HL Deb 04 March 1912 vol 11 cc303-5


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a very short Bill. It consists of one clause, its object being to repeal Section 157 of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901. The necessity for this Bill has arisen out of a recent decision in the High Court. Under Section 116 of the Act of 1901 the giving of particulars of work and wages to pieceworkers is made obligatory. Section 116 applies in the first instance only to workers in textile factories, but by subsection (5) the Secretary of State is empowered by special Order to extend the provisions of the section to any class of non-textile workers. In 1909 the Secretary of State did make such an Order applying the provisions to the wearing apparel trade. That Order was accepted by the great majority of the trade, and it was not until 1911 that the authority of the Secretary of State was challenged by an individual named Alexander. This resulted in the case of Seal v. Alexander, which was brought before the magistrate and subsequently carried to the High Court. In that case it was held that the effect of Section 157 is to exclude from the provisions of Section 116 pieceworkers who receive their work from workshops in which only men are employed. Therefore it was held that the Secretary of State had no power to make the Order in question.

It results from this decision that, while outworkers to whom work is given out from factories and other classes of workshops, and also outworkers to whom work is given out from shops, warehouses, or any other place which is not a men's workshop, receive particulars of their work and the rate of wage to be paid for the work, outworkers who get their work from men's workshops do not. This constitutes a very anomalous and undesirable state of things, for there is no logical reason why men's workshops alone should be exempted from the provisions which apply to almost every kind of factory and workshop. It is very undesirable that outworkers and pieceworkers, who in many cases may be women, should not have the advantage, enjoyed by textile traders in all these other factories, of knowing what their work is and what they are to be paid for it. Under the present state of the law an employer is enabled to play fast and loose with his outworkers: to state in vague terms what the particulars of work are and what will be paid for it, and then when the work is done to modify the conditions which the men or women believed they were to enjoy. It is therefore proposed to extend the provisions as to work and wages to men's workshops.

Your Lordships may, perhaps, ask why it is that Section 157, which exempts men's workshops, is to be found in the Act of 1901. There is not any particular reason for it; there certainly is no logical ground for it. The explanation probably lies in the fact that factory legislation has grown up from dealing first with women and children only. The first Act concerned the textile trades; then legislation was extended to other trades and to men under certain conditions, and so forth. This is merely one of those instances of an area which is not yet covered by the general provisions of the Factory and Workshop Acts, and I think it is very desirable that the anomaly should be removed.

The amending of Section 157 of the 1901 Act will do rather more than make employers liable to give particulars of work and wages. Among the provisions of the Act which would, as a consequence, become applicable to men's workshops may be specially mentioned those which require a reasonable temperature, adequate ventilation, provision of sanitary conveniences, provision of washing accommodation, and the keeping of a general register with a record of accidents and poisoning. There, again, I submit that it is not unreasonable that owners of men's workshops should be expected to do in these matters what other employers are called upon to perform. In view of these facts, and seeing that this is nothing but a very small advance in factory legislation and an advance on well recognised lines. I hope your Lordships will be prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Ashby St. Ledgers.)


My Lords, I wish to raise one point only with regard to the Bill which the noble Lord has just explained. Its effect is, as he has told us, to make Section 116 of the Factory and Workshops Act of 1901 applicable to men's workshops in like manner as to other workshops. The effect of this change in the law is to oblige the owners of these workshops to introduce a number of modern improvements into their premises: to see that they are properly warmed, properly ventilated, adequately provided with sanitary conveniences and washing accommodation. Now all these are admirable things, but they are expensive and are improvements which take some time to carry out. The question which I wish to ask is this. Am I wrong in believing that the Bill as it now stands would come into operation from the moment that it passed both Houses of Parliament? If that is so, I would suggest to the noble Lord that he should consider whether a clause might not be added giving reasonable notice—say six months, or something of the kind—to those who will be affected by its provisions. I will not press for an answer now. If the noble Lord will kindly tell me that he will consider the point before the Committee Stage I shall be quite satisfied.


The point, made by the noble Marquess certainly appears to be a very reasonable one. I am not quite certain whether he is right in thinking that the Bill would come into force immediately after its passage. I think that is so. But if the noble Marquess will allow me, I will consider the point and see how far it is possible to meet his view.


I would point out that there is a distinction between the two cases with which it is proposed to deal. The first provision is that all outworkers who are employed in men's workshops should receive particulars in the same way as those do who are employed in ordinary factories. In that case there does not seem any reason why the provision should not come into force at once. But in regard to the other provisions, which, as a consequence of the passing of this Bill, would become applicable to men's workshops, I think it desirable there that some reasonable notice should be given.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.