Labour Members on Child Slavery

 When is the case of the sweated children and “half timers” in the textile industries to be taken up by the Labour Group in Parliament? asks Reynolds’ Newspaper. For years, it says, the Radical Democrats have been trying to secure better conditions for these little slaves of industry, and to some extent have succeeded. But surely, after the resolution passed at the recent Trade Union Congress, there is a special duty upon the Labour party to see that something further is done in this direction in the next Session of Parliament?

Reynolds is too optimistic if it thinks that the present Labour Party will do anything in this direction. Mr. David Shackleton and Mr. Gill, members respectively for Clitheroe and Bolton, have already expressed themselves against any action being taken. As they explained at the Belfast Conference of the Labour Party, if it were insisted that they should initiate or support legislation with this object, they would lose their seats and the societies they represented would withdraw from the Labour Party and this would involve the withdrawal of their payment of £900 a year to the Labour Party funds. But, we are told by some of our enthusiastic I.L.P. friends, the “Socialist” members of the Party will take the lead in the House of Commons, and the Shackletons and Gills will have to follow, and they call attention to clause 5 of the I.L.P. programme, ”The raising of the age of child labour, with a view to its ultimate extinction.” But the I.L.P. members of Parliament are not bound by the Party’s programme, as witness the manner in which they threw it over at Kirkdale. And now Mr. James Parker, M.P.  for Halifax, and member of the National Administrative Council of the I.L.P., expresses his views. Lecturing at Burton-on-Trent on October 7th, on “Socialism and the Children,” he declared his belief in the children of the poor people having a free breakfast. “Indeed,” he said, “I believe that every child should have one meal a day at school.” He also advocated that they should sit together and be medically inspected. In what way these views touched Socialism he omitted to state, probably because he knew that they had nothing to do with Socialism at all. Neither did he outline the position of the children under Socialism. At the conclusion of his lecture he was asked whether a Bill was to he introduced during the next Parliamentary Session to raise the age at which a child could go to work. Mr. Parker replied that he did not know. He and other members of the I.L.P. favoured such a step, but as many of them represented such manufacturing centres as Halifax and Leeds, they would have to vote for their constituents and against such a course. Thus Mr. Parker, having thrown over “political independence ” and made a compact with the Liberal Party to secure election, now shows himself prepared to throw over anything else that may endanger his seat. We wish the I.L.P joy of these “political job hunters.”

Jack Kent

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