HC Deb 02 April 1856 vol 141 cc351-77

Order for Second Reading read.


said, when he introduced the measure now awaiting its second reading, there were very few Members present; it might, therefore, be advisable that he should now explain its objects. He had introduced the Bill at the suggestion of a large body of his con- stituents, owners of factories, who for several years past had suffered great oppression under the existing law. The object of the Bill was to place the gear and shafting of machinery, so far as legislation was concerned, upon the same footing with machinery itself. As some hon. Gentlemen might not be aware of the difference between shafting and gear, and machinery, he might, perhaps, be allowed to explain that in every factory there was connected with the steam-engine a shaft to which were attached several "drums," which were used for the purpose of putting the real machinery of the factory in motion. Now, there was a difference in the law relating to the machinery of mills, and to shafts and drums, and his object was to assimilate the law with regard to both. The 7 & 8 Viet. c. 15, s. 21, required owners of factories to place secure fencing round all the shafts and gearing; and the 43rd clause of that Act enabled the factory occupiers to submit any case of dispute with regard to machinery, as distinguished from shafting and gearing, to arbitration. The arbitrators were empowered to determine not only whether it was necessary that machinery should be fenced off, but also the particular mode in which it should be fenced. With regard to shafting, however, there was no such power of arbitration, but every manufacturer in the country was compulsorily required to fence off every portion of shafting, wherever it might be, and however unlikely it was that the operatives could come in contact with it. The cause which had more immediately led to his bringing the subject before the House, was a trial which had recently taken place in the county he had the honour to represent (Lancashire). A manufacturer, having placed his shafts along the roofs of the rooms in his factory, at a height of seven feet from the ground, and out of reach of his workpeople, believed he had complied with the law. An accident, however, occurred in the mill, and an action was brought against the manufacturer for non-compliance with the provisions of the Factory Act. The manufacturer, believing that he bad complied with those provisions, went to trial. The case was tried before Mr. Justice Crowder, who ruled that the law must be interpreted strictly and literally, and a verdict was given against the defendant, the manufacturer. The defendant then applied for a new trial, on the ground of misdirection on the part of the Judge, and a new trial was ordered. The case was tried before Mr. Justice Cresswell, at Liverpool, and that learned Judge—who, from early association, was, perhaps, the most competent Judge on the bench to try a case of the kind—ruled that, as the shafting was placed at such a height from the ground that it could not come in contact with the workpeople, the requirements of the Act had been complied with, and the jury gave their verdict for the manufacturer, subject to the opinion of the Court above upon the point of law. The case was, therefore, carried into the Court of Queen's Bench, where Lord Campbell took the same view as Mr. Justice Crowder, and said that, whatever were the circumstances of the case, the law must be strictly and literally interpreted, and that, as it appeared there was nothing which could be held to be fencing in the eye of law, the judgment of Mr. Justice Cress well was wrong, and must be reversed. This decision placed the whole body of manufacturers in the United Kingdom in a most awkward dilemma, for, wherever their shafting and gearing might be, and whatever might be its extent, they were by that decision compelled to fence it off completely. During the vacation he (Colonel Patten) had visited numerous mills, including some of the very newest construction, and from the immense extent of shafting and drums, he had come to the conclusion that it was totally impossible for manufacturers to comply with the law as it was laid down by Lord Campbell. He had visited the factory of Mr. Miller, at Preston, which was one of the largest in the country, and he had been struck with the beauty and completeness of the arrangements for the protection of the workmen. Mr. Miller had expended what would be to many persons a little fortune in providing for the security of the operatives, and he had erected the shafting along the roofs of his rooms, believing that, as his workpeople would thus be protected, he had complied with the requirements of the law; but, according to the decision of Lord Campbell, if any accident occurred in his mill, he would not only be liable to a very large fine, but also to an action, which might be brought against him by any individual, for non-compliance with the law. The shafting in Mr. Miller's factory was, he should say, several miles in extent; so far as he could see, every portion of it was beyond the reach of any human being; and he thought it a great hardship that a gentleman who had done so much for the protection of his workpeople should be placed in the predicament in which he found himself under the existing law. He (Colonel Patten) requested the over-lookers of all the factories in Preston—a town with a population of 70,000 persons—to meet him, and state to him their opinions on the subject generally, and also with reference to the present Bill. They were unanimously of opinion that it was impossible for any manufacturer on a large scale to comply literally with the provisions of the existing Act, and to keep himself out of reach of the law; and they considered his (Colonel Patten's) Bill most reasonable, expressing their belief that it would not increase in any degree, but would in many instances diminish, the dangers to which operatives were exposed. If danger was to be apprehended from shafting placed at such a height from the ground as he had mentioned, what, he asked, must be the danger to which operatives were subjected from the machinery amid which they had to pass in every part of a mill? He believed the danger from the machinery to be a thousand fold greater than that from shafting and gearing. The protection of machinery had been for years the subject of arbitration, but he believed that during the last six years, throughout the whole of England, Scotland, and Ireland, there had not been twenty cases of arbitration or of disputes between masters and inspectors as to whether machinery should be fenced. He understood it had been said by some of the inspectors that, if shafting and gearing were placed upon the same footing as machinery, endless disputes would occur. He believed one of the Factory Inspectors stated that in one mill he found about 1,700 cases of danger connected with shafting and gearing. If that were the case, he (Colonel Patten) would venture to say there would be at least 3,000 cases of danger arising from the machinery. He had no doubt, if his proposition were adopted to place shafting on the same footing with machinery, that a very few cases of arbitration would rule any disputes which might subsequently arise, and it was, therefore, absurd to contend that the time of the Inspectors would be occupied in dealing with such disputes. He deemed it a great hardship that manufacturers should be subjected to an exceptional law which did not apply to any other class of Her Majesty's subjects; and he believed, when the enormous number of persons employed in factories was taken into account, it would be found that the proportion of accidents in such establishments was less than those occurring in iron foundries, candle manufactories, and soap manufactories, or even than those which resulted from agricultural implements. One of the most grievous features of the present system was, that the enforcement of the law was committed to a body of men, the Factory Inspectors, against whom individually he had no complaint to make—for from some of them, and especially from Mr. Horner, he had received much assistance and information, and he felt bound to acknowledge the courtesy with which they had treated him. He had, however, a complaint to make against the Inspectors, arising out of the very nature of their duties—namely, that the variety of their decisions rendered it almost impossible for any manufacturer in the country to know how he was situated with regard to the law. The House would scarcely credit the number of conflicting decisions which had been given by the Inspectors upon questions connected with the Factory Act. He would trouble the House with one or two illustrations of these decisions. The first question which arose under the Act was whether fencing should be required for shafting or not. In some districts the Inspectors required absolute compliance with the Act, and, consequently, that all shafting, of whatever kind, should be fenced; while in other districts the directions were less strict. In a circular issued by Mr. Horner, the senior Inspector, and the other Inspectors, and dated the 23rd of January, 1855, they said— The Inspectors, therefore, by direction of Viscount Palmerston, have again to call the attention of the occupiers of factories of the United Kingdom to the continued non-observance of the 21st section of 7 Viet. c. 15, in regard to the 'securely fencing' of all horizontal shafts, at whatever heights they may be from the floor; and they hereby give notice that it will be their duty to take steps for enforcing the above-mentioned provision of the Factory Act. An accompanying letter from Mr. Horner contained the following passages— Having every reason to believe that experience has proved the efficiency of the above modes of fencing, I feel myself warranted in holding every horizontal shaft which is provided with substantial rectangular hooks or rods to be securely fenced against accidents caused by the lapping of the straps, but not against other acci- dents. I, therefore, feel it my duty to warn the occupiers of factories in which these contrivances have been adopted that they alone form no secure fencing of the shaft. Adequate means must be adopted, either by a permanent easing or other contrivance, against all accidents from a horizontal shaft, and must be applied to all parts of such shaft to which there may be access while it is revolving. He found, however, that a circular from all the Inspectors, issued on the 3rd of last March, after his Bill had been introduced, contained the following instructions— We, therefore, request you to inform the mill occupiers in your respective districts that we shall continue not to require horizontal shafts above seven feet from the floor to be cased, nor more than the application of rectangular hooks or parallel rods on each side of every drum, or of any other contrivance equally effective for preventing the driving strap from lapping or coiling upon the shaft. We continue to hold that by such precautions the shaft, as well as the drum or pulley, is securely fenced. The House must bear in mind that these directions were issued by the same persons who issued the circular of the 23rd of January, 1855. He would, therefore, put it to the House whether it was right that a large interest like the manufacturing body should be subjected to the contradictory decisions of the Factory Inspectors. But he had not done with the case, for very lately Mr. Horner had put an advertisement in the Manchester papers to the effect, that it was a mistake to suppose that the use of rectangular hooks was required by the Inspectors, thus reversing the two former decisions, and affording a remarkable illustration of the manner in which the manufacturers were treated. He had been told that his Bill was a Lancashire Bill. He denied it; but, even if it were, he did not understand why he should be taunted with doing his duty to his constituents. The fact, however, was that his Bill was approved by all the manufacturers throughout the country, and he had himself presented petitions in its favour from almost every part of the United Kingdom. Sir John Kincaid, the Factory Inspector for Scotland, stated in one of his Reports last year that the casing of horizontal shafts above seven feet from the floor was not required in that district. If he were told, therefore, that the manufacturers of Scotland did not object to the law as it now stood, he would reply that it was because they were placed in a very different position from their English brethren; but he was prepared to prove that they were almost unanimously in favour of his Bill. He entreated the House to deal with this question in a calm, deliberate manner, and not suffer itself to be led away by statements to the effect that his Bill was an attempt to get rid of the factory law altogether. It was no such thing. The object of his measure was simply to place all parts of the gearing and machinery in factories upon the same footing, making it a question for arbitration whether they were dangerous or not; and if the Home Secretary should express the opinion, that the clauses of the Bill were so framed as to be capable of doing something either more or less, or that the wording was obscure, he would be happy to adopt any alterations or amendments which might be suggested. Nay more, he was authorised by the manufacturers of the county which he represented—and in this he was certain they spoke the sentiments of their brethren in all parts of the kingdom—to say that they had no niggardly feeling in the matter whatever, that all they wanted was to have the law fairly interpreted and carried out, that they were prepared to fence off whatever part of their gearing, and machinery the Home Secretary might declare ought to be guarded as being within the reach of the workers, but that they most decidedly objected to being exposed to the contradictory decisions of the Factory Inspectors. There was one case which he was bound to mention, even out of its proper place. In one of the mills which he visited during the recess, he observed a peculiarity in the gearing which was, that a person coming in contact with any of the straps might be injured by the machinery below, not that he might be dragged upwards, as was generally the case. He asked the owner whether he had received any notice from the Inspector? The reply was, "I have not only been under the attention of the Inspector, but have received orders to fence all my shafting." So that while the manufacturer was compelled to fence his gearing, from which no danger might be apprehended, the guarding of his machinery, which might possibly give rise to accidents, was a question for arbitration. It was to do away with anomalies of that kind that the present Bill had been introduced; and he conscientiously believed that the Government could support the second reading without endangering the life or limb of a single human being. For his own part, he was as anxious as any Member of that House to protect the lives of the manufacturing operatives, and, if he had thought that the Bill would have the effect of increasing the number of accidents in factories, he would not have introduced it; but he believed that, after the measure had passed into a law, the life of every factory worker would be as secure as before, and, at any rate, he was willing to adopt any alteration or amendment that might be deemed necessary to secure that object. But he could not submit to see an important body of his constituents subjected to a law which they could not obey, and which, if they refused to comply with its impracticable requisition, rendered them liable to great trouble, inconvenience, and expense.

Motion made, and question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


in conformity with a notice which he had placed on the paper, rose to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He thought he should be able to show, without occupying too much of the time of the House, that the Bill as it now stood would be a most impolitic measure; that it was calculated to do all that mischief which its mover had professed himself—and, no doubt, sincerely—anxious to avoid; and that it would render dangerous to the lives and limbs of an immense number of people employed in factories that machinery and gearing which the existing law required to be securely fenced. He hoped the House would remember the distinction drawn by the hon. and gallant Member between mill-gearing and machinery, and that the statute which it was now proposed to mutilate, if not to destroy in its most important parts, was not passed until after the most mature deliberation and inquiry, and after an investigation conducted at the instance of the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself. The hon. Member had said, in bringing in his Bill, that the Act he proposed to alter was passed in heat, irritation, and haste. He (Mr. Cobbett) would show that the fact was exactly the reverse, and that the greatest care and certainly no haste were exercised in the matter. In 1832, Mr. Sadler, a Member of that House, obtained a Committee to inquire into the condition and working hours of factory operatives, especially children. Mr. Sadler was not returned to the Parliament which was elected after the passing of the Reform Bill; but a Bill which he had founded upon the Report of his Committee was introdued by Lord Ashley. Thereupon, the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who knew that there had been an inquiry by the Sadler Committee, moved that the Bill should form the subject of an investigation by a Royal Commission. A Commission was accordingly issued by the Crown, and the Commissioners addressed to the Secretary of State a very voluminous Report, in which they suggested, for the first time, that some provision should be made in an Act of Parliament for securing children and other persons employed in factories against accidents from machinery. They stated a variety of extraordinary facts, showing the necessity for such legislation. At the conclusion of their Report, which was laid on the table of the House on the 25th of June, 1833, they said— From the evidence collected it appears that, in many of the mills, numerous accidents of a grievous nature do occur to the workpeople. It appears, also, that these accidents may be prevented, since in some mills, where more care of the workpeople is in general displayed, they are prevented. It appeass further, that while some manufacturers liberally contribute to the relief of the sufferers, many other manufacturers leave them to obtain relief from public bounty, or as they may. They proceeded to state that— The refusal to contribute to the expense of the cure of those who have been maimed is usually founded on the assertion that the accident was occasioned by culpable heedlessness or temerity. In the cases of the children of tender years we do not consider this a valid defence against the claim for contribution from the employer. We cannot suppose an obligation to perpetual caution and discretion imposed on children at an age when those qualities do not usually exist. The indiscretion of children must, we consider, be presumed, and guarded against as a thing that must necessarily, and to a greater or less extent, be manifested by all of them. With regard to the adults— But the accidents which occur to the adults are of themselves evidence (unless they were wilfully incurred in a state of delirium) that the individual used all the caution of which he is capable; as it may be presumed that the loss of life or limb, or the infliction of severe pain, would rarely be wantonly incurred. They then proposed that there should be regulations for the prevention of accidents, and stated that some manufacturers concurred with them as to the necessity of that measure— Some of the manufacturers have proposed that the inspectors, who they think ought to be appointed to insure compliance with any legisla- tive regulation, should have power to inspect the factories, and direct what parts of the machinery should be fenced off, and that after such directions have been complied with the manufacturer should be relieved from further responsibility. The Commissioners added— We concur in the proposition for giving such power to Inspectors, but we do not concur in the proposal to relieve the manufacturer from responsibility. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, therefore, was the person who originated the idea of a legislative enactment for the prevention of accidents in factories. Nothing could be more deliberate than the proceedings of Parliament. An Act—the 3 & 4 Will. IV.—was passed in 1833, after the Report of the Commissioners had been laid on the table, but no notice was taken at that time of accidents caused by machinery, nor any provisions introduced into the Act to prevent them, although they wore both of frequent occurrence and serious in their consequences, and although they had been so pointedly referred to by the Commissioners. In 1841 another Committee was appointed to inquire into the subject, and that Committee recommended that the machinery in mills should be fenced, and even went into a discussion as to the mode in which it ought to be done. They proposed that upright shafts should be boxed, and that horizontal shafts, less than seven feet from the floor, should be guarded in the same manner. The then Secretary of State—the Marquess of Normanby—sent the Report of the Committee to the Factory Inspectors who had been appointed under the Act of 1833, with instructions to institute inquiries among owners, managers, machine-makers, operatives, and other persons connected with factories, and to report to him their opinion upon the propositions of the Committee. The Inspectors immediately went to work, and in the same year presented a special Report upon the "practicability of legislative interference to diminish the frequency of accidents to children." That Report showed the great care taken by the Inspectors to carry out the instructions of the Marquess of Normanby. They examined upwards of 100 millowners, managers, surgeons, machine-makers, and operatives, and there was not a single witness called before them who did not say that it was absolutely necessary that all vertical shafting, and all horizontal shafting, less than six or seven feet from the ground, should be boxed off in order to prevent accidents. Upon that point all parties were agreed; but in framing a Bill great difficulty was experienced in distinguishing that part of the machinery and gearing of a mill which ought to be fenced from that which might safely be left unfenced. The manufacturers were consulted by the inspectors as to the best mode of describing what ought to be done; and it was a fact that the Act of 1844—now sought to be mutilated—was based upon the definitions given by the masters themselves. That Act (7 & 8 Viet. c. 15) provided that all mill gearing should be securely fenced. A complaint had been made that it was allowed partly to remain in abeyance for a considerable time. There could be no doubt that the Act was not immediately brought fully into force, but the reason was that it had no sooner been passed than large numbers of the factory owners adopted a mode of fencing their machinery and gearing which had been invented for their interest, and therefore the Inspectors did not find it necessary to enforce all the provisions of the Act at once. It was important to remark that the 21st section of the Act of 1844 did not say that shafting should be left unfenced when six or seven feet from the floor, and so far it differed from the recommendations of the manufacturers. A great deal of mystification had been caused by the use of the words "boxing" and "casing." No such words were to be found in the statute, which simply said that mill gearing should be "securely fenced," leaving the masters to choose their own mode of carrying out that object. He believed that "box" or "case" would be sought for in vain in any one of the late Reports of the Inspectors. For several years after the passing of the Act it was not thought necessary to call upon masters to fence horizontal shafting seven feet from the floor, because it was believed that no danger could arise to the workpeople from gearing in that position; Mr. Saunders, one of the Inspectors, going the length of asserting that it was impossible accidents could happen from shafting so high up. But when they found that the most horrible accidents were caused by shafting not seven, but eight, nine, and even ten feet from the floor, the Inspectors became alarmed; their attention was called to the fact that many of those accidents were owing to their own neglect of duty in not putting the law fully into force; and at length, in 1854, the then Secretary of State, now at the head of the Administration, asked them for an explanation. Upon consulting among themselves they saw that they must take measures for preventing these accidents happening from revolving shafts seven or eight feet from the floor. They accordingly resolved to carry the law into effect, and to call upon the millowners to "securely fence" every portion of their gearing, whether above or below seven feet from the ground. An order was issued to that effect on the 3lst January, 1854, and one of the first effects was the arrival in London of a deputation of the manufacturers, with a view of remonstrating with the Secretary of State on the subject. One error into which they had fallen was instantly corrected. They said that the millowners had received orders to box or case their machinery. It was explained to them that the order was not one to box or case, but, in the words of the statute, to "securely fence" their machinery and gearing. Lord Palmerston received the deputation, which was accompanied by nearly all the Members for Lancashire, with his usual courtesy, and listened with interest to the statements which were made to him. Mr. Gregg, the late Member for Manchester, was the first speaker, and he assured the noble Lord that accidents could not happen from revolving shafts placed at so great a distance from the floor as seven feet. One of the Messrs. Fielden and Mr.Walker, of Bradford, also addressed the Minister, and they told him that it would be extremely inconvenient to the owners, and even dangerous to the mills themselves, to box up the gearing, but that they had long since adopted a plan of fencing shafts by means of a strap-hook, which they thought would answer the purpose of securely fencing off the shaft from the dangers which occurred by contact with the strap. This had been used in Yorkshire a long time, and was generally adopted. Now, it was the fashion among the Members of the National Association of Millowners, as they called themselves, to sneer at strap-hooks and what they term "contrivances" of that sort, and to declare that they would never consent to a compromise. But the strap-hook was no new discovery; it was constantly referred to in the Reports of the Inspectors, and by the masters themselves, as a very secure mode of fencing the shaft as it fell from the drum. Lord Palmerston then communicated with the Inspectors, and a second order was issued, distinctly explaining to the factory owners that the former order did not prescribe any mode of fencing, but merely required that the gearing should be securely fenced, leaving the masters to make their own selection. At the same time a sort of recommendation was given by the Inspectors that strap-hooks should be used. As if to prove the necessity of something being immediately done, scarcely a week had passed after the deputation to Lord Palmerston, when in a mill near Lancaster, belonging to a brother of Mr. Gregg—the gentleman who declared that no accident could happen from shafting seven feet from the floor—a man had one of his arms torn off and the other broken by an accident which might have been prevented by a strap-hook. Shortly afterwards—in February 1854—he received the following letter from one of his constituents at Oldham— 29, North Moor, Oldham, Feb. 20, 1854. "Sir,—I wish to lay before your notice a misfortune that happened to a young man of the name of Thomas Schofield, while in the employ of the North Moor Mill Company, Oldham, by which he had his right arm torn off and his left arm broken in two places and dislocated at the shoulder, on the 10th of September 1852, for which he was under Dr. Rowtin, of Oldham, until May 2, 1853. If the shaft of the machinery had been guarded the misfortune could not have happened. He immediately called at the office of the Factory Inspectors, and saw Mr. Homer, to whom he put a question on the subject. Mr. Horner turned to the surgeon's report of this accident, from which it appeared that not only had the accident referred to taken place, but the young man had sustained several contusions and bruises not described in the letter. He regretted to say that accidents of even a more serious character had occurred in factories belonging to Members of that House, and although it was painful to him to recite the particulars in the presence of those Gentlemen, yet he thought it would be more fair to cite instances occurring in the factories of Members, who might explain them or correct any inaccuracy, than instances occurring where the parties concerned could have no such opportunity. Last year a most shocking accident took place in the mill of the hon. Member for South Lancashire, who, if not a member of the National Association, was, at all events, one of the deputation to Lord Palmerston when the noble Viscount was as- sured that no danger could be apprehended from gearing placed seven feet above the floor. The accident was a fatal one.

Luke Carter, aged eighteen years, a minder of a self-acting mule, was the person who was killed. The principal strap which worked the mill had broken, and the unfortunate man was holding it, while a person named William Oates was piecing it, the strap being slipped off the drum on to the horizontal shaft. Luke Carter at the time was standing on the faller of the mule, which was six feet from the shaft; he suddenly became entangled with the strap, and was taken up, the strap embracing his head close to the shaft, and his body revolving with tremendous rapidity; his legs were both torn off below the knee, coming in contact with a steam pipe which ran the whole length of the room, four inches in diameter and a quarter of an inch thick, which was broken to pieces, his arms, ribs, and, in fact, the whole of his body being beaten almost to a pulp. Several pieces of bone and flesh were found in the room after the principal part of the corpse had been removed. He was quite dead when the shaft was stopped. The shaft was eight feet five and a half inches from the floor. Mr. Coles, the sub-Inspector, was directed by the Inspector to investigate the case, and his report was confirmatory of that of the surgeon, adding that— the shaft was not cased, had no strap-hooks, nor any other contrivance to prevent the strap from falling on the shaft and lapping round it, which, if there had been, the accident could not have happened. That was a case in which there was no strap-hook, and if one had been attached to the drum of the shaft there was little, or no probability of such an accident occurring. In that case the body of the unfortunate sufferer was reduced to a mere quivering mass of flesh, and it was actually necessary to get shovels to place it in baskets and remove it in that manner. A case so frightful it was difficult to conceive, and yet it would have been prevented by the use of a strap-hook. That case was brought before the magistrates under the penalty clause, by which factory owners were liable to be fined for not having horizontal shafts securely fenced, and was dismissed on the ground that the shaft was that height from the ground at which it was said that no accident could happen. There was another case with which he would trouble the House. He read in the Wigan Observer, on October the 20th, 1855, that— On Wednesday last an inquest was held at the house of Mr. Sutherland, the Victoria Inn, Pemberton, before Charles Edward Duffield, Esq., coroner, on the body of a young man named Michael Lacey. The deceased, when alive, resided in Princess Street in this town, but went to work at the new mill in Pemberton, which is occupied by Messrs. Gibbons and Brown, cotton spinners. The accident depriving the young man of his life occurred about three o'clock on Monday afternoon last. He was employed as jobber, and was in the act of standing on a ladder holding a strap off a shaft while a man named John Daley was tightening it at the end of the frame. A girl who was minding a frame in the same alley was eating apples, and so was deceased. Some other girls had been joking with him, asking for apples, when the young man threw a stalk at them. While he was thus reaching over, his shirt sleeve was caught by the shaft, which performs 160 revolutions per minute, wrapped deceased's arm round and took his body off the ladder. The unfortunate young man's head was taken off and thrown about seven yards distant from the place where the rest of his body fell. The left leg and arm were cut off, and the right leg was also broken off about the shin bone. The right arm remained attached to the trunk, and it was broken in several places. The remains had a truly frightful appearance. There was no blame said to attach to any one on account of the occurrence. The jury returned a verdit of 'Accidental death.' It was said that in that case there was culpable neglect on the part of the unfortunate young man; but surely it was only in accordance with reason that persons who used dangerous machinery should use even more precaution than masters generally were bound to take by law for the safety of those in their employ. Lord Campbell, in the Court of Queen's Bench, had decided that masters were bound to use the best precaution known at the time. It was unreasonable to expect that even adults should preserve such strict attention during the whole time that they were employed, and in the case which he had read the neglect of the young man was not so culpable that his life should have been risked. Another accident had happened in the mill of the hon. Member for Manchester, on the 12th November last, by which the arm of a boy, who was putting a strap upon a shaft, was nearly torn off, rendering amputation necessary; and these were accidents which had happened in mills where the shafts were more than seven feet from the floor. Since the House had adjourned for the Easter recess a dreadful accident had occurred in Bradford to a young man about sixteen years of age, which is described in these terms by a gentleman who had learned all the particulars of the case— He was employed at the mill of Messrs. Addison and Sons, and, in the absence of the overlooker, he was attempting to put a strap upon the drum of a horizontal shaft while the shaft was running at full speed. Either from want of expertness, or from a slip, the strap missed the drum and fell upon the shaft. Instantly the strap coiled or lapped around the shaft, and dragged the lad round with awful rapidity, dashing him scores of times against the top of the room, or against the articles within reach, before the terror-stricken people at work in the room could run out to stop the engine. In this mill the owners had complied with the law in affixing the strap-hook generally, but on the particular drum where this accident happened this precaution had been overlooked, being quite an exception to the rest of the fencing applied to their horizontal shaft. Had the strap-hook been placed to the drum in question, the strap would have fallen from the young man's hand upon the hook and remained still and quite harmless. One of this firm had been requested by such millowners as had joined the Lancashire League or Association to proceed to London in support of the present Bill. But it was needless to say that Mr. Addison was fully convinced that not a single drum running upon a horizontal shaft ought to remain without the strap-hook or parallel rod, whether in Yorkshire or Lancashire, or any part of the United Kingdom. These cases afforded to his (Mr. Cobbett's) mind ample proof that horizontal shafts should be fenced in some way or another, and the Inspectors of factories, the majority of the masters of factories, and the operatives themselves, were of opinion that strap-hooks would afford a great protection against accident. They had already been adopted by a large proportion of the mill-owners in Scotland; in Lancashire by nearly one-half of them; while, in Yorkshire, the adoption of them was the rule, and the absence of them the exception; would the House, then, consent to pass a Bill in order to relieve a small minority of the manufacturers of the kingdom from the necessity of any fencing? When it was found that millowners were going on from day to day fencing, would that House interpose to release them from an obligation which they seemed desirous of fulfilling? Under the Factories Act, 1844, by the 43rd Clause, power was given to the Inspectors to give notice to owners it they considered machinery dangerous, but it gave them no further power; and, in point of fact, after they had done so, the millowner might snap his fingers at them. If an Inspector gave such notice, it was provided that the matter should be referred to arbitration, if the factory owner pleased, and then what was called an award was made; but the millowner might please himself entirely about paying any attention to it; and would the House consent to placing mill-gearing on a similar footing? The hon. and gallant Gentleman had moved for a Return of the number of arbitrations which had taken place; but if he had asked for a return of the number of notices which had been given and not heeded, he would have found the number very much greater. The case had happened of an Inspector applying for penalties in a case where an accident had occurred after notice had been given; and what had been the result? Why the factory master proved that subsequent to the receipt of the notice and prior to the accident some alteration had been made in the machinery; and it was held by the justices that that alteration invalidated the notice. Now, it was impossible to identify machinery in all its parts, and thus by making some slight alteration the law could be evaded. In another case, the receipt of a notice was acknowledged by a millowner in a note, in which he said— If the markets do not improve, I shall lock up not only the part of the machinery complained of, but the mill itself, and if any of the humanity mongers like to take it they may. The Bill of the hon. and gallant Gentleman would remove all the dangerous shafting and mill-gearing from the 21st Clause to the 43rd, and the result would be that no protection would be afforded to the operatives. Now, how would an Inspector of factories go to work under the Bill if it passed into law? What was he to do? Why, it would be his clear duty to give notices in all those cases of dangerous mill-gearing, and the number of notices would be prodigious—in fact, absurd. If the Inspector neglected giving notice, and an accident occurred, he could not enforce the penalty against the millowner, and thus persons would be deprived of their contingent rights. The Inspector, therefore, if he did his duty, would be compelled to give all these notices, and, when given, there would be no power to enforce compliance with them. Now, should such a state of things be sanctioned by that House? The question was one which involved the interests of a large portion of the community, and he, as one of the representatives of a place the inhabitants of which were largely engaged in manufacturing pursuits, had felt it his duty to rise and enter into these details, painful as they were, with the view of endeavouring to dissuade the House from giving its consent to a measure which would have the effect of removing all precaution against the frequent occurrence of accidents so dreadful; and, for the reasons which he had stated, he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


in seconding the Motion, said, that if he could come to the conclusion, with his hon. and gallant Friend (Col. Patten), that there would exist under his measure no more liability to danger in the case of the operatives than under the existing law, he, for one, should give to it his assent. It was, however, because he believed that no such proposition could be substantiated that he should give to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken his cordial support. His hon. and gallant Friend had told the House that considerable doubt existed in respect to the operation of the law as it stood; but he (Lord J. Manners) was of opinion that, since the late decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, no doubts upon the subject could fairly be said to prevail. He might also observe that his hon. and gallant Friend had not stated that any difficulty would be found in fixing strap-hooks to the machinery, or that the expense consequent upon rendering mill-gear safe would be very considerable. His hon. and gallant Friend further seemed to think that the accidents which occurred in our factories were not so great in point of numbers as those which took place in connection with other employments; but he (Lord J. Manners) should submit to the House that when accidents of the most dreadful character were from day to day taking place, they ought not, because some master manufacturers deemed interference in the matter objectionable, to consent to take the proposed retrograde step of protective legislation, and thereby to subvert a system which, whenever it was put into execution, afforded an important safeguard against the occurrence of those accidents. He should entreat the House not, by assenting to the Bill, to re-open the whole of the factory question, because it was perfectly evident that the Millowners' Association had ulterior objects in view, and that if the points embraced in the Bill were conceded, they would seek to advance still further in the matter.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that one reason why he should support the second reading of the Bill was because it did not re-open the whole factory question, but, on the contrary, enabled the present factory law to be carried practically into effect, and would place it in a position which, by the co-operation of parties interested, would give to the operative classes the full benefit of what the factory law intended to give them. There had been no complaint that the arbitration clause in reference to machinery did not work well. When notices were given and awards were made, were they ever neglected? On the contrary, was it not true that the awards were invariably attended to? He had no hesitation in saying that they were, for it would be a very serious thing for the manufacturer if accidents happened in his factory and fines were levied upon him. Mr. Horner reported, in 1855, that he was satisfied that the main requirements of the law had been well observed in his district, remarking that, out of 2,867 visits made in the course of the year, only twenty-eight instances occurred in which there had been wilful neglect of the law which made it necessary to lay informations. He went into the question of fencing horizontal shafts, and he stated that he regretted that some secure fencing was not provided for them. Now, it was a very difficult thing to obey the law when it could not be said what the law was. Mr. Justice Cresswell, who was a very good authority on such matters, had laid it down that when the shafts were out of the way of those working in the factories, that was enough, and there was no occasion for fencing. The Inspectors appointed by the Government differed from one another on the subject of secure fencing, and it was difficult, if not impossible, therefore, to say what it involved. Under the circumstances, he thought the millowners were entitled to great credit for commencing proceedings, with a view to obtain from the Judges what the state of the law really was. According to the last dictum, it seemed that it was the law in all cases to apply fencing to all mill gearing. That was to be the uniform rule. Upon that, Mr. Horner, the Inspector, had expressed an opinion that it was impossible. Well then, if an uniform rule could not be obtained, a discretion must be given somewhere, so as to have the law carried out as nearly as possible. Then arose the question who was to have the discretion—was it to be vested in the Inspector or in the millowner? or should it be vested, according to universal practice in such matters, in a third person, namely, an arbitrator, who should decide the case between the Factory Inspector on the one side and the millowner on the other. A great deal of general matter had been introduced into the debate, in a narrative form, in reference to what had taken place years ago on the subject of factory legislation. He thought that the House would do well to dismiss all such matters from their minds. The question was in a nutshell, and the House might be assured that if Parliament really desired effective protection under the law to be extended to the operatives of this country, the grand point to aim at was that it should have the confidence of the employers of labour, and that there should be a feeling on their side that there was no desire on the part of Parliament to persecute them. When Parliament had the confidence of the factory owners, which it would have if it proceeded in the spirit of this Bill, it would be found that they were the only persons who could give effect to their wishes in regard to factory legislation. He trusted that hon. Members would not be misled by appeals to their feelings in reference to accidents, which were certainly very horrible, but which had really nothing to do with the question under consideration. The interest of the millowners was to protect the lives and limbs of their operatives, and they would do all they could, as they had already done, to protect them to the fullest extent. The question the House had now to deal with was, whether arbitration was necessary to settle the disputes in question, or whether they should be left in the hands of arbitrators.


said, the question had been in a manner forced upon him by various deputations. He did not believe that the Bill before the House was calculated to remove any practical protection from factory operatives; but the question raised by the Bill was, whether there was not an impossibility in carrying out the law as laid down by the Court of Queen's Bench, and whether there was not an uncertainty with respect to the interpretation of the law which required the interposition of Parliament. He apprehended that in passing the present measure the intention of Parliament simply was, that all machinery which involved danger to operatives should be securely fenced; but, unfortunately, the Act did not define what was meant by "securely fencing." The words "casing" and "boxing" were frequently used instead of "fencing;" but clearly they had not the same meaning, because it might be quite sufficient to fence certain portions, while other portions required to be cased or boxed. If it could be shown that the law as it stood was capable of being carried out, the Bill would be unnecessary. The 21st section of the existing Act required the fencing of certain machinery, and of mill gearing; and it was only to the latter provision that the Bill before the House referred. It proposed to transfer the provision as to mill gearing to the 43rd clause; but as that clause stood, a mill owner was not compellable to comply with notices or awards, though he was liable to a penalty under a subsequent section. Mr. Horner had given notices requiring the boxing off of all machinery, including horizontal shafts, at a certain height from the ground; but this had been afterwards withdrawn; and the whole of the Inspectors under his (Sir G. Grey's) direction, had issued a notice last month, stating that horizontal shafts above seven feet high need not be fenced, and that strap-hooks would be a sufficient protection for straps. That notice was signed by the four Inspectors in order to secure uniformity. There was great inconvenience, which mill-owners ought not to suffer, from the uncertainty of the law. Probably the Court of Queen's Bench had put the proper construction on it, that all machinery ought to be fenced; at the same time it was obvious that drums and pulleys could not be fenced. As to the Bill before the House, he feared if it became law it would, to a certain extent, diminish that protection to which the operatives were so justly entitled. It was evident that horizontal shafts, revolving at a height from the floor of seven feet, could be dangerous to no one, while the straps by which the shaft was driven really were dangerous; and of course it was desirable that that portion of the machinery which was dangerous, and near to which young persons were likely to pass, should be protected. Some of the difficulties surrounding the question might, no doubt, be met by the Legislature saying what should be taken to be secure, and enacting, for instance, that the system of strap hooks should be considered a sufficient safeguard. But then there was this difficulty in taking such a step—namely, that competent authorities were by no means uniform in their opinion as to what was secure and what was not; some advised one thing, some another, and in such a case it was not easy to say what course the Legislature ought to follow. There was one provision in the present Bill which certainly required amendment. It had already been adverted to by the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Cobbett). It was proposed that, when the arbitrators had directed that certain shieldings should be placed round the machinery, the millowner failing to act up to that direction should be liable to extra penalty in the case of accident arising; but no penalty was imposed upon him for not at once acting in accordance with that direction. That was certainly an omission which would require rectification before the measure was in a fit state to become law. There were other points which would also require material alterations. If his hon. and gallant Friend would consent to some modifications in his measure, he (Sir G. Grey) would undertake to arrange with him such alterations as might be necessary, and would not object to the second reading of the Bill; because he thought that arbitration afforded the readiest and most satisfactory means of settling all those questions with reference to machinery and mill gearing which at present occasioned so much dispute and led to so much ill-feeling. Moreover, if that system were adopted, he believed that there would be a more general concurrence in carrying into effect the real spirit of the Factory Act.


said, that upon his own part, as well as upon that of his hon. and gallant Friend (Col. Patten), he was ready to accept the modifications which had been suggested by the right hon. Baronet who had just spoken. He (Lord Stanley) had willingly acceded to the request of his hon. and gallant Friend, that he should assist him in endeavouring to pass his Bill into law, because it seemed to him that the claims urged by the manufacturing masters were reasonable and just, and because he deemed it expedient that the measure should be introduced by some hon. Member who occupied an independent position as regarded the parties whose interests were involved. Nothing could, in his opinion, be fairer than the comments which had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Oldham in moving his Amendment, and the only fault to be found with the arguments which that hon. and learned Gentleman had advanced was, that they did not exactly apply to the Bill under the consideration of the House. The hon. and learned Member asked whether they were prepared to mutilate the Act which came into operation twelve years ago? Without entering into the question of mutilation, he (Lord Stanley) would simply observe, that after twelve years' experience of the working of an Act they might have some further insight into its operation than they had when it was passed. His noble Friend the Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners) said, "Don't re-open the question;" but his (Lord Stanley's) answer to that was, that the question was open at that moment, and that this was not a backward but a forward step in legislation; because, practically, it was impossible to comply with the law as it now stood. By the proposed Bill protection was offered to the operatives where there was now no protection; the law as it stood was inconsistent with the facts of the case, the Bill sought to make it consistent; the law as it stood was uncertain in its operation, the Bill sought to make it certain; the law as it stood could not be carried into effect, the Bill sought to make the law practicable. They stated that the Inspectors were at present placed in an invidious position, inasmuch as they were in the discharge of their duties called upon to act both as prosecutors and judges, and that was another particular in which they wished to see some improvement effected. With respect to the machinery, he might observe, that there existed a broad distinction between the rule which applied to what was termed "mill gear" and the other portions of the machinery employed in our factories, inasmuch as in the case of those other portions the question of their being dangerous or not was a matter for arbitration, while in the case of "mill gear" the existence of danger was taken for granted, and it was obliged in all cases to be "securely fenced." So far was the distinction to which he referred carried, that in the case of a horizontal shaft, no matter how far beyond the reach of the operatives, and as a consequence how little dangerous, fencing was required, as appeared from the construction which had been put by Mr. Justice Coleridge upon the words of the Act of Parliament. Now, nobody would deny that "mill gearing" was in many respects dangerous; but he should assert that no such difference existed between it and machinery generally as to justify the separate mode of procedure which he had mentioned. He, for one, should not attach any blame to the Inspectors for the course which they deemed it to be their duty to take; but he should contend that the uncertainty of the law, which placed them in a position which they ought not to be allowed to occupy, ought to be as speedily as possible removed. With respect to the question of arbitration, the hon. and learned Member for Oldham had stated that no power existed to enforce the execution of the awards, and that the consequence was that they were, in many instances, of no practical avail. Now if that could be shown to be the case, he felt assured that his hon. and gallant Friend (Col. Patten), as well as the House generally, would be willing to consider favourably any proposition which had for its object the enforcement of compliance with those awards; but for his own part he must say, that neither from the Reports of the Inspectors or from any other quarter had he acquired any information which could lead him to the conclusion that the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Oldham was correct. All the promoters of the Bill desired, he might state in conclusion, was to relieve the manufacturers from a responsibility which in no other case prevailed; to relieve the Inspectors from the necessity of an invidious exercise of authority; and to render the law certain and capable of being practically enforced. Having done that, they were perfectly willing that it should be carried into execution with the utmost vigour.


said, he could not but think that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir G. Grey) left the matter much as he found it. The whole of the discussion had arisen out of the question relating to horizontal shafts, but those questions, when fairly looked into, would, he thought, be found to admit of a very clear answer. It was said that it was uncertain what was the meaning of mill gearing; the great manufacturer who drew the 21st section of the existing Act certainly had a clear idea of its meaning, and amongst manufacturers very little doubt in truth existed. But even admitting the doubt, how did the present Bill propose to get over it? By referring questions which might arise to arbitrators. Now, he must confess himself at a loss to understand why the decision of an arbitrator should be so much more satisfactory than that of an Inspector, and why it was supposed that an arbitrator would be able to solve the difficulty so easily which as yet had been found so difficult. And even when the arbitrator had decided in one particular instance, how would the law be rendered clearer? His decision would not be binding. It would form no rule. As regarded its particular case it might be unexceptionable; but, with respect to the country at large, it would be ineffectual and of no authority. Even supposing the text of the Statute Law as it stood to be uncertain and doubtful of interpretation, it was framed in such a way that the opinion of a Court of last resort could be easily obtained upon it, and then all uncertainty was set at rest. If the manufacturers doubted the meaning of any particular provision, it was easy for them to try a question upon it, and having once obtained the opinion of the Superior Courts at Westminster, no further doubt could arise. But, in fact, the House had in its hands a very easy remedy for all future disputes. The general, almost universal, opinion of the manufacturers was, that a system of rectangular, or, as they were usually called, strap-hooks would be found sufficient to prevent all danger. He would suggest, therefore, that instead of opening a settled question, a simple enactment should be passed, declaring that rectangular hooks should be used in certain cases. By that means every possible doubt would be set at rest, and the end of the proposers of the present Bill attained. In conclusion he begged to thank the House for the patient manner in which they had listened to him on that the first occasion upon which he had had the honour of addressing it.


said, that the question was of the greatest moment, as all questions between master and servant inevitably were. The point, however, was very short. The whole difficulty arose upon the question of fencing the drums on shafts. Now, if they were fenced, the only result would be that in case of accident, which always arose in connection with the driving shaft, the man would have his brains dashed out against the fencing, instead of against the ceiling of the room. He would admit, however, that the present state of the law in this one matter was not satisfactory, and he would therefore suggest that a short Bill limited to this one question should be brought in.


said, he thought he had some reason to complain of the manner in which the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Cobbett) had gone into the details of the accident to which he had alluded at such length, seeing that the jury upon the coroner's inquest had found that the accident, from the evidence of the deceased's fellow-workmen, was attributable to the conduct of the deceased. The law, as it at present stood, was not only uncertain, but, in the opinion of practical men, could not be carried into effect. The accidents arose, not from the shafts, but from the straps; and it was very hard upon the millowners to be bound by the opinion of the Inspectors, who were not practical men, and who, in fact, knew little or nothing about the matter. At a large meeting of operatives a resolution was passed to the effect that any law to compel the fencing in of horizontal shafts, placed more than seven feet from the ground, was unnecessary, and would be attended with danger. The masters, therefore, were not at war with the operatives upon that subject.


said, he had been actively engaged in connection with every Factory Bill since since 1816, and if he thought the present measure would lead to any infringement of the law he should resist it to the utmost of his power. His feelings and sympathies were with the working classes in this matter, but he must say he perfectly agreed with the sentiments expressed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department with regard to the Bill. All his experience and all the knowledge he could acquire led him to believe that the law could not be carried out in the sense in which this fencing was generally understood, and that if it could be carried out it would be productive of mischief rather than of good. He thought some modifications might take place in Committee upon the Bill, which would make it satisfactory to all parties.


said, he was willing to assent the proposition made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and agreed with him as to what should be defined by the law. The mill-owners did not at all wish to decline fencing in the case of any dangerous machinery; all they wished for was to be relieved from the uncertainty of the present law.


said, he should move the adjournment of the debate. Many hon. Members had not expressed their opinions upon the important subject with which the Bill proposed to deal, and he wag desirous that an opportunity should be afforded them of doing so. For his own part, he believed the measure to be the prelude to an attempt to get rid of the factory laws altogether, and the first step towards the promotion of the objects which the Manchester Association had in view.


seconded the Motion. He did so because he believed that the proposed plan could not be carried out, and the question required further consideration.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 9, Noes 198: Majority 189.

And, it, being a quarter before Six of the clock, the Debate was adjourned till To-morrow.

The House adjourned at Six o'clock.