Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [30th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is undesirable to sanction a measure which would discourage the employment of women, by subjecting their labour to a new legislative restriction to which it is not proposed to subject the labour of men," —(Mr. Fawcett,)
§ —instead thereof.1545
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. T. HUGHES,
in supporting the Bill, said, he thought it was a very happy sign of the times when such questions as these were the only questions on which it was possible to raise any class antagonism either in that House, or out-of-doors. He was quite certain that the more such questions were approached, and the more they were treated in a judicial spirit, the better it would be for the country. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had said that the supporters of this Bill were indifferent and hard-hearted towards the employers of labour in the textile fabrics of the country, but, as a matter of fact, many of those supporters were amongst the most eminent of the manufacturers themselves. In fact, they would never pass a measure satisfactory to both sides unless with the hearty concurrence of employers. The general principle of the Factory Acts had now been accepted by the House and the country, and they were all agreed that it was for the good of the nation that work in textile manufactories should be regulated both as to hours and conditions of labour. Therefore, when the present Bill was brought forward four years age as a much-needed extension in that direction, the Government consented to grant an inquiry into the whole subject. The Report of the Inspectors who had been appointed to inquire into the subject was not only an able document, but eminently fair to both sides. The Report of the Commissioners had been adverse to the views of the hon. Member for Brighton; but the answer of the hon. Gentleman to that was that the facts disclosed .by the Report did not justify the conclusions arrived at. The three processes in which persons who were dealt with in the Bill were employed were carefully considered by the Commissioners. Those processes were carding, spinning, and weaving. With respect to carding, the Commissioners reported that the exertion required on the whole was not very great. With regard to spinning, the Report of the Commissioners who were appointed in 1833 showed that the number of spindles to each hand was 112. Now, 1546 in 1873, the smallest number attended to by one hand was 439, and the largest 562; and as to speed, more stretches were done now in two hours and a-half than formerly in 12 hours. There were also no periods of rest now. As to weaving, the Masters' Association admitted that a girl of 17 in 1848 had only two looms to attend to, while she now had four to look after, without any assistance. The throws of the shuttle, too, which were then from 90 to 1.12 in an hour, were now 175 to 200. The Report of the Commissioners put the whole of these facts in a very plain and brief shape, and he thought the House should attach due weight to the Report of the Commissioners, who had paid such close attention to the subject. Their Report, in his opinion, fully met the objections of the hon. Member for Brighton. He (Mr. Hughes) would at once admit that some compensation was given by improvements which had been constantly accruing in the machinery; but the strain upon the workpeople had been considerably augmented by the fact of bonuses being given to overlookers for the amount of work done. The Commissioners had also reported on the deaths which took place amongst the operatives employed. The ordinary death-rate of women between 15 and 45 years of age, as stated by the Registrar-General's Returns, was 866 in 100,000; but what was the rate amongst those employed in textile manufactures? In Bradford it was 1,048, or 182 in excess; in Halifax it was 1,135, or 269 in excess; and. in Keighley it was 1,197, or 331 in excess. Bad as that state of things was, the death-rate of children was still worse. In Manchester, of children under five, it was 48 per cent; and while in the North of England towns the average death-rate of children tinder one year was 7 per cent, in Manchester alone it was 25 in every 100 of the same age. He contended such a state of things as that required an immediate remedy, notwithstanding anything that his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton might say to the contrary. It was true that, individual doctors had given it as their opinion that there was no necessity for any alteration of the Factory Acts; but such was not the opinion of the Medical Chirurgical Society of Manchester, the members of which were strongly in favour of a lessening of the 1547 hours of labour and of increasing the limit of age at which children should be employed. The conclusions at which the Commissioners had arrived were in favour of the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), and they recommended that the demand for shorter hours should be acceded to. They also recommended that mothers of young children should be only allowed to work half-time, or be excluded from the factory altogether for a time, and that opinion was shared by the Factory Inspectors. He contended that the female bands in factories, who were 80 per cent of the whole, were deeply interested in this question, and were looking to see with considerable anxiety what action the house would take in the matter. He thought that the measure of his hon. Friend was especially necessary now that the Education Act had been passed, and that he would re-introduce it next Session. With respect to the observation of the hon. Baronet (Sir Thomas Bazley) as to the danger we should incur of losing our supremacy in trade if the Bill were passed, he confessed he was not anxious on that score; because as long as the employer maintained the quality of the article he sold so long should we maintain our supremacy. The great danger which we at present ran of being beaten by foreign nations was in consequence of the adulteration which the employers put into the article they sold, the principal of which was the large amount of size, which was to a great extent useless, and which was certainly injurious to the health of the operatives. It appeared, for instance, that in a 191b piece of cotton no less than 6 lb of size was used, 43 per cent of which was composed of China clay, the remainder consisting of some greasy substance, such as lard or butter, and the whole being mixed up with flour. The great test, however, as to the value of the measure was a personal one, and he asked hon. Members whether they would like any young child of their own to work as these children had to work. He was sure they would not allow it for all the money in Manchester, and he hoped they would therefore bear that fact in mind when considering the question. As far as he was concerned, he hoped and believed that the time was not far distant when working men would 1548 be ashamed to allow their wives to work in factories at all. The sooner that time arrived. the better it would be for England; but until then he thought we ought to legislate in such a way as to render the evil of the present system as small as possible, and that he thought the measure of his hon. Friend would, in some degree, effect, and he would therefore urge the House to accept it.
§ MR. LEITH,
in supporting the Bill, wished to corroborate the statement of the hon. and learned. Member who had just sat down—that the women engaged in these factories were favourable to the measure. He had presented to the House two Petitions on the subject, one of them being presented from a very large meeting of operatives at Aberdeen, among whom were many women. The argument of the speech of the hon. Member for Brighton was an anachronism. If it had been delivered with reference to the Act of 1844 it would have some force, but the principle of the Bill having then been adopted, it was no use to argue against it now. He believed the Bill to be a politic and philanthropic measure, and he would, therefore, give it his support.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that he rose to put an end to the discussion, which he regretted to see carried on in so thinly-attended a House. He also wished to offer some explanation to the House with regard to his conduct of the Bill. He was unable to obtain au earlier day for the second reading of the Bill than the 11th of June, and. on that occasion only one hour and forty minutes were available for the debate. Both the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) and the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) — whom he thanked for the interest he took in this matter—asked the Prime Minister to give a day for the resumption of the debate, and last Wednesday was fixed for the continuation of the debate. Through some unfortunate circumstances, however, the Report of Supply was not agreed to on Tuesday, and the discussion on it occupied the whole of Wednesday until ten minutes past four o'clock. Feeling, however, that it would then be impossible to secure an adequate discussion of the subject, he went to his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), whose speech was stopped by the adjournment on the previous occa- 1549 sion, and who was therefore in possession of the House, and asked his consent to get the Notice read and discharged. His hon. Friend would not agree to that course. He had prepared a speech some months before for the Shop Hours Regulation Bill of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock), which was withdrawn, and he could not resist the temptation of launching that philippic against his (Mr. Mundella's) Bill, although it was not appropriate to some parts of the measure. The hon. Member and his Seconder consequently spoke on that occasion until within three minutes of a quarter to six. Though the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government offered him (Mr. Mundella) Friday for the resumption of the debate, he did not think it would have been proper under the circumstances to take advantage of that offer; and seeing that nothing further could be gained that Session, he wished, in now proposing that the Order might be read and discharged, to say a few words in reply to the hon. Member for Brighton. In his speech, which was characterized by more than his usual force and eloquence, but with much less than his usual fairness and generosity, the hon. Member showed so many misconceptions and prejudices that it was impossible to allow them to pass unnoticed. The hon. Gentleman had charged him (Mr. Minidella) with casting unjust aspersions on the employers. He did not say what those aspersions were, and all that he (Mr. Mundella) could say was, when he introduced the Bill he had eulogized the employers, and stated that no Acts had ever been more fairly carried out both by employers and operatives than the Factory Acts. The hon. Member took exception to his (Mr. Mundella's) statement that the women were the slaves of their masters. What he stated was, that girls up to a certain age were the servants of their parents, and that when they married, unless they had good and affectionate husbands, they became the slaves of their masters. That statement was a more re-echo of what had been said by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Great pressure was put upon husbands by employers, and working-men husbands who did not wish their wives to go into the mills were told that if they did not bring them they need not come back themselves. 1550 He denied the charge of the hon. Member that he had dealt unfairly with the House in the remarks he had made with respect to the health of the factory children. When making those remarks he had taken care to distinguish between those diseases which the children inherited from their parents and those which were inflicted upon them by the peculiar character of their labour. He had nothing to retract from what he had said on that point, and it would be found by any who took the pains to refer to what he had then advanced that the accusation of the hon. Member could not be substantiated. With regard to overlookers, they were paid according to the amount of work done, and they were thus stimulated to drive the operatives to the utmost possible extent. Thus, a day of ten and a-half hours had come to be a more severe day than it was formerly, and, as a matter of fact, the pressure put upon the workers in factories, not only upon the women but upon men also, by the superintendents was such that both sexes dreaded the approach of what was called making-up day, and frequently endeavoured to make excuses to avoid the chastisement of the superintendents on those days. The hon. Member said that his Bill contained no provisions with regard to accidents and ventilation; but his reply was, that these provisions were in the existing Acts, and that all that was required was that they should be carried out properly. He had been charged with misleading the house with regard to factory legislation abroad. Now, he admitted that so far as adults were concerned, this country was in advance of other countries; but with regard to the employment of children, and educational requirements, the laws in Germany and Switzerland were much more stringent than he proposed to adopt by this Bill. As far as he was concerned, there had been no mis-statement whatever. Passing to the Resolution of the hon. Member, which, in his opinion, was an extraordinary one, he denied that the Bill would have the tendency, as stated in that Resolution, of imposing any novel restrictions on the labour of women. On the contrary, the real effect of the Bill would be to place the labour of women more and more on a parity with that of men. Properly speaking, the Bill might be called one rather to promote 1551 than to restrict the labour of women, by throwing into their hands a great deal of the work now performed by children. The manufacturers, whose views the hon. Member advocated, laughed at his theories, and despised his judgment; and there was not a manufacturer in the country who thought that the measure would have the effect of discouraging the employment of women. Moreover, from 1865 to 1870, the hon. Gentleman had himself been a warm advocate of the Extension of Factory Acts, and was a Member of the Select Committee which had made the largest extensions of the Factory Acts ever yet made, and, therefore, the change which had come over the spirit of his dream ought to be a warning to the House in regard to "new departures" and "new developments." it was assumed that the Bill was promoted by trades unions in order to injure female labour; but it would be remembered that, in some unions, one-half were women, and that there was not the slightest ground for supposing that there was any jealousy between male and female operatives in factories and mills. Then the hon. Member referred to the limitation of labour and increase of wages that had been obtained by the Newcastle engineers without any appeal to Parliament; but what possibility was there of these women and children being able to exert the same power as the Newcastle engineers? The hon. Member had also talked about undermining the independence and character of the working classes. He (Mr. Mundella) asked where independence was to be found if not among the factory operatives? The Government Commissioner during the Cotton Famine stated that he never found men so self-reliant and so ready to adapt themselves to change of work. Although he was about to discharge the Bill, the House had not heard the last of it by any means, for it would be constantly before the nation. It had already been felt in Oldham; there were three candidates at Dundee, and they were all supporters of the Bill. The hon. Member for Manchester (Sir Thomas Bailey) drew a dolorous picture of what was likely to occur if the Bill was passed. The exports were to be £50,000,000 less than now. But did he not say just the same 30 years ago? Well, our exports were then £50,000,000, 1552 and they had now risen to £200,000,000. Hardware had increased in an incredible way; and the manufacturers rivalled the fortunes of princes, and shared the privileges of the aristocracy. He would now move that the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be discharged.
said, he strongly objected to the remarks which had been directed against the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), and the extraordinarily inaccurate review of modern history which had just been delivered. The hon. Member for Sheffield had made his remarks without giving Notice, but the hon. Member for Brighton would remember them another day.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he gave the hon. Member for Brighton Notice on Saturday of what he intended saying on Monday; and the hon. Member thereupon remarked that he would be entitled to a reply.
thought his hon. Friend was acting judiciously in withdrawing the Bill in the present stage. As his hon. Friend had given Notice of his intention to move the discharge of the Order for the Second Reading he (Mr. Bruce) was not prepared to enter fully into the subject, nor did he think the House would expect it from him. He would ask his hon. Friend carefully to consider the matter before he accepted the suggestion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), with reference to the employment of women before and after confinement. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Frome thought it was an omission on the part of his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield not to have dealt with that subject. He (Mr. Bruce) doubted that. However much humanity might prompt us to provide against the employment of women before and after confinement, there was one great danger which might be incurred by making such a provision—namely, the danger of promoting infanticide. As to the death-rates in Manchester, it should be recollected that Manchester was not an exclusively manufacturing town. The population of Manchester, like that of Liverpool, was crowded upon an exceptionally small space. The hon. Member for Sheffield, in introducing the Bill, referred to a great increase of the number of accidents in factories.—[Mr. MUNDELLA: Not in factories, but in the Factory Inspec- 1553 tor's Returns; and I asked the right hon. Gentleman to account for that.] He was happy to say that there had been no increase, but a decrease in the number of accidents. The gross number of accidents had, no doubt, increased because the number of factories had more than doubled, and the number of persons employed in factories had also doubled. He hoped that next year the House would be called upon to deal with a portion of the subject. The Bill contained valuable provisions; but was open to considerable modifications, and he hoped that it would be well considered, before being re-introduced.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.