§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
My Lords, it will be necessary to go so much more into detail in moving for the Returns relative to Bethlehem Hospital [of which the noble Earl had a notice on the Paper] than I expected, that I will postpone my Motion on that subject until Friday; but as my hon. Friend the President of the Council is in his place, I will ask him a Question of which I have given him notice. Your Lordships have, no doubt, read in the papers a report of a Coroner's Inquest on a young woman who died in a workroom of a milliner in Regent Street. The verdict was that she died of overwork, which brought on apoplexy, mainly induced by the foul and fœtid state of the room in which she worked, and the overcrowded state of the room in which she slept, I am not going to dwell on the effects of this terrible system of overcrowding, of which we had ample evidence in 1842. Since that time serious efforts have been made to remedy the evil. I myself brought in a Bill which was referred to a Select Committee, but which did not pass into law. I am not going to enter into the question of the limitation of the hours of labour, though it is frightful to think that these young women of tender years, delicately brought up, should be worked consecutively from six o'clock in the morning until eleven at night. I wish to ask the noble Earl simply whether the Government are prepared to bring in measures which will provide for the ventilation and the 1306 sanitary regulation of these workrooms? I ask no more than that. Your Lordships have already passed a measure this Session for the ventilation and inspection of bakehouses. The position of the two callings is strictly analogous, and having gone carefully through the Bill for the regulation of bakehouses, I can say that there is scarcely a provision in it which would not be applicable to these workrooms. The medical officer and the district inspector of nuisances are empowered from time to time to inspect the condition of the rooms in which the men work, and to see that they are properly ventilated and whitewashed. If the sanitary regulations which have been enacted for the protection of bakers were extended to the protection of these young women, they would go far to prevent the recurrence of these awful abominations, such as we have had a sample of at Madame Elise's, No. 120, Regent Street, which result in the death of many young women every year of our lives. I hope the Government will be prepared to take the matter up, and to bring in some Bill for the protection of those young women.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I am sure your Lordships must have been deeply shocked by the event to which the noble Earl has referred, and which may be directly traced to the effects of overwork, and the whole system adopted in too many miliners' and dressmakers' workrooms. I remember the Bill which the noble Earl introduced on the subject. It received great attention in the Select Committee, and a great deal of evidence was taken upon it; but I believe the principal reason why it did not succeed was the extreme difficulty of carrying into practical execution any Bill of this sort. At present, the Government are without any powers on the subject; for I believe the legal construction of the 20th section of the Offences against the Person Act, which it has been said might apply to such cases, is very doubtful; and it is a question, therefore, whether they ought to ask for any further powers. I am not prepared to state how far the analogy which the noble Earl has drawn between this trade and the bakers' trade is complete; but there is no doubt that there would be great legal difficulty in providing for the regulation of workrooms of this sort, which vary very much in size, some of them only containing one assistant. With regard to the lodgings of the young women, it must be remembered that in a great town like this it would not 1307 be advantageous to turn young women out of their workshops at a late hour of the night to seek their lodgings at a distance. The noble Earl's suggestion shall be carefully considered; but at present I am not able to state that the Government will be prepared to introduce a Bill on the subject.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
I hope the noble Earl will lose no time, as the matter is one which ought to be taken up at once.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
There could be no better way of having the subject properly considered than for the noble Earl himself to introduce a Bill.
§ House adjourned at half past Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter before Five o'clock.