HL Deb 12 May 1853 vol 127 cc198-200

The EARL of SHAFTESBURY moved that the Bill be now read 2a.


objected to the extention of the Bill to Ireland. There were continual evasions of the Act already in force, because it was found impossible to cleanse chimneys with machines in that country, from the nature of the soot of peat fires being different from the soot of coal fires, and from the inconvenient construction of the chimneys themselves in the great majority of houses. He submitted that it would be better to lay down rules for the construction of dwellings in future, and to give time for alterations in the construction of present flues, so that the law might practically be brought into operation.


thought what was good for one country was good for another, and could not conceive anything more absurd than to pass a Bill for one part of the Empire, and not extend it to the other. He objected, however, to the Bill, because it interfered unnecessarily. He did not see why children of any age might not act as servants, and be introduced into any trade; and the Act of Parliament already in existence took especial care that they should not go up chimneys, which was the only objection to their being employed in this trade. Nothing was more objectionable than useless legislation, and he should move as an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day Three Months.")


said, the object of this Bill was to prevent many of those evasions which were continually being practised against the Act of Parliament which had been already passed. If he had been at all aware of any opposition, he should have come down fortified with papers and statements to show the absolute necessity of legislation. He did not think it possible that objections could be raised. He was unprepared with documents which would have carried conviction to the minds of their Lordships; but he did not believe that all the records of all the atrocities committed in this country or in any other, could equal the records of cruelty, hardship, vice, and suffering, which, under the sanction of the law, had been inflicted upon this helpless and miserable race. An appeal was made some short time ago on their behalf, and a law was passed which this Bill was intended to strengthen, to the extent of carrying out the spirit of that law. One of the principal provisions of the Act was, that no child under the ago of sixteen could be apprenticed to the trade of chimney sweeping, whereupon master chimney sweepers had taken to employing children, not apprentices. Their ostensible duty was to carry the brushes, bag, and tools; and so they accompanied the master into houses, when, the moment they were inside, the doors were locked, and the children were coerced and forced to ascend the chimneys. The object was to prevent this abuse; that non-apprentices should be put in the same condition as apprentices, and that they should not be allowed to carry bags of tools further than the door of the house, where the chimney sweeping was to take place. A more simple regulation could not be conceived. But, as he understood, the noble Earl (the Earl of Clancarty) required time, in order that alterations might be made in houses in Ireland. Could the noble Earl be aware that the Bill made reference to an Act passed in the third and fourth years of the present reign? There had, therefore, been twelve or fourteen years' notice; and if in fourteen years the noble Earl had not been able to alter his house, he (the Earl of Shaftesbury) did not know what further time he could possibly expect in order to effect the necessary alterations. But why should not a measure be passed which would put the whole country upon the same footing as the metropolis? At the present moment climbing boys did not exist in the metropolis. Their employment prevailed only in the provinces, where hundreds and thousands of children were so engaged. The Bill was framed to meet this great abuse. There could be no difficulty whatever in attaching the necessary flues to houses and mills, so as to enable them to be swept by machines. Their Lordships could form no notion of the physical and moral evils inflicted upon numerous helpless children by the present system. It was impossible to bring this wretched class to habits of ordinary decency, or to impress upon them the precepts of religion, so long as they were allowed to be oppressed in this diabolical way, for so long they were deprived of those rights, physical and spiritual, to which, by the laws of God, and he wished by the laws of man, they were fully entitled.


said, that where there was a climbing and descending of chimneys, the law would punish on proof of the fact; but as they had allowed boys of sixteen to be apprenticed, the way the existing Act was evaded in the provinces was this—the master got the boys at an earlier age, and said he was entitled to use them to carry the tools; but when he had got them into a house, ostensibly for that purpose, they were surreptitiously employed in climbing. What his noble Friend proposed was, that their Lordships should simply say that no person under the age of sixteen should assist in any way in carrying on the trade of a chimney sweeper. This, he thought, was a very proper object to accomplish; and as to the objection of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clancarty), he really could not see how it bore upon the subject. The Act of Parliament passed in 1840 was left by the present measure precisely where it was found. The new Act merely said, that certain persons under a certain age should not be allowed to carry on the business.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion, Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 2a accordingly.

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