HL Deb 19 March 1880 vol 251 cc1216-7

said, that last year the Secretary of State for India held out a strong hope of legislation in India on the subject of the women and children employed in the mills of that country. He wished to ask the noble Viscount (Viscount Cranbrook), Whether the Government of India has passed any measure for the regulation of the labour of women and children in mills and factories?


said, it had been stated in the public prints that a measure, such as that which had been asked for by the noble Earl, had been before the Indian Legislative Council, but that it had been shelved, owing to the opposition of the unofficial Members of the Council. The discussion of this measure was an instance of the necessity of having Indians as Members of that Council, as their opinion on the labour of women and children would be of more value than that of Europeans.


in reply, said, he had hoped that there would have been legislation on the subject before now. The noble Earl would remember that when he (Viscount Cranbrook) spoke upon the subject last year he quoted from a Minute of Sir Richard Temple, and at that time he was under the impression that a Bill was to be brought in for the Presidency of Bombay. But the Bill was taken up in No- vember for the whole of the country, and it was sent to the different Governors of all the districts of India in order that public opinion on it might be ascertained. It came back to the Governor General in Council to consider as a permissive measure which the Local Governments might adopt or not as they thought fit. It was then referred, in the ordinary course, to a Committee of the Council, which Committee changed it to a compulsory Bill. Considerable opposition was then raised against it, and it was put aside with the view of its being again submitted to the Local Governors of the districts. He regretted that legislation had not been accomplished; but he must say that on looking through the Bill, and taking certain facts into consideration which had since come under his notice, he did not think it was one which would be applicable to the whole country. What occurred to him was this. The new Governor of Bombay, Sir James Fergusson, who had been Chairman of the Factory Commission in this country, and who was as well acquainted with these subjects as any other person, had not yet gone over to India. He would confer with Sir James Fergusson before he did go, with a view to securing a legislative measure on the subject as soon as possible.


felt much obliged to the noble Viscount, and was quite satisfied with the assurance he had just given. He should be quite content if legislation on the matter were commenced in Bombay.