THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (MR. H. H. ASQUITIH,) Fife, E.
formally moved the Second Reading of the Factories and Workshops Bill.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, there was not much 1404 room for controversy upon any one of the general or essential principles of the Bill, but there were many points upon which more information was needed than was given in the statement of the Home Secretary on the First Reading. There were other points upon which there was ground for supposing that the classes interested had not been very fully consulted, and there were also points which involved a good deal of obscurity, and which did not indicate very careful draughtsmanship. With regard to the disputable provisions, as to which the classes interested did not appear to have been consulted, the first of these was to be found in Clause 5, which refers to work in places outside the factory. In that case the occupier of the factory was to be made responsible for the sanitary condition of places which were not only exterior to his own factories, but which might even be situated outside the sanitary district in which his factory was situated, and in the composition or policy of which he could be said to have no influence. And this provision was by the second sub-section made to apply to any place, even though not a factory or a workshop from which the work was given out. That meant that the occupier of a factory or workshop was to be responsible for the sanitary condition of what might be really an office. That sub-section, he thought, required a certain amount of explanation. Then there was Clause 19, which related to the laundries. He had no doubt that a great deal of debate on the Second Reading of the Bill would be directed to that clause. The Home Secretary knew that there was no point which divided more acutely, or created more passionate differences of opinion amongst the friends of the employment of women, than this proposal to include laundries within the general factory law. No doubt in the agitation which has led to the adoption of this proposal by the Government there had been a great deal visible of the agency of the general spirit of trades unionism which was directed, not exclusively, and he did not believe anybody could pretend in a preponderating degree by or in the interests of the women themselves. The agitation had also been made stronger than it would otherwise have been by the indirect, if not the direct, representation, contrary to the fact 1405 that laundries were not at present under the sanitary provisions of the general law, At the passing of the Act of 1891 the ordinary sanitary provisions to which workshops were liable—including those relating to all necessary painting and whitewashing—although they were made enforceable by the local as distinct from the Imperial authority, were made so locally enforceable not less in the case of factories and workshops which were not laundries as those which were, and for the first time the laundries were expressly made liable to the observance of these provisions. If that fact had been made known much of the force and weight of this agitation would have been taken away. Even if that were not so there were other considerations, besides the mere difference of opinion to which he had alluded, which should make the House particularly careful how it proceeded in the matter of proposals of this kind. There was, for instance, the fact that they had not yet been able to arrive at anything like an electoral consultation of the classes concerned. The time to say whether this legislation was justified or was founded upon the great bulk of the public opinion of those whom it principally affected would arrive when, and not until, that House had extended the Parliamentary suffrage to women. The Home Secretary, no doubt, hoped he had disarmed one important element of opposition because he had inserted words which rendered it necessary to bring the operation of the law into effect, that laundries should be carried on for the purpose of gain. By such a provision the right hon. Gentleman probably thought to disarm the opposition of those who objected to this kind of legislation in the interests of conventual institutions. He very much doubted whether those words would have the effect of excluding those laundries, and it was desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should inform them if such was his intention in inserting the words, and if not, whether he was prepared to adopt any modification of the clause which would remove the objections which were so strongly entertained in 1891, and which, he might say, actually turned the scale in 1891, for the purpose of excluding conventual institutions from 1406 these proposals. Clause 21, which related to tenement factories, was one which particularly affected his constituency. The main principle was, no doubt, good—which was that where a large building was let out in small compartments, the mechanical power being derived from one common source, the provisions of the factory law should be made binding not upon each individual tenant and occupier but upon the owner of the entire building. He doubted, however, from the way the clause was drawn, whether the Home Secretary had avoided certain evils which he ought to have avoided. Was it intended, for instance, that a tenant of one of these compartments was to be under no liability for his own uncleanly habits or for over-crowding? Then with regard to fencing, was there to be no liability except upon the owner of the building? Of course it was right that certain provisions which related to the original construction of the building should be binding on, and should be enforced against, the owner of the building, but when these structural erections had been made, it stood to reason that the keeping of them in the condition in which they were legally required to be kept was a matter really under the control only of the tenant, and could not be said to be under the control of the owner of the building at all. As he read the clause, the owner of the ground rent escaped entirely, because by reference to the Public Health Act it appeared that the owner, who was going to be made liable, was the owner who drew the rack rent from the building. He passed from that clause with the remark that he doubted whether all these provisions relating to tenement factories had been made so fully as they should have been—a matter of consultation to all the parties who had a right to be consulted in the matter. No doubt certain consultations passed when the Bill of last year was in preparation, but he believed that there were additions to the Bill of this year, as to which there had been no such consultation of all classes concerned. And here he would warn the right hon. Gentleman that he would do well to be careful how he accepted the representations of certain parties as being generally and exclusively the views of the working classes. He 1407 could speak for one large constituency where he believed that to admit such clauses put forward on behalf of certain organisations, which had been in communication with the Home Secretary, and to represent them as being exclusively the views of the working classes, would raise a smile rather then anything else. Clause 22 provided that where grinding was carried on, in one of those tenement factories, certain very stringent regulations, scheduled in the Bill, were to come into force. It might be right, no doubt, that there should be instantaneous communication, between the place where the grindstone was situated and the place where the central motive power was situated. But this provision was not complete, nor was it equitable, unless there was a penalty attached to the improper use of the communication. If such a provision was necessary at all, it would, of course, involve a good deal of expense, and they must not expect too much from it in the way of protection or safety to life, because accidents, which arose out of grinding, mainly proceeded from the breaking of the grinding wheels and the scattering of their fragments in all directions, killing the men who might be in the way. When that happened it was, of course, too late to save life by stopping the machinery. The regulations in the Schedule formed the most important part of the clause, and with regard to them one question arose, the answer to which was not provided in the Bill. The owner was made liable to put certain appliances in certain positions and to maintain them there. Was it clear, where the owner had let these compartments to tenants, that he had not parted with his right of entry into these places? Where did the Bill restore to him the right of entry necessary to enable him to put these appliances into the position required by this measure. There were other provisions which had not yet been either explained or justified. Take Clause 3 for instance. What was the administrative experience which had made it necessary to fix an absolute term of one month as distinct from the "reasonable time" required by the previous law for the action of the local authority, when required to act by notice from the factory inspector? Had there been any, and if any what, action taken by inspectors under Sections 1 and 2 1408 of the Act of 1891; and if there had been any, had the result been such as to show the necessity for fixing this absolute term of one month? The term of one month might not only be less than a reasonable time; it might be more than reasonable time. It might be too long, and might be an absolute weakening of the present law. There were a multitude of other provisions which might be the subject of explanation. There was Clause 13, sub-section 4, which related to exceptions, allowing night work in what might be called non-incidental processes in the industry of the factory. That might be right or wrong; but at any rate they should have a statement of the kind of abuses which had made such a provision necessary. Clause 14, relating to work outside the factory, except during the period of employment, was one to which public attention ought to be drawn. By that clause, children, young persons, and women, although they had not been employed in the factory throughout the period during which they might be employed, were not to be allowed to do work at home, on the business of the factory at any hour after the period of employment—in other words, if they work home work, they were not to be allowed to put one hand to the work after seven strikes, although they might have been playing themselves for hours before. The House ought to be told something of the abuses which had led to the introduction of so strange a provision. Clause 26 was a very important one, because it extended the Special Rules Clause of the Act of 1891 to modifying or limiting the period of employment of certain classes of persons. That not only applied to the employment of women, and was directed, possibly, at restricting, if not prohibiting, their employment in certain industries; but the clause went further, because its object evidently was to withdraw this kind of prohibition from the cognisance and control of this House. In future, if this clause came into operation, women and others of the protected classes would be liable to have their hours of labour "modified and restricted" even to the point of prohibition, at the direction, not of the Secretary of State, though upon his initiative; not even of this House, which had 1409 hitherto been considered the only authority competent to deal with such a matter, but at the instance and on the direction of mere arbitrators, or two arbitrators and an umpire sitting and deciding between them. He submitted this was not the way in which legislation of this important character should be made operative upon Her Majesty's subjects. There were various other clauses, of which Clause 37 was one, which had the effect of bringing certain classes under the protection of the overtime sections which were not under them before. He wanted to know whether it was intended that laundries should come under the overtime law as amended by this Bill, or whether they would come under the overtime law of the Act of 1878, for certainly as the Bill stands the words "as amended by this Act" were not present—[Mr. ASQUITH: "They are not necessary"]—and they required to be inserted. With regard to the particulars clause, he would like to be assured that the Home Secretary had the concurrence, in making these proposals, of the most skilled authorities on the subject, and amongst them Mr. Birtwistle (who was, amidst general approval, appointed inspector to carry out these provisions in 1891), and whether they were really demanded by the great bulk of the operatives themselves. With regard to Clause 39, it would be interesting to know whether it was intended to bring in workshops which existed before January 1st, 1879. He did not say it was wrong to do so, but it was not clear whether that was really the effect of the clause. Clause, 40 enacted that the occupier must send to the inspector lists containing the names of persons employed upon the business of the factory, or the workshop outside the factory or the workshop. Something to that effect was enacted by the Act of 1891, and the present provision proposed to make it more stringent. But there was a curious phrase at the beginning of the clause which had the effect of restricting its application to those establishments to which the law of 1891 for the time being applied. Did that mean only to those establishments to which that law was made applicable by the Secretary of State, for to bring the law of 1891 into operation an order of 1410 the Secretary of State was necessary. He had nothing further to say with regard to the details of the Bill. There remained, of course, the great question, perhaps not strictly relevant to the Second Reading of the Bill, because it was not touched by the Bill—the employment of children between the ages of 11 and 12 years. That was a question upon which only the representatives of certain constituencies had any very strong feelings or were impelled to take any very active Parliamentary course. But it was extremely instructive to see the marked difference in the attitude of a certain party in the House before the Debate of 1891 and during the whole time since. The House would remember that after the Conference at Berlin a great deal of indignation was expressed that in the Factory Bill of 1891 it was not proposed to raise the minimum age at which children should be admitted to industrial establishments. Good and sufficient reasons were advanced for that course, but they were not sufficient to allay the rising tide of indignation, that the House by a very striking vote, in which the Government of the day was defeated, gave effect to the feeling expressed. Was the limit of age at once raised to the standard of the Berlin Conference? Nothing of the kind. Those who had been most furious became at once most remarkably timid, and the utmost they could be persuaded to do when led up to the point was to say in the most hesitating tone that perhaps they might be ready to go so far as to raise the limit by the extraordinary period of twelve months. Four years had elapsed, and it did not appear that to go even twelve months further was a matter to which the present Government could persuade themselves to rise without the impulsion of what he might call the great body of independent opinion in the House. He did not say that with the view of dissuading them from taking that course if they thought fit; but the retrospect was an instructive one. What had inspired caution then no doubt inspired caution now, namely, the fact that, although the Berlin Conference desired to place all children under one general protective limit of age, there were States in which the limit of that protection was lower than it was in this country, whilst it was felt that a time 1411 when this country was experiencing the effects of severe foreign competition was not one at which additional restrictions, which were not in force in other States, should be imposed upon its industries. In conclusion, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite that he would receive the loyal assistance of hon. Members with whom he acted in passing this Bill, although some of its provisions were undoubtedly of a controversial character, and would have to be carefully considered. He trusted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would not adopt an uncompromising attitude with regard to amendments that might be moved in Committee, and that by means of concessions on both sides, the Bill might receive the Royal Assent during the present Session, and would have a permanent and beneficial effect upon the industries of the country.
§ *MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said, he was sure that the House would extend to him that indulgence which was usually accorded to hon. Members who, like himself, rose within its walls for the first time. Another reason that he had for asking for that indulgence was that he had always taken a great interest in this subject, and had had considerable practical experience with regard to it, having had four years' training in a factory and nearly three years at the Home Office. As secretary to the White Lead Committee, he had brought to his knowledge the peculiar dangers of the white lead manufacture, and the difficulties with which those responsible for the administration of the law had to contend. The Bill before the House was a large, complicated, and technical one, but it was based upon plain, broad, and recognised principles. He would classify his remarks under three headings. The provisions of the Bill successfully coped with dangers that might be less visible and apparent, but were no less real than those against which the original Factory Acts were directed, while they were more subtle and insidious, and certainly presented formidable obstacles to the attainment of a high standard in the conditions under which manufactures were conducted. It had been argued by a certain class of persons that it was better that some risk should be run than that a large number of women 1412 should be thrown out of employment and turned out into the streets. Upon this point the White Lead Committee had recommended that women should be excluded from five processes in white lead works, and from certain processes in the manufacture of pottery and explosives. The Committee, in their Report, said:—(a.) It is known that if lead (in any form), even in what may be called infinitesimal quantities, gains entrance into the system for a lengthened period, there is developed a series of symptoms, the most frequent of which is colic.(b.) A form of paralysis known as wrist-drop, or lead palsy, occasionally affects the hands of the operatives. There is, in addition, a form of acute lead poisoning, most frequently met, with in young girls from 18 to 24 years of age, which is suddenly developed, and is extremely fatal. In it, the first complaint is headache, followed, sooner or later, by convulsions and unconsciousness. Death often terminates such a case within three days. In some cases of recovery from convulsions total blindness remains.After duly considering all the evidence, the Committee have come to the conclusion that. (a) women are more susceptible to lead poisoning than men, and (b) young girls than full-grown women. On an analysis of the evidence of the doctors whom they have examined, it will be found that on question (a) this is the opinion of eight out of thirteen, and that only four dissent: while on (b) fourteen doctors agree while three disagree.The question before the Committee in this state of circumstances was, what steps could they take to mitigate, if not to terminate, wide-spread hereditary and, too often fatal, disease. The alternatives which the Committee had before them were these: to forbid the production of white lead, to alter the method of its manufacture, to impose certain restrictions which might mitigate disease, but could not be effective in all cases, or to exclude women altogether from the manufacture. After prolonged inquiry, the Committee came to the conclusion that in view of the insidious and deadly nature of the poison involved in the manufacture of the lead no half measures should be adopted, and they arrived at this drastic recommendation:—The Committee are aware that the enforcement of some of the recommendations they have made may appear to operate hardly upon the manufacturer. But they would point out that each of these reforms is actually in force in some works in the United Kingdom. The greatest change recommended by them is the exclusion of females from all direct contact with white lead. The Committee have seen 1413 four works where no women are employed in the white beds, in the stoves, or in packing. Judging from the experience they have had, they do not believe the number of women who would have to be replaced owing to this provision can be more than 600.In the 5th and final Report of the Royal Commission on Labour, which no one could accuse of having overstepped the bounds of reason in its reforming zeal, the following remarks were to be found—We are aware that any reform of this kind* would probably … throw altogether out of employment a number of persons who are now making a bare livelihood under bad conditions, and would thus, until thing's had readjusted themselves, increase rather than diminish distress. … but we think that, in the long run, the permanent gain to the community would much more than repay the temporary loss. We believe that to secure better sanitary conditions to all those engaged in the class of industries under consideration would prove to be the first step towards the eventual elevation of their whole standard of life, and the improvement of the conditions of labour in all other respects.The women's trade unions desired that this clause should remain in the Bill. The Yorkshire textile operatives, the Lancashire weavers, and cardroom operatives, and other societies of female workers had all petitioned in favour of the retention of the clause. It had been asserted that the general influence of the Factory Acts, by discouraging the employment of women, reduced the value of their labour, and thus indirectly encouraged prostitution. That was an old argument which was disposed of in 1877 by the report of a Factory Inspector, who said of the Factory Law—It has encouraged the employment of women rather than otherwise, their average earnings since it came to be enforced have increased in a large proportion, and not a single fact can he adduced, which would even appear to support the monstrous assertion that it affords encouragement to vice and prostitution.This Inspector also said respecting textile manufactories—Here the restrictions upon women's work are the most stringent, and yet the proportion of women employed has steadily increased.This official also pointed out that an important and very substantial advance*Certificate sufficient sanitary condition and sufficient cubic space.1414 had taken place in the remuneration given to women for their work. These references would, he hoped, lead the hon. Member opposite to the conclusion that the objection which he had raised was a theoretical rather than a practical one. He now came to the second reading, under which this subject could be considered. He referred to that part of the Bill which dealt with trades to which the Factory Acts had not been previously applied. There had been an advance of public opinion, a quickening of the public conscience in this matter which had led to a demand for the inclusion within the scope of the factory law of certain industries at present exempted from its operation. There had been a development of the old simple industries; there had been the introduction of dangerous machinery, and there had been an extension of the area of inspection. All these circumstances had encouraged a demand for the inclusion of certain new trades within the law. There was, for instance, the question of laundries. The present condition of the law was that laundries were, for purposes of sanitation, in the same position as workshops under the Act of 1891, and were consequently only subject to inspection under the local authority. He questioned whether this state of things had led to any substantial improvement and he could adduce testimony to show that the factory Inspectors had not received any material assistance from sanitary authorities. But as regards hours of labour, the safety of machinery, the employment of young persons, and industrial inspection generally, laundries were under no control whatever. The Royal Commission on the Factory Acts, that sat in 1876, recommended that laundries should be placed under the factory law. The Women's Protective and Provident League of Glasgow had passed a resolution in favour of the inclusion of laundries on the grounds of excessive hours of labour, irregularity of work, and unhealthy conditions of work, the temperature of laundries being sometimes is high as 86 degrees. Finally, the Royal Commission on Labour had recommended that laundries should be included. He thought he had mentioned very good reasons for effecting the proposed change. If time permitted he could give many instances of laundries where work was 1415 carried on under deplorable conditions. In Glasgow, for example, there was a case in which the hours were from 6 to 9 on five days in the week, and from 6 to 10 on Saturdays, deducting an hour a day for dinner there remained 85 hours of work in a week. In a case at Newcastle the hours were 64 per week, and the Inspector remarked with reference to this case—This laundry was in a very bad condition, no ventilation at all, and space very limited.It was impossible to avoid the conclusion that there was no ground for the exemption of laundries, except the general argument, which he had already attempted to deal with, as to the restrictions upon adult female labour. When, further, they bore in mind that the Executive had appointed lady inspectors to inspect factories, and that they thus had the requisite machinery at hand, the case for the inclusion of laundries must appear overwhelming. It might be found, however, to be necessary, having regard to the special conditions under which the work of some laundries was carried on, to adopt some flexible system. The processes in a laundry were successive, and not simultaneous, and to provide for that condition of things it might become necessary to make some modifications of the Bill in Committee. He came now to the last branch of the subject. The Bill aimed at certain evils which existed in factories which were now and had been for many years under the Factory Acts, and proposed to make operative provisions which, owing to means of escape, were at present practically inoperative. The hon. Member who had preceded him doubted whether a landlord could be made responsible for the operation of the law in a tenement factory. Hitherto the difficulty had been to find some one to make responsible, because in a tenement factory there were so many occupiers. Clause 21 of this Bill and the next two clauses were designed to apportion the responsibility between the owner and the occupier. Owing to the existing difficulties, the Sheffield grinders had in the past had no protection from the law. The proposals now made were the outcome of joint representations by the Chief Inspector of Factories, all the Superintending Inspectors, and Captain Smith, 1416 to whom the Department were indebted for the zeal and interest which he had exhibited. These joint representations led to an inquiry which resulted in suggestions which were submitted to the Federated Trades Council of Sheffield, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Cutlers' Company. [Mr. STUART-WORTLEY: "The representations made to the Chamber of Commerce did not cover the provisions of this Bill."] It might be that the Cutlers' Company or the employers took some exception to the provisions of the present Bill—[Mr. STUART-WORTLEY: "Last year's Bill."]—but in the main they approved of them. In tenement factories there had been an excessive number of casualities, and the sanitary conditions of these factories were too often miserable. The Department anticipated the best results from the provisions inserted in this Bill. In considering such a measure as this, one was led to enquire how far it would reach, and how far it would affect those to whom its provisions extended. By it they would bring for the first time within the operation of the law all persons employed in docks, wharves, tenement factories and laundries; they would provide for thousands better conditions of employment, and secure for them greater safety in respect of life and health, and they would provide for them a larger amount of leisure and greater opportunities for relaxation. They would restrict overtime, and prohibit it in the case of young persons. By these means they would give the rising generation, with whom lay the promise of the future, larger opportunity for education, and a more generous allowance of recreation. What possibilities were presented to them by this bare statement of facts? More holidays, more health-giving pursuits, fewer dangers, better ventilation, less night work, less overcrowding. And yet they were told that they were wasting the time of Parliament, that their debates were mere shams, and that their discussions were only worthy of provincial debating societies. He could imagine no subject upon which the time of the House could be better employed than upon a Bill which would give vast masses of our people a better chance of making the best of those faculties which they had received from nature, and of 1417 those external conditions which had brought within their reach, but only too often to withhold from their grasp, the accumulated knowledge and stored-up experience of the society to which capital and labour, employer and employed, one and all, alike belonged.
§ MR. G. WHITELEY (Stockport)
said that, after a lifelong acquaintance with factory work, he was only too happy with be able to give a general support to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. So far as regarded the class of trade with which he was connected—namely, the cotton trade, the Bill proposed no very startling innovation so far as Lancashire was concerned. It did not suggest anything in the nature of a fundamental alteration in the law as it existed at present, but rather developed existing legislation and brought it down so as to be abreast of the wants of the time. He must object to the remark of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that Gentlemen opposed to the Government would say that in bringing forward this measure the Government were wasting the time of the House. Possibly, with regard to some of the other measures of the Government that idea might be entertained, but he did not believe that any hon. Gentleman on his side of the House would say that a discussion like this was a waste of the time of the House. The time so occupied was, in his opinion, very well spent. While looking forward to the passing of this Bill into law, he might, perhaps, be permitted to express a hope that it might be looked upon as perfecting and completing for some time to come all that was required in the way of factory legislation. It was possible to have too much of a good thing, and he believed that in no other country in the world did there exist a system of factory legislation comparable to that in force in this country. No doubt, our system had been a great advantage to the workers in mills, factories, and workshops, but it must not be forgotton that continued alterations in the conditions under which work in factories was carried on were rather apt to hamper and harass trade, and might even have the effect of driving it out of the country. At the present time England was competing with the whole world. There was no market in which Great Britain 1418 obtained or held any preference whatever. That being the case, though, happily, up to the present we had held our own, still, if by repeated Factory Acts, increased stringency in the conditions under which factories were worked, was introduced, it would undoubtedly be a misfortune. Cotton factory hours in England were now limited to 56½ a week, and we were competing with the Continent, with Russia, and with other parts of the world, where, at any rate, as far as Russia was concerned, they worked up to 70 or 80 hours a week. Great quantities of machinery, too, were being imported into Brazil and into China, and that would have the result of ousting English goods from those markets. He spoke more for the operatives than for the masters when he said that he hoped that this would be the last Factory Bill that would be introduced for some time, on the ground that it was possible to legislate trade out of existence. In large manufacturing towns of Lancashire there were 3,000 or 4,000 children coming out of the schools every year for whom new work was required, and at the present time that new work was not forthcoming. Emigration was the only panacea for the evil, but if the children went abroad they would be employed under far worse conditions than at home. This Bill would probably be referred to the Grand Committee on Law, and as there were a large number of members connected with factories, who were not on that Committee, they would probably desire to say a few words on the Bill. He was glad that the Home Secretary had not dealt with the question of half-time. There were many Lancashire and Cheshire Members who would oppose to their utmost any proposal to raise the age for half-time. That was a matter upon which there was a very strong feeling in Lancashire, and a resolution had been passed at a meeting of representatives of the textile workers held at Stockport, to the effect that any increase in the age for half-time would be a cause of great hardship to the operatives who, on account of low wages and other circumstances, depended in a great measure on the earnings of their children; that the present limit was quite high enough, and that the health of the children did not suffer from entering the mills at the 1419 present age. He believed himself that if a comparison were made between different localities, it would show that the general death rate in the manufacturing towns, where children entered the mills at an early age, was as low as elsewhere, and that the adult death rate was considerably lower. The first provisions of the Bill seemed to him most valuable, so far as the cotton industry was concerned. There was no question that those factories which did not give the accommodation set forth in the Bill, ought either to be closed or made to conform with the provisions of the Bill. As to Clause 8, to which he desired to call attention, and which dealt with the cleaning of machinery in motion, it would, in his belief, be often more honoured in the breach than in the observance; for there was a great deal of machinery used in the cotton industry which could be defined while in motion by young persons with perfect immunity from danger. In a weaving machine there was no danger, and the cleaning might be carried out more perfectly while the loom was running than when it was stopped. He ventured to say that neither the Home Secretary nor this clause would prevent young persons from cleaning their looms when in motion, if by so doing they could get to their dinners a quarter of an hour earlier. He had been asked to lay before the House certain Amendments agreed upon by the Spinning Trade Association, both operatives and employers of Lancashire, and one of these Amendments was that this 8th Clause should be operative only so far as it related to dangerous parts of machinery, and in that Resolution and Amendment he most heartily concurred. As to Clause 9, if it was passed in the form in which it now stood, it was possible that a great deal of hardship would result, especially to those people who had old mills, and were desirious of altering the machinery in them. In new mills nobody would object to the space of 18 inches being allowed between a self-acting machine, and any fixed structure, but in the case of old mills, where there was not sufficient width, a great deal of hardship might be inflicted. The Amendment which the Spinning Trade generally in Lancashire desired to see carried was—that, so long as machinery was erected on the site of the former 1420 machinery, it should not be subject to this clause. He now came to Clause 12, which, it seemed to him, was rather roughly drafted. He would like to see some definition of "injury to health." As the clause now stood it would only benefit the lawyers, for it would certainly give rise to a great deal of litigation. As to Clause 13, he believed it would greatly injure the dyeing trade, unless the exemptions, which the old Act contained in favour of the trade were continued. The House was very well aware that the dyeing trade was entirely a seasonable trade, in which a great amount of short time was worked. The operatives, therefore, looked forward to a busy time of the year when they would be able to work overtime, and so bring up the average of their earnings. Therefore he ventured to suggest to the Home Secretary that if the clause were carried without exempting the dyeing trade, great hardship would be inflicted on the people engaged in the trade. With regard to the clause dealing with tenement factories, several of the subsections would, he thought, bear very hardly on the trade, and this he hoped to see altered in Committee. These and other details were somewhat technical and dry, but he hoped that hon. Members who were acquainted with them would have an opportunity of expressing their views in regard to them. In general, the provisions of the Bill were drawn with a good object, and when fairly sifted and threshed out in Committee, with the assistance of some Members able to deal with these matters in a practical way, he believed that the Bill would become a workable measure.
§ *MR. HENRY BROADHURST (Leicester)
said, that he was in the happy position of being able to give a very general support to the Bill. He had no criticism to offer as to its going too far or too fast; and, in venturing to offer a few criticisms upon those points in which the Bill did not go as far as it might, he fully realised that his right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, would himself desire to go further, and he trusted that after to-night's Debate his right hon. Friend might be encouraged to greater deeds. This Bill did more than any other measure that he remembered since he had taken part in labour legislation, in recognising the value of 1421 the lives and limbs of the workers of this country, and so far as it did so that was a wise recognition. Everyone knew that we must depend upon the stamina, character, and health of the workers to maintain our supremacy amongst the industrial nations of the world. The Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) showed a desire to minimise that part of the Bill which proposed to follow the work from the factory or workshop into the cellar or garret of the worker. He regarded this, however, as one of the most valuable and important parts of the Bill. Of what value was it to regulate the day labour in the factory or workshop and then to allow the workers to take home a large amount of work on which they might employ whole families, perhaps, through the night hours? One of the objects of such legislation as this was to follow the sweater to his lair, and there destroy him if it were possible. In regard to the last speaker he understood that hon. Member to say that there were parts of machinery which could be cleaned whilst in motion by the youngest persons employed in the factory. It was a very large request for the hon. Member to make, to ask the House to endorse such a statement as that. In his own opinion it was not fit and proper that children of 11 or 12 years of age should be employed to do that work, and he, therefore, welcomed that part of the Bill as a great advance in protective legislation.
§ MR. WHITELEY
said that his statement was that young persons could clean large parts of machinery with perfect immunity, and that this Bill would not prevent them from so doing.
§ *MR. BROADHURST
remarked that he did not wish to prevent the hon. Member from withdrawing his words, and he was very pleased to find that the hon. Member had seen the error of his ways at this early stage. ["No!"] The hon. Member's words were: "There is no danger to the youngest." However, passing from that, he would have been glad if the Government could have seen their way to prohibit overtime, in the case of females, all round and on every occasion. In regard to laundries, he believed that the Government would receive almost universal approval from all classes of the community, and from 1422 both sides of the House, in their well-intended effort to deal with the great and crying national evil of slavery in our laundries, and he believed that the House would stand by the Clause in the Bill which dealt with it. He himself had heard a great many laundry-women asking in plain, determined, and unmistakable language, for a provision of the kind now proposed. He had also heard that a great many ladies, whose only knowledge of the laundry lay in sending their linen there, were against the control of laundry work, because they believed that it would do great injury to the workers, but those ladies, not being workers, could not be accepted as such good authorities on the point as the workers themselves. He hoped that his right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, would not object, at the Committee stage, to some limitation of the hours of work in workshops called bakeries. There would, he thought, be a general desire to give some consideration to a proposal of that kind, and he would himself propose it, if one else did. Clause 13, dealing with the temperature in workshops and other places, was a very humane proposal indeed, but he would ask his right hon. Friend whether he would consider the possibility not only of seeing that the temperature should not go below 60°, but also that it should not be above 80° or 90°, because he was sure that many girls in crowded rooms in great cities suffered as much from over-heated atmosphere as they did from cold. He thought that this was a subject to which the attention of hon. Members might well be directed when the Committee stage was reached. Clause 33, dealing with sanitary accommodation for the two sexes, merely carried out and enforced upon the worst class of employers the conditions already observed by the best classes of employers, and therefore the Home Secretary was only doing an act of justice to those who had already recognised their duties in this respect. He had been in factories where the sanitary arrangements were as satisfactory as anyone could wish or desire. In regard to Clause 38, he would suggest to his right hon. Friend the insertion after the word "textile" in the first line, of the words "non-textile works" m addition. This would 1423 include many industries where the whole work was done by piece work. For instance, in the brass trade nearly every article was made by the dozen, or in other ways which brought it under the piece work system. In all the large firms the arrangements were perfectly satisfactory, but in a great number of the second and third class firms there was much difficulty on the part of the trades unions and the workpeople in obtaining satisfactory treatment from the employers. Statements were never properly made before the work was done, and often, though there might have been some agreement beforehand, yet when pay time came there were all sorts of wrangling, and the result was that the men were often cheated of the wages they had a right to expect. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would have no difficulty in accepting an Amendment to meet that point. With regard to Clause 22, he regretted that the right hon. Member for the Hallam Division did not take a broader view of the matter when he was criticising the clause; for in his opinion the clause related to one of the worst and blackest spots in our industrial system. The Bill, as it stood, certainly proposed some measure of control over the workplaces of the men; but it did not go to the root of the evil, the extent of which was perfectly well known in Sheffield, especially to the medical profession. In the four years from 1888, more than half the cutlers and grinders who died in Sheffield died from throat and chest disease, and he maintained that under proper conditions of labour this alarming death-rate might be seriously reduced. The disease of which he had spoken was brought about not so much by the ordinary pressure on the chest in the course of work as by the inhalation of the particles of stone and steel largely through working in confined and ill-adapted places. In speaking of the conditions under which men worked in the neighbourhood where the tenement factory system and grinding shops were most prevalent in Sheffield, the Medical Officer of the town said—Houses of the poorest description, with damp walls and cellars, in many instances standing several inches deep in water, contaminated with sewage and giving out foul gases into the rooms above; courts confined and occupied by large, sodden privy-middens 1424 so near to the dwelling that ventilation becomes impossible and absolutely dangerous; sink-pipes discharging in the channels, usually defective, and allowing the slops to form stagnating pools before reaching the gullies, which are situated often 50 yards away; or, what is worse, permitting of percolation into the soil of the yard. All these conditions exist in many parts of the district, and no doubt are largely accountable for the high death rate. At present almost every available foot of ground is occupied, if not by houses by privies, stables, or outhouses; the air is stagnant and the ground polluted with sewage and decomposing matter.He regretted that in those circumstances the hon. Member for the Hallam Division did not seem to fully approve of Clause 22.
§ *MR. BROADHURST
had no desire to misrepresent the hon. Member, but the hon. Member certainly conveyed to his mind that he thought the clause went too far. His own desire was to go to the root of the question and to deal with it thoroughly. The population of Sheffield as a whole was 16.5 per acre, whereas in North Sheffield—the district in which the work to which he had referred was carried on—it was 234.1 per acre. Then as to the death rate in Sheffield—for the town as a whole it was 23.5 per 1,000; in the Hallam Division it was 12.5, whilst in the North Division, where the grinding work was largely carried on, the death rate was 33.4 per 1,000. Now, he wished to make a suggestion at this point. The right hon. Gentleman might not be able to deal with it in the present Bill, but he might promote it in other ways and direct the public mind to it. The town of Sheffield as a whole was a rich and enterprising town, and it had a great municipality of which any place might be proud. Why, then, could not the town inaugurate and build municipal workshops to take the place of the horrible dens and death traps to which he had drawn attention? There was no reason why such a scheme should not be carried out, and every man who had a grindstone could pay a small rent for working it in the municipal workshop. The municipality would thus give the worker a healthy and convenient place in which to labour, and at the same time they would be able to secure an ample return for their expenditure. At any 1425 rate, he was sure such a plan would cause quite a revolution in the health and comfort of the great mass of workers, and the suggestion was one which he earnestly hoped would be practically followed up. Another difficulty which was often met with was the question of ventilation in the factories and workshops after the places were erected. This was a point that could well be dealt with in this Bill; for why should not the matters of ventilation and drainage be dealt with before the factories and workshops were erected? Why should not the plans of those places be submitted to proper inspection before they were built? No railway line could be opened for passenger traffic until it was certified by the Board of Trade, and he contended that inspection was quite as necessary in the case of the erection of factories and workshops as in that of the construction of a railway. If all the plans were submitted for inspection before the erection of the building the ventilation and sanitary arrangements could be provided far more cheaply and effectively than after erection. He instanced the cases of a factory and a great public school in his own constituency, where the ventilation and other arrangements were excellent because this course had been adopted. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to provide for this when the Bill reached the Committee stage. With regard to the question of half-timers he thought the hon. Member for Stockport had exaggerated the feeling of the operatives in Lancashire. A short time back he had formed one of a deputation to his right hon. Friend to ask him to raise the age of hall-timers to 12 years, and on that deputation they had chairmen of School Boards from Yorkshire and other places, and clergymen; and they were assured by the hon. Baronet who sat for one of the divisions of Manchester that, amongst the operatives in that part of Lancashire, there had been a great modification of the feeling which opposed the age being raised to 12. He knew how important it was in the cotton industries that children should be trained early in order to become accustomed to the rapid processes of manipulation, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman might very well submit to the Committee a proposal 1426 to raise the age of half-timers from 11 to 12 years so as to gauge the feeling of the Committee. He believed public opinion outside would support him in that attempt; certainly the feeling of the House on both sides would in the main support him. He, most cordially approved of the Bill, which was one of the best he had ever seen introduced for the protection of the lives and health of women and young workers. He hoped the Bill would rapidly become law, when it would be of great profit to the country, and a credit to the House of Commons,
§ *MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, that in the interesting and lucid speech in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill he said he was anxious to make it non-controversial. He was sure the Bill would be accepted by the House in that spirit. It was probably too much to expect, and he did not suppose the right hon. Gentleman did for one moment expect that none of the provisions would give rise to—he would not say controversy—but to any difference of opinion, and he was glad to observe that on one point—the minimum age at which children could be employed—the right hon. Gentleman not only expected but almost invited Amendment. He did not intend at this stage to refer to details, which in his opinion required alteration, or at any rate needed some discussion before being accepted. They would have an opportunity upstairs of referring to these details, but perhaps the House would bear with him for a few moments if he mentioned some points which were a little more important than Committee details. He acknowledged that the Bill had been framed with great care, and believed it to be a most valuable measure. In suggesting any amendments to it they would not be acting in any spirit of hostility. The right hon. Gentleman must already have gathered that he could rely upon all parts of the House in an endeavour to make the Bill that perfect, useful, and beneficent measure which he desired. Parliament by its legislation had recognised the advance of public opinion in the direction of requiring greater protection for the safety and health of the labouring classes, and if further legislation was required now, as it certainly was, it was because the 1427 people, in charge of factories and workshops had not themselves recognised that advance. He regretted that he was obliged to say that the employers of labour in the East of London were very serious offenders in regard to the consideration shown to those in their employ, but they were not by any means the only offenders. He was glad the Bill would apply to the employers of labour in the East End, but the Government itself was very far from being innocent, and he hoped the provisions of the Bill would apply as rigorously to Government Departments as to small private employers of labour. He was not quite convinced of the necessity for the prohibition of young persons from cleaning machines in motion. This work doubtless required experience, and might be said to be in a sense perhaps dangerous, but it was not physically hard work, and he thought it rather drastic to say that no person under the age of 18 should be told off for this work, especially bearing in mind the valuable provision as to the minimum distance of 18 inches from any fixed structure, which removed a frequent cause of danger. The worst defect in our factory and sanitary legislation was, he thought, not so much the inadequacy of the legislation as the difficulty of setting it in motion, and he was very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for providing for the speedy action of the machinery which he was creating by this Bill. He now came to overtime; and while he approved and welcomed the most rigorous provisions with regard to insanitary places where work was done, he shared, to some extent, the misgivings on this subject of his right hon. Friend the Member for East Birmingham. He would not press the point too much at the present moment, but it seemed to him that the Bill made very wide and very sweeping changes perhaps a little too suddenly, and he was not convinced that it was necessary to abolish overtime altogether for persons under 18. The hours and number of days for such persons might, and certainly should, be clearly and humanely defined. All he said was that this Bill seemed to go too far, and he doubted if it would be in the interests of the class they wanted to benefit to abolish overtime altogether. Similarly with regard to 1428 overtime for women. The right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged it would be impossible to abolish overtime for women, and his Bill did not attempt it. But had he not restricted it too much? He (Mr. Cohen) hoped he need not say he made these remarks not in the least in the interest of the employer of labour, be he or be he not a sweater But he did not want unnecessarily to cripple the earning power of the wage-earner who had to struggle against fearful competition, and he did not want to drive away from this country industries which, he was afraid, were slipping away from us, and which it was to the advantage of all classes, but more to the advantage of the poor than the rich, to keep in our hands; and the very wise provisions as to the sanitary condition of the places in which the work has to be done—which he would not relax by one iota—of themselves suggest a doubt whether, under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman had not been too rigid as regards overtime. On the subject of the age at which children could be employed, he desired only to say that he agreed entirely with what was said by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consent, as he said, to have his hand forced. There might be, and doubtless there would be, at first some opposition to this change, but he was convinced it would soon disappear, and in a short time everyone would acknowledge that the provision was as wise as it was necessary. And now lie desired to say a few words on the laundry question, which seemed to be the most difficult of all in the Bill. Hon. Members knew that a great deal literature had been distributed on this question, most of which lie had read, and he had carefully studied the reports of inspectors distributed last year as to as to hours of work and sanitary condition of laundries. On the whole, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had done well to include laundries in his Bill, but he thought if they were to remain there it would be necessary very materially to alter some of the provisions of the Bill so as to adapt it to the peculiar requirements of laundries. It must be remembered this avocation of washing differed essentially—in some very vital particulars—from any one that could be 1429 mentioned, and it was totally impossible to apply to it the same provisions which were applicable and necessary to other pursuits. There was first the question of overtime. He would say at once that if the provisions as to overtime, with reference to persons under 18, and with reference to women, were to be passed into law as they were framed in the Bill, he thought it would be impossible—it would be too cruel and too oppressive to a large and very struggling part of the population—to include laundries in the Bill. He should, personally, deeply regret their exclusion, because there could be no doubt of the mischief arising from humidity, from excessive heat, from damp feet, and he would admit also from excessive hours, and he quite recognised—nobody more willingly—that these were points which require and deserve control by legislation. But that was a very different thing from applying to this industry regulations which might be suitable—as he had said, he was not even sure of that—to other industries with which laundry work had hardly anything in common. The haphazard hours at which the work could be, and often must be, done made it a means of livelihood very valuable to some women, who would, but for this, perhaps be unable to gain their living at all. Many a widow, who had to struggle for the support of herself and perhaps a large family of young children, was obliged and was glad to seek laundry work, precisely because it could be done in those snatch hours which her domestic duties alone enabled her to devote to it, and the wife of an unskilled labourer was grateful for this small addition, obtainable in this way alone, to the too scanty earnings of her unskilled labouring husband. Such stringent provisions as this Bill would enact would crush out small laundries, and would contribute thus directly to the interests of big steam laundry proprietors, who would, of course, gain by the suppression of the small laundries. It would also be a cruel hardship to handicap, more severely than at present, women against men in an avocation which has been hitherto almost peculiarly a woman's pursuit. Already the introduction of steam power into laundries was telling very hard against the women. In 1881 the Census returns gave 3,408 men employed in laundry work. In 1891 1430 the number had increased to 6,912, or more than double. While the men had increased 102 per cent, the women had only increased by 4.8 per cent. Then, again, it would be absolutely necessary, as suggested by Mr. Sprague Oram in his letter of 23rd October 1893, to Sir Godfrey Lushington, published in the Parliamentary Paper presented last year, that nunneries and charitable institutions should only be visited in case of complaint and under special instructions from the chief inspectors. He had himself some knowledge of the working of some of the largest charitable institutions, at any rate of the Metropolis, and he knew that the laundry work, which he regarded as part of the most valuable training given to girls in those institutions, could only be carried on in intermittent hours, which had to be worked in with the general administration of the institution. If he might say with respect, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to him, when he introduced the Bill, scarcely to have taken sufficient account of these vital points—they were not simple details—when he, in a few short sentences, told them he had decided to include laundries in his Bill. He (Mr. Cohen) would be glad for them to remain included, but he would rather see them left out than included, as they would be, in the text of the Bill. With regard to bakehouses, the necessity for restricting overtime in them was far less important than the prevention of persons being-buried alive in underground bake-houses, which must often be excessively unhealthy.
§ *MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said, he congratulated the Home Secretary on having produced a Bill that would do much to sweeten the toil of workers, and also to lessen the risk of personal injury in many dangerous trades. He hoped, however, that the age of half-timers would be raised. While acknowledging the good points of the Bill, he must point out that it had one great defect, and that was that it perpetuated instead of getting rid of the distinction between the powers of the Department's inspectors over factories and their powers over workshops. His own experience, and all he had heard from others, tended to show that if anything the powers of inspectors should be greater over workshops than over 1431 factories. At any rate the necessity for oversight was greater in workshops than it was in factories. As a rule a factory was built for a specific industry, with proper sanitary and other arrangements; but this was very often not the case with workshops, which were converted buildings, such as joiners' long rooms turned into workshops for some different trade, without any provision for the convenience of the workers, without proper ventilation, with defective sanitary arrangements, and without the requisite space to prevent overcrowding as in factories. Therefore, he would urge that means should be taken to put things back again into the position they were in before the passing of the Amending Act of 1891 as regarded the powers of inspectors over workshops. He would boldly amend the commencement of the first clause of the Bill by making it read instead of "A factory shall" that "A factory and a workshop shall for the purpose of Section 3 of the principal Act be deemed to be overcrowded," &c., and he would omit the words "and a workshop shall for the purpose of the law relating to public health," thus putting workshops on the same footing as factories as to overcrowding. It was true the hands of the factory inspector had been strengthened as far as overcrowding was concerned by the Act of 1891, but what had been given in one direction had been taken away in another, because the power of the inspector even with regard to factories was much limited by Section 2 of Clause 2, while as to workshops their position was scarcely regarded, because nothing could be done under the instructions of the inspector of workshops until the sanitary authority had failed to apply a remedy. The Clerk to the Sanitary Authority was very often the agent (in Scotland the factor) to the proprietor of the very premises that ought to be put in better order. The medical officer of the district was often the only medical man in the district, and naturally he would not be inclined to interfere if he could help it with the management of the works of his best patient. These motives did not always operate, but still one could easily understand that it was a difficult position in which a medical man found himself when he had to choose between his own interests 1432 and those of the workers under his charge as a public officer. Sometimes a workshop and a factory were in the same building and were connected by a staircase, and, while the inspector could prevent overcrowding in the factory, he could not do so in the floor below because no steam was employed there. He had to send up a report to the Sanitary Authority and to wait until the complaint was investigated. The red tape and the circumlocution reminded one of "the House that Jack built." The Inspector had to report to the Clerk to the Sanitary Authority, who laid the Report before his Committee, who gave instructions to a sanitary inspector, who gave 24 hours' notice, which allowed cases of overcrowding to be discontinued on the occasion of the visit of the inspector to the property. The Sanitary Inspector reported to the Sanitary Authority's Clerk, who, through the Committee, instructed the Clerk to take proceedings. It could easily be understood that in this wicked world this loss of time and these formalities were such serious obstacles to the application of a remedy that nothing at all was done. He, therefore, put it to the Home Secretary whether it would not be wise to revert to the original arrangement which was in force before the passing of the Act in 1891 with regard to the powers of inspectors over workshops. He had a Bill of his own with this object in view, unfortunately blocked by an hon. Member on the other side, but which he yet hoped might be allowed to go to the Grand Committee, so that it might be incorporated in this Bill—a course to which, he, believed the Government would not be averse. He could not see why an inspector should not have the same power to remedy faults of sanitation, overcrowding, &c. in a workshop as in a factory. Clause 19 extended the Factory Acts to factory laundries for the purpose of securing their proper ventilation, sanitation and drainage; and he did not think the House would be able to discover any reason why a workshop laundry should have a different inspector from a factory laundry. Why, too, should a factory be subjected to less inspection because it was carried on by the members of one family? It would 1433 be necessary to introduce a new provision with regard to overtime to meet a practice which had grown up of working overtime in the morning, before the regular day's work began—a breach of regulations which it seemed to be thought it was more difficult for the inspector to check. Under the Act of 1891 the scale of penalties was varied for factories and workshops, but they ought to be the same; as certain employers in workshops would find it to their interest to pay small penalties and to defy the Act. He should be glad if the Home Secretary would ascertain whether galvanising was not an operation equally as poisonous as tinning and japanning. His main object in speaking, however, was to call attention to the difference in the powers of inspectors over factories and over workshops, and to ask the Home Secretary whether he would not seriously contemplate reverting to the principle which was in force before the passing of the Act of 1891.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he could not concur in the expression of opinion that had fallen from the hon. Member for Stockport, who spoke of this Bill as the completion of all necessary legislation. They heard the same opinion expressed when the Bill of 1891 was under discussion; but he believed there was no finality in factory legislation. The reason was that the standard of life and comfort was rapidly rising among the workers, whilst employers were more and more anxious to promote the elevation of their workpeople. But in legislating for factories we must not forget the difficulties under which the textile and other industries were carried on, and we must not increase those difficulties by harassing legislation. The Bill bristled with penalties; he did not think he had ever seen a Bill with so many penalties in the same number of clauses. Then in the Bill there was much legislation by reference, and he hoped the Home Secretary would take an early opportunity of consolidating these Acts, which were such a riddle and a puzzle that few but lawyers could understand them. He looked with some apprehension upon the increase of the powers of the central authority. In this department, as in many others, there were dangers from over-centralisation. In this connection he could not but have 1434 regard to the diminishing opportunities which the House of Commons had of criticising the action of the Government. He made no complaint with respect to the opportunities of discussing the Home Office Estimates of last year; but the House ought to be careful how they entrusted the Secretary of State with further powers without appeal or control. He should like to know why the right hon. Gentleman had fixed the number of cubic feet (in Clause 1) at 250. The cubic space necessary to health in any case depended very much on ventilation and the nature of the industry. To fix the exact number of cubic feet for every case was to carry legislation too far. In Clause 25 he noticed a new provision with reference to the use of lead. In past Acts of Parliament there had been useful provisions regulating the use of lead and other dangerous compounds, but this was the first absolute prohibition of the use of lead. Some burden of proof was imposed on the right hon. Gentleman in relation to this provision. As to the laundries, he did not know what was the state of opinion in the present Parliament, but in the last Parliament the subject was discussed several times, and ultimately laundries were excluded from legislation, not owing to any action of the employers or of polite ladies who had no knowledge of the subject, but owing to the wish of the workpeople themselves, who pressed the House of Commons so strongly that the proposed clauses were withdrawn. As representing a manufacturing district, he must refer to the subject of half-timers. Public opinion in this matter had advanced rapidly; but in the Parliament of 1891 the opposition of the workpeople to the extension of the age for half-tuners was such that the late Home Secretary felt bound to accede to their wish. From inquiries in Wigan he found that the employers had no wish for the half-time system. The care of the children was onerous, and was hardly compensated. This was essentially a workman's question, and the parents of the children who had to provide for their bodily and educational wants ought to be consulted as to whether the labour of the children was necessary to their families. In many families, a difference of 3s. or 4s. a week meant a 1435 great deal, and the children were compensated for their labour by the additional comforts which it provided. The House did well when it raised the half-time age to 11; but whether the House would be right in so soon raising the age again to 12, must be decided by the parents who worked in the factories and workshops. The House was under obligation to the Home Secretary for dealing with the bakehouses. Their condition had long been a scandal, and had involved the sacrifice of many lives. He hoped that what had been believed to be the necessities of the Trade would be found necessities no longer. Another clause to which no previous speaker had referred, but to which he attached great importance, was that which made Good Friday a holiday. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adhere to that clause. Many factory workers in Bradford had felt it a hardship that they should have to work on Good Friday, when they desired to join in the solemn celebrations of the day. He sympathised with what had been said as to the change made in the law by the Act of 1891. At the time he felt great doubts whether his right hon. Friend was right; though on the whole he was glad that the law was then changed; but now the time had come when the subject ought to be reconsidered. It was, however, totally impossible for an Inspector to be everywhere. He must act through local instruments, and none was more fitting than the local authority elected by the ratepayers of the district. The provision in Clause 27 for the notification to the Chief Inspector of certain diseases arising from causes necessarily connected with the industry was reasonable; but he was not sure that the provision for the notification of other diseases quite unconnected with the industry, was salutary. He did not wish to decrease the responsibility of the local sanitary authority, or to establish a duplication of authority. One authority should be wholly responsible. He was glad to see the imposition, by Clause 6, of a penalty on any employer who allowed wearing apparel to be made in a building of which some inmate was suffering from scarlet fever or small pox. He had received reports of an alarming character on this subject from medical men. One medical nam in 1436 London had told him that he visited a scarlet-fever patient in a house where the most sumptuous dresses were being made, and one of these was actually laid out on the patient's bed. Clause 34, he thought, was somewhat retrograde in character. The law, as it stood, mentioned the hours of six to six and seven to seven; but did not mention the hours of eight to eight. Some years ago the question was before a Select Committee on which he served, and the Committee decided against the hours of eight to eight, because they thought there was a movement in favour of early closing. He also hoped that the House would not assent to the provision in sub-Section 3 of the clause, making four o'clock the closing hour on Saturday. He strongly desired to see Saturday afternoon a holiday throughout the country, and Parliament would act most unwisely in defeating that result. The Saturday afternoon holiday was the charter not only of the working-man, but of many other classes, to whom it assured a few hours of recreation. As to the Particulars Clause, his inquiries assured him that it was satisfactory as far as it went, but he had been approached on the subject by the tailoresses, a class entitled to sympathy. They stated that they were not fairly treated by many of their employers, and these people had asked him to submit to the consideration of the Home Secretary whether he could not amend Clause 38, so as to bring in the tailoresses. It was not a question which affected the small employer alone, and he thought that some consideration was due to this highly meritorious class of persons. He trusted that this legislation would lead to an improvement in the condition of the people whom it was desired to benefit, while not doing anything to cripple the trade of the country, or to increase any of the impediments which now hindered our trade and industry.
§ *MR. WALTER HAZELL (Leicester)
said, that as an employer who had worked under the existing Factory Acts, he could not refrain from paying his tribute of respect to the way in which the Home Office had carried out the provisions of those Acts, and to the steps which were being taken towards the further protection of the workers. He observed that as far as the industries connected 1437 with bakehouses and laundries were concerned, the fear of Foreign competition did not arise. Sections 2 and 4 of the Act provided that where the premises or the machinery were dangerous in the opinion of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, the employer should be under an obligation not to use the premises or the machinery until they had been put in a fit condition under a penalty of 40s. a day. He asked why Parliament should not enact that a negligent employer, after repeated warning, should not be liable not only to a money penalty, but to imprisonment. This penalty indeed, should fall not only on the employer, but on the responsible manager or workman. The provision under Section 26, giving to the Home Secretary power to make conditions as to the treatment of dangerous trades, was one which might safely be left to the Home Office. As far as he had been able to observe the powers of that Department had been exercised in a reasonable way. His only complaint as an employer was that the visits of the inspectors were far less frequent and far more cursory than they should be, because they were undermanned. Section 30 dealt with the needful degree of warmth in workshops, and he thought the provision was one which might be employed with reason and moderation to add to the comfort of the workers. As to overtime, he showed that the ordinary working week under the Factory Acts was longer than the average week in many trades, so that considerable real overtime might be worked, even though legal overtime was forbidden. Moreover, he thought the time was approaching when young people should have the power, under the protection of the law, to enjoy some time for instruction in technical classes during the ordinary working hours. He also hoped that it would be possible to introduce in the Bill a change raising the age of half-timers from 11 to 13 years. He regretted that there was no provision in the Bill extending the period of four weeks within which it was prohibited to employ married women after confinement. He trusted that public opinion would advance even to the extent of abolishing the employment of mothers of young children in factories. He further objected to the use of the word "hands" in the schedule of the Bill as an 1438 unfitting term to be employed in describing our industrial population. Generally, however, he expressed the hope that the Bill would pass speedily into law.
MR. H. SETON-KABR (St. Helens)
, while joining in the approval which had been extended to the Bill, thought it would not be inappropriate to say a word or two with reference to some of its provisions. In listening to the Debate he observed that it had been left almost entirely to hon. Members on the Opposition side to point out the possible dangers of the Bill. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had criticised the Bill and then added that it did not go far enough; but he on the other hand thought that in some cases it might be found that it went a little too far. Foreign competition was at present very keen, and he thought everyone must be aware of the great danger of doing anything which would interfere with the prosperity and the trade of the country. He wished to call the attention of the Home Secretary to Clause 13, Sub-section 5. He represented a large industrial community; one of the chief industries in that community was the glass trade. Section 60 of the Principal Act of 1878 provided that young persons from 14 to 18 years were to work the accustomed hours in glass works. But Sub-section 5 provided that Section 60 of the Principal Act should only apply to persons 16 years of age and upwards. This meant that in the glass trade persons from 14 to 16 years of age were going to be deprived of their employment. He had received numerous letters from all classes of the men employed stating that this section would be ruinous to the glass trade. A large number of young persons were employed in this trade whose ages ranged from 14 to 16 years, and as he had seen those glass works in operation he could say that a more healthy, energetic, and lively class of boys no one could desire to see. These youths were employed under apprenticeship indentures, and if this section of the Bill were adopted apprenticeship would be abolished and the boys would lose their means of livelihood. The boys were at that age when they could most quickly gain a good knowledge of their special trade, and he asserted that no object was to be gained by raising the age. The parents would suffer by a withdrawal of the boy's 1439 earnings and a serious injury would be inflicted upon one of the staple industries of the country. He trusted the Home Secretary would pay heed to the deputation which was now seeking an interview with him on the subject. While the Debate had been proceeding he had received from the largest glass works in the kingdom the following telegram:—Factory Bill. No Homo office appointment yet for deputation. To masters and men most pressing question—most vital. Can you press successfully for early appointment?He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would meet the deputation, and, having heard the case put before him by practical men, would, in Committee, amend the Bill by having the provision in question struck out. The Government had many other questions in hand, and it sometimes happened that the consideration of a Bill of this kind was relegated to the end of the Session, when there was no proper opportunity afforded of discussing its details. Occasionally injurious provisions crept into legislation of this character, but as to the point he had raised he trusted the Home Secretary would give the House a definite pledge. He had no wish to make this a Party question, indeed, he intended to support the principle of the Bill. But it must be remembered that upstairs there was the Grand Committee on Trade. What happened in that Committee Room he had not the faintest idea, as no report was given of what took place. ["Oh!"] Well, the proceedings were never fully published, and the majority of Members had no opportunity of taking part in them. He would like to see a Bill of this kind considered in Committee of the whole House. It was most unsatisfactory to have such questions as this Bill dealt with relegated to some mysterious Committee room. On what principle a Grand Committee was constituted he had no idea, but certainly many of those who represented industrial communities had no chance under the Grand Committee system of bringing important questions before the public. On that ground he had thought it right to occupy a few moments on the present occasion. If the Home Secretary did not himself propose an Amendment of the Bill in the direction he had indicated, he hoped 1440 some opportunity would be given him of moving it. While he intended to vote for the Second Reading if the Bill passed through Committee in its present form, he would certainly consider it his duty to strenuously oppose the measure in all its subsequent stages.
§ *MR. J. E. JOHNSON-FERGUSON (Leicestershire, Loughborough)
said, he entirely agreed with the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigan (Sir F. Powell) that during the last few months the cotton trade of Lancashire had passed through one of the most serious periods of its existence, but as a Lancashire mill-owner of 20 years' experience, he had no hesitation in saying that, with one exception, there was nothing in the Bill to which a man who had felt it his pride and duty to maintain his works in a reasonably sanitary condition could properly take exception. When the Home Secretary introduced the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Matthews) expressed some doubt as to the wisdom of defining overcrowding. Looking at the matter from a practical standpoint he was exceedingly glad his right hon. Friend had denned overcrowding, because by doing so lie had laid down a clear standard at which everyone must aim. The only point in connection with that suction of the Bill of which he had to complain, was that his right hon. Friend reserved to himself the power of altering by Order the requirements as to the cubic air space to be provided in cases where artificial light was used. Every factory or workshop needed artificial light at some portion of the year, and, therefore, every factory and workshop might be affected by the Home Secretary's Order. What would be the position of an occupier of a factory or workshop? He might have erected his premises in the belief that he had conformed to the fullest extent to the provisions of the Act respecting cubic air space, and yet some day find that by an Order of the Home Secretary he was placed absolutely outside the Act. He did not contend that a larger cubic air space should not be allowed where artificial light was used, but he thought the Home Secretary-would be well advised if, before the Bill left the House, he added a Schedule to it laying down what the cubic air space 1441 per person must be in buildings where artificial light was used. The power to close dangerous factories, and to limit the right of the user of dangerous machinery by an Order from a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, was a most admirable provision. The fact that the Order was thus to be made would ensure for it a confidence and support it would certainly not obtain were it to be made by the Factory Inspector, acting on his authority alone. Complaint had been made as to the clause dealing with the cleaning of machinery while in motion. Personally, he wished the clause had gone the length of absolutely prohibiting the cleaning of machinery in motion by any woman. During the 20 years he had been interested in the management of a large concern in Lancashire, he had found that by far the larger proportion of the accidents was directly or indirectly traceable to the cleaning of machinery while in motion by women or young persons. A child worked as an assistant to some grown-up person, who exercised a supervision over it, whereas a woman or young person working independently often did not take the necessary care. He hoped his right hon. Friend would not yield with respect to that clause, and if he did make any change in it, it would be in the direction of extending it so as to include the whole of the women employed in factories and workshops. Then there was the provision as to a machine running within eighteen inches of a pillar or a projection in a building. He thought the Home Office had fairly tried to meet the difficulties of the case by the exemptions provided, but unfortunately the exemptions did not meet the entire case. He agreed with what the Member for Stockport had said as to mules. Owing to the enormous improvements which had taken place in recent, years, mules are now much longer than they used to be. To gain this extra length when new machinery is placed in an old spinning mill, the mules are placed lengthways instead of across the mill. But that would not be placing the mules on the sites which they occupied before, and they would not therefore come under the exemption. He hoped, therefore, that the Home Secretary himself would modify the proposal in the 1442 direction he had indicated. The next point to which he wished to draw attention was the provision made in this Bill with respect to additional facilities for the escape of employeés in the case of fire. He agreed as to the importance of these additional facilities, though he must say he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the best method for securing the object at which they all aimed. He did not think that anyone who had been present when one of these great mills was burnt down could help realising the terrible risk there was of the means of escape being cut off where there was only one staircase, and especially where the fire originated in the lower story. He had himself seen a serious risk of loss of life even in what was locally known in Lancashire as "a shed"—a building of one story—where a fire commenced close to the entrance of the shed. It was not through the flames that death took place; it was suffocation, owing to the immense amount of smoke and vapour generated. In that particular case which he himself saw, had there not been a second entrance to the shed there must have been a large number of persons suffocated, owing to the means of escape by the ordinary entrance being cut off. Row, on this point, he believed they in this country were very much behind other countries. He was informed on reliable authority that both in Germany and Russia no mill was allowed to be occupied until there was provided for every room in the mill two independent means of access. He had that information from a gentleman who had himself been employed in providing plans for some of the largest mills that had been erected in Germany and Russia in the last few years, and he was told that it was an imperative condition, before these mills were allowed to be worked, that there should be provided two independent staircases to the upper floors. Now what he wanted to suggest was—that far more secure means should be provided for escape in case of fire than were provided for in the Bill. There should be two separate and independent entrances to every room in a factory and workshop in which a certain number of persons were employed. The average cost of an outside iron staircase was, he believed, not more than about £15 1443 per storey, and the total cost in a fourstorey mill to provide a perfectly secure and independent means for escape would therefore only be about £45. Reference had also been made to limiting the hours of employment of young person and women who were employed inside and outside a factory. He did not see any difficulty in enforcing this provision where the outside work was in connection with the factory. But where the work was not in connection he saw great difficulty. There were cases where a wife kept a shop while the husband and family went to the mill. How could they prevent the daughters assisting their mothers in the shop in the evening? Then there was the case of the letting of a mill, where the tenant sublet a portion with motive power. Who was to be responsible in this case for the provisions relating to tenement factories? He did not think the Bill dealt adequately with this question. With regard to laundries he could only congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having dealt with this question. Only a few weeks after the last election, a deputation of his constituents waited on him and urged most strongly that laundries should be included in the scope of the Factories and Workshops Act, and there was no portion of this Bill which he welcomed more cordially than this. He thought the provisions of the Bill would work hardly on one class. There were two limitations in this Bill—first, the laundry must be carried on for purposes of gain; and second, where the laundry was carried on by members of the same family living in the same house, it was exempt from the provisions of the Bill. Notice the effect of these limitations! A woman and her daughter who took in washing to maintain themselves might require the services of some other woman to assist them. Because that woman was called in the woman and her daughter would at once be brought within the scope of the Bill, while a family of half-a-dozen living in the same house, and carrying on a much larger laundry, would be exempt from the provisions of the Bill because they have no outside assistance. Then again, all laundries attached to private houses, to schools, hospitals, and public institutions of any sort whatever were 1444 entirely excluded from the operation of the Bill, because they were not carried on by way of trade, or for purposes of gain. He thought that every laundry in which what was known as "power" was used—whether it was a private laundry or a public laundry—should be brought under the scope of the Bill so as to ensure that the machinery was properly fenced and that the hours of the persons employed in it were regulated. If there should be any exemption at all to the application of the Bill, it should be in the way of exempting those laundries in which not more than a certain number of persons were employed, rather than by exempting laundries worked by the members of the same family or attached to public institutions. He also thought that occupiers of factories and workshops had cause for legitimate complaint in regard to Clause 32, which provided that every such occupier was to send to the Home Secretary before January 21st each year a correct return specifying the number of persons who were ordinarily employed in the factory or workshop, with such particulars as to the age and sex of the persons so employed as the Home Secretary might direct. What was the meaning of the word "ordinarily" as used in the clause? He had consulted many persons as to their understanding of the clause. Some told him they would be required to make a return of the maximum number of persons for the employment of which their machinery provided; others that it was the minimum number of persons employed which should be returned; while most of them expressed themselves as absolutely at a loss to say on what lines they ought to go in order to make up the list of persons ordinarily employed in their factories and workshops. Take as an illustration the case of the concerns with which he was connected. The number of the employeés in those factories fluctuated by not less than 10 per cent, during the course of the year owing to the changes of fashion, and he should himself feel at a loss if he were called upon to advise the managing directors of those concerns as to lines on which they should make up the yearly return of persons they ordinarily employed. Then with regard to the particulars as to age 1445 and sex, did the Home Secretary imagine that if he called on an occupier of a factory or workshop to give him a detailed return of the age of every woman and child employed, such a return would be worth the paper it was written on? They all knew the difficulty of getting, for the purposes of the census, the correct ages of even their household servants; and everyone could give instances of the very small addition to the ages of women which took place, according to their own accounts, between one census and the next. It might he said that no Home Secretary would ever demand such a return. Then why were the words put into the clause? So long as such words remained the natural assumption was that they were intended to be exercised; and therefore no employer could feel himself secure in taking women into his employment unless he first insisted on having the certificates of their births. Indeed, if the clause were passed as it stood, a more appropriate title than "Home Secretary" for his right hon. Friend would be "Grand Inquisitor." A great deal was being said of the advantages of reducing the hours of labour. Many employers of labour believed that it would be perfectly possible to produce as much material in a textile factory by working nine hours with only one stop for dinner in the middle of the day, as was done at present by working 10 hours with two stops for breakfast and dinner. But they were prevented from trying the experiment owing to the provision, in one of the Factory Acts, against the employment of young women for more than four hours consecutively without a stop for meals. He would suggest to the Home Secretary that, in order to meet the difficulty, powers should be given to the Home Office to issue a licence to any textile concern that wished to work only nine hours instead of 10 hours, to dispense with the break at the end of four hours, and to work the nine hours in two sections of four-and-a-half hours each with an hour for dinner between. He believed that under such a system they could get as much work out of their machinery as under the present arrangement of a 10 hours' day. There would be a saving of time in the stopping of the machinery and the starting of it again at meal 1446 times; the cost of light in the early hours of the morning would be obviated, and there would also be the enormous advantage that, as the employeés would start work after their breakfasts, they would be in a much better condition for getting through their day's labour, and could do it more comfortably than under the present arrangement, which required them to go to the factories at six o'clock and to rush away for half-an-hour to snatch a hasty breakfast, perhaps, just outside the works, when their homes were far away. He could only say, in conclusion, that the principles of the Bill had his entire sympathy, and he hoped the suggestions he had thrown out might tend to improve the Bill, or facilitate; its easy and effective working in operation.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Mr. Speaker, I intervene at this point of the Debate, not, I need hardly say, with any intention of suggesting that any other hon. Gentleman who may wish to address the House should not do so, but because the mass of criticism accumulates at such a rate as the Debate goes on, that I feel sure I cannot, overtake it if I defer my remarks to a later stage, and my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies, who is assisting me in the conduct of this Bill, is in a position to reply to any further suggestions or criticisms which may be made. I would not be doing justice to the tone of the Debate if I did not very cordially acknowledge, on the part of the Government, the extremely friendly spirit in which this Bill has been received. Forcible and legitimate criticism of the Bill has come impartially from both sides of the House. I think it may be fairly assumed, from what took place on the First Reading of the Bill, and from what is taking place to-day, that this Bill falls within the category of non-contentious measures, to the improvement of which the energies of both sides of the House will be impartially directed. I will try to deal with all the points that have been, raised in the course of the discussion, but if I am necessarily discursive and disjointed the House will make allowance for the situation in which I find myself First of all, with reference to the definition of overcrowding in Section 1, the hon. baronet the Member for Wigan asks why we have fixed the statutory 1447 minimum of 250 feet of cubic space. That is the minimum which, as a rule of thumb has been adopted and applied by the inspectors for years past after consultation with, and with the assent of, high medical authorities, and we are merely regulating a practice which is of old standing and doing what it is fair to do in these matters—namely, giving to employers of labour and occupiers of factories and workshops notice that that is the minimum which the statute will require. I believe that no criticism has been directed against the figure of 250 in any quarter. I can only say it was arrived at after very careful consideration as the very lowest and irreducible minimum which is compatible with health and the decent conditions of work. Many employers of labour give a very much larger amount of cubic space, and we think it desirable to lay down a standard below which, at any rate, it shall not be possible for any employer to go. I pass to another point, and that is the question of provision against danger from fire, where we have provided that it shall be in the power of an inspector to apply to a Court of summary jurisdiction to require the occupier of a factory to provide movable fire-escapes. My hon. Friend who has referred to this matter seems to think that that is an insufficient provision. Perhaps it has escaped his memory that in the Act of 1891, passed by the late Government, there was a stringent provision which applied to all factories and workshops erected since that date, which required the sanitary authority to give approval to plans of buildings with special reference to the provision for escape from fire. The difficulty does not arise so much from new factories as from those which were already in existence. The Act of 1891 required the sanitary authorities, in the case of buildings where more than 40 persons were employed, to take steps to see that provision was made for the purpose of escape from fire. That is a duty which, I am sorry to say, sanitary authorities have generally neglected. So far as my inquiries have gone, there has hardly been a single case in which the sanitary authorities put that power in force; and we have thought it desirable to introduce this, which I hope will prove an effective provision, which will not require any structural alterations or 1448 impose any unnecessary expense or hardship, all that is demanded being that there shall be provided movable fire-escapes. Some criticism has been directed against the clause which deals with machinery. The prohibition of young persons from taking part in cleaning machinery in motion is, in my judgment, most absolutely necessary. As the House is aware, as the law stands at present, a child is prohibited from cleaning machinery in motion, and women and young persons are prohibited from cleaning certain classes of machinery. We propose to take the young person from the category in which he now stands side by side with women, and put him in the more protective category in which he stands side by side with children. A large number of injuries, involving lifelong damage, are caused to young persons of 14 and 15 engaged in this most dangerous work, and I hope the House will not allow this provision to be in any way imperilled. As to the somewhat more technical question touched upon by hon. Members connected with the cotton industry as to the space between the possible range of the traversing carriage of any self-acting and the nearest fixed structure, we have fixed 18 inches, and I do not think that there will be any serious difference of opinion, but that it will be agreed that in all new factories to which it applies this provision should be carried out. So far as existing factories are concerned we have gone a considerable length in the way of concession, in saying that new machinery may remain in the space occupied by the old machinery so long as it takes its place. My hon. Friend wishes us to add to that concession and to say that where the whole of the machinery of a factory is taken out, and where the new machinery which previously ran across the room now runs the length of the room and will not require the same space as the old, yet, inasmuch as there was a less distance than 18 in. in the case of the old a similar distance should be permitted in the case of the new machinery. I cannot agree with that. Where the owner of a factory completely re-arranges his machinery, replacing it by machinery in a totally different direction, it is only fair that he should comply with this provision. The hon. Baronet the 1449 Member for Wigan, referred to the provision in Clause 34, which enables—as an alternative option to that which at present exists—a workman who begins at eight in the morning to end at eight in the evening, instead of beginning at six and closing at seven, and he seems to be under the impression that there was lurking in the clause, an intention to abridge the holidays at present enjoyed, or that the work would be carried on so late in the evening that the clause might have that effect. Under the 42nd Section of the Act of 1878 this provision already exists in the case of a considerable number of specfied employments, with a power to the Secretary of State to add indefinitely to the list. That power has been largely exercised by Secretaries of State, with the result that in a large number of important industries these hours are statutory provisions. It was, therefore, thought more desirable to have this as a recognised statutory enactment and not to leave it in the discretion of the Secretary of State at the time. Another point raised by the hon. Baronet was as to Clause 25, which contains a prohibition as to the use of lead in the process of tinning or enamelling metal hollow ware cooking utensils. That is founded upon evidence given before, and recommendations made by, Committees that have inquired into these industries. I am satisfied that the best manufacturers do not employ lead, and that its use for that purpose is found to be most injurious, not to the workers, but to those who subsequently use the articles in question. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire referred to the clause relating to statistical returns, which requires the occupier in each year to return the number of persons ordinarily employed in the factory, with such particulars as to age and sex as the Secretary of State may direct. He seemed to think that that was imposing an almost intolerable burden upon occupiers of factories. This clause is founded on the recommendations of more than one Committee of Inquiry, and I may point out to him that the burden which he seems to think the occupiers of factories would be unable to perform is one which is performed already, under statutory requirements, by the owners of every coal mine in the country. The 1450 Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887 prescribes in the Schedule the form of the return, the language used being "return of persons ordinarily employed during the year." I am not aware that the owners of these mines have found any practical difficulty in interpreting the words, and if there are any practical difficulties arising from a very much larger employment at one particular season, of the year than at another, it is possible to modify the language of the clause to meet them. This country is lamentably backward, compared with many other countries, in regard to statistical returns of this character. I will say only a word with reference to the particular clause—Clause 38. No criticism, I think, has been made in the course of this Debate of the language of the clause, which has been the subject of most careful consideration, and I think we have arrived at a form of words which substantially meets the difficulty to the satisfaction of both parties. I am not at all indisposed to admit that it might be possible to amplify the clause in some particulars. I know that the hon. Baronet opposite, and the senior Member for Leicester have both expressed the opinion that this clause ought to be extended to other than textile trades. One of them, I think, instanced the case of the processes connected with the manufacture of brass, in which similar arrangements to those provided by the clause in regard to certain trades, might be desirable, and other trades,—that of the tailors, I believe, for one—had also been suggested. Upon that point I can only say that the information before me does not show at present the necessity of the adoption of the application of this clause to other than the textile industries. We have given it a very wide application in this Bill, but I think it worthy of consideration whether a power should not be added to the clause to enable perhaps the Secretary of State, by Order, to extend its provisions to other trades, if it was proved to his satisfaction that persons in those trades were paid by piece, and were paid under an arrangement such as those contemplated by this clause. If that is a suggestion which meets with general approval, I think we shall be happy to entertain it. Another point of detail touched upon the question of temperature. We 1451 have provided, by Clause 30, that in certain industries, such as the making of wearing apparel, the temperature should be kept up to not less than 60 degrees. That is a provision which is borrowed from the legislation of the State of Ohio in America. Complaints have been made to us by the lady inspectors who go through the shops in London and other large towns, that during winter a number of persons employed in dressmaking have to carry on their occupations in rooms which are either not warmed at all or very insufficiently warmed, and under conditions therefore of great discomfort and risk of injury to health. I have not had many complaints as to over-heating, and, indeed, my experience, and I think the experience of most employers of labour is, that while persons employed in industry are very sensitive to cold they are not nearly sensitive enough to heat, and that the best provisions which the Legislature makes, in regard, for example, to ventilation, are only too often defeated, because of the resolute determination of the workers to exclude fresh air or anything in the nature of a draught. So that I am afraid any limitation on that side would not be popular or secure the cooperation of those for whom it is primarily designed. As to the bakehouses, I propose, when we go into Committee, to add to the clause which deals with the subject, a provision prohibiting for the future the use of underground premises for bakehouses. I am satisfied, from what masters and men alike have told me, that both are agreed that for the future, the trade ought not to be carried on in under-ground cellars. Such a provision, I am sure, will meet with the general assent of this House. I pass to deal briefly with two or three topics which are of somewhat large scope. And first of all I would say a word on the point raised by way of protest against the transfer made in 1891 of the sanitary responsibility with respect to workshops from the central to the local authority, and by way of regret that I have not in this Bill brought back the sanitation of workshops within the scope of factory inspection. I confess I was one of those in 1891 who thought it a mistaken step, and I do not know that I have seen much ground to change my opinion. I know the grounds on which the right 1452 hon. Gentleman opposite proposed the change, and it is impossible to deny there was a great deal of foundation for it. If the whole time of Her Majesty's inspectors is to be taken up in looking after the drainage of every workshop in the country, either you must largely increase the staff or there is considerable risk of their attention and energy being withdrawn from their more proper business—namely, seeing that the hours of labour are not exceeded, that the machinery is fenced, and that generally sufficient industrial protection is afforded.
§ *MR. HENRY MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
There is another ground, namely, that the local authority has the greater part of the sanitation of the very premises under its complete control, so that it is a case of too many cooks.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I do not dispute that there was considerable ground for making the change. I am not prepared, after so short an experience, to revert to the pre-existing state of things, but I am bound to admit that there is a great deal of truth in the contention that local authorities as a whole have very ill-performed the duty which the right hon. Gentleman imposed upon them. I am glad to say that during the last year been has been a distinct change for the better. In London many of the local authorities have appointed inspectors for this purpose—not so many as there ought to be however—and the County Council, by their medical officer and his staff, wherever they have been applied to by Her Majesty's inspectors, have shown the greatest zeal in co-operating in this work and with the most successful results. There are other great municipalities—I may instance particularly Nottingham (which has been conspicuous), Hull, Birmingham, and some others—as to which there is no ground whatever for complaint; and in Scotland I need not say there is the great city of Glasgow, which has always been to the front in matters of this kind, and I may mention also, by way of parenthesis, my own county of Fife, which, though it does not contain any very large towns, has appointed an officer who is specially charged with this particular duty, which he is performing with very great success. But, with these exceptions, speaking of the country as a whole, we are compelled 1453 to admit that there is a great deal of backwardness in the performance of this duty. The cost of an additional officer and his necessary staff, and the throwing of an additional burden on the rates, is in the eyes of too many of these popularly-elected bodies a sufficient ground for the non-performance of their statutory duty. The remedy lies with the ratepayers, the working men, the people concerned. If they will only take the proper steps to secure men who are not only pledged in the matter, but on whom reliance can be placed that they will carry out their pledges, we should very soon see a very different state of affairs, and that co-operation between the local and the central authority which the right hon. Gentleman contemplated, made what it is not at present, an accomplished fact. For the time being we must leave matters as they are and trust to local authorities being aroused to a keener sense of the necessity of discharging this most important duty. With regard to overtime, I confess my own strong disposition, after careful study of the facts, was to prohibit overtime altogether, or try to do so. But I am perfectly satisfied that if I had I should not have procured the assent of the majority of the House to such a proposal. I went as far as I thought was practicable in prohibiting overtime for young persons, and in reducing the overtime now allowed in the season trades of women within limits which I am satisfied are sufficient to meet the requirements of the various trades. I know it is said by some persons of great weight, who profess to represent the views of women in this matter, that this is an illegitimate interference with female industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, to whose speech the House has listened with great attention and interest at an earlier stage, I think gave a very good answer to that contention. I have not this year had any complaints from working women, complaining against this so-called infringement, and on the other and I have received from large and important organisations of women the strongest expressions of sympathy in this provision which limits overtime. I know it may be said that many organisations connected with the cotton trade are not really affected by this question because 1454 overtime cannot be allowed in their trade, but I attach the greatest importance to their evidence, that they have been working for years as protected persons, and that the limitations in the hours of labour of women engaged in the textile industry has not had the effect which is so often feared; on the contrary, women are much more largely employed in the textile trades than ever before, they are earning better wages, and enjoying better conditions of work and of life. Although I do not in the least disguise the fact that I should have been glad if possible to put a stop to overtime altogether, I trust the concession made, which is a compromise between the extreme views on the one side and the other, will be received with general acceptance; I am satisfied it will impose no substantial hardship on any class, while it will remove many grave and scandalous abuses which have been unearthed by the inspectors in many of these so-called season trades. A subsidiary point relates to the night work of boys. I shall listen with great attention to the deputation with which the hon. Member opposite threatened me, and with an open mind, but it will take a great deal to convince me that boys under 16 employed in the glass trade ought to work at night. [An hon. MEMBER: "Not altogether at night."] I know; by night as well as by day. There may be instances so exceptional in their environment and conditions that this is a legitimate thing to do, but the cases must be few and far between where such contracts should be permissible. The only other point with which I desire to trouble the House is that which relates to the vexed question of laundries, and in regard to that I think I may fairly say that we have advanced a considerable distance in knowledge of the real position of affairs and the state of the public sentiment since 1891. We have instituted a very far-reaching inquiry, extending over the whole of the country, as to the condition of laundries, an inquiry which was carried on largely by lady inspectors. That inquiry has brought to light facts that were only suspected before, both with regard to defects of sanitation, danger from machinery, and risks from the excessive humidity of the atmosphere. In all of these particulars a state of 1455 things almost incompatible with civilisation, certainly with the whole spirit of our factory legislation, has been disclosed and proved. It cannot now be disputed that laundries generally should come under the Factory Act, and all that is now claimed is that certain classes of laundries should be treated exceptionally. There is an instruction, upon the paper to exclude from the scope of the Bill laundries that are connected with reformatories, refuges, penetentiaries, and industrial homes. It has also been suggested that the conventual establishments should likewise be excluded. What is our position in regard to that matter? In the first place, I say that except where a laundry falls within the category of a domestic workshop that is carried on for the purposes of gain they should all be brought under the scope of the Factory Act. The difficulty about conventual laundries has, I think, been largely removed by the appointment of female inspectors. The nuns and others who carry on these institutions object, with perhaps good reason, to the intrusion of men into such places, but the inquiries that have been made in Ireland by one of the lady inspectors lead us to believe that the same objection will not be raised with regard to the inspection of these institutions by ladies. No objection will be raised to the provisions of the Bill with regard to the hours of labour in such laundries. Where machinery is used the same precautions should be required as in any other factories, and the hours of labour should not exceed the maximum period allowed under the Factory Act. I do not think that anyone can object to these conditions. If they are assented to I shall be prepared to meet objections on matters of detail. It may be necessary, in view of the peculiar character of some of these institutions and the somewhat disciplinary nature of their management, to apply to them a somewhat more elastic rule, and I shall be quite willing to add words to this clause to meet such cases. But we cannot concede that they are entitled without inspection to have machinery which is dangerous in its character or operation, or to employ persons for a larger number of hours than the Factory Act allows. I think that that is a reasonable arrangement that will be acceptable to the House, 1456 and that we ought to have no difficulty in coming to an agreement in regard to it. As to the case of laundries generally and overtime, I have to say that, in my opinion, the difficulties arising from a large pressure of work at particular seasons will yield to practical experience. If it is once made clear that those employed in laundries like other factories, are only to work a certain number of hours and we are giving them a provision as to overtime, I believe that the habits of the householders of this country will very soon adapt themselves to the new state of the law. It is the same with regard to the dressmakers, the pressure of whose orders comes in certain seasons, which they can predict as well as an astronomer can predict an eclipse. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] I trust that the House will face the facts of the case as they really are, and will cooperate with the Government in bringing these industries effectively within the range of the law, and secure to those employed in laundries the protection which they require quite as much as any other class of the community. I trust that the House will allow me to leave the matter here, and I can assure hon. Members that we shall welcome any practical suggestions that may be made from any quarter of the House.
§ *SIR ALFRED HICKMAN () Wolverhampton, W.
desired to say a few words on a clause in the Bill which, if it became law, would have a most disastrous effect on the iron manufacture of the country. At the present time iron manufacturers were in this difficulty—that they were unable to find sufficient employment for the men seeking it; therefore anything that would tend to increase the number of men to be employed should not be enacted unless a very strong case was made out for it. Section 58 of the Act of 1878 permitted the employment of boys of 14 and upwards at night. By this Bill it was proposed to alter that. If, however, boys were never to work at night, they would be unable to work at all, because in blast furnaces and Iron Works the work was continuous, and the men would consequently have to do all the night work. Therefore the prohibition for boys to work at night was a prohibition to work at all until they attained the age of 16. Boys of that class could complete their education by 14. What, then, was to become 1457 of them between that age and 16? The fact was that in an iron mill, unless a youth were to begin early, he could not become sufficiently dexterous, and if this clause should become law it would have a most disastrous effect not only on the trade, but on the workmen themselves, who, for the most part, were accustomed to bring up their sons to the same industry, and who viewed the present proposal with positive consternation. He had been beset, with applications to use every effort to induce the Home Secretary to reconsider his decision, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would listen to the representations made to him, and that he would consent to receive a deputation on the subject.
§ MR. W. ALLEN () Newcastle-under-Lyme
said, that he had put down an Instruction on the subject of licensing all places to which work is given out, and, if in order, he would move it; but if not he would in Committee move an Amendment to the effect that all places to which work is given out by or on behalf of the occupier, and every workshop or factory shall be licensed. This was the law in New Zealand, Massachusetts, and other places, and it seemed to him that, until some such system prevailed in this country also, they would be unable to prevent sweating altogether or to be sure that work was being done outside the factory under sanitary conditions. He did not, however, think that an Amendment of this kind should go too far, and he would not have it apply to any domestic workshop. Adverting to Section 30, the Home Secretary had stated that he had not heard any complaints as to the temperature of places where wearing apparel was made being too warm. In his opinion, however, there was a strong feeling that something should be done with regard to the maximum temperature of workshops. Amongst the tailors in London the feeling was far stronger in respect to maximum than minimum temperature. He quite admitted that this was a difficult matter to deal with on account of the variations of temperature outside, but he suggested that power should be given to the Home Secretary tit say that the inside temperature should not exceed a certain ratio to the temperature outside. He hoped that the Government would devise some plan by which the 1458 inside temperature should be kept down below, say 70 deg. He thought that Section 28, dealing with factories and workshops where lead and other poisonous substances were used would, as far as it went, do a large amount of good; but he did not think that it went far enough. In his opinion, the owner of such a factory should be compelled to provide overalls or coverings for his workmen during the time that they were working with the poisonous material. If the Government would favourably consider any Amendment for lessening the number of cases of lead-poisoning, the benefits of this section would be considerably extended. In regard to the clause limiting overtime for women, he wished that the Home Secretary had been able to go a little farther, so as altogether to prohibit women from working overtime, and he thought that the Home Secretary would have had behind him the vast majority of the organised women workers. He, recognised, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had taken a long step in the right direction, and he took it that the only reason why the right hon. Gentleman had not gone the whole length of prohibiting overtime was because he did not wish to introduce too much contentious matter into his Bill, and thus hinder it from becoming law during the present Session. As the Bill now stood it would, he believed, do a great deal of good; and if the Government would consent to Amendments for limiting the maximum temperature and providing for the inspection of all places where work was given out it would do still more good in ameliorating the condition of the worker's in whose interests it had been framed.
*MR. W. E. M. TOMLTNSON () Preston
congratulated the Home Secretary on having introduced a Bill which, so far as respected the textile industries, in which his constituents were chiefly concerned, neither workmen nor employers would take exception to on the Second Reading. He was glad to know that on the Amendments to be proposed thereafter on behalf of those engaged in textile manufactures, noantagonism would be shown between employers and employed; and he hoped that this would induce the Home Secretary to look with a favourable eye upon the Amendments which would be so brought forward. He 1459 was very glad that the Home Secretary had not introduced into the Bill any clause raising the ago of half-timers, and he hoped the Government would maintain a neutral attitude on the subject. In the present depressed condition of the cotton trade and other textile industries, it would be very undesirable to disturb the existing conditions of labour in regard to half-timers, and he certainly thought the right hon. Gentleman had been wisely advised in not introducing this contentious question into the measure It was the custom in the textile industries for the several members of a family to distribute themselves for work in different factories, the object being that if one factory ceased to work money might still come to the family from the workers in the other factories, and the chances of actual destitution coming upon them be greatly reduced. With respect to the selected number of cubic feet of air to be allowed to each person in a factory, he thought that with regard to the textile industries at least, there would be no difficulty in complying with the minimum amount of space required by the law. But he was bound to say that he agreed with the hon. Member for Leicestershire in disapproving of the provision which would enable the Home Secretary to extend, at his discretion, the minimum number of cubic feet of air required in a factory. As he understood the Bill, this power of extension was not to be limited to new factories, and if the amount of space per workman was liable to be varied in factories already built at the will purely of the Home Secretary, no man would know the conditions under which he could carry on his work. But he should object on principle to giving any Member of the Government so arbitrary a power as this, and he hoped the matter would be very carefully discussed and considered in Committee. He did not know how far the Government factories and workshops came within the limits of the Bill; or, if they were not included, how far it would be possible to include them by Amendments in Committee. Hon. Members were aware that this question of placing the Government establishments under inspection in the same way as private factories had often been referred to recently, and especially in relation to 1460 the disastrous explosions that had occurred at Waltham Abbey explosives factory, through which loss of life and serious injury had occurred. It was then strongly contended that the regulations for safe working in those establishments could not be enforced with the same stringency as they could be if they were under the Home Office inspectors. He also desired to press on the Government that they would never have the same care and attention paid to those details which concerned the health of the persons employed in Government factories and establishments until they placed them under those skilled and experienced inspectors who were appointed for the purpose of inspecting private factories. If they took the case of a Government establishment, the manager was under the obligation of satisfying not only the head of his Department, but also the Treasury. No Government Department had anything like a capital account, and could not be forced, as a private manufacturer could, to spend capital or close his works. He had been supplied with particulars as to the condition of different post offices. He would not give the names, but the first was one in which there was overcrowding, and the ventilation was artificial and insufficient
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, the cases he referred to were those of ordinary post offices, and he used the argument to show the desirability of putting all these places under Government Inspectors. The unsanitary condition went on increasing for years, because of the increase of the business in the office, but nothing was done, although the Postmaster General knew that the accommodation was insanitary and insufficient, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer only allowed him a small amount each year for reconstructions and extensions. Another case he had was one where the temperature was too high. Another case into which he had made inquiries was one where, when there was overpressure of work and extra men were taken on, the office would certainly not meet the requirements of the Bill in cubical space. Until the Government did something to put Post Offices under the factory Inspectors, and under factory regulations, they would not have 1461 done all they ought to do for the comfort and health of the workmen they employed. With regard to the second Dart of the Instruction which he had placed on the paper and which he feared he should be unable to move, he pointed out that foreign goods might be made under conditions which would be prohibited in this country by the present Bill, and being produced more cheaply foreign workmen would be able to compete on an unequal footing with English goods. He took, as an illustration, Clause 25, which prohibited the use of lead or arsenic in certain manufactures, such as tinning or enamelling. They were coining to a time when the Government would have seriously to face the question of whether they were to allow the markets of this country to be flooded with articles of foreign manufacture, made under conditions prohibited in respect of British goods, which latter were thereby rendered liable to be driven out of the country altogether.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY () Islington, N.
thought the Bill was not limited in its effect to manufacturing centres, but affected many other districts, especially London. He was extremely glad that a measure had been introduced to do something to make labour in all these smaller places better regulated and more sanitary. He understood the Bill was to be referred to the Grand Committee, and he would, therefore, deal with several points which it raised at the present stage. He did not think the provision for 250 cubic feet of air space for workpeople was by any means too large, still he thought it was rather dangerous not to fix a minimum, and so throw upon the Secretary of State the enormous labour of considering special cases. He did not see why there should be a stereotyped law requiring that for all overtime there should be a larger amount of space; it would mean that in cases of extreme pressure it would be impossible to employ a large staff in an ordinary factory. There were other clauses which he thought were not sufficiently stringent. Clause 4, concerning dangerous machines, was one. Where the machine was dangerous, involving imminent danger to life, if the employer neglected its condition the only penalty seemed to be a fine not exceeding 40s. 1462 He did not think this was really sufficient. It was not a matter for a fine, but one that should receive some more serious punishment. No compensation was sufficient to do away with the consequences of an accident, and what they wanted was to prevent accidents, not to pay for them after they had arisen. Clause 5, on the other hand, was almost too wide. It covered nearly every trade, if a person was weak or not suitable for the particular work. Words should be introduced limiting the clause to ordinary cases of injury to health. With regard to Clause 6, he fully agreed that there should be a heavy penalty on any occupier of a factory where an employé was allowed to be, suffering from scarlet fever or small-pox. But employés sometimes came to infected places, and were affected with certain stages of these diseases, and did not say so, and thus endangered the health and life of many others. There should be a penalty on employés who came from infected places without reporting the fact. As to Clause 10, danger from outbreaks of fire could only be obviated by a systematic supply of fire escapes. With reference to the limitation of the overtime of adult women, seeing the voting power which was now being given to women, the Legislature ought not to go out of its way to limit the independent action of adult women with regard to their hours of work. No doubt in the case of young persons it was right and proper. The proposal was not made by the wish of the great bulk of women. [Sir C. DILKE: "Oh!"] The right hon. Baronet was not an authority on the subject, and lie should not recognise him as such. The majority of adult women were quite competent to know what was best in their own interests. He was struck with the remarks of the hon. Member for Leicester, because during the recent bye-election there he said that as girls or women left his employment as compositors, their places would not be filled up, and no female compositors would be employed. If women desired the limitation proposed they would have clearly expressed that view, and they had not done so. The clause was inserted to meet the views of certain trades unions which desired to restrict female labour in certain cases. He was glad that laundries had been brought within the 1463 scope of the Bill. The changes proposed might involve hardship in individual cases, but, in the long run, he believed they would benefit workpeople in laundries, and ultimately the industry too. The limitations would not apply to laundries where the only persons employed were members of the same family. That was reasonable, but the clause should define what a family was, or it would he largely evaded. The Bill as it stood was drawn one-sidedly as to tenement factories. The owner should be liable as well as the occupier, because the owner was also, to a certain extent, the occupier. The Bill should provide that the owner should have notice, and have the power of seeing that what was required was attended to, and if the occupier neglected the obvious intentions of the owner, the occupier should be liable, and not the owner at all. It was not reasonable that the owner should be absolutely liable in every case, when his orders and directions might sometimes be set at defiance. He was glad that bakehouses were dealt with. Some bakehouses were carried on about as well as they could be, but in regard to many others legislation was, no doubt, required. He agreed that in future it would be wiser if bakehouses were less below ground and more above ground. Not only would the latter be a boon to the bakers, but they would be better for those who consumed the food dealt with in these places. The provision as to putting up a scale of wages was an excellent one. It was much wanted, and would be largely adopted. Nothing would prevent disputes more than a distinct understanding as to the computation of payments. It was needed as much in small as in large bakeries. He agreed with what had been said as to the importance of the workers being provided with clean, healthy, and suitable workshops. They tended not only to the benefit of the workers in their work, but re-acted in a remarkable manner in improved dwellings. He had done what he could to promote the better housing of the working classes, and he knew that good workshops acted on dwelling houses and good dwelling-houses on workshops, and nothing promoted the well-being of the masses of the people more than improved dwelling houses and work-places. He sincerely 1464 hoped the Bill would tend to reduce "sweating." But it should be remembered that the public were responsible as well as employers for the evils of sweating, for they preferred low-priced goods which could not possibly be fairly and honestly made at the prices at which they were sold. To try by legislation to secure health, comfort, fair wages, and morality for the masses of the people was the proper function of the State. He sometimes looked upon the interference of the State in social problems with suspicion and doubt, but in such matters as this it was right that the law should lay down distinct rules, and that the employer should do his duty by those under him. But there was also an obligation on the part of the employé. If he worked under the best advantage the output should be increased, or the cost of production would be. If workpeople were enabled to work under better conditions it was natural to expect that larger quantities of goods should be produced; and if the workpeople took that view and responded to the efforts made for them, then perhaps we need not be afraid of foreign competition, which, of course, became the more serious the more we increased the cost of production, especially if improved conditions of working did not prevail among our foreign competitors. If, however, we did not secure advantages as the result of the improvements we made, then the worst consequences must follow.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE ( Gloucester, Forest of Dean
) said, he wished to call attention to one or two points which would not naturally be dealt with in Committee. He would, however, assure the Home Secretary that there were weighty complaints on the subject of maximum temperature, although the right hon. Gentleman said he had received no complaints except as to minimum temperature; but the Grand Committee would have its work cut out for it if it attempted to regulate the maximum temperature. There were great complaints of maximum temperature in the tailoring trade, which worked under insanitary conditions. As to sweating, Clause 5, as it stood, was thought by the trades chiefly concerned to give them very little protection, not to advance much beyond the present position, and to give the go by to the 1465 recommendations of the Labour Commission and the factory inspectors. The matter was one of great difficulty, and the House would be glad to hear from the Under Secretary for the Colonies, who had paid special attention to the subject, the reasons why the Bill did not go further. An Amendment which he proposed to submit would compel all employers to adopt the present practice of the best tailoring houses, which was to hold themselves responsible for the condition of all places where work was given out to be done. But he should be willing to withdraw that Amendment in favour of one to be moved by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, if the House could be induced to make so great a change, and that was the registration and licensing of all places to which work was given out to be done. This was the law of New York, Massachusetts, and several of the great manufacturing States of the American Union, of most, if not of all, the Australian colonies, and of New Zealand, which framed its legislation with considerable care and boldness, and had devised a system well worthy of our attention. On the subject of overtime, the last speaker was against further interference with the work of women, but said that if women were in favour of it he would change his view—that he would be convinced by the opinions of the women themselves. There were other opinions which were well deserving of attention, and those were the opinions, all but unanimous, of the factory inspectors, who were impartial persons not paid by trade unions. There was no subject upon which they had expressed themselves more clearly and more strongly than that of women's overtime. It was impossible to state the opinions of women who were not organised in unions; you could collect them only by going from factory to factory and asking for them, as the factory inspectors had done. There were a little over 100,000 women who were organised in different trade unions—women's unions or mixed unions; and almost all these women were against overtime. He held in his hand the evidence as to the opinions of 98,540 women in organised unions against overtime. That was a strong case for acting courageously upon the opinions of the inspectors in favour of the complete 1466 abolition of women's overtime. To that opinion he should try to give effect in the Grand Committee. He admitted that some case might be made out for overtime in one or two trades of a very special nature. There was, no doubt, something to be said for it in trades that dealt with perishable articles. It was necessary that this evil should be stopped in the trades where it was injurious to health or was used as a means of evading inspection—a practice which obtained in many trades at present. The special processes of the dyeing trade, perhaps, justified exception [Mr. MUNDELLA: "And season trades"]. He could not agree with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella) that the season trades should be subject to any exception. In the millinery trade in London, especially, the evils of the overtime were greater than in any other trade in the country; yet the millinery trade must be included in any exception extended to the season trades. The Particulars Clause was another matter of first-class importance. He agreed that it would be desirable to extend the provisions of this clause to those other trades which stood in need of it, but it would be better to achieve that object by a separate clause without mixing up the textile and non-textile trades together. But what he urged was that this Particulars Clause, as it stood, was not thoroughly satisfactory either to Lancashire or Yorkshire. The drafting of it might be made more effective, and the "symbols" portion of the clause might be much improved. There was one of the greatest evils connected with the factory system which, though outside the present Bill, he would mention, as he thought it might be dealt with. This was the system of "time-cribbing." The inspector could not be everywhere, and he could not hope to get a conviction against a manufacturer for "time-cribbing" unless the offence related to a period of at least five minutes. The practice was widely spread, and if a manufacturer confined himself to taking about two minutes and a half, instead of five, six times a day, he could appropriate an hour and 25 minutes in the week. This was a question not so much of the amendment of the law as of its more effective administration. Possibly it could be provided that the county police 1467 should co-operate with the inspectors in the enforcement of this part of the law, and with that view he made the suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR J. GORST ( Cambridge University
) said, that, so far from agreeing with the view that the House had been wasting its time in discussing the details of this measure on the Second Reading, he thought that no hours of the present Session had been spent so usefully for the country. If some hon. Members had wandered into questions of detail, it was because the Home Secretary had announced his intention of referring the Bill to a Grand Committee, where these points of detail—of immense importance to the manufacturing constituencies—could not be adequately and publicly discussed. The hon. Member for Stockport, for instance, was opposed to the raising of the age at which children might be employed. He disagreed with the hon. Member; but such a question could not advantageously be settled without public discussion. The hon. Member for St. Helens, again, objected to the clause affecting the glass-workers. That might be discussed in Committee, if it were Committee of the whole House; but, seeing that the provisions of the Act of 1878 were settled after communication with the trade, it was impossible that the arrangement could be satisfactorily altered unless opportunity were given for the public statement of the views of both sides. He doubted whether any time would be saved by referring the Bill to a Grand Committee, as the most important points would have to be discussed again on Report, although he acquiesced in any course which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill might think it best to adopt. The House must bear in mind that this Bill was both a factory and a workshops Bill, and he thought that the interest of the workshops suffered by being bound up with factory legislation. Of the two, factory legislation was much more easy. The factory legislation of the country had been a great success, because Parliament had followed the agreements and the conventions which had been thought out and argued out between the employers and the employed in the great factory industries of the country. It had been a kind of concordat to which legislative 1468 sanction had been given; both parties had agreed to the provisions embodied in the Bills, and they had intended fully and fairly to carry them out. Although inspectors were necessary to detect violations on the part of those who were not honest in keeping the law, yet, on the whole, the factory legislation of the country had been fairly observed, and the benefits to the condition of the workpeople and to the character of our industry in the eyes of the world were almost inestimable. But this was not the case with workshops. It was easy to pass a law with reference to workshops, but Parliament would be much mistaken if it thought by merely enacting those laws with reference to workshops it could produce in them anything like the same effects produced in factories. Take as an illustration the first clause of this Bill. It was against overcrowding. He had not the slightest doubt that that clause would, in the main, be operative in every great factory and establishment in the Kingdom; but did the Home Secretary hope anything like the same result would be obtained in workshops? In the first place, the operation of the law was not to be carried out by the inspectors of the Home Office, but by the inspectors of the Sanitary Authority, and only partially under the authority of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that in the carrying out of the powers of the provisions of the Factory and Workshops Act the local authorities had shown backwardness and lethargy in performing their statutory duties. Under the Act of 1891, there was in the first clause a special power reserved to the Home Secretary to act himself in the event of his having any reason to believe that the local authorities were backward and lethargic. But how could this first clause of the Bill be carried out by the local authority? Would overcrowding in workshops be stopped? He recited a little personal experience on this point which occurred a year ago. He was extremely anxious to get into a sweating den in the east-end of London, in order to see the overcrowding of tailors' workshops, but he was not able to do so. He obtained access to the building, but before he got into the room where the men were at work the 1469 bulk of them had fled in all directions. One of these backward sanitary inspectors told him that he found it to be the most difficult thing in the world to detect overcrowding. On one occasion the inspector said that he found a dog chained at the bottom of the stairs; and thus, before the inspector could enter the workroom, he had to call a man to look after the dog. The men who were at work were thereby enabled to go into other rooms of the tenement where the inspector had no right to enter, and he had therefore no chance of detecting overcrowding. Even in cases where workshop overcrowding was detected and notice was given for the enlargement of the room, it constantly happened that the little open spaces found existing between one street and another were built over by excrescences from the buildings, so that the free lung spaces of the neighbourhood were congested or destroyed. This was a matter which was under the careful consideration of the Royal Commission on Labour. That Commission did not make many suggestions, and as to those it did make it was very seldom unanimous. As to overcrowding and sweating, however, they were unanimous. In their Report they called attention to the extreme difficulty of carrying out the law when it is made, and they then recommended that all occupiers of workshops should be required, under penalties, to obtain a certificate from a competent public authority to the effect that the premises used by them were in all respects in a sufficiently sanitary condition and contained sufficient cubic space for the number of persons employed therein, such certificate to be withdrawn at any time if it were found that the conditions were no longer complied with. To his great surprise no place was found for such a provision in this Bill. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had called for far more stringent regulations than were recommended by the Royal Commission. The inclusion of the recommendation would, at all events, have afforded some better prospect of the excellent Clause 1, if passed into law, being not merely a dead letter, as so many of the admirable provisions relating to workshops were, but an actually living statute which would put 1470 an end, to some extent, to the overcrowding which notoriously prevailed in East-end workshops. Furthermore, he desired to ask why Government factories were not included in the Bill?
§ MR. ASQUITH
They are. There is no ground for the suggestion that the Government factories are not included in the Bill, because they are included expressly in the Act of 1878. This Bill is to be read as one with the Act of 1878, therefore every provision in this Bill applies to Government factories as well as to other factories and workshops.
§ SIR J. GORST
said, that was rather of a piece with what he had been saying about workshops. The law was applied to Government factories, but it was not enforced.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the law was enforced with the same rigidity in Government factories as in others.
§ SIR J. GORST
said, that only to-night a communication had been, made to him from a workman employed in the dockyard at Chatham, who, in 1893, had both hands amputated by a machine which had been already condemned as a dangerous machine when he was put to work on it; it was a machine on which no one would have been allowed to work in a private yard. The man was rewarded by the Government with the munificent daily pension of 1s. 4d., or 8d. for each hand he had lost. If the provisions of the Bill were to be really enforced in Government factories he was glad to hear it, and had nothing more to say. Certainly, to him, it would be a new thing, because he had had sufficient experience as the representative of a dockyard town to know that for years and years such laws, if applying to such places, had not been in force, and workmen in Government factories had not had the protection which workmen in private employment enjoyed. In conclusion, he congratulated the House and the Home Secretary upon the extremely useful discussion they had had. It had been dull, perhaps, but then, the proceedings of the House were always dull when the House was engaged in useful work; they were only lively when the House was wasting its time. If tonight the Debate had been dull, they had, he thought, done more practical and useful work for the country than any hitherto done this Session.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON,) Tower Hamlets, Poplar
said, there was no objection on the Government Benches, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think, to this Motion being discussed on the Second Reading. It was quite obvious that when a Bill was to go to a Grand Committee a larger number of matters of detail must be discussed in the House on the Second Reading than when a Bill was to be taken in the ordinary way through Committee. Those interested in the promotion of the Bill had listened with great interest to the discussion and had been very much gratified to find that, while certain provisions had been criticised in a very friendly spirit, no hostility had been displayed to any particular clause. The Government felt that a Bill of this character ought not to be thrust down the throats of the House or of the Committee, and they were ready to listen with open minds and with an anxious desire to meet the general wishes of the House as regards the general provisions of the measure. Before he entered on the larger questions of principle he ought to answer one or two questions asked since the Home Secretary had spoken. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton raised the question of night-work. The right hon. Gentleman had already in anticipation answered that question, because he had expressed his willingness to receive a deputation and see what could be done if they made out their case. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme asked whether the maximum temperature could not be insisted on with regard to certain industries. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had pointed out that he had for hours tried to draw such a clause, but had not been able to draw one to his own satisfaction. If the hon. Gentleman could produce a clause which would stand the criticism of the Standing Committee they would no doubt be glad to adopt it. As to dangerous industries, his hon. Friend would admit there ought to be special rules for providing certain clothing and other matters which were for the protection of the workmen. Many of the dangers of those trades were provided for by the principal Act; and it was proposed by the Bill to extend 1472 the provisions of that Act, and to give power to the Home Office to carry out those provisions with greater rigidity. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) objected to the application of the statutory limitation in regard to overcrowding being dependent on the sweet will of the Home Secretary. But it was only in the case of special industries that the Home Secretary had this discretionary power, and the tendency of public opinion was that very large powers ought to be given to the Home Secretary to modify or alter the provisions of factory legislation in regard to special industries on his own initiative without having to come to the House of Commons for special powers. Government factories and workshops were, by Clause 93 of the principal Act, brought as completely under this legislation as any private establishments; and, if any hon. Member knew of cases in which inspection of Government factories or workshops had not been carried out, or in which individuals had suffered through this neglect, he hoped they would not hesitate to bring the matter before the Department concerned and press it to a proper conclusion. The hon. Member for Preston also wanted to know why post-offices were not included in the Bill. So far as post-offices were factories they were included. But in cases where the work done was mere distribution work, the post-offices could not properly come under the provisions of a Factory and Workshops Bill, though they might properly be included in the Shops Bill. The hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley) was inconsistent in objecting to any restrictions being placed on woman's labour, while he warmly supported the proposal to extend factory legislation to laundries, an industry that employed a larger percentage of women than any other industry in the Kingdom. In regard to the question of overtime which had also been raised, he for his part would like to see overtime abolished altogether; and he thought that by this Bill they were taking a considerable step in that direction; but it should be remembered that there were many trades carried on largely by overtime, and it would be impossible to abolish overtime in such trades at one swoop without causing great confusion and dislocation of business. He admitted that in the 1473 past, Parliament in legislation of this kind dealt principally with what he might call the aristocracy of labour, while the lower walks of labour were comparatively neglected. The Bill, however, was by no means a final Bill, and was considered simply as a further step towards bringing the smaller industries under the operation of labour legislation, towards tracking the sweater, and towards diminishing the illegitimate competition caused by home workshops and small workshops, which tended to decrease wages and to lower the standard of the conditions under which labour could only be properly performed. It was said the proposed system of registration of workshops was not sufficient; and that no workshop should be allowed to be opened without a licence. He thought there was a great deal to be said for such a proposal. But, still, it must be admitted that this Bill, by bringing under the purview of the Home Office every workshop, whether new or old, was a great improvement on the Act of 1891, which required the registration of new workshops only. Under this Bill all workshops, old or new, domestic or otherwise, would be under a penalty to be registered, they would thus know where they were, and it would be the duty of the sanitary authority to inspect them and see that they were in a proper sanitary condition. The right hon. Gentleman opposite proposed, at any rate in the case of the ordinary workshops, that the system which had been lately introduced in some of their colonies should be carried out, and that no workshops should be opened without a certificate being granted implying that it had been inspected, and that it complied with all the necessary requirements. If such a system could be carried out he should like to see its adoption. But in comparing the East of London with their colonies they should remember that under their system of work there were an enormous number of these smaller workshops, and the difficulty of examining them and issuing certificates would be very great indeed. There were real difficulties in the way of such a proposal, one of which was that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Matthews) in 1891 reversed the policy under which workshops were under the Home Office, 1474 and placed them under the local sanitary authorities. He, for one, protested against that proposal at the time, but rightly or wrongly it was passed; and the result was, that one difficulty in regard to the question of certifying these workshops was that if they had any examination or certification it must be carried out under the auspices of the local authority, who must be the parties responsible for giving the certificate. But as had already been pointed out the local authorities throughout the country generally had shown themselves to be very lax in regard to the whole question of inspecting workshops, and if this additional burden were thrown upon them they might refuse to accept the liability and expense involved in the matter. The Government believed that by requiring the registration of workshops under a penalty they had taken the best step they could in this matter, but if it could be shown that a system of licences, such as that which had been suggested, could be introduced without the local authorities being called upon to take responsibility for it, it should receive favourable consideration. As regarded the question of workshops the Government had brought them, as they believed, under an efficient system of registration. They had endeavoured as far as they could, in the first two or three clauses of the Bill, without actually reversing the policy of 1891, which they believed to be a wrong one—by placing workshops again directly under the Home Office, to bring them under more direct supervision and inspection where the sanitary authorities neglected to do their duty. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Home Office had not done its duty in screwing up the local authorities to do their duty. He thought the right hon. Gentleman forgot that, under the provisions of the Act of 1891 it was difficult for the Home Office to move in these matters. For example, they had first to give notice to the local authority, they had then to give the local authority what was called a reasonable time to act in the matter, and the question always arose as to what was a reasonable time, and whether the local authority ought or ought not to carry out the duty. The Government were proposing, not only to screw up these requirements as to workshops, but 1475 they were giving the Home Office a larger power of interfering where the local authorities had neglected their duty. They had defined for the first time what was "a reasonable time." They considered that, after notice had been given, that reasonable time should not exceed one month. Having been given notice with regard to a matter of sanitation, or of danger to health if the local authority did not carry out the requirements of the Bill, the Home Office would force them to do it at their own expense. On the questions of overcrowding and temperature, and the provision of sanitary requirements for employés in all workshops, they had done a good deal to improve the condition of the workshops generally throughout the country. As to the question of home work and sweating, they believed they had taken a good step. The evasion of the law by employés taking work to their homes and executing it after their legal hours of work were over, would be prevented by prohibiting such overtime. They desired, as far as they could, to make an employer liable for the condition of the place where his work was done. But while they could not make an employer liable for the sanitary condition of all the places where work was sent, especially as he had no right of entry to another man's premises, they said that such employer ought not to lose his responsibility for the sanitary condition of the place where the work was given out; and in future, where he received notice that the work was going to an insanitary place, the employer would be prohibited from sending it there under a penalty. This provision applied to special industries and special districts. All those proposals with regard to home work were intended for the large towns and not the country districts, and for the more overcrowded parts of the large towns. London had been largely sacrificed in these matters to other parts of the country; and there seemed to be no reason why special provisions should not 1476 be made for the East End of London without injury to other parts of the country. The provision with regard to furnishing lists of out-workers would enable the sanitary authority and the Home Office inspectors to track out the small domestic workshops in a way never possible before, and though nobody would pretend that such a provision would abolish sweating, the Government believed that by prohibiting work being sent to the most insanitary places, it would raise the general level of the conditions of work throughout the whole of London. That was the most they could expect at the present moment. About half-time children the position of the Government was a very clear one. They were in favour of raising the age. It was perfectly evident, however, from the Debate that if they had inserted such a provision in the Bill they would have encountered a great deal of hostility and difficulty in getting the Bill referred to Grand Committee. The Government did not wish to jeopardise the Bill, but they were in the hands of the House. If a proposition was made to raise the age from 11 to 12, and it met the general assent of the House, they should not oppose it. There was no finality in these matters. He looked upon the Bill as marking a considerable step forward in improving the conditions of the working classes throughout the whole country, and he hoped the level would continue to rise. It was with these views and on that principle that he was thankful to have had an opportunity of being associated, in however humble a way, with a Bill having such a beneficent character.
§ MR. W. WHITELAW () Perth
referred to the provisions of the Bill in further limiting overtime, especially as they affected the dyeing trade. This, he said, was infinitely more a workers' than an employers' question, and, so far as he was able to gather, with one or two little exceptions easily accounted for, the workers in the dyeing trade were unanimously in 1477 favour of the present law being allowed to remain as it is. Dyeing was a trade which was, perhaps above all others, a season one, and it was not exaggerating to say that this trade varied according to the time of the year to the extent of at least 100 per cent. The volume of trade in April and May was double what it was in December and January. For these reasons overtime was absolutely essential if the work was to be overtaken. They had been told that this point could be met by the public learning to send their goods to the works at a different time of year. His answer to that was this, that, so far as the factory workers were concerned, they had never yet seen anything to lead them to believe that the public would consult the interests of the dye-workers before they consulted their own convenience, and it was Utopian to expect that the Bill would have the effect of making work more regular over the whole year. The result would be to stop all overtime, not only as regarded young persons, but older persons as well, inasmuch as the work of one depended very much on the work of others. Dyeing was not unhealthy work; it was work of the simplest and healthiest kind. The work at the great dyeworks was not carried on in a damp atmosphere nor under insanitary conditions; and in fact the young girls employed in them were generally very healthy—more so, indeed, than women who were over 18 years of age. It had been ascertained that if the hands worked overtime for two consecutive days there was an increase in the sick list, but that if they worked overtime every other day there was no appreciable effect upon their health. When he was engaged in collecting the opinions of the workers in dyeworks, upon the subject of overtime, he ascertained that they were in favour of overtime being allowed provided it were restricted to alternate days. It was perfectly true that it was possible in some places to overtake an accumulation of 1478 work by employing extra hands; but that was not the case in London, where it was impossible from want of space to provide the extra machinery required for emergencies; and in the Metropolis, therefore, the practice of the employment of extra hands had been given up as being unsatisfactory. The result was, that the great mass of the workers had to be dismissed at the beginning of the winter, when they most required employment. It was most undesirable for all parties concerned, as well as for the community at large, that a large number of hands should be thrown out of work at any particular period of the year. He wished to put it very strongly to the House that overtime in the great dyeworks, such as those at Perth, did not involve any great amount of extra work, while to allow the work to accumulate to any large extent would throw the whole organisation of the works out of gear. Under the present law work did not accumulate to any great extent, because it could always be overtaken by a small amount of overtime. The House might ask whether there was real overwork when there was overtime. He could lay before them some figures relating to this point that were of a startling character, because they showed that the average number of hours per week during which the hands were engaged including overtime only amounted to 48—that was to say, to eight hours a day. Therefore, it could not be said that the dye hands were being overworked. With regard to the laundries, he was glad to hear that they were to be brought within the provisions of the Factory Act, because the hours during which the hands were employed in them were dreadfully long, while the conditions of the work were insanitary, and because the laundries were doing work which was not really laundry work at all, but was cleaning and dyeing. The Home Secretary, referring to season trades, had expressed the opinion that 1479 the difficulty which they presented could be overcome by spreading the work. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the ladies in the West End who required a great many new clothes at the time of the Eton and Harrow Match, and when Drawing Rooms were held, and suggested that dressmakers could easily foresee this pressure of work. But the right hon. Gentleman did not explain how this pressure of work could be overtaken. A greatly increased number of hands could not be engaged, because the premises where the work had to be done were not elastic, and to overcrowd them would be to break the law. Did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate the possibility of ladies going to Drawing Booms in readymade dresses? He did not himself see how dressmakers could provide against the rush of orders during the season, and he did not think that ladies were likely to order dresses many months before they were wanted. When the right hon. Gentleman told them that this season difficulty could be got over by a rearrangement of work he ought to show them how it could be done. He trusted that some member of the Grand Committee would take care that the question of the season trades should be fully discussed in that Committee. If the question was not raised there, he should again call attention to it when the Bill returned to the House.
§ MR. D. RANDELL ( Glamorgan Gower
) supported the Bill, but hoped that the tin-plate trade would be exempted from the operation of Sub-section 3 of Clause 13 of the Bill. Boys were largely employed in this trade; their work was of a light character, and their earning were a needful supplement to the diminished wages of their fathers. Both the manufacturers and the operative desired this exemption, for the trade was in a most critical condition, and it was feared that this clause would have the effect of injuring it seriously.
§ MR. HENRY MATTHEWS
With reference to what the Under 1480 Secretary for the Colonies had said as to his past and present opinion on the policy of intrusting the sanitary inspection of workshops to the local authorities—asked the House to remember what in the state of the law was 1891. In respect of all important sanitary conditions the workshop was under the local authorities. But the subjects of whitewashing and ventilation were intrusted to the inspector of factories, who was a superintendent of labour and not a sanitary engineer. In that absurd way the duty of supervising the sanitary conditions of workshops was divided between two authorities. The Under Secretary for the Colonies expressed continued disagreement with him; but the hon. Gentleman totally misrepresented the effect of the 1st Section of the Act of 1891. It was devised as a tremendous weapon to be held over the heads of local authorities to compel them to do their duty. He fully expected that some local authorities would be remiss in their superintendence of workshops. But what did that show? Merely that the legislation of 1891 was in advance of public opinion, that the country lagged behind what Parliament was doing, and that local authorities were not prepared to levy a rate of a farthing in the pound in order to carry out the provisions of the Act. He foresaw that a little stimulus would be necessary. The 1st Clause of the Act of 1891 gave the Secretary of State absolute power; there was no occasion for him to give notice to the sanitary authority or to take their opinion; if he were of opinion that the provisions as to nuisances and limewashing and so on, were not being observed, he might on the instant direct an inspector to go down with power to do the work instead of the local authority. He had never contemplated that that power would be extensively used, and he brought no charge against anyone that it had not been; but he did contemplate that an example would be made of one or two special offenders, such as he had in his 1481 mind at the time—cases which, if he had continued to be responsible, he should have taken out of the hands of the local authorities. He believed that one or two examples of the kind would have stimulated the local authorities throughout the country to do their duty. With regard to overcrowding the Home Secretary truly said that the minimum of 250 ft. was a rule of thumb; but that rule went on to say that three lights were equal to one person and that so many cubic feet of space were necessary for each light; and, if one part of the rule of thumb were embodied, it would have been better to have embodied the whole, or else to have left it to the discretion of the inspectors to deal with each case on its merits. As to overtime he supposed that all members desired as far as possible to abolish it, and, if only you could secure regular full time employment in all industries, no overtime would be necessary, except in very special cases. In their zeal to get rid of an evil they were too apt to lose sight of the interests of the working people who were not in regular full employment, and who could only make a miserable livelihood by working overtime occasionally. The Bill prohibited overtime for all young persons. The Act of 1878 allowed three classes of exemptions under Section 53—cases of liability of goods to injury from weather, cases of season trades, and cases in which there was pressure from unforeseen events; and in those three classes of cases young persons were allowed to work overtime. Those exceptions to a general rule were made in pursuance of the recommendations of the Commission of 1876, which made elaborate inquiries into the necessities of all the trades concerned. On this occasion, if there had been such inquiry, they had not heard of it. In the Act of 1878 the trades were mentioned in a schedule; they were mainly trades in which young persons were largely employed; and they included trading in Christmas presents, envelope-making, the making of playing cards and 1482 of artificial flowers, and Turkey-red dyeing. He knew of no evils arising in regard to the health of young women employed in trades of the character which he had been referring to, and which were mentioned in the schedule to the former Act. Overtime in such trades was a convenience so great, and was, moreover, an advantage so great to the young women themselves, that, unless very great evils were most clearly proved as resulting from such overtime work, Parliament ought to hesitate before it interfered to prohibit it. In these trades there were many slack times; then would come a sudden press of work, owing, perhaps, to unforeseen circumstances; and this Bill proposed to prevent the young women employed in these trades from enjoying overtime pay during the season while the orders lasted. He was not satisfied that this was either wise or humane legislation. He was not sure that, in pursuing an ideal of regular work without overtime, they would not be doing an evil to these young women, for which there would be no compensation whatever. He thought that, only on the ground of some great social mischief being proved to arise from overtime work, ought Parliament to deprive women of the advantages of overtime work. The Home Secretary had mentioned no such mischief, and none could be found in the inspectors' reports or elsewhere. Then again, in regard to laundries, he wished to state that he held the same opinions as formerly. To apply the provisions of the Factory Acts en bloc to laundries would be wrong on two grounds. He did not at all object to the application of provisions requiring that dangerous machinery should be fenced; but he did object to the application of factory hours regulations to the business of a laundry. A factory implied a business which was continuous, and which went on throughout the day, and from day to day, beginning at a certain hour, and with regular half-holidays. All those conditions failed in the case of a 1483 laundry. There the supply of work was intermittent; it was irregular; the operations to be performed must follow each other; the washers must end their work before the ironers could begin. Thousands of poor women took to laundry work as an assistance and makeweight in carrying on their households. The report of the inspectors was full of representations on that point. Those women could not go to work earlier than about Ten o'clock, because they had the business of their houses to attend to beforehand. They could not go to work at Six or Seven o'clock in the morning like a factory hand. In the smaller villages and towns especially, thousands of poor women eked out their existence by the help of laundry work, and they would be entirely deprived of this means of livelihood by the present proposals of the Government. What justification was there for this? He had omitted to mention the suddenness of the demand for washing in many cases. A ship arrived in port; the passengers wanted their linen washed in a day or two. A traveler arrived at an hotel; he wanted his linen washed before his departure. A public dinner sometimes took place in a village hotel, and all the clean linen was exhausted to supply the feast, and it must be washed in the next day or two. One of the female inspectors had suggested that to meet such cases a double stock of linen should be obtained, but that was an absurd proposition. The Home Secretary had said that he knew no law of nature which compelled the washing of clothes on a particular day. He agreed that there was no such law of nature, but he thought there was almost a divine law which compelled Englishmen to wear a clean shirt on Sundays, and to obtain it he must send the shirt to the wash before Thursday. It might be said that these wore small matters, but he did not think so; for the Bill sought to alter the habits which convenience had created for a whole people. What evils had been shown which required that this general convenience of the people in 1484 these matters should be disregarded, and that the country should be taught by this sort of Draconian legislation to change their habits and practice in these things? In the Home Office paper before him, two lady inspectors set out 73 cases, which were, of course, the worst they could find. The hon. Member for Berwick, with much adroitness, had picked out from those 73 cases the only really bad one, in which the number of hours worked was 85. He had looked into the case and found that it affected two ironers and one washer, and yet that was the only foundation upon which the hon. Member based this legislation, for he cited no other case. He had looked through the other cases, and found that there were only three others in which the number of hours worked during the week was above 66. That, he contended, was a very slender basis upon which to build legislation of this kind, and he could only say that he hoped the Home Secretary had better ground than this for the introduction of the clause in question. He felt bound to say a word in reference to convent laundries, a considerable number of which would come under this Bill. They were kept going by ladies whose lives were devoted to works of the noblest charity, and who eked out their want of fortune by the small assistance which they could derive from these laundries. He would take, for instance, the Order of the Good Shepherd, the members of which devoted their efforts to the reformation of fallen women. The ladies of these institutions viewed the intrusion by the Government Inspector with feelings of pain and almost horror, and he thought they certainly ought not to be subjected to such treatment unless some strong case was made out. But what case had been made out? Again, when he referred to the Home Office Report, he found nothing whatever in it in condemnation of the convent laundries. In no case was it stated that the factory hours were exceeded, and he knew this from his own 1485 experience. In none of them, moreover, was there any night labour. To apply the Factory Act to such institutions as that of the Order of the Good Shepherd—to require, for instance, that on certain days holidays should be given to the inmates, whether they deserved them or not—would, it seemed to him, be a wanton interference with the work of charity. He strongly protested against this interference with the legitimate authority which the ladies at the head of those institutions exercised. He quite agreed with the Under Secretary for the Colonies that we ought not to regard this as a final measure. He contended that in these matters, which touched so many interests at so many points, it was much better to move slowly and step by step. He would earnestly press upon the Home Secretary the importance of this Bill passing through a Committee of the House instead of a Committee upstairs. They had had a very useful and valuable discussion during the evening, and there was hardly a clause in the Bill on which light had not been thrown. The criticism, whether successful or not, had shown unexpected effects arising out of the clauses of the Bill, which had been suggested by the constituents of different Members who had spoken, but the benefit of this sort of discussion would be entirely lost if it took place before a Grand Committee. The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, had asked how they were to tell what was the opinion of women who were not organised. He would point out that these women could contrive to communicate with the Members representing their constituencies, and if the discussion took place in a Committee of the House, in that way they would get to know what was felt about these provisions. This Bill was of far greater interest and importance than any other Bill which had been proposed this Session, and the Government, he thought, would really be doing well if they devoted some of the time of the whole House to its discussion. A Grand Committee was a very convenient tribunal for settling technical clauses in a Bill, but in a Bill of this kind, whatever care the Home Secretary had given to its preparation, there was no clause which might not touch some point of vital interest to the country; and how 1486 were those interests to be warned unless there was a public discussion in the House, which would be reported in the Press, and would so attract attention? He believed the Committee, on Trade was that which the Home Secretary was going to select. He himself was not a member of that Committee, although he took a lively interest in every clause of the Bill, and should be happy to assist the Government in regard to the measure.
§ MR. J. CALDWELL () Mid Lanark
said, that Members could be added to the Committee, and undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman would be put on.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
said, it was impossible that all Members interested should be put on that Committee, whereas, if the Bill was considered in the whole House they would have the benefit of the information of every Member.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY () Hammersmith
said, he had been requested by several laundries in his constituency to do what he could to prevent their inclusion in this Bill. The principal reason urged was the limitation of the time of the hours of work. It was of vital importance to poor widows and other women, who found laundry work their best means of livelihood, that this clause should be modified. With regard to convents, no people in this country did more good than the ladies in convents, and why should convents where laundry work was done be brought under the Factory Acts? These matters would be overlooked in Committee unless the Home Secretary took them up.
§ Bill read 2°.
§ MR. ASQUITH moved:—"That the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade." The right hon. Member for East Birminham had suggested that instead of the Bill being referred to a Standing Committee, it should be referred to a Committee of the whole House. But the Government had the advantage in the present instance of the right hon. Gentleman's own authority, for in 1891, when an important measure for which he was responsible, and which was now part of the Statute Law, was under discussion, it was referred by the general 1487 consent of the House to the same tribunal to which he proposed to refer this Bill. He did not see why there should be any difference in the procedure. The Committee on Trade was the fittest tribunal to deal with the Bill. The House retained complete control over the proceedings of the Committee, and at the Report stage any changes made in Committee could be fully revised.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
suggested that no time would be gained by referring the Bill to the Committee on Trade. He could not help thinking that it would be far better to submit the Bill to a Committee of the whole House, and certainly the time of the House would be better occupied in discussing this Bill than in discussing some others that were before it.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
did not think that the House was in any way bound by anything that might have been said by the Home Secretary in a previous Administration. What those who represented constituencies which were largely interested in this Bill desired was—that the mass of detail contained in it should be discussed in Committee of the whole House. He did not wish to disparage the work of the Standing Committee. Of that body he knew absolutely nothing, but he did not think that the large majority of Members of the House were not members of it, while on the other hand the large majority of Members were interested in the Bill. He thought this was pre-eminently a Bill that required consideration in the whole House. No doubt an interesting discussion would take place upstairs, and probably at a late period of the Session the Bill would be brought back in the Report stage, and if hon. Members desired to bring forward important Amendments then they would be told that they had all been discussed by the Committee upstairs. The majority of Members would not have been there, and so would have been unable to bring forward the arguments they desired to bring forward on behalf of the trades in which they were interested. That seemed to him a most unsatisfactory state of things, and he thought that if they were to have a fair discussion it ought to take place within the walls of the Chamber itself. He therefore moved that the Bill be referred to a Committee of the whole House.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That is exactly the process which will take place if this Motion is not carried. It will follow on the Standing Orders.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 67; Noes, 27.—(Division List No. 44.)
§ Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c.