in rising to call attention to the method of collection of Labour Statistics in the United States and in the Dominion of Canada; and to move—
said, hon. Members must all agree that the subject was one happily not of a Party character, and he trusted the Government would feel themselves able to accept his Resolution. It was as much in the interests of the employers of labour as of those who sold their labour that the plan he proposed should be adopted. It was a satisfaction to him to move this Resolution in a Parliament in which Representatives of labour sat in a larger number than they had ever done before. In January, 1885, an industrial conference was held in Piccadilly Hall, at which a number of questions affecting the relations between labour and capital were discussed; and it was attended by manufacturers, by Peers of the Realm, and by workmen of different political views. An endeavour was made by the conference to inquire into the possibility of bringing about a more equal division I of the daily products of industry between capital and labour; and the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey), who was present as a Representative of capital, urged that it was desirable to liberate industry from the disadvantages caused by the conflict of interest between capital and labour. This conference was a sign of the times, because the old way of meeting the difficulty caused by the conflict of interests was to impose restrictions on labour. Those mistaken laws were persisted in till almost recent times, and they did no good to any human being. They often resulted in appeals to violence, because the labourers had no possibility of obtaining a decision by appeals to justice. But all these restrictive laws had been abolished, and he did not think there was the slightest chance of their being renewed. There were only now three ways in which disputes between capital and labour could be settled—by strikes, locks-out, and by arbitration and conciliation. The first two methods were barbarous appeals to the old arbitrament of force, which did no good to either side—the victor was never in a position to be congratulated, and the general result to workingmen was injury and lasting loss. The owner of capital could afford to wait; but the owner of labour—that labour lost—could never redeem it. All the Trade Unions of today were against strikes; their desire was to solve labour disputes by reasonable means and by arbitration; but arbitration and conciliation had not always been attended with the results desired, because there were no reliable statistics to which both employers and employed could appeal. If there were any, they were compiled in view of the disputes by trained compilers to support a theory on either side. The statistics should be prepared before the dispute had arisen, and he should suggest that they should be collected by the Board of Trade in the same way as the agricultural statistics were, to a great extent, at present collected. The law in Massachusetts for the tabulating of labour statistics had been found to be exceedingly useful. Massachusetts had for 16 years published statistics, and many other States of the American Union had followed that example, while the year before last the Federal Government at Washington determined to establish a Federal Bureau in which those statistics should be collated and systematized. At Ontario, in Canada, a Labour Bureau had been founded, and he believed that one was being founded in another Province of the Dominion. He asked that Great Britain should not remain behind in this matter. These were the statistics which he would like to have collected—though it might be necessary that the whole collection should be a matter of growth rather than be attempted at once—the description and number of each character of the various industries of the United Kingdom, the number of persons and amount of capital employed in each, specifying when any of these industries were increasing or diminishing, and whether, and why, any special industry was limited to any particular locality, and the reason, if known, for such local limitation; the hazardous nature, or otherwise, of each class of industry, with the results to life, limb, general health and habits of life of each industry; giving particulars as to labourers' dwellings, and whether they were held from the employers, and on what conditions; showing the cases of exploitation by Limited Liability Companies or other Corporations, the amount of capital, and distinguishing the cases where the workers shared the profit, the individual wages paid in each industry, distinguishing men, women, boys, and girls, and specifying the highest and lowest average wage; also, whether the wages were paid weekly, or at a longer period, and where Companies' shops existed. With reference to the last matter, it was of the gravest importance, because there were places within the United Kingdom where the Truck Act was broken, sometimes in letter and always in spirit—[Mr. STAVELEY HILL: No.]—to the great demoralization of the employed. [Mr. STAVELEY HILL: Name!] He should be quite prepared to give names. He hoped he should never make statements to the House without the fullest certainty as to every matter of fact which he alleged. It did not heighten his case at the moment to state names—["Oh!" and "Hear, hear!"]—if it did he should state them. What he said was, that beyond the possibility of contradiction—[Mr. STAVELEY HILL: Oh!]—except by a Member utterly ignorant of the working classes, there were many works in this country where the men were paid at periods of a month, or even as long as 13 weeks, and where the only means of obtaining food was by advances wickedly and cunningly contrived to evade the Truck Act. ["Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] He had not at present said that any hon. Member of the House was concerned in this. He had not opened the question in a manner to provoke hostility on the other side, and he hoped he should deal with it in such a way as to secure the support of the most extreme Conservative or the most advanced Radical. The introduction of personal matters could do no good; but the fact had been established by prosecutions undertaken by both Governments within the last two or three years. He believed, from the evidence of Mr. Giffen, that some of the statistics he desired were already in the possession of the Board of Trade; and Mr. Giffen said, speaking in favour of fuller statistics—"Whatever the cost of doing it, the information would be worth the cost." To refer the matter to a Select Committee, as was proposed by the right hon. Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), would be to delay it for at least one year, and perhaps another, and another. The Board of Trade might not be able to go to the extent he wished; but it would be doing something, and labour questions now ought not to be allowed to wait. They were moving the whole of the civilized world, and this country was in a different position from any other. Our people were a law-abiding people, on the whole, and in the labour movement here the large majority of them had shown that they were patient, willing to submit to authority, and to wait for reform. But there was an oratory more potent than any that could address the House—the oratory of hunger, which was listened to without any reason in the judgment that was given; and if the House left hunger to speak when they might anticipate the appeal, on them would fall the penalty and the shame, and they would place this country in the condition in which many European nations were. He appealed to the Government not to allow this opportunity to pass. In the last few weeks labour strife had been put forward in a fashion which might be repeated, and with worse aggravation; it had been put forward partly by the desire of some who sought to make capital out of it, partly by the desire of some who sought to utilize it for political contingencies, and partly by the mere ignorant impulse of some who only knew that they were wronged, and did not quite know where their remedy lay; and, unfortunately, there were men who were willing to make a trade of the miseries of the poor—which would be greater in this country than they had been, for at one time this country was the workshop of the world, but now it was only one of many workshops. People knowing all that we knew, and some knowing more, were competing with us. After referring to Nihilism in Russia and Socialism in Germany as caused by want and by the despair of any remedy, the hon. Member said he took the opportunity of stating his conviction that Socialism had no root whatever in this country—that it had no part in English thought or character. There were a few poets, and a few idiots, and some of whom one could not apply as kindly words, who sought to make people in this country believe that Socialism was gaining ground among the people. It was not. The old English individual endeavour still lived, and if hon. Members would give it the opportunity it would continue to live. It would not be kept down any longer—it must have fair play, and must not be left to starve. If there were means by which it could be fostered here, in Canada, Australia, or elsewhere, it was the duty of the Government to place the necessary information within the reach of those whose interests were at stake. The Government ought to answer those who were pretending to speak on behalf of labour, by declaring that they were prepared to test the statements of extreme men by fair figures properly collected and tabulated. These statistics, if obtained, would strengthen the hands of the wisest among the Trade Union leaders when they needed to pacify workers who were short of food in times of hardship and depression; and they would give the moral sanction of public opinion to employers when the latter felt bound to resist some unjustifiable claim. They would not, indeed, prevent all labour strife and labour disputes; but they would diminish and alleviate many causes of irritation and remove the excuses for disputes. As to the question of expense, the few hundreds of pounds which would be required would really be no cost to the nation, but a real saving. If they prevented only one strike or lock-out the whole money would be saved—to say nothing of the crime and mischief which grew out of these quarrels. In conclusion the hon. Member thanked the House for its indulgence, and formally moved the Resolution which stood in his name."That, in the opinion of this House, immediate steps should be taken to ensure in this Country the full and accurate collection and publishing of Labour Statistics,"
in rising to second the Motion, said, he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. Bradlaugh) had done good service in bringing this question before the House. His hon. Friend had referred to the Conference held a year ago in the City, and had quoted the opinion of the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Thomas Brassey), who was a very high authority on matters relating to labour. The hon. Gentleman not only pointed out the desirability of statistics of this kind being supplied by the Government; but he strongly urged that the Government of this country should follow the example so long ago set by the United States of America with regard to labour statistics. Co-operative Societies, Trade Unions, Friendly Societies, and other bodies of a similar kind had, of late years, with great difficulty, done much to collect and to disseminate among their members information relating to the condition of trade; but it had been done very imperfectly; it ought to be done thoroughly, and with as much accuracy as possible; and that, he maintained, could only be carried out effectually by some Government Department, with all the appliances which it had in its power. His hon. Friend dwelt upon the argument that information of this kind would do very much to prevent strikes by diminishing the friction which now existed between employers and workmen. That was the chief reason why he (Mr. Burt) rose to say a few words in support of the proposition now before the House. He believed information of this kind would do very much—more almost than anything else he knew of—to put an end to strikes and lock-outs, with all the miseries and mischief which followed in their train. He remembered that, 25 years ago, in the county of Northumberland, strikes in the milling districts wore of frequent occurrence. They were almost unknown at the present time. At that time, when he, as one of the deputation, applied to the coalowners for an opportunity of having their books examined, in order to show the prices they were getting for their coal, they lifted up their eyes in surprise. But now, and for many years past, the owners had allowed accountants representing the workmen to examine their books every quarter, and wages rose and fell according to the rise and fall of prices, while strikes and lock-outs in those districts were entirely unknown. He would like employers of labour—and there were many of them in that House—to give every facility they could for obtaining information such as was now sought. As regarded the question of profits, no doubt many employers would doubtless feel rather sensitive on that point. [An hon. Member: They have not any at the present time.] Well, if what the hon. Gentleman said was true, the least those employers could do was to convince the workmen that they had no profits. He (Mr. Burt) felt assured, however, that information, such as was now being suggested, would do very much to lessen the friction which existed, and to put an end to strikes and lockouts in all the industries of the country. An argument of that sort would appeal with special force to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella); because among his right hon. Friend's many titles to the confidence and goodwill of the workmen of this country was the fact that he was a pioneer of the movement in favour of substituting arbitration for the arbitrament of force in the shape of strikes. No doubt there might be some difficulty with regard to the Treasury; but the cost would be comparatively small, and, as his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton had pointed out, the money would be saved in other ways. If the President of the Board of Trade, by acceding to this Resolution, could lessen the poverty and the misery inseparable from strikes, any money expended in that way would give a good return in the shape of an improvement in the moral and material condition, not only of the working classes, but of the bulk of the community to which we belonged. Indeed, he had no hesitation in saying that the money often recklessly spent upon a single marauding expedition would maintain the system for a whole generation.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, immediate steps should be taken to ensure in this Country the full and accurate collection and publication of Labour Statistics."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)
in rising to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, to leave out all after "That," and insert—
said, he should not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh.) in a good many of the topics which he addressed to the House. Some of the hon. Member's statements he had heard with considerable pleasure, although they were not strictly relevant to the Motion before the House. He heard, for instance, with great pleasure his statement with respect to the removal of restrictive laws affecting labour; because he had not forgotten, and the House would not have forgotten, that that was mainly due to the action of his right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary, who dealt with the laws as between employers and employed on a comprehensive principle founded on a broad basis. Since his right hon. Friend's legislation on the subject nothing had been heard about complaints in that direction. When he listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton he wondered whether that hon. Member had ever considered what was the proper function of the State in these matters. No doubt, the collection of statistics had always been recognized as one of the most proper functions for the State to undertake; first, because the State could do it better than anybody else; and, secondly, because, in many cases, the State alone could do it. But then they came to the question, Statistics of what? As he had said, many of the subjects introduced into the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton were not facts, but expressions of opinion—for instance, as to what occupations might be hazardous to the lives or morals of the people engaged in them. He (Mr. Stanhope) would prefer to deal not with opinions, but with facts; and as regarded facts, it did seem to him that some Department ought to be responsible for the collection of statistics of this nature. He might allude in par- ticular to facts relating to the movement, the distribution, and to the remuneration of labour; and if those statistics were accurate and exhaustive, and if they were presented in an easily accessible form for use, and while they were still fresh, be believed they would be of very great value to the country. They would be of value not only to those desiring to study, either in the present or at any future time, the exact industrial condition of the country, but also to those desiring to embark capital in any particular trade or industry; and, last of all, they would be of great value to the people employed in such trades or industries. For example, they heard a great deal nowadays about the enormous aggregation of population in our large towns. No doubt, that had been a source of serious mischief lately; but one of the main causes of it had been the exaggerated expectations as to wages that had been held out. Nobody could dispute the fact that men had been brought up by scores from the country to the towns, because they had been misled by the nominal wages, and had not realized the fact that the employment they were likely to get would occupy only a portion of their time, and that their nominal wages could never be realized in a permanent form, and would be enormously below the real wages they had been accustomed to receive. But, within certain limits, he agreed to the fullest extent in the suggestion of the hon. Member that they should endeavour to collect labour statistics. In fact, he had never understood why the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade had not collected these already. If he were to make a suggestion in regard to the proposal, he would say, as they were entering upon a new description of statistics, they should take care not to over-weight the Department. The process at first should be a tentative and cautious one, and they should be sure of their materials. Let them not, by trying to do too much at once, risk the failure of the whole. Therefore, he would first advise that they should make use of existing materials. There had been inquiries held year after year, the results of which were entombed in voluminous and forgotten Blue Books, and no use whatever had been made of them. He was not going to blame the Statistical Department of the Board of Trade; but that Department had not had under their control a sufficient staff for the work they had to do. There was, for example, an inquiry held a number of years ago into the condition of the agricultural population, and there were many Blue Books as the result of that inquiry; but nobody over read them now, and they were not even alluded to in the recent debates on the subject of allotments. In the first place, then, the Statistical Department of the Board should make the fullest use possible of all the material they might have under their control. They had not had sufficient staff for doing more than they had hitherto done; but that did not affect the principle of the proposal. If the country was to be put to the expense of these Returns, of so exhaustive a character, they ought to be made full use of, and the results ought to be presented by the Board of Trade in a succinct form. He himself ventured to send to the papers a digest of statistics, collected some years ago, on the wages of the agricultural labourer; but that was work which ought to be done by some Statistical Department of the Government. Then, might he say, in the second place, that if they were going in for tabulating and systematizing these statistics they required to have the services of men thoroughly skilled in such matters. He quite agreed also that they ought to have more new facts, similar to those collected in the United States, than they had at present. He was sorry that the hon. Member, when he alluded in particular to the work being done in the United States and Canada, did not give any information as to the work those bureaux were doing in those countries; because it would have shown that this was not at all a simple matter, but, on the contrary, an exceedingly difficult and complicated one. The Reports of the bureaux were, of course, most interesting, but they were also exceedingly imperfect. They proceeded also upon wholly different lines in different cases. For instance, the Reports of the State of Connecticut stated quite frankly that they could not get at the facts, and so they collected opinions. One Report turned on the whole relations between capital and labour, and advised what legislation the State should undertake."A Select Committee be appointed to consider the best means of collecting and publishing statistics as to Labour in the United Kingdom,"
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean the whole Reports of the State of Connecticut, or only the Report for one year?
said, he was unable to speak of all the Reports; he was only illustrating one point. In the Report presented by the State of Pennsylvania, again, the facts about labour were presented in a very excellent way, so far as it went; although, even in that Report, the statistics were very imperfect, and the difficulty of getting anything like accurate facts was admitted. There was, in fact, in the different States of America, great variety in the method of collecting the facts, and in setting forth the results obtained. In some of the States they tried to collect the facts by making applications to employers and to the employed. In some cases, the answers wore voluntarily given; but, in other cases, pressure was used to compel one class or the the other to give the information which the State required. Then there was a whole class of cases where the inquiries were made, at enormous expense, by special agents sent about the country, without whom, it was said, the State would not be able to get the facts. In his opinion, with that enormous variety of examples before them, it would be wise that the House should proceed tentatively; and he believed the best course the House could adopt would be to appoint a Select Committee for the purpose of investigating all these various Reports, and considering the means by which they could obtain the statistics they required. The Reports to which he had been alluding wore very little known in this country. He doubted whether 12 Members of that House had over read any of them; and the whole subject was such that he felt certain that it would be wise that, instead of trusting to a Department, they should inquire, by means of a Committee, what would be the best way of getting the labour statistics of this country. He must say here that he had been encouraged to hope that the hon. Member for Northampton would have agreed with his Amendment, as he certainly understood from communications that had passed between them.
said, that there was a proviso contained in the communication referred to that if certain words were withdrawn he (Mr. Bradlaugh) would agree with the Amendment; but those words were not withdrawn.
said, he had withdrawn them, and if the hon. Member would look at the Amendment he would see that it was exactly in accordance with that which the hon. Member agreed to. That being so, he was surprised that the hon. Member had opposed the Select Committee which he had stated he desired to have. However that might be, he was certain the House did not desire to proceed in the dark; that they would enter on a new field of inquiry with that caution which characterized all their proceedings in England; and that they would be inclined to agree with the views he had put forward, and with which the hon. Member for Northampton also expressed his willingness to accept—that there should be an inquiry by a Select Committee, rather than to the proposal of the hon. Member as at present before the House. The hon. Member said that his (Mr. Stanhope's) Amendment would involve delay. He did not believe that it would. There was no reason why the Committee should not sit at once, or that it should sit long. The results of its inquiry would be that the President of the Board of Trade would be armed with a Report which would enable him to come down to Parliament and ask for that additional provision, in the shape of money, which would undoubtedly be required for the purpose of carrying out the object which they all desired to attain. Some hon. Members had asked him why he had limited his proposal to the United Kingdom, and had not included the Colonies. His only reason for that was that he had been given to understand that steps had been taken in this country to obtain statistics relating to labour in the Colonies. If, however, there was any general desire on the part of the House that the Select Committee should also inquire as to labour statistics in the Colonies, he should be heartily glad to accede to any proposal that might be made to extend the labours of the Committee in that direction. He would now move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
in seconding the Amendment, said, that, as representing a considerable industrial constituency, he had listened with pleasurable surprise to the announcement of the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Motion (Mr. Bradlaugh), and he entirely agreed in the object which the hon. Member had immediately before him. It was a hard case that the working men of this country should have to collect, as best they might, information relating to the price of labour, to the conditions of their occupation, and to the circumstances under which they lived; while the great capitalists had before them the Reports of Government Departments to guide them in the course of their industry. If there was one thing which commended itself to his mind more than another it was the declaration which had been made to the House that individual endeavour still lived. He hoped it would continue to live in this country, and that they might rely in every section of the community upon individual enterprize instead of upon the faltering hand of the State. When he found there was such a difficulty in preparing the Census, which was only made once in 10 years with the greatest care and at the greatest cost, he felt quite certain that if the Report was to be made yearly or monthly there would be very great difficulty in giving the working man that reliable information for his guidance to which he was fully entitled. Another difficulty was the prompt issue of the Report; for unless it was promptly issued it would confer no benefit. He did not think the hon. Member was quite aware of the information which had been already collected. The subject was far more complex than the hon. Member seemed to imagine, and that was confirmed by the Reports which had been presented from Consuls abroad, which contained particulars very carefully collected of great value; and he had been informed by a friend of his, a Consul abroad, that so complicated were the researches they had to make, that it was extremely difficult to arrive at a conclusion of a satisfactory character. He sincerely hoped that many other occasions might arise when there would be full accord between both sides of the House on the labour question. He confessed himself that he had always felt from his earliest days that the working man was entitled to as much consideration in the House with regard to that labour which was his capital as the wealthiest man was with regard to that financial fortune which was his capital and main resource. He claimed for hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House that they had at heart the interest of working men as much as hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches; and therefore regretted the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bradlaugh) had rejected the Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Mr. E. Stanhope).
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to insert the words "a Select Committee he appointed to consider the hest means of collecting and publishing statistics as to Labour in the United Kingdom,"—(Mr. E. Stanhope,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
rose to explain that he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) after he had received the letter, and he told him he was unable to consent to the alteration. He had received no communication from the right hon. Gentleman since, and ho, therefore, regarded the matter as settled.
said, that a letter having been written expressing a condition, when that condition was fulfilled he had expected that the hon. Member would have supported it.
I should hardly venture to detain the House if I did not believe that I could illustrate the importance of the subject brought before the House by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) from a somewhat different point of view from that of those hon. Members who have already spoken. I take it that the subject includes both the provision of additional information on labour and industrial matters, and the supplying of information which already exists in a much more available form than we have at present. Anyone who has been brought closely into contact with educational work among working men, as it has been my lot to be in connection with the Universities, must be well aware of the very great importance of this subject in the minds of many of our leading working men. Everything which may in any way lead to the prevention of strikes must be of the greatest value. It is the opinion of some of the best Trade Union leaders that such information as is now demanded may tend in this direction. Our Trades Unionists and working men co-operators are interested in the matter, not only from the points of view already mentioned, but because they have largo sums of money at their command, and the latter group of men especially are constantly considering the question of how these sums of money should be invested. It is of the greatest importance to them that they should have the very best information at their command relating to the condition of those of their own class better off than themselves, in order that they may not invest the many thousands of pounds they possess in a manner that will bring ruin upon them. When we hear that, in the course of the last few weeks, the Working Men Cooperative Societies in and around Manchester have invested £30,000 in the Manchester Ship Canal, every penny of which is working men's savings, saved by men the bulk of whom do not receive more than 35s. a-week wages, we have some idea of the importance of the sum of money they have at their command. Everything which assists the intelligent investment and management of the sums of money which Working Men's Associations possess must be of real use; for the great Working Men's Associations are a great protection and bulwark to this country. We hear a good deal of talk about funds raised for the relief of the unemployed; but I venture to say that the Unionists and Cooperative Societies have, in the course of the past year, been devoting funds for the relief of the unemployed out of their own wages which exceed in bulk all the funds raised within the last month or two for the relief of distress in all our large towns put together. The Unionists have saved thousands of pounds for the direct relief of the distressed and unemployed, and the co-operators have saved not loss than £1,000,000, all of which either goes to the relief of the present distress or is laid by for the relief of their families in the future. The Government may well be asked to provide everything which can reasonably be provided in the way of industrial and labour statistics which may give working men and the community generally more information to guide them, both for the avoidance of labour disputes, and in connection with the investment of money. Everything that tends in the direction either of irregularity of labour or of uncertainty is a curse, and is adding to the depression, and to the difficulty in which our industries are involved. If the information now demanded will give less uncertainty, will cause less irregularity, it must do good not only to the working classes, but to the whole nation. What we need is to improve the knowledge of the rank and file of working men in every possible way; and I think we may feel quite sure that all working men leaders who are worthy of the name will consider this an unmitigated advantage. Only those who are not worthy to be leaders will look upon this improved knowledge as in any sense other than an advantage. Something has been said as to the method to be employed to secure additional labour statistics, and as to whether we want facts or opinions. The process must be slow and gradual and secure. I may quote from a monthly publication of one of the best administered Trades Unions in England—that of the Iron Founders—to show what working men think on the subject. The secretaries consider this matter one of great importance; and they say that a Statistical Bureau should not be conducted for the purpose of agitating or discussing propositions for the amelioration of the condition of the working classes, but should confine itself to the collection and presentation of facts, and thus be free from any taint of partizanship. My friend, Professor Marshall, one of the ablest of the younger generation of economists in England, the successor of the late Professor Fawcett, writes to say that he feels the work a difficult one, which must be carried out by slow degrees. He points out that a few typical industries should be examined, and the figures subjected to a very severe ordeal. He points out the importance of great care in making any statements—for instance, about wages—showing that not only the rate of wages in each branch must be given, but also the proportion of workers who get each rate. And he says that, in the collection of statistics about wages, we should have to be very careful to have distinct columns showing "over-time" and "piece-work," and deductions through "out of work." He thinks that any statement voluntarily given either by employer or employed should be circulated in the form of draft Reports in various districts, and that they should be carefully checked, from time to time, by something in the nature of a public Court of Inquiry held by the Representatives of the Bureau, who should, before reporters, hear evidence on both sides, and carefully weigh it. And he says that if the work is done in this careful way, so that the Representatives of the State Bureau can sum up the evidence given on both sides for lowering or raising any of the figures in the draft Reports, we should secure a real addition to the knowledge we possess on these matters. He adds what is most important, that the work will be slow, particularly at first. But a few trustworthy figures are worth more than an immense mass of those of which no one can quite approve. There is one other matter I should like to allude to—namely, the making much more available to the people at large the new information which may be obtained, and also that which the Government has provided. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. E. Stanhope) said we ought to make use of our existing materials. Now, if those statistics are prepared especially in the interest of the labouring classes, and if the material we already have is to be made use of, I venture to say that the State can do a great deal more than it has hitherto done in the way of making such information thoroughly available, especially for working people; and, in view of the importance of labour questions being approached in an intelligent spirit, the State may do much good in the way of interesting the working classes in its publications, and ought to make them as cheap as possible, and as easily obtainable as possible. I must say of the material published at the present time in Blue Books that though, considering its bulk, it is cheap—it is, nevertheless, too expensive for working men to purchase. I would venture to say that in most of our Blue Books there is a kernel somewhere to be found which might be published at a much cheaper rate than the whole work. For instance, if we take the Commission on Accidents in Mines, which the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) and his Colleagues have published, we shall find that it has already published a bulky volume for 5s. 8d., and that, in all probability, their Report will be contained in a volume of similar size and price. Well, it seems to me that this Report, which must be valuable to men working in mines, should be published with a précis of the evidence. That could be done at a price of 6d. or 8d., so as to render it available to people who can only afford small sums when they buy books. So, again, the Housing of the Poor Commission Report, which contained most valuable information, ought to be published for 6d. In the same way the Technical Education Commission Report is published in five volumes; but the real pith of the matter is at the end of the first volume, and might have been published, with an analysis of what is to be found in the other volumes, for 5d. or 6d.Last year a valuable Report was issued about Inland Revenue, containing valuable information concerning direct taxation, that would be extremely useful to working men. These things, also, in the way I have pointed out, should be made purchasable. Then, in many of our small towns—aye, and in our big ones too—it is a difficult thing to know how to obtain those publications. The booksellers will not take much trouble about the matter, and many working men who would like to get them are baffled in their efforts to do so. I see no reason at all why, when working men might desire to purchase these publications—on the occasion of their locality being visited by a popular lecturer, or a leader of their class, or apolitical speaker—they should not simply go to the local post office, see a list of the publications, and say—"I desire a copy of that for 1s.; here is my Is., and here is 2d. for postage, send my name up to London, and let me have the book back by post." Now, I hope it will not be presumptuous to suggest a new departure with a view to making really available to the mass of the people a great deal that is published which does not now get much beyond hon. Members of the House of Commons. A Central Committee, or small body of officials, ought to have all Government publications passed under their eye, and ought to settle which of them, or which parts of them, should be made available by their cheapness and handiness for popular use. I will venture to say that if that could be done, and the noble Lord the Postmaster General (Lord Wolver-ton) could see his way to having these lists I have mentioned kept at the post offices, it would be an incalculable boon to working men, especially to those who find a difficulty in getting the books, which to us in this House are not so much things to be desired and things difficult to get as they are almost a burden. None but a young Member of this House would speak in anything like enthusiasm about the Blue Books, and perhaps even for me the period of satiation is nearer at hand than I may expect; but, so far as the people outside this House are concerned, they have good reason, I think, to complain that we who, during a General Election, are so remarkably attentive to them in the way of supplying them with statistics, when the election is over leave them alone altogether so far as these things are concerned. During a General Election the voter roceives from one party a carefully-prepared leaflet, with blue and red columns on it, to instruct him in State finance. The facts and figures thus presented he carefully studies, and when he has learnt them confidently believes he has mastered the principles of finance. A few days afterwards he receives another leaflet; the columns that were red are now, perhaps, blue; some columns are longer, some shorter. His mind becomes a blank on the subject. Then the figures he receives to-day will not apply to-morrow or next month; and as his education is neglected for a space, he must have an erroneous and confused idea of the principles he believed at one time he had mastered. When another General Election occurs, and he is inundated once more with information for which he has been in no way prepared, confusion becomes worse confounded. If he can feel that the State is doing all it can to encourage him to inform himself on these subjects, to enable him to procure these Blue Books which contain, I venture to say, much of the best of the thoughts of our statesmen on both sides of politics—much more valuable material than is contained in many speeches delivered on Party platforms—he will feel that we are trying to deal with the valuable work of adult education, which is a work which ought more and more to occupy our attention. Of course, Blue Books will never become popular reading; but what is sought is not to popularize this information, but to put it more and more at the disposal of the hard-headed working men who are to be found all over the country—men of hard heads, with bodies that will never wear frock-coats, but who are just as well fitted to understand Blue Books as any of us here. This is important, because the intelligent use of their capital by working men, and the method of approaching all labour questions, are matters which, in a country like this, become of greater and greater importance. There are many matters which have been brought before our constituents which we hope in the future will do much to improve this country. But we cannot legislate the poor into prosperity. "We can open up to them many opportunities now denied them, and that we are engaged in doing, or are hoping to do, in various ways. We can free their paths from many obstacles that now stand in their way; but, after all, the intelligence of the people who, when the obstacles are removed, will make use of the opportunities afforded them is the vital matter. Everything that can be done by the State to advance this adult education by means of statistical information slowly and carefully obtained, and in rendering the information in the possession of the Government more available to the working classes in the future than it has been in the past, will be a matter by which the people will be benefited, and by which any Government who will attend to the question properly will deserve the gratitude of the country. The matter is one which I hope will receive the serious attention for many years to come of both this and future Governments.
I think every Member of the House must feel that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has done an excellent service in bringing this question under the notice of the House, and amongst other circumstances of that good service in having elicited so excellent a maiden speech from the hon. Member who has just sat down. The hon. Member bases his Motion upon publications of the American Bureau of Statistics of Labour. He is quite right in his historical account of the origin of the American Bureau in 1869, and it is a fact that 14 or 15 other States are now following the example of Massachusetts and publishing annual Reports of the same nature. But when the hon. Member exhorted us not to be behind America in the publication of statistics, without detracting from the merits of those Bureaux, I may say that we are, in fact, a very long way in advance of America in regard of the real objects for which the Bureaux were established. I was in Boston in 1870, immediately after the Bureau was opened there, and I had the honour of being consulted several times by its founder, Mr. Wendell Phillips (who took great interest in the labour question) as to how it could be turned to the best account. The real fact was that everyone interested in the question of industrial employment, especially in Massachusetts, was aghast at the condition of the labouring community, the total neglect of their education, and of precautionary legislation in respect to the protection of infants, with respect to the fencing of machinery, with respect to mines, and all that legislation in the interest of the working classes, which we in this country had been forwarding for 30 or 40 years before, and which we had brought to a higher state of perfection than any other country in the world. I cannot do better, if the House will allow me, than give two or three illustrations. I will take the Report of the Massachusetts Bureau of 1874, in which there are very few statistics, but a great many facts as to education, the employment of children, sanitation, and the general condition of labour in Massachusetts. We will take them in the order in which they stand—first, as to education. I find it here set forth—
They say—"One of the objects of this Bureau is to gather statistics relating to the education of children employed in manufacturing and mechanical establishments in Massachusetts."
And they go on to say—"From what we have been able to learn, the law in relation to the employment of children neither is, nor can be, enforced. Should the managers of mills co-operate heartily with the officers of the cities and towns, or of the State, the law could not well be enforced. The testimony of the school boards in some of the manufacturing places is, that often as much difficulty arises from parents as from mill-owners and managers."
So much for education. I could get 50 quotations from the book as to the employment of children. Here I find—"There should be, and probably there is some way to enforce the principle which Massachusetts believes to be her system of education, schooling for all classes; but, as yet, so far as mill children are concerned, not only our law but our system, in a large degree, is a dead letter."
In regard to another factory I find—"No children employed here unless, they have the necessary legal schooling."
That relates to the ages of the children—and numerous similar extracts could be given if it were necessary. Then, as to sanitation and the protection and fencing of machinery, I find such statements as these—"Mills in very good condition and well conducted. Several very small children at work, some only seven years old, both girls and boys."
"Rooms low-studded, badly ventilated, and carding and weaving rooms very dark."
In fact, the object of this Bureau was, in the first instance, not so much to draw up statistics with regard to wages from year to year, as to inquire into the condition of the working classes generally, and also as to the ages of children employed, and the want of sanitation under which their labour was carried on. It was a sort of standing Commission to do the work which was very largely done in England by the Factory and Workshop, Education, Mines Regulation, Merchant Shipping, and other Acts, and all the legislation undertaken for the last 50 years in this country for the benefit of the working classes. The effect has been excellent on the condition of the working classes in the United States. The example of Massachusetts has been followed by the principal States; and at this moment there are 14 other States publishing their statistics annually, and the effect has been excellent so far as its influence on the condition of the working classes of the United States is concerned. But I wish the House to understand that it is a much easier thing to publish statistics separately for each State in America, where the largest number of persons employed in any single State up to the present is about 200,000, than to publish statistics annually dealing with the whole of the labouring classes in this country, whose numbers amount, it is calculated, to something like 13,000,000. Now, I do not say that what has been done in the United States can be said to form a precise guide and model for us to adopt. With regard to the Motion, I may say the Government are of opinion that there would be a great advantage in providing such a Department as that now proposed. We have at our command the means of furnishing annually a complete set of labour statistics, which ought to be not only as good as can be procured by other countries, but the very best information the world can show. I do not agree with my right hon. Friend opposite on one point. I do not think the statistics should be confined entirely to the movement, remuneration, and distribution of labour. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: I did not say that.] I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that they should be confined entirely to the movement, remuneration, and distribution of labour. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: But I did not.] There are a number of other questions having a most important bearing on the social condition of the working classes which might be very useful to us, and which might be very well dealt with, such as comparisons with ourselves from year to year, and comparisons with foreign countries as to the commodities of those countries, the cost of food, and the amount of taxation bearing on the labouring classes in them. There are many facts bearing on the daily life of the working classes which might very well be brought within the scope and compass of such a volume as I suggest. My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) has shown the advantage these statistics would have in their bearings on arbitration and the prevention of strikes. I am glad to think that the relations between capital and labour in this country are steadily growing better and more harmonious year by year. It is impossible to look back, as some of us can, 30 or 40 years and consider what were the relations between capital and labour then and what they are to-day, and not see that there is a complete revolution in that respect—in the harmony that exists between the employers and employed. It has been said throughout this debate that there is great difficulty on the part of workmen in obtaining statistics suitable for their own trades. I would state to the House that the statistics which are published by the Trade Societies in this country are for value, completeness, and accuracy unrivalled. There is nothing to compare with them in any other country in the world. There is scarcely any Trade Society in the country that does not publish a monthly statement and an annual Report; and the minute accuracy of these Reports and the wonderful detail into which they enter, and the facts they give to those who are interested in them, are really surprising. Very few Members of this House, I am afraid, are acquainted with the extent to which these Societies are known throughout the world. Take the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. It has, I think, something like 50,681 members on its books. It has 430 branches, 307 of which are in England, 42 in Scotland,. 14 in Ireland, 10 in Australia, 3 in New Zealand, 2 in Queensland, 7 in Canada, 1 in Malta, 1 in Bombay, 42 in the United States of America, and 1 in France. The Society gives a monthly account of the state of trade in every place in which it has a branch. It gives the condition of trade, the number of days the trade is working, and it is surprising the accuracy and fulness with which all the details relating to engineers are given in that Report. I believe that in 1884 the outlay of the Society was £172,841. A reference was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham (Mr. A. H. D. Acland) to the amounts given in charitable subscriptions to the relief of the working classes. Let me point out to the House the amount that was expended in the way of self-help by this Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1883. Under the head "Donations, contingent, sending members to situations, and beds to non-free members," the amount expended was £62,310; under the head "Sick benefit, stewards, and medical certificates," £29,074; "Superannuation," £30,519; "Funerals," £8,253; "Accidents," £2,100; "Grants to the Benevolent Fund," £3,297; "Grants to our own and other trades, loss of tools by fire, Parliamentary Committees, and insurance," £20,579. That Society distributed amongst its members, in 1878, in a time of exceptional distress, nearly £250,000. That, therefore, shows that there is no lack of statistical ability on the part of the working classes. Nothing surprised me so much, when I was engaged in bringing before the House in 1872, 1873, and 1874 the case of the factory operatives for a reduction of the hours of labour, as the wonderful statistics concerning the hours of labour, and all the articles of production and other facts of interest, which they placed before me. I believe I could, at this moment, obtain as good statistics from the operative cotton spinners and weavers of Lancashire, and from the weavers of Yorkshire—as good and as rapid statistics as I could obtain in a Department of the Board of Trade. We need not, I really think, in this matter trouble the House to appoint a Select Committee. If any advantage were to be gained by it, I would support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman; but when I come to inquire in the Department as to what could be done and what ought to be done, as to what information we could give, I was told that there had already been a Departmental Committee, on which the Treasury and the Board of Trade had sat for some time and examined into statistics. A Report was made, and the Committee had agreed, two years ago, that some statistics of this character ought to be published—that they would be found embedded in Blue Books, and scattered throughout thousands of volumes, never yet collected and collated, and that all that was needed was the necessary staff of assistants to enable us to make an excellent collection of statistics. This is an extract from the Report made in 1883 by the Departmental Committee, on which the Treasury, and the Board of Trade, and the Customs were represented—"Gears overhead low and unprotected. Some of the main belts come through the floor entirely unprotected, and are dangerous. Privies in spinning room in a filthy condition; floor wet and soaking with filth; can smell it all through the mill."
Now, Sir, with that Report before us, I can hardly see why we need to appoint a Committee to inquire further. If we did, it would inevitably involve a considerable loss of time, and the Committee would be at a loss what remedy to prescribe. I very much doubt whether any Committee could either lay down precisely what ought to be the remedy, or prescribe the limits up to which such an annual review should go. That must depend very much upon the material at our command. Now, if we can agree to the production of such a volume as I hope we shall agree upon to-night, I should like it to do more than provide merely labour statistics and prices. We ought to give prominence to Colonial statistics—we ought to point out to the vast masses of our population the best fields for emigration. I may here say that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) has entered into the project most warmly, and that we are of opinion that we ought to utilize our Diplomatic Consular Services in this matter much more effectually than we have hitherto done. Earl Granville, at the suggestion of Mr. Holyoake, 15 or 20 years ago, obtained some excellent Diplomatic Returns as to foreign trade, which were supplied from time to time. They were acceptable, not only to the working classes, but to a great many of the people of this country. They were issued not periodically, but at intervals, just as they came to hand. There was no kind of order or plan about them. To get anything like statistics from these Returns and from the ordinary Blue Books would baffle even the most unwearied Member of this House. The three-year limit for the production of these Returns would be altogether unsuitable. What we want is to give not only statistics of hours of labour, kinds of production, fields for emigration, and information we can obtain from the Diplomatic and Consular Services, but we want to get some of the wonderful results of individual and co-operative effort amongst the working classes of the country. I received a deputation a few days ago, in which the operatives of Lancashire were represented. One or two of the representatives spoke of the wholesale trading in Manchester. The working men in Manchester, in the wholesale Co-operative Stores, turn over—that is to say, sell and distribute—something like £5,000,000 in value every year in the Co-operative Stores alone. Their co-operative banking last year amounted to £16,000,000; and, within a radius of 20 or 30 miles of Manchester, more than £20,000,000 were turned over by the Co-operative Stores. Surely, this experiment, not only in distribution, but industrial cooperation, should be brought out in the volume. It is most important that the good work doing in a particular locality should come to the knowledge of working men generally—that it should be held up as an example to the industrial community. Take the case of Building Societies; take the case we saw stated in The Times this morning—that the children in Manchester contributed last year to the Penny Banks in Manchester more than £25,000. All these facts ought to be gathered together, and put in as cheap and simple and comprehensive a form as possible, so that they can be circulated through every Club and Mechanics' Institution and Free Library in the country. Now, Sir, I have said to the House that this will not be a very easy task; but what should we do in the first instance? I agree that we had better not be too ambitious—that what we do we should do well. We had better have fewer statistics, and have them sound and correct, than a great, bulky volume. What we can do—or what we think we can do—is this. We can gather up the statistics of the last 50 years, and get together in one volume something like an historical statement of comparison of the facts affecting labour, wages, and prices which are to be found in the Blue Books. [An hon. Member: Agricultural labour also.] An hon. Member says of agricultural labour. Well, agricultural labour should be shown in the Return just as much as industrial labour. There ought to be no difference in the matter. It would be an exceedingly interesting thing to have put before us such statistical evidence as we have in the Library of this House in the Reports and proceedings of Royal Commissioners and other authorities during the past 50 years. Then, as I say, the House must bear in mind the nature of the work to be done. There are, as I have already pointed out, about 13,000,000 men, women, and children earning wages in the United Kingdom. The number of industries to be dealt with is not less than 3,000. Well, all this cannot be accomplished at once. It must be of growth. For one thing, the next Census should be an Industrial Census, a thing which has not hitherto been properly carried out, It is quite possible that when we have made our experiment, and published two or three volumes, that then a Committee should be appointed. A Committee would be useful then to consider whether we had published too much or too little, and to point out, if neccessary, what we had to amend, and how we were to do it. We should then, probably, know whether or not we had made a proper digest; but it does seem to us that the right thing to do now is at once to appoint this staff, and set them on the work, because, if anything is to be brought out in 1887, it is not a moment too soon to commence now, in order to have correct and tabulated statistics. I have applied to the Treasury, and while I am as reluctant as any Member of this House to incur any additional expense—for I believe not only the state of trade, but our finances, require that we should be economical in all respects, and, in the publication of Returns amongst other things, I think with other Members of this House there has been a great waste in the past—I think there will be no difficulty from the point of view of the Treasury in getting this work done. I think that with a staff that would cost no more than £1,000 a-year, we could produce the results that the hon. Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) has asked for. We are prepared at once to undertake the work. I trust the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not wish us to go to a division on the question, because we feel in the Board of Trade that the right thing is rather to make a beginning, and deal with the material that we have, than to wait for further inquiry. Our difficulty in the first instance will be rather that we have too much than too little material; but I think that if the matter is left to the statisticians at the head of the Departments, they will be able to produce, early next year, such a volume as the hon. Member for Northampton would approve of. I should like to say one word more—and I am sorry at this hour to do so—on the urgency and importance of our doing all we can to elucidate this great question. It must never be forgotten how important to the settlement of the labour question is the consideration of the proportion of population to employment and production in this country. We must not limit our- selves too much to industrial centres. At the beginning of this century, Great Britain had a population of something like 10,500,000. What has happened during the past 85 years is something that is unparalleled in the history of the world. We have increased our population threefold in 85 years. Our population is now from 31,500,000 to 32,000,000. At the beginning of the century, there were something like 4,000,000 of wage earners in the country; 2,000,000 of these, or a half, were employed in agriculture, and the other half in industrial employment. What is the case now? Why, instead of half being employed in agriculture, only one-eighth or one-seventh are so employed, and seven-eighths are now employed in industrial occupations. But we must not forget another fact—namely, that whilst we have increased the population employed in industrial pursuits from 2,000,000 to something like 8,000,000, the productive capacity of every individual has multiplied something like threefold. I know industries myself in which 40 years ago a single individual was only producing the l–20th part of what a man or woman can now produce. Well, it is a very grave question to this country whether we can go on increasing the production of manufactures, simply making ourselves one vast workshop, to an unlimited extent and for ever. It is an enormous question whether we can goon employing this vast increasing population at the same rate that we have been employing them during the past 85 years. It is something to consider that, 80 years hence, the population of these Islands, instead of being 32,000,000, may be from 100,000,000 to 110,000,000. That is something we hardly like to contemplate. The population would undoubtedly be somewhat too thick on the ground; and it must be remembered that whilst we have been increasing our population at this rate, our towns have been extending, and railways, and houses, and parks have been subtracted from the area of the land, that we cannot increase our territory one inch; and that, after all, Englishmen have to look not only at the very small area that they have in cultivation at home, and to those vast industries which have brought us to this high state of prosperity, but to that Greater Britain, our vast Colonies, to increase the prosperity of our people. I hope the House will consent to the Motion of the hon. Member; and I believe that whatever we do to enlighten and guide such a vast working population as ours, will contribute much not only to putting a stop to strife amongst us, but to increasing our prosperity and helping to maintain the unity and integrity of the Empire."We recommend that, in giving up the miscellaneous statistics of the United Kingdom, the Commercial Department of the Board of Trade, or a Central Statistical Department, should substitute a volume to be called by some such title as The Miscellaneous Statistics of Trade, such volume or part to include such particulars as to home consumption of British and Irish produce and manufactures, and as to prices, wages, freights, and other trade topics as maybe judged expedient from time to time."
I should like to say one word on this subject, because it is a matter on which it is gratifying to feel that most of us are in full agreement with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). I have for many years taken a great interest in the subject of labour statistics, and I believe it is very important indeed that the country should possess full and accurate details of those statistics. It is for the very reason that I think it so important that we should have them, that I think the House should support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horncastle (Mr. E. Stanhope). What would be the effect, really and practically, of our carrying the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton? We should simply pass an abstract Resolution which would be carried out or not according to the will or wish of certain Government officials. We really want this matter carried out properly and effectually; and when we consider that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has given us a most eloquent dissertation upon this subject for nearly an hour, touching on nearly every point connected with labour, to show what a vast subject it is, can we expect the Government and the officials of any Office to take up the subject efficiently and thoroughly, as we wish it to be taken up, without guiding lines on the part of a Committee? To have this work properly and effectually done, we cannot fail to see the importance of having a really efficient Committee thoroughly to tabulate the system, and to guide those who will have to carry it out. I trust, therefore, that the House will support, without hesitation, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horncastle, and I hope the hon. Member for Northampton will recede to the position he took up at first when he agreed to this Committee. If he does this, I believe we shall move much more rapidly in a work which will be of great use to the labouring community at the present time.
I have once or twice complained in this House, during the short period I have had experience of it, of the irrepressible loquacity and irrelevance of the two Front Benches. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) with that attention which I always give to his experience and knowledge, and failed to discern, except on two or three occasions, the faintest grasp of the subject which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) has introduced. He told us a great deal of what workmen have done; but what we wanted to know was how we can get information about what workmen earn, and how they could spend their money. Upon these points the right hon. Gentleman did not condescend to give us much information. I listened for a time to the right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House (Mr. E. Stanhope), who certainly gave us full information of the full extent of his ignorance on the subject. He told us something about the labour statistics of parts of America, and the guesses which are made in certain places. Did he ever look through the labour statistics of Illinois? Did he ever look through those of Massachusetts? [Laughter.] I have done so. Hon. Gentlemen are humorous; it is rare that they are. But I would remark that I have for a good many years troubled myself with the history of labour, and particularly with the history of labour in England. Now, I beg to say that throughout the whole of my researches through the history of labour in England, I find that for the last 50 years nothing is to be found but guesses on the part of public men. There were tolerably correct guesses on the part of Mr. Giffen, and tolerably correct guesses on the part of Sir James Caird; but absolutely correct information as to the condition of the working classes of this country—as to what they earn, and how they can spend their earnings—is not given. I have searched through the Blue Books for what is wanted in vain. Some imperfect information has been given by a Member of this House on the subject-that is to say, by the senior Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers). These, I think, were about the last statistics on the subject of agricultural labour that we have had; but although they have been useful to me in my study of the question, I tell you that a more barren waste of time, so far as relates to the position of the working classes and the wages they earn, than the study of public documents in England cannot be conceived. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) wishes us to approach this subject in the way in which the Americans approach it. Sir, I beg to say that the statistics referred to—those of the States of Massachusetts and Illinois—are of enormous value to the people of America, and they would also be to the people of England. One of the effects of reading them would be to disabuse Englishmen's minds of the idea that it would be better for them if they went to a land of Protection. I know of nothing more deplorable than the description given in the statistics of Illinois of the filthy and miserable dens in which the people of the great city of Chicago live, the prices they have to pay, and the burdens put upon them. I think, if people in this country had the means of knowing what is done in foreign countries, that they would think twice or thrice before they changed their condition in this country for a life in America or elsewhere. I have studied the condition of labour in America. I have been on the spot, and have given to the question the greatest care I could bestow upon it, and I am certain that the information which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bradlaugh) has demanded would be of the greatest value. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horn-castle (Mr. E. Stanhope) thinks that this question should be investigated by a Select Committee. I know, Sir, from my small experience in this House, what a reference to a Select Committee means. It means burking the question. ["No, no!"] Oh, yes, it does. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me of a single fragment of good that the bulky volumes containing the Reports of the Select Committee on Agriculture have done to agriculture? I say that in questions of this nature a Select Committee is sheer waste of time and money. The fact is that persons are appointed as Members of Select Committees who know nothing about the subject to be inquired into—a Select Committee is generally com- posed of people who want to get upon it, who want to be enlightened, and who want, perhaps, to make elaborate speeches—such as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella) has made to-night. But I repeat that scarcely anything of good has ever come from the costly inquiry upon agriculture. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will examine the Massachusetts Reports, he will find there one piece of information that is very instructive—namely, that the cotton industry does not pay better wages than the people of Lancashire are earning, and that the people engaged in it have to pay 50 per cent more than we do for the necessaries of life. If the right hon. Gentleman will take the matter into consideration, and refer to the Massachusetts statistics, he will see that the information desired can be very speedily obtained. Whether the staff of the Department is so overworked that it cannot do this upon the large sum which it receives every year, I will leave to the House to determine; but I say that the task is easy, and the machinery ready, and that if we can get the information we require in the form described, it will be far more valuable than it would be if it were published in a Blue Book. An hon. Friend of mine, speaking of the difficulty of getting information, asked what became of the Blue Books. They are, when not sent to Working Men's Clubs, devoted to the uses of waste paper. I can assure the House that the pains I have taken to get information in this House about labour have been intense and constantly useless. We have no information on the subject, and we want to have it, because in the knowledge we ask for is bound up the progress of the working men themselves, and also the future commercial condition of the country. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horncastle will not imagine that, when I speak contemptuously of Select Committees, I think he is desirous of postponing information on the subject. The character of the right hon. Gentleman renders that impossible. Finally, what is wanted can, I believe, be done with the greatest ease. I am certain that it can be done with the greatest possible advantage, and I am also certain that if you carry out the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), you will impress the working classes of the country with the idea that you mean business and not mere talk.
Sir, I have for many years Leon a close student of labour statistics, and I am one of those few Members to whom the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) referred as receiving regularly the Reports of the Washington Government, which include these statistics. I am surprised at Gentlemen who have spoken this evening showing such a deplorable ignorance on this great subject—ignorance with regard to documents published by Foreign Governments on the subject of labour, and in the interests of the trade, commerce, and manufactures of the United States. On one occasion, when I had the privilege, as I may call it, of having been summoned to give evidence before the Duke of Richmond's Commission, having brought with me to support my evidence some publications of the Statistical Bureau of the United States, I was very much surprised to see the complete ignorance on the part of Members of the Commission with regard to those publications. I was last year also a witness before the Select Committee of this House which inquired into the Irish Industries, before which it was necessary to produce some of these publications, and on that Committee, with the exception of a Gentleman not now in this House, who represented Dublin City, I did not find any Members conversant with the extent to which statistical information is supplied by the United States Government. So far, Sir, as I have been able to follow the debate of this evening—and I have done so very closely—I have not perceived that any hon. Member is aware of the fact that the Federal Government publishes these statistics, not only of the United States, but for foreign countries also. The hon. Member has, in my opinion, introduced one of the most important subjects that have come before this House for a long time, and he has, in the course of his remarks, referred to the statistics of the States of Illinois and Massachusetts. I must say that I was very glad to observe the spirit in which the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton was received by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade; and certainly I was surprised at the unwarranted and unwarrantable attack made on the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. Member who preceded me; because it must be in the experience of Members who have sat in this House for a number of years that, whenever the right hon. Gentleman dealt with complicated questions of this kind, he showed, as he has done this evening, a thorough grasp of the subject. I think there are very few branches of this question of which the right hon. Gentleman did not show that he had a full and thorough appreciation. Sir, I think the House will make a very great mistake if it accepts the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench. I should not have ventured to stand up in this Committee, after what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella), were it not that I think it necessary to impress upon him the vital necessity of having, in any statistics which he may give us, information as to the labour statistics of foreign countries. That is a point which I think has not been touched upon by other speakers in the course of this debate; and if the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton is accepted in its present form, it does not bind the Department to furnish that information, because it does not include the words "foreign countries." Well, Sir, I would include foreign countries and the Colonies. This question of labour statistics is really not a labouring-man's question alone; it is a question which concerns the whole community. It is a question which immediately concerns the constituency of the hon. Member for Northampton, which is a great manufacturing constituency, and it also indirectly concerns the constituency which I have the honour to represent (Cork County, East), which is not one of the manufacturing constituencies in Ireland; and were it not for that I should not have intervened in this debate, which, up to the present time, has been sustained by English Members only. We all know—it is a matter which has lately been brought very unpleasantly under our notice—that manufactures and trade in this country have come down to a very low point. It has been rushing to a climax for a very long timepast—I may almost say it has reached its climax already, because I do not see how it can go any lower without some accession to the forces which have brought it about, which at present are not discernible. Owing to the great depression of trade, there has, of course, been a fall in the prices of agricultural produce, which is necessarily concerned. This question has been already very forcibly brought under the notice of the House, and I think we should continue to give it our most serious consideration. We have at the present moment, by the grace of the new Government, a Royal Commission on the Depression of Trade. Now, Sir, I imagine that the work of that Commission would only be half done if it did not, by some means or other, endeavour to ascertain what is the cause of depression in several branches of English trade at home, and come to a conclusion as to what is operating against English trade and manufactures. The question of wages and the state of trade in countries which are competing with Great Britain in foreign markets, and closing our factories at home, I need not say is one of the very greatest importance. I think we should not be asked to come to conclusions upon one-sided evidence. If we are asked, as I expect we may possibly be asked, to decide what is wrong with the English manufacturing trades, and how that wrong state of affairs is to be remedied, we cannot do that without sufficient data as to the state of wages and the state of the markets of different countries; and, therefore, Sir, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who has so willingly promised this information, that he will include in the Returns to be made information in reference, not alone to Great Britain and the Colonies, but to Germany, France, Belgium, and the United States. Of course, I include the Colonies already suggested; and I think, if we have information from these countries in addition to our own, that we shall have sufficient data upon which we may be able to come to a conclusion. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has said, and very properly said, that it will be very difficult to ascertain exactly information as to the state of labour in different countries and in different markets. I perfectly agree with the right hon. Gentleman in that opinion; but, Sir, the information is so vitally important to this country that we should not be debarred from seeking for it because it may be difficult to obtain. Then, Sir, I would press on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman that, in getting information from foreign countries, it should be remembered by his agents that the times of commercial prosperity and depression are not always coincident in different countries, and, therefore, that the state of the labour market and the rate of wages paid vary. I think, also, that we should have information as to the hours of labour, the cost of living, and whether the labourers are paid by day or piece work, as well as upon other points bearing upon the subject. With regard to the means of obtaining this information, it has been suggested that it should be got together by the Board of Trade, and by the Consuls through the Foreign Office. When the information has been obtained through these Departments, I think it will be very easy for the right hon. Gentleman to put it into a shape that will be convenient as a vade mecum to all those who want information on this subject. In conclusion, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to say that he will try to ascertain these data as to labour in foreign countries, as well as in Great Britain and the Colonies.
As Her Majesty's Government are prepared to undertake the very great responsibility of providing statistics, although I believe many hon. Gentlemen are not satisfied with the statistics they propose to give, I shall not put the House to the trouble of a division upon my Amendment.
I have distinctly stated that we intend to utilize the members of the Consular Service in order to obtain statistics of the labour market abroad.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question put.
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, immediate steps should he taken to ensure in this Country the full and accurate collection and publication of Labour Statistics.