§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
I hope your Lordships will permit me to say a few words concerning this Bill. It is some what more ambitious in its scope than the measure to which your Lordships have just given a Second Reading, although in some respects it may be said also to deal principally with sanitation. This Bill is founded principally, if not entirely, upon the evidence that was brought before your Lordships' Committee of Inquiry into the Sweating System, and was designed to meet, if possible, some of the graver evils and scandals which were proved before that Committee. Into the question, of the general state of things that was then revealed I do not propose to go at all. The evidence before that Committee resolved itself principally into three classes. It was shown that men in some of those sweating trades worked the most inhumanly long hours for most inadequate pay. Well, that question of adult male labour I have not attempted to touch in this Bill. Whether it may ever be considered right to restrain men from working these inordinately long hours, and from practically, in consequence, compelling other men to do the same thing, I will not discuss at all. It is, at any rate, a matter that is not within the range of practical politics at present, and I have nothing whatever to do with the question of male labour in this Bill, except in so far as it extends to workshops where adult males only are employed the sanitary provisions which are applicable under the Factory Acts in places where women or young persons or children are employed. Then there was a great deal of evidence given of the most valuable kind as to the terrible insanitary condition of work places, and the 1195 horrible want of the ordinary decencies of life. I have endeavoured to deal with that question in this Bill. The other fact that was brought out in evidence was the facility with which the law was broken, I mean the facility with which the law affecting protected persons, the law restricting hours of labour and so on, was broken in the smaller workshops and sweating dens, the inevitable result being that work was attracted out of factories, and large and well conducted workshops into these ill ventilated, badly drained, and insanitary small workshops. My principal object in this Bill is to make the existing law more universally applicable. I have no great fault to find with the law; I believe the law is sufficient as it is. What I complain of is, that the law cannot be applied, that the Act of 1878 contains so many loopholes for escape, so many modes of evasion, that such facilities are given to breaking the law that not only would it be easy to drive a coach and four through it, but there would be no practical difficulty in the whole Coaching Club driving through the provisions of that Act at any time if they thought fit. I also aim at quickening procedure. I have endeavoured to bring it about that the law shall be enforced equally in factories and other places where work is carried on. I have no doubt, myself, that it would be far better if all the work of the country could be carried on in large factories and workshops, properly conducted and inspected, and where the law is properly maintained; but that is impossible. It would be most unwise, most tyrannical, to interfere with home work. The great difficulty in dealing with questions of this kind, the great difficulty in factory legislation, is to reconcile those two principles; not to interfere too much with the liberty of the subject to work as they please in their own homes, not to prevent honest men and women and girls from earning an honest livelihood at home, but at the same time to extend as far as practicable the laws which have been passed for the benefit of labour to labour employed in places where that law is not at present applicable, or at any rate is not applied. Your Lordships must recollect that the mere fact of restricting hours of labour, and of insisting upon proper times for meals, 1196 and, in fact, the whole effect of factory legislation is to a certain extent to increase the cost of production; and, therefore, if work can be carried on in small workplaces, which are not known to the Inspector or where the law can be evaded, the cost of production is smaller in those places, the work is more cheaply done in them than in larger factories and workshops. The result is that a fictitious advantage is given to the sweater, work is naturally withdrawn from the larger workshops, and sweating, and the whole system of subcontracting, about which we heard so much before your Lordships' Committee is encouraged. As regards the provisions of the Bill, I will deal first with the question of sanitation, and I lay down the minimum amount of cubic space per person that is to be provided in all factories and workshops. I take the moderate estimate of 250 cubic feet by daylight, and 400 cubic feet by gaslight. I do not interfere in any way with the existing powers of the Secretary of State, but what I do is this: The cubic space to be allowed per person in factories is at present legally determined by an Order of the Secretary of State. I wish to embody the order and general rule in an Act of Parliament laying down the minimum: it should be at least 250 cubic feet, and 400 cubic feet. But I wish by no means to be understood as saying that that space is sufficient; and if your Lordships read this Bill a second time and it goes into Committee, I shall certainly not oppose any extension of that cubic space. Then I also propose that no work shall be carried on in underground places or cellars which, according to the law, could not be inhabited as dwellings legally. I do not think it fitting or right that human beings should be allowed to work from morning to night, and in many cases from night to morning too, in places which the law says are unfit for human beings to live in. That is not a matter which I think will meet with any opposition in your Lordships' House, and therefore I will pass very lightly over it. Then I come to a more important matter, the providing proper sanitary conveniences. Nothing was more disgusting than the evidence given before the Sweating Committee as to the condition of many workshops in 1197 those respects. The accommodation was absolutely insufficient, and in a great many cases—in numberless cases—there was no separate accommodation for the two sexes. Well, that is a state of things which I am perfectly certain ought not to be allowed to continue to exist. It is degrading, it is disgusting, and it cannot but fail to conduce towards immorality. What I propose to do is, in the first place, to compel Local Authorities to do what by the existing law they may now do in that respect, and to extend to the Metropolis the provisions of the Public Health Acts, so far as providing proper sanitary conveniences and separate sanitary conveniences for both sexes are concerned. That is also a matter which I do not think will meet with much opposition. Then as regards cleanliness, lime washing, and so on, I merely apply to workshops the law which at present applies to factories, and embody in an Act of Parliament what is now the law by reason of the orders of the Secretary of State. That is practically, my Lords, with the exception of a few minor matters with which I will not trouble the House now, what I propose to do with sanitation. I extend the existing provisions in regard to sanitation under the Factory Acts to all workplaces except domestic workshops. I prohibit work being carried on in cellars which are unfit for human dwellings, and I provide for a sufficient amount of decency, and for the ordinary requirements and necessities of human nature. But in this matter of sanitation some supervision by authority is necessary; and, I also, like my noble Friend (Lord Thring), give some authority to County Councils in this matter. I also provide that the two authorities who have to deal with sanitary questions—that is to say, the Sanitary Officer and the Factory Inspector—should assist each other, and should check each other. I impose upon the Sanitary Officer the duty of reporting to the Factory Inspector, if he finds that sanitation which comes under the Factory Acts, but not under the Public Health Acts, is deficient; and I further provide that if the Factory Inspector takes no action on that Report the Sanitary Inspector shall report direct to the superior officer of the Factory Inspector; that is, to the Home Secretary. Then, on the other 1198 hand, the Factory Inspectors are now required by the existing law to notify to the Sanitary Authority if they find any default in matters of sanitation under the jurisdiction of the Sanitary Authority. To that duty I add the duty that they are also to report to the Sanitary Authority in case of any default in fulfilling the requirements of the law as to sanitary conveniences, and cellar workplaces, which are provided for in this Bill, and in that case also I also introduce the County Council as the supreme authority; and I make it the duty of the Factory Inspector, if he finds that the Local Authority take no action on his Reports, to report the matter to the County Council. I differ from my noble Friend opposite as to the powers which I give to the County Council. I do not give them any power of doing the necessary work themselves, which would have the effect of relieving the Local Authorities of responsibility, a unwise thing to do; but I give the County Councils the power which is at present possessed by the Local Government Board and by the Home Secretary—that is to say, they can employ police constables to see that the requirements of the law are carried out, and such officers can recover the money from the Local Authority. That, I venture to think, is a better plan to pursue, because the responsibility, as far as money is concerned, would still rest upon the Local Authorities, and it is essential that upon the Local Authority should rest ultimately the duty of seeing that sanitation is carried out in their own area. It would be a fatal thing if Local Bodies could relieve themselves of taxation, and throw the burden of sanitation upon the County Council and upon rates raised by the county. Then, my Lords, I have endeavoured also to do what I can towards quickening procedure. I allow Factory Inspectors, in the event of their finding a factory or workshop not to be in conformity with the Act, instead of taking legal proceedings, or, in addition to taking legal proceedings to fine the occupier, to serve him with a notice specifying the necessary work that is to be done. Of course, I grant the occupier the ordinary right of appeal, and then, if the requisition is not complied with, I empower the Factory Inspectors to see that the work is done, 1199 and to recover the amount expended from the occupier, of course on receiving authority to do so from a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. It will be objected at once to that that the Factory Inspectors have no funds, and could not therefore do such a thing them selves. I am not myself clear how far that is so or not; but if it is so, it would be necessary to provide the Inspector with the necessary means for providing for the execution of the work required to be done, and then to recover the cost of it from the defaulting person. One point was brought out very clearly before your Lordships' Committee, and that was the great difficulty experienced in compelling the occupiers to do anything in those sweating dens and small workshops in the way of improving the condition of their premises. Where the rateable value of the premises is below £40 I provide that proceedings may be taken against either the owner or the occupier. In fact, most of these little workshops and places commonly called "sweating dens" are held at a small rent of about £1 a week, and it has been found useless, practically, to proceed against the occupier. He is a man of straw; he has got no capital; he has no means of any kind. These little places spring up like mushrooms in the night, and they fade away with equal rapidity if the occupier is interfered with. It is impossible to get them to do anything, and it is useless to try; and I think it is not only wise but perfectly just and equitable that in such cases the owner of the premises should be held responsible. That is all I have to say as regards sanitation and the quickening of the proceedings which have to be taken in sanitary matters. But I should like to say a word or two about some provisions of the Bill which deal with the periods of employment of protected persons, which deal with the powers given to Inspectors, with the question of registration, with the definition of domestic workshops, and with exemptions under the Act. My whole object is to apply the existing law as far as practicable to all places where work is carried on. My principal objection to the operation of the Act of 1878 consists in the number and character of the exemptions contained in it. For instance, it draws a distinction, 1200 totally unwise in my mind, between women employed in non-textile factories and women employed in workshops. Women employed in workshops can work longer hours than they can if employed in factories. I can see no earthly object in that; on the contrary, if women were to be allowed to work longer hours in one place than in another, I should say they ought to be allowed to work longer hours in the factory; that is to say, in the larger, better regulated, and better ventilated places. What I have done is this: I have placed the women, as far as the limitation of their hours of work is concerned, on precisely similar terms and conditions, whether they work in factories or whether they are employed in workshops. I propose to repeal Section 15 of the principal Act which allows women to be employed for 15 hours in one day. The intention of the law is perfectly clear; the law insists that they are to have 4½ hours for rest and meals, but there are no particular times specified for taking that rest and those meals, and it is, therefore, impossible for the Inspectors to find out whether that condition of employment is observed. Unless you have a whole army of Inspectors, so that an Inspector can be told off to every single workshop where women are employed, and where no young persons or children are employed with the women, it is impossible for the Inspector to ascertain whether the women are afforded those 4½ hours for rest and meals or not. As a matter of fact, the law can be broken with complete impunity, and is so broken. Practically speaking, there is nothing to prevent women in those workshops where no young persons or children are employed from being compelled to work 15 consecutive hours if their employer thinks fit. I can see no object in drawing this distinction between women employed in factories and those employed in workshops. As I have said, in drawing this Bill what I have done is to put women on exactly the same level as regards hours of work, whether their work is done in factories or in workshops. But the sections of the principal Act to which I entertain the strongest objection are Sections 16 and 69. Those are the sections which define a domestic workshop, and which enact that an Inspector, wishing to 1201 enter a workshop, which is used also as a dwelling, can only do so with a warrant if the occupier objects. According to the definition of a domestic workshop, any room or place where any number of people work and dwell is, practically speaking, exempted from the operation of the Act, except in so far as it affects young persons and children. But that is open to any amount of abuse. How is it possible for the Inspector, who seems to be expected to do the work of ten men, to tell when he sees a number of people at work in a place whether they are all members of the same family, or are all dwelling in the place in which they work? There is no limitation in numbers. If all the members of one of the various great families of Smiths, Browns, Joneses, and Robinsons in London chose to hire the Crystal Palace as a workshop and dwell there, they might do any amount of work under any conditions they pleased without coming under the operation of the Factory Law. The fact is, the definition, is too loose—it can be abused, and is abused, to any extent. What I propose to do is to say that "where not more than three people, members of the same family, work together that shall constitute a domestic workshop." That would cover all places where a man and his wife, and a son or a daughter work, places where a woman and two children work, and all places where two or three girls work together at sewing in rooms where they live. It would cover all places which may be described as really bonâ fide, purely family work places, and provides, in my opinion, quite a sufficiently large exception. But in case it should be considered that it is interfering too much with family home-working life, I have provided also that where more than three, but not more than six, persons "members of the same family" work in the place in which they also dwell, on proving before a Magistrate that they are really members of the same family and do dwell there, they can obtain a certificate constituting that place a domestic workshop. I, myself, do not think that advisable. If your Lordships recall the frightful evidence that was given before your Select Committee as to the condition of things obtaining in places, for instance, where clothing is made up, I think you 1202 will agree with me that it is necessary to put somewhat strong restrictions on the way in which that kind of work is carried on. We hear over and over again of children lying ill with all kinds of infectious diseases covered with clothing in an unfinished state upon which the family were at work, which was destined to be disseminated not only through the Metropolis, but through the whole country and among all classes in the country. It is not a question merely affecting the working people themselves. This is a question which affects the health and well-being of the whole community. There is nothing that carries contagion more readily than clothing, and certainly steps should be taken to take care that clothing which is sent all over the country should not be made up in the circumstances and under the conditions in which it is now made up, as proved before your Lordships' Committee. If this Bill goes into Committee, and any noble Lord moves the rejection of this last provision which I have mentioned, namely, that where more than three, but not more than six, people work together at home they may get a certificate making the place a "domestic workshop," I certainly should not object to having it cut out. Then I propose to repeal Section 69. That section makes it necessary for an Inspector to obtain a warrant or an order from the Secretary of State before effecting an entry in any case where the occupier refuses to permit him to enter; that is to say, of course, where the place is a dwelling as well as a workshop. Your Lordships will see in one moment what is the effect of that clause. All that a man has to do who desires to evade the law is to put up anything in the shape of a bed where any number of people are working and he can refuse entry to the Inspector on the ground that the place is a dwelling. What has the Inspector to do then? He has to go off and get a warrant, and, of course, long before he can return with the warrant which empowers him to enter the place is temporarily put within the requirements of the law. The moment he is seen coming, presumably with the warrant in his pocket, the children, young girls or other persons, are hustled out of the room and stowed away somewhere till he is gone. As long as that section stands, 1203 it is impossible with any number of Inspectors to see that the law is carried out. The only objections to my proposal that I can see are that it will give too much power to Inspectors, and that it will interfere unduly with private life. In all cases of the administration of a law of this kind a great deal must be left to the tact and discretion with which the officers entrusted with it carry out their duties; and I am bound to say that there was a universal consensus of opinion among all classes of witnesses before your Lordships' Committee on the Sweating System as to the admirable manner in which Her Majesty's Inspectors under the Factory and Workshops Acts perform their very difficult, very arduous, and very delicate duties. I am sure that, judging by that evidence, your Lordships and the country may have perfect confidence in the discretion and the wisdom of Her Majesty's inspectors. But I will further point out this: Public opinion would never for one moment permit any tyrannical exercise of powers of inspection. And your Lordships must remember that an Inspector, though he can enter at any time by day a place which he has reasonable cause for thinking or believing to be a factory or a workshop; he can only enter at reasonable hours by night, not any place which he thinks is a workshop, but a place which he knows to be a workshop, and in which he has reasonable ground for supposing that work is being carried on. All that he could do that might possibly be tyrannical, or that could possibly interfere with private life, is to enter a place at reasonable hours at night, where he has reasonable ground to think that work is being carried on, and which he knows to be a factory or workshop within the meaning of the Act. If he forces an entry at any other time, or under any other circumstances, he is of course liable to an action for trespass in the same way that any other individual would be. Therefore, I do not think there would be any danger to the rights of the public in regard to privacy following upon the repeal of this section, which practically, in a great number of cases, makes the law perfectly inoperative. I also repeal the section which exempts from the general provisions of the Act places where work is carried on at irregular 1204 intervals, or where the work does not constitute the whole or the principal means of living of the family. There is another case in which obviously the law can be evaded with the greatest ease. How is it possible for any inspector to find out whether the work carried on in such a place constitutes the whole means of living of the family, if the head of the family chooses to say it does not? It is impossible. And, on the whole, I fail to see the logic or sense of saying that women or protected persons shall not work for more than a certain number of hours in the 24 in one trade, and at the same time allowing them to work an additional number of hours—any number of hours more in certain other trades. What is the use of saying that if these people have only one trade, they may only work 10½ hours or whatever it is, but that they may work those hours and any number of hours more at any other trade that they like to work at. That is all I have to say about the exemptions in the Act which are dealt with by the Bill. The Bill limits the size of the iron allowed to be cut by females in the making of nails and chains. This will have the effect of preventing the use of heavy hammers. The Bill also introduces minimum as well as maximum fines in certain cases, and in this I am in agreement with Her Majesty's Government. I repeal certain words in the definition of "workshop," which has the effect of denying an inspector access to premises. This I do to meet the case of "stallers" in the nail and chain district, who at present are exempt altogether from the provisions of the Act. Registration is a most important matter, and I have provided that not only all factories, as at present, but workshops of every kind shall be registered except domestic workshops. I do not propose to provide that domestic workshops shall be registered; but all workshops of other kinds are to be registered. But I would point out that, in the case of these domestic workshops where more than three people are employed, and where a certificate from a Magistrate must be obtained, that would be tantamount to registration. So that, practically, what I propose is that every place which is a workshop within the meaning of the Act, 1205 except places where two or three persons, members of the same family, work in their own home, shall be registered and shall be open to, the inspectors. Then I provide, as does my noble Friend opposite, for keeping a register of all work that is put out, and I, like him, copy a clause in the Victorian Act. On the question of overtime, a very important question, I do nothing except to endeavour to ensure that the law shall not, as regards overtime, be broken. There was a great deal of evidence and very weighty evidence, as many of your Lordships will remember, before the Committee in favour of doing away with overtime altogether. It was claimed that the system of working overtime was abused; that all the legal overtime was worked as far as possible in consecutive days during one short busy season of the year, or perhaps during two short busy seasons of the year, in the spring and in the autumn, and that the hands were working short time during the rest of the year. It was complained that that was only done for the convenience of the employer, and that trade could equally well be carried on if that system were abolished—that it would only equalise the hours of work generally throughout the year. I am inclined to think that is the case. I am inclined to think that if overtime was abolished the industries of the country would adapt themselves to the change, but I am not sure about it; and on the other hand it may be that great inconvenience might be occasioned to "season" trades and some local industries by doing away with overtime. I therefore leave the question of overtime untouched and merely provide means for seeing that the law is not broken as we have had ample evidence it is at present. Those are the principle points that I have to trouble your Lordships with. I propose to raise the age of children employed in factories or workshops, from 10 to 12 years. That is a very large question and a very important one. I have done this principally on account of the health of the children in view of the fact that education is now made compulsory. I have felt it necessary to do so because we have been compelled to provide compulsorily for their education. You might work their bodies pretty hard without injury 1206 to them, if you did not work their brains also, and no doubt you may work their brains, provided the children are well nourished, if you do not at the same time work their bodies too hard; but especially when they are not well fed, as is too often the case, to work both their bodies and brains at the same time is burning the little candle of life at both ends, and the result cannot but be harmful to the individual and eventually very harmful to the whole nation also. In raising the age to 12 years, I am following out what was practically the opinion of our Representatives at the Berlin Conference, and, if we adopt that course we shall only be carrying out the general rule which obtains in foreign countries. In Italy the age at which children begin work in factories is 9; in Hungary and Denmark, 10; in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Sweden 12; and in France, Austria, and Switzerland 14 years. So that this country which has taken the lead in these questions affecting labour, and in endeavouring to improve the conditions of labour, is far behind Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, and Switzerland, upon this question of the age for allowing young children to work. On the other hand, there are close upon 90,000 children employed in factories in the United Kingdom; of course, I do not know how many of those are between the ages of 10 and 12 years; but it is a very large question, and one that should be very carefully considered. In my opinion it is advisable that the age should be raised; but that is a matter, which, when the Bill comes into Committee if your Lordships think fit to send it, I may leave in safety and with perfect confidence in the hands, and to the wisdom of this House. That is practically all I will trouble your Lordships with now. I have gone somewhat more into detail, perhaps, than is general on the Second Reading of a Bill; but after all an amending Bill, as this is, is practically a question of details, and it is impossible to avoid going into them. What I wish to do, broadly speaking, is to extend the operation of the existing law; to take care that the net of the law is fine enough to draw as far as practicable all labour within its meshes. I want to prevent the tendency for work 1207 to go out of factories, and out of large and well regulated workshops into small work places and sweating dens, which is brought about by reason of the immunity from regulations and legal restrictions enjoyed by the occupiers of those small shops and sweating dens. The facility and impunity with which they break the law gives them an advantage over the better class of masters, and over factories and large workshops, which is most injurious to the workers employed and to the quality of the work produced, and this state of things will continue until the law is made applicable to them. There must be great encouragement for work being carried on in places of that kind, instead of in properly conducted factories and workshops; and my object is, as far as possible, without interfering too much with home work, or with the liberty of the individual is to apply the existing law to work wherever it is carried on. I do not imagine for a moment that this Bill is going to produce any miraculous results. In the first place, the evils complained of before your Lordships' Committee on the Sweating System require the amendment of other Acts—as, for instance, the Truck Act, the payment of wages in public houses and the liability of employers Acts. But I do not think that legislation of any kind is going to cure. All the evils which were then brought to light. In my opinion the action which Her Majesty's Government have taken with regard to Government contracts will do more perhaps than legislation could do; and I am very sure that if the Municipal Bodies throughout the country and other corporate employers of labour will follow the action of Her Majesty's Government in respect of stopping unnecessary and injurious subcontracting, and ensuring that the current rate of wages in the trade is paid by the contractors, immense good will result. There is also the great question of foreign immigration, which has more to do with what is commonly called "sweated" labour than any other factor in the case. I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that as long as British labour is subject to the competition of the cheapest and poorest class of foreign labour that can be imported into the country it is practically impossible for English workers to help themselves 1208 either by combination or in any other way. Therefore, I do not intend to prophecy for this Bill if it becomes law that it will have any miraculous or extraordinary effect, but I believe that it will have a good effect, and I ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Dunraven.)
§ LORD NORTON
My Lords, I would ask to be allowed to say a few words upon a portion of this Bill upon which the noble Lord laid a little stress at the end of his speech. The Bill chiefly relates to the sanitary condition of workshops; and the noble Earl has, I think, done great service in bringing forward the subject. He is deserving of the fullest recognition of his labours on the Commission, which produced very important information. But it is not upon the sanitary portion of the Bill that I want to speak. It is upon what he says himself is a very important principle, involved in one clause of the Bill, and that is with regard to the hours of labour of young children. He says very truly that he has avoided the question of adult labour except in reference to women; but in regard to children he introduces in one clause a very important change in the law. That is, he proposes to raise the age of all children who may be employed in factories and workshops from 10 years, which it is at present under the Act of 1878, to 12. Now I will not commit myself as to any arguments in support of this proposition, which may be brought forward, but on the face of it it seems to me there is a very prevalent mistake being acted upon at this moment in reference to education. The noble Earl himself seemed to say that he makes this proposal in the interest of education. That observation seems to shew that he has not much appreciation of the education of work, which to the working classes, is, I think, the most important part of their education. It seems to me not in the interest of education to keep children of the working class at school as long as possible, after general elements and to keep them away from work. Now I believe that the earliest time at which they can safely leave the elementary school and begin apprenticeship to industry is the most important point in the educa- 1209 tion of the working classes, and I think a very great mistake has been made in failing to see that for the working classes practice, intelligence, and honesty in work is education. The noble Earl may possibly be able to make out, when he defends his Bill, that factories and workshops are exceptionally injurious to children on account of their unhealthiness. That, I think, is the only kind of argument by which he will be able to fortify his proposition for raising in factories the working age from 10 to 12. He proposes to make factories much more healthy; and let me point out to your Lordships that when once exceptions begin to be made on the ground of unhealthiness others will be proposed. Depend upon it, if that is done all other employments will follow. There is now a general claim for immunity from labour, and we shall find if we go on in that direction that education will be considered as leading to something separate from labour, as being a much higher thing, while labour will be regarded as being rather a degrading occupation for an English citizen. The Education Department is now trying to carry technical instruction into schools; whereas the reverse is to my mind the right thing to do, that is to pass on schooling into practical technical instruction. All the great manufacturers who have promoted technical instruction have said that the best training for working children is in the workshops themselves, and that it is a total mistake to suppose that schools are the only place of education for the working classes. For myself I think it is absurd that we should, for instance, hold a sailor-boy back from getting early accustomed to the sea and detaining him at school until he can read a historical play of Shakespeare's. That seems to illustrate an absurdity of treatment generally for the working classes and not in their interest at all. The noble Earl says that foreign countries are in advance of us in these matters. I think when he comes to discussion in Committee he will find the comparison is not exactly as he has placed it. The question is whether the law has been found deficient in this country under the Act of 1878, and whether he can show any reason why it should be altered. He has not told us that now, and of course he is perfectly right in reserving all mat- 1210 ters of detail for Committee, but I thought that as a question of principle, although involved in only one clause of the Bill, it should be mentioned at this stage, and that it would not be advisable to let it slip through in a Bill of this sort as if it was a matter of no importance.
§ LORD DE RAMSEY
My Lords, we have here another valuable Bill, the result of the Sweating Committee, and I propose, if your Lordships approve, that we should take the same course with it as we did with the Bill of the noble and learned Lord opposite. The noble Earl behind me has brought forward a Bill which is most useful and most important in its provisions. I do not know whether he has yet had time to read the Bill which has been brought in by the Secretary of State; but if he will look over it and compare it with his own Bill he will see that there are nine clauses in it which I think attain the objects he has aimed at in this measure. That will show your Lordships, besides the consideration of the mass of detail which has been put before us to-day, how necessary it is that these Bills should be well thought over and well worked out before a Committee. I hope, and I believe every Member of your Lordships' House hopes, that the Government measure will have good progress in another place, and that it will come up to us speedily, so that we may deal with it and with the two noble Lords' measures of to-day, and from them produce something which will, I hope, give satisfaction to the wishes of many who were concerned with the Sweating Committee of last year. The two Bills of to-day show, as I have already said, what different lines proposals may be made to amend the existing laws on the subject; and I am sure it is best in all respects that the measure which the Secretary of State has brought in should be well discussed in another place and well threshed out, so that when it comes here we shall be able to form our conclusion on the whole mass of labour Bills that are now before Parliament. I may remind my noble Friend that a right hon. Gentleman in another place brought forward a Bill a very few nights ago, which also passed the Second Reading, dealing with the same subject. Therefore, my Lords, if the noble Earl behind me will consent to the course 1211 that has been pursued with the previous Bill, I hope your Lordships will give this also a Second Reading.
§ Question agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and Committed to a Committee of the whole House.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.