§ Resolution reported, "That a sum, not exceeding £149,078, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices."—[NOTE.—£75,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I beg to move to reduce the vote by £100.
The Prime Minister's allusion in his fine old-fashioned speech last week about the position of women in the political, commercial, and industrial world, to his steps in the direction of creating a woman's branch of the Factory Department of the Home Office was cheered by the whole House. There is now the most complete unanimity on what was at first regarded by some as a doubtful experiment. That there was some friction at first need be no secret now; but the 1263 experiment was successful, and all parties in this House for some years past have desired to extend it even further than it has been extended. There has been some cessation of the extension, and it is to he regretted, because the Department, in the words of the chief inspector, the medical inspector, and Miss Anderson, the principal lady inspector, has throughout the past year been at least one below its limit, and the work has enormously increased. The number of miles travelled in this country amounting to a prodigious figure, and the number of visits and complaints received and acted upon, all of them increasing by fifty or sixty per cent., show the enormous work thrown upon the Department and, as Miss Anderson points out, it is short of the staff agreed upon. The predecessor of the present Secretary of State, now Lord Gladstone, gave us to understand it was unwise to increase the Department suddenly for obvious reasons. A Department of that kind does not usually absorb a large addition. It was thought wise, however, to increase it steadily as the work increased and as public confidence in the Department increased, and he led us to expect an increase of two or three members each year. I therefore come with some regret upon the fact that the staff has remained for at least a year and a-half one below the normal strength of seventeen. There were only sixteen last year, and we have not had an increase now for a year, though we had reason to expect it and though I am sure the figures before the House show it is wanted. Last year the number of miles travelled was 116,000 and the number of visits had enormously increased. The Chief Inspector points out that, although there has been an increase of 60 per cent. of complaints, nevertheless the proportion of actions on complaints has remained the same, so that the work of the Department in that respect has enormously grown. The increase of complaints acted on in London is startling, and it is interesting to notice that Miss Anderson gives as the reason not that there has been any change in industrial conditions, but that the addresses of the inspectors have become more widely known, and there are, therefore, a larger proportion of the people with complaints to make who know how and where to make them. An enormous number of notices is necessitated by exceptional treatment in certain trades. Whenever, for reasons which are generally thought necessary, we 1264 put in Acts of Parliament exceptional hours, or give exceptional powers of changing or varying the hours, we should do it with our eyes open, knowing that we create an enormous amount of work in inspection. Regular and fixed hours extended over the largest possible number of workers receive universal assent when they become thoroughly understood, but in every case where you vary hours by Act of Parliament, or give power to regulate them by Orders, you enormously increase the difficulties of inspection and cause a great amount of friction. The presumption therefore should be against every change and variation.
Last year, and I think the year before, some of us had to comment upon what appeared to be a complete abnegation of the law in Ireland. I am happy to find there has been an immense improvement this year. The Report of Miss Martindale, who works in the North of Ireland, shows they are receiving an enormous amount of support from the workers, priests, and trade unions, which is most valuable. Without it the law could not be enforced. Public opinion seems to be on the side of preventing any infraction of the law, and the support received now is far wider and more complete than it was before the present year. "The workers," says Miss Martindale, "call at the office freely, and pour out their grievances." That, of course, is the way to secure good advice and good administration of the law. In Belfast, of course, there is still a great deal to be done, and, generally speaking, the law of Truck is in so abominable a condition that it is natural Members should think it cannot be dealt with or mentioned without infringing the Rules of Order in this House. It is not in order for us to recommend legislation, and the Royal Commission presided over by Lord Shaw, appointed as a result of a Motion which I had the honour to move on the first private Members' night in the Parliament of 1906, reported in 1908–9 asking for legislation. But entirely outside the report of that Commission, which it will not be in order to discuss, we have the fact that the law of Truck is less enforced than it should be. I cannot help thinking that the law, as it stands, could be put more in force, risking, no doubt, the loss of cases, which inspectors do not like, and risking, too, the infliction of very small fines by the magistrates in cases where local customs and bad habits support the system of fines and deductions. The present 1265 law certainly could be enforced more actively than it is. I need not call the attention of the Committee to many of the reports on the subject. Miss Paterson points out that in one factory the fines for lateness are at the rate of 1s. per hour, and they are allowed to accumulate in the case of girl workers whose wages amount to 1½d. per hour. These accumulated fines are deducted three times a year, at periods which are about the most inconvenient and most cruel that could be chosen—namely at Christmas, at Easter, and at the August Bank Holiday, which are statutory holidays for which the workers do not receive any pay. At those particular periods, however, they may be called upon to lose a whole week's pay. That is a statement by one of our most skilled inspectors, and the House may accept it as a fact beyond all doubt. The complaints under the Truck Act have increased 50 or 60 per cent., and Miss Anderson reports that in nearly all cases they are justified. There are also the complaints of special Truck in the Potteries. Those will be dealt with in the Debate, I believe, by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Hills). The inspector for the Potteries district (Mr. Shuter) states in his report that the condition of things in regard to Truck in that district are the same as he reported a year previously, and that deductions continue to be made from the wages of the workpeople. The Departmental Committee on Truck took an immense amount of evidence, and one witness was one of the ablest Master Potters (Mr. Burton). He was the principal representative of the masters' side in this controversy. He and many of his colleagues seemed to agree that the old grievance had ceased to exist, but I am afraid that that position has been receded from, and the recommendation of the Committee, presided over by Sir Ernest Hatch, certainly seems to show that we have gone back in this matter, and that the abuse continues. It certainly is an abuse which should be put an end to. These deductions are perhaps illegal as the law stands. The wonder is how much the workers are able to keep back for themselves in order to purchase the necessaries of life. We are told in the report of one inspector that firms which have given up the practice have still found that discipline is well maintained without the stoppages.
The principle upon which the Report of Sir Ernest Hatch's Committee is based is a thoroughly sound one, but I am sorry to say the way in which it is applied is a 1266 profound disappointment to many of us who have long had to deal with this subject. The principle laid down in that Report is that of making the employer in dangerous trades responsible for the keeping in order-of all those appliances which are necessary to prevent sickness among the workers. They recommend the adoption of regulations which do not involve any change in the law, and in my opinion those regulations ought to be generalised throughout the trades of the country. At the present moment the law is such that there is special regulation with regard to some trades, but the principle laid down in the Report is that the manufacturer in whose factory dangerous material, such as lead, is used, should bear the cost of the necessary precautions, and that is the right principle. I would observe that there is a tendency in applying the law as it stands to go steadily to leewards in the matter. The general prosecutions for Truck nave fallen from seventy-six in 1908 to twenty-two in 1909. I know administrative reasons can be given for that. The Government has on three occasions changed the law, and the position still is that the law requires to be changed, but I am certain that, without any change, the law as it stands at the present moment could be enforced with good effect, although, perhaps, many cases would be lost. There would be a great deal of legal fighting before certain principles could be established, principles which are thoroughly recognised, and much good would be done if they were enforced. It would, therefore, be worth while to institute prosecutions more frequently than is done at present. The manner in which we have left off applying the law of Truck is very remarkable. In the women inspector's report we are told that just about one-half of the complaints substantiated are followed by the prosecutions, and where they are taken into court an overwhelming majority have produced convictions, although sometimes the fines imposed have been merely nominal. In the prosecutions for Truck the proportion has been only one-thirteenth compared with the complaints upheld. There is a distinction here as against one-half, and that is a startling difference in the case of Truck. If we take the cases outside for all factories and workshops, we find the proportion is one-eleventh instead of one-thirteenth. Therefore I think this points to the fact that much more might have been done to apply even the existing law. In Manchester we have the report of Mr. 1267 Ramsbottom that Truck is always a source of trouble. There is a system of making deductions thoroughly established in the clothing trade. In Yorkshire the abuse is even more widespread, and last June there was reported in the "Yorkshire Factory Times" the suicide of a young girl weaver, who killed herself on account of this deduction system. This poor weaver lass in a worsted mill ended her days solely through this industrial worry. She was "a victim of this pernicious system."
We have always associated the Truck system with the Particulars Orders which are made in regard to trades in which there is a good deal of piece-work. It is unnecessary to describe to the House the methods of the ascertainment of wage of which the particulars are the necessary root. There were four Orders made last year, and they applied to a number of trades, including chocolate, sweets, tobacco, cartridges, cotton bleaching, dyeing, and printing. They also applied to some branches of the shipping trade. There have been no Particulars Orders made since that time.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY for the HOME OFFICE (Mr. Masterman)
There soon will be.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
I am very glad to hear it, but we have been told that in two consecutive Reports, and I somewhat fear that the Home Office has gone to sleep in this matter. The delay may be ascribed partly to the enormous amount of work thrown on the Department by the increase of complaints, and to the fact that the principal inspectors, whose advice is needed in matters of this kind, have so much to do that they cannot be expected to turn cheerfully from their general business in order to make special inquiries with regard to the circumstances of some particular trade. I want to know whether there have been any Orders made this year, of which six months have gone, and when we may expect some more, because the fact is that the giving of powers to the Home Office to extend Particulars by Order in the case of certain trades was not the real wish of the Standing Committee under the last Factory Bill. The system on its introduction having worked admirably, it was proposed by some of us to generalise it, and in 1895 it was extended to the woollen and the worsted trades by a clause. It was only after it 1268 had been in action that it was extended outside the two counties where it was commenced, and in 1901 the feeling of the Central Committee was in favour of generally extending it, while the Trades Union Congress has of course passed the principle year by year, and there is no opposition to it by the great number of employers. There are difficulties in various trades, although those difficulties are being thrashed out, but there is no opposition to this arrangement, by which general workers can accurately compute their wages.
As the law stands it can only be ex tended by the Order of the Home Secretary, and I do implore the Secretary of State to generalise it as much now as is possible, and not to think that it is essential that we should wait for the passing of a Checkweighing Bill in order to extend the principle much further than it has been extended at the present time. I have a curious reference to this matter, on which I think I may congratulate the Home Office in showing every sign of incorruptible sternness when they deal with it, in respect to Dundee, in two or three very important cases. I almost hesitate to call attention to this lest denunciations from the Secretary of State should fall upon the inspectors responsible, but I think he is impartial and knows that it is the general wish of his constituents that the law should be applied generally, and for the benefit of the great mass of the community in the same way in his own constituency as elsewhere. It is pointed out on page 118 that there is a difficulty about particulars in Glasgow, in Dundee, and in Belfast, and that there is a good deal of suspicion entertained, and that in Ireland there is still some continuance of the fear to make inquiry—a very natural fear until the law is better known. I think we ought to hope to go faster in this matter, and I leave it there. Coming to other matters which have to be dealt with by Order of the Home Office in a similar way, as regards industrial poisoning we have made a good deal of progress except, perhaps, in lead, about which I shall have some more to say by and by. In regard to phosphorus, of course, we have a new Act of Parliament, and I was glad to hear to-day at Question Time that the Government of India is considering the introduction of similar legislation into India. That is very interesting, but I do not know whether I can deal with it now as I do not know whether Indian 1269 legislation can be properly described as legislation or administration. Perhaps, however, it is in order because it has reference to communications from the Government to the Government in India about legislation, and perhaps I may say that the introduction of this legislation into India may probably have some effect in causing similar legislation in Japan, ultimately to the advantage of the trade, to be made universal.
The Report before us takes, of course, credit for stamping out and for the complete final extinction of that evil disease necrosis, and states that it will be "relegated to the category of the past." Those are the words in which the fact is described, but unfortunately there has been an outbreak of old cases of phosphorus necrosis, which gives rise to some suspicion in one's mind as to whether the statements which have been previously made upon the subject were all true, or whether there had been recent instances of this disease. There is a period during which the retail trade has to be worked, and I would ask my hon. Friend that a very careful watch should be kept upon any factories that might be suspected in this matter to see that there is no infraction of a very beneficial law. As regards lead poisoning, not only in the Potteries but elsewhere are there cases of poisoning, notably in the tinning trade, as to which I should like to say one word. There there has been complete breakdown in regard to this question, which I do not know whether my hon. Friend recognises. I hope he will not try to put a good face upon it, because I know his sympathies are with us in all these matters. I quite follow that it would be quite possible to give an explanation at some length of all the points, but the facts are these. There was a well-founded agitation based upon German precedent for the special treatment of lead poisoning which occurred in the tinning of hollow ware, which is used in the preparation of food. I believe that the original cause of the German legislation was that there was some danger of lead poisoning on the part of those who partook of food cooked in these vessels as well as the workers in the trade which produced them. At all events there was an agitation for the purpose of preventing lead poisoning in, any tinning of hollow ware, and there was a very excellent report on the subject.
The last year's Report in this country had for its object to congratulate us as to 1270 what was done, and then step by step by the action of the employer, and through other circumstances the whole of the original object of the proposal disappeared, and what is now applied is a miserable remnant of what was originally proposed while the main portion of the rules has disappeared. It is hardly worth while describing it step by step to the House, but that is the net result of what has happened. I can assure the House of that, and a description of the whole case is found in the Chief Inspector's introduction last year, where all the steps that were taken are set out. Then on page 171 of the present Report you will see how the draft regulations, which originally included tinning, of all metal articles, are cut down in the particular case of tinning hollow ware, and the prohibition of Women dipping and carrying in other processes disappear in the amended regulations. That was the whole object of the regulations, and now that they have come into force a power is still reserved to grant exceptions, so that the position is a very sad one, and we have secured nothing under these rules. No doubt it is open to my hon. Friend to say that the inquiry into the matter has done good, and that there is improvement in the figures, but that improvement is a fluctuating one alike in the Potteries and in this lead trade, and as the cases have gone up in one, they will go up in the other, too. As regards lead, there was a falling off in the figures last year, and that falling off is the subject of congratulation to all concerned in this Report, but there has been a great increase again this year, and it is a very notable fact that while Dr. White-legge explains the falling off in cases by the fact of the inquiry, pointing out that it is too notable a fall to be due to scientific measures and improvement in ventilation. But whatever the explanation, the fact remains that while lead is used these cases, with whatever fluctuations, will continue to occur.
In the present year the cases in the potteries in regard to china and earthenware have increased to forty-one as against twenty-four in the six months of last year—a very heavy increase indeed, and the deaths, although only a few now, have also increased. There are also a great number of doubtful cases. The hon. Member for North-West Manchester raised some of those doubtful cases in this House and he was, to use a doubtful expression, "jumped upon" for doing so, but I should like to say, having many 1271 sources of information, that in what he said about these lead-poisoning cases in the potteries he was doing a public service. These cases are of this amount of public interest that they throw some doubt on the working of the certifying surgeon and medical referee system as it exists in connection with this dangerous trade and other dangerous trades. I do not know whether such an appeal could be brought about, but in regard to these debatable and contested cases of industrial poisoning in trades where the mortality is very high, such as the lead trade, what one wants is some sort of appeal to some competent scientific or medical authority. If we could get that I should feel we should have done a great deal. Of course, these cases have to occupy the time of Dr. Legge, because he has to classify and catalogue them, but some further power should be given. The position is this: that last year there was a tremendous case made out in the Report of the Home Office. But it was only a few years ago since that Department went back from their policy of prohibiting or discouraging the use of dangerous material, and reverted to the idea of curing the danger by ventilation, which is unsatisfactory to many of those who have watched it in these trades. It seemed impossible to secure safety by that means. We were told that phosphorus was kept out by ventilation, but we now know that ventilation is not sufficient in cases of that kind. That is where I have been disappointed with the Report of Sir Ernest Hatch. It does seem to me to be reverting to the method of regulation as contrasted with the prohibition or discouragement of dangerous material in those cases where it could, with entire safety, be prohibited.
That there is still a tremendous case is obvious from the attack rate in the case of women. It is tabulated in both Returns. It is at page 202 of the Annual Report in table 6 and the next table. There we see that the attack rate for women is double the attack rate for men. We have not yet got the evidence before the Lead Committee, but in the Lead Report there is an extraordinary change, apparently at the last moment, which is to me almost inexplicable. On page 114 of the Lead Report you will find the result of scientific inquiry laid before the Committee by Dr. Reid, the famous medical officer of health, and very strong words are used by the Committee, such as "alarming," in reference to dangerous 1272 trade processes, and they say that "the conclusions drawn from the figures are too startling to be ignored," and teen the figures were so startling that inquiries had to be made among the women themselves, and the Committee point out that the results of that second inquiry were not to be depended on for one moment. I confess it does appear strange that a Committee having given some sort of scientific figures, which, although they point out that they were in too small a number of cases to give an absolutely scientific truth, were still most valuable as an indication, should then have gone back to an inquiry by way of gossip in the presence of others on a subject as to which they would naturally have the greatest difficulty in obtaining accurate information. They say that the second set of figures point to a different conclusion; but they also say that they are so surprising that it is clear they must be of doubtful accuracy; and they also say that the figures submitted by the doctors are very disquieting, and that the gravity of the matter cannot be over-estimated. Then they suggest that the matter seems to require immediate and drastic action. After this they go out of their way in a footnote to put forward an unsupported and opposite conclusion, and say they would not be justified in advocating the immediate exclusion of women from certain branches of the trade, but that attention should be concentrated on the subject with a view to dealing with it in the near future.
Then they suggest further inquiry, which means hanging up the whole thing again. In the case of the Truck question there was the first inquiry; then there was another inquiry, and each of these was hung up. Here, again, you have the two inquiries, and each is hung up. The result of these was the general Committee appointed by the Home Office, which has not yet completed its Report. There is one branch of the lead inquiry which the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham is likely to deal with. I do not know whether he will deal with it as regards this late inquiry in particular, or as regards the subject in general; but there is the subject of the carrying of heavy weights by children and women, which is the subject of much censure both in the General Report and also in the Lead Report. There is on that a suggestion in reference to all these abuses, occurring specially as they do in all trades no doubt, in connection with certain old 1273 and broken-down factories, the very existence of which is injurious to the whole trade, because they tend to make worse the position of the trade as a whole, and they work directly in competition with better employers under circumstances which make the application of the general rule unfair in the better cases. That is pointed out with great clearness, and I should like to ask my hon. Friend if anything more has been heard in recent times of the use of the power which exists to close in one or two selected cases of the worst kind. This was under consideration at one time with regard to phosphorous. A great firm in the china trade, Messrs. Wedgwood, have issued a circular, headed "Lead Poisoning in the Potteries," contradicting in general terms every assertion that those of us from time to time have made who are interested in this subject, and who have none but the public interest at heart. Declaring the effects of lead "not so lasting or so dreadful as has been suggested," they print letters, one of which is from a local clergyman, which ends by saying that the average rate of sickness of women in pottery occupations is lower than that of women following other occupations. I cannot conceive how a great firm like Wedgwoods can circulate a letter in which statements so ignorant are made. They ask for statistics and Blue Books in connection with those statements; but the attack rates themselves, to which I have already referred, showing double in the case of women in all the branches what they are in the case of men engaged in a similar branch, is a complete answer to a wild statement like that.
As regards the remedies that Sir Ernest Hatch has suggested, one is a special Board for the purpose, which the manufacturers will not accept. There is also suggested what they call an "alternative scheme," which is one for self-inspection, and, I am certain, one that this House would never look at. The real remedy is one which he calls "Enforcement of regulations," and having a sufficient staff, but the suggestions that he makes upon certain points are such as I would press upon the attention of the Home Office—for instance, those that concern the whole system of certifying surgeons and medical referees in dangerous trades. I will not keep the House with details of the matter. I have put them in writing before the Home Office. I would only ask now that attention should be given to the reduction of the 1274 fees in the case of certifying surgeons. The fees are different in Ireland from what they are in England. They are five times as high in the case of an action for workmen's compensation as in the case of the same action taken under the dangerous trades provisions, so that a poor man in one case has to pay 5s. for the same certificate which he can get for a shilling in another case. I was glad to find that there was a chance of the subject of carrying weights being dealt with by the Noble Lord opposite, and I am sure that I need say nothing upon the details of the subject; but we find there is a very special danger in the potteries in connection with the employment of young children, who are so much affected by this matter of carrying weights. There may be one or two Members here who will remember that last year I dealt almost exclusively in this Debate with the frightful strain of factory employment upon children under fourteen and the enormous proportion of accidents in those cases, even in the best-managed places, even in Lancashire among the little piecers, and still more so among the less well-governed portions of the country. I will not repeat to-day the arguments which I have addressed to the House upon the subject last year; but there is not much improvement. The figures are still very bad. Here, again, Dundee is sacrificed in the case of children under fourteen. We have it before us that there is a larger number of exemptions from school for children over thirteen—that is, under fourteen—granted in Dundee as compared with other industrial centres; and Miss Anderson also pointed out on another subject that in Dundee there are excessive numbers of girls of thirteen in the jute trade, which, curiously enough, we have just prohibited in India. A girl under fourteen will not be employed in India. I do not want to be disagreeable, but we had some trouble some years ago with one or two large firms in Dundee on this very subject, and I confess, I hope, that the inclusion of certain names in the honours list will not be taken as meaning that the girls of Dundee are to stand in an exceptionally bad position with regard to employment between the ages of thirteen and fourteen.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
My right hon. Friend has no grounds for the imputation that there has been the slightest distinction made in the enforcement of the law in any part of the country.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
On the contrary, I have said that the law is admirably enforced, and what I have referred to with regard to these firms took place years ago, and not in connection with this side of the House of Commons. I wish to make clear that I am not intending any political allusion. At all events, the whole House desires that the law should be firmly and impartially administered, and there should be a discouragement of this system in Dundee and in Belfast where these abuses have been pointed out, as they have been pointed out by the Members for Belfast over and over again. The abuses in Belfast have been pointed out in this House again and again, and they have been pointed out on the authority of some of the inspectors of the Home Office, who have no interest in the matter, who belong to both creeds and both political parties; and in the particular case which I have in my mind the inspector is a member of the same party as the hon. Member who sits opposite. The conditions in Dundee with regard to the employment of industrial mothers are worse than in any other place. In one mill there are 503 actual married women, having their husbands living, working in a single mill; and in that case there has been a difficulty in carrying out the childbirth law as to rest in childbirth. France and Germany have both improved their law in the beginning of the present year. In Germany the period of rest from factory work for childbirth is double what it is here. That has been the case from the beginning of the present year. I hope that in connection with the invalidity insurance legislation suggested for next year, and in which the Home Secretary takes, I know, a deep interest, maternity insurance will he considered. I cannot deal with that now, because it is a question which involves legislation, and not merely administration, as in the case of some of the other matters to which I have alluded.
Last year we had to deal with the dangers in connection with the potteries. I hope that this year I shall be excused for referring to the terrible rate of infant mortality in connection with employment in dangerous trades in that district. The "Lancet" has made a special inquiry since last year, and it published the results in June. That journal points out that a very serious situation exists in the Potteries in consequence of the excessive mortality among the infant population. The Employment of Children Act of 1903, 1276 a Home Office Act, which was passed without alteration by this House, contained general provisions quite outside of those which have been the subject of a recent Inquiry by a Departmental Committee. The Members of that Committee, with one exception, consisted of Members of this House. The Committee cut out of its work what many of us thought ought to have been the main portion of it. We were told privately by Lord Gladstone when the Committee was appointed that it was to deal with the very subjects in regard to which we had asked the enforcement of the law under the Act of 1903. The Committee took it into its mind that only the street trading portion of the Act was to be the subject of inquiry. The Committee state frankly at the beginning of their Report, which has just been published, that it covers a narrower field than the terms of reference might have admitted. It covers only street trading under by-laws. Of course, the general powers of that Act apply to other employments which are dangerous to children. The general powers under Section 3 apply not only to the carrying of weights, but to work which is deleterious to children, and which might be prevented. Although no doubt at first it might be difficult to get a conviction before certain benches of magistrates, yet that was the meaning of the Statute. I believe that all the greatest abuses might have been avoided if these words of the Act had been applied as originally drafted and passed by Parliament.
As to special exemptions from the law, I understand that my hon. Friend behind me is likely to address the House. Year after year we used to deal with exemptions and show the dangers arising from their being granted in the case of the fish and jam industries. The exemptions still go on with bad consequences, and I understand that there has been a good deal of abuse in Scotland. One inspector reports that there are glaring abuses in connection with the granting of special exemptions. If you look at the table for this year you will find that there were 240,000 notices in respect of these special exemptions. These form an enormous proportion of the work of the Home Office Department, and more than half of them concern London. That is without counting laundries, which have special exemptions. Institution laundries are a case in point. On account of timidity on the part of the Roman Catholic Members of the House, some Members of the Church of England, 1277 and some Wesleyans, exemptions were made from the general rule in respect of laundries. That exemption, I understand, is working well, but it throws an enormous amount of work on the Department concerned. My hon. Friend behind me wishes to make a further exemption in respect of florists. I hope we shall not allow ourselves under any social pressure—there has been social pressure on this subject—to assume that the girls concerned, or many of them, are on the side of this new exemption. I have taken every possible step which could be taken to look into the case. I have no sort of reason to be otherwise than impartial in this matter of the employment of girls in this trade, and I think the House ought not to further weaken the enforcement of the law by means of an exemption in this case. There was a prosecution in Manchester last year which is familiar to those hon. Members who are interested in the subject. When it was brought before the stipendiary magistrate he expressed his astonishment at the extraordinary hours worked by these young girls, and said it was very necessary to protect them. That was one of the early cases. All were convinced that the law was a wise one, and that the hours worked were painful and cruel. Public sympathy at that time was on the side of the administration of the law. I know that my hon. Friend honestly thinks that this is a cruel law, but I can assure him that having had means of forming an opinion on the subject, I take another view. I am sure he will do me the justice to think that I am acting quite honestly in taking an opposite view.
A complaint was recently made with respect to the hours worked in the Royal mourning preparations on account of a special relaxation of the law. I have looked into the matter and I do not believe it can be said to be so, unless there has been an illegality in the case of the Prayer Book printing. I can appeal to my hon. Friend (Mr. Masterman), who is to answer me and who is a High Churchman, that it is possible that this complaint has arisen not because of the change in the Royal title but because of the change of the comma, which has caused this pressure. I believe there is no doubt that some of those authorities who print the Prayer Book have been violating the law by the illegal employment of young persons at night, not in their own Press at Oxford but in the places where the work of stitching and binding the new and corrected edition is done. I only mention this 1278 matter because there has been a great deal of comment about exemptions in connection with court mourning. No Order was made, and I believe there has not been in practice more than the usual infraction of the law. In the case of the Prayer Book I am sure the House would desire that the law should be enforced and that no such scandal should come up as arose in connection with the printing of Bibles in Scotland a few years ago. The report of one of the principal inspectors concludes with words which I am sure the House will be glad to join in. He says that they still have to face the dismissal of a certain number of workers for giving information and procuring the observance of the law. It is pointed out that some Members of this House have set up an organisation, an industrial law committee, which protects workers in these cases. There is still need for their protection, and I am sure the whole House will join in thanking the inspectors for doing what they can to secure the general enforcement of the law.
§ Mr. HILLS
I rise to second the Amendment. I do so with special reference to the question of lead poisoning in the Potteries. Two years ago a Committee was appointed to deal with the question of lead poisoning. I do not want to trouble the House with too many figures, but I should like to say in starting that the cases of lead poisoning in 1896 were about 400. After five years had elapsed there were 100 cases in 1900. showing that in that period the cases fell by three-fourths. Since 1901 the figures have been stationary. Therefore on the whole we have seen a large improvement, but I should like to say in passing that the figures for last year look rather lower at first sight, as though there was a progressive fall. I am sorry to say that was not the case. The figures for the first half of this year show a very substantial rise and the deaths occurring among workers in the scheduled trades were 6,000 or 7,000 in number. The whole death rate is about one in a thousand. These figures are very serious, and, of course, the whole evil is not contained in them. The whole of the dangers to health extend much wider than that, and it falls especially hardly upon women.
They are affected far more than men by lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is occasioned by the inhalation or swallowing of lead dust, and lead dust is caused by the glaze which 1279 is put on the pottery. Lead poisoning injures the child-bearing capacity of women, so much so that miscarriages are three or four times above the average. Therein lies the really serious point of lead poisoning. It is not the actual numbers, but it affects the general condition of the workers, and especially women. In the face of that the Committee of two years ago was appointed, and their Report is on the lines of increasing the precautions which already exist in the Potteries. They advocate the extension of all the precautions. Fans, ventilating shafts, and the washing of cloths and materials are all to be increased, and inspection is also to be increased, and they think that thereby they can reduce the evil.
Seven years ago, at the time of the arbitration of Lord James of Hereford, the employers said they would extirpate lead poisoning, but there has been no improvement at all in the figures, so it does not look as if the extra precautions would do very much good. The regulations are very complex and elaborate, and they depend entirely on the working. It is no good to say that cloths must be washed every day unless the cloths are washed every day. An inspector who cannot go round more than about once in two months cannot possibly see that the regulations are enforced. You can inspect the mechanical shortcomings of a factory and send round an inspector to see that the shafts and fans are in order, but you cannot inspect all the daily life of the factory. To meet that the Committee said they would allow the factories to inspect themselves. They proposed to do that by publishing a list. of rules to be affixed in the factory and causing the answers to certain questions to be signed each day arid filed for reference. At first sight that does not seem a very good system of inspection. If the rules are not observed now, I do not see much chance of their being observed under this system, and the whole question is one of the observation of a large number of very small rules. I do not in the least want to make any attack on the employers, the large majority of whom are striving hard to extirpate this poisoning, but they said seven years ago that they would put an end to it, and things are now as bad as ever. In the case of yellow phosphorus we were told exactly the same story, that if the rules were observed, and ventilation and cleanliness increased poisoning would be put down, but nothing did put it down 1280 except prohibition of the use of yellow phosphorus. You have there exactly the. same state of things as you had a few years ago in phosphorus. You have, on the one hand a body of opinion which says that by increasing the strictness of your rules you can put down the evil, and you have on the other hand a body which says that you cannot, and that the only way is prohibition or nothing.
A further point I should like to take in regard to this Report is that it would increase the cost of production. It sets up a very expensive system and the expense is bound either to come off wages or profits. I think it has this further consequence, that if the factories are made to inspect themselves the tendency of the Government inspectors will he to rely on that inspection, and not to carry out their work to the same extent as now. I think the only inspection of the least value is inspection by the Government inspectors. Two alternative plans were before the Committee. The first was that a Committee should be set up of employers and employed under a neutral chairman very much on the lines of trade boards, and the Committee was to take charge of all these questions, and to see in a general way that the regulations were observed. They would hear complaints and call the attention of manufacturers to any breach of regulations. For some reason or other the employers entirely refused to accept that, and it was swept away. The other alternative was to prohibit the use of raw lead glaze in certain specified articles. I think it can be shown from this Report that for certain articles, and especially certain very cheap articles, such as jam pots, leadless glaze is cheaper than lead glaze. So a very strong case was made for the establishment of a schedule of articles in which the use of raw lead glaze should be prohibited. I regret that the Committee did not report in favour of that, and I wish to examine the objections they found to that scheme. In the first place they said it would increase the whole cost of production, for any given factory which turns out both articles is obliged to have separate rooms for lead-less glaze and for raw lead glaze, and you would hamper the work of the factories, and especially of the small factories. I think the answer to that is this. It is not proposed all at once to schedule a large quantity of things. All you want to do is to find things that you can make as cheaply by leadless glaze, and schedule 1281 them, and then, perhaps, after a few years' experience you can go on, always with the object, in the end, of exterminating the use of raw lead glaze. I think if you started slowly and did not rush at the thing like a bull at a gate, but just used ordinary common-sense in the matter you could propose a schedule which would hurt nobody, but, unfortunately, all the employers were very strongly opposed to it, and the Committee reported against it.
The next objection the Committee make is that the competition in the home market will be very severe from the foreign article where it is not restricted. Of course, that all depends on the price, and if we cannot get an international agreement to deal with lead glaze we should he entitled, if we forbid the use of lead glaze here, to prohibit the importation of lead-glazed articles. Then they also raise the point that in foreign and neutral markets they would meet with competition. There again, of course, all depends on the price, and if you can make certain articles as cheaply with leadless glaze all question of competition falls to the ground. Of course the best plan of dealing with all these questions is by international agreement, on the lines of yellow phosphorus, but I am afriad I do not see many signs of getting one just now. Some countries are, perhaps, ahead of us in legislation, but the large majority are far behind, and I do not think public opinion is ready yet for an agreement. Still, I think if we could lead the way we might in the end reach that. A further alternative before the Committee was to employ what are known as low solubility glazes in which the amount of soluble lead, which is poisonous, is very small. There is a vast amount of technical knowledge about low solubility glazes, but I think the general opinion is that for certain classes of work they are unsuitable. In the first place they fuse at a much higher temperature, and therefore hotter ovens are required; and, secondly, they do not run so smoothly over the article. When Lord James made his award seven years ago he gave a special advantage to the potteries which would use glaze of low solubility, or rather he imposed on the potteries which would not use it the penalty of compensation for disease caused by lead poisoning. Since the Employers Act of 1906 all employers are liable, and, therefore, the special penalty has now ceased to operate. I quite agree that it has a very small effect, and very few employers took advantage of the Act and escaped the special penalty. 1282 Still, I do think it is worth while remembering and quite worth considering whether it might not be a good plan to impose on potteries which employ a glaze with a high proportion of soluble lead special terms as to compensation in respect of industrial diseases. I think it is quite an open question whether it will not be a good thing in the case of these special works to throw an extra charge on them, and to make them bear the whole cost of compensation for diseases caused by lead poisoning. Though the evil is one which is small as to numbers—some six or seven thousand—yet it is very real in its effects on the workers in the schedule of trades; it is a very real evil to them, and it comes very close to their homes. I do ask the House to consider whether the time has not come for taking more definite action. We have gone on for the last seven years on the old plan of restrictions and regulations and so on, and we are not improving our position one jot, nor improving the condition of the workers. Unless you have a staff of inspectors, the cost of which would be prohibitive, I do not think you could enforce the regulations at all, where it depends on the minute observance of rules, under which you must sweep the floors, keep overalls for the men, and prevent a single flash of lead glaze from drying and giving off dust, and so running the risk of lead poisoning. When you come to the inspection of the factories we know what happens. We know that when the foreman has to fill up the temperature, if it is rather too high, he waits until it falls, and then fills it up. We know that he will be rather easy about seeing that these regulations are carried out, because you. cannot expect such a man, whose whole livelihood depends upon his employer, to go against him day after day. When we have evidence of importance that in certain potteries the rules are openly broken how can we hope they will be observed any more in the future? As to the increase of inspection, which the Report recommends, inspection every two months of each factory instead of an inspection in three months is not a very great increase. You cannot in that way enforce these very elaborate and minute rules. I appeal to the House to consider the matter very carefully before they go further on this road which has not led to improvement in the past. We have got now to a state where the evil is fairly small, and can be handled, and I think if we now deal with the matter thoroughly we can, without 1283 any appreciable hurt to trade, slowly exterminate this terrible evil of lead poisoning.
§ Sir J. D. REES
We are so accustomed to hear it said that we live in a free country, that we almost believe that at any rate there is something in it. But when I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke), with indeed that courtesy and consideration that he always shows to the younger and less experienced and less distinguished Members, dilate upon the advantages of uniformity, and upon the unfortunate nature of the exemptions and the trouble they cast upon Ministers, I began to wonder whether my right hon. Friend realized that element of tyranny which necessarily resides in uniformity. As to its giving trouble to officials, they are "born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." If the hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench representing the Home Office is asked whether he has any objection on that ground I think he would disclaim it. I would rather say that his official mind, running in official grooves, would state that no objection whatever existed on the ground of trouble. My right hon. Friend's theory to me seems rather to be that the trade was made for the rules; mine is that the rules are made for the trade, and that where there is a case for exemption it should be welcomed, and not regarded with disfavour. Even this very day we have had an abundance of sentiment for the Pacific Islanders, for the Africans, the Congolese, and the Macedonians. Why is there none of this sentiment to spare for English women, engaged in a legal occupation, who I submit are hardly treated by the withdrawal of exemptions which they were previously allowed? If a case be made out for exemptions, the Home Office may very well be asked to allow them. A fact which I have not seen seriously disputed—and my right hon. Friend will allow me that good faith and impartiality which I know distinguishes him in this and in all other matters—is that the action, for merely technical and legal reasons, taken under the Factory Acts, has led and will lead to a large displacement of Englishwomen by foreigners. Foreigners are as good as we are, but I am opposed to the theory that the Englishman's house is the foreigner's castle. We should protect our own people just as the foreigners protect their people, 1284 fog which I honour and respect them. My right hon. Friend did not dispute the fact that this would prejudice women engaged in this trade.
§ Sir C. DILKE
I did not want to detain the House by reading passages in this book. I have got them all here.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I have seen those passages. I had the honour to be summoned to the Home Office to advocate this case, and there I met the hon. Member for Clitheroe and other Members. The hon. Member for Clitheroe dealt with the case in that fair, I may even say that ingenuous fashion for which he is famous. But I do not think that he made out a case, nor can I say there is evidence in the Report that is very material. Just as in regard to female suffrage, or anything you like, you will find it is the agitator whose evidence is reported, while other quiet people who think differently remain in the background and do not have their opinions brought forward with the same emphasis, or perhaps they are not brought forward at all. The idea of enforcing uniformity is essentially tyrannical in its nature. Even at Question Time to-day the hon. Member for Leicester questioned the Home Office because there were different numbers of cases reported of unwholesome premises in different parts of England. I should suppose the easy explanation of that is that there are different numbers of unwholesome premises in different parts of England. The hon. Gentleman said that there were 3,000 outworkers in Poplar, and that there were no unwholesome houses to report. The hon. Gentleman forgot that the hon. Member for South Hackney spends his time in that district as a guardian of the morality and comfort of those people. There are always local differences. For my part, I protest againt the theory that a rule, even if it is good for a great number of trades, therefore should necessarily be enforced in regard to any part of the country, or in regard to any trade for which it is not proved up to the hilt to be absolutely necessary. The hon. Member for Leicester put questions to the Home Office about notices being served as to unwholesome premises. He said there were more in some towns than in others, and that therefore the towns in which the notices were not served must be unwholesome and not properly looked after. I submit that is utterly fallacious. For the very reason upon which my right hon. Friend argued, I submit that, instead of the principle of 1285 uniformity for all trades, we should welcome exemption wherever a case is made out for it. The last thing we ought to do is to insist upon this fatal spirit of uniformity. When the florist's shops were brought under the Factory Act, owing to a legal decision, there was no more reason that I can see for doing so than for bringing in a private kitchen. A florist's shop is not a factory in any sense of the word. Surely anyone who understands what a factory is would not say that a florist's is an unwholesome trade. Those employed in florists' shops needed exemption to work after 8 p.m. They must work after that hour if they are to earn their living. It is absolutely necessary to the trade,which, though not one of the greatest in the country, is very important to those concerned in it. They have to prepare floral displays for dinner parties, balls, and so on, and, in view of the fragile and fugitive character of the flowers, they must deliver them at an hour when they will be fresh, and not during the day, when they would wither before the time came for their being used in the decorations. Another question is as to whole or half-holidays for different employés on different days. What is the reason for enforcing similar holidays on everybody in the same employment. If these women were satisfied, as they were, why should they not have the benefit and enjoyment of these exemptions?
The Home Office very properly, on the representations made to them, appointed Judge Ruegg as the Commissioner to hold an inquiry. He did so, and made certain recommendations. He recommended that these exemptions should be retained as advantageous both to the employers and employed. I should have thought, if any regulation or any condition of affairs in a trade was satisfactory to the employer and employed, satisfactory to both parties, then nothing more is necessary. However, the Government neglected the precedent in the case of Judge Hamilton, who made a report which was disregarded, and whereupon swift ruin fell upon those who paid no heed to the recommendations of their own Commissioner. That wa a precedent by which they might have been warned. They have not accepted the recommendations of their own Commissioner, but I ask the hon. Gentleman, representing the Home Office, to tell us that these recommendations will be accepted, and that he will not consider as sacrosanct any particular sets of rules, because none of them are 1286 sacrosanct, but exceedingly human and full of error. He should consider the recommendations of his own Commissioner as regards this particular case, and should carry them out in the interests of the workers as free subjects.
Those employés are now liable to be discharged whenever the factory inspector chooses to enforce the Act, and he will be bound to do so in the future. He may sympathise with those ladies, as I have no doubt he will, because they are exceedingly nice people; but however much he may sympathise with them, he will have to carry out this Procrustean law, by which they will very likely lose their employment and be replaced by foreigners, against whom I have nothing to say except that, in competition with our own people, I would give our own people the advantage. I confess I do not know why employers, whether of florists or not, and particularly British employers, should be presumed to be harsh and unkind to their employés. An echo of that theory, which seems to prevail widely, was heard at QuestionTime, when it was lightly assumed that the British trader, upon whose operations the prosperity of this Empire depends, treated his employés unkindly. That is a monstrous theory, founded on no fact whatsoever. A similar theory seems to me to pervade the action of those who object to the exemptions in the case of these florists. They must presume that the employers of these ladies do not treat them well, otherwise why should they insist upon enforcing this Act, which only applies in a purely technical sense, against the wishes of the women concerned and the wishes of the employers, and to their detriment, as I have endeavoured to show? I see that the hon. Member for Clitheroe has returned, and I may repeat that I have borne testimony to the fair and ingenuous manner in which he placed the case at the Home Office. I do not think that that case is made out, and I think the exemptions should be retained.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I rise to supplement what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) with regard to child labour, and there are two or three points in the Reports of the lady inspectors to which I should also like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. There is the question of the excessive weights which women and children are forced to carry. There seems to me, as far as I can 1287 gather from these reports, a disposition in many districts to treat women and children as beasts of burden. For instance, I see a case of a boy carrying cloth weighing 84 lb., equal to his own weight. At the same place, from the weaving shop to the warehouse, women twisters carry weights of from 126 1b., to 136 1b., and women weavers carry cloth looms to the warehouse weighing from 50 1b. to 70 1b. In a making-up warehouse in Manchester girls carried backwards and forwards pieces of cloth weighing from 50 lb. to 70 lb. The inspector reports that they found weights as high as 70 lb. of cloth being laid by men upon women's shoulders. Those were not robust women, they were slight women, and in some cases undeveloped girls. Unfortunately, the law in regard to this seems to be in a rather inadequate and unsatisfactory state. For young persons employed in the fruit-bottling trade and the fruit-preserving trade there is no provision with regard to either young persons or women.
In this matter we are somewhat behind the French. I see that last year an order was promulgated by the Government there laying down very definitely the weights to be carried, not only by children and young persons, but also by grown-up women and men. We get something approaching to that in the Majority Report of a recent Commission, which recommends that no child should be allowed to carry more than 30 1b. in weight, and only then if the certifying surgeon says that the child is fit for that work. I think a great deal might be done in this direction by the more adequate carrying out of the present state of the law. As far as I can make out by the Children Act of 1903, the certifying surgeon has the power to attach to his certificate any limitation which he may think fit, either as to the weights children may carry or in the nature of their employment. Apparently this provision is very much neglected and not taken advantage of. Out of 37,403 certificates issued in 1909 only 5,775 had any qualifying conditions at all. In fact, I think the position of certifying surgeon seems to he in a very unsatisfactory state altogether, because they are appointed by the Home Office and paid by the employer, and very inadequately paid. I think they only receive 3d. for each case they examine. I consider it would be far better if their duties could be com- 1288 bined with other duties, and that a much better solution of the problem would be, for instance, if the surgeon or doctor who carries out the medical inspection of the children should be able also to include the duty of certifying surgeon, because he would be able to follow them up to the age of sixteen.
Another point to which I would draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman is as to the condition under which certifying surgeons have to examine children—a matter which is, I think, also extremely unsatisfactory. I understand they are obliged, very often or in most cases, to examine the children either in the factory or else in the office adjoining the factory. It is quite obvious that an examination in the factory would not be very satisfactory, with all the noise of the machines running, and also it is hardly decent that a girl should be examined in an office where, very probably, young men and boys are also employed. Another matter is as to the overtime which is still worked in laundries. As the House well knows, there has been a great improvement since the Act of 1908 was passed, both in regard to accidents and overtime. There is still, however, a great deal of overtime worked by young persons, and young persons are obliged to work as long as grown-up women. There are instances of children of fourteen working as long as thirteen hours per day. There ought to be, I think, where dangerous machinery is installed, and where women and young girls are working, some qualified person in charge whenever that machinery is running. There are still a great many accidents and to quite young girls. Those accidents are very much aggravated by the fact that the engineer or forewoman, or foreman, is absent when they occur. There is a case in the report of girls getting their fingers caught in this machinery and being unable to release them for half an hour or more, simply because the foreman or competent person is absent, and nobody present is sufficiently acquainted with the machinery in order to release them. That is a point which I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to attend to because some competent person ought to be present whenever those dangerous machines are running.
The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. J. W. Hills) alluded to the question of lead poisoning. I do not pretend to be an expert in this matter which has been inquired into. I think it is now almost ten years since the House concerned itself on this subject. A great many 1289 reports have been issued and a great many regulations have been laid down, but so far as I can judge those regulations have not borne very much fruit and they are very difficult to carry out effectively. Another Committee comes along and super-imposes upon this old structure of useless results a more complicated system of rules, probably equally useless and difficult to get carried out properly. I cannot help agreeing with the Member for Durham that the best course to adopt would be to take the bull by the horns and schedule certain classes of ware, particularly if that policy was taken cautiously, and also to combine with that policy the prohibition of the importation of similar articles from abroad, which would please Tariff Reformers and philanthropists, and assure to the workers work in that trade under proper conditions. Another subject to which I wish to refer, and one quite foreign to those I have been dealing with, is that of pit ponies and horses employed in mines. Lately there have been appearing in the public Press a great many very strong statements as to the condition under which those horses and ponies are worked. I have no means myself of testing the truth of those statements but they are undoubtedly very strong. It is stated that those horses and ponies are very much ill-treated in the mines, that they are over-worked, that they are employed in two shifts with practically two hours' rest, and suffering from sores on their shoulders, and also worked on three legs. I do not know whether these allegations are true; but only last week a miner in my own Constituency sent for me and felt so very strongly on this subject that he asked me to bring the matter up here and I do so. I think there is no doubt that there is a very strong feeling among miners about this question. I hope and trust that the right hon. Gentleman will inquire into it, and do what he can to put the dumb animals on an equal footing with human beings.
§ Mr. GILL
I listened with attention to the remarks of the hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs (Sir J. D. Rees) and I think he failed to make out a case for reopening the question of the florists. I believe it would be a very great mistake to reopen that question, especially in view of the inquiry held with regard to it and the compromise arrived at. There were four Orders, and of those two have been withdrawn and the other two are still in operation. I desire to express my 1290 appreciation of the work of the Home Office in regard to the extension of the Industrial Particulars Clause. The Particulars Clause, which was instituted in the first instance in connection with the cotton factories of Lancashire, has proved a very great boon indeed, and I think it ought to be extended to every industry where piece-work is carried on. Every person who works for wages ought to be entitled to have particulars supplied to him to enable him to calculate the wages he will draw at the end of the week. That is only common justice. I would ask the Home Secretary to issue as many orders as he possibly can in regard to piece-work industries. Last year I had an opportunity of calling attention to various matters connected with the administration of the Home Office in regard to cotton mills. One of these had relation to the generating of dust in connection with the stripping and carding. It is a very unhealthy occupation; only adult men are engaged in it, but many of them suffer very largely from asthma and bronchitis. The Medical Officer of the Home Office (Dr. Collis) some time ago made a particular examination into certain groups of men engaged in this industry, and he found that out of 130 men, whose average age was forty-five years, only thirty-two were sound, the remaining ninety-eight suffering from asthma. Out of another body of 136, 78 per cent, suffered in the same way. I think we have reason to congratulate ourselves that something has been done. In reply to a question some time ago the Home Secretary stated that some fifty mills were wholly or partially fitted with appliances for taking away the dust from the breathing level of the operatives. That is something; but I would particularly press that more active steps should be taken to get other employers to attach these appliances, which are now very effective and prove a great boon. Fifty is a considerable number, but seeing that there are nearly 1,000 mills engaged in this industry there is a great deal yet to be done. In regard to automatic locking machines something has been done, but I wish to urge that further steps should be taken in the same way as is being done in the matter of dust. This question needs to be carefully handled. I believe appliances are being put up at the present time which result in a reduction of accidents so far as this particular class of work is concerned.
Twelve months ago a deputation from the weavers of Lancashire waited upon the 1291 Home Secretary in regard to the abolition of fines in weaving sheds, and they were promised that something should be done as soon as possible. In many cases fines are imposed when the operatives are not to blame. The operatives in the weaving shed have no control whatever over the character of the material supplied to them. On many occasions the material is very faulty, and is of such a class that finished cloth of a perfect character cannot be made by it; yet if the cloth is not perfect, the weaver is blamed and a deduction is made from his wages. Fines are also imposed if a weaver is, say, fifteen minutes late, although it may be through no fault of his own. The fines are at the rate of 2d. for fifteen minutes, although the weaver may not be earning more than 4d. or 5d. an hour. These fines are absolutely unnecessary for the purpose of enforcing discipline. In the case of the spinners, some years ago fines were imposed in the same way as is at present done with the weavers, but they made up their minds that the practice should not continue, and they made a determined effort to stop it. They raised the question of people being discharged for breach of discipline, and the practice has been stopped from that time, and I believe there is no industry where there is such good discipline as amongst the spinners of Lancashire. Evidence on this point has recently been given by Mr. Cadbury, who said that a system of fines was formerly in practice at his works, but they decided to abolish it. The result was that in 1900, the first year after the removal of the fines, the offences amongst the workers were 115, but in 1905 they reached a total of only thirty-three, and the complaints of bad work fell from 139 in 1900 to nineteen in 1905. Mr. Cadbury declared that under the new order of things there had been fewer dismissals than when fines were imposed. I think that that valuable piece of evidence shows quite clearly that there is no necessity to impose fines for the purpose of enforcing discipline. The difficulty in regard to fines is that a man never knows when they are going to be imposed. It is an easy matter to find something to complain about, and under these circumstances it is difficult for a worker to know exactly what wages he will draw at the end of the week.
The question of time-cribbing has been raised for many years past, and, while I am glad that there has been some improvement, a great deal yet remains to 1292 be done. Last year there were 477 cases, and the fines amounted to £565. This year there were 419 cases. A remarkable feature is that in Oldham last year there were 201 cases and this year 251, although for ten months the mills had been working only four days a week. I do not know whether the fact that there were 251 cases in Oldham out of a total of 419 is to be attributed to the greater activity of the inspector there; at any rate, it is certainly to his credit to have discovered these cases. The practice is not honest, and it is decidedly unfair to the good employers ho keep proper time. A new form of time-cribbing has grown up. The Factory Act seems to have been interpreted differently from what was formerly the case. Everyone who has had to do with textile factories knows that the Factory Act provides that the last half-hour on Saturday morning is to be devoted to cleaning purposes, and ever since 1878 it has been understood that the machinery should be stopped for that purpose. During the last twelve months, however, a number of firms have continued to run the machinery after 11.30—sometimes up to 11.45 or 11.50. Young persons have been employed in sweeping or work of that character, and the interpretation of the Department is that they are not engaged in a manufacturing process, and that, although a manufacturing process has been going on, the practice is perfectly legal. The leaders of the operatives in Lancashire—men who have been in the movement for twenty or twenty-five years—contest that position very strongly, and say that it was never intended when the Factory Act was passed that the machinery should be run for producing purposes during that last half-hour. I hope that something will he done to give a correct interpretation of the law, and that the authorities will insist on the machinery being stopped during the last half-hour.
When the Workmen's Compensation Act was in Committee we pressed very strongly that referees who were appointed should not be engaged in private practice. We were unsuccessful, the then Home Secretary thinking that it would cost too much money. The result is that the referees who finally decide whether or not a person after an injury is fit for his work. are persons engaged in private practice. This gives rise to a considerable amount of dissatisfaction both amongst the workmen and amongst employers in Lancashire. The vice-chairman of the Cotton Employers Federation told me only last night 1293 that he would prefer that instead of the medical referees being engaged in private practice they should be State officials, with large districts, and that they would then be able to give unbiassed decisions, because they would nat depend for part of their salaries on being engaged by other people. It is said, I believe with some truth, that some of these medical referees are engaged in examining injured persons for the insurance companies. It was distinctly understood that that should not take place. I believe it is provided in the Compensation Act—at any rate it was stated at the time—that if they were engaged in any case by an insurance company they should not in that case act as medical referees. But that is not enough, by any means. The medical referees ought to be in such a position that they could have no bias whatever. I know one case where the partner of a medical referee examined a person, for the insurance company, and afterwards that the same person was sent to the medical referee, who declared that he was fit for his work. That man. had to give up his situation, as he was not able to perform the work, and his compensation was stopped. In a very serious case connected with my own society a man was examined by a medical referee, who declared him to be fit to follow his occupation. The man, however, could not do so, and the Committee of the Spinners' Association, every member of which is a practical man, and knows exactly what is required for the purpose of performing the work, felt that the man was so seriously injured that they paid him £100 as permanent accident grant. You cannot expect them to be satisfied when the decisions of medical referees are given in this way, and there is no appeal.
In many cases employers are now asking injured persons to bring doctors' certificates to show their condition from time to time. That is distinctly illegal. These doctors' certificates generally cost 1s., and it is not right that an injured person should be put to that expense because the employer wants to know his condition. The Act provides that an employer can have a workman examined by his own doctor at his own expense, and so long as that is the case I think it is decidedly wrong to require workmen to bring certificates in the way I have described. I want the Workmen's Compensation Act to be administered in as good a way as possible. There are some defects in it to 1294 remedy which we shall have to ask for legislation in the near future; but I should be out of order in referring to that matter on this occasion. We want the Act efficiently administered, so that it may be of benefit to the persons it was intended to benefit. But not only that, a great deal of the industrial legislation has been taken hold of by other countries in the world. I had the opportunity last year of visiting the United States and Canada. I found there that the question of employers' liability and workmen's compensation were burning questions. They are a long way behind us in this respect. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North-East Manchester (Mr. Clynes) and myself had the unique opportunity of giving evidence before the New York States Commission that was inquiring into this particular question. They wanted to know all about the working and administration of our Acts. I look upon the Workmen's Compensation Act as one of the best pieces of industrial legislation that has been passed for a long time, and I want, being interested in the progress of other countries as well as our own, to see them go on the same lines as ourselves in these matters. For that reason I ask that every attention should be paid to the administration of this Act, and if there are any flaws let us have them done away with, so that not only our own working people shall have the benefit arising, but it will extend to other countries in the world, and we shall get the credit for it.
§ Mr. MILDMAY
I am anxious to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a question which greatly concerns the future employment of women in the florist trade, a question upon which, as yet, the Home Office has given, I believe, no final decision. I am in disagreement with the right hon. Baronet below the Gangway (Sir Charles Dilke). I am of opinion that this is a question which urgently presses for solution, as this large class of women workers are in a state of doubt as to whether or not they are to be deprived of their means of livelihood. Let me say that I do not approach the Home Office in a militant spirit, disposed as the Home Secretary is to see much reason in the appeal of these women. Moreover, I am convinced that, as a sensible man, the Home Secretary is bound to admit the justice of the claims, if he has made himself acquainted with the facts. Nor am I speaking in any sense antagonistic to the 1295 Factory and Workshops Act, for that very Act admits the necessity of a certain elasticity in hours of employment in industries dealing with perishable articles. To this the exceptions in the Act bear witness. Employers and employés in the florist trade urge with force that they, too, dealt with perishable articles, which can only be made up and arranged shortly before they are required, and that they, too, are entitled to plead for a certain amount of the same elasticity. As the hon. Baronet the Member for Montgomery Boroughs has pointed out, when this class of work came under the Factory and Workshops Act, the Home Office, recognising the exceptional conditions, granted important exemptions to the women employed in the industry. They were: (1) Permission to work after 8 p.m. under certain conditions. (2) Provision that the annual whole or half-holiday might be given to different employés on different days, and not of necessity simultaneously on the same day.
Both of these concessions were afterwards withdrawn. I maintain that disastrous consequences are in sight. What did these concessions mean? Why were they asked for? As the Factory Act stood then women were only allowed to work between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. I shall be glad if the hon. Baronet will give me his attention.
§ Mr. MILDMAY
What we ask on behalf of the florist trade is, not that the hours of work should be increased, but that possibly they may be varied, so that when necessary assistants may be employed outside the prescribed hours, provided that the same amount of time is restored to them on the same day, or preferably on the following day—this is an important point—a period of twelve hours being allowed in any case to elapse between the ending of work upon one day and its resumption on the next. I wish to draw especial attention to this provision, for those who are against us are trying to make out that we are desirous of curtailing the period of rest between working hours. We wish to do nothing of the 1296 kind. We recognise that if a table decorator worked until 10 p.m. she should not appear at work on the following morning until 10 a.m. Our great point is that by our suggestions the aggregate hours of work will not be increased by a fraction. Are these concessions necessary? London hostesses, without exception, would say that they wish that floral decorations should be arranged at the latest possible moment before the arrival of their guests. As balls and such entertainments generally begin at from 10.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. it is obvious that the services of decorators are mostly required between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.—now forbidden hours, so far as women were concerned. Again, skilled women's services are often required before 8 a.m. in order that funeral wreaths may be despatched by early trains, and in order, too, that they may go early to Covent Garden to buy flowers. If they go after 8 a.m. they find all the best flowers bought up by street sellers, and only an inferior quality obtainable.
With regard to the second exemption from simultaneous holidays. Flowers are often wanted on Bank Holidays for weddings and funerals, or for church decoration. The exemption will not curtail the number of holidays. It will merely allow the employer to arrange with employés that they shall not take their holidays simultaneously.
The Home Office originally conceded both exemptions, which are surely reasonable, but in December, 1908, it was proposed to withdraw them. There was thereupon much agitation, and many appeals were made to the Home Secretary. In deference to those appeals, Mr. Gladstone appointed Judge Ruegg as a Commissioner to inquire into the whole matter. An opportunity, such as had never been afforded before, was given to him to hear both sides of the case and to get at all the facts. It was not until six months had elapsed, after exhaustive inquiry had been made, that the report was issued—a report which acknowledged that the claims made on behalf of the florists could be justly conceded. Judge Ruegg declared it as his opinion, after hearing all evidence, that, subject to the stipulation that there should be no resumption of work for twelve hours, these women should be allowed to work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for 100 days in the year. This covers May, June, and July—practically the whole of the London season, with the addition of a week at Easter and a week at Christmas for church decorations. This report was 1297 issued in November, 1909, and on 16th December, to the astonishment of all concerned, the exemptions were withdrawn in face of Judge Ruegg's distinct decision. But it is rather difficult to go on with a running commentary on the opposite side, though I cannot hear a word of it distinctly.
§ Sir CHARLES DILKE
What I meant was that a Parliamentary promise was given to withdraw the exemptions.
§ Mr. MILDMAY
Well, they were withdrawn, and withdrawn in the face of the decision of Judge Ruegg. I am now making an appeal to the Home Secretary to uphold the recommendation of the Home Office's own Commissioner, and not to go back on the opinion of their own Judge. I am sanguine that the Home Secretary will recognise the justice of the demand, for in answer to a question by, I think, the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs,he declared that it would not be correct to say that the recommendations of Judge Ruegg had been finally rejected. "He had reason to believe," he added, "that Lord Gladstone hoped that a solution of the question might be eventually found on the lines indicated by Judge Ruegg." That is encouraging to me, but I do not like the use of the word "eventually," for it means further delay, and an immediate, decision is very necessary. The reason why the matter is so urgent is that Englishmen are admittedly not gifted with the necessary qualifications for this particular skilled work, whereas foreign men are, and if the order forbidding these women to work after 8 p.m. is not altered, it follows, of necessity, that florists will be compelled to employ foreign men, who are only too easily obtainable, and who, of course, will not be subject to any limitation of hours under the Act.
I know that I may be told by the Labour Members and the right hon. Baronet that this is a threat; that it is merely bluff, that there is no such danger. I can only assure the Home Secretary that it is so. I could supply him with the names of particular firms. In the case of one firm, twelve of the women employés have 1298 already been discharged and foreign men have been taken on in their places, the employer not daring to risk prosecution by continuing to employ women. The matter cannot wait, for if foreigners are once established it will be difficult to dislodge them. I know the Home Secretary will agree that it will be a grievous calamity if this work is lost to English women. There is so much work which is too laborious for women that they are physically unfitted for, whereas the work of decoration, of arranging flowers, is work for which they are eminently fitted, work which they enjoy, work in which they take a pride, work, to attain proficiency in which, they have sacrificed much time and trouble. As to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet that in this matter it was social pressure that has been exercised, let me tell him, though, of course, he knows well enough, that the Home Office would disregard any social pressure. We only wish that that should be done which is in the true interests of the women. I feel sure that if the Home Secretary looks into the facts for himself I shall not have made this appeal to him in vain.
Before criticising certain matters in North Wales may I mention another matter on which I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary with regard to the appointment of Welsh-speaking inspectors for the mines of North Wales. By the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887 it is provided that, all other things being equal, mines inspectors in Wales shall be expected to have a knowledge of the Welsh language. The main reason for this is that the greater part of those employed in the mines and quarries are only conversant with the Welsh language, and it is essential that the inspector, in coming in contact with the men, shall be enabled to carry on a conversation with them in a language that they understand without the intervention of any official. I hope that that Act to secure more Welsh-speaking inspectors is not going to be set at nought.
Then as to the slate quarries. The existing high rate of accidents there is a painful subject. Four years ago I put a question to the then Home Secretary, Lord Gladstone, and pointed out that the chief inspector had reported that 33 per cent. of the accidents were due to falls owing, he suggested, to the gallery system in the quarries. No special notice was taken of the remarks made by the chief inspector. I returned to the question a 1299 year later and I drew the attention of the Secretary of State to the very serious increase that had taken place in the number of accidents, and I asked that a Committee be appointed to inquire into the matter. In the following year, 1907, the chief inspector again reported the very unsatisfactory feature of the high death rate among inside workmen in the slate quarries. The year after that the attention of the Home Office was again drawn to the state of things and to the fact that in the year 1908 the number of accidents in two of the larger quarries, Penrhyn and Dinorwic, ranged successively from 25 to 33 per cent. of those employed. The seriousness of the whole position lies in this: The number of accidents in these quarries is higher than in the coal mines; even in fatal accidents. The chief inspector in his report says the fatalities in the slate quarries approach the fatalities even in the coal mines, while the number of accidents to inside workmen exceed the number of accidents in coal mines three or four times. There can he no doubt that the whole position is due to want of proper inspection on behalf of the officials of the Home Office.
The slate quarries in North Wales are divided into three classes. First you have the underground quarries, which in the ordinary course of things should be the most dangerous; secondly, quarries in the form of pits, which are dug down to an enormous depth, so much so that one not accustomed to the work would be afraid to stand and look over the side; and, thirdly, there are the larger quarries, such as the two quarries of Penrhyn and Dinorwic, where the number of accidents should be the least. But the fact remains that statistics prove conclusively that the least dangerous quarries are those in which the largest number of accidents occur, and that in the underground quarries there is no serious complaint as to the number of accidents. In these quarries last year the number of accidents was only 7 per cent. altogether, and I do not think that any man could reasonably complain of that number when all the circumstances are taken into consideration.
In the quarries carried on by way of pits, which I put in the second category, the accidents came last year only to 5 per cent, but, as I have already pointed out, the accidents in the two larger quarries, one of which employs something like 6,000 men, were 21 per cent. of those 1300 employed in the case of Penryhn and in the case of Dinorwic 33 per cent. of those employed. I put it to the Home Secretary that there is no industry carried on at the present moment in the United Kingdom where there is such an appalling number of accidents as in these two quarries. It is not a temporary matter, for this state of things has taken place in the Dinorwic Quarry for two years. In 1908 it was 33 per cent. and in 1908 it was 33 per cent., and I have received information that the number of accidents this year is not less. The attention of the Home Office was drawn to this fact two years ago, and I am at a loss to know what was at the hack of the official mind, which assured us things were improving. Although one in three of the workmen were injured in 1908, no inquiry was carried on by the Home Office as to that sad state of things. Again this year I called the attention of the Home Office to the matter, and the Home Secretary refused the suggestion for an independent inquiry. As a matter of fact, an inquiry was made, but the gentleman appointed to make that inquiry was the gentleman responsible to the Home Office and to the House of Commons for the state of things existing. I then put a question to the Home Secretary, and asked him whether that was so, and the right hon. Gentleman, I think, with less than the candour he owed to me and the House, said he had already replied to a question which had never been asked. The fact remains that the inquiry was conducted by the chief inspector, who is responsible for this state of things; not only that, but I believe the right hon. Gentleman admitted later on that that particular gentleman had no knowledge of the employés, and it is for that reason I assume that even in the Mines Commission the Home Office declined to produce his report for the inspection of the Commissioners themselves.
I have very carefully perused the evidence of the chief inspector and his subordinates before the Mines Commission, and the position is this: Those two gentlemen faced with these facts have absolutely no suggestion to make with a view to reducing the number of accidents. In the quarries where these accidents take place, and where one in four of the men and one in three of the men are seriously injured every year, if proper inspection was made and more pressure was put by the Home Office on those in charge of the quarries, the number of accidents would be reduced by 50 per cent. 1301 in the next six months. If the accidents in the underground slate quarries are less than 10 per cent. there is no earthly reason except carelessness and want of inspection why the accidents in one of the two bigger quarries should average no less than 33 per cent. two years in succession. The Mines Commission have already drawn the attention of the inspector to this state of things. How did he meet it? By saying that most of the accidents are trivial in their nature, but in reply to the questions of the Commissioners he admitted that 500 accidents had occurred to the workmen compelling them to stay at home on the average for three weeks and six days. I wonder whether the Home Secretary thinks that 500 accidents which compel the workmen to be at home on an average of three weeks and six days is a trivial matter either from the position of the State or the workmen concerned. The second suggestion made by way of explanation of this enormous number of accidents was that it was due to the Compensation Act. The inspectors seriously advanced the proposal that these men stay at home because they were receiving compensation, but they forgot that in the cases in which complaints were made there is a quarry hospital and a doctor, both maintained by the generosity of the employer; and in one case the hospital is looked after by one of the most competent surgeons in North Wales at the present moment. And it is seriously suggested to the Mines Commission that these workmen who are injured are allowed by the quarry doctor to remain at home when they were fit for work. But the truth of the matter is this—the whole position could be remedied, and should be remedied, and would have been remedied if, when I drew attention to the matter the Home Office had put proper pressure upon their inspector.
It is monstrous, I submit, that while accidents in the more dangerous class of quarries are only 5 or 6 per cent., that when we come to the larger and more easily-worked quarries the accidents should be 21 to 33 per cent. I hope when the Under-Secretary comes to reply he will give me an assurance that, so far as it lies with the Home Office, either by increasing the number of inspectors or removing the present inspector, and putting in his place someone who will be more competent, or, at all events, who will put more pressure upon the employers, he will do what is 1302 necessary, not only in the interests of the workmen, but also in the interests of the employers themselves to lessen these accidents, because some employers have to spend energy and money in order to save the lives and the limbs of their workmen, and are consequently handicapped in competition with those men who do not spend such money, and do not exercise the care they ought to exercise in protecting the lives of their workmen.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Masterman) (who was very indistinctly heard)
It is time, I think, that I should reply to the lengthy and desultory succession of discussions which we have had this afternoon in connection with the administration of the Home Office, more especially as I understand there is a general desire in the House that for the first time in three years the Prisons Administration should be fully discussed on the Prisons Vote. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not follow the course the Debate has taken, but if I take up rather in a disjointed manner the various subjects raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon has been indefatigable in season and out of season in pressing upon the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary both the question of Welsh-speaking factory inspectors, and the question of the condition of the quarries in North Wales. I think we have satisfied him for the moment on the question of the Welsh-speaking factory inspectors. I think he agrees we are doing all we reasonably can to provide a Welsh-speaking inspector accessible to the Welsh-speaking population. As to the question of the quarries, I do not in the least degree want to avoid dealing with the matter. My hon. Friend, like a practical man, is mainly concerned not with the past, but with the future, and with the limit that can be put upon these accidents in the present year or in the future. Whether any action of the employers might have decreased the number of accidents has now become a theoretical question. With my hon. Friend, I am not at all satisfied with the number of accidents reported from the quarries concerned. I do not think it is quite fair to take the evidence given before a Commission which is only sitting about three weeks or a fortnight, as if that evidence was the last word upon the condition of things. The Commission has been appointed to go fully into this matter. I hope evidence will be given from all sides, 1303 and I hope the Commission will be able to recommend some remedies. I must confess our inspectors have not yet made any report of any practical means for decreasing this formidable number of accidents in quarries of North Wales.
I come now to the long, but not too lengthy, speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean in his general survey of the factory industrial administration of the year. His first complaint was that we were not continuing the appointment of more lady factory inspectors. He said he had understood we were going to increase the number, and that evidence had shown that an increasing amount of work was thrown upon those already appointed. The lady inspectors under our Home Office system are overworked; so are the men inspectors; so is every official concerned in the administration of the factory law, including the officials of the Home Office. We have increased in three years the number of lady inspectors from ten to eighteen—that is, very nearly double the original number—and, so far as I can ascertain, the predecessor of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made no definite promise that he would immediately go beyond that number.
With regard to the question of mine inspectors, my right hon. Friend has made promises in the direction of bringing up mine inspection to the level we have achieved in regard to factories. Of course he will have to make demands on the Treasury, and even those who like everything at once will agree it is more important to deal with the question of mines inspection, which has been hung up so long, than to proceed with the appointment of further lady inspectors of factories, more especially in view of the fact that we have nearly doubled the number of lady inspectors in three years. At the same time I agree that we should have more lady inspectors. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean dealt with the question of Truck, and I think he accused us of lukewarmness in connection with prosecutions. I think he will not find that is the case if you deal with percentage of prosecutions in comparison with the number of contraventions, which are less in the case of Truck than in general factory law. I agree that the law is in an abominable condition in reference to this matter, and if we have held our hands in 1304 certain prosecutions and decided that they were impossible, it is because we think it is not a good thing to be getting decisions against you on these delicate matters. A great deal of consideration has been given to the interpretation of the word "reasonable," but I think in that matter we are running a great risk if we allow the law to be decided against us. What we want is a remodelling of the Truck Act. Although I cannot make any promise, I can assure the right hon. Baronet that the Home Office is fully alive to the necessity of legislation on this question. With regard to this matter of Truck, I am aware that special factory conditions prevail in certain districts, especially in Belfast and in the surrounding districts of the North of Ireland, and the Government fully endorse the right hon. Gentleman's statement on that matter. Those particular districts, I agree, are far behind the average level of England and most parts of Scotland in factory legislation. We are now making a very special and detailed examination as to how far those particular districts are behind in this matter and why they are behind. Speaking with the full responsibility of the Home Office, I say that we desire to give every consideration to those districts, and we are prepared to give special attention to the cases which have been mentioned. My right hon. Friend is not quite right in regard to the number of Particulars Orders we have issued. We issued five Orders—not last May, but last December.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
We are still continuing the preliminary work towards the issuing of Orders. Sir E. Hatch, the gentleman who has hitherto done this work so excellently for us, has been filled up with other Home Office business, to which he has most patriotically given his time during the last three or four years, and the work he has done in the five trades dealt with has resulted in masters and men alike agreeing, except for some slight dispute in shipbuilding, which I think he will be able to settle. The more we can do by such preliminary investigations, bringing masters and men together, the better it will he for the administration of the Particulars Orders. We are continuing those inquiries, and we hope to be able to add more trades than we have included. I come now to a more 1305 interesting question upon which a perpetual fight has continued for so many years with varying but, on the whole, progressive results for the extirpation of one of the most terrible diseases of our industrial system—I refer to lead poisoning. I shared with the hon. Member for Durham the rejoicing which last year's Return gave us, showing the diminution of this disease in the Pottery district by nearly one-half. I also share with him the regret that the statistics for the first six months of the subsequent year fail to carry out the expectations which the previous Return led us to hope for. In this industry trade has very greatly improved, and this is unfortunately reflected in the increase in the number of cases of lead poisoning. I find myself disagreeing with the right hon. Baronet, for the first time, in his criticism of the Report. Investigations have been carried on for two years, and I can assure all those who are interested that the evidence is most voluminous, and will satisfy the most voracious appetite. The inquiry was carried on by representatives of the masters and the employés and impartial persons, and the result was a unanimous Report with the single exception of the lady representative of the women workers, who, in her memorandum, does not so much take exception to the recommendation in the Report, as recommend more drastic measures of dealing with the question. I think it would be a very serious matter if my right hon. Friend threw over a report on such a subject upon which so much unanimity has been displayed in order to start a rival policy of his own, or, what I think would be more fatal still, appoint another Committee. There are certainly one or two subjects connected with that Report—I am speaking not entirely as an amateur, although I do not claim to be an expert—in regard to which I would rather they had come to another conclusion. This remark applies to the question of scheduling. I should have been pleased if the Committee had seen its way to schedule certain articles which should be made without lead or with lead of low solubility. The question was discussed very thoroughly, and representatives from all sides were heard, and the Committee recognised the special difficulty which the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord CavendishBentinck) referred to in regard to the importation of these articles from abroad. They came, with reluctance, to the con- 1306 clusion that the remedy suggested was impracticable.
With regard to the use of phosphorus, I may point out that the use of yellow phosphorus has been stamped out under an International Convention, but we have no International Convention in regard to the use of lead. If all the countries engaged in lead manufacture were to join with us in the prohibition in certain cases of the use of lead, we should soon be in a very different position. The Report recommends a very considerable extension of the Special Order which at present exists, and recommends what has been rather unduly condemned this afternoon, namely, a system of self-inspection in factories. I do not see why the course suggested should not be given a trial as a supplementary system to our present factory inspection. If the special rules and this system of self-inspection prove a failure, those who have considered this question are anxious to be in a position to recommend the total prohibition of the employment of women—or at any rate of women under a certain age—in the lead factories. If within a reasonable time it is proved that we cannot get rid of lead poisoning by special rules and self-inspection, due notice has thus been given to the masters that other action will be taken if the figures do not come down. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean asked if we could put into operation the power to definitely close the worst of these factories. May I point out that that power is not in the possession of the Home Office, and we can only appeal for a legal decision in this matter. One such factory was closed last year, but a very strong case indeed has to be made out in order to obtain a conviction. The right hon. Gentleman also challenged the statement made by the firm of Wedgwood as to the condition of the lead workers, but for that or any other statement of the kind the Home Office do not take any responsibility.
One word as to the question of the certifying surgeons. I agree the position is not a very satisfactory one, and I recognise that some action will probably have to be taken in the not distant future. We all recognise that sooner or later a Committee will have to be appointed to consider the working of the Workmen's Compensation Act in regard to such questions as whether old people are being driven out of employment, as well as questions regarding the certifying surgeons and medical referees. The Act has only been in 1307 operation three years, and the Committee will be better appointed when it has settled down, and we can get the greatest possible evidence as to the necessity for any change. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) protests against the divergence of fees demanded. The fee of 1s. is supplemented under the Factory Act of 1901 by an additional amount given by the Home Office, but the fee of 5s. under the Workmen's Compensation Act for a complete examination cannot be supplemented. We do not feel very much inclined to decrease the very small fee paid for a very thorough examination, and what he should press for is not a reduction of the fee of 5s., but whether it might not be possible for the Home Office to supplement in the one case, as in the other, the fee paid to the doctor.
My right hon. Friend raised again the case of infant mortality, which I had the pleasure of raising with him on former Home Office reports when I sat beside him below the Gangway. We are concerned with the question. We have called for special reports from the medical officers of health, and especially from the districts concerned. Those reports, which are voluminous in character, are now before the Home Office, and I hope they will give us some definite guidance. He dealt with the question of the employment of children, and, as I understood, expressed some dissatisfaction at the comparatively limited explorations made by the Committee which has reported on Street Trading. If there is any general desire that that Committee should continue its labours and deal with other employments, I think it might do so. I was very glad to hear the appeals made by the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck) in connection with those very deplorable cases of considerable suffering and disability being laid upon children of quite early age. I welcome him among that small body of experts who are continually pressing the Home Office forward on these and other matters, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to utilise his services on some of the many Committees or Commissions by which the Home Office is always desiring to effect improvements in administration.
I am amazed, after the often moderate and accurate statements which are made by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery Boroughs (Sir J. D. Rees), to find him fathering such affirmations as he has 1308 been making in the House on the question of the florists. He asked a question the other day in which he suggested that thousands of honest British workwomen were being thrown out of employment and being replaced by aliens under the stern, hard, and cast-iron effect of our regulations dealing with florists. If a hundredth part of that were true, there would be a case for the reconsideration of the decision of the Home Office, but I can find no trace even of that moderate amount of justification for the hon. Member's remarks.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Certainly; and there have been applications for overtime work this year. Let me put clearly before the House what the position is with regard to this particular trade. The trade is brought under the Factory law by a legal decision. My hon. Friend asserted that this was merely a technical and legal reason for bringing it under the law, and that there was really no case for bringing under the law so well-conducted and satisfactory a trade. I take out of our Report one quotation only. The inspector for the North-West Division (Manchester) says:—Prior to the visits of inspection, the women and young persons worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily—seventeen hours. No half-holiday was allowed, and no proper meal times were recognised. Extraordinary hours of work occurred during the Whit-week rush One young person of fifteen years of age was employed no fewer than thirty-one and a half hours with a break of two and a half hours for rest and short breaks for food. Another girl worked for thirty-three and a half hours.My hon. Friend regards the breaking-down of that system as an abolition of the freedom of England.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The Home Office has no intention of allowing a girl, even on an exceptional day, to work thirty-three hours. The question of women working out of florists' workshops beyond the normal working hours is entirely a local one concerned with the demands of West London. The whole of the reports from the other parts of England are that there is no such necessity. Here is a report which breathes the austerity and the simplicity of manners of the Northern Kingdom condemning our opposite development. It is given by our factory inspector at Glasgow:—The conditions disclosed by the reports can hardly be compared with those existing in London, the require- 1309 ments of the public being so totally different. Mr. Broadhead, at Glasgow, says, according to his information, there is only one function in the year at Glasgow which requires outside work being extended beyond 8 p.m. and then only till 9 p.m. There is no 'season' in the London sense in Glasgow, and entertainments are neither so lavish nor so late.The challenge made was that if we knew the facts we would agree with the hon. Member, but I make the challenge—and I hope I am not speaking offensively—that if he had the facts which we have at our disposal he would agree with us. The facts, briefly, are these. We have no cast-iron and inelastic system. In florists' workshops women and girls can work from six to six, from seven to seven, or from eight to eight. They can work two hours' overtime thirty days, or five full weeks in the year, and they can work it by merely sending a notice to the factory inspector before eight o'clock on the same day that they intend to work the overtime. If they chose, on any special occasion, not to bring in a woman or a girl till after the dinner hour-that is one o'clock-that woman or girl can work to any hour outside the factory, so that she can get in the full service of fifteen or sixteen hours of work which is said to he required. We have evidence which was not before Judge Ruegg, to whom I should like to pay the highest compliment for the work he did. On every other point except this we entirely agree and accept his decision. Last year our factory inspectors went thoroughly through the various florists' shops, and personally interviewed those who might be affected. We find the number very small indeed. The total number of women who might be affected is something like thirty-two. Most of the great firms, such as those who do the decorations of Buckingham Palace, employ men. All the firms, I think, employ men as well as women, and, so far as I see, there is no reason why the particular work required to be done in these hours should not be done by men. We have taken the trouble this year to go through them again. A factory inspector from our own Department and another inspector which the Board of Trade were kind enough to place at our disposal went round to see the result and ascertain what the opinion is on the subject. We find no cases of women being dismissed as the result of this Order. We have one case given us of a man having been taken on as a new hand who is not an Englishman, and we find another case of a boy taken on as a new hand who is not an Englishman. The thousands of aliens of my hon. Friend 1310 therefore resolve themselves into one alien and a half. We are asked to put into operation a clause of the Factory Act which has never been put into operation before, and to allow on 100 days in the year a working day of fourteen hours for women and girls and on thirty days in the year a working day of sixteen hours. Upon such evidence as that I could not get up and defend it in the House of Comons.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
It is the proposal. If we granted what is demanded, on 100 days in the year florists could work from eight to ten and on thirty days in the year by the overtime rule they might work from six till ten. That is fourteen hours in the one case and sixteen in the other. We have nothing like it in our factory legislation. If and when any evidence can be submitted that there is any large hardship in connection with this work, my right hon. Friend has always an open mind on this and other matters, but, so long as the facts remain as they are at present, we have no intention of changing our decision.
The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. A. H. Gill) dealt with the question of dust in the carding-room. I agree with him that there has been some delay in connection with the matter, and that the figures which have been presented show a very regrettable amount of disease and some mortality, but I think the delay is to be accounted for, as it is under somewhat similar circumstances in the case of rescue apparatus for mines. There is a good deal of variety of opinion among the experts, and most of them are engaged with designs; but I am authorised to state that the Employers' Federation have appointed a committee to consider the various systems in use and also the new systems claiming superiority, and they are about to make definite recommendations as to the choice among them. They assure us no time will be lost in doing so. At the same time our factory inspectors in the districts affected are watching the matter, the gravity of which we all recognise.
In connection with the point made by the hon. Member for Bolton as to extra half-hours, I gather he thinks we have come to a decision which is not legal. But we are only anxious to follow the law in this matter, and if any body of men want a test case 1311 we shall be only too pleased, because our desire is that the law shall be interpreted to the satisfaction of the workers. In the name of the Home Office we welcome this day's criticisms as we have always welcomed them. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking those many Members of this House who, partly in the form of questions and partly by conversations with my right hon. Friend and myself, day after day in the Lobbies, have put before us complaints as to present administration as well as suggestions for reform. We welcome the closest connection between Members of this House and the Home Office, and I can assure hon. Gentleman that questions addressed to the Department and private conversations have resulted in material improvements in matters which our factory inspectors charged with the enormous work of carrying out the Factory Laws might otherwise have been unable to detect. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean apologised for the arid nature of the subjects he brought before the Committee. Those subjects may be arid in themselves, but there is not one technical detail which does not affect the health and happiness of the industrial women and children of this community, and all the progress of the future.
§ Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS
I understand there is a general desire we should pass, as soon as possible, to the Prisons Vote, which has not been discussed for some three years. I believe the Home Secretary has an important statement to make in regard to it. But I ask the House to listen to me while I offer a few comments on one or two questions to which I wish to draw his attention. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, in his speech, which we always look forward to with interest and pleasure on this occasion, has criticised the way in which the Government have failed to increase the number of women factory inspectors. There have been no fresh appointments made, but I think I must agree with the Under-Secretary that it was understood from the speech of Lord Gladstone last year that the increase of women factory inspectors must be looked upon not as rapid, but as steady. I fully admit all the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the increase of work which has fallen upon these inspectors, as well as to the admirable manner in which they carry 1312 out their duty, and that has been especially the case to my knowledge in respect of the work thrown upon them under the Truck Act. I entirely agree that the work cast upon the inspectors, both male and female, is of a very arduous character. They are fully employed in a most excel lent work, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my paying this tribute to a Department in which I had the pleasure to serve for some three or four years. I do not think there is a harder-worked Department than the Home Office and its subordinate Departments in the whole organisation of the State. The right hon. Gentleman has said that, although there can be no increase in the number of female factory inspectors, there is to be an increase in the number of mines inspectors. I must agree with him, knowing the financial difficulties which beset the Department, and, while sympathising fully with the desire for an increase of the female inspectors, I realise the necessity of cutting one's coat according to the cloth, and therefore I think the Home Secretary has been right in deciding that the first increase shall be among the mines inspectors rather than among the factory inspectors.
I regret with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean that the decrease in the number of cases of lead-poisoning which was noticeable last year has not been continued in the present year. I hope—indeed, we must all hope—that these more unfortunate figures are not going to prevail, and that we shall still see a greater diminution than present facts point to. May I add one word of congratulation to the Home Office upon its having continued the excellent practice of last year of an early issue of report of the factory inspectors? It is indeed a very great convenience, especially for politicians and to Members not closely acquainted with labour questions to be able to have time to get up technical details. I should think it saves a good deal of time, because, instead of asking questions, they can find out these matters for themselves from the Report.
I wish I could extend the same congratulations to the Home Office with regard to the question of the deportation of aliens. I think there must be some unaccountable mistake which has resulted in the Report on this subject not having been presented before this Debate. Last year I raised a point in regard to the administration of the Aliens Act. I do 1313 not wish to-day to touch the controversial side of the question. The right hon. Gentleman who is now at the head of the Home Office and myself take diametrically opposite views on this point, but so far as deportation of criminal aliens is concerned I think we are on common ground. That, too, is the opinion of the present Postmaster-General. I agree with him as to the desirability of procuring the expulsion of alien criminals at the earliest possible date and their exclusion permanently from this country, whose hospitality they have abused. My only excuse for raising this point to-day is because I wish to be assured that the administration of that portion of the Act has been thoroughly well carried out. I have observed, and I think we must all have observed in the papers in the last few months, the complaints which have been made. by the London police, by magistrates, by chairmen of quarter sessions, and by the Common Serjeant and Recorder of the frequency with which these undesirable gentlemen return to this country. I have several cases before me just now. I will trouble the House only with two. There is the case of the man Henri Handalis, who was in trouble many times, and he came back in a few days. Then there was the case of Louis Smith, who also got back to this country after a few days, and his excuse was, "I like England very much better." We have got, unfortunately, enough criminals to look after without looking after men who abuse the hospitality of this country, and though I do not blame in any way the Home Office or the police in this matter—I know how difficult a thing it is to deal with, and how easily it is for a man with a first-class ticket to come back into this country—I would observe that my only object in raising this question is to ask the Home Secretary to do his best to urge on the police and the other authorities to do more, if they can, to detect these people at the port of landing or in the earliest stages of their return. I understand that sometimes they are known to he about, but that the process of arresting them is not sufficiently quick. But suffieient time has not elapsed to enable judgment to be formed as to the effect these provisions are likely to have on alien crime in this country. What I want to know is what is the opinion of his Department at the present time. I am simply asking the right hon. Gentleman for information, which I am sure he will be prepared to give me.
§ Mr. SHACKLETON
I wish to put a question to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and it has reference to a very important matter of administration under the Factory Act. I ask it in order that complete confidence may be given to the workers, who should have full confidence, in the various decisions given in the courts of law under the Factory Act, the Workmen's Compensation Act, and any other Act under the administration of the Home Office. What I want to refer to particularly is the practice—I do not say it is common, but I have known one or two instances—where the magistrate's clerk is also solicitor to the employers' association. If he were in the employ of an individual employer it possibly could not be avoided, but where the clerk to the justices is also solicitor to the employers' association the obvious inference is that such a state of things should not be allowed. The solicitor may have been in a position of preparing the case for his client before it comes before the magistrates, and whatever power the Home Office has in this matter I sincerely hope they will put it into operation. An expression of opinion by the right hon. Gentleman as to the inadvisability or the unfairness of such a provision might be effective in the very few cases in which this happens. The objection not only applies to cases where the workmen are summoned but also to those of his own inspector, who may take a case before the court and find that the adviser of the magistrates is the man who has had to get the case up for the employer who is charged with an offence. In the interests of the administration of justice, and to give confidence to the workpeople and the inspector, the solicitor ought to retire from one position or the othe—I do not care which. Surely he ought not to hold the position of being the private adviser of the employer as well as the public adviser of the magistrates. I hope the night hon. Gentleman will meet this little difficulty, and give such advice as he thinks right in the circumstances.
In the speech of the Under-Secretary and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke), in the portion in which they referred to the hours of work of the women florists, it is a very remarkable thing that both of them ignored the fact that the Home Office itself appointed a Commissioner to inquire into this matter, and 1315 all that has been asked by the hon. Members who brought this matter forward was that a recommendation of the Home Office Commissioner should be carried out. The hon. Gentleman said if we knew all the facts we should agree with the Home Office in their action, but did not Judge Ruegg, their Commissioner, know all the facts when he made that recommendation?
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The judge could not have known the facts that I have given as to the Order being in force, because the Order was only issued last December, and we have had this six months' experience.
The point that I want to make is this, that these Orders were rescinded in December in the teeth of Judge Ruegg's recommendation that one of them should not be rescinded and that one of them should be rescinded, and another Order made. He recommended that the Order as regards holidays should not be rescinded, and a month later the Home Office rescinded it. He recommended that the regulation as to working overtime should be rescinded, but that a new Order should be made which should make it possible for skilled women to work two hours after 8 o'clock on condition that they were allowed to come to their work two hours later next day. That Order has never been brought in by the Home Office in spite of the recommendation of their own Commissioner. The Under-Secretary said a great deal about the debt of gratitude which the public owe to the Commissioner, but it is very small encouragement for people to act as Commissioner if they are treated as Judge Ruegg was.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Once more I say that every recommendation he made except one was carried out. There are six or seven recommendations which he made, and only one was disregarded, and that is this one as to the hours.
I think in a matter of this kind it is better that every side of the question should be stated, and that the question should be explained in detail to the Home Office. Here there is certainly a grievance. I have no interest in the matter, but it is the most important question of the whole lot this question of working late, and there is ground for the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Sir J. D. Rees) and the fear expressed by Judge Ruegg that the women will be turned out of their work 1316 and that foreigners will take their places. I wish again to express my regret that the Home Office, having appointed a Commissioner to inquire into this matter, did not accept his finding.
§ Mr. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
I think the case put by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire with regard to the Dinorwic Quarry is of sufficient importance to ask the Home Office to pay attention to it at once. I know that as it was a case in which there were such a number of lives lost, it will be felt that everything that can be done ought to be done at once. The continuance of this great loss of life to a practical man proves that the system of working that quarry is wrong, and should not be allowed to continue in the face of the figures which have been given in regard to other quarries which are much more dangerous than this. In such a quarry to have a great number of accidents happening proves at once that the system is a wrong one, and the next point is: How is the Home Office to find this out? My experience of the Home Office is that whatever party is in power, when a case is stated and facts are given they take up the matter to see what can be done, and I have no hesitation in saying that the right hon. Gentleman will do so now if he can grasp or looks at this thing as any practical man would. It is admitted here, and it was told us to-night, that the chief inspector of that district admits himself that his qualification is in another direction, and that he knows nothing of quarries. If that was true, how is he to report in order to guide the Home Office in what they are to do in a matter like this? If that is so, I hope that by inquiry they will find out whether it is so or not, that they are guided by the report of a man who knows nothing about quarries. There are certainly one or two men in the service of the Home Office who will know something about quarries, and let them go down and investigate, and let the Home Office get their guidance from those practical men and from their Report. I also wish to express a hope that my right hon. Friend will not allow any inspector—any chief inspector—whether he lives in London or anywhere else, to cut out portions of a Report. We have reason to believe that that has been done. If a Report is made by an inspector on a mine, and if anyone is allowed to curtail and cut out portions of his Report, what guidance will it afford? There is a Report coming before this House which will show, I am afraid, that somebody 1317 has exercised authority and cut parts out of it, and unless something is done in future—and I appeal to my right hon. Friend to say that these things ought not to take place—this House will not receive guidance from the man on the spot.
§ Viscount MORPETH
The answer of the Home Office, from the point of view of the florists, is an extremely unsatisfactory one. The right hon. Gentleman took up an attitude which is not justified by a Report of the Home Office itself in this matter. He tries to belittle the question, and he says it is one concerning thirty women workers and one and a half men. But what has the attitude of the Home Office been if the matter is of such insignificance as that? First of all they exempted these workers from factory legislation, but under pressure the Home Office withdrew its exemption. They then again changed their course, and appointed Judge Ruegg to hold an investigation, and once again, under pressure, they have changed their course and reverted to their second policy. If the matter is so unimportant as the hon. Gentleman tried to persuade the House of Commons, why is it that they had to change their course so often under pressure of different kinds? The Government have been singularly unfortunate in appointing Commissioners during their tenure of power. They have appointed Commissioners again and again, and have received exhaustive reports, and then they have thrown them over and gone in the opposite direction. Judge Ruegg pointed out that there was a danger that these women would be ousted from their work, perhaps by foreign men, but, at any rate, by men in place of women. Yet the hon. Gentleman chose this afternoon to ridicule that idea, and said there was great exaggeration in this matter. If he looks at the Report itself he will find that his own Commissioner said that although he has not been able to satisfy himself that there has been any case up to the present time there will undoubtedly be a danger in future if these regulations are made so inelastic, so hard and fast, and applying to whole of the British Islands, and making no account of the circumstances in West London.
These women will lose their places as florists, and they will be taken by men who are either foreigners or Englishmen. I pause to say that the West London standard is extremely different to that of Glasgow, and no regulation or laws of this House will force the West of London to assimilate its social regulations to those 1318 of Glasgow. West London will have these decorations, and we contend that it is work that is eminently fitted for women under suitable regulations, and it is work which they should continue. I am convinced that the real influence that underlies the action of the Home Office, and the real pressure which has been put upon them throughout all these matters in regard to their constant changes of policy, is dictated by the desire to turn women out of employment and to substitute men for them. It is a sorry thing that many of those Gentlemen who only a few days ago voted for women's rights and women's votes, in this matter, where women have got an employment eminently suited to their capacities, and in which they excel, which is not hard or strenuous work, and in which their natural taste has some play—that these Gentlemen having voted a week ago for women's votes largely on the ground that they would be able by means of them to force up the standard of wages and insist on certain conditions of employment, although soon after they gave that Vote they nullified it by the next one—but it is strange that having given it they should come to this House and ask it to enforce a regulation which will have the effect of forcing women out of employment. There is no one in this House who is advocating the claims of these women workers who desires to see them subjected to the long hours to which the hon. Gentleman made reference. That is not part of Judge Ruegg's Report, and it is not advocated by anyone in this House. I think the overtime which they do at night in the matter of decorations should be taken off their work next morning. Regulations of that sort could easily be enforced if the Home Office were only willing to do it and gave its mind to these matters. They have taken an essentially unreasonable position in saying they cannot break through regulations and that if you make exceptions here and there you will be driving a coach and horses through the Factory Acts. For that reason they throw the whole trade into confusion and drive women out of occupations in which they are at present working.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
I have heard a good many reasons put forward in the last few years in favour of woman suffrage, but I do not think I ever heard a reason less adequate to bear the strain put upon it than the Noble Lord's suggestion that when that great reform 1319 is carried it will at any rate be open to women beyond all doubt to dress the tables in the West End, on occasions of festivities, with flowers. It is not at all just or true to say that the Home Office has continually altered its policy under pressure. The question is one of fact and it is to be judged by the facts. I heard the story some time ago that the most serious consequences were to be apprehended from the present state of the regulations. We were told that a large number of British girls were being driven from their occupation and that their places were being taken by Italian men, If these facts could be established to be true on any scale of which the House of Commons could take notice, we should certainly have to consider the question whether regulations could not be devised to meet the case, but the facts are not true. Since Judge Ruegg's Report my hon. Friend and I have had inquiries made, and I checked those inquiries by inquiries made from another source, and I am quite certain I had the best information which two public Departments could obtain. It is not at all true that there is this displacement of labour or that women are being crowded out of this trade. I am quite willing to keep an open mind on the subject, and if the facts alter, or can be proved to amount to a serious evil, I shall lay the facts before the House and give them the best advice in my power. But at present it would be ridiculous to alter the regulations, which would not have local application but would spread over the whole country, for the sake of an evil which, so far as I can honestly say, having examined it myself, exists in no other place than in the imagination of those who have drawn attention to it.
Coming to the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Abraham), I and the Department have been much concerned at the casualties in the Dinorwic Quarry. A special inquiry was ordered some time ago, and a further special inquiry is now being made into the subject by a Commission. It would not be in the power of a Minister to interfere with the work or the Report of the Commission and were it in my power, I hope the hon. Member would acquit me of any intention to follow such an evil precedent. The hon. Member (Mr. Shackleton) raised another point on which I find myself in entire accord with him. He spoke of magistrate's clerks accepting appointments as solicitors to employers' associations and I presume the objection 1320 would be equally great if they accepted employment as solicitors to trade unions. I have no power over these appointments, but I am glad to have this opportunity of saying I think such dual functions are very undesirable. I do not say they would come into conflict. I can quite believe a man would do his duty perfectly well and honourably in the two capacities. But that is not the point. The point is not merely that absolute justice should be done but that everyone should be convinced that absolute justice will be done, and that there should be no feeling that prejudice or partiality has entered into the advice which magistrate's clerks tender to the courts.
§ Mr. H. E. DUKE
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has considered if it would not be possible to introduce, by a circular to magistrates throughout the country, the same kind of restriction as there is in the case of county courts by which a solicitor who is a magistrate's clerk should not sit to advise the bench in a case where his firm is concerned any more than a solicitor who is a registrar would sit in a county court in a case where his firm was concerned? It seems to me it is a thing which could be done by letter to the justices.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think that is a very valuable and useful suggestion, and I am glad it has been made, and I will see that consideration is given to it. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Akers-Douglas) touched upon the administration of the Aliens Act and upon the lateness of the Report. I am much obliged to him for his compliments on the fact that the Factory Report has been produced at an early period, and I regret very much that the Aliens Report has lagged behind. It certainly should have been published before this Debate, and I must ask the House to view indulgently any blame which they think attaches to me for not having seen that the House was properly furnished with all particulars in regard to subjects which might be raised. The right hon. Gentleman and I have always differed greatly on the Aliens Act. He was the parent of that measure. He produced one child, which did not long survive, and I am not sure I did not have some part in putting it out of the way. But afterwards he produced another and stronger infant, which has now grown up to manhood, and has taken its place in the legislative and administrative machinery of the country. It is a 1321 very weak point in the Aliens Act that any alien, however criminal, however undesirable, however diseased, however poverty-stricken—and of course we must always cultivate that view of all aliens—who wishes to come into this country can do so if he can obtain enough money to pay for a first-class ticket. Of course it is possible that aliens who have been deported under orders from the courts may return, and they do return sometimes, but not, I think, very often. They have not a very clear idea of what may or may not happen to them if they return. I was given a case the other day of an alien who had not merely returned to this country after deportation, but described the Aliens Act as a farce. That person is now suffering a sentence of three months' hard labour, a fate which I earnestly hope will not overtake every person who has characterised the measure in harsh terms. I am very anxious that the courts should not hesitate to add sentence of expulsion to the ordinary sentence. It was common ground between both parties when the measure was debated—it was the one piece of common ground between us—that expulsion might be added to a sentence on an alien who abused the hospitalities of these shores and committed crimes. In several cases where that action has not been taken by the courts we have written privately to the justices, and have drawn their attention to their powers under the Act. When any alien, having been expelled, is found in the country, he is liable on the first occasion to three months' imprisonment, and on the second to twelve months' imprisonment, and I shall not hesitate to put the law into motion when any case of that character is brought to my notice.
§ Mr. E. JARDINE
An appeal was made by the hon. Member (Mr. Gill) to the Home Office to give more Orders. There are many arguments which might be brought forward as to why more Orders should not be issued. I want to ask the Home Office always to consider that they are constantly breaking their principles, which are Free Trade principles, principles of the law of supply and demand, by these Orders, and are really acting in restraint of trade and contrary to the best interests of the workers. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Gill) referred to fines. He objects to them, and considers it is wrong for fines to be inflicted in workshops. There was a great deal in what 1322 he said, although I personally think, provided the sum that is taken in fines is administered by the workers for the workers, that is a much better way of getting discipline in a workshop than by discharging someone for being late or for spoiling work. The hon. Member went on to say that in a certain shop they objected to the system of fines which was carried on, that the trade union decided the iniquitous system should be stopped, and that they stopped it. That is the line I would ask Members of the Labour party to take. That is the manly, strong, stiff backboned line I would like them always to take. Do not let them go to the Home Office for Orders and Acts which, to those who are not experienced in the matters to which these Orders and Acts refer, appear good, but really do an enormous amount of harm to individuals throughout the country. The hon. Member for Bolton referred in particular to the Workmen's Compensation Act, and said it was one of the best pieces of industrial legislation passed for a long time. I do not think there is a Member in the House on either side who would wish to take away one word or line of that Act. It has done an enormous amount of good, but it has also done a terrible amount of harm. It is impossible to-day for an old man, full of life and vigour, with many years of good service in him that he might render to the country, since that Act was passed to obtain employment. No sane employer would take on a man who is probably on his last job, and who may slip downstairs, hurt his back, and become a permanent charge for half wages on his employer. I mention that because I want to keep the Home Secretary from getting swelled head and imagining that these Orders which he issues bring happiness, prosperity, and health to the people of the country. On the contrary, they are a necessary evil.
A remark made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) showed, I think, his utter want of appreciation of the difficulties of manufacturers. He appealed for factories being destroyed or condemned because they were so bad that they gave the users an unfair advantage over other employers. Had the right hon. Baronet been a manufacturer he would have known what is so often lost sight of and what has been lost sight of during the Debate this afternoon, that the best and cheapest way to manufacture is by employing the highest-paid workers in the best possible conditions, and in the finest factories any- 1323 one can desire. It is because there has been a sense of unreality about much that has been said this afternoon that there has been a tendency on the part of the Under-Secretary in his exceedingly able and conciliatory speech to promise more Orders and Amendments of the Workmen's Compensation Act, and I fear that unless someone who is actually engaged in business raises his voice in this matter he will get an absolutely wrong notion and issue Orders which he will regret, and will bring forward legislation contrary to the interests of those whom it is ostensibly meant to benefit. I will appeal to the Home Secretary to bring forth no more Orders, to sit still, and not to legislate unless there is some serious and dangerous business which must be legislated for. May I ask the Home Secretary if he cannot let well alone, that he will interfere with manufacturers as little as possible?
§ Sir WILLIAM COLLINS
I want to put a question to the Under-Secretary for the Home Department which I think will elicit from him a disclaimer as to certain alleged action of the Home Office which I believe is entirely unfounded. It is in reference to the administration of the Asylums Officers' Superannuation Act passed last Session. Under that Act local authorities are required to provide pensions on a contributory basis. Under Clause 1 it is the duty of the visiting committees of the asylums, with the consent of the local authority, to classify the established officers into two classes, class one receiving more beneficial pension than class two. By a later Clause established officers are defined in that Act, and I believe that the decision as to who is an established officer and who is not is entirely in the discretion of the visiting committees. I have gathered from a circular issued by the County Councils' Association, from the reports made to certain county councils, and also from reports which have appeared in the papers,that it is suggested that the Home Office have given directions or advice to the visiting committees as to which officers should be in class one and which officers in class two. Certain officers say that they are prejudiced by such action of the Home Office. As the Home Office is constituted the appeal authority in regard to certain questions, such as the amount of and right to pensions, it is manifestly improper that the Home Office should give any advice of that kind. I venture to say it is contrary to 1324 the wording and the intention of the Act. I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to say that there was no attempt on the part of the Home Office to put pressure on any of the visiting committees.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I think I can assure my hon. Friend that the Home Office has consistently taken up the position that it has no jurisdiction in this matter on the question of establishment. It is entirely in the discretion of the local authorities, and if any such circular has been sent out, as my hon. Friend describes, that circular is a misleading one. I thank the hon. Gentleman opposite for his personal reference to myself. Whatever other reason we have for what the hon. Member calls swelled head, I can assure him that it is only with reluctance that the Home Office adds to its multifarious duties by issuing Orders. I do not think I made any promise that any particular Order would be issued at all. I would like now to make an appeal to the House. There was a general agreement in the House that some time might be devoted to the consideration of the Annual Report on Prisons. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) is prepared to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. W. F. ROCH
May I ask the Under-Secretary a question in regard to the quarries at Penrhyn and Dinorwic to which his attention was called by the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Ellis Davies)? I should like to know whether, pending the inquiry by the Royal Commission on Mines, the hon. Member will take whatever steps are possible now to call the serious attention of the inspectors to what can be done, whether he will satisfy himself that there are sufficient inspectors, and, if there are, whether he will call their serious attention to the fact that many mine-owners have, by their own action, adopted measures for the prevention of accidents; and, further, whether he will bring whatever pressure is possible on the inspectors to remedy the very serious state of affairs which now exists?
§ Mr. WATT
I want to call the attention of the Home Office to a grievance we nave in Scotland in relation to the appointment of Commissions to inquire Into various subjects. In the appointment of these Commissions Scottish labour and 1325 women have been entirely ignored. There have been five Commissions appointed within recent times, and on each of these five occasions the labour interests of Scotland and Scottish women have not received representation. These bodies in Scotland represented to the Scottish Secretary that they ought to have representation on some of these Committees. I presume the Scottish Secretary represented the matter to the Home Office, and, if so, the Home Office have entirely ignored the representation. I am desirous that in any future Commissions which they appoint they will see that satisfactory representation of Scotland is given, and that that country is not ignored.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
In regard to the last point, I can assure my hon. Friend that we will he very glad to consider the representation of Scotland on any of these Commissions. We have an exceedingly difficult task to perform in the appointment of Commissions. We desire to have everybody represented satisfactorily. Personally, I consider that the matter to which my hon. Friend has called attention is certainly one to bear in mind. As to the question asked by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Roch), I certainly did not mean to say that the fact that there is a Commission pending on the subject of mines will in any way interfere with any attempts for the betterment of the conditions in mines even while the Commission is sitting.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
If there are any recommendations which can be made with a view to the reduction of accidents, even while the Commission is sitting, they will be made.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The hon. Member seemed to be under a misapprehension in regard to the desire for an extension of the Workmen's Compensation Act. We who sit on the Labour Benches wish a further extension, and I think the observations of the hon. Member deserves an answer. It is not true, as shown by the Returns, that old men are refused employment because of the operation of the Work men's Compensation Act. It is true that after men turn the corner of forty or forty-five years of age they are frequently 1326 refused work, and younger men are preferred for reasons altogether apart from the working of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The feeding of machinery, the tendency to driving men more in these days than was the case in former days, the very natural desire of the capitalists to exact the utmost that human nature can give in regard to industrial processes—all these and many similar causes have much to do with the preference extended to younger men; but it is not true that the Workmen's Compensation Act has in any sense operated prejudicially to the interests and claims of the older men, for the figures prove that it is not the older men but the younger men to whom accidents happen more frequently. The older men are given to perform their labour with greater care and caution, and perhaps with a greater capacity of preserving their lives and limbs on account of the larger experience they have had during their former days. It is true, then, that the younger men are more exposed to the risk and danger of accident. I put it to the House that if it were true that old men are kept unemployed because of the operation of the Workmen's Compensation Act, that would be a strong reason for further Home Office action, and not for staying the hand of the Home Office at all. It is universally admitted that in principle compensation for injuries is a right and proper thing, and the last Return issued upon this matter shows that a total sum of £2,080,000 was paid in a year to the injured workers of this country. If employers of labour were to be so unfair as to keep old men out of work because of the payment of that sum in compensation—a payment which I say is a charge upon the industry, and in no sense taken directly out of the profits of the employers in the trade—if employers of labour were so unfair as to keep old men in a state of unemployment and often consequently in a state of starvation, that would be a strong reason for further law and further administrative action. I trust, therefore, that the Home Office will in no sense be deterred from further administrative action through fear of prejudicing the interests of old men.
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.