HL Deb 09 August 1867 vol 189 cc1205-12

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he felt that the duty and privilege of recommending such a measure to their Lordships belonged much more properly to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury), whose name had been so long and so honourably associated with his exertions on behalf of the factory workers, and by whose philanthropic exertions so large a portion of the population of this country had been benefited. The object of the Bill was to apply the provisions of the Factory Acts to various descriptions of factories and trades not yet within the operation of those Acts, and it extended the provisions of those Acts to certain manufactories where upwards of fifty persons were employed. Various Acts had been passed between the years 1833 and 1850—mainly through the exertions of the noble Earl—having for their object the moral and physical well-being of children, young persons, and women employed in particular trades and manufactures. In addition to these Acts, there were various special Acts dealing with particular works, containing modified provisions analogous to those contained in the Factory Acts. The first of these was an Act regulating bleaching and dyeing works; in 1861, an Act was passed for the regulation of lace works; in 1864, the Factory Acts Extension Act was passed, which took a large and beneficial step in advance on the previous enactments. The provisions of the Factory Acts, which it was now sought to extend, were originally limited to factories in which machinery was employed in manufacturing textile and other fabrics, and in which steam, water, or other motive power was employed in propelling the machinery. The provisions of the Acts regulated the hours of labour and the time of the day in which children, young persons, and women might be employed. They provided for the education of children, making it necessary, in order to their legal employment, that they should receive instruction during a certain number of hours. They also applied to the fencing off of dangerous machinery, and to the cleanliness of factories. They made due provision for regular inspection; and they imposed certain penalties for the infringement of the regulations of the Act. Although legislation had dealt before 1862 with manufactures and a class of employment which required special and supplementary Acts, it was felt that a very large number of cases still remained in which children, young persons, and women did not possess that protection which was given to other classes by the Factory Acts, and which was so much needed for their employments. The noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) in that year brought the subject before their Lordships, and the result was the appointment of the Children's Employment Commission to inquire into trades and manufactures not yet regulated by legislation. That Commission occupied four years in its inquiry. It examined witnesses belonging to near 160 trades, and the results of its inquiries were embodied in five different Reports. The first recommended immediate legislation in the case of children and women employed in the manufacture of lucifer matches, certain species of earthenware, percussion caps, cartridges, paper staining, and other trades; and in all these cases it would be agreed by those who read the evidence adduced, that there was abundant need for legislation. The legislation which had been adopted in consequence, enforcing provisions for regulating the hours of labour, cleanliness, and the ventilation of factories, had exercised a most beneficial influence on the establishments to which it had applied, and had conferred great advantages on a large number of persons. The subsequent Reports of the Commission showed, however, that there was ample need of further legislation, and they made certain recommendations in regard to different branches of manufacture, which were carried out by the present Bill. It was introduced into the other House of Parliament; it underwent a most careful revision by a Select Committee, which examined, or was in communication with the representatives of all the trades concerned, and the result was that the Bill passed through the other House of Parliament. The 3rd Clause enacted that the provisions of the Bill should apply to blast furnaces, copper mills, mills or premises where iron was converted into malleable iron, steel, or tin plate, iron, copper, and brass foundries, premises where steam, water, or other mechanical power was used; and also to paper, glass, and tobacco factories; and to premises were printing and bookbinding were carried on. It likewise—and this was a most important provision—enacted that the Bill should apply to any premises were fifty or more persons were employed in any manufacturing process, or in manual labour. It should be borne in mind that there was another Bill before the other House regulating the hours of labour; and the two Bills would carry out the recommendations of the Commissioners. The 4th Clause incorporated certain Acts, particularly the sanitary provisions of the Act of 1864; and the 5th Clause provided that the Bill should not apply to any trade which had been already dealt with by existing Acts. The 7th Clause prohibited the employment on Sunday of any child, young person, or woman in any factory, the employment of females or boys under twelve years of age in any part of a glass factory were glass was annealed or melted; and the employment of any child under eleven years old in grinding metals. The 8th Clause, which was of greater importance than it appeared at first sight, di- rected that no child, young person, or woman should be allowed to take meals in any part of a glass factory, arsenic being used in that manufacture, and deleterious consequences having resulted from floating particles of it becoming mixed with the food of the workpeople. The 9th Clause gave extended powers for securing effective ventilation, and also dealt with another very serious subject. It appeared that the average age of the men employed in grinding, glazing, or polishing on a wheel did not exceed forty years, this being partly the result of frequent accidents from portions of the grindstone becoming detached, but mainly of the dust which was generated getting into their lungs. To meet this serious state of things, there was a provision that fans should be introduced to blow away the dust, and prevent its being inhaled by the workmen. These were the principal provisions of the Bill, and in the Schedule were various modifications suspending the full operation of those provisions for a limited period, and under certain conditions. Communications had been carried on with persons interested in the various trades, and it appeared that in many cases serious loss would be caused by the immediate enforcement of some parts of the Bill. When the Bill went into Committee there would a favourable opportunity of considering any objections that might be entertained. He thought any noble Lord who had acquainted himself with the facts contained in the Commissioners' Report would be satisfied of the necessity of this measure, the importance of which might be judged from the statement of the Commissioners that the number of young persons, women, and children on whom it would confer great moral and physical benefits, amounted to 1,500,000. This was a consideration which could not but recommend the measure to the minds of their Lordships. He therefore ventured to ask their Lordships to assent to this Bill as the complement to the new legislation which had been pursued with respect to factories, and which had proved so beneficial to multitudes of the labouring classes of the country.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Devon.)


said, he was unable to express the deep sense of gratitude he entertained towards Her Majesty's Government for having introduced this Bill. Two years ago he had to thank the late Government for the care taken in examining other Reports that had been presented, and for embodying their recommendations in a Bill. The value of the measure exceeded his powers of description, for, as had been mentioned by his noble Friend, it concerned the welfare of no less than 1,500,000 women and children and young persons, in whose cases it was manifest that an immediate remedy was required. Its apparent intricacy was accounted for by the large surface over which it extended, and by the number of trades it affected. It was perfectly true that the early efforts of legislation were directed almost exclusively to the manufacture of textile fabrics where steam or water power was employed. That legislation was comparatively easy; but it was a much more difficult task to regulate a great variety of trades differing in their hours of labour, and in almost every other respect. The principle which had been acted upon had been to apply the provisions of the Factory Acts as far as possible to the varying circumstances of the various trades. The first Commission on this subject was appointed in 1842, and it led to several remedial enactments, such as the prohibition of the employment of women and children from mines and collieries; but the public mind was not then ripe for more comprehensive measures. In 1862, however, when everybody had become satisfied of the beneficial results that had accrued from such legislation, and that the time had come for making further inquiry with a view to additional legislation, a Commission was again appointed and their Report led to the Factory Extension Act of 1864, which applied to several important branches of industry, The Government had now brought in a measure which, taken in connection with the measures introduced by the late Government, would embrace as nearly as possible all the remaining branches of manufacture, so that there would shortly be not a single department of manufacturing industry which was not placed under legislative regulation. Their Lordships had not long ago given a second reading to a Bill for the regulation of agricultural labour and the education of the children employed in it. That Bill had been withdrawn, but he trusted it would be passed next Session. He could not sit down without expressing his thanks to a great many persons who had laboured to promote the object he had at heart — to Lord John Manners in particular, the First Commissioner of Works, who, as Chairman of the Committee on this subject, had devoted a great deal of time and ability to the task; and also to Mr. Bruce, the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, to whose exertions they were in a great measure indebted for success. It would not be necessary for him to go into details to prove the necessity for legislation, or to describe the deleterious effects, social, physical, and moral, produced by the present system. All that might be taken as conceded; and all seemed to be of one mind, not only that legislation would be useful, but that it was absolutely necessary, and would be most beneficial. They had had the strongest evidence in the other House of Parliament in support of that view from the masters engaged in textile manufactures, and the heads of great establishments, all of whom, without exception, testified to the great social, physical, and moral blessings which had been the result of factory legislation. He believed that they might ascribe in no small degree to that legislation, the noble conduct of the Lancashire operatives during the cotton famine, who, supported by the feeling that they were really cared for by the Legislature, had endured with unparalleled heroism the suffering to which they had been subjected. The legislation of 1864, short as the time had been for its operation, seemed to him to have produced the most manifest benefits. He himself had been particularly struck in going over the Potteries—a district which had formerly been in a most degraded state—to find the great improvement that had taken place. The lads and girls there were elevated to a degree which could only have been expected when the beneficent, legislation of Parliament had been in operation for many years. He visited the schools last year, and the universal testimony of the schoolmasters and all who had to do with them was that the most wonderful improvement had been wrought. He remembered going among the fustian cutters also, and the testimony of mothers, fathers, and employers was uniform to the effect that there was the greatest improvement in the moral, physical, and social condition of the employed. He was informed by all the inspectors that the value of education in those districts was quite understood, as would be shown by the fact that within the factory districts alone there were now nearly 70,000 children under tuition, whereas, at the time when the Act was passed, there were not, he believed, 1,000. Returning to the Potteries, the legislation which had taken place with respect to them had proved the greatest boon. Mothers declared that their children devoted all the time they had to learning what might be useful to them hereafter. He had been informed that in every instance, whether of textile fabrics, potteries, or fustian cutting, the work done was both greater in quantity and improved in quality, and that was simply because the employed brought untired limbs and minds to their work; while, simultaneously, wages had risen without any loss to the employers. With regard to tins Bill, it was no doubt very intricate and important, and had come up to their Lordships at a late period of the Session. He would impress upon their Lordships, however, that this Bill had been elaborated before a Select Committee of the House of Commons by men of the greatest experience, themselves proprietors of works, and conversant with all the details of the subject — very much more conversant than their Lordships could be. He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships would give it a second reading, and pass it through Committee without any material alterations, because, at this period of the Session, it would not be well to send it down to the House of Commons with any Amendment which would be likely to give rise to difference of opinion, no begged to thank their Lordships for the manner in which they had received the Bill. He was certain that bypassing it they would be doing that which would carry comfort and peace to the hearts of thousands. By showing this interest in the welfare of the people, and by endeavouring in this way to advance their moral, social, and physical improvement, they would be doing more for their happiness than even by the great measure of Reform which they were now passing to enfranchise the great mass of the people, and they would make that Reform more easy and more successful in its operation. This was a great work—a work that would bless the whole nation, and, as had been said by the noble Earl who had moved the second reading, by such a measure they would be carrying joy, comfort, and peace, to the hearts and the homes of 1,500,000 of their fellow countrymen.


said, that his noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had expressed his thanks to many persons who had given their assistance to this great work. He hoped it would not be out of place to say a word about the part his noble Friend himself had taken. It was now some thirty or forty years ago since he had the pleasure of co-operating in a very small degree with his noble Friend in those early struggles in the House of Commons on the subject of factory legislation, when his noble Friend had enormous difficulties to contend with in overcoming the not unnatural opposition of the employers. He well remembered the statements that were made of the fearful state of moral and physical suffering to which the children were then exposed in factories. At last, his noble Friend's perseverance, his powerful and simple eloquence — an eloquence not merely of words, but of acts—the eloquence of earnestness and truth, succeeded. To this great cause his noble Friend had sacrificed his whole political life, for he had from time to time resisted solicitations to public employments that he might devote himself entirely to this great cause, and he hoped that, in the gratitude of the country and the approval of a good conscience, his noble Friend would find an ample reward for the exertions and sacrifices which he had made.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.