HC Deb 22 June 1860 vol 159 cc845-56

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Exception for Boys between Ten and Twelve who have Certificates as to Education and School Attendance).


said, he rose to move the insertion in line 10 after "Colliery" of the words "for any hours not exceeding ten hours," for the purpose of limiting the hours of labour for boys, As he was un- able to carry what alone seemed to him to meet the necessities of the case—namely, the limitation of the hours of labour in the mines to eight hours a day for children under twelve years of age—he trusted the House would not refuse to limit their hours to ten. He needed not to recapitulate the arguments in favour of a limitation which in the factories had been found to operate so beneficially, but confined himself to stating that he was acting in this matter in accordance with the wishes of those engaged in the mines. He was convinced that those men who now absented themselves for two or three days at a time would, if the power of supplying their places by children's labour was abridged, be found willing to work more continuously; but, whether they would or not, on the ground of humanity he urged the claims of these children on the protection of the House, and he maintained that it was a principle of political economy to prevent the rising generation from becoming physically degenerate through excessive labour in infancy.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 10, after the word "colliery," to insert the words "for any hours not exceeding ten hours a day."


said, that the Committee had already fully discussed and decided against the principle of a limitation of the hours of labour for children employed in mines. He thought that if his hon. Friend had proposed ten hours instead of eight, the division on the last occasion would have been identically the same. What weighed with the Committee, and he confessed with him also, was that if it were practicable, some limit should be placed on the hours of labour which boys should work in mines. The testimony, however, which had been laid before him by persons having every wish to improve the condition of labourers in mines was so strong, and almost unanimous on the subject, that he really did not know how to resist it. There were twelve inspectors of mines, part of whose duties it was to protect the children employed under-ground, and eleven out of those gentlemen had reported against the practicability of limiting the hours of labour. If his hon. Friend thought it necessary to proceed with his Amendment, and did not rest satisfied with having brought his views under the attention of the Committee, he (Sir George Lewis) should feel it his duty to vote against the Amendment.


said, he could assure the Committee that he had no desire to see boys overworked; but the Motion of the hon. Member would, in fact, regulate the hours of labour for the men working in mines. The hours might occasionally be rather long, but the labour was very light; it consisted chiefly in driving ponies from the place where the men worked to the bottom of the shaft; so that if the limitation proposed by the hon. Member was agreed to, it would be a direct interference with all the labour in the mine.


said, that when they were told that it was impossible to limit the hours of labour which a boy should work in a mine, he should like to hear some grounds stated in support of that assertion. He had heard none, and no hon. Gentleman connected with the mining interest had ventured to stand up in his place and to state to the House any ground which could lead any intelligent person to the conviction that it was impossible to limit the hours of labour of a child between ten and twelve years of age to ten hours a day. To say it was impracticable meant nothing more nor less than that it might affect the profits of coalowners, with whom this was a mere question of money. Was Parliament to say that those children should be kept underground and deprived of that opportunity of improving their health and mental condition which should be accorded to all the children in this country? He understood it was the practice of men employed in mines not to work one day and to do overwork the next. He did not think that the children should be subjected to that overwork, simply because the men, for their own gratification, did not choose to attend to their work regularly. He thought the Legislature should interpose to put down the abominable system of overwork one day and drunkenness the next, and to substitute for it a more regular and methodical working of mines. The warnings and threats about the interference with masters and the stoppage of trade had been thrown out in similar terms when the Factories Bill was under discussion, but experience showed that the masters were none the worse, and trade had not decreased. He should certainly support the Amendment of his hon. Friend.


said, he knew of no instance of boys having worked in mines longer than twelve hours in the day. He could assure the House that there was no disposition on the part of coalowners to inflict hardship on those under them; but, on the contrary, everything was done to promote their education and welfare. He trusted the Committee would not accede to this Amendment.


said, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), in advocating his case, had carefully overlooked all precedent and fact, and had merely propounded his own theories. He had forgotten to remind the House that eleven of the inspectors had reported that the limitation was impracticable. It was the interest of the coalowners to take care of the boys, and such a limitation as was proposed would only have the effect of imposing a tax on the constituents of the hon. Member.


said, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets and his friends seemed to have an idea that all mankind, besides themselves, were in combination to persecute the boys that worked in collieries. If he (Mr. Clive) entertained the same opinion, he should use every effort to secure the passing of the Amendment. Practically, however, the condition of those lads was not so bad as had been supposed, while the opinion of the inspectors of collieries was against limitation. The House had already taken a large amount of labour from the mine-owners by declaring that children under twelve should not be employed in mines. Formerly the ages of children employed in mines ranged from ten to fifteen. In consequence of recent legislation they were now from twelve to fifteen. So that Parliament had deprived the mine-owners of two-fifths of the childrens' labour, of which they formerly had the advantage. If it were hereafter found that the number of hours was excessive, the House could interfere; but it would be rather hard on the mine-owners to add a limitation of the hours of labour so soon after the limitation of age.


said, the coalowners and those who represented them altogether shirked the real question, which was, what was the proper number of hours for a child to be compelled to labour under ground. Hon. Members of the House of Commons did not want paid officials to tell them what number of hours children of tender age might be worked. Any man who had a child could feel that a poor boy of twelve years old ought not to be worked more than ten hours a day. He therefore hoped the House of Commons would not listen to the arguments of in- terested parties against the dictates of humanity.


said, he should support the Amendment on the ground that the labour in mines was very severe for young children, and he knew that many mothers had a great objection to the long hours which their children were now compelled to work. He believed that many accidents took place in mines in consequence of the boys being overworked.


said, he had been always in favour of limiting the hours of labour, though he had not quite made up his mind in the present instance. At the same time, he might mention a fact within his own knowledge which might have some weight. He knew a man who had been working in a mine all his life. He was now thirty-eight years of age, and in the first colliery at which he worked there were forty boys. Every one of those boys was now dead. In the next mine at which he went to work there were thirty-seven boys employed. Those boys were all dead but three. Those facts showed that some legislative restriction was required.


contended that much exaggeration had been used in stating the case of the colliery boys, and that the exceptional cases that had been at various times brought forward were of extremely rare occurrence. Indeed, if the illustration of the hon. Member were true, there would not be a collier of forty years of age alive. As to the unhealthiness of the employment, the boys were only employed in the open air ways, and they were not stunted in growth, morally and physically, like the factory children, on whose behalf Parliamentary interference had been very properly invoked.


asserted that there were instances in which boys were worked in mines fourteen and fifteen hours at a time.


said, he also would deny that the miners and boys employed in the mines of Cornwall were overworked, or that the occupation was of the unhealthy nature described.


supported the Amendment, as the hours of labour for children in mines depended upon the men employed, and that he greatly objected to.


denied that the children were overworked, or that their employment was of an unhealthy character.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 61; Noes 79: Majority 18.


said, he would then move the insertion of the words, "before the 1st of July, 1861," with the object of prolonging the time for six months during which children of ten years might be employed without a certificate that they could read and write.


said, he had no objection to the Amendment which merely amounted to the prolonging the notice to owners of mines and collieries.

The words were accordingly inserted.


said, he rose to move as an Amendment, to leave out lines 11 to 19 inclusive, and insert,— In the second and every subsequent week during which such boy is employed in such mine or colliery the owner shall obtain a certificate, under the hand of a competent schoolmaster, that such boy has attended school for not less than five hours in each of two days (not being consecutive days, and on which he shall not have worked in a mine or colliery) during the week immediately preceding, between the hours of eight o'clock in the morning and five in the evening, exclusive of any attendance on Sundays. He hoped the Committee would not be led away by the objections of hon. Gentlemen who had not visited the mines and examined the subject; but who would, nevertheless, assert that the plan which he proposed could not be carried out. There would be no more difficulty in carrying it out in the case of boys employed in mines than there was in carrying it out in that of boys employed in agricultural labour; and he could say, from experience in the latter case, that it was quite practicable. Parliament had already decided that factory children should have a certain number of hours for education. There was still more occasion for Parliamentary interference with respect to the education of children employed in mines. It was necessary, for the physical requirements of the children, that they should be brought into the light some other days besides Sundays. Notwithstanding what had been said by some hon. Gentlemen about the good health enjoyed by miners, there could be no doubt of the fact that their occupation was not one of the most healthy, for while the average of life in England was thirty-three years, the average life of miners was only twenty-seven. It might be thought that his proposition would allow too many hours above ground on each of the days on which the child was to receive schooling; but he believed it was a well-ascertained fact, that, after coming up from a mine, children required some sleep before they were fit to receive mental instruction. Some little inconvenience might at first arise; but he trusted the Committee and coalowners would not on that account hesitate to adopt a system that would be beneficial to the children.


seconded the Amendment.


objected that the effect of the Amendment would be to lessen the number of boys by one-third, and if there were an unlimited amount of colliery labour, it might be done; but that was not so. It was necessary, moreover, that miners should learn their occupation at an early age.


said, he thought it inconsistent to expend large sums of money in the promotion of education, and at the same time to admit that they could not require boys of twelve years of age, engaged in mines, to be able to read and write. He would, however, suggest that the lime at school should be altered to "five hours on one day," instead of on two clays, exclusive of Sundays, and that, he thought, would meet the objection raised by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State.


said, that the Amendment would suspend the labour of the boys for certain periods, and at the same time would suspend the labour of adults. He did not believe that the labourers in the colliery districts were inferior in education to the labourers in other parts of the country. He thought they might very well be content with the restrictions in the Bill, and therefore he should oppose the Amendment.


said, the coalowners found their profit in paying attention to the education and sanitary condition of the children, and might safely be trusted to do what was necessary themselves. The true interest of the master was to be on good terms with the operatives, and unless employer and employed went hand in hand together, no success could be achieved.


argued, that to exclude children from employment because they were ignorant would be, in effect, to exclude them from education altogether. The Amendment, therefore, would operate more hardly upon those who were the poorest of the mining population than upon others, as the poorest were generally the most ignorant.


said, that, according to the provisions in the Bill, twenty hours in the month were to be devoted to education; but that provision might be observed by devoting five hours on each Sunday to the purpose. The law might even be complied with by devoting ten hours on Sunday and ten hours on drunken Monday to educational purposes; but that would not be attended with useful results. He considered that the time should he so arranged that it should be distributed fairly over the month, and not confined to a few days. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would make an Amendment in the Bill to meet that objection.


said, he trusted that the Secretary of State would accede to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley).


said, he would make this offer, which would, perhaps, meet the views of the hon. Gentleman—namely, to omit the words from line 14 to 19 inclusive, and to add these words— In the second and every subsequent week during which such boy is employed in such mine or colliery the owner shall obtain a certificate—under the hand of a competent schoolmaster—that such boy has attended school for not less than five hours in one day during the week immediately preceding, exclusive of any attendance on Sundays. In that way the attendance of the boy for five hours on one clay of the week at school would be ensured, and an assurance would be thus given that the time allotted for educational purposes would be distributed evenly over the month.


said, he would accept that proposition, and withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he objected to depriving children of employment if they could not satisfy an educational test for which they might not have had any opportunity of preparing themselves by previous instruction. Such a proposal was utterly subversive of every principle which had ever been acted upon, and would be injurious to the most destitute part of the community. In order to raise the question, he proposed to divide the Committee on omission of the words "the owner shall obtain a certificate under the hand of a competent schoolmaster," as that would raise the whole question.


remarked that the Factory Act was a precedent for an educational test.


said, the Factory Act did not insist upon an educational test as an indispensable qualification for obtaining employment. He maintained that the effect of such a system as that proposed would be most injurious to the coal-owners, would diminish their supply of labour, and would in the end affect injuriously the persons to be employed. He was as warm an advocate of education as any one, and education was recognized by all intelligent mine-owners as an object as necessary for the outlay of capital as any of the mechanical appliances of the mine; but he thought education might be obtained in a manner less injurious to the owner. Nor was that humanity real which would turn boys out of the coal trade without a certainty that they could obtain employment elsewhere. He suggested that the amount of instruction should be five hours per week, and that it should not be in any one day, but spread over the whole week. He suggested that the clause should specify five hours per week, without the restriction to one day.


said, that the provision in the clause went much beyond that in the Factory Act; all that was provided by the Factory Act was that children should receive education, but there was not a word about a qualification. The principle that children should not earn their bread if they could not read and write, even though they might not have had the means of education, was a principle which certainly had never been adopted before. He very much doubted its wisdom. It must be remembered that to a man earning 10s.. or 12s. a week, with four or five children, the wages of a lad between ten and twelve was 25 per cent of his whole wages. Again, in the case of a widow, the wages of a son of that age might make the difference between a home and being thrown on the parish.


said, that the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell), would perhaps be met by an alternative providing that, failing to produce the certificate of education, the child should receive education concurrently with his employment in the mine.


said, the system now proposed had been found to work well in other branches of labour—factories of cotton and silk—and he did not see why it should not be applied to children employed in mines. He thought the labour of children should be kept down to its minimum, and that their education should be raised to its maximum.


said, he must remind the Committee that there was no Question before it. They were now arrived at the word "obtain."


said, he would then propose to omit the words "obtain a certificate."

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 12, to leave out the words "obtain a certificate."


said, that to adopt the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick would be to undo what they had already done to provide education for these children.


said, he objected to any restriction being placed on the children of the poor in order that they might be educated, especially as Parliament had not instituted a free system of national education. If the clause should be agreed to, great hardship would be inflicted on the mining population.


said, he thought the suggestion of the Home Secretary a fair compromise, and hoped the Committee would adopt it.


said, however inconsistent it might appear, he should, on consideration, support the clause.


said, the clause would press hardly upon outcast children, and prevent their turning to a course of industry, by which they might obtain means and educate themselves. It was tyrannical to enact that such children should not earn an honest living, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would divide the Committee.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 69: Majority 62.


suggested that the five hours should not be limited to one day in the week, but should be distributed over the week, according to the convenience of the parties.


said, he moved the insertion of the Amendment, which he offered in lieu of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Nottingham.


suggested that the amount of instruction should be ten hours in a fortnight.


said, that the Bill as it stood required twenty hours in a month. He proposed to substitute five hours in a week, and he did not see the advantage of the medium of ten hours in a fortnight.

Amendment proposed, In line 14, to leave out from the word 'secondly' to the word 'preceding,' in line 19, in order to insert the words 'In the second and every subsequent week during which such boy is employed in such mine or colliery, the owner shall obtain a certificate under the hand of a competent schoolmaster that such boy has attended school for not less than five hours in one day during the week immediately preceding, exclusive of any attendance on Sundays

—instead thereof.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause,"

Put, and negatived.


said, as the clause then stood, it appeared that the hours of education were to be five hours in one day in each week. He should move that the words "in one day" be omitted from the proposed Amendment.

Question proposed, That the words 'In the second and every subsequent week during which such boy is employed in such mine or colliery, the owner shall obtain a certificate under the hand of a competent schoolmaster that such boy has attended school for not less than five hours in one day during the week immediately preceding, exclusive of any attendance on Sundays,' be there inserted.

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "in one day."

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the said proposed Amendment."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 84: Majority 22.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4, (5 & 6 Vict., c. 99, s. 8).


said, he would move to leave out the word "eighteen" in order to insert the words "sixteen." As the clause now stood it would provide that no lad under the age of eighteen should have charge of the engine; but a boy who had received an education and been employed in a mine might be quite competent to take charge of it at sixteen.


said, the age of eighteen had been determined upon by a majority of the Government inspectors of mines as the lowest age at which a boy should be left in charge of machinery.


said, that lads were more docile at sixteen than when they were older.


said, he did not think it too much to require that the person on whose care greatly depended the lives of all the men employed in the mine should be at least eighteen years of age.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


suggested that the insertion of the word "sole" before the word "charge" would render unnecessary the alteration in the limit of age.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 8, before the word "charge," to insert the word "sole."


said, he objected to the Amendment, as it would have the effect of compelling owners of mines to employ two boys of sixteen years of age instead of employing one, which he infinitely preferred. After some discussion across the table,

Question put, "That the word 'sole' be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 132; Noes 31; Majority 101.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.

On Motion "That the House at rising adjourn till Monday next,"

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