§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Earl of Devon.)
§ THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
asked, whether there was any probability that the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill would come before the House this Session?
§ THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
said, that on the occasion of the second reading of the measure then under consideration, a noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), to whom the country was mainly, if not entirely, indebted for legislation on the subject, stated that its provisions would affect no less than 1,500,000 young women and children. He (the Earl of Lichfield), however, asserted that it was not so: the fact was that the Bill before the House would affect only large factories in which above fifty hands were employed. It was, in other words, but a part, though he admitted a very considerable part, of a general scheme of legislation which he had hoped to see carried into effect for the purpose of bringing under the operation of the Factory Acts, all those trades which had hitherto been excluded from its scope. He was surprised to hear that there was no chance of the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill coming before the House this Session, as he thought that the two Bills ought to be considered together; he was not, however, satisfied with the machinery provided for carrying out the regulations under the Hours of Labour Bill, as, under a system of local inspection, the persons in whose workshops and factories less than fifty hands were employed, would probably be the very persons responsible for carrying out the regulations. It was, he also thought, a somewhat unreasonable proposal to tax certain districts in which only a small number of hands were engaged in the workshops, while other districts were left entirely free from any such local rate. The system of local inspection had already been tried and failed. Although the system of factory legislation could not 1434 be applied without very considerable inconvenience to the employers of labour, the manufacturers had been found ready to put up with it, seeing the benefits which were derived by those whom they employed; but he did not think it was at all fair or right or reasonable that persons who employed fifty hands or upwards in the same trade should be placed under stringent regulations, and subjected to inconvenience, while those who employed forty-eight or forty-nine would be placed under no restrictions whatever. He had no doubt in his own mind that, generally speaking, the large manufactories throughout the country were better managed, and the people engaged in them in a better condition in all respects, than those engaged in workshops where less than fifty were employed; and, therefore, he must say that if any legislation of that kind was necessary at all it certainly ought to be applied to workshops containing fewer than fifty, as well as to larger establishments. He had received a letter from a foreman engaged in certain large works in his own district, in which the button trade and the fancy ornament trade were carried on. The writer informed him that in that and in other similar establishments, employing several hundred hands, voluntary regulation of the hours of labour and other matters had of late years been adopted. That was a proof that there were many cases in which the employés of large factories were well cared for. He should certainly be the last person in that House to get up and find fault with any legislation in the direction of the Bill before them; but he could not permit the third reading to pass without expressing his opinion on what he must think was, to a certain extent, the very unfair and unsatisfactory character of the measure as it now stood. He admitted the working of the legislation of 1864 with respect to the Potteries had worked very beneficially; but this was attributable to the fact that the Act applied to the whole of the trade, and the only defect in its working was that it did not take in all the trades carried on in that district. This showed that the same system ought to be applied to the whole of every trade without making a distinction between the large and the small establishments, and he aserted, upon the testimony of practical witnesses, that the workshops employing a few people were generally more in need of supervision than the larger factories. He felt certain, therefore, that the proposed 1435 legislation would not work satisfactorily if it were allowed for any length of time to stand alone. Two Bills in reference to this subject had been brought before the Commons; and he thought their Lordships must be aware that there had not been a meeting held in any part of the country, whether composed of manufacturers or workpeople, in which the principle of distinction to which he had adverted had not been complained of and condemned. A meeting of manufacturers took place a few months ago at Birmingham on that subject, and among the resolutions passed on that occasion was one declaring that any Act for the regulation of labour in that town should apply alike to all manufactories and workshops, irrespective of the numbers employed in them, and that they should all be subject to the same restrictions. From what had taken place in other parts of the country he believed that a larger measure, comprising the whole of the trades, would have passed through the other House, and that so far as the public were concerned they would have been infinitely better satisfied with a measure which would have comprehended all factories and workshops. He was told that Amendments might still be inserted in the Bill; but although he felt great improvements might be made in it, that yet, rather than interfere with the passing of the measure, he should not press his objections. He believed it to be the unanimous opinion throughout the country that this Bill, if it were allowed to stand alone, bore upon its face the marks of so much inconsistency, injustice, and he would even go so far as to say so much absurdity, that it would entirely fail in its operation, even if it did not do positive harm in some respects.
§ THE EARL OF DEVON
said, he could not at that moment positively say that there was no chance of the other Bill—the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill—coming up in time to receive their Lordships' sanction this Session—all, in fact, would depend upon the progress it made that evening. The views expressed by the noble Earl were fully shared in by Her Majesty's Government, who had taken every means to ensure the simultaneous progress of the two measures; and if the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill had been somewhat delayed, it arose from circumstance, wholly beyond their control, and they had thought it right to proceed with this measure even in the absence of the other Bill. He had no doubt whatever 1436 that even if the Hours of Labour Regulation Bill failed to become law this year, it would pass at an early period of next Session. He fully concurred in thinking that the success of any legislation on this subject must depend upon the cordial co-operation of the masters, and he rejoiced to think how warmly that co-operation had hitherto been bestowed. He trusted that when the whole scheme became law it would be received in the same spirit.
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
thought it would have been impossible to legislate on this question this Session, if they had endeavoured to comprise in a single measure all the industrial occupations to which such a Bill as the present might be applied. This Bill affected 150 trades, all requiring particular regulations, and it comprised glass and iron works and every other industry which was carried on on a large scale. It was originally proposed to draw the line at workshops employing 100 persons; but he thought the House of Commons had done well in reducing the figure to fifty. The trades under this line were mostly of a minor character. Had a more comprehensive measure been brought in it would have been difficult to find at once a sufficient number of Inspectors to superintend the various departments, and he believed the whole thing would have fallen through. He was twitted in 1833 for dealing only with textile fabrics; but his reply was that it was impossible to embrace every branch of industry in a single Bill, but that in time, with God's blessing, he would deal with them all. The same remark applied to this measure; and he hoped that the Workshops Bill would come up to their Lordships to-night or to-morrow, and that by gradually coming down to establishments employing thirty, twenty, and ten workmen, the education and moral and physical welfare of the whole labouring population would be satisfactorily provided for.
§ THE EARL OF LICHFIELD
said, he was glad to hear that the other Bill would speedily come up to their Lordships' House, but he regretted that such important measures had been introduced so late in the Session that it was impossible to amend them.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 3a accordingly, and passed.