HC Deb 17 March 1905 vol 143 cc336-93


Order for Second Reading read.

*MR. JACOBY (Derbyshire, Mid.)

said that as he had the honour to represent a large mining constituency he felt it was not only a duty but a pleasure to move the Second Reading of this Bill. It was a much more moderate measure than the larger Bill which had formerly been in the hands of those who represented the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. This Bill did not deal with adult labour. It dealt with the hours of boys under eighteen years of age, and its object was to limit the working hours underground to eight hours per day. He was personally in favour of an eight hours day for all employed in underground labour. He believed it was a great principle which was at the root of the labour question. There was no doubt a large minority in the House which objected, rightly or wrongly, to deal with the question of adult labour. Moreover, there were certain Labour Members from Northumberland and Durham who saw eye to eye with him and others on many great labour problems, but on this one question of the limitation of the hours of those who worked underground they were unfortunately in opposition to them.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)

We think you are in opposition to us.


assured the hon. Member that on this question he was in a hopeless minority. Five out of every six of organised miners' labour leaders were in favour of the proposal now submitted to the House. The hon. Member could not deny that proposition. This was an honest proposal on their part to deal with the length of hours of boys who worked underground. He hardly believed that the Labour representatives from Northumberland and Durham approved of a scheme by which their men worked seven hours and their boys ten hours in the mines. His remedy was a simple and moderate one. If the hon. Members from the North approved of a ten hours day in the mines let them say so. If they did not approve of it, and if they opposed the remedy he brought before the House, he asked them what was their remedy for dealing with this vexed question. There were 45,000 underground workers under the age of eighteen. Of these, over 9,000 were employed in the mines of Northumberland and Durham. Why should eighty per cent. of the young people be denied the right of working an eight hours day because twenty per cent. objected to the proposal. The opposition of the mineowners, who were only interested in getting as much labour as they could from these boys, was not, he thought, an opposition that would have much weight with the House of Commons. It was an interested opposition—a question more or less of pounds, shillings, and pence. We had arrived at the time of day when the rights of humanity and the development of young life was a fir higher consideration in the minds of the Members of the House of Commons than the sordid desire to increase profits and gain larger dividends. He desired that the dis- cussion on this matter should be calm and business-like, and the one thing he wished for was that this grave scandal of boys working underground for ten hours should be put an end to. In other counties there was one shift of boys to one shift of men, but in Northumberland and Durham they found there was one shift of boys to two shifts of men. Was the spirit of chivalry dead in Northumberland and Durham? [Cries of "No, no!"] He was very glad to hear his hon. friends say so, and he hoped they would vote for this Bill. It looked very curious that the men there should work under seven hours and the poor unfortunate boys should be kept down for ten hours. It was important for the physical development and growth of those who were, after all, to be the men of the future that they should have every opportunity given them for physical and social improvement.

No doubt he would be told by his friends from the North that they would approve of this measure if the principle of local option were introtroduced. He did not believe in local option for the mining industry. It might be all very well for the drink traffic, but it was a different thing when they were dealing with the hours of working men. They would have one district fighting against another and the end would be worse than the beginning. They should have a feeling manifested—he did not say whether on the part of the masters or the men—in Northumberland and Durham to go on as they were now doing. On the other hand, on account of the competition, an objection would be raised to the measure in the other parts of the great coalfields of the country, which would prevent it from being anything else than waste paper. He would ask the representatives of Northumberland and Durham whether they did or did not consider ten hours work underground too much. If they thought it was too much what was their remedy for the present state of affairs? This Bill could hardly be called a new proposal, for it had been discussed in another form for many years. The principle was exactly the same. There was no doubt that, but for the difficulty of the ten hours day for the boys of Northumberland and Durham, there would have been a universal eight hours day for miners long ago. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain, representing five-sixths of the whole of the organised mining labour in the country, and, what was equally important, the Trades Union Congress, representing all the organised trades in the country, were in favour of the change proposed by the Bill.

Why was this Bill brought forward? In the first place they said that mining was a dangerous trade. That had been recognised by the legislation which this House had passed for the safety of the life and limb of those employed in the mines. Strong as that argument was in the case of adults, it must be very much stronger in the case of those whose physique was forming, and who would be the future men of the country. It was all very well for their friends from Northumberland and Durham to say that they could not work their mines except on the present system. Even if that were so, he would prefer the interests of humanity, and especially of the young people, to any system. He should think very little of the business capacity of the hon. Baronet who so worthily represented the Chester-le-Street Division of Durham if, when this Bill became law, he did not speedily devise a system for the management of his numerous pits which would be as satisfactory to his business as to the boys he employed. He was a strong supporter of the legislative eight hours day for adults, but he considered that it was specially their duty to regulate the labour of the young who were engaged in dangerous trades. There were unfortunately diseases to which underground workers were in a particular way liable. One of these was nystagmus, or night blindness, which had been well dealt with by a medical man in Derbyshire. This eminent doctor said— In the same way that the shorter time that a person is in contact with the conditions producing the disease the less chance there is of a person contracting it, so there is no doubt that the shorter the time a miner works under defective illumination the less likely is he to get miner's nystagmus. I find at the end of the day that the eyes of the men who suffer from the disease are worse than at the beginning of the shift. There was another disease known as worm disease, cases of which had unfortunately been found in Cornwall. There had also been a case discovered at Glasgow. [An HON. MEMBER: Not in coal mines.] Well, in mines. His right hon. friend the Member for Forest of Dean had dealt with child labour in mines, and the House might regard this measure as the corollary of that useful legislation. He asked the House, with confidence, to support this Bill. The boys of to-day were the men of to-morrow, and it was their solemn duty to give them every opportunity of acquitting themselves in the great battle of life and of improving and increasing the prestige of this great nation on which the sun never sets.

*MR. T. RICHARDS (Monmouthshire, W.)

claimed the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time. It would hardly be necessary, in explaining the provisions of the Bill, to say more than a few words after the lucid speech of the hon. Member who introduced it What was intended to be brought about by this short and simple measure was a limitation of working hours underground to eight per day for boys of eighteen years of age and under. The principal Act provided that boys of less than sixteen years of age should not work underground for more than fifty-four hours in one week, or more than ten hours in any one day. What the Bill now before the House proposed to do was to change the age from sixteen to eighteen, and the restriction was to be applied from ten hours in any one day to eight hours during any consecutive twenty-four hours.

Seeing the favourable position which his hon. friend had secured in the ballot for the introduction of this Bill, those who had hitherto supported it had been looking forward to securing a majority in its favour at its Second Reading, and also an opportunity of its becoming law during the present session. But after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General last Friday in respect to another Bill, those hopes had been partially, if not altogether, blighted. The right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General then told the House that the Second Reading of a private Member's Bill was to be simply regarded as a Resolution passed by this House. He would very respectfully, but, at the same time very sincerely, protest, on behalf of the trade unionists in the House, against the Second Reading of a measure like that of last Friday, with its great majority, being treated simply as the adoption of a Resolution. He also hoped that the Second Reading of the present Bill would be passed by an equally decisive majority, and that that would be treated as something more important than the passing of a Resolution. If the passing of a Resolution did something to remedy the grievances of the working classes, they would have been without an ache or a pain many years ago. The earliest recollection he had of a resolution for the purpose of improving the conditions in which the miners of this country worked was passed on a hill-side in his school days. He, with other boys, was taking an unauthorised holiday, and seeing a gathering of workmen on a hill-side he listened to the resolutions discussed and passed by that meeting. It was repeated over and over again, until it became, in fact, a marching song for the boys going to school, and, to some extent, fortified them against the terrors of the inevitable caning to which they were looking forward, when they would have done with the terrors, the difficulties, and the suffering of school life, and had, in fact, become participants in the fruits of the resolution—"eight hours work, eight hours play, eight hours sleep, and eight shillings a day." They had been passing that resolution from that time to the present. He had had twenty years experience in the coal mines, and they were not spent in the happy conditions to which they looked forward to in his schoolboy days. Although this Bill proposed a limited measure for the boys' work in the mines, he was still a strong believer in the old resolution, and that eight hours were quite sufficient for any one, whatever his age or constitution, to follow an arduous, gloomy, and highly dangerous calling. He wanted the House to remember, so far as Resolutions were concerned, that an Eight Hours Bill had been read a second time by this House on three separate occasions by large majorities; and he hoped when this limited measure had been introduced, referring to boys under the age of eighteen years, that it would be passed by a large majority.

This question had been so often discussed that it was rather difficult for a new and nervous Member to add very much to the debate. He had been a very interested listener on one occasion, in the Strangers' Gallery, to a graphic description of the life of a collier in a coal mine by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Newton Division of Lancashire. That hon. and gallant Member described a colliery as a hole in the ground into which as many as 500 men descended at the same time. The ton. and gallant Gentleman also gave many other picturesque and beautiful details in respect to the working of the mines in this country. What were the feelings of ordinary working miners in regard to that speech? These men had taken a day off for the purpose of coming up to the House to hear what could be said by hon. Members opposite as to their dangerous calling. He was sitting beside these men up in the Strangers' Gallery and heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Newton Division, and in going down the steps outside after the House rose, he asked one of them what his feeling was in regard to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Newton, "Well," said the miner, "my feeling and that of my pal was the most profane silence I have ever listened to." In fact the hon. and gallant Member for Newton Division gave such a beautiful description of the conditions of a miner's life that he should not be surprised if the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishing to escape from the severity of our climate went into a coal mine as a comfortable winter residence.

He should like to give his own experience as to the conditions of a boy's life in the mines. He did not suppose that these conditions had very much improved since he was a boy. He might be told that many of these conditions did not apply to the boy's life in other parts of the country, but he spoke of what it was in South Wales. Large numbers of these boys lived miles away from the mines and had to be conveyed by train to their work. They had to be up very early in the morning and make their way to the train which had been standing in a siding all night, no matter how severe the weather was. Often the windows and doors of the carriages were broken, and the first thing the passengers had to do in. the winter time was to clear away the snow from the seats. No light was provided, and the journey often occupied half an hour, with the temperature possibly below freezing point. On arrival at the pit head they descended the shaft and had to walk to the place in the mine where they were employed. This walking seemed to have been lost sight of by the opponents of this Bill, but he would tell the House that sometimes the walk was a mile or two miles long. A circular had been sent to Members of the House from the North of England Coal Trade Association in which the roads underground were described as spacious and well-ventilated. Hon. Members would imagine from that description that these roads were like Parliament Street or the Thames Embankment. He supposed that that description appealed to the hon. Gentlemen who represented the counties of Durham and Northumberland. Even if; that were so, he challenged any one to say; that that was a fair description of the mine roads in the collieries in Northumberland and Durham. He knew nothing about them, but he knew the South Wales collieries, and he challenged the shortest Member in the House of Commons to walk a mile in any ordinary mine roadway in this country with his head erect.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)

I know some.


said that he repeated the statement that in an ordinary colliery roadway it was impossible for the shortest man in the House of Commons to walk that distance with head erect. If any man did endeavour to do so he would have a very solid and forcible reminder that greater humility was expected of him. These boys had to walk along these roadways together with hundreds of other workmen and a number of horses, over wire ropes, iron rollers, and other obstacles. They had to walk this distance before they commenced work, and they, consequently, arrived at the working places in an exhausted state before they began their day's labour. Moreover, the atmosphere and temperature were injurious to health, and the workers were liable at any moment to be disabled for life, or deprived of life altogether. Much had been said in this House on the question of the comparative danger of the miners' calling compaied with other dangerous callings in this country, but he wanted to impress upon the House the fact that it was the miner who had to wrestle with the forces of nature; to break into her stronghold; to rifle her safe and contend with her where she was best able to defend herself. Notwithstanding all the safeguards and improvements in the mining of to-day, there was still a sacrifice of 1,000 lives a year, and beyond that 10,000 disfigured and crippled men came up from the collieries to rely on casual labour for their living, annually. Let the House consider the conditions under which these men and boys had to work during their nine hour shift at the face. There were, perhaps, 1,000 men and boys working at the face in narrow galleries raising dust and releasing noxious gases at every stroke of the pick; in addition to which there was the smoke from 1,000 safety lamps, and there was the dust and dirt caused by the horses employed and by the whirling trains of coal carried along the intake all day long at a high speed—along the only road through which fresh air reached these men and boys—was it human to allow lads of less than eighteen years of age to spend more than eight hours a day in such an atmosphere? In addition to that there was the high temperature to be considered. It would be bad enough if the temperature was low, but with the temperature averaging from sixty-eight to eighty-nine degrees, the conditions were such that young lives could not thrive. A Bill had recently been introduced into the German Parliament which provided that when the average temperature of a mine was eighty-two degrees, the hours of work by the miners should not exceed six hours. Our boys in this country were at present working ten hours a day. It would, no doubt, be said that the statistics with regard to the physical and general health of those engaged in dangerous callings did not bear out the statements he had made. That was true. But they did not do so because scores and hundreds of boys who commenced life in the mines were, after working a year or two, ordered by doctors not to work any more underground and they had to find other means of livelihood. There were scores and hundreds of cases of apparently strong and robust boys of nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one being ordered by the doctors not to work underground and, of course, those cases would not be found in the statistics supplied to the House. Often, too, miners, although their health was impaired, struggled on with that courage that was characteristic of the miners of this country, struggled on for a number of years, till, perhaps, they were forty or fifty years old and then they had to leave and occupy themselves as casual labourers. Their deaths were not recorded in the mine statistics either. The mine statistics did not show the actual state of things with respect to the physical deterioration of the youths employed in mines.

Another important point on which he desired to touch was that of firemen. Those were the men who held the most responsible positions in our mines. They were responsible for the safety of the mine and of the lives of the men in it. Up to the present they did not require to pass any examination and obtain any certificate as to competency. He submitted that it was not sufficient that a man should satisfy the manager and that he should be put into such a responsible position without any qualification. The time had come when the Government and the country should insist that these men occupying these very important positions should be certified as being capable of the duties they had to perform. Ten or twenty firemen were responsible for the safe working of the mine; they were the men who had to meet any emergency which arose; and they were the men who were invariably found dead at their posts when any accident occurred. The time had come when men who were called upon to fill these onerous positions should have the necessary training to unable them to attend to the safety of the mines under their care, which could only be secured by working them shorter hours as boys.

He now had to notice the opposition of the direct representatives of the miners of Northumberland and Durham in this House. He desired to disassociate himself from anything that might be said in respect to their personal feeling in this matter. This Bill was introduced for the benefit of the miners of the country as a whole, and the long and faithful devotion of the two hon. Members to whom he referred, to the cause of the miners, made it difficult for him to say that they were wrong, though he believed them to be wrong. He would ask those hon. Members to go through the statistics and compare the number of fatal accidents to boys of under sixteen years of age working in the mines to the number of those in other dangerous trades. If they did that, he thought they would say there was some reason for abolishing a system which was so unfair, in the interests of the boys. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chester-le-Street and his colleagues would undoubtedly tell the House again that they had been sent to this House by the workmen to oppose this reduction of hours, but the hon. Baronet must remember that they were not seeking to reduce the hours of the workmen but of the boys, and the boys did not vote for the hon. Baronet. If the boys had to vote at the next election they would vote for the hon. Member for Mid - Durham, because of his manly speech on the Trades Disputes Bill, but they would see that the hon. Baronet did not show the same feverish anxiety to champion their cause in measures of that kind as he did to prevent Parliament imposing on them shorter hours, and in his opinion the boys would do well in his case to pray the prayer of the gunner of Trafalgar, who offered a prayer just before the battle that the shots of the enemy would be distributed in the same proportion between the officers and men as the prize-money was likely to be.

He did not propose to deal with the cost, but to point out that here was an additional reason why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should remove the coal tax, and a splendid opportunity for making a condition of his doing so that the colliery owners should drop their opposition to this Bill. He appealed to the House to pass this measure, and thus deal with the raw material of human life at its most dangerous and delicate stage. This was the age when education if not continued became valueless. This was the period when the greatest physical deterioration took place. These were the boys who, disgusted with their hard conditions, offered themselves to the Army and were unfit. They pleaded for the boys of to-day, the men of the future. Men, and not "mere workmen," as they were designated contemptuously by an hon. Member of this House the other day at Cardiff. Men, who at the very moment they were thus described by this modern Coriolanus in the camp of the enemy, were at Cardiff, in the Rhondda Valley, battling with the flames to rescue their follows, and, even when that was hopeless, continuing, with the chivalry and courage: the late Mr. Gladstone credited them with, in trying to save the property of the colliery owner.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. HARRIS (Tynemouth)

said the House of Commons was never indifferent to the appeals that were made to it on behalf of labour, or by hon. Members who represented Labour constituencies, and it was a matter of congratulation that no complaints were made that the claims of working men did not receive careful and adequate consideration at their hands. On this score the hon. Member who moved the Bill and the hon. Member who seconded it in an admirable maiden speech need have no fear, and they might have the satisfaction of knowing, that in appealing to the sentiment of the House of Commons, they had found the weakest and most vulnerable spot in their opponents' armour. They had asked the House for its sympathy, and to an appeal for sympathy the House was always ready to respond. Tales of hardship and dangers had often more weight with it than grave economic and industrial considerations, and the fact that a clause had been inserted in this year's Bill, limiting it to persons of under eighteen years of age had shown the wisdom of its promoters and would, no doubt, be used by them as an additional claim upon their sympathy. But appeals of that nature were amongst the most dangerous appeals they had to meet. In our private and, public affairs our sympathies were generally with those whose fortunes were not so happy as our own, we were liable to make great concessions in their favour, and often to let our kindness override our common sense. Therefore, when a Bill of such momentous and profound importance as this had to be considered, and when it was supported by appeals to their feelings, it was their duty to examine it with the most scrupulous care, so that they did not lose its sense of proportion or allow their judgment to be warped by sentiment.

What was the object of the present Bill? Its object was to prohibit any male person of under eighteen years of age from being employed below ground for more than eight hours in any one day. Eight hours below ground was by no means synonymous with eight hours of work. A man had to get to and from his work. He had his meals, and, when the time occupied in these proceedings was deducted, eight hours below ground represented but little more, on an average, than six or six and a-half hours employment. He admitted that they were perfectly justified in interfering in trades disputes. The House of Commons was in a position to hold a happy balance between interests often dissimilar and sometimes antagonistic, and they were obviously entitled, and even bound, to legislate, when it could be shown that such legislation was called for to protect the health or moral welfare of those concerned, even if such legislation, should happen to be to the detriment of some particular trade. But he maintained that it was only under such circumstances they should interfere in the freedom of contract between employer and employed, or say to the one "you shall not buy," and to the other "you shall not sell more than a given amount of labour in each day." In such cases it was very necessary for them that they should have ample proof that the health or well-being of those they legislated for was being endangered. In the present case he maintained there was not only no evidence that this was the case, but ample evidence that it was not. For, in the first place, this was not so much a dispute between employers and employed as it was one between two sections of the employed themselves, and, in the second place, they had every evidence, strange as it might seem, to show that a miner's employment was not an unhealthy employment, but that, compared with many other industrial pursuits, it might be considered more healthy than the average. The figures of mortality, and other statistics in connection with the coal trade had often been given, and he would not trouble the House with them again, but he would ask whether the fact that the representatives of a most influential and important section of the coal-mining population were opposed to this Bill was not itself a conclusive proof that it was not needed, and that no ill was being suffered under present conditions. As the House was aware, this Bill was opposed—almost universally—by the pitmen of Northumberland and Durham. These men entirely dissociated themselves with this agitation. They had no interest in profits and were not concerned with dividends; but they recognised the great damage that would be done to the coal trade by this Bill, and they had no wish to see their trade damaged and their employment interfered with.

What was it they were asked to do? They were asked, at the instance of a majority of workers, to impose conditions upon an unwilling minority. They were asked to restrict the output of those who did not wish their output restricted, and to prohibit those from working who had every desire to work. Under such circumstances the appeal to their sympathy must fall to the ground. For what greater proof that the present conditions were not injurious could they want than that the boys themselves, their parents, and their relations, were satisfied that there existed no just cause for complaint. But the reasons why this Bill should be opposed were many and strong. What, for instance, would be the effect of such legislation on the coal industry of the North of England? He need not go into a detailed explanation as to the method employed there, and which was found best suited to the natural conditions that existed, but any alteration such as that which was proposed would entail a complete change of system involving either a large increase in the number of boys employed, or a large reduction in the number of men employed, and would in either case inevitably lead to heavy additional burdens to the owners of colliery property without any corresponding compensation in the shape of an increased production of coal. Boys could not be obtained with the same facility as men. The men could move from district to district and could take their families with them, but this was not the case with the boys who lived at home. They must find work in the neighbourhood of their parents. And besides this, boy labour was becoming every day in many localities, such as that of the River Tyne, more scarce and more expensive. In the great factories and shipyards of the Tyne machinery worked by boys was taking the place of the older methods, and as improvements in the erection of labour-saving machinery were made, the difficulty in obtaining boys must still further increase.

MR. MARKHAM ((Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)

In what counties is there a scarcity. There is none in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, or Warwickshire.


There is in many parts of Northumberland.


Because you work such long hours.


denied that that was the case. Continuing, he said that in any question of this kind it was impossible to say how great the harm would be or where it would end. That it would be great to the coal trade of the North of England was certain. The hon. Member for Mansfield himself a few years ago told the House that the price would be increased by a sum of 6d. per ton, and personally he at that time thought the calculation too low.


The hon. Member is unintentionally misrepresenting me. I say if they worked two eight hour-shifts the cost would be reduced, but with one eight-hour shift it would be increased by 6d. at the outside.


said his recollection was that the hon. Member said that in Northumberland and Durham any alteration of the present system meant at least an increase of 6d. per ton. But other estimates up to as high as 2s. had been given. His point was that even an increase of 6d. would seriously handicap the coal industry of this country. A very large part of this coal had to compete in the markets of the world with coal produced by cheaper labour abroad.


Then abolish your export duty.


said that would not cover the whole field. The inevitable tendency of an addition to the cost of production must be to enlarge the area of the market of our competitors whilst restricting the area of our markets abroad. But, great as would be the damage to this, our greatest trade, the effects of our legislation would also be felt in the other great trades of this country. The shipping trade must inevitably be greatly prejudiced. How great the harm of even a small rise was would be realised when it was remembered that one ton of coal would transport one ton of cargo a distance of between 50,000 and 60,000 miles under favourable conditions, and that 1d. worth of coal would carry one ton of goods by sea for some 350 miles. But it was not the coal trade and shipping alone that would suffer; practically every trade in this country was dependent upon coal. In our factories some 53,000,00 tons of coal were consumed every year. Our railways, the Coal Committee estimated, burnt 13,000,000 tons a year. 15,000,000 tons were used in our gas works whilst in our domestic consumption we burnt no less than 32,000,000 tons. The burden imposed by this Bill would be upon each of these interests and would be no light one. Professor Jevons said— Through a rise in the price of coals we shall be taxed in everything and at every moment. Our food will be taxed as it crosses the ocean as it is landed by steam upon the wharf, as it is drawn away by the locomotive, as the corn is ground and the bread mixed and kneaded and baked by steam, and the meat is boiled and roasted by the kitchen fire. The bricks and mortar, the iron joists, the timber that is carried and sawn and planed by steam, will be taxed. The water that is pumped into our houses and the sewage that is pumped away and the gas that lights us in and out will be taxed. Not an article of furniture or ornament, not a thread of our clothes, not a carriage we drive in, not a pair of shoes we walk in, but is partly made of coal. The grounds, then, upon which he opposed this Bill were, first, because he held we should not legislate for the purpose of enabling a section of the working men of this country to coerce another section who were not willing to be coerced, and secondly, because he was convinced that if this Bill were put on the Statute-book its effects would be most harmful to the whole trading community of this country. He, therefore, begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

*COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Inee)

in seconding the Amendment, said be had the honour to represent a mining constituency in Lancashire, and indirectly the Bill would have the effect of reducing labour below ground in his district to eight hours from bank to bank. So far as the boys were concerned, he agreed that coal mining was an arduous, a difficult, and a dangerous occupation, but it bred men. He did not know where; this country would be without its sailors and its miners. It should be borne in mind that the time occupied in the actual work below ground differed very much from the time from bank to bank. On the average a man took an hour and a half to go to and from his place of work in the pit. If he worked six days a week he worked forty hours at the actual "face," as it was called, in the week. Mining was a fitful industry, and pits were often stopped, either from want of waggons, want of trade, or because of a breakdown. How was a man who worked forty hours at his work to recover lost time? He saw a great difficulty in that respect. He would put an entirely different case. A man who worked nine and a-half hours from bank to bank worked thirty-nine hours in the week instead of forty. He worked for five days, and he had an hour's more work at the face when he had got to the end of the week. How would the hon. Member for Mid-Derbyshire meet that case? The man might say he wanted his week-end, he wanted the hour he gained, which would give him a little money with which to enjoy himself. There was no doubt that some of the money which now went into the houses in the mining districts would be lost to the people if this Bill were passed. It was a measure he had never been able to understand. If the proposal were that when coal had been worked for a certain number of hours there should be a pause to allow the hewers who wished to leave the pit to do so, there would be sense in that, but this was a measure which would injure the old man by making him hurry and run risks. The general tendency of modern legislation was to injure he old workman, and young workmen should bear in mind that men became old much more quickly than they expected to do when young. He should certainly vote against the Bill, believing that he did so in the interests of the miners themselves.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Harris.)

Question proposed— That the word 'now' stand part of the Question.''

*SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)

said that during his connection with a mining constituency, which had now extended over nearly twenty years, his attention had from time to time been most painfully called to the position of the boys employed in the mining industry, and he had more than once declared to his constituents that he would lose no opportunity of raising his voice on their behalf. He sympathetically recognised the difficulties which some representatives of the coal industry felt in accepting the measure now under discussion. They looked at the matter from an economic point of view, and there were no doubt great difficulties from the economic point of view. But on a matter of this kind the House of Commons should rise above the economic difficulty and look at the question more from the standard of humanity than from the actual wealth production of the labour of these boys. The economic difficulty especially affected the northern counties, where it was felt that the measure might cause serious detriment from the economic standpoint.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)



said in that case he would ask hon. Members to rise above the level of expediency and to look at the matter from the point of view of what was good for the general community, and especially for the young people engaged in the mines. What, above all things, ought to be considered was the question of the vigour and vitality of the race. Everything which tended to lower that vigour and vitality was an injury to the general community. Reference had been made to the health of miners. He fully admitted that they were a strong and healthy race of men, though at ages under twenty and over fifty they died faster than the average. They came from the healthiest portion of the British race, being largely recruited from the agricultural community. But their vigour and strength was in no way connected with their calling; it was due to their habits of self-restraint and temperance. The author of the figures as to the health of miners already referred to in the debate had also written that the miners were very temperate and careful among the industrial classes, and very free from the sins of alcohol. But the same authority referred to this very question of the health of young miners, and what did he say? Dr. Tatham stated— The excessive mortality of colliers under twenty years of age may be accounted for by the fact that from 40 to 50 per cent. of the total deaths are due to violence caused by the wagons and tubs. This form of accident falls mainly to the lot of the young and less experienced colliers. That quotation carried with it two lessons—first, that there was an excessive mortality from general disease, amongst young miners, and, secondly, that there was an excessive accidental mortality amongst young miners. The excessive mortality from general disease which did not come into the statistics recorded in the Reports of the Inspectors of Mines, fell mainly on these young miners through diseases of the lungs—not consumption, for they were freer from consumption than the young people of the general population, but diseases caused by the dust of the mines, the heat, and exposure to wet and damp. The mortality from respiratory diseases was no less than 21 per cent. more among the colliers than among the ordinary population. That applied to the young colliers under twenty years of age, among whom the rate of mortality from these diseases was twice as large as among the agricultural population of the same age. That, he thought, was a sufficient answer to what had been said with regard to the healthiness of the occupation. But he particularly asked the House to look at the matter from the point of view of these young people under eighteen years of age. First of all, it was work done under very arduous conditions. More arduous conditions than those under which miners had ordinarily to work could not be conceived. Colliers were shut away from the light of the sun, working in a damp mine, in a dusty atmosphere, and frequently in a temperature of over 70 degrees, so that they had to work stripped to the waist, often practically naked. Was it right to subject young people under eighteen years of age to such conditions for ten or more hours a day? He submitted that the mere statement of the fact was a sufficient answer to those who argued in favour of boys working these long hours under such conditions. Ten hours a day was far too long even for an adult to work, let alone growing lads, and the conditions were such as all ought to deprecate and do their best to remedy. The Physical Deterioration Committee went into the matter, and made a recommendation or this very subject. They were led to do so by the evidence of Dr. Scott, who said— There is one strong point that has never been touched under the Factory Acts and that is employment of children in coal mines. There is no medical examination. Fancy a fine factory, a factory inspected by His Majesty's inspector, in which no young person is allowed to enter unless he is examined by the certifying surgeon, and yet with regard to the coal pit with all its grime and dirt and misery and damp, there is no medical examination of these boys. In the night time I have heard these wretches coughing as they were going along; and yet these boys go down these pit holes where the air may be impure and water constantly dripping from the roof. The only condition is that they are to be of a certain age, and it does not matter to the managers whether they are scrofulous, rickety, phthisical, or anything else — they get them into the pit. That evidence, given within the lest few months, was sufficient to excite the anxiety of every Member in the House who was anxious to prevent human suffering without inflicting undue injury upon an important industry. The fact that the labour was arduous, that the conditions were undesirable, and that the boys were not medically examined, justified the careful inquiry which would be given by a Committee of this House if the present Bill were referred to it, and that was one reason why he supported the Second Reading. From personal observation he knew that these boys on leaving their work were thoroughly exhausted. He had seen them come from the pits thoroughly worn out, and he membered a friend of his, who once worked in the pits, telling him that his exhaustion was such that when he got home he knew nothing until he awoke and found himself in bed, having been washed, stripped, and put to bed without knowing anything about it. That was the kind of fatigue which everyone had seen as the result of the work these boys had to do in coal pits.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)



I am stating a fact.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)

It might have been so fifty years ago.


said it was still so to a large extent; it was only necessary to watch the boys coming from the pits to see how utterly exhausted they were. The boys were allowed to work ten hours a day. That that was too long a period for any young person to work, especially in heavy muscular labour, was the view of the greatest scientific authorities who had written on the subject. A celebrated physiologist—Petten-koffer—investigated this matter very carefully, and a few years ago there was published an article on the Physiology of Labour based on his researches. What was the conclusion of that article?


What is the date of the article?


1892. The article concluded as follows— What, however, can be stated without fear of contradiction is that there is a distinct limit to the power of physical endurance, and that this limit can be exceeded in nine hours work. Therefore Pettenkoffer's experiments must lead us to the conclusion that eight hours hard muscular work is quite as much as can be safely undertaken even by the strong and healthy. That applied to full-grown men, but in this case they were dealing with boys. Upon the highest scientific authority eight hours a day was long enough for men, and therefore ten hours was too long for the law to allow boys to work These poor overworked boys supplied scores of martyrs to the calling in which they were engaged. There was no more pitiable catalogue in the English language than the list of deaths reported by His Majesty's inspectors of mines. During many years boy after boy had been sacrificed to this industry, and he thought it was the duty of every hon. Member to put a stop to this terrible sacrifice. In 1902 147 boys or children under eighteen years of age were killed in and about coal mines, and in 1903 142. [An HON. MEMBER: How many were engaged?] He did not care how many were engaged, but his point was that a nation could not afford to lose in two years 280 boys of tender years when this loss could be avoided. He admitted that the number of deaths amongst boys was not, as a rule, greater than amongst men, and if they took the general percentage the death rate amongst the boys was much the same as the men. If, however, the statistics were carefully analysed they would find that they did not bear out this view, and the lads suffered a little more than the men. According to the report of Mr. Le Neve Foster— The boy suffers more than the man in certain districts. He had given a table of the death rate from accidents for boys and men for the last six years for certain districts such as Newcastle, Durham, Yorkshire, and Lincoln. He did not think that there was anything more pitiful than a young life under twenty being cut off by an avoidable accident. This was one of the worst human tragedies. How did it work out? In Durham the death rate amongst boys in 1898 was nearly double that of the men, it was more than double in 1900, and nearly treble in 1902. In the Newcastle district in 1898 the death rate was nearly double, and more than double in 1899, and two and a-half times as great as that of the men in 1901. In the Yorkshire district the death rate amongst the boys was double that of men in 1899. So that there was a terribly heavy toll exacted from the boys in those districts, where it was heavier than amongst the men. Those figures applied to boys under sixteen years

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)

pointed out that since the Compensation Act came into operation there had been 607 deaths for which compensation had been paid in connection with the Durham Miners' Union. Of this total there were between the age of fifteen and twenty years ninety-five, the balance being above twenty years. He would like to know how the hon. Member made it double below twenty years.


said the hon. Member's figures might be more correct than the Blue-books, but, nevertheless, he preferred the Blue-books, and the figures worked out for boys of sixteen at 3.51 deaths per thousand for 1902 in Durham, and in the same year amongst men at 1.06 per thousand. Those were the Government figures for that district, and he pinned his faith to them as showing that there was amongst those boys a terrible sacrifice of life. As regarded the year 1904, speaking of the general death rate of the miners, he was sorry that the figures did not indicate any improvement. In this very dangerous calling the death rate from accidents amongst miners had not gone down during the last five years as they had anticipated, and it was much higher than it should be. The total deaths for 1904 were 1,084, which was higher than it had been since 1901. The average for the five years was 1,083, a total which they had hoped some years back would never be reached again. The mortality among boys arose mainly during the handling of the tubs and the hauling of the coal. This was work in which a good deal of care had to be exercised, and those employed had to be very agile in getting out of the way in order to avoid being crushed. They would find in the Inspector's Report case after case of boys being crushed where a little more agility might have saved them. This condition arose from too long labour, and nothing made those employed so dull and stupid as long hours of labour, and therefore anything that shortened those hours would materially lessen this danger. The German statistics provided a certain amount of confirmation of this, for they showed that amongst colliers there were more deaths at the latter end of the week than at the beginning. His attention was more particularly drawn to this matter on account of an inquest that was held upon a boy who had been ten hours continuously employed in this work. At the time he called the attention of the House to it, and Lord Llandaff (the Home Secretary) made an inquiry into it, and he found that another boy in the same district and possibly in the same employment had been killed a short time before, who had been continuously employed for fourteen hours. He found a year ago recorded by one of His Majesty's inspectors a similar death in the case of a boy in South Wales, who had been fifteen hours at work. It was true that in this case it was a surface boy. No wonder those employed in this industry became tired, languid, and dulled in their senses, and therefore were unable to move quickly enough in order to escape being run over by one of those tram cars from which they could not escape with sufficient celerity.

The whole question of saving the lives of those boys lay in shortening the long hours of labour to which they were at present subjected. It might be said that those accidents, occurring as they did to those boys, after all did not form a sufficient basis for altering the law. Bui apart altogether from the death rate, which was a terrible blot upon the condition of the coal-mining industry he contended that the hours were far more than they ought to allow young and growing boys to work underground in a Christian country. They would never allow their own children to undergo labour of that kind. There were very few people in the country who would allow their sons to go and work in coal pits if they could find anything better for them. He had gone down pits over and over again, and in that atmosphere of darkness, dulness, dampness, and discomfort a very brief time was quite sufficient for him, but to work in it for ten hours was something which no young boy ought to be called upon to endure. Look at the question from a physiological point of view. What happened at their public schools? There they had nothing like these long hours of labour, and one of the greatest authorities upon the treatment of boys, Dr. Clement Dukes stated in a paper on this question, certain definite rules which had not been controverted. This doctor had had an experience of some twenty-five years in public school work, and he asserted that boys between thirteen and fifteen years of age ought not to work more than thirty hours, and that boys between fifteen and seventeen years of age ought not to work more than thirty-six hours per week. In the industry they were now considering, boys were allowed to work in the pit for fifty-four hours per week, and in seeking to lessen that number he thought they were doing a good thing not only for the industry and the community, but also for the nation. This was a question which told upon the physical development of the race. This House had done great service in the past in passing legislation which enabled the British race to grow stronger than it otherwise could have done under the old conditions of labour. If they had gone into Lancashire twenty-five or thirty years ago, they would have seen large numbers of weakly people, stunted in their growth under the old factory system, and presenting none of those attributes of physical development which they were so proud to see in the British race to-day. That great improvement had been brought about by the application of the Factory Acts. And here to-day was another field in which they could also improve the physical development of the people by taking away the too arduous conditions of labour. He thought this was something which the Members of the House of Commons would readily and gladly undertake. Legislation in this direction, in the past, had been carried out with the greatest benefit to the population, and he now appealed to the Members on both sides of the House to undertake similar legislation in order that the lives of these boys might be protected, and to enable them to grow up strong, healthy, and vigorous specimens of humanity. That was a high and holy work, and he asked the House to do its best to promote it.

*MR. JOHNSON (Gateshead)

said he wished at the outset to say that he entirely reciprocated the kindly feeling expressed by the mover and seconder of the Second Reading of the Bill, especially by the seconder, in what he conceived all would be willing to admit was a very able speech. Whilst they were compelled honestly to take different sides on a question of this kind there was the greatest amiability and friendliness amongst the miners of this country. He had listened very carefully to the debate so far as it had gone, and the advocates of the Bill had not, as far as he had been able to judge, shown either the possibility or the practicability of applying the principles contained in it. They had expressed a wish that the Bill should become law, but there was, to his mind, a great difference between the expression of a desire and giving substantial reasons why that desire should be put into practical application. It might have been said that they desired four hours work instead of eight hours. That was a laudable wish. He once heard a gentleman on a platform say that if everybody in this country did their fair share of work there would not be four hours, much less eight, to each person. A lazy man might have a desire to do no work at all It was incumbent on the promoters of the Bill to say how it was possible to put its proposals into actual execution. Neither the mover nor the seconder gave any reason for reducing the age limit from twenty-one to eighteen. That was very significant, and there must be some substantial reason for it. He was modest enough to supply the omission. The reason was obviously to enlarge the acceptability of the Bill to the Members of the House. A week ago the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in reply to the hon. Member for Oldham on the fiscal Resolution, said that that hon. Member had very adroitly spread his net very wide. He did not at all find fault with the hon. Member because he had spread his net so wide, but he should be prepared to find fault with those on his side of the House who were sufficiently innocent to fall within the meshes of the net. The same argument might be urged in this instance. The age limit had been reduced to catch votes. He was not complaining that his hon. friend should have taken that legitimate course of spreading the net widely, but he would blame hon. Members if they fell into its meshes.

Although the age had been reduced to eighteen, this Bill was their old friend of years ago—the old Eight Hours Bill dressed in a more juvenile uniform, though there were still wrinkles on its face. However much they might desire re-juvenality, hon. Members should know that they were dealing absolutely and completely with the old Eight Hours Bill. When the old Bill was discussed from year to year no point was more urgently pressed than that it would tend to uniformity. His contention was that it would not give uniformity in Durham, because the conditions there were diametrically opposed to those in other parts of the country. He denied that conditions which differed could be unified. Nature was against it to begin with. It was a wonderful thing that although they might deal with mechanical operations, adjust and readjust applied mechanics to other ends, yet when they began to tinker with the nature of things, the nature of things refused to be pressed into a mould. How would this Bill act in the North of England? Could it be so adjusted and fitted as to meet the actual condition of things. His belief was that the Bill, instead of tending to uniformity, would tend very considerably to confusion. Take a hypothetical colliery containing 100 boys, forty of whom were eighteen years of age and sixty under. In the North of England the boys took the empty waggons into the working face and brought the loaded ones out; but he understood that in the Midlands they also filled the waggons. What would be the condition of things in such a colliery as he had suggested? The sixty boys who were under eighteen years of age would have to leave their work at the end of eight hours, leaving the coal getters or hewers with no boys to attend to them after the eight hours. The forty boys over eighteen years of age would go on working for ten hours. Could anyone imagine such a system as that being applied to a factory? Then, there was the very substantial difficulty caused by the double-shift system. The double-shift system had been carried on in the North of England for more than a hundred years. In the Midlands there was an sight or nine hours shift, and it would be perhaps an easy thing to apply the proposals in the Bill there; but it would be exceedingly difficult to adjust the different hours for boys under the double-sihift system. Then there was the question of danger. He did not deny that there was danger, but if the danger argument was pressed too severely no one would ever go down into a pit at all. He had worked in a coal pit from the age of nine years until he was forty, and had passed through all the grades from boy to coal getter, and no man in this House knew better than he did the dangers of such work. But there were dangers in other occupations not less great than those to which the miner was exposed. He dissented from the coloured pictures of a miner's life presented to the House that afternoon. He once heard a man remark that they ought not to go to bed because more people died in bed than out of it!

He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Forest of Dear present. If he might be allowed to say so, there was not a Member of that House of whom miners had so high an estimation as the right hon. Gentleman; and any honour that came to him delighted them, and any dark shadow which crossed his life enlisted their sympathy. The right hon. Gentleman was thoroughly appreciated as the best friend of not only miners but of trade unionists and workers generally. The right hon. Gentleman in 1902 quoted some figures which he was rather startled at, and said that the figures showed that there were nearly as many accidents in mines to boys between the ages of sixteen and twenty as there were to men between the ages of twenty and thirty. He wanted to say that that was not the experience in Durham.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

The figures I quoted then were taken from official sources.


said that the figures were startling and did not accord with his own experience. Suppose it were attempted to try one shift of boys and men, by that one stroke a very considerable number of coal hewers in Durham would be dismissed, and the miners in Durham would not thank hon. Members in that House for making an unemployed question in Durham. That was why he said they could not solve the difficulty by making one shift for men and boys alike. There was an assumption on the part of the supporters of the Bill that if the hours of labour were shortened the danger would be reduced. That was only an assumption, and accidents had happened to boys under an eight hours day as well as under a ten hours day. They were doubling the danger, or at least increasing it to that extent, because by doubling the shifts they must increase the danger.

Perhaps the most cogent argument adduced in support of the Bill was that of humanity. The word itself was so broad in its signification that one had only to mention humanity and it brought into play all the glowing flow of sentiment which influenced our whole argument. It had been said that the boys of Durham were slaves. He denied that. It was an insult to them to say they would allow the boys to be treated like galley slaves or illtreated in the collieries of the North. They had that refinement which came to all through and by fatherhood. They were the parents of those children, and they would not allow them to submit to those conditions if they believed they were in the nature of slavery, or if they believed that any one would presume to illtreat the boys. He did not undervalue the point of sentiment. It was Mr. Disraeli who said that the world was not governed by logic but by sentiment. He believed it was largely governed by healthy sentiment, but at the same time they should, he thought, differentiate between sentiment and sentimentality, because sentiment, if allowed to carry one to extremes, carried one beyond his sounder judgment. How far did the humanity argument carry the supporters of this Bill in 1894, when a similar Bill was before a Committee of the House, which by what might be called an option clause gave an eight hours day. Why was not that local option clause accepted? If it had been they would have had an eight hours day ten years ago. That Bill was withdrawn, because, in the words of Mr. Samuel Woods, then a Member of this House— It would put the districts into very unequal positions with regard to competition one with another. Hon. Members would see, therefore, it was not sentiment that governed this matter but competition, which was a very different thing. The supporters of this Bill said, "What we want is not to create inequality but to carry this Bill by putting all on the same level; all in the same position. We want to give them equal rights, equal facilities in all the markets of the world, and we say that that condition of things does not exist at the present time." Making all the allowances he was prepared to make in favour of the proposals of his hon. friend, to whom in this matter he was opposed, he was prepared to say that competition would be stronger than humanity, and that was what he desired the House to understand. That was why they were even now prepared to offer and to pass in this House a Bill with a local option clause. If the hon. Member would accept such a clause there was no reason why an Eight Hours Bill should not become law in that Parliament so far as those who opposed the Bill in its present form were concerned. There was a law in that House which was even stronger than the law of humanity and that was the law of the ballot box. There were hon. Members in that House who were most anxious and desirous to indicate to the miners of England their wish to help them. There were Members who would go into the Lobby in support of this Bill which, if it were attempted to be applied to their own trade, would oppose it. For his part he should vote against it.

SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)

said the hon. Member for Gateshead had approached this question from the point of view of the men and of the employers, and on that ground he was not qualified to contend with him. He approached the question from a directly opposite point of view. He approached it from the point of view of the boys and of the nation. This was not a case of interference with freedom of contract as was stated by one hon. Member. It was a case in which the State could legitimately and properly interfere in order to prevent the degeneration of boys by their employment in work which was unfit for them, and which, by its prolonged character, injured their health. Whenever these questions of the health and welfare of the masses of the people were raised, there were persons who told the House how greatly attention to the general health and well-being of the community would injure some paticular trade. The present discussion was no exception to the rule. Whether employment in mines was injurious to the health or not could, he thought, be very well left to be discussed by hon. Gentlemen opposite who were well qualified by experience to deal with the question. He thought those who had listened to the graphic description given by the hon. Member for Monmouth of the work of these boys would require no further evidence to convince them that it was legitimate for Parliament to restrict the labour of pit boys and ensure that it should be carried on under satisfactory conditions. Fifteen|years ago it was his fortune to discuss the whole question in quite a different atmosphere and assembly, in the Labour Conference at Berlin, The people who discussed the matter there were not ignorant sentimentalists who allowed kindness to override common sense, but some of the hardest-headed men in Europe. At that Conference the discussion was carried on entirely on the question of health, and how far the employment of men in mines was consistent with the national health. Continental people took a keener interest in the general health of the nation because they had to depend on the Army to defend the country, and therefore paid much greater attention to the physique of the people, and the whole Commission unanimously came to the conclusion that it was desirable that boys between the ages of thirteen and fourteen, that was to say, boys under the age of fourteen, should not be employed underground at all. He was sorry to say, however, that it took ten years to raise the age in this country from twelve to thirteen. At the time of that Conference the representatives of this country held a very proud position because they were at that time in front of the European nations, in these matters. He did not think, if there were a European Conference on the same subject now, that the British representatives would hold so authoritative a position. He was afraid it would be thrown in their teeth that they had been very slow since 1890 in effecting improvements in their legislation. He desired to support the suggestion of the necessity for a medical examination of boys before they went to work underground. There was at present no attempt whatever to protect young people who were not physically fit for the work from employment in mines. He should cordially support the Second Reading of the Bill, but he hoped our mining reform would not stop at its provisions, but that we should do some thing to raise ourselves to the level of other countries to which in former days we used to set an example.

*MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

said if the hon. Member for the Cambridge University would under take to introduce a Bill to raise the age of boys from thirteen to fourteen and insist that a medical examination should take place before they were employed he would be pleased to give the hon. Member the sanction of his name on the back of his Bill, and all the support he was capable of giving in that House. He had welcomed the Bill introduced by his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, and only regretted that it did not go further than it did But his right hon. friend at that time no doubt took the line of least resistance and was glad to get what he could. At the outset he congratulated the promoters of the Bill before the House, on having secured such admirable Members to champion their cause. His hon. friend who introduced the Bill did so in a most temperate speech, and the hon. Member for West Monmouth who seconded the Motion made a valuable contribution to the debate. No one would deny that the little group in that House known as Labour Members had a very able colleague in his hon. friend. He approached this question from the standpoint of one who had actual experience as a working miner, and the cogent reasons and argument which he had adduced in support of the Bill were the result of his own actual experience. He, like his hon. friend, had also had no small measure of practical experience in mining life. He did not begin quite so early as his hon. friend, who appeared to have evaded the law, but he went down the mine as soon as he could. His attitude, therefore, towards the Bill was also the result of actual experience, and he thought if those of his hon. friends who had supported the Bill, because of their eagerness to prevent deterioration of the race had looked at the Labour representatives in the House and others who were at the present moment in the precincts of the House, they would have hesitated before they made use of the argument of physical deterioration. He was satisfied that there was not one of his hon. friends who supported or opposed this Bill who would not pit the miner, man or boy, against any man or boy in any other calling.

This Bill was not new to the House; it was an old friend, altered it might be somewhat in shape; somewhat rejuvenated and rendered more attractive to the House on that account. He did not intend to complain of his hon. friends who were supporting this Bill on account of the form in which they had deemed it advisable to present it to the House. He had always contended that the strongest line of defence which the promoters of this Bill could take was to raise the debate on the question of boys alone, because then they could appeal direct to the sentimental and humanitarian instincts of the House. It was impossible in a debate such as this to ignore the practical and economic difficulties that were in the way; however much they might be impressed by the sentimental and humanitarian aspect of the question and however much they might relegate to the background all considerations of practical and economic difficulties. Directly this Bill was passed they would come face to face with these practical and economic difficulties. He knew it was said by some, "why should we, as representatives of labour, trouble ourselves with questions such as these? Leave those questions entirely to the employers. They are matters for them to consider." But he had always considered that the best way for a workman to defend himself was to know what action his employer was likely to take, so that he could prepare his defence accordingly. He did not think it was possible to promote the interests of labour by unduly interfering with the interest of employers. That might be rank heresy to some, but it was a doctrine to which he strongly adhered. The House must remember that in this case they were dealing, not with an infantile industry, but an industry which, of its kind, was the oldest in the world. So far as he, personally, was concerned, he was speaking for a district, the North of England, which was hoary with age, and which was older than any mining industrial community in the United Kingdom. They were dealing with an industry employing above and below ground over 800,000 men and boys of all ages. Unfortunately, there were no statistics to show what was the number of boys between sixteen and eighteen years of age employed underground, but the Home Secretary, in reply to a recent Question, had stated that the total number of boys under sixteen years of age employed last year was 44,628. Of that total Northumberland and Durham employed something like 9,000. That fact had been brought before the House by the hon. Member for Gateshead, but it was of such importance that he desired to emphasise it, and especially to commend it to those who had appealed to the House to "rise above these sordid financial and economic considerations." If those Gentlemen had accepted the arrangement which was offered to them more than ten years ago, more than 35,000 of these 44,628 would have been enjoying the conditions of employment provided for in this Bill. How could hon. Gentlemen who prevented that Bill becoming law appeal to the House now to rise above "sordid financial and economic considerations," considerations which they themselves could not ten years ago free their minds from?

So far as Northumberland was concerned the present system of working the double shift was responsible for the whole of the difficulty they had. Where they had a single shift of men and boys the problem which had to be confronted was a simple one, but where they had the double-shift system such as that obtaining in Northumberland and Durham it was a serious and complex problem. In Northumberland they employed 32,500 men over the age of sixteen and 2,053 boys under that age. Supposing this Bill became law, and that for simplicity of arrangement they adopted the single shift, the immediate result would be that several thousands of workmen would be thrown out of work, and they would be confronted with a situation in which it would be found that the labour of from 12,000 to 15,000 adults would not be required owing to altered conditions. So that directly this Bill was passed they would have hundreds of men with their wives and children dependent on them thrown out of employment. Supposing they in Northumberland retained their double-shift system, which was likely if this Bill were carried, because the whole of the collieries in the North had been regulated with a view to the continuance of the double-shift system of working, and if there was any change a great deal of capital which had been sunk for the working of the double-shift system would become unproductive or absolutely lost. The problem then with which they would be confronted would be that they would want about three-quarters as many boys as they now employed, but they would want merely the labour of the boys and not that of their parents. Where could they be got? Did anyone imagine that a man who had to provide for his wife and family, however precarious his work might be, was going to give up that employment in order that he might go into a district where he could get employment for his children and not for himself? It might be said: "You have got a vast number of unemployed in your towns and cities and you could get unskilled labourers to come and do the unskilled labour in your mines." Would those who supported this Bill look with any degree of satisfaction on the possibility of unskilled labourers coming to take up responsible positions in the mines? But even then they were confronted with an economic difficulty because, assuming that they could be got, the immediate reduction of working time by one-fifth would directly affect the question of the wages of those who were employed in the mines.

The hon. Member who introduced this Bill had said it was an honest proposal on his part, and had asked the miners of the North if they did not approve of the measure to state their remedy, and had asked whether chivalry was absolutely dead among the Northumberland miners. There was as much chivalry in Northumberland now as there was in the days of Chevy Chase. The hon. Gentleman asked why these boys should be denied the privilege of living the life this Bill would give them, but the hon. gentleman apparently forgot that he and his friends refused ten years ago to take an arrangement which would have given them all they were now asking for. His hon. friend the Member for West Monmouth had drawn a touching picture of life as he had seen it in South Wales. He did not question the accuracy of his hon. friend's description. He himself had no experience of mining in that locality. but certainly the description was in no way applicable to the mines in Northumberland and Durham. They had nothing that could be for a moment described in anything like the terms in which his hon. friend described the conditions of South Wales. On all questions of policy the miners of Northumberland were in perfect agreement with the Miners Federation of Great Britain except on this one particular point. But for this Resolution they would probably find within the next few days a resolution passed by the miners of Northumberland asking that they should become affiliated with the Miners Federation of Great Britain. They were now asked to say what remedy they had to suggest. The first would be that the northern counties Durham and Northumberland should be exempted. Failing that, he would support a measure giving a working week of forty-eight hours. There was not another industry claiming to have established an eight hours day that had done more than provide a working week of forty-eight hours. On every other point of policy the northern miners agreed with the Federation, and they had made strenuous efforts to whittle down differences of opinion to the lowest point, but without success. With the acceptance of either of the suggestions he had made opposition from the northern miners would cease.


said that when his hon. friend referred to his present condition as evidence that a mining life was not as dangerous as had been represented, he only showed that there were exceptional instances. The argument appeared to be a weighty one, but when examined it came to very little. Supposing the hon. Gentleman was one of sixteen or seventeen survivors out of a Japanese regiment which had just been in action he might as well point to himself as an instance of the safety of a soldier's life in time of war. The hon. Gentleman was one of the happy survivors. The miners' leaders were exceptional men who had forced themselves to the front and kept their physique.

The debate was opened against the Bill by the hon. Member for Tynemouth, who addressed a dispassionate and calm argument to the House upon what might be called the theory as well as the practice of the Bill, but in his (Sir Charles Dilke's) opinion this Bill erred only in being far too moderate in its proposals. The principle of what the Member for Tynemout called "interfering with freedom of contract" in the case of young persons up to the age of eighteen was one that had been adopted in most factory and workshops legislation in all countries of the world, and he confessed that if the Labour Members who brought forward this Bill were to be forced to deal only with such theoretical questions they were very badly treated—for, after all, these arguments really had no application to a measure of this kind. No doubt this Bill had grown out of the measure referred to by the hon. Member for Gateshead as having been before the House in a previous session. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division had declared that he did not charge anyone with dishonesty in connection with the Bill: he admitted, in fact, that he looked upon it as an honest Bill, whereas the hon. Member for Tynemouth had suggested that he looked on it as dishonest. The argument used against the Bill was that it was really an attack on adult labour while it professed to deal only with labour under eighteen. No one, so far as he knew, had ever attributed dishonesty to the promoters of the factory and workshops legislation in the past? Was the hon. Member for Tynemouth in favour of the factory and workshops legislation?




said in that case he could not understand how the hon. Member could allege violation of freedom of contract against this Bill. It was a perfectly well-known fact that in many factory trades the work of adult males was affected by similar restrictions.


I have no objection to such violation of principle of freedom of contract as that to which the right hon. Baronet is referring. My arguments were based on the health and well-being of these young men.


continued that in all factories the hours of work of persons under eighteen were limited, and it was notorious that in most cases those limitations affected adult labour in the same trade. This Bill was defensible and the adoption of the age of eighteen was defensible upon general factory lines. The hon. Member for Gateshead had asked why the age had been altered from twenty-one to eighteen, but surely the answer to that was clear; it had been changed because eighteen was the age named throughout factory and workshop legislation. As regarded dangerous callings, Parliament had always gone in the direction of putting restrictions on labour, and the Home Office had power to deal with dangerous trades and make regulations which affected directly the labour of adult males. There was surely a strong case for the Bill, because he thought the figures showed that it dealt with a specially dangerous occupation.

He had a great desire to meet the practical arguments of the hon. Member for Gateshead and the hon. Member for Mid-Durham. He confessed he had little patience with the theoretical arguments that had been addressed to them, while he had great patience for the arguments of those hon. Members. But they must not allow them to make the House believe, what they no doubt themselves believed, i.e., that the case was less grave than it really was. The statistics revealed a far worse state of things than would be gathered from listening to the speeches of his hon. friends. After all, his hon. friend the Member for the Wansbeck Division had narrowed the whole question to the Northumberland and Durham difficulty, which was that whereas they had two shifts of hewers they had only one shift of boys. The North of England United Coal Trade Association had issued a circular in which they dealt with that point, and they had put forward the three alternatives to which allusion had been made in his hon. friend's speech. He proposed to quote from that circular because if they took their statement of fact from the enemy they would not be accused of manufacturing it for themselves. The words used in the circular were In some … the actual working time is even as low as five hours. … Such short hours of labour are probably unknown in any other employment throughout the world. Then they told the men that under any change these very short hours would be increased. They admitted that the boys were below ground ten hours, and went on to say— Various efforts have been made from time to time to devise a scheme by which the hours of young persons might be reduced, but without success … additional boys would be required … it was doubtful whether these could be obtained. The circular did not put that point very strongly, but on a former occasion it was more forcibly pressed and strong statements were made as to the extent to which the coal trade would be depressed by the difficulty of getting boys. He did not believe that in the two populous counties there would be any difficulty at all. It was impossible to accept the suggestion that there should be local option, or that Durham and Northumberland should be exempted from the Bill, because there would be the hottest opposition on the part of the coal trade to any differentiation between one part of the country and another. No one had proposed local option in factory legislation.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)

Labour in factories is uniform.


contended that labour in factories varied infinitely more than in mines. No one, he submitted, could suggest that that was not so in the glass and tinplate trades, as contrasted with the cotton trade, in all three of which the labour of young persons was employed. The offer of a forty-eight hours week was more friendly in its character. But he understood the intention was to crowd the forty-eight hours into five days in the week. That would simply mean that one day in fourteen would be saved to the young people, because at present they worked five days in one week and six days in the next. That plan, he feared, would prove fallacious, for it would not give a real reduction of hours, which they all admitted to be far too long. But there was a plan by which he thought some sort of accommodation might ultimately be arrived at between the two sides. He was quite sure there was no desire to press the counties of Northumberland and Durham to any instant changes which would be detrimental to their industry, and the plan which had been the solution of this difficulty in France, and which was likely to be followed in other Continental countries, applied not only to boy but to adult labour. That plan, of a gradual legal reduction of hours by steps, presented, he thought, the most favourable chance of a solution in this country.

He was bound to say that the latter portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Tynemouth seemed tinged with a little flavour of fiscalitis, and he would like to remind the hon. Member of a famous sentence in a speech delivered by his Leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham at Greenock, in which he referred to the coal trade, and said all these restrictions Entail expense or raise the cost of production. The products of other countries … not surrounded by any similar legislation … free from all similar cost. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University that in this matter we had stood still and allowed other countries to pass us. Let them take the case of their nearest neighbour in the coal trade—France. There, in 1892, a law was passed which treated coal mining for persons under eighteen years as a dangerous trade, and gave the French Minister of Commerce powers similar to those possessed by our own Home Office in the case of dangerous trades to make orders and regulations. Then by the Decree of 1893 for boys under sixteen there was a limit of eight hours below ground, and by a stroke of the pen that age could be raised to eighteen. On the other hand, we protected male young persons in factories, and did not protect them when working in coal mines under ground. He was confident that if this country would go forward with factory legislation, Continental countries would willingly go with them. Our mining legislation was falling into arrears. Legislation with regard to metalliferous mines had been promised since 1886, while the last coal mine legislation was in 1896, when a number of most valuable clauses had to be dropped for want of time. What was the nature of the work at which this Bill struck? It was the too long work of young persons underground. That was the crux of the whole question; it was extending to coal mines protection which existed already in factories. What was the nature of the employment thus proposed to be dealt with? Again he would quote from the circular issued by their opponents. They stated that the boy acts as a— Drawer or putter, filling wagons, and pushing the wagons. Many of the boys are under the age of eighteen. Another class underground, where a very large proportion of the number employed are under eighteen, are employed on haulage. The consideration which would weigh most with the House was the question of the danger of the trade to young persons. In most parts of the country, certainly the heaviest proportion of accidents that occurred in coal mines to persons who would be protected by this Bill were those classed as haulage accidents. It was useless for them to deal with the statistics of non-fatal accidents. The Home Office itself admitted that those statistics were worthless. But the fatal accidents were carefully reported, and from the statistics of these for 1904 it appeared that, while the total haulage accidents in Northumberland were nineteen, twelve of them occurred to boys under eighteen years of age and only seven to persons over eighteen. That was a stupendous death rate in proportion to those employed. In Durham the case was not so bad. The haulage accidents for the whole country were, under eighteen years of age, fifty-three, and over eighteen, 165. In the Midlands the number killed under eighteen was twelve, and over eighteen it was fourteen. The case was different in South Wales, because the young persons were employed by the hewers and were subject to accidents from falls. These young persons did not appear to be employed in the haulage; that work was in the hands of adults. He did not know that it was because of the danger of the trade, but the statistics looked like it, and he commended the example to his hon. friends from Durham as showing that these young persons ought not to be employed in such dangerous trades and places and as an argument in favour of this Bill. But the danger was not confined to Northumberland and Durham. There were haulage accidents in Lancashire, where he was afraid the hours of work were excessive. In a previous year cases of boys working fourteen hours a day were mentioned by his hon. friend the Member for the Rotherham Division (Sir William Holland); he believed the same state of things still obtained, and there was a tendency to violate even the provisions of the existing law. The Members for Northumberland had never defended this work of young boys to the House. He was sorry to notice something like an attempt to defend it in the speech of the Member for Gateshead. There had, however, always been some slight difference between Northumberland and Durham in that respect. In 1887 the hon. Member for Morpeth and the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division took one course, and the hon. Member for Mid-Durham another.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)

was understood to say that he was not in the House on that occasion.


said that at all events there had been a tendency to a little difference of opinion between the two counties. The Northumberland representatives had always admitted that it was impossibe to defend the system under which the boys worked. The words of the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division were not so clear as were those of the hon. Member for Morpeth, but the former had at any rate expressed his approval of what the latter said, and he was not likely to recede from that position now. The hon. Member for Morpeth spoke of the employment of boys for ten hours a day as a very bad system, and said— I would gladly vote for a limitation even to eight hours a day, and the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division said that the ground had been well covered by his hon. friend. He thought, therefore, that the mover and seconder of the Bill were justified in asking the Northumberland representatives, as they were not satisfied with the present state of things, what remedy they proposed. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division offered a choice of two remedies—a forty-eight hours week or a Bill for the country with the exception of the two counties of Northumberland and Durham. Local option was not practicable; therefore the offer was substantially one of a forty-eight hours week. It had been said that the supporters of this Bill viewed with equanimity the sufferings which had been continued by their refusal to accept the principle of local option. That was not the case; it was well known that there would not be a ghost of a chance of passing a local option measure through Parliament. But a forty-eight hours week simply meant that the forty-eight hours would be worked in five days, so that there would practically be no limitation of the hours now worked, which the hon. Member himself admitted to be too long. The hon. Member had declared that he had made strenuous efforts to reduce the hours; he had admitted that there was a case for reform, and the figures of fatal accidents quoted showed how tremendous a case it was; he therefore asked him whether he would not meet the supporters of the Bill by agreeing that the reform should be introduced at all events step by step, the counties of Northumberland and Durham being given time during the next few years to reorganise the existing system.

*MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)

said he had the honour of representing 10,000 coal miners who were unanimously in favour of the Bill before the House, which proposed to regulate the hours of labour of boys under eighteen years of age, and, therefore, was not open to the objection of being a Parliamentary interference with adult labour. The question with which the House had to deal was one affecting some 50,000 or 60,000 lads who were being employed for ten hours a day in a vitiated atmosphere, deprived of the daylight and sunshine which were so necessary for their proper physical and mental development, while the hours of their fathers were only seven per day. It was hardly creditable to the fathers of the lads in Northumberland and Durham that they should not join in the endeavour to get this wrong redressed. There could be no question as to the dangerous and arduous character of the work in which the boys were engaged, or as to the absolute justification of legislative interference. The law prohibited the employment of lads under sixteen years of age for more than fifty-four hours per week; this Bill merely sought so to change the law that lads under eighteen years of age should not be employed for more than eight hours out of any twenty-four. Boys under thirteen years of age could not be employed underground at all, but directly they reached that age they left school and went underground to earn their daily bread. He submitted that after boys of from thirteen to fifteen years of age had been roused out of their sleep at five o'clock in the morning and had worked underground for ten hours, they were not in a condition, mentally or physically, to continue their education as they ought to do in the evening classes; therefore, from the educational point of view, this Bill ought to be supported. He also supported the measure on the ground of the physical deterioration which was shown to exist to an alarming extent in connection with the recruiting for the South African War. The pit lads of Northumberland and Durham were stated to be sturdy fellows, but how much sturdier and healthier they would be if they enjoyed reasonable hours of labour! He was surprised at the opposition to this measure of the miners of Northumberland and Durham, because one of the objects of the Northumberland Miners Association, as set forth in their rules and regulations in 1863, was to— Shorten the hours of labour of boys to eight per day. And that was exactly the object of this Bill. Moreover, the hon. Member for Mid-Durham, at a Miners' Conference in 1893, moved a resolution setting forth the desirability of shortening the hours of labour of boys. Being personally interested to a small extent in collieries in Northumberland and Durham, he had naturally considered the effect this Bill would have if applied to those collieries. He admitted that it would not be so easy to apply the Bill in those counties as in other parts of the country, but he thought there was a tendency to exaggerate the difficulties in the way of its successful application. A reasonable course would be to allow the mineowners of Durham and Northumberland time to remodel their plant above and below ground where necessary to enable them to comply with the requirements of the Bill. What was the practical question that had to be faced? At present one shift of boys working ten hours brought to bank the produce of two shifts of men, so that the problem reduced itself to the possibility of making arrangements whereby there might be brought to bank in eight hours that which was now brought to bank in ten. He was of opinion that by a greater application of mechanical haulage underground in connection with electrical motive power and other changes of that kind the difficulty with regard to the number of boys could be surmounted. As to the cost of coal being increased by diminution of output, he did not believe that in practice that would occur. It might be necessary in certain old collieries to put down more powerful winding engines so that a greater weight of coal could be raised at each draw, and in other cases to fit up a winding in the second shaft so that the winding in the main shaft could be applied solely to bringing coal to bank instead of time being occupied in raising or lowering men. In these ways and by using a larger number of coal tubs he thought the difficulties in the way of the successful application of the Bill to Northumberland and Durham could be overcome. Certainly, so far as his small interest was concerned, he should have no objection whatever to complying with the requirements. There was always a tendency to exaggerate the difficulties when changes of this character were brought before Parliament and the country. When the Workmen's Compensation Bill was brought forward it was contended that it would increase the cost of coal by 3d. or 4d. per ton, but as a matter of fact the increase had not been more than two-thirds of a penny. Manufacturers were now being urged to oppose the present Bill because of the extra cost in which they would be involved for coal for their industries, but he predicted that after the Bill had been in operation for a few years those who now opposed it most strenuously would be astonished at the little difference it made either in the diminution of output increased cost of production, or increased cost to the consumer. He most heartily supported the Bill.


said he had listened with the very greatest interest to the whole of the debate which had taken place, and he thought the House might congratulate themselves that in a question such as this, which excited such strong feeling on both sides, the debate had been one of the greatest moderation. The speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, as all his speeches were, was full of interesting facts and carefully prepared statistics, which he had no doubt were perfectly accurate. But he thought that full of information as was the speech of the right hon. Baronet, the House had listened with the greatest interest to those speeches from men who had themselves worked in the pit, and who understood the work of the pit, such as the hon. Member for Northumberland,, and the hon. Member who seconded the Motion.

He desired briefly to examine one or two features of the Bill. He apologised to the House if he did not make himself very readily understood, as he was suffering from a cold which he had caught, not in one of those pits of which they had heard, but in the division lobby the preceding night. The Bill was a short Bill, much shorter than they had been accustomed recently to see; there were two main points in it. It dealt in the first clause with the labour of young persons under eighteen years of age, and suggested that they should not work for more than eight hours in any one day. The second clause was of a different character, and had not yet been alluded to in the discussion. The object of it was that an hours-of-work book should be kept at each pit.


said there was a special objection to that clause, inas much as it seemed to lie outside the object of the Bill, and he had been authorised by the promoters to abandon it.


said that in that case he would certainly not deal any further with it. He had been rather surprised that nobody got up in its defence.


said that no one had opposed it that day, although it was mentioned in a circular which had been issued.


thought it would not in any way strengthen the idea which this House would entertain as to the manner in which the Bill had been drawn that one of the clauses in it should be withdrawn before the Bill had been read a second time. The important clause was undoubtedly Clause 1, which ostensibly aimed at extending the operation of the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887, and the Prohibition of Child Labour Underground Act, 1900. Under the present law a boy over thirteen and under sixteen years of age could not be employed in any mine below ground for more than fifty-four hours a week, or ten hours a day. The Bill aimed at raising the limitation of age from sixteen years to eighteen years of age, and at lowering the number of hours which a boy might work from ten to eight in each day. He thought a strong case ought to be made out before Parliament should sanction in so important an industry drastic changes which would have such far-reaching effects. Either it must displace the boys, or it would be necessary to alter entirely the method in which many of the mines throughout the country were worked. In the mines of Northumberland and Durham, the working of which had been so fully explained, it appeared that one set of boys did the hauling and the pumping work of two shifts of miners. If that system were changed it would undoubtedly dislocate the methods in which these mines were worked, and one of two things would have to be done. Either the mineowners would have to employ a different class of labour—adult labour—to do the work now done by boys, and displace the boys, or they would have to reorganise the entire methods by which they worked these important, industries throughout the country.


Improve your haulage.


said it was all very well for the hon. Member to say "improve your haulage," but did he not recognise, able as he himself was, that there sat behind him other hon. Members also interested in the mining industry, and as experienced as himself, who had not been able to suggest that by any means of increasing the facilities for haulage they could do away with the employment of boys? The employment of these boys was an apprenticeship. They were sons of miners, and hoped afterwards to become coal hewers themselves, and if they were not given the opportunity when they were sufficiently young of learning their trade, there would gradually arise a shortage of that particular kind of labour, without which the industry could not be carried on.

This House had never been unwilling to listen to arguments addressed to it on the grounds that the health and education and safety of young people were involved. The House had always been ready and willing to listen to such arguments, but he thought they ought to be amply proved. Subjects of this kind had been inquired into many times before in this House, and, by the authority of this House, Royal Commissions had sat, and Blue-books had been issued, many of which were never read. He asked the House to contrast the picture in a Blue-book drawn by a Royal Commission which sat in the year 1842, nearly seventy years ago. They drew a lurid picture of what a coal mine was then, when women and children and men, all mixed up together, were working in the coal mines of the country. The picture was of little boys of seven and eight years of age—eight years appearing to have been the regular age at which they went down the pit, regularly employed for twelve or fourteen hours a day. Then, no doubt, a good case could be made out, and was made out, for shortening the hours and raising the age at which these young people should go into the pits. That Report spoke of the bad ventilation of the mines; of hutches of coal not drawn on rails, but drawn by boys on the slips on muddy roads; of children toiling on all fours in darkness. There was described in the Report— A condition which renders their existence the most weary of all the pilgrimages of this journey through life, and again it spoke of the— Damp, heated, and unwholesome atmosphere … the picture is presented of daily physical oppression and systematic slavery. No one would say that anything of that sort existed in the management of mines at the present time. Thanks to the influence of public opinion, thanks a great deal to the legitimate influence of hon. Members who were at the head of some of our great trades unions, thanks to sanitary and scientific knowledge, and thanks to the efforts of this House, and, he might say, to the efforts of hon. Members who belonged to the same Party as himself, this evil condition of matters had been very greatly improved. What was the condition of affairs now? There was improved ventilation, good roads, and shorter hours. Mr. Hedley, one of His Majesty's Inspectors of Mines, wrote in 1902— In Northumberland, after working eight or nine hours, allowing for stoppages, boys seem to be perfectly happy and contented, and as soon as they get out of the mine they lark about as if they had never been down. That was how they should like these boys to live, and many Members who lived in mining districts must be aware of the splendid physique of the coalminers. They were some of the greatest athletes in the country, and the specimens of them who came to the House of Commons did not show that physical deterioration to which the hon. Member who last addressed the House alluded.

MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorganshire, Rhondda)

They left it in time.


said they also had their football clubs, and he had seen them come up from the pit and soon after wards give a very good account of other teams not engaged in coal mining. If the hon. Member wished to recruit for himself a regiment of hardy fellows who would go anywhere and do everything he ventured to say that if he went to on of the Ayrshire pitheads and picked out almost every man who came up, he would find he had men under his command who would be equal to any duty that fell upon them. As somebody had put it, with regard to the Ayrshire Militia, they were such hearty fellow they could not kill them with a hammer. It was assumed because these young fellows worked below ground for so many hours that their lot must be a very arduous one. Many seemed to suppose that a miner's work underground must be very unhealthy, but the fact was that the conditions in many factories were no better than, if so good as, they were in a coal mine; and he showed by statistics that both the mortality and accidents among miners compared very favourably with other industries. Dr Tatham, in his last decennial Report on Occupational Mortality, states that— Among colliers generally the death rates are below the standard at ages twenty-five to fifty-five, but above it at the other age groups Their mortality figure is lower than that of occupied males generally by 3 per cent.; and when it is considered that deaths from accident in this trade are to those in other occupations in the ratio of 247 to 100, it follows that, generally speaking, a miner's occupation is above the average in healthfulness. The hon. Member for Derbyshire had called attention to the diseases to which miners were liable. The prevalence of the disease known as miners' worm or the Continent had led the Home Office to make very careful inquiries, and he was able to state that in no single case had the disease yet appeared in one of our coal mines, although one or two cases had occurred in the tin mines in Cornwall. With regard to the peculiar affection of the eye known as nystagmus, it was not applicable to the present Bill, because the injury to the eye, or whatever it was, did not affect other than those who were engaged in the actual hewing of the coal. If the hon. Member would look up the Report of His Majesty's Inspector for the Midland district for 1890 he would find there a quotation from Dr. Snell, who had made a special study of nystagmus for many years. In a paper read by Dr. Snell in 1884 before the Opthalmological Society of the United Kingdom he said— The affection depends for its causation on the position the miner assumes whilst at work. It is with the coal getting that the nystagmus is associated. I recollect no case of nystagmus occurring in a miner whose work is not of this character. The disease is attributed to the oblique direction the miners' eyes assume while he lies on his side doing his work. He thought he had shown that there was no foundation for the arguments with which the hon. Member for Derbyshire had attempted to alarm the House. Of course, serious accidents occurred, and who could help feeling grieved when one of these young fellows was taken off. What he contended was that these accidents were incidental to the work. These young fellows had to go and serve their apprenticeship in the pit. It was true that accidents were more frequent during the first few years of their apprenticeship, but, in his opinion, if they were not allowed to go down into the pit until they were five years older they would be still more liable to those accidents than when they were younger and possessed more of that quickness of perception which was peculiar to young people. Another hon. Member had pointed out how necessary it was that these young people should have more leisure for education, and he spoke of the long hours as preventing them from having that leisure. The shortening of hours for young persons under the Shop Hours Act and the Factory Acts, he submitted, had no analogy to the present case, because there the weekly limit was not fifty-four hours, but seventy-four and about sixty-six hours respectively. Therefore, from the point of view of education, these young fellows had as good an opportunity as the lad in a shop or factory. These rather exaggerated statements were made with the object of getting hon. Members to pass into law not this present Bill, but another Bill of a totally different character. This was essentially an Eight Hours Bill for boys, but did anyone doubt that the result of it would be an Eight Hours Bill for men? The hon. Member for Mid-Derbyshire admitted that this was not a frontal attack, but he had put the boys in the front line and was concealing himself behind the women and children. Personally, he had always been in favour of an eight hours day for miners, but that was not a question which should be settled by a side issue such as this. It was a question of such vital importance to the industries concerned that it should only be dealt with after the fullest consideration in the House. After listening to the debate very carefully and studying the measure in its entirety, he could not say that in his opinion any case had been made out for this exceptional treatment. So far as the Government were concerned, they did not regard the Bill as involving a Party issue in any sense, but, following the precedent of past years, they would accept no responsibility for the measure and exercise no pressure upon their followers.

SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)

said the object of this Bill, like those which had preceded it, was to bring Durham and Northumberland into harmony with other mining districts where they were anxious to obtain an eight hours day. His constituents, the larger part of whom were miners, who had given him their confidence for twenty years, stated that the miners of Northumberland and Durham had been trained under the double-shift system, and they believed that that system was not only the most economical, but the best for their own interests. Under that system their boys worked the same hours as the boys in any other part of the country. There was no analogy whatever between the mines of this country and the factories. Factories as a rule were built upon the same lines and worked by the same methods, and could, therefore, be placed under the same rules and regulations, but mines were altogether different. Had anyone ever seen two mines alike? One might be hard to work and another soft, one might have a bad roof and another a good roof and so on. [An HON. MEMBER: You often find all that in the same pit.] Under these circumstances they could not apply the same regulations. In Northumberland that was why a double shift was worked, and would continue to be worked, so long as the miners had control over it. It was perfectly clear that under the Factory Acts the rule was not eight hours as proposed by this Bill for young persons under eighteen, for it stated that employment for young persons and women should begin at six o'clock in the morning and end at six at night, or seven in the morning and seven at night, or eight in the morning and eight at night; and they had one-and-a-half hours off for meals. Therefore that Act was not an argument in favour of an Eight Hours Bill for young persons employed in mines. He did not think there was a single case in which the Home Office had interfered, even in dangerous trades, in the direction of limiting the number of hours to eight per day. It was impossible to deny that coal mining was a dangerous occupation, and, naturally, every employer who recognised his responsibility was anxious to adopt any measure, consistent with the working of the industry, that was likely to prevent the calamities from which it suffered. But he was afraid that, notwithstanding all the anxiety shown by both workmen and employers to prevent accidents, coalmining could never be carried out without accidents occurring.

MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydfil)

pointed out that the death rate from accidents among boys employed in mines was higher in Northumberland and Durham than in the rest of the country. It was one in 612 boys employed in Northumberland and Durham, and in the rest of the country it was only one in 1,000 boys employed. That was a strong case which demanded the serious attention of the House.


said he did not accept the hon. Gentleman's figures. Where were they obtained?


Out of the Blue-book.


said he had taken the figures for the whole country, and he found that there were 676,000 persons employed underground in 1903, 45,000 of these were under the age of sixteen years, 7,400 were between thirteen and fourteen years of age, and 37,000 between fourteen and sixteen years. There were fifty-one persons fatally injured under sixteen years of age, or a total of l.12 per thousand, which worked out at one in every 887 persons. In the case of persons over sixteen years of age there were 866 fatal accidents or 1.37 per thousand, or one in every 729. Those were the figures for the whole country. He did not deny that this was a dangerous occupation, but he could not agree that Durham and Northumberland had more accidents amongst the boys than any other part of the country. He was rather surprised that his hon. friend should have raised that question, because it happened that in Durham and Northumberland shorter hours were worked than in any other part of the country. It was to the interests of all those employed that they should work the double shift, because the boys, after attaining the age of twenty-one, had shorter hours than in any other part of the country.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)

said that in Scotland during the last four or five years eight hours had been universal.


replied that in Durham and Northumberland the average was seven hours from bank to bank, and he challenged contradiction to the statement that the miners in Northumberland and Durham worked shorter hours than in any other part of the country. When the young miners saw the advantages they were coming into when they reached the age of twenty-one, naturally they took the advantages with the disadvantages, and then their position was better than that of any other miners in the country. Those were the views of his constituency, and that was why they refused to be driven to adopt the system of South Wales. He doubted whether many of the mines with thin seams could be worked profitably if they were driven into adopting the same system as

now existed in Wales and Yorkshire and other parts of the country. Scotland had mines with very large seams, and they could be worked more economically than in Durham. As a competitor, he knew exactly the position of affairs in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University had stated that they were behind Germany in this matter.


said that what he stated was that they were behind a great many Continental countries.


said he believed it was quite exceptional for any boy to go down a mine in Germany before he was fourteen years of age.


I believe the age is sixteen.


said he yielded to no hon. Member of the House or to any representative of the mining industry in his desire to reduce as far as possible the hours of boys in mines, and if the difficulty could only be overcome he felt sure there would be no hesitation on the part of Durham and Northumberland in accepting such a Bill. At present they were attached to the double-shift system in Northumberlard and Durham because it suited them best, and they would never be driven to accept the single-shift system unless they were convinced that it would improve their condition.

MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)

said that in 1903 there were 9,187 boys under sixteen years of age employed in the two districts of Durham and Newcastle, and the number of deaths was fifteen, which was only at the rate of one in 683.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 190; Noes, 132. (Division List No. 64.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Ambrose, Robert Bain, Colonel James Robert
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Barlow, John Emmott
Ainsworth, John Stirling Austin, Sir John Barran, Rowland Hirst
Bell, Richard Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo. Reckitt, Harold James
Benn, John Williams Hay, Hon. Claude George Reddy, M.
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Hayden, John Patrick Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries
B1ake, Edward Helder, Augustus Rickett, J. Compton
Boland, John Helme, Norval Watson Ridley, S. Forde
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Brigg, John Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford. W.) Robinson, Brooke
Bright, Allan Heywood Higham, John Sharpe Roche, John
Broadhurst, Henry Holland, Sir William Henry Roe, Sir Thomas
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Horniman, Frederick John Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Burns, John Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Runciman, Walter
Buxton, Sydney Charles Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk. Russell, T. W.
Caldwell, James Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley) Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Causton, Richard Knight Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Cawley, Frederick Jones, Leif (Appleby) Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight)
Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton Jordan, Jeremiah Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Channing, Francis Allston Kearley, Hudson E. Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Cheetham, John Frederick Labouchere, Henry Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Clancy, John Joseph Lamont, Norman Slack, John Bamford
Coghill, Douglas Harry Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.) Sloan, Thomas Henry
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall) Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark) Layland-Barratt, Francis Soares, Ernest J.
Crean, Eugene Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington Spencer, Rt Hn. C. R. (Northants
Cremer, William Randal Leigh, Sir Joseph Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)
Crombie, John William Levy, Maurice Stanhope, Hon. Philip James
Crooks, William Lewis, John Herbert Stanley, Rt Hon. Lord (Lancs.)
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Lough, Thomas Stevenson, Francis S.
Dalziel, James Henry Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Strachey, Sir Edward
Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan) Lowther,Rt HnJW(Cum., Penr. Sullivan, Donal
Delany, William Lundon, W. Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Tennant, Horald John
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E)
Duffy, William J. M'Hugh, Patrick A. Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)
Dunn, Sir William M'Kean, John Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
Edwards, Frank M'Kenna, Reginald Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.
Elibank, Master of M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin Tomkinson, James
Ellis, John Edward (Notts.) Markham, Arthur Basil Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Esmonde, Sir Thomas Marks, Harry Hananel Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Evans, Sir Francis H (Maidstone Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Eve, Harry Trelawney Mooney, John J. Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)
Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Moss, Samuel Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, N E Moulton, John Fletcher Webb, Colonel William George
Flavin, Michael Joseph Murphy, John Weir, James Galloway
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Newnes, Sir George White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)
Fuller, J. M. F. Norman, Henry Whiteley, H. (Ashton und. Lyne)
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Norton, Capt. Cecil William Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Goddard, Daniel Ford Nussey, Thomas Willans Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Wilson, Henry J. (York. W. R.
Grant, Corrie O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Gretton, John O'Brien, Patrick, (Kilkenny) Wood, James
Greville, Hon. Ronald O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N) Woodhouse, Sir J T.(Huddersf'd
Griffith, Ellis J. O'Conor, John (Kildare, N.) Young, Samuel
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) Yoxall, James Henry
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Parrott, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Mr.
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Perks, Robert William Jacoby and Mr. Thomas
Harwood, George Priestley, Arthur Richards.
Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Rea, Russell
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald (Leeds.) Blundell, Colonel Henry
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Bond, Edward
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Banner, John S. Harmood- Boscawen, Arthur Griffith
Allsopp, Hon. George Bartley, Sir George C. T. Boulnois, Edmund
Arrol, Sir William Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks Bowles, Lt. Col. H. F. (Middlesex
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Brassey, Albert
Baird, John George Alexander Bignold, Sir Arthur Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John
Cameron, Robert Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham Reid, James (Greenock)
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J A (Glasgow Hunt, Rowland Remnant, James Farquharson
Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.) Hutton, John (Yorks., N. R.) Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhous Renwick, George
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred. Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Johnson, John Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Clive, Captain Percy A. Joicey, Sir James Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter
Colomb, Rt. Hon. Sir John C. R Kerr, John Royds, Clement Molyneux
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Kimber, Sir Henry Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Cripps, Charles Alfred Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm. Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles
Cubitt, Hon Henry Laurie, -Lieut. -General Simeon, Sir Barrington
Dalkeith, Earl of Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Sinclair, Louis (Romford).
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Lawson, Hn. H. L. W. (Mile End) Smith, Rt Hn J Parker (Lanarks)
Davenport, William Bromley Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. N. R Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Talbot, Rt. Hon. J G. (Oxf'd Univ.
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Thorburn, Sir Walter
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Thornton, Percy M.
Dyke, Rt Hon Sir William Hart Lockwood, Lieut. -Col. A. R. Tollemache, Henry James
Egerton, Hon A de Tatton Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. W.
Elliot, Hon A. Ralph Douglas Lonsdale, John Brownlee Tuff, Charles
Faber, Edmund B. (Hants., W. Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Tuke, Sir John Batty
Fenwick, Charles Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth Walker, Col. William Hall
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Maconochie, A. W. Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Finlay, Sir R. B.(Inv'rn'ss B'ghs Malcolm, Ian Welby, Lt. -Col. A. C. E. (Taunton
FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H. E. (Wigt'n) Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon
Furness, Sir Christopher Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriesshir Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd
Gardner, Ernest Milvain, Thomas Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Garfit, William Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Willough by de Eresby, Lord
Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H. Murray, Colr Wyndham (Bath) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Gordon, Hon. J. E.(Elgin & Nairn Nicholson, William Graham Wilson-Todd, Sir W H. (Yorks.)
Goulding, Edward Alfred Paultonn, James Mellor Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Graham, Henry Robert Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Greene, Sir E. W. (B'rySEdm'nds Pemberton, John S. G. Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Percy, Earl
Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G. (Midd'x Pilkington, Colonel Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir
Hare, Thomas Leigh Platt-Higgins, Frederick Frederick Banbury and Mr.
Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley Plummer, Sir Walter R. Leverton Harris.
Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Hickman, Sir Alfred Purvis, Robert

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Friday next.

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