HL Deb 19 July 1850 vol 113 cc5-10

EARL GRANVILLE moved that the Bill be now read 3a, and said, that it had been so amply discussed the other evening, that he would not trouble their Lordships with any further observations on it.

The DUKE of RICHMOND moved that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. No doubt the Ten Hours Act had been productive of very great benefit, and that the compromise now proposed would in a great degree preserve the advantages of that Act; still it increased the period of labour during the week by two hours and a-half, and it also materially interfered with the half-holiday on the Saturday. One effect of that would be, to postpone the dinner-hour to a later period on that day, by which the men would become exhausted, and would be driven to the beershops to get some stimulant, and when once they were there, they would remain. Although, upon principle, he was prepared to go further than the present Bill, still he could not bring himself to vote for the clause which his noble Friend (the Earl of Harrowby) intended to propose respecting young children, because that would require a great many other alterations. It was, however, a fit subject for consideration; and in the course of next Session he should move for a Committee, to inquire into the working of the relay system. He would not divide the House on the present occasion, but would content himself with entering his protest against the Bill as it at present stood; because he considered the people would be very ill treated by an extension of the hours of labour. Those who thought this would be a final measure, would find, to their astonishment, that the factory operatives would not allow the matter to rest until full justice had been done both to them and their children.


denied that the working classes would be ill treated by this Bill, and was of opinion that the petitions which had been presented by the noble Duke against it, should not be considered as a proof of the general feeling of the operatives. He believed that if the clause intended to be proposed respecting young children should be inserted in the Bill, a vast majority, both of the manufacturers and of the operatives, would be satisfied with the measure.


said, that this measure had been called a compromise, I but it had not been explained with whom it was that this compromise had been entered into. It was distinctly stated that the operatives had not made it; and it had been as firmly said, on the part of the manufacturing body, that they had not.


reminded their Lordships that, on a former occasion, he had stated that he did not consider this measure to be a compromise. There existed a very general objection to the shift system, and it was to remedy the evils arising from that system that the Bill had been introduced.

On Question, that the word "now" stand part of the Motion; Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 3a.


then brought up a clause, to the effect that the female children employed in factories should work from six in the morning to one in the afternoon, including half an hour for meals; and that the male children should be employed from two in the afternoon to half-past eight, also including half an hour for meals. The effect of this Amendment would be to obviate the evil of leaving the female children to work, as the Bill at present proposed they should, two hours and a half later at night than the women and young persons, who were to work from six to six; so that these young females, at their tender age, would be left behind by their natural protectors, their brothers and sisters, and would have to work until half-past eight with the adult males. It would be quite impossible that such a state of things should continue; and if they wished to have a final settlement of this question, it could only be obtained by assenting to his Amendment, which, whilst it would prevent the interruption of the family arrangements that must ensue by the junior members of the household being kept in the mills behind their relatives, would practically be no new restriction on the employment of the male adults. The noble Lord concluded by moving the adoption of his clause.


believed the Government did not oppose this Amendment from any want of sympathy with the children, and he thought the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) had better bring in a separate Bill to effect his object.


said, that it was very much upon the ground stated by the noble Lord that the Government had opposed the proposition now again brought forward. He had been informed that if this Amendment were adopted by their Lordships, there would be considerable danger of the Bill being rejected altogether when sent down to another place. It should be remembered that all the evils which had been described as arising out of the want of such a clause as this in the Bill, were hypothetical evils. There was no evidence that any such evils had happened, or were likely to happen. Last year both the manufacturers and the oper- atives were of opinion that it would be better not to have any new legislation in regard to children. But if any of the hypothetical cases which had been stated should become verified, it would then become the duty of the Legislature to consider whether some distinct measure as to the employment of children might not be introduced. But he hoped the noble Earl would not, at this stage of the measure, attempt to introduce fresh matter into the discussion.


was afraid that the postponement of the question until next Session would tend to increase agitation during the recess. At a large meeting of delegates from the different operatives, the question was mooted how children would be employed under the new Bill; and it was then stated that they would be employed in lieu of young persons. It was also alleged that there were several manufacturers who were already preparing to work their mills in that manner. What the better class of manufacturers desired was such an uniformity as would prevent the less scrupulous from evading the law.


was compelled, by an imperative sense of duty, to support the Amendment. It had been objected that the time for bringing it forward was inexpedient. It was because he believed that this Bill would be a final settlement of this long-agitated question that he supported the Amendment. The noble Earl at the head of the Board of Trade said, that the evil contemplated was hypothetical. On that subject he differed from the noble Earl. The state of things which the Bill would introduce, in its present shape, was no less certain than lamentable. By the Bill as it stood, the mills would be open from half-past 5 in the morning until half-past 8 in the evening. Female children would be compelled to go to work without the protection of their mothers and elder sisters at half-past 5 in the morning; while, if they commenced work after dinner, they might be kept at the mill with adult males until half-past 8 in the evening—the definition of "adult male" being any person above 18 years of age. Could a right-minded mother or elder sister be happy or comfortable when the younger daughter or sister was left to seek a home in the company of adult males, with whom, perhaps, she had to walk home for a considerable distance? If the Amendment of the noble Earl were carried, there would be scarcely any altera- tion in the existing practice of the mills; and he hoped their Lordships would rescue female children from the perilous danger with which they were threatened, and leave the work after 6 o'clock to be performed by those who were, by their constitution, the best fitted to endure both that and the inclemency of the winter evenings. There were one or two minor considerations which led him to support the Amendment. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) said, that if the anticipated evils should arise, it would be time enough to remedy them in the next Session. He (the Bishop of Manchester) asked their Lordships to prevent them. He believed that in every step which they had taken with regard to the questions, except this most unhappy one, Her Majesty's Government had been influenced by an earnest desire to consult the interests of all parties; and in this Bill they were merely carrying out the principle on which the Legislature had heretofore acted of protecting those who were unable to protect themselves. Whether he turned to the inspectors, or to the more intelligent of the employers and the employed, he believed they were for the most part in favour of the Amendment; the clergy were, he was convinced, unanimously in favour of it, and if but few persons had petitioned in favour of it, it was only for lack of time. He did not imagine that they were then dealing with hypothetical cases. They were legislating then because in a large portion of the county of Lancaster there were a number of persons who, being influenced more by a desire of individual gain than by considerations of public policy or advantage, had carried to the utmost legal limits the powers which they possessed under the Act of 1847. What had their Lordships to expect but that the very same class of persons would follow the same course with regard to the Bill now on the table, unless Parliament stopped up every avenue by which they could do so, one such avenue being the employment of children from half-past 5 in the morning until half-past 8 in the evening? He had been told, that in some branches of work it was desirable that there should be some female children at work as well as boys. He did not believe it; but even if it were desirable, be should still be perfectly prepared to refuse the demand of the millowner in that particular. If it were true that the work of female children was especially required for fine spinning, it would still be his duty to en- treat their Lordships not to expose young females of tender ago to the consequences of going to a heated mill, through the cold air, at half-past 5 in the morning, and of returning home at half-past 8 at night. This was, he knew, a question of reason rather than of feeling. Still lie must say, that it was with deep pain that he had heard the representatives of a Sovereign, whose brightest jewel was her domestic virtues, refuse the required concession to the happiness of factory homes. He would appeal to their Lordships, what must be the feeling of mothers and elder sisters who night after night had to wait for the younger female children of the family, well knowing the temptations and dangers to which they were exposed.


had opposed the Amendment of the noble Lord on the cross bench on a former occasion; but, after the discussion that had since taken place, he bad been convinced that, on the grounds of policy and good sense, the advantages of avoiding a dangerous agitation among the operatives far more than counterbalanced any sacrifice that this Amendment could entail upon the millowner. For that reason be thought the noble Earl's Amendment ought to be acceded to.



On Question, that the clause stand part of the Bill, their Lordships divided:—Content 14; Not-Content 30: Majority 16.

List of the NOT-CONTENTS.
The Lord Chancellor Leitrim
DUKES. Minto
Devonshire Morley
Leinster Scarborough
Norfolk Shaftesbury
Anglesey BISHOP.
Breadalbane Hereford
Donegal BARONS.
Lansdowne Bateman
EARLS. Beaumont
Bruce Camoys
Carlisle Dinorben
Clarendon Foley
Fingall Overstone
Fitzhardinge Sudeley
Granville Wrottesley

Resolved in the Negative.

Amendments made.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

House adjourned till To-morrow,