HL Deb 04 April 1879 vol 245 cc349-64

rose to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to instruct the Viceroy of India to take into immediate consideration the necessity of passing a law for regulating the labour of women and children in the mills and factories throughout Her dominions in India. The noble Earl said: My Lords, nearly half-a-century has elapsed since I first undertook the question of factory labour in the manufacturing districts in the three Kingdoms. I had hoped that my career was now terminated, and that, my arms being stiff and weary, I should not again be compelled to resume weapons to which I have been so long unaccustomed. But the state of things in India, in some departments of industry, has become so cruel and oppressive, and so disgraceful, I must say it, to the character of the Imperial Government, the evidence, moreover, from all quarters is so abundant and so strong, that I resolved once more to appeal for the aid of Parliament to redress the evil that exists, and prevent the further extension of it. I have chosen this particular form of Motion—first, because the subject is well worthy of such a position; and, secondly, because it will thus obtain a more rigid attention. I have frequently brought these matters, by Question, before the House; but, while I received much sympathy, I enjoyed no co-operation. I hardly dare to hope for success in my own time, but I shall have prepared the ground for others, and I shall myself be consoled if the last words I ever speak in this House be in the performance of so great a duty. The general outline of the state of the case is this:—1. The mills in India at present are mainly for working up jute and cotton, and they are principally in Bengal and Bombay. 2. In Bengal there are about 14 jute mills and, I believe, about four cotton. 3. In Bombay there are but one jute mill and 42 cotton mills, with 12,000,000 spindles, and 6,000 looms. In Madras there are about three. 4. In the cotton mills of Bombay—I know not the population employed in those of Bengal and Madras—there are adult males, 17,000; women, 4,000; children, 5,000. The whole population employed throughout India in cotton mills may be estimated at 40,000. 5. The mills are mostly of recent construction, with modern machinery; the ventilation and drainage are fairly good, but capable of much improvement. 6. There are no restrictions by law either as to the hours during which work is carried on, or the ages of children to be employed. All work the same number of hours. 7. The hours for work in the Bengal factories are 10, with two hours for meals, which means, no doubt, that the time prescribed is 12 hours, out of which two are taken for refreshment. In Bombay the hours of work vary from 11 to 13 a-day, according to the time of year; but for meals only from 15 to 30 minutes are allowed in the middle of the day. 8. The temperature in the mills, as stated by the witnesses before the Government Commissioners ranges from 90 degrees to 95 degrees of Fahrenheit. 9. The entire work is performed by all on their feet, children and adults being employed alike as to time and posture. 10. There is no seventh day of rest, nor half-holiday every Saturday, as with us; a Sunday now and then is taken, but it is for cleaning the machinery, not for the cessation of the labour of all the operatives. 11. The Hindoo holidays are about 14 in the year. 12. The proprietors are mostly Parsees; here and there there is an European director or manager. Now, in 1875, the subject having been often before the Government of Bombay, a Commission of Inquiry was appointed. About 26 witnesses were examined, most of them proprietors, managers, engineers connected with the mills, or operatives under mill influence. Six were Europeans. The testimony is almost universal that the hours of work are too many, the meal-times far too short; that the children perform their work standing, and work as long as the adults in a tremendous temperature, and that they are exposed to fearful accidents, and even to death, by the imperfect sheathing of machinery. Dr. Anderson, house surgeon to the hospital, says—"The number of hours is very oppressive to children and adults, especially to married women." But Mr. Henderson speaks out boldly, and staffs—"The hours are much too long." He is asked— You do not believe in millowners and pressowners forming an association and protecting the interests of the operatives? "No," he replies, "they have no consciences." "Do you think the work kills them?" "Yes, it does." One would have thought that enough had been stated to move both the millowners and the Government to a sense of common humanity. Children—female children too, of the tenderest years—are worked 11 or 13 hours a-day for seven consecutive days, for the Sunday is rarely observed except for the purpose of cleaning the machinery, in a temperature of from 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with one interval of 15 minutes for rest. Women within a month of confinement, and less than that afterwards, are oppressed after the same fashion. Why, my Lords, what more do you require? The whole evidence of 1833 rises up as a witness against them. Creed and colour, latitude and longitude, make no difference in the essential nature of man. No climate can enable infants to do the work of adults or turn suffering women into mere steam-engines. But it is not thought enough, and I must go further and adduce more than adequate proof for the necessity of this Motion. The late Miss Carpenter, a lady well-known for her talents, and large sympathies, says, after her fourth journey to India— The Bombay Factory Commission, which sat in the spring of last year, brought before the public facts of an appalling kind, which showed that, unless legal protection were given to the factory operatives and their children, an amount of labour might be exacted from them, often in hot and ill-ventilated workrooms, which must be very injurious both to themselves and to their children, while these last would grow up without any education. Again, she proceeds— The evidence having been given by millowners and managers, and a large proportion of the Commissioners being themselves proprietors, there could be no doubt of the correctness of the evidence that the usual time of work required from the operatives was 13 hours—from 5.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.—with an intermission of only one half-hour; that the work was generally estimated at seven days in every week; that in some parts of the year 16 hours were required daily; that children as young as five were sometimes employed in the mills; that there was no half-time system for the children, and, consequently, little education, even in cases whore some schooling was provided by the proprietors; that, besides, the workrooms were in many cases very close and ill-ventilated, and the machinery without proper protection. I do not, my Lords, touch the subject of education, all-important as it is, because such a question must of necessity be left to the Local Government. Next, hear Mr. Arthur Arnold, who has English as well as Indian experience, having been an Assistant Commissioner in Lancashire at the time of the Cotton Famine. He visited—September, 1878—several cotton mills in Bombay, and gives one as a sample— The hands were leaving the mill for their meagre mid-day rest of half-an-hour—the only rest they have in the whole of the working-day—just as I was entering the counting-house. I had a very good opportunity for observing their phisique. … Never have I seen such a wretched crowd of working people—the men pale and haggard, the women and children drooping, and grey with cotton dust. The men had been working continuously from 6.15 a.m. to 1 p.m., the time of my arrival; the women and chidren from 7 a.m. The hours of work are for men, from 6.15 a.m. to 6.15 p.m.; for women and children from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. They have only one half-hour for rest and food, and as I sat waiting for their return, the 30 minutes seemed very short. At the door by my side, when they re-entered the mill, stood the superintendent with a stick in his hand, 'just,' as he said, 'to give a tap to them as comes late, for you must be master of 'em.' The time was half-past 1, and the little children, some of them not more than seven years old, exhausted with the previous six hours of continuous labour, were again at work in the terrible atmosphere of a Bombay factory for another three and a-half hours. But this cruelty—a cruelty from which British children are protected by law—is not the worst to which these Hindoo children are subjected. During a period of seven weeks this factory had been closed only for three days. There is no observance of any regular day of rest, and for 46 out of the 49 days preceding my visit these children had toiled from 7 a.m. till 5 p.m. at their exhausting labour. It is hardly necessary to state that on every floor of the mill the hands were exposed to many and great dangers from unprotected bands and wheels, and from insufficiently fenced shafting. These are invariable features of factory labour without official regulation. On the whole, I cannot conceive a case more clear and simple. The Hindoo children are surely entitled to the same protection as afforded to 'young persons' in the United Kingdom. And another gentleman, Mr. Roberts, writing in October, 1878, says— About three years ago I visited a large cotton factory in Bombay, and watched the 'hands,' old and young, go to and from many others, and I can confirm in every particular the account given of them by Mr. Arthur Arnold. Mr. Arnold, indeed, rather understated the poor physical condition of the Hindoo children, as many of them seemed to me unfit to perform any work whatever. As a perfectly disinterested medical opinion, my statement may not be without weight, especially as I had, two or three years before visiting-Bombay, made myself familiar with English factory labour as an assistant to the Commission appointed by the Local Government Board to report on the physical condition of factory children previous to the recent changes in the Factory Acts, and have examined many thousand children in the Lancashire cotton district. He is followed by Mr. Taylor, who says— A strange commentary is just now furnished from India upon the proceedings of the Bristol Trades Union Congress on short-time working in English cotton mills at the present juncture. Apart from economic considerations, it has long been felt that legislation was necessary to ameliorate the condition of the Native factory workers in the new cotton mills in India. The condition of the new mills in India cannot but be considered a scandal to our civilization and a reproach to the English name. Foreign to the habits and customs of the Native population of India, these mills are worked under the revolting conditions from which the factory life of England has long been purged. Each mill in India is a garrison, and the domineering Sepoy exacts discipline with his bamboo cane. Some protection, therefore, ought to be afforded to the infantile life of the workers, and some limit to the daily and weekly time worked, else a fearful retribution will be exacted more fatal to life and limb than the sacrifices to Juggernaut. The only objector is Mr. Rogers, who was formerly a member of Council. He denies the necessity of any remedial measures, and closes with the sagacious remark— Natives of India rejoice in a close, muggy atmosphere, such as they have in their own houses, where there are no windows; and factory work is to them, in fact, well-paid enjoyment. A remark to which nature, fact, and common sense give, and have always given, the most flat contradiction. But to this Mr. Aspin gives a crushing reply. He says—September S28, 1878— Referring to the Hon. A. Rogers's letter of the 24th instant, on the subject of a Factory Act for India, will you kindly allow one who, for five years, had charge of the largest mill in Bombay—the Manockjee Petit Spinning and Weaving Company—and who is intimately acquainted with every detail of the management of Indian mills, to say a few words in reply to Mr. Rogers's remarks? I was in Bombay at the time the Commission spoken of by Mr. Rogers was sitting, and I assert that a more unfairly conducted investigation never was made. Every member of that Commission was more or less financially interested in Indian mills, and every witness brought before them was more or less intimidated, a catechism being actually prepared by the employers for the operatives, and the medical evidence being given by per- sons who were holders of mill shares. I was summoned as a witness, but strongly objected to give evidence, on the ground that the Commission was unfairly constituted, and its report a foregone conclusion. Mr. Rogers is also wrong in his statement 'that the operatives work in pairs;' even children from six, seven, and eight years of age, and upwards, go to work at 5 o'clock a.m., or earlier, and remain there until 6.30 p.m., without any remission from duty except about 15 or 20 minutes for 'tiffin' at midday, and many of them reside from two to four miles away from the mill at which they labour. Humanity in various ways is greatly outraged by the mill system of Bombay. Cases frequently occur of females giving birth to full-grown children while at work, and it is common for mothers to bring suckling babes to the mill, and lay them on the floor under the frames on which the mothers are employed. The evils and iniquities of the factory system of India can never be eradicated until it is controlled by rigid legislation such as that in England and other civilized countries. Here follows the evidence—and the valuable evidence, too—of a practical man. He says— I paid a visit to a large spinning and weaving mill, where some 2,500 hands are employed. The machinery was enveloped in cotton fluff, and appeared never to have been cleaned for years. Mr. B. informed me that such was the case, as the mill had never, since he joined some two years ago, had anything but the floors swept. I asked if two or three hours per week could not, to the benefit of the machinery, be set apart for a general cleaning up? 'Oh, yes,' replied my guide; 'but the Native proprietors would look upon it as a dead loss of time.' Sunday and week-day, rain or sunshine, the continual grind went on without intermission from one year's end to another. Flesh and blood, coal and steam—it is all one to the Native mill-owners! Get as much out of them as you can is their way. He then draws a terrible picture of the domestic condition of the wretched women who are slaves to their husbands, and compelled by them to awful drudgery, and almost starvation, while they enjoy the fruits of their industry. The evidence that might be given is various and abundant; but I must close with that of Dr. Blaney, a physician, and one of the Commissioners of Inquiry. He says, writing in 1878— Mr. Arbuthnot, the Chairman, and I were in favour of legislation, the other members were averse to it; but they were all pecuniarily interested in the local mill industry. He adds various details to show the evil effect of factory labour thus prolonged and of factory atmosphere. He states a curious fact, that the great increase of polygamy—the curse of India—is the result of this vast extension of mill industry; and it is common to find Hindoo mill hands with two or three wives, who work at the mill, and he closes with this sentence— Since the Report of the Commission wag submitted, I have had constant opportunity of observing the mill industry in Bombay, and my further experience has shown me nothing to change my opinion. On the contrary, I am more than ever convinced that the Legislature should interfere as quickly as possible on behalf of the large class of factory hands who are now working on a system which cannot fail to degenerate the whole race. Now, to palliate or modify these undeniable facts, two very weak and fallacious efforts are made. "The children," says one or two witnesses, "appear to be on the premises all the time; but they are, in fact, alternately working and resting." "Now," replies Mr. Sorabjee, himself a member of Council, "this is contrary to fact." He says— The evidence will show that in the answers of all the European witnesses, four in number, and of three Native witnesses out of eight, nothing has been said that can justify in any degree the above-quoted statement in the Factory Commissioners' Report. On the contrary, some of the witnesses maintain that the children are at work all the time a mill is working, excepting half-an-hour for rest in the middle of the day. He continues— The truth is that the few members of the Bombay Factory Commission who were neither owners nor agents of cotton mills, were imposed upon when they wrote in their Report that the factory children worked and rested alternately while on the mill premises all the day. The other is the old, the often-repeated, and as often-refuted, argument that the work is light. Light! why, no doubt, much of it is light, if measured by the endurance of some three or four minutes. But what say you, my Lords, to a continuity of toil, in a standing posture, in a poisonous atmosphere, during 13 hours, with 15 minutes of rest? Why, the stoutest man in England, were he made, in such a condition of things, to do nothing during the whole of that time but be erect on his feet and stick pins in a pincushion, would sink under the burden. What say you, then, of children—children of the tenderest years? Why, they become stunted, crippled, deformed, useless. I speak what I know—I state what I have seen. When I visited Bradford, in Yorkshire, in 1838, being desirous to see the condition of the children—for I knew that they were employed at very early ages in the worsted business—(the worthy father of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India, was then Member for that borough, and a most hearty supporter of mine)—I asked for a collection of cripples and deformities. In a short time more than 80 were gathered in a large courtyard. They were mere samples of the entire mass. I assert without exaggeration that no power of language could describe the varieties, and I may say, the cruelties, in all these degradations of the human form. They stood or squatted before me in all the shapes of the letters of the alphabet. This was the effect of prolonged toil on the tender frames of children at early ages. When I visited Bradford, under the limitation of hours some years afterwards, I called for a similar exhibition of cripples; but, God be praised! there was not one to be found in that vast city. Yet the work of these poor sufferers had been light, if measured by minutes, but terrific when measured by hours. Now, my Lords, I pray you to observe that this movement is not got up by Europeans in India. I say it to their everlasting shame. It is not got up by the Lancashire mill-owners, who, though they feel the injustice of limitations imposed on themselves which are not imposed on other subjects of Her Majesty, for obvious and, and I think, laudable reasons, abstain from all part in the agitation. The prime mover of it, the life and soul of the movement, is a wealthy Native, a Parsee, a most respected gentleman, and himself a member of Council. He has furnished me with abundant information; he has given me his opinions; and he states—and states, I doubt not, most truly—that the mill-owners, even while many of them admit that the hours of labour are too many, will resist all measures of remedy, but that the people will hail them with delight. His statement is the more important because it is the testimony of a Native in the present year, and confirms what I ventured to assert in 1875. Four years have now elapsed since the Bombay Commission made its Report, and yet nothing has been done. In 1833, when the Factory Question was mooted in England, the Government of the day stopped my Bill after the second reading and issued a Commission of Inquiry, which reported before the end of the Session, and they then brought in a Bill of their own. On what principle, or on what theory, is India to be exempted from the duties and obligations of civilized society? I speak not only of Her Majesty's Dominions in Europe, but of other countries where civilization exists. I speak of Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France. All civilized nations have come to a conclusion that infant labour must be protected—many, indeed, include adult labour within their lines of protection, and go far beyond what we have thought advisable, and even possible, in this country. Let me revert to the Colonies. Why, in New Zealand three consecutive laws have been passed by the Local Parliament, in 1873, 1874, and 1875, for the protection of females of all ages. I have the Acts at hand. They are more stringent than our provisions in England. Whence, and to what purpose, this difference of principle and practice in two great Dependencies of the British Empire? Are we to be encountered by the old commercial and economical arguments of 1833? Were they not refuted at the time by logic and common sense, and still more strongly afterwards by the universal admission of the mighty social, moral, physical, and financial benefits that arose out of that healthy legislation? Will small difficulties be urged? Great difficulties there are none. How ascertain the age? says one; so was it urged in 1833. The Indians, say they, have no register of births; neither had our people at that time; and as for baptismal entries, it was soon found that in respect of an enormous proportion of the children they had either never been baptized, or that every trace had been lost of when and where they had received the rite. "How define an adult woman?" says another. Why, my Lords, leave all that to the Local Governments. Where there is a will there is a way; and those who urge these difficulties, and call them insuperable, know well that they are making assertions for which there is not a shadow of foundation. Observe, I request you, that my proposition involves no statement of details to be required, no special or minute enactments to be forced on the several Presidencies. All local habits, necessities, requirements, are left to the consideration of the local authority. It simply lays down a prin- ciple which is sound and applicable at all times and in all places, from North to South, from East to West, to every spot in the earth wherever man is found, and claims from his fellow-man his inherent and inalienable rights. I appeal to you, my Lords, and to Her Majesty's Government, with the more confidence, because you have, as you state, by recent efforts given security to Hindostan from external aggression, and have thereby acquired leisure and opportunity to give your minds to her internal amelioration. What care, then, is more important than that of the physical and social condition of the actual generation, and of those who are to be the parents of the generations to come? The system is as yet in its infancy, and may easily be controlled; but allow it to acquire much larger proportions and it will put you at defiance. Of all the classes that toil for a livelihood there is none so helpless, friendless, and subdued as these wretched women. They are doubly slaves—slaves to the millowner and slaves to their husbands, who, disregarding their sufferings, revel at case in their hard-won earnings. They have no public opinion on their behalf—no Press, no paid, or voluntary agitators. In their distress they lift their eyes to the Imperial Parliament; and shall it be replied, my Lords, that "on the side of their oppressors there was power, but that the oppressed had no comforter?" Heaven forbid such an issue! Forty-six years ago I addressed the House of Commons in a kindred appeal, and they heard me; I now turn to your Lordships, and I implore you in the same spirit, for God's sake, and in His name, to have mercy on the children of India.

Moved, That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to instruct the Viceroy of India to take into immediate consideration the necessity of passing a law for regulating the labour of women and children in the mills and factories throughout Her dominions in India.—(The Earl of Shaftesbury.)


My Lords, there is no one who is more ready to recognize the great services which the noble Earl has done in this country than myself—because I am old enough to recall the condition of things to which he has referred in the manufucturing districts of England, and I have had an opportunity in many visits to those dis- tricts since to see the beneficial results of the legislation which has taken place. My Lords, the circumstances under which the noble Earl brought forward his proposals in the House of Commons were very different from those which can be predicated of India. The noble Earl was supported by the great mass of the manufacturing population, and by a great number of millowners, who were anxious that something should be done; and public opinion had a voice in England which, as the noble Earl has reminded us, it has not in India. I may say no voice, practically, of the working classes in India is heard here, nor are the millowners taking any part in furthering the movement—rather the reverse. But I think I may say that the noble Earl, in bringing before your Lordships some of the evidence to which he has adverted, has put me in a position of some difficulty, because, as to a great part of it, it is evidence of a private nature to which the public has not access. A great deal of the evidence has been taken from letters addressed to himself, or from personal interviews he has had—and I am bound to say it is not borne out by evidence afforded, me by persons who have had facilities for learning the truth. The noble Earl has, perhaps, not sufficiently inquired into what has happened since the year 1875. In that year the Commission of Inquiry into the subject of factories reported, by a majority of about four to two, against legislation. No doubt there was much to be said in favour of legislation; but, at the same time, it must be remembered that the Commission who had taken the evidence did not, in fact, report that it was necessary. Subsequently, the reason assigned for not legislating on this question was that the time was inopportune—that the people were in the greatest distress, and required all the employment they could get for the support of their wives and families. It is obvious that the employment of the people in any way during the time of the Famine was desirable; for thousands of families had to be supported, and any interference with labour at that crisis was to be deprecated. But the subject has never been lost sight of; and when the noble Earl asks for an Address to the Queen in order that legislation may be immediately enforced, I am able to inform him that a Bill has been prepared by the Government of India, and has been circulated through the different Provinces, with a view of obtaining opinions upon it. These opinions are being collected, and I have seen besides a Minute of the Lieutenant Governor of Bombay. He comments on the subject of factory legislation generally most favourably, and with a desire that it should be put into operation. He calls especial attention to the importance of legislating with respect to women and children, and urges that the latter should not be employed for more than six hours daily; that they should be more completely protected from accidents; and that special attention should be given to the age at which they are employed. This latter point should, in his opinion, in the absence of a system of registration in India, be left to certifying surgeons, as in England. We must remember how very different the population of India is from our own; for instance, when children marry at the age of 12, as they often do in India, it is obvious that they become adults earlier than in England. In regulating the age at which they may begin their work, that fact must be borne in mind, and to ascertain it certifying surgeons must be employed. I should have great pleasure, if it should be moved for, in laying on the Table of the House the opinion of the Lieutenant Governor of Bombay, formed after a careful inspection of the factories and of the population working in them. He says that the workpeople mostly come from the coast to Bombay because the food there is good and abundant, and the climate is of a kind that usually suits them. The conclusion he comes to is that there is great room for improvement in the working of the factories. The circumstances, however, are so peculiar, and present so curious a contrast to those in which the English operative works, that I must be allowed to call attention to them very briefly. These factories, as I understand, during many parts of the year are practically thrown open. The air outside is of much the same temperature as that within; and though during the rainy season and when the wind is high the ventilators are shut, still, for the greater part of the year the workpeople are almost in the open air. Of course, I admit that when the ventilators are shut there should be some means of regulating and superintending the temperature of the mills. Then, with respect to the intended sanitary improvements, the defects pointed out by the noble Earl and the short time allowed for meals will be remedied by the measure now under consideration. A quarter of an hour is evidently a very insufficient time for the meals either of adults or of children, and an interval of an hour will be adopted as being more reasonable. With reference to machinery, I have not been able to ascertain from documents the precise extent of the dangers to which the workpeople are exposed in the use of machinery. I am told that it is fairly protected, but where further precautions are deemed necessary they must be adopted; and I am certain that the protection accorded to them will be equal to that enjoyed by factory hands in England. We have no right to make them run risks unnecessarily. I agree with the noble Earl that the protection of young persons employed in these factories is a fitting subject for legislative action; and I can assure him that, as far as lies in my power, I shall enforce upon the Government of India the urgency of legislation in that direction. The Indian Government is not at all inclined to do less than the circumstances of the case demand or to fall short of its duties. The conditions of labour in India have also to be considered. Those who have been in India will know how extremely peculiar the conditions of labour are in that country, and especially in one particular—namely, in no work being done by artificial light. Consequently the hours of labour vary considerably, the operatives working from sunrise to sunset, so that the day is sometimes very long and sometimes comparatively short. I am aware that the noble Earl did not say that the working day was 16 hours except in unusual circumstances; but the real time commonly varies from 11 to 13 hours. I quite agree with the noble Earl that it is not a question what the children do. They are there for the purpose of work, and of course their employers get as much out of them as possible; but in the Bombay mills everything is done by piecework, and is not paid for at so much a day. No one imagines that outside the factories we can carry the protection of workpeople to the extent desired by the noble Earl. We cannot stop polygamy, nor can we prevent husbands from extorting and wasting the earnings of their wives—though I am bound to say that, from all I can hear, habits of thrift are more general than the noble Earl seems to suppose. These Indian factories have attracted a good deal of attention, and there is an impression in India—an erroneous impression—that an attempt is being made in this country to put checks upon them for the sake of benefiting English manufactures. I would, to the utmost of my ability, oppose anything of that kind. We have had one instance in England of the effect of such a policy, and we have learnt a lesson that will last—I mean when in former times, for the sake of English manufactures, we put down the manufactures of Ireland in a way that most cruelly affected her prosperity. I trust legislation in that spirit will never be applied to any other country. We do not wish to check Indian manufactures, though the children and young persons employed certainly require and ought to receive the attention of the Legislature. Legislation for the protection of persons employed in the mills of India should be fairly and fully considered in the spirit exhibited by Mr. Sorabjee—a gentleman who has given great attention to the subject, and who prepared a Bill for the consideration of the Council of Bombay. Let the proposed Bill of Mr. Sorabjee be considered fairly and fully, as it undoubtedly deserves. I am happy to say that the Governor of Bombay regards it as one to which he can give his assent. As this measure is the groundwork upon which legislation will probably proceed, your Lordships would doubtless desire to know what its principal provisions are, and, with your Lordships' permission, I will give an outline of them. It provides that the mills shall be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for six days out of the seven; and here I must mention that the evidence shows that the mills are open, on the average, 320 days in the year, more or less. Now, of course, we could not put our foot down upon those Natives who do not observe the Christian Sunday; so we allow them, as long as they work only six days in the week, to choose their own day of rest. The other main provisions of the Bill are that females shall not work for more than 10, and young persons for more than nine hours a-day, allowing in each case one hour for meals. No child under eight years of age is to work at all; certifying surgeons are to be appointed; registers are to be kept at the mills; certificates are to be given to all persons employed; and power is reserved to the Governor in Council to exempt from the operation of the Act certain mills where adult labour alone is employed. The Government Bill is in circulation throughout the Provinces concerned, and Mr. Sorabjee's Bill will afford assistance in arranging the final measure. As its provisions ought to be adapted to the different populations for whom this legislation is intended, this measure has been submitted to those who rule over those populations. I trust that, under the circumstances, your Lordships will not think it necessary to address the Crown to enforce legislation on this subject.


agreed that it was most desirable that the same protection should be given to women and children employed in mills in India as was given to those employed in a similar industry in this country. As, however, the Government of India had decided that one Act should be passed for the whole of India, it, no doubt, was necessary to submit the draft of the Bill to the different Local Governments; and that would, of course, occupy some considerable time. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and the Government of Bombay having expressed their concurrence in the principles of the Bill, no difficulty could arise as to the other parts of India—because those Governments represented the Provinces where there was anything like a considerable factory population.


in reply, said, he had not asked for immediate legislation, but that they should take into consideration the necessity of passing a law for regulating the labour of women and children in the factories of India. It had been said that a reduction of the hours of labour of women and children employed in these mills would tend seriously to interfere with trade. He had not the slightest doubt of this—that if the hours of labour were reduced, the produce of the mills would be far superior to what it was. After the assurances given by the noble Viscount that he would lose no time in urging on the Goverment of India to proceed with legislation on the subject, he thought it would be exceedingly unadvisable to divide the House. He would, therefore, beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.