Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £177,613, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices." [Note.—.£90,000 has been voted on account.]
I rise for the purpose of starting the annual Debate upon the Factory Inspectors' Report presented by the Home Office. The report is simply full of a great wealth of subjects, and it is absolutely impossible for anyone to deal with them in any detail. There are several hon. Friends of mine here, and certain hon. Gentlemen in other parts of the Committee, who undoubtedly will raise various detailed points regarding it, and I propose to confine my remarks to more general aspects of the report. First of all, I should like to comment on the way the report is made. These factory inspectors' reports ought in some way or other to reflect not merely the shadow of the red-tape of the Department but some of the life that is going on in the factories outside. If hon. Members will only take the trouble to read the section of the report compiled by the chief inspector and his assistants, and compare it with the section compiled by the lady inspectors, they will see that there is a tremendous difference between the two. In fact, if the chief inspector could only take one of his lady inspectors and get her to write up the report we should get something worth reading and something illuminating. The dull barrenness, the utter lack of meaning, and the perfect wilderness, page after page, of the chief inspector's report, although I am bound to confess it has been habitual, ought certainly to be changed. This is the first time this question has been raised, but it will be raised annually until the gentlemen responsible for this report turn over a new leaf and present us with something really worthy of the office to which they belong. The general characteristic is very striking. It tells us that, owing to an increase in trade and an extension of mechanical appliances, a further pressure is brought to bear upon the work-people and certain unfortunate things are happening. Accidents are increasing, and more and more unskilled persons, or at any rate persons unused to the operations of factories, and more young persons have been employed. That is a state of affairs, which, although it is only temporary, ought to have received some more vital attention at the hands of the factory inspectors than apparently they have given it.4. 0.P.M. Take the case of accidents. We are once more told that annual inaccuracy, that the increase of accidents, is an increase due to reporting. An hon. Friend of mine was with me on the Accidents Inquiry, at which inspector after inspector assured us very solemnly, and we assumed with inside knowledge, that accidents had now reached their maximum so far as the accuracy of reporting was concerned, and that the Committee could make its mind perfectly easy that, if there were now to be a diminution in the number of accidents, it would be a real diminution, and that as far as a mere statistical increase was concerned, that would come in more because there was greater perfection in reporting. But we find once again the same old story that there are more accidents. Why? "Oh," says the chief inspector, "because there is more accurate reporting." It is really about time that this staff, selected so carefully, hedged round by such elaborate processes of nomination, and selected so that working men can very rarely get inside the charmed circle, should at last do its work so accurately that it does not require to come and tell us, year after year, that there is more care taken in reporting accidents than there was before, seeing that, so far as legislative authority is concerned, that authority can compel every accident that ought to be reported to be reported. But this case is not a good one, because there is one kind of accident which is not affected by its statistical accuracy, and that is the fatal accident. The number of fatal accidents in 1909 was 946; in 1910, 1,080; in 1911, 1,182; and in 1912, 1,260. I do not think my suggestion can be resisted that this shows that the accident risk which obtains in our factories—because this only applies to factories—is increasing, otherwise fatal accidents would not increase as they have done. On page 24 of this report the chief inspector, quoting a Mr. Lauder, of Newcastle, says:—
Surely that is the business of the factory inspectors to put an end to these things! This sort of annual excuses are beginning to be a little tiresome to those of us who want results and not excuses as a result of the efforts of a very well-paid staff. Let us take another example. Two Committees have sat, composed of Members of this House, to consider questions relating to this Department—the Committee on Truck, which sat some four or five years ago, and the Committee on Industrial Accidents. Once again in this Report we have the usual cry about "Truck." It is not being put an end to. We have certain statements that it is diminishing in certain respects. On page 155 there is a record of a case which will show at once how very widespread this evil is. Miss Slocock reports:—Mr. Lauder refers to the many accidents that have been reported and has formed the opinion that the Regulations are not as well observed as they ought to be. though he has not found any case in which he felt justified in taking proceedings."
This does not refer to Belfast only by any means. I had no intention of singling out Belfast. I simply happened to mark it in reading the report. The evils which are complained about year after year with reference to the administration of the Truck Act are partly evils which require legislation, but why cannot we have it? They are also, however, largely evils which could be very largely dealt with by administration. The point, however, is that this subject has been investigated by a Committee of this House. The Report has been issued, the Minority and Majority Reports substantially agree, and the Minority go a little further than the. Majority—but practically nothing has been done. Then we have the Committee on Accidents, which was also appointed by this House. The hon. Member (Mr. Gill) and myself were members of that Committee. Very little has been done. Certain things, like the Joint Conference between employers, employed, and factory inspectors, have been put into operation with very good results according to the Report,. but the larger recommendations of the Committee are still untouched. We made certain recommendations about weight carrying. On page 25 the chief inspector states:—"In stitching factories in Belfast I received complaints of heavy deductions for handkerchiefs not in any way damaged, but by an oversight made up with the wrong-sized hem. In one case 1s. 10½d. had been deducted from a wage of 6s.10½d., although the mistake had arisen through the forewoman's omission to state the size of the hem on the docket. The employer, when the facts were brought to his notice, ordered the money to be refunded, but said that the worker most be dismissed."
Then he goes on to make this extraordinary comment:—"In the tinplate works in South Wales boys of fifteen have been seen carrying 90 lbs. to 100 lbs."
It is the mind that makes that comment upon that that is responsible for much of the inefficiency of administration. There never was a reform but the anti-reformers, the persons who stood out against it, would say the victim preferred that it should be so. The victim of bad housing prefers the pigsty. The dirty pig, we are told, prefers the dirty pigsty, and the little boy working and carrying 90 lbs. to 100 lbs. weight, according to the Chief Inspector of Factories, prefers—it is his own fault that he does so—to make one journey with a heavy load rather than two with a light load. On page 141, again, there is another important reference to this matter. Miss Escreet says:—"But it is often the boy's own fault, for he prefers to make one journey with a heavy load rather than two with a lighter one."
These, again, are only examples. The Committee on Accidents made important recommendations regarding these things, and I have still to learn that anything has been done in consequence. But with reference to the accident risks, we also made a recommendation about young persons and the liberty given to them to clean machinery and so on. It is the employment of the young persons that has contributed most to accidents. For instance, one of the lady inspectors says, on page 128, that an increased employment of young girls in the Midlands accounts for a relatively higher proportion there of accidents. Of the notification of accidents in the wearing apparel and laundry industries, according to the senior lady inspector in the Midland districts, 40 per cent. concerned girls under sixteen and 25 per cent. girls between seventeen and eighteen. Again, this employment of young persons, oddly enough, is practically commended by the chief inspector himself. On page 26, it is stated:—"By the courtesy of the president and secretary of a weavers'. winders' and warpers' association, I was enabled to examine the Association's compensation register for 1911–12, and to extract from it particulars of seven cases of injury from this cause. Two of these women suffered comparatively slight muscular strain, while the other five sustained internal injuries more or less serious. All these women subsequently returned after absence varying from three to ten weeks. The cause alleged was the lifting of loom weights in every case."
The only purpose of gratuitously putting that paragraph there is to commend this system. If hon. Members will turn to page 109, they will find the report to which this refers, and on which it is founded. Mr. Sumner, Dundee, reports to Mr. Young, chief inspector, as follows:—"The interesting account is given by Mr. Sumner of the only remaining half-time school in Dundee, where the successes obtained are very remarkable. The chidren are said to make as much progress as full-time scholars, and invariably earn the full Government Grant and good reports from the school inspectors."
Fancy a chief inspector commending a school run under these conditions. It is a thing which I should have thought belonged to Mid-Victorian times to have schools attached to individual factories-"This school is in connection with one of the textile factories in Dundee—"
Then there is this interesting explanation:"and there are from thirty-five to thirty-six children attending it and working in the mill. They are employed on the half-day system, attending school for two-and-a-half hours, and being employed in the works for five hours, and every alternate week each child has a complete rest from both school and mill from 3 o'clock on Friday till 9 a.m. on Monday morning. Mr. Stunner was much impressed with the bright, healthy, mid intelligent appearance of the children. The sctoohnistress informed him that they made as much progress with their education as the ordinary full time scholar, and invariably earned the full Government grant, which depends both on attendance and scholarship, and obtained very good reports from the inspector of schools."
"They are necessarily very regular in their school attendance because. of course, lost attendances have to be made up before they can work in the mill. The fact that they earn four shillings and sixpence per week probably accounts for their being better fed and better-clothed than other children of the same claps."
What are the ages?
I have-read the Whole extract. The ages are not mentioned, but of course they must be-somewhere between twelve and fourteen. I am bound to say that that report throws very valuable light on an aspect of child labour which is commended by the chief inspector. Surely no officer employed by the Government, no person connected 'with the Home Office should commend such a thing as that without considering it very much more than apparently it has been considered. Then there are passages in the report containing references to various matters which have been dealt with by Committees of this House and I complain most,strongly that so little by way of legislation or administration has been done as the result of the deliberations of these Committees. I come now to another part of the report. which deals with the appointment of inspectors. It is a very old question with me, but I am afraid it must be raised again and again. We have got detailed in a table at the end of the report certain new inspectors who have been appointed to strengthen the staff. There are certain additions and promotions reported at page. 239, and I would like, if it is possible, my right hon. Friend in replying, to tell me what the experience of these new inspectors has been. There is a sort of idea —you will find it all through the Government Departments more and more—that unless you have a certain sort of social smack about you, you cannot do public work; you have not the breadth of mind and the magnificent intellectual detachment which is necessary to associate with certain gentlemen, and to do a certain amount of work. It is all rubbish! It is all sheer nonsense, as this Report shows. We have pressed, and we shall continue to-press, that the assistant, the working-class assistant, shall have a very much wider door open to him to pass up than has been the case hitherto. He could not do worse than is being done, and the chances are that he would do very much better. If the factory department requires extras like an electrical expert, or a medical expert., and so on, let them appoint experts. I think one of the great deficiencies of the Department has been that it has not enough experts, and that is excused by your appointing from the bottom, because it is expected that certain expert duties should be performed by an ordinary inspector.If the Department had gone on a totally different line from the beginning, the work would have been better done than it has been. The absurdity of setting aside a certain body of men known officially as "Mr.," and putting others over them who are known officially as "Esquire," is just like calling certain cricketers "professionals" and others "gentlemen." That is simply absurd. It has led to bad administration, and the Department has not got the best it could get out of the inferior officers. That sort of thing has been going on, and I think some change ought to be made. With reference to women inspectors, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his recent appointments. I wish to associate myself with anything that may be said during the Debate as to the appointment of women inspectors. The time has now come for having some working women made factory inspectors. Anyone who has had anything to do with the 'Women's Co-operative League, the Women's Labour League, and other organisations of women, knows perfectly well how competent, able, and satisfactory large numbers of working women are. They know mills and factories from the inside, and would do just as efficient work as the women now appointed, so far as inspection itself is concerned. I think the time has come to press for a substantial increase of the women factory inspectors, and to insist that a proportion of that increase should be from amongst working women. A subject in which I have taken an interest since I came to the House is the relation between the factory staff and the local authorities. That is dealt with in section after section of this Report. I have four or five references, but I will only touch upon one. On page 15 it is stated:
There are also references to this matter at pages 30, 48, and 73, and hon. Members who are interested will find that there are various points which arise in connection -with this dual control. Hon. Members will find words in the report amounting to very grave censure regarding the inadequate sanitary provision which has been made at some places. This is another hardy annual. That has been going on for years, and we cannot get some local authorities to send in proper returns regarding outworkers. When these things were published in statistical form, they were the laughing stock of all who examined them, so great was the discrepancy between them and other Reports. There is still the old story repeated just as tragically and with as much humiliation as when it was told in previous years. I suppose it will be the same in 1914, and I do not know how long it is to go on. Another point to which I wish to refer has reference to convictions. If hon. Members will turn to page.17 they will find several references to it, but it will suffice at present to refer to the report from Mr. Davis, of Kent. Referring to the difficulty of administration, he says:—"Few notices had been received from the Local Authorities of workshops in which no abstract is affixed (section 133) and it would appear that the arrangements for carrying out this duty are not very thorough in the majority of districts."
There are references on page 31 and elsewhere to similar complaints. The failure to get convictions from magistrates when a case is proved, is one which the inspectors have frequently complained about. I am afraid that is only a rapid skim over the surface of one of the most interesting and important documents which come out year by year from the Government offices. The only reflection I had when reading a report and making up my mind what sections I should select for reference—and it is a very grave reflection—was that in this House we can only have one day to discuss the whole industrial administration of this country. Occasionally we get a day extra for discussing Home Office matters. If there is trouble, we may get an extra day. I believe we had one early this year on account of the suffragist troubles. When one considers the enormous amount of important work the Home Office does, one must really put in a protest—a protest that gets stronger as years go on - —against the attempt which is made to discuss all those questions within the compass of a single Debate on a single day, with habitually a private Bill put down at a quarter-past eight o'clock. We discuss the Navy and the Army day after day, but the matters dealt with in this Report are as much concerned with national safety, although they are of a different kind. If we can only get one day for their discussion, we must make the best of it. There is enough material in the Report to discuss for a longer time than we are likely to obtain."Striking examples of this occurred at a watering-place where a fellow magistrate was twice summoned for substantial offences. The Bench dismissed the first set, and refused to give any reason for so doing. A year later they imposed nominal penalties only, and said the cases ought not to have been brought. Yet several hours beyond the legal period had been worked by many persons."
I join in the appeal which the hon. Member for Leicester has made that we should be given a longer time for the discussion of the Home Office Vote. I think the Committee ought to recognise that the Report deals with a variety of subjects, all of them meriting the closest attention of this House. The shortest of them would take a whole day to debate properly. There are so many subjects that it is rather hard to choose. Like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I do not want to speak at undue length, and so if will confine myself to two subjects. The first of these is the factory inspectorate. I endorse what the last speaker has said as to the first-rate work of the women inspectors. It really puts shame upon the men. No one can read the admirable reports of Miss Anderson and Miss Lovibond in this volume without realising that for certain work one woman is worth ten men, and we can get a much more efficient administration if we employ women than if we employ men in many details of factory inspection. As the House knows, the number of women has been increased in recent years. It is still too small, and I agree with the last speaker that it is full time that working women were made factory inspectors. The present women inspectors are admirable women, but I think they ought to be rein forced. It is quite clear the inspectors have got to be increased, and I hope that when that comes we shall see a certain number of working women placed upon it.I venture to think that the whole question of factory inspection wants recoil sideration. First of all, it is rather a haphazard system. Numbers have been added from time to time more or less in response to a clamour in this House, and we have no real system of inspection. A great many works are inspected a very few times in the year. I do not blame the inspectors, because they simply cannot get round, but a great many works are only inspected twice or four times in the year; and then, I think, there is a large amount of friction now, both with local authorities and also with employers, that could be avoided, and I venture to suggest that a small Committee might be appointed to reconsider the whole question of the inspectorate. I am sure it is called for, because times have changed a good deal in the last few years, and the employer who, in the past, was rather hard to get at, and who rather resented the visit of the inspector, has now seen the error of his ways, and a different tone prevails. I think we ought to take advantage of that, and I think that if a small Committee were appointed they might give some very useful advice. Before I leave this subject I wish to join with the last speaker in congratulating the Government on their last appointment of a lady factory inspector, a lady who is well-known to many Members of this House, and the only regret is that if the Government have got her the private Members have lost her. The other point I want. to call attention to is the question of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning stands in a different position from last year, for since the discussion of this Vote last year we have seen new rules promulgated and yet they have not been sufficiently long in operation for us to say how they will work. The Committee will remember that these rules are the result of the Report of a Departmental Committee which was appointed in 1908, and which reported in 1910, and that there was a good deal of delay in the promulgation of these new rules. The whole subject was discussed last year, and it is past history. I do not blame the Home Secretary, because he quite frankly admitted last year that there had been delay, but anyhow now the rules are enforced and were brought into operation in January last. I welcome the new rules. I myself do not believe you can do what we want, which is to put down lead poisoning by regulation. I think you have got to go a good deal further, but still I admit that the Government have got to give the new regulations a fair trial, and I welcome the fact that the employers have shown themselves very willing to adopt these regulations and very active in finding the best means of carrying them out. A very interesting exhibition was held last month in Stoke of all these new appliances, and it certainly was a very great sign of the changed attitude of the master potters to this very great evil. Of course, a large amount of the new rules will cause additional expense, but I believe they will be cheerfully adopted, and I quite agree that you must give the regulations a chance. I do not want. to appear to be a croaker, but I do not think myself that you will get to the bottom of it by regulations. The figures for last year are not very satisfactory. The short history of lead poisoning, as far as cases are concerned is this: That for the last thirty years you have had practically a dead level of cases, about 100 cases a year, and deaths varying from five to fourteen in a year.
Can the hon. Member state the total number of cases and the total number of deaths apart from the potteries?
Certainly. For the years 1901–9 about ninety cases a year and five or six deaths a year as an average. For 1909, fifty-eight cases and five deaths; for 1910, seventy-seven cases and eleven deaths; for 1911, ninety-two cases and six deaths; for 1912, eighty cases and fourteen deaths; and for the first six months of 1913, thirty-six cases and six deaths.
Has the hon. Member got the figures for the cases of lead poisoning in other trades besides the potteries?
I agree that the figures in the potteries are only a small proportion to the total. The total cases of lead poisoning are 587, and forty-four deaths for the year. But my point about the potteries is this. It is not an evil of very great extent in numbers, but it is very serious in results, and I firmly believe that the whole is preventible. I have explained my views to the Committee for the last four or five years and I will not repeat them, but my only point is that until the new rules came, we had got to the maximum result of the old rules. The Report of the chief medical inspector says so in so many words. I hope we shall not have to wait very long before we take action, assuming that these new rules do not do all that is expected of them. I quite agree that they have got to run for a time—I hope a short time—but I hope we shall not be compelled to wait too long. The effect of the regulations in the past has not been very hopeful. I welcome the efforts that employers are making, but I cannot help recalling to the House that the same thing has happened before, and that results have not followed. I do not in the least accuse the employers of deceiving the country, but they did promise exactly ten years ago that if certain regulations were passed, they would extirpate lead poisoning. Well, they were passed, and lead poisoning has gone on just to the same extent as before, and so I wish to say a word of warning. I do not think we ought to wait too long, because though these new rules should be given a fair chance, the whole position is a serious one and we must not delay it. A conference is meeting in September of this year under the auspices of the International Association for Labour Legislation, and that conference is meeting at Bale in September. It is meeting to consider the effect of the regulations in various countries upon the use of lead in the ceramic industries, with a view to the conclusion of an International Convention for the restriction of the use of lead in the ceramic industry.It is perfectly clear to everybody who has studied this question that one country cannot move alone, and I am afraid that we are committed to a system of regulation and not to the system of prohibition. I regret that very much. It means that we will not take the lead in labour legislation as we have taken the lead in the past,. and actually here we have an International Conference being met to discuss the question of prohibition when we are still on regulations, but I hope it will be possible to give some figures to show the working of these new rules. Of course I may be asking a quite impossible thing, but it is extremely important, for if we do not do that, the only figures that are before this conference are the old figures, and they are unfair to the employers. I do not suppose the actual figures in detail could be given, but still I think one of the staff of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, might perhaps get a report as to the effect of the new regulations, how far they were being enforced, and how far he thought that the future which show the good results that have been promised, because they do produce a very large change in the industry, and one that ought to be brought to the notice of this conference. I may say that I intend to attend that conference myself, and if I can be fortified by any information, I shall be in a stronger position. But when all is said and done, I do not believe from the past history that we can do this by regulation alone, for you will always have a certain amount of dust, and where you get the dust, you will get lead poisoning. You cannot prevent it. You can make your fans and your draughts as perfect as you like, but still the danger remains, and as long as that danger is there, the disease is there. I believe that we in the end shall be led to prohibition in the same way as we prohibited the use of white phosphorus in matches, and I hope that we shall not wait very long before the Home Office can give some formed opinion on the working of the new rules, and those of us who do not believe that we can effect that object by regulation, will be given an opportunity of trying to obtain international prohibition. It is perfectly clear that we cannot move without it. It is quite clear that any real action of this sort must be the concerted action of all the civilised world. I believe you can get that now, and I hope we shall not lag behind in the International Conference.
The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) gave us a very interesting review of the annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. I would like at once to associate myself with what he said as to the remarkable discrepancy in the form of the report which is brought out by the chief inspector and by the many other inspectors, and that which we have from the chief lady inspector. I think it is very desirable that those who look after the first part of the report should endeavour to give us a somewhat more vivid and more humane presentation of the facts of our factory and workshop system than is contained in the first part of this report. As regards the matter of the report, I think everyone must be struck at first by the remarkable and disquieting increase disclosed in the report of the number of accidents occurring in factories and workshops. The Member for Leicester gave the increase of figures during the last three years, and he showed that during those three years there had been an increase going from 130,000 to 156,000 this year. If he had gone back a little further the increase is even more remarkable and disquieting. The total number of accidents in 1900 was 79,000, and five years afterwards it had risen to 100,000. In 1910 it had risen to 129,000, and last year the total amounted to 156,000. In other words, in twelve years the accidents have practically doubled in number. I am quite aware of the various excuses we always get. We are told, in the first place, of the growth of trade and of the employment of new inexperienced men, and we are also told that it is due to the better reporting of accidents. To some extent that may be true, but, as the hon. Member for Leicester pointed out, although it may be true as regards non-fatal accidents, as regards fatal accidents it obviously does not hold good, because those must be reported. Even with regard to fatal accidents, the growth has been very remarkable, although they have not doubled. In 1905 the fatal accidents totalled 691, and in 1909 had risen to 946, and in 1910 to 1,080, and last year to 1,260.We had a Committee two or three years ago, which sat for two years upon this question of accidents, and they made various suggestions. Everyone knows perfectly well what are the causes that lead to these accidents. They have been pointed out again and again. Bad lighting, overcrowding of machinery, and the accumulation of dirt and grease mean the cutting down of men engaged in work. All those are causes which lead at once to accidents, fatal and non fatal. Above all, what is wanted is more efficient inspection. It is no good pointing out these things until we get better inspection. Last year in the course of this Debate my right hon. Friend said that he was making a survey of the work during this year, and he was promising us revision of the inspectorate. I hope he will be able to tell us later what the survey of the work amounted to, and what revision of the inspectorate has taken place. I think it was my hon. Friend opposite the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Bentinck) who said last year that if an inspector is to do his duty and to visit each factory once a year, he must visit ten factories a day all the year round. That is really an absurd state of things. It is time, considering the wealth of this country, and the state of trade, that we should have factories better inspected so that this deplorable loss of life and limb may be to some degree reduced. One would have hoped that by this time instead of having always an annual increase we might have seen a decrease. I hope at least that my right hon. Friend will tell us what measures he has taken to secure more efficient inspection with a view to decreasing the number of accidents. There are two other points which occur in this report. One is in regard to a matter which affects my own Constituency a great deal, and affects all the Lancashire cotton factories, or weaving cotton factories, and that is the old question of shuttle kissing. Everyone is agreed that that is a habit which leads to disease, and which is very objectionable, and may be extremely dangerous to the unhappy man or woman engaged upon it. Conferences have been held and experiments, I believe, are now being made to test the efficiency of hand-threading shuttles. I hope my right hon. Friend will give us some information as to what prospect there is of getting this habit of shuttle kissing entirely abolished, and getting a satisfactory hand-threading shuttle introduced. Another question is that of the humidity in the mills. There is no grievance which is greater amongst working men and women, especially, of course, in. the summer months, than the grievance of having the factories kept in the state of steam in which they are kept. It was very satisfactory that employers and operatives should have agreed upon what was a fair temperature to keep the factory. An agreement was, I believe, come to under Mr. Shackleton's guidance, and that, I believe, is two being carried out. I see on page 79 of the report that it is not yet so effectively carried out as it should be owing to the difficulty of getting new hydrometers to show what the moisture in the factory is. There is also great complaint of the neglect of the workers to take the readings with the employers representative as the regulations require. I would be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give us some information so that we may know how far the regulations with regard to humidity in weaving sheds are being carried out. The only other point and it is a most serious one, to which I desire to refer, is the urgent need for appointing more women inspectors. After all, the most. elaborate and most important of all the provisions in the Factory Acts are those which relate to women and children. In the great Act of 1901 some of the most important sections are those which regulate the employment of women and children. Women as we know are very badly organised as compared with men. They are very easily overdriven and they are most helpless, and it does lie upon this House to see that all the regulations with regard to women are better carried out than they now are. In my opinion, and as far as I can form any judgment of the facts, the way to ensure that is by appointing an adequate number of women inspectors, and above all some working women, as the hon. Member for Leicester suggested. A few years ago the number of lady inspectors was only twelve for the whole of three countries, and now it has nominally risen, I think, to eighteen, although last year owing to vacancies and illness there were practically only fourteen women in-= spectors. But even supposing there were eighteen for the whole country, surely that is a ludicrously small amount considering what they have to do. According to the most recent figures the number of women and girls employed in factories amounts to, 1,850,000, and in the textile trade alone there are 690,000 women and girls employed. It is quite true that it is the duty of the male inspectors as well as of the female inspectors to look after those women and children, but the work cannot be effectively done except by women. submit that eighteen inspectors amongst the 1,800,000 women is utterly inadequate, and is indeed absurd. Lancashire would require eighteen women inspectors alone. and when you consider that they have to oversee all the work in Belfast and in Dundee and all over the three Kingdoms, the number is ludicrous. I think no one can read this Report of Miss Anderson from year to year, which is far the most vivid and interesting part of this report, without seeing how urgent it is that their power of good should be increased, as I believe it would be, by increasing their numbers. As a matter of fact, although they do admirable work, it really is but a fragment.of the work that might be done if the staff were organised and increased in the way it ought to be. No one can read this report without realising that they have not time to visit all the factories where women are employed in the way they ought to, in order to attend to the complaints they receive. I desire to give one or two instances of the sort of thing which is to be found even now by women inspectors as to the state of labour in those factories which they bring out in their report, and which men do not bring out because the male inspectors cannot attend to that side of the work as well as the women. In the first place, of course, there is the atmosphere which prevails in all factories, and as to which both men and women agree. I must say I was very much struck by a sentence here which a woman writes, begging one of the women inspectors to come and visit her factory. This unknown woman writes:—Dear madam: We would like to know the reason why you do not visit this factory. We would like to know what you have been doing." That is from Ireland. It only shows the way in which women who are badly organised do depend much more than men do upon the inspection and upon the help and assistance they get from women inspectors. Then there is the question 'of long hours and overwork. There is also-the question of women being employed immediately after child-birth, contrary to the provisions in Section 61. Everyone knows that that is going on again and again, with the result that children are being killed or crippled for life. These things go on, because there are not enough women inspectors. There is also the question of the provision of decent sanitary accommodation for women and girls in factories. This is what Miss Anderson says:—
Cases are given that are perfectly outrageous, and some of them almost too bad to read to this Committee. Women are forced to go on working under conditions which, as the report states, are an offence to decency and a menace to health. That again is a part of the subject in regard to which women inspectors are urgently required, because women will not make the same complaint to men that they will to one of their own sex. There is also the fact that women and girls are more easily subjected to despotism and tyranny on behalf of the overseers. There is a case given where a girl of thirteen had been carrying bundles 47 lbs. in weight. Numerous cases are given in which women are subjected, not merely to cruel fines, but even in one case to a brutal assault committed in the presence of a woman inspector. The man did not know she was in the factory at the time. This is the sort of thing which can be discovered by women, but cannot be discovered in the same way or, at any rate, has not been discovered by men inspectors. Nobody can read through the report, as I have done with great care, without seeing that the work done by women to-day is carried on in many cases—I am not speaking now of the best organised trades—in small factories and in outlying places, under conditions which are an utter disgrace, and completely against the spirit and letter of the laws passed by this House. I would, therefore, make a most urgent appeal to my right hon. Friend to see whether he cannot increase, not by one or two, but much more largely, the number of lady inspectors and especially of working- women inspectors. After all, the expense is very slight compared with that which we incur in other directions; but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester said it is just as necessary for the defence and welfare of the country as the expenditure which we so freely make for the Army and Navy."We still have to report year by year localities and instances, of which illustrations follow, in which the purposes and requiretneuts of the law are not yet begun to he realised, and where women and girls are subjected to conditions that are an offence to decency and a menace to health."
I ought to begin my remarks with a note of congratulation on some progress at any rate having been made. For instance, conferences have been arranged in the cotton and woollen trades between employers and workmen, with the idea of doing away with accidents in the lifting and carrying of heavy weights. Also, after the sharp criticism to which the Department was subjected last year, it is satisfactory that the Home Office have at last got a "move on" in their campaign against lead poisoning. Regulations have been adopted by the employers in the pottery district, and I am glad to hear-that a very distinct advance has been made with experiments in leadless glazes, so, that I hope, before long, we may have a very largely increased use of leadless glaze. I am also glad to know that the' Home Office have appointed Professor Kent, of Bristol University, to investigate the measurement of fatigue in industrial occupation—a most necessary and admirable investigation. I am afraid I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon any great legislative activity during the year. I think his only ewe lamb is the-South Suburban Gas Act. We hear a great many rumours that the working-classes generally are losing faith in the-House of Commons as a means of improving their position. I certainly think it is a very good point for the Syndicalists that. the only result of the combined forces of progress sitting on the other side is that, there has been a law passed to say that power gases shall have a distinct and readily perceptible smell. I think that is all that can be said by way of congratulation. I would most strongly reinforce-what has been said as to the shortage of-inspectors. It is true that there has been a small increase in the staff, but that increase has been swallowed up by the enormous expansion of factories and workshops during the great boom in trade. It is easy to see from the reports of the' district inspectors that they are, to a large extent, hampered in their work, because they all allude, either to the shortage in their staff, or to an increase in the number of unvisited factories.I will not labour the point as to the-necessity for more lady inspectors. Last year, I gave the case of Miss Paterson, late lady inspector in the South-Eastern district, who, with two lady assistants and 'one occasional helper, had to inspect 50,000 factories with 376,000 workers in the course of the year. It is rather unsatisfactory to hear that the number of effective visits has been reduced by about 18 per cent. Miss Anderson alludes to the fact that they are not able to get on with the very beginnings, of factory inspection. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell) alluded to the utter ignorance in some quarters of the most rudimentary elements of the existing law. Miss Anderson alludes to the endless foundation work which still has to be performed. There is, for instance, the failure to fence driving shafts and sewing machines. There is the case of seventeen girls in one factory who had never been examined by the factory surgeon at all, and when they were examined a large percentage were found to be unfit. Another instance is that of a factory of eighty girls with only one convenience. It is evident when such things happen that the inspection must be terribly inadequate and in efficient. When I raised the point last year, the right hon. Gentleman said that we ought to be quite content, because the ground was also covered by the male inspectors. That is the sort of argument used by the Prime Minister against female suffrage. He says that women ought to be content to let men carry the necessary reforms for them, because they can do it much better than the women can do it themselves. But that cannot be said here. In the first place, the factory inspectors are short in number, and, in the second place, it is ridiculous to suppose that women can confide as to their grievances with the same freedom in a male factory inspector as in a female inspector. 5.0 P.M. A point not yet alluded to is the terribly long hours worked by women in factories and workshops. There is a very significant passage in the report, in which Miss Anderson alludes to the impression obtained by inspectors that women increasingly feel the pressure of the long hours of work. It is common knowledge that there is a very great drain on the approved societies by reason of the large number of claims for sickness benefit sent in by women. There are some people who hold the theory that that is caused by malingering. I take a more charitable view. I cannot help thinking that the very long hours which women work in factories and workshops under modern hustling methods is a great strain upon them, and is producing a definite effect. It is breaking down their nervous vitality and their health generally. I believe that the greater part of these claims are bond, fide. For instance, in power laundries in the South of England, it is possible to work women and young persons thirteen hours on three days in the week. In London, it is possible to work women from nine o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night. In London long distances have to be travelled, and it is quite possible for girls not to get home till between ten and eleven o'clock at night. There is also a special exemption which permits young persons to be worked these terribly long hours in the London area. I certainly think that that ought to be revoked, as at all events one step in advance. Another great grievance felt by women workers is what is called the "five hours' spell." They have to work from two until seven o'clock without any break whatever for tea. That is a fruitful cause both of fatigue and of accident. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister have lately given us very eloquent descriptions of the great boom in trade and the consequent onflow of British industry and prosperity. I get rather weary of these paeans and the mechanical worship of wealth and prosperity, when so little attention is paid to the other side of the picture. I should like to bring to the Home Secretary's notice certain methods by, which this great. prosperity and enormous volume of trade are achieved. I read in the Factory Inspector Report. of the women washers employed at. aerated water works carrying crates containing twelve empty syphons, weighing 68 lbs. In brickfields we read of women who "build up" the bricks by hand, carrying two bricks at a time, weighing 8½ lbs. each. Both in filling and in emptying the kilns each woman lifts about 6,500 bricks a day, which is 52,000 lbs., or 464 cwts. In both of these trades instances are given where the children of such women have died at birth or shortly afterwards—and I am not at all surprised at it! In a rag and paper sorting place, in which were over 200 women and girls, I was struck, says the inspector, by the tired-out and jaded appearance of the "press" or carrying girls. A press girl carries on an average about 220 baskets a day. On an average each basket weighs 40 lbs., so that means that young girls are carrying 78 cwts. a day. In the paper room there were thirty stalls, and a press chute was about 20 yards from the furthermost stall. The daily period is from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m., and from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. If the press girls do not hurry up they are fined threepence. In a prosperous place like Manchester and in a prosperous industry like that of the Manchester "making-up" trade, one reads of the heavy weights which are frequently carried by women and girls. Out of thirty firms dealing with heavy goods, arrangements for weight carrying were "good" in ten, "bad" in fourteen, and "fair" in six. The usual weight carried is 82 lbs., whilst. 90 and 100 lbs. is not uncommon. The reason why I have alluded to this is that we are very much behind France and other Continental countries in regard to our regulations as to carrying weights. Legislation has been carried through in France limiting the weight which women, young girls, and children can carry, and I think it is high time that something was done by ourselves. If the House of Commons cannot find time, I feel that it is a sort of subject on which, at all events, in these various industries the Home Secretary Might make a push to get conferences called to see if he cannot get some of these injurious things abolished by agreement. I should like to draw attention to another form of brutality and inhumanity that goes on: that is putting children to work on moving machinery. There are instances in the report of absolutely setting children to work under moving machinery. Allusion has been made to the large number of accidents which occur to girls under sixteen. This large number is caused by, I think, the very reprehensible practice of putting young girls to work at dangerous machinery before they have got any acquaintance with it. For instance, in the laundry trade there are a large number of accidents simply and solely because of the employers putting girls to work who have had no experience. In Ireland there are no such instances of accidents to young girls as there are in England simply and solely because shorter hours are worked, and young girls are not put to work at these very dangerous machines before they have had some experience with them. I do not doubt but that the inspectors might get the same result. in England as in Ireland. The hon. Member for Leicester has alluded to the subject of fines and deductions. This is one of the greatest injustices and hardships which women workers suffer under. The hon. Member alluded to the case of Belfast. There are in the Factory Inspector's Report instances of fines for such trifling offences as whistling, talking, and hairdressing; and threepence taken off the wages of young girls between thirteen and seventeen entirely at the discretion of the foremen and managers. That is the hard part of it. These fines are not only unjust, but absolutely arbitrary. The very worst feature of this question of fines and deductions is that it has been made a particular grievance by the action of the Insurance Act. For instance, in Belfast, there will be a reduction of wages from 15th July, 1912. In a Bristol boot factory, notice was given that threepence was to be deducted from the wages of the employés in the "standing room" after 12th July, 1912. This action was the more unworthy in the latter case because many of the girls were under sixteen, and were not chargeable to insurance at all. Personally, I should like to see the Home Office bring in a Bill to abolish all these deductions whatsoever, to put them away root and branch. If the Home Office cannot do that, at all events, they can perhaps deal with them in another way; that is by appointing more women inspectors; because in the lady inspector's report, one reads of very good work being done in Ireland simply by persuading employers to stop fines, and not to try to teach the girls their work by fining them. I see an instance is given of a factory where this practice of fining girls till they did better was in existence. The factory inspector persuaded the employer to teach his girls, to give them thorough systematic instruction and supervise efficient work. That system has worked splendidly. There are no more fines and deductions, and the girls are doing ten times better work. Allusion has been also made to the question of accidents. What I really would like to ask the Home Secretary is, What is his view about the enormous increase in accidents which has taken place since last year? Does he put it down solely and entirely to the boom in trade? Does he really think when trade is prosperous that, as a matter of necessity, we are to have a large number of extra people killed and a large number of people maimed? I cannot help thinking that that necessitarian plea would not stand examination. I should like to take one or two points in these accidents in the Report. Take, for instance, docks in course of construction. One hundred and eighty-three people were killed in these last year. Was that absolutely necessary? Has the Home Office done all it could do to prevent that? Last year a Report was issued as to deep excavations, and in that Report certain recommendations are made. How many of these recommendations have been carried out? Again, take buildings in course of construction. They claimed last year a toll of 105 lives. So far back as 1908 a Committee reported and made certain suggestions with regard to buildings in course of construction. That Committee recommended that. scaffolding should be examined once a month by competent persons deputed by the employers. Has the Home Office taken any steps to see that recommendation carried into effect? One of the worst industries in the world for accidents are cranes. More accidents are caused by cranes than by any other kind of machinery—so, at least, the factory inspectors say. Last year there were 170 fatal accidents and 5,037 nonfatal accidents owing to cranes. What is the Home Office doing to prevent accidents caused by cranes? The Committee reported that there should be periodical examination and testing of the lifting gear. Has the Home Office taken any steps to see that that recommendation has been carried out? I do not want to bring a railing accusation against the Home Office, but, at the same time, I do think that they might rummage in their pigeon-holes and get out the old fusty Reports and see if they cannot do something to get these various recommendations carried into effect.=Before I sit down I should like to mention the question of underground workrooms. I am glad to see that the lady inspector makes a very forcible allusion to the unsatisfactory character of the underground workrooms. There is no doubt about it that she alludes to places where the only form of ventilation is through a grating which is more or less stopped up, and if there are fanlights they only draw air in from the level of the street. These underground workrooms are a fruitful cause of anæmia, ill-health, nervous breakdown, and consumption. The disgusting part of it is that these most unhealthy places are prevalent where the rich do mostly congregate—that Ts to say, in Bond Street, Sloane Street, and Shaftesbury Avenue. My hon. Friends and I have been trying to persuade the Home Office to take up a Bill dealing with this subject, but although the Home Secretary is most sympathetic, very little has been done. I really do wish that something could be done to abolish these very genuine grievances. There is another grievance which I should like to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. A constituent of mine drew my attention to it the other day. He is in a railway ticket office. He asked me when we were going to get a half-holiday for his class? He said he and his brethren of the passenger staff of the railways were not entitled, and were not given a single statutory half-holiday during the whole course of the year. He said he had worked twenty-five years for this particular company, and he had not had a half-holiday all his life, except he had specially applied for it. He said the consequences was that this made him feel a social outcast: He could never take part in any of the pleasures and social activities going on around him. I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether he cannot bring forward a measure to deal with this, or whether he cannot put pressure upon the railway companies, which, after all, are doing very well just now—
I am afraid that the Home Secretary would require legislation to do what the hon. Member has asked him. If so, that puts the matter outside the scope of discussion in Committee of Supply.
That is all I wanted to say on that subject. I believe I will be in order in dealing with the question of street trading. Young children selling newspapers in the street is the most pernicious form of employment that exists. It is bad for the health of the young people. It teaches them to thieve, to bet, to gamble. It fills our prisons with prisoners, and it adds year after year to the number of loafers and cadgers that exist in the country. We had hoped that there would have been legislation on this point, but it would appear that vested interests have proved too much for us. I really hope, however, that the Home Secretary will see what he can do by way of tuning up the administration of the existing Acts and existing powers. Efficient administration, of course, is a question of the appointment of proper inspectors. Some of the local authorities, of course, are very keen, eager and zealous in this work; some are very indifferent. I am sorry to say, however, that some local authorities consider anybody good enough to be an inspector under the Employment of Children Act. There are instances of inspectors of hackney carriages and of weights and measures who have been appointed to carry out the provisions of the Employment of Children Act. I should like that the Home Office should once a year call for a report from all local authorities as to the administration of the Employment of Children Act. It would be better still if the Home Secretary could get from the Treasury a Grant-in-Aid in order that efficient inspectors might be appointed. These are the points on which I feel very strongly, and to which I hope the Home Secretary will really give his serious and undivided attention.
Perhaps I may be allowed to reply immediately to some of the points which have been raised, and I propose to reply later to other points. I find that we get such a variety of subjects that it is almost impossible to deal with them in one speech, and probably it will be convenient to my hon. Friends if I reply briefly on two or three points rather than allow an accummulation of subjects to be dealt with. I have always admired the debating powers of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) but never more than this afternoon. He made, I think, what is perhaps the most ingenious use of the Factory Inspectors' Report that it is possible to make. He selected from the report—I do not complain at all, I think it right and proper he should do so in order to direct public attention to the evils to which he referred—the most striking instances which have been brought to public attention by the inspectors. The inspectors report those cases in order to inform the public arid the House of what they are doing, how they are endeavouring by administration under the powers which the law has given them, to check the existing evils in our factories and 'workshops. My hon. Friend takes those particular illustrations which the factory inspectors have dealt with, in order to prove, not that the factory inspectors are active, but, on the contrary, that there are gross evils in which the factory inspectors ought to act. I do not complain in the slightest degree of the hon. Member calling public attention in the strongest manner possible to those evils. I am very glad that the House of Commons should he informed about them. I have a number of Bills, and there is hardly one of the subjects which have been mentioned to-day on which we have not got a Bill ready to introduce, and, if possible, to pass. Nobody is more anxious than I am that the attention of hon. Members of this House should be drawn to the pressing need of amendments in our Factory Laws.When we come to the result of administration pure and simple, I hope that the Factory Inspectors' Report, a report published by officers of the Home Office and presented by the Home Office to this House, will not be taken as the measure of their effectiveness and of their desire to see that the law is properly administered. My hon. Friend referred to the composition of our factory 3taff. We have, of course, as the House knows, two classes of inspectors. We have the factory inspectors and the class of assistant inspectors. My hon. Friend is under the impression that the factory inspectors have got a social "smack"—a breadth of mind and an intellectual detachment arising from the superior social class from which they are drawn. My hon. Friend is quite mistaken. Of the factory inspectors of the higher class we have to-day very nearly half of the whole have come from the public elementary schools of the country. They are men who have risen by sheer force of merit. I may say that in more recent years more than half were at one time boys in elementary schools. I would like to give the Committee some exact details in recent years as to who those men are who are supposed to have a social "smack." They are, in fact, men who have been selected because of the ability they have shown, not because of the class from which they have sprung, and because of the experience they have had in factories and workshops. I will take the five last examinations. Nearly half of the whole of the candidates who received nominations for examination came from public elementary schools or county schools. In 1908, out of seventeen candidates who competed, all had long factory or engineering experience, except three. One of the three had no experience, but had exceptional educational qualifications, having passed from an elementary school to the county school, and from thence by scholarship to the University of Wales, where he obtained several scholarships and exhibitions. The second had long experience in teaching, having passed from a national school by means of scholarship to Leeds University. He also graduated at London University. The third had experience in teaching physics, having passed from an elementary school by means of a scholarship to the University of Wales, in which he was a graduate. He was a graduate also of London University, and obtained a diploma in electrical engineering in University College, Cardiff. Those were the only three who had not had practical personal experience. The remaining fourteen had long factory and engineering experience before they were admitted.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an instance of how long the factory experience was, and what kind of factories they were in?
I shall be glad to give the hon. Member any information he requires. I have not got the full details here, but I think he may rely on my statement. The information supplied to me I think is strictly accurate. In 1909, of the twenty-eight candidates nominated three had no practical experience in factories, the first of those three had an exceptional educational career at Aberdeen University, obtaining the degree of M.A. with honours in mathematics and natural philosophy, and the degree of B.Sc. in chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy. The second, after experience in business, was engaged in teaching chemistry and physics. He held the degree of B.Sc. of Glasgow University, and obtained certificates from Glasgow University in technological subjects. The third had a distinguished educational career at Oxford and experience in administration as organising secretary of the Christian Social Union. Those are three out of the twenty-eight, and the other twenty-five had a long experience in factories and workshops. In 1910, of the nineteen candidates nominated, all had long and practical experience except two. In 1912, of the thirty-three candidates nominated all had good practical experience except four, and in the present year, thirty-one candidates have just been nominated to compete for about five vacancies. The examination has not yet been held. Of these all have had good practical experience except two. Of the two, one has been engaged in teaching under various school boards in Scotland, but his educational experience has been exceptional. He held the degree of M.A. from Aberdeen University with first class honours in mathematics and natural philosophy; he has gained prizes in political economy, and has also received a Carnegie Scholarship in Economics. I have no doubt my hon. Friend can identify some of the candidates referred to. The second of the two has been engaged in research at the Royal College of Science. He was educated at a secondary school and passed by means of scholarship to the London University, where he obtained a degree of B.Sc., with first-class honours in physics. He also holds a number of certificates in various technological subjects.If my bon. Friends desire any further information as to the candidates, their class, training, colleges, schools and experience in the workshops, who are admitted for examination, I shall be most ready to furnish it. I have not got the information with me, or I would give it to them now. There is also an impression that the assistant inspectors who are drawn from the men who have not got the same educational qualifications but have had longer experience in factories and workshops when appointed, are debarred from promotion to the higher ranks. In this year already three have been promoted from the class of assistant inspectors to the class of factory inspectors, and last year one of them was promoted; that is to say, in two years four out of the total staff of fifty-four have been promoted. If I am right in the view which I am now expressing to the Committee, and when you consider that the factory inspectors are largely drawn from the class of men who in competition in boyhood, in both the elementary and secondary schools, have shown themselves superior to those who come in as assistants, are we not right in taking the fullest advantage of the superior qualifications of the men who enter into the higher ranks? I think I have said enough on the point. I do not know what my hon. Friend may have to say in reply to me, but, in point of fact, there is no such social barrier or social smack as he seems to consider to be-the fact with regard to the factory inspectors. My hon. Friend and several hon. Members who have spoken have referred to the great increase in the number of accidents. I deplore, as they do, the great increase that has taken place. What are the reasons which are primarily given for this, as I consider it to be, disastrous fact? If hon. Members will turn to page 17 of the Report they will see it there stated:—
That is given as a reason for the increase in the number of accidents. It is owing to the great demand for labour that employers fall back more and more upon less skilled and less highly trained workmen. The Report goes on to say:—"Not only is the accident risk extended, but it is accentuated by the fact that the employers, in order to get workers for their additional machinery, are bound to fall back upon the less skilled and partially trained operatives, amongst whom greater liability to accidents is naturally to be anticipated."
Then follow very remarkable figures, to which I shall have to call the attention of the Committee. Of the large number of accidents that have taken place, two-thirds or three-fourths are due to causes with which, under the existing legislation, the inspectors have no power to interfere. They are just what we would call ordinary accidents; not accidents due to any cause for which any person is liable under the existing factory law. I hope we shall he able to extend the liability by an extension of the law, but as the law now exists three-fourths -of these accidents are due to acts over which the inspectors can have no control, and in regard to which their advice has no legal value. That is a very important fact. I will also refer here to the distinctions that have been drawn by most hon. Members who have spoken between the report of the male factory inspectors and the report of the female factory inspectors. I can only congratulate these female inspectors on the style in which they have submitted their observations. They have been received with much approval—at any rate, there is great satisfaction to be found in that aspect of their observations. But let me remind hon. Members, if all the male inspectors were to submit their views at equal length, I will not say with equal brilliance, but with equal charm of style, and at equal length, we should have to issue, not one volume, but several volumes of reports. If hon. Members will look at the summary of the lady inspector, they will find it occupies thirty-five pages—that is covering a very small field of work as compared with what our chief inspector has to cover. His summary covers seven pages, with another summary of twenty pages. The whole of his observations over the whole field of his labour are shorter than those of the chief lady inspector. I am very glad she has put forward her views at such length, but, however advantageous or beneficial that may be, it would throw upon hon. Members an enormous burden of reading if the male inspectors' reports were given at equal length. In one respect, I frankly admit, I have to stand before the Committee in a white sheet. I hoped this year to have been able to introduce and carry through Bills affecting the different topics that have been raised, and I have not been able to do so. I assure hon. Members it was not through any want of zeal on my part, but we must all recognise, owing to the state of business in this House, the impossibility of getting them through. The Noble Lord opposite referred to the case of underground workshops. A Bill dealing with that is on the Paper, or was yesterday, and I would be only too glad if I could get any sort of assurance that that Bill would go through in a reasonable time. I would press upon the Prime Minister to allow it to be starred, and I am as anxious as the Noble Lord is that that Bill should go through."At the same time, though the greater part of the increase is accounted fur in this way, the reports contain clear evidence that the higher figures are also partly dye to better reporting. Inspectors continue to find many individual cases where the reporting has been neglected, and it seems certain that further apparent increases will still have to he recorded from this cause in future years."
I understand that only the hon. Member for Pontefract objects to it.
No, I consulted him, and he says he has no objection.
Then there is no objection.
I do not know about that. Can the Noble Lord speak for the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), the junior Member for the City of London? If he can, I have no doubt the Bill will go through. It is a most valuable piece of legislation, and would add greatly to the other Acts in which the Noble Lord is interested.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Eleven o'Clock Rule is suspended?
Yes, am aware of that.
The Committee does not seem to be aware that this is all out of order.
I do not presume to go into the merits of the Bill, but on a Vote for my salary I thought I might explain why it was. I have been unable to pass Bills I wish to see passed. I should like now to conclude what I have to say upon the subject of the inspectorate. I agree that we need an extension of our staff of inspectors, but we have not neglected that subject. Last year, 1912, we increased the inspectorate by five. This year we have increased the inspectorate by twelve. That is not a bad increase for two years. We have gone up from an inspectorate of 200 to 217, and I shall do my best to secure a further increase of staff next year. I hope to do that, and I think we shall be able to do it, and I think we shall be able to carry out, in full, the recommendation of the Committee on which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester sat. But I think he will agree we have very nearly covered his standard at present, if he takes into account the addition of twelve inspectors this year.
Is my right hon. Friend going to accept our method of appointment?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Committee were not so much in agreement as to the method of appointment. I think my hon. Friend was in the majority, but only a majority of one. There are good reasons, which I think I have given, why the recommendations of the Committee on that point should not be taken. On the subject of lead poisoning the hon. Member for Durham referred to the regulations which were recently passed. I should be very glad to give him the figures as to the working of the regulations, and I shall do so as soon as we have them, but I think he will agree with me it is a little early yet. He has always held a view that lead poisoning cannot be put a stop to until the use of lead is prohibited. We have yet to see whether his view is right or wrong; but if his view is right, whatever Government is in office will have to face the problem, but he will recognise that until these new regulations have been brought into effect we cannot judge how they will work. My bon. Friend the Member for Burnley referred to the subject of humidity in weaving sheds. The regulations are now put in force, and I understand that, hydrometers are now supplied. If that is not so, I will make farther inquiries. I have made some inquiries, and I understand they are supplied. He also raised the question of shuttle-kissing, and he said that experiments so far were not very successful. Conferences have been held, and the experiments have been continued, and the conferences will be resumed later.Another topic mentioned by other speakers has been that of weight lifting. The inspector reports that very important conferences have been held on this very subject, and until we have got, as the Noble Lord opposite would wish, legislation on this matter, we have at any rate carried out the other object he had in view. Conferences have been held, and an agreement has been come too strictly limiting the lifting of heavy weights by children and young persons. Girls under thirteen years of age are limited to 16 lbs.; between the ages of thirteen and fourteen, to 20 lbs.; between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, to 25 lbs. That is from the report on the woollen and worsted mills. It takes a considerable time to cover all the trades with these conferences. Each of these conferences throws a very great amount of work upon the Department, but in time we shall cover the whole ground. As I have just given the figures for girls, I will give the figures for boys. Boys under thirteen years of age are limited to 24 lbs.; between thirteen and fourteen years of age, to 30 lbs.; between fourteen and fifteen, to 40 lbs.; and between fifteen and sixteen, to 50 lbs. I may say that if I had been able to secure the passage of the Employment of Children Bill, I should have got the figures allowed up to fourteen years of age extended to sixteen. We have been able to effect something failing legislation by means of these conferences. In regard to several of the other points raised by the Noble Lord opposite, I am afraid I should not be in order if I endeavoured to follow him. The subject of long hours can only be dealt with by an alteration in the law. I think, so far, I have touched upon all the different points raised except that of fines. Most of the cases—indeed, I think all the cases —of fines quoted to-day were cases of illegal fines under the existing law. Everybody must be aware of the extraordinary difficulty of putting a stop to an abuse of this kind. The particular case alluded to by the hon. Member for Leicester, of a fine in Belfast, was obviously a case of illegal fine.
After they discovered that the fine was illegal the girl was dismissed.
I am coming to that point. The fine was illegal and unreasonable, and when they found that out the money was instantly repaid, but the girl was dismissed. You cannot stop that under the existing law. Our inspectors call attention to it whenever they discover it, but the workpeople are so timid they will not give notice in these caws. This girl who did give notice of it was dismissed. There is nothing, as the law now stands, for that except the force of public opinion. The employer who would dismiss a girl like that ought to be visited with the severest censure. We have no power to cure it under the law.
Except a strike.
Of course, these girls in these cases cannot strike. They have no remedy. The best way is to draw attention to these cases again and again in this House, and my hon. Friends, whenever they have a case of this kind, will be doing a public service if they call, not only the attention of the Home Office and the Home Office inspectors, but of the public to employers who, having to admit illegal acts committed by one of their own firm, take vengeance upon the unfortunate operative who makes the complaint by dismissing her. So far as the Home Office is concerned, we are as much opposed to this kind of thing as hon. Members themselves, and I will certainly do all in my power to direct public attention to any cases of that kind in order to secure an effective remedy. I think I have answered all the questions which have been mentioned in the Debate, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will reply to any other points which may be raised later on.
I should like to endorse several of the remarks which have been made with regard to the Vote under discussion. I agree that it is rather a reflection upon this House that only one day can be given for this Vote, more especially in view of the fact that part of that day is to be taken up with private Bills. I am not sure that the Home Secretary has done full justice to the complaints made with regard to the inspectors. There certainly is a shortage of inspectors, and the increase of the staff is not at all adequate. I agree also that the lady inspectors who have made their report show signs of more thoroughness in their work than the reports we get from the male inspectors. I congratulate the ladies on their success in that direction. With regard to the kind of inspector we require, I think we require men who have spent some time in a factory or workshop. We want thoroughly practical men who under- stand the particular class of machinery they are dealing with, who can give the senior inspector every information. This kind of man, simply because he cannot pass an examination of a certain type, is deprived of the opportunity of rendering valuable service to the industries of this country. That is the kind of man I should like to see introduced on the inspectors' staff.With regard to accidents, I quite agree with the Home Secretary that something has been done to lessen their number, but I am not quite so sure that everything has been done that might have been done, more particularly in cotton factories. It is pleasant to notice that the number of accidents in cotton factories arc less this year than they were last year, but they are still nearly 200 more than they were in the year 1910. I want to give some reasons why I think some of these accidents have happened and how they can be prevented. In the summary issued by the chief inspector we find that there are 391 accidents lumped together under the heading of "miscellaneous." Some of the accidents under this heading are of a very serious kind indeed, and no tabulation is made of them at all. I want to appeal to the Home Secretary to have these miscellaneous accidents tabulated. They include such cases as hernia, sprained muscles of the back and limbs, and sprained sinews, and many of these accidents have occurred through the carrying of heavy weights in places where there is insufficient room. These operatives have to carry heavy weights down staircases, inclines, steps, and badly-lighted places, and if an inquiry were made I am sure the result would astonish the right hon. Gentleman. This question has occupied the attention of a conference and some recommendations have been made, but it will take some time to get new rules into operation, and they can only be put into operation in the modern type of shed, and the same bad conditions will continue in the old sheds until something is done. With reference to the museum of safety appliances mentioned last year, I should like the Government to give us any information they can as to what is being done with regard to that matter. The question of the Workmen's Compensation Act was also mentioned last year, and we have repeatedly asked for a Committee of Inquiry to be appointed to investigate the working of the Act. As is well known, the Act is not being used as was intended, and the number of complaints is so enormous that there is plenty of room for an amendment of the Act. I do not want the Under-Secretary to put forward the excuse that the Insurance Act is just beginning to operate. I think this Committee should be appointed to inquire into the matter, because the Compensation Act has been in operation sufficiently long to justify the appointment of such a Committee; and if it is appointed now in eighteen months they would be able to get all the details they require. They could also consider the question of medical referees and what is being done under the Insurance Act. To-day we learn that medical referees have to be appointed by the State under the National Insurance Act, and I claim that it is quite as important that State medical referees should be appointed under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I ask the Home Secretary to give that matter his very careful consideration. I understand that the Committee appointed to inquire into the lighting of weaving sheds and factories and workshops is now making an investigation, and all I want to say on that point is that I would like this Committee to concentrate its efforts upon the staircases and cellars in factories, steps, and inclines, more especially where heavy weights have to be carried up and down. In a lot of weaving sheds the cellar floor is on a higher level than the weaving shed itself, and certain workmen have to carry heavy weights down these staircases, steps, and inclines into the weaving sheds, and this is very frequently a source of accident. I know the employers have agreed to keep them free from grease and dirt as much as possible, and they apply sand, but unless the inspectors are very alert I am afraid that this will be another source of danger. This is one of those cases in which the inspectors can do valuable work if they had more time to visit the mills. We have only one inspector for about 1,400 factories and workshops in Lancashire, and it is practically impossible for him to visit them all. The Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) and the hon. Member for Durham said that in some cases factories were visited only once a year. I know of factories which have never yet been visited by an inspector, and it is quite impossible that they can be visited unless there is an increase in the number of inspectors or some more systematic method of inspection adopted. 6.0 P.M. I wish to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention and the attention of the inspectors to another class of workmen who have never yet been mentioned in this House. I refer to those employed in the tape-sizing room in cotton weaving mills. These workmen occupy a very responsible position because all the yarn passes through their machines and through their hands before it goes down into the weaving shed. These sizing rooms are very often placed in basements and very dark places, and I think a report would show very serious cases of illness, and some of these places may possibly have been the cause of injury to the eyesight which has taken place. In the majority of cases no complaint has been made with regard to the rooms, but there are a few places of the description I have mentioned in the weaving department which certainly ought to be abolished altogether. With regard to the cotton trade, there is a grave misunderstanding about the lifting of heavy weights. The report gives the impression that this heavy weight lifting is confined to women and young persons. I made a very emphatic statement last year that this weight lifting also applied to the males, and they have to do it in rooms so small that they cannot get at a proper angle. Whatever may be done with regard to legislation on this and other matters, this evil will remain so long as the room question is not dealt with. That is why I am exceedingly pleased the conference of weavers decided that all new sheds should be built with sufficient room. I think that would be a very good thing. Mr. Law, the inspector at Blackburn, reports fifteen cases of young girls injured by lifting loom weights alone. That is the real trouble. The weights hold the yarn tight behind the loom, and there is not sufficient room for the girls or anybody else to get behind the loom to lift the weights properly. Consequently, they have to lift them as best they can at an unnatural angle, and that will continue until the employers are compelled to do what is required. I was very pleased to see that Mr. Walmesley, at Bolton, made a suggestion which I think is a very valuable one. He was speaking with regard to ventilation, but it equally applies to spacing. He suggested that before any building operations were commenced the plans should be submitted to the Depart- merit to see whether they fulfilled all the requirements with regard to the safety and health of the operator. It is quite feasible now to have runaways for carrying heavy weights through the shed. The proof of this is to be found in the fact that the premiums for compensation are less where runaways exist than where they do not, and I think they ought to be compulsory. There is nothing more dangerous in the weaving shed than having to carry weaving looms on the shoulder where there is not sufficient room. The hon. Member for Burnley raised the question of the reading of the hydrometers. I am sorry to say that this is causing a great deal of anxiety in Lancashire at the present time, and that there is great dissatisfaction in regard to it. I do not know why the weavers will not co-operate with the employers in recording the hygrometers. The last Bill has had no material effect, but it has not been long in operation, and, for that matter, perhaps it has not been put into operation at all, but they are firmly convinced that something will have to be done. At present there is a ballot being taken of the w hole of the cotton weavers in Lancashire as to whether they are in favour of a Petition being signed by every individual who likes to sign it. I hope, when it is presented to the House, that I shall be able to say that not a single signature has been put to it through any misunderstanding at all. The House will then see how burning this question is amongst the weavers of Lancashire. Lancashire itself is well known for its humidity of atmosphere. It is well known to be one of the best natural weaving centres in the world, and they are convinced that humidity to excess is not needed if the yarns are good enough for the people to work. There is also the question of shuttle-kissing. The hon. Member for Bolton raised this matter. What is being done with regard to it? One inspector says that the practice of shuttle-kissing has become so firmly established amongst the weavers that until it is possible to prohibit the threading of the shuttle by the mouth it, is doubtless if much progress will be made. If we have got our inspectors obsessed with an optimistic view with regard to the policy of shuttle-kissing, we shall never get rid of it. There are firms in Lancashire who have been running with self-threading shuttles for two years, and these firms have stood their share of responsibility with regard to the length of the life of the shuttle and so on. I know it is a very difficult matter indeed, and I should be the last person to ask for the entire abolition of the mouth-threading shuttle if no decent substitute could be put into its place. I can quite understand that with certain classes of goods it could not be done at the present time, but the great bulk of the cotton industry in Lancashire could be worked with self-threading shuttles in preference to the present mouth-shuttle, which requires the dye to be drawn into the mouth. The Committee who are meeting have disagreed, and they will continue to disagree so long as the employers refuse to snake any efforts to meet them. The Home Office was very generous in the first. instance in giving the employers an opportunity of gradually introducing the new shuttle into their works, hut, if the employers are not seizing and making the best use of this opportunity, then something more drastic will have to be done in view of the evil which everyone wants to abolish. I quite agree with the Noble Lord opposite and with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester with regard to what they said about the truck system. There has got to be something done in this matter. You 'have got young persons practically defenceless. They have never had a wage whereby they could afford to organise, and we always find that the heaviest deductions are made in the case of those least able to defend themselves. A case has been mentioned where an employer was found by his fellow magistrates to have fined a poor girl out of all reason, and then, because he was found out and told he had been wrong and unreasonable in the matter and must refund the money, he discharged the girl That would have been something the Lancashire operatives would never have stood. If only these poor girls could be organised to defend themselves, it would put a speedy end to a lot of the truck system. There is no sense in fining people. It is all very well to say that they do it for discipline; it never did make for discipline and never will. I am one of those who believe that, if there were not a single penny deducted and there were proper supervision and better yarns, they would get better work and have a more contented class of workpeople than at the present time. It has been tried by private enterprise, and it has been successful. There is an instance mentioned in the report where it has been reduced from 86 per cent. down to 6 per cent., and it could be done in every case, if the overseers and employers would give the operatives a fair chance, give them fair material to work upon, give them reasonable time in which to do their work, treat them more kindly, and give them their money when they have earned it. If that were done, I feel perfectly sure that there would be no more deductions in wages. I am one of those who certainly advocate that. There might be isolated cases, but I am taking the general run of things, and I have always adhered to that opinion. There are more ways of creating discipline than one, and if the employer or the manager fails to do his duty, it is a great pity that it should be taken out of the poorly paid workers who have to work hard enough.
I think no one can read the annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories without being struck with the importance of our industrial position. The rapid increase in the trade of the country, as exemplified by the growing production and export of manufactured articles, and the various kinds of factories and workshops in which workpeople are employed, make it imperative that everything should be done which human ingenuity can devise to render those occupations as safe and as healthy as they possibly can be, and also to protect the workers from unfair conditions with regard to their wages. That is what we consider is the work that factory inspectors have to do. I think it is advisable once a year, at any rate, to review the industrial position, especially in relation to its effect upon the various classes of workpeople. I have from time to time raised questions in relation to the cotton industry, and I shall continue to do so until we get these grievances remedied of which I have had reason to complain. Reference has been made by every speaker to-day to the number of accidents which have taken place during the past year and the rapid increase in the number. Going back to the year 1907, I find that the total number of fatal accidents was 1,197. I thought that after that we had begun to find the reason because in 1909 there was a decrease of no less than 946, or something like 20 per cent., but in 1912 we had to relate no less than 1,260 fatal accidents, an increase of 26½ per cent. over 1909. I think these figures cannot be too carefully studied or too much taken note of, because when human life is at stake, when there are many bread winners taken away, it means a great deal of poverty and suffering for the people, and everything human effort can do ought to be done for the purpose of reducing the number of fatalities. Again, the same state of things exists in regard to non-fatal accidents. There were 124,325 in 1897, and in 1909 the total was reduced to 117,500, a reduction of 5½ per cent. In 1912, however, we had to record no fewer than 156,232, or an increase of 30 per cent, since 1909. The report tells us that this is due to the boom in trade, and the increase of reporting.My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) with whom, for two years, I sat on the Accidents Committee, stated, quite correctly, that we were then told that the reporting had become quite efficient, and so far as the future was concerned, we might depend upon it that any increase recorded would be a genuine increase in the number of accidents. It is said that the boom in trade has caused the increase, but if that boom has caused the additional number of accidents, how is it it has not caused an increase in other industries. The cotton industry, for instance, shows a reduction in the number of accidents, as compared with last year. In 1911, there were 4,245; in 1912, there were 4,128, and yet new mills have been started, every spindle and loom that could be employed has been employed to its full capacity, the number of work-people has increased, and all pressure imaginable has been brought to bear on the operatives to produce as much as possible. That was done, because there was a boom in trade; yet the number of accidents has been reduced. I think I can tell the reason why. It is largely an administrative reason. The administration has been different with regard to the cotton industry, to what it has been in other industries. Reference is made in the report to conferences. Conferences are recorded with cotton operatives. The first held lasted for some time, and we came to a very important agreement with regard to fencing machinery. As a result that industry is now safer than formerly, although I do not claim it is as safe as it ought to be. A reduction in the number of accidents has taken place in connection with machinery, of which there are a great number of classes. I may mention in regard to the cotton industry in connection with the use of speed frames in the carding department, where women are absolutely employed, in 1911, the number of accidents was 561; in 1912, the number had fallen to 491. In connection with the use of self-acting mules, which is the chief machine in the cotton spinning industry, the number fell from 1,118 in 1911 to 1,056 last year. Looms have increased tremendously in number, but the number of accidents fell from 1,136 to 1,010. I think if the Home Office had taken the steps which they have taken in regard to the cotton industry, of having conferences earlier in connection with the different industries there would have been fewer accidents. They have been too long in calling the conferences together. I should like to know how many conferences have been held, and how many are in process of being held. With regard to the question of accidents with self-acting mules, I have had to call attention in past years to the number of the very severe accidents in which operatives have lost arms and hands, in connection with the use of scrolls. I have been very much distressed by the number of young members in my society maimed in that way. I made up my mind that if anything could be done to prevent this class of accident it should be done. There has been neither an increase nor a decrease this year, but I am hoping that, before very long, this class of accident will disappear altogether, because there is now a guard being made and brought on to the market which renders it impossible for such accidents to happen. I know that the inspector for the Rochdale district has referred to it in his report, and if its use is made compulsory, I feel certain that no accidents of that description will occur in the future. In regard to the carding department, I want to give credit where credit is due, and there is some credit due to the Home Office in this matter. An agitation was raised recently for putting automatic locking motions over the cylinders. Many serious accidents have occurred to men of nineteen years of age and over. They have lost arms or fingers or hands, but since these covers have been used, the effect of their use being that the men cannot get their hands in accidentally, the accidents have decreased in number. In 1907, they totalled sixty-eight. In 1912, there were twenty-three. In a very large number of the mills they have been fitted. I should like to know the exact number that have not been fitted—and it is easier to ascertain that than to tell the exact number that have been fitted—with these covers, because nearly all now have them. Last year only seventeen accidents occurred. This year there have been twenty-three, and the inspector has said that of these, only six were due to the absence of locking motions. We may take it, therefore, that if the locking motion had been fitted, these six accidents, at any rate, would not have occurred. They should not have occurred. This is something the Home Office has done. It pressed severely for these precautionary measures, and the result has been that, there has been a great benefit to those engaged in these operations. Still, I think that more activity might be shown in this particular direction. Many accidents will be avoided; many young persons' limbs will be saved, if the Home Office inspectors insist on more efficient guards being used. No amount of money will compensate a person for the loss of a limb. His capacity to earn money is destroyed thereby, and we ought to do all we possibly can, in order to prevent these-accidents taking place. I am glad also that something has been done by administration to give effect to the Committee's recommendation in regard to bleach works. There were, at one time, open kiers. It was recommended that these kiers should be fenced, because young boys had to stand on the edge for the purpose of dealing with the cloth that had to be passed into the boiling water. The Committee also recommended the use of calender nip guards in front of the rollers, and this has been carried out to a certain extent. In regard to winces, we want more of these fitted up in spaces, and where the administration, so far, has not been successful in getting it done. My hon. Friend, the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. A. Smith) has referred to the question of a museum for safety appliances. We are a long way behind other countries in this respect. We are told that some difficulty has arisen in relation to the building for the museum, and that the work has not yet been started. But I find it stated in the report, that as regards the proposed museum of safety appliances, progress has been interrupted, and the Home Office building has not yet commenced. Meanwhile, reports have been received of the establishment of such museums at several new centres abroad, such as Nuremberg, Buda-Pesth, and Barcelona, in addition to the fifteen mentioned in an earlier report. I do not like the idea of the Continent being ahead in this respect in the establishment of museums of safety appliances. I had an opportunity of visiting one some time since, and I found there was a very complete system which many manufacturers visited for the purpose of finding out the best means of fencing machinery, so as to make it safe for their workpeople. I hope that more pressure will be used for the purpose of getting museums established here. I suggested last year that we ought not to be satisfied with one in London, which is so far away from the great centres of industry. I think it is absolutely necessary to have one here and one in some populous centre in the North. Reference has been made to the question of temperature. In our conferences we have agreed that in the mills in Lancashire the minimum should be 70 degrees and the maximum 95 degrees; but that is not carried into effect in all cases. We have had difficulty on many occasions in winter in regard to Monday morning, where, in consequence of the neglect to keep a proper head of steam during the week-end, the temperature has been down to 58 or 50 degrees. I hope something will be done to ensure that the proper temperature is maintained in such cases in the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe referred to the question of lighting, especially in connection with dark staircases. I notice there has been a Committee appointed to deal with the lighting question, but I do not know what is the reference to that Committee, and whether it will be sufficiently extensive to enable them to visit the works and see what is necessary. I hope that will be the case, and I trust, that the Under-Secretary will give us information in regard to that in the course of his reply. One of the things that is necessary to be dealt with more than it has been in the past is the question of atmosphere in the different classes of factories and workshops. When people have to breathe impure air their health is seriously affected, and, in my opinion, a great reform is needed in this direction. I find in the Report that reference is made to the rules for workshops in which wearing apparel is made and letterpress printing carried on. Samples of the air were taken by inspectors, who found no less than twenty-three parts of CO2, per 10,600 volumes of air. I think the maximum allowed in cotton mills is fifteen. In the Liverpool printing works, the worst case, the proportion of CO2, was as high as 39, and in a Manchester case there were 43.5 per 10,000. It is difficult to keep the work-people healthy under circumstances like that, breathing, as they do, impure atmospheres. In the cotton mills of Lancashire the quantity has been brought down to 6.2 per 10,000 volumes, and it ought to be brought down in places where women are employed in making wearing apparel, and where men are engaged in letterpress printing. I also want to give credit again to the Home Office for having done something very important indeed with regard to one particular section of the cotton industry. I refer again to the card-rooms. I raised a question three or four years ago in regard to the providing of dust extractors for the purpose of taking the dust away from many engaged in the operation of stripping and drying in the carding-room. Something has been done—indeed, a great, deal has been done. But I think it was Dr. Collis who examined 136 men some time ago in regard to their condition, and he found that 55 per cent. were suffering from pulmonary diseases, such as asthma and phthisis, and many were scarcely able to work. It has been a common thing to say, in regard to this section of the industry, that the men are too old for it. Some have had to leave the occupation because they found it physically impossible to follow it. But I am glad to know that the Home Office and factory inspectors arc impressing on the different employers the desirability of putting in dust extractors, and the result, when that has been done, has been very beneficial indeed. The health of the workers is better than it was before. I should like to know how many mills are not fitted with these dust extractors, because the right hon. Gentleman promised to have them all fitted with them some time ago. I have another hardy annual to raise—I have raised it for many years, and it is absolutely necessary that it should be raised—I refer to the old question of time-cribbing. The mills of the engines start at six and stop at eight, and the practice consists in starting a few minutes—from three to ten minutes—before six, and, perhaps, running for a few minutes after eight o'clock, when the men go to breakfast. The same thing is repeated at dinner time and again in the evening. The result is that the operatives, who are paid day wages and are supposed to work 55½ hours a week, by the operation of cribbing these few minutes three or four times a day, have to work several hours a week for which they are not paid. It is a distinct breach of the Factory Acts which is peculiar to the cotton industry. Something has been done to prevent it, but I do not know that I ought to say it has been reduced very much. Certainly the number of cases taken into Court have been considerably reduced. Last year there were 807 prosecutions, the year before there were over 1,000, while this year there were only 386, some 350 of these being in Manchester, Oldham, and Rochdale. I do not want it to be thought that these are the only cases that occur. They are the only cases that have been caught, and the practice is going on from day to day, and is not confined to these three towns. I hope that more pressure will be put on the inspectors to see that the practice is stopped. It is a distinctly dishonest practice. It is unfair to the good employers, because there is a very large number of employers who start and stop properly, and it is unfair to them to be put in competition with people who act on these lines. I think the penalties are too small. I asked the Home Secretary a question with regard to them, and whether he would not send out a circular to the magistrates asking them to inflict larger penalties. I received the answer that the penalties were not below the average of the country. The average of the country has nothing to do with this question, because time-cribbing is not carried on all over the country. The average penalty in Oldham is £1 9s. 11d., and the costs 10s. 7d., and in Blackburn 1s. 3d., and the costs 8s. 9d. It pays employers to practice this kind of thing with small penalties like that. I hope something will be done in this connection. It is satisfactory to find that so far as the Particulars Clause is concerned it has been so extended as to embrace 2,250,000 workers. It is a system which was advocated by the textile workers of Lancashire before the Clause was passed. There was a great agitation among the weavers in Lancashire, who did not get particulars supplied to them by which they could calculate, their wages. After they got the Clause passed and put into operation they found that their wages were larger than previously. The textile workers are pleased at the result, seeing that the Clause is now extended to nearly 10,000 factories and workshops, which is very satisfactory. The complaint seems to be extending to another section of the cotton trade. Formerly the weavers complained, but now the weavers are better looked after. The spinners are beginning to complain that they are not properly treated in this matter, and I ask the Home Office to direct attention to it in districts where the men are paid at a given price for a given weight of yarn. Every Member has seen a bobbin of sewing cotton. At the end is a label with a. number, say, 12. This means that the thread on the bobbin is of such a thickness, that twelve hanks weigh a pound. Suppose the number is 1. This means that 840 yards, which is the number contained in one hank, weighs a pound. Suppose the number was 40, then it means that it takes 40 multiplied by 840 yards of that thickness of yarn to weigh a pound. The grievance is, and this refers especially to Yorkshire at the present time, that employers will pay for 40 and use 42, which, being a, greater length of yarn, takes longer to spin. If the price is paid for 40 instead of 42, the men get less than they should. This is a question for the Particulars Clause inspector. His business is to see that the correct price is paid for the yarn. I ask the Home Office to instruct their Particulars Clause inspector to look after this matter. It has only lately come up to its present extent, and something should be done to deal with it. The Home Secretary in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) gave us particulars in regard to the three inspectors who were appointed last year who had not had practical experience in factories or workshops. He said that the great bulk who receive nomination were men who had practical experience in factories or workshops. I wish he had been able to give us the particulars of the experience these men have had, the length of that experience, the kind of factories and workshops in which they were engaged, and whether they were engaged as practical workmen or only for a year or two at the beginning of their career, after leaving the elementary school, and had then gone into some other business. I think something of that kind will be found to be the case when the particulars are given. The right hon. Gentleman made capital of the point that some had left the elementary schools and had gone to secondary schools. That may be quite true. We are not speaking of men who have been in the elementary school, but of men being qualified to perform the duty to which they arc appointed, and we say that they should have had practical experience in factories or workshops. The very fact that the examination is of its present character keeps out the class of men who ought to be appointed. What is the character of the examination? It includes two or three languages, English history, English literature, and some of the examinations include poetry. The great bulk of the questions have nothing at all to do with the work they have to perform. The examination seems to be of such a character as if it is intended to find men of high education and not to seek for practical knowledge, which ought to be sought. If an employer is appointing a man to do a certain class of work he generally looks for a man who has experience of the work he wants him to perform. If he is appointing a foreman in a factory he wants a man who has gone through the factory and is able to perform the duties. What is the present position in regard to the inspectors? They first of all get the situation on a scholastic examination of a very high grade. For two years afterwards they are put on probation, and then have to go through another examination to show if they can do the work. I want to plead for the assistant inspectors. Whatever may be said about there being no class distinction, I think there is some class distinction. There were a large number of factory inspectors' assistants appointed in 1893, when the Prime Minister was Home Secretary, and some of them are factory inspectors' assistants to-day. They were practical men before they were appointed, but are still assistants. They have done good service during the whole of the twenty years, but they cannot get promotion. If they had not been competent to perform their duties they would have been dispensed with long ago. Some of the best assistants have left because they have felt dissatisfied that they could not get promotion, and one or two have been transferred to the insurance work because they could not get promotion under the Home Office. I want to plead for these men. They have been in your service for twenty years and have given you of their best. They start at £110 a year, and the highest salary to which they can go is £200. They do not receive the same expenses as the inspectors and have to travel third-class instead of first-class. They have to stay at different hotels because they have not the same allowance. This is all class and caste. Something ought to be done to give encouragement to the working classes by promoting this particular class,of men. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs was Chairman of the Accidents Committee, in whose work he took a great interest. There were some representations made as to what should be done in the organisation of the staff. Although there was a difference between the Majority and the Minority Report, the Minority Report asked for some extension in this direction in regard to promotion. I ask the Under-Secretary to convey to his chief the request that he will give these men the same opportunity as given to others. There is no question of the age limit, which can only apply to men who are taken on for the first time, while these men have all been employed for some time. The inspectors are put upon a two years' probation and then examined to see if they know their work. I ask that, the assistant inspectors should have the same opportunity. Put them on probation for two years and then examine them, and you will find they will be able to perform their work satisfactorily. There have only been four assistants promoted out of the fifty-four during the last two years, and that has been the result of agitation. I press strongly that this question should be considered favourably, and that these men should be given a chance of some promotion.
I wish to draw attention to the administration of an Act which has not been referred to in this Debate. I refer to the Coal Mines Act, 1911, and more particularly to the operation of the Explosives Order. The Home Secretary constantly tells us that he cannot use his discretion or his powers of common sense because he is bound hard and fast by the Act of Parliament. In this case of the storing of explosives in mines I submit it is absolutely in the discretion of the Home Secretary, under Section 61 of the Act, as to what Orders he will issue or whether he issues any Orders at all. He issued the Explosives Order of 21st May, 1912. Under Section 1 of that Order, if any explosive remains in the possession of a workman at the end of his shift, he must take it out of the mine and return it to the magazine at the surface. That means he must bring it right up to the shaft, unless he happens to meet a workman who is going to relieve him, to whom he may hand it. In most cases the workman does not meet him at, the coal face but at the end of a long road towards the bottom of the shaft. It is a very disputable point whether in any mine there is greater danger incurred by carrying these explosives right up to the surface than there would be in leaving a small quantity of explosive in a locked case or canister at the coal face. I noticed that several witnesses before the Royal Commission on Mines were of this opinion, including one of His Majesty's inspectors, and advocated that there was less danger in leaving a small quantity of explosive at the coal face than in carrying it right up to the surface.But for the moment I wish to protest more against the rigid enforcement of this Explosives Order in all cases, and I wish to draw attention to the Home Secretary's refusal to consider special local conditions which make it even more necessary in the general interests of safety to grant an exemption to the two coal-pits in Midlothian, in which there are what are called edged seams. The travelling ways from the main roads to reach these edged seams are very steep, up to a slope of 70 degrees, and in getting to the coal face the miners have to climb as much as 700 feet up the slope. It is not, of course, very easy to climb up these narrow roads encumbered with tools and explosives, but returning is mach more dangerous and difficult. The miners returning home are in a hurry, and anyone who has done any mountain climbing will realise how much greater the danger is in returning down the slopes than in climbing up. Consider what a slip might mean, and the dropping of a canister down several hundred feet to the bottom of the main road! I have been up one of these travelling ways from the main road and down again, and I found I wanted the full use of both my hands to get to the bottom. Working miners have made complaints to me on the subject of this new Explosives Order in the edged seams. I should like to read an extract from what two under-managers have Written on the subject. One says:—
Another says:—"In steep workings the men have to carry their explosives uphill through travelling ways. This Order will greatly increase the danger, as the men will probably have to carry up and down these explosives every day."
I submit that this is a case where the Home Secretary has the power and should, IA the interests of safety, grant a special exemption. Clause 61 of the Coal Mines Act reads that the Home Secretary may make regulations for the storage of explosives. If the House had intended that we should make particular reservations, surely they would have said he "shall" make regulations, and might even have gone as far as to draw up the regulations. When the House passed the Coal Mines Act they intended the Home Secretary to use his discretion very largely on this subject. If the Home Secretary does not see his way to grant an exemption to all coal mines from this first Section of the Explosives Order, as I think he might with perfect safety do, I ask him to consider whether he will not, in the particular instance of these edged seams and steep workings, give a special exemption for them, and allow explosives to be kept in a canister close to the coal face."I am of opinion that there is far more danger in carrying the explosives which are left over after the completion of the shift down steep travelling roads than there would be if the miners were allowed to leave the unused explosives in a securely locked case near the working face. When you hear these men coming down from their work with explosive canisters rattling against the props certainly makes one think that the expert who drafted this role did not give the case of the edged seams any particular consideration."
I wish to take this opportunity to bring forward a matter of very great public concern which affects some thousands of my Constituents, who form part of the great army of those who hew out coal. I refer to the casualty list in coal mines. I find that in 1911 there were killed on or about coal mines some 1,265 men, which works out at about four for every working day, and there were 166,153 men disabled for more than seven days, which works out at 530 per working day. Amongst this terrible total there were seventy-eight lads under sixteen years of age killed, and 11,505 disabled. It is an iniquity that thousands of lads, who should be enjoying the pleasure and carelessness of boyhood, but go down to the pit instead, should be maimed and disabled as these Returns show that they are. The question immediately arises as to whether this terrible casualty list is something which is inherent in the nature of the occupation, whether it is anything which is remediable or not. The figures throw a great light upon this subject, because in 1911 there were 58,340 accidents which might be described as inherent, to the nature of the work, and difficult, perhaps, to forestall, and taking miscellaneous underground accidents no fewer than 44,000 were haulage accidents. Accidents of that nature obviously might be averted. I find this strange and very terrible figure, that taking mechanical haulage there were 4,430, horse haulage 11,727, hand haulage 9,089, runaway trams 775, and other haulage accidents 18,074, which makes a total of 44,095. Then I find under the general list of sundries no fewer than 49,873.These figures show that an enormous number of accidents take place which are due to carelessness on the part of the management of the life and limb of those employed. Speeding up processes are going on in perhaps all branches of industry. As wages rise, if they do rise, and hours are shortened, more particularly as the nominal capital of the companies is inflated by watering processes, it becomes all the more desirable in the view of managements that the men should be driven harder. I feel confident that it is due to the character of the work, and this enormous casualty list stands as a disgrace as regards our mining operations. If it is suggested that this is to be remedied by appointing more inspectors I find these peculiar figures. We have for the inspection of mines and quarries, under the head of salaries and allowances, the sum of £33,673, and under the heading of travelling and incidental expenses the sum of £18,650; that is, we spend on travelling expenses nearly half as much as is spent on salaries and allowances. These figures seem to suggest that a great part of the time of these inspectors must be spent in travelling from place to place, and I suggest to the Under-Secretary that perhaps, without any further expenditure, it might be economical and beneficial if you had more inspectors and less time spent in travelling from place to place. It might operate to have the inspection of a more careful and constant nature. But, personally, I fear we shall have to go somewhat deeper than that. Undoubtedly we see this fact in our industrial operations, that the whole relationship between the employer and employed is being broken up. There is not that feeling to-day of responsibility in the case of men who are working for great companies. There is the old saying that a syndicate has no body to be kicked nor soul to be damned, and I think there is a great deal in that. A manager will work men for a company in a way he would not do if he were the owner and were directly responsible for the conditions of their livelihood. 7. 0.P.M. I took careful note of what the Home Secretary said when dealing with the victimisation of cotton operatives through reported breaches of the regulations. He spoke in a very strong manner upon the subject, and said he hoped that vengeance would be taken upon men who acted in such a manner as this, who victimised and penalised those who protested against the unjust and illegal condition of their employment. It is very difficult for men themselves to secure redress and far more so for women, and I hope the Home Secretary will bear in mind the enthusiasm with which he spoke when perhaps a strike takes place on account of such victimisation and will not unnecessarily call out the Army or mobilise the Navy to coerce the strikers. I think inspection largely is in vain as a remedy for such a condition of affairs as this. I gather some hope from the suggestion which the Home Secretary himself made. He said the law does not give any remedy far the great bulk of these accidents. I hope he will take steps to extend the law. I believe we shall never get rid of this question, and we shall never greatly limit the numbers until we are able to fix responsibility upon a managing director and put him in the dock on account of some loss of life which takes place. I do hope the Home Secretary will go forward with any reform of the law which he considers to be necessary in that direction. At any rate, these conditions which demand his attention are an absolute disgrace to our industrial employment.
I only desire to press home the necessity of appointing practical men as factory inspectors. It has been my misfortune from time to time to seek to get a nominee for an industry which is commonly known as the heavy iron and steel trade. I do not know of a single factory inspector who has any special knowledge of our great iron and steel manufacturing industry. As showing the necessity of appointing practical men, I may say that I remembered during the time the Debate has been going on several circumstances relating to accidents in that particular industry. In South Wales an explosion took place. The facts were reported to the Home Office, and they sent a factory inspector on to the ground for the purpose of finding out the cause of the explosion. The particular inspector went straight to the works offices and made no attempt to get into communication with any of the workmen or to find out what their opinions were as to the cause of the accident. The report to the Home Office was consequently of a most unsatisfactory character. Every-thing, in his opinion, was just as good as it ought to be, and the accident was one of those dispensations of Providence which could not be accounted for. This was during the time Lord Gladstone occupied the position of Home Secretary. Knowing the circumstances, I took the trouble of making known the facts as they appeared to me, and the result was that an inspector was sent who had a knowledge of that particular industry. With the facts which I presented, that inspector was enabled to realise that the accident was a preventable one, and action was taken to have a remedy provided. A few years previous to that a similar occurrence took place in a works in the North, but, unfortunately, I had no opportunity at the time of having the facts presented to me. There, again, the result of lack of practical knowledge on the part of the inspector was that he did not find out what was the cause, and it was not the place of the firm, nor was it their desire, that he should know it. At a later date I was enabled to place before the Home Office the facts relating to the matter, but it was too late then to have an inquiry made. To my mind, these two instances of themselves demonstrate the necessity of practical men being appointed—men who know something of that particular trade—so that when occurrences of that kind happen the inspector may be in a position to find out the real cause and to suggest a remedy.I desire to put before the Home Secretary another point. Last year I had the privilege, with the Noble Lord opposite (Lord II. Cavendish-Bentinck), of attending on the Continent a meeting of an association for the purpose of promoting labour legislation for women and young persons, as well as for shortening the hours of labour, particularly as that question affects those who work all the week round. The various Continental countries were represented. Our own Home Office was also represented. I am sorry to say that the Home Office are taking very little interest in that matter. When one realises that as regards the glass trades the manufacture of pig-iron and the paper-making industry the employés work long hours, and that Continental nations are very anxious for international agreement, surely it is not too much to ask our Government to take a more prominent part in that movement than they seem inclined to do. If you take the iron trade as an example, the German Government are very anxious to come to an agreement upon that point, and, so far as this country is concerned, I may say that the workmen are in advance of the Government, and in advance of any other country in the world. We have the eight hours' day largely in operation in this country, and that being so, if our Government were to give a lead, I think it would be to the advantage not only to the Continental workmen, but to the advantage also of employers in this country, who pay considerably higher wages than are paid on the Continent. I hope the Home Office will take this matter into consideration and give a lead in that particular direction.
It is impossible not to sympathise with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hodge) in his desire that in the appointment of inspectors we should appoint the most practical men we can get hold of. I have long been of opinion that that might be urged upon the Home Office with good effect. I would also like to join with him in saying to the Home Office that when measures are being concerted by other civilised nations to arrive at something like an amelioration of the conditions of the workers in various trades, and when it is suggested that inter-national rules and practice should be laid down, it certainly does seem a pity that our Departments are so insular in their views and so ironbound by tradition that they cannot take, I would say, the leading part in a matter of that kind, which would only be consistent with the wealth and power of this country. I should not have risen to take part in this Debate if it had not been for the astonishing speech we listened to a few moments ago from the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite). He made a most offensive speech, and then he left the Chamber. I do not think he has got the right to throw over the floor of the House, or from one class of people in the country to another, any suggestion whatever that we, or any class in this country, are wanting in common humanity and wanting in sympathy with the workers of the country. I do not think that sort of statement and that kind of argument is really the way to approach the subject with any effect. He is perfectly unfounded in the suggestion. It is exceedingly un-fair and calculated on the whole to do a great deal more harm than good. I listened to the remarks, and I came to the conclusion that it was a perfectly poisonous speech which the hon. Member made. Having made it, he immediately bolted. It seems to me that the suggestion which he deliberately made in this House, that colliery companies were watering capital, and that in consequence of that accidents took place in mines, is about as outrageous a proposition as I have ever heard advanced by the hon. Member, and he has advanced a large number of outrageous propositions in his time. I think that was one of the most unfounded. Then he went on to say that, in his opinion, the managers of those undertakings to-day were absolutely wanting in sympathy and the common feelings of humanity. I entirely repudiate any such thing. I know many of these undertakings, and I am not interested in them. I know many of the men who have to do with the management of them, and I am bound to say that those who are responsible for the proper working of mines are as anxious to do no harm to the workmen as any person could be, or as the hon. Member for Hanley could be, if he had the good fortune to have an investment of that description. I could not help feeling it was a great pity that when matters of such high importance are brought to the attention of the Home Office for consideration, and when important recommendations are made from different sides of the House, the harmony and the general directness and utility of the observations should be spoiled by such a speech as we had the pain of listening to from the hon. Member for Hanley.
I entered the House when the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. A. Smith) was addressing it, and I heard his interesting advocacy of the interests of what I may call with all respect, his special clients. I also heard with great appreciation the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Gill), and I rise as an employer in the cotton trade to supplement some of the remarks they have made. I think these two hon. Members will not deny me the right to say that T am an employer who desires to work hand in hand with them for the benefit of the workpeople, and for the improvement of their conditions. I do not pretend to be alone in that respect, because I know from my long association with labour in Lancashire that on the whole the employers there are a sympathetic body of men. How could it be otherwise? We have in this great cotton trade of ours a peculiar characteristic. It is perhaps the most democratic trade in the whole world. Many employers who are now in that capacity for themselves have been workmen at the spindle and the loom. Many thousands are the sons of fathers who have worked in the work rooms. Even if the employers of Lancashire were not inclined to be sympathetic, there is a great incentive at present for them to be so. Work-people are very scarce and hard to get hold of, and naturally and properly, they flock to those factories where employment is carried on under the best conditions. Two points have been raised to which I wish to refer. The hon. Member for Clitheroe spoke about the space around machinery for reasons of safety and security for the workmen, and both he and the hon. Member for Bolton also said a great deal about ventilation and the artificial humidifying of the atmosphere. I desire to urge on the Home Secretary to keep on a gentle pressure to improve the conditions of employment in these two respects. I do not ask for anything sudden and spasmodic, but I do ask him constantly and persistently to exercise a gentle pressure for improvements in these respects.With regard to the spacing of machinery in loom sheds, I think that no loom sheds should, in future, be allowed to be constructed, unless the bays, as we call them, are eleven feet within the pillars. I think that if that is done, the workpeople will have ample room to work among the looms. Of course, there is a number of old weaving sheds which it is very difficult, if not impossible, to alter; but times do occur when the machinery has to be renewed, and if the Home Secretary could, by some means or other, insist that when renewals take place, there shall be a greater space for machinery, I think that he would do a good and legitimate thing. I think that the Home Secretary has a great deal of power to exercise pressure in these matters. For instance, he could tell people who were desirous of keeping their machinery in a confined space, that if they did not make their spacing more liberal they must provide for carrying the cloth from the looms by means independent of the weaver, in a more or less wholesale way, in trucks or otherwise; also that they must provide for the lifting of beam by block and pulley, so that the workers may not run the risk of overstrain when working in a narrow and confined place. And now a few words about humidity. The hon. Member for Clitheroe desires that artificial humidifying should be abolished. I would ask, with all respect, if he thinks that he has the workpeople behind him in this demand The absolute abolition of humidity, I maintain, is not desirable. The condition that we wish to attain to for satisfactory weaving is the condition that prevails naturally when there is a moist south-west wind blowing. Surely, if the wind is fresh and sweet, that condition of things is not an unhealthy condition The Lancashire atmosphere, as we all know, and as the hon. Member himself has said, is peculiarly favourable to the spinning and weaving of cotton. It is favourable because it is humid. The atmosphere in Lancashire is humid on more days of the year than in any other place, so far as I know, in the whole civilised world, and that is why we have this trade. There are, on the other hand, of course, many days, even in Lancashire, when it is dry and when the east wind blows, and there are days when we have frost. We cannot manipulate a cotton warp, which has to last for three or four weeks in weaving, and have the conditions the same all the time as we ought to have, unless we bring science to bear on natural agencies. All we want to do is to keep the atmosphere on these raw, cold, dry days more like the Lancashire atmosphere as we all know it. There has been an enormous improvement with regard to the conditions of the weaving sheds during the last few years. I can look back now for thirty years. I remember when every crack and cranny was filled up to prevent a breath of air reaching the workpeople, and it was done by the workpeople themselves, and I remember over and over again, in the experience of my father and myself, attempts to introduce fresh air which were bitterly resisted and resented by the very people for whose benefit they were made. I remember when the atmosphere was moistened positively by the breath of the workpeople and the moisture exhaled from their bodies, and, if that was not enough, the floor was splashed with water, and you heard hissing jets of steam loud enough to overcome the clatter of the looms. We do not work under these conditions to-day. Operatives are naturally sensitive, and I remember, when the Home Office first ordered us to put up hygrometers, the case of a weaver who said, when it had been there for some weeks, that he had always got a sore throat ever since that instrument was put up. We have overcome that prejudice now, and I believe that most employers and workers do try to continue a reasonable state of things sufficiently good for the health and sufficiently good for the processes in which we are all engaged. The change which I see in the health of the workpeople since we have promoted regular ventilation is enormous. My factory is in a small town surrounded by moorland farms in a more or less healthy district, and I remember seeing in the old days, with very great pain, young people coming to the works with ruddy fresh cheeks and a healthy appearance, and those cheeks growing pale and anæmic, and those eyes growing dim, and all for the want of healthy conditions. Now we pump air into the place to improve the conditions and I see that these cheeks do not grow pale. On the other hand, I see the pale cheeks regaining the glow of health, by means of fresh air of a suitable quality which can be easily obtained. Lancashire air is excellent. Give them lots of it when the weather is suitable, but let us have at our disposal the benefits of scientific invention and let us be able on those day when the air and the natural conditions are not suitable to treat that air in the most scientific manner that can be devised. I do think with the hon. Members that things are not entirely satisfactory, and principally for this reason, that so far as I can ascertain there is no uniformity between one district and another. In the district which I know best things are well watched. If there is the slightest excess of humidity you hear about it at once. The inspectors are active, and properly active, looking after the works under their jurisdiction, but I went myself only the other day to another district for the purpose of seeing some new machinery. I went to a place that was a perfect disgrace. The sweat was dropping from the people. The steam was fully turned on. The whole thing was in a condition which ought not for a moment to be allowed, and I say to the Home Secretary that I do not think it fair to the parties who try to do their duty, and to the inspectors who try to see that that duty is done, that other people in other districts should be allowed to be so lax that the conditions are as had as those which I have witnessed. I think that most of us are sympathetic with our people. We know that out of a good healthy worker we get good work and plenty of it, and I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to exercise, as I am sure he will, a judicious, quiet, constant pressure to bring all districts into line so as to improve in the only way in which he can do it the conditions of the working people.
I desire briefly to refer to another question which is of considerable interest to many constituencies in the country, that is the enforcement of the provisions of the Coal Mines Act of 1911. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible in future to let us have a Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines before us, before a discussion can be taken upon such matters. The last Report was issued in March, 1912, and a year and a half has elapsed since then, and I am sure that it is the desire of many hon. Members to ascertain from the figures which may be available in the Homo Office, how the Act has been working since it came into operation. I have the disadvantage of not having that information, but the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to answer certain questions which I asked with regard to matters affecting chiefly the Lanarkshire coal fields. I would ask now, in the first place, whether he can satisfy us a little further to-day that the provisions of the Coal Mines Act of 1911, so far as they relate to rescue and aid appliances, which were under that Statute to be provided in all districts of the United Kingdom, have been complied with. There are many districts which have desired to meet the provisions of this Order, and, on the other hand, there has been a disinclination, elsewhere on the part of certain coal owners, to provide the necessary rescue apparatus in order to safeguard the situation in an adequate way. There is a danger or risk of serious disaster, particularly in large coal fields like the Lanarkshire coal field, and I think it very desirable that further steps should be now taken to make it perfectly clear that the Home Office intend to carry out the provisions of the Statute. The coal owners have observed the regulations only in so far as they enforce upon them the provision of smoke helmets in certain districts. What is wanted is complete sets of breathing apparatus, and other appliances which would be sufficient to combat any serious conflagration or any conditions which involve danger to a rescue party. I hope that we may get a further assurance that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to lay down that general rule for the whole country, and to see that these rescue appliances are supplied as they are required, in quantities which his experts have advised him are necessary, and in terms of the regulations which have been approved of under that Order; and that the few--I hope I may say there are only a few—coal owners who have hitherto refused to give effect to the Order will be brought into line with those who have seen it to be necessary in the interests of miners to be properly safeguarded in the dangerous work in which they are engaged. Another matter is a subject which is at present engaging the attention of the Committee which is inquiring into the question of spontaneous combustion in mines. I refer to the question of hydraulic stow-age. The right hon. Gentleman has informed me on different occasions that this matter is receiving very careful attention by the Committee which is at present sitting. I would ask him to keep in view that the question is one of great importance from two points of view: in the first place, as it affects the lives and safety of the men who are engaged in the mines, and that is the most important aspect; and, in the second place, as it affects the surface of the ground and the buildings upon the surface. It is one of those methods which has been proved to demonstration in parts of this country and on the Continent to have been very effectual in both respects. I should like to refer to the fact that the matter has been already dealt with on two separate occasions in the report of the chief inspectors. In the year 1910 reference was made in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines to the hydraulic packing of mines, a process that is effected as the coal is removed, by means of debris brought into the mine through steel tubes by hydraulic pressure. In this Report reference is made to the fact that the Committee appointed by the Royal Commission on Mines described the hydraulic packing of mines as practised in France as a possible method of adaptation to the working of thick coal in South Staffordshire and elsewhere. The Committee also reported that:— "
I attach great importance to its operation in regard to the prevention of fires by spontaneous combustion in the mines themselves. I would also refer to the report of a deputation which proceeded from Hamilton in Lanarkshire to Pas de Calais, Essen, and other parts of the Continent. The deputation came to the conclusion, after having discussed the matter with experts in different parts of the country that the system must be regarded as having passed a long way beyond the experimental stage—If the method could be applied to the thick coal it would result in the more complete extraction of that seam, and combined with hydraulic stowage the total prevention of gob fires."
It is from that point of view I should like to press it on the right hon. Gentleman. The deputation went on further to deal with the facts as they related to the town of Essen which is a very large industrial centre with a population of a quarter of a million, and with solve eight seams of coal being worked beneath and varying in thickness from less than ten inches to five and a half feet. It was demonstrated there how in that particular district it was found possible to prevent subsidence of any kind whatever by means of this system which has been successfully adopted. I may also refer to the Report of last year in which the matter was carried a little further, and where reference was made to the only experiment which has been tried in the United Kingdom to carry this process of hydraulic stowage into operation. I refer to the experiment which was tried at. Dalzell and Brournside Colliery belonging to the Wishaw Coal Company—"and is operated finder conditions as unfavourable as any obtaining in Hamilton so far as the stability of the surface is affected.… The necessity for supporting the surface is the first consideration, but it is not the only consideration, for experience has proved that this method of supporting the roof and the workings, liable to fracture, has been accompanied by a material saving of human lives."
The Chief Inspector in his Report, says:—"in, connection with the extraction of a large area of coal. 150 feet below the surface, in the form of pillars (stoops), which would otherwise have to be abandoned owing to the subsidence and flooding which would follow their removal hi the ordinary way."
The Chief Inspector for Scotland said further that:—"Though this mine is not subject to spontaneous combustion the fact that it was found possible to apply this method of filling wastes in a British colliery points to the probability that it could he successfully applied with a view of preventing gob fires."
It seems to me that the time has come when the Home Office might take a step further and endeavour to carry the Committee on Spontaneous Combustion to some conclusion which would lead to the adoption of this system in other parts of the country. We have had an experiment conducted in Scotland with great success, although no doubt there the first consideration has been to prevent the flooding of certain passages in the mines. I do not see why, if it can be done to meet commercial necessities, it should not be done to meet the dangers to which miners are exposed in order to secure greater safety for them in their work. I base my case, in the first place, on the safety of the men themselves. In the second place, there is another very important problem to be faced in connection with this matter, and that is as to how to prevent the very serious damage to buildings which is caused in many parts of the United Kingdom through mineral workings. There are many centres undermined and honeycombed by mineral workings. Uuder the Scottish land system, which, I am bound to say in this matter particularly, has been shown to be extremely hard and unfair, it is impossible for a man to secure compensation for damage done to his buildings, because when he enters into his feu contract or building lease the landlord insists that he shall contract out of the common law obligation requiring support for the surface of the ground. It is impossible thus to obtain ground from the landlord except on the condition that he is not responsible. He gives the power to erect buildings, and then may let his minerals with the right to bring down the surface, and the feuar or householder has no recourse whatever, I do not think that is a fair system, though, of course, it would be out of order to deal with the matter as it affects the system of land tenure. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can carry his interest in the matter a little further still to deal with this question of buildings. There are many large cities affected, and many districts where the seams are still being worked out, and in such a way that the subsidence of the surface is the necessary complement of the workings below. I think it -would be very desirable that we should take a lesson from our Continental neighbours, who have succeeded in dealing with this matter very successfully in very large centres, and in securing that important commercial buildings, factories, and other public buildings shall be absolutely safe and secure against the possibility of damage."From a mining point of view the system appears most successful, as no work in it is very difficult or highly technical."
I do not see how the desires of the hon. Member can be carried out without legislation, so that his remarks arc not in order.
It is dealt with in the Reports of the Chief Inspector, and I am using this argument as an argument to support my first argument, namely, that the safety of the miners would be secured by the introduction of a system of hydraulic stowage of mines. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether ho can inform us as to the work which is being carried on by the present staff of inspectors of mines. There has been a very general demand made for the enlargement of that staff. To that desire or demand, the right hon. Gentleman has acceded to a certain extent, but I am not quite satisfied that even yet we have got sufficient inspectors to attend to the whole work which is imposed upon them. Take for example the inspection of pit ponies. Throughout the whole country there are only six of those inspectors. The right hon. Gentleman has given us an undertaking that if they are not sufficient in number for the work, he will consider as to adding to them. I should like to know what the experience of the past year has been, and whether he is not now satisfied that in order to have that work properly done (because at present the mines can only be visited once during the year) further appointments should be made. In answer to a question which I put to him the other day as to the examinations held by the new Board, he informed me that the results of the last examination held in May had not yet been received from the examiners. It does seem to me it is a very long time for those unfortunate candidates to wait to be informed of the result. I hope he may give us some explanation as to that.I notice that there are comparatively few of the candidates who go up for these certificates of competency who are fortunate enough to secure them. I trust that the examination is not being conducted on too strict lines. We do want to insist that there are sufficient qualifications and sufficient knowledge on the part of all those who go up, but I hope the examination will not be made too strict, and that those with a practical knowledge of their work and good capacity will not be refused the certificates which they desire. I am satisfied that the Board are most anxious to act impartially in this matter. I welcome very cordially the names of those who are appointed to this Board, including certain hon. Members of this House, whose knowledge of this subject is very special, and of responsible persons in the country. I hope that the candidates will not be discouraged at the comparatively small number who are successful in obtaining certificates, and that in future an effort will be made to make this examination a fair test and a full test, but not too severe a test of those who go up to qualify. I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman may give us some assurance that the Act of 1911 has been working well during the past year, and that we may contemplate that it will lead to a very great diminution in the dangers and in the casualties associated with our coal mines.
:I wish to plead with the Home Secretary the case of juvenile first offenders, because I think we all know the French proverb, which is very applicable to them, "Il n'y a que le premier pas qui caûte." Once the first plunge is taken the descent is a comparatively easy one. I plead for greater latitude of time to be given to them or their friends for the payment of fines. They are often sentenced for some comparatively trivial offence the first time they ever come before the magistrate, and if only time were given to them, it is very often the case that philanthropic people would come to the rescue, and people who make a practice in trying, so far as it is possible, to rescue these young people from careers of crime. I hold no brief for the habitual criminal. No' one likes better than I do to see the law take its course. I claim for these young people that some assistance might very easily be given. After all, if these boys once see the inside of a gaol it becomes very difficult for them afterwards to get employment.
That subject does not arise on this Vote. It must be raised on Class III., Vote 7 or 8.
I wish to raise a question in connection with the regulation issued by the President of the Local Government Board prohibiting the use of "cut-outs" on motor cars and motor cycles. That was a very excellent regulation, but it remained for the Home Secretary to ensure that it was properly carried out.
That question arises on Class III., Vote 7.
As the subject was one for the police, I was under the impression it should be raised on this Vote.
I hope that I shall be able to raise a matter which will be in order. I desire to refer to matters connected with prisons, but they do not arise in the Prisons Vote; they are directly pertinent to the personal administration of the Home Secretary himself. I am very glad that, on the whole, there has been such amiable approval from all parts of the House of my right hon. Friend's administration. In the various departments of his office I think the right hon. Gentleman has shown himself an extremely able and amiable administrator. I have always found him so, and I wish to recognise it. There are two matters which I think are deserving of special attention. Upon one, I give my right hon. Friend the highest praise; on the other, I give him my severest condemnation. I feel so strongly about the latter matter that if it were not for the former I should move a reduction of his salary; but as the matters are equally balanced, I shall give him the benefit of the doubt and support him. The first matter is his administration of what is known as the "Cat-and-Mouse" Act. For this I give him the highest praise. I believe that the whole country is grateful to the Home Secretary for the firm, impartial, and admirable way in which he has kept the suffragists in as long as he dared and then let them out. In spite of all that was said when the Bill was passing by a few Members, such as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood), the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), the hon. Baronet the Member for the Mansfield Division (Sir A. Markham), the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), and others, who attacked the Home Secretary in advance because they were confident he would not administer the Act properly, now that he has enforced the Act extremely well there is not one of those Members present to raise objections. That in itself must be highly satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me that the Act is so well administered that all parties must be satisfied. Pressmen get a daily supply of admirable "copy" through the operation of the Act. Therefore it does goods to the Press industry. The suffragettes themselves, whether they are in prison or out, receive constant attention and get well advertised, which is just what they want. We have much less window-breaking than before, and, generally, quiet sensible people may go on their way, knowing that if the suffragettes are not in prison they are at any rate in nursing homes. I hope the right hon. Gentleman in his reply will tell us what is the cost to the taxpayer of the administration of this Act. I suppose that the nursing homes are chosen by the Home Secretary, and that, therefore, the bill is paid by him.
I am very glad to hear that that it not so. If the right hon. Gentleman ever has to pay the bill I hope he will combine due comfort with proper economy. I now proceed to a matter which is much more serious, and in regard to which I can give no approval whatever to his action. There is still one German condemned for espionage lingering in an English prison. The Committee will remember that, on the occasion of his Gracious Majesty's visit to Berlin some time ago, three British officers were set free from German fortresses long before their sentences had expired. It was hoped by all who desire mutual good feeling between the two countries that the one German spy in England would be similarly treated. We have recently had two German spies. One, after having served only five months of his sentence, was set free in December last by the Secretary for Scotland in order that he might furnish certain information to one of our spending departments. I shall raise that matter on the. Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland. I mention it merely as a contrast to the action of the Home Secretary. The Secretary for Scotland set free on very trivial grounds a German spy with only one-third of his sentence expired. The Home Secretary has many good grounds for setting free this spy, whose name is Heinrich Grosse, but he refuses to act on any one of them. This spy is a gentleman, a sportsman, an author, a man who has always shown a great preference for living in England rather than in Germany, who speaks English as well as he speaks German, and who is well known by his writings and otherwise. He is a very considerable author; he is well known as having espoused the cause of good relations between England and Germany. He has had, however, a very checkered and romantic career. [Laughter.] The Home Secretary need not laugh. I am not laughing at him. I am extremely serious, and I hope he will adopt a similar attitude.I do not claim that this man is a saint. Ho is a sinner like the rest of us, or rather more so. He has been in prison, I admit, He is, however, a man of most remarkable abilities, and he has seen life from many points of view. I could give his whole life-if necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It would be a great deal more interesting than many speeches. He is undoubtedly a man of the standing of an officer of the Naval Reserve. He has taken his examinations as a captain in the German Naval Commercial Service, and he has served a year in the German Navy. If war broke out to-morrow and he were in Germany he would be summoned at once to take his place as an officer upon a German man-of-war. If the right hon. Gentleman wants absolute proof of my statements I can show him the documents. Taking advantage of a mere quibble, I am afraid it is nothing more, the right hon. Gentleman refuses this man the status of a German officer. He says that the Kaiser has set free British officers, and if we bad a German officer in one of our prisons we would set him free. Apparently, at the time he made that statement he was ignorant of the fact that this man is an officer in what would be considered the German Royal Naval Reserve. I seriously think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to reconsider the case. He says that the case has been considered; but I do not think it has been considered with a due realisation of the important facts. This man is now suffering from what I am afraid must be considered chronic kidney disease. I believe he will never again be in the same state of health as before. He has friends who, if he were set free, would look after him better than he has ever been looked after hitherto. I most earnestly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reopen the case. There are serious matters to which I have not alluded, because the right hon. Gentleman has allowed me to have a conversation with him upon the matter. I admit that he has considered the question, but I do not think he has considered it in all its bearings, or with the full sympathy and sense of justice which I implore him to bring to bear upon it. I think the justice of the case might even be allowed to be strained a little in consideration of the fact that it has been stated again and again in German popular papers that, whereas Germany set free three English officers who were sent over there by our Service, who were given full pay during the time they were in German prisons, and who, when they came back, would count the time they were in those prisons for pensions and promotion, yet this man, who is undoubtedly a naval officer, is not allowed to go free. I appeal most earnestly to my right hon. Friend to reconsider this matter.
I will deal with the matter first which has been brought before the House last, and with the words of the hon. Member (Mr. King) still ringing in our ears. I will say nothing about the first part of his speech. As to the second part, the hon. Member has very rightly and frankly said that he did not tell us all he knew about the gentleman to whom he referred. No doubt that reticence on his part prevents those of us who have heard him from coming to a decision, as might be the case with all the facts before us. He spoke of taking all the circumstances into account. I understand that he puts the case before the Committee to-day upon the grounds of international courtesy—
And that he is an officer.
And that he is an officer and a gentleman; also the hon. Gentleman puts his case mainly upon the ground that as Germany did something for us we ought to do something for Germany. If the hon. Gentleman has any information at his disposal that the freeing of this officer and gentleman from one of our prisons would give intense gratification to Germany and the Kaiser the position would be somewhat altered. Up till now, from circumstances upon which I cannot enter, I do not think there is much evidence to come to that conclusion. The action of the hon. Gentlemen does more credit to his heart than to his head. Before I come to deal with the points which have been mentioned in the course of the Debate, I would like to deal with the general allegations made on both sides of the House. As hon. Members know, we have from time to time taken our part in international negotiations. We have attended conferences for years past. Officers from the Home Office have attended conferences this year on the night work of women and young persons. So far as conditions of labour are concerned we are, at any rate, abreast, if not ahead, of the nations of Europe. We have nothing to lose but everything to gain by bringing their standard up to ours. The hon. Member for Midlothian mentioned the question of the Explosives Order. He put a very reasonable case for the consideration of the Committee and of the Home Office. I understand his objection was not based so much on our general principle, as against the application of it to the particular circumstances of his constituency.
May I say I am of opinion that the whole Order might be relaxed, but I particularly request it in this special case?
I quite follow. May I explain to the Committee how this matter rests? The present requirement is that unused explosives must be brought out of the mines by the workmen at the end of the shift. This rule is based upon the views expressed in the Report of the Royal Commission on Mines. The object of this rule is no doubt to secure better control over the explosives in the mines, and thereby to secure greater safety. Speaking for myself, though it does seem a hardship at first sight—there being 700 feet from start to finish—and at the beginning and the end of the shift!—while it does at first sight seem to raise a presumption of hardship, I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope to the hon. Member who puts the point that this principle upon which we are acting in the matter of explosives shall not hold good or that it will be altered. A great deal has been said about the humidity of cotton-weaving sheds. The subject of humidity was recently inquired into by a strong Committee representing both operatives and employers. Mr. David Shackleton, onetime Member for Clitheroe, was a member of it,. This Committee, speaking in the name of the employers and workmen, arrived at unanimous recommendations, and these recommendations have been embodied in the new Regulations, which have been in force for some time. We have very great hope that a strict enforcement, of these regulations will get rid of the difficulties to which the hon. Member has referred. With regard to the slatching rooms, the point, as I understand it, which is emphasised in respect to these rooms is the moisture that is generated in the course of the operations—that Something should be done to carry it off. Of course, so far as possible, it is carried off by the hoods at the present time. I am given to understand that these rooms are comparatively large, and the number of operatives is comparatively small—that really it is not a question so much of ventilation as moisture. The hon. Member referred to something new. If the hon. Member desires, after this Debate is over, to put forward further points, either my right hon. Friend or myself will be very glad to inquire into them. In respect to State medical referees, I understand that the point was that, under the Workmen's Compensation Act, instead of having referees paid by fee from case to case, State medical referees, probably whole-timers, should be appointed, at any rate, paid for under the Compensation Act. If under the Insurance Act State medical referees are appointed for other purposes, without pledging the Department in any way, I do think that that, perhaps, alters the whole complexion of the case, and it might be possible to consider the subject from a much more sympathetic point of view. Then there is the question of light.
made a remark which was inaudible.
The hon. Member knows what he said. The present is perhaps a little early to make the inquiry asked for, but I may say, quite frankly, we have not lost sight of this matter. We have promised eventually that inquiry shall be made; it is really only a question of time. At any rate, the hon. Member can be quite certain we are not losing sight of our promise, nor of what he has placed before us. With regard to the lighting, there is a Lighting Committee. As hon. Members below the Gangway know, it is a strong Committee, but it deals with a very difficult subject. It has got a great deal of investigation work to enter into. When it comes to a decision, that decision will be carefully considered, and we hope it will have a good effect. Then, as regards the question of shuttle-kissing: I do not quite like to give the same answer this year that I gave last, but I am afraid it is the same answer which must be given. The real point is this: That we arc all anxious to remove the present system. We all admit--it is conclusive—that it works badly. The real question is what has the substitute to be? The moment there is an adequate substitute, when there is really a practical substitute, hon. Members need have no fear but that we shall do our best to remove the evils of the present system, and so far as we can, to substitute the new method.My attention has been directed to the matter of a museum of safety appliances. That is a very important subject. Some time ago I went to Stoke to open an exhibition there. I do not speak as an expert upon these matters, but the exhibition was a really wonderful one. It impressed me very much to see all these safety appliances, to see employers taking an active and leading part in bringing this exhibi- tion about—I need not mention names—and also to see the workmen going through performances with these appliances. I ventured upon that occasion to make the suggestion that this should become the basis of a permanent museum in that district, and for that particular neighbourhood. Since then other exhibitions have been held. Matters in this country sometimes proceed very slowly, and that probably will be the way in which this museum idea will work out. Something was said about having a museum in London and another in the North. I think that is a very reasonable suggestion if it could be brought about. At any rate, there ought to be an arrangement for a sort of exchange between London and the provinces, though the matter is much more important for the North than it is for London. There has, I say, quite frankly, been delay in this matter—the delay which always arises in our dealings with the Treasury, but that has been got over. It is now proposed to provide a museum under the Public Buildings Expenses Bill, which deals with the moneys available for the erection of Government buildings at Westminster. We hope, under the provisions of that Bill, to get a permanent Vote for these safety appliances. I should like to say a word about nominations. You may allow the Government to appoint the best man without examination. The moment you proceed by examination you may get the men who are not ripe for this class of work, because no examination can really secure the characteristics necessary for this work. The great and hopeful thing is that the conferences to which reference has been made—and already three have come to a decision—and we have now a fourth sitting—of employers and employed, with the presence of one of our inspectors, will have an effect of bringing about that consent in respect to many matters, and ensure amicable discussions between employers and employed, which are so very desirable.
Various extraneous matters in connection with the Home Office have been dealt with. I wish to draw attention to the administration of the Children Act. There is a certain amount of overlapping at the present time. There are officers appointed under the Children Act which are, I think, under the aegis of the Home Office, and there are also school attendance officers, and general administrators and inspectors. One of the curious spectacles which, I think, can only be seen in London—It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under the Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.