HL Deb 05 March 1860 vol 156 cc2216-8

presented a Petition from Inhabitants of Nottingham and its vicinity, signed by 10,000 persons, including merchants, manufacturers, magistrates, clergymen, and members of the town council, and praying that the Lace Factories be brought under the Operation of the Factory Act. They stated that when the Factory Act was passed the lace trade by machinery was very peculiar in its nature, and limited to a few factories, whereby the bobbin-net machines in the lace trade were omitted from the Factory Act, but since then the trade, through the many improvements in the machinery itself, and also in the fabrics, had become, and was now, almost as important a branch of manufacture as any in England; and that many thousands of women and children were now engaged in the lace manufacture without any official control of parties in authority. It was unnecessary to detain their Lordships by stating the many reasons which rendered the change desirable. The principle reasons were:—First, the many and irregular hours at which women and children are called upon to work in the lace factories have a most pernicious effect both on the mind and body. Night labour of the juvenile population is especially destructive of their health and morality. Children of both sexes are liable to be called upon at any hour of the night or day, and as it is "quite uncertain how long they may be required, whether for two hours or the whole night—a ready excuse is found for staying out, and every facility afforded for forming improper connections. "The absence of proper restraints," the entire want of parental control, "accruing from the present system of employing children and young persons as threaders and winders is the most prolific source of immorality. Secondly, perhaps the greatest evil is the entire neglect of instruction; the great majority of children employed at lace factories begin first to work from seven, eight, and nine, to thirteen years of age. Thirdly, the absence of legislative provision to guard dangerous machinery renders the workers peculiarly liable to accidents, which are often of the most serious and fatal character. Fourthly, the entire absence also of legislative sanitary measures—as lime washing, painting, &c., the heat and effluvia of the rooms in which they work, and the exposure on winter nights to excessive cold on leaving the factories—all seriously impair the constitution of the young, and render them peculiarly susceptible of disease. The master manufacturers themselves were, almost without exception, anxious that the trade should be brought under the operation of the Factory Act; and, as they had seen the benefits which that Act conferred on many thousands of workpeople, he intended to bring in a Bill to extend it to lace factories.


supported the prayer of the petition.


said, it was unnecessary for him to say more than a single word on this subject, and that word was in justice to the manufacturers of a large and important town with which he was personally connected, and the seat and centre of this lace manufacture. It was only due to them to say that the principal manufacturers of the town were ready- to give the noble Earl the most liberal support in attaining the object he had in view. He did not mean to say but that some of the manufacturers, of small capital, might deprecate the enactment of such a measure; but if the small manufacturers were dealt with liberally and gently and the system introduced gradually, he believed there would be no opposition to the noble Earl's Bill.


said, he would show every consideration to the small manufacturers.

Petition to lie on the Table.