Wednesday, 11 July 2012

11th July 1812: The Parliamentary Select Committee for the Framework-knitters Bill is reconvened

Following lobbying & petitions from Hosiers in Nottingham and Leicester, the Parliamentary Select Committee that had sat in April to consider evidence from Framework-knitters, was reconvened in July. Over the space of 3 days, the Committee heard evidence from a number of Hosiers.

On Saturday 11th July 1812, the Select Committee heard from two Hosiers. The first was John Parker, from Nottingham. He had general objections to the principal of legislating to regulate the trade: the committee pressed him on whether or not he felt his business would be affected by the proposed regulations, and though he admitted he felt it would not be, he went on to object to any kind of  constraint on any business. Parker openly admitted that he produced work that was offensive to his skilled workers, in that he confessed that none of the work he produced fell in with the schedule in the Bill proposed by the framework-knitters. Time and time again, Parker object to the 'trouble and inconvenience' the proposed Bill would put him to, even the 'trouble' of drafting a list of prices which were already commonly agreed by him and his workmen, and the Committee did manage to extract from him that he objected to written contracts of all kinds. But the Committee chose not to reflect back to him the testimony of the framework-knitters about the miserable, grinding poverty & distress they suffered because of his practices. They also accepted his viewpoint - that he felt he could not sell items made according to the proposed regulations, and therefore he would not. In general, the Committee did well to draw evidence from Parker which illustrated that he was the sort of Hosier the framework-knitters objected most to - in a tortuous exchange, it was clear that he knew or understood little if anything about what his workmen did or the machinery they used, let alone their concerns. Unsurprisingly but also astoundingly, Parker stated he was ignorant of the changes in his workmen's wages over the past 7 years. Despite Parker's testimony that the mysterious ways of the market had meant that the trade was suffering through a lack of demand, and his fortgetfulness about the wages he paid out, he confessed that he now employed 200 workmen, as opposed to 300 three years ago.

James Hooley, another Nottingham Hosier, was also examined on the same day. He laid the blame for the lack of trade down to the War, and denied that the production of shoddy goods even existed. Hooley painted a picture of his business which should have led the Committee to ponder how representative he was of the trade - he reported a booming trade in caps to be sold on the continent, and also a thriving trade for pantaloons, all of which he said would be impossible were the trade to be regulated. Hooley openly admitted to making cut-up gloves, but said he could not fulfil the demand for them, and he attributed the lack of demand for finely-mad items as being down to the whim of fashion. He also disputed that wages had fallen, but qualified this with if enough work could be found, which he admitted could not. Summing up, the Committee managed to extract from Hooley his view that if shoddy goods sold in the marketplace, he saw no reason not to sell them.

This has been summarised from the Second report from the Committee on the Framework-Knitters Petitions, 1812 (349) 2, pp.67-85.

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