HL Deb 24 August 1907 vol 181 cc1516-27

Order of the Day, for the consideration of the Commons Amendments, read.


I beg to move that these Amendments be considered. I do not know whether it will be to the convenience of the noble Lords opposite that I should say what I have to say at once, or go through each Amendment separately. There is only one Amendment of any substance. Moved, "That the Commons Amendments be now considered."—(Earl Beauchamp.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


As I have said, there is only one Amendment of any substance, and perhaps it would meet the view of your Lordships if I proceed to say something on that at once. It is the Amendment in page 4, lines 23 to 26, to leave out Paragraph (d), and to insert a new subsection. All the other Amendments, I think, are in a direction which commended itself to the critics of the Bill when it was first before your Lordships' House. This particular Amendment goes in a somewhat contrary direction, but I hope I shall be able to show to your Lordships that it is not of very great importance, that it will affect very few places, and that the institutions which are affected are, after all, only a very small proportion of the laundries which are affected by the Bill, because your Lordships must remember that this Bill deals with all laundries. The institutional laundries are in a separate category altogether, and amongst the institutions there are a certain number which will be affected by this Amendment. The institutions affected by Clause 5 only number some 230, while the ordinary commercial laundries number something like 7,000, and even then, out of those 230 which I have mentioned, this Subsection (d) only refers to those who are engaged in reformatory and rescue work, and does not apply to all those laundries of which there are a considerable number which are of a charitable nature—orphanages and places of that kind—in which laundry work is carried on. It merely applies, as I have said, to those concerned in reformatory and rescue work. I think I must say—what will be obvious to your Lordships who are acquainted with the subject—that this Amendment is a compromise between various sections, between the Government and those who are anxious that there should be an Amendment in this direction. The Home Secretary agreed, in consequence of what took place in Committee, to support this Amendment in the House of Commons, and I think that House took very much the same view as the Committee—that, although it was not ideal, still it was a great deal better to have this Amendment incorporated in the Bill than to do anything which would risk the passage of the Bill this year. Under these circumstances I venture to hope that your Lordships will consent to agree to these Amendments, and to allow this Bill to become law this year.


said he had only one single observation to make. He did not at all wish to oppose what the noble Lord had said, but only wanted to make it quite clear on behalf of the most rev. Primate that there was no wish on the part of institutions connected with the Church of England that the inspection clause should be in any way modified. He was very anxious to have it understood that while it was quite true that these particular laundries should be inspected in a different way from others, yet they courted the fullest inspection of all those which were connected with the Church of England.


was about to move to disagree with the Commons Amendment to Clause 2, when


My Lords, it will perhaps be to the convenience of the House first to agree to those Amendments to which there is no opposition.

On Question, "That the House agree to the Commons Amendments down to page 2, line 22," Motion agreed to.


moved to disagree with the Commons Amendment leaving out Paragraph (7) and inserting a new paragraph. It seemed to him that the noble Lord who spoke in favour of this Amendment gave excellent reasons why it should be rejected. He stated that the number of institutions which would be affected by it was very small, but if the number affected was so very small as was stated, was that a reason why they should be exempt from proper supervision? It also seemed to him that the institutions which it was desired to except were those which it was particularly desirable should be inspected. They were all institutions in which the inmates were to a great extent there compulsorily, and he thought it extremely expedient that in all places where people were congregated together for any purpose, whether for commercial, religious, or any other reasons—where people were compulsorily congregated together, whether the compulsion was moral or physical—he would not go into that question at all—it was essential that in all those cases the institution should be open to the most complete inspection. Here it was desired not to allow any of the inmates to be inspected or spoken to except in the presence of one of the managers of the institution. What possible reason could there be for this unless it was that there was something which it was desired to conceal? He himself had visited one of these institutions, and had been told not to speak very loud, because somebody was listening on the other side of the door to everything that was being said. If people were not be to allowed to converse freely with an inspector, and if one of the managers was to be present on the occasion, it seemed to him that the inspection would be worse than useless. All the other institutions of a similar character were to have the benefit of the clause as to inspection without the presence of one of the managers, and why should these few be exempted from the general rule? He could see no reason for it. He thought it was absolutely necessary that all these institutions where inmates were compulsorily kept should be open to the fullest inspection, and he begged therefore to move to disagree with this Amendment of the Commons.

Moved, "That this House doth disagree with Commons Amendment to leave out Paragraph (d) and insert new paragraph in place thereof."—(Lord Dunboyne.)


wished to associate himself with the remarks of the right rev. Prelate (the Lord Bishop of London) because he had taken some part, as would be remembered, in an attempt to modify this Bill at a previous stage. Two things were beyond all question. The first was that on that occasion the noble Lord who repre- sented the Home Office met those who were associated with him (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) in a most conciliatory spirit, and gave them very nearly all that they were inclined to ask. The whole management of this Bill by the Home Office had been extremely conciliatory, and inspired him with the hope that it was the intention of the Home Office to administer the Bill in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Not only the public declarations of the Home Secretary, but what had been said in their Lordships' House on previous occasions had given those with whom he was associated in this matter great confidence as to the methods by which this great change in the law would be worked. It was quite clear that the clause which the noble Lord (Lord Dunboyne) objected to went much further in the same direction than he and those who were with him had asked. As the matter had been adjusted in the other House, he thought it would be ungracious on the part of those who shared the views which he held to object to the concessions given to other people, who, although they did not consider them necessary for the purposes they had in view, were in no way an infringement of the principle for which they had contended, and if the Bill was wisely and carefully administered by the Home Office, he had no doubt that those concessions would serve an equally good purpose with those which had been granted to him and to those who thought with him.


said he should certainly support the appeal of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, not in any way to infringe the compromise which had been come to. As had been said, the Home Office had shown a great desire to meet the views which had been put before them, and although he for one had no strong feeling on this matter, he could bear out what had been said by the right rev. Prelate, and a great many of his co-religionists had the same feeling as he himself had upon this subject. Still, there was a great deal of opinion quite apart from religious opinion at all—he had heard people who were not Roman Catholics urge the same view with great force that it was very important that in those establishments which were conducted on a disciplinary system, the inmates must not be allowed in any way to believe that those under whose control they were placed were not to be trusted, and were not their friends, and so forth. That was a view which was strongly held, and which might be argued with great force. But his immediate point was that the Home Office had done their best to deal with very conflicting opinions, and that it would be very ungracious on their part to seek in any way to go back upon the compromise to which they had agreed. He certainly trusted that their Lordships would not decline to accept the Amendment of the Commons on this matter.


said that some of their Lordships were placed in rather a difficult position by the debate which had taken place, because Members of their Lordships' House, all of whom enjoyed the very great respect of their Lordships, differed on the subject. A great deal had been said about the compromise in another place. He was always a little distrustful of accounts which were given in their Lordships' House of what passed in another place, because it was very difficult for them to arrive at a certain knowledge of what had taken place. Of course, if there was anything in the nature of an honourable understanding, he need hardly say that all their Lordships would feel that that had very great weight, but unless he was mistaken, His Majesty's Government in another place were very much opposed originally to this clause. The noble Lord who represented the Home Office would correct him if he was wrong, but he believed that to be the case, and, therefore, he was not quite sure, when compromise was spoken of, between whom the compromise had taken place. It did not take place between the Church of England and the Government, because, as they knew from the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London), there was no such desire on the part of the Church of England. It did not take place between the Church of Scotland and the Government, because they had in that House almost the greatest living representative of the Church of Scotland—namely, his noble friend, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who had told their Lordships that, so far as he was concerned, he did not wish specially for this clause. He wondered, therefore, between whom the compromise, as it was called, had taken place. If it was only a compromise between one section of the majority of His Majesty's Government and another section, that was a compromise with which their Lordships had nothing whatever to do. Therefore, they were rather brought back to the merits of the question which, after all, must not be forgotten in a discussion of this kind. What were the merits of this question? There was no doubt whatever that it was the settled policy of Parliament that these laundries should be inspected, and the reasons were very well known. It was because in the wisdom of Parliament, with which, he thought, they would all agree, all those large centres of employment required to be inspected in order that there should be security that the factory laws were obeyed. That was the reason for inspection. That was applied with great vigour—with great rigour, he might say,but not with too much vigour—to all the factories and workshops in the kingdom, and it would be applied to laundries, amongst other establishments, as soon as this Bill passed into law. The question, then, for their Lordships was, ought the rigidity of the inspection of these laundries to be waived in a particular class of cases, or ought it not? That really was the issue on the merits. Personally he had great sympathy with all these institutions which were connected with religious bodies, because he thought the religious bodies who had established such institutions were deserving of the very highest credit, and of the thanks of the community for having taken so much trouble and spent so much money and so much effort—wholly unrewarded so far as temporary reward was concerned—on behalf of these poor people. But he did not think they could shut their eyes to the fact that it was possible that in these institutions irregularities in regard to the Factory Laws might take place, and it was difficult for them to find an answer to the commercial laundries who said, "We are competing with these institutional laundries; you impose very rigid conditions upon us, but you do not impose the same rigid conditions upon our competitors. We are both competing in one market, and yet one set of factories is bound by these rules, while others are not." He thought that,prima facie, it was very difficult to escape from the conclusion that, unless there were very special reasons to the contrary, all factories ought to be treated alike. Was there a very special reason in this case? That was what he would like his noble friends who were interested in these institutions to tell them. If they could show that there really were very special reasons, that might be a reason why their Lordships should waive the rigidity of inspection in those cases. He did not for a moment desire, nor did any of their Lordships, to do anything by way of legislation which would interfere with the religious or disciplinary rules which existed in such establishments as those in question; but was it possible to say that an inspection of the kind proposed did so interfere? He could quite understand that if it was proposed, for instance, that men should be the inspectors of convent laundries, that would be a very gross and improper proposal, but he did not entertain a doubt that in every laundry of that kind which belonged to a convent, the inspector would be one of the many women factory inspectors, so that no difficulty of that kind would arise. The sole point was, as it appeared to him—and he would no doubt be corrected if he was wrong—whether the inmates ought to be accompanied by an officer of the institution or whether the inspector ought to have the right, if he pleased, to see the inmates alone. He would suggest to some of his noble friends who deprecated such an inspection that it was not really to their interest to seem as if they had anything to conceal. Of course, if they -made a strong case his words might be considered to be eliminated, but if they did not make a strong case, he would suggest that it would not be to their interest to act as though they had something to conceal, because there were numbers of persons outside who had not the same confidence in the integrity of those who conducted these institutions as he had, and who, owing to prejudices of a religious or other character, might say, and even believe, things which had no foundation in fact. Therefore, unless his noble friends had a very strong view on the subject, he was inclined to suggest that they should accept the Amendment moved by his noble friend (Lord Dunboyne).


said he would endeavour to meet the wishes of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Salisbury) and to state the case of those who wished to exempt certain particular institutions from the operation of the clause. As the noble Marquess rightly said, the inspection under the Factory Acts was imposed upon all factories except those used for reformatory or charitable purposes,and he claimed that those regulations and rules should be enforced with regard to charitable and reformatory institutions in precisely the same manner. If that inspection only went to the condition of those institutions as factories and workshops he was sure no one would have a word to say, but among many of these institutions there was the fear that whereas a factory had no secondary or subsidiary object other than that of a factory, these institutions had a secondary, or another object, and they were afraid that that other object might be seriously interfered with by the restrictions which were imposed for a totally different purpose, namely, for the purpose of seeing that no infringement of the Factories and Workshops Acts took place within those institutions. Some of their Lordships might think these fears exaggerated, but he could assure them that in some cases they were very real and very sincere. The noble Duke (the Duke of Norfolk), had pointed out some of the reasons why in those institutions which were of a disciplinary nature, it might make a very great difference to the enforcement of discipline if an outsider came in, even for a perfectly proper reason, and gave a sort of impression to the inmates that there was an authority above the authority under which they were put. Such an impression, if created on the minds of the inmates, would seriously impair the efficiency of the institutions. The appeal he was going to make to their Lordships was this—whether they agreed with him, or whether they did not, they would recognise the wisdom of the action of the Government in this—that, when they were imposing new conditions upon institutions which hitherto had been outside this law of inspection, and which had fears and anxieties about the way in which it would be carried out, it would be a wise thing to begin with a wise and gentle hand, and he had no doubt that most of these institutions, when once they were accustomed to, and familiar with, the inspection which all their Lordships agreed was necessary and beneficial, would place no difficulty whatever in the way of its being carried out in a manner which would be satisfactory to everyone and satisfactory to their Lordships' House.


said he had been for many years concerned in charitable institutions in the hands of religious bodies, and many of those institutions were engaged in laundry and other industrial work. Their primary object, however, was not so much the work the undertook as the welfare of the destitute children who were under the charge of the ladies responsible for those institutions. He could say from his own personal experience, extending over a great many years, that there was never a shadow of doubt about the treatment of the children, and that the children themselves, after having left the homes and started in life, were always anxious to come back, feeling that those with whom they had been entrusted as children were the best friends they had. He was sure that among those engaged in the management of such institutions there would hardly be found a divergent opinion with regard to this—that it was quite possible very seriously to interfere with the good management of those institutions if anything excessive were introduced into the law with regard to inspection. He wished to re-echo what had fallen from other noble Lords as to their gratitude for the action of the Government in this matter, and for the very considerate way in which they had treated this question.


I do not think I need say very much in answer to what has fallen from the noble Lord (Lard Dunboyne) or from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), because the question of the principle as to whether these institutional laundries should be treated somewhat differently from the ordinary commercial laundries was debated in your Lordships' House at an earlier portion of the session, and your Lordships then agreed that these special laundries should be treated under certain circumstances, which were set forth, in a somewhat exceptional manner. What happened was that in response to representations made to the Home Secretary, he agreed to make this concession—that in a certain number (a very small number) of these laundries the interviews should take place in the presence of one of the persons having charge of the institution. As I have said before, this concession only affects a very small number of institutions, and it was the concession in this direction by which, and by which alone, the passage of this Bill was ensured in another place. This is a matter which for twelve years and more has agitated the Home Office under one Home Secretary after another, and they have all been anxious to deal with the question. Now we are within what I think I may call a very short and measurable distance of dealing with it satisfactorily under the honourable understanding which was arrived at in another place, and if the noble Marquess insists upon dividing the House, I can only tell him that the Bill will be lost.


The noble Lord in charge of the Bill, in the first observations which he addressed to us, said he did not regard this arrangement as by any means an ideal one. It was recommended to us as a compromise, and if I may say so, I never read a clause more redolent of compromise than the one now before us. It has all the attributes of compromise. It is the most invertebrate clause I have ever read. Your Lordships will observe, in the first place, that there is what virtually comes to a dispensing power accorded to the managers of these institutions. If they withhold their consent, then there may be no examination of an inmate of one of these institutions save in the presence of one of the managers. To my mind, that suggests the idea of an inspection which really is not worthy of the name of an inspection at all. Then in the proviso which follows, there is another dispensing power—this time for the Secretary of State. It seems to me to come to this, that if this Amendment is accepted, these institutions virtually are to enjoy immunity from any inspection worthy of the name. Under these circumstances, I confess that my first impulse would have been to vote against the Amendment, but having listened to what has been said, I gather from those who speak on behalf of the Government that the exception we are asked to make is to be made in favour of a very small number of institutions, and that it has been agreed to as the result of discussions and negotiations which have satisfied the noble Lord in charge of the Bill that an arrangement of this kind is absolutely essential if the Bill is to be saved. I am not prepared to disregard a statement of that kind made in the name of His Majesty's Government, and, therefore, although I must say with very great misgivings, I shall not support the proposal of my noble friend Lord Dunboyne.

Commons Amendment agreed to.