HC Deb 26 June 1911 vol 27 cc238-305

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £144,517, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices." [Note: £90,000 has been voted on account.]


I wish to bring before the House consideration of the relations between the Home Office, the Home Secretary, and the administration of the criminal law in this country. This is a matter, I admit, in which it is difficult to obtain information, but there is a very widespread feeling that the courts of justice—I am not now referring to the high courts—have not received, and do not receive from the Home Secretary that consideration which the great traditions of that office have led them to hope they would receive. Generally, taking the position of those who are called the inferior courts of this country they have, as all of us who have had any experience of them know, most difficult and painful duties to perform in administering criminal justice, especially in the matter of sentences. The problem before those who administer justice in this country is a very difficult one. The Home Secretary may perhaps hardly believe it, but the justices of this country as a rule have the modesty to act with regard to the sentences which they pronounce in conformity with precedent, guided largely by the example of the Judges of Assize, whose sentences they have the opportunity of following, and guided also from time to time by circulars which are sent out by the Home Office which call their attention to certain specific subjects. I maintain, and I believe it is the opinion of the vast majority of the people of this country, that their sentences are guided on the whole by humanity and good sense, but, of course, I do not claim for them for a moment that they are infallible. They have, as against the Home Secretary, some peculiar advantages, which he would be the first to admit. They are able, before they pass a sentence, to make full inquiry—


On a point of Order. May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is in order in making an attack on the judges by saying they are not infallible?

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Emmott)

I did not understand it as an attack.


They have, as the Home Secretary would be the first to admit, advantages with regard to the sentences which they pass of being able to make full inquiry from the police as to the antecedents and conduct of the prisoner, of hearing all the circumstances of the case, and of having the opportunity of see- ing the demeanour and bearing of the prisoner. I say, if sentences, so passed by men of such character and with such opportunities of judging, are quashed without full reasons given for setting them aside and without full ascertainment from, them of the reasons which they had for passing those sentences, well then, I think, a very great discouragement must necessarily fall upon them. If the Home Secretary uses the prerogative which is entrusted to him without great care, without due courtesy, and, above all, without fully informing himself as to the whole of the circumstances both of the law and the facts before he reverses sentences, why then the administration of justice is necessarily brought into discredit and the justices themselves are thrown into utter confusion and bewildered embarrassment in dealing with cases which come before them in the future. I am going to mention a few cases as samples, and as to which there may be a possible explanation, but on the face of them they do not appear to be free from at any rate an appearance of arbitrary action on the part of the Home Secretary and certainly not free from that which is, well, not characteristic of the Home Office, and which, I think, is generally disliked by Englishmen—I mean certain appeals to the gallery. Take a certain group of cases which have been mentioned in this House before, and which I shall call the Pentonville cases, in which the Home Secretary thought it expedient to release seven youthful offenders.

I am not going to call into question that there might be a fair ground for the opinion that such action was legitimate. Some might agree there was: others might hold there was no such fair ground. I am not one of those who desire to gird at any prerogative used in favour of youth. But what I do object to is that in no less than four out of seven cases there was no consultation whatever with the justices who passed the sentences. And, worse than that, the Home Secretary, in a speech he made dealing with the subject, claimed that he had no obligation to consult the justices and ascertain their reasons or to communicate with them in any way. I do not for a moment pretend that there is a legal obligation, and that the prerogative of mercy cannot be exercised without consultation or without ascertaining the reasons which actuated the justices. But I hold that if you wish to maintain those relations between the Home Office and the justices of the peace throughout the country which have honourably cha- racterised the past, it is a primary obligation of good administration and good feeling that the Home Secretary, before quashing a sentence deliberately passed with the sense of responsibility by the justices, should consult them and ascertain their reasons, and should carefully and courteously point out his reasons for differing from them.

I am sorry to say that in these Pentonville cases the Home Secretary showed himself lamentably ignorant of the law which it is his duty to administer. He pointed out to this House, as a defence for his action in mitigating these sentences that in his view, without consulting the justices, the thing was so clear that he was able to exercise the prerogative at once. There was a case in which there was a sentence of one month passed on a youth of twenty for loitering outside a railway station; as the Home Secretary suggested, in the hope of getting a bag to carry, or it might be for some other object. The right hon. Gentleman should know, however, that there is no penalty for loitering, although it is a crime for a suspected person or reputed felon to be loitering in a public place with intent to commit a felony. The Home Secretary was in such a hurry to let out these men that he did not take the trouble to make himself acquainted with the law of vagrancy. I think he will feel himself compelled to admit that he was ignorant of that law. Again the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, as if it were a venial offence, the using of obscene language in a public place before women. He seemed to make a joke of it by suggesting to the hon. Member who brought the matter under his notice that if any one had been guilty of it at a public school or university no ill-consequences would have followed. Well, my experience is that if a public school youth were guilty of using obscene language before women in a public place he would probably be expelled. I also think that if an undergraduate of twenty loitered in a public place for an improper purpose he, if found guilty, would be sent down. I should say that the defence put forward by the right hon. Gentleman was a bad one. There was an attempt by the Home Secretary to arouse a feeling of class against class, which is most undesirable. I think there was distinctly an attempt to use his office, which is, after all, a position of high judicial responsibility, to play to the gallery.

There is another case I wish to mention—in which a penalty was inflicted at the instance of the county council. I have it on the authority of "The Times" that a fine was imposed by the county council which was afterwards increased by a metropolitan magistrate, and subsequently remitted by the Home Secretary without communication with the county council. The statement goes on to say that the Home Secretary was not seized of the facts of the case. That is another instance of the remission of sentence without communication with the persons responsible for imposing it. There is a further case from Guisborough, in which the action of the Home Secretary was such as to cause a feeling of great grievance and soreness between himself and the bench which passed the sentence. The sentences are not in themselves important: the important point is that the Home Secretary should by arbitrary action, without due inquiry, remit sentences and thereby bring justice into discredit. There may be an explanation in the Guisborough case, but it certainly became the subject of protest by the chairman of the bench of magistrates—Sir Alfred Pease—a man of considerable experience in the administration of justice. The protest ran to the effect that the justices consider, regarding the question of the remission, that if one justice, by private representation, can; secure the immediate alteration or cancelling of a sentence passed by a majority of his colleagues without any investigation on the part of the Home Secretary into the merits of the ease or without asking the reasons of the justices, then the administation of the law is brought into-disrepute, the Commission of the Peace is discredited, and justice can no longer be secured and maintained. If it be the fact the sentence was cancelled without any investigation of the facts from the justices that would be another instance of what I am complaining of.

All these cases go to show that the habit has grown up under the Home Secretary of altering, mitigating, and even cancelling sentences without first consulting the justices who imposed them. It is done under a claim of right by the Home Secretary, who, I think I have shown by the plainest possible evidence, has not taken the trouble to make himself acquainted with the law in the cases in which he has. taken it upon himself to reverse the penalty. There have also been cases coming under the new Act passed by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman—an Act which enables a sentence of preventive detention to be passed, In addition to one of penal servitude. This Act has largely been the result of the influence of the chairman of the Prison Commission, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, a man who has for very many years—I think for fifteen years—given the closest interest to this subject, who is a great authority upon it, and who is, on matters connected with prison administration of European, indeed, of world-wide authority. It is one of the great advantages which the Home Secretary has in administering this Act that he has the advice and service of so distinguished, so humane, and so sensible an official. How has the right hon. Gentleman treated the administration of that Act? I say he has not been strictly loyal to the legislation of his own colleague, and for which he was himself responsible. He has criticised, a very short time after it was passed, that very Act of which I have spoken. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] No doubt that cheer supplies the motive with which he criticised it. He has done more than that. He has again used the prerogative of mercy in order to make, or apparently in order to make, his views palpable and notorious throughout the kingdom.

There was a case which ultimately excited laughter under that Act owing to the ridiculous position of the Government and the Home Office, that of the old shepherd of Dartmoor. There was no doubt some ridiculous action on the part of the Home Secretary in connection with it, but I think when the Committee have heard very briefly what has been done they will not think it altogether a laugh--able matter. That prisoner was sentenced after ten convictions to three years penal servitude and ten years preventive detention. I am not going to say that it was not a case in which a fair difference of opinion might occur. I do not myself quarrel with the reduction of the sentence, but here again it is the motive rather than the actual fact of which I think legitimate complaint must be made. What said, in relation to this case, one of the most humane and experienced judges, who has had something like twenty years experience on the Bench? He said:— Was there ever a case, or could a case be well conceived more fit for a long period of preventive detention? By the Act a sentence of penal servitude must precede preventive detention and the Court of Quarter Sessions passed the minimum sentence allowed by law of penal servitude. What else could be done with such a man? To send him to a few months' imprisonment would be quite useless. It would have to he repeated again and again soon after the expiration of each sentence To send him to the workhouse would be useless. He was certain to steal something on the first opportunity, and there is no establishment except a prison or a lunatic asylum where he could be prevented from stealing. He is' no subject for a lunatic asylum or the Home Secretary who released him could have sent him to one, and happily in this case the detention if not interfered with again will be no hardship to the man. Even the rigours of penal servitude are not. painful to him, and under the less rigorous discipline which the Home Secretary has it in his power to lay down for preventive detention he will probably pass a healthful and happy old age. The point is this, that this man, according to the information which was obtained by the judge, was reluctant to leave Dartmoor prison three years before. That was at a time when he was suffering the full rigours of penal servitude. Everyone knows the intention of the Act, and the language of those proclaiming the intentions of the men who passed it- It was that a period of preventive detention after penal servitude of a much less severe character should be imposed in the in-interest of the prisoner himself as well as of the public, which should prevent poor people being pilfered—a great hardship and grievance to them—and at the same time give the man who had been an habitual criminal for some years, an opportunity to train as a citizen and to obtain for himself a fair character before he again came into contact with the community. That was the object. The Home Secretary let the man out. I do not say a word about that. I have no doubt that that was in conformity with his genuine opinion that it ought to be done. But how was it described afterwards by himself and his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Was there ever a case in which the court who passed the sentence, if there was, as I daresay there was, a legitimate difference between the Home Office and themselves, had a right to a respectful statement of what that difference was, and of the reasons why the Home Office thought it necessary to advise that the sentence should be reduced? But the temptation was too great for making vulgar, inaccurate, and unscrupulous statements. I know those are strong words, and I use them advisedly.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a public speech at a meeting at election time, composed of people who were excited and who were absolutely ignorant of the effect of that act, thought it fitting and dignified in his high office to say that this man had been sentenced to thirteen years' penal servitude for stealing 2s. The statement is absolutely inaccurate. The reason he was sentenced to three years' penal servitude and ten. years' preventive detention was that he had been ten times previously convicted, and had been found guilty by a jury of being an habitual criminal. Notwithstanding this, the Chancellor of the Exchequer chooses to go down, and before a popular audience at election time, and to try and inflame the people of this country against the administration of justice by pretending, utterly contrary to the fact, that thirteen years' penal servitude had been inflicted upon this man merely for stealing 2s. [An HON. Member: "It is quite true."] I heard an hon. Gentleman say it was quite true. [An Hon. Member: "What was he sentenced for?"] If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to look up the law for a moment he will find that the sentence was in pursuance of this Statute passed by this Government, by a predecessor of the Home Secretary, and for which the right, hon. Gentleman is himself responsible, which entitles, and, indeed, obliges the judge in certain cases to pass a sentence of preventive detention if a man is proved to be an habitual criminal. The hon. Member will understand what an habitual criminal means: A person who has shown by a long course of crime that he is incorrigible, and is determined to live upon his neighbours—even upon his poorer neighbours, but certainly upon his neighbours. I ask that in the administration of justice, especially by high officials, there should be a certain dignity and restraint in language. The Home Office themselves published a Paper, not on the responsibility of the Home Office itself, but of Mr. Simpson, C.B., of that Office, and Sir E. Troup writes a critical introduction. It deals with comparative statistics of crime in 1909, and it shows what has happened during the last ten years. I say that it shows that the most careful vigilance should be imposed in regard to the administration of this Act, and there should be the most careful control over those experiments in legislation which this Government themselves have brought to pass.

This gentleman points out the formidable increase in crime which has taken place in the last ten years, and he says, in commenting upon it:— In magazine and newspaper articles on crime and punishment the sentiment expressed towards the criminal is almost universally compassionate and even sympathetic beyond precedent. Some of the expressions might almost seem to indicate that the reading public is on the side of the criminal and against the law. He adds:— It is permissible to suggest that the steady increase of crime during the last ten years is largely due to the general relaxation of public sentiment with regard to it. I wish to do the Home Secretary full justice so far as the relaxation of the sentence in this case was concerned. I have said already, I think, as to that, notwithstanding the great authority of Sir Alfred Wills, a very strong case at any rate for holding the opposite view can be made by the Home Secretary. But when he under-, takes to release a person under such circumstances as this he should, above all, be scrupulous to see that the facts are truly known, and that they should not be carelessly and unscrupulously misrepresented to the public, for he himself, I regret to say, after that speech had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and after a false impression had been conveyed to the whole country by that speech, was asked a question upon it, and his reply was:— The case has engaged my attention for more than six months and the facts as stated by the Chancellor are. strictly speaking, correct. The right hon. Gentleman's ideas and mine as to what is a correct statement of fact differ. I cannot refrain from expressing my extreme regret that in the House of Commons at Question time when we expect a perfectly full and candid account of the administration of the Home Office the statement that thirteen years' penal servitude had been given for stealing 2s. was described as a correct statement, when in truth and in fact a sentence of three years had been passed in respect of the offence, when there were ten convictions preceding it and ten years' preventive detention—an entirely different thing.

There are one or two observations I wish to make upon the question which arose at Tonypandy. I am not going back upon the exercise of the discretion which the Home Secretary thought himself justified in using by means of which the military were stopped from going to Tonypandy and, I regret to say, much suffering was caused and a heavy loss of property brought about. I have admitted before that the case was a very difficult one. Any one of us, I think, will admit that it is generally desirable that the police rather than the military should be used on such occasions. The Home Secretary acted no doubt according to the best of his judgment. The result of that exercise was extremely unfortunate, but I should be the last to wish to censure him for an act which turned out unfortunately, but I daresay would have caused very great embarrassment and difficulty to many of his critics. I wish to ask a question with regard to it. The Home Secretary told me in a previous debate that he claimed the right, as against the local authority, of saying whether or not the military should be employed. According to the best information I have been able to obtain it has been always assumed as correct, and I think a Select Committee of this House put its imprimatur upon that assumption in 1908, that it is a matter between the local magistrates and the military themselves and that the local magistrates have the responsibility and the duty, a duty which, I believe, has been actually enforced by law, to call in the military when the safety of the public is at stake. That, I believe, is both the law and the custom and practice which has hitherto prevailed in regard to this subject. But the Home Secretary claimed—and I am not going to say that the claim is in principle an objectionable one; I think there is something to be said for it—that he has a right to interfere directly between the local authority and the military, and that when the local authority, the justices, and the chief constable, both declared their community, their town, to be in such a state of peril at the hands of violent lawbreakers that, in their judgment, they require the assistance of the military, the Home Secretary at Whitehall is to have a right to interfere directly—whether the troops shall, in fact, be sent, how they shall be sent, when they shall be sent, in fact, an absolute jurisdiction to control the movements of the military and the forces who have been summoned by the local authority as and when he thinks fit. There is something to be said in favour of the Home Office having, at any rate, the obligation to advise the local authority upon the matter. There would be something to be said in favour of the local authority having an obligation to refer the matter for advice to the Home Secretary. As I understand, there is no such obligation, neither is there any such right on the part of the Home Secretary; and I believe at the present moment the instructions which are given to the chief constables of the counties are simply to communicate with the local authority; and if the local authority and the chief constable require the assistance of the military they are entitled to send for it and obtain it. I want to know categorically whether the Home Secretary disputes my statement of the law and practice, and, if so, if he will be good enough to tell me under what authority he claims to interfere between the local authority and the military, or anyone, in fact, whom they summon on their belief and conviction that His Majesty's subjects are in danger.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)

I do not interfere.


The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt explain that. The order was given by the Home Secretary which caused the military to stop on their way to Tonypandy, with a result which I must say everyone thinks deplorable.

There is only one other matter which I wish to mention, I mean the affair of the battle of Stepney, as it was called. There, again, the important question arose as to what the position of the Home Secretary is or ought to be. I saw an eye-witness, who gave me a very distinct and graphic account of the whole proceeding. He said everybody within half-a-mile of the place who had a gun or a pistol was firing at the houses, that the Home Secretary arrived some time after the general firing had begun, that no orders that he gave were taken the slightest notice of—


I gave no orders.


I quite accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. I am quite aware that he gave some advice with regard to the firing which I do not say was improper. The fact was that in order to arrest or kill these two criminals there were troops, engineers, artillery, and the whole available firearms of the neighbourhood engaged in firing at houses where these creatures were. As the Leader of the Opposition reminded us at the beginning of the Session a photographer was there, and the Home Secretary was there, and as he also reminded us we all knew why the photographer was there, but we did not quite know and do not know now why the Home Secretary was there. I would ask the House for a moment to contrast the extremely sharp and pointed difference there is between the attitude of the Home Secretary towards a riot in Wales and the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards a very serious riot in East London. [AN HON MEMBER: "There was no riot at all."] The hon. Member is quite correct. It was an incident in East London in which the military and the police were involved. In South Wales the Home Secretary, I believe contrary to practice, if not contrary to law, does interfere between the local authority and the military, with the result that rioting goes on a great deal longer than otherwise it would have done. He assumes responsibility which I do not believe he rightly assumes, and the result of his taking that responsibility is not altogether fortunate. But in London, when an event is going on which, at any rate, is of a serious character, and which was made of rather a melodramatic character, so far from assuming responsibility which is not his, he deprecates having any responsibility whatever. He writes to the newspapers and says he was a mere spectator, that he gave no orders, that he had no orders to give, that he exercised no control, and that he gave no advice. If that is so, then his presence there was merely a source, if he will permit me to say so, of some embarrassment, and somewhat ridiculous embarrassment, to those who were under the obligation of acting in difficult circumstances. I should be glad to hear why he assumes—and I think this added greatly to the difficulty of those present on that occasion—that he has no responsibility in East London, when he arrogates to himself responsibility in South Wales which, I think, he was not entitled to assume?


The right hon. Gentleman dealt with various topics, and the House will judge whether they are important topics or not, but whatever opinion may be entertained of them they are certainly not new. They are all matters which have abundantly received the serious or humorous consideration of the public. Most of them have been several times before the House of Commons, and I think the Home Office is entitled to congratulate itself that the lapse of time since the latest of the events took place has afforded the right hon. Gentleman no fresh material for making criticism, although he really has been at great pains with whatever may have come his way for that purpose. Then these are matters which after all were before the House of Commons when we met at the beginning of the year, and they have long since been disposed of. I do not propose to take up the time of the Committee entering into these matters at any serious length, because there are matters connected with the administration of the Factory Acts, and the appointment of mining inspectors, which many hon. Members desire to dis- cuss, and I should be sorry to lead the House off into a debate on matters on which public opinion has decidedly formed itself. I must, however, notice the curious point of view of the right hon. Gentleman. He asks the House of Commons to observe the different manner in which the Home Secretary views a riot in Wales and a riot in London. What possible connection or comparison is there between a trade dispute carried on by Welsh miners and the action of two foreign criminals resisting arrest with lethal weapons in London? What took place in London arose out of the attempt to arrest two criminals. What happened in Wales was a trade dispute conducted with a great deal of violence and unreasonableness on both sides. There is no comparison at all between them. So far as the right hon. Gentleman's chaff about the photographer is concerned, I am sure he does not suppose there is a branch of the Home Office to organise the movements of photographers. It is the misfortune of a good many Members to encounter in our daily walks an increasing number of persons armed with cameras to take pictures for the illustrated Press which is so rapidly developing. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that his own Leader (Mr. A. J. Balfour), when he risked his valuable life in a flying machine was the victim of a similar publicity, but I certainly should not go so far as to imitate the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lyttelton) by suggesting that he was himself concerned in procuring the attendance of a photographer to witness his daring feat in the way of aerial experience.

I pass to a more serious question. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to state, categorically, the position adopted by the Government at the present time in regard to the dispatch of soldiers at the request of the civil power. Nothing can be more simple. Of course there is no change in the law as it has been already interpreted. It is the duty of every soldier, or every body of soldiers, when applied to by the civil power in emergency to proceed to the place and to take part, with all the responsibility attaching to citizens, in aiding the law to put down riot and disorder. That duty is clear. It is also, without any prejudice to that duty, the right of the Executive Government—I mean the War Office acting in concert with the Home Office and with full Cabinet responsibility—to dispose of and arrest the movements of troops in this country. That right, when exercised by responsible Ministers, relieves the officer or the private from his duty to proceed to the spot, and by that intervention the superior authority transfers the responsibility from the soldier to the Ministers who have given the order, and who are strictly amenable to the law, as well as to the criticism of the House of Commons. I should like to say, however, that the present circumstances are very unsatisfactory, because, whereas under the law as it is at present, when a local authority borrows police from surrounding districts, it has to pay, and, if it does not pay, it docs not get them from the surrounding districts, yet when it obtains soldiers it gets them for nothing.

4.0 P. M.

Consequently there is an incentive to use soldiers instead of police in labour districts, because it costs the local authority nothing; and if local authorities are perhaps not unconnected with the employing classes in the neighbourhood sometimes they are pressed before the actual necessity comes to send for soldiers, and sometimes they are apt to send for soldiers in an emergency in which police would be quite sufficient. I am very strongly of opinion that a check ought to be imposed upon the unnecessary recourse to the employment of the War Office in labour disputes. I know of no check which would be more satisfactory than the fact that whether soldiers or police are imported they shall be paid for by the district whose conduct of its affairs, whether by employers or by workmen, is so unfortunate that it leads to a condition of disorder. I believe the fact that people have to pay would be a check on the unnecessary employment of soldiers, and I think that in the case where soldiers were employed the fact that it was known beforehand that the expense would fall on the locality would be a general admonition to all parties concerned in the dispute as to the advantages of taking a reasonable course and endeavouring to arrive at a settlement. Therefore I have an earnest hope that a small Bill, which stands on the Notice Paper, and which makes it necessary for the local authority to pay for the soldiers and police required in a district in aid of the civil power, may be passed into law. Then I think we shall have arrived at a position in which the danger of unnecessary recourse to firearms will be much more remote than it is at the present time.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me what security he has for being informed as to any riot that has taken place or as to any application that is made for military or police at the Home Office?


The information is sent to me. I am kept telegraphically informed of all labour disputes and of all conditions of riots as they proceed, especially when aid is required from outside districts, and, of course, the moment the troops are asked for that is instantly reported at the War Office, so that the facts come before the superior authorities at a very early stage. Of course, the troops go whether they have the superior authority or not, but we claim the absolute right, on reviewing the circumstances as soon as they come under our notice, of relieving the soldiers of what otherwise would be a burden resting upon them. I come to the questions connected with the administration of the prerogative of mercy. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has referred to these, because here again I think that in making a criticism upon the administration of the Homo Office as regards the prerogative, for the exercise of which I have been responsible through advising the Crown, he has really passed a eulogy upon the course which I have adopted. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well, or, at any rate, he should know, that there is a very steady and constant use of the prerogative of mercy and that it takes place every week all through the year. I have here the complete figures of the year 1909, before I was responsible for the administration of the Home Office. It is the last year for which figures have been completed. The prerogative of mercy was used in no fewer than 436 cases in that year. In twelve eases it was used on grounds affecting the original conviction; in seven cases on account of technical irregularities on conviction or sentence; in 160 cases on medical grounds; in thirty one cases as a reward for information given or assistance rendered by prisoners; in 203 cases in simple mitigation of sentence; and in twenty other cases which cannot be tabulated. So the House will see that the use of the prerogative of mercy is a regular system which is administered day after day and deals with a great number of peculiar and difficult cases in long succession throughout the whole year.

I have not been able to get the exact figures for the period for which I have been responsible because I only knew this morning that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to raise this subject, but I think I cannot be misleading the House when I say that I have not gone numerically beyond the limit of the use made of the prerogative by my immediate predecessor. Of course it is a very difficult, and in many ways a very painful function, for a Minister to be charged with, because in one case for which a favourable step can be taken there are at least half a dozen full of very painful circumstances in which a hard "No" has to be said. But Parliament has charged the Minister responsible with using a discretion in the matter, and I can say that in the numerous cases which have been brought before me I have done my very best to apply a reasonable, humane discretion in the interests of removing from the administrations of justice cases which otherwise would excite grave misunderstanding and heart-burning in the public mind. Out of the cases, which I suppose amount to 400 or 500 at least since I have been at the Home Office, the right hon. Gentleman has taxed me with three. I say that that in itself is a compliment because no doubt there must be more than three in which my discretion perhaps has not been rightly used.


Although I endeavoured to make myself very clear the right hon. Gentleman has entirely misapprehended my exact point. I did not attack him for using the prerogative. I attacked him for using the prerogative, which he has himself admitted to be a most difficult and delicate thing, without availing himself of the natural source of information, the magistrates who tried the cases, and investigating the reasons they had for the course which was taken.


I am coming to that in its proper course. There are three things about which the right hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied. When, perhaps, 500 cases had to be dealt with in the period under review he can only find these three questions as to the exercise of this most difficult and peculiar power for which no rule of law exists, and when he selects only three out of such a large number of cases of the use of the prerogative for attack, if attack there be, I say at any rate it shows that he has a very weak—


What I say is that the right hon. Gentleman claims to administer the prerogative of mercy without consulting the magistrates who had im- posed the sentence. That of course would apply to hundreds of cases.


I am coming to that in its proper course. I am only pointing out to the House the very small relation to the great function of the exercise of the prerogative borne by the cases about which exception has been taken. The cases to which exception has been taken bear a very small proportion to the entire number. Let me deal now with the next point of the right hon. Gentleman. He says that the present occupant of the office of the Home Secretary claims to administer the prerogative of mercy without consultation with the magistrates or with the courts passing sentence. That would be no new claim, and I am not prepared in any way to abrogate the full freedom of the prerogative of mercy, or to attach to its exercise any obligation either to consult or to be bound by consultation. No such obligation has been imposed on any previous occupant of this office, and if at any time in the due sequence of affairs the right hon. Gentleman should find himself responsible for the duties of Home Secretary, I am quite certain that he would not consent to a general rule, and that the advisers to whom he would refer would not advise him to consent to a general rule, that in no circumstances shall the prerogative be used unless there is a previous consultation with the court passing sentence. But, as a matter of fact, and of reasonable convenience in administration, in nearly every conceivable case the magistrates and the judges are consulted, and they will be fully and freely consulted on the subject in the future.

In the particular cases to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—that is, the Pentonville cases—the sentences were so short, and there was so little time to run, that the time taken for consultation would practically have prevented the exercise of the prerogative at all. The question of time very often imposes a bar to consultation, because the sentence would have run out before the correspondence, which may take a week to interchange, would be completed. But while I am not at all prepared in any way to narrow the freedom which attaches to the use of His Majesty's prerogative, I wish to make it quite clear that it is the intention of the Government that wherever it is possible and whenever it is convenient full use-shall be made of the great experience and knowledge of the magistrates and courts in dealing with these particular cases. I come now to the three cases which the right hon. Gentleman has made the forefront of his perfectly fair and perfectly legitimate criticism: I mean perfectly legitimate, because this is the occasion upon which to criticise the Home Secretary, who is entitled to conclude that all matters on which he has not been brought to book are matters on which he has the approval of the House of Commons generally.

There were, first of all, what the right hon. Gentleman has called the Pentonville cases. It is quite true that I went to Pentonville, and, after careful inquiries, I did think myself justified in ordering the release of a certain number of youths who were there under sentence for very minor offences. The whole of the matter was fully discussed in the House of Commons at the beginning of the Session, and I remember that the Noble Lord, who is in his place, was good enough to describe me as a Pinchbeck edition of Haroun al Raschid. I had hoped that that discussion might be taken as disposing of the matter; but I am quite willing to admit that I took that step on my own personal responsibility. I had been very much struck with the fact that many Members of the House brought to my notice that evil was done by sending boys to prison for very small offences, and I have a Bill which is ready if I can only get Parliamentary time—which I am afraid I have no chance of getting—which will give our courts other methods of punishment, not of a less unpleasant character to the youths, but which will prevent them being contaminated by being brought in contact so early and for such trivial offences with the gaols of the country. The gaols are a deterrent to these youths only while they are unknown, but it is a great mistake to suppose that fourteen days in gaol is a very painful experience to a poor, hungry lad. It is a very injurious experience, but not necessarily a very deterrent experience, and youths are never so frightened the second time as the first time that they are sent to prison. I made the visit to Pentonville with a view to drawing public attention in a sharp and effective manner to this evil, to which other Members of the House had also drawn attention. I have not for the moment got the figures with me, for I am speaking on very short notice, but I may say they do show a marked decrease in the number of committals of youths in the period since my visit to that prison. There is a very large decrease, I think considerably over a thousand. I wish I had the exact figures, but they do show a very large decrease indeed, in some of the prisons even 30 per cent. in the number of young boys committed. I think, therefore, there is an advantage in drawing public attention to these facts, and I must say when they are debated in Parliament and when executive action is taken, the country is very ready and very quick to follow what is undoubtedly the growing public opinion on the subject. The next ease was that of a man who had a dog for which he had not got a licence, being so poor that he could not afford it. The dog had belonged to his daughter, who had died some time previously. The case came before me as one in which a small fine might be necessary, and the fine of 20s. was remitted to avoid sending the man to prison. I did not tell the House, nor would it be usual for me to have done so, that I had consulted the London County Council before coming to that decision. It was thought to be a hard application of a heavy penalty for a minor fault. I am bound to say that further communication with the county council showed that there was more for their view than appeared in the first instance, but I do think it was a hard case, and one for which the exercise of the prerogative was justified. I certainly do not wish to imply any censure upon the London County Council in regard to the method in which they administer this particular Act. I am afraid the form of my first letter might have been taken as implying dissatisfaction at their action, an impression which I desire to remove.

The last case to which I refer is that of the Guisborough bench of magistrates, who sentenced a man on first conviction to fourteen days' imprisonment with hard labour for begging. It was a harsh sentence, and more than is usually imposed throughout the country. In that case I was not directly responsible. My Noble Friend Lord Crewe was administering the Home Office during my absence from this country, and he decided the case in the ordinary and regular way. But I am quite sure that if the Guisborough Bench had only known that the decision was not the decision of the wicked Home Secretary, but was the decision of the good Lord Crewe, we should not have had a word of controversy raised upon the point. However, "all's well that ends well." There is only one more topic on which I wish to say a word, and that is in regard to the administration of the Preventive Detention Act. I frankly say that I had great misgivings about that Act. I was very glad indeed to see the indeterminate sentence excluded from it. I do not think I really could have agreed to the final inclusion of that principle in legislation for which the Home Office would be responsible. I think it would be going too far altogether to take a human being and lock him up for ever unless he can manage to win the good opinion of those who are placed in charge of him. I think there must be some finality to the claim which the State may make over a person, guilty though he may be; but that is not the measure in force. The measure enables a sentence of ten years to be added to a sentence of penal servitude. I have been watching very carefully the administration of this Act. There are two things I want to avoid in the administration of criminal law. The first is, not to do anything to increase the severity of sentences. We do not mean to increase the severity of sentences. There has been a great decrease in all crimes of violence, and I do not think that any case has been made out in this country for increasing the general aggregate severity of our penal code.

There is another matter, and that is the disparity of sentences. No doubt when all the circumstances of each case are known, the disparities are not so great as they appear to be; but still there are great disparities, and no one who is concerned in the administration of justice can doubt that it makes a great difference to a man what court he is convicted in. A wide range of sentences exists, and I feel that the standardisation, the increasing standardisation of sentences must lie before our judicial authorities in future. The judges themselves have given a great deal of attention to this, and it does not seem to be impossible that in the course of the next year or so we may have some authoritative pronouncement made from the judicial bench as to what might be considered, in the absence of special circumstances, to be the normal sentence. A very valuable opinion has already been prepared. The Preventive Detention Act, in the first instance, is administered by the police authorities, and then, of course, the Public Prosecutor says whether there is reasonable ground for going on with a prosecution, and in many cases he disallows it. As we look at the administration of the Act, we find that a great many people might have been committed as habitual criminals but were not so committed, because the local authorities took a different view or overlooked the circumstances. We have a man going up with a record of ten, twelve, of fifteen convictions, and another going up with an equal record and charged with a similar offence. One gets six months with hard labour, and the other man, charged as an habitual offender, gets ten years. I do think that we should make vigilant efforts to reduce the disparity of sentences and above all to prevent that disparity being aggravated. With that view I have issued new regulations governing prosecutions under the Preventive Detention Act. The Act itself prescribes two conditions, first:— That the offender must, since attaining the age of sixteen, have been at least three times convicted of crimes as defined in the Schedule of the Act, and that he must be persistently leading a dishonest and criminal life. But I have instructed the police authorities to add three other conditions to the restrictions. First:— The offender must be over the age of thirty years; below that age the case can hardly ever be so hopeless as to justify recourse to Preventive Detention. The last word of the State has not been said, and it is not a time when hope of reform should be abandoned. We do not think the case should be given up before the man reaches the age of thirty. Secondly:— The offender must have undergone at least one sentence of penal servitude. I do not want people to be sent to prison for enormous periods such as thirteen years merely for a string of minor offences. I think there must be a grave crime committed. Thirdly:— The new offence with which the offender is charged must be a substantial and serious crime. The inflicting of a heavy preventive sentence involves that in itself it should be in respect of a real and substantial offence; otherwise, the public is shocked, and I am bound to say that I am with the public in being shocked when they see that for the same offence one man is getting three or four months with hard labour, and suddenly in another case there is an overwhelming disparity of sentence. If this new system is to be worked it should only be put into operation in regard to prisoners who on the last occasion have committed some really serious offence. It is quite clear that the courts are having recourse to preventive detention much more than the Act contemplated. We have already doubled the prison accommodation at Parkhurst for prisoners who have been committed, and I am not at all sure that further restrictions as to the class of people subjected to this class of treatment may not be necessary in the future. I believe it will be found that these restrictions ought to be uniform, and then kept within reasonable limits for administrative purposes. I would just like to read to the House in conclusion these observations made by my predecessor, Lord Gladstone, in the Debates on the Act. The Memorandum on Preventive Detention states:— It was, moreover, repeatedly stated by Lord Gladstone in the course of the debates, that the Bill was devised for the advanced dangerous criminal,' for 'the most hardened criminals;' its object was 'to give the State effective control over dangerous offenders,' it was not to be applied to persons who were 'a nuisance rather than a danger to society,' or to the 'much larger class of those who were partly vagrants, partly criminals, and who were to a large extent mentally deficient. On the 12th June, 1908,he explained to the House of Commons that the intention was to deal not with mere habituals, but with professionals; 'for sixty per cent. the present system was sufficiently deterrent, but for the professional class it was inadequate.' There was a distinction, well-known to criminologists between habituals and professionals. Habituals were men who dropped into crime from their surroundings or physical disability, or mental deficiency, rather than from any active intention to plunder their fellow creatures, or from being criminals for the sake of crime. The professionals were the men with an object, sound in mind —so far as a criminal could be sound in mind—and in body, competent, often highly skilled, and who deliberately, with their eyes open, preferred a life of crime, and knew all the tricks and turns and manœessary for that life. It was with that class that the Bill would deal. So that the House will see, although the sentence was one imposed in relation to a habitual criminal, the word habitual is really a misnomer. What was intended by the framers of the Act was the professional criminal and the criminal of dangerous character, rather than the nuisance. It was on that principle, among others, that I was guided in releasing this unfortunate old rascal who received such a very heavy sentence, and who, although he has been all his life a nuisance to society, has never at any time been a danger. I was keeping absolutely within the general principles of the Act in regard to this particular instance. I am not going to say any more about this case, as the charge is still pending before the courts. I apologise to the House for taking such a long time, but the right hon. Gentleman covered such a wide field that I wished to do my best to answer respectfully the points which he brought forward.


I desire to express my sincere regret at the departure that has been made by the Opposition with regard to the day set aside for the discussion of the Home Office Vote. For a long time past annually it has been the custom for this day to be accepted as the day by all sections of the House when questions affecting the industrial conditions of millions of workers might be, as far as time would permit, under consideration. I remember in days gone by the right hon. Baronet, the late Member for the Forest of Dean, Sir Charles Dilke, usually had the opportunity of leading off in an excellent review of the entire situation, and I believe that I am right in saying it has been recognised for years past that the subjects in which he and many others were vitally interested ought to have the first claim for consideration. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will understand me when I make on behalf of the party with whom I am associated a sincere and emphatic protest against the departure from the recognised practice with regard to the Home Office Vote.


As far as I am aware there is no such custom, and even if there were the administration of justice to prisoners is one of the subjects which affects millions of people.


My regret is the more justifiable having regard to some of the topics that have engaged the attention of the House this afternoon. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he has engaged the time of the House in discussing one or two subjects that have already been fairly fully discussed during this Session. It seems to me that our day, already much shortened by the fact that we have a Private Bill down for a quarter past eight, might be better occupied than merely listening to stale arguments on subjects previously discussed. I want, in the first place, to bring before the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary a question in which many of us in the House were interested in a few weeks ago. I refer to the Debate that was raised on 23rd May, when the Under-Secretary replied on behalf of his Department. We then considered the question of making artificial silk fibre under some new process at Coventry. I endeavoured to show that the system now in operation was such as would be seriously injurious to the health of the workers, and that it was very obnoxious, if not dangerous, to the inhabitants who were unfortunate enough to live near by where those works were situated. The further question was then raised as to the employment of boys from sixteen to eighteen years of age during the whole of the night shift. The Under-Secretary during the discussion made certain very definite promises to the House, and I believe I am right in saying that as the result of the promises that he made the question was permitted to be submitted to the House and negatived without a Division. What was it that the Under-Secretary promised. He said that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had already instituted an inquiry into the making of artificial silk fibre, that he was prepared to have that inquiry extended to the Coventry process, and that he hoped when the Home Office Vote came up for consideration that he might be in a position to make a definite statement.

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman as to whether the inquiry so promised has been made. I think I am perfectly entitled to do so. I think I am right in saying that if the promise had not been made the. House would have forced a Division, and the right hon. Gentleman, who I know was absent that evening, would have had a most uncomfortable time the following morning if that Division had been taken. The Under-Secretary also promised to have a full inquiry into the question of boy labour, of boys between sixteen and eighteen years of ago working on the night shift. I think he told us that since the Factory Act was passed the exemptions that are permitted by one of the Sections of that Act had been extended to some twenty different trades where continuous processes were in operation. In order that there may be no doubt as to the position I quote what was said:— If on the Home Office Vote it is the considered opinion of the House on the report of our experts that all those orders should he rescinded, we will rescind them altogether and stop the practice. I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman what is the real position of his Department with regard to the working of boys in those different continuous processes at night work. The Debate on that occasion was taken part in not only by Members on these benches, but by Members of the right hon. Gentleman's own party, and by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and there was universal agreement that he time had come when some very stringent inquiry should be made, and if it was it all possible and if it could be done with-out injury, that the time had come when, in the spirit of the Resolution that was passed, I believe, at the International Congress last year, there ought to be an. international agreement for the purpose of minimising, if not entirely prohibiting, this question of working boys under very adverse conditions at night work. I hope before the Debate closes that the right hon. Gentleman will have some satisfaction to give to us who are interested in this question.

The next question to which I wish to call his attention is the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, a very important document, to which some of us have to give a good deal of time in going through each year. The first observation I have to make with regard to this year's report is to express my deep disappointment at the very easy manner that the report passes over the conclusions, and in fact the whole report, of the Accidents Committee which was recently issued. The report of the Accidents Committee consists of sixty-three pages of a Blue Book, and yet, so far as the Annual Statement is concerned, this most important document is lightly dismissed in less than a page of matter in which it merely repeats some of the recommendations from the report. There is not a single word as to whether the Department have accepted the recommendations of their own Committee, or whether they have any intention whatsoever of putting those different recommendations into operation. It seems to me that the report is one which demands very much more attention than it has received from the authorities. May I remind the Committee that the Accidents Committee of Inquiry was appointed in November, 1908, and that it did not report until February of the present year. Thus it sat for over two years. It examined quite a large number of witnesses and it makes in its conclusions some very important recommendations. Yet here we have in the Annual Statement of the Department presented to us an important report such as that of the Accidents Committee passed over with a very few paragraphs. It seems to me that that is an omission which I really think is a very serious one, and which is the less justifiable when we remember the continuous increase of accidents reported in this Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops.

May I ask the Committee just to notice some of these very alarming figures. The total number of accidents for the past year amounted to 129,550. How does that compare with other years? Ten years ago, that is in 1900, the total number of accidents was 79,020. Five years ago, that is in 1905, the total number of accidents was 100,600. Thus the present year gives us an increase of 28,900 as compared with 1905, and an increase of 40,480 as compared with 1900. All the reported accidents for last year are 28,135 in excess of the mean number of the past ten years. I venture to say that those are very surprising figures indeed. Fatal accidents have increased, according to the report I hold in my hand, from 946 in 1909 to 1,080 in 1900, or an increase of 134, and what is still more pathetic, I think, is the increase in the number of accidents to children. They have risen from 153 in 1909 to 240 in 1910, or an increase for the year of over 56 per cent. All those accidents to children were the result of accidents arising from machinery or from explosions. I want to trouble the Committee with a few more figures. I will take the founding trade. I am bound to take this trade—first, because of the alarming increase in the number of accidents, and, secondly, because it is the trade with which I am most directly connected and with which from practical experience I am familiar. In connection with that trade the number of accidents rose from 7,451 in 1909 to 8,084 in 1910. Fatal accidents rose from sixty to eighty. In ten years accidents in foundries caused by machinery rose from 2,629 to 4,088. The ratio of accidents in foundries to the number of people employed is the second highest in the country.

We shall in all probability be told, as indeed the report itself states, that these high figures are calculated to mislead, that they do not show what is the exact rate of increase in accidents, and that the higher figures are almost entirely due to better reporting of accidents. I am prepared to make a certain allowance for that factor, but I am very far from being convinced that we should dismiss these figures lightly, and come to the conclusion that the higher figures are the result of greater attention in the matter of reporting. But whether they are the result of better reporting or not, the figures are appalling, and cannot be treated lightly. To many of us they are not only appalling, but they are the more regrettable because we believe that in the majority of cases they are preventable. In our opinion, as has been stated by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) in pre- vious discussions, the problem is very largely one of proper and effective administration. That I believe was the conclusion to which not only the minority, but also the majority, of the Accidents Committee came. In my own society there is a very strong feeling that the great increase in the number of accidents in foundries cannot be dissociated from the higher pressure to which workmen are subjected on the one hand, and the lack of practical knowledge on the part of those who occasionally go to foundries on the other. I am afraid that the visits are like angels' visits—occurrences which happen very seldom. If I may speak from my own experience, I was for sixteen years in one engineering establishment on the Tyne, first as apprentice, then as journeyman, and finally as foreman in charge of over one hundred men, and never during the whole of that time was I brought into touch with anyone called a factory inspector, although we had great cause in those days to take exception to some of the conditions under which we were compelled to work My experience does not stand alone; it can be corroborated by thousands of men who work in foundries today, and are members of my organisation.

A fortnight ago at an important conference of 120 delegates brought direct from the foundries of the country this question was considered, and the conclusion arrived at was that many of the accidents were due to the fact that we had not brought to bear on the part of the inspectors that practical knowledge which is absolutely essential to promote the safety of the workers in many of the foundries. The society with which I am connected has a very long experience. It has been in existence for 102 years; it has watched very closely over this trade, and it has endeavoured to improve the conditions under which its thousands of members are employed. I think, therefore, it is entitled to speak on this very important question. When the Accidents Committee was holding its inquiry it invited us to send a representative to give evidence. That representative (Mr. Frost), who came from the Oldham district, and was one of the constituents of the Chairman, made the following points:— Foundries are often badly lighted; they are offer very dirty, and more frequent limewashing might improve the light as well as add to the comfort of the workers. The habit of laying plates on the foundry floor between the lines of rails is dangerous, because hot metal falling on the plates splashes and cause: burns, and because the splashes form into balls, and or the iron plates such balls roll under the feet of the workers and cause falls. These workers are often carrying a ladle of molten metal, and as a result they are much more liable to fall and have the molten metal thrown over them. The inspector of the Scottish district calls attention to this very point in the present report. He says:— The number of accidents due to molten metal was again very large. Mr. Wilson (in whose district fourfiths of the total occurred) says in one large foundry district the hand ladles are provided with a shield at one side, which to some extent afford protection to the moulder's legs. I have gone through this experience time and time again, carrying possibly l½ cwts. or 2 cwts. of molten metal in one of these ladles, and having to go over these dangerous passages from one side of the foundry to the other. In many cases the protection referred to in this report is entirely absent, and, as Mr. Frost said in his evidence, the foundries are so dark and dirty, and they are so often blocked with boxes and plates which have been used in connection with castings, that they are almost impassable. Having regard to the extra pressure now being brought to bear upon the moulders, who have to carry the metal under such conditions and under such driving, can anyone wonder that the number of accidents from molten metal is very largely on the increase? Mr. Frost says that men have to carry the metal in large quantities, and the practice of catching it in ladles is dangerous. The witness thought that in no cases should metal be caught in ladles carried by hand. He also said that— Iron plates should not be placed under the furnace spout as they increase the danger of splashes and burns. Foundries are often cumbered with the boxes used for sand casting; men have to carry molten metal between these boxes, and often insufficient space is left; falls and burns are increased by this overcrowding. Boys under eighteen should not be allowed to carry vessels containing molten metal, to do so requires both strength and skill and burns often result from the employment of young and inexperienced persons in this work. The whole of this is taken from the report and evidence of the Committee of Accidents, but there is not a single word in the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops which suggests that the Home Office are going to take a single step to secure that greater precautions shall be taken in connection with foundries. The Accidents Committee themselves were impressed by the evidence given by the representative of the trade to which I belong, and they state in their report:— We suggest that these are matters which might be investigated by the inspectors and discussed at such conferences with employers and employed. It appears possible that statutory regulations for iron foundries may be found necessary after such inquiry and discussion. That is a recommendation which it seems to me the Factory Department might at once have taken up and put into operation. Whom do they expect is going to call together a conference between the whole of the employers or the employers in any district belonging to the engineering trade and the representatives of, say, my organisation, or any other organisation connected with the founding trade? We have been told that to appoint a commission or committee is often the speediest way of providing a sepulchre in which to dispose of a difficult problem. It seems to me that unless some voice is raised in connection with this Home Office Vote this Accidents Committee's report and recommendations will positively become a dead letter.


No, no.

5.0 P.M.


I am delighted to hear that. It is the first evidence of encouragement I have received from the right hon. Gentleman since I began my speech. I hope that before the Debate closes he will tell us exactly what has been done, what is being done, and what he intends to do in order that we may join together and, if possible, lessen the appalling number of accidents in connection with this important branch of the engineering trade. The society to which I belong declared at its recent conference that in its opinion the only way in which this matter could be properly treated was by the appointment of practical inspectors. Nothing has surprised many of us connected with engineering and other trades more than the change which has taken place in regard to the Factory Department since the innovation made by the present Prime Minister when Home Secretary. I remember those days quite well. The right hon. Gentleman appointed, for the first time, I believe, a number of practical men, not as inspectors, but as assistant inspectors. I believe that most of the men appointed had practical experience, but within a very few years their commission was completely changed. I believe the Prime Minister made a statement to this House that for the time being their scope of operations would be restricted, but, on appointment, it was understood that they would have full power to enter every factory or workshop. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester has noted this point more than once in previous discussions. What do we find to-day? We find that the practical man who knows something about foundries, about engineering, and about shipbuilding, the assistant inspector, is told off—to do what? To visit some of the great drapery establishments in the City of London, or in some other city in the provinces. Could anything be more ridiculous? The present Prime Minister, when Home Secretary, felt that it was necessary to make this new departure and to appoint these practical men. Instead of setting them to do practical work they are told off to go and make inquiries into something connected with establishments that, I venture to say, not one of them have worked in, and very few of them seldom or ever visit—because most of us like to keep out of drapery shops as long as possible, believing when we are taken there it is only to do the paying on behalf of somebody else who does the choosing. Yet here we have—and this has gone on, I believe, from a very short time after the right hon. Gentleman left the Home Office till the present time! The moulder who knows that the practical man is inquiring into drapers' shops and not into foundries is not surprised that he never sees a practical factory inspector, and there is no attempt made to improve the condition of the place where he has to earn his livelihood.

Moulders, therefore, have come to the conclusion—and I must say I am in fullest agreement with them—that the only way improvement can take place is to enlarge the scope of the assistant inspector, and send the practical man to do practical work. If that cannot be done it seems to us that the foundry interest is of such importance, and the number of accidents have so largely increased, that we cannot refrain from asking that practical men, men who have been trained in connection with the foundry or with engineering should be appointed to look after this most important branch of industry. I want to know how much difference there is between us in this practical point and shipbuilding. A Departmental Committee has been recently looking into the question of the shipbuilding trade. What have they reported? I find on page 56 of their report that they suggest as a preventive step—and after all it is prevention that we want:— as a preventive step it is suggested that staging, etc., should be erected by skilled men, and supervised by them. I want to ask if it is necessary to have skilled men—and that is what the Committee have reported —to erect staging; is it not as important to have skilled men to supervise the staging when erected? May I, without offence, ask whether the gentlemen who have been securing the appointments in recent years —gentlemen with the very best education, gentlemen who have, I believe, in most cases have had a University training, are qualified to go and supervise staging erected by a practical shipbuilder? Arc they qualified to enter these dirty foundries, where molten metal is being carried, it may be in ten, fifteen, or twenty-ton cranes, or carried by three moulders in a hand-ladle? We have in this House heard a good deal during recent weeks in regard to the question of social distinctions. An hon. Member opposite very rightly called attention to a circular that had been issued by the Education Department. It was pointed out in the Debate which took place that there was too much caste, and too much social distinction; that there was a danger of these things breaking down the proficiency of our educational system. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it was education that was at stake in the case to which the hon. Gentleman opposite drew attention. In this case the lack of practical experience is sacrificing the lives, and affecting the industrial well-being, aye, if not the entire safety of thousands and tens of thousands of men and boys who are compelled to obtain their livelihood in connection with the foundries of this country.

It seems to me that the Accidents Committee were fully justified when they came to the conclusion that the staff of the Factory Department required to be reorganised and the duties of the different members of the staff assimilated. My friends the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Leicester and Bolton, who signed a Minority Note, agree in all particulars, I think, with the Majority Report on this particular point. I therefore hope I have this afternoon made out a case of sufficient strength to claim the serious attention of the right hon. Gentleman and his Department. At any rate, this increase in the number of accidents in the foundries of this country is so affecting the membership of my union that they are determined that they will leave no stone unturned to force this question upon the notice of the Home Department and the Home Secretary in the hope that the case will be so sympathetically considered by the right hon. Gentleman that he will see to it that other assistant inspectors, or some practical men, who have been trained in engineering and foundry work, will have committed to them the careful examination of the foundries. We may thus hope, at any rate, considerably to minimise the appalling number of accidents that I have to-day brought to the notice of the Committee.


I desire to call attention to a matter that I called attention to last year upon this Vote, that is the prevalence of lead poisoning in the Potteries. Before I do that I wish to say two or three words upon the subject of boy labour. I quite agree with what has just been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnard Castle. It is quite time that we considered the whole question of boy labour, and I do trust that the Home Office will carry out their promise and give us an opportunity of discussing on a single occasion all the Orders of Exemption for the employment of boy labour. It is almost impossible to attack the individual Order when it comes, because in the first place the opportunities of the private Members are few, and the private Member who attacks an Order has against him all the organised forces of the Home Office. Again, it is very hard for a private Member to make out his case. Still the fact is these exemptions are getting very numerous, and it is quite time that the whole question was looked into and the whole principle considered.

I desire to go into the subject of lead poisoning. That subject stands in a position that gives rise to a good deal of disquiet to those who follow the figures. Let me go back fifteen years. In 1896 the number of cases of lead poisoning in the Potteries was rather more than 400 a year. As a result of legislation in the next four years they dropped to half, or 200 a year. As a result of further legislation, by 1001 they had dropped to about 100 a year. For the last ten years they have remained almost stationary. For the last ten years there has been no real decrease in the cases of lead poisoning in the Potteries. I quite agree that in the course of 1909 it looked as though there was a real and continuous de crease in these cases. That supposed decrease has turned out to be fallacious. The figures for last year rose to seventy-seven, whilst the figures for the first five months of this year were forty-three, or somewhere about the level of 100 cases a year, at which the figures have stood for the last ten years. This is all the more to be regretted because in 1903, when Lord James of Hereford held an important arbitration, the employers who appeared before him, and fought very hard for certain concessions through their counsel, assured the arbitrator that if their regulations were accepted lead poisoning would be extirpated.

Eight years have gone by and the figures are exactly as bad as they were then. There does not seem very much hope under present conditions of their getting better. It may be thought by the Committee that the figure of 100 cases of lead poisoning a year is not a very large figure. I grant it is not; but the total harm to the community is not measured by the actual figure. Lead poisoning is a very insidious disease, and one which in its early stages is very hard to trace. Above all its effect on women is extremely deleterious. It affects them in a very strange and remarkable way, and the result is that where women are exposed to lead poisoning their liability to miscarriage is very largely increased, and stands at about three times that of the average of the community. We have here, then, a process of trade which causes at least 100 cases every year, and causes a far larger amount of suffering and illness, because all its effects are not discovered, and a good many of them are rather slow and hard to trace. I have had the advantage of reading the report of the Chief Inspector. He points to the increase in the cases this year compared with last year, and passes it with the slight but significant comment that it is important to note that the decrease hoped for has not occurred. I would call special attention to the report of the lady inspector, Miss Sadler, who traces the cases directly to the condition of the works.


Which page?


Page 125, paragraph 4, line 5. It says here that Investigation of almost every case shows ample reason for the symptoms. It seems to me quite clear that the regulations are not being observed as they might be. Above all, they are not having the effect that was expected. We have tried regulations for ten years, and by these regulations we were promised the extirpation of lead poisoning, but that has not occurred. I urge upon the Home Secretary to consider whether the time has not now come when some different means might be taken of treating this problem. Miss Sadler says these accidents are not due to the carelessness of the workers, as is often suggested. It is also pointed out that in many cases employers of their own accord have put up structural alterations advised by the Departmental Committee last year. I think, therefore, it is fair to say that the system of regulation has received a fair trial and has not fulfilled its object.

We have got to a state of things where matters are stationary, and if we want to reduce these evils or to exterminate them we must try new methods. There are only three ways of treating lead poisoning: the first is by regulation, which has been tried, and which I think has failed; the second is by giving special exemption to the manufacturers who use harmless glazes or by putting special penalties on those who do not use harmless glazes. The Committee knows, I expect, that lead poisoning is caused by the inhalation into the human system of the dried dust of clays which contains lead in the process of glazing china. A certain amount of glaze is splashed upon the floor or upon the clothes of the workers. It dries, turns to dust, is inhaled by the workers, and then produces the evil effects. Certain glazes can be made which contain so small a quantity of soluble lead as to be harmless to the human system. The lead to harm the human system must first be inhaled and dissolved in the blood. Before the last Workmen's Compensation Act was passed it was suggested that those employers who use a low percentage of soluble lead in the glazes should have specially favourable terms in regard to compensating their workmen, but in consequence of that Act all employers were put upon equal terms, and employers who use the low percentage were put upon the same liability in regard to compensation for accidents as those using the more dangerous glazes. I suggest for consideration of the Home Secretary that it might be worth while to consider the advisability of imposing specially onerous terms upon manufacturers who use the raw lead glazes. That is the second way of dealing with this matter; and the third and last way in which the question could be dealt with is by the prohibition of the use of raw lead glaze, either to all manufacturers or in regard to certain scheduled articles.

I admit that the Committee reported against that recommendation, and they said they were compelled by the evidence given before them to reject that plan, but I am by no means satisfied after careful perusal of all the circumstances that that is the final word. I am inclined to think that the only real solution will be found by prohibition, either partial or complete, of the use of raw lead glazes, and the Committee's Report points out that in connection with a great many articles, and especially cheap coarse articles, the use of non-lead glazes is just as cheap as lead glazes. I do not believe that we alone can prohibit the use of lead glazes. The only way the subject can be adequately dealt with is by international agreement on the lines of prohibition, as in the case of white phosphorous in the match trade. I urge the Home Secretary to take advantage of the next International Labour Conference to ventilate this subject and to see if it is not possible to get international agreement in order to stamp out this evil. It is an evil small in extent but very terrible in its character, and above all it is a preventable evil. However small it is, even though there were only a hundred cases per year compared with the hundreds of thousands of cases of which we heard something this afternoon, from the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, still it is a preventable evil which causes a great amount of needless suffering, and the very smallness of the numbers ought to render the solution of the problem easy, and I believe if a determined effort is made to tackle this evil, a solution will be found.


Many Members take an interest in the subject under discussion upon this occasion, because it gives an. opportunity of discussing the administration of the Factory Act by the Home Office. I think anyone who has any knowledge of factory legislation cannot read the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector without being struck with the beneficent character of such legislation and with the magnitude of the work. The work is now much greater than formerly. There are now 265,142 factories and workshops to be inspected, and to perform this work there are only 200 inspectors, so that each inspector has practically 1,325 workshops and factories to inspect. It seems to me with such a staff it would be difficult for the inspectors to get round to all the different places. During the last three years I have had the opportunity of calling attention to several matters in connection with the administration of these Acts, and especially in relation to the restriction of dust generated in the process of stripping and grinding cards. All the persons engaged in these operations are male adults, and it is very common indeed for them to become afflicted with asthma and bronchitis, so that at forty years of age, so far as the lungs are concerned, a large number of them are old men. Some time ago an eminent doctor made an examination of 136 of those workpeople, and found 78 per cent. of them were afflicted with asthma and bronchitis. Taking these things into consideration, it is the duty of the Home Office to insist upon the necessary apparatus being affixed to prevent this evil. I know they have done something, and that, as compared with last year, they are fairly entitled to our appreciation for the work they have done. There is now, as between employer and employed, agreement as to efficient apparatus for taking away this dust. The Operatives' Association and the Employers' Association have had a joint committee looking into this matter, and they have decided to recommend certain apparatus in the factories for the purpose of doing away with this dust. Last year there were fifty mills either wholly or partially fitted with this apparatus; there are now 117, and there are 102 that have them on order or in course of erection. That would go to show that no inconsiderable progress has been made, but I think we ought to consider the matter in the light of the number of factories in existence.

There are 1,000 factories connected with the carding industry, and even if the progress of last year is continued, it would take many years yet before the whole of the mills were fitted with this apparatus. I ask the Home Office to press upon the inspectors to see that this work is done more rapidly than last year. The workmen are entitled to have their health preserved; it is the only asset they have, and when they lose their health they are at once thrown upon the scrap-heap, and they are unable any longer to get their living. As far as this particular subject is concerned, there is now no disagreement between employer and employed. I know one employer engaged in a very high class trade, who has been so pleased with the result produced that he now says he wished he had put in this apparatus before, because the yarn is so much cleaner than was formerly the case.

There is another matter to which I called attention previously, and that is the promotion of automatic locking motions over cylinders of the carding engines. These cylinders run at a very high rate of speed, and where there is no lock many people get badly injured. I find from the report of the superintendent inspector of the North-Western Division that carding machinery accidents have fallen from 353 to 314. Those due to main driving straps and pulleys have gone up, but under almost every other heading the numbers have decreased, and this is perhaps particularly noticeable with cylinders. Included under this heading there are, however, several which ought not to have occurred had locking motions been applied to the stripping doors. Two may be specially mentioned in the Oldham district, in the first of which a girl lost her right hand and in the second a young man (a learner) lost four fingers. So that all these accidents were of a serious nature. There are now in existence apparatus which would prevent them, and they ought to be applied. I find from an answer to a question I asked a short time ago, as to the number of mills fitted with this locking apparatus, that out of 323 such mills, only fifty-six have them affixed. I think this very unsatisfactory indeed, especially considering the serious and dangerous nature of the trade, and also considering that the matter has been the subject of discussion for a number of years. That the number of accidents can be reduced is proved by the fact that the number last year in this particular class has been reduced from forty in 1909 to twenty-three in 1910. That is satisfactory as far as it goes, but it will be many years before the whole of the carding engines are fitted with these locking motions. In this case I claim that the limbs of the workers ought to be considered of more importance by the Home Office and employers generally than the small cost which will be incurred. For these reasons I ask that pressure should be put upon employers to fix this apparatus in a more rapid manner.

Then there is the question of time cribbing. It seems as though this is a question which applies only to the cotton trade. Probably some hon. Members will want to know what time cribbing is. The engines in a mill are started and stopped at certain times according to the Factory Act, and in a number of instances work is not stopped until a few minutes past the proper hour, and the engines are sometimes started before the proper time. The workpeople are not paid for this extra time, so that the employers not only rob them of this money by not paying them for this time, but the workpeople are frequently robbed of a portion of their meal times. That is not fair to the good employers. If one employer is allowed to work a longer period without paying for it and another employer works the correct time it puts the good employer on a worse competitive basis than the bad employer who practices this time cribbing. On these grounds I claim that the good employers and the operatives ought to be protected. This practice appears to apply only to the cotton trade, and it applies more particularly in some districts than in others.

During the last year there have been 419 cases of time cribbing taken to the courts. The penalties imposed amount to £429, but the remarkable thing about the whole matter is that out of the whole of the 419 cases 211 come from Oldham. Old-ham is the largest spinning centre, and probably that has a great deal to do with it. I think we are entitled to say that urgent steps have been taken for the purpose of preventing this evil. The Factory Act has been passed by this House, and it is an insult to this House that employers should be allowed to break the law in the way they do. I know that this practice is only indulged in by a minority of employers, and there are a large number of good employers who would scorn to adopt any system of this description. There is great dissatisfaction with regard to the administration of the law when the cases go into court, and the workpeople do not seem to get the satisfaction they ought to have. The reason suggested for this is that the person who has to advise the magistrate is also the adviser of the Employers' Association. That seems hardly a decent position for anyone to take up, and there can be no confidence in factory administration so long as that kind of thing takes place.

Another matter referred to in the Report which I think is very unsatisfactory is the extension of the Particulars Clause. I think everybody engaged on piecework is entitled to have sufficient direct particulars to enable them is calculate the amount of wages they should draw. The system adopted has proved very useful in the cotton trade, which is the pioneer trade in this matter. I find that there are 7,987 factories and 1,933 workshops under this system. It has now been extended to bleaching and dyeing works, and it has proved very satisfactory indeed. It has also been extended to clothing factories, where it is very much needed. I am afraid that the enforcement of this particular section is not as stringent as it might be. According to the report of the inspector 805 notices of contravention of the Act were served upon the employers, and only eight prosecutions have taken place. That is a very small proportion, and something ought to be done to see that the workpeople get sufficient particulars in order that they may be sure that they are receiving their full wages.

With regard to the Workmen's Compensation Act a promise was made by Lord Gladstone when he was Home Secretary in regard to medical referees. The point was pressed upon Lord Gladstone in Committee when the House was considering the Workmen's Compensation Bill, and it was pointed out that there ought to be State medical referees appointed who were not engaged in private practice. Lord Gladstone at that time said he thought it would be too expensive, that the cases were not so numerous, and that it would cost the State too much, as we could not get medical referees without paying them a very large salary. Lord Gladstone, however, made a promise that an experiment should be tried by the appointment of a few medical referees, but that promise has not been carried into effect. There is a very great dissatisfaction throughout the whole of the country in regard to the question of medical referees. As a rule, they are engaged in private work and, naturally, it is suggested that they cannot very well be free from bias. There are medical referees engaged by insurance companies—not, of course, in the cases in which they act as medical referees, but in other cases—and seeing that they get part of their money by examining persons who have been injured and are employed by the companies there must be a natural bias in that direction. But whether there is a bias or not, there is a feeling amongst the workers that they are not getting' fair treatment in regard to this matter. I have in connection with my own society found persons who have been examined by medical referees and declared to be permanently cured, and later the very same people have been paid off as permanently disabled, and they have not been able to work since. There is no appeal from the medical referees, and we ought to have that element of unfairness taken away by the appointment of State-paid officials, who will be able to devote their whole time to the work and in whom the people will have confidence.

With regard to the regulations which have been issued by the Home Secretary relating to the working of the Workmen's Compensation Act, I notice that a chamber of commerce in Yorkshire is sending out a circular in reference to malingering, in which there is a suggestion in favour of more frequent medical examinations of injured persons. I hope the Home Secretary will take no action in regard to that suggestion without full and adequate inquiry, because experience shows that through frequent medical examination persons get so disgusted that rather than submit to it. they will go to their work before they are fully cured. I think too much has been said about this malingering and too much is being made of it. Comparisons are made between what takes place now and what used to take place before the Compensation Act was passed. It must be remembered that in the past persons often went to their work long before they were cured because they had nothing to live upon, and that fact ought to be taken into account. When a person is injured in following his occupation he is fully entitled to get properly cured before being called upon to go to his work. There is considerable dissatisfaction in regard to some of the decisions which the judges have given. I know that the Home Secretary has no control over the decisions of the judges, although he has said something about the judges. In our opinion decisions have been given which are directly contrary to what was intended by the framers of the Act when the Bill was before the House.

In regard to the basis of compensation the work-people are losing thousands of pounds to-day which they ought to have had if the intention of the framers of the Bill had been carried into effect. It is now five years since the Act was passed, and the matters I have referred to are rather serious. The trade unions, who have to pay their members when away from their work, can be relied upon to look into this question of malingering. I want to press upon the Home Secretary the desirability on behalf of the trade union movement of appointing a committee of inquiry to consider the working of this Act. If he will do this we shall be able to get more satisfaction than we are getting at the present time. I have always said, and shall continue to say, that the Workmen's Compensation Act is one of the best pieces of industrial legislation that ever was passed. If it was carried into effect in the way it was intended I do not think anyone would have reason to complain, but seeing that these grievances exist, both from the employers' and the work-people's point of view, I ask the Home Secretary to consider whether the time has not arrived to appoint a Committee to inquire into the whole working of the Workmen's Compensation Act.


I should like to refer to a few points arising out of the report of the Inspector of Factories. I wish to draw attention to the system of fines and deductions which has been adopted in our industrial system. I see that is Manchester there has been a case where deductions are made for power, gas, cotton, and needles. The chief inspector alludes to this practice as an old and dying custom. If it is a dying custom with regard to organised men workers, it is certainly not a dying custom as affecting women workers, who up to the present are in an unorganised state. Some very flagrant instances are mentioned in the chief inspector's report. There are instances of women who have had to submit to deductions of from 3s. to 10s. for the repair of sewing machines, and who have also to submit to a deduction of 1s. a week in order to pay that sum. That would, perhaps, be fair if the injury to the machine arose from the fault of the work-people, but probably those sewing machines were worn out by other workers, or the trouble arose from some defects in the machinery. There is an instance of the girl whose employer, not being satisfied with the way a garment was made, forced her to give 4s. for it, although she received only 4½d. for making it. The girl's earnings that week were only 2s. 6d., and, consequently, she lost the whole of her wages for that week and 1s. 6d. of her wages for the following week.

There is another instance given of a girl whose wages were 5s. a week being forced to buy nine skirts at 1s. 6d. each. I can add numerous other cases furnished to me by private investigators. There are, for instance, food factory workers who have to submit to the deduction of 1d. per week for breakages, although there may not have been anything broken at all; trousers finishers who have out of every 8s. 6d. of their wages 4½d. deducted for cotton, needles and thread; and also quilt factory workers who are fined 1d. per minute for lateness, although their average earnings are only 5s. per week. I had hoped the Home Secretary would have found time to deal with this question of fines and deductions, but apparently it has been squeezed out by other matters of more importance in his own opinion. I would, however, venture to remind him it is three years ago since the Truck Committee reported, and came to a unanimous decision that the present state of the law was not strong enough to protect workers in regard to fines and deductions, and I cannot help thinking it is high time Parliament stretched forth its hand to protect these utterly defenceless workers. If there is any reinforcement necessary, you can find ample in the Chief Inspectors' Report. The Chief Lady Inspector, for instance, alludes to the extreme need that women and girls have for every protection available for their often incredibly small wages against uncertain deductions. It would be difficult to overstate their case for clearness in the law and a vigilant application of it. Much has yet to be done in securing to women and girls in large parts of our industries a definite wage not liable to capricious variations due to unforeseen deductions and charges. Some of the smallest wages mentioned on which it would seem impossible to maintain life, not to speak of health, fell to the lot of workers entirely dependent on their own exertions. When the Government does make a move in this direction I hope they will go the whole hog and prohibit fines and deductions altogether. I am very glad to think opinion is coming round to the idea that fines for unpunctuality do not act in the slightest degree as a deterrent, but, on the other hand, rather increase the amount of unpunctuality if they do anything at all, because the workers pay the fines, and, having paid them, think they have salved their consciences and made ail the amends necessary. So long as deductions for bad work are legal there must be injustice to the workers, because it is not always humanly possible to do the best work, and damages and defects which are often attributed to the worker are the fault of the material and machinery provided by the employer. I would like to congratulate the Home Office on the reduction in the number of accidents to children in laundries. The excellent work which has been done by the lady inspectors with regard to this only emphasises the necessity of the appointment of more lady inspectors. Women's work is increasing day by day, and it is rather a disappointment to find the number of women inspectors remains the same, namely, at seventeen. If one wanted evidence of the necessity for more lady factory inspectors, one would find it in the fact that in this Report there is nothing said about what I consider a very great evil—that is, the existence of underground factories.

In these days of rigid inspection and humanitarianism it is hardly credible to think that very high-class tailoring and millinery work can be carried on, as it is to a large extent, in places which used to be coal cellars and in places underground reaching right under the street. I am told, if you take the area bounded on one side by Waterloo Place and on the other side by Regent Street, Piccadilly, and St. James's Palace, there are more underground workrooms in that area than in any other part of England, and it is in that area where all the high-class work is done. Of course, it stands to reason, if you have a place which has once been a coal cellar, it is most difficult to turn it into a sanitary workroom. It is impossible to light it, to ventilate it, or to find adequate sanitary accommodation. The condition of the atmosphere can easily be imagined. You have the fumes from gas stoves, fumes from iron presses, and the smell of badly-ventilated sanitary accommodation. It it not surprising the health of those who work under those conditions is ten and twenty per cent. worse than the health of workers who work under any other conditions. I remember a deputation waiting on the Under-Secretary, drawing his attention to the necessity for legislation in this matter, and the Under-Secretary referred them to the House of Lords. I can only hope, if the House of Lords does pass this useful measure of social reform, the right hon. Gentleman will look upon it with greater favour than he has hitherto looked upon any attempt of their Lordships to reform themselves.

Another matter which I wish to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman is the question of the employment of children out of school hours. I think it will be agreed on both sides of the House that, if we are to obtain social equality and a proper return for the great amount of money spent by the tax-payers and ratepayers on education, the first thing we have to secure is that children who go to school shall be in a condition to profit by their lessons. One would have thought, when local authorities are inspired to take action in this matter and secure for children adequate playtime and adequate rest in between their school hours, the Home Office would only be too ready and willing to second their efforts. It is, I must say, rather disappointing to find the Home Office, instead of helping local authorities, have apparently only one idea, and that is to throw cold water upon their efforts. Take, for instance, the case of Leeds. Out of a regular attendance of 68,000 children in Leeds, no less than 4,300 work out of school hours. Fifteen hundred of those are girls, and 667 of that number are under ten years of age. After a good deal of prodding from educational reformers, the city council of Leeds decided to take action in the matter, and they issued a by-law prohibiting the employment of children under the age of twelve out of school hours. That was not a very revolutionary proposition or one which could be called anything like a dangerous leap in the dark. Still, the Home Office wrote to the city council of Leeds asking why the age of twelve was selected and not the age of eleven. There is another case. There is apparently quite a progressive and enlightened urban council at Ilford. They wished to pass by-laws prohibiting work by children out of school hours up to the age of twelve for boys and up to the age of thirteen for girls. Yet they had their by-laws returned mutilated by the Home Office. The same thing happened in the case of Newport, Monmouthshire. Harrogate also passed by-laws regulating the employment of children out of school hours, and the Home Office wrote saying there must be an inquiry. There really is no necessity to have these long and expensive inquiries into these matters. There is not the slightest fear that local authorities will move too fast in this matter. The parents and traders have only too many shortsighted defenders in the city and urban councils, and, if some town councils do pluck up courage to make a move in this matter, it is only a visible sign that the conscience of their constituents has been aroused and that they wish to make an attempt to secure a measure of justice for the rising generation. The right hon. Gentleman takes almost an impish delight in letting off fireworks in the faces of grave and reverend seigneurs of the judicial bench, but he would do a very useful work if he let off a squib or a cracker in his own office and woke up the pundits in the Home Office who write these stiff letters discouraging local authorities from doing their obvious duty. If the right hon. Gentleman will make a note of these points and legislate before very long on the matters to which I have drawn his attention—


This is not the occasion to discuss legislation.

6.0 P.M.


I have only a few observations to make to the Committee, but they are upon a matter which I venture to think is of extreme importance. I desire to refer to one or two matters affecting the administrative action of my right hon. Friend. I desire, in the first place, to refer to the Committee that was appointed by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman to inquire into the working of the Employment of Children Act of 1903. That Act regulated the conditions under which children of school ago could be used in various forms of labour, and, although it dealt with the whole question of labour by school children, there were special clauses in it which dealt with those children we described as street traders—children who assist in earning their parents' living by trading on the streets. The Report of the Committee, which was recently presented to this House was almost wholly concerned with the question of street trading by children. You have already observed it would be entirely out of order to refer to matters requiring legislation, but the Report exposes not only the whole evil of street trading by children, but also certain aspects of it which do not require legislation to put them right. I am sorry I cannot join with my Noble Friend opposite in praising very many local authorities for the manner in which they have attempted to grapple with this matter. The report shows how many local authorities charged by the Act of 1903 with the duty of supervising the conditions under which children of school age are employed have failed entirely to carry out their duty, with the result that in many cases not only have no by-laws been made as provided by the Act but also that the Statutory regulations fixed by the Act have not been observed, and so we have children who are literally infants earning their living in the gutter. This is a serious evil which I venture to bring under the notice of the Home Secretary because it appears to me that some form of administrative action might bring some of these grosser abuses to an end. I leave out any reference to need for legislation on the lines suggested in order to pass to another aspect of the question. The Act of 1903 dealt not only with the question of street trading, but also with the employment of children of school age. It may be said the Committee were not able to inquire into this and other incidental matters, but still they received a considerable amount of evidence. What I have to say is this. It is clearly established that many thousands of very young children are not only employed in street trading but are employed in other forms of labour in the early morning, at mid-day, and late at night, and that these forms of labour are wholly unsuitable for children of such tender years, because they lead both to physical and mental, and not infrequently to moral, ruin. What I desire to impress on my right hon. Friend is the need for further inquiry into this aspect of the problem of child labour. Many of us hope and believe that we shall not be long before we see changes in our educational system—in the development and improvement of our educational system, and I desire to point out that this aspect of the educational problem is left to the care of the Home Office. No improvement by the educational authorities in the matter of continuation schools and other developments outlined in Bills now before Parliament will be effective if we still allow children of school age to be used in these improper forms of employment, and it is essential that the Home Office should, in co-operation with the Education Department, take action in this matter. I very much regret that it was not possible for me to give notice to my right hon. Friend of my intention to raise this matter this afternoon. I cannot, therefore, reasonably expect him to give me a final reply to the points I have raised, but I am sure I can count upon his sympathetic consideration of them, and I am confident that, if he finds it possible, he will go further into this matter, and will make it the subject of further inquiry. Should he do so, he will be supported by men of all parties in every part of the House, who have had any experience of the social and educational needs of this country.


I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to various points in connection with the report of the Departmental Committee which sat upon the question of Accidents in Factories and Workshops. In the first place I should like to point out that, although this Departmental Committee paid many visits, it did not visit a single mill in North-East Lancashire, whereas the evidence given by one of the witnesses before it must have suggested that it would be well to inspect some of the cotton factories in that district. The reason for that is the overcrowding of machinery in the mills there and the increase in the number of accidents year after year. The explanation is that the loom power system in operation there is different to the system obtaining in other parts of Lancashire. Instead of providing for the requisite number of looms and giving ample space for workpeople passing up and down, it is the practice in that district to utilise the space in order to get as many looms as possible into the shed. This question of space is a very important item, and I think the evidence given by the witnesses shows clearly the evil effects of the system which obtains specially where it is necessary for the men to carry very heavy weights. It was pointed out in the evidence on behalf of the weavers concerned how this more especially affects women and young people. Personally I know from bitter experience what is the result of the leaving of very little room for dealing with these very heavy weights. In answer to a question Mr. Cross, of the Northern Counties Weavers' Association, stated that there was not much room where the weight had to be held up for a long time, and he was referring to the case of weavers having to pass round to the back of the loom and to deal with weights of 56 lbs.

The Committee will readily understand the difficulty of handling these weights under these circumstances. The only proper way is to give free play to the body, and where either men or women can place their bodies at the requisite angle and move them as freely as nature will allow. There are thousands upon thousands of weavers in North-East Lancashire who have to make frequent visits round the back of the looms in order to regulate the weights, and it is of very great importance that better facilities should be given them to do that. It is a great inconvenience to men, and it is even dangerous to. have to do it, seeing that they have to carry weights ranging from 1501b. to 3001b. through a very narrow space, passing underneath the belting. From my own personal knowledge I say that the occupation is very dangerous, and there are many accidents occurring in the weaving sheds, which are not reported at the time because they appear to be very slight, but which eventually result in the workmen sacrificing a large amount of compensation because they have not thought it worth while reporting at the time. We have the utmost difficulty in getting men to report these accidents. Many men suffer from hernia, and they are very adverse to making any report lest it endanger their prospects of getting employment in the future. Another matter is that in many cases the looms in the sheds are placed so close together that in the event of an accident to one it is necessary to stop the working of two in order to make the necessary repairs. This of course, results in the lessening of production.

Another fruitful source of accident with cotton weavers is the accumulation of grease and dirt on the floors of the sheds, which is a very dangerous thing. I know that some of the employers will go to the trouble of providing sand to put upon the floors, but it never appears to be anybody's duty to do it, and it is never done. The result is the grease accumulating for months or perhaps years on the floors in a moist atmosphere, makes the floor extremely slippery, and when there is small room and a slippery floor anyone can imagine the facility with which accidents happen. It might be said that the weavers ought to clean it up, but it is mentioned by the men themselves that they have no time to clean up their own machinery. When the twelve o'clock stop came on a Saturday, a big outcry was raised as to the effect it would have upon production, but if the truth were known I think the fact would be that there has not been the slightest reduction but rather an increase of production, for in order to get as much production from the mills as possible the employers compel their hands to run their engines until the very last moment. Consequently they get no time even to clean their machinery, which is supposed to keep in good order from week to week quite apart from the floors. That is another matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. I should like, if it was at all possible, to see that the weavers are allowed ample time on Saturday to clean their looms when the engine stops. This is a very difficult matter under present conditions, especially in the case of the six or four-loom weaver. I should like, therefore, to see it required that the engine should stop one hour before closing time, so that the machinery may be cleaned. I do not think that the production would be lessened.

I notice that the speeding up of the machinery was denied by the Committee, but I wish to point out that no member of that Committee ever visited any part of East Lancashire, and if they had done so they would have had ample proof that speeding up the machinery takes place, not merely new machinery, but old machinery as well. I should like some provision by which the sheds could be improved in re-speck of the humidity prevailing in them. This question has been a burning one in Lancashire for many years, and a Committee sat upon it and made certain recommendations. I am very glad to find that on all points I think, with the exception of one, the employers and the operatives are in agreement. I know it is rather a bad time when the weather has broken down to introduce this subject, and I would much rather have done so when the sun was shining. Under present conditions in the sheds, if cold air from outside is introduced a draught is created which is very objectionable. We can quite imagine the effect when we have been running, walking, cycling, or doing anything like that, and if the weather is cold we feel it very much. It is the same in our work sheds with a humid atmosphere. I think the Home Secretary would do well to make an early attempt to introduce some measure whereby the recommendations made in the report as to humidity should be carried out. I believe such a measure would be an uncontentious one, and would be a great blessing to thousands and thousands of operatives in Lancashire who have been long waiting for some relief.


I have listened to a number of speeches from different parts of the Committee covering a wide range of topics, but all animated by a single spirit, namely, that of the improvement of the conditions of our industrial classes and the elevation of our industrial standards. They have all been directed to that single object, and I shall only ask the Committee to allow me to say a few words on some of the more-important points that have been referred to by the various speakers. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton has raised a question which he has raised at the Home Office on other occasions, namely, the question of time cribbing. I am bound to say that the figures of the prosecutions and the proportionate number of convictions is very disconcerting. As I have said, there can be no two opinions on the subject. For employers to try and cheat their workpeople out of a few minutes leisure every day without paying for their work is contrary to law and is an extremely discreditable and mean action on their part. I am very glad to say that very strong opinions have been expressed against it by very many of the best employers throughout Lancashire, and so far as the Home Office is concerned, we are giving instructions to our inspectors to prosecute in every case when there is a satisfactory case to be made out. A very large number of cases have been taken before the courts, and on the whole, the Home Office prosecutions have been well supported by the magistrates. They have been very successful, and in some cases heavy penalties have been inflicted. Mr. Shackleton and Mr. Bellhouse have recently secured further co-operation from the trade unions in regard to getting information necessary to put down this practice, which is an unlawful and a very undesirable practice. I am glad it has been called attention to to-day because it gives me an opportunity of saying that there is a very strong public feeling against it in Lancashire, and certainly it is not to be defended on any ground.

Then my hon. Friend went on to speak about the Workmen's Compensation Act, and he drew attention to various points in which he thought it required amendment, especially in regard to the appointment of medical referees and in regard to the subject of malingering. The Workmen's Compensation Act is necessarily legislation which must be subject to periodical revision. There is no finality about a Workmen's Compensation Act, because our industrial problems in this country are constantly expanding and changing and presenting new problems almost from year to year and from month to month, and legislation of this character must be revised. Five years have passed since the Act was revised, but we have not yet reached the period at which it would be desirable to occupy the time of Parliament with a measure on that subject, in view of the general progress of legislation. There are other Bills which I think are necessary, but let me say-there is no desire to shirk this responsibility. The Home Office have put before Parliament measures dealing with workers, and if we pass the Shop Hours Bill, the Coal Miners Bill, and other measures I do not think anyone can say that we have had a bad or barren Session in regard to labour. I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend that the time is approaching when a Committee of Inquiry should investigate occasionally the conditions of the industries of the country in reference to compensation. I have, therefore, given instructions to the Home Office, and they are now beginning to collect materials, and when those materials have been obtained I should think the question would arise in a very practical form next year. When the Committee report, I should think that the cycle of years would come round again when special legislation on this subject could be introduced. My hon. Friend behind me spoke of the employment of children, and of a Committee which reported on the subject. I am quite sure that the Committee will believe me when I say that we are most anxious to deal legislatively with the very valuable reports which have been presented. I have to consider, however, every claim for legislation with other claims, and I am bound to say that I see no chance of any legislation this year at all, but perhaps next year it may be possible to consider this subject in conjunction with legislation connected with the care of the feeble-minded, which will then be carried through.

The Noble Lord (Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck) criticised the attitude of the Home Office in regard to by-laws affecting children, and suggested that I should embark on the violent and incendiary course of discharging crackers and squibs under the noses of the expert advisers, but I shall not be able to meet him on that point. Though I listened with the greatest interest to other points in his speech, which showed much information on these subjects and on social matters, yet I am bound to say on this point he did not appear to have very strong ground for his criticism. We never resist the adoption by local authorities of more stringent bylaws with regard to children than are usual. We only asked, as we are bound to do, for special information on the point. I am sorry the request appears to have been framed in a chilling manner—nothing was further from my intention—and when they furnished their explanation we confirmed their by-laws. I cannot conceive any by-law that has been resisted by the Home Office which prohibits the employment of children up to twelve. It has long been our practice to regard that as a regular feature, and it exists in the bylaws of a great many authorities.

Then I come to the question of night work for young persons. That formed the subject of a debate a few weeks ago. May I here say how greatly I regret the absence of the Under-Secretary, who has been unseated. I have always followed the practice since I have been at the Home Office of handing over to the Under-Secretary, subject, of course, to my responsibility, which I do not divest myself of in any way, the bulk of the factory side of the Home Office work, because the work of the Department is very varied and extensive, and what with legislation and policy and the criminal side, it is very desirable that some of it should be delegated to a responsible Parliamentary officer. As the Committee knows, my hon. Friend has very great aptitude and very keen interest in this side of the work. He would have been able to address himself with more direct and easy contact to the points which have been raised than I can profess to do. My hon. Friend promised, when, this matter was last debated, that there should be a Committee to consider the whole question of the night work of young persons, and I agreed that the time has come when such a Committee should be appointed on general grounds, and not in connection with that particular order. The fact that the Conference which met at Lugano recommended the total abolition of the night work of young persons and that there is an international movement in that direction makes it necessary that we in this country should fully apprise ourselves of what effort and sacrifice should be needed to arrive at this very desirable result, but we will lose no time in setting up the Committee. It will be set up in the course of the next few weeks, and I hope we may be able to report before the Session begins next year.

Next there is the Report of the Accidents Committee. This is a very valuable Report indeed, and I am quite sure my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur Henderson) may be at ease in his mind that there is no intention whatever to leave it, to neglect it, or ignore it in any way. We regard it as a most valuable and important inquiry, but it is quite true as he said, that it was not mentioned in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. But why? First of all it is not the business of the Chief Inspector of Factories to forestall decisions of policy which have not yet been announced by the Head of the Department, and secondly, because the Report of the Chief Inspector dealt with the period of last year and the report of the Accidents Committee was not presented until February this year, therefore it does not fall within the present scope in point of time of his report. It was not that it has not been regarded with due and proper importance in the Home Office, and no deduction should be drawn from it of that character. This report has only come in this year and it is being most carefully examined at present. A great many of the recommendations will require legislation, and there are others which will be carried out in advance of legislation. I am having the report thoroughly examined with a view to definite proposals being made, not only in regard to legislative, but to administrative, changes, which I think may be begun piecemeal and carried out as they may be needed.

The dust exhausting appliances for carding machines have also received attention. Inspectors have served notices on all occupiers to provide these within three months from the date of the notice. Some delay has been caused by objection taken by the operatives to certain forms of apparatus, but as my hon. Friend says, it is all over now and agreement has been reached between the operatives and the occupiers, and according to the latest report, it is hoped that this task may very soon be completed.

I must say one word on the question referred to by the hon. Member (Mr. Hills), who dealt with the evil of lead poisoning. I quite agree with him that, although the number of cases is small, the evil is great and preventable to a very large extent, and it is our duty to exert ourselves to stamp it out altogether. The Departmental Committee appointed in l!)08, after a very thorough investigation, made a report, which was published last autumn, and that report has, on the whole, been well received by the trade. Some of the proposals in the report led to representations being made from the manufacturers, and we thought the best May to deal with them would be to call the Committee together, to consult them again through their chairman, who has taken an immense amount of trouble, and the result is that a few modifications of detail have been approved. Regulations following on the Committee's recommendations are about to be issued in draft. I asked whether they would be ready for this Debate, but they are in the last stage before they go to the printer. I think I have said enough to show the House that on nearly all the lines of advance which have been referred to we are moving steadily forward. On some, action has been already taken, some have reached the stage where action only awaits Parliamentary authority, and others have reached a point where a new inquiry is necessary, as in the case of the Workmen's Compensation Bill, but on all these lines, and without wasting time, we are doing our very best to bring our system of factory legislation abreast of and in front of the system of any other country in the world. In some respects we could make that claim already, but do not let us be at all sure that in other respects other countries have not gone ahead. Nothing but the most strenuous and constant attention of the House of Commons and the most zealous work of the Factory Department will enable us to maintain the position which we desire our country to occupy, not only in the output of its manufacturing industries, but still more in the condition of those who are engaged in them.


Is there nothing to be said with regard to the increase in the number of accidents in foundries?


The Accident Committee's Report, which we are now considering, did make recommendations on this point. If you compare the figures of accidents of 1910 with those of 1907 in foundries, there is a very sharp decrease in the number of accidents, and especially of fatal accidents. In 1907 there were 6,940, of which 151 were fatal; and in 1910 the number fell to 6,597, of which 107 were fatal, so that as far as foundries are concerned there is an improvement. The Accident Committee's recommendations are that first of all there should be conferences appointed—


I asked who was going to be responsible for organising these conferences.


Ultimately the Home Office, though it may be that some independent chairman or negotiator will be appointed to aid in actually carrying out the conference. Secondly, they recommended that if necessary there should be regulations. The regulations cannot be made without further inquiry. My hon. Friend's suggestion that foundries are now left without inspectors for sixteen years is contrary to any information which we have, and I am told the Factory Department of the Home Office regard it as incredible.


I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. I do not think I said foundries were left for this long period. I said during my sixteen years' experience as an apprentice, a journeyman, and a foreman in charge I never saw anything in the nature of a factory inspector.


We are always very ready indeed to act upon information which is sent to me, and if he can mention a particular case where there has been an enormous delay, an altogether unreasonable interval between the visits of the inspector, we will compare it with the records.


I desire to say a word or two on the subject raised by the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. J. W. Hills), namely, the question of lead-poisoning in the pottery trade. I want to disabuse the House of the idea which is very prevalent that the pottery trade is the one trade in which lead-poisoning occurs. As a matter of fact, it is far more serious in the coach building trade. The cases in the pottery trade are now comparatively trivial. They formerly amounted to 200 a year, and now they number seventy-seven a year. That is a large decrease, and it is very largely due to the excellent regulations made by the hon. Member's own Government when in power. The regulations have taken three directions. In the first place there are special instructions for the workmen to ensure cleanliness; in the second place there is a premium given to manufacturers who use glazes with less than a certain percentage of lead; and, in the third place, all the workmen who come in contact with lead are examined once a month by certifying surgeons. The hon. Member for Durham said that probably the only way to deal with the question thoroughly was to prohibit the use of lead altogether. I think there are only two manufacturers who manage to produce all their ware coated with glaze which is entirely leadless, and I do not think it is possible—commercially possible at any rate—to produce earthenware with absolutely leadless glaze. There are pieces which are fired in an oven with leaded glazed ware, and they call it leadless ware. But, generally speaking, you have to have a certain amount of lead in your glaze in order to give the ware a glossy coat.

There are other ways in which it will be perfectly possible to do away entirely with this horrible lead-poisoning wherever lead is used. You have got the method shown quite clearly by the progress which has been made in the past. We want regulations for ensuring cleanliness in the shops and on the part of the workmen. There are at present potteries where the floors are uneven, the wood is open and does not fit, and the ventilation is deplorable. Once you get places where lead processes take place under decent conditions, you will have a state of things which will go a long way towards eliminating lead poisoning in the potteries. By far the best way is to secure that the monthly examination shall be thoroughly efficient. The people in the pottery area are examined once a month by certifying surgeons. These certifying surgeons are not whole time officials. They are ordinary doctors engaged in general practice, and they are paid for the examinations they make by the manufacturers. The payments amount in some cases to £700 a year. One doctor, I am informed, examines as many as 1,800 a month. These people file in front of him. In these circumstances the examination is nothing more nor less than a farce. Both masters and men want to see these certifying surgeons whole-time officials, so that the examination of the workpeople may be a really satisfactory examination which will detect the first traces of lead poisoning, and so prevent the growth of it.

The present position of the certifying surgeons is causing a great deal of discontent in the whole of North Staffordshire. These men cannot possibly do the work properly so long as they have to engage in competition for other work. While it is impossible that they can do the work satisfactorily, it is even more impossible for them to secure the confidence of the workpeople. I should add that at the present time there is a particular difficulty which the workpeople have to face. It was reported to me—and this is one of the standard grievances of the potters—that a certifying surgeon, when he examines people in this cursory way and says, in regard to the health of a workman, that it is "fair," meaning that it is not perfectly satisfactory, the master sees that mark against the name. That constitutes a risk to that man. He is discharged from the trade in which he is employed, and he gets no compensation. His health has not been ruined, and the mere fact that the certifying surgeon has put this mark against his name prevents him from getting compensation. A man in that position should get some compensation by measuring the difference between the wages he was getting when employed in a lead process and the wages he gets in some other employment. So there is a demand that these certifying surgeons should be whole-time officials, paid by the Government, and doing the work thoroughly. That is one of the most urgently wanted reforms in the potting area in order to stop lead poisoning. These are the lines on which I hope the Government will move. I am very sorry that the Under-Secretary is not here to-day, because he is a specialist in this matter. I am confident that if he were to visit Staffordshire and go round the Potteries he would find that it is the desire of the workpeople that the medical inspection should be made a real thing instead of a farce, and that the inspection should be put on a proper basis.

We have had an extremely valuable report by the chief inspector, in which he points out certain things that are going on in the Potteries, and which might be put an end to by more efficient inspection. There have been cases of people working in temperatures far higher than are really satisfactory for health. We find that a man was working in a temperature of 103, and in another case a man was employing an oven in a temperature of 700 Fahrenheit. It is impossible for men to work in such temperatures without injury to health. I think that in both cases prosecutions took place, and that sort of thing was put a stop to. The inspection of factories must necessarily be a farce so long as the inspectorate is so hopelessly undermanned. At the present time, when a district is an enormous one, the inspectors may have as many as 10,000 factories and workshops to visit. How can one district inspector and four or five assistants get through such an enormous number of factories and workshops? It is obvious in these circumstances that a factory must go on for five or six years, or, as the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) said, sixteen years, before an inspection can take place. You cannot inspect factories in the Potteries at a glance. They are regular rabbit warrens. In those cases you want more efficient inspection than in warehouses. Mr. Shuter, inspector for the Potteries, made a very useful recommendation in his last yearly report, which I think the Home Office ought to carry out as soon as possible. The recommendation refers to the case of very cheap small factories, which are often rented by would-be master potters, for perhaps five shillings a week. He recommended that a man who owned a small factory and rented it to four different master potters in one year for low rents should be responsible for seeing that it is fit to be used as a pot factory. At present the man with a small capital of about £10 thinks he can start as a manufacturer in one of these ramshackle buildings. The inspector comes along and says that certain expenditures must be gone into to make the place fit for the purpose. That man goes bankrupt and leaves the premises. Then the landlord gets another man in. He goes on for a time, and because he does not make the place come up to the inspector's requirements he also goes out. In this way small men who are only working with a few pounds are ruined. Mr. Shuter suggests that the Home Office should prevent buildings like these being let as pot factories. The inspector ought to be able to license a pot factory as fit for its purpose. I hope the Home Office will do something on these lines.

7.0 P.M.

As to inspection generally, it appears to me that the factory inspectors are not being treated properly. You have at present inspectors and assistant; inspectors. The inspector of the superior rank is recruited from the universities after a stiff examination, and they start at £300 a year and go up. The assistant inspectors are all people who have practical experience in factories. They have not to face a stiff examination, it is true, but they have to pass an examination in factory legislation. They start at £110 a year and work up to £200. Will it be believed that these assistant-inspectors, who have practical experience of factory life and know about the machinery in use are allowed to inspect every sort of building except the building in which there is machinery, while the other people who do not know a piston rod from a pump handle are the only people who are considered fit to inspect machinery. You are putting the men who have practical knowledge of machinery to examine wash-houses, while the young man from the university is put on to say whether machinery is dangerous. The superior inspector from the university is not required to pass any examination in factory law for the first two years, but the practical man knows not only about machinery but he knows also the factory law. The superior inspector gets the higher pay, though he does not know much about machinery, and has not to pass an examination in factory law for the first two years. Between these two grades of inspectors there is a great gulf fixed. I think the time has come when the assistant inspector should be moved into the higher grade. It is no good to say that the examination is open to him. There ought to be perfectly automatic promotion for the assistant inspector. It is not a matter of Latin and Greek. It is a matter of factory legislation and the enforcement of the law. What is wanted is practical knowledge of the machinery used, and the ability to say whether the men who work the machinery are properly qualified. An. inspector should be able to examine temperatures and to inspect machinery, and he should have a knowledge of human nature far more than anything else. In all these things the assistant inspector is just as likely as he gains in experience to be as good a man as the superior man who comes from some other place. I do think that, with the democratic forces which we have got at the head of the Home Office now, we might get a little more in the rank and file, and that we might make the first start in the Home Office by uniting the superior and (he lower grades of inspector. The one tiling, however, connected with the pottery trade which I want to urge upon the Home Secretary is the introduction of the change with reference to the certifying surgeons which I have advocated, and in connection with the factory inspectorate generally, to see that we do have a little more common sense in the matter of inspectors, and that the assistant-inspectors may be qualified to take any inspector's places where there is machinery, and may have an opportunity of becoming fully fledged inspectors, with the higher grade of pay.


I beg to move, "That Item A be reduced by £500 in respect of the salary of the Home Secretary."

We have had considerable discussion, in which a great deal of criticism has been directed against the administration of the Home Office, but the criticism has not resulted in very much, because no hon. Member has had the courage to move a reduction of the salary of the Home Secretary. I, therefore, move this Motion in order to testify to the disapprobation which is felt on this side of the House with the administration of the Home Office by the right hon. Gentleman, and not only on this side of the House, but also on the other side of the House, although hon. Members have not the courage to express what they feel in a Motion. That being so, I shall content myself with moving the Motion.


I wish to call attention to a matter that has not been brought before the Committee: the conduct and administration generally of the Metropolitan police. I had intended raising the whole question of ex-Inspector Syme, but as the case of that officer is before the courts I understand that I would not be in order in doing so. But those of us who are acquainted with the administration of the Metropolitan police for a good many years past cannot but have witnessed with a great deal of regret that the force has been becoming more and more a semi-military force instead of a civil force from top to bottom. It is ruled now as if it were part and parcel of the Army. I think the reason for that is that there is no democratic body to which it is really responsible except this House, and this House, having the whole affairs of the nation to deal with, is not able to bring to bear on the Metropolitan police force that amount of criticism and discussion that is obtainable in places like Manchester or Edinburgh, or Glasgow, or any of the other great cities. I would like to remind hon. Members on this side of the House that this process of making the Metropolitan police more or less a kind of annexe of the Army prevented during the period of the Home Rule agitation—


The hon. Member cannot raise that on this Vote. There is a separate Vote on this matter—Class Three, Vote Seven, Metropolitan Police—and it is one of our rules that where there is a specific Vote discussion must be raised on that and not on the more general Vote.


I understood when there was a Motion to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary that this was the proper method to take to raise any question affecting the administration for which he is responsible to this House. I am putting this with very great deference, but I thought I had a right to discuss the Metropolitan police on the Vote to reduce the salary.


I am sorry that that cannot be done. It is the rule of the House in Committee that where there is a separate specific Vote for such a Department as the Metropolitan police it is on that Vote and not on this Vote that such a question must be raised.


I should like to follow up what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Wedgwood). Some time ago a Committee was appointed to inquire into the question of lead poisoning among workers in potteries, and to devise the best means of safeguarding them. It is now some months at least since the Committee finished their report, and I should like to know from the Home Secretary when the suggestions made by that Committee are to be put into operation? The sooner that is done the better for all concerned. Most important questions were laid before the Committee. They were considering the subject I think for nearly two years, and they arrived at certain definite conclusions relating to the matter. During this discussion points have been raised as to avoiding the use of lead in this particular trade. I was a member of the last Committee which inquired into this subject whose report has been recently issued. I confess when I went on the Committee I was absolutely in favour, as I suppose nine men out of ten would be, of the prohibition of lead for the glaze of this particular ware. I went on convinced that it was my duty to recommend such a prohibition, but I am bound to say after hearing the whole of the evidence, not only from the employers and the scientists engaged in this trade, but also from the workers themselves, that it was shown to be utterly impossible to carry on this particular industry if there were an absolute prohibition of red glaze, as has been suggested by several speakers during the discussion. It would be well for those who make suggestions of that kind, who condemn, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson), the finding of the Committee with reference to this subject, to read the evidence that was laid before the Committee on this very important matter.

The hon. Member for Barnard Castle and those who have suggested that the Committee did not do what was proper in this case, may take it for granted, there being three workmen's representatives on the Committee, that if there were the slightest chance of doing anything effective to reduce this poison by mere prohibition without destroying the trade, the Committee, being of that character, would have been certain to make such recommendations. But after the most careful examination of all the facts relating to the subject, we were obliged to report that it is not possible, at least so far as present scientific knowledge is concerned, to carry out the suggestion that has been made by philanthropists and others who were kindly disposed to the people engaged in this occupation, but who unfortunately have not examined the question from a practical point of view. We, however, made some very stringent regulations with reference to factory accommodation and improvement. Some suggestions have already been dealt with by the hon. Member for Newcastle. He thinks, however, which I do not think is quite the opinion of the Committee, that the whole of the trouble or a great deal of the trouble could be avoided by a more systematic and a more exhaustive examination of the workers concerned. I do not think that any mere examination of the workers would be sufficient in itself to mitigate the evil to any great extent, because, as my hon. Friend has said, an exhaustive examination of the worker which shows that he has, as it were, developed the initial stages of lead poisoning, is no preventative of that poisoning. It merely means, of course, that you immediately take the worker out of the influences that have caused his illness, but you have done nothing practically to prevent another worker becoming ill by the same means.

In addition to that there are great grievances with reference to the strict enforcement of the examination unless the Home Secretary can carry out some of the suggestions with reference to possible compensation. I am bound to confess that the evidence shows that however exhaustive an examination may be there will always be difficulty, because it is the object of the worker examined not to appear to have symptoms of lead-poisoning if he possesses them, for the simple reason that if he is marked fair, or if there is any kind of mark against his name in the register, except good or very good, then it is morally certain that he is likely to lose his employment; and unless the State enforces this law with reference to examination and exclusion from lead-poisoning of workmen who are likely to suffer from lead-poisoning, and will go a little further and make some provision with reference to compensation to those who are so sent away from their trade, it is almost impossible for the medical examination to be so effective as otherwise it might be. I think myself that the recommendations of the Committee are the best line along which we should proceed, in constantly looking after the factories themselves, in seeing that the floors are made in such a way that they can be properly swept down, that they should be kept damp, and that dust should not arise. It was understood for many years that it was by eating, by absorption through the stomach or the skin, as the case may be, that lead-poisoning resulted. Now I think it is well known from experiments that have been made as the result of the investigation of the Committee, of which I was a member, that it can be and is inhaled in the dust of the factories.

Therefore, immediately the matter is scientifically tested and proved, the ventilation of factories becomes one of the most important elements of the eradication of this disease. Very stringent regulations in reference to air draughts, temperatures in factories, and matters relating to the general cleanliness of the workers themselves, were reported upon by the Committee. I know that there has been some discussion in the locality among the employers, and some objections have been made to the recommendations. I believe deputations were appointed, and correspondence passed between the local china and earthenware manufacturers and the Home Office. That took place some months since, and I should think that the Home Office—at any rate I hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make some statement on the subject—are at least in a condition to issue regulations so far as they have been decided upon up to now. I dare say there may be some outstanding principles which it is necessary for the Home Office to further consider. But I should think that the main portion of the recommendations in the shape of new suggestions as to statutory rules might now be enforced with the least possible delay. It is unfortunate, as is pointed out in the report of the factory inspectors, that there has been a slight increase in the number of cases of lead poisoning in the potteries. But when one considers that there are some 300 firms in that locality, and that only about thirty-two of those firms have had cases of this description, I think that fact in itself shows that the disease is not so widespread as is thought. Still, it is necessary that the matter should not be lost sight of, and that it should not be dealt with in a dilletante fashion. It is a subject in which the people of the locality are deeply concerned, and I hope the first available opportunity will be taken to put in force the recommendations of the Committee that was appointed to consider the matter. Mr. Shuter, in his report on the proper means for the prevention of this disease, summarised his suggestions in the following paragraph:— Three years' experience among the potteries simply strengthens the opinion held by the inspectors in the past that the best line upon which to work with the view to fighting the evils of lead poisoning are, first, efficient exhaust ventilation for the dust: second, reasonable temperatures in which to work; and. thirdly, scrupulous cleanliness on the part of the workers. The most important is scrupulous cleanliness on the part of the worker, but, at the same time, unless regulations are issued which will afford the means by which the workers will be enabled to observe this condition of scrupulous cleanliness, all these proposals will be of no use at all. That is one reason why I should like a definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to when we can hope that these recommendations of the Committee will be put into force. I am particularly interested in these recommendations being enforced for another reason. I visited the Potteries district, which I also represent, and what struck me, as well as others, was the heavy weights carried by children in the factories. We challenged a little fellow who was carrying wet clay. We saw by the way in which he was bent down that there was something wrong with him, and that he was bearing a load that was much too great for his tender years. We ordered the burden to be taken from his shoulders, and we found that this little fellow, who had only left school four months before, was actually carrying eighty-six pounds of wet clay. That was an absurd weight for a boy to carry. As a matter of fact, in the case of a boy of his years, curvature of the spine and distortion of the body are much more likely to occur than in the case of a person of older years, and it is quite conceivable that a lad might be injured for the rest of his days unless some protection is afforded against cases of that kind. One of the certified surgeons has always held that he has power to certify what weight either a boy or a girl ought to carry. I know that this surgeon has done so, and that when he issues a certificate he fixes the weight to be carried at anything from twenty pounds to thirty pounds, and in some cases even less. But the certifying surgeons, as a whole, believe that they have no such power, and that this particular certifying surgeon is merely putting into practice that which he knows does not exist in law. Under the Factory Acts, however, the Home Secretary has power to issue statutory rules to regulate the weights carried by children. No Act of this House is required; power is already given to the right hon. Gentleman. These weights are still being carried. Since the Report of the Committee there have been one or two cases before the Courts, and fines have been imposed. It is for this and many other reasons that we are most anxious that the rules finally decided upon by the Committee, after years of patient investigating, should be enforced on the first available opportunity.


We have had many interesting speeches on the question of lead poisoning, and I desire to call attention to the case of a considerable number of men engaged at Swansea in the work of smelting lead. A very large number of these men already suffer from lead poisoning, and I believe that in the last Report issued fifteen cases of lead poisoning have been certified as existing there. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. J. Ward) has drawn attention to a point that to me at any rate is rather interesting—that is with regard to ventilation for dust and temperatures—matters greatly affecting lead poisoning. When zinc is being smelted the temperature is exceptionally high, and the men employed are not only inhaling the dust but the gases thrown off during the process of smelting. Inasmuch as these men are admittedly working at one of the most poisonous trades there is in the whole country, it has always seemed to me most astounding that no regulation of any kind has been made in regard to the number of hours they are permitted to be employed. They work seven days a week, and many of them are working 79½ hours a week, though this is the most dangerous employment there is in the country. No sieve benefit society in the country will take these men as members of their organisation, and therefore none of them can in any way make provision for sickness. That happens to all kinds and types of workers. I understand that new regulations are shortly to be issued. These regulations, of course, have been laid before the trade unions of which these men are members. I suppose it is too much to expect that the hours which they work will be so reduced as to bring them within anything like reasonable limits, having regard to the special circumstances of the employment.

I do wish to call the attention of the Home Office to the conditions which exist. I give all credit to the Department for sincerity and earnestness in connection with these matters of administration, and I also give credit to the inspectors for the character of the inquiries they make into this particular industry. But one has to recognise that so long as men are employed during such long hours, it cannot be wondered at that they are practically staring death in the face if they continue in this particular industry. It is important to note that these men, after they have worked so long in this employment, if they are suffering from lead poisoning, find it absolutely impossible to find any employment elsewhere, because those from whom they seek employment, on finding that they are suffering from the disease, will not engage them, because they would run the risk of having to pay compensation in respect of the man found on. their premises suffering from the disease contracted by him while working for another firm. Therefore workers suffering from the disease are in these circumstances completely disabled from obtaining a livelihood, once they have severed their connection with the firm in whose service the disease has been contracted. This aspect of the question is so seriously regarded by the various workers that some action is being taken in regard to a limitation of the number of hours and number of days worked during the week. These men are organising in order to have

a stop-day in July, with a view to showing that they are very earnest and sincere in. their desire that their work should be limited to six days a week, and that there should be regulations made by the Home Office recognising the exceedingly dangerous nature of their employment, and making provision that it shall be a less-dangerous trade than in the past. I hope as to this particular branch of lead poisoning that the Home Office will give more consideration to it in future than has been given to it in the past, and that the Department will seriously consider whether the number of work-days in the week that are permitted in this industry, which is acknowledged to be of a dangerous character, should not be so regulated that these men may have a chance of living a little longer life than they are likely to do under existing conditions.

Question put, "That Item A be reduced by £500."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 143; Noes, 175.

Division No. 251.] AYES. [7.30 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Foster, Philip Staveley Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Gardner, Ernest Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Archer-Shee, Major M. Gastrell, Major W. Houghton Parkes, Ebenezer
Arkwright, John Stanhope Gibbs, G. A. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Goldman, C. S. Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)
Baird, John Lawrence Goldsmith, Frank Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, H.) Grant, James Augustus Peto, Basil Edward
Balcarres, Lord Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward Pryce-Jones, Col. E.
Baldwin, Stanley Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Banner, John S. Harmood- Haddock, George B. Rawson, Col. Richard H.
Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Barnston, H. Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry) Rolleston, Sir John
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Hardy, Laurence Ronaldshay, Earl of
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Hickman, Col. Thomas E. Rutherford, John (Lanes., Darwen)
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Hills, John Waller Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Hill-Wood, Samuel Sanders, Robert A.
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Hoare, S. J. G. Sanderson, Lancelot
Bird, Alfred Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Sandys, G. J (Somerset, Wells)
Boscawen, Sackville T, Griffith- Horne, William E. (Surrey, Guildford) Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Boyton, James Horner, Andrew Long Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Hume-Williams, William Ellis Spear, John Ward
Bull, Sir William James Hunt, Rowland Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)
Burgoyne, Alan Hughes Ingleby, Holcombe Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Burn, Colonel C. R. Jessel, Captain H. M. Starkey, John Ralph
Campion, W. R. Kebty-Fletcher, J. R. Staveley-Hill, Henry
Carlile, Edward Hildred Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Stewart, Gershom
Cassel, Felix Kerry, Earl of Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Cautley, Henry Strother Keswick, William Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)
Cave, George Lane-Fox, G. R. Terrell, H. (Gloucester)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Lewisham, Viscount Thompson, Robert (Belfast, N.)
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Thynne, Lord Alexander
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey) Touche, George Alexander
Cooper, Richard Ashmole Lonsdale, John Brownlee Valentia, Viscount
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Lowther. Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale) Walrond, Hon. Lionel
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.) Ward, Arnold S. (Herts, Watford)
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Craik, Sir Henry M'Mordie, Robert Weigall, Capt. A. G.
Croft, H. P. Malcolm, Ian Wheler, Granville
Dairymple, Viscount Mason, James F. (Windsor) White, Major G. D. (Lanes, Southport)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. Morrison, Captain James A. Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Doughty, Sir George Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Duke, Henry Edward Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Worthington-Evans, L.
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Mount, William Arthur Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Fell, Arthur Neville, Reginald J. N. Yate, Colonel C. E.
Finlay, Sir Robert Newdegate, F. A. Younger, George
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Newman, John R. P.
Fleming, Valentine Newton, Harry Kottingham TELLERS FOR THE AYES.-Sir F. Banbury and Dr. Hillier.
Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead) Nield, Herbert
Forster, Henry William J O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Greig, Colonel, J. W. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Acland, Francis Dyke Griffith, Ellis Jones O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Addison, Dr. C. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) O'Grady, James
Agnew, Sir George William Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E) Parker, James (Halifax)
Alden, Percy Harwood, George Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Haworth, Arthur A. Philips, John (Longford, S.)
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Hayward, Evan Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Barnes, George N. Helme, Norval Watson Pirie, Duncan V.
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.) Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Beale, W. P. Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George) Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor Pringle, William M. R.
Bethell, Sir John Henry Higham, John Sharp Radford, George Heynes
Booth, Frederick Handel Hinds, John Rainy, A. Rolland
Bowerman, C. W. Hodge, John Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)
Brocklehurst, W. B. Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich) Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Brunner, J. F. L. Hudson, Walter Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Bryce, J. Annan Hughes, Spencer Leigh Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Hunter, W. (Govan) Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Byles, William Pollard Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)
Cameron, Robert John, Edward Thomas Robinson, Sidney
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Johnson, W. Rose, Sir Charles Day
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Rowlands, James
Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Rowntree, Arnold
Chancellor, H. G. Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney) Seely, Colonel Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Joyce, Michael Simon, Sir John Allsebrook
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Keating, Matthew Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Clough, William Kellaway, Frederick George Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) King, J. (Somerset, N.) Spicer, Sir Albert
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lamb, Ernest Henry Strachey, Sir Edward
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton) Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Summers, James Woolley
Cotton, William Francis Lansbury, George Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Crooks, William Leach, Charles Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Crumley, Patrick Levy, Sir Maurice Tennant, Harold John
Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Lewis, John Herbert Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Lyell, Charles Henry Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Toulmin, George
Dawes, J. A. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Denman, Hon. R. D. Maclean, Donald Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Dewar, Sir J. A. Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Dickinson, W. H. M'Callum, John M. Wardle, George J.
Doris, W. M'Micking, Major Gilbert Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Manfield, Harry Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Marks, G. Croydon Webb, H.
Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan. Mid) Mason, David M. (Coventry) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Essex, Richard Walter Menzies, Sir Walter White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Ferens, Thomas Robinson Middlebrook, William White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
France, G. A. Millar, James Duncan Whitehouse, John Howard
Furness, Stephen Morgan, George Hay Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Gelder, Sir William Alfred Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Wiles, Thomas
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Munro, R. Wilkie, Alexander
Gibson, Sir James Puckering Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)
Gill, Alfred Henry Needham, Christopher T. Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Glanville, H. J. Nolan, Joseph Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Norman, Sir Henry
Goldstone, Frank Nuttall, Harry TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.
Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow (Tuesday); Committee to sit again To-morrow.