The Combination Laws passed in 1799 made it illegal for workers to join together to press their employers for shorter hours or may pay. As a result trade unions were thus effectively made illegal. The campaign against this legislation was led by the trade union leader, Francis Place. In the House of Commons, Joseph Hume and Sir Francis Burdett led the fight against the Combination Laws.
The legislation remained in force until they were repealed in 1824. This was followed by an outbreak of strikes and as a result and further legislation was passed. The 1825 Combination Act narrowly defined the rights of trade unions as meeting to bargain over wages and conditions. Anything outside these limits was liable to prosecution as criminal conspiracy in restraint of trade. Trade unionists were not allowed to "molest", "obstruct", or intimidate" others. This law worried trade unionists as everything depended on how judges interpreted vague words like obstruct and intimidate.