Order of the Day read for resuming the adjourned Debate on the Motion of the Lord Kenry (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl) to resolve—
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation with a view to the amelioration of the condition of the people suffering under that system is urgently needed.
§ Debate resumed accordingly.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I was in hopes that this Debate might have closed last night, and that it would not have been necessary for me to ask your Lordships' indulgence; but I, in obedience to what I believed to be the wish of the House, ventured to move the adjournment of the Debate. In common, I have no doubt, with most, if not all, of your Lordships who attended the Debate last night, I listened with much interest and curiosity to the speech of my noble Friend, whose notice stood first on the Paper. I listened to it with interest and curiosity, be cause the proceedings of this Committee have been mysterious and strange. Indeed, I almost think there is hardly a parallel case to what occurred last night —two successive Chairmen of the same Committee fighting a duel across the House over the Report which had been laid upon the Table by that Committee. 442 And I do not think, my Lords, that this matter becomes less mysterious when we come to look at the Reports of the Committee and that drawn up by my noble Friend Lord Dunraven, because, between the Reports themselves, with the exception of one paragraph of Lord Dunraven's, which refers to adult labour —in reference to which I am glad to see he quotes the Trades Union authorities as to State non-interference with adult male labour—there practically is little, if any, material difference. And certainly from the speech of my noble Friend on my right, who replied, we did not gather any reason why there had been such strange proceedings in the Committee, that the Chairman thought it necessary to resign, finding himself in a minority of one, and that the Report is only the Report of the rest of the Committee. I cannot but think that hard measure has been dealt out to my noble Friend, and I would almost suggest to him that he should come back to the healthy climate of these Cross Benches, which he left some three or four years ago. However, we have nothing to do with the course which has been taken by my noble Friend, but we have a great deal to do with his Motion. Now, the Motion of the noble Earl asks vaguely and generally for legislation to remove evils which have been shown to exist under this so-called sweating system. My noble Friend told us last night that he would not say much about legislation, although his Resolution asks definitely for legislation to remove certain existing ills; but in his speech he spoke very strongly about those evils, and he used very strong terms in regard to what should be the action of Parliament in the matter. He said that he was dealing with the economical problem, and that it was for Parliament to find a remedy for the evil conditions of matters. Now, what are those evil conditions? As set forth last night by my noble Friend, they are, first, sub-contracting, and the existence of what he calls the unnecessary middleman; secondly, over competition; and, thirdly, foreign immigration. Those are the matters upon which he invites legislation, and it strikes me, my Lords, that it is legislation of a most heroic character which ho asks your Lordships to undertake; legislation 443 which is do away with what ho calls the unnecessary middleman, which is to put a stop to competition, and which is to prevent unfair conditions in consequence of cheap foreign labour. Why, my Lords, Home Rule is a joke to that, and I doubt very much whether all the well-known skill in drafting of my noble Friend, Lord Thring, would be able to draw such Bills as would effectually give effect to such legislation. What I want to bring before your Lordships' House is this: What is the real nature of the evils which you have to contend with; and whether it is possible or not to remove those evils by legislation, as suggested by my noble Friend. Now I turn to the Report of the Committee, and I find that the causes of the evils are there set forth. They say, in substance, that the chief factors in producing sweating are the inefficiency of the poorer class of workers; early marriages; the helpless residuum in large towns; the low standard of life; excessive supply of cheap female labour; and married w omen working in their homes. Then the evils resulting arc: inadequate wages; excessive hours; and insanitary conditions. I think my noble Friend, Lord Derby, will admit that that is a fair summary of what the Committee say are the causes of these evils; and they go on to say that skilled labour always obtains adequate wages. But there is another paragraph in the Report which I think is of great importance, referring to the excessive mortality among young children, and that is ascribed to early marriages. The Committee say that it is a common thing for boys and girls to marry at the age of 15, and to become parents when in a state not far removed from starvation. In the Report of my noble Friend Lord Dunraven, he also states how, in his opinion, the evils complained of have arisen from over-population, eagerness in competition, and the influx of foreign, labour. With regard, then, to the great evils referred to, it is not simply a question of sanitation, or of the conditions under which the work is done; the root of these evils are a surplus population and low wages. We have now to see what are the remedies proposed by the Committee, and whether they will touch the evils pointed out by the draughtsmen of the Report. What are the remedies proposed? The re- 444 medies proposed are those of Cooperation and Combination. That is not a matter for legislation; it is a matter of arrangement among employers and among workers themselves. Then there is Sanitation, which is, no doubt, a matter your Lordships may deal with and legislate upon. Then there is the extension of the Factory Acts, the Registration of Workrooms, the increase of Inspectors, and the combination of authorities—that is to say, of Local Boards and other bodies which have to do with cognate matters; the recommendation is that they should be more combined in their operations than they are at present. Lastly, I come to a most important matter, namely, the question of State and Municipal Contracts. Now, my Lords, let us test the value of these suggestions. In order to properly test their value we must consider what is the effect which they will have upon the evils which the Committee and my noble Friend Lord Dunraven have pointed out as being the real evils—that is to say, Low Wages and Surplus Labour. I venture to say that not one of those suggested remedies which are referred to will touch these evils, except possibly the last, that is, the proposed way of dealing with State and Municipal Contracts. Of course, the extension of the Factory Acts and the Registration of Workrooms will not affect wages, nor will the recommendations as to Sanitation, unless you carry them to the extent proposed by the Bishop of Bedford, who proposes that some of these shops should be shut up absolutely, notwithstanding that the consequence would be that a great many of these poor people would be thus deprived of their means of living, and would have to go to the workhouse. Apparently he is quite prepared for that result; but I think that it is rather a curious remedy to propose, that in order to benefit one portion of the population another portion should be turned into paupers. So much for the way in which some of the suggestions as to Sanitation and Inspection would operate. Now, with reference to the question of State and Municipal Contracts, it is rather curious that neither of the noble Lords who spoke last night referred at all to this point, though it is, to my mind, by far the most important. Though it is by far the most serious point in the 445 whole Report, my noble Friend on my right did not touch upon it at all. I want to know what regulation of State and Municipal contracts means, and upon that point I will refer to the Report itself. It is under the head of Government and Municipal Contracts, and a hope is expressed in the ReportThat every precaution in their power will be taken to ensure fair and reasonable terms to the workers.Now, my Lords, what does that mean? If it means anything it means that to every contract before it is taken—or rather that to every tender that is sent in to the State or to any Municipal Body a scale of prices and wages is to be affixed. If it does not mean that what does it mean? I asked the Chairman of the Committee what it means, and I have asked my noble Friend, Lord Tilling, who drew the Report, what it means, but I cannot get an answer. However, I am perfectly certain of this, that it means in the end a Wages Court, and I think my noble Friend to whom we are indebted for the Land Court for Ireland will see that this is the beginning of that kind of legislation. When writing this paragraph his fingers must have itched to propose a Wage Court like the Land Court for Ireland, which was established, I think, in 1870. I ask, then, if it does not mean that, what does it mean? It is the first step towards the fixing of wages by Public Bodies and by the State. My Lords, this is called exceptional legislation, but we know what that means. It will very soon be seen that it is the germ of general legislation upon the subject. We have heard a great deal about germs in legislation, and we know very well what that means. What are the Municipal Bodies, the Local Boards, and the London County Council doing now? They are trying to become Traders; they are trying to deal in gas and water and all sorts of things; and if they are to get what the Socialists want, that is to say, all the instruments of production into their hands, and if you are to have this principle embodied in legislation, what will it mean? Why, that the State is also to fix the rate of wages. With that exception, I venture to say that these suggestions are practically worthless as regards the main evils alluded to, those being—I cannot repeat 446 it too often—low wages and superabundant labour. No doubt much can be done for the comfort and well-being of the working people by sanitation; but even the question of sanitation can be carried too far. We have heard a good deal about the name of Fawcett of late, and I may mention that the other day I came across a speech of Mr. Fawcett, delivered in 1878, when he resisted the over inspection of work-places and the over extension of the Workshops Act. In that speech he said that—It would be perfectly intolerable to interfere with the home of every Englishman and Englishwoman in the way proposed; because the Bill, as it then stood, would give the Inspectors the right to knock at every man's door and ask if his wife and children were at work after 9 o'clock. Under the cloak of a Consolidation Bill that monstrous interference with individual liberty would be sanctioned, and care should be taken that that was not done.Well, my Lords, all I hope is that whatever measure may be carried by way of sanitation, registration, increased inspection, or anything of that kind, with the view of adding to the healthiness of the places in which these poor people work and sleep, due care will be taken that the Inspectors are not to interfere with the sanctity and privacy of the homes of the working people of this country. That is, I think, a very important consideration for your Lordships. Now, this being the position of things in reference to the extension of Sanitation, there is little else, as I have said, that Parliament can do. I have ventured to put down an Amendment pointing out what it seems to me ultimately to come to. Believing, as I do, that the real evils are evils which Parliament cannot touch, I am anxious that your Lordships should not commit yourselves to vague promises of legislation to benefit the people who are suffering in this way—promises which it would be utterly impossible for your Lordships to fulfil. Do not suppose for one moment that I feel less than any of your Lordships in this House for the sufferings and privations to which these poor people are exposed. But the evils which the State can cure are very few; and if you follow all the legislation of this kind which has taken place, whether you look at the legislation in regard to Irish land, the legislation for the improvement of the sanitary condition 447 of the people, or to the Factories and Workshops Act, you will find that failure in a great measure follows your legislation, and that an Act is no sooner passed than it has to be supplemented by another Act, to be followed by further Acts. This is my answer to my noble Friend Lord Salisbury, who made a speech the other day in which he rather took the line that we must go on in the course we have been following. My point is that you do not succeed in what you are attempting to do, and you always have to endeavour to supplement your legislation by further Acts which will interfere more or less with the self-reliance of the people. I do not think it is by telling the people of this country that Parliament is to do everything, and that they have not the matter in their own hands that you can succeed; or by leading them to think that legislative interference is a panacea for all ills. True statesmanship consists, I believe, in tolling the people that the cure rests with themselves—that was the line taken by my noble Friend Lord Derby last night—that they have the cure in their own hands by the practice of temperance and thrift, and by abstaining from early marriages, and not marrying until they have the means of keeping in comfort their wives, and those whom they bring into the world, as the upper and middle classes mostly do; but here you have it stated, in the passage I have referred to, that boys and girls of 15 marry, and infants themselves bring other infants into the world whose only lot is to be born paupers and to go on the rates. For that evil of over population I believe the remedy is emigration. A well-known statesman has, I believe, said that emigration is banishment. I venture to think that what we ought to teach the people of this country—a country which has peopled the world by emigration—is that emigration ought not to be looked upon as banishment, but as one of the means of reducing our surplus population; and that those who cannot find adequate labour and adequate reward for their labour in this country should endeavour to find in Greater Britain those opportunities which they have not been able to find in their native land. Bat, my Lords, be that as it may, I venture to think, as I have already said, that the duty of the statesman is to speak out the truth to the 448 people, not to delude them with this, panacea of legislation for every ill;, nor, on the other hand, to throw up the sponge and take up the position of the fatalist, as was done in his speech, to which I have already referred, by my noble Friend the Prime Minister. I know that it is not the popular course to adopt the line which I am now taking, or the line which I ventured to take when last I addressed your Lordships upon this question of what the State can and cannot, or ought and ought not to do. I have been more or less laughed at and denounced in every newspaper from John O'Groat's to Land's End. My noble Friend Lord Salisbury, on the other hand, has been praised in every newspaper throughout England and Scotland. But who are they who praise my noble Friend the most? Why the Radical and Democratic papers— what I have ventured to call the Socialistic newspapers. I have here an extract from a paper, the character of which, cannot be doubted—Reynolds's Newspaper. Here is what they say with reference to my noble Friend's speech. The paragraph is headed "Lord Salisbury a Socialist." I invite the attention of the noble Marquess particularly to this—This is the new Socialistic, aristocratic policy. If any doubt remained on that score, the speech of Lord Salisbury has dispelled it. His was, indeed, a very notable speech, and it was also a plea in many parts of it for Socialism. It strikes many that this speech of Lord Salisbury's is a bid for the support of the Democracy.Here you see, he is welcomed with open arms as a man and brother Socialist. Now, contrast that with the measure-that is meted out to the humble individual who now has the honour to be addressing your Lordships' House: I have said that I have been attacked by every newspaper in the country; but there is some criticism which one would prefer to any praise that can be given, and I certainly would prefer, upon this great question of Socialism—(for it is the one great question of the day, blink it or not as you choose)—these attacks to the interested incense which has been so lavishly offered up to my noble Friend. An editor of a newspaper writes to me as follows:—This very important question is terribly underrated by those who should know better. It 449 may interest your Lordship to know that the Social Democratic Club on Tuesday evening —the very day after the discussion which took place on this subject—passed a resolution in which you were vigorously denounced by the Socialist leaders as a dangerous person, and a source of possible future mischief to the Socialist cause.Well, I would prefer that greatly to the praise of Reynolds's newspaper, of the speech of my noble Friend. All that one can do in this world, having strong convictions, is to abide by them, and through good and bad report to endeavour to make them plain. I would rather, my Lords, be a snag in the stream, even if it serves no other purpose than to show the force and volume of the flood, than be whirled along the rapids down to what I believe to be the inevitable Niagara of the not very distant Socialistic future. Your Lordships are, I think, today in this position: that you are asked, on the one hand to legislate where you think it possible to legislate for the removal of evils which must be removed in other ways than by legislation. If you assent to such a Motion as that, you only deceive those who look to you for guidance in this, that you lead them to believe that those evils are removable by legislation; and the result of their being disappointed, as they inevitably must be, will be far more discontent than there would be at the present time if you were for tell them frankly and boldly the truth. On the other hand, this course is open, as I think, to your Lordships: you can show your sympathy with these workers, and say that all which legislation can do you are willing to do for the improvement of their homes, and for their general sanitary state and well-being, but that you are not going to pass legislation which would lead to hopes which would inevitably be dashed. It is on this account that I have ventured to put my Motion on the Paper protesting against dealing with such evils as surplus population, and with the congested state of the labour market by any means except, perhaps, by encouraging emigration; but, at the same time, expressing your hearty sympathy with the sufferings of these people, your desire to improve their homes, and your readiness to do everything possible to attain these ends. That was my object in putting my Amendment on the Paper. I submit 450 it to your favourable consideration, and I have only now to thank your Lordships for having so long and patiently listened to me.
To leave out all the words after "That" and insert "While sympathising with the workers in some trades in the Metropolis and elsewhere in the privations and hardships to which they are subject, as shown in the evidence taken before the Committee on the so-called 'Sweating' System, and while anxious, so far as possible, to remedy the evils from which they suffer through the insanitary and unfavourable conditions under which they work, this House is nevertheless of opinion that the evils of excessive competition and low wages, of which complaint is chiefly made, are due to the congested state of the labour market in the trades in question, which the improved sanitation and the appointment of additional inspectors, as recommended in the Report of the Committee, would in no way diminish or affect."—(The Lord Wemyss, E. Wemyss.)
§ LORD THRING
My Lords, I wish to make a few observations, and but a very few observations, upon the speech which was made yesterday by Lord Dunraven, the Chairman of the Committee upon which he acted for two long years with the constant assistance and co-operation of his Colleagues. I think we have a right to complain that he deserted us, and that he should have occupied an hour and a half of your Lordships' time in attributing to the Committee every crime of which men could be guilty. What was the first accusation he made? I must deal with it, and I must answer it. He talked about the disappearance of a particular draft. What were the facts? I admit that the conclusions which I drew up were first issued for private circulation in the form of a Private Paper. I admit that I afterwards modified them at the suggestion of Lord Derby, and that I afterwards greatly enlarged them. Then, my Lords, what happened was this: The clerks at the Table thought that those conclusions were no part of the Report, and I did not think fit, therefore, to include them as part of the Report. I have no objection to the noble Lord using thorn in any way he chooses; but to say that I wish to suppress them is merely imputing to me conduct which no Member of this House will ever think I was guilty of. Then, my Lords, came another personal imputation, and to that I plead in the fullest degree guilty. The 451 noble Lord said that I took undue advantage of the help of my Colleagues in the preparation of my draft. I admit that, without the assistance of my Colleagues, Lord Monkswell, Lord Clifford, and Lord Sandhurst, who prepared the whole summary of the evidence, I could not have produced the Report. I admit that my dull and imperfect sight would not have enabled me to go through the three or four volumes of evidence. I admit to the full the kindness and courtesy with which my colleagues treated me. I believe the Report to be a very good Report; and though I must say it is in great part due to them, I will in no degree shrink from the responsibility for every statement which is made in it. I went through every statement of my noble Friends, and I therefore admit myself, to the full, as responsible as any of them. So much for the personal insinuations. But what has the noble Lord ventured to say to the House? He has told you that we have suppressed evidence. What object had we, I should like to know, in suppressing evidence? He says, in regard to sub-contracting, that we did not give it sufficient prominence. There was an initial blunder in the Reference which the noble Lord induced us to accept. The noble Lord said we were to inquire into the system of sweating. We had not sat a week or a fortnight before we found out that there was no system of sweating. We found that there were conditions of labour appalling in their misery, but that there was no system of sweating; that sub-contracting had nothing to do with it. We found out that in many trades where there was no sub-contracting whatever, all the conditions of sweating existed, long hours, low wages, and every description of misery. We were told at the beginning by Mr. Arnold White, who was the Corypheus prominent among the witnesses, that sweating did not necessarily mean subcontracting, but that it meant "grinding the faces of the poor." What did that mean? It meant that sweating was a nickname which was applied to these appalling conditions. And yet we are told that we did not talk enough about it, and that we wanted to suppress the evidence with regard to sub-contracting. Then we were told we did not give sufficient prominence to the question of competi- 452 tion. It is almost childish to make such an accusation. What could such witnesses as we examined say about competition that was not obvious to every one? Is it to be supposed that my Colleagues, some of the most prominent Members of your House, wished to conceal the fact that competition among employers would raise wages, and that competition among the unskilled workers would lower wages? What possible object was there in our dilating on competition? It had nothing to do with our conclusions: and the object of our Report was, if possible, to give practical guidance for the purpose of legislation. Then came the third accusation, which was equally unfounded—that we suppressed evidence with respect to the influx of foreigners. My Lords, I am well aware that this influx of foreigners is in some degree unpopular. I am aware that there is a strong prejudice existing against the influx of foreigners. But how can it be said that we have attempted to hide it? All we said was, and I challenge the noble Lord Dunraven to prove the contrary, that this influx of foreigners was, in our opinion, a small thing, having regard to the enormous quantity of female and other unskilled labour in the market. Then, my Lords, I would ask, when we are told that the influx of foreign labour is the cause of the appalling misery among our poorer classes, what are the facts? When the Jews come over here, they never fall upon the rates; they are entirely supported by the Jewish Board of Guardians. Although when they first come they are uncleanly and untidy in their habits, they are industrious, and their children are brought up in one of the best schools in England. They receive, both men and women, the highest possible character from the witnesses who spoke in regard to the conduct of the Jews. What ground is there for saying that we suppressed evidence? We put forward as clearly as we possibly could both the dark shades and the bright lights as-appearing upon the evidence. Now, my Lords, I must say a few words upon another matter. Nothing has been said, as far as I understand, as to why the Report of the noble Lord was rejected. The Report of the noble Lord was rejected, I must tell your Lordships 453 because it was irregular and unusual in form; because it contained contradictory statements: because it used language which was t bought unnecessarily strong; because it was in such a form that we could not distinguish conclusions from evidence, and it was, therefore, impossible to sign it in that form. I must give you a few of the inconsistencies, because they all bear upon this question of sweating. I will refer to paragraph 10, where the noble Lord says, that the two chief causes of sweating are, over competition and foreign immigration. Then he says, two or throe paragraphs further on, that the sweating consisted in the substitution of unskilled for skilled labour and the use of machinery—that, in one word, competition is the root of the evil. Then, in his speech yesterday, the noble Lord stated that the evil was duo to the unnecessary number of middlemen and the system of sub-contracting; but in his own Report, in paragraph 195, he says that the causes of sweating are, in the main, natural and intrinsically wholesome. The chief reason we could not sign that Report was that it contained so many inconsistencies and so many strong observations. And what did we do? In the first place, we implored him to alter it; we begged him to consider it in the vacation. I myself asked him, if it was a mere question of settling the evidence, whether he would not sit down and settle it with us. But what does he do? He comes here and makes these charges, while, if he had only sat with us for a few minutes in conversation over the Table, we could have introduced the evidence the noble Lord accuses us of suppressing. He knew, and all my Colleagues will support me in saying this, that we were not in the slightest degree anxious to give one colour or the other to the case; all we were anxious about was that we should have an impartial, clear, and just statement of the evidence, and then, if we disputed, we should dispute upon the conclusions. I challenge my noble Friend to say whether it was fair to his Colleagues to pick out certain omissions in the evidence, and then charge us with suppressing them when, if he had chosen to spend 10 minutes with us in conversation over the Table in the Committee Room, every objection he had could have been removed. Then as to; 454 the conclusions of the Report. The matters to be dealt with were low wages, the influx of foreigners, and sanitation. As to low wages, I do not agree with Lord Wemyss that I was anxious to draw a Bill either to lower or to raise wages. It is true the witnesses who came before us thought we had power to raise or lower wages; but we came, in effect, to the same conclusion as the noble Lord, that the only way the question of wages could be dealt with was by a full and well-considered combination; in other words, that the people themselves must deal with the question by co-operation. Then with regard to the influx of foreigners. The noble Lord has throughout his Report and his speech whispered—for I cannot say it was anything more—hints that the Legislature ought to deal with this question of the influx of foreigners; in other words, that we ought to prohibit the poor Russians who have escaped from Russia coming for refuge to England. I would rather that any number of refugees should come to England than that we should prohibit the entrance into the country of men who, flying from persecution when they come here, are no burden whatever upon our people. Then I come to the last point, sanitation. What did we do with regard to that? We recommended that there should be an increase in the number of Inspectors, and greater stringency in enforcing the laws of sanitation. The only point upon which we differed from my noble Friend Lord Dunraven was that he recommended that every house in which people worked should be subjected to the Factories and Workshops Act. With reference to the increase in the number of Inspectors which we recommended, I am in great doubt as to how far that should go. I am aware, as everybody is who is behind the scenes in these matters, that inspection is a very dangerous weapon; that it leads to petty tyranny and petty interference, and that there is nothing which so rouses the feelings of people against the law as interference with their homes. I do not say it is not necessary. I have said, and my Colleagues have said, that we think it is necessary that there should be an increase in the number of Inspectors; but to say that every workman's house 455 in the country is to be placed under the Factory Law is, in my opinion, to say that England is to be placed under a system of petty tyranny, and nothing would ever induce me to consent to such a thing' or to refrain from raising my voice against it. Such, my Lords, is the whole result of these charges which the noble Lord Dunraven has chosen to make against his Colleagues on the Committee. I say the only difference between us is this: there is no difference in the conclusions except in regard to this matter of visiting the bones of poor workmen; there is no difference whatever between us except in regard to that. Then, my Lords, I will say a few words upon another point. We have been told that our Report is not drastic enough; but our Report contains everything which the Report of Lord Dunraven contains. I believe with my noble Friend Lord Wemyss—Of all the ills that human hearts endure,How small the part that laws can make or cure.What it is possible for legislation to do we have recommended in the clearest possible terms. With regard to the rest, I think the Report has been of very great use. It has brought home to the hearts and consciences of employers that they owe a duty to their workpeople, and that it is not right to wring the uttermost farthing out of them which can be wrung out of them by the exigencies of the market. I hope, also, we have brought home to the hearts and consciences of purchasers of goods that they ought not always to look to cheapness, but that they may sometimes well consider that that cheapness is bought by the misery of the workers. We have taught them that fair prices may not only secure good goods, but that they may be doing good in paying them. These moral truths we have brought home to the hearts and consciences of men, and, to use the words which the Archbishop introduces at the end of our Report, we have done our best to encourage thrift and to raise the tone of living among the helpless inhabitants of the great towns of England.
My Lords, I desire to say a few words on the Motion before the House, not only as one of the members of the Committee, who took an active part in drafting the alternative 456 Report, which was accepted, but also as representing on the London County Council a constituency in which sweating is rife. With reference to the observations which have been made by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, I will say that I entirely agree with my noble Friend Lord Turing that we do not expect very much from legislation. We expect that a great deal more good will result from combination among the workers, and we also expect that a great deal of good will come from the awakening of the public conscience of which my noble Friend has just spoken. But I cannot altogether agree with the noble Earl when he tells us that this sanitary legislation will have no effect whatever in the way of increasing wages. I believe that indirectly, but not the less surely, sanitary legislation will have some effect in raising wages, because I believe it will conduce, to some extent, to the success of combination. My Lords, I believe that when the poor workers are ground down to the utmost—when they live in horrible, loathsome, and insanitary surroundings, the spirit is crushed out of them; and that if those surroundings are improved, they will pluck up a spirit and combine more than they do at present, and get better terms for themselves and their fellow-workers. Before I grapple, as I intend to do immediately, with some of the assertions of the noble Earl opposite, Lord Dunraven, I should like to say a few words as to a matter on which I believe there is some misapprehension in the minds of the public. Last August our conduct was very adversely commented upon in the Press in not having put forward our Report before the end of last year. I desire to say I wish the Committee could have seen their way to adopt a different course. I think it would have been of the utmost benefit if the Committee had seen fit to sit during the remainder of the Session, and to produce their Report before the end of it; but, considering the gigantic task before us, I cannot say that the Committee were unwise in not doing so, because, although the work might possibly have been done, it would not have been well done, and it would probably have been scamped. I only want to say one word in that connection, and it is this: that if any blame does attach to us for not putting forward 457 our Report at the end of last Session, I consider that part of the blame—the largest share of the blame, as I think the noble Earl opposite will agree with me— must lie upon his shoulders, ns I will explain to your Lordships. The Committee met regularly up to the end of May. What happened at the end of May was that the noble Lord deserted us for six weeks. Although the Committee was several times called together, the meetings were always put off. We only met three times after the end of May for the consideration of the evidence, and yet, not till the 5th August, did the noble Earl call us together to consider a Report dealing with this voluminous mass of evidence, upon a matter of such enormous importance. My Lords, I am very sorry to have to say this in your Lordships' House. I think that it would have come very much better from the noble Earl opposite himself. I am sorry I should be the first person to have to call attention in this House to the real reason why the Report was not put forward at the end of last Session. As regards the epitome of the evidence, it is somewhat of a personal matter between him and me, though I do not doubt the noble Earl himself did not intend it should be so; but it does so happen that nearly every one of the paragraphs in the Report which the noble Earl especially denounces was drafted by me and accepted by the Committee with very little alteration; and, therefore, if anybody is specially responsible for those conclusions and for that view of the evidence which the noble Earl denounces, it is myself. I entirely agree with the noble Earl that it is of the utmost importance there should be easily accessible to the public a correct epitome of the evidence. As he says, one cannot expect the public to wade through four Blue Books. So much did this consideration impress itself upon me that I may say I believed myself that the evidence was absolutely of more importance than the conclusions from it; for if we do legislate in the matter upon the lines laid down in this Report, I am perfectly certain that it is not the last word the Legislature will have to say on the subject, and in reference to other matters of this description. It is, therefore, a matter of the utmost importance for future 458 social reformers that this Report should contain an absolutely correct and colourless epitome of the evidence as far as it goes. I was so impressed with that necessity in putting forward the Report that I did not take any part in criticising the noble Earl's draft, or in drafting the alternative Report until I had made an analysis of the whole evidence and a rough index of that analysis. Those operations took me at least 300 hours of hard work; and I must say this, that if I am mistaken in my epitome of the evidence, a great deal of which I should mention was drafted by Lord Sandhurst and Lord Clifford, it is not for want of having made the utmost endeavour to make the Report as accurate as it could possibly be made. Now, my Lords, the noble Earl first of all falls foul of us in the matter of subcontracting, and he objects very much to paragraph 171, the first paragraph of the conclusions and recommendations in the Report. Well, the fact of the matter is, that he entirely misapprehends the whole drift of the paragraph to which he takes exception. The paragraph is very plain in its language; its meaning is perfectly clear. But what the noble Earl does is this: with very great skill he twists out of that paragraph a meaning which cannot possibly be assigned to it; and when he has assigned that meaning to it, he declares that the meaning so attributed to it does not form a correct epitome of the evidence. That paragraph is very short, and it is as follows:—We have endeavoured to extract from the principal witnesses a clear idea of what they understood by the term 'sweating' The replies received were neither clear nor consistent. It was urged by some that sweating is an abuse of the sub-contract system, and consequently that there can be no sweating where there is no sub-contracting. Others, on the contrary, maintained that sub-contracting is by no means a necessary element of sweating, which consists, according to them, in taking advantage of the necessities of the poorer and more helpless class of workers, either by forcing them to work too hard or too long, or under insanitary conditions, or for 'starvation wages,' or by exacting what some witnesses called 'an undue profit' out of their labour.'Now, my Lords, the only clear proposition laid down in that paragraph is that there are two classes of witnesses, one class of witnesses who say that sub-contracting is essential to sweating, and another class of witnesses who say that sub-contracting is not essential to sweating; and we say 459 quite truly in the margin, because I have looked over the evidence again and again, that there are 12 witnesses who have a decided opinion one way and nine witnesses the other. How does the noble Earl meet that? He is entirely beside the mark in declaring that there are 83 witnesses who say that subcontracting is a cause of sweating. Very likely they did, but this paragraph does not say more than that those nine witnesses all contended that sub-contracting is not a cause of sweating. That is a different proposition.
Paragraph 171. So that the noble Earl's statement is entirely beside the mark; and the fact is, he has simply found a mare's nest. I will now go to paragraph 174, which raises a more important question, and it is to the following effect, so far as it was contested by the noble Earl—It is enough to say that we considered our inquiry should embrace, first, the means employed to take advantage of the necessities of the poorer and more helpless class of workers.He denied that that was within the scope of the inquiry. My Lords, I utterly and entrely deny that I or any member of the Committee ever gave his sanction to the statement in paragraph 6 of the noble Earl's draft Report that—Your Committee confined their examination to those trades in which the existence of middlemen and sub-contractors was claimed to be an important factor in the case.We did nothing of the sort; and if we had done anything of the sort we should, in my opinion, have done very unwisely. But I really do not think it is a matter of the slightest importance, because it is perfectly certain that the noble Earl did not, in point of fact, draw that distinctinction which he says he drew. It is perfectly certain the noble Earl did not stop the witnesses when they went on to describe phases of their experience which, had nothing whatever to do with sub-contracting. He did not stop Miss Potter when she gave a list of prices paid to workers who were not under sub-contractors at all, nor did he stop the furniture hawkers who came forward and told us of their sad case. 460 The furniture-hawkers, I may remind your Lordships, are people who hawk about furniture which they have made on the chance of being able to sell it, and who are ready to sell it wherever they can, either to a middleman or to a bonà fide customer. In fact, the noble Earl does himself great injustice in this matter, for he did not take the extremely unwise course that he suggests in this Report. My Lords, I do not propose to say anything with regard to competition between employers beyond this. If the noble Earl looks at paragraph 68 of our Report he will find a reference to the excessive competition among small masters as being among the causes that conduce to sweating, in the opinion of some of the witnesses. Then, with regard to foreign pauper immigration. That is a very important part of the subject. Foreign pauper immigration is denounced up hill and down dale by the noble Lord in his Report, and it was denounced by him up hill and down dale again in his speech yesterday. The Times' report of that speech contains this sentence—If it was desired that the British labourer should be put on something like a decent footing of existence it is absolutely necessary that some check should be placed on the importation of this cheap and generally destitute foreign labour.When that declaration was made by the noble Earl in your Lordships' House it was cheered, and, of course, your Lordships expected that he would have had the courage of his convictions. The case against immigration cannot be put more strongly, and if the noble Earl is of opinion that some check should be placed on the immigration of foreign paupers he should have made some suggestion to your Lordships on that point. Why has not he had the courage of his convictions, and suggested on the fore-front of his Report that some legislative step should be taken in the matter? But he does not do anything of the kind. He draws back, and says that he has no remedy to recommend. Was ever such a lame and impotent conclusion put before any Legislative Assembly? The noble Earl found, when he came to draft his conclusion, that upon this subject public opinion is very much divided. Might it not have occurred to him that if public opinion was so very much divided, surely the evidence could not have been so almost entirely on one 461 side, as he suggests. If the evidence upon the point was so very much on one side there would probably be very little difference of opinion among British workmen as to the necessity of legislation for these purposes. Bat the noble Earl says there is a great divergence of opinion upon the subject, and he is perfectly right. Now, my Lords, I should like to tell you some-about the opinion which prevails in the East End of London. Mr. Cremer represents in the other House the constituency which I represent on the London County Council, and he was on the Committee of the House of Commons which dealt with the question of the immigration of foreigners. Mr. Cremer and Mr. Bradlaugh, who were on the same Committee, opposed a suggestion made by a majority of the Committee that possibly a time might come when some preventive legislation might be desirable. Mr. Cremer has not been called to account for that by his constituents, and I think if there is one man more than another who understands the temper of the people of the East End of London it is Mr. Cremer. Then the noble Earl has made some rather small and technical objections to the conclusions in the Report, and, in particular, he falls foul of paragraph 65, and says the evidence is not correctly epitomised there with regard to what is called the "Greener-immigration" in the boot-trade. I will only say as to that that I have carefully gone through every one of the references, and I cannot find that in any respect the evidence does not agree with the epitome that has been given. Of course, some of the witnesses upon that subject were what may be called a little "wobbly," and if you merely take a question here and there some of the witnesses might be shown almost to have said anything; but if you take the whole of the evidence referred to in the margin I have come to the conclusion, from having gone carefully through it, that paragraph 65 does give a correct epitome of the evidence upon this matter. With regard to paragraph 71 of the Report, the noble Earl again falls foul of the Committee. He is very angry with the Committee for drafting that paragraph. It is this—As regards the rise or fall in the remuneration of labour in the trade we feel ourselves 462 unable on the evidence before us to express any opinion as to the course of prices in the lower branches of the boot-trade.Now the evidence put forward by Lord Dunraven in his Report upon that matter is very one-sided. He gives very great prominence to the evidence on one side-in favour of there having been a fall in prices, but he says very little indeed about the evidence on the other side. For instance, the noble Lord does not mention the evidence of Mr. Flatau, who is a very large manufacturer, evidence which seems to me to bear upon this point, and which ought certainly to be referred to-in any Report of the Committee. Mr. Flatau tells us—That the operative is better off since the introduction of machinery than he was 10, 20, or 30 years ago;and with regard to the fall in wages since 1880 he says—In such cases one-third less labour would, be bestowed on the boot, this third being subsequently done by machinery.He also says—The men do two-thirds of the work they used to do, and get a fraction more than two-thirds of the wages.Another witness, Mr. Maddy, is stated in that paragraph to have given evidence that during the last two years he had increased the wages he paid, and had not noticed any tendency in wages to go down. The noble Earl quotes the other side of the evidence upon that point, but he does not quote the rebutting evidence of Mr. Flatau. Now my noble Friend, Lord Thring, has given several reasons why we rejected the noble Earl's Report, and I do not know that I need go further into that; but I should like to say a word or two as to the evidence in the boot trade. That has been so altered that I do not think in such a case the fondest parent could recognise his own child. I object to the noble Earl's epitome of the evidence given in the boot trade. There is no system in the arrangement adopted by the noble Earl. He takes a subject up and drops it, and takes it up again without apparent cause. With regard to the alleged deterioration of the quality of English goods, he minimises the effect of the evidence which tells against his view. He states that certain evidence almost stands alone; whereas if he turns 463 to our Report he will find out that the evidence does not stand alone, but is corroborated by that of several other witnesses. That is one instance of a very strange character in the noble Earl's Report. He actually says in one paragraph that our colonial exports are falling off owing to bad workmanship, and he quotes the opinion of a witness to that effect; but there is counter evidence with regard to that of a very valuable character indeed, in fact the only evidence of any considerable value on that point, and that is the evidence of Mr. Giffen with regard to the imports and exports. Mr. Giffen produces statistics to show that so far from our foreign trade falling off it has been increasing at a very rapid rate; and I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact that a great deal of that foreign trade is colonial trade. But whether that is the case or not, surely, my Lords, it is very important, when we are discussing the question whether English work has or has not deteriorated, to find that, as a matter of fact, our goods are more than holding their own in the markets of the world; and yet there is absolutely no reference whatever even in the margin of the noble Lord's Report to those statistics, which were brought forward by Mr. Giffen. What, I ask, can possibly be the value of conclusions based upon an epitome of evidence of that kind? It is not of the slightest use to attempt to deal with this subject by exaggeration; if yon do you will only find out, sooner or later, that it is far better to put the facts fairly before the public and allow them to draw their own inference. As your Lordships have seen, the points of difference between the noble Earl and myself are many, but I fully recognise the admirable motives which prompted him in drafting his Report, and I certainly would not have voted for its rejection without what I considered ample cause. I hope the noble Earl will give his assistance in helping forward the reforms advocated by the Committee which he is in favour of to the utmost of his power.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I am prepared to support the noble Earl behind me in the Resolution which he proposes to your Lordships, joist as far as he is disposed to stand to 464 it. I do think that legislation is required, and I believe that all the residuum of legislation which the noble Earl desires to see carried out or actually proposes would be assented to by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. I believe there is but small difference between the two Reports, and I have examined them both carefully, except in the matter of form. The Committee, as has been fully explained, thought it necessary to reform the one presented to them, and did so, regretting the absence of their Chairman, who had conducted the examinations with great ability; but it was absolutely necessary to make clear what was evidence, and what was conclusion, and what recommendation, and without reforming the Report that could not be done. I shall not attempt to defend any further the Report, which has been, to my thinking, so excellently, so perfectly defended already. I shall say nothing of the imputations of fraudulence cast upon the Committee; it is a very strong word, and we are quite prepared to leave our characters to answer such an imputation as that. I will make one observation on the system of counting evidence. Nothing can be more unsatisfactory than to set a number of witnesses on one side against a number on the other, unless they are on something like a level as to knowledge of the subject. To count 83, or half that number, of poor working men and women, with their heads below water, asking themselves in their misery the cause of their poor wages and wretched homes, and to set their opinions against the opinions of three people who have considered the whole matter from the outside, who have, after considering the questions in many lights, gone among the workers, one of them having actually herself gone and worked for a time among the poor women themselves, is, I think, absurd to the last degree. What can be the value of the opinions of those poor people, reaching vainly after some vague idea as to the causes of their misery, against the opinions of experienced witnesses? How do your Lordships weigh the value of testimonials? You know perfectly well that you would give no weight to 100 imperfect testimonials as against the evidence of one person whom you 465 could positively trust. Leaving that negative part of the Report, I should like to say a few words about its positive side—about what it does contain, and about the legislation which the noble Earl behind me does not go further than to recommend, but which the noble Earl on the Cross Benches would, I believe, thoroughly accept. The subject was divided last night into three portions— the subjects of sub-contracting, competition, and immigration; and we were told that the Report states that these three great phenomena have nothing to do with the sweating system. I can find nothing to that effect in any single passage of the Report. The whole Report is upon the effects of those three things. If, indeed, the noble Earl had taken those three lines one by one, and had laid before us the remedy which he proposes for each of them, if he had told us how he would do away with the mischiefs of sub-contracting, or the dangers of competition, or if he had treated foreign immigration in the way which we might have expected from his Report, he would, indeed, have rolled a great stone over us, and we should have to be silent for ever. But these treatments are only commonplaces if there is no remedy proposed. They are commonplaces with which everyone is acquainted, and it does not appear to me to be the business of your Lordships' Committees to dilate on commonplaces. If well-known evils are to be described in such connection it is that we may be told what are the remedies. The noble Earl proposes no remedy. As to the first and second questions, the sub-contracting and the competition, he is silent, and as to the other he does not recommend the only remedy which has been proposed by anyone. The Committee looked to remediable ills and to remedial measures. The Committee did not consider it to be its business to produce an essay on causes in regard to three such important subjects. It had to look for remedies for effects of a very serious and terrible kind, and in treating the matter in that way, they had the support of a very great authority. I read in the writings of that great authority, treating upon this Report and upon the whole subject—Causes cannot be treated; we must attack effects.466 My Lords, that is the view the Committee have taken. They have not gone into the wide causes; they have attacked effects. The authority whom I am quoting explained in Lloyd's Newspaper on the 11th May, 1890The sweating system, its effects and remedies, written specially for Lloyd's readers by the right hon. the Earl of Dunraven.It does appear to me that the Report has exactly followed out that course which the noble Earl has said is the only way in which it can be treated, because we must attack effects. But the paragraph goes on to tell us exactly what those effects are—The effects are, insufficiency of pay, food, air, and everything necessary to existence, unsanitary work places, filthy dwellings, a general degradation of labour below the point at which existence can be sustained at all, or, at any rate, below the point at which it can be sustained with any regard to health, and for the decencies of life.That, my Lords, is the noble Earl's own-summary of the effects which can be-treated, and ought to be treated, and I say the Report does deal directly with every one of those effects, except insufficiency of pay, with which, however, it does deal indirectly, because it is our belief that if the other evils were cured the insufficiency of pay would be greatly affected too. Your Lordships will now allow me to draw attention to the two main facts which are before us with regard to what is to be remedied and the remedies proposed. We may broadly group them into two great divisions, one is the hideous conditions under which these poor people exist, and the other fact is that it is precisely the case of these people which has so far been left out of practical legislation. In former years there were other classes as badly off as these are now. Our Committee had no such evidence before them as that which was before the Committee on the Factory Acts. We cannot read, without horror, of children then working naked in coal mines, pushing along heavy weights of coal, which were facts with which the Committee on the Factory Acts had to deal in 1882. Again, my Lords, we have had nothing brought before us about children, between nine and 15 years of age, working from 4 o'clock in the morning till midnight. We have heard nothing of mothers being seen 467 dragging crying children at midnight, in the depth of winter, into the print works. All these and many other horrors did exist in mills, mines, and factories upon a greater scale than anything that exists now under the worst conditions of the sweating system. And that is cured. We may say that it is more than cured. The very people whom the Factory Acts had to step in and assist then can now combine for self-protection; we may say more, they are now a great power in the State. What is the cause of the change? How was the change effected? I believe we may say it was effected altogether by the Factory Acts in series. The noble Earl said he could, not understand the Factory Acts. But it is very evident from the history of the changes, and it is a great comfort, that somebody does understand them and their operation, because it is, undoubtedly, the fact that the working of the Factory Acts has produced enormously beneficial changes in the condition of a very large part of our population. When things were in the condition I have described, the law, taking a largo view of things, insisted on two classes of responsibility; the responsibility of the owner of the premises, and of the employer of the people. That is the key to the whole of the factory and sanitary legislation. The Legislature made the employer responsible for the welfare of the persons employed by him, and for the actual payment of wages to the workers. That took in the whole of the Truck system, and the employer began to be responsible. When first mills and mines began to be inspected they belonged to the employer. The owner and employer were one person. The employer was made by the Sanitary Acts responsible as owner also for the state of the plant. That is a phenomenon which, in these cases under the sweating system, seldom occurs; the employer is very often as poor as the person he employs, and is never the owner. The owner is a person whom it is often very difficult to find; but the law which held the one person responsible is perfectly capable of holding two persons responsible. Those statutes are in existence, and profess to be acted upon in workshops, and the same responsibility should be enforced with regard to these small work-places. Not only are they utterly unwholesome. 468 We hear of the statutable tables of hours being put up in these rooms when the Inspector is expected, but usually-being out of sight. The responsibility in regard to domestic workshops is, of course, at present nil. The Report urges that all those responsibilities should be clearer and recognised, and that the Legislature should insist upon their being discharged. I believe the Report touches upon every particular. It recommends that you should appoint such a number of Inspectors as will be really able to do the work, that you should give them power to enter places which they ought to enter without warrant, and that you should enable them to act together, which, under three different departments, is very difficult. It suggests that the County Councils would be very fit to undertake the management of this system of inspection. Then it suggests the necessary Amendments in the Acts; and it recommends registration of workrooms. I do not believe that that is so difficult a matter as is sometimes anticipated. Without interfering at all with domestic privacy, or any rooms which are simply dwelling rooms, these small workshops ought to be subject to inspection, as they are, for instance, in the colony of Victoria. The Act in force in the Colony of Victoria gives a very clear definition of places which may properly come under that description, without giving power to enter places which are merely dwellings of families; it creates exemption for work-rooms where it can be shown that all the persons engaged there are connected by blood, or by marriage, or in which steam power is not employed. These various recommendations simply bring to bear upon these present conditions of labour the remedies which have already acted with such good effect in the case of the factories, mines, and mills of England. Then, with regard to the sanitary officers, the independence of their appointment should be secured, their numbers and powers increased. That is the real way of dealing with these matters, and not by leaving their appointments to the persons whom they have to overlook, the owners of these very houses assembled in their vestries. What is wanted now, my Lords, in the way of legislation is simply that the first two plain steps should be taken, 469 and taken energetically, to make owners and to make employers responsible. Then, after that, if they fail to produce the effect they have produced elsewhere it will become patent what other steps should be taken. If the Committee had recommended that competition should be dealt with the Greek Kalends would be here before one remedy would be applied. The first steps are easy, and I think that not a month should be lost in drawing a Bill for the purpose. In the cause of the weak it should be taken in hand at once. As to foreign immigration the noble Earl has said there should be no immigration allowed. Exclusion is not a very heroic remedy, and what would be the result if it were carried out? Exclusion, if carried out, would require expulsion too. Is it proposed that that measure, too, should be carried out in free England I Are we to see men wandering, as some of the witnesses told us they had wandered in Russia, from one city to another, being thrown from each, and told "There were enough Jews there already, and that they must go elsewhere to find a city in which there was room for one more?" That is the way in which exclusion works in other countries. Among the Jews who come to us are some of the thriftiest, soberest, and most orderly of our population. Foreign immigrants have founded in this country some of our best trades. Those old immigrants were not all unskilled workmen, neither are all these unskilled workmen. It is to be remembered, also, that exclusion might carry away trade of vast importance from our own people, and leave our own people unable to obtain even the scanty subsistence which they obtain now. We were told by some of the witnesses who came before the Committee, that no little trade now remaining with us was carried on in a very hesitating manner, that our hold on it was but slight, and that very little was wanted to sweep it from our shores. I hope the steps recommended by the Committee will be taken with vigour. Due responsibility must be laid upon owners and employers, and technical education must be encouraged. Above all things, my Lords, benevolent zeal must go on to do its work. There are many living among the poorer people now who set them noble examples, who bring them into 470 reading-rooms, afford them the means of recreation, provide for them classes, and give them assistance toward self-help of every sort and kind. And they do change the habits of these poor people, and raise them to a higher standard. The sympathy with them and the interest in the subject which I believe this Report will produce will go far to benefit them. Sympathy and respect for labour will be stirred up among people who have given little or no attention to the subject hitherto. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the driest and hardest writers upon the subject, such sympathy is necessary in order to raise these burdens, and is finally a sure means of effecting that end, after which legislation would toil in vain.
§ LORD DE RAMSEY
My Lords, whatever may be thought within these walls as to the difference of opinion between the noble Earl (Dunraven), and the rest of the Members of the Committee, I think I may say that outside these walls there will be but one feeling of gratitude to the noble Earl and the other members of the Committee for their labour connected with this most difficult subject. And when your Lordships have been told that one member of that Committee has spent 300 hours in analysing details of evidence, I think from that fact the country will judge to what an extent the interest felt in this subject has been shared in this House and by the way in which it has been taken up by your Lordships. What, after all, does the difference between the noble Earl and the members of the Committee come to? It is essentially a difference of opinion as to how we can arrive at the best way to give effect to what we all desire. The noble Earl's proposed Report was very drastic in some of its remedies, while the members of the Committee look to what is practicable. My Lords, you will not expect from me to-night any attempt to say what can be done or what should be done. It is in a commercial country like this a matter of the very greatest importance when any matters concerning capital and labour come before us, that those matters should be treated most carefully; otherwise, we may do immense mischief. The Report refers chiefly to sanitation, and the Secretary of State has already in another place made a statement in 471 answer to an hon. Member on that subject. Therefore, your Lordships will, I dare say, forgive me if this evening I do not go deeply into what may be considered necessary to be done. If this Government, or any other Government, should think well to take up the portion or portions of the Report regarding sanitation, I have no doubt such a course in that direction would meet with a certain amount of approval. But I think before going into the matter of sanitation or any other matter for the very few minutes that I intend to ask for your attention, it may be as well to remind your Lordships that we have every reason to be satisfied in this country with the result of the negotiations of the Berlin Conference, and it is satisfactory to find that this country, by its Factory Acts and its Workshops Acts, has taken the lead in the civilised world in the course I am referring to, and I think we should make a bad return to those who have assisted in that legislation, and to some of those who have gone, if we were, by any undue meddling with that which has turned out so well, to attempt to do anything which would destroy its effect. If we were to try to do anything impracticable in the shape of further limiting the hours of labour for women and young persons; if we were to endeavour by any means to limit the hours of labour for men, we might unconsciously perhaps, be driving trade away from our shores; and in these days, when the great mass of trade is centreing round the great towns, and in the great centres of population, we might, by one false step, do what a great strike appears to have done: lately to the Port of London. Local Authorities may do a great deal more than they have done to carry out the wishes of the Committee in the matter of sanitation. We have now, both in rural and urban districts, medical officers, sanitary officers, and Inspectors, and we have also the Medical Officers of Health of the County Councils. It may be possible in the future to insist upon the machinery which is now in existence being applied to those places which that machinery has failed, at present, to reach, and I believe that if that course were adopted it might meet with the approval of Parliament better than by creating a new and large army of Factory and Workshop Inspectors, an army 472 as to which, it would be quite open to question, whether its members are adapted for the work required to be done, or are qualified to be judges of what is proper sanitation. With regard to the question of foreign immigration, I do not wish to add a word to what has fallen from the very reverend Prelate who spoke just before me; and I will pass on to a matter which is not mentioned in the Report, though what I have to say affects it in reference to paragraph 193. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that no refusal has yet been made, when leave has been asked for, to enter private workshops. That is the Report of the Factory Inspectors, and therefore, if it should please Parliament to insist on further inspection there would be, judging from the past, no difficulty about that matter. But, my Lords, an Englishman's house is his castle; and I believe it will not be the wish of this Government, and I hope not of any other Government, to unnecessarily curtail that liberty which we, one and all of us, uphold. I notice that there is only one recommendation in the Report as to the limitation of machinery used—what machinery should be used or should not be used; and the Committee have recommended that women should not use an instrument called an "oliver" of above a certain weight. My Lords, the Report is very interesting, and I wish I could have said something more definite, but I must say this, that I do agree with the noble Earl (Lord Derby) when he says that we must look to the stoppage of early marriages and to better education; and our working classes must learn that heroic remedies cannot altogether better their lot. This Committee may be certain that the results of their labours will be read with great care by our artisans and operatives, and I am sure of this, that if by any extension of existing legislation Parliament can see its way to better their lot, they will not have to wait long if such legislation can be made practicable for their welfare.
THE BISHOP OF RIPON
My Lords, I trust I may claim the indulgence which I think your Lordships' House is always ready to extend to one who ventures to address you for the first time. I may say at the outset that I feel very cordially in agreement with the noble Earl who deprecated anything like a declaration 473 on our part which would give rise to fake hopes or expectations out of doors. To raise false hopes is always a mistake, but I may venture to point out that, on the other hand, it is dangerous un-wisdom for any Legislature to destroy the hopes and legitimate aspirations of the people. But to ignore a distress and to kill out hope is, if I am not mistaken, to beget at once the spirit of despair, which is the parent of violence. Having said that much I am sure you will allow me to give the impressions which have been passing through my own mind, not merely from going through the Report but from diving onto the evidence by which it is accompanied. I thought it would not be quite right or honest for any Member of your Lordships' House to read the Report without supporting it in some degree by a study of the evidence; and the result of my survey and study of the evidence is a deep impression that there is certainly revealed by it a state of (things which is one of distress and danger. The conclusion which I reached is that certainly something ought to be done. I am aware that when a person has committed himself to that utterance he is open to the cheap retort that that is a cheap and easy thing to say, and that it would be better to face the question, "What can be done?" But may I venture to lay down another aphorism, which, at any rate, I am myself old-fashioned enough to believe in, and that is that wherever it can be shown that something ought to be done there must be a way of doing something, at any rate, towards that end. And, my Lords, when I say that something ought to be done, I speak not only of distress but of danger. You have read the Report and the evidence. It gives a picture of misery. It is a picture of long hours and low wages, of wretched insanitary houses and short lives. It has been said by someone, with what degree of authority I do not know, that one-ninth of the people of London end their days in the workhouse. It is not merely a picture of misery, however, it is a picture of misery overshadowed by oppression. We have heard of the sweater, the fogger, and of the truckster; I have been searching in my mind for some ancient authority from whom I might derive a parallel to the sweater: 474 and I recollect that transaction of ancient days in which a man took a mean advantage of the necessities of his brother man and bought a birthright for a mess of pottage. I think when that mess of pottage was sold so dearly that was a true description of the sweater. It was an ancient instance, and it gives a hint for the real definition of a sweater—he is the man who takes advantage of the necessities of his brother man. There have been such in all ages; and as we read of the greed of the sweater and the intensity of the misery of which he takes advantage, I see reproduced the picture which the Prophet drew of the men of his day who panted for the dust on the head of the poor—who sold the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes. My Lords, if that were the only picture, its misery would be bad enough, but in that picture we have two darker shadows —life prematurely cut short, and, what is worse, a life so spiritless, so hopeless, so apathetic, that it can scarcely be said to be life at all. Nothing struck me with so much force in this evidence as that portion of it which made it clear that the people you have to deal with is a people from whom all spirit seems to have departed. Their acquiescence in tyranny is absolutely mournful. To show how deep is that apathy, I would refer your Lordships to the evidence of the witnesses Mr. Hoffmann, and Mr. Arnold White. What is it you find there? You find an absolute spiritless-ness, which was incapable of understanding what advantages could be legally claimed, an absolute acquiescence in tyrannies which men of spirit and energy would at once have resented. Imagine how spiritless they must have grown, when men and women accept less than the regulation wages; when they submit to work nine to 11 hours as a half-day's work; when they permit a portion of their wages to be withheld, the money so withheld being made the means of a new oppression, and of preventing them seeking to obtain higher wages elsewhere. This evidence, my Lords, presents pictures of deep distress; but beyond them lie threatenings of danger. It is not a picture of any small danger, or of dangers of a particular class; but of dangers which beset the community. I would call 475 attention to the evidence as to the spreading of disease. I think the evidence given before the Committee is complete, that disease is spread through the instrumentality of those workshops. Insanitary conditions breed disease; clothing is infected by disease among the workers. One witness from Leeds gave evidence that, at any rate, one-third of the contagious diseases in that town were not reported. What, my Lords, does that mean, if not peril to the community? This danger in itself is one great reason for saying that something ought to be done. The spreading of disease in this way seems to be inevitable. It passes on its own subtle way. It may meet you in your own homes, however careful you may be. You may live where all the arrangements known to science give you entire security, but it pursues you: it comes in the clothes; it travels in your letters. The ancient picture of danger is revived. Escape cannot be calculated. It is as though a man fled from a lion and a bear met him, and when he went to his house and leaned upon the wall the serpent bit him. That is a danger, but it is not the only one. There are also the dangers which arise from impaired health, and from the enfeebled physical powers of a section of the population; and this is a consideration which a great nation ought surely to take into account. Those, my Lords, are the dangers and distresses. Something ought to be done, and something can be done. As I have looked at this matter I would not for one moment countenance heroic legislation, or speak a single word which would seem to convey that you can easily deal with these questions which are connected with economic laws or with the organic life of the people. But this is clear, that something can be done to remedy these great evils. Palliatives, not remedies, the noble Earl opposite called them, but I should be inclined to hope they would be found to be remedies. Let us look for one moment in considering what can be done, and see what has been done. Legislation of this character has taken place in the past. Legislation took place which was intended to put an end to the truck system. But the evidence has shown that that Act of Parliament is ignored, and that it is very easy to drive, as 476 the common expression is, a coach and four through it. I think, my Lords, if it were a question of fishing, and some of the fish were escaping your net, I think you would be able to do something. Yon would make the meshes smaller. Is it not possible to do that in regard to these Acts of Parliament, and in that way to minimise some of the evils which exist? But it is not merely the question of breaches of the Truck Acts with which you have to deal. It is a question what other arrangements; —what other precautions—can you take? Factory Inspectors have done much, but not enough, to mitigate the evils. The complaint which arises—and I think that the Report bears it out—that the Inspectors themselves are inadequate or unable to perform the task imposed upon them implies that they are not sufficiently numerous. It is in the power of the Legislature to deal with the matter, and it is also in the power of the Legislature to enforce inspection. Something has been said this evening about invading the sanctuary of a man's home. We know it has been said that an English man's house is his castle, and that you must not invade its sacred precincts. I am ready to admit it; but, my Lords, I put it to you that when a habitation ceases to be a home, when it becomes in practice a workshop, can anyone believe that it is entitled to that, sanctity which belongs to a home I As long as it is a home, respect it; but the moment it becomes a den of tyranny, it is, I think, right to claim entrance there. Now, my Lords, the word "responsibility" has been used, and I am thankful that it has been used. It seems to me that in all legislation, speaking under the correction of those who know better than myself, one of the greatest difficulties has been the necessity of settling responsibility somewhere; but I am equally persuaded that we are losing our opportunities, and mistaking the problem before us here, if we hesitate to fasten the responsibility somewhere. You can discern where it ought to lie. If the owner and employer have interests in the matter you can, at any rate, determine that the employer and the owner, as the Primate has suggested, are, and can be, made jointly responsible. But I should prefer that one person, at any rate, should be held responsible, and that that person, in the 477 case of workshops, should be the employer. In these ways surely legislation in the matter is possible. Again, another thing, my Lords, has come out of the Report. We know that knowledge is power, and we find from the Report that want of skill leaves a man at the mercy of his employer. Hence, if to improve knowledge is to increase power, the possession of skill is a protection against tyranny. Now, the remedy for this want of power in the unskilled lies surely in affording largely increased opportunities for what we call technical education. This touches the altered Code of which so much has been said. May I throw out at the close of my remarks two suggestions? There is, my Lords, an influence which lies beyond the question of legislation. I acknowledge as freely as anyone that you can never legislate in such a way as to make abuses impossible. The ingenuity of rapacity will be sure to find a way to evade your Statutes; and greed will drive its triumphant chariot through your Acts of Parliament. But discussions like this are rendering strength and power to that unwritten Code which is more potent than any Acts of Parliament. But what is that unwritten Code? It is found in the spirit of a people; its throne is the national conscience, and its power is that force which one of the Members of your Lordships' House has called the greatest force in the world—public opinion. To appeal to public opinion to raise it and to make its voice stronger upon this question should be your aim; and this, I say, is one remedy which is largely in your Lordships' hands. There is one thing which your Lordships may do yourselves in this: you may lend your aid to lead the fashion. Hurry and haste are the opportunity of the sweater. It is possible for us so to direct and influence public opinion as, at any rate, to induce those who are responsible for the haste with which work is done more careful to give their orders beforehand, and not to crowd their orders together upon those whom they employ; we can thus lessen the opportunities which evil men are only too ready to use. Then the other point upon which I would say my closing words is this: I venture to think that the problem lies largely in the 478 production of an inferior class of goods. A noble Earl boasted the other day to an audience that, in addressing your Lordships' House, he wore a pair of co-operative trousers. If that meant a determination to use only the best goods, and to pay a fair price for them, it would be a good step in the desired direction, and would pave the way for others. The fashion might well be set, and the determination made to use only sound articles, and to pay a good and fair price for them. My Lords, that is the last suggestion I have to make. I appeal to your Lordships not to say that nothing can be done, for outside there are anxious ones waiting to know what will be said. Behind the reserved words of the Report there are hearts which are sad, and lives which are depressed with misery, appealing to you through such a Report as this, and imploring you to open the door of your compassion, and to take what practical steps you can to remedy these vast evils.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, my noble Friend on the Cross Benches, with a kindly sympathy for me, invited me to go and take my seat beside him there; but I confess, when I heard my noble Friend Lord Monkswell declare his intention of attacking me at close quarters, I congratulated myself that I sit at some distance from him, and that there is a Rule which prevents a noble Lord crossing the House in front of the Lord Chancellor. My noble Friend Lord Monkswell's speech chiefly consisted of denials of, and certain assertions upon, the deductions from the evidence which I gave your Lordships yesterday. I am very pleased that, owing to the fact that the Debate was adjourned yesterday, noble Lords have had some opportunity of considering my remarks of last night, and of preparing themselves to answer them. I am only sorry the result has not been more successful. The noble Earl Lord Derby said yesterday, and said very truly, that, as I had travelled over considerable ground, he found it very difficult to answer the points I had raised. I am in precisely the same position in regard to my noble Friend Lord Monks-well. He has raised so many points in his speech that, as I have not had the advantage of studying it, I must ask your Lordships to excuse me if I do not 479 answer every point which he has raised. As I said, my noble Friend's speech largely consisted of an assertion. He stated that in regard to what I said as to paragraph 65 I was all wrong, for he had examined the marginal references and he had found them all right. What I laid before your Lordships yesterday was my opinion with regard to that paragraph, and I supported it by references to the evidence of every one of the witnesses. I did not ask your Lordships to accept my simple assertion that the evidence of the witnesses mentioned in the margin did not bear out the contention of the Committee; but I supported the statements I made, and gave my reasons for making them, by reading the very words the witnesses used. There is one personal matter which I think I ought to touch upon. I do not think it is very generous or altogether just of my noble Friend opposite to accuse me of being the cause why your Lordships' Committee did not report last Session. He says it was owing to the course taken by me that for three or four weeks in June the Committee did not sit.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
AS a matter of fact, the reason why the Committee did not sit for several weeks was that three or four important witnesses, Mr. Giffen, Mr. Shipton, Mr. Redgrave, Mr. Oram, and various witnesses of that class were not ready, and I was waiting for the evidence. There would have been no object in bringing the Committee together, and I was not responsible for the delay.
The noble Earl will allow me to say I am glad to hear that. I am only sorry that explanation was not given before.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
I was exceedingly anxious that the Report should be got out last Session. I greatly regretted that the Committee would not consider a Report in August last. They had four or five weeks remaining of the Session to do so. My noble Friend has said that he spent 300 hours in making an epitome of the evidence. To assist him in making that epitome he had my draft, which contains, with five or six exceptions, every reference to evidence that is given in the Report, and most of the deductions and conclusions 480 from evidence. The draft must have been of some little assistance to him. Yet he consumed 300 hours, as he informs us, in preparing a summary. He must, therefore, appreciate the difficulty of drafting a Report. So anxious was I that the Report should be out before the end of the Session that I had it printed and circulated 10 days after the Committee ceased to take evidence. I mention that fact to show that I did my utmost to get the draft out in time, and that, so far as I was concerned, nothing that I could do was wanting. Now, there is another point to which I think I should refer. It was mentioned also by my noble Friend Lord Derby, I think, last night. That point is, that I must be wrong in supposing that the excessive competition of employers has resulted in a cutting-down of prices. According to the laws of political economy, the competition among employers ought naturally to have caused a rise in prices or in wages. But it has not done so; and if your Lordships will consider the peculiarities of the case, you will see why. This excessive competition among manufacturers has produced, as I explained to your Lordships last night, an excessive desire to obtain cheapness in production, even at the sacrifice of excellence. This led to the substitution of cheap, unskilled labour for dear skilled labour, and that fact has favoured and led to the employment of destitute foreign labour. If the labour market was limited, competition among employers would, of course, raise wages; but the market being unlimited, any amount of this cheap, foreign labour being obtainable from the constant stream of foreign immigration, the effect has been exactly the opposite. The effect has been to supplant well-paid and skilled native labour by very badly-paid unskilled foreign labour, and to drive a very considerable amount of British labour out of employment altogether. It has been said in reference to that part of the subject that this foreign labour is not destitute, and that it does not go on the rates. The noble Earl, Lord Derby, said last night that, as these foreign labourers did not fall upon the rates or live en charity, they were not to be considered paupers. It is perfectly true that they do not go on the rates to any great extent, but it is equally true that they force the native 481 population on the rates. The Bishop of Bedford, and witness after witness, admitted that the foreigners themselves went upon the rates to a very slight extent, but they all asserted that they were the cause of pauperism in others, and did drive British labour, to a very great extent, upon the rates. As to their receiving charity, they are assisted to a very considerable extent by the Jewish Board of Guardians. Though the rule of the Jewish Board of Guardians is not to give them assistance or relief until they have resided six months in this country, they do give them assistance when they are in real want—that is to say, in a state of semi-starvation, and they assist them also out of the country. Then there are the Leman Street refuge, the minor synagogues, and other Jewish Bodies to which Mr. Stephany admitted they applied for assistance, and various other institutions. As to their not being paupers, the whole body of the evidence was to the effect that they were paupers, if by paupers you mean persons in a destitute condition and unable to support themselves. Even Mr. Stephany, the Secretary of the Jewish Board of Guardians, admitted that the bulk of these foreign immigrants would be unable to take care of themselves without becoming a public charge on landing in this country unless they were assisted by various charitable institutions. My Lords, I do not think there is anything else of very great importance that it is necessary for me to comment upon. I have been rather twitted for not making any distinct recommendation in regard to the matter of foreign immigration. I explained to your Lordships last night why I did not do so. It was because the House of Commons was inquiring into the subject. The Committee of the House of Commons reported, and reported rather strongly, shortly after my draft was circulated; and if the recommendations in that Report of the Committee of the House of Commons were thoroughly carried out, I, for one, should be fairly satisfied for a time. But I should not like your Lordships to think I shrink from the logical conclusions of what I have said. I said last night that as long as your labour market here is liable to be flooded with cheaper unskilled foreign labour I greatly doubted whether it was in the 482 power of the workers themselves, by self-help and mutual help, to obtain for themselves better wages, or to do anything which will materially and permanently benefit their position; and I should, as far as I am concerned, speaking for myself, be very glad, therefore, if this country did what every other country in the world has done—that is, adopt measures to protect itself from alien pauper immigration. My noble Friend, Lord Derby, said there was danger of retaliation if this is done. Well, my Lords, as I was born in Ireland, perhaps I may be permitted to say they retaliated long ago. No country would take this description of British labour. Try to send them anywhere else, and see what will be the result. Try and send them to America, and you will find they will send them back in the same steamer. And it is the same in any other country—they will not receive them. We are the only people who will accept, without restriction, crowds of destitute aliens. With our own labour market full and brimming over, as everybody admits, it is a cruel folly and a great cause of distress to allow the labour market to be still further congested. We are the only nation on earth who will allow it. If any noble Lord can explain how it is possible to relieve an overfull reservoir which is in danger of bursting by letting water out if at the same time you let in an equal or a greater stream, I shall be pleased to hear that explanation. I should like to know how the problem can be solved. That, my Lords, is, I think, all that I have to touch upon. I do not think it would be in the least useful to your Lordships, or servo any useful purpose whatever, if I were IO go into the personal questions which have been raised by Lord Thring, and if the noble Lord will excuse me I will not make any reply to the observations he has made than to say that I disagree entirely with them all. There are three points, my Lords, which I omitted yesterday which I should like to mention. One is that in speaking of the omissions in the Factory Acts I forgot to mention that all, or the greater part, of the work places at Cradley Heath and in the neighbourhood are entirely exempt from the operation of the Act. They are not attached to premises; the people who work in them 483 hire their stalls and become occupiers. They are not employed, and the Factory. Legislation does not apply to them at all. That is a matter which ought to be attended to. Another matter is in reference to the Government contracts. I would remind my noble Friend on the Cross Benches that in my draft I made no recommendation whatever as to settling the rate of wages in Government contracts. All I recommended was that steps should be taken to see that there should be no sub-contracting. I think that the system of the Government appointing as viewers to inspect the work done by contractors for the nation, men who have been, or who were at the time of their appointment, employed by the contractors, by the very men who make the contracts, is utterly contrary to all ideas of business. As to sub-contracting, I think some action should be taken in the matter. At present all we have to rely upon is the good will and desire to do right of the Director of Contracts. We are all perfectly satisfied, no doubt, that he will do all that is necessary or right in the matter, as far as he is concerned; but it is impossible to tell what may happen in the future. I think it is most desirable that by some Order in Council, or by some means of that kind, a rule should be laid down that in the case of Government contracts those contracts should be executed by the firms which take them out. At the present, as we were told by witnesses in evidence, oven if the Factory clause is inserted in the contracts it is nobody's business to see that they are carried out; and that also ought to be remedied. Then there is another matter. I am glad that the Report contains a valuable suggestion in the direction of the centralisation of those authorities which have to do with all these labour questions. I went further in my draft and recommended that there should be a separate Department constituted to deal with all these matters. I think that is necessary. I think the work is so divided now that it cannot possibly be well done. You have the Foreign Office collecting statistics about labour in foreign countries, the Colonial Office doing the same thing for the Colonies, and I think three or four other Departments all concerned in matters which are 484 closely connected with the interests and legal rights of labour. I believe that a separate Department would be efficacious in this matter; but whether that is so or not, I am glad that the Committee have recommended centralisation, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will consider how far that can be carried out. My Lords, that is all I propose to say. If I were to attempt to answer the speeches which have been made by the noble Lords on the other side of the House, probably my best way of doing so would be to send for a file of the Times, and read the report given there of the speech which I made last night. In the matters which I then laid before the House I proved my statements by ample references to the evidence, and I submit to your Lordships that I made out my case, and that no reply whatever has been made to it.
§ Amendment and Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.