§ With respect to boys, girls, and women employed above ground, in connection with any mine, the following provisions shall have effect:—
- (1) No boy or girl under the age of thirteen years shall be so employed, unless lawfully so employed before the passing of this Act:
- (2) No boy or girl of or above the age of thirteen years and no woman shall be so employed for more than fifty-four hours in any one week or more than ten hours in any one day:
- (3) No boy, girl, or woman shall be so employed between the hours of nine at night and five on the following morning, nor on Sunday, nor after two o'clock on Saturday afternoon:
- (4) There shall be allowed an interval of not less than twelve hours between the termination of employment on one day, and the commencement of the next employment:
- (5) A week shall be deemed to begin at midnight on Saturday night and to end at midnight on the succeeding Saturday night:
- (6) No boy, girl, or woman shall be employed continuously for more than five hours, without an interval of at least half an hour for a meal, nor for more than eight hours on any one day, without an interval or intervals for meals amounting altogether to not less than one hour and a-half:
- (7) No boy, girl, or woman shall be employed in moving railway wagons:
- (8) No girl or woman other than those employed on or before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and eleven, shall be permitted to be employed above ground on any mine: Provided always that this Section shall not apply to any woman who is engaged in the cleaning of colliery offices or for any other like purpose.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I beg to propose, in paragraph (1), to leave out the word "passing," and to insert instead thereof the words "coming into operation."
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Masterman)
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman examines this Amendment he will see that it belongs to a class which he was good enough to withdraw under this Bill rather than to the class which we have accepted. There is no reason why, if we think the higher age is suitable, more children should be taken on at the lower age after the passing of the Act.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed: At end of paragraph (7) add the words "or in lifting, carrying, or moving anything so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to the boy, girl, or woman."—[Mr. Masterman.]
§ Viscount WOLMER
I rise to oppose this Amendment, with the object of ascertaining why it is proposed to insert it. It is an important matter, and we have not got a word of explanation about it. As the Amendment reads on the Paper no objection could be taken to it, but we want to know what is involved in those words. Of course, no one wants boys, girls, or women to do any work which is going to injure them, but we cannot help feeling that the object of the Amendment is to put an end to the work known as tub-shoving, which is carried on by pit-brow girls.
§ Viscount WOLMER
If we can have an assurance on this point we shall be satisfied. What we want to be assured about is that this work, which women have done for fifty years past, shall not be interfered with. As long as this work, which they do without injury to themselves, is not interfered with we have no objection to additional safeguards which may be put in, but the wording proposed to be inserted is extremely vague. If there is any class of work done by women which is injurious to their health, what is it? If there is not, then what is the use of this Amendment? What class of work is it intended to put an end to? We have got absolute proof here in the testimony of doctors that tub-shoving is not injurious to women's health. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I should like to point out to this House that part of the work carried on by pit-brow girls in nearly 1236 every case includes tub-shoving, and if we get the testimony of the doctors that the work carried on by pit-brow girls is in no way injurious to health that includes the statement that the work of tub-shoving is in no way injurious to health. Dr. T. A. Angior, of Wigan, who has a large colliery workpeople practice extending over twenty-five years, says:—I have been surgeon to four separate collieries for over twenty-five years, and I do not remember even being called upon to treat a pit-brow woman for strain, or any internal complication or complaint peculiar to women, the outcome of their work.Dr. Cooke, of Aspull, with over thirty years' experience in a purely colliery district, says:—With reference to the employment of women at the pit-brow, I may say I. have had an experience amongst them of over thirty years, and consequently have had every opportunity of becoming acquainted not only with their work, and the conditions appertaining thereto, but also with their home life and surroundings. Physically they are above the average. Their children are strong and healthy, much more so than those of women who have spent their young days in factory or mill. It is light work, with little or no lifting, or any movement likely to be injurious to them. Some few of them push tubs, but as these are on small iron plates, and the muscular effort required is by the shoulders and arms, there is little or no risk of internal strain: in fact, looking back, all the years I have been amongst them I cannot remember any such case.We have many testimonies of that nature and I ask the Under-Secretary what class of work this Amendment is going to put an end to—what particular type of work is it designed to stop? If he will be kind enough to explain that to the House, then perhaps we will have an opportunity of seeing whether it is desirable that the work should be put an end to. I think practically all disinterested authorities who have had an opportunity of examining women who are engaged in tub-shoving are unanimously of opinion that it is not deleterious to their health. Therefore we shall be extremely obliged to the Under-Secretary if he will give us an undertaking that there is no intention to do away with this work which women have been doing for the last fifty years, without any injury to their health, and which has been of very great assistance to them in earning their livelihood.
§ Mr. SWIFT
I join with my Noble Friend in asking the Under-Secretary of State for some explanation of the meaning of the Amendment he has just moved. This Bill is a safety Bill, and Members on this side of the House, along with hon. Members below the Gangway, have striven from the beginning to incorporate into the Clauses safety in the mines, and certainly we are not one whit less anxious to protect the limbs of women and children than 1237 we are to protect the limbs of men. If I thought this Amendment was one which made for the safety of those who are engaged in working at the pit-brow, I would cheerfully vote for it; but I am very much afraid that while this Amendment is ostensibly framed to meet some danger, it is in reality a restriction upon the employment of women, and is framed with the object of lessening that employment, although it may not really be harmful to them. It is not unimportant to remember how this Amendment came on to the Paper before the House. It was suggested in the original Bill; it was not suggested in Grand Committee.
§ Mr. SWIFT
I apologise if I am wrong, but I searched and found no reference to it in Committee, but if the hon. Gentleman tells me that it was mentioned in Committee, I accept his statement. At any rate, in Committee a Clause was inserted in the Bill prohibiting altogether the employment of women at the pit-brow. What followed? Instantly there was a strenuous agitation started in those parts of the country where these women are employed. Many of them came from Lancashire to interview the then Home Secretary, with the Under-Secretary, on the matter, When they were before him, he naturally and properly gave way and undertook for the Government that the Clause should be taken out of the Bill. Directly that undertaking had been given, those who were agitating on the other side came to see the Home Secretary, and then there was an undertaking given that this Amendment should be put into the Bill. What does this Amendment mean? The Amendment is couched in language which of itself nobody can object to, but the position of this Amendment is this: that whilst it is couched in language which nobody can object to, it is an Amendment put forward for the purpose of meeting a danger which is not a real danger, which is a purely imaginary danger, invented and discussed by those who object to women working at all at the pit-brow. The real defect of this Amendment, if it is carried by this House, will be greatly to restrict the employment of women at the pit-brow. As my Noble Friend has stated, the employment of women at the pit-brow is of a two-fold character. There is that part of it which consists of working the coal screens, and there is that part of it in which a smaller 1238 number of women are engaged in work which consists in manipulating the tubs. Now, it is quite clear on the testimony of medical men, and of ladies who have been engaged in hospital work for many years past, that the manipulating of tubs is not a danger likely to cause physical injury to women engaged in that work. My Noble Friend has read to the House two statements by medical men. I have also a statement made by the matron of a hospital in Wigan to the same effect, that during twenty-five years she has never known a case of internal strain arising from work of this character.
I challenge hon. Members below the Gangway, who are very familiar with this class of work, and many of whom have worked at the mines where women are employed, to say that there is real danger to the women engaged at those mines of injury from the work which is known as tub-shoving. As we know, there have been many reasons against the employment of women at all at the pit-brow. Danger to the women is one of the reasons which have been urged, and which I think is not true, in face of the evidence now before the House. It has been suggested that it is unsuitable work for women, because it keeps them engaged amongst coal, which is dirty; and it has also been said that it is unsuitable for women because it introduces them into an atmosphere where they meet with immoral surroundings, or hear bad language. As regards the question of healthiness, I think the work at the pit-brow is as healthy as working in the factory or laundry. So far as regards the question of morality, the testimony of everybody who works among these women and knows anything of them is that they are quite as decent and as moral a lot of women as are to be found in any other walk of life. As to the question of bad language which they may hear, I would remind the House that that is the fault of the men who use the bad language, and not the fault of the women who hear it. I would remind the House that these women who work at the pit-brow are working with their own husbands, brothers, sweethearts, and fathers, who are the men with whom they mix in their daily life, and it does seem to me the poorest reason in the world to suggest that they should not be allowed to earn their bread at the pit-brow because they might hear bad language there. Before the Royal Commission on Mines a question was put to Mr. Smillie—who has always taken a very great interest in 1239 opposing the women in this matter—by one of His Majesty's inspectors. It was pointed out by the inspector that if the women did hear filthy language as was suggested that that was the fault of the men and not the fault of the women.
There is one other objection which has been made to the employment of women at the pit-brow, and it is the objection, I think, which finds the most support from hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite. It is said that their labour is cheap labour. I dispute that proposition. It is not cheap labour when you compare it with the class who would do the work if the women and girls were not doing it. It is not cheap labour, as you put it in antagonism to the boy labour which would take its place if you were to abolish the women and girls. It does not seem to me that it is any good reason for taking away women work to say, that it is cheap labour if the work is otherwise suitable for her. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in the organisations which they control, and which are so powerful should have found a better way than that. If it is cheap labour, I suggest, increase the rate of wages, rather than abolish the occupation of the women. This Amendment, which I believe is introduced for the purpose of getting rid of the employment of women at the pit-brow, is too vague in its character to do anything at all, except to frighten everybody from employing women. The words of the Amendment are, that no woman, or boy, or girl shall be employed in carrying anything which is likely to cause them any injury. When is it to be determined that the likelihood of causing injury has arisen? If it is to be determined beforehand, the only result of the determination must be to stop women being employed at all. If it is to be determined afterwards, is the mere fact that an injury has happened to show that it was likely to happen, and is the manager who has employed women in a business which has been going on for years, and in which nobody anticipated that injury was likely to happen, to be punished because an accident has unfortunately been realised. I do submit, on the testimony which is now before the House, and I invite hon. Memoers opposite who worked at mines where women were employed to give their own experiences on the point, I do submit that this work of women at the pit-brow is not dangerous, and is not unsuitable for them, and that it is not an occupation 1240 which, in these days, this House ought to stop. I am old-fashioned enough to believe with some people that women ought not to work at all. I think that the proper sphere of woman's activity is her home. I think that her highest destiny in life is to keep house and be a joyful mother of children; but although I hold those views I recognise that in the present state of society you cannot live up to that ideal. I realise that over six million women every day of the week have got to go out to earn their daily bread, and whilst that state of affairs exists, I do suggest that this House has no right whatever to take away from them the opportunity of what is an honest, honourable, and healthy employment.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has worked off an eloquent speech somewhat prematurely, and I very much hope my hon. Friends below the Gangway will not be drawn by his appeal at this stage into giving what he calls their experiences with regard to women who are working at the pit-brow. In its proper time and place on the next Amendment which stands in my name I shall be very pleased to explain the Government attitude in the matter. The only thing I say now is this, that however excellent the arguments of the hon. Gentleman may be, his history is somewhat at fault, because, so far from pressure being brought on the Government to move this or the next Amendment, the Government attitude has not altered in the slightest degree from the attitude as it was stated by me in Grand Committee. The Amendment which forbade the future employment of women at the pit-brow was opposed by me in the name of the Government, and with the promise to the Committee that if they refused it there should be some attempt to give women some safeguard against injury to health through the using of too heavy work. That was stated in the Committee, and it has been stated to the representatives on both sides. The Government has made no kind of alteration during all these six months, as those who know and as the Members of the Committee will agree. The reason why I did not explain this Amendment when I moved it was, because I never dreamt there was anything controversial in it. I thought it would be accepted by every sane man in this House who recognised that this was a health Bill as well as a safety Bill. The question whether women shall be employed 1241 at the pit-brow is a much larger and quite separate question. There, I agree, there are strong differences of opinion, and I think the sooner we get to that controversy the better.
The hon. Gentleman seems to think we are proposing something new in legislation in this Amendment, and he asks how it would work and how it would be carried out. Is he aware that these words are taken straight and bodily from existing law, the Employment of Children Act of 1903, and that Act applied to the children who are working in the pit-brow as well as to the women, and that it has worked for eight years without any complaint, except certain complaints which have been voiced by the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord Henry Bentinck), that the Clause is not drastic enough in dealing with injuries through the lifting of weights. We are merely applying the same provisions and terms and the same safeguards as are in the Employment of Children Act to-day. There is no question of whether tubs may be lifted, or whether tubs may be moved, or of whether tubs may be deflected. It is not laid down as a decision by Home Office regulation, it is laid down as a decision in a Court of Law, and the only decision a Court of Law has to give is on a point of fact, namely, as to whether this particular work, if it is challenged in a Court of Law, is likely to cause the woman injury. I have not the slightest doubt, whatever may be said as to the general practice in Lancashire, to which I am going to refer on the real Amendment, that there have been cases in the past, and there might be cases in the future, where in the various parts of the country in which women are engaged in work, and in fact such cases have been brought before us, women are engaged in doing work which they ought not to do from the point of view of health. This Amendment is in order to give a safeguard to women which we have already given to children, and it is one which cannot be used arbitrarily or capriciously, because every single case has to be decided by a Court of Law. We propose a mild and moderate measure of protection, and one which I thought would command the unanimous support of the House.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I have talked with the members of the Miners' Association of Great Britain as to this Amendment, and I can assure the House, and especially hon. Members on this side, where there 1242 appears to be some idea of opposing it, that the members of the association are entirely in favour of it. They consider that such provisions as this, which have been proposed by the Under-Secretary, are very necessary and quite proper. I would also draw the attention of my hon. Friends to the fact that the Under-Secretary proposes to withdraw in the next Amendment the obnoxious Sub-section to which we all object. I think if we confine ourselves to supporting the Under-Secretary on this particular Amendment, and then supporting him on the next Amendment that we shall be carrying out all that the mining industry want.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The restriction was introduced into the Bill by an Amendment which I moved in Committee. I do not wish now to enter into a discussion of the much wider question of the employment of women, but to deal with one particular point, namely, that of tub-shoving. It is all very well to say that the shoving of tubs is not an injurious occupation, but if the Noble Lord were in South Wales, where the tubs are 25 cwt., and where it takes two women to move them, by putting the lower part of their backs against them, would he say that is a proper occupation for women?
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I am not in a position to say as to the strain, but I would like to lay it down as a general principle that the moving of tubs by women is an unsuitable occupation. The Amendment which is now moved is a flabby, useless sort of Amendment, which means nothing. What does the Amendment mean? It says likely to cause injury to the boy or girl or woman. That means that you cannot, lay down any general rule, but that it is to be in accordance with the individual capacity of each boy and girl and woman. Thus it serves no useful purpose and has no legislative effect whatever. In order that there should be no doubt, I propose to move as an Amendment, after the word "thing," to insert the words "or tub." There is no other point raised by this Amendment except the moving of tubs. When this question was discussed in Lancashire it was said that this is a restrictive Amendment which would prevent women moving tubs. I say that the moving of tubs is unsuitable, and therefore I propose to insert after the word "thing" the words "or tubs."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That would limit the meaning of the word "thing." It would mean something in the nature of a tub, and it would exclude everything else except tubs or things in the nature of tubs.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I beg to move in the proposed Amendment, after the word "any," to insert the words "tub or."
§ Mr. W. E. HARVEY
(who was very indistinctly heard): I beg to second the Amendment. I do not know whether the Noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer) is acquainted with pit life, or whether he has gone on to the pit-brow. He asks whether there have been any accidents. I know men who have met with accidents and strain in doing this work. Let hon. Members think for one moment of women handling tubs in South Wales, where they run from one to two tons in weight; and then think if they would like any of their female relations to do this kind of work. My hon. Friend says that he could not move the tubs himself. It is well that we should bring the matter down to practical knowledge. There have been false representations made. It has been said that we want to remove the woman who at present work on the pit-brow, and that we are going to throw out of work immediately three or four thousand women. Nothing of the kind. What we are saying is that from a certain date no more women shall be engaged to work on the pit-brow, but that the women who are now there shall work out their term. The real reason for the retention of women on the pit-bank is cheap labour, pure and simple. In Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and the North of England, where similar work is being done, it is done without women at all. If that is not a proof that the reason for their retention is cheap labour, let me give the Noble Lord another fact. What are these women paid on the pit-bank? They get 1s. 9d. or 2s. a day for work which is paid for in other counties at the rate of from 3s. 6d. to 5s. a day. The Lancashire coal-owners want to keep the girls so that they may have this cheap labour. We say that the time has come when, at any rate, if they are to be kept on the pit-bank, they shall not be compelled to shove these tubs or to work at this calling, because we believe it is detrimental to them at their time of 1244 life, and becomes more detrimental later on. I hope that the House will protect these women from this laborious work.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Once more I would ask the House to keep, if possible, to the Amendment, and not go into the discussion of the general question of the employment of women on the pit-brow. The Amendment of the hon. Baronet is a retrograde proposal which, so far from doing what he desires, would very greatly limit the operation of my Amendment. It is not only the question of tubs that we want to deal with; there is also the question of lifting heavy weights, which, perhaps, applies more to children than to women—such work, for instance, as the loading of railway wagons. If the hon. Baronet's Amendment were carried, the interpretation of the Clause in a Court of Law would probably be that suggested by Mr. Speaker, namely, that the word "thing" would mean something corresponding to a tub. We do not want it limited in that way, and I would ask the hon. Baronet to withdraw his Amendment. It is not true to say that a general rule cannot be laid down on this subject. The Clause would involve a general prohibition of heavy weights being used by women and children, and it is the violation of that provision that would have to be challenged in a Court of Law.
§ Mr. BRACE
I would appeal to the hon. Baronet to withdraw his Amendment. I think the interpretation given from the Chair is correct, and that if the proposed words were incorporated they would be limiting words. However valueless the present words may be, the new words would make them less valuable than they are. If the hon. Baronet goes to a Division I shall vote against him, because I believe the words to be unwarrantable, unnecessary, weakening, and limiting.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I think the Under-Secretary must be satisfied by now that his Amendment will, at any rate, cause very great danger to the employment of women on the pit-brow. It is perfectly evident from the violent prejudice which exists on this question that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will press this Amendment for all it is worth, so as to exclude women from employment on the pit-brow altogether. As they put it, it is cheap labour. It is the 1245 right of these women to support themselves that they are really against. The whole of this agitation against the pit-brow women moves me to indignation in a way that very few public questions do. It is an act of the most complete class selfishness, and absolutely nothing else. It is made infinitely worse by the thin, I had almost said the hypocritical, veneer of care for the women's interest. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] The evidence is overwhelming that the work these women do in no way interferes with their health. The doctors are unanimous on that point. Not a, single case has been brought forward to show that any woman has ever been injured by this work, and yet hon. Members tell the House that they are anxious for the interests of women. Nothing of the kind. They care for the interests of their class. I remember hearing the hon. Member for Derbyshire make very much the same sort of speech on the Third Reading of the Mines (Eight Hours) Bill, when he finished with an appeal in reference to the health of miners, absolutely disregarding the whole of the evidence and the findings of the Royal Commission on that head. Since that speech my appreciation of his testimony on health matters in connection with this industry has very much lessened.
I recognise that the Under-Secretary does not wish to stop the legitimate work of women on the pit-brow, but if after all this agitation he inserts in an Act of Parliament a proposal such as this, is it not perfectly certain that it will be made use of by those who desire to stop women doing this work? And will not mine managers be exposed to this consideration: they will say, "If we employ women on the pit-brow to do work which we from experience know to be perfectly healthy, but which hon. Members opposite wish to stop them from doing, we shall be exposed to prosecution; if we employ men we shall not be so exposed." The result will be that they will certainly say that as between these two kinds of labour they will give the preference to men's labour. Therefore, though the words may be as meaningless and as unimportant as the hon. Baronet thinks them, their effect must be to interfere with women's labour. Before a Clause of this character is put into an Act of Parliament surely the House of Commons ought to be satisfied that there is a primâ facie case for it, and that there is an amount of evidence which ought to be considered showing that the work on the pit-brow has injured women 1246 in the past and is likely to injure them in the future. We have not had a single tittle of evidence brought forward. I do not know what took place in Grand Committee, but I am told by those who were present that no such evidence was adduced there. Under these circumstances, I earnestly appeal to the Government not to press this Amendment. I can understand that from a Parliamentary point of view it may be desirable to throw some bait to appease the hungry wolves below the Gangway, but except for that purpose I cannot see any advantage in this Amendment. If the Government press it, I hope my hon. Friends will divide against it. I shall certainly support them.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
The Under-Secretary is surprised at the opposition to his Amendment, but from his own speech we find that he wishes to bring the occupation of these women into a Court of Law. What we wish to know is, where are the great evils arising from the occupation now being carried on which necessitate his making provision to bring that occupation before the Courts? He tells us that this is not merely a safety Act; it is also a health Act. But that is no reason why we should not take care to prevent its provisions being misused. It certainly seems possible that this Clause may be twisted or misused so as to restrict work which is not unhealthy. If it were the case that this labour is such a great evil, we should see some evidence of it. Those who live in Lancashire would see the twisted bodies and the cases of weakness arising from it. I am old enough to remember when child labour in Lancashire factories produced men with twisted and crippled limbs. There was the evidence before our eyes, and necessary legislation was passed to deal with the case. Where are the cases before our eyes to induce us to interfere with this class of labour? As to the sorting on screens, I asked a women's deputation what happened if there were very large pieces of stone, and I was told that if one woman could not lift them, two would do so, or the pieces would be worked to the side. The tubs, too, go on runners. I am speaking about Lancashire. In Wales the case may be different. I have never heard of any case of strain or injury arising from this work amongst women. Who is to interpret these words? There is no alternative to the harassing of the employment. If the women are not properly paid it would not be difficult for the unions to see that the 1247 payment was brought up to a proper standard. If that is the only objection, surely the men and women, by joining together could bring about a proper basis of payment. It has been said that the employers are only taking the thing up because it means cheap labour. Well, you have the means of dealing with the employer. I believe you would have public opinion upon your side. As to the unhealthiness of this work, I know of one case where a woman was very unhealthy indeed working in a factory. She went to this pit work, and she is now a stout, ruddy, and evidently healthy mother of four children. What is more she is able to feed them herself; and unfortunately it is not every female factory operative who is able to do that. I really do hope the Under-Secretary will reconsider the necessity of adding the words proposed to this Clause.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
I should have thought every one in the House would have been willing to accept the Amendment of the Government. First of all, in respect of those friends of mine who believe with me that no case has been made out for such substantial interference with the work of women. I am one of those included among the general body of wolves below the Gangway. On this occasion, however, I am standing apart; I am not running with the pack. The words have been very clearly read out by the Under-Secretary. They simply ask that assurance shall be made doubly sure, and that no woman, boy, or girl, shall be employed in lifting, carrying, or moving anything so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to that boy, girl, or woman. Our case, which I think is a tremendously strong one, is that the history of the last quarter of a century furnishes hardly any case at all of strain or injury, or of very serious injury. If we have, as I believe, an overwhelming case, what possible reason is there to object to these women's work? None of us have ever said that the conditions were ideal. If people went about pits and saw as we do see—those of us who are miners' agents, and who even when this House is sitting have to do a good deal of work about the pits—a good deal of lifting of weights that might very well be left to stronger people, I think they would agree upon the necessity of an Amendment such as this. I do not think there is any reason at all for the fears that have been stated by the hon. Members opposite.
1248 After all, the first responsibility will rest upon the managers of the mine. Speaking broadly, I know many hundreds of managers, and I believe colliery managers to be as decent and humane a body of men as the country contains. When they have a definite injunction to see to it that no boy, girl, or woman is employed in moving these weights or in lifting any of those heavy things, or shall do what is likely to cause injury to themselves, I feel absolutely convinced that the managers will err on the right side, and will see to it that stronger people are employed upon that particular class of labour. Even if they fall short of their duty, which is not impossible, then the inspectors will see what is going on. Armed with the authority of an Act of Parliament they will take means to secure that the women, girls, or boys are not injured in their health. Personally, it seems to me that these words strongly favour our desire that women and girls' labour shall be continued, and yet that this labour shall be continued under the very best possible conditions. I certainly do hope my Friends who desire to continue this labour will come to the assistance of the Government.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down. On the face of it I do not think that there is interference in the words of this Amendment. It is their innocence that makes me rather suspicious. Why, if these words are innocent, is the word "man" not included after the word "women"? It appears to me that this Amendment of the Under-Secretary is a plain dodge to encourage the course of discriminating between women's labour and men's labour. It is a protecting Amendment in the interests of a class. Why, if health is concerned, should men not be included as well as women? Nobody wants to do anything or to move anything so heavy as to cause injury to men. I think the Home Secretary has made that point perfectly clear. We must regard this Amendment as a dodge to discriminate between man's labour and women's labour. We are not satisfied.
§ Mr. HARMOOD-BANNER
I should not have risen had it not been for what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir G. Toulmin) in suggesting that this Clause was drawn in the interests of the employers. I would like to assure him at once that the employers are thoroughly in favour of the Amendment now suggested by the Under-Secretary. 1249 The whole reason for our objecting to Clause 8 is because we do not object to this Amendment. We are thoroughly agreed that women should be included, but only on the ground that they carry on their business in a safe way, and one that is not injurious to the health. The hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield talked about carrying and lifting. I do not know whether he would suggest that women lift and carry tubs—rather heavy things for women to carry?
§ Mr. HARMOOD-BANNER
If you go down to a colliery, at the outside you will not see 1 per cent. of women touching the tubs. If they do touch them the tubs are on an incline, going downhill. That is my experience. I happened to be at one of the collieries that I am interested in last week, and I took the trouble to look, and I did not see a single woman moving a tub. As a mater of fact, we welcome this Clause. We quite consider that there are big pieces of coal which we ought to be very glad to see lifted by men, and not by women or by girls. I should not like to lift some of these large pieces of coal myself, however stalwart I might happen to be. We desire the protection of women working at the pit-brow. We welcome it, and every one of the colliery proprietors that I know in the House will go into the Lobby with the Under-Secretary and vote in favour of this Clause, which is absolutely necessary for the protection of women.
It seems to me there ought to be very little difficulty in coming to a decision upon this point after what has already been stated. Both the coal-owners' representatives and the workmen's representatives are agreed. The House is agreed too. Under these circumstances it seems to me we ought to have no difficulty in coming to an immediate judgment. When we come to the next Amendment I am not sure that there will be the same agreement. I can assure the hon. Gentleman who has spoken of this Amendment as a dodge, that there is no dodge. I do not know whether the term "dodge" is a Parliamentary expression, or not; at all events we are perfectly clear and perfectly honest in supporting the Amendment which stands in the name of the Government. We shall have to resist their influence and their labours on the next Amendment. Both sides are agreed. 1250 This Bill is mostly an agreed Bill from beginning to end between the coal-owners on the one hand, and the workmen's representatives on the other. That being the case, I certainly appeal to the House to come to an immediate judgment, so that we may not fritter away the time that we want to discuss more important questions.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
As one who was present at the Grand Committee and took a considerable interest in what was done there on this question, I should like to say a few words. I do not quite agree with the statement of the Under-Secretary as to what took place. There was no Amendment such as this so far as I remember on the Paper in the Committee. What took place was that the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield, moved an Amendment depriving women of their occupation at the pit-brow. There was a considerable discussion on it. It was very evident that the Division would be close, and as a matter of fact the hon. Baronet's Amendment was carried by one or two votes.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Under-Secretary opposed the Amendment of the hon. Baronet. He got up and said, that if the Amendment was carried he would be obliged on the Report stage to move a deleting Amendment. In making that statement, so far as I remember, he appealed to his own side of the House for support. He said he would have to put in words of this kind. This was the sop that was thrown to the wolves below the Gangway in order, if possible, to buy off their opposition. The hon. Gentleman did not buy off the opposition, because we divided in the Committee. The Under-Secretary no doubt was bound to put in these words, because he had stated in the Committee that he was going to do so. But the idea of this Amendment is quite new. Apprehensions were not expressed for the safety of women. My hon. Friend beside me never brought forward an Amendment of this sort, nor was any brought forward by the men's representatives.
All these things have occurred at the last moment. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds made an eloquent speech at the Committee. He said that no work was lighter than the work which these women were doing. If that is so, what is the necessity for this Amendment? Either the words have a meaning or they 1251 have not. What I believe would be the result of this is that an inspector will go down to a mine and say to the manager, "You are employing women to push tubs." Why it should be more dangerous for one woman to push a tub than two women I cannot conceive, but the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield seems to consider it so. The inspector will say: "The work is too heavy for these women; if you continue to employ them I shall bring an action against you in a Court of Law." Every one in this House knows the dread that every Englishman has of appearing in a Court of Law. He has to employ gentlemen learned in the law—solicitors—he is mulcted in costs, and then he is very doubtful, after all his trouble, as to what the decision will be. What will a mine manager, being a human being, do? He will say to himself: "I can avoid this by paying a little more and employing men. I will get rid of the women and employ men." That is really the object of this Amendment; that is really what is at the bottom of it. That was stated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Derby. The woman gets 1s. 9d. a day, and the men 3s. 6d.; therefore, some desire to do away with the women in order to employ the men. One has only got to read the evidence of the clergy and doctors in the district to see that there is no work more healthy and less likely to do injury to women than this particular work. I do not blame the Under-Secretary. He was in a very difficult position. He had hoped to get the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield to withdraw; not a very easy task to perform, and therefore he made this proposal. The hon. Member at once withdrew, and, therefore, the Under - Secretary is absolved from his undertaking. I ask him if he is desirous of giving these women a chance of continuing their lawful and healthy occupation? If he is, let him withdraw this Amendment, and let us proceed to the next. This Amendment was not mooted by anyone in the Committee, or anyone else until the idea occurred to the hon. Member for Mansfield. The only meaning of this Amendment is that men are to make it difficult for these women to be employed.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
I think there is not the slightest doubt but that the object of this Amendment is to cut out women from the work they do at the pit-brow. It is extremely hard that these 1252 women should be knocked out of their employment by a move of this kind. If I remember rightly the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Home Office had an Amendment on the Paper to cut out Sub-section (8) of the Clause, but that appears to have been withdrawn. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
If I am allowed to do so I shall move it after this Amendment is disposed of. It is the next Amendment.
§ Mr. HUNT
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for the mistake. But if this Amendment is passed the inspectors will be able to come round and practically prevent the pit-brow women from working. The hon. Member for East Denbighshire said this occupation was very dangerous to women, but that he would allow the healthy women now employed to continue their occupation. Surely if this occupation is dangerous to women it ought to be stopped at once. I think that the real thing at the bottom of all this is trade union tyranny. The men want to prevent the women from working because they want to keep this particular class of work for the older men who cannot do a full day's work down in the pits. That was-perfectly clearly stated by Mr. Smillie, the president of the Miners' Federation, at Southport. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite to pretend that is not what is intended, but when you have the president of the Miners' Federation definitely making this statement it shows what is the real object. He said, "We are not ashamed to say that we want to keep women off the pit bank from this laborious and unhealthy employment in order that many of their elderly men might find employment when they were no longer able to do their full work underground." That was the view of the Miners Federation, and that is the real reason why hon. Gentlemen opposite want to prevent these women from working at the pit-brow. That is at the bottom of the whole of it. There is plenty of evidence from doctors and other women (laughter). Well, there are women doctors as well as men doctors, and there is plenty of evidence to show that this is a more healthy occupation than certain work in shops and factories. In some cases doctors have absolutely told women to go and work at the pit-brow because it is so much healthier than work in a factory or a shop. When hon. Gentlemen try to show that women should not be employed at the work 1253 of tub-shoving they know perfectly well that it is only tub-shoving in a technical sense, and that the tub moves on wheels, and that all the woman has got to do is to give it a jerk to start it. The Under-Secretary said that what women have got to do was to influence Members of Parliament, but I think they have not succeeded here. If this Amendment was passed it would put an end to the powers of the inspectors to prevent these pit-brow women from working altogether, and the men who are at present the only people that have the right to vote are depriving women of being employed at what is admitted to be a healthy occupation. And are they justified in preventing these women from continuing at this work simply because they have got no vote, and have no power to influence the Government of the country. That seems to be an argument tremendously in favour of giving votes to women——
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That question does not arise, and the hon. Member is only repeating argument already used.
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (8).
I hope, after the somewhat prolonged discussion we have had it will be found that we have already covered a good deal of this ground. The question cannot be carried, I know, without people expressing their opinions, but I hope that may be done in as speedy a manner as possible, considering that most of the arguments have already been used and that we have some very important provisions still before us. In moving to omit this Subsection I should like to dissociate myself from the attitude and temper of mind displayed by the Noble Lord, which were strangely remote from the method by which this Bill was conducted with agreement on both sides. The question of whether it is the duty of the State to prevent any definite employment of women in any definite class of work has nothing whatever to do with the question whether trade unions want the places for men. More than that, in all these months in which this matter was before the House I made it my business to see a large number of deputations and to find out not only the sentiments of the miners' leaders in this House, but the sentiments of the miners themselves, and to go into the history of this industrial question, and all the inquiries I have made show me beyond the 1254 shadow of a doubt that this is not only a trade union question, but that among great masses of the community in the mining district there is a repugnance against the employment of women in any capacity in the mine, or on the top of the mine. The sentiment expressed by an hon. Gentleman upon the other side of the House is a very important sentiment when dealing with the mining villages, although perhaps an unfashionable sentiment at this time of day, that the true place of a woman is in the home. That is not only shown by statements such as I have just said, but it is actually shown by the whole history of woman labour in this connection. Woman labour has vanished from the great majority of the mining districts of this country and vanished without the prohibition that is extended by Statute against woman labour underground. And it has vanished not because of any illegal pressure on the part of the trade unions—I do not know what the pressure may have been in the home—but because the general sentiments of the mining district is against it. There are something over 6,000 women at present employed at the pit-heads of the mine. Of these 2,700 are employed in Scotland, 2,500 in South Lancashire, while in the whole of the rest of England there are less than 1,000. There are none in Northumberland and Durham, none in Yorkshire, and very few in Wales. I have not the slightest doubt that the conditions under which women worked in the past have had a great deal to do with this almost universal prohibition, not by law, but by public opinion.
In spite of all that, I am appealing to the House against the decision of the Committee, and I think I can make out a case. It is a very different thing to say on the one hand that public sentiment is against that occupation, and that whatever pressure public sentiment can place upon those engaged in that occupation should act against the employment of women, and on the other hand to command all the forces of the State in an Act of Parliament to stamp out a women's industry. If we once begin to stamp out women industry by the State, because we do not like that industry, or because those engaged in it were against it, then Parliament would be embarking upon an operation that my right hon. Friend and myself would be very loathe to carry forward. If a woman's industry is to be stamped out you would have to prove one of three contentions or all of them. First, either that the industry is so conducive of immorality 1255 as to become a scandal to public morals, and that that immorality and scandal cannot be rectified by any kind of regulations; or, secondly, that that industry and the effect of that industry upon the women engaged in it produces such a flagrantly bad result upon the public health that no regulation can change, and that, therefore it must be wiped out; or thirdly, although health and immorality in themselves might not be flagrant, yet the degradation of the workers was such, and the slow evil effect on the women was such, that it was condemned by the whole of public opinion in that district, and especially that the women would be only too glad to see it destroyed. It was the combination of those three elements in an intensified degree that led Parliament to prohibit the work of women underground, and I do not think any hon. Member of this House will ever rise to recommend the removal of that regulation unless the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) does it because he thinks factory legislation is a matter which does not apply equally to men and women. I submit to the House that in the conditions in which women's labour has survived at the pit-head, and in view of the continuing ameliorating conditions which have been introduced, it would be impossible to make good any one of those three conditions, and if that is so, I think we are right in asking Parliament not to stamp out this industry.
As to the question of morals, fortunately there is no need for me to say more than a sentence. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) and those who voted with him made it clear from the very beginning of their speeches that they brought no kind of charge of any worse standard of morality amongst pit girls and pit women than any other classes of the community. That is borne out by other testimonies in South Lancashire, not only from mine owners' and miners' representatives, but from ministers of religion in the district, who go so far as to say that the nature of the occupation, being mostly healthy open-air work, is in many respects better and the standard of morals is higher than in factory work. The only charge which can be brought against the work of pit-brow girls is that of injury in connection with the moving of heavy weights. If the House had refused to accept the Amendment which has just been passed, which was supported by the 1256 representatives of the owners as well as the representatives of the men, I think there might have been a case for the continuance of Sub-section (8). All the evidence advanced in Committee or in private letters to the newspapers as to women and girls being injured, show that there is much more danger in connection with young girls through the moving of heavy tubs or the lifting of heavy weights. That has now been forbidden by the Amendment we have adopted, and all the testimony we have been able to obtain is that this is a healthy and not an unhealthy occupation. Not only is it a healthy occupation for women, judging by the statistics, but in many respects it is healthier than the only alternatives offered to the women in those particular districts. In many cases weak and anæmic girls have been definitely sent by the doctors to the pit-brow to work in the open air instead of working in the factory where they might sustain injury to their health. I desire to thank the hon. Member for the Ince Division (Mr. Stephen Walsh) for the speech he has made on this subject, because he knows more about this question than any other hon. Member.
The next question I would ask is, whether the work is so degrading in character and so lowering to the general vital functions, as to make it necessary that the House should prohibit it. We have testimony to the contrary of all those familiar with the districts where these women work. We are not suggesting this course because we have been cajoled or persuaded by certain selected healthy pit-brow girls, nicely dressed up in white, who have presented an artificial case before the susceptible minds of my right hon. Friend and myself. Long before this question was raised I had occasion, on Home Office business, to visit this particular district in Lancashire, and without any knowledge that this question was going to be raised, I made an investigation into the life of the pit-brow girls. It was simply a chance investigation, but what I ascertained bears out the almost universal testimony of those who live and move in those districts. It is true that the miners of Northumberland and Durham are against the women working on the pit-brow, but it is not true that the miners in South Lancashire are against it. Where this work has survived, and where under the influence of public opinion there has been an ever-increasing amelioration of it which I hope will be further increased by this Bill, there the 1257 public sentiment is practically solid in favour of its continuance. It is not only solid, but Noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent these Lancashire districts are so impatient to get their speeches out to please their constitutents, who are at present only men, that they even bring them in on premature Amendments. I think, under these circumstances, we are only doing our duty in asking the House to reverse the decision of the Committee. It was a decision taken in a small Committee, and it was carried by only two votes, and although I am very reluctant to go against that decision, because, on the whole, I have loyally carried out the decisions of the Committee, in a case which opens a big question of principle and in which we are asked to establish prohibition in regard to a class unrepresented in this House, until the happy time that that representation takes place, I will not say in the House but in the election of Members to the House—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—I think we ought to follow the almost unanimous request of those living in the districts concerned who are most familiar with the conditions, and refuse to lay this prohibition on the pit-brow girls.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I very much regret that the Government have decided to override the decision of the Committee. It is true that it was a small Committee and it was a small majority, but at the instance of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield it was very fully considered, and we voted according to our judgment. We are now asked under different conditions to vote according to the judgment of the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary. On the Committee we were mainly a body of experts, but here at least the majority of those present are not experts, and do not understand this question. In the year 1887 I moved an Amendment having precisely the same object as the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield, and the whole of the Liberal party, under the guidance of the Members of the Opposition who sat on the Front Bench, supported my Amendment, and I do not think there was a single Member of the Liberal party who voted against it. And now for the first time, after a lapse of nearly twenty years, the Home Office, represented by the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary, choose to give the go-by, not merely to the action of the Committee upstairs, which carefully considered 1258 this question without the pressure of party Whips, but also to the deliberate action of the responsible Leaders of the Liberal party in 1887. I think that is little short of a scandal. I can assure the House that I am not actuated by any class consideration. I have carefully studied this question, and I am absolutely convinced that not only my action, but the action of my hon. Friends who sit around me is entirely influenced by humanitarian motives. It is too ridiculous to talk about trade union motives, because there are something like 1,000,000 men employed in and about mines, whereas the total number of women employed on pit-brows does not amount to more than 6,000. I think we may dismiss any such contention as that by simply stating that fact.
The Under-Secretary made the amazing assertion, which I should rather have looked for from some official representative of women's suffrage organisation, that this is a man-elected Parliament, and therefore we have no business whatever to deal with these matters, and we must wait until women have some control in the House of Commons. I do not yield even to the Under-Secretary in my desire to see women enjoy the franchise, but we have always proceeded in our legislation in the direction of keeping women out of employment in coal mines, and under certain conditions in factories, because we felt that so long as we are a man-elected Parliament we have to look after the interests of women as well as of men. So long as that state of things exist it is something astounding to hear members of the Government say that we are not competent to deal with this question. I look upon the Amendment which has just been passed by the House as absolutely fatuous and futile. It is a kind of doctor's prescription, saying it is a bad thing to do so and so, and we advise you not to do it. Nevertheless no effective means can be taken by the inspectors or by any persons employed in mines for checking the pushing of heavy waggons and the over-straining of women in that work. I quite agree that the most formidable argument is the strain upon women's health, bat that is not all.
The Under-Secretary gave away his case when he commenced an exordium which would have been more pertinent to moving the rejection of his own Amendment for the continuance of this class of work, because he told us that throughout the length and breadth of England, in the 1259 county of Durham, which I am proud to represent in this respect, and in the county of Northumberland, the whole of Yorkshire, and in a considerable portion of South Wales, public opinion regarded this work as degrading, and in those places it had been abolished. It is only in two dark and forgotten corners of the earth, Scotland and Lancashire, that this state of things survives, and there it is endemic and difficult to get rid of. We appeal to legislation to do that in Scotland and Lancashire which public opinion has done everywhere else. If the Under-Secretary admits that public opinion is against this state of things in other parts of the country, surely that is the strongest justification for legislation to complete the work in those two districts which public opinion has done elsewhere. I took the opportunity more than twenty years ago, and again recently, of inquiring into the condition of things; and it is not true to say this is not laborious work. I have seen women pushing tubs 13 cwts., and more than 13 cwts.—in fact, loaded tubs—up inclines. I will not venture to say how much they held, but I have seen, not only single women, but two women working together pushing these tubs; and, although no doctor would probably come forward and say that is injurious to that individual woman, still no rational man, no man of common sense, would contend it has not a tendency to impair women in the performance of their most sacred duties.
The same arguments used by the Under-Secretary to-day were used more than sixty years ago in the House of Commons by the coal-owners. I do not cast any aspersion upon the coal-owners to-day. I cordially agree that, not only the managers, but the coal-owners themselves are actuated by the highest motives, as the management of their mines testify; but at the same time in those days when it was sought to abolish women labour in the mines the coal-owners came forward and said, "They like it." When we tried to abolish boy labour in the mines, one of the most distinguished representatives of the Conservatives in the county of Durham said these little boys, who never saw the daylight during a large portion of the year except on Sundays, were like little lambs gambolling when they came out, so much did they enjoy, these boys of eight and six years of age, spending sixteen hours per day in the mines. My humanitarian feelings, although I am a lawyer, are 1260 moved, and profoundly moved, by the action of the Home Office in this matter. Even if the Amendment proved effective in protecting women from serious danger to health by the pushing of tubs, the labour is degrading. In former years field labour for women was a common thing. Public opinion has extinguished it. Many would say that is a healthy occupation, but it was regarded by public opinion as degrading. I admit it exists in some isolated districts, but female outdoor labour has now largely disappeared.
The Under-Secretary says he has been on an inspection, and seen what is going on. I speak of these women with the highest respect. I cast no reflection, nor can I cast any reflection, upon their morality, but I do say that to me, who has some surviving traces of chivalry in respect of women—the Under-Secretary may laugh, but, to my mind, it is not a matter to laugh at—it is to see these women come out from the pit-head with sordid garments, their hands and faces begrimed, and go back to their homes to administer to their children, a degradation to humanity at large, and for that reason, if I am the only person who records his vote against my hon. Friend's Amendment, I shall gladly record it. I feel a sense of very deep humiliation that the Liberal party, who twenty years ago, under not undistinguished men, when they sat on that bench and not on this, were led into the Lobby for the purpose of abolishing a labour which was denounced by every Liberal as being unseemly and unwarranted, and a blot on the civilisation of the country, should now be asked to vote in favour of its continuance. I do hope, even at this late period, my hon. Friend will reconsider the decision at which he has arrived. Let hon. Members remember this. We are not discharging these women. We are not robbing them of their living. All we say is that henceforth, from 1st January, 1911—I would be quite glad if he would substitute 1st January, 1912—when this Act comes into law, no woman shall be employed at the pit-brow. Some hon. Members may think we are doing women out of their employment. We are doing nothing of the kind. We are only endeavouring to carry to its logical issue that which public opinion has already declared throughout the great mining districts of this country, that it is repulsive to the high standard of civilisation which we hope obtains in this country that that class of women labour should any longer prevail.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I wish to support what the Under-Secretary says as regards the men in those districts where women labour prevails at the pit-brow not being anxious to stop such labour. In order to test the matter in South Staffordshire, I had a meeting of miners in a large room. Nearly every collier in that particular district was represented, and the women were also there. I put it to them about this particular Bill, and how women would be affected if this particular Clause was left in the Bill, and I asked whether the men, as would appear from some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite, were against the women workers. I can assure you the votes of the men at that meeting were that women should be allowed to work still. A speech was made which showed the reason the men wanted the women to work there was that there was no other work for the women to do, and the number of men in that particular part of the world, when it came to marrying, did not go round. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary, in order to keep the home and help to keep these girls they should do some work and earn something for their living. For that reason, the men desire to keep the women working at the pit-brow. I hope the House will back up this Amendment and allow the women to carry on the honourable work which keeps them in good health and helps to keep their families.
§ Mr. BRACE
It is only necessary for me to say two or three sentences after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Durham (Mr. Atherley-Jones). The main consideration which moves the miners in opposing the employment of women at the pit-brow is not, as has been suggested, a desire to clear them off the collieries so as to improve the wages of the men. The whole dominating thought which influenced the miners when they came to the conclusion to ask Parliament to abolish the employment of women in the collieries was the dominating thought which moved my hon. Friend to make his speech this afternoon. The sense of public opinion has largely settled this matter other than in the few places mentioned, and it would be a mistake to attempt to tell these women, if this Bill passes as it is at present constituted, and comes into operation in January, 1912, they will all have to leave their work. The Clause has been most carefully drafted by the Grand Committee to give no cause for grievance, and if hon. Members will turn to it they will see, 1262No girl or woman other than those employed on or before 1st January, 1911, shall be permitted to be employed above ground on any mine.It therefore leaves all the women now employed at the mines to be so employed. All the Clause does is to make the proviso that no additional women shall be engaged on the surface of the mines of this country. I do not want to put it higher than it is. I want the House to try and appreciate that the miners are the fathers and brothers of the vast majority of these women. After all, the miners are a great brotherhood. It is not so much a question of blood relationship as of the social or industrial connection which the Miners' Federation gives to us, whether we live in England or in Wales, and the decision of the majority was that it was not an economic necessity to have these women employed on the surface of the mines of this country. The fact that it is not an economic necessity is settled by their having left the vast majority of the coalfields of the Kingdom. I am not going to argue the question of morality. It is an insult to the girls and women to talk about it at all. They are a high moral body of people. What we say is, it is not the kind of work we would like our wives and sisters to do, and, inasmuch as we do not think it helps to ennoble the race, we think Parliament ought to make it a condition that, when all the women who are now employed on the surface of the mines of this country have finished, no women or girls shall be so employed. That is the sense in which the Miners' Federation approached this matter and carried a resolution asking Parliament to carry Clause (8) as it stands in the Bill.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
I hardly think the two hon. Gentlemen who have opposed the Under-Secretary have made out any case whatsoever, and I think they are rather inclined to confuse public opinion with the views of the Miners' Federation. The hon. Member certainly repeated what we know well, that the system has disappeared in Durham, and I by no means suggest I should like to reinstate it there, but the two hon. Gentlemen who have opposed the Amendment have, I think, in their speeches in this House, supported local option, and here we find a district in Lancashire, a highly respectable district, containing individuals who are perfectly well capable of looking after their own interests, who are good judges as to morality, as to 1263 questions of health, and as to public opinion in that district, supported by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. S. Walsh) in favour of continuing this labour, and all I can say, when the Miners' Federation comes forward and says, because partly through their influence they have removed this labour from other parts of the country, their tyranny is to be increased, and in the few districts where this labour still exists it is to be removed, is that I sincerely hope the House will support the Under-Secretary in the Amendment which he proposes. The Under-Secretary said he was very unwilling to override the decision of the Committee. That is a point which should not be lost sight of under any circumstances whatever, because after all, if a Committee means anything its decision should be regarded, but on this occasion it was a very small Committee, and there was only a majority of two. It was unfortunate that in a great many of our discussions a certain number of Members of this House who are not as interested in the mining industry as a great many are did not attend that Committee with the regularity we might desire, and consequently in a small Committee this Amendment was passed. I do hope the House will consider this Amendment on its merits. It is a very important one, and I think all those arguments which have been put forward about the degrading character of the work and the injury to the health of the women employed must absolutely fall to the ground. I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Derbyshire put his finger on the crux of the situation when he pointed out that the real question was that these women were drawing wages that ought to be given to trade unionists. I think that is the real kernel of the whole situation. All the evidence goes to show that this industry is in no way injurious to the health of the women, and I hope the House will, in this matter, support the Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. HERBERT CRAIG
I do not wish to trespass on the time of the House by prolonging the discussion of this Clause, but I would venture to appeal to the Home Secretary not to put on the Government Whips should a Division take place. I ask him to bear in mind that this Clause, be it good or bad, was carried in Committee exclusively by the votes of hon. Members who usually support the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no."] 1264 Well, almost certainly it was so carried, and I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to have, at least, this consideration for our feelings and not force us to vote against the Government Whips, especially as, after the speeches we heard in the early part of the afternoon from the other side of the House, he may rely in perfect security on the votes of the Noble Lords and hon. Members opposite to carry his Amendment. We do not oppose this Amendment on the ground of public morality, neither do we say that this kind of labour of women at the pit-brow is physically injurious to health. We know how, in the North-East of England enlightened public opinion long ago ceased to tolerate the employment of women at the pit-brow. We know also that women folk in the mining districts where women are not employed at the pit-brow are in the bulk better off and not worse off than women is those districts where this employment is open to them. I repeat my appeal to the Under-Secretary not, on this occasion, to let the Government Whips tell against us.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
My first words will be the expression of my sincere regret that I find myself opposed to colleagues with whom I have acted—in some cases for a quarter of a century, and in others for from ten to twenty years. Let me say at once to these colleagues of mine that there is not the slightest disagreement as to their motives. I am convinced that their motives are of the very highest, and that they do indeed desire what they conceive to be a raising of the social standard in the districts which this Bill especially concerns. But I think that they are mistaken in their views. I know the women in South-West Lancashire. I have known a good deal of them, because I was born and bred there, and have been connected with the mines for thirty-seven years, having worked in them for seventeen years, and having been on the pit-bank for thirteen years, and seen the work going on daily in scores of collieries. I think hon. Members are quite mistaken as to the effect of this work on the social status of the women themselves.
When they compare the economic conditions of the county to which I have referred they will see that those conditions are totally dissimilar to the conditions that obtain in South Wales and South-West Lancashire where this labour is mainly carried on. My hon. Friend the Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. Brace) stated 1265 that there were no economic necessities in Lancashire or in the other counties that did not exist in the various other mining districts. As a matter of fact, I do not think he has gone into the case at all. Let us see whether he is right or wrong. I have some figures here with which I shall have to trouble the House, although not at any length. The mining district of Glamorgan contains, roughly speaking, a population of 900 to the square mile. The mining districts of South-East and South-West Lancashire, where this work is carried on, contain a population of over 7,000 to the square mile. I have gone into the figures very closely. The mining districts in Derbyshire, Durham, and Northumberland have populations ranging from 500 to 900 to the square mile. The population of South-West Lancashire, in the lowest case is as 14 to 1 and in the highest case as 7½ to 1 compared with these other districts. If Members will direct their attention to the fact that in the portions of South-East and South-West Lancashire where this industry is carried on there is a population more congested than probably in any part of the world, with the exception of the thickly congested parts of New York, they will see that the economic necessities of Lancashire cannot be spoken of in the same way with those of other districts with which they have been compared.
The Under-Secretary has already put the three main points upon which opposition to this class of labour would be well grounded. If it could be proved that the work was so socially degrading, if it could be proved that it was physically injurious, if it could be proved that there was danger to morals, then on any one or indeed on all of those grounds this House would have a real claim to say that the work should be put an end to. It is all very well to appeal to sentiment like the hon. and learned Member for North-West Durham (Mr. Atherley Jones) did, and talk about women going home with begrimed hands. The hon. and learned Gentleman has a legal way of whittling down the meaning of a term. What is the meaning of that phrase? I take it it means that the women are carrying a condition of dirt or grime into their homes which must of necessity begrime everything with which they come into contact. Surely he knows very little of the condition of the home life of these women. I do not think he has ever seen them come away from the pit-banks of Lancashire. He says he has, but the hon. Gentleman and I have been together 1266 once or twice in Lancashire very near the pit-banks, but I do not think we saw any of the girls coming away from the pit-head. Suffice it to say from my close knowledge of these women, having seen them day after day for twenty years, going into their homes, knowing them in the home in their social life, I say there is no class of women who can compete with them, for general cleanliness, in the country.
I say also that their offspring as regards decency of manners—and if the argument put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman meant anything it meant that the children would be lowered by reason of their contact with mothers or sisters who are engaged in this work—I say their offspring compare well with the children of women who do not engage in the work. The whole thing is a vague and empty appeal if it does not mean what I have suggested. I speak of what I know, and I say that no statistics and no records can be brought to this House which will not bear out exactly what I am asserting. If the industry were physically injurious the House would have a right to interfere and put a stop to it. But what is the case? I myself have been actively engaged in the administration of the Compensation Act since 1898. Every day of my life for fourteen years I have been engaged in the administration of that Act, and I say that in not one case out of 10,000 do accidents occur to these girls. When accidents do occur they involve the slightest possible injuries—small, trivial injuries, which really do not incapacitate them for more than one day, and these generally occur during the chipping of dross from the coal. My figures showing how infinitesimal is the ratio of accidents to the girls can be substantiated by the figures of the Northern Employers' Indemnity Relief Society, which, so far as the Compensation Act is concerned, covers probably from 40,000 to 50,000 people. Their inspectors state distinctly that the accidents are infinitesimal, and it is notorious that there are no fatal accidents.
But, putting aside the question of accidents, how does the work affect their general health? I do not think the young people in the south-east or south-west of Lancashire compare for vigour or hardihood unfavourably with those in other mining districts. I say, without the slightest hesitation, that the mothers who-work at the nit-bank in Lancashire make as good mothers as are to be found in the Kingdom. Heal physical strain is 1267 practically unknown. I myself know the doctors who have been referred to in the course of this Debate. I know well the doctors for one of the largest colliery companies in the Kingdom—the Wigan Coal and Iron Company—and I am sure he is stating what is the fact when he says that no case of strain or injury has ever come before him. Every one of those to whom information is sent is agreed that the work is practically without strain or injury, and is in no sense injurious to the women themselves. During the last few months I have made it my business to go among the girls themselves on the pit-hill and it has been curious to find how many cases there were of girls to whom I spoke at haphazard and who said, "Why, Mr. Walsh, I came out of the factory because my health was so injured that I was breaking down. My sister, too, was in the same factory. We were both of us sent to the pit-hill, and we have never had a day's illness since." These are actual cases, and, believe me, I would not place them before the House if they were not the words of sober truth. Girls suffering from anæmia, girls whose relatives were despairing of them, have been sent to the pit-hill and, although I would consider the pit bank to be about the worst possible sanatorium, it is perfectly true that girls whose health is in serious danger in the factories have, when sent to the pit-bank, improved day after day and recovered.
What is the nature of that employment? It is true that twenty-five years ago there was serious cause for Parliament to interfere. I know that at that time girls were employed in lowering heavy wagons of from eight to ten tons and doing work, not, only extremely dangerous, but requiring a great amount of physical strength. That has been stopped. Of course, it never ought to have been permitted. The Under-Secretary spoke of the gradual amelioration of the conditions of the labour of these women. It is perfectly true that tub-pushing is a diminishing quantity. I am certain that not one girl in fifty is now engaged in pushing boxes. The automatic machinery does that work very largely now, and what forty-five out of every fifty girls are engaged in doing to-day is simply chipping the dross off the coal at the side of a movable table. That is almost the lightest kind of work that one can imagine, indeed, so light is it, that when a man who has been badly injured in the mine, has attained to a position of partial capacity to work, we often invite 1268 him to take that work near the picking-belt where he often easily regains his health. I can imagine nothing so easy as this work in itself. There is another point I should like to submit to the House. In many other occupations in which women are engaged there is a great danger of disease. I need not enumerate them now. The possibility of painful and insidious disease must be present to the mind of many Members of this House in connection with industries in which women are engaged. There is no possibility of insidious disease in this work. If there is anything which moves the hearts of men it is when those who undergo the great duties which have been referred to become the lingering, sorrowing victims of painful and incurable disease. In this particular occupation there is no such thing known. In that sense it offers an opening to women's labour which I should be sorry to see reduced. As to the danger to their morals, even the opponents of this class of labour have been gentlemanly enough to say, that so far as moral comparison is concerned the women stand at least on a level with those engaged in any other industry. Therefore we can put that question aside altogether.
It is said that the work is unsuitable. It may be. There is not a single person in this House or outside of it who would not be glad to see women given other and better opportunities of labour and employment. But it is not sufficient to say, "that is not a nice thing for women to do." You must show that if you stop this labour you can give women something better to do. It is not sufficient to say, "we will give them something equal to it," because that would be having your labour for nothing. You must show to this House and to the women themselves that the alternative offered is a higher alternative. Has there been the slightest attempt made to meet that condition? Has a single person who has spoken against this labour said, "We can give them something else"? I have already given the figures for South-East and South-West Lancashire with regard to the population to the square mile. It may be said, "Let them go to domestic service." In the mining villages wages are never so high that the people can afford to pay domestic servants. Whatever small fortunes are made—and even in this day small fortunes are made in the coal mining industry—the people who make them do not live in our midst. It is said that the women might take field work. 1269 I regret to say that the fundamental conditions of mining life make field work almost impossible. You do not live very near to fields. They are far away. Then it is said the women may go to a factory. The part of South-West Lancashire, to which I particularly refer, possesses hardly any factories. The great mining towns, which are almost one town, make it very difficult indeed to establish factory conditions. I say that there has been a great amelioration of, and improvement in, the conditions since 1887. I myself have been charged with being reactionary. I am not sure that there is not something in it. I did not see in 1887—I want to be consistent—any reason why the work should be prevented. I did see then, as I see now, many reasons why it ought to be improved.
That is the reason why I supported the Under-Secretary's Amendment to-day. We have never put forward the contention that the work has been ideal, or the conditions as being ideal, but all the heavy laborious part of it has practically disappeared during the past twenty-five years, and I say we ought to pause and consider seriously whether, when the opportunities for women's labour are so limited, when they are pressed" so severely in the labour market, when it is more and more difficult for even men to find a living, and certainly more difficult for women, and when the opportunities for labour are so few, we should do away with this work. After all it is poverty that is the driving force which compels these women to leave their homes in the morning and return late in the afternoon; it is poverty and not choice. They do not like it; they would gladly rise to the ideal which has been mentioned in this House of never soiling their hands and of doing the beautiful domestic work of the home, but, as with the apothecary, their poverty, and not their will, consents. The children in the home need maintaining, the father's wages are insufficient, and so the girls go to work, not because they like it, not from choice, but because it is necessary to earn the money to enable the household to be carried on. I say with sincere conviction that this House has no right to interfere unless you can establish some of the conditions which the Under-Secretary laid down at the very beginning, and which I have briefly endeavoured to re-enforce. I sincerely hope the Government's Amendment will be carried, and I promise them my assistance should a Division be challenged.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I do not know when the hon. Member (Mr. S. Walsh) last changed his views on this subject. I hold in my hand a pamphlet issued by the National Anti-Sweating League. The pamphlet contains a paper by Mr. Stephen Walsh, M.P., on the "Present Steps Towards a Minimum Wage." That was published in 1906. I should like the House to know what the hon. Member said in 1906 about the employment of women labour in Lancashire. He said,Girl labour on the surface has existed for more than thirty years, and Lancashire especially suffers from it.The hon. Member has been telling us today how much Lancashire benefits from what he said in 1906 it then suffered from.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
May I explain that the whole object of that pamphlet was to get rid of low wages. I have always admitted that the wages were low. That was an anti-sweating movement and it did not have for its object the putting an end to this labour.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The pamphlet goes on to say,A few pits in the south-west district and a large number in Scotland also employ girl labour. … The chances are that a woman will now earn from 1s. 3d. to 2s., 1s. 8d. being about the average. As the working hours are about nine and a-half per day, the wage comes out very little better than 2d. an hour. … Cleaning the dross is not heavy work, and pushing the wagons has been done away "with.The hon. Member has to-day been saying that, although he approved of the Amendment of the Government, he is not saying that the pushing of wagons has been done away with.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
It is not done away with. The Under-Secretary said definitely when the question was asked from the other side of the House that, so far as he could say, the pushing of tubs is not done away with.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member knows that in mining districts wagons are called tubs. At least they are in South Wales. All that I can say is this, that in South Wales these tubs weigh over two tons. You may call them wagons or boxes, but they weigh two tons. The hon. Member says that they have been done away with.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
You were referring here to girl labour. The pamphlet says,But many of the women are exposed to the inclemency of the weather. The fact remains, too, that these girls are earning less than they did thirty years ago, and have to depend partly for a living upon the earnings of fathers and brothers in the mine.That was the view of the hon. Member in 1887.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I should like to say with regard to the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), that he has a kind of Jesuitical mind, in which he attrbutes all kinds of evils to people who do not agree with him politically. He called the Miners' Federation a pack of wolves, and said that they were the instigators of this Clause. As a matter of fact the Miners' Federation had nothing to do with the Clause at all. They took no part whatever in framing this Clause, although they gave me hearty support when we were in Committee. These hungry wolves, as the Noble Lord terms the people who do not agree with him, had no idea in their own minds, at all events, of suggesting this Clause. I will now deal with this question from the wages point of view. The reason why employers want this labour is simply because it is cheap labour. I have never said during the discussion in Committee, nor do I say now, that the work is unhealthy. In the majority of cases it is not likely to be a dangerous occupation, but I do say that, if we want to attain to the highest civilisation, you must do away with the work of these women. I know of no such foul, dirty occupation as that of screening coal, especially where the mine is a dry one. The women get more filthy and dirty than anyone working in a mine. Where mines are dusty the whole atmosphere is filled with clouds of dust, and although dust in itself I do not believe has been proved to be unhealthy, nevertheless the fact remains that the conditions under which the women work on these pit-banks are very dirty. I have seen them coming home night after night. They have been working in the open air, the tubs they have been 1272 moving about are covered with grease, and you see these women with all their dresses or all the trousers they have worn smothered in oil and filth, and their faces are begrimed with fine dust. That is the kind of civilisation of the twentieth century we are endeavouring to attain to.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
It is all very well for Lancashire. After all, there are 6,000 girls employed in this industry, of whom Lancashire employs 2,300. In other districts where coal is tipped out of a tipper on to a flat screen, clouds of dust come out with the coal, and in South Wales particularly the women stand right underneath, where all the fine dust is thrown on them. Can it truly be said, where women are working under these conditions, that that is going to make for better life and higher civilisation? My contention has always been that the people who are earning their living in this industry ought to be paid a rate of wages which would enable the women to remain at home. If the men were paid higher wages women would not be engaged in this occupation. The feeling on this question has not been a labour question at all. It has not been a question of the Miners' Federation or their unions seeking to put an end to this labour on account of its cheapness. It has been brought about by the coal-owners and the people themselves in these different districts. The work is degrading, and among the majority of the coal-owners, I am glad to say, throughout the whole of the coalfields, with the exception of parts of Scotland and of Lancashire, it has been the feeling for a long period that this is a kind of work in which women ought not to be engaged. The Under-Secretary stated that this is a work which is repugnant to people who know what the work is.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I took the word down. He said it was repugnant to the feeling in the mining districts.
§ Lord R. CECIL
He said most specifically in the districts where the women do this work public opinion is strongly in favour of it.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
When the Noble Lords gets the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow he will find that what the Under-Secretary said was that in many mining districts the work was repugnant to the public feeling.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
In the districts where they are employed wages are low. In the Scotch coalfields there are 2,700, in Lancashire 2,500, and in South Wales 225. So far as South Wales goes there has been a constantly diminishing number. Employers of labour have not put on additional women, though they have allowed the existing women who are working at the mines to work as long as they choose. Last year, I am sorry to say, there was an increase of nearly 300 women employed in the mines, most of them in the Lancashire district. When you have a proposition supported, as it appears to be, by the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie), the Mayor of Wigan, and the parson of a parish, this is a combination which I think the House should carefully examine. In the first place, the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie), I suppose, supports the working of women on the pit-banks on the ground that the State, when they take over the mines, will be able to work them cheaper with women labour than with men labour. At all events, he has advocated the national taking over of all mines by not paying a farthing for any of the mining royalties.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I will refer the hon. Member to the evidence he gave before the Commission on Mining Royalties where he stated he would take over the whole of the land and the whole of the mining royalties and pay not a ½d. for them, because they belonged to the people and had been wrongly appropriated. When he says that it is not true he had better refresh his memory. The hon. Member, this great supporter of women's labour, is the Gentleman who told the House that safety lamps were a danger in a mine and were much better out of a mine, and the House will not pay much regard to his opinion, either as regards safety or as regards the health of the people who are working on the pit-bank. The hon Member (Mr. S. Walsh) seemed to think that the pit-bank was fit for a sanatorium.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member said it was easy work. He said he could imagine nothing so easy as work on the pit-banks, and people when they were ill merely had to go from the factories to the pit-bank to recover their health. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to provide sanatoria about the country. I suppose in Lancashire the hon. Member (Mr. Walsh) will suggest to him that, instead of sending them to sanatoria, he should take these women on to the pit-bank, because the conditions are so extraordinarily healthy. The hon. Member says the work of women has been prohibited, but women top coal into wagons. A man was killed only two days ago doing this work. It is the most disagreeable of any work in a colliery. As the coal comes over the screens into the wagon it has to be topped up, and as it falls down the person stands in the wagon and ranges the coal as far as he possibly can, and you have women straddled over lumps of coal on the top of wagons doing this beastly, filthy kind of work. That may be an occupation which the hon. Member says is not degrading; but so far from this question being one of wages, as the Noble Lord says, it is not at all.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Noble Lord did say so. He said we were hungry wolves who brought forward this question from the federation point of view.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I suppose the Noble Lord has an idea that I am a lamb. He is always willing to create prejudice. He loves to do that, and the statement he made to the House on this question was wholly incorrect, and was not founded on fact. In the districts that I know anything of there is no agitation and no consideration whatever on the question of cheap labour.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Noble Lord misrepresented what the hon. Member said in the speech in which he referred to the evidence of a Royal Commission. In the first place, there was no Royal Commission ever appointed. What was the Royal Commission?
§ Lord R. CECIL
The Commission that reported that the work of miners underground was extremely healthy.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The Noble Lord knows that is no answer at all. I asked him what Royal Commission he was referring to.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I cannot remember the names of the Commissioners. It was the Royal Commission appointed by Mr. Secretary Gladstone, when he was dealing with the Eight Hours' question. It is perfectly well known to every Member of the House.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
When the Eight Hours Bill was introduced there was no Royal Commission, but there was a Departmental Committee. The Noble Lord should take the trouble before he makes accusations against the hon. Member to find out exactly what these Commissioners did say, and what they said is entirely contrary to what the Noble Lord says they said. This is not a labour question. We who are associated with mining districts want to see better civilisation. The Noble Lord is quite willing and anxious that people should always remain in the same station of life in which they are born. That is the ideal of his order. We may be beaten, and shall be beaten, because the Government are going to put on the party Whips, but I hope hon. Members on this side will not take any notice of the Whips. I cannot understand why the Government, when they put on the Whips, expect Members to ask them if they may vote this way or the other way. We are not sent here to vote in accordance with what the Under-Secretary or a Secretary of State or some great personage may say to the Chief Whip. We are supposed, on this side of the House, at any rate, to have some ideals, and I ask hon. Members to take no notice of this Whip, but to vote according to what they think is right. To make an appeal to the Under-Secretary not to put the party Whips on is perfectly degrading. I have never taken any notice of these Whips, and I shall always vote according to what I think is the wish of my Constituents, and I think the Government will best promote the safe passage of the Bill by leaving the House to vote as it 1276 thinks right. At all events, if I can get anyone to tell with me, I will certainly go to a Division.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I have taken no part in this discussion, and I do not propose to do so now. I rise to remind the House that this topic has been before us some considerable time, and that it was a sort of understanding—I do not put it higher—that we should be allowed to conclude the discussion on this Bill in something like half-a-day. In view of the long time we have spent upon it, I hope the House will allow us to take a Division on the Amendment.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I cannot allow the speech of the hon. Member opposite to pass unchallenged. I think we have a right to indignantly refute the imputations he has made. We have listened in vain the whole evening for some adequate reasons why pit-brow girls should be deprived of their livelihood, and we have only heard two arguments adduced so far. It is said in the first place that in general practice in the mining world pit-brow girls have been abolished. All that argument means is that if you leave the status quo as at present, then those districts which desire to have women working at the pit-mouth can do so, while those who do not desire it can have their way, so that both parties would be satisfied. The hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) said that the work done by the girls is degrading. I wish to know what part of the work he finds degrading. The only thing he seemed to find degrading was that they get their faces and hands dirty. I can tell him that Lancashire girls wash when they get home. If he were to go to Lancashire and tell these women that they are a degraded set of women I should be sorry for him in view of what would happen to him during the next quarter of an hour. The hon. Member said there is a general feeling throughout the mining world among the men that this work is undesirable for women. The feeling in Lancashire is absolutely different. Only to-day I got a huge petition from miners signed by about 700 engaged at two pits there. They petition against any interference with women's work by Parliament as at present constituted.
It is a perfect scandal that Members elected by men only should try to do a set of women out of their livelihood when 1277 these women have no adequate means of making representations on their own behalf. The women of Lancashire have done their best to petition and to raise an agitation against this proposal, but they are not organised. They have not got a powerful trade union, and therefore they have not been able to make their voices heard in the way they otherwise might have done. I am sure they will all be very grateful to the hon. Member for the Ince Division for having dissociated himself from his colleagues in this organised attack upon women's labour. The hon. Member made a most moving appeal on their behalf this afternoon, and also in the Grand Committee and at a great public meeting, but I think it was rather unfortunate that he did not vote in their favour when the matter came on in the Grand Committee. What pressure the Miners' Federation has brought to bear on hon. Members in order to get women done out of their work, I cannot say. Although the hon. Member for the Ince Division defended the women with his mouth, he did not vote in their favour when it came to a critical Division in the Grand Committee. I wish to correct a statement which was made in the Debate. An hon. Member denied that those who wish to do away with women's labour at the pit-mouth have any idea of taking that course in connection with the subject of wages. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, in an exceedingly offensive speech, accused all those who wish to defend pit-brow workers of taking that attitude because they wish to maintain cheap labour. I suppose he includes the hon. Member for the Ince Division among them as a well-known advocate of cheap labour in mining operations. If the hon. Member for Derbyshire is going to use that argument against us, we are perfectly entitled to use the same argument against him and to say that the Federation has simply taken up their attitude because they are a purely male body and desire to keep out women's competition on every possible occasion. Therefore, they have joined forces with the hon. Member for Mansfield, who desires to see every mine modelled on his own mines. They have joined forces against a set of women who are doing no harm, and who only ask to be left alone to earn their livelihood.
§ Sir W. MENZIES
I happen to have been a member of the Coal Mines Committee. I attended the sittings regularly, but on the occasion of the Division on 1278 this question I was absent. I wish to say on behalf of my Constituents that this Sub-section should remain. I hope every Scottish Member will take the same view. The whole trend of legislation in this country has been to lessen this kind of labour so far as women are concerned. I do not say it is either immoral or unhealthy, but it is degrading and repugnant to the manhood of this country that these women should be working at the top of mines in the way they are doing. I intended to appeal to the Government to take their Whips off, but whether they do so or not, I shall vote for retaining this Sub-section.
Mr. C. EDWARDS
I desire, as representing a constituency with a larger number of miners than any other constituency in the United Kingdom, to add my voice to the appeal that the Government should not persist in this Amendment. The suggestion that this prohibition of women's labour at the pit's-brow emanates from the Miners' Federation is entirely untrue. Speaking for the whole mining community of East Glamorgan, I say that the feeling is practically unanimous in favour of this prohibition. I did not quite follow the hon. Member for the Ince Division when he suggested that what he called the economic necessity requiring the employment of women depended upon the relative population and congestion in the different districts. How the economic necessity of women's labour can be argued by the fact that in one case you have 5,000 people to the square mile, whereas in another case you have 900 people to the square mile, without regard to the social character of the district, I do not know. But even so, he must have taken for the purpose of getting at this wonderful comparison a very arbitrary line indeed. Take such a district in South Wales as the Rhondda. There the hon. Member will find the congestion of population as great as in any district in South-East Lancashire.
One thing strikes me as extraordinary, and it shows that history rather repeats itself. First of all, it was stated that work of women at the pit-bank is a healthy occupation, and, secondly, the hon. Member asked whether the people of South-East Lancashire were not as strong, robust, and healthy as in other districts. My answer is that the industrial leaders of Lancashire from time immemorial have come to this House on other aspects of industrial reform with precisely the same kind of argument. I think the hon. Member 1279 for Bolton will bear me out when I say that time after time when there have been proposals made in the House for raising the age at which children should be allowed to work in factories, the industrial leaders of Lancashire have come and said that the humid atmosphere of the cotton mills is peculiarly healthy. A late colleague of the hon. Member actually invented the term, "A cotton mill is as good as a sanatorium." As to the people of South-East Lancashire, let me tell the hon. Member for the Ince Division that the lads there, as compared with the average of the country, are an inch and three-quarters shorter at twelve years of age and eleven pounds lighter. These figures I have obtained in respect of 20,000 measurements, and in another connection I will quote them to the House. You have also in regard to South-East Lancashire the statement that the sentiment of the whole of the industrial districts is this, that, and the other. As a matter of fact, the whole sentiment of industrial Lancashire is demoralised in regard to this employment question. You find precisely the same vicious circle of argument used for prolonging the employment of women at pit-brows as for the perpetuation of that terrible system of half-time which is so deleterious to the people of Lancashire. It is a remarkable fact that in proportion to population where you have the largest number of women employed at the pitbrows
§ there you have the largest number of half-timers employed. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not so."] I shall be quite prepared to give the figures in proof of my statement. Speaking for a great constituency in South Wales, I say that we do not desire women's labour on the pit-brow. We are practically free from women's industry in the whole of the South Wales coalfield, and we desire to be entirely free from this particular kind of occupation, which the mining community regard as very objectionable and as particularly repugnant to their sense of the nobility of women.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
I will not follow the last speaker, who gave the long and the short of the Lancashire boy and girl, but I would draw attention to one most important point which seems to have been lost sight of in this Debate. The statement has been made that this work is degrading. It is known to be honest work, distinctly honest, and it is healthy work. What I would ask of hon. Members who are opposed to the view put forward by the Under-Secretary is this: What work do you propose to put as an alternative in their way? If you are going to shut one of the avenues of honest work for these women, do you leave the streets open?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 71; Noes, 297.