HC Deb 23 May 1894 vol 24 cc1126-31

COMMITTEE. [Progress 1st May.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.


said, he would move to omit the condition requiring that the work must terminate not later than 9 o'clock. He did not think that in general there was so much reason to complain of the hours worked in shops as many people seemed to suppose. There might be some few places where the hours were too heavy. But to say that in every case, whatever the custom of the place might be, whatever might be the habits of the people, shops must close at 9 o'clock, would be, in his opinion, to go much further than they ought. If the hours were to be limited to 60 in a week, a shop that was kept open later than 9 o'clock on one evening would have to close earlier on another day, and thus no hardship would be inflicted.


said, he should be willing to accept the Amendment, provided that no other changes were made in the clause.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words" each day's work to terminate not later than 9 p.m."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


said, that even if the hon. Member for Preston entered into an agreement with the hon. Member in charge of the Bill—


I have entered into no agreement. I have simply moved an Amendment, which has been accepted.


said, that even with the Amendment the clause would in no way satisfy him. It would be ridiculous to fix a hard-and-fast line to the hours during which young people could be employed in shops. In his own constituency a rigid rule would work with great hardship. In some districts it was only early in the morning and late in the evening that shopping was done. Thus, although the shops were kept open, it was only for five or six hours that the people employed in them had any real work to do. This was not a Bill they should force on people if they did not want it. There was no necessity for it, for shop assistants could protect themselves against excessive labour by combination.


said, the noble Lord stated that the people to whom the Bill would apply would be able to protect themselves by means of combination. If the noble Lord knew anything about the condition of the shop assistants he would know that even in the case of adults, to whom the Bill did not apply, they were incapable of protecting themselves by voluntary effort. That was the experience in all parts of the country. Voluntary effort had signally failed to bring shop assistants to a maximum working day. Surely in the case of young persons the hours laid down in the Bill were sufficiently long. In his view, there was no reasonable ground of objection to the clause as amended at the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Preston.


said that, speaking from experience, he could assure the Committee that young people were unable to protect themselves. He was in favour of limiting the hours. The noble Lord the Member for Brixton had said that the Bill would inflict hardship, but he had failed to say on whom it would inflict hardship.


said, he did not think the Bill had been as fully considered as it should be in the House or in the country. It raised a question of very great importance to the smaller class of retail tradespeople—a class which he contended was particularly deserving of sympathy, struggling as they were against the greatest difficulties at the present time. He did not know a class of people who were deserving of greater consideration than the small shopkeepers and employers. No doubt in largo establishments where numerous hands were employed the clause might not do any harm, but to the small tradesmen with only two or three hands, who carried on their businesses with the assistance of their families, such." a clause would be found a great hardy ship. It was impossible for many of the working classes to do their shopping before a late hour. This was the case in the district he represented, where there was one of those large informal markets.


I rise to Order, Sir. The Amendment seeks to leave out those words, and that Amendment has been accepted. The hon. Member is discussing what the effect would be if those words were not taken out of the clause.


The hon. Gentleman is quite within his right in discussing the Amendment.


said, the matter was one of very considerable importance to his constituents. In North St. Pan-eras there was a very large market, the business of which was carried on after the time mentioned in the clause, and if an arbitrary rule were established their business would be upset and they would practically be unable to serve their customers. It might suit the purpose of the hon. Gentleman to strike out this portion of the clause for the purpose of getting the Bill through Committee today, but he (Mr. Bolton) did not think the Bill ought to get through Committee to-day. He thought that if a Bill of this kind was to be passed it should contain practicable and workable clauses—


The hon. Member is not now discussing the Amendment.


Then I will defer what I have to say until you put the clause.

Question put, and negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

asked if there was any definition of "employment" in the Bill?


said, there was a definition in the Act of 1892.


said, if the Bill was so much required he could not understand why a distinction should be drawn Between members of a shopkeeper's family and other persons who might be employed by him. It seemed to him that if there was to be further legislation to protect those who worked in shops, it was desirable that it should apply equally to the children of the shopkeeper as to those who were not his children. The clause also appeared to be too wide. "In or about or in connection with the work of the shop" might include taking goods home, and so interfere with what was really healthy exercise. He could understand that in a crowded shop where there was a great deal of gas—[Ironical cheers.] Hon. Members laughed at the word "gas," but there was a great deal of gas about all this legislation. It was very pretentious legislation—legislation which professed to do a great deal and which would practically do very little for those whom it professed to benefit. An hon. Gentleman had made this Bill the opportunity of expressing his effusive sympathy with the class of shop assistants, although he must know that all Members of the House sympathised with that class.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but the CHAIRMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.


went on to suggest that the Committee stage of the Bill should be postponed, in order that those who did not agree with the clause in its present shape, but were not opposed to its principle, might endeavour to discuss with the promoters some practicable clause which would carry out effectually the desire which everybody felt to protect shop assistants. He moved to report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. H. Bolton.)


hoped the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion. It had been found, since Inspectors were appointed under the Act of 1892, that a large number of boys and girls were employed for between 75 and 100 hours a week. The object of the Bill was merely to limit the hours during which the boys and girls might be employed. He was sure that no hon. Member would say that boys and girls could defend themselves in a matter of this kind.


asked what view the Government took as to the framing of the Bill? Did they think that the measure in its present form was a practical and workable measure?


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put; "but the CHAIRMAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.


asked whether the Government had examined the drafting of the Bill in connection with other Acts with which it was incorporated?


Yes, Sir; we have considered the Bill carefully, and we supported the Second Reading.


said, he was not asking about the Second Reading, but whether the Government thought the Bill required any amendment in Committee?

It being half-past Five of the clock, the Motion to report Progress lapsed, and the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.