sell in the streets, but the right hon. Gentleman had caused to be inserted in by-laws a provision that children should be allowed to sell in the streets so long as they were accompanied by their parents or guardians. He said it did not matter if they had got their parents with them. He joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman there. The right hon. Gentleman had caused an inquiry to be held into the matter by Mr. Chester Jones, and at that inquiry Mr.Footes, a 1382 very competent person, said that the fathers did not do much work, and sometimes the mothers were not very particular about their own children. Some of the worst cases were where children were employed by parents. One of the worst cases in his list was that of a boy whose father was a hairdresser, and who worked forty-nine and a-half hours a week besides school hours. What hold could they have upon people if they were allowed to trail their little boys and girls through the streets in order to make some few pennies. It was said that those men and women were very poor and that it was really a necessity, but at that very inquiry it was shown that out of sixty-nine cases there was only one which was necessitous.
It was now exactly ten years since he had the honour of sitting upon a Commission to inquire into dangerous trades. They reported that there were twenty-four such trades, and they recommended that seventeen of them should be specially regulated. How many of these seventeen had been so regulated? Precisely two and a-half. There were three or four trades which were now under a sort of voluntary system, which he ventured to say was most unsatisfactory. There were seventeen recommended for special regulations, two and a-half had been so regulated, three or four were under voluntary schemes, and ten had been left wholly untouched. Of the two and a-half dealt with by the Home Office, one was the indiarubber trade, which was dangerous for two or three reasons; one being owing to the naphtha which was given off in the atmosphere and which was used in every part of the building. What did the inspector say with regard to naphtha? He said—Some cases to which my attention was drawn of sickness, colic, and anæmia, alleged to be caused by white lead, occurring amongst girls in the rubber-solution room of an asbestos factory, were investigated by Miss Paterson at the works and at the homes, inquiry also being made at the infirmary. The process was that of coating and joining asbestos strips with rubber solution of a milky, glutinous character, emitting strong fumes of naphtha. 'Many of these girls were markedly anæmic and had symptoms similar to those so common amongst rubber-shoemakers. One who was under treatment at the hospital as an out-patient for loss of power of arm was strikingly pale and 1383 nervous. On inquiry, I found that many of the workers ate their breakfast and dinner in the workroom, and, undesirable as this is in any factory, it is especially so in one where the air is loaded with the heavy fumes of naphtha and rubber solution.'That was one of the subjects recommended by the Dangerous Trades Commission for treatment by the Home Office, and yet they had done nothing.
He now came to the perennial question of laundries, on which subject they would not rest until it was dealt with. In the Report to which he had just alluded, it was stated that those places were physically and morally dangerous and unhealthy even when parents were present.
There was in the china and earthenware trade no doubt great difficulty experienced on the part of employers to get the workpeople to avail themselves of the opportunities placed at their disposal for cleanliness and to utilise in every possible form the appliances provided for the safety of their health, and he wished to strengthen the hands of the inspectors and employers in that matter. It was, however, childish to try and make out that the whole of the illnesses in the pottery trade were owing to the neglect of the work-people to seize these opportunities. If they were to wash their hands at every (available time, and to use all the opportunities at their command, lead working would always remain a dangerous occupation. It was true that there had not been so many suspensions, but, after all, suspension was only a palliative, and it was less cruel to ask women who proved to be susceptible to lead poisoning to go to some other employment. He rejoiced that there were fewer suspensions, but he thought it meant that many poor women were now living upon the charity of other people and were not able to earn their livelihood in other trades. He suggested that a small Commission should be appointed to inquire whether it was economically and commercially possible to make leadless glaze ware which would compete satisfactorily with the ordinary ware, and that they should communicate with foreign countries on the point. He believed that a great deal of leadless glaze had been manufactured that was extremely good. He 1384 himself had a dessert service which would bear comparison with any modern service. One might certainly learn a great deal by discovering what was the result of experience with regard to this matter in foreign countries.
There was one other point he would like to make with regard to the china and earthenware trade, and that was with reference to the question of compensation. Schedule B which was hung up in factories was so complicated that women thought it was limited to men. He suggested that the Home Secretary should have a little abstract made setting forth the manner in which a person who was a victim of lead poisoning should acquaint the authorities. If the right hon. Gentleman would have an extract hung up instead of Schedule B it would, he thought, do a great deal of good.
Turning to the cases of poisoning from every cause, he was sorry to see that if they took the five months ending May, 1904, they would find the number of cases was 229, whilst the number for the corresponding period in 1905 was 239. The deaths were eight in 1904, and eleven in 1905. That showed a considerable increase. But if they investigated further and looked at the Return of what were called the diseases of occupation, which included poisoning by mercury, phosphorus, arsenic, and anthrax, in the Labour Gazette, they would find that the figures were 258 last year and 268 this, whilst the deaths were ten last year as against nineteen this. That was very striking, the number of deaths this year having nearly doubled. As many as eight deaths had been caused by anthrax, which was a very serious thing, and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not do something to improve the condition of those trades in which these diseases occurred.
With regard to the question of lifting heavy weights, he called attention to the report of Miss Squire. On page 26 of the annual Report Miss Squire said—It is surprising how little thought is given in many factories of various kinds to the means of transference of goods from one department to another, little girls toil backwards and for wards up and down stairs with loads of 1385 material or goods which could be much more quickly or safely carried by means of a lift.And further on she said of a girl who was pushing a trolley up an incline, the paving of which was rough and broken—I watched her do this difficult task with astonishment that anyone could set a girl to such an awkward and exhausting employment.He would give three examples of the lifting of heavy weights. A boy of thirteen years of age struggling up a steep flight of stairs carrying a piece of clay weighing seventy-eight pounds; a woman carrying twelve boards each six feet in length and each weighing four pounds, forty-eight pounds in all; and four women employed solely as clay carriers, each making 128 journeys a day, some of which were a fair distance, and at each journey carrying a piece of clay weighing half a hundredweight. "We were very far behind other nations in this matter. It was a most remarkable thing that while learned and right hon. Gentlemen went about the country declaring that in these matters this country was in front of others, we were far behind France, and both Germany and Austria had given us most admirable examples.
Then with regard to electrical accidents. Two years ago the inspector reported and made certain recommendations, and in view of the fact that the Committee over which he (Mr. Tennant) presided six years before had made precisely the same recommendations—it was rather remarkable that no legislative or quasi-legislative action had been taken. By a stroke of the pen the right hon. Gentleman at any rate could make special rules with regard to electric power stations. The inspector said—The number of unprotected and dangerous switches, for instance, which I have caused to be protected will run into many hundreds.He really desired to show the House what the nature of electrical accidents was. They mostly occurred from bad lighting, from want of fencing, and other causes of a like character. There were thirty-three non-fatal and three fatal cases last year due solely to electric current and Mr. Scott Ram, the inspector, 1386 made this statement with regard to them—The fatal electrical accidents during the year occurred under widely different conditions of system and pressure and again prove that unless proper precautions are taken any system or pressure may be dangerous. Fatal shocks occurred at pressures ranging from 10,000 volts to 200 volts. Some of those at low pressures appeared to bring about instant death while in one case at 10,000 volts death occurred after an interval of ten days, during which the victim lost both legs and one arm by amputation in the fruitless efforts of the surgeons to save his life. In most cases which I investigated the victims were found by post-mortem examination to have been of sound constitution, and the usual excuse of a weak heart contributing to the fatality was not borne out. Some of the non-fatal accidents were again of a very serious nature, involving permanent injury.He thought there was very strong ground there for the Home Office taking action, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have something to tell the Committee of what he proposed to do.
With regard to the factories, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had asked for an increase in the inspectorate, and he was glad to see that the two women inspectors who had been appointed temporarily were now placed on the permanent staff. He was also glad to think that the club associations of which Miss Montague was the president or secretary was petitioning the right hon. Gentleman for an increase in the inspectorate. Finally, he would remind the Committee that there were 4,700,000 people employed in the factories and workshops of this country, and that in 1904 there were 93,000 accidents; that is to say, there was one accident to every fifty people employed. It was a most unfortunate thing that in many of these cases the only way to secure immunity from accidents was to have recourse to the Employers' Liability Act or the Workmen's Compensation Act.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he hoped that when the Home Secretary replied he would explain to the Committee what was being done under the Employment of Children Act. The employment of children in the hours they were not at school had frequently been brought before the House. The mischief of that employment was that children 1387 came to the schools so exhausted with labour that they were quite incapable of profiting from the instruction provided by the State at great expense. In regard to this matter two official inquiries had been made, one by the Board of Education in 1891 and the other by the Home Office in 1899 or 1900, and in 1903 a Bill was brought in and passed. The Employment of Children Act had now been in force two years, and there were two Questions he wished to put to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to it. Under the Act the local authority for the Metropolis had power to make bylaws as to the employment of children, but those by-laws had no force until they had received the sanction of the Home Secretary. The local authority had at last made by-laws, which had been submitted to the Secretary of State, and there was an inquiry now going on not only as to the merits of the particular by-laws, but, as he understood, the whole question had been reopened. It was not a question deperding on the poverty of the parents, as some of the very poorest would not allow their children to be employed in this way. A most remarkable case had come out in evidence. There were a large number of Jewish barbers, but it was impossible to obtain Jewish lather boys, because their parents, although extremely poor, would not allow them to be so employed out of school hours. As to the country at large, he would like to know how many local authorities had made bylaws, and whether the Secretary of State regarded it as a part of his duty to urge upon the local authorities the propriety of making such by-laws. The Act was of no use for the protection of children unless the local authorities could be induced to make by-laws, and a judicious circular from the Home Office, pointing out the action which had been taken in London and elsewhere, might greatly accelerate the framing of by-laws throughout the country generally, as it would bring home to local authorities their responsibility under the Act.
In view of the number of Members who desired to speak, he would only make two general observations. At the first Labour Congress held in Berlin fifteen years ago 1388 Great Britain was ahead of almost every other country in Europe in the matter of factory legislation, and the argument used to foreign employers was that our regulations in no way interfered with the efficiency of our production, but that, although a protection to the workers, they were also an advantage to the employer. He did not quarrel with tariff reformers for saying that our factory legislation was a great burden on our industries and gave our foreign competitors an advantage over us; of course it was not true, but they had so few arguments to place before the working classes that one could not blame them for using any argument that they were able to furbish up for the occasion. But he did earnestly hope that such an argument would not be countenanced by the Government either at home or abroad. The second observation he desired to make was that much greater opportunities for the discussion of these social questions ought to be afforded at an earlier period of the session, when Members were fresher and better able to deal with the subject properly. Nothing could have been more proper in the deliberations of Parliament than the speeches delivered that afternoon. They had been clear, practical, and to the point. The Home Office had enormous power over labour questions in the way of making regulations and so forth, and upon the efficient administration of the Home Office depended a great deal of our industrial happiness and prosperity. He made no attack upon the Home Office; on the whole their action was extremely good, but it was most essential that that action should be discussed in the House. It was only by the application of criticisms and Questions by such Members as the hon. Member for Clitheroe and others who had practical knowledge of the trades that the working of the Home Office could be made of a wholly satisfactory character. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman, if in office next session, would press upon the Cabinet the importance of these matters being discussed earlier in the year.
§ MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
agreed as to the desirability of discussing these questions earlier in the session, and 1389 suggested that, if necessary, to secure that end the House should be willing to take the debate even before the factory inspectors' reports were available. He was glad to notice that there was a considerable diminution in the number of accidents in textile mills, particularly cotton mills, and especially that so few fatal accidents occurred inside the mills. There ought really to be none at all. The new restrictions with regard to mules in cotton mills had had an excellent effect, the accidents from mules having decreased from 810 in 1900 to 587 in 1904, which he thought was ample justification for the imposition of the restrictions. Suggestions had been made with regard to the carding room which had not earned the acquiescence of either employers or operatives. It was frequently difficult to introduce into old machines improvements which might very properly be insisted upon in the case of new machines. He noticed with regret that Oldham was animadverted upon by the inspector for its conservatism in adopting improvements. Oldham was conservative in some respects; the people were apt to think that in these matters they knew a great deal better than any inspector from outside. In other matters they were fairly open-minded, as was shown by the fact that in 1900 they returned his hon. friend his colleague in the representation of Oldham as a Conservative and himself as a Liberal.
In regard to some matters the report of the factory inspector laid the blame, and he thought properly, upon the operatives. For instance, accidents due to cleaning machinery while running often occurred through the operators being so anxious to leave their work at the earliest possible moment on Saturday. If necessary, it would be perfectly justifiable to keep the mill doors closed until twevle o'clock, the Saturday hour for the men to leave. There was a slight increase in the accidents from flying shuttles. Some of these occurred through the shuttleguard being tied up by the operatives. When operatives were guilty of these misdemeanours they ought to be prosecuted. Time-cribbing was a misdemeanour from which both honest employers and honest operatives suffered very much, because the people who ran their works for a 1390 longer time than they ought were able to give the piece-workers a larger wage and to secure larger profits for themselves. Some factory inpectors said the operatives lent themselves to the system of scouting and thus helped to defeat the proper carrying out of the law. The operatives got a larger wage owing to the cribbing of time just as the employer obtained a larger profit; their interest, therefore, was to defeat the law. He did not know how it was to be overcome. It was utterly unfair to the honest employer who desired to keep to the time allowed by law. In the large inspecting districts it was impossible for the factory inspectors to do more than catch a few offenders here and there. There were machines which would record to a fraction of a second what time was worked, and if there was no other way of enforcing the law he would be very glad to see those mechanical appliances generally adopted.
On the question of women inspectors he pointed out that those appointed had to cover immense districts and were overworked; they were mostly employed on special reports, and many more of those women inspectors were wanted in order that the enormous number of women employed in factories might have adequate protection. Ghastly stories were told of the way in which the comparatively new law with regard to women returning to work after childbirth was infringed. That could be stopped if the law were altered. There were certain recommendations in the Report of the Physical Deterioration Committee which, if carried out, would stop it. This infringement was the cause of a terrible amount of suffering, and if it was permitted it would be impossible to raise up a virile race of men in the large towns who would be able to carry on the traditions of the country. He was pleased to see the new boiler legislation of the last Factory Act was working satisfactorily. He wished the same kind of safeguards were applied to other boilers as were now applied to boilers in factories and workshops.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean Division of Gloucestershire had referred to the subject of international agreement with regard to dangerous trades and factory 1391 legislation. He complained that they had sent to the conference last year men of inferior rank with far too stringent instructions. Great Britain ought to be doing everything possible to forward the aims of this conference. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University that there was no reason to suppose that our factory legislation had gone too far. He had no sympathy with the views he had heard so often expressed that they had far too much grandmotherly legislation. The Factory Acts had levelled up the worst employers to the position of better employers, they had helped the honest as opposed to the unscrupulous employers, and at the same time the effect had been to improve the physical well-being of the people. All factory legislation was a question of levelling up, and the Factory Department had never required anything to be done that the better class of employers were not already doing. On the Continent in the past they had been treated as pioneers, but they were not pioneers in everything now, although in regard to many things they were still ahead. An effort was being made to induce them to alter fundamentally their fiscal system in order to secure better conditions for workmen, but that seemed to him to be an entirely wrong method. He did not think that anything could be done for the workers in that way, although they might do a good deal more by factory legislation and by international agreement. Just as factory legislation at home had helped the honest and humane employer, so would international agreement help to obtain the best conditions for labour and assist the progressive nation in competing with the backward nation.
He did not altogether accept the reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, though he thought there was a great deal to be said for the view that all these restrictions had not seriously handicapped them in the commercial race. On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to look at this matter from the point of view of an employer he would have seen 1392 how all these requirements must cost money and must pro tanto handicap them. They nevertheless got a benefit from it in the physical well-being of the workers, and this he hoped in the long run paid them. When, however, one employer ran his works upon the most approved principles and he saw another employer competing with him who paid less wages and worked longer hours in old factories, then, for the moment, the employer who observed the better conditions felt that he was considerably handicapped, and that was the view that he particularly desired to emphasise in regard to this question of international agreement. It was not only just, but it was economically wise for this country to do all it could to encourage other nations to come up to our level. With regard to the forthcoming conference, which he understood was to be held next year, he hoped the Home Secretary, if he continued in office, would not only send men of adequate rank for the purpose, but that he would also give very liberal instructions and help them to secure on behalf of this country an advance in the direction of an improvement in dangerous trades and other matters of factory legislation. He pressed that view upon him for the credit of this country and because he believed that it was a wise as well as a just and humane thing to do.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
said he associated himself with those who had expressed the hope that more time would be devoted to the consideration of the Home Office Vote in future sessions. Hon. Members who had sat through the debate must have been struck with the important character and the great variety of the subjects to which attention had been drawn on a Vote such as they were now considering. The time at their disposal was insufficient and was not fair to the Home Secretary, who was most anxious to give the fullest information in regard to every detail which came within the scope of his duties. It was not fair that they should be deprived every year of opportunities for the full consideration of the vital questions which concerned the social life of those they represented in Parliament. The industrial holocaust 1393 from year to year was largely due to preventable causes, and it therefore became a matter of grave importance that due time should be given for the practical consideration of remedies. He wished to support the appeal which had been made to the Home Secretary by the hon. Member for West Monmouthshire in the eminently practical speech which he had addressed to the Committee. In answer to a Question by the hon. Member the Home Secretary informed them the other day that during the last fifty years something like 9,294 lives had been lost in coal mines through explosions. Although at the present time the average loss of life in proportion to the number of persons employed and the quantity of minerals produced was less than it had ever been, the total still stood at an alarmingly high figure. It was over 1,000 per annum. That was a serious sacrifice of human life to be going on year after year.
The question for them to consider was what could be done to minimise this terrible sacrifice of life. As one who had some practical experience of the work done in mines and the dangers to be faced, he confessed that the difficulty of providing a remedy for the terrible evil of accidents was very great indeed. Experience taught them that one of the penalties they had to pay for the discoveries of modern science for the saving of life and limb in mines was that while on the one hand they had been providing a remedy against certain evils, they had created new, and probably, in many respects, more serious dangers. For many years their contention was that if they could only have a system of ventilation in coal mines approaching anything like perfection, they would be able to chase the dangerous fire damp out of the mines and procure for the miners almost perfect immunity from danger, but just as they had succeeded in developing the ventilation of the mines they had created new dangers, for the more perfect the system of ventilation of a mine was the more it tended to stir up the fine particles of coal dust strewn all through the mines from the shaft to the working face. These finely-divided particles of coal dust in suspension throughout the mine were capable, if sufficient violence were brought to bear.
1394 on them, of being ignited and creating a most serious explosion. It was not necessary to have a large quantity of inflammable gas in a coal mine in order to have a serious explosion. If they had a blown-out shot in a mine where there was a large quantity of finely-divided particles of coal dust in a very dry condition, there was imminent risk of a very serious explosion indeed. The evil which they had to contend against was therefore one of a complex character.
Some of the suggestions made by his hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth were of an eminently practical character, and if they were attended to by the Home Office they might go a long way indeed in preventing accidents from occurring in mines and in saving a number of valuable lives. Attention had been called that afternoon, as had been done again and again before, to the necessity for closer and more careful examination of mines by the staff of inspectors. He knew there was great reluctance on the part of the Treasury to find the necessary money when applications for factory and mining inspectors were made. They found the money necessary to destroy life, but when it came to a question of preserving life then they were very economical and very reluctant to find the money for that purpose. He contended that without a large increase in the number of what might be called expert inspectors a very great deal could be done if those gentlemen were relieved of a vast amount of the clerical duty which they had now to perform. Many of these gentlemen had to spend the greater part of their year's service in attending inquests, making special reports to the Home Office, and attending to their general clerical duties. If some assistance were given to them whereby they would be enabled to get rid of a lot of their clerical work they would hi able to devote more attention than now to the real work of inspection of coal mines. He would be the last man to bring any charge against the staff of inspectors employed by the Home Office. He knew that they were greatly overworked, and he hoped something would be done to give them relief.
1395 His hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth had referred to the indifference of the Home Office in the way of giving assistance in regard to experiments which coalowners carried out in various parts of the country in the interest of the industry in which they were concerned. In France and Prussia there were permanent advisory boards, which took charge of matters of this kind, and he thought we might very well follow their example in that respect. He had the honour a short time ago of serving on the Royal Commission on Coal Dust which was presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who, he was bound to say, rendered very valuable service in that matter. During the time the Commission was conducting its inquiry in the North of England the coalowners of Durham and Northumberland were spending a large sum of money in the erection of galleries for the purpose of conducting experiments in shot firing in an atmosphere of coal dust and fire damp. Perhaps the Home Office had not the power to offer some assistance to enable the coalowners to carry on their experiments, but it had power to apply to the head of the Government on the subject. These experiments, which were of an eminently useful and practical character, had to be abandoned because there were not funds enough to continue the investigations. He thought some useful work could be done in that way either by a permanent national board or by district boards. Experiments of the character referred to could be conducted from time to time with regard to explosives, shot- firing, and the testing of the safety lamps to be used in mines. He thought also something might be done by the Home Office to enforce the suggestions of the Royal Commission of 1886 with regard to the qualifications of shot-firers. The position of shot-firer was one of great responsibility, and great care should be taken to see that the man who was placed in that position was possessed of the qualifications necessary to enable him to satisfactorily discharge his duty. They should be men of a steady and sober character, capable of discharging their important duties. He thought that more care ought to be taken in the 1396 selection of the men who were to be employed as firemen.
Then he thought that the Home Office should insist that at every mine, especially a mine of a known fiery character, there should be in readiness apparatus which would enable rescuers to descend into the mine immediately after an explosion had taken place. If there was a big fire in the city, everyone knew that it was important to have the fire brigade on the spot in a few minutes. Delay was costly. And so it was when an explosion took place in a mine; the delay of an hour, or a couple of hours, sometimesed to the sacrifice of valuable lives, and that delay was often caused from the want of proper appliances to get down into the mine at once. He did not want to give a testimonial to any inventor of such appliances, but it was well known that there were such appliances. His hon. friend the Member for Chester-le-Street told him that at his collieries such appliances were always in readiness in case an explosion took place. He had seen men operating such appliances as he had refemed to when he was a member of a Committee of that House, and he held that every colliery should be provided with such apparatus for immediate use in case of an explosion. He himself believed that if an intimation from the Home Secretary were given to colliery proprietors that such appliances were in existence, and that they should provide themselves with them, the suggestion would be at once adopted.
In conclusion, he wished to back up the appeal which his hon. friend the Member for West Monmouthshire had made to the Home Secretary to grant a special inquiry into the causes of the recent disaster at Wattstown. He did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman would refuse such an appeal. The Home Secretary had a perfectly free hand in the matter. The Act of 1857 gave him the power to institute such a special inquiry, and he was sure that if such a special inquiry were made it would be a satisfaction to the riends of all those who had suffered from that terrible disaster in South Wales.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS, Kent, St. Augustine's)
said he could not complain of the tone of the debate. Several hon. Members had stated that it would be desirable in future to have this Vote put down at an earlier period of the session; to that he agreed. So far as he was concerned, he could assure the House that his influence had been on the side of an early and full discussion of the Vote. Not only was that desired by a large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who represented to a large extent workmen who had great practical knowledge of the matters discussed in the debate, but it would have been of advantage to himself to have had the debate earlier in the session, when it would have been easier for him to avail himself of the advice of hon. Members. He had not made himself in any way hostile to the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he had received the greatest help from them with regard to various rules and regulations. He was extremely grateful for it, and he hoped it would be continued. The hon. Member for Wansbeck, who had spoken, had given great and valuable services to the Home Office; and he trusted he would agree with him that the staff of the Home Office, whether they were mining inspectors or Departmental officials, were always ready to recognise assistance given them.
He had got a very long list of matters to deal with, and he had not a very long time in which to do it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had brought forward the question of the international conference which took place in the spring of the present year. At that conference there were two matters considered. One was the absolute prohibition of white phosphorus and the sale and importation of matches made from it, and the other was the regulation of night work for women. The right hon. Baronet suggested that the delegates they appointed were not equal in rank to the delegates of other countries. From information he had from the delegates themselves, he was not of that opinion. It was perfectly true that there were at Berne one or two delegates of higher Governmental rank 1398 than the British delegates, but these latter were certainly not inferior to the delegates of Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and other countries. The right hon. Baronet said that limitations were imposed upon the delegates. As he had pointed out, they were sent as delegates and not as plenipotentiaries. The instructions they had were to lay before the conference the results already obtained with regard to the use of white phosphorus in match making and with regard to the night working of women, to give the fullest information of the system adopted in this country, and to submit a report of the proceedings of the conference. They, therefore, had no power to bind their country to anything without the consideration of their Government.
With regard to the two subjects which were under consideration, the Committee would remember that, so far as the use of white phosphorus was concerned, it was only five years ago that a set of very strict rules were settled. The result was that the number of cases of "phossy jaw" greatly decreased. After the passing of the rules in 1900, there were three cases in 1901, four in 1902, one in 1903, and none in 1904. When our delegate spoke at the conference, he was able to say there were none that year, but, as the right hon. Baronet and the Committee knew, there had since been an outbreak of three cases. It was stated then that the number was three, but he was assured now that one of those three was not a case of "phossy jaw." With regard to the night working of women, our law was very much stricter than the regulations proposed by the conference. Women in this country worked only ten hours in the textile factories and ten and a-half hours in the non-textile trades. They could not be employed before six nor after eight, nor more than five hours without an interval of half-an-hour for meals. They had weekly half-holidays, Sundays, and Bank Holidays, and the exemptions allowed in respect of the season trades and perishable goods were not so wide as those proposed by the conference. Therefore they were asked to agree to regulations which did not give quite so 1399 much to our employees as they had under existing circumstances.
The resolutions were intended to he be of an international character, and to lead to an international convention. Since the conference the Government had received an invitation to enter into such a convention. The two subjects had been considered, and so far as he could see they could not at present prohibit the use of white phosphorus. Such prohibition would destroy the remainder of the industry of matchmaking with white phosphorus in this country. Even if red phosphorus were all that it was said to be, manufacturers would require time to learn new processes and to teach them to their workmen. All this would have to be done before the Government could assent to prohibition. It was an open question whether the existing special rules would not satisfactorily deal with this matter and succeed in stamping out this terrible disease. They were still awaiting the result of an inquiry which had been o dered into the Gloucester cases. They ought not to sign a convention which, if not "universally observed, would do commercial injury to our own people. The right hon. Gentleman was so well informed in these matters that he would not venture to contradict him on any matter of this kind, but he had that afternoon refreshed his memory on the point, and he understood that, so far as the information of his Department went, there was no reason to suppose that other countries, especially Japan, were likely to come in. So far as night labour for women was concerned, there would be no harm in joining a convention to regulate it, provided that the other countries who signed the convention gave adequate pledges that the regulations would be enforced. We enforced our own factory laws strictly; hut if in one of two countries bound by identical regulations those regulations were less strictly enforced than in the other, considerable hardship would be inflicted on the country where there was the more rigid enforcement. The general policy of entering into international agreements on these industrial matters would have to be considered. He was not prepared 1400 on the part of the Government to say that they could enter into any binding international agreement on industrial matters until they were assured that all the competing industrial countries could be brought into the agreement, and had further, complete guarantees for the uniform enforcement of the agreed regulations in all of those countries. The question of the duration of such agreements would also have to be carefully considered.
On the question of lead poisoning, he thought the inspector's report was not unsatisfactory. There had been a slight increase in cases in the last two years; but there were fewer cases in the first part of the present year than in the first half of 1904, and so far as the year had gone it compared favourably with previous years. The figures must be watched with care, but the existing special rules were only recently settled, after an exhaustive arbitration, by Lord James, and they would not be justified in making an alteration in them at the present time.
Many important matters had been discussed, one of the most important having been raised by the hon. Member for Monmouthshire, who, in an extremely able speech, made a request to him that he would grant an inquirv under Section 45 of the Act of 1887 into the dreadful accident which had recently occured at Wattstown. The hon. Member had formed the erroneous impression that he had already refused an inquiry, but what he had said throughout was that he could not take any steps for the appointment of a special inquiry until the result of the inquest, now being held, was known. Such inquests had in the past proved to be very thorough and careful, and in this instance special care had been taken to ensure its completeness. At the request of the hon. Member for Rhondda, whose absence and the cause of it they much regretted, counsel who could speak the Welsh language had been employed to attend on behalf of the Home Office, and the mines inspectors of the districts and adjoining district were also in attendance. These gentlemen had examined the workings, and would give the inquest all possible information. When the verdict 1401 had been given, and he had considered the report of the Home Office counsel and of the two inspectors, if he found reason to suppose that an inquiry was desirable he should direct one without hesitation. It had never, hitherto, however, been found necessary to hold an inquiry under Section 45 in a case where an inquest had already been held. Such special inquiries were held in Scotland up to 1895, but since the passing of the Fatal Accidents (Scotland) Bill in that year, none had been held even in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Wansbeck had dealt with several questions arising out of this accident. One of his suggestions was that steps ought to be taken to provide all mines with appliances and apparatus both in the nature of ambulance and for the artificial supply of breathable air. He understood from the report of the inspector, that so far as the ambulance and first-aid appliances prescribed under General Rule 34 were concerned, all the requirements of that rule were well observed at this particular colliery. He was sorry to say, however, that in this district, for some time past, it had been difficult to get men to attend the St. John's Ambulance lectures or to pass the first-aid examination. As to the oxygen apparatus, he would consider whether a circular letter should be sent to colliery owners suggesting provision of this apparatus. Such appliances did exist, and some of them were safe, and met probable requirements. There were, however, some descriptions of the apparatus against which he had been warned, as they might be dangerous to those using them. The matter, however, was certainly well worthy of attention.
The hon. Member for Monmouth had criticised the system of inspection, quoting Professor Galloway to the effect that, if the inspection were effectually carried out, there should be no accidents. The hon. Member suggested that the inspectors were overworked. He was, of course, aware of the large amount of work inspectors had to do, but did not think that the staff was inadequate; and, so far as he could learn from owners and men, they were energetic and well qualified. It had been 1402 suggested that men with more technical knowledge would be better qualified to discharge the duties of inspectors, but he thought that the Inspectors' Education was such as to fit them in every way for the work they had to perform.
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS
That firemen occupied extremely important positions he quite agreed, but they were appointed by colliery owners, not by the Home Office. He associated himself with the desire to see them well qualified for their position.
The hon. Member for Monmouth had called attention to the large number of mining accidents, quoting figures in support of his contention. But those figures had relation to a long series of years, and applied to the whole country, and if the Committee would look at the table of accidents caused by explosions it would be seen that there had been happily a falling off in recent years.
The subject raised by the hon. Members for Down and Belfast gave rise to much discussion upon the occasion when his right hon. friend the Member for Croydon had charge of the Bill for amending the Factory Act. The House would probably remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon intended to deal with the question, but that owing to very strong opposition at the last moment the particular clause in his Bill relating to the inspection of laundries had to be abandoned. Since then his right hon. friend had given a pledge that he would deal with the question on the first opportunity. He had tried for the past two or three years to do what he could by voluntary inspection, and a large number of conventual houses carrying on laundry. work had voluntarily accepted inspection. On the other hand, he confessed that inspection under the voluntary system was not wholly satisfactory. The inspector could not visit without notice being given of his coming, and had, of course, no power to insist on his recommendations being carried out. He adhered to the 1403 pledge given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon, and although he could not talk about legislation then while they were in Committee, he was prepared at once to introduce legislation to carry out the intention of his right hon friend.
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.