§ [SECOND READIMG.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *(12.15.) MR. PICKARD (Yorkshire, W.R., Normanton)
Before I proceed to deal with the merits of the Bill I wish to 1130 take this, the earliest opportunity of saying that, so far as the second clause is concerned, it is dropped; we do not intend to proceed with that part of the Bill, although, from a Government point of view, it would afford most valuable protection for life and limb, and prove of great service in the management of mines generally. I do not think there is any colliery owner in this House who will not agree with me that the number of foreigners employed in our mines today constitutes a matter worthy of serious consideration, and some day the House may have to be called upon to decide whether or not these people shall continue to be so employed.
Now I come to the Bill itself. Since 1800 we have had passed in this House some fifty-three Acts of Parliament, twenty-one of which have directly affected miners, and the remainder of which do so indirectly. I have long since come to the conclusion that every child who enters a mine should do so under very many safeguards. At the present time, however, we have very few safeguards, and those who come into the mines between the ages of thirteen and sixteen are simply allowed to run riot almost, and are at the whim and caprice of the management of the colliery. Cuffs and kicks are the order of the day, and if a boy does ever so little wrong, he is sure to get severe punishment before twenty-four hours have passed. I range myself alongside those who have gone before, and who have done so much by their humanitarian efforts to protect the weak against the strong. Lord Shaftesbury, although many strong words were used against him, never flinched from or shirked his duty when fighting for the women, the girls, and the boys, and he gained for himself the sympathy of all who claimed to have the cause of humanity at heart. Although he was not successful in his first efforts, he pegged away until he became victorious, and women and girls ceased to work in the mines. When I come to look at the great efforts he made in 1842 and later, when I remember that amongst all of us he stood head and shoulders high, not merely in intellect and humanity, but also in perseverance, in his effort to bring about a reform, which I think colliery owners today will admit has been most beneficial, and when I remember what I have seen on the continent, where women 1131 and girls are still allowed to work in mines, I am encouraged in my determination to leave no stone unturned to bring about an alteration of the law with regard to the employment in mines of boys between thirteen and sixteen years of age. These little fellows, everybody knows, are in a very awkward position. Some people think that the mine is a sort of health resort for children, and that when the little ones are down in the mines they are happier by far than anywhere else. I wonder those hon. Members who hold such views do not send their own children into the mines. When I come to think that a boy of that tender age is allowed to work ton hours a day for five days a week, I feel ashamed of my country. We condemn these boys, under this system, to hard labour for life, because, in my judgment, if you take the spring out of a boy by thus working him between the age of thirteen and twenty-one he is never able to recover it, and he never obtains that vitality which is enjoyed by those who breathe more fresh air. I know that some of the opponents of this Bill have never been down into a mine, and have never seen the conditions under which the boys labour. We have in our mines today more than 47,000 boys under sixteen years of age working under these terrible conditions. In Scotland there are 6,400, in Northumberland 2,300, in Durham 6,700, in Yorkshire 6,000, in Staffordshire (where you have the largest output) 1,100, in Lancashire 4,300, and in South Wales and Monmouthshire 11,000. These figures speak for themselves. The work of the hoys is very arduous, and not only that, but the treatment of some of them by the men over them is something awful.
According to a calculation made by the Durham Colliery owners, there are at least 100,000 lads between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one working in our mines, and thus we have a total of 150,000 young fellows working underground under the direct management of mine owners and those whom they employ. These young fellows are subject to many things to which the workmen themselves would not submit. In fact, any one under twenty-one years of age in a mine is liable to be called upon by managers to do all classes and conditions of work. They have to work in bad roads; they have to lift and remove dirt where there has been a fall—and these are things 1132 which grown-up miners will not do unless they are paid a very high wage for it. That being the case, pressure is brought to bear upon the boys through their fathers, who are informed that unless the lads do the work, they may lose their employment. Thus the situation of both father and son is imperilled, and the pressure brought to bear is consequently very effective.
Now, a boy under the Act is bound to work ten hours in any one day if called upon to do so, whereas the ordinary day's work of the grown-up workman is only seven hours per day. From information I have received, I know that boys between sixteen and twenty-one years of age are often called upon to work ten, twelve, and even more hours per day. Could there be anything more unreasonable than that these young follows labouring in our mines should receive such, treatment? Remember, they are in a very awkward position. They cannot appeal to their fathers, and they cannot appeal to their Trade Unions. But if what I heard in this House some time since is true, they have a remedy, for it is in their power to stop a colliery; and I know of no class of lads more likely and able to pursue such a course if they once make up their minds to do it. We have the utmost difficulty in Yorkshire to prevent the lads from striking, and thereby rendering a pit idle. Now, we want to destroy that state of things. We want to bring about a better condition of affairs. We want to secure that our lads shall not work more than eight hours in any one day, for we think that that is sufficient for any young person. Do those who oppose this Bill intend to contend that a boy gains more health and strength by reason of his having to work in a mine three hours longer daily than the ordinary miner? If they can show that, of course it would be sheer nonsense for us to argue that this Bill would better the conditions of the boys. But they cannot. I have already said that their work is very arduous; it is also, I may point out, dangerous. Some of the duties to which they are set require constant care and watchfulness, and in some cases the boy is in constant fear of runaway trains, and feels that he may not live to see the light of another day.
1133 Sir, I would ask the opponents of this Bill to approach this matter from a humane standpoint. If you look at the number of lads who are injured in our mines, the conclusion is inevitable that something must be done for the boys. In some cases, boys have to crawl through passages ranging from twelve inches to two feet three inches in height, with the result that they constantly suffer from sore backs. They are prone to sustain injury to the spine, and the effect upon their health is necessarily very bad. There are hundreds of collieries where the seams are thin and the roads in a bad state of repair. We had an arbitration case the other day, in the course of which it was elicited that the boys had to wade through hundreds of yards of slush and water; that they were wet up to their knees all the day through, and yet the humanity of the colliery company is simply such that there has had to be a strike, although the arbitration resulted in favour of the men. We have heard a good deal about dry and dusty mines, and there is no doubt that the dust kicked up by the men as they go along the roads is sufficient to choke the boys. I have been down mines in which ten or fifteen men have been walking together. You could hear them speak, but you could not see a single person about the place, and you may, therefore, depend upon it that the boys who are compelled to work under those conditions ten hours or more daily are not fit for much when they leave the mines. The boys, in fact, suffer more from the dust than the men, seeing that the dust is found not in the working faces, but in the travelling ways and the main haulage roads. I remember an hon. Member on one occasion said there was no danger in the travelling roads, but I have taken the trouble to go through the Blue-book, and I find that a very large number of haulage accidents occur every year. What do the boys get for their long hours of labour? Between the ages of thirteen and sixteen years they receive only a penny an hour. Those between sixteen and twenty-one get a slightly higher wage, but even then it only ranges from l0d. to 2s. 2d. per day. The "trapper" boy is the worst paid, and his work the most ill-conditioned, in the whole mine. The boy himself is the 1134 butt and target of everyone in the pit. I myself have outgrown my twenty years work in the pit. I did not go down so early, perhaps, as some boys, but I began at the age of twelve and continued until I was thirty-one or thirty-two years old. Since then I have been engaged in other work, but my experience and the information I have since received has forced me to the conclusion that the work of the boy, from trapper to on-setter, is arduous, dangerous, and very ill-conditioned. I want to know why should a boy or youth, simply because he is a boy or youth, be compelled to work ten hours a day, while the fully grown man only works seven hours a day? I think that is a fair question to put to hon. Members opposite. It is said sometimes that the boys are not harmed. I can remember, however, that when I was a lad it was a common saying that if a few strands of the rope were cut or frayed, the men, before trusting themselves to it, said "Try a rope of lads." That certainly is treatment to which our boys should not be subjected.
I may be asked, How do the boys like this system of things? My reply is that they do not like it at all, although they have little opportunity of saying so. I am sure if their opinion could only be tested, it would be found that the lads would sooner be out of it than in it. Men like their holidays, and so do the boys; in fact, they dislike their work so much that they would play every day if it were not necessary that some money should come in to support life. I will ask this question. I have lived among miners nearly all my life. How many miners from free choice send their lads into the mines? There is no man in this House who can answer that question except in one way. They would not send their children there at all if they could possibly avoid doing so.
This Bill seeks to restrict the hours of labour of boys and youths to eight in any twenty-four hours. Why do we want this? We want it because we believe the lads would be greatly benefited by a shortening of their hours of work, and because we honestly believe, too, that eight hours in any one day is long enough for either man or boy to work under ground. We believe, further, that the boys require more time for recreation. Very few miners from choice send their boys into the mines, so they cannot be the health 1135 resorts which some people seem to imagine. So far as we are concerned we have no desire to say anything hard about any one. Our idea is to have this matter argued out fairly and squarely. We hope the House will agree that boys from thirteen to twenty-one years of age ought not to work more than eight hours per day, and if we attain that end it will meet all our requirements. We want to pass this Bill because we want to secure for our boys a healthier and happier child hood. Take the case of a boy who gets up at four a.m., goes to the pit to work, and spends altogether some thirteen or fourteen hours at work and getting to and from it. What pleasure can there possibly be in his life? I cannot see where any pleasure comes in. Perhaps the mine or colliery owner obtains it from the knowledge that another man's children are labouring under such terrible conditions. We want the boys to have more time for athletics, so as to build up their constitutions and fit them for manual labour when they arrive at maturity. Above all, we want the boys to have some opportunity for self-culture. We do not want them to be shut out from night schools and classes. I remember that when I was a boy I had to do my reading by firelight. There wore no cardles allowed in those days, and there was no breaking up of the fire after it had been raked together for the night, and our wet clothes spread around it in order to get dry before the morning. Yet that was all the opportunity some of us had for self-improvement. I want the boys of today to have better opportunities to further their own education. I want them to be in a position to fit themselves for any position in a mine. A lad who goes down the pit at thirteen years of age, and works steadily therein, should be able, in due time, to obtain a first-class certificate showing his ability to manage a mine. I know that certain colliery owners are delighted to help such young fellows forward. They are not all bad. Since I have been a Member of Parliament. I have had brought under my notice the cases of large numbers of illiterate men who when they go into the polling booth are compelled to put a cross against their names. I want that to be a thing of the past.
It may be objected by some that this Bill deals with adult labour. It does 1136 nothing of the kind. It only deals with boy labour under twenty-one, and I trust that those hon. Members who have come here with speeches treating the Bill as one affecting adult labour will kindly substitute the word "boy" for "adult." I understand that some hon. Gentlemen are going to suggest a limitation of the hours to forty-eight per week. I have gone into that matter, and I have come to the conclusion that that would not affect the present condition of things at all. I have no faith in it as a remedy, and I therefore hope that the House, by passing this Bill, will try and minimise the evil conditions of things to which it has been my duty to call its attention.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (12.50.) MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months,. It contains two novel principles, both of which, to my mind, are bad. First, it interferes with personal liberty, because it proposes to empower the State to decide how long and when people shall work. I believe that to be a very dangerous precedent to introduce into legislation in this country. We practically decided this point a week ago, and it seems to me that the first part of this Bill is merely an attempt, in another name and in a slightly different form, to re-introduce the measure which was rejected seven days since.† The second principle to which I have to draw attention is still more novel, because it apparently aims at making a close corporation for miners. The object seems to be that, in the event of a strike, or of there being a necessity for increased production, the colliery owner shall be unable to increase his staff or to take any steps to enlarge the output of his mine. I have heard it stated in the debates in this House upon the Eight Hours question that this was the real object at the bottom of the movement. It has generally been denied from the opposite Benches that it is so; but I must say that, in view of this clause, I cannot help thinking that the assertion that that was the origin of the† See page 4721137 movement is true. It is no doubt the case that the hon. Member has stated that he does not intend to proceed with Clause 2. But I do not gather that he intends to abandon it.
§ MR. BANBURY
But he has given us no undertaking that if, by any unfortunate chance, the first clause of this Bill should become law the second clause will not be revived next year, and the argument used that the first clause will not work without the second. I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member, for I was rather anxious to know upon what ground he proposed to justify this alteration in the law. He practically advanced only one ground, and that was the argument of humanity. Of course, everybody on this side of the House, equally with hon. Members opposite, is anxious to do all that is possible to make other people's lives pleasant and healthy. But one has to consider, in introducing regulations of this sort, whether they will really have the effect which the hon. Member anticipates for them. He talked about the trouble and ill-treatment experienced by boys in the mines. I did not quite gather what he meant by that, and whether it was the mine-owners or the men they employed who ill-treated the boys.
§ MR. BANBURY
I understand the hon. Member includes both. Will he tell me in what way a boy will be benefited by reducing his working hours from ten to eight? The treatment of which complaint has been made will go on just the same as before, and it may even be worse, because, possibly, the boys will be expected to do more work proportionately in the eight hours than in the ten. The hon. Member has complained that the wages of these boys are very low. What on earth has that to do with this Bill? It is not a Bill for increasing 1138 wages. It may be an excellent thing that the pay should be raised, but it seems to me that the necessary outcome of the Bill will be to diminish and not to increase the wages of the boys. The hon. Member went on to say that the miners themselves only worked seven hours daily. I am not an expert in mining matters, but if the statement be true, why on earth bring in an eight hours Bill when the miners are only working seven hours already? What we are contending for is that the employees should be free to come to an arrangement with the mine owners, and I hold that in all probability by such arrangements the system most suitable to both parties is secured. The hon. Member further spoke of the dangerous nature of the occupation of the boys, of the consequent injury to their spines, and of the general discomfort in which they had to work. But all this will go on just the same, whether the hours are shorter or longer. He spoke of the extremely unhealthy nature of a miner's work, but in the same breath he told us that he himself went down into the pit at twelve years of age and worked there some twenty years, and we have before us in him an example of fine physique which scarcely justifies the suggestion that mining is unhealthy.
The hon. Member further went on to say that miners did not like to send their boys into the mines, and would not do so if they could possibly avoid it. What, then, is the meaning of Clause No. 2? It provides that no man shall be allowed to be employed in a mine unless he has entered on such employment prior to arriving at the age of eighteen years. If miners will not send their boys down into the pits, how are the mines to be worked in the future? It is all very well for the hon. Member to say that he does not intend to proceed with that clause. I believe the real reason is his realisation that it would be quite impossible to pass it. The greater part of the hon. Member's speech dealt with what occurred to boys between thirteen and sixteen years of age. Towards the end, no doubt, he had something to say about boys between thirteen and twenty-one. Now it is a rather novel thing to apply the expression "boy" to a young fellow of twenty or twenty-one years, for I believe I am right in saying that many miners between twenty and twenty-one years of age are married and fathers of families. They can hardly be 1139 called boys, therefore. It seems to me that the argument of the hon. Member would have been more wisely directed against the present law with regard to the hours of work of young people between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, and if he had attempted to prove the necessity of amending that particular law, it might have been better policy on his part. But even if it is necessary, I fail to see how it is to be done. One object of the Bill is to apply this to boys of twenty and twenty-one. Now, supposing that this Bill was to become law, would it affect the boys only, or would it affect the men too? I am informed that the effect of the Bill would be, that not only the boys would be affected but the pay of the men would be affected—that boys not being allowed to work beyond eight hours would prevent the ordinary work of the colliery going on, and the result would be that the miners would have to work shorter hours and the output would be restricted.
That brings me to the fact that the object of this Bill is to probably arrive by another method at the object of the Bill that was discussed last week. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this Bill was passed, would it not be possible to employ men who were not miners, but who were over twenty-one, to do the work done by these boys, and if it were so, how would the boys be benefited, except in the way that they would not go down the pits at all? But possibly it is the intention of the promoters to prevent boys going down the pits. I do not see how this Bill would benefit the boys in any way. It would take away their employment, and allow another class of men who were over twenty-one to do their work. That, in all probability, did not escape the promoters, and it was probably for that purpose that they introduced Clause 2, because it would prevent any competition with the boys from men outside. Now that is dropped, the only result, so far as I can see, is that the boys will not be employed at all. The general Act to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, the Mines Regulation Act, 1887, prohibits boys under sixteen working more than fifty-four hours a week or for more than ten hours a day. That seems to me very reasonable, and if any argument could be advanced to make any alteration in the Act, well and good, but this Bill does not make the alteration; it introduces a novel principle altogether.
1140 Though we are told that Clause 2 is to be withdrawn, I really must say a few words about it, because it is such an extremely curious clause. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill said that miners, when they went into the pits, did a fair day's work, and the only object of this Bill was to put such power in the hands of the miners that the whole matter of the men's condition could be controlled by them. Now we know that when any industry gets into the control of a body of men they are often led away by good motives, but they do not see far in front of them, and their only object is to make life as pleasant as possible for themselves, no matter how the industry suffers. But the question of competition comes in here. I think it is a most unfortunate moment to come down and endeavour to create a close corporation of the men. Everybody knows that any rise in the price of coal puts immensely increased difficulties in the way of every trade of the country. Only two years ago we had a large rise in the price of coal, and we had furnaces put out and railway companies reducing their dividends, and the people deriving their income from them had to put up with it. There is no doubt that a rise in the price of coal is a most serious matter to the manufacturing interests of this country, and other interests extending far beyond those of the manufacturers. I have endeavoured shortly to put before the House reasons which I hope they will consider valid for rejecting this Bill. I have not in any way attempted to pose as an authority on the details of the working of mines, but only to give the reasons which strike me, as a man of business, why this Bill is a bad Bill, and why, in the interests of the country at large, it ought to be rejected.
§ (1.12.) MR. HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said he seconded the rejection of this Bill because the House was in a very peculiar position with regard to it. Last Wednesday the House rejected a Bill to restrict the hours of labour in mines to eight hours. The Bill now before the House contained two principles—one to restrict to eight the hours of employment of boys under twenty-one years, and the other to prohibit free labour. The latter principle had been withdrawn from their consideration, and they were consequently thrown back upon the question of hours, which 1141 they had discussed last week. He regretted that the hon. Member who moved the Bill should be absent at the moment, as he should certainly have liked in his presence to have made the few remarks with which he proposed to trouble the House.
The Bill was divided into two topics—one, the employment of boys under sixteen, and a second topic regarding the various conditions of labour under which they suffered, which had nothing whatever to do with the Bill, but should be dealt with under the Mines Regulations Act. The boys did not work fifty-four hours a week. To his knowledge, boys were employed in most mines only eight hours a day at present. They went down at seven and came up at three o'clock, and the ten hours, which was the legal limit, was hardly in vogue anywhere. But there was one thing upon which he would like some information As a rule, when these Bills were introduced, they always bad another authority put forward which was likely to influence the House, and that authority was the Minors Federation. He certainly thought the hon. Member for Normanton would have alluded to that, because it was interesting to know, when a Bill of this kind was put forward without hardly any argument being addressed to it, for the purpose of altering the age from sixteen to twenty, what were the opinions of the miners themselves. He thought it curious that the advocates of the Bill had passed over the fact that the Miners Federation, at their congress in 1901, reduced the proposed limit of age for boys from twenty-one to eighteen years. That was a matter that ought to be explained, so that the House might know what the special reasons were for this somewhat exceptional legislation. If the Bill were passed, mine owners would have to face a strange conglomeration of the hours of employment in mines. It would really almost become necessary for them to keep a register of the births of the persons in their employ. He was connected with mines which had been going on for nearly 120 years, and it had been almost a tradition that the sons should follow their fathers in employment in the pits; but if the House put restrictions on their labour, which he did not believe were necessary, he doubted whether there would be the same readiness on the part of miners to bring up their sons in the same employment.
1142 With regard to the question of penalties, he confessed that he never did understand why the whole punishment should be thrown on the employer for seeing that a man was not out of the pit at the end of eight hours. It was decided in the last session of Parliament, in a somewhat analogous case, that in the case of the sale of intoxicating liquor to children, the responsibility should be thrown on the person who sent the child for the liquor equally with the person who supplied the liquor. He thought that in this case the responsibility should similarly be thrown equally on the parent, who hoped to obtain a little more wage for his son's work, and on the mine owner. If he thought that the health or safety of the boys was in any way involved, he should not oppose the Bill; but he did not believe that there was anything in the Bill which would add to the security which now existed. As the Bill at present stood, even though it was shorn of that which he considered the most objectionable part of it, he felt it his duty to second the Amendment of his hon. friend.
Amendment proposed —
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr Banbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ *(1.25.) SIR CHARLES DILKE
Let me first deal with one or two incidental points in respect to which the hon. Gentleman has just addressed the House. He alluded to the penalties as being one especial point objectionable to him. There are no penalties under this Bill. The offences under this Bill are simply made offences under the principal Act. There are no other means of dealing with them but that. If the hon. Gentleman can suggest a better way, I am sure Parliament would consider it; but there are no special penalties in this Bill at all. He informed us that there were.
§ MR. HARDY
The Bill refers to Section 9 of the Mines Regulations Act, which refers not only to boys, but to men.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
If a case can be made for treating these offences differently from all other offences, they ought to be treated differently, but the 1143 promoters of this Bill could not reasonably treat them differently; they treat all offences in this particular Act in the same way.
§ MR. HARDY
All my argument is that the promoters of the other Bill did think it necessary to make certain exceptions in the eight hours of labour— they dealt with the possibility of accidents and other matters, and I said it was only right that when they applied the same principle again they should take the same opportunity.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
We cannot discuss that now, but, personally, I am opposed to it. I always have opposed it. That change was made under compulsion in the other Bill—it was made to suit the views of the Government. I think it is a wrong principle. Under the Coal Mines Regulations Act, you are never safe unless you throw the responsibility on the manager. That is the principle in all factories and workshops. There is nothing new in that principle. But it is not proper to discuss that question now. I merely say there are no special offences under this Bill; they are all dealt with under the Mines Act. Now I come to another point, which is also a side issue, and that is the second clause. That is the clause we ask the House to allow us to drop out of the Bill, but both the mover and seconder of the Amendment, who have alluded to this clause, have spoken of it as if it was not abandoned and out of the way. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has spoken of a change, as I understand him, with regard to this Bill generally, which was made by the Miners Federation of Great Britain. Do I understand him to suggest that at the last meeting of the Miners Federation of Great Britain a wish was expressed and a resolution passed to change the age for eight hours labour from twenty-one to eighteen years?
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The motion that was put and carried by the Federation was a motion to alter the age from twenty-one to eighteen with respec tto this particular clause—this dropped clause— and had nothing whatever to do with the principal clauses of the Bill.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
That is the opinion of one individual, and I share that opinion. I should like to see the Government pressed to bring in a Bill for limiting the hours of boys. The Government are opposed to the limit of hours for adult labour, but it seems to me that they might fairly be asked to do something with regard to the boys, and remedy this great evil. That they might fairly be asked to do. But the suggestion which was made to the House was that the Miners Federation themselves had passed a resolution altering the age for eight hours labour from twenty-one to eighteen years. That is not so. That I wish to deny. The resolution which was carried by the Miners Federation had allusion only to the age in this dropped clause.
§ MR. HARDY
I am sorry again to have to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I feel bound to, as it rather looks as if I had attempted to deceive the House. The resolution was given in The Times in the speech of the speaker, and at the end it said the resolution was agreed to. It did not give the resolution again, and therefore I assumed that it was the same resolution as that mentioned in the speech.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The resolution as carried only had reference to this dropped clause. With regard to the clause I will only say one word, though it is not part of our case. If the House had been asked to proceed with it, it would not have constituted so startling a departure from the present principle of law as the mover and seconder of the Amendment would have us think. Coal mining has been dealt with altogether exceptionally from this point of view, and it is the law at the present time, under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, that no man shall work coal getter alone, without two years experience in other portions of the mine, and that dropped clause is a clause which rather proposes to continue the line which Parliament has already laid down, than to enter on an entirely new principle. But it is not proposed to go on with that clause, and therefore I turn to the subject matter of the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Amendment.
1145 The mover of the Amendment, like all those who have given notice to oppose, or like three out of four, in a marked degree has always opposed legislation of this description. I do not think he will deny that. He was very frank in his statements, as we know, but I do not think he will suggest that he expresses the views either of the majority of the House or of the community at large in his strong opposition to all legislation which limits individual labour. He will admit that the tendency of things is against him. The hon. Member held that this would be interference with personal liberty, although it only deals with persons who are minors and non-electors. The persons who are affected by this Bill are not electors to this House. The hon. Member said that the State should not be allowed to say how long people should work and applied that to the principle laid down in this Bill, using the word people in the particular way as to apply the word to young persons, and to nobody else. But the State has decided over and over again how long people shall work, and in some existing cases it has decide that adults, over twenty-one years of age, shall work—
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
In the three dangerous trades which will be found specified. The Home Secretary has now power to prescribe certain hours, and in the case of three dangerous trades the people are prevented from working more than the prescribed number of hours.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I am going to make a case of danger for this Bill as regards persons under the age of twenty-one. It is a case not so complete—it is a perfectly strong case, but it is not so full and complete as it might be—because all the Government have ever done is to give us insufficient statistics. They have always refused to give us statistics, but it is a strong case, as I am about to show. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment said if people had to make arrangements they ought to make those arrangements between themselves. He said that people now only worked seven hours a day, and therefore asked what was 1146 the necessity for an eight hours law. Surely the hon. Member has not much acquaintance with coal mines. Surely he does not doubt that a great number of boys even under the age of sixteen work ten hours daily.
§ MR. BANBURY
I was alluding to mines. The miners only work seven hours. I said the men only worked seven hours, therefore the boys ought to work the same.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
In Northumberland and Durham the hewers' hours are seven hours a day, but there they are considerably lower than elsewhere, That does not bear one way or the other on this question. Now I come to the subject matter of the Bill, the boys and young persons engaged in mines. My hon. friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill suggested to the House that these boys and young persons who worked ten hours below ground are engaged in very hard employment, and in most cases are engaged in most dangerous employment. They are not their own masters, and even in those districts where hewers work only seven hours a day, everybody knows they are habitually set to very dangerous employment. That is a very startling statement, which my hon. friends from Northumberland and Durham are sometimes inclined to deny.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
My hon. friends may deny it, but I think I shall prove my case. My hon. friends do not deny that some boys are put to very hard work; they say that a small number of boys do hard work, but the majority do light work. With regard to the matter of danger, we have continually pressed the Government to divide the Dangerous Employments statistics, and to give us the statistics of accidents, as they affect all the various accidents in the mines, so as to let us see what is the loss of life and limb at each age, and what is the dangerous class of the trade. The Government have always declined to do this. They say it would give a good deal of 1147 trouble, and they have always declined to give it to us. There is one case only in which it is done. There is an annual Table, which applies not to accidents in general, but to deaths in all the mines. That Table gives the number of deaths by accident in coal mines, arranged with regard to age. It arranges them in groups from the ages of sixteen to twenty, twenty to thirty, and thirty to sixty, and over sixty. That table applies to deaths only, and the number of accidents is not given. The Table is arranged by the Home Office in such a way as to leave out the special dangers to everybody, whether they be young or old, and the Home Office evidently wishes to consider the cases of the old people who are working in the mines. We find from the figures in the last year which is given that the proportion of deaths under the age of sixteen is the same as the proportion of the deaths at other ages, though in the previous year the proportion of deaths under the age of sixteen was very much larger. This Table relates to deaths from accidents; we have no such figures for accidents in general. While there is nothing to be said in respect to the last year with regard to the special danger to persons under sixteen, where the loss by death has been the same as at other ages, the loss by death by accident between the ages of sixteen and twenty has been infinitely greater than at any other age. My hon. friend says he denies that young men between these ages are put to dangerous work. How can he deny it in the face of these figures?
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
How can he deny it on these figures? Here we have the fact that in the four years from sixteen to twenty there were killed in the last year 110 persons, and of the persons between twenty and thirty 225.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
Those figures are not given. But this Bill is not a Bill for Durham and Northumberland only, it is for the whole country. I give you the only figures we have.
MR. JOHN WILSON
I do not wish to interrupt, but the right hon. Gentleman prefaced his remarks by saying the boys were put in dangerous places, and I thought he was going to give us the figures for Northumberland and Durham, which is our county.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I should have been glad to have them. We have had to constantly press the Home Office to supply us with statistics, not only with regard to deaths but with regard to all accidents.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I will repeat what I said. The number of deaths by accident in the last Return is given at the ages of under sixteen years, from sixteen to twenty, from twenty to thirty.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
No, for the year itself—the actual number of deaths for the year itself. The deaths under sixteen were seventy-seven. I made no allusion to that matter, although in that case they have been larger in previous years, but deaths between the ages of sixteen and twenty, a period of four years, is 110, between twenty and thirty it is 225. So that almost exactly half as many people are killed in coal mines in the four years between the ages of sixteen and twenty as in the ten years between the ages of twenty and thirty. I say those figures are most startling; and I say they prove a most special case with regard to danger; and I think I am right in saying that those figures practically endorse what fell from my friend.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
No; it does not contain the figures for the northern coalfield. I have not got those figures. I have given all the figures that I have, and I can do no more. I think these figures emphatically prove the case of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, that boys employed below ground over sixteen years of age should not be employed without a limit of time when employed upon dangerous jobs. My hon. friend stated from his own knowledge, seeing what he does of the men in the mines, that these boys, who were employed without limit of time over sixteen years of age, were commonly employed in doing dangerous work; and these statistics from the deaths from accidents really prove that case.
Now, it has been suggested in the course of this debate that there is no great number of these young persons who are employed for a very considerable number of hours. Both the two first speakers have suggested that the great majority of men do not work for long hours below ground and that therefore these boys between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one do not work as a rule for very long hours. There is no dispute as to the facts with regard to the counties of Durham and Northumberland, and I am quite prepared to accept the facts twice stated by my hon. friend the Member for Morpeth, whose absence we regret so much, from whose figures I gather there are about 20,000 under twenty—he has not specially taken the figures for under twenty-one— for those two counties alone. My hon. friend is a plain man, he never attempts to explain away facts, he never attempts to state them otherwise than they are, and he states them always with the utmost honesty and frankness. My hon. friend has admitted that the great majority of the boys are engaged for ten hours from bank to bank. As regards the numbers, we have the figures from twelve to sixteen; there are no figures to show how many there are from sixteen to twenty, but my hon. friend said it was difficult to see how the total could reach 20,000. On another occasion, in answer to a remark of my own, in which I argued the number was about 24,000, he said that 20,000 would be nearer the mark.
1150 We do not quarrel over a thousand or two, and I am prepared to accept his figure of 20,000, and he himself said that the great majority of those boys worked ten hours a day below ground. My hon. friends—I am not speaking of hon. Members on the other side—who represent the labouring classes of these counties are not satisfied with the existing state of things. They have repeatedly said so, and they told the House the other day how difficult it was to change it. I want to ask them whether they are prepared to make to us any proposals for a change. They suggested in the recent debate, and also last year, that they might possibly accept a certain number of hours in the week, but not a certain number of hours per day. It has been stated that the usual course for Parliament to take in dealing with hours of labour, is to fix the hours in a week rather than the hours in a day. That is not quite true. I see my hon. friend hero who knows the factory law. He will be aware that Parliament has done the two things; it has fixed both the hours in the week and the hours in the day. In many trades it has fixed them directly, and in others indirectly, but, directly or indirectly, Parliament has generally in its factory legislation tried to deal with both the week and the day. As my hon. friend reminds me, it does so in the Mines Act. In the law relating to the employment of persons under sixteen, it deals with both the week and the day.
The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division objects to what he calls "cast-iron uniformity," because the conditions of coal work throughout the country vary in different districts. But he already has cast-iron uniformity. By the admission of his colleague the Member for Morpeth, in the northern counties the great majority of the boys work ten hours a day; that is through a fixed cast-iron day. He cannot expect that those of us who feel deeply on this subject should consent to leave alone the case of the Northumberland and Durham boys. He is not satisfied with it himself, and he wishes to find some means of overcoming the difficulty which he admits exists. It will always be impossible to deal with this question of the regulation of hours in mines by any scheme of local option, such as some Members think might be adopted. We would sooner abandon all attempts to 1151 legislate on this subject than leave Northumberland and Durham entirely aside; and I am sure my hon. friends who represent those great mining constituencies do not desire that they should be left aside in any modern legislation with regard to hours; they do not wish to rest satisfied with the hours at present worked by the young persons in these counties. If there is any incontrovertible maxim in connection with legislation of this kind, it is that Parliament has always had special regard to the case of young persons. Surely no one can profess to think that ten hours in the short northern day below ground is a proper life for a boy of fourteen. My hon. friends, I am sure, do not stand alone in desiring to find some remedy, and I ask what remedy are they prepared to find? In a previous year there was a little passage of arms between the hon Members for the Morpeth and Wansbeck Divisions and myself upon this subject, and the last thing I will put before the House is what they have said on the point—not with any desire to "Hansardise" them (as the Prime Minister Lord Derby called it) or to obtain a triumph of words over them; we all have the same object, viz., to improve a state of things which we think is unsatisfactory, although they find a difficulty with regard to the remedy. When this matter was discussed on the Coal Mines Regulation Act in 1887, the hon. Member for Morpeth made a speech of considerable length. He explained the double shift system of working in the county of Durham, and how under that system the boys worked for ten hours consecutively below ground. He then went on—I would not hesitate to say that it is a very bad system, and I would gladly vote for a limitation even to the extent of eight hours a day.My hon. friends have lately been in the habit of telling the House that they want a limitation to forty-eight hours per week, and that they are not inclined to accept a limitation by the day. But on that occasion my hon. friend distinctly said a limitation by the day, and my hon. friend the Member for the Wansbeck Division said he agreed with all that had fallen from the hon. Member for Morpeth.
§ MR. FENWICK
My right hon. friend must not put words into my mouth that I have not uttered. Let him quote from my speech in which I said I agreed with all that had fallen from the hon. Member for Morpeth.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I am sorry to trouble the House, but the matter is one of some importance. I am not seeking, as is commonly said, to put my hon. friend in a hole.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
No, I am not. I am sincerely trying to obtain a solution of this question. Surely my hon. friend must know that the interest many of us take on this subject has nothing to do with dialectical fights in this House. I am sure my hon. friend will do us that justice. As I said, I am not trying to put the hon. Member in a hole, but to put forward the best side of him on this question, and to see if we cannot together arrive at some solution of the difficulty. My hon. friend the Member for Morpeth said—
—it is a very bad system, and I would gladly vote for a limitation, even to the extent of eight hours a day.
At the end of his speech he repeated—
I feel so strongly upon the matter that, recognising all the difficulties that are in the way, I should be bound to support the amendment in the division, leaving matters to adjust themselves as best they can.
And he did so vote. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division says, and no doubt truly and conscientiously, that he did not go quite so far as that, although he voted in the same division. These are his words, and I quote them only to justify myself to the House, because I think they give ground for thinking that he was in complete agreement with the hon. Member for Morpeth—
It is said that the representatives of the miners do not take part in the discussion because they are both to vote for eight hours a day. The reason we have not spoken is that we consider the ground has been sufficiently covered by the hon. Member for Morpeth.
That led me to think that he completely agreed. But he says he did not, and, of
course, I accept his statement. There were some further words which pointed in the same direction, because he quoted not the hours per week but the hours per day. He said—
We have all along contended that ten hours a day was too extended a period for boys to be employed underground.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
Then I will conclude by asking what practical proposals Northumberland and Durham are prepared to put before us on this subject. We may be able to find not an ultimate solution, but some temporary ground for acting together under the auspices, possibly, of a Conservative Government. We heard just now that the Miners Federation had made a suggestion to the Government that they should introduce a Bill on this subject. That Bill would not bind any of us not to agitate for a larger programme; it would not prevent me voting for or supporting the complete Bill which was before us a week ago. But I think it is not inconsistent with that view that we should press even a Conservative Government, indisposed to legislate for adult labour, to deal with this question of the boys. Let us press them to do even that if they will, but, at all events, the responsibility lies not upon us who hold the larger view, but upon my hon. friends who hold the more limited view, to find a solution of the difficulties which they themselves admit exist.
§ *(1.57.) MR. FENWICK
I congratulate the promoters of this Bill on the fact that they have decided to drop Clause 2 in the event of the Bill being read a second time and reaching the Committee stage. I was somewhat surprised to hear my hon. friend the Member for the Normanton Division state that that clause was inserted in the Bill with a view to the safety of the men. I should have thought that if the promoters sincerely believed that the provision was calculated to promote safety, they would at all hazards have stood by it. I cannot for the life of me understand how those of us who are directly associated with the miners could willingly drop out of any Bill we had before the House a proposal which we honestly believed was calculated to promote the safety of those engaged in 1154 what must always be a very dangerous and hazardous occupation. But, as I said, I congratulate the promoters on their decision. In the light of past experience, I think there is probably no more indefensible proposition than that contained in Clause 2 of this Bill. What has been the aim of the working classes of this country, and of the miners in particular, during the last fifty years or more? Has not one of their chief objects been to increase the age-limit, and to prevent boy-labour being employed in our mines? I venture to say they have pursued that object with marked success, as I shall endeavour to show. Our main object in endeavouring to increase the age limit has been to keep boys longer from going into the mine and thus give them an opportunity of remaining longer in the hands of the schoolmaster than they previously had an opportunity of doing. The House will remember that in the early part of the last century the law permitted boys, and even girls, I am sorry to say, to be employed in our coal mines in this country at very tender ages indeed. There are cases cited in the Report of the Royal Commission which inquired into the condition of the employment of children in the early part of the century—there arc two cases at least—of boys having been taken into the mines at the age of four and five years respectively. We are told by the Commissioners that at that time it was a common practice for boys and girls at the age of six and seven to be employed underground. I can only say that my own father commenced his employment in the mine at the age of eight, and, unfortunately for me, I myself was compelled to enter the mine when I reached the age of ten years. In 1842, as the result of Lord Shaftesbury's labours—and nobody appreciates the services he rendered to the industrial classes of this country more highly than I do—the law abolished the employment of female labour in the mines and raised the standard age of boys to ten years, only permitting boys who were over the age of nine when the Act was passed, and who were then employed, to continue in their employment. In 1872 the age was still further increased from ten to twelve, but I am sorry to say that even the Act of 1872 left the Home Secretary with considerable authority to grant exemptions, and those exemptions were very largely granted to their mines. When the Coal Mines 1155 Regulation Bill was before the House of Commons in 1887, an Amendment moved by my hon. friend the Member for Morpeth to limit the age to twelve years, was made universal in its application, and there were many of us at that time who would very gladly have seen it raised even to a higher limit. I am glad to say that two years ago, by the action of my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, the age limit was still further increased by the unanimous consent of the House to thirteen years. Throughout all this period, as the House will see, the one aim and object that the miners have had in view, and have kept steadily in view, has been to increase the age limit and to keep their boys as long at school as possible. But now we have a proposal submitted to us by gentlemen who represent mining constituencies, and who are leaders of large mining organisations—we have them coming to us and proposing to limit us at the other end. They are proposing now that unless you go into the mine early you shall not go in at all, and that seems to me to be a most ridiculous proposition to submit to the judgment of men who know anything at all about the history of coal mining. You now permit a boy to enter the mine at the age of thirteen. He may work in the mine a week or a day, or he may be employed for twelve months. He then leaves his employment in the mine and goes to some other industry. He is away from mining employment perhaps ten, twenty, or thirty years. He comes back when he is well stricken in life, and because he was employed for a brief period while he was a boy in a coal mine, he is eligible for employment again.
§ * MR. FENWICK
I think I am in order in discussing this point, because the clause now stands in the Bill, and until it is deleted in Committee it is quite within the right of the House to consider it. A young man, because he has turned eighteen years of age, with all his mental and physical faculties in perfect health, for the reason that he was not employed before he was eighteen would not be permitted to find employment in a coal mine after the passing of this Act. It seems to me that no more indefensible proposition was ever submitted to the 1156 consideration of this House. I was somewhat surprised to hear this afternoon the statement made by my hon. friend who is in charge of the Bill, with regard to the treatment of boys in our mines. I can only say that if the treatment in our mines of boys is such as was described by my hon. friend the Member for Normanton, it is a discredit to the trade organisations of these districts that they should permit such practices to be carried on. We have no such practices in the North of England, and we would not tolerate them for a day, and if such practices were brought to our notice, peace men as we are, we would say to the employer: "We will either stop your colliery or you must remedy these grievances, and compensate those who have been so treated either by your officials or by anyone left in charge by you." My hon. friend said, and said I have no doubt very truly, that boys were badly paid. I certainly think that there is room for improvement in that respect. I agree that wages in mines are not as good as they ought to be. I was very much surprised the other day to notice a statement in a newspaper circulating in the North of England, which said that miners were working from six to nine hours per day, and were able to earn their £1 1s. per day. I have never heard of such wages, and I should be very glad if I could find that that statement contained even a scintilla of truth in it. But how will this Bill improve the wages of boys? It does not profess to do so. My hon. friend has not advocated this Bill upon that ground. He has not attempted to show us in what way this Bill would tend to improve the wages of boys. He told us that there were boys working double shifts, but he did not tell us where. I can only say that, speaking for my own county, we know of no such cases where boys are employed upon a double shift in one day. I would say more than this. The law protects boys under sixteen from working more than ten hours per day, or fifty-four hours in the week, and by an agreement with our employers in the North of England, boys over sixteen, unless in some very few exceptional cases, are absolutely forbidden to work more than ten hours per day, So that, wherever else the hon. Member's allegations may refer to, I am sure that he will take it from me that this is certainly not true with respect to the county of Northumberland.
§ * MR. FENWICK
That was not the statement made by my hon. friend. His statement was that boys were working double shifts and were working more than twelve hours.
§ MR. PICKARD
If the boys are over sixteen and under twenty-one years of age, there is no limitation.
§ * MR. FENWICK
My hon. friend says that so far as the law is concerned, it lays down no limit for boys over sixteen years of age. I know that it is only for young persons under sixteen that the law operates. But I am speaking of the practice outside the law in the county of Northumberland, where our agreement with the employers is that no boys over sixteen years of age shall be employed in the mine more than ten hours a day, or in very exceptional cases for half-an-hour longer, but none whatever beyond ten and a half hours. My hon. friend also spoke of districts where the boys were in the habit of being called up at four o'clock in the morning to get ready for their employment. All I can say is that those districts where such practices prevail are altogether different in their customs to what our customs are in the north of England. The earliest age at which a boy descends a mine in the north of England is six o'clock in the morning. About half the boys descend the mine at six o'clock in the morning, and another half go down at seven o'clock. My hon. friend did not tell us the districts where those practices prevail, and I hope that he will take it from me that certainly such practices do not prevail in the north of England. I will leave that part of the subject, and come to an observation that was made by my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean. I can scarcely think, having regard to the nature of the incident which took place in this House last week, that my right hon. friend was as frank either with me or the House as he usually is. He left the House last week under the impression that I had voted for a Bill which proposed to shorten the labour of boys to eight hours 1158 per day. Some gentlemen who are accustomed to write our Parliamentary history for us, declared in their London letters to the newspapers that I had been "cornered by my right hon. friend."
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I am not responsible for that, and I never had any conversation with them. I know nothing of these "Pictures in Parliament."
§ * MR. FENWICK
Of course my right hon. friend was not responsible, but I am referring to the impression which his interruption and his subsequent attitude had, both on the House and on the representatives of the Press in the Gallery. One of the latter, in particular, described me as having been cornered by my right hon. friend; and he went so far as to say how I looked under the chastisement I had received at the hands of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. Another went still further, and said that the House jeered at me. Now I have had seventeen years experience as a Member of this House, and the next time the House jeers at me will be the first. No man will ever be jeered at in this House who endeavours, as I have done, to treat the House and its Members with respect. Another newspaper went on to say that no public reference was made to the fact by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. The lists of the Division were shown to Mr. Fenwick, who could not explain the vote he had given for a Bill of which now he was a bitter opponent. Now, will the House bear this fact in mind, that I never voted for a Bill to limit the hours of labour of boys.
§ * MR. FENWICK
My contention is— and here, I think, I have some ground of complaint against my right hon. friend— that, having possessed himself of the facts last Wednesday from the Library, before I resumed my seat, and some considerable time before the House came to a division, he did not put the House in possession of those facts.
§ * MR. FENWICK
Let me put the House in possession of the language of the right hon. Gentleman last week. I was discussing the difficulty we should be confronted with if the change were made as proposed by the Bill before the House last week. My right hon. friend interrupted me by asking, "What is the difference in the position now as compared with a few years ago, when the hon. Member voted for a Bill for shortening the hours of labour for boys?"
§ * MR. FENWICK
I am quoting from Hansard. It is perfectly true that in 1887 an Amendment was moved on the Coal Mines Regulations Bill by the late Mr. Stephen Mason, who then represented the Mid. Lanark Division, on Clause 6 of that Bill, which dealt with the hours of labour, to omit fifty-four hours and to insert forty-eight hours; but that was a very different proposal to the one which we were asked to consider last week, or even today. But before the House went to a division on that occasion, and after the suggestion had been made by the late Mr. Childers, who was Mr. Matthew's predecessor at the Home Office, Mr. Mason proposed to amend his Amendment by the addition of the following words—
That the Home Secretary shall have authority to grant such hours to a district as may he thought desirable.Is my right hon. friend prepared to stand by that proposal?
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
That was after the speech of my right hon. friend the Member for Morpeth, which I have referred to.
§ * MR. FENWICK
My right hon. friend refuses to be bound by anything stated in the Press. He is perfectly entitled to do so. But he will excuse me if I refuse to be bound by anything that I have not personally said or done. The proposal was of a totally different character from anything we are considering today. The vote I gave in 1887, I am prepared to defend today, and even to repeat. Is my right hon. friend prepared to accept that proposal?
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The hon. Member spoke after the Amendment had 1160 been proposed, and he made no allusion to the suggested modification proposed or promised to be brought in by the Government.
§ * MR. FENWICK
It is perfectly true that I spoke after that proposal had been made, and I said, referring to the Member in charge of the Amendment, "if the division is taken, notwithstanding the difficulties that may be in the way, I should have no hesitation in going into the same lobby with my hon. friend the Member for Mid Lanark." It was after that amended proposition had been submitted to the House that I made that statement. It is really absurd for the right hon. Gentleman to get up and say that I made no allusion to the altered state of the Amendment, when I referred directly to the hon. Member who was in charge of the Amendment. I have all along contended that this was peculiarly an industry in which we should have some elasticity of arrangement. My right hon. friend talks of cast-iron uniformity, but would he contend that such cast-iron regulations which we now have would be anything like what we should have if the hours of labour were, by statute, reduced two hours per day? If you endeavour to impose cast-iron regulations on such an industry as this, you will inflict infinite hardship on those employed in it. All along, in previous factory and mining legislation, the House has proceeded on the lines of a weekly limit, and I maintain that the proposal in the Bill now under discussion is a new departure. It is not for me to make a proposal which ought to come from my right hon. friend. I have told the House what I am prepared to do. It is for my right hon. friend to say whether he and his friends are prepared to make any modification with a view to secure a settlement of this vexed question. If they are not prepared today, then my duty is clear to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.(2.30.)
§ *(3.0.) MR. HOLLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham)
I have the honour to represent in this House one of the great mining constituencies in the country, and I feel it my duty to take part in this debate and declare myself as a warm supporter of the Bill before the House. I have received large numbers of 1161 communications and petitions from my constituents, and all of them express warm support of this particular measure. I have noticed that the critics, who have been presumably adverse to this measure today, have directed their shafts against Clause 2; but seeing that as soon as the Bill reaches Committee stage that clause will no longer have any existence, it does suggest to me rather a poverty of argument against the other clauses of the Bill. I take it rather as a compliment that hardly anything has been said against the other clauses of the Bill. I observed that the hon. Member for Peckham was very anxious, in referring to Clause 2 at this stage, to secure a pledge that in any subsequent session of Parliament there should be no attempt to revive Clause 2; but I think we have enough to answer for in the present session of Parliament without pledging ourselves in regard to any future session. This Bill is very strikingly differentiated from the Bill discussed a week ago, inasmuch as the Bill of last week had to do with an eight hours day for adults, while this Bill has to do with an eight hours day for boys. In the debate last week it was said that the men of Northumberland and Durham were against the Eight Hours Bill for themselves, but can any one get up and say that any proportion of boys are against this Bill? I do not suppose that any poll of the boys has been taken, but I feel sure that if a poll were taken the result would be an overwhelming majority of the boys in favour of the Bill now before the House. The hon. Member for the Ashford Division laid great stress on some resolution alleged to have been passed at a Miners Congress, in which the age of eighteen years was preferred to the age of twenty-one; and the hon. Member spoke in such a tone as to suggest that the opposition to this particular Bill would not have been persisted in had the age of eighteen been substituted for twenty-one. I would like to inquire whether the hon. Gentleman would support this Bill if the age were reduced from twenty one to eighteen years. I have not the slightest authority for suggesting that such a reduction would be accepted, but if we could be assured that there was a chance in that event of support for the Bill from quarters where we are now receiving nothing but opposition, that might be a strong inducement for making the reduction.
1162 The hon. Member for Peckham says he is strongly in favour of settling this matter by voluntary arrangement. I can only say that as between voluntary arrangement and Act of Parliament, there are many points in favour of the former; but, having some experience in industrial enterprises, I say that voluntary arrangements are much more beautiful in theory than in practice. If you rely on the men making voluntary arrangements with the masters, you may succeed with the men who serve good masters. But what about the men less favourably situated, and serving bad masters? For there are bad as well as good employers, and those who serve bad masters would not be as well circumstanced as those engaged by good masters, and strikes would have to be resorted to to obtain the reform. And between strikes and an Act of Parliament most hon. Members would, I take it, prefer the settlement of labour difficulties by Act of Parliament rather than by the arbitrary and painful methods of a strike. Then, in regard to voluntary arrangement, men stand an infinitely better chance than boys. That is proved by experience. Forty years ago the number of hours worked by hewers in the mines of Northumberland and Durham was sixty-six, whereas now it was forty-four, or a reduction of 33 per cent. But the position of the boys was much less favourable. In their case the hours worked per week were seventy-two, and they had only been reduced to sixty-six and in some eases to sixty hours. That was a reduction of only 8½ per cent, in the least favourable cases and 17 per cent, in the most favourable. I think that establishes my contention that although men may do something in the way of making a satisfactory voluntary arrangememt, the boys have not the same chance.
I think the Bill we are now discussing may fairly be regarded as the natural corollary to the measure promoted and passed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, by which child labour below the age of thirteen years was absolutely prohibited in mines. By this Bill we go a step further and deal, not with child labour, but with the labour of boys, which it is proposed to ameliorate. I think it is only right to state that the hon. Baronet the Member for the Chester-le-Street Division gave his hearty support to the Bill prohibit- 1163 ing child labour in mines under the age of thirteen years, and no doubt his co-operation had a great deal to do with the passing of that Bill, which reflected credit on this Assembly. The real question is, if eight hours are long enough for men to work in a pit—and there is high authority on both sides of the House for saying so— then how much stronger is the argument that eight hours are long enough for boys? I am sorry to say that there are boys in my constituency who, with overtime, work fourteen hours a day. That is a state of things that is not very creditable to us as a great industrial community; and in passing such a Bill as we are now discussing we should be taking a step to put a stop to these unreasonable hours of labour.
It has been said that if we shorten the hours of labour we will send our trade into the hands of foreign competitors; but I rely a good deal on the International Labour Conferences which are held from time to time, whereat the labour leaders of the world assemble and; compare notes. Such an interchange of views cannot but have beneficial results in levelling up the conditions of labour in other countries to those which obtain in our own. I am sorry to say that in regard to the levelling-up process there is not much to be done in some branches of labour by foreign nations in order to bring them abreast of this nation. Indeed, the boot is entirely on the other leg. We know that when the Vice-President of the Council attended the Berlin Conferenee some years ago, and the case was put before him, he pledged himself to do his utmost, on returning home, to raise the age of child labour in this country to the standard of France, Germany, and other nations; but even after the Bill introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was passed a couple of years ago, raising the age to thirteen, it left us a year behind some of our leading industrial competitors on the Continent. It seems to me that if only the leaders in the mining industry—whether they come from Northumberland or Durham or from other parts of the country —were to meet together, some modus vivendi might, with patience and determination, be arrived at in regard to questions of this kind, and some solution come to which would save us from the somewhat heated de- 1164 bates which occur in this House when the labour leaders in one part of the country take up an antagonistic position to those from another part of the country.
It has been suggested that this legislation would hit Northumberland and Durham very much more heavily than other parts of the country. On a former occasion it was objected to on the ground that it would transfer the commercial advantage at present enjoyed by those counties to Fife and Clackmannan. It is obvious that this House has no right to give preferential legislation to one district rather than another. But that is not what is proposed by this Bill. This measure, if passed, would have equal application all through the country, whether it was Fife or Clackmannan, Northumberland or Durham, Yorkshire or South Wales, the one law would be in force: and that, I think, disposes of the suggestion that by this Bill preferential treatment is being given to one county at the expense of another.
There are many Members who have pledged themselves to what is known as a universal eight hours day with a trade option. That is a consideration which has much to be said in its favour, because it is only natural that those in a trade should be better informed as to the precise conditions under which their trade can be carried on, and that they should know better than anyone else the needs of that particular industry. This, I submit, is a proposal to which those who have given such a pledge could accord their support, because, as I understand, it has received the approval of a great majority of those engaged in the coalmining industry. On the plea, therefore, of securing trade option, this is a measure which undoubtedly ought to pass its Second Beading this day.
§ *(3.18.) MR. RENWICK (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
Last Wednesday we were engaged in discussing practically the same Bill as we are called upon to discuss today. Last week the promoters endeavoured to pass it through the House disguised as a man; this week they are endeavouring to get the same Bill through disguised as a boy. I object to the Bill entirely on principle. I object generally to any restriction of, or interference with labour. I believe that this House ought not practically to form itself into a league for the purpose 1165 of restricting the hours of labour or placing other restrictions on the freedom of the subject. I believe that boys of from sixteen to twenty-one years of age are well able to take care of themselves. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division has told us that he went down into the mine to work at the age of eight. Well, things have changed since then. If it could be proved now that boys were called upon to commence work at that age, I believe there would be a unanimous vote in favour of such a restriction as would prevent that happening in the future. But it is absolutely unnecessary to ask this House in any way whatever to interfere with the freedom of labour of boys of from sixteen to twenty-one years of age. We have heard a great deal about Northumberland and Durham in the course of this debate. I represent a Northumberland constituency. If there had been a desire that this Bill should pass, I think we should have had petitions signed by large numbers of the inhabitants of those counties asking us to vote for the measure. I have not had a single message of any description asking me to vote for the Bill, and it is probably the same with the whole of the representatives of those counties. But I have had I do not know how many letters requesting me to vote against the Bill. I believe it is very much the same with regard to other districts, if we leave out some of the miners' leaders and the leaders of trades unions. If the case for this proposal is to be made out, it will certainly have to be stated in a much better and clearer way than it has been hitherto. I have not heard a single argument, either last week or today, that would for one moment convince me of the necessity of passing a Bill of this description. We have heard a great deal lately about foreign competition. Only today I was reading an article in the Pall Mall Magazine by the hon. Member for Hartle-pool. I commend that article to the attention of the advocates of this measure, for it is there pointed out that while trades unions undoubtedly do good, they are mistaken in trying to restrict output and hamper trade. This Bill is one which hasal most for its sole object the endeavour to limit output, to hamper trade, and to interfere with manufacturers. As one who knows something of the coal trade, I would remind hon. 1166 Members, especially for the Welsh mining constituencies, that the miners there have themselves already done a great deal to restrict the output. They have, as is no doubt well known to the hon. Member for the Rhondda Division, a "Mabon's day," that is, at least one Monday in every month, on which the miners do not work at all.
§ * MR. RENWICK
The hon. Member for the Rhondda Division shakes his head. Well, if they have not one Mabon'sday, they probably have two, or perhaps three, and I know that, notwithstanding any Acts, they have made a very determined effort recently to restrict the output. I would like to remind the House that one of the direct results of the restriction of the output is to raise the price of coal. That is a thing we do not wish to do at the present time. The price of coal is quite high enough, as any manufacturer will tell you, and we do not need any artificial restriction to increase it. We want free labour in the mines, and if we take care to protect the women and children, the boys from sixteen to twenty-one, as I said before, are quite able to take care of themselves. I know that in my own district, and probably it is the same in other mining districts, in many cases if the boys are interfered with they take the law into their own hands and decline to go to work, with the result that the whole mine is idle until the dispute is settled. This state of affairs is also quite usual in the shipyards and manufactories. I happened to go into a shipyard one day last August, and there was not a single man at work. I asked what was the matter, and was told that the boys who heated and carried the rivets had all gone off to bathe, and so the whole yard was idle. If you interfere with the boys in the mine, identically the same state of things will happen with regard to the men there. It naturally follows that if you restrict the hours of the boys you also restrict the hours of the men. I would appeal to hon. Members to give this matter their most serious consideration before voting in favour of the Bill. Some Members no doubt are afraid of their constituents; they think they would be gaining their favour by voting for the measure. I venture to 1167 think that if they had the courage to vote against the Bill, and would throw it out as we threw out the proposal of last week, not by one vote, but reject it by many votes, thus showing decisively that we do not want any legislation of this description, then every Member would occupy a much better and more independent position than he occupies at the present time. After all, we must remember that we are sent here first to look after the interests of the Empire, and then to look after the interests of our constituencies, not as a section but as a whole.
I am extremely sorry to find that when we are asked to come here on a Wednesday to discuss Bills, they are usually Bills having for their object the registration of some body of people or the restriction of hours of labour. Some Members—especially the other side of the House—apparently have the idea that their duty and mission in life is to restrict somebody's freedom. That surely is a mistaken idea. They seem to get as much satisfaction from restricting the liberty of His Majesty's subjects as the old woman got from the blessed word Mesopotamia. There is nothing sacred in the word "registration," whether it be the registration of teachers of music or of anybody else. We are asked, not only during our election contest, but afterwards, to vote for the registration of this particular class of people or of that, but I venture to think that what we want in this country is freedom, not restriction. Leave the British working man alone, and I say that he can hold his own, whether it be in mining or manufacturing. It is a mistaken idea for the leaders of trades unions to set themselves up to interfere with the hours of labour or with the working of the factories. Foreign competition is quite keen enough at the present time, without having this competition at home, and I sincerely plead with hon. Members to give their attention to other phases of the problems which face manufacturers rather than to throw further restrictions in the way of their carrying on their business.
I would say one word further with regard to the boys. It has been stated by the promoters that if we pass this bill they will abandon Clause 2. But we have not heard officially that the clause has been withdrawn; therefore, I think we are justified in still treating it—
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
The hon. Member for the Normanton Division has declared in this House today that the second clause has been withdrawn.
§ * MR. RENWICK
At any rate, when the point was raised with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division he was allowed to go on. The point I wish to bring forward is that we ought not to make it our business here to teach young men entering upon a career, whether it be as miners or connected with any other trade or profession, to rely upon this House or upon assistance from the State. What we ought to teach them is to rely upon their own exertions, and, with the education which they now get, they, after the age of sixteen, with the help of their parents and their trades unions, are well able to take care of themselves. I would prefer to see these young men suffer a little inconvenience rather than, at the very outset of their career, be taught to look to the State for help. We shall never do this by passing legislation of this description for their protection. I will not go further into that point in regard to the boys, because I think that it is unnecessary when we are told that that clause is being withdrawn. One word more in regard to the healthiness or unhealthiness of a miner's occupation. I would remind hon. Members of this House that we have two very good specimens on the other side of the House, one a Northumberland miner and the other a Welsh miner. Both of them, I under stand, entered the mine at a very early age, and, judging by such magnificent specimens of manhood, at any rate they have not suffered very much harm. With reference to the hon. Member for Morpeth, whose absence at the present time we all deplore, and other miners' leaders, they have been much more frequently employed in the North recently opening homes or laying foundation stones for institutions for aged miners rather than for hospitals for the young. We have not only some good specimens of manhood, but we have among miners some old men who are living testimonies to the healthiness of their occupation. I would throw out this suggestion—that if there is unhealthiness in regard to the occupation of the miner it arises much more from the unhealthiness of the village in which he lives rather than from the 1169 mine. Let hon. Members turn their attention to better villages, better houses, and better sanitary conditions, and then I think they will be doing much more useful work than they are attempting to do at the present time. I thank the House for listening so attentively to the few remarks I have had to make upon this occasion, and I will conclude, as I began, by saying that I am entirely opposed to these continuous at temps to restrict the freedom of the British workman. Rather let us try to throw off some of the trammels from which he suffers and endeavour to put into the minds of working men the truth of the saying "The better the workman, the better the wages." If we do this, I have every confidence that, no matter in what walk of life a man may follow his occupation, you will find that the British workman can hold his own against any workman in the world.
(3.35.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to our work on Wednesday afternoons. I think his remark indicated a Want of appreciation of the kind of measures discussed on these afternoons when he referred to them as Bills for the registration of certain classes of people, and the restriction of hours of labour of others.
The hon. Member has also been referring to restrictions on labour, which he says he is entirely opposed to. In that case he is opposed to the legislation which this House has sanctioned for many years past. Some of the most beneficial social changes made in this country have been due to judicious restrictions upon the hours of labour. Those who can recall the conditions of the poor factory workers in Lancashire in former times will understand what enormous changes have been made there by restrictions upon the hours of labour of young people. Looking to our great destinies and our Imperial responsibilities, we especially desire to have every measure that can bring about a better condition and a better development of the young people of this country, and measures to this end ought to have the support of every man who loves his race and his country.
The hon. Member went on to say that the motive of this Bill was to limit the output. I have no such motive as that.
1170 I may tell the House that I am ready to support this Bill, not from any motive of that kind, but from views entirely different. Because I consider that it is likely to produce a benefit among a growing population, I think it is deserving the attention of this House. I approach this question entirely from the point of view of one who looks upon excessive labour, whether in adult or early life, and especially in early life, as a great evil. There is no evil more serious to the growing child than long hours of labour, whether intellectual or physical; and when the hon. Member spoke of young people between sixteen and twenty years of age being quite capable of taking care of themselves, I am sure that is not his own experience in his own class of life, nor is it mine. We do not allow our young people of sixteen to twenty-one years of age to take care of themselves; on the contrary, we hedge them round with a great many restrictions which we consider are good for their development in all directions. If we had some of our own young people working in the murky and dark atmosphere of a mine, we should be very glad to limit the hours they were exposed to these conditions. My attention was more especially drawn to this matter some years ago, when I had the opportunity of bringing before this House a case which the Home Secretary, who was the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, gave his attention to. In that case I brought forward an instance of excessive overwork in regard to one of these boys for whom we are seeking to legislate today. That boy was killed in the course of his occupation, and the facts connected with his death were these: He was a pit boy seventeen years of age, and he was a driver. He was killed at seven o'clock in the evening, and it was proved at the inquest that he had had no food from midday, and that he had been twelve hours at work at the time of his death, and that on the day before he had actually been working from seven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening. Those are conditions of labour which ought not to exist in any civilised country, and I am supporting this Bill today, because I want these long hours to be stopped, and I believe they ought to be stopped.
* SIR WALTER FOSTER
At Polesworth, in Warwickshire. The boy was seventeen years of age. The Home Secretary, in replying, said that he hoped the censure passed by the coroner's jury, and the remonstrance of the inspector, would have the effect of preventing such an occurrence again. It was a singular fact that when I inquired into this case I found out that only a short time previously another boy had been killed in the same employment; in the same district, and, I believe, under the same employer. That boy, at the time of his death, had been working more than fifteen hours. Those things are a scandal to our civilisation, and they ought not to be allowed to occur. Surely, if, under circumstances of exceptional stress and difficulty, this occurred on one day in reference to one boy, the same boy ought not to be working twelve hours on the next day, when he meets with his death. This is a condition of things which is not a good thing for the people who are subjected to it, and it is more or less a scandal to the conditions of things under which these people labour.
These things are still going on. They have not been stopped, and we need this Bill to stop them. The other day, in looking over the statistics of deaths in mines, I came across another instance, quite by accident, in which, in South Wales, there was a boy killed only last year who had been working at the time of his death seventeen hours. This was a surface boy, but he was only sixteen years of age. Those are things which ought not to be allowed to happen for any small economic considerations. They are questions on a higher and loftier level; they are questions of common humanity, and it is the duty of every hon. Member of this House to take steps to stop tragedies of this kind occurring in a rich country like ours. But I do not end the argument there. After looking over these statistics, what do I find? I find that if we go down that sad column of deaths occurring in mines, reported by inspectors, we are startled by the pitiful record of boys, deaths at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty years of age. So frequently did they occur in these statistics, that I thought that I would see how many there were of them, and I ran over four districts; and what do hon. Members 1172 think was the horrible sum total of deaths of boys in those four districts reported by the inspectors of mines? Last year in those districts there were no less than 113 deaths of boys under the age of twenty-one. Surely that is a sacrifice that ought not to continue? As we all know, these prolonged hours of labour tend to produce accidents by making the movements of the muscles slower, and interfering with the boy's activity and agility in getting out of the way of danger. We ought, there fore, to do all we can to lessen the hours of labour in order to prevent this sacrifice of life. Anyone who looks at this matter from this point of view will see further evidence of this in these Tables which my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean has just placed in my hands. It will be seen from these figures that this great sacrifice of life goes on all over the country among young people. The districts I took were not selected districts, but I happen to know something about those districts where these 113 deaths occurred among the young boys. I believe that if I had taken the whole record of the inspectors of all the deaths for 1900, I should have found the same kind of thing running all through the lot. In the table before me we have something approaching one-fifth of the cases of deaths occurring to persons under the age of twenty. You have this remarkable fact coming out of these statistics—that boys between sixteen and twenty years of age, as my right hon. friend has already pointed out, provide half as many deaths by accident as the men between twenty and thirty years of age, although the number employed at the lower age is much fewer than those employed between twenty and thirty. That shows a strong case for these boys between sixteen and twenty years of age, when the system produces more victims and martyrs amongst them, in proportion to their numbers, than amongst adults between twenty and thirty years of age, and the House ought to do all that is possible to save these boys from this terrible sacrifice of life year by year.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
The proportion between sixteen and twenty was much higher. It was exactly half those for the next ten years.
* SIR WALTER FOSTER
The proportion was much higher, especially when you consider the number employed. [An HON. MEMBER: Can you give us the figures of the number employed?] You cannot get them from the Blue-books. The number of deaths from accidents between sixteen and twenty is large when considered in comparison with the number employed.
First of all, I think we are bound to support this Bill on the ground of humanity, so as to prevent this continual sacrifice of life. I think we ought to support it on another ground. It is very bad for the people employed. There is nothing so bad, we all admit, as prolonged labour, especially physical labour, for young people. If you look into the matter from the point of view of the development of the race, you will find it laid down by all authorities on this question, that hard and long labour should never be exacted from an individual before he is fully developed. That is laid down by the highest physico logical authorities. Here you have labour which is not always hard physical labour, but labour which in some cases is hard and prolonged, and which is very often run over a longer number of hours than you ought to exact from growing people. You have these people up to twenty-one practically undergoing development. That is the time when we are consigning them for long hours to dark mines, and subjecting them to a species of labour that taxes their strength to the utmost, for periods totally out of proportion to the periods they ought to be employed in anything like muscular exertion. The conditions under which they work also are conditions which are not favourable to development. Everybody knows that not only in plant life, but in human life, sunlight is essential to development. These young people are taken away and put into a condition of things where they lose the beneficial effects of light, and the consequence is that there is, more or less, an interference with the general nutrition and growth. That ought to be limited, as far as it can be limited, with due consideration to the interests that concern trade. I do not wish to hamper trade or to drive it out of the country, or to lessen the capacities, in some instances already too small, for this country being able to compete with distant and 1174 Continental rivals. I want the race to be stronger and abler in future, in order to be able so compete with our commercial rivals all over the world.
There is another point from which this question of working hours ought to be considered, and it is this. Prolonged hours of labour, especially muscular labour, nearly always bring about—in fact, they always do bring about in all of us—a certain amount of the dulling of the intellectual faculties. Hon. Members of this House, in an ordinary session of Parliament, do not have that amount of physical exercise that many of us would like to have. When we take an extra amount of exercise at the close of the session in August, we know that for the first few days it dulls the intellectual capacity, I should like to hear a debate carried on in this House between a set of men who had had a long day's exercise on the 12th of August and another set who had not been so engaged I do not think there would be any comparison between the efficacy of the vigour of the arguments on one side and the other. The prolongation of muscular work tends to dull the intellectual faculties. I am certain that long hours make the boys who are engaged in mines less observant and more liable to trip and fall under the trucks they are engaged in moving, and so more liable to bring about the terrible catalogue of accidents to which I have referred. I believe that the development of the race of this country in future we shall owe to the action of wise statesmen of the past, who limited the hours of labour of young people. We are already making a change in all the factory districts, and especially in the case of growing girls and boys. They are growing up under better conditions than formerly, and they are making a better race of men and women. They are adding to the strength and stability of the country, and they are adding also a better stock from which we can draw artisans and labourers in future, who will enable us to compete in the markets of the world with some who are now our successful rivals. Some years ago an inquiry was made into this subject in this country, and what was the result? Taking factory hands, and especially young children engaged in factories, it was found that between the ages of ten and twelve their stature was no less than three and-a-half inches less than the statute of the richer classes of people of the same age. 1175 [An HON. MEMBER: In what district?] This was taken over the whole of England in the factory districts, and especially in Lancashire. When this inquiry was extended to miners and people grown up, it was found—and I was rather surprised when I came across the figures the other day—that in the mining class, and the class engaged in occupations of that kind, the same rule prevailed. In that class, men between twenty-five and thirty years of age were an inch and a half less than rich people of the same age. That shows a certain amount of checked development through what I regard as conditions of hard labour. Those years of hard labour, which are carried on by the young, are the very years that tend to check the development, and do check the development, of a strong, vigorous, and healthy race. [An HON. MEMBER: What about food?] The food among the mining class has been criticised as being over good. There have been accusations often brought against the miners of over luxurious living. I do not believe them, but I think that since this country adopted a free trade policy we have no reason to complain of the food of the mining and the working classes.
There is another reason for which I support the Bill. I remember some time ago, when I first represented mining constituency, we had a very interesting debate in this House on the question of limiting the hours of labour. At that time Mr. Mason, who represented one of the divisions of Lanarkshire, introduced in Committee on the Mines Regulation Bill an Amendment to limit the hours to eight per day. We had considerable discussion on that, but we did not succeed in carrying the Amendment. It had support from all sides of the House, and I remember that it received the support of my hon. friend, whose absence we all regret today—I mean the hon. Member for Morpeth. He did not object to the principle. He admitted that the application was a difficult thing, but in a particular district the difficulties ought to be overcome. It is only an economic difficulty, and it ought to be overcome on the higher ground of humanity. It is on that ground that I make my appeal to the House for the passing of the Second Beading of this Bill today. It is a Bill 1176 that will tend to give us a healthier and more vigorous race of young people engaged in the mining industry; it will make the next generation of miners stronger and better than the present; and in doing that it will add the best asset to the Empire in a healthy and vigorous race.
§ (3.55.) SIR THOMAS WRIGHTSON (St. Pancras, E.)
I take it that the function of Parliament in interfering in trade matters should be to confine itself to the consideration of questions affecting the welfare of the people. The case of accidents has been dealt with by the last speaker, and also the case of health to some extent. He said it had been ascertained that among the working classes the average height was something like three and a half inches less than the height of those among the non-working classes. He also went on to say that the difference between the average stature of the miners and the non-working class was only one inch and a half.
SIR WALTER FOSTER
I pointed out that the figures in the first instance referred to children between ten and twelve years of age. In the other case they referred to adults between twenty-five and thirty.
§ SIR THOMAS WRIGHTSON
I think I have a right to say that the argument as to stature has broken down. If health is the great thing we have to look to in legislation of this kind, we should remember that in 1887 and 1892 Acts were passed by which boys were not allowed to go into a mine under sixteen, and the maximum time they were allowed to work was fifty-four hours per week, and the hours per day were not to exceed ten. It is the opinion of many on both sides of the House that this at present is a sufficient limit. We have a right to demand that some time should be given in order to see whether that is a sufficient limit of the hours of labour worked by these young people. If we look at the statistics of the Registrar General we will find that between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-five the average death rate, without taking any accidents into consideration at all, was, in 1892, 740 per 1,000 for miners, whereas the average mortality for all males was 994. I think this also clearly shows that, 1177 so far as miners between twenty-five and sixty-five are concerned, they have an advantage over the rest of the males of this country. This Bill deals with ages which are less than twenty-five. At the same time you must remember that "the child is father of the man," and if he grows up to the age of twenty-five, a deterioration in his physique will be sure to tell on the mortality after the age of twenty-five. Therefore, these statistics are extremely valuable for us in determining whether any harm has been done by the working hours to which allusion has been made. I prefer always experiments to statistics. Northumberland, where both the employers and the employed are opposing this Bill, is recognised as the most ancient coal field in the country. Northumberland was a coal mining district before any of the other districts were in existence, and, therefore, we have aright to look at what has been the result in that district. Instead of discovering among the present miners of Northumberland evidence of a stunting of growth, or of a depreciation in quality, we find that we have there the finest class of miners in the world. It is admitted on all hands by other districts that there is no class of miners who have so fine a physique as those in the district to which I am alluding.
§ SIR THOMAS WRIGHTSON
I do not fear any contradiction of that kind, because I believe it is generally admitted that Northumberland men have the finest physique in the whole mining world. I think that argument is even more valuable than the statistics to which I have alluded.
Now, what are the real facts with regard to long hours of labour? It has been boldly stated that ten hours are too long for a boy to work. These boys are occupied, at least two hours out of the ten, either walking to their work or eating their meals, and if you compare the hours in factories with the hours that are worked by miners, you will be obliged to observe this fact, that a man who works fifty-four hours a week in a factory does so exclusive of meal times and without taking into consideration at all the time which is occupied in walking to his work. You may say that underground this ought to be looked at 1178 from a different standpoint. I deny that. We find that Parliament has interfered in the management and regulation of mines to such an extent that the conditions of working are entirely different from what they were in former years. We find that the trolly ways on which the men work are properly ventilated and sufficiently lighted, and there is no hardship at all in a man walking to his work underground. I say that the hardship to which an ordinary workman is subjected in walking, perhaps, a mile or two to his work in the morning, when in all probability he has to contend with wet weather, getting his clothes damp, and going into his workshop and working all day in damp clothes—I say that condition of things is very much worse than that of a man going down a shaft and walking through a well-ventilated passage to his work. Therefore I think that if you compare the fifty-four hours men work in factories with the time miners work from bank to bank, you will see that so far as health is concerned the comparison is to the advantage of the miner.
The real object, as I believe, of the proposed change is the restriction of output. There is no doubt about it that the Bills which have been brought before Parliament in the way they have been, indicate a desire that a restriction of the output should take place. What do we find as a consequence of the constant restriction of the output, not only in mines but in other industries? That our competitors are passing us, and that every week we are losing our supremacy in trade and manufactures. We find that in America the Trade Union leaders do not attempt the restriction of hours at all. They confine themselves to the legitimate objects Trades Unions should have in view, and that is to see that every man is properly paid for the work he does, but they set their faces against what Trades Unions encourage in this country in the way of restricting the hours of labour. That is what is damaging our trade, commerce, and manufacturers more than anything at the present moment. I trust that the House of Commons, which ought to take a broad view of a thing of this kind, will make up its mind to defer consideration of this, at all events until the Royal Commission has sat and reported on the question of the coal trade, and that it will see, as my hon. friend the Member for Newcastle 1179 said, that it is the proper object of this House to look to the good of the Empire, and not to the transient and apparent good to be obtained by fixing upon such a detail as this Bill does at the present time. I trust that we shall see our way to throw this Bill out, because it will handicap our industries at a time when America and Germany are cutting us out in our steel trades, and when ships are being built of such a size that they can bring over coal from America to compete with us in the markets in the Mediterranean. Is it at a time such as I have described that we should restrict the output in the way I have endeavoured to show this Bill would do?
§ (4.10.) MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
Perhaps the hon. Baronet who has just sat down did not mean that boys are not allowed to work in collieries until they are sixteen. Is that so?
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; he did say so. If he will withdraw I am quite willing that he should do so. We have developed a great power in this House lately for saying that which we do not mean. Another hon. Gentleman said that one of the difficulties would be the diversity in the number of hours that colliery owners would have to deal with. He said that boys could be taken at the age of twelve. That is not so now. One of the great anomalies of the law, until it was amended a year ago, was that a boy could not be employed on the surface until he was thirteen, while he could be taken into the pit at the age of twelve. By the Bill of last year the age was thirteen on the surface and in the pit, so that the anomaly does not now exist. The shortening of the hours of boys need not necessarily interfere with the working of adults. A great argument has been based upon that, and for this reason; neither this Bill nor the one that was before the House this day week, proposes to interfere with the winding of coal in any way. I beg hon. Gentlemen who are using this argument to remember that the measure does not propose to interfere with the time that coal is to be raised. It is well known that men and boys are allowed to come up at a certain hour, and that if there is any coal to be raised it can be done after that is over. 1180 This Bill will not interfere in any way with adults in that sense. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is here to listen to what I have to say today. Why should Northumberland and Durham always be mentioned in this House? I am sorry to say that we find we have greater need for this Bill or the interference of the Government than in other districts. We have been told that we ought to deal with these matters by mutual arrangement between employers and workmen. Well, we did mutually arrange the hours for boys a few years ago, but it is right for me to say that "When the cat's away the mice begin to play." I find that during the last few years—this period of prosperity—boys have been in the South Wales mines day after day for over ten hours per day, and the mortality among these boys is something shocking. On the 17th of June last year, my hon. friend and colleague the senior Member for Merthyr Tydvil asked the Home Secretary a Question, which reads thus—I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he can afford any explanation of the fact that the death rate from accident of persons of sixteen years of age and under employed in collieries in the South Wales district has latterly increased, and that it was higher in 1900 than in any previous year in the decade; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, whereas in each of the five years of 1891 to 1895 inclusive, the death rate was less than that among persons of over sixteen years of age, in each of the years 1896 to 1900 it was higher, and that in the last five years it was 45 per cent. greater than in the previous five years.The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was—It is true that there has been a rise in the death rate among persons under sixteen in mines in South Wales, and that for the last five years it is higher than the death rate among persons over sixteen, whereas in the preceding five years it was lower. In the preceding five years, however, the death rate among persons over sixteen was abnormally heavy, and the rate has declined from 3.50 during those years to 2 during the last five years. A large proportion of the accidents to boys occur in connection with haulage underground, and the reasons for the increase in the death rate among them are perhaps to be found in the greater amount of haulage done in the mines now as compared with previous years, the increased use of machinery, and the greater number of boys employed in connection with machinery.Therefore the mortality among the boys and young men in that district is appalling, and it is necessary that something shall be done and done immediately.
1181 We are told that the men are free, and can do very much as they like. That is not the case. As it is, these men and boys have to walk out from their working places as the machinery is at work. The other day, in one of our large collieries, a comparatively young man and a stranger to the work was killed. He could not reach the manhole or something of that kind in time, and yet the company refused to pay compensation. I think, therefore, on behalf of these young men that it is high time, where we have failed to arrange these things by mutual agreement, that legislation should step in. In addition, the fact that shots are fired between shifts in South Wales creates a dire necessity that the law should interfere. People are now obliged to walk in and out of the collieries while the machinery is in motion. We all know that boys will be boys; and it does not matter whether boys are sixteen, eighteen, or nineteen years old, they often try to run before one another, or something of that kind, with the result that danger to life and limb is, I am sorry to say, on the increase, and that the circumstances demand intervention. I am pleading for the South AY ales district, and I allow other Gentlemen, representing other districts, to know what is best for them. I am pleading for the passing of this measure because of the necessity for it in that district. We have no less than 11,000 boys under twenty-one engaged in that vast coalfield. We have heard today again some of the speeches that, doubtless, wore delivered in this House forty or fifty years ago. Apparently there is no more need for intervention by legislation now than there was then; but I do not suppose that, if I put the question to hon. Gentlemen, they would like to go back to that period. In effect, the weight of their argument leads us to believe that they would be quite content with the state of affairs then, although they would not vote for a return to it now. They think the present state of affairs is the best possible, but I think that the case I am pleading for calls for sincere attention and amelioration as fast as it can be brought about.
We have heard something of foreign competition. Of course, foreign competition, like the poor, is always with us. But what is being done in America and France? France, from which we are 1182 told we have so much to fear, cannot produce sufficient coal to meet its own needs. It requires much more coal than it can produce. Yet in that country we find a Bill introduced and passed for reducing the hours of labour in mines, and what we had been fighting for for nearly fourteen years will soon become law. In America there is a law that whenever five persons come to the bottom of the shaft they are obliged to get a carriage to the surface. That is the meaning of the law. The men work ten hours from bank to bank. [An HON. MEMBER: Fourteen hours.] That may have been so a long time ago, but it is not so now. Things in America are now as I have stated. We have nothing to fear as regards the quality of the coal from these countries. Let us do for the miners what is done for them in America. The hon. Gentleman says we would be interfering with the freedom of the subject. What is the freedom of the subject? Are there not hundreds of mines in Great Britain where, when a man is down, he is kept down all day, even though he has no work to do? What freedom has a man who goes down into a colliery? It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to speak on this subject who have no particular knowledge, but let me put the facts before the House. If a man goes down into a colliery, he is kept there all day, even if he has no work to do. [An HON. MEMBER: Is that a fact?] Yes, Sir, a fact ten times over. I speak on my word of honour. Men have to go down to their work at the stipulated hour, and have to come up at the stipulated hour. That is the length of their freedom. For years and years men have gone down to their work, but by some accident which had occurred at their working places during their absence they had nothing to do, but they had been kept down at the bottom of the shaft all day. Where does their freedom come in?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member appears to me to be arguing the question of adult labour, which was discussed last Wednesday.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
I do not wish to pursue the argument. I was only answering some of my hon. friends who used it today. Some of our own friends seem to think that we have changed our opinions, and that we have committed an unpardonable sin in withdrawing the 1183 second clause; but on grounds of tact, prudence, and discretion, if we were to have any hope of passing this Bill, it was necessary to withdraw that clause—an action which I would have thought would have been worthy of condemnation instead of the castigation that was given. I remember when my hon. friend for the Wansbeck Division did not hold the opinions he now does. I remember the time when he could stand up to propose an eight hours day from bank to bank where there was only one shift, and where there were two shifts to be worked, seven hours from bank to bank. But a great change has come over him. Still I do not want to accuse him of inconsistency. His practical experience has taught him to change his opinions, but I think he should be graceful enough to allow us the same freedom.
§ MR. FENWICK
On the occasion to which my hon. friend refers, I was acting as a delegate with instructions. My opinion has not changed.
§ MR. WILLLIAM ABRAHAM
I am not going to quarrel with my friends. We were all delegates then, and we are only delegates now. We are sent here on the same principle as we were sent to that conference. I would ask the House to allow me to appeal on behalf of the young men of South Wales working in these collieries, and among whom exists the system of tally taking, regarding which the right hon. Gentleman himself has been good enough to give us some figures. I have not heard a single hon. Gentleman deny that it is right to demand this measure of amelioration if it were proved that these lads are in danger. I think the figures I have quoted from the right hon. Gentleman himself are sufficient to prove that one district, and that the largest mining district in Great Britain, needs the passage of this Bill in order to reduce the danger to life and limb in the mines.
§ *(4.30.) SIR FRANCIS POWELL
Perhaps the House will allow me, as representing a mining district, to say a few words on this Bill. I may remind the House of a fact which is of some interest to myself, that I have represented Wigan, if not longer, at least as long, as any other Member who has represented 1184 that Borough in the whole history of Parliament. Therefore, I think, I have a claim to endeavour to obtain the attention of the House of Commons for a few minutes on this subject. There is one accusation made against the working colliers of England, and, therefore, by implication at least, against the miner's of Wigan, that the boys working in the pits are treated with cruelty. I know the colliers of Wigan too well to believe any such statement. I am perfectly sure they are not the men who would submit to the ill-treatment of their boys by any person, either in the pits or elsewhere; and I exceedingly regret that an accusation of such a character should have been made in the House of Commons against such men. Some reference has been made to the early efforts of Lord Shaftesbury to have girls removed from the pits. I can remember well those evil days. My father was a clergyman at Wigan at that time, and he spoke to me as a boy in the strongest language in repudiation of that practice, and I believe he took an active part in bringing about that most valuable reform in the law. I think we ought not to regard this question purely and solely on the ground of—if I am to use a too much abused term—sentimentality, but as a matter of real practical advantage and convenience. If I thought that the passing of a Bill of this character would prolong life and secure safety, if I thought it would be a guarantee for health, I should be a strong supporter of it. But I venture to submit to the House that the whole burden of proof in a case of this kind rests with the promoters.
This proposal, like many others, may be a good proposal, or it may be a mischievous proposition tending to restrict liberty and freedom. There are many occasions on which liberty and freedom must be restricted in pursuit of higher goals; but I venture to say that the proof must rest with those who propose the restriction and advocate the limitation. Can it be shown that the health of these young people is injured by the law as it now stands? My hon. friend made some reference as regards the mortality of young men engaged in mines, and the mortality of young men engaged elsewhere. The figures are these. Up to fifteen the total number of males per thousand who died was 4.40; the number of males up to the same age working in mines who 1185 died was 3.82—an advantage in favour of the mines. Up to the age of twenty, the boys who died were 5.55 per 1,000, and of those engaged in mines 5.62, or very much the same. Therefore I say that on grounds of health it is proved by statistics that the case is not made out. But this is not a question of mere statistics and medical reports. It is a matter of daily observation, on which everyone can exercise his own powers of vision, and may form his own judgment. I venture to say, having had the opportunity of seeing the miners of Lancashire week after week, that there is no more stalwart and more vigorous population in the whole of the land. Are the boys miserable and decrepit? On the contrary, we find them full of vigour, animated by the highest spirits, and enjoying to the full every amusement and every sport suitable to their age. Then as regards education—we have not heard much in the course of this debate respecting education—but there appears to be an underlying objection that the mimimum age proposed by the law is the age at which a parent is compelled to send his child to the pit or factory. Thirteen years is the minimum fixed by Parliament as the age for boys engaged in underground labour; but the Legislature, as regards education, has gone beyond the law affecting mines. By the Act of last year or the year before, a School Board may fix the age of fourteen as the age at which children may be released from school, and whenever that bye-law comes into operation, the employment of boys at the age of thirteen in mines, I will not say becomes impossible, but become so difficult that I believe in practice it would be impossible. Therefore, if the parents in any mining district are anxious to have a compulsory law that boys should not be employed in mines under the ago of fourteen, all they have to do is to elect a School Board which will put into force that Statute with the consent of the Department of Education, and the Vice President lias stated publicly that he will give every assistance to such a bye-law whenever it is laid before him. Reference has been made to restrictions, but I venture to say that in a very little time restrictions on labour in this country will have reached their legitimate and safe limit.
I confess I listened with some hesitation to the statements made by the hon. 1186 Gentlemen opposite as regards the laws in foreign lands. I doubt very much whether all these statements are entirely in accordance with the facts. I am perfectly sure they were made in good faith, but, after some inquiry, I venture to doubt their complete accuracy. The hon. Member who spoke last made some reference to the United States. In America each State has, to a very large extent, its own power of legislation, and I should like to know if the hon. Member will inform us whether the Act to which he has referred was passed by Congress, or whether it is an enactment of some individual State. I think it will be found that the Act was passed by some State, and not by Congress.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
I do not know whether it was passed by Congress, or by a State, but it is the law.
§ * SIR FRANCIS POWELL
I do not wish to pursue the argument any further. I do not quite see what legislation, which deals with raising men from the bottom of a pit to the surface, has to do with the Bill before the House. I wish to grapple more with the real subject matter of the present discussion. The proposal is that no man under twenty-one is to be engaged in a pit for more than eight hours per day. I think I need not labour the argument, which has been already brought forward, that to call a young man of twenty-one either a child or a boy is entirely a misuse of the English language. I wish the promoters of this Bill would consider its effect upon the organisation of the pits. We would have a number of comparatively young men working in a pit, some not bound by restrictions, others bound by the law of eight hours. How can you work a pit under those conditions? They would go down together, but they would not ascend together, and how can you make such regulations as will enable them in safety and without danger to their own lives and the lives of others, to pass backwards and forwards along the passages of the mine? I believe it is a 1187 question of practical management, and that it would be wholly impracticable to have two different sets of men working under different conditions.
Then there is a question raised in the debate last week, which is not less important today, and that is the question of the reduction of wages. These young people do not, for the most part, act as hewers, and if you reduce the number of hours they labour, I am perfectly sure you will reduce their wages also. In other words, you will limit the money they will be able to bring home either to their own fathers and mothers or to their young wives. As regards the question of safety, which was argued last week, I think it applies with even greater force to the case of boys and young men than to the case of the ordinary collier. It was argued with reference to the collier that if you hurry him too much he will become reckless and careless, and that accidents will happen which, if greater prudence had been exercised, would have been prevented. If that be the case with grown men, it is sure to be even more so the case with boys or young men who are not entirely free from the weaknesses of youth. If men ordinarily are rash when in a hurry, young men are sure to be careless, and there will be a great increase of danger under the new conditions, with loss of life, injury to property, and, consequently, prejudice to the industry, arising from this proposal, which is, no doubt, well intentioned, but which, I believe, will be mischievous in its con sequences.
There is another consideration, one which requires handling in a very careful manner lest misinterpretation should arise. It is a dangerous thing for this country, both as regards the nation as such, and as regards the individual citizen, to adopt anything in legislation which may check the proper flow of capital into any industry. If you make it difficult to invest capital with safety, that capital will not be invested in the country, and there will be a diminution of the wage fund, a lessening of the supply of that commodity which we all so much require, and an addition to those burdens which at the present time are so greatly crippling the industry of the country.
1188 Another danger which has occurred to me is this; supposing these young men are not employed in the pits on account of the restriction, and that men above twenty-one are employed in their place; how are these young men to find employment? They will have to leave their homes and seek employment in the already overcrowded districts of our great towns. They will add to the congestion now so much lamented, and increase the multitude of the unemployed which causes great anxiety from time to time to those interested in the welfare of our manufacturing districts.
These controversies are almost always conducted as being questions merely between the employers and the employed. We hear much of the mining districts, and I, as representing one, do not regret these discussions. But it is not sufficiently borne in mind that these are matters affecting the mining districts only; they affect the whole of the country. They affect the trades, and the locomotion of the country, and they affect all the people of the country. Can any man, be he a working man or one belonging to the comparatively leisured class, say that coals are too cheap? It is an injury to every man, whatever may be his position, by artificial means to increase the price of that which, excepting bread alone, is the prime necessity of life in such a country as England. If this class of legislation is to be carried, you will raise the price of coal; in other words, you will lessen the convenience of the people in all our villages and centres of population which are not situated on the great coal measures. Take a district in which everyone who passes a part of the year in the Metropolis necessarily takes a deep interest—the East End of London. There is not a fire in that district the cost of which will not be increased if legislation on these lines is allowed to extend. I therefore plead today not only on behalf of the industry of Lancashire, but on behalf of working men wherever they may live. This is a large national question which can be argued worthily only on large national grounds, and I thank the House for having given me the opportunity in these few imperfect words to give expression to ideas which have long occupied my mind with reference to this and kindred questions.
§ (4.52.) SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
I have listened to the whole of this debate with great interest. I agree with what has been said by one hon. Member, that the onus of proving the necessity for this Bill rests upon the promoters, and I am bound to say that, after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that no case whatever has been made out for the Bill. I may say to my hon. friend the Member for the Rhondda Division that while most of his speech was, I will not say out of order, hut out of harmony with the Bill, there was certainly one point which attracted me considerably. Hitherto, in the debates in this House in relation to Eight Hours Bills and Bills of this kind, it has always been thrown at the representatives of Northumberland and Durham that they, in looking after the interests of the adult labour in their mines, were perfectly callous with regard to the interests of the boys. That charge has been repudiated by every Member representing those counties, and I welcome, with extreme pleasure, the statement of the hon. Member who occupies so important a position in regard to the coal trade in South Wales, that there is greater need for a measure of this kind in South Wales than in Durham and Northumberland. I therefore hope we shall hear nothing more about the callousness of the parents of children working in the mines of Durham and Northumberland.
I confess I have been somewhat staggered by the statements made by one or two speakers today, particularly by the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division. I accept my hon. friend as an authority on many questions connected with medical matters, but on a question of this kind I decline to accept his opinion as that of a practical man, acquainted with the whole circumstances of the case. His speech was devoted almost entirely to the sentimental grounds in connection with the question. I was astonished to hear from him, that there were cases in which boys had been killed after working fifteen or seventeen hours in the pit. I should like to have heard more details of those cases, because I cannot think it possible that there are many cases of that character. After all, legislation of this kind cannot be brought forward to deal with one or two individual 1190 cases which may be unreasonable; it must be to deal with the whole industry it is intended to affect. I am glad to support the statement of my hon. friend the Member for Mid. Durham that certainly in Northumberland and Durham there are no cases. I vouch for this—of boys working more than ten or ten and a half hours, except under exceptional circumstances, and that such cases as those referred to by the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division practically do not exist in the Northern counties. The speech of the hon. Member convinces me in the opinion I have held for many years that mining matters in Northumberland and Durham are better managed by the employers and the miners unions in that district than they appear to be in any other part of the country. It is for this reason I would ask the House not to pass this Bill.
The measure before the House is ostensibly set up to deal with the question of the boys. Notwithstanding the statements which have been made that it is not intended to deal with adult labour at all, I cannot help thinking that it is really a blow aimed at the system of Northumberland and Durham. Who have been the strongest opponents of the Eight Hours Bill in this House? The representatives of the counties of Northumberland and Durham. Those Gentlemen who have the honour to represent the miners, who have been miners themselves, in those two counties, do not oppose the eight hours day on principle, but because it is so impracticable if it should be applied to the counties of Northumberland and Durham. I believe that that is the chief, if not the sole, reason they oppose the Eight Hours Bill. I look upon this measure exactly as I looked upon the measure that was before the House last week. In my judgment, it would have exactly the same effect. To all intentsand pur poses it is practically an Eight Hours Bill for adults so far as Northumberland and Durham are concerned. I know it is said that it does not deal with adult labour. Again and again I have heard the challenge given in this House for any practical man acquainted with the working of the mines to suggest a system to apply to Northumberland and Durham which would enable us to work our mines under the existing system of two shifts, or any other system which 1191 would prevent a very large increase of cost, or the practical displacement of many of our hewers. That challenge has not been answered, and until it is satisfactorily answered I cannot support such a proposal as that before the House. I agree with much that has been said with regard to the physical powers of the miners of the north of England. I have been somewhat amazed to hear the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division and others speak as if the miners in those two Northern counties were puny, sickly, weakly creatures, having worked in the mines since they were thirteen years of age. My experience of them is that they arc a fine race of men who will compare favourably in physique, health, and general bodily strength with any class of men in this country, I care not where you take them from. Compare them with any artisans in our large towns, or with those men who have been reared in connection with the mills in Lancashire, and if you make such a comparison you will find that it is certainly in favour of the miners. This is the general opinion of people who have had opportunities of making that comparison.
I must certainty say that I have been somewhat surprised to find that the workers under twenty-one years of age have been alluded to as boys. I should think that many of those young men under twenty-one would be extremely annoyed to be considered as boys. In our part of the world we have men who arc not twenty-one years of age, fathers of families, and earning splendid wages, and to show the physique and quality of our men, I only need to point to the splendid deeds of the Northumberland Fusiliers in South Africa, many of whom had been working in our mines since they were boys. Take whatever regiment you like, there is no regiment that has done better work and shown themselves able to maintain the position of this Empire than those splendid fellows. It is a perfect misnomer to treat these young men under twenty-one years of age as boys. I have been amazed to hear the statement made with regard to the cruelty shown to these boys in the mines, and I must confess that I have never seen it in the North of England. I know from experience that these boys very often take the law into their own hands. Very often they are neither controlled by their parents, their employers, 1192 nor the Trade Unions, and many mines have been stopped in the North of England by their action. Are you going to tell me that young men who can do these things are not able to look after themselves, and will submit to any cruelty on the part of their employers? If there are such cases, certainly they do not exist in the county which I have the honour to represent. One or two statements have been made with regard to figures. My right hon. friend quoted some figures as to the number of accidents and deaths which had taken place, and this point was also referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division. But figures may be used to prove anything, and I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen holding his great position have no right to quote these figures to this House in support of their argument, when they must know that the mere number of deaths practically proves nothing unless you give the proportion of those deaths as compared with the number employed in the trade. I would not give a fig for such statistics, without adopting this means of proving them. Nobody would be quicker than my right hon. friend to protest against a statement of that kind if figures had been used against him in such a slipshod way. I protest against their being used in this manner.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
Will the hon. Member use his influence to get the figures he is referring to from the Home Office?
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY
I am extremely pleased to think that the right hon. Baronet is of opinion that I possess such great influence with the Home Office. If I had such influence with the Home Office, I assure him that I should certainly use it in that direction. I cannot help remembering what happened in connection with another matter, where it was stated again and again in regard to accidents that we did not want the statistics produced. The hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division appealed to the Home Office for a Return of the accidents which took place, with a very different result to that which was expected, for it was found that by far the greater number of accidents took place during the first four hours of the day. It is quite possible, if my right hon. friend gets these statistics which he 1193 asks for, he may also he disappointed with the result. Arguments have been used to convince this House of the advantage this Bill would he to increase production, hut I would point out that in South Wales the pits are worked under different conditions, and the accidents are more serious. With regard to the argument about huge profits, I am not going to say anything about that, but I would ask hon. Members to look very carefully at the figures produced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who omitted to take into consideration in his calculation all costs other than wages. Those costs represent 1s. 9d. a ton, so that in estimating the profit on the production, you must deduct £18,000,000 or £20,000,000 a year. I do protest against such a statement being used in this House, and given to the country as a fact, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows that it was an inaccurate statement.
§ *(5.15.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. RITCHIE,) Croydon
I do not know that I should have intervened in this debate had it not been that the course which has been pursued by those proposing the Bill to the House is one of the strangest courses I have seen for a long time. We thought we were coming down to the House today to discuss a Bill which contained two propositions, each of them important, and we find, at least I understand, that in the course of the debate those who have promoted this Bill have stated their intention, if the Bill were read a second time, of dropping out the second of the proposals which are made in the Bill. I understand that that suggestion was made by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, not because he was 1194 convinced that the proposal in the second part was an improper or inadvisable proposal to make, but because for the moment he thought as a matter of policy it would be advisable to drop it.
§ MR. PICKARD
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I said absolutely that the second clause would be dropped.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I understand from those who were present that the hon. Gentleman said that the proposal would be dropped for the present session. The hon. Gentleman therefore dropped out the second proposal in the Bill. But I think, in order that the House may recognise what the aims and objects of the promoters of this Bill ultimately are, and how moderate is the view they take of legislation on a vital matter affecting the interests of the coal trade in the country, we cannot allow the second proposal in this Bill to be dropped without just one word of comment. The proposal in the second part of the Bill is that no person after 1st January next who has not then already been employed underground shall be allowed to go below ground in a mine for any purpose whatever in the way of employment unless he has been so employed before he is eighteen years old. Well, I think a proposition of that kind has only to be stated to show the absurdity of the length to which the promoters of this Bill are inclined to go and to show what would be the effect of such a proposal as that. The effect would be to 1195 create a privileged class, who should have the whole control of the mining industry, who should be able to regulate the output, regulate wages, regulate the price of coal, and regulate the whole proceedings at the mine, and, if they thought it necessary in the interest of their class, to stop all the factories in this country, without the employers having the slightest power of controlling them by bringing in other people in the event of a strike. That is what the result of the proposal would be, and that is the ultimate goal of those Gentlemen whose names are on the back of the Bill.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but I maintain that if that proposal was carried, namely, that no one should go down a pit for the purpose of employment unless he has been employed underground before he was eighteen, it would undoubtedly create a privileged class who would control ultimately the whole mining industry. It must be remembered in connection with this, that one great complaint which I am inclined to make about our mine-owners is that they are not availing themselves of coal-cutting machinery to anything like the extent they ought to do—to anything like the extent to which it is done in the United States, where the quantity of coal cut by machinery of late years has risen enormously, while it is almost at a standstill in this country. If this second proposal of the Bill were carried, it would not be possible for any engineer who had had his training above ground, as he always has, no artificer and no mechanic, to go down into a mine, and of course it would have the effect of greatly limiting the employment of machinery. But I do not propose 1196 to discuss that part of the Bill, because, so far as I understand, it has been dropped. I think it is right that the attention of the House should be called, and called seriously, to what is the main object—to what it is that these Gentlemen have in their minds who are promoting this Bill, and whose names are on the back of it.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
Coal-cutting machines in America are worked by colliers, and not by engineers.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I have not time to discuss particular points. I am only drawing the attention of the House to the large principle which these gentlemen whose names are on the back of the Bill desire to see promoted. I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen and the right hon. Baronet would desire that we should say nothing about the second part of the Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: It is dropped.]
Now with regard to the first portion of the Bill. That is, for all practical purposes, the Bill which we discussed here last Wednesday. No one can doubt —having regard to what is well known, viz., that there is a large number of boys in the great majority of pits— that the effect, if you make it impossible for young people under twenty-one to go down into the pits for more than eight hours, would he to put a stop to all work in the great hulk of collieries after eight hours work. Of that there can be no doubt, and all the objections which were raised last Wednesday to the inequality which would prevail throughout the various districts by instituting an eight hours Bill apply equally to this Bill. But it is in a more objectionable form than the proposal of last week, because not only would it have the effect of 1197 limiting the hours in mines to eight, but it sets up for the first time in my know ledge a distinction between a man of twenty-one and a man of twenty-two, and talks in what I cannot help thinking is exaggerated and ridiculous language of a man of twenty-one being a boy. If this proposal was carried, a man of twenty-one would be fettered by the number of hours he was allowed to labour, and a man of twenty-two would be totally unfettered and the consequence would be that the man of twenty-one would not be in as good a position to earn wages as the man of twenty-two. To talk of a man of twenty-one being a boy— [An HON. MEMPER dissented]—well, 20¾ if the hon. Gentleman likes. As was stated on the other side of the House, and is confirmed by the reports of the mining inspectors, many of these men are married, and some of them have considerable families. I see no justification at all—whatever may be the justification for legislating with regard to boys—for shorter hours in the way that is here proposed. The hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division quoted some statistics and some cases of a very pathetic character, but these cases by no means make out a reason for passing this Bill. Granting that none of them are untrue, I should be very sorry to base a great measure of this kind on the two or three cases the hon. Gentlemen gave to the House. But, if there is necessity for some legislation on the hours of employment of boys, it is ridiculous to argue from that that you ought to try to limit the hours of every man over twenty-one. Statistics were quoted by the right hon. Baronet, in respect of the deaths that occurred from accidents under sixteen and over sixteen. I entirely agree with all the last speaker said, that these statistics are of no 1198 value unless you know the number of persons employed under ground at these ages. I have looked into the figures so far as we have them and I find curiously enough, that the figures for fatal accidents to persons under sixteen, and those for fatal accidents to persons over sixteen, show almost identically the same percentage.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
I said that, but immediately above that, it becomes enormously the other way. From sixteen to twenty, the deaths become frightful.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I cannot go into these details now. We do not know the number of persons between the ages of sixteen and twenty employed, and there fore we cannot say anything on that point, but I do know that the percentage of fatal accidents below sixteen is no more than the percentage of fatal accidents above sixteen. It is impossible to enlarge upon this question at this time of the day, but I hope that in deciding upon this question, the House will consider a much broader question than any that have been pressed on their attention by those in favour of the Bill. They must remember that they are dealing with an industry which is the life blood of this country—an industry not only enormously important in itself, but, from the fact that it is the motive power of every other industry in the country, is at the very root and bottom of the prosperity of all the industries in this country. When other countries are going ahead to, I am afraid, a much greater extent than we are in manufacturing industries, I hope the House will consider carefully before they lay a further handicap without adequate cause being shown 1199 on an industry which, if it be unduly handicapped, might bring to the ground the whole of the great industries and the prosperity of the country.
§ (5.28.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 158; Noes, 224. (Division List No. 75.)1203
|Abraham, William(Cork. NE,)||Green, Walford D(Wednesbury||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Norman, Henry|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Ambrose, Robert||Haldane, Richard Burdon|
|Austin, Sir John||Hammond, John|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Hardie, J. Keir(Merthyr Tydvil||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Bell, Richard||Hay, Hon. Claude George||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Blake, Edward||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, James(Wicklow,W.)|
|Boland, John||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Dowd, John|
|Brand, Hon. Arthur G.||Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Henderson, Alexander||O'Malley, William|
|Burns, John||Hobhouse, C. E. H.(Bristol, E.)||O'Mara, James|
|Holland, William Henry||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Caine, William Sproston||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||O'Shee, James John|
|Caldwell, James||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Partington, Oswald|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Jones, David Brynmor(Swansea||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Jones, William(Carnarvonshire||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cawley, Frederick||Jordan, Jeremiah||Price, Robert John|
|Charming, Francis Allston||Joyce, Michael||Priestley, Arthur|
|Cogan, Denis J.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kearley, Hudson E.||Rea, Russell|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Kennedy, Patrick James||Reddy, M.|
|Crean, Eugene||Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth||Reid, Sir R. Threshie(Dumfries)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Roche, John|
|Cullinan, J.||Runciman, Walter|
|Labouchere, Henry||Russell, T. W.|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Langley, Batty|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Delany, William||Lloyd-George, David||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Lough, Thomas||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lundon, W.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Dunn, Sir William||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|MacVeigh, Jeremiah||Tennant, Harold John|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|M'Crae, George||Thomas, Alfred(Glamorgan, E.)|
|M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr|
|Farrell, James Patrick||M'Kean, John||Thomas, F. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||M'Kenna, Reginald||Thomas, J A(Glamorgan, Gower|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Tomkinson, James|
|Flynn, James Christopher||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Mellor, Rt. Hon. John William|
|Mooney, John J.||Wallace, Robert|
|Gilhooly, James||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Walton, Jotm Lawson(Leeds, S.|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbt. John||Moulton, John Fletcher||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Murphy, John||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Grant, Corrie||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan)|
|Weir, James Galloway||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|White, George (Norfolk)|
|White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Mr. Pickard and Mr. Jacoby.|
|Whiteley, George(York, W.R.)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.||Lawson, John Grant|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Lecky, Rt. Hn. William Edw. H.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Fenwick, Charles||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Aird, Sir John||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J.(Manc'r||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Allhusen, Augustus Hy. Eden||Finch, George H.||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S.|
|Arrol, Sir William||Fisher, William Hayes||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||FitzGerald. Sir Robert Penrose-||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Fletcher. Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Flower, Ernest||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol, S)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Forster, Henry William||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Foster, Philip S(Warwick, S.W.||Lowther, Rt. Hon. James(Kent)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J. (Manch'r||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Lucas, Col. Francis(Lowestoft)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W. (Leeds||Gallowav, William Johnson||Lucas, Reginald J (Portsmouth)|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Gartit, William|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Gibbs, Hn A.G.H(City of Lond.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir. Michael Hicks||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Macartney, Rt. Hn W.G. Ellison|
|Bignold, Arthur||Gordon, Hn. J. E(Elgin & Nairn||Macdona, John Gumming|
|Bigwood, James||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Gore, Hon. S.F. Ormsby-(Linc.)||M'Arthnr, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Goulding. Edward Alfred||M'Iver, Sir Lew'is(Edinburgh W|
|Bowles, Capt. H.F. (Middlesex)||Gray, Ernest (West Harn)||Killop, James (Stirlingshire)|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Greene, Sir E. W(B'rySEdni'nds||Manners, Lord Cecil|
|Brown, Alexander H.(Shropsh.||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Maple. Sir John Blundell|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H.E(Wigt'u|
|Cameron, Robert||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasgow||Hall, Edward Marshall||Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Halsey. Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Mitchell, William|
|Cavendish, R. E. (N. Lanes.)||Hambro, Charles Eric||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott(Hants.)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W (Derbyshire||Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hare, Thomas Leigh||More, Robt. Jasper(Shropshire)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen(Wore'r||Harris. Frederick Leverton||Morgan, David J(Walthamstow|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Heath, James (Staffords. N.W.||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Charrington, Spencer||Heaton, John Henniker||Morrison, James Archibald|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Helder, Augustus||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset, E.||Murray, Rt Hn A Graham(Bute|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Hogg, Lindsay||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Hope, J.F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Myers, William Henry|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Howard, John(Kint, Favershani|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Howard. J. (Midd., Tottenham|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Hudson, (George Bickersteth||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Crossley, Sir Savile|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies|
|Cust, Henry John C.||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)|
|Dairymple, Sir Charles||Joicey, Sir James|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Kenyon, James (Lanes., Bury)||Penn, John|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W.(Salop.||Percy, Earl|
|Doughty, George||Keswick, William||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Kitson, Sir James||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Purvis, Robert||Smith, H.C(N'rth'mb.Tyneside||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Pym, C. Guy||Smith, James Parker(Lanarks.)||Wason, John Cathcart(Orkney)|
|Smith, Hon. W. P. D. (Strand)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A C E(Taunton|
|Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset||Welby, Sir Charles G.E. (Notts.)|
|Ratcliff; R. F.||Stewart, Sir Mark J.M'Taggart||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Remnant, James Farquharson||Stroyan, John||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Renshaw, Charles Bine||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Renwick, George||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Ridley, Hn. M. W.(Stalybridge)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Robinson, Brooke||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G(Oxf'dUniv.||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H.(Yorks.)|
|Round, James||Thorburn, Sir Walter||Wodehouse, Rt Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Tollemache, Henry James||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Young, Samuel|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Mr. Banbury and Mr.|
|Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.||Laurence Hardy|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.