§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, that he rose to move the second reading of this 1818 Bill, not only as a member of the Government, but as being closely connected with the district to which the Bill principally applied. He was the more anxious to do this because he wanted to explain the effect of certain alterations that had been made in the Bill during its progress through the other House, and by which its clauses, as agreed to between the masters and workmen, had been changed. Indeed, it had been said in the other House that the master manufacturers were opposed to this Bill, and had done all in their power to prevent its passing. He could assure the House that this allegation was wholly unfounded; and in support of that he could appeal to his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) whether, when he called attention to the subject some fifteen or sixteen months ago, he (the Duke of Newcastle) did not rise in his place and state that the master manufacturers were quite willing that there should be legislation on the subject, and were also agreed on the main provisions of the Bill. It was, moreover, said that the Bill was not in conformity with the suggestions of Mr. Tremenheere, and it was added, though somewhat inconsistently with the other report, that Mr. Tremenheere allowed himself to be unduly influenced by the master manufacturers. These charges were also wholly unfounded. Mr. Tremenheere cordially approved of the present Bill, and he might again appeal to his noble Friend opposite whether Mr. Tremenheere, whose valuable services for the last twenty years were acknowledged by all parties, was capable of being unduly influenced by either one side or the other. The alterations of importance made in the Bill in its passage through the other House were two:—The first was the alteration of the age at which young persons might begin to work from eleven to thirteen. The other alteration referred to the meal hours. The plan of the masters was that the workpeople should take their meals at separate half-hours, so that the mills should not be stopped; but this was altered in the Commons to one and the same time of meals for all the workpeople, the effect of which would be that the mills would be entirely stopped. With regard to the first of these alterations it was thought that it would act prejudicially, inasmuch as the masters might refuse to employ young persons at all, and a joint committee of masters and workmen had agreed to split the difference, and fix the age at twelve. It was hoped the committee of 1819 workmen would have agreed to a plan for dividing the workpeople into two parties, and to make their half hours of meal time to dovetail into each other, so that one should come into work as the other left; but for some reason or another the workmen were unwilling to adopt this compromise, and they were placed in this position, that they must either attempt to carry this Bill against the wishes of the workmen, or drop the Bill entirely. He was now moving the second reading on a Thursday, and the prorogation would take place on Tuesday next; so that they had only two days to sit and and transact business, and any difference of opinion between the two Houses would therefore ensure the loss of the Bill. The masters had a fair ground for requesting that the Bill might be dropped, inasmuch as they believed that the clause would work injuriously both for masters and men; but within the last hour he had received a communication from a deputation who represented the masters, in which they stated that as the dropping of the Bill would be a great disappointment to the working classes, especially to the women and children, they would rather encounter all the evils they anticipated from the operation of this clause than allow it to be dropped. He trusted that, should future Amendments be required in this matter, their Lordships would bear in mind the period of the Session in which this Bill had been passed and the conduct of the masters in assenting to what they thought might prove inexpedient, and would not refuse to give a fair consideration to any representations that might be made. The noble Duke then moved that the Bill be now read the second time.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
stated, that he had been received with the greatest courtesy in Nottingham; was shown over the mills with the utmost freedom, and encountered no impediment in procuring any information which he wished to obtain. He honestly believed that the manufacturers were anxious to promote the welfare of those dependent upon them. He trusted they would be met in a corresponding spirit, and should any difficulties arise the Houses of Parliament would not object, he felt assured, to make any alterations which were felt to be necessary.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.