HC Deb 25 February 1914 vol 58 cc1787-9

I beg leave to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Factory and Workshops Act, 1910, by reducing the period of employment in cotton factories to forty-eight hours per week."

The cotton industry is the second largest industry in the United Kingdom. It employs over 600,000 workers, four-fifths of whom are women, young persons, and children. The subject of this Bill has been balloted among the different classes of workers in the cotton trade, and they have decided by very large majorities in favour of the reduction which is now proposed. In the skilled trades males and boys work from forty-six to fifty-two hours per week, while at the present time in the cotton trade the period is fifty-five and a half hours. In the last thirty-nine years there has been a reduction of only one hour per week in connection with the textile trades generally. When we consider the fact that during that period machinery has been speeded up to a considerable extent—no less than 20 per cent.—and when we consider that the industry is carried on at much greater pressure on the work-people than was formerly the case, I think we are entitled to ask that something should be done for their relief in this respect. The workpeople and employés pursue their calling in a very heated atmosphere. The cotton mills generally have an atmosphere ranging from 70 degrees to over 100 degrees, with the result that the people become excessively tired sooner than they would under a lower temperature. It is in order to secure the health of the workers and their increased efficiency that I ask leave to introduce this Bill. We think that the workers should have more time for relaxation than they get at the present time, besides which, if the period of work were reduced by seven and a half boars per week, they would have snore time not only for relaxation, but would be enabled to recuperate in a way that is not possible now.

While the hours of labour have been reduced only one hour in the last thirty-nine years, the cotton mills on the Continent of Europe and in America have reduced the period of employment from seventy-two hours to fifty-eight hours in thirty years, a reduction of fourteen hours. Formerly it was this country which used to lead the way in regard to the period of employment, but now we only hold second place. In the State of Massachusetts they have passed a law, which is now in operation, fixing the hours of employment in cotton mills and textile mills at fifty-four hours a week, and probably they will extend that still further. The Bill which I ask leave to introduce proposes to effect a reduction of hours by easy stages of two and a half hours for three years. From the 1st of July, 1915, to the 1st of July, 1916, it is proposed that the period of employment shall remain the same as at present, except that, instead of starting work at six o'clock on Monday morning, the work shall commence at nine o'clock. From the 1st July, 1916, to the same date in 1917, it is proposed that the period of employment shall be the same as at present, except that the work should commence at nine o'clock on Monday morning and nine o'clock on Tuesday morning. In 1917 the Bill proposes to make a complete change. Instead of commencing at nine o'clock on Monday and Tuesday mornings, we propose to commence at 8.30 on Monday morning, and at six o'clock on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, and that work shall then close for the week. We believe that this is absolutely necessary for the purpose of improving the health of the workpeople, and of creating greater efficiency. Seeing that this measure is backed by hundreds of thousands of operatives connected with the cotton industry, I ask leave to introduce the Bill.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gill, Mr. Clynes, Mr. Snowden, Mr. Sutton, Mr. Tyson Wilson, and Mr. Albert Smith. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to -be read a second time upon Tuesday, 10th March, and to be printed. [Bill 74.]

Forward to