§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he must appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. I. Butt) who had the charge of the Bill, to know whether he seriously intended to press the measure during the present Session? The Report of the Commission on the subject of the Bill had been but a short time before the public, and as there were a great number of persons deeply interested in the Bill, he thought it was hardly fair to press a measure of such importance at that late period. He did not wish to prejudice the Bill in a future Session, and would therefore abstain from making any remarks upon the objections which he understood might fairly be raised against it.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, that the Bill stood in a peculiar position, both as regarded that House and the House of Lords. Towards the close of last Session the House of Lords had unanimously passed a Bill that was substantially the same as the present. He therefore thought there was good 1355 reason for supposing that the Upper House would not object to pass the Bill in the present Session, not with standing the Resolution respecting the reading of Bills after the 24th of that month. He was in great hopes the right hon. Gentleman exaggerated the amount of opposition it was likely to meet with. There were other considerations which urged him to press forward the measure. In the Bill which came down from the House of Lords last year an objection was made against proceeding with it in that House until an inquiry was instituted into the whole subject. In consequence of that objection the Bill of last Session was given up, and a Royal Commission of Inquiry was issued, upon the understanding that if the Report of that Commission bore out the alleged facts represented, there should be legislation upon the subject in the present Session. Well, that Commission was issued. Mr. Tremenheere, the Commissioner, went into the several districts where bleaching-works were carried on, and examined a great many parties connected with the works. The result was the presentation of a Report, which recommended the immediate adoption by Parliament of such a measure as he had the honour of introducing into the House. The question had excited the deepest interest amongst all the working classes, who anxiously desired the passing of the measure. He was afraid that as they objected last year to consider the measure without inquiry, now that that inquiry had taken place, if they refused to legislate upon the subject in the present Session an impression would go abroad that the House was utterly indifferent to the wrongs and sufferings of the working classes. The Report of the Royal Commission, though it recommended immediate legislation upon the subject, also recommended that a considerable period should elapse before any Bill that was passed should come into operation, in order to enable the parties to be affected by it to make such arrangements as would be necessary to meet the requirements of the measure. He thought that he had said sufficient to induce hon. Members to make up their minds as to the principle of the Bill. He was unwilling to set himself against the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, but yet he felt that he had a duty to perform towards a large and helpless class of persons, who had entrusted their cause to his advocacy which compelled him to persevere even in 1356 opposition to the right hon. Gentleman. He was now representing the interest of a great number of workpeople, and in moving that the Bill be read a second time, he would throw upon the House the responsibility of rejecting it—if they were determined to ignore the frightful state of things vouched for by a Royal Commission. The best information he could give with respect to the Bill was to state to the House the reasons why it originated with the working classes. In 1853 some of the working bleachers in Bolton formed a Short-time Committee, for the purpose of obtaining the same protection in regard to the hours of labour as had been given by Parliament to manufacturers, and which lad been found to work so advantageously both for the employer and the employed. At the same time a similar movement arose in the west of Scotland. In the month of November, 1853, the workmen met together upon the subject, and agreed to a memorial, which was presented to the masters. That document was highly creditable both to the intellect and the good feeling of the workmen. They stated it was notorious that those employed in the bleaching-works were, generally speaking, far beyond the persons employed in the manufactures, both in regard to education and intelligence, and they prayed for the adoption of such arrangements in reference to the time of labour as had been enacted in regard to the former. It was equally creditable to some of the masters that they had met their workpeople in the fairest spirit. In June, 1853, thirteen of the employers in Scotland agreed to limit the hours of labour to sixty-six hours in the week. On a subsequent occasion twenty-three masters, representing the greater portion of the entire body, agreed to limit the hours of labour to sixty hours in the week, but upon the condition that such a regulation was adopted by the whole trade. The origin of the Bill might then, in fact, be said to be the voluntary agreement entered into between the masters and workpeople in the west of Scotland, which it was subsequently found to be necessary to enforce by the very regulations embodied in the present measure. Although so many masters had agreed to that arrangement, subject to its being assented to by the whole body, it was found that it was in the power of two or three masters to defeat that arrangement, which it was therefore felt to be impracticable to carry out without legislative interference. Last year those 1357 work people were fortunate enough to obtain the assistance of Lord Shaftesbury, who introduced a Bill into the other House for their relief. That Bill passed, as he had said, unanimously, and it came down at a late period of the Session to that House. About that period he was asked by some of the workpeople to take charge of the measure, and he readily assented to do so. When the Bill came down to the House of Commons an objection was taken, not to the principle, but it was said that there were regulations attached to the bleaching trade which required special provisions, and it was urged that an inquiry should be made before they proceeded to legislate upon the subject. Upon that objection the Bill was withdrawn, and a Royal Commission for inquiry was issued. Mr. Tremenheere, who conducted that inquiry, went to the bleaching works in the United Kingdom, and heard all the statements that could be made by these persons in connection with them. The Report was delayed for a considerable time. At length it was laid on the table on the 7th of June; and as soon as it was placed in the hands of Members he moved for leave to introduce his Bill. Accompanying that Report was a body of evidence upon the subject; and he appealed to any one who had read that evidence whether he was not now fully justified in saying that he ought not to incur the responsibility of allowing such a state of things to continue for another year, so far as it was in his power to prevent it, That day was the first then upon which he had the opportunity of bringing the case properly before the House. The bleaching-works were at present free from those regulations which were found by the manufacturers to work so advantageously both for the employers and the employed. Very many of the masters were, however, now convinced by experience that the system adopted in the bleaching-works was highly detrimental to the working classes. It was scarcely necessary for him to argue in favour of the adoption of the proposed measure, the fact was so obvious. It rather lay with those who objected to the principle to show why it should not be extended to those employed in bleaching-works. The evidence upon the subject had been taken down by Mr. Tremenheere from the lips of operatives who had worked for successive months for sixteen and eighteen hours a day; from the lips of fathers, who said they had stood by and seen their daughters of fifteen, sixteen and seventeen 1358 years of age, going through their labour for weeks together without hardly any interval of rest. The general statements had been well put in a petition sent from Manchester and Salford, and which was signed by clergymen of all religious denominations. They stated that it was customary in those establishments for females and young persons to labour for from sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and frequently for whole nights together, except for the very short time that was allowed for meals. In addition to that labour they worked in confined and crowded places, where they were surrounded by the most un whole some atmosphere. And they were consequently never brought within those influences which improved the body as well as the mind. Mr. Tremenheere says in his report—The facts, as respects the actual hours worked at the bleaching and finishing works, are these:—Some masters will have so much employment as to keep their 'hands' at work for twelve months together, from between six and seven in the morning until eight, nine, and ten at night; and a portion of their 'hands' will occasionally work on to a later hour, and sometimes nearly all night, for two or three nights together. The evidence shows that both at the large and small bleaching and finishing works a very common state of things is that the work goes on for those 'long hours' (as they are called) continuously for many months together; in some instances for so many as six months, in others for twelve months and more together.Alexander Nightingale, of Mr. Heywood's bleach-works, Salford, in his evidence, said:—I am head maker-up. In the making-up room there are nine boys from eleven to fourteen, and three girls and three boys from about fourteen to about seventeen. The hours of work are sixteen or seventeen per day, and have been for the last three or four months. The boys and girls are always very tired, and there are nearly always one or two of them off sick from working so long; they often complain of their shoulders aching from lifting the cloth, and very often have sore feet; they would all like to have the short-time Bill, although they would earn less, because they would have less labour and more rest. I have heard many of these little lads complain of not having an opportunity of going to a night school, and the girls the same. For a month or six weeks in the year we may not have work for half the day; the rest of the year we are working long hours, sometimes twelve and fourteen, sometimes sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen.Now, a Royal Commission having been granted, and those facts proved, he thought that it was the duty of that House to take the earliest opportunity of expressing its opinion upon the matter by reading the Bill a second time, and thereby giving those unfortunate people an assurance that their complaints would 1359 be attended to by Parliament. The system of labour was carried on in rooms in which the temperature ranged from 100 to 130 degrees—James Thomson, of Mr. Wallace's bleaching, scouring, and finishing works for cotton and woollens, Burnbank, Glasgow, said:—I am manager of these works, and nephew of the owner. We employ about ten men and forty females. We have that number in summer. Our usual hours are in winter from six till nine (half an hour for meals), and on Saturdays we stop at three, stopping half an hour for breakfast only. In summer the hours are nominally the same, but some of the hands work generally for fifteen hours a day at the very least, for three alternate days a week; but sometimes it is every day in the week, and occasionally from six a.m. to twelve p.m. the whole week through. We did that last summer several times. Three days we worked twenty hours each day. The age of most of our girls is from ten to eighteen. The stove-rooms in which they work are in winter heated up to 100 to 110 degrees; in summer the heat is from 120 to 130 degrees.Now, he would appeal to the hon. Member who had given notice of his intention to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day three months, and who he (Mr. I. Butt) knew felt as strongly for the working classes as any other man, was that hon. Gentleman prepared to justify such a system, and to say that the Legislature should not interfere to prevent poor girls, from the age of ten to eighteen, working in such a temperature from the hours of six o'clock in the morning until twelve o'clock at night? The Bill was a Bill for the protection of the master as well as the servant. Hear what the witness further said—I feel, when I am urging the females to work these long hours, I am doing what is not right, but I have been urged to do it to get a lot of goods finished. Sometimes they stay here all night, and then we make a place for them to lie down upon in a store-room upon the pieces of goods unfinished, Sometimes fourteen or more girls will pass the night in this manner, after working nineteen hours, and coming out of those hot places dripping wet with perspiration, and their clothes wet through with it.Now, those facts were indisputable, and not to be controverted. Well, then, with such facts before him, he asked the House whether he was at all unreasonable in begging them even now to give him their assistance in providing a remedy for such enormous evils? When the Government had taken upon themselves the responsibility of sending a Royal Commission down through the country to take evidence upon the subject—when that evidence came back to them, and that the Report founded upon it was laid upon the table—he submitted 1360 that those facts imposed upon the House the duty of taking steps without a moment's delay for preventing such things being any longer continued. He confessed he could not understand, even at the present advanced period of the Session, how the House could be occupied with a matter more vitally affecting the health, well-being, and happiness of the working classes than that now under consideration. The House had been recently legislating for the compulsory observance of the Sabbath; but would they not be doing infinitely more to promote that object, and making the Sabbath truly a day of rest, by compelling masters to shorten the hours of labour of the children, and allowing them to have the Sabbath entirely to themselves? If, while passing Bills to prevent the working man getting his beer and provisions at other than particular hours on the Sunday, they refused to interfere on behalf of the children attached to the bleaching-works, then all he could say was that their legislation for promoting the observance of the Sabbath was founded in hypocrisy. The extracts he had read from the Report of Mr. Tremenheere were mere samples of the evidence, and he did not think he had taken the strongest cases. All he had done was to select such cases from different parts of the country as most clearly showed how young persons and children were employed in bleaching-works. Then what were the effects of the employment upon the morals of the people? The evidence showed conclusively that the difference between persons employed in bleaching-works and in factories was almost perceptible to the naked eye. Factory workers were subscribers to mechanics' institutions; bleachers were not. Factory children attended schools; bleaching children did not; and in the manufacturing towns the inferiority of the children in the bleaching-works was so marked and decisive as to be the object of general observation. He asked, then, was it possible to present a case which more deserved the consideration of the House, and which even warranted it, though at the fag-end of the Session, to entertain the question? The measure was not the result of agitation, or of a spirit of antagonism on the part of the workpeople towards their masters. The workpeople, seeing what had been effected by the regulations adopted by the Legislature in factories, met together—not tumultuously—and applied to and obtained the assent of their masters to the 1361 regulations which he proposed to the House to enact, provided all the masters agreed. The masters generally were not opposed to the Bill. The opinions of a number of them had been taken by Mr. Tremenheere, and a very large proportion had expressed themselves as favourable to legislation. In Scotland they were almost unanimous, and throughout this country he should say they were decidedly in favour of legislative interference, though some would limit the number of hours for labour to sixty-six in the week, and others to seventy. Some of the masters said that whilst they would be glad to see the hours limited, they could not do it for two reasons—namely, that if you restricted the hours of labour, you increased the expense of bleaching cotton so much that your cotton manufacturer would be undersold in the foreign markets; and that if you did not allow them to produce fast, by forcing their workpeople to work extraordinary hours, the Manchester manufacturers would lose their orders. Now, even if these arguments were founded on fact, it would not reconcile him to allowing such scenes as the evidence depicted to go on a single hour longer. He must contend that the employment of children for those long hours was a crime; and if the prosperity of the cotton manufacture depended on the continuance of the crime he would not listen to the argument, more than if he were told that the crime of murder might be necessary. But what was the fact? A piece of cotton that sold for 6s. 6d. was bleached for 9d., thus making its selling price in the market 7s. 3d. Suppose by limiting the hours of labour the expense of bleaching was enhanced by 10 per cent, the whole effect would be to raise the cost of producing that piece of cotton from 7s. 3d. to 7s. 4d.; and was he to be gravely assured that such an increase as that would actually destroy the cotton trade? Mr. Tremenheere asked the masters the names of the merchants who would bear them out in their statement, that it was necessary to have the orders executed in a short time; and they gave him the names of fourteen in Manchester; but upon inquiry of these gentlemen, ten expressed themselves favourable to a Bill restricting the hours of labour, and four only supported the views of the masters. He thought, then, that he had established his case; that there was not a pretence for saying that the same principle of legislation ought not to be applied to bleach-works which Parliament had repeatedly sanctioned with 1362 regard to factories, and that if legislation was necessary in the latter, it was equally so in the former. To accomplish the object he had in view, he proposed in the first place to limit the work of children between eleven and twelve years of age, and of women of all ages, to ten hours and a half a day; the hours to be between six in the morning and six in the evening, allowing one hour and a half for meals. That he proposed in accordance with the recommendation contained in Mr. Tremenheere's Report. He had, however, introduced a provision that the master might keep them at work until half-past six in the evening, provided he gave them two hours during the day for meals. With regard to adult labour and motive power he was not prepared to interfere at all; machinery would, therefore, be left to work as long as the master pleased. In fact, the measure was simply and entirely a Bill to regulate the hours of labour for women and children. It might happen that some change in the weather required that the people should work extra hours; and here, again, in accordance with the Report of Mr. Tremenheere, he had introduced a provision to meet such a contingency, so that whenever, under such circumstances, a master required extra labour it should be no offence against the Act to employ the children extra hours. That legislation must take place upon the subject, though there was nothing more in the case than the facts he had brought before the House, he was quite convinced. The opponents of the measure might succeed in defeating it to-day, but he put it to them if that would be a wise course, with reference to the harmony of the relations subsisting between the masters and their workpeople, and which up to that time had not in the slightest degree been disturbed? Pass the Bill now, and it would be received as a boon—a graceful concession—on the part of the employer to the employed. Thwart, obstruct, and defeat it now, and next year it would become a right of the workpeople extracted from the unwilling masters by the strong arm of the Legislature. Now, he asked them which course would they pursue? That the Bill would ultimately pass was just as certain as that he was then addressing the House. It was for hon. Members who represented the masters there to say whether it was wise or safe, for the sake of continuing the unhallowed gains which they derived from the horrid system he had exposed to the indignations 1363 of the House, to provoke an agitation during the coming recess, in which, perhaps, the same moderation, and the same reliance on the justice of their cause that had hitherto marked the conduct of the workpeople, might not be displayed. He hoped he had satisfied the House that the Bill ought to pass now, and in that hope he begged to move its second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. KIRK
said, he should propose, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. If there had been any obstruction to the passing of the Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. I. Butt) was himself the great obstructor. When the Bill came from the Lords, last year, he (Mr. Kirk) said, that if they omitted Ireland from the Bill he would allow it to pass, but as the owners of bleaching works in Ireland were not guilty of these abominations—as they employed very few females, and no children under fourteen years of age—it was objectionable that they should be put under the provisions of a Bill which had reference to parties who employed children of the tender age of eight and nine years. In Ireland the workpeople went to their employment at six in the morning, and left it at six in the evening. But what said the hon. and learned Member (Mr. I. Butt) on that occasion? Why, that if Ireland were omitted, the whole of the bleaching trade of England would be transferred there. The sort of legislation required was an Act that would not allow the employment of any child under the age of fourteen. He did not think the evidence obtained by the Royal Commission was conclusive upon the subject, and until he came here to attend his Parliamentary duties in February he was not even aware, though himself engaged in the trade, that such a Commission had issued. He held that the matter ought to have been submitted to a Select Committee of that House, in the first instance, with a view to the introduction of a Bill that would lead to a complete settlement of the question. He was quite prepared to let the Bill next year go to a Select Committee, where it could be fairly and honestly considered and matured, and made a Bill that would be equally honourable to the employer and safe to the employed. To such a measure as that he should be the first to give support; but to the Bill in its present shape, containing, 1364 as it did, many provisions to which he decidedly objected, he could not give his assent.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
§ MR. CROOK
said, he should support the Motion for the second reading. There was nothing in the nature of bleaching operations, which consisted simply in washing and whitening of cloth, to justify the cruelties which marked the present system. They were told that the pressure on labour fluctuated very much; but in some establishments the work was continued night and day all the year round. The hon. Member for Newry (Mr. Kirk) said the bleaching establishments in Ireland were not in the habit of working over-hours. Mr. Tremenheere gave a different account of the matter. He stated that there were many instances of that kind, and among them he mentioned that of the hon. Member's own firm. The hon. Member also stated that very few females were employed in Ireland; whereas Mr. Tremenheere stated that there were 1,100. According to the same authority, there were nine firms in Scotland which never worked over-hours. The Bill mainly affected the neighbourhood of Bolton, which depended greatly for its prosperity on bleaching operations, and, as a native of that town, he would not willingly do anything which tended to injure it; but he thought that some alteration in the system was absolutely necessary.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he had already told the hon. and learned Member (Mr. I. Butt) that it was inexpedient at that period of the Session to proceed with the Bill, and not only inexpedient, but even unjust with reference to those who were personally interested in the subject to which it related. He would shortly state to the House the course of events with regard to the measure now under consideration. A Commission was appointed, consisting of Mr. Tremenheere alone, in December last, to inquire into the subject, and it was understood that the Bill which passed the House of Lords last year was to be laid aside until that gentleman's Report was before the House. Well, that Report was not ready before the 7th of June, and not in the hands of Members until the middle of that month. It was then considered advisable that the Report should be circulated amongst the persons 1365 who were interested in the matter, so that they might be made acquainted with the nature of the evidence and the recommendations it contained. Shortly after the Report was laid on the table, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. I. Butt) accompanied by some working men engaged in that branch of industry, came to him (Sir G. Grey), and asked if he would oppose a Bill founded on the Report of Mr. Tremenheere, and he told them, in answer, that considering the nature of the Report and the length of the evidence appended, it was unreasonable to suppose that Parliament could pass a Bill founded on that Report at such a late period of the Session. The hon. and learned Member then said that he merely wished to be able to lay the Bill before the House in order to its being fairly considered; and upon the distinct understanding that he (Sir G. Grey) was not pledged to support the Bill at any future stage, and that he reserved to himself the right to oppose its further progress, because there was not sufficient time to consider the evidence and the Report, he said he would not oppose the introduction of the measure. He also stated to the hon. and learned Gentleman that there would be great opposition to the Bill, and that hasty legislation on a subject of that kind, at the end of the Session, was likely to be injurious to all parties, even those who promoted it. He thought, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was prejudicing his case, and the ease of those whose interests he advocated, by asking the House now to assent to the second reading. If the House went to a division, he should vote against the further progress of the Bill, reserving to himself full power and right to consider any measure that might hereafter be laid on the table, and also whether the inquiry had been so full and complete as to render all further inquiry unnecessary. He did not mean by this to impugn the ability or impartiality with which Mr. Tremenheere had conducted his inquiries; but because that Gentleman happened to be a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the subject constituted no reason why the House of Commons should abdicate its functions, and refuse to institute another inquiry if it should think proper.
said, he would appeal to the House whether it was expedient to proceed further with the Bill. If they now proceeded further with it, they might only create obstacles in their way, 1366 and render it more difficult to meet the question next Session. He should oppose the second reading, in order that the House should have a fair opportunity next Session of considering the question.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he wished the noble Lord the Member for Totness to remember what had passed before the second reading of the Bill was moved. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary said that a strong opposition was to be expected to the measure; but he could not have meant that that opposition was to come from the workpeople, and the hon. Member (Mr. Kirk) who was charged with the opposition to the Bill, and was himself engaged in the trade, had stated all the objections that existed to legislation on the subject. He (Lord J. Manners) had waited to hear if there were any arguments by hon. Members against the Bill except from the hon. Gentleman who moved its rejection; but even that hon. Gentleman had not urged a single argument against the principle of the measure—on the contrary, he had spoken as if he was in favour of the principle. If there were no persons in Ireland who could be affected by the provisions of the Bill there could be no ground for opposition to it, as it would interfere with no man. The only question at issue, however, was whether those enormities which existed in connection with the subject should be suffered to exist in any part of the kingdom because the hon. Member was opposed to supervision and inspection as an inconvenience to manufacturers and masters. He (Lord J. Manners) submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary whether it was not most consistent with the interests of masters themselves to pass the Bill during the present Session, as it would give them sufficient notice and enable them to make such preparations to meet the change as might be deemed necessary. The House of Lords had almost unanimously sanctioned not only the principle of the Bill but also its main provisions; and it was, therefore, not likely that the House would interpose any delay if the Bill went through the House of Commons, inasmuch as it concerned the interests and well-being of an important portion of the working classes. He hoped, therefore, the House would agree to the second reading of the measure.
§ MR. CAIRNS
said, that if called upon to say aye or no to the Bill framed as it was at present, he would say "no." Not 1367 that he was unfavourable to its principle, but that he could not consent to have all the interests which it involved treated as if they were homogeneous, which in no respects they were. The course taken with respect to the inquiry was defective in appointing a Commission instead of a Committee, in the first instance; then the Commissioner set out with a foregone conclusion that he had to make out a case to extend the Factory Act to bleach-greens, though bleach-works were essentially different from cotton factories, and some of the works were conducted in the open air. Moreover, the owner of the bleach-works could not control his productions as the cotton manufacturer could, because he was in the hands of his customers, and if he did not execute the orders which he received in the specified time, the trade would leave the country. Under these circumstances it would be impossible for him to compete if the hours of labour were limited. The propositions of the Bill were most objectionable, also, as regarded the workpeople themselves; for if the bleach-masters were to be limited in the hours for employing women and boys, they would get rid of their labour altogether, and employ a fewer number of them to do the same work. As regarded Ireland, the process of bleaching was as different from that of England as making hats was from making shoes, inasmuch as in the one linen was bleached in the open air, while in the other cotton was bleached in stove-rooms highly heated. Yet the Bill proposed to legislate for stove-rooms, as if the processes in both countries were perfectly similar. He (Mr. Cairns) did not object to popular legislation on the subject, but he objected to the Bill as monstrous legislation. The whole principle of the Bill was in the details; there had been no case made out in respect to all those details; and he therefore asked the House not to legislate hastily on the subject, but to postpone it for another Session, otherwise it would go out without authority, and come back without respect.
§ MR. WILKINSON
said, that the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) must not suppose, because hon. Members on that side did not wish to take up the time of the House, that they had no objection to urge to the Bill. He (Mr. Wilkinson) had the interest of the working classes quite as much at heart as the noble Lord, but he feared that the result of the Bill would be, instead of easing that class of too much 1368 work, to take the work entirely from them.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he would also suggest whether it was worth while to proceed with the measure, as it was obvious it could not be passed that Session. It was clear from the debate that great difference of opinion existed on the subject; and it was doubtful, therefore, even if it went through Committee, that the House of Lords would rescind their rule and permit it to pass through Parliament. He, therefore, put it to his hon. and learned Friend whether he would, under those circumstances, persevere in it?
§ MR. G. DUNCAN
said, he objected to the Bill, and he denied that any hardship existed which required to be remedied—at least as far as the district with which he was acquainted was concerned. He hoped, therefore, the Motion would be withdrawn, as he did not think it would in any way conduce to the benefit of the working classes.
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, he also was opposed to the Bill. He considered that the House ought not to interfere with employment, or, if it did, it should throw the responsibility on the Government.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he thought that all fear of a measure of a description injuring the manufactures of the country was entirely unfounded. The trade of the country did not depend upon the slavery of a few boys and girls, as any Gentleman who had been connected with commerce was well aware; he, therefore, trusted that the hon. and learned Gentleman would proceed with the Bill.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, he felt that it would be to betray the interests of the poor creatures whose case he had undertaken not to take the sense of the House on the Bill. No ground could be shown for excluding Ireland from the Bill, though women and children were certainly not employed so long as eighteen hours a day in that country. As regarded the argument that the question should be left to the Government, his reply was that all the great measures which advocated the cause of humanity had been brought before Parliament by private Members—the Slave Trade, Roman Catholic Emancipation, Reform, and others.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he thought that nothing could be more unsatisfactory than that the Government should choose any one they pleased to inquire into subjects 1369 of a nature like the present, because the evidence so collected was of an ex parte nature and was never regarded with general confidence, and the House ought not to be called, upon such evidence, to legislate upon questions of such great importance. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), in a state of child-like ignorance, never having been in a bleach work, never having read the evidence, took upon himself to talk of the slavery in those bleaching factories, whereas the condition of the working people employed in them was better, perhaps, than that of those in any of the other factories. He begged to give notice that if the Bill were introduced next Session, he should move that it be referred to a Select Committee.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he quite agreed that the interests of the employers should be considered as well as those of the workpeople, and he hoped that the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) would persevere in the course which he had announced it to be his intention to pursue if the Bill were introduced next Session.
§ VISCOUNT GODERICH
said, that his impression was that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not promised a Committee, but only a Commission of inquiry. He did not think that his hon. Friend (Mr. Bright) had been quite just to the Commissioner who drew up the Report upon the question, when he said that the evidence was one-sided. It was certainly taken without the advantage of cross-examination, but both masters and workmen were fairly represented.
§ MR. COBBETT
said, he was convinced, from his own experience, that the principle of the Bill ought to be approved by the House, even if no further progress could be made with the measure during the present Session. He contended that sufficient evidence had been taken before the Commission, of 1843 to warrant the House in legislating on the subject, and when the Report of Mr. Tremenheere was added to that he thought the House could hardly vote against the principle of the Bill now before them.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 72: Majority 5.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for three months.