HL Deb 16 May 1878 vol 240 cc1-5

Bill read 3a (according to Order) with the Amendments.

On Question that the Bill do pass,


, who had presented Petitions from the Walsall Trades' Council, from the United Chain-makers' Association, and others praying that the Bill might be amended by the insertion of a clause providing that no girl under 16 years of age might be engaged in that work, said, that the observations he was about to offer were, by no means, by way of obstruction to the Bill—on the contrary, he was most anxious that the Bill should pass; but he must say there was a serious omission from it, inasmuch as the nail and chain-makers were not included among the trades subject to its provisions. They were a large body, especially in the neighbourhood of Walsall, and much of their work was done by women and girls; yet for girls under 16 engaged in nail and chain-making there was no protection in the Bill. On a former occasion, he had expressed his opinion that the provisions of the Bill were very valuable, and that for such legislation Mr. Cross deserved great credit; but, before the passing of the Bill, he thought it right to say that on a future occasion the nail and chain-makers would make application to Parliament to be included within the protective clauses of the Act. He should be glad to learn the reason—if there was any—for this omission. The noble Earl then proceeded to say: Now, my Lords, with the permission of the House, I will make a passing observation upon the melancholy and awful state of things now prevailing in certain districts of the County of Lancashire. I do not presume to give an opinion—if, indeed, I have one—on the respective position of the two parties—the employer and the employed. I believe, however, that each side is fully and conscientiously convinced that it is in the right. I wish to say a word or two in respect of the operative class—that operative class with which I have so long associated, and which I have so long known—and my main object is to express a decided opinion—and here, at least, I may be allowed to have one—that the sad disorder and outrages which have disgraced those localities were the work of the idle, the vagabond, and the worthless, of which there is everywhere so large a supply—especially in our large towns and cities. I verily believe the vast bulk of the operatives whom I have so long known and valued are most anxious to obtain their ends by just and peaceful means; but, at the same time, I feel bound to say of them, as their old friend and associate, that it is the duty of the mass of operatives, who are peacefully disposed to render every assistance to the constituted authorities, and to come forward at once and declare that they have not had, and that they will not have, any measure in the line of conduct which can only bring on universal disgrace and ruin.


said, he fully concurred in the observations of the noble Earl, who had had for so many years the interest of the working classes at heart, and felt sure that the words he had uttered that evening would have the happiest effect inputting an end to the disturbances that were now occurring; indeed, he was firmly convinced that had the operatives of Lancashire listened to the observations of their intelligent leaders, the disgraceful proceedings which had taken place at Blackburn, and elsewhere in Lancashire, would never have occurred.


said, that as a Member of the Commission which had sat to inquire into the operation of the Factory Acts, he should like to say a word or two on the first part of the noble Earl's speech. He knew very well the high authority which the opinion of the noble Earl carried with it; but he ventured to think that the Commissioners were justified by the evidence in making the recommendations they had, and that Her Majesty's Government were perfectly right in having drawn the Bill in the shape in which it was put before them. In regard to the nail and chain-makers, the Commission had a considerable conflict of evidence before them as to the effect of the trade of nail and chain-making on health. They sat in various towns in the Black Country, and took a great deal of evidence upon the question; and the general effect of it seemed to be that the occupation in question was not, on the whole, detrimental to the health of those engaged in it, and it was not carried on in large factories. But it was to be remarked that the great mass of the evidence they received in favour of extending the restrictions to those young women engaged in those trades came from men. The men felt that the women were competing with them, and they openly admitted it was a wages' question. The Commission considered, also, whether they could draw any distinction between the various kinds of nails made, and they considered the question whether they could get any line of distinction between the heavier and lighter kinds of chains and nails. After a lengthened investigation, they came to the conclusion that they could not prohibit altogether the employment of women and young persons in those trades, provided the hours were not excessive. He did not think the noble Earl was correct when he said they had no protection. The Bill they were now about to pass extended the provisions of the Act under which they were now working, by which young persons must be employed between 6 in the morning and 8 in the evening. By the Bill, their work must now begin at 6 or 7 in the morning, and end at the same hours in the evening, and they were to be allowed during the day an hour and a-half for meals. The Committee came to the conclusion that the hours were not excessive. He thought the Bill would meet the requirements of the case, and would give great satisfaction.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.