HC Deb 22 February 1916 vol 80 cc576-7

asked the Home Secretary whether he proposes taking any further action in respect of the case brought before the stipendiary magistrate at the Leeds Police Court against the Kirkby Bank Screw Company, Limited, for five admitted breaches of the Factory Act; whether it was admitted that girls of thirteen were being worked overtime without the firm having been granted an emergency order, and that an official of the War Office interfered and sent a letter to the firm with the object of preventing a successful prosecution by the lady factory inspector, and that on the strength of this letter the stipendiary magistrate reproved the lady factory inspector for having brought such proceedings and dismissed the case; whether the name of this official of the War Office will be published; and whether the Home Office will take steps to inform this official that it is no part of his duties to interfere with laws for the protection of the health and efficiency of young girls?


The firm pleaded guilty, but the magistrate dismissed the charges under the Probation of Offenders Act, and there is no further action which can be taken in regard to the case. The facts of the case are as stated in the question. As regards the letter ascribed to an officer of the War Office, which is said to have influenced the magistrate in his decision, I have communicated with the War Office, and I am informed that they are making inquiries. I may mention that before the proceedings in this case were instituted the War Office and the Ministry of Munitions were consulted, and both Departments agreed that the overtime employment of such young girls was not necessary, and would not in any circumstances have been countenanced by them; and these views were brought by the inspector to the magistrate's notice. I do not know the magistrate's reasons for taking the course he did, but it is plain that if such excessive hours as were worked in this case by young girls of thirteen are tolerated the health of munition workers must be impaired, and the output of munitions impeded.