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Factories

Volume 48: debated on Saturday 6 July 1839

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House in Committee on the Factories Regulation Bill.

said, that at ten o'clock that morning, only two hours before the meeting of the House, he had received four large pages of amendments intended to be proposed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fox Maule.) He had not had time to read them, much less to consult any one upon them; for it had been his invariable rule to submit every clause of the bill to a legal adviser, but that was quite impossible with these amendments. The hon. Gentleman should recollect that the Government had had charge of this Bill five months, and they must have known whether they intended to propose it for the further consideration of the House. He had been under the impression that the Bill would not be further considered this Session. As the Government seemed to be at a loss to know one day before another what they would do, it was impossible for the House to anticipate any particular business. These amendments, he dared say, would affect very much the whole principle of the Bill: he did not know positively that they would, but at all events the hon. Gentleman should so have arranged the business, as to give the House time to look into them. The hon. Gentleman would do him the justice to say, that he had given notice of every amendment which he had contemplated; and if he were now to propose any other affecting the principle of the Bill, he should feel it his duty first to give notice of them. For his own part, for want of sufficient opportunity, he should not be able to pass any opinion on the amendments of the hon. Gentleman.

said, the amendments had been suggested to him by certain parties who took an interest in the Bill. He did not think they would greatly affect the principle of it, and he could only say, that if there had not been sufficient time for their consideration, it was not his fault—it was because they had not been submitted to him at an earlier period. If, however, the House should repudiate these amendments, he would go on with the Bill as it stood.

On clause 18, providing that factory owners and others may agree to establish schools, being read,

objected to the clause, as interfering with the rights of persons to combine for the purposes of education under any religious forms, inasmuch as it would give an arbitrary power to the inspector with regard to the approval of the system agreed upon. For instance, the inspector might be a Dissenter, and the factory-owners Churchmen, and he would then naturally object to a system founded on their principles. He should, therefore, be disposed to strike out that portion of the clause which gave such arbitrary power to the inspectors.

said, that it had been thought desirable, to insure the better operation of the Factory Act, that schools should be established by the manufacturers themselves, to which the children might resort, and the object of the agreement proposed in the clause, was to insure such combinations of persons as would render the pecuniary support of the schools certain, care would be taken to have proper persons appointed as inspectors.

Clause amended.

On the question that the clause as amended stand part of the Bill.

moved the addition of the following proviso:—"Provided always, that no such rules as aforesaid, nor such approval of such inspector as aforesaid, shall authorize the education of any child in such school in any religious creed other than that professed by the parents or surviving parent of such child; or in case of orphans, to which the guardian or guardians, godfather or godmother of such orphan shall object."

said, the effect of the hon. Gentleman's amendment would be to deprive the children of Roman Catholics of all education in places where the schools were established on the principles of the established church.

thought the children of Dissenters and Roman Catholics would have a perfect right to object to go to schools where the church catechism was taught.

said, that if this clause as it stood, were suffered to remain, it would be an outrage on all the principles of toleration recognized by the British constitution. How would any hon. Gentleman in that House, he being a Protestant, like to have his children compelled to receive instruction in the principles of the church of Rome? He felt it an imperative duty to oppose the clause, and he would take the sense of the Committee on it: if it were carried, he would divide the House on the bringing up of the report, and in every stage of the Bill he would oppose it, if this clause were retained in its present form. He would also endeavour to get the previous clause struck out.

did not believe, that hon. Gentlemen, either on one side of the House or on the other, wished to force the consciences of those who differed from them, and therefore he thought it was possible to adjust this matter without going to a division. No child could be employed in a factory without producing a certificate of attendance at school from the inspector, who, according to the noble Lord's explanation, was not to meddle with the terms of the agreement upon which the schools were founded. But suppose the agreement was for a school on the national system, and there was no other school, what was to become of the child of the conscientious Dissenter, or of the Roman Catholic? The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire knew that all the great towns of the county he represented, swarmed with poor Roman Catholics, and, as he was a friend to toleration, he asked him what was to become of their children if they were not able to attend schools of other principles? If the agreement were exclusive, it would be a great grievance to Roman Catholic children to deprive them of their certificate, because they could not attend an exclusive school.

Proviso added, and clause as amended agreed to.

Clause 19, providing that registers be kept in every factory, having been read,

objected to giving the legislative powers which this clause conferred on the inspectors. They would have, if this clause were adopted, the power each of making such rules as they might think fit, and of enforcing those rules by penalties. No uniformity by such a plan could be secured, and he thought such extensive power was impolitic, while it was also unnecessary. The registers ought to be framed on one uniform plan, and not to be left subject to the conflicting regulations of the different inspectors. He should therefore propose, that after the words "occupier of every factory," the words "according to a form in the schedule to this act annexed" be inserted. He thought Parliament ought to define the form of the registers, and add a schedule to the bill, by which a uniform system would be secured, and if his amendment were agreed to, he should afterwards propose that such a schedule be added.

thought this clause extremely arbitrary, as it gave a power to send for papers and documents, and if the House sanctioned such a measure, it would not be long before a power would be granted to send for persons also.

thought no good would arise from preventing the inspectors from framing such rules as they might see necessary, as those rules would have to be sanctioned by an officer who would be responsible to Parliament. To secure uniformity it was provided that the inspectors should meet twice a-year to agree on such rules as in their opinion ought to be generally adopted.

wished to ask, if the hon. Gentleman had consulted the inspectors, whether it was their opinion that it was impossible to frame a schedule which would secure perfect uniformity? It was his intention to press his amendment to a division.

was of opinion, that such a schedule as had been proposed by the noble Lord might be prepared by Parliament and annexed to the bill, and he was not therefore disposed to object to the amendment. He thought, also, that some general rules might be made by the House, but he was afraid that if the bill defined everything which the inspectors would have the power of doing, they would be obliged year after year to come to Parliament and ask for new bills granting additional powers, as it was impossible at once to legislate upon all the points which might afterwards arise.

Amendment agreed to.

objected to the power given by the clause, by which the inspectors would be enabled to require the occupiers of mills or the owners to furnish such information as those inspectors might consider necessary, and as often as they might deem necessary. He thought it would be perfectly sufficient to give the inspectors the power of making extracts from the registers. He should, therefore, propose, that in line 30, after the word "power," the words "to make extracts from the registers at any time they may think proper," be added. It was unjust that the owners or occupiers of mills should be required to furnish information to the inspectors at their own expense when that information was required for public purposes. It was a power very liable to abuse, and he should therefore take the sense of the House on the limitation which his amendment would secure.

said, the power which the clause conferred on the inspectors might not be arbitrarily used, but he thought it was unwise for Parliament to give powers which were liable to be abused, and that too without any limitation.

said, this clause was framed for the protection of the children in factories, and he was surprised that those who advocated the cause of the children were now silent. He could not consent to the amendment which had been proposed. The expense of furnishing information was at present paid by the mill-owners.

said, it was impossible to conceive that any information could be required which could not be obtained as well without this clause as with it. He thought the inspectors ought to examine with their own eyes, and that they ought not to reside in London, The information required was for the public, and the expense ought, therefore, to be borne by the public, and not by the mill-owners.

did not believe that under such a complicated system the children could be protected, unless very great powers were given to the inspectors. As to the power of the inspectors being abused, he did not think there was any good ground for such a supposition. He should vote for the clause.

thought it would be very inconvenient, when the House called for any returns on this subject, if the inspectors had to go round to collect the information necessary to comply with the order of the House. If they were required to do so, the returns could not be made within anything like a reasonable time.

Amendment withdrawn.

On Clause 22, relating to the appointment of four inspectors of factories under this bill, being proposed,

said, this clause, and the next, which referred to the appointment of sub-inspectors, were the most important in the whole bill. He had already stated, that it was his wish to get rid of the sub-inspectors altogether, and to have instead of them officers appointed of the same class and rank as the present inspectors, but he feared he should not be able to carry any proposition having that object through the Committee. He was therefore compelled to find out some other precaution to prevent any injustice being done under the increased powers conferred by the subsequent clauses of the bill; and he thought it would make the present inspectors more efficient than they were at present by obliging them to reside within their respective districts, and thus to compel them to have a more immediate superintendence over the sub-inspectors who were to carry the powers of the bill into effect. He should therefore move, after the words "providing that the present inspectors should hold their offices during her Majesty's pleasure," to insert the words "and so long as they shall reside within their respective districts."

thought it was but proper that the individuals filling the office of inspectors should be of that character and condition as would secure to them the confidence both of the mill-owners and the public. He had not beard any complaints against either of those gentlemen, or those who now filled the offices of sub-inspectors, and he believed they all performed their duties extremely well; at the same time he must admit, that now it was proposed to give additional powers, there was on the part of the millowners, considerable mistrust. To make, however, all the offices under the bill of the same class of persons as the present inspectors, would throw a charge upon the country to which he did not think Parliament would be prepared to agree; for it should not be forgotten that the four inspectors now received each 1,000l. per annum, while the sub-inspectors were paid at the rate of about 300l. each. He thought the Committee might rest satisfied when the Government declared, that the course they wished to follow was to raise the salaries and characters of the sub-inspectors to make three of the inspectors resident in their respective districts, and to centralise the general inspection in London. This would be a work of time, and it was not possible to make in the present bill alterations to that effect,

could not see any reason why the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman could not be carried into effect in the present bill. He was convinced such an arrangement would create confidence both among the manufacturers and the friends of the factory children. He (Mr. W. Patten) had heard great complaints made against the sub-inspectors, both from the masters and those interested in the children,and he was surprised those complaints had not reached her Majesty's Government.

concurred with his hon. Friend the Member for North Lancashire in thinking that the Committee ought now to come to a final conclusion on this matter. The view which had been opened by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. P. Thomson) was one that was fit to be now taken into consideration. With regard to the next clause, he objected to the words "any number of sub-inspectors;" he thought the number ought to be fixed by the Legislature. He was sure such an arrangement as that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman might be car-lied out in the present bill; it would be easy to give a controlling power to an inspector-general resident in London, to fix the districts of the three local inspectors, to define the number of sub-inspectors with their salaries; in short, to make with the concurrence of Parliament all these arrangements, which would be more satisfactory to the millowners than the present proposition, which they now thought was both unsatisfactory and vexatious.

observed, that his right hon. Friend had certainly laid down a satisfactory arrangement, but it would require several steps to be taken before that arrangement could be carried into effect. To do so, the House must be prepared to increase the expense—to sacrifice to a considerable extent existing interests; the present inspectors must be reduced to the level of those in the districts, or those in the district must be brought up to their level, and in order to get more respectable persons, the present sub-inspectors must be discharged at once. Would that be just, or could it be done without giving to those who would thus be dismissed some remuneration for the loss of the offices they at present held? Without inflicting great injustice the alteration could only be made gradually and by time.

was of opinion that there would be no difficulty in framing the clauses of the present bill in such a way as to meet the views of the House in favour of the suggestion of his right hon. Colleague (Mr. P. Thomson). With that view it would be better to withdraw the clause now under consideration, and that the Chairman should now report progress and ask leave to sit again, in order to enable the Government to consider the suggestion.

could not consent to withdraw the clauses. All he could do was to renew the promise made by his right hon. Friend, that in time such an arrangement as had been suggested should be effected.

said, that if Parliament was to wait until the present officers died off, he feared that legislation on this subject would be postponed far beyond the favourite period of 1842. What were the vested interests of these sub-inspectors— why should there be a special case made in their favour, when the House had seen in what manner the vested interests of the Chief Justice of Malta, of the Attorney-general of Malta, and of Mr. Cumberland had been treated by her Majesty's Government? He hoped the Government would postpone these clauses in order to give consideration to the whole case of the inspectors. The President of the Board of Trade had admitted that the existing sub-inspectors were not exactly the persons that should be employed.

thought he had been uncandidly dealt with. The cases alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman were not analogous to that of the sub-inspectors, because there had been no complaint against them, either of their having done nothing at all or of their having done wrong. It would be most unjust to turn them off without compensation.

asked, were they to adapt all their details to a confessedly vicious system, and give powers to inspectors which they ought not to have, or were they to deprive future inspectors of powers which they ought to possess? The new system to be introduced must be introduced by Act of Parliament, and not by the power of the Government. But when was that to take place? Were they to give a pledge, as the House was asked last night, to do something at some future period unknown and undefined? He did not think the alterations which had been recommended would cause an increase of more than 3,000l. in the expense. In fact, he was of opinion, that the hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State, who had a great deal of trouble with the bill, was getting sick of it, and that he did not care how soon he got rid of it. He thought it would be better to postpone the clauses.

said, the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House gave too much credit to the Government for a disposition to economize. He believed that if the noble Lord would only press his suggestions a little further, her Majesty's Ministers would adopt them. In fact, they were only angling for the opinions of the Opposition, and endeavouring to fish out materials of which they could compose such a measure as they could carry without risk of defeat. But notwithstanding the imagined economy of the Government, if the great leader of the Opposition in the cause of economy were present (the hon. Member for Lincoln), he could anticipate the burning eloquence which would be drawn forth by the enormous proposition for having a general inspector in London, four resident inspectors at 1,000l, a-year, and sixteen others, He could conceive the indignation with which that hon. and gallant Member would exclaim, "Another commission! Another system of centralization! Another great office for some cousin in reversion!" Such an army of dependents could only have been recruited and got together by a Government like the present. It was gratifying, however, to see, that whatever might be the defects of this bill, after a due course of prudery, the Government would adopt the suggestions of the noble Lord and his friends; therefore he need not be uneasy on that score. There could be no doubt about it, not the slightest doubt; they were only waiting to see if the Opposition were all desirous of having a chief inspector at 1,200l. a-year, and they would agree to it; so they would to let the three others remain; and also to appoint sixteen others at 500l. a-year each; for they had plenty of dependents ready to fill up every gap. Upon what did the Committee differ? They were all agreed that the present system was a vicious one; and the only thing there was any contention about was—for the first time he ventured to say—the simple sum of 3,000l. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade seemed to think that it would be unjust to have a scale of salaries, and that the inspectors should not receive each the same amount of remuneration. Well, to relieve the right hon. Gentleman's tender conscience, he would give him a precedent— the Masters in Chancery. The new Masters in Chancery received but 2,000l. a-year, and the old ones got 3,000l., and they were all doing the duty pretty much in the same way he believed. So it would be in this case; the four inspectors would remain at their thousand a-year, and they would have no reason to complain. But then the right hon. Gentleman would say that the new inspectors would complain of being appointed at lower salaries. Not at all; for they were not bound to accept their appointments unless they chose. But would there be any difficulty about getting inspectors at the lower rate of salary? That was not felt to be the case in regard to the Masters in Chancery. The House was accustomed to see not merely your seven year barristers but old men in the law walking up to the table—at least it was called walking up at 2,000l. a-year. But then it seemed that there was so much polish and pride among the manufacturers that they did not like to see sub-inspectors, who had only 300l. a-year coming into their houses and factories. Therefore, they wished them to have 500l. a-year, that they might be able to put on a better coat, for really there was at present a sort of shabby gentility in their appearance, which strangely contrasted with the easy manners and courtly address of those Gentlemen. But really if these persons were unfit for their situations, which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to admit, it was ouly a waste of the time of the House to be discussing this point; indeed, one manufacturer, he understood had said, that he would rather pay them himself than have any more discussion about so trifling a matter. If the Government were once convinced that they were really opposed, they would fall in with the views of the Opposition; therefore hon. Gentlemen opposite had only to rise up one after another and express their opinions, and he was sure that when the Committee proceeded to a division those hon. Gentlemen would not find more cordial supporters of their views than her Majesty's Ministers themselves.

said, he wished to rescue his side of the House, in the absence of the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln, their leader in the cause of economy, as he was designated by the hon. Member for Southwark, from the charge of wishing for another extravagant commission. The proposition did not emanate from his side of the House, but from the Government. It was the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade who had started the project. The only dispute appeared to be now, when the new plan of inspection was to be brought forward. If the proposal of the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade were adopted he should propose the addition of a clause which he thought would meet the views of the hon. Member for Southwark — namely, that these inspectors should not be eligible to sit in Parliament.

said, he did not mean to charge the present inspectors with any neglect of duty; he had heard nothing to induce him to do so. He should not object to the postponement of these clauses, but he thought the first question which the Committee should decide was, whether sub-inspectors should be appointed, as nearly all the remaining clauses of the bill related their duties and powers.

The Committee divided on the question that the clauses be postponed— Ayes 50: Noes 48; Majority 2.

List of the AYES.

Ainsworth, P.Langdale, hon. C.
Baines, E.Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Barrington, ViscountLister, E. C.
Beamish, F. B.Lockhart, A. M.
Boiling, W.Lowther, J. H.
Broadley, H.Marsland, H.
Brocklehurst, J;Parker, R. T.
Brotherton, J.Philips, M.
Bruges, W. H. L.Polhill, F.
Busfeild, W.Price, R.
Colquhoun, J. C.Round, J.
Egerton, W. T.Rushbrooke, Colonel
Elliot, hon. J. E.Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Estcourt, T.Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Fielden, J.Sheppard, T.
Fenton, J.Slaney, R. A.
Freemantle, Sir T.Stanley, Lord
Gladstone, W. E.Stansfield, W. R. C.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.Turner, W.
Grimsditch, T.Vere, Sir C. B.
Harvey, D. W.Wilbraham, hon. B.
Hinde, J. H.Wood, G. W.
Hindley, C.Worsley, Lord
Hodgson, R.
Hope, hon. C.

TELLERS.

Hope, G. W.Patten, J. W.
Jackson, SergeantTeignmouth, Lord

List of the NOES.

Adam, AdmiralMoreton, hon. A. H.
Aglionby, H. A.O'Connell, M.
Ashley, LordPease, J.
Bagge, W.Pechell, Captain
Barnard, E. G. Pigot, D. R.
Bewes, T.Rice, E. R.
Blake, M. J.Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.
Blunt, Sir C.Sanford, E. A.
Bowes, J.Smith, B.
Bridgeman, H.Smith, R. B.
Briscoe, J. I.Stuart, Lord J.
Brodie, W. B.Strutt, E.
Butler, hon. Col.Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Cavendish, hon. G. H.Thornely, T.
Chalmers, P.Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Curry, SergeantWalker, R.
Evans, W.Warburton, H.
Gaskell, J. MilnesWilbraham, G.
Gordon, R.Williams, W.
Hayter, W. G.Williams, W. A.
Heathcoat, J.Wood, Sir M.
Hill, Lord A. M. C.Wrightson, W. B.
Hodges, T. L.
Kemble, H.

TELLERS.

Macaulay, T. B.Seymour, Lord
Maule, hon. F.Parker, J.

House resumed, Committee to sit again,