HC Deb 04 April 1917 vol 92 cc1314-5W

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will make representations to the Government of India setting forth the desirability of shortening the hours of work in Indian factories, so that children of nine years of age shall not be permitted by law to work six hours a day and women longer hours than are permitted in the United Kingdom; can he state if investigations have been made recently into the conditions under which women and children work in factories in India; whether they are physically better able to bear the strain of long hours than in the United Kingdom, or why such longer hours are permitted in India, and, in this connection, will he bear in mind that shortening the hours of work within reasonable limits has not led here generally to decreased production; and will he state whether the laws relating to the hours of work in factories in India emanate from more than one authority, and are such laws the same throughout India?


The present Indian Factory Act of 1911 was preceded by full inquiry by a Commission into the conditions of factory labour in India and into the. health and physique of the operatives. The Commission reported that the general physical condition of the female operatives was uniformly excellent, and attributed this to the fact that, being for the most part on the piece-work system, they made their own hours, and that the branches of work on which they were employed involved no great strain and was performed under favourable hygienic conditions. The Commission reported less favourably of the children, and recommended a reduction of hours and other safeguards for this class of labour. The Factory Act of 1911 gave effect to the Commission's recommendations. The Commission found it difficult to make an accurate comparison between the hours of labour in factories in the United Kingdom and in Indian factories owing to the less strenuous conditions of work prevailing in the latter. The Indian Factory Act is of general application throughout British India. The observance of its provisions is supervised in each province by a staff of inspectors appointed by the local Government. On the information before me I see no sufficient reason for acting on the hon. Member's suggestion. But I am alive to the importance of the subject and shall continue to give it careful attention.