§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Masterman)
I have the honour to move the Second Reading of this Bill, dealing with problems of social reform, of which none probably before us are more complex, and few more urgent. No Bill with which I am 1686 acquainted in recent years has gone-through more vicissitudes in its passage to the Second Reading in this House, and in no Bill has more effort been made to reconcile the enormous number of conflicting interests involved. The Bill was an inheritance from our predecessors, and was first under construction nearly three years ago. It was published in the last Parliament but one by Lord Gladstone more than one and a-half years ago; it was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in a modified form in the last Parliament; it was again altered in the autumn of the last Parliament, and it appears to-day altered again this month, and, speaking for my right hon. Friend and myself, we should be the last to assert that even at the present it has assumed any final form. During that time Lord Gladstone, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the Postmaster-General, and myself, have received more than one hundred deputations representing various interests involved, and have replied to more than one thousand written representations. We present the Bill now as representing in our opinion the greatest common measure of agreement which we were able to effect in the matter, and that I believe in its main provisions commands a very considerable support from the persons whose interests are mainly affected, that is, the shop assistants and the shopkeepers engaged in carrying on the retail trade of the country.
I think the House will agree with me that those difficulties and variations are not due to any lack of certainty or determination on the part of the promoters of the Bill; they are inherent to the consideration of the enormously intricate interests involved in the Bill we have to deal with an evil which is equally felt in the huge emporium of the establishment of the West End of London, and in the tiny general shop in an East End of London slum. We have to deal in the same manner with the decent quiet provincial town, and a retail trade on the one hand, where all shops are closed at nightfall, and the whole population is in bed at ten o'clock, and with the London suburb on the other hand, which is asleep all day, in which the population only comes to life about eight o'clock in the evening, and where the whole system of shopping is carried on after an hour when the provincial town has ceased to shop altogether. Again, we are attempting to deal with Sunday trading 1687 —which is one of the most thorny questions—and with the standard of Sunday trading established and maintained in such regions as those of Scotland and Wales, and where none are more anxious than the retail traders themselves to break in upon that standard; and, on the other hand, with a system which has been allowed to grow up with certain vested interests behind it in certain districts, especially in the Metropolis, where there is very little difference in some respects between Sunday trading and that of other days of the Week. It is in consequence of these enormous variations that my right hon. Friend has felt from the first the impossibility of clamping down by rigorous regulations from Whitehall, which should be carried out irrespective of all those interests; it is for these reasons he has so strictly considered the various interests, and for these reasons the main principle of the Bill so far as it affects the retail traders is a further development of that laid down in the Act of 1904 to help the retail traders to help themselves. On the other hand, I think no one who is really acquainted with the subject on either side of the House will deny the urgency of this problem. In the number of persons affected, in the influence on the health and happiness of a huge class of deserving people, this Bill is probably unique in recent legislation which deals with social reform. In the general necessity for such legislation as this in connection with the class affected this Bill occupies a peculiar position. In almost every other of the great industrial classes of the community their interests are protected partly by legislation, and partly through the action of persons outside Parliament through united and organised efforts which have resulted in a very considerable mitigation of their conditions and hours of labour. The one exception is the class engaged in the retail trade, and it is exceedingly doubtful whether in regard to this class there has been not only no mitigation, but even a retrogression in regard to the interests of the retail trade owing to restricted action, and even more on account of violent competition. Far from there being any mitigation in the conditions and the hours of shop assistants, the hours of shop assistants and the pressure upon shopkeepers is getting greater from year to year. So great is that pressure that there are large numbers of men and women prepared to work—whether working for themselves or compelled to work 1688 for other people—almost every hour which can be conceivably cut out of the day in order to obtain a precarious livelihood. When you contrast the position of the girl in the factory, whose hours are strictly limited by law with her sister who goes into the shop, you find the hours of the latter are not limited, but perhaps continually increasing; you can then realise that every argument which can be brought, and has been brought in the past to secure a limitation of hours in factories, can be advanced with greater force—and, so far as I know, with no legitimate answer—in favour of the limitation of the hours of the retail trade.
So far from this being a new discovery Parliament from time to time, during the last forty years, has again and again ordered an investigation into the subject, and that investigation has always produced a similar result. Some hon. Members, even at this moment, think it is desirable to have further investigation together with the taking of evidence and the calling of witnesses, but I very respectfully ask them what other facts they expect to obtain beyond those which are already at their disposal. There was a Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed in 18S6, another Select Committee in 1892, another in 1895, a Committee of the House of Lords in 1901. and all of them, as well as the witnesses we have had at the Home Office, have found exactly the same state of things as was found by their predecessors. I will only make one quotation from the report of the House of Lords Committee, which is a remarkably interesting and instructive document issued eight years ago, which I think every one acquainted with the subject will realise word for word stands as true to-day as when it was written. The Committee declare:—The subject is one of urgent importance; that the existing evils show no general or sufficient sign of amendment, and that the present hours are grievously injurious to health, especially in the case of women.I will quote their own words:In many places the hours during which shops are open range as high as eighty to ninety per week, in addition to which some time is occupied in clearing up putting away the goods, and packing up the articles purchased; eighty-four hours per week of six days amount to 14 hours a day, and it is almost self-evident that such long hours, especially when the shops are crowded, ill-ventilated and lighted by gas must (as pointed out by the House of Commons Committee of 1886) be injurious, and often ruinous to health, especially in the case of women.I believe a Committee now would merely have to repeat the words of the Committee of the House of Lords, and say, as pointed out by the Committee of 1901, "the con- 1689 ditions are the same or even worse than they were then." The only attempt which has been made by the Government to mitigates this often distressing condition of affairs is the attempt which was made as the result of the Report of the House of Lords Committee by the Government of the day in 1904. That is the Shops Act, which is at present in operation, and that is the Shops Act which we seek to amend. If hon. Members will study the Report of that Committee, they will see there was considerable doubt in the minds of those who served upon it as to which of the two courses was the best method to adopt. One course, which was strongly advocated by some Members and many witnesses, would have been the limitation of the hours of labour of shop assistants, such as the limitation of the hours of labour which by law is imposed upon women and children, and which in practice is in consequence imposed upon men in the factories of the country. The effect of the limitation of the hours of women must be the limitation of the hours of men. The other course suggested was to attempt to regulate the demands of the public by permitting the local authority, on the request of the shopkeeper, to impose compulsory orders on various classes of shops. The Committee finally decided to make the experiment in the second direction, but they never closed their minds to the first direction, and I am not quite sure whether in the official report of the Committee, but certainly in the verdict of many of its members it was stated that, if this second direction, in progress, proved inadequate to the demand, then it was evident the first would have to be adopted. Investigations now, after some six or seven years of the operation of that Act, show it has altogether failed to carry out the desires of its promoters. A certain number of closing orders have been established and have produced great benefit in those cities where they are in operation; but the great mass of the retail traders of this country, whether in large or small shops, shops employing assistants or shops without assistants, remain to-day altogether unregulated by the operation of the Act. As a result of inquiry in the Home Office and among the departments concerned, I find that many reasons are given for the failure of the Shops Act of 1904, and they may be briefly summarised in these conslusions. There is the opposition of the small shops to come into closing orders with the larger shops, and that opposition is largely intensified by the fact that a good many of the 1690 small shops distinctly live on sweeping up, as it were, the remainder of the trade of which the large shops are not possessed. They feed on the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. Their only possibility of existence is that they may provide some opportunity for the sale of commodities when the larger and more attractive shops are closed. More important than that has proved the difficulty of united action among the shopkeepers themselves. That has very forcibly been brought homo to us by almost every deputation we have received. No man particularly likes to take the initiative; traders are naturally jealous of each other, there are very few organisations which can undertake the work, and the preliminary operations necessary in order to make out a prima facie case are not carried out.
The third case advanced is sometimes the apathy and sometimes the hostility of the local authorities, and some very remarkable instances have been given in which, not only a two-thirds majority, but almost a unanimous majority in certain towns, have declared their desire for putting into operation an Early Closing Order, and for some reason or other the local authority has refused. Therefore, I think hon. Members of this House will agree with me if there is any method by which we can make less operative these difficulties without incurring enormous expense and without committing injury to the responsibility of the local authorities, which must be primarily responsible, we are right in introducing, as we have done in this Bill, such matters as we propose.
We propose, in dealing with this evil, a simultaneous advance along all the possible lines. We take up the suggestion which was made before the Committee of 1901, and propose a limitation upon and a regulation of the hours of shop assistants. We propose to provide assistance in the promotion of general closing orders either for half-day holidays or for limiting evening hours in an extension of the provisions of the Act of 1904. We propose—and we recognise the difficulties of the proposal—to deal with the most controversial and thorny question of Sunday trading. First, as to Part I. of the Bill, which deals with the Regulation of shop assistants, two grievances, and I think they are real grievances, have been very strongly pressed upon us in this matter. One is the enormous number of hours worked by men and by girls in a certain number of shops of the country, and the other is the lack of the regulation of those 1691 hours, and especially of meal times. Often the time for the principal meal for most people is so limited and so irregular that very considerable injury to health results, as the House of Lords Committee reported. We propose a sixty-hours limit, exclusive of meal time. We are not prepared to agree to a lesser regulation than one for sixty hours. Strong representations which have been made to us that it would be desirable the sixty hours limit should be inclusive of meal times, but the sixty hours limit is, in effect, the hours of the Factory Acts, under which the vast majority of women workers are working at the present time, and under which, as I said, the men work in consequence, and, although we think the hours worked in shops, when they amount to seventy-five, eighty, and ninety hours, are beyond any possible reasonable number which we ought to tolerate, we are not prepared to say that the work of shop assistants is so much or more exacting than the work of the factory worker that he or she ought to be brought to a lower level of the minimum number of hours worked than the factory worker. We propose also, in the schedule of the Bill, such a regulation of the hours of meal times that every shop assistant will have a reasonable time to have dinner or to have tea, similar to the system in the factories of this country. We propose a certain amount of overtime, and we propose an extension of the overtime to be permitted where a shop assistant is given a week or a fortnight's holiday with full pay. We think those employers who have generously undertaken that provision should have some kind of preferential treatment over those employers who have not been able to see their way to do so.
The second point is the enlargement of the voluntary closing provision, and I would especially draw the attention of the House to Clauses 8 and 11. We re-enact the provisions of 1904, but we have endeavoured to provide for the particular difficulties which are now felt by those who desire to see the carrying of them out, the difficulty of providing united action arising from the energies of the shopkeeper themselves. We have endeavoured to meet it by giving an initiative and a responsibility to the central department of the State. My right hon. Friend proposes that the Home Secretary, where any representations are made, or on his own initiative, may send down competent persons, whose duty it will be to get the 1692 various interests together, to concentrate the desire which is felt in almost every town in this country for shorter hours for shops among the shop-keepers themselves, and to elaborate a draft order which will reconcile those interests, and which may be submitted to the local authority for consideration. This provision has been almost unanimously welcomed by those who have represented the interests of the various classes of retail trade to us, and I believe, if that provision is properly worked, there is no reason why hundreds of orders may not be put into force with the full acquiescence of all retail traders whose interests will be affected. Although we have not seen our way to take away altogether the responsibilities of the local authority, we think, by such a method and by representations from the Home Office, that where the local authorities are apathetic or backward they may be spurred into action. We believe that by the double pressure, the pressure thus created for early closing, which the House will recognise is almost unanimous among the retail trades of this country, and the pressure created by the limitation of the hours of the shop assistants to sixty hours a week, a very great change can be made, and a very large limitation of the hours of work, and consequently a very great extension of freedom among the retail traders of both classes in the community effected. We get over a difficulty which has been very strongly pressed upon us in connection with mixed shops by making arrangements by which a poll shall only be conducted by those whose interests are mainly affected in connection with the sorting out of the various kinds of shops which may have different desires for different hours of closing. The third main division of the Bill is the division which deals with the question of Sunday closing. Of all the questions which have been pressed upon us by deputations representing every class of traders in the country, no question has revealed such unanimity as the desire of the traders for the prevention of the increase of Sunday trading in this country. Sunday provides the shop assistant with almost the only opportunity for leisure in fresh air.
I believe if any investigation were made into the results of the efforts of the National Sunday League to obtain more fresh air and some acquaintanceship with life on Sundays for these various classes of the community which work full hours on week days, it would show that the great 1693 bulk of those who take advantage of these opportunities are to be found among the shop assistants. The retail traders of this country have again and again impressed on us the fact that, in the opinion of the great bulk of the trades they represent, there is no kind of necessity for keeping open seven days a week. Most of the shops are at the present time closed on one day a week, but they recognise that pressure is put on them often by one or two shops which they are unable to resist, and they ask us to give them the same rights as are possessed at present by almost every other industrial class. Of course, directly you open a question which is not a new question, but a question affecting interests which have been allowed to grow up contrary to the law, you are met with great difficulties. My right hon. Friend has tried to meet this difficulty in the Clauses which deal with Sunday closing, and in the Schedules of the Bill which are affected by these Clauses. It is evident to every man in the House that some measure of selling certain commodities on Sundays must still be permitted. Certainly, so long as public-houses in England are open on Sundays so long will it be absolutely necessary that alternative refreshment houses should also be allowed to open.
My right hon. Friend had also to consider the representations made to him by those whoso interests have been allowed to grow up under a system of carelessness. In a matter that concerns mostly small people with small capital it would be quite impossible suddenly and brutally to lay down a law which would reduce them to ruin. He had also to consider the very different practice in the matter which prevails in various parts of the country. Briefly I think I am right in my interpretation when I say that our policy has been, as far as possible, without injury to those whose interests are at the moment affected, to see that no further extension of Sunday trading shall continue except in those trades where Sunday trading is absolutely necessary for the welfare of the community. After all, in trades where the pressure is felt, and where it is not so necessary—among grocers, butchers, and sellers of hardware and of non-perishable goods, where there is really no reason why people should do their shopping on Sunday—an absolute prohibition is laid down, with the full and even the enthusiastic desire of those who have a right to speak for those trades.
1694 There are minor difficulties in connection with the matter, and especially in connection with street trading which has grown up in London on Sunday, and in connection with the Jews. These points, I think hon. Members will agree with me, are more appropriate for discussion on the Committee Stage than on any general discussion of the Bill at present, but subject to such minor exceptions and limitations, we propose to go forward on the plan laid down in the Bill, and to ensure for the shopkeeper and his assistant, as we have already assured for the police in England, one day's rest in seven.
We have tried to show some of the peculiar difficulties associated with this question. On the other hand, I think we may say we are free from some of the general difficulties which sometimes accompany industrial legislation. There can be no question that the limitation of these hours will not affect the output; the amount of retail trade will continue the same after the Bill has passed. Nor is there any fundamental divergence even suggested between interests of capital and labour. It is the case rather that capital as represented by the shopkeepers and labour as represented partly by the shopkeepers and partly by the assistants is here contending unitedly against the carelessness or stupidity of the public as a whole—a public which docs not take the trouble to consider what injury it may be doing in demanding the right to purchase different commodities at any hour of the day or night. Therefore we think we shall do some good work in educating the public and in promoting the interests of both capitalists and labour concerned in the industry.
The point I wish to emphasise for the moment is a rather serious challenge to us, made in a statement in a Committee of the House of Lords: "As in 1886 so today. Thirty years have gone by." This class is still working under conditions to a very large extent which are really impossible conditions to be tolerated, in which the great bulk of the life of many of them is really nothing much more than work during the day and the mechanical passing to and fro between the work and the home. I could quote to the House an enormous number of letters which have poured in upon us, some signed and some anonymous, from a very large number of representative men and women, who tell us of the machinery in which they find themselves involved, apparently for the 1695 rest of their lives. They are to go on working seventy-five, eighty, and even ninety hours per week—well over fourteen hours per day—under conditions which render it impossible for them not only not to carry out the ordinary methods for their own improvement, but oven to carry out the obligations which every citizen in this country should recognise as incumbent. I hear an interruption opposite which I think is relevant. I have nothing to do with any particular scheme of national service, but I think it would be a very good thing if these people had an opportunity to enlist in the Territorial Army. That opportunity is now denied them under conditions of labour which we believe are not inevitable, and which this House could alter without injuring anyone. Undoubtedly representations have been made urging hon. Members to advocate either the rejection or modification of this Bill. It is easy for us not to do anything in view of the amount of legislation now pressed upon us. We do not expect to get any credit for doing it, but we feel it is a scandal that existing conditions have lasted so long, and that it would be well on our part if we could essay some legislation. Therefore we offer our proposals to the House very far from suggesting any kind of verbal inspiration about any Clause or about any line. We ask that the Bill may be sent to a Committee. Not to ask for evidence, for if hon. Members will consult the Blue Books they wall find that the evidence is fully available for everyone who wishes to see it, but to a Committee of leisure and quietness, containing many of those who have a right to speak on the matter, which may seriously thrash out, day after day, the various Clauses which we shall submit. We believe that as the result of that leisure and the result of that deliberation there may be put this year upon the Statute Book a social reform which is long overdue. We believe that without any appreciable loss to any trader in this country, and certainly without any decrease in the general consumption of commodities, we may so put pressure upon the public, which is the master of this trade, and which is cruel only because it is careless, that there may be larger opportunities given for efficiency, for leisure, and for happiness among the hundreds of thousands of people to whom these opportunities are at present denied. I beg to Move.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
moved, as au Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
May I be permitted very respectfully to congratulate the hon. Gentleman upon the lucidity with which he has expounded this measure. I can only say I wish that he brought the same calm impartial judgment to bear upon all classes of subjects with which he deals. Whilst I congratulate him upon this lucidity, having made myself fairly familiar with the propositions of this Bill, I also congratulate him upon his marvellous discretion, for he has studiously avoided meeting any one of which I conceive to be, and what I submit to the House to be, the main and vital objections to the measure. But he has, I admit, made a most amazing confession to the House. After taking us through the history of the four or five measures similar to this which have been considered, he has told us that this Bill is not necessarily a final one. Surely that is the best reason which can be adduced to answer his own question as to whether it should be sent to a Select Committee or not.
The hon. Gentleman says what is the use of sending the Bill to a Select Committee. He asks the House what further evidence could a Select Committee obtain. The hon. Gentleman forgets this important fact, that none of the other Select Committees have had the measure before them. I would ask the Home Secretary, who, I understand, will wind up the debate, to note, and I urge this view upon the Government, that it is one thing to appoint a Select Committee to consider an abstract proposition, and quite another thing to send to it a definite and formal measure which can be examined and investigated, clause by clause, and line by line, and I do hope that the Government will reconsider its decision not to send this Bill to a Select Committee, and that, failing that, the very least concession they will make will be to keep the Bill upon the floor of this House. I do not like these quiet Committees. They are too quiet, and too peaceful and too sparsely attended to secure the adequate examination of a measure of this importance.
My objection to this Bill is that while it is a Bill for a good object, it seeks to accomplish it by utterly inadequate and altogether unsuitable machinery. Its principle is to apply the spirit of the Factory and Workshops Act to shop assistants. 1697 The hon. Gentleman, in moving the Second Beading, quoted the reports of various Committees, but he did not quote the extract from the report of the only Royal Commission, I think, which has ever investigated this subject, the Royal Commission of 1875. In that Report they say:—The task of protecting the shop assistant from overwork is beyond the power of the staff of Factory Inspectors, and the regulation of retail shops is outside the principle of the Factory Acts.That was the report of the Royal Commission, and I am bound to say, having taken a good deal of trouble in the matter, I do not think there is any remarkable enthusiasm for it amongst that downtrodden class whose lot has been so pathetically painted to us by the Mover of the Bill. I do not know that the Home Secretary in his heart is very enthusiastic about the measure. I understand that he told a deputation——
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
The hon. Gentleman has no right to make that observation.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I am going to give my reason for the observation. I was going to observe that the right hon. Gentleman, who has interrupted me so very promptly, told an important deputation last year that the great desire of his heart was to see the Bill of last Session pass into law before he sat down to his Christmas dinner. Then, when the Bill was the first Order of the day, shortly before that festival came round, the right hon. Gentleman's heart and soul failed him, and he assented to the Dissolution of Parliament, 80 that the Bill could not be considered. That is only a small debating point of a kind of which we shall have a large dose before this discussion is closed. I will quote some authorities which will appeal to the imagination of the Members of the Government. The Lord's Day Observance Society is not in favour of this Bill. In one manifesto they say that "The passage of this Bill means the end of the Lord's Day." The Early Closing Association is not enthusiastically in favour of this Bill, and so far as the Jews are concerned the Jewish Board of Deputies is strongly opposed to the Bill, and at a meeting the other day the chairman said: "We hope the Home Secretary will abandon these objectionable features of his proposed Bill." These are the features referring to the Jewish traders. Therefore, I think, I have established, so far as many of these authorities go, that there is no enthusiasm for the Bill.
1698 The hon. Gentleman spoke a good deal about "social reform," a claptrap phrase with which it is sought to justify every encroachment upon the natural and legitimate rights of the private citizen and to justify the introduction of any degree of parental and officious interference with the habits and avocations of the people. I have only to look at the sponsors of the Bill to satisfy myself of that. There is the Postmaster-General, the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, and the Solicitor-General. I suppose if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had canvassed the whole of the Government he could not have found three more truly representative Ministers for the purpose of fathering a measure of this kind. I hope I am not offensive, but I do not believe that one of them in his most hilarious moments has over been guilty of a smile which would have been discreditable to a stained-glass window. I must apologise to the Under-Secretary. I can only suggest that the addition of the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Clocugh) would have completed it, and would have brought the sponsorship of the measures into true harmony with its provisions. I feel that the Bill has been hurriedly and carelessly drawn and prepared. I do not think there is much practical brain behind it. One illustration will suffice. One of the most important deputations seen by the Home Secretary, at the office of his Department, one of shopkeepers, was called for twelve o'clock on a Saturday, a time when scarcely any shopkeeper could attend without seriously jeopardising his business. Perhaps the Home Secretary thought from the smallness of the attendance that the interest in the measure was not great. I think the House will regret that we have not the advantage of the presence of Mr. Seddon in discus-sine this measure. He is a great authority on the subject, and he speaks for a large body of shop assistants. I have adopted a course in regard to this Bill which I recommend to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to measures of this kind. I convened a conference of all the shopkeepers and representatives of the assistants in my own Constituency, and I took the daring step of bringing the shopkeepers and Mr. Seddon as representing the shop assistants together, and I have a written declaration that conferences of that kind would be more calculated to cure the admitted evils of shop assistants than all the measures ever drafted by a Government Department. Mr. Seddon addressed the meeting, speaking better than he can 1699 speak in this House for the shop assistants as a class. These are one or two of the phrases he used. "I am not in love with this Bill," "We must find some basis of compromise." "The Government has made a blunder." "The Bill is too complicated and too costly." "The Bill is even worse in many respects than last year's Bill." It is only fair to him to say that he would be in favour of giving a Second Reading with a view to very considerable amendment. That is the considered opinion of the representative of the shop assistants.
On the Second Reading one is anxious to avoid Committee points and I pass over three or four criticisms of the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masterman) did not refer, just as indicating the clumsiness with which it has been prepared, and the difficulty there will be to carry it out. All the previous Shop Bills have permitted on Sunday the sale of what have been called newspapers and periodicals. In this Bill, for some extraordinary reason—I really cannot believe the Home Secretary's attention has been directed to it—the word "periodicals" has been taken out. I am speaking of the unfortunate citizen who cannot buy his "Christian World" on a Sunday. You may conceivably get the "Referee." That may come within the definition of newspapers. How you are going to define "newspaper," especially in these days, is a question I leave to the Home Secretary. This is another point. You may buy smokers' requisites on a Sunday. I suppose a box of matches would be smokers' requisites, but if a poor woman wanted a box of matches to light a fire with she could not be served, unless she had a pipe in her mouth. "Motor and cycle accessories to travellers." I do not know what that limitation means. I do not know whether they must be moving at the time when they buy them, or whether they have to prove their destination, or whether they come within the three or six-mile limit, or what test is to be applied. Then there is a most extraordinary thing. Under the first part of the exceptions you are allowed to sell refreshments on a Sunday, but under the second part of the Schedule you must not sell fresh milk except, I think, within certain hours. At any rate, these are Committee points, and I do not want to press them too much. But the main thing is this: The Bill makes an invidious distinction between the large and the 1700 small shopkeeper. Are you sure it is not going to result in this, that a very large number of shop assistants will lose their work? I have cases in my own constituency of men having one assistant who say if they are to be subjected to all this inquisition they will get rid of the assistant and employ members of their own families. I have cases in which a man has a second shop run by an assistant, and he says he will have to close it. It is the opinion of the shop assistants themselves that that danger exists to a very large extent. A large number of shopkeepers give their assistants holiday and sick pay. You do not think they are going to continue that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Many of the most representative associations of shopkeepers say they are not going to continue it. I am not making rash statements without being prepared lo quote chapter and verse if necessary.
There is another point I want the Government to consider. I suppose it applies equally to licensed premises, and I take it every barmaid, every barman, every potman, and every employé in a public house or hotel will be subject to the provisions as to hours. The Shop Assistants Union does not recognise these people as shop assistants. Mr. Seddon's union does not allow them to join it. He says the barmaid and barman are special employés regulated by special haw and are not shop assistants, and cannot join the union. I throw out this suggestion. You have given the publicans their Budget, you have promised them a fresh edition of the Licensing Bill. Do you not think you might take them out of this Act and leave them to manage their trade so far as their relations with their employés are concerned, not one of whom by letter or memorial or deputation, or in any other way has requested to be brought within the benefits of the measure? You will not only shut up many small shops, but you will favour the big stores, you will favour those places which have telephones fixed up for orders and you will give the wealthier shopkeepers an immense advantage over the poor, little, struggling shopkeeper, who finds it very difficult to get a living. I do not want to say much about class legislation. I am glad to know I shall still be able to get a shave on a Sunday, but I do not think it is fair that the working man should have to get it in certain hours at inconvenience to himself. He may have been working all night. There are many who work all Saturday night and go home 1701 in the early hours of the morning. If the barber likes to remain open why should not they have a shave as well as the wealthy man who sends for the barber to his house?
Now I want to say a word about the Sabbatarian section of the Bill. It was the very existence of this section which attracted these sponsors on the back. This is largely a Sabbatarian measure. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masterman) has told us roughly what the exceptions are. Again he has thrown over one of his own committees. The Joint Committee on Sunday Trading, in 1906, strongly expressed the opinion that many other things besides this permitted in this Bill could be sold on a Sunday. Here is an extract from their report. After recommending the exemption of refreshments, newspapers, magazines, and periodicals, they say:—There are also certain articles, namely, bread, fish, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and ice, the sale of which the committee consider should be allowed during part of the day subject to by-laws made by the local authority.Is a man to be allowed to sell bread and milk and not to be allowed to sell fish? It will remove the opportunity from the poorer classes of obtaining fresh food, especially in the summer months, when it is difficult to keep fish. I say that the exclusion of fish is a very great hardship to the working classes. It has been said that people can do their shopping on Saturday night. I do not agree with that. There is a large section of the artisan class who cannot do their shopping on Saturday night because they cannot bring home their money in time. But assuming that they could do their shopping on Saturday night, I would ask the House to consider the conditions under which thousands of poor people live huddled together in little rooms. Will the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) deny that the conditions are such that it would be absolute indecency to compel them to store the Sunday dinner on Saturday night. What facilities are they to have on Sunday? The right hon. Gentleman is to have the right to declare a certain area available for street trading on Sunday. He alone is to have the right. If an order is made we may have a repetition of what happened in the case of the Education Circular. Some official will make, or refuse to make, an order. How can the right hon. Gentleman make himself personally acquainted with the requirements of a given area? The matter is left absolutely to his will. 1702 There is nothing about receiving any representations from a district. He is to have power to declare a certain area one where it is customary to hold markets. If he refuses to declare an area the poor people in the district may whistle. You may in this way get rid of the muffin man and the winkle man, who are very popular and very valuable among the poor. Costermongers are entirely in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to call the attention of the House to what I conceive to be the vital objection to the Bill. I cannot think that the Under-Secretary has read the Clause which says that for the purpose of carrying out the Act—and it is the only way you can carry it out—the local authorities are to appoint inspectors who are to have conferred upon them the powers of Sections 119 and 121 of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901. I wonder if the hon. Member ever read these sections. I wonder if he knows the powers he is going to give to the inspectors to worry, harass, and rule shopkeepers if this Bill becomes law. This is what may happen under it. In every part of the country a body of inspectors will be appointed, and they can enter at any time of the day or night any shop or any place which they conceive to be a shop. They can take a police constable with them if they wish. Having got in they may require the production of all registers, notices, and documents kept on the premises in pursuance of this Act. They can sit down or stand up, inspect, examine, or take copies of the same. They can make such examination and inquiry as may be necessary, in their opinion, to ascertain whether the requirements of the Act are being respected. They can do something more. I wonder if the Under-Secretary knows this. They can go to any school in the country in which they think there is a boy who is employed, or may have been employed, in any shop, and examine that boy either alone or in presence of the schoolmaster, take from him and require from him a written declaration of the terms and conditions existing in the shop in which he has worked or is at the present time working. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is not much in that."]
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Does the hon. Gentleman know that all those powers are in operation under the Act of 1904?
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I did not know that, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman 1703 did not know until his hon. Friend (Mr. Masterman) whispered the information to him. It was then that the right hon. Gentleman rose with such an air of learning. Let me respectfully say that they are both wrong. These powers are never exercised under the Act of 1904, and never have been, because the purposes for which they were applicable are so limited under that Act that there is no necessity or justification, but if you once put this Act in force and employ every one of this new army of officials, I will tell hon. Members what it matters. It means that at the busiest time of the day on a Saturday, when a shopkeeper is serving his customers, an inspector, accompanied by a policeman, steps in and says: "Just stop that nonsense serving customers, and let us have your books and registers." Is that not what is likely? [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I hope I am not making an invidious comparison when I say that I know the police better than the hon. Member. I mention that power to show that this is a serious menace to the shopkeeping community, and it is one which the House will not be likely to confer upon the police.
I apologise to the House for mentioning the last point. It is almost out of order in these days. Has the Government considered the cost of this Bill?—a very relevant observation. I cannot get it out of my own head. Has he formed any estimate of what it is going to cost? The Weights and Measures Act costs £100,000. [An HON MEMBER: "That is very cheap."] Under the Weights and Measures Act you are supposed to get the true weight for what you pay. Under this Shops Bill you are going to have this army of inspectors at enormous cost, without creating any substantial benefit. I rose for the purpose of moving, "That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months." I listened attentively to the Under-Secretary who introduced the measure in the hope that he would tell us that there is a general consensus of opinion that there should be a Select Committee. If he had said so I would have acceded to that course. If he had even said that he will leave the Bill in the control of the House, I would willingly have saved the House the trouble of a Division when we all have other occupations in view. Unless the Government give us something of that kind I can only say that I regard the measure as so retrograde in character, really so ill-considered, and so unlikely 1704 to result in general good to the community and shop assistants, that I shall be-obliged to press the Amendment. I would say, in conclusion, that there is a very strong feeling that if you would only extend and consolidate the provisions of the 1904 Act you could get everything you want. If, instead of interfering with the hours of shop assistants, you were to interfere with the hours of shops themselves, and if in every district you could have a local authority Order issued regulating the number of hours during which shops in that district would be open, you would secure every benefit you get out of this Bill. I am confident, by an arrangement between shop assistants, on the one side and shopkeepers on the other, with a view to dropping Part 1 and strengthening Part 2 and closing the shops, if you will have-Socialism in these days, at certain times-throughout the whole country, you will get every benefit that is desired, and you will not get any of the horrible disturbance and officiousness arising under this Bill. In the-absence of any such assurance as I have indicated, or its equivalent, I shall reluctantly have to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I rise to second the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Hackney. The statement made by the Under-Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Masterman) in introducing the Bill, I venture to say, would alone furnish good grounds for the rejection of the measure, because if it is such a very difficult subject that though three successive Bills have been introduced within the last nine years the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary, after all this delay, have not now been able to arrive at a final form of a Bill it shows either that it is practically impossible to do so or that sufficient time has not been given to the consideration of the matter. I do not think anybody can attach much weight to the argument of the Under-Secretary. He said that something similar to this legislation existed in the case of factories. A shop is not a factory, and the conditions of work in the two are totally different. Then legislation in the factory is confined to women and children. This is not confined to women and children, but deals with the hours of adult male labour. I object to this Bill very strongly for that reason. I am old-fashioned enough still to hold the old Tory belief that if a man chooses to work he ought to be allowed to work as long and as often as he likes, and that instead of 1705 being a discredit to him to work hard it is a credit, and it is what we ought to encourage and not discourage. Now comes down the Under-Secretary and brings forward a Bill on the ground that certain people have to work, and not only that, but that their periods of relaxation are short. Is not everybody in that position? Take the lawyer in practice. The whole of his day, from the time he gets up in the morning until he goes to bed, is passed in hard work. Some of the greatest men of the day have been men who have come to mature age under those circumstances.
All the judges, I believe, are examples of this. I believe I am right in saying that there is no class of men who live to a greater age or keep their faculties longer than His Majesty's judges. I believe that some hon. Members opposite do not altogether hold with the decisions of judges, but that is no evidence that I am not right or that the judges do not keep their faculties longer than most men and work harder than the vast majority of men. I hold that one of the reasons why this country is falling into arrears in comparison with other countries is that we are now endeavouring to legislate in order to prevent people doing what they like to do in the shape of a hard day's work. We are rather social reformers. God only knows what a social reform docs mean, but it seems to mean what each particular person thinks it ought to mean. At any rate it comes to this that nobody should do any work and everybody should enjoy himself. How on earth can you carry on a great country with ideas like that permeating legislation and the Government class of the country? Only a few years ago we passed a somewhat similar Bill, the Miners' Eight Hours Bill. We were told then that it was necessary to limit the amount of adult labour in mines because the miners worked in a peculiar manner. They were always underground, they did not see the sky and the trees and the sun and all that kind of thing, and, consequently some exceptional special legislation must be passed for them which would not apply to other people. Within a very short time similar legislation is feeing applied to people who do absolutely different work from that of the miners, and not only that but the Under-Secretary and the Home Secretary seem to have forgotten the fate that overtook the Miners' Bill. It has not carried out the expectations of its promoters. On the contrary, instead of satisfying everybody it has set everybody by the ears. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I do not know 1706 whether he has been in Wales with the police, but if he has he would not have found that the Eight Hours Bill had tended to please.
It will surely be found that this Bill, if unfortunately it passes, will satisfy nobody, and if it has any effect at all it will merely have the effect of introducing later on fresh and, in my opinion, more ruinous legislation in that direction. The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection made, if he will excuse my saying so, what thought was an extremely good point, especially as I had intended to make it my-self. That point was that the Home Secretary can apparently do what he likes to carry out this Bill. Under this Bill the Home Secretary is put in the position of a dictator. I object strongly to that. If we are to make laws, I believe it is this House that should do so, and when the laws are made their administration should be left to the judges and the law courts, and we should not set up a dictator in the form of a Secretary or an Under-Secretary, and allow him to do just whatever he pleases, as long as he happens to hold office. I think that the attention of the House and of the country ought to be drawn to this because it is not the first time the Government has attempted to do it. In the Housing and Town Planning Bill we had set up the President of the Local Government Board in a similar position., It seems to be the object of all Secretaries of State now to go beyond the province of dealing with the House of Commons and to pass Bills which will enable them to dictate the business of other people. As far as I know, the greatness of England has been brought about because people were left free to do what they liked, and there were no restrictions and no Home Secretaries or anybody else to come down and tell them what they might and what they might not do. Apparently they are changing all that, and they are setting up in every direction not only vexatious laws but are giving powers over which this House has no control—at any rate, which this House does not know what they would mean—to Ministers sitting on that bench. That is not restoring the power of the House of Commons, which I thought the present Government was determined to do. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill (Mr. Bottomley) talked about the cost of the measure, but it did not seem to interest many hon. Members below the Gangway opposite; I am not sure that it interested many people on my own side.
1707 I saw a smile of derision on the opposite benches, because cost does not enter into the minds of hon. Members in that part of the House at all. Why that should be I am quite at a loss to understand. But the cost of this Bill is a very important item. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Master-man) who introduced the Bill is a man of great business acumen, and he sees the very great difficulty in which the Government will be on the score of expense. The Bill provides for the creation of an enormous army of inspectors. Every Bill now brought in by the Government provides for the creation of an enormous number of inspectors. We have only to look at the Civil Service Estimates to see how greatly they have increased. Everyone knows it. Yet on the top of all this the Under-Secretary is going to create another enormous army of inspectors without the slightest idea of what the measure is going to cost; at any rate, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of what the cost will be, though perhaps he can ascertain by moving along the bench to obtain the information. It would interest myself and the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill to know what it is going to cost. We were told by the Under-Secretary—at least, I understood him to say so—that the shopkeepers and shop assistants themselves were practically unanimously ill favour of the Bill. I believe the association representative of the shop assistants is more or less in favour of the measure, because they have been captured by the Socialists, who wish to provide for the regulation of everything by the State. The Bill may be approved by the Socialists, but that the majority of shopkeepers are in favour of it is beyond my comprehension. I have a series of letters which I have received over yesterday and to-day from members of the Shopkeepers' Association which are against the Bill. I have one from the Chief Dairy and Offices, Elgin Avenue, London, W. (Messrs. Wel-ford and Sons), who write:—As our Member in respect of the properties occupied by us in your constituency we respectfully ask your … interest to oppose the Shops (No. 2) Bill.The letter goes on to say that a milk-carrier or dairy assistant would be forbidden to be on duty more than sixty hours, and adds:—Such an order would be a very great hardship, particularly in the poorer districts where there is little or no accommodation for keeping milk over in a sweet and good condition. … We need hardly point out that the milk is yielded by the cows at regular intervals—twice daily.1708 That is a tact which is not always remembered by these ardent Social Reformers. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary will introduce a Bill to regulate the supply of milk, so as to conform to the regulation that milk carriers and dairy assistants are not to be on duty more than sixty hours per week. A Bill for the regulation of the time of the Milk Supply might be introduced, but I am afraid it would not have any effect, and, like most of these measures, it would be without result, because incapable of application. It would be quite impossible to supply milk to the people if the hours are to be limited as proposed under this Bill. Then I have here from Messrs. Baxter and Son, Billingsgate, who object to the Bill, and who apparently sell winkles and shrimps. The hon. Member below the Gangway opposite, a Member of the Labour party, who laughs, seems to think that winkles and shrimps are a joke. May I point out that they form part of the food of those classes of the community which he is supposed to represent, and it will be a serious thing for them if they are unable to buy that food when they like. The firm who write to me give many reasons against the Bill. They point out, that it is impossible to keep winkles and shrimps for long; that a great deal of money is invested in the shrimping boats, and that, if the Bill becomes law, owners and crews would lose their sole occupation, while the vessels would be rendered valueless. I have a telegram from the Meat Trade, who oppose the Bill, and regard many of the provisions of the Bill as unworkable. The Incorporated Society of London Meat Traders, in a circular which they have issued, point out that:—Meat is the most perishable of all commodities, and recquires to be distributed to the customer in the most expeditious manner possible, with the mimium amount of handling.They say it is quite impossible in populous neighbourhoods to have a working week of sixty hours, and that a working week of sixty-five hours is the minimum. The Metropolitan Grocers', Provision Dealers' and Oilmen's Association, who are strongly against the Bill, write to say that as my constituents they rely on my opposing the Second Reading. They say that they support a different Bill from that which is now proposed. I have also from the bakers opposing the measure. I think I have shown the Under-Secretary, therefore, that his statement that the majority of the shopkeepers are not in favour of the Bill is not justified by 1709 the facts. Theoretically, no doubt, it would be the best thing to have the first day of the week a day of rest, but it is almost impossible to carry out. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary has contemplated the fact that it is just as hard for omnibus men and railway men, motor drivers and taxicab drivers to work on Sundays as it is for shop assistants. Why should the shop assistants be picked out unless the hon. Gentleman is going to bring in a general Bill which will apply to all kinds of trades? There might be something to be said for that, though it would be a considerable inconvenience. But I cannot see that there is anything to be said for a Bill which allows certain people to work on Sundays and says others may not do so. I do not know what the temperance people say. I do not see many temperance people in the House at the present moment. I do not apply the observation personally—I mean the advocates of temperance.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think there are—we are too sensible. I do not know what temperance advocates think about that part of the Bill which allows the public houses to remain open on Sundays. I should like to draw the attention of the House to some of the extraordinary provisions in the Bill. We were told by the Under-Secretary that this is not going to be a final Bill, but the Bill as it is is absolutely unworkable. Section (3) of Clause 2 says:—For the purposes of this Section overtime shall be reckoned in periods of half-an-hour, and any period of overtime of less than half-an-hour shall be reckoned as a complete half-hour.Therefore, if a man works for three minutes owing to some work not being quite complete, or on account of a customer coming into the shop, then a half-hour is to be counted for those two or three minutes. Could anything be more absurd than that? The next Section of that Clause provides:—Where it is intended to employ any shop assistant overtime on any day the occupier of the shop shall, before the overtime employment commences, record in the prescribed manner the prescribed particulars with respect to such overtime employment.I know that in Clause 16 it says that if a customer is in the shop at the time of the expiration of the length of hours which 1710 the shop assistant is to work, that the assistant may continue to serve that particular customer, or serve a customer who comes in before the hour at which the shop closes. How is that to be ascertained? Sometimes a shop cannot be closed at the exact moment prescribed, and if someone came in a moment or two after that hour, what is to happen? Is the assistant to leave that customer until the shop owner has filled up the prescribed form in the prescribed manner, which might take twenty minutes? The Clause as it stands is perfectly unworkable. Clause 3 says that where a shop assistant is employed in two or more shops, the notice affixed in each shop shall specify the times of employment not only in that shop, but also in the other shop or shops in which he is employed, and the times of employment fixed shall be such that the employment in all the shops taken together is within the limits allowed by this Act. Think of all that that would involve. You may have an industrious shop assistant working a certain number of hours under this Bill. Perhaps he wants to rise in the world, and he recognises that the only way is to work hard. He receives an offer to do certain work in his spare time, but he would not be allowed unless he takes some of his other work. Even if he could manage it by some sort of juggling, he has got to inform both of his employers, and all sorts of notices have got to be affixed. The tyranny under which the unfortunate people will live if this Bill be passed will, I think, very shortly, and that is the only advantage in the Bill, eject the present Government from office.
Part II. provides that a shop may be kept open for serving customers of the Jewish religion, but no other customers until twelve o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday. In his speech the Under-Secretary for the Home Department did not tell us how he was going to distinguish between a Jewish customer and any other. How are you going to find out? I should be prepared to sit down and allow the hon. Gentleman to interrupt me if he is prepared to tell me how he proposes to instruct his inspectors to distinguish when two customers who walk into a shop as to which one is a Jew and which one is not. The hon. Gentleman does not know, nor does anybody else, nor does any inspector, so that this provision will be quite impossible to carry out. I am perfectly certain a large number of people will resent being asked whether or not they are Jews. I presume there will be somebody in the 1711 shop who will ask, "Are you a Jew?" I do not think people will like their religion being inquired into when they go into a shop to buy a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes or something of that sort. I come to the provisions which give the Secretary of state dictatorial power. "The Secretary of State may by order declare any area in London." Why should London be singled out as the playground in which the Home Secretary may exercise his various powers under this Bill? As Member for the City of London, I do not want the Home Secretary to go down to my Constituency and say that certain things may be done or not. Why should he not go to Scotland or to some constituency like Bradford? London is a respectable place and resents this interference. "The Secretary of State may by order declare any area in London specified in the order to be an area in which it is customary to hold street markets on Sunday." I see a great many objections to that. It is in the power, for instance, of the Home Secretary, if he gets a letter from another Cabinet Minister asking that his Constituency shall be described as an area, to do so. I have a sort of recollection that something of the kind occurred about Dewsbury. Supposing this custom of one Cabinet Minister making arrangements with another as to his Constituency is to become prevalent it may be that one area in London will be included and another area excluded, simply because it is represented by a Cabinet Minister. That, I think, is not an unlikely occurrence, and it is one which we ought to guard against. That is one of the great objections to putting power into the hands of one single man such as is contained in this Bill. I come to Closing Orders, and I find a local authority may make an Order fixing the hours of closing and it is provided that the Closing Order shall not be earlier than seven o'clock in the evening on any day of the week. There is a large number of shops, especially among the smaller shopkeepers, which are carried on after seven in the evening. I know that in my old Constituency of Peck ham there was a large number of shops which did very little business in the middle of the day, but began to become active after seven o'clock. That is the very time the Bill prescribes that those shops may be closed. The Clause reads that the local authority may make a Closing Order throughout the area of the local authority, or in any specified part thereof——
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I think the hon. Baronet misunderstands. That is only with the assent of the shopkeepers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I know all that, and was coming to the question of how the consent of the shopkeepers is to be obtained. Clause 4 states:—It shall be the duty of a local authority to take the steps preliminary to making a closing order under this Section if they have reason to believe …How are you going to prove that the local authority have really ascertained the wishes of the particular shops. They may make order if they have reason to believe the shopkeepers are in favour of it, or if they are otherwise satisfied. That leaves it in the power of the local authority to make the statement that, to the best of their belief, the closing is desired, and, that being so, they can make the order. Then there is a saving Clause that the local authorities shall not make an order unless, after taking objections into consideration, "they are satisfied." That again leaves it in their hands to do what they like. There is no provision as to how they are to be satisfied. How does the Under-Secretary propose to ensure that they have really taken proper steps to satisfy themselves? If you have a local authority full of fads, as very often happens, what is to prevent their saying that they are satisfied? Who is to prove that they are not satisfied? Under a later Clause the Secretary of State may come forward and compel an inquiry to be held, even if the local authority is not satisfied. There again comes in the Secretary of State, who apparently can do just what he pleases. It is further proposed that every closing order, when confirmed by the Secretary of State, shall have effect as if enacted in the Act. That is exactly what I object to. All these closing orders and different things which the Secretary of State has power to do should be enacted in the Act. I do not know of any measure, until the present Government came into office, which declared that an official of the Government might do something which, when he had done it, would have the same effect as if it had been enacted in a particular Act. I will not go through all the Clauses. [Cheers.] Hon. Members opposite know that the Bill is an almost impossible one to carry out, and they do not like its defects to be exposed. There is a provision that "nothing in this Section (Clause 10) shall apply to the sale of newspapers." Personally I think there are far 1713 too many newspapers, and I do not see why newspapers should be exempted. At any rate, the people concerned are flesh and blood, and should be considered just as much as shop assistants.
I now come to what is really one of the principal objections to the Bill. In future shopkeepers will not know under what conditions they can carry on their business. Everybody who has been in business knows that one of the chief necessities for a successful business career is to know, when you invest your money, in what way you can direct its employment, and how you can carry on your business. If you are to be interfered with by Secretaries of State, local authorities, and inspectors, it is impossible to carry on business in the same way as if you were not subject to all that interference. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill was perfectly correct when he said that one of the results of the Bill would be to worsen the conditions of shop assistants, inasmuch as it would cause lower wages and fewer advantages. When business is meddled with in this way by these various inspectors loss must accrue; the shopkeeper will have to get back the money he has lost, and I am afraid it will be out of the shop assistants that he will get it back. Clause 14, Sub-section (5), provides that "any two or more local authorities may combine for any of the purposes of this Act." What does that mean? Under it twenty or thirty local authorities might combine What is the object of that? It might lead to a great deal of tyranny, but I can see no good object that it could serve.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The answer is very simple. A great difficulty in connection with closing orders is that you may have one authority with jurisdiction over one aide of a street, and another authority on the other; consequently, there might be different closing orders in operation on the two sides of the street.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That is why I object to it. In different localities, though they may be quite close together, different conditions may prevail. If you have different closing orders in operation it is because the conditions of the localities are different. There must be boundaries between the different localities, so that the old argument as to the two sides of a street falls to the ground. If a dozen local authorities combine, there must come a, place where one street is under one 1714 local authority, and another under another authority. The definition clause provides that "shop assistant" shall not include a person "if he is the only person regularly employed in the shop and is a member of the family of the occupier of the shop, maintained by him, and dwelling in a building of which the shop forms part or to which the shop is attached." That is put in, I suppose, to meet the case of the small shopkeeper. But see how badly it meets it. Supposing a small shopkeeper has no member of his family that he can put in as an assistant, he is to be in a worse position than the shopkeeper who has a son or daughter or other relation whom he can employ. If he employs a shop assistant that shop assistant will come under the Bill. The case is so plain that I cannot conceive how it is the Government have omitted to deal with it. If the Clause is left as it stands it must entail much suffering and hardship upon many small shopkeepers. I sincerely trust that the House will pause before they pass such a retrograde measure. If we are all to be Socialists let there be brought in a regular Socialist measure dealing with everything; but do not attempt to introduce these measures dealing with certain sections and certain classes of the community, measures which can have no object whatever unless you believe that the State should regulate everything and control the business and the life of every citizen. Personally I do not believe in that. I am not either a Radical or a Democrat or a Socialist, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to be able to say so. Holding these views, I trust the House will have an interval of sanity and refuse to pass this very pernicious Bill.
§ Mr. HINDS
In rising to address the House for the first time I throw myself on its indulgence. It must be conceded that the Home Office and the Home Secretary have given a great deal of attention to this matter, and have gone to considerable trouble to elicit the views of all concerned. The subject is a very difficult and complex one. I say frankly that legislation is necessary. I am strongly in favour of compulsory closing. The Home Secretary on 4th July, when he introduced the Shop Hours (No. 2) Bill, stated "That the voluntary system fails to accomplish the desired results." I feel sure that the House wishes to act fairly in this matter. The duty of legislators is to see that the rights of every class of the community are 1715 observed. You have here so many clsases, so many conditions to try to legislate for that you must take a very broad view of the matter if you want to do fairly by all. I welcome this Bill, but I think the No. 2 Shops Bill was a far better Bill. I think it took all the facts more into consideration. I am very sorry that at the present time the Government has not taken up that No. 2 Bill. I know something about shop life, being occupied with it all my days. I do not think that the conditions are as bad as made out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney. Every employer of labour to-day is anxious to do all he can for the betterment of his shop assistants. I belong to a large association which covers the whole of the country. If any action is taken against one of its members by an employer that association goes into the matter and sees that good and right conditions are arranged.
Coming to the Bill, I think that the sixty hours, exclusive of meal times, is right and correct. I am still of opinion that it ought to be compulsory. For this reason you may have conditions where men, for the sake of keeping open late at night, start at ten or eleven o'clock in the morning. Under the Bill such a man will come within the sixty hours per week. I think it would have been better if the Clause in No. 2 Bill, that on three days of the week work should be finished at eight o'clock had been introduced; late hours to be worked only if the trade in the locality demanded it. I think the Government would be well advised to go back upon that matter, and to again institute compulsory closing in regard to this Section of the Bill. I am still strongly in favour of a compulsory half-holiday for shops. What I am asking for is that the same protection should be given to the shopkeepers as to the shop assistants themselves. There are to-day thousands of shopkeepers all over the country who are clamouring for protection in this matter and asking that Parliamentshould give the right to them that at the present moment it seeks to give to shop assistants. Why should the small shopkeeper be deprived of his holiday? He will be deprived of it to a great extent under this Bill. The larger shopkeepers have a loophole here. I do not think they will avail themselves of it, because there is a good deal of early closing, and the larger shops have shown a noble example in what they have done in the way of giving half-holidays and 1716 early closing. But it would appear that some one must be in as long as the shop is open. If there was an enactment in the Bill which closed all the shops in the street, then of course there is no hardship. Most men would welcome the inclusion of this in the Bill. Most of the details in the Bill are subjects that ought to be thrashed out in Select Committee. These include matters that I have heard this afternoon from the Junior Member for the City of London.
If I am satisfied on two points I will gladly vote for the Bill. One is that there is compulsory closing of shops at two o'clock on one day of the week, and the other is that this Bill should go to a Select Committee. Such a course will go a good way to satisfy my requirements. Those who trade in local centres object to this Bill being administered by the local authorities, and think that it ought to be administered by the Home Office. The non-success of the Bill of 1904 was simply because it was administered by local councils. This Bill will not be a success until the Home Office takes it under their wing, and does exactly the same as is done at the present time in connection with the Workshops and Factories Act. At a conference that I attended some time ago this matter was brought up very forcibly. A large number of traders were against placing themselves under the local authorities. If, it was stated, there was one thing more than another that prevented the employers accepting the principle of early closing it was because the matter was to be dealt with by the local authorities, for the local authorities are the worst people to interfere in a matter of this kind. I still hope the Government, will place this Bill under the Home Office.
In regard to overtime, there is a Clause which ought to have full consideration. If a man works sixty hours overtime in one situation and leaves at the end of six months, having worked his overtime, has his potential employer to ask, before he engages him, whether he has worked all his overtime? If so it may put that man out of the situation which he has applied for. I know that a similar Clause is in the Workshops Act, but it is very different there because work goes on continuously. If the worker starts his work in the morning the work is there prepared for him. It is different under this Shops Act. The man may work his overtime entirely in the first six months of the year in one shop. I do not find in the Bill what is to become of that man if he is engaged in a second 1717 situation if he cannot work overtime in that new situation. As to, inspectors, traders think, and I think, that we are over-inspected at the present time. We do not mind being inspected, but very often it is the way you are inspected, and the friction that comes in in the process of inspection. I hope that something will be done with regard to inspection. At the present time there are such a large number of inspectors coming into shops at different times of the day, and for different purposes, that one does not know what to do with them, and it is really very annoying to shopkeepers. I do not see that the shop assistant to-day is such a downtrodden man. Their condition is much improved. I have the greatest possible respect for the shop assistants; they are a class of people of very high character; they are intelligent and courteous, and they are anxious to improve their positions and to better their conditions by becoming shopkeepers themselves later on in life. We ought to do what we can to help them. Now, with regard to the question of structural alteration. I admit that in some shops the conditions are not so good as they ought to be, and I think we ought to do everything we can to better the conditions under which the workers carry out their business. Ventilation, and other things, must be carefully looked into, but I think the cost of carrying out structural alterations for improving ventilation, and so on, should be borne by all parties concerned in the property, the landlord and others conjointly. I do not think the whole of the expense should be thrown upon a small shopkeeper. Before I am satisfied that this Bill is going to be a success, or before I vote for it, I think we ought to insist upon the half-holiday compulsory closing of shops on one day of the week, and that these matters should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Home Office, and, further, that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee. If these things are done I am certain we shall get good results.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
In supporting the Second Reading of this Bill I want to make one or two references to the observation made by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomléy), who moved the rejection of the Bill. Like him, we of the Labour party deeply regret the absence of Mr. Seddon, because of his expert knowledge of the shop assistants question, and the great interest he has always taken in 1718 this particular matter. I may be permitted to make that observation without producing any party objection to it. The hon. Member for Hackney said that Mr. Seddon was present at some meeting in his constituency. I am fortunately blessed with the advice and guidance of Mr. Seddon in regard to this matter and since the hon. Member for Hackney delivered his speech I consulted Mr. Seddon upon this particular point, and I want to make a correction as early as I can in this Debate. The meeting referred to was one of shopkeepers convened by the hon. Member for the Division, and the Shop Assistants' Union in that district requested Mr. Seddon to seek admission if possible to the meeting in order to ascertain the shopkeepers' point of view in respect of this Bill. Mr. Seddon was admitted to the meeting, and when the hon. Member for the Division observed him present, it is quite true he invited Mr. Seddon to address the meeting. Mr. Seddon did so and said he was not greatly in love with the Bill. But that is not to be interpreted as meaning that the shop assistants themselves were opposed to the Bill. I have to offer a few criticisms representing the organised shop assistants' point of view, but that does not warrant the hon. Member for Hackney in saying that the shop assistants are opposed to the Bill, because they have to criticise parts of it and because they will inspire Amendments representing their particular objection.
I rather apprehended in some parts of the House it was felt that owing to the observations of the hon. Member for Hackney the shop assistants themselves had expressed opposition to this Bill. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who seconded the rejection, suited the rôle of the Mrs. Partington of Social Reform. He is always perfectly candid in his opposition to any legislation that will improve the lot of the workers, not only in shops but in any other form of industry. He lays down the good old Tory doctrine that people should be allowed to work as long as they like and as hard as they like; I offer no objection to that, so long as it merely applies to the individual, but I do offer objection to it where the individual has not right of selection and where his economic dependence compels him to accept conditions which we claim to be inimical to his health and general capacity, and, after all, it often happened that the long hours have also the effect of denying the right to work to others in the community. Therefore, 1719 the proposition is not quite so simple as the hon. Baronet thinks, and I think he needs to qualify his observations in this respect. The hon. Baronet took exception to this Bill because the Under-Secretary, in his introductory speech, admitted that the Department did not regard this Bill as representing the limit. We do not expect a Government Department to introduce a Bill representing the limit. It is the function of this House to accept or modify any Bill that a Department introduces, and it is for this House to put its seal on what portion of the Bill it will accept and to reject others not acceptable to it.
The hon. Member for Hackney and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London advocated the sending of the Bill to a Select Committee. I certainly trust the House will not acquiesce in that proposition. The Under-Secretary told us of the numerous inquiries that have taken place, and of the mass of evidence that has been accumulated, and he has expressed the opinion that no further inquiry is necessary because the facts of the case have long since been established. I think that all parties in the House admit this to be the truth, and therefore the idea of referring the Bill to a Select Committee is simply an endeavour to shelve the measure so that the shop assistants shall not have the advantage of its beneficial proposals. When we get the Bill through a Standing Committee upstairs all interests concerned will be there properly represented. I believe in Standing Committees we have the judicial mind brought to bear from all parts of the House, although we are biassed in some measure I never claimed to be altogether impartial, and if I go on the Committee I shall be biassed from the men's point of view. On the other hand the arguments adduced by the other interests are bound to be taken into consideration, and if they are of a convincing character those who put them forward will find that the men's representatives will give them the due consideration they require. I trust no sanction will be given by this House to the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee, but I hope it will be permitted, in the ordinary course, to go to one of the Grand Committees in order that the details may be thrashed out, and a thoroughly practicable measure emerge from that Committee. The hon. Member for the Hackney Division appeared to-day in the capacity 1720 of a representative of the Lord's Day Observance Society, and he instanced this as one of the bodies opposed to this measure. I am sure the members of that organisation will be proud of their latest recruit, and of his advocacy of their point of view in this House. We recognise that there is a very difficult problem in this question of Sunday trading, and we are not convinced that the Government have adopted the right method of dealing with it. For my own part I feel that this is one of those questions upon which we can never be absolutely unanimous. There is such a diversity of interests in the various parts of the country as to make it utterly impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule applicable to all. Therefore, I feel that perhaps the only alternative left to us is to refer the whole of this complex question to the various local authorities, with the right for them to take into consideration the diversity of interests and the peculiarities of their own particular districts, and to meet them under the provisions of this Bill.
The hon. Baronet who represents the City of London is strongly opposed to any interference, as he put it, with the liberty of the individual. Nevertheless, I do not think there is any party in the State today prepared to justify the conditions prevailing amongst large groups of our shop assistants. Lord Gladstone, when he introduced his measure in 1909, admitted, as we all admit, that in some large establishments the conditions prevailing are quite excellent. On the other hand, from the experience Lord Gladstone acquired and the information he had accumulated, he was bound also to say that in a large number of cases the conditions were quite atrocious. That was very emphatic language, but I believe the facts of the case will bear it out. If we are compelled to recognise that there is amongst shopkeepers a genuine desire to effect improvements, that the shop assistants very naturally desire this improvement, and believe it can only be effected by State intervention, then I do not think that mere adhesion to any old-fashioned theory ought to prevent any hon. Member of this House from giving his support to this measure. This is a large and comprehensive Bill, which affects the interests, as we have already been told, of some 1,000,000 shop assistants, and probably 500,000 shopkeepers, large and small, and it is but right that a measure affecting such considerable interest should be subjected to thorough analysis and investigation in this 1721 House. I want to say a word or two upon one of the points made by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me, who feels that this Bill has been framed upon incorrect lines. That is a view which we who represent the shop assistants in this House cannot sanction. We must adhere most emphatically to the establishment of the principle of the limitation of hours and the compulsory half-holiday to the shop assistants. Some people seem to contemplate that the compulsory closing of shops would satisfy the shop assistants' claim, but we have had experience many a time that the closing of shops does not necessarily mean the cessation of the shop assistants labours. Therefore we are compelled to adhere to the point of view that the shop assistants hours must be limited and regulated, and that the weekly half-holiday must be secured to them. I admit that I have considerable sympathy with the idea of compulsory closing, and I believe that the second Bill was in that particular better than this. Of course, whilst I am prepared to co-operate in any efforts to reinsert those proposals in this Bill I can only pledge my support on condition that nothing this Bill does will jeopardise the shop assistants' claim to a statutory sixty hours or such Amendments as we may be able to effect, and the half-day closing.
In New Zealand we have some very valuable experience of the effect of a measure drafted on similar lines to the one we are now considering. All interests concerned agree that the measure has been of great benefit not only to the workers concerned but also to the shopkeepers. Prior to 1894 we found there all the grievances of which we are complaining at the present time. The shop assistants worked inordinately long hours for very small remuneration and under most trying conditions. It was true then to say that even young girls would start work at eight o'clock in the morning and be compelled to work till eight o'clock or even later at night. This would ensue for five nights a week, and on Saturdays they would be employed up to midnight, and on Sunday they would probably be able to do nothing else but sleep in order to prepare themselves for another week's drudgery. I do not know that there are many such cases in existence in this country at the present time, but I am able to attest this fact that the New Zealand experience has proved that the operation of their Shops and Offices Act has righted many of those wrongs, that all the workers are convinced that the Act has been a great benefit to 1722 them, and I believe also the employers, without exception, agree that the measure has been in no way inimical to their interests.
I have had an opportunity of reading the correspondence which has passed between Mr. Seddon and some of the largest firms in New Zealand; this has also been supplemented by the evidence of a Member of the New Zealand Cabinet, and they all admit and strongly register their opinion that a blot on that Act is the failure to enact the compulsory closing of shops and the weekly half-holiday. We have in that colony the large shopkeepers complaining of the unfair competition of the small man, who is able if he has only one assistant to let him go at the regular hours, and then he himself can keep the shop open, and thereby compete with the-larger establishments. I have found here that the apprehension exists in the minds of small shopkeepers that the large establishments will be able to compete unfairly with them because they employ larger staffs and can adjust their hours accordingly. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is the other way about in this country."] I feel that the experience of New Zealand and the action of large trading organisations in this country certainly gives great force to the contention of those hon. Gentlemen who feel that we ought to restore in this measure the provisions of the previous Bill, and enact the compulsory closing of shops and a compulsory half-holiday. If anybody doubts the accuracy of any of the observations I have made, I am prepared to verify them in due course. I would like to make one or two direct criticisms of the Bill itself. We deeply regret, and I am speaking for the shop assistants themselves, the abandonment of compulsory closing. We recognise the difficulty of the Sunday closing problems, but the Labour party and the shop assistants generally want it to be known that we have no desire to increase Sunday trading facilities. We are not moved even in this Bill by any mere Sabbatarian instinct, but we do recognise the need of every worker having one free day and a half in the week. I would like, if possible, even to recognise the conscientious objections of people who really desire their Sunday free in order that they may take part in church worship or in other things, but we recognise that complete prohibition of Sunday trading is quite impracticable under prevailing conditions. One unfortunate effect of this Bill will be to legalise Sunday trading in Scotland and Wales.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
That is an apprehension we have, but of course I accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman. After all, the interpretation of these Clauses is somewhat difficult to a layman. That apprehension was rather widespread, and I think I have served a useful purpose in mentioning it. We recognise how complex and difficult this particular part of the problem is, and we regard it as one which may be very well left to the local authority to determine. With regard to Part III. of the Bill, which deals with seating and ventilation, we would respectfully inquire why you have dropped the sanitation provision in the previous Bill. We are unable to see any tangible reason for them being dropped in this measure. This part of the Bill re-enacts the seating provisions of the 1904 Act. We respectfully hope consideration will be given not only to the desirability of providing seats, but also of effective measures being taken to allow of their use in shops. We have had many complaints brought to our notice that, although seats have been provided, shop assistants have been subjected to such restrictions in the shop that they have been practically valueless to them.
I apprehend that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will contemplate some considerable opposition from this party to Clause 23. It is proposed there to exclude rural parishes with a population of less than 1,000 from the operations of the Bill. If we can get this Bill into operation we believe we shall find the general habit and practice of our people will become adjusted to it. There is a lot of carelessness among working classes in respect to shopping. I believe early closing on Saturday night would be of real benefit to the working classes. Certain sections of workers, knowing that the shops are kept open very late, go into the public-houses with the idea that they will be able to get their shopping done afterwards, and they often spend in the public-house money which would otherwise be spent on various commodities. We have no apprehension that the working classes will feel any grievance on this point. They will adjust themselves to the new conditions, recognising that they ought to give some concession to their less fortunate fellow workers in the matter of hours of labour. The exemption, I am certain, will call forth some amount of controversy. I know newsagents, in particular, feel 1724 greatly alarmed, because in some districts they have already agreed almost unanimously to Sunday closing. I believe they have asked, first of all, for the complete prohibition of the sale of newspapers on a Sunday. I am afraid that is impracticable, and that they will have to acknowledge the right of persons to distribute newspapers in the street, but I feel we ought to see whatever legislation we sanction in this House does not involve even these small shopkeepers in seven days' labour per week. The newsagent, unfortunately, cannot select any other day in the week. He is compelled to take his holiday on the Sunday. I feel, when we come to these exemptions, they will require very careful considerations, and it may be some modification of the present proposals.
The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) claimed that everybody ought to be able to walk into a barber's shop on Sunday and get a shave. Personally, I regret that hairdressers under this Bill are allowed to open up to two o'clock on Sundays. Even before I was asked to give any consideration to this Bill I received one or two deputations of hairdressers from the West End of London. The conditions of their labour and the hours which they work constitute a grave scandal to twentieth century civilisation. It is all very well to say these people need not work unless they like, but, as a matter of fact, if the shops are open, they are compelled to work in order that they may secure their livelihood, because, unless they accept these conditions, they will not be able to get a situation. I hope the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will have his apprehension that people will not be able to get winkles on a Sunday allayed. His solicitude for the working classes is almost marvellous when dealing with questions of this sort. I would ask him to accept the assurance that the working classes will look after their own interests in this particular. If they want winkles and shrimps they will get them during the hours the shops are open for the purpose of selling them. Although I have found it necessary to offer certain criticisms of the measure, and whilst I feel that the failure to reintroduce the compulsory closing of shops constitutes a blot on the Bill, nevertheless there is so much of value and good in the Bill that it is the intention of the Labour party to give it our support on the Second Reading, holding ourselves free to attempt to effect such alterations in the Committee stage as will bring it more into 1725 harmony with our views. We are glad to observe that this is one of those measures that is not treated from a purely party point of view. We are glad to observe that Members of all parties are supporting it, and I can attest that fact personally, because quite a number have spoken to me in regard to it, and have expressed a desire to facilitate its passage through the House. They will, of course, make representations from their own point of view when the matter is before the Committee. We, of the Labour party, on behalf of shop assistants extremely appreciate the attitude of all parties in this House, and we trust that the Bill may, on an early day, become the law of the land, because we apprehend that its operation will be to the benefit of a large group of worthy and respectable citizens who have not been enabled to effect their desires without the intervention of Parliament. All will acknowledge that whatever makes for the health, contentment and happiness of a large group of people like the shop assistants must also make for that righteousness which it is claimed exalteth all nations.
This is not a Bill which need be treated in any sense as a party measure, and I think that is proved by the fact that the Amendment for its rejection was moved on one side of the House and seconded on the other. While I associate myself to a very large extent with the remarks of the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) and of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) I confess I find myself in this position, that there is so much that is good in the Bill that I cannot conceive it consistent with the course I ought to follow to vote for the rejection of the Motion for the Second Reading. I think it would have been better if the Bill could have been referred to a Select Committee, but I agree with the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. George Roberts) that it would have a better chance of passing if we proceeded with it in the ordinary way than if we run the risk of losing it, as I am afraid we should do if we had recourse to a Select Committee, or even to a Committee of the Whole House. With regard to the Bill itself, it provides for a sixty hours week and overtime and half-holidays, and, in the main, I think we are all agreed upon those provisions. But I feel it desirable that, if possible, some flexibility should be introduced into the Bill by giving greater powers to the local authorities, and, no 1726 doubt, in Committee upstairs provisions to that effect might be introduced. That is my criticism on the main part of the Bill.
So far as we in Scotland are concerned, I think the hon. Member for Norwich was well founded in taking exception to the Bill as it stands from the point of view of Sunday trading in Scotland. A great deal of anxiety has been created in Scotland by the terms of this measure. I frankly confess I do not think sufficient attention has been paid to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Sunday Trading in their Report of 1906, so far as Scotch feeling is concerned. In a matter like this that feeling ought to receive duo consideration from those who are in charge of the Bill. Again, greater latitude should be allowed to the local authorities than is provided by this Bill. I should prefer that the whole of Schedule 2 should be made inapplicable to Scotland. Still, these are Committee points. Like the hon. Member for Norwich, I am totally at a loss to understand why the sanitary Clauses have been knocked out from Part III. of the Bill. I hope that the Government will reconsider that matter, especially as there is no party feeling involved. That, however, again, is a matter for Committee. I do not think it is quite fair to put the onus of proving exemption on the shopkeeper when he is brought up for a contravention of the Act, as is done under Clause 12. That also requires to be considered. Clause 22, with regard to exhibitions and bazaars, will, I fear, excite a good deal of discontent amongst shop keepers. While on these grounds, I retain entire liberty of action in Committee I feel that on the whole my duty is to support the Second Reading of this Bill with a view to its being put in Committee in as good a form as possible.
§ Mr. CLANCY
I desire to say a few words on behalf of the party with which I have the honour to act, and as I understand that a very large number of Members still wish (o take part in this Debate, I will occupy only a few moments. I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill and to state that my colleagues will, should there be a Division, go into the Lobby in support of it. I confess that personally speaking, I do not like this sort of Bill at all. I would much rather there should be no necessity for legislation of this kind, but it must be sorrowfully admitted that the necessity for such a Bill does exist, and that it is only by special pleading it can be urged there is no 1727 need for it. In Ireland, undoubtedly, there is less necessity for it than in this country, as a great many traders there have set an example which traders of the United Kingdom would do well to follow. I have no doubt it would be far easier to give effect to this Bill in Ireland than it would be in any part of Great Britain. The objections we have heard to the Bill to-day are of two classes. We have heard, first of all, the old stock objections to reforms of this kind from the right hon. Baronet, the junior Member for the City of London, and from other Members, who, if they had lived in the days of Lord Shaftesbury, would have adduced similar arguments to obstruct every reform that has ever been proposed in this country for the alleviation of the evils under which the labouring population live. They have been trotted out again and again, and I am glad that in this House they have been treated as they deserve by both parties. The second class of objections we have heard this afternoon are mainly objections that ought to be made in Committee. The right hon. Baronet went elaborately into almost every Clause of the Bill.
§ Mr. CLANCY
I suppose he regrets that he did not. I take leave to repeat the very trite and familiar observation that a Debate on the Second Reading is a Debate on the principle of the Bill, and on this occasion it is futile to point to this, that, or the other points, some of which may be important, and others which are unimportant, on which there is a difference of opinion, or what might be omitted.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CLANCY
If the right hon. Baronet thinks that, let him vote against the Second Reading. He did not leave us in much doubt as to his attitude, and, therefore, he need not now repeat what he has said already. May I make one criticism in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible primarily for this Bill? I think one class of trader is particularly hit, and hit unduly so far as Ireland is concerned. I sympathise most heartily, as do all my colleagues, with the lot of the shop assistants, and certainly with the lot of shop assistants who are employed in public houses. These shop assistants are in too many cases in Ireland employed for an un- 1728 reasonable length of time every day, but I think that in relieving them additional injustice ought not to be inflicted upon employers, especially in the case of public houses, if it can be avoided. What is the case of the publicans, especially in Ireland? The publicans' hours in the Irish trade are already more restricted than they are in England. They are restricted more on Sunday, and I believe on weekdays as well. It has also to be borne in mind that recent legislation, such as the Budget of 1909, hit them particularly. It increased the cost of their licences, although, I am glad to say, not so much in Ireland as in England, and at the same time it increased the cost of the article that they were selling. It strikes me that to enact this Bill without an Amendment that will protect this class would be in effect and in practice to enact an additional limitation of the hours of doing business. I do not think it necessary to argue the point, but if I am right in that view I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether it would not be proper, if he could not exclude this class from the Bill altogether, to recognise that it would be fair and right, and I think practicable, to introduce some Amendment which would not have the effect of further indirectly limiting the hours of trading. The effect would be either to restrict the hours of trading or alternatively to compel these traders to employ additional hands, which. I think, would add very much to the bur dens they have already to bear owing to recent legislation, and would be an unnecessary sacrifice to ask them to make. I think it would be perfectly practicable to have this defect remedied, and when we come to the clauses I expect some such Amendment will be made. I may only repeat that we heartily support the Bill in principle, and will vote for the Second Reading.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I rise to support the Second Reading, and I desire to thank the Home Secretary, for he has to-day for a second time this Session introduced a measure which has for its object the solution of some of those social evils in our home affairs which have been for a long time neglected. Only a few weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Mines Bill, and now we have this Bill dealing with the hours of work in shops, which is another attempt to deal with the social reforms which the country requires. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself appreciate" full well that the country is far more interested in the solution of questions 1729 of this character than in the destruction of our ancient Constitution, and he is wisely following along the path marked out for him by Lord Randolph Churchill, who in days gone by advocated and sup-ported a Tory policy of social reform and factory legislation which, if carried out, would be of so much advantage to the country. The Under-Secretary was good enough to say that he had mainly founded his Bill upon Resolutions passed by the Upper House, the very Chamber which the party opposite are engaged in attacking to-day. I am bound to say, for my part, that I wish entirely to dissociate myself from what was said by the junior Member for the City of London. There is certainly no one on this side of the House who will deny my hon. Friends' full courage, whether he sat for Peckham or for the City of London, for the way that he advocates his peculiar views, which emanate from a mind saturated with Whig prejudices. My hon. Friend is always telling us that the present Government is such a danger to the State, but I know no man on this side of the House who does more to maintain hon. Gentlemen opposite in power on every possible occasion in fathering views which he must know are foreign to the wishes and desires of the vast majority of the Tory party.
§ Mr. GOULDING
My hon. Friend's views are peculiar, and generosity was never one of the characteristics of Whig legislation. This Shop Hours Question has been before the country for a number of years now, and no one considers the present position satisfactory. Parliament in dealing with it in 1904 has failed to accomplish the objects it had in view. No blame can be placed on the shoulders of any particular section, but the small shopkeeper particularly found that his interests were threatened unduly, and there is always throughout the country that minority, of which my hon. Friend is a representative, which is always prepared to oppose any of these changes. I have not found or heard a single Member who will say that these long hours of labour to which some of the employés in shops are subjected to-day are not an evil in themselves, and an evil which we must find some means of solving, if we are alive to our duties; that much of the ill-health and much of the degeneration going on among certain classes of the community is undoubtedly due to the 1730 deprivations and hardships which they suffer from these long hours. It is perfectly clear that the shop assistants themselves have been totally unable, by their organisation to give effect to their desires, and equally also the shopkeepers have, by lack of agreement, failed also to give effect to what is desired by reasonable employers, because there is this minority which always objects, and because they have not got that sufficient authority to enforce what would be in accordance with the wishes of the community at large. Therefore it is that Parliament is asked to step in and take charge of this matter. We have the usual cry that it is to be an encroachment upon the liberties of the male adult. To my mind talk about freedom or liberty for people situated in this class of employment is simply cant and hypocrisy. There is no freedom and no liberty for the worker seeking employment who has to work these uncommonly long hours and has to work often at a very low rate of pay; there is no freedom left open to him to enter into any active contest against the system under which he exists. Therefore it is that I, for one, most heartily thank the right hon. Gentleman that he has brought in this measure which will give relief to these people and give that necessary help to try and improve their conditions. While the right hon. Gentleman has been very considerate in taking into consideration the criticisms which were levelled against the previous Bills, and has undoubtedly removed a great number of these hardships, more especially the difficulty in regard to the shopkeeper whose assistants are members of his family. This matter was in previous Bills met by exempting the shop of small annual value which was worked by the shopkeeper and members of his family. I think that the new proposal is a great improvement, as it will exempt only the small shopkeeper who is assisted by only one member of his family wholly engaged in the trade, and I am inclined to think that, if he will adopt the same course towards criticisms and suggestions as he has done in the past, this Bill, if it goes to Grand Committee, as I hope it will, can be returned much improved.
There is one criticism which seems to be levelled in all quarters against the Bill, that it is really a hardship on the small shopkeeper and is really legislation in favour of the large shopkeeper—the stores and great undertakings of that kind and the man who may have plenty 1731 of sons. It is easily seen that when there is no special closing hour they can have relays of relief in the big shops which would keep them open and enable them to take a good deal of the trade which belongs, and should go, to the humbler man. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he possibly can, to introduce some measure of compulsory closing, at all events on the half-holiday, which will give this necessary relief and remove such fears as at present undoubtedly prevail in the minds of some of these small shopkeepers. There is a suggestion which to my mind is well worthy of consideration. In New South Wales at present when a poll for closing is taken it is not confined simply to shopkeepers, but all assistants, even in the big shops, are allowed to vote, and by that means I am certain such a relief will be secured for the humbler man engaged in commerce.
The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with the provisions for the Jews. I am perfectly aware that that is a most difficult problem, but it looks as if the right hon. Gentleman has gone out of his way to be more than indulgent to the Chosen People. In fact he gives the Jews the best of both worlds. They are to open on Saturday and on Sunday after dusk. During the winter months, namely, for at least six months in the year, the Jews will open when dusk approaches, which enables them to have the very best time to carry out their trade, while at the same time he holds out to them the opportunity of carrying on their trade also on Sunday morning. I do not know how on earth the right hon. Gentleman's inspectors are going to carry out this provision that they must only supply gentlemen who have uncommonly large proboscises. In these days, when I am afraid that that race has a particular proneness to changing their name from those of a Jewish sound to a Christian sound, they are going to be faced with a very difficult problem in trying to prevent this evasion. I have examined the penalties, and they seem to me entirely inadequate, and I believe, unless you are going to have a great deal of the custom belonging to the Gentile taken by the Jews, you must not only inflict a fine, but altogether prohibit a man from trading if he is found to have committed the offence more than once. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knows the return made from Bethnal Green during 1909. There were sixty-two summonses taken out against people for exceeding the hours of 1732 Sunday trade, and of these no fewer than thirty were aliens, mostly Jews. He cannot get away from the difficulty of this problem. It is a very serious problem in London and in some of our large towns. I am certain if he wishes to get anything like favourable support in London, especially in regard to this matter, he will have to see that the provisions are so arranged as not to give this undue advantage to the Jewish persuasion. There are pessimists and croakers always at hand who will tell you the objections to a reform. Every social reform discussed in the House of Commons has always been accompanied by notes of discouragement. I prefer to recall what is the practice existing in New South Wales. When early closing was brought in there the population quickly adapted themselves to the new condition of affairs in a way no one could have anticipated. The employers, and especially the smaller employers, approved of the new conditions. They realised the benefit of early closing. They have the knowledge that their competitors are subject always to the same conditions, and they have the business knowledge that a great saving is made both in lighting and heating. Besides, they have the further advantage of the greater efficiency secured from the work people, who work with greater energy, with the consequence that greater value is obtained from their services in the shops. Men who are not relieved from the condition of chronic fatigue, tiredness, and utter weariness of body and mind, cannot, do what they will, put their best heart and energy into their trades. I am confident that when this Bill becomes law, as I hope it will, the anticipations of failure will prove to have been foolish. New vigour and new life will be brought into those trades, and more especially the small trades, which will be affected by this reform, which is desired by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I appreciate to the full the characteristic tradition of this House, which enables me as a new Member to ask for its indulgence. I intervene in the Debate for the reason that I do take exception to the claim made by my Friends below me to speak as if they alone spoke on behalf of the shop assistants of this country. I do not think it is a just claim. Their spokesman, quoting figures which were given by the right hon. Gentleman when he introduced the Bill last Session, said that there were 1,000,000 assis- 1733 tants and 500,000 shops in the country. I am perfectly sure that every Member on the Labour Benches will admit that there is no organisation in the country which can be said to be in any way representative of that number of shop assistants. It is greatly to be regretted that shop assistants are one of the worst organised classes we have. I intervene also because I take a particular interest in this measure. The House listens to cases put forward, however feebly, by some one with knowledge born of practical experience. Twenty years ago I was myself an apprentice chemist. I subsequently served as an assistant in various parts of the country, and I was afterwards in business for myself in one of the poorest districts of London, first of all not being able to keep an assistant, then with one assistant, and ultimately with two assistants. I claim, therefore, to be able to speak from personal experience. When I heard the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) say what I believe was a cruel thing, I believed it was due to his ignorance of the conditions of the people whose lot we are trying to improve. I felt a great deal of impatience while listening to him, for I remembered that I had brothers and sisters, not so fortunate as I am, who are still shop assistants. Two members of the family died of phthisis, because they lived and worked under conditions which, according to the hon. Baronet, they want to work under. He said: "Let them work, and be encouraged to work." I was very glad to hear from the Benches opposite a repudiation of such sentiments. I am deeply concerned in the effort which the right hon. Gentleman is with great courage making to tackle what is a most difficult problem. I know no problem more difficult, and if I felt that in supporting the proposal to send to a Select Committee I was delaying the solution of that problem, I should be dumb. I am convinced, however, that the cause of the shop assistant will suffer if a measure is placed upon the Statute Book which is afterwards found to be unworkable, or even an injustice,.
The Bill deals with all kinds of trades. You cannot legislate for one as you could for another. There are all manners of districts where the habits of the people differ. The Under-Secretary stated that in some parts of the country people were in bed by ten o'clock From my knowledge of chemists, I can state that that does not apply to chemists in any part of the country. The difficulties are enormous, and the best evidence of this 1734 is to be found when you look at the Bill which was introduced last Session and compare it with this one. Since last Session a White Paper has been issued showing last year's Bill and this year's emendations marked upon it. I would ask anybody who looks at it to say whether material alterations have not been made in this Bill. Let us take the most serious alterations. In last year's Bill there was a Clause which compelled, under certain conditions, shops to be closed early one day a week. With it there was, and there is still, a Clause providing for the reduction of the hours of assistants. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has in response to representations made from certain quarters eliminated the early closing day. The right hon. Gentleman will find that if it is difficult to shorten the hours of shop assistants with a compulsory early closing day, he will find it infinitely more difficult to do so without a compulsory early closing day. An hon. Member below the Gangway stated that if the Bill went to Committee he and his friends would look at it from the workers' point of view. I wonder if the Government have appreciated—I am not sure that the spokesman of the Labour party appreciated—what we are dealing with. Take the right hon. Gentleman's figures and assume that there are 1,000,000 assistants and 500,000 shops. If you divide the assistants equally there would not be more than two assistants in any one shop. But that is not the case. There are shops with a very large number of assistants, I agree, but most shops do not employ more than two assistants. I am not sure that I would not be right in saying that the majority employ one or less—that is none. Reference was made to the difference in status between employers. When you talk about shopkeepers you are dealing with a very different class from the great employers of workmen.
I know from experience that often the shopkeeper is in a less favourable position pecuniarily and is getting less out of the business than the assistant he employs, and suffering at least equal, if not greater, hardship. I hope when the Bill does become an Act of Parliament it will provide for the protection of the small shopkeeper as well as of his assistant. It has been said, I think rightly, that the alteration eliminating that early closing day will help the larger trade concerns to keep their shops open during the whole twenty-four hours. I am not suggesting 1735 that that is being done, although in the business I know most about there are shops which are open during the whole of the twenty-four hours, though not many. But it would obviously help the employer who can afford to employ one extra assistant to keep his shop open longer than otherwise he would do. Then there is a great conflict going on among the shop-Keeping class to-day. The small man is being pressed out by the big shopkeeper. That may or not be a good thing for the community. It is a bad thing for the shopkeeper, and I am perfectly certain that the least the House should do would be to leave the field open for a fair fight between those interests. By taking the course you are doing you are helping the employer who can employ a large number of assistants. The Under-Secretary said that we have had Select Committees already. The first one was in 1886. That is a long time ago. Nobody would pay much attention to what a Select Committee in 1886 said upon the condition of shop-keeping in this country in 1911. He wound up by giving a very strong statement from a Select Committee showing that a great deal of legislation was necessary. Nobody on this side, or, I hope, on that side of the House suggests that you want a Select Committee to find out whether there is need for legislation. That is taken for granted.
I ask the Bill to go to a Select Committee because the proposals contained in the Bill have never been submitted to a Select Committee. The remedy which you are going to apply, which may create harm, has not been before a Select Committee. Material alterations have been made in this Bill since it was last introduced into this House. By whom? By the Home Office. I would like to pay a tribute to the readiness with which the Home Secretary has been prepared to receive representations and deputations, but this House is entitled to know what those representations were and upon what grounds these very important changes have been made, and we have no right to hand over to a Government Department the business of receiving those representations of putting forward such as they choose, or of being the judges of what is needed and what should be done. We should submit these particular proposals to a Select Committee, so that evidence may be taken upon them all. Nobody has got up on either side of the House to-day and has supported the Bill without reserve. 1736 I think it is an unusual thing in this House for everybody who gets up to find fault with some Clause or another of a Bill. I am profoundly grateful to the Government and the Home Secretary for the courageous attempt to deal with this matter, and, therefore, I do not want to say anything in the shape of ridicule. But take the Clauses that have been referred to which deal with Sunday closing in areas where there is a mixed population. I can only say that the people of my Constituency (Stepney), perhaps the Constituency of all others most affected, simply will not take that Clause seriously, and from my experience of the district the Clause is absolutely unworkable, and it would not be in any Bill which had been before a Select Committee, and had heard witnesses about those particular circumstances.
I hope that the House will deal with the matter seriously. I would remind the hon. Member for Hackney that he has made one mistake. I doubt whether he does know anything of "The Christian World," or if he knows the "Christian World," whether he knows what is in the Bill, because the Bill does provide for newspapers, and if the hon. Gentleman read the "Christian World," he would know that it was a weekly newspaper not hit by the Bill at all. But that is neither here nor there. When we come to deal with Sunday closing, I should very much like to know from the Government why they differentiate in this extraordinary way? You may open two hours on Sunday to sell bread. You may open all day to sell tobacco. I do not quite see personally the reason for that. Right away through the Bill is full of details which have been altered over and over again. It comes up to this House very largely different and differing in great principles from that which appeared before the House last Session. Again. I appeal to the Home Office, because I am certain it will make for speed in real effective legislation to allow this Bill to go to a Select Committee and not to a Grand Committee. It has been said that this Bill is not a party Bill, and that party whips are not put on a Grand Committee. But I have had experience outside of the Committee Room, and I have known of very serious departmental pressure being brought to bear upon Members of a Committee, in order that they should not deal with a Clause in this, that, or the other way, because it would endanger the passing of the Bill, and I am not at all sure with a Grand Committee, with various 1737 interests clamouring at the door, and sometimes coming too late because particular Clauses have been already dealt with, that this would not happen. I am perfectly certain that the right thing is to send this measure to a Select Committee, and I warn the House against placing on the Statute Book a measure dealing with a matter which is so vital, and affects the interests of so many, and which, in a matter of reform that we are all anxious to see advanced would set the clock back because its provisions are unworkable. If you are going to have a Bill please make it a Bill which can be enforced. I have not very much sympathy with what has been said about the number of inspectors to be employed. The Act of Parliament, which can be easily broken, because of the difficulty of discovering infringements of it, is one which tells terribly hardly upon the conscientious shopkeeper who tries to do his duty and avoid breaking the law. If you have loose legislation you leave him at the mercy of unscrupulous competitors, who risk not being caught. The hon. Baronet (Sir Frederick Banbury) talks about the expense of employing inspectors if this measure is passed. If the interests of shopkeepers and the assistants of shopkeepers require that some money should be spent upon them, there is no class in the country with a better right to something being done for them in the way of spending money than the shopkeepers and their assistants. They find a very great part of the taxes and revenue of this country, and if it is only a question of cost I do not think that is a legitimate reason why the Bill ought not to be passed.
§ Mr. ROTHSCHILD
In rising to speak in this House for the first time I have to claim its indulgence in speaking on a subject in which I am greatly interested. I realise that the time has come for a reform in the direction suggested by the Bill, and I shall support the Government in their proposal and vote for the Second Reading; but I wish particularly to say a few words about the Jewish clauses. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) mentioned that the Jewish Board of Deputies were wholly opposed to this measure, but the Under-Secretary in his speech this afternoon told us that the Government are prepared to accept Amendments and to consider proposals that may be brought forward with the object of improving the working of the Bill. I trust that the Amendments which may be made in these Clauses will lead to that improvement. 1738 The English Jews, I may state, value very greatly the tolerance which the British people extend to all denominations. I am living in this country as an Englishman, and I do not desire any advantages for the Jews over any other British subjects. I would, however, point out to the House that under the regulations which it is proposed to make by this Bill there will be no more Jewish shops open on a Sunday than are open at the present time. It would obviously not be to the benefit of a large Jewish shop to remain closed on Saturday and to open only on Sunday for business with Jewish customers, whether the scheme he workable or not. But the provisions of the Bill will really only affect the small Jewish trader who lives in the East End of London and who opens his shop on Sunday, but only for Jewish customers. I am glad to say that Sunday is quite as much respected by the Christian community as the Sabbath is respected by the Jewish community. The Christians are no more anxious to buy or trade on a Sunday than they are anxious to buy or trade on a Saturday; and I think that the proposals which the Government make, though I hope they will be altered somewhat before the final stages of the Bill are reached, are not really unduly to the advantage of the Jewish trader or to the disadvantage of his fellow British subject. I thank the House for their kind attention, and I only wish to say, speaking on behalf of he Jews of this country, that they are as anxious as anybody to see social reforms carried out. They hope that these reforms now proposed may be carried out to the benefit of all and to the detriment of none. It is for that reason I heartily welcome this measure, and I trust that it may prove beneficial to a large number of small shopkeepers and shop assistants all over England by conferring on them an amount of leisure which they as a class otherwise have little chance to obtain.
I congratulate my hon. Friend, who has just sat down, on his first speech in this House on a subject in which he has taken great interest, and whose authority with regard to it we all applaud. I think that those who know my hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) will feel that the observations which were made with regard to the position he has taken up on this subject were of a somewhat harsh character. One hon. Member opposite used the word "cruelty" with reference to his position. If the hon. Gentleman had been longer a Member of this House, he would 1739 know, as a good many other Members know, that the word is ludicrously inapplicable to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. GLYN-JONES
I may explain that when I used the word "cruelty" I meant that it was due to the hon. Gentleman's ignorance of the particular conditions. I do not suggest for a moment that the hon. Baronet is cruel; I merely suggested that his observations were cruel because he did not know the conditions.
I quite accept that explanation. Very often my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London takes some views with regard to propositions in this House which he would not take if he thought there was the least possibility of their having any great weight.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for his defence of me, but I cannot admit his last statement as correct.
Quite seriously I think myself that my hon. Friend behind me, with the old Whig views, is a Member whom it is very desirable to have in this House under present conditions. As long as we on this side are in a minority in this House, though we are not a minority in the country, I think, if I may respectfully say so, that it is very desirable to have an advocate of liberty so able and so popular as my hon. Friend behind me. I support this Bill on the Second Reading because I think it is within the principles which have before actuated my party in giving support to a measure of this kind. The Socialist thinks that the State should conduct business. I think the Conservative party has for many years recognised, while dissenting strongly from that view except in certain cases, that it is desirable in certain cases that the State should regulate the conditions under which business is conducted, and that those regulations should not be imposed unless they come substantially within two principles. You ought not to interfere with the regulation of business, with the method in which business is conducted, unless in the first place you interfere for the benefit of the health and safety of those who work in it. That is a principle under which you may legitimately authorise interference. Another is, if you find that there is a general and beneficent desire of a vast majority of people employed in a trade, whether employers or employed, to have some regulations, and when it requires the 1740 organisation and the authority of the State to procure it, that again is another proper occasion on which the State may interfere. Of course, there are many many illustrations of the first principle where the State interferes in the interest of the health and of the safety of those engaged in a trade and prescribes the standard beneath which the work shall not go. There are the Factories Acts and those dealing with mines and all the other instances with which we are so familiar in this House. Those regulations and that interference are mainly with regard to organised trades, like the miners" trade and the well organised operatives in factories.
What you have to deal with here is shop employés and the small shops themselves. No one can possibly say that they have either the organisation or the means of organisation which would enable them to secure something which everybody in this House wishes to secure to them. I think it has not been mentioned hitherto, but when the House reflects that an enormous body of women and young girls are employed as shop assistants, and have no representation in this House, then it becomes, and I have used this argument before, and it behoves this House as containing men to be not only generous but chivalrous in looking after the interests of those young women and girls who are otherwise unprotected and unorganised. That seems to me to make a very strong case for interference by the State, if that interference can be agreed upon, and if it can be exercised without damage to the general industry, I say, moreover, not only does interference falls not only within that principle, but, take for a moment, what the influence to health is of spirits. I am sure many of my friends behind me and many hon. Members opposite have worked for many more hours than sixty in the week. Speaking for myself, I doubt whether I could do so, or whether I would do so, if I had not some kind of half-holiday on Saturday or Sunday. I am perfectly certain you cannot get a great amount of work out of even the most efficient people unless you give them something to hope for and to look forward to.
The week-end custom has prevailed, and has made certain inroads of late years in the habits of the professional classes. Doctors, lawyers, and the like, ask and get much more holidays than they used to. It seems to me it would be altogether outrageous, if a suitable remedy can be found, that all those young people to whom holidays are very important, should go through 1741 the week without the hope of some real pleasure and amusement and jollification on Saturday or on some half-holiday. I am quite certain it is comparatively unimportant to the middle-aged and the old what holidays they have. It is not altogether unimportant, but comparatively so. I remember the time when I would rather have gone without my dinner than without my Saturday afternoon. I believe that is the feeling, with all respect to my hon. Friend behind me, of the great majority of the young workers of this country. That is the principle of the Bill, the principle that you should organise this industry, so that, as I think, the Under-Secretary said, by organisation you will make some arrangement for reasonable leisure in the interest of the health of a very large class. That was our Bill of 1904. It was not compulsory, but it has been recognised that it was perfectly right to try first would permissive measures do. It is equally right, when you find that it has not gone far enough, by reason of a few people standing out, and it is quite desirable that you should go a little further. I would not have said this in favour of the Second Reading if the Home Secretary, both by the alterations he has made, with some of which I do not agree, and by the immense number of people he has seen in deputation, had now shown himself frankly open to suggestions upon the details of the Bill.
I think myself, differing from the hon. Member for Tower Hamlets and the hon. Member for West Carmarthen, who both spoke with a knowledge I cannot pretend to, that you cannot really work this Bill from the centre, and that you will have to work it from the localities. I am not speaking quite particularly of any part of the Bill, but I suggest to the Home Secretary that the less power he keeps in his own hands the better, because, giving him credit for every possible industry in this matter and for every possible accessibility to all the interests concerned, it is really impossible for any human being at the head of his great office, absolutely impossible, to take into account the infinite complexities and varieties of trade which must exist throughout the length and breadth of the country. If I may give him my advice on this point, let here and there a local authority been negligent and apathetic, yet it is far better that in one or two eases, and they will be very few, that such apathy or lethargy should exist than that you should arouse the opposi- 1742 tion of the local authorities. They themselves would be willing, and if not willing, would be forced by their constituents, to take up this matter, to look into it, examine it thoroughly, and make provisions which the peculiarities of their business required. If I may say so, one of the main principles of this Bill has been to place in the hands of the localities the main power. I would suggest, that at first at any rate, until there is any sign of lethargy or apathy or opposition on the part of the local authorities, that the Home Office should efface itself for the time being and rely upon the spirit and upon the necessity and upon the coercion which will be put on the local authorities to put this Bill into force.
I listened, as I always do, with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), who has a great knowledge of a large section of the poorer population in the country. I quite agree that it seems deplorable that poor people should not have some opportunity of getting fish or meat early on Sunday morning. The claim of these tradesmen to sell some of their goods, and the necessity for those goods being sold early on Sunday are greater than in the case of some of the exempted trades. I agree also with almost every other speaker that the compulsory closing of shops for a half holiday once a week is, generally speaking, desirable. To take one objection only, unless you had such an order, the difficulty of ascertaining whether or not the shop assistants got their holiday would, without almost prohibitive cost, be insuperable. On this point, however, I await the reply of the Home Secretary. I should have great sympathy with the small shopkeepers if I believed that the large establishments would use their position under this Bill to remain open at times, at which by their poverty the smaller shopkeepers were compelled to close. Here again I speak with reserve, but I doubt whether much danger will arise from large establishments keeping long hours. My experience has been that large establishments, where there is a great weight of opinion from the shop assistants and not the same necessity to keep open, gladly close, and I imagine that the difficulty to be apprehended on this point is somewhat exaggerated. I quite agree, however, that it is a most important point, and I shall listen with interest to the statement of the Home Secretary, who, as the result of the deputations he has received, has 1743 obtained enormous information, which has not yet been disclosed to the House.
I am far from saying that the Under-Secretary did not expound the Bill extremely well and with great lucidity, but he did not explain the alterations in this Bill as compared with Bill (No. 2) of last year. I trust that that omission will be made good by the Home Secretary. While expressing the hope that the House will grant the Bill a Second Beading, I would make a strong appeal to the Government. If the Bill goes to a Grand Committee, it ought to have the full forces of the Home Office attending upon it. I understand that on or about 23rd April the Mines Bill, which secured a Second Reading only on the promise of the Home Secretary that it should be fully debated in Committee, is to come before a Grand Committee for consideration. If that is so, I suggest that this Bill ought not to run concurrently with it. With every belief in the ability of the Under-Secretary, I say that no Under-Secretary can conduct in Grand Committee a Bill in regard to which a great deal of give and take is requisite, because he has not the authority to make, there and then, concessions which only the Minister in supreme command can grant. Without being in the least personal, we have had evidence of that in connection with the Revenue Bill. An Under-Secretary, no matter what his abilities may be, cannot have the authority to make the concessions which his chief could make when convinced by the arguments brought forward. We ought to have a promise either that these two Bills shall not be taken concurrently, or that when this Bill comes down from upstairs, the many difficulties which have been foreshadowed by hon. Members on both sides shall be dealt with by the House at large and reasonable and substantial time given for their discussion on the Report stage. I would ask my hon. Friends, so far as they will take my respectful advice, to allow the Bill to be read a second time on the Home Secretary's giving an assurance of the kind I have suggested.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not propose to occupy the whole of the time left for this Debate, but I think it will be convenient if I follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. I am very grateful indeed for the temper and manner in which this Bill has been received in every quarter of the House. We have had a very informing debate, and my only re- 1744 gret is that there has not been a greater opportunity for the many Members who have come down prepared to speak. But if the Bill should be sent, as I hope it will, to a Grand Committee, the number who can take part in the proceedings is very large, and I hope it will embrace a large proportion of those who take a special interest in the subject. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, it is my intention to conduct the Bill through Grand Committee myself; but I altogether demur to the suggestion that when an Under-Secretary is in charge of a measure in Grand Committee he has not full and plenary authority to deal, on behalf of the responsible head of the Department, with any question which may arise and which must be settled there and then without opportunity for further consultation—especially when my hon. Friend is in charge. His authority would be final, and whatever he did I should hold myself responsible to be bound by it. I should like to address myself, in the short time I am going to occupy the House, to the real difficulty which has been agitating the minds of so many who have spoken and listened to the Debate. The question is asked: Why should we not proceed to deal with this evil by the method of the compulsory closing of shops, instead of by the method of limiting the hours of shop-assistants? I do not deny for a moment that the closing of shops present many advantages. It is simple, uniform, and effective, and it has the advantage of nondiscriminating between different classes of shops. If we were to begin the world anew I have no hesitation in saying that it would be by a general regulation of hours rather than by any other method that we should deal with the evils that we ask the House to rectify. But in the present circumstances there is one disadvantage of proceeding by a national compulsory closing of shops which will be apparent to anyone who. I think, endeavours to carry a measure like this. It is quite impracticable, and it is quite impossible to go on that path. We cannot close the shops of this country by a universal ukase from Whitehall. We have not got strength, and we have not got the knowledge sufficient for that task. I doubt if it is physically possible to frame an order sufficiently comprehensive and elaborate to meet the infinite needs and the infinite variety of local conditions with which you would be concerned.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The conditions we have to deal with would be too varied; the clash of interests would be too complex. What suits the large shopkeeper does not suit the small one. What suits the country does not suit the town. What suits one town does not suit another town. What suits a group of towns does not suit the city which is in the centre of that group of towns. What suits one trade in one part of the country does not suit the same trade in another part of the country. What suits one trade in one part of the city does not suit another class of the same trade in another part of the same city. I had the case fully put before me in the course of the deputations which waited upon us. The Manchester jewellers cannot agree upon a common day on which to close for their half-holiday. There are two entirely different branches of the trade in that city. There is the wealthy high-class trade in one part of the town. The shops of this class always, as a matter of course, close on the Saturday afternoon. There is the trade which supplies the needs of the poorer populations, which does its principal business on the Saturday afternoon. These instances might be multiplied absolutely without end. I venture to think that this great diversity of local conditions, customs, and opinions, and the infinite variety of the classes of business which has to be considered, make the task of framing a national early closing order a labour absolutely beyond the wit of man. I am only giving effect to the wise counsel addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in not trying to do too much when I disclaim, on behalf of the central Government, the knowledge or authority to embark upon the framing of national regulations for the closing of shops. It is only in the case of each locality that the forces of that locality, and under the conditions prevailing in that locality, that the conflict of interests between the big and small traders and all intermediate classes can be properly fought out and adjusted. I say, without hesitation, that my study of this subject has convinced me that all closing orders must carry with them local assent; and that the authority of the central Government could never supply the void which would be felt, or overcome the resistance which would be excited, if local assent was not forthcoming. I assure the House that my hon. Friend and my advisers of the Home Office and myself have not reached these conclusions after all those many years by theory; we have 1746 reached them by experience and experiment. The original policy was to proceed by the early closing of shops, and it was only because that was found to be impossible—the counter-resistance was so terrible and obstinate and intractable—that that original policy was abandoned and that we have fallen back as a substitute on the compulsory regulations of the hours of shop assistants. The House sees the disadvantage of the course we adopted and the interests that are disturbed, and the House is sensible of the objections that may be raised to it. What is not seen is the resistance and objections raised to proceeding on the basis of national closing order. I only wish it was possible for those who have any doubt upon the subject to try to apply that course. There was no part of the speech of the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) which really betrayed a greater lack of information upon the interior anatomy of this question than when he said the policy we were adopting favoured the larger shops at the expense of the little shops, and where, as a remedy he recommended, the compulsory closing of shops instead of the method embodied in the Bill.
Let us see what would happen if we were to take that course. I will tell the House in a few words what would happen. The little shops would demand to be free from the order closing the larger shops. They live many of them upon a trade which comes to them when the larger shops are closed, and this House would not be able to resist the demand, backed as it would be by a large number of quite humble people in every business of the country, and the moment you exempted that class of little shops from the hours of the national closing order, from that moment you would lose the support of the large shopkeepers now at present anxious to proceed by that road, rather than by the road leading to the compulsory regulations for the closing of shops. So far from it being true that our method favours the larger shops against the small ones, it is my humble opinion that the principal flaw and defect in the arrangement we have made is, that it does undoubtedly give a certain advantage to the very smallest class of shops where no assistants at all are employed. I wish I could see some way to adjust that slight inequality, because it has been my object in this Bill not to alter the existing balance between one class of trader and another, but to carry reform by leaving the existing 1747 balance of vested interest unaltered. I have said we deal with this matter and studied it in the light of experience, and let me remind the House when I am urged to proceed by the methods of compulsory closing that we could not even achieve a compulsory universal half-holiday. I deeply regret it. I resisted very much indeed the dropping of that provision, but I was convinced in the end that it was in the general interests of the Bill that it should be sacrificed. I am quite prepared to say that if it can be shown that the measure would not be imperilled by an alteration in that respect, I am prepared to listen to arguments upon that subject. During the discussions which I had with nearly forty deputations, it was borne in upon me in regard to an universal compulsory half-holiday either that we should not have enough driving power to over-come the resistance which that proposal would incite, or else we should have to make exceptions which would be so numerous that the rule would vanish when the exceptions were complete. Therefore I was drawn by a process of repeated modification to the conclusion that we should definitely reject a method of relieving the shop assistant and the shopkeeper by a process of compulsorily closing shops on week days by national order. We, therefore, fell back on the methods of the Bill. Those methods can be very easily explained.
There are two separate parts in this Bill. The first deals with the regulation of hours of shop assistants, which is universal and compulsory; the second part deals with the closing of shops, which is voluntary and local. Although these two divisions of the subject are separate, they act most helpfully on each other, and they aid and support each other. The regulation of the hours of shop assistants must powerfully stimulate the desire of shop assistants to promote early closing. All early-closing orders tend to enforce the regulations in regard to the hours of shop assistants. In proportion as voluntary arrangements for early closing are made, so the regulations upon the time during which shop assistants may be employed become less onerous to the shopkeeper and more certain and satisfactory to the employés. It is the gap between the hours which shop assistants are employed, and the hours which shops may be kept open which constitutes the measure of the difficulty with which we are confronted, and in proportion as 1748 the difficulty is narrowed and bridged over in that proportion will it disappear. I do not feel that we can close shops compulsorily by national order; but what can we do? We can stimulate, equip, focus, and give effect to ail the great relieving forces which are at work in every town and village in the country in favour of early closing. Everything that this Bill Joes stimulates, irritates, and foments the early closing movement. The hon. Gentleman who spoke with so much energy in an excellent maiden speech this afternoon from these benches, added his testimony, although he does not agree with the method of the Bill, to the truth of what I am going to say. He is in favour of proceeding by closing, and he speaks of the pressure which this regulation of the hours of shop assistants will apply to the men who employ only two or three assistants. But the remedy is clear. Let them apply for an early closing order in their district—and let them secure an early closing order. Let them come over to the side of the early closing movement, and this Bill will give them immediately a certain power of effecting the reform they desire, and the opportunity of effecting it not by the hard and unconsidered authority of the Central Government far removed from local conditions, but as a result of a process in which every person affected in the district will have the opportunity of being personally consulted. I attach great importance in this Bill to the provision for voluntary early closing. What is it that has stopped the effect of the Early Closing Act of 1904? It has been the difficulty of initiating the movement. Each shopkeeper feels under a difficulty in trying to move in the matter. People may say it suits your business, but it does not suit mine.
Then there is the difficulty of getting people to come together in this matter, and even when they have been got together there is the apathy and the active opposition of certain local authorities. We provide by this Bill a method of galvanising the early closing movement into activity in every centre of this country. I quite agree, unless we succeed in doing so, there will be difficulty and friction in imposing the compulsory provisions relating to the regulation of the hours of shop assistants. We do not propose to add a large number of new Civil Servants to the great number which already exists. I am very sensible of the fact that increases of that kind must be narrowly scanned, but my idea has been that we should appoint 1749 a certain number of commissioners on the same sort of terms as the arbitrators on the Arbitration Panel of the Board of Trade. A commissioner would go down where occasion suits and where the opportunity is favourable to the different cities and towns in the country, and hold a local inquiry under statutory authority. He would bring all the authorities before him, deal with all the different classes in the district, and make a closing order in a much more elaborate and satisfactory manner than any central authority could do. Having made that order, machinery will be provided for obtaining a poll of those interested, and a two-thirds majority of those who take the trouble to vote will be decisive. In that event, unless there are great reasons against the order, the local authority will be bound to put it into force. That is the way in which I would give effect to the advice tendered to me by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and allow the local knowledge and energies to solve the other half of this question, namely, the satisfactory regulation of the hours of closing shops.
§ Lord A. THYNNE
May I ask whether the assistants will have votes or whether it will be only the shopkeepers?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That is a very valuable suggestion which was made by the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Goulding) who spoke earlier in the Debate. I frankly confess I have not yet come to a conclusion upon that, but I think it is a matter to which we ought to give a great deal of attention, and is a very proper matter to consider in Grand Committee. It ought not to be thought for a moment it is a proposal which militates against the interests of employers in large shops On the contrary, it gives them that voting strength which otherwise they might easily lack in securing a proper modification of hours. I should like to draw the attention of the House and of the classes outside interested in this measure to the fact that it gives a great deal of elasticity to the shop-keeping classes, and leaves them the power to regulate their own hours. It gives them the power to cut their coat according to their own shoulders in each town, and it leaves them free to choose when there is to be a half-holiday so long as they give a half-holiday in the week. It enables them to employ assistants at any hour they like within the limits of sixty hours a week. It enables 1750 them to use their overtime as they please within certain limits which are not onerous. It gives them extra overtime for a fortnight's holiday with full pay. That provision at once safeguards the holiday, and at the same time gives that extra elasticity which is necessary in places like Blackpool, where there is a very crowded season, followed perhaps by a period during which the people can quite easily be spared to go away upon their holiday.
Lastly this Bill aims at exempting from the provisions of the compulsory regulations of the hours of assistants, though not from any provisions taken under voluntary exemption orders—it aims at exempting from the compulsory provisions of Clause 1 the very smallest class of shops. I do not feel that it is fair in the case of a man and wife, or mother and son, or brother and sister, to class the second person as an assistant so long as he or she is a member of the family or household. Wishing as I have throughout to draw a line on which it might be possible to carry this Bill through, I have thought it desirable to exempt the smallest class of shops. But if a third person is added, then that person must be brought under the restrictions which the Act imposes upon assistants, whether a member of the family or not.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It does not matter whether the third person is a member of the family or an outsider. If three people are employed, then the third person is a shop assistant. Of course, this does not deal with the case of a small child, who may keep the shop for an hour or half-an-hour while its parents go out.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Well, I hope they will meet with a better fortune than the twin brothers of obstruction—the hon. Member for South Hackney and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. I have been trying to show to the House the methods by which we have endeavoured to avoid the difficulties of this subject. We hold firmly in this Bill to three main points—the sixty hours week, the half-holiday on one day of the week guaranteed by Statute, and a reasonable time for meals. I have looked into this matter very carefully, and I am satisfied that our Bill goes a long way towards 1751 dealing with the evils under which shop assistants suffer. There are three puzzles in the Bill which I am not easy about in my own mind and in regard to which I seek the aid of the House. There is the question of Sunday trading as it affects different parts of the United Kingdom, as it affects existing interests which have grown up under the lax administration of the law, or under the decrepit Lords' Day Observance Act of Charles II. There is the question of what should be done in regard to Jewish traders, and there is also the question raised by the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) as to what shall be done with the publicans' assistants. This Bill arrests the further extension in England of Sunday trading.
It is a serious and growing evil, almost every week a new class of shop is opened, and there is no doubt that the present law interposes no barrier. This Bill will stop the evil in future. I agree that it is absolutely necessary to recognise existing customs, to recognise for instance the Sunday markets which have been maintained in London for a very long period of time, and which are essential in the livelihood of some of the poorest people in this city. It is absolutely necessary to supply some things to a certain extent for the general public convenience, such as refreshments and the accessories of cycles and motorcars on Sundays in case a breakdown occurs, and above all the circulation of the great system of Sunday newspapers, which it would be quite impossible for this House in a single Clause in a Bill to sweep out of existence. These difficulties will confront us whenever the House attempts to frame legislation designed to deal with the conditions in London, for it will be found that provisions which are no more than are needed to suit the case of London are far more than is necessary in Scotland or in Wales, and that is an argument which should be noted for allowing the people in these countries to be invested with special power and judgment in regard to that which so peculiarly affects their own ideas and their sentiments on a question of this character. I have made a special arrangement with regard to Scotland; I am quite prepared to make a special arrangement with regard to Wales and for any other similar area where there is enough homogeneity of opinion or where there is a Sabbatarian sentiment. With regard to the subject of 1752 Jewish traders, the hon. Gentleman who spoke on their behalf and who made a pleasant contribution to the Debate, supported the Second Reading of this Bill. I do not look upon the Clause as one which is wholly satisfactory as it stands, and I should like to see the Grand Committee cudgelling its brains for an hour or two in the attempt to find a better solution; but I will say this, that the Clause would not be quite so silly in practice as it looks upon paper.
May I say one word about publicans' assistants. I certainly do not wish unnecessarily to add to the burdens and embarrassments of the licensed trade at the present moment. On the other hand, I am sure the House would never have tolerated this measure being proposed and no notice taken of this very large class of persons. The mortality among them is much higher than the average. I have not got the figures in my mind at the moment, but I do know this, that the mortality is enormously higher at each stage of life than that for all occupations taken together, and the hours of service are, by the fact that the public-houses are open on Sunday, such that they serve in a week much longer than they do in any other branch of industry. On the other hand, it must be remembered that the service is of a peculiar character, and in some aspects it is not very far removed from domestic service, at any rate in the smaller houses and in the country. I have been endeavouring to seek, and I ask the House to help me to find, some method which will secure a portion of the benefit that this Bill will give to ordinary shop assistants to the assistants in the licensed trade also without throwing a burden upon them which will dislocate the whole arrangements of the trade. I shall welcome the guidance of the House in the matter. That is all I have to say. While I am confident that in its main lines this Bill is right, I certainly do not assert that the solution which it suggests of these minor difficulties is perfect. In some respects I believe these difficulties are incapable of adjustment by Ministers. I think in some respects they require Parliamentary decision. We shall welcome counsel and guidance from the Members of the House of Commons, and I will look forward to our work upstairs in Committee and to the Report stage downstairs as a means of effecting genuine improvements in regard to these subsidiary branches and features of the Bill. But do not let us be deterred by any of these difficulties from 1753 Coming forward to grapple with the real evil and from applying an effective remedy and relief to that evil.
The lives of nearly a million shop assistants, many of them in the joyous years of youth, are under such a pressure of circumstances at the present time that they are lives of continual deprivation. Although the shopkeepers of the country are anxious to relieve their assistants and to relieve themselves, although the general public is anxious to do its shopping at reasonable hours and within reasonable limits, it is the lack of organisation that has prevented any effective reform up to the present time, and has led to the work of this great body of people being stupidly, aimlessly spread out and sprawled out over the whole of the week. The shop assistants of this country do not mind hard work. As I on a former occasion told the House, the British working classes do not mind hard work. They are the most industious and certainly the most productive workers in the world. But what they ask for with increasing force year by year is that there shall be a fair proposition of life. What they ask for with increasing force is that after the work is over there shall be a fair and reasonable opportunity for rest, for leisure, for recreation, for the pleasures of the country, and for the pleasures of family life, and it is that demand that the House is asked by this measure to support. The Bill asks no excessive boon for the shop assistants. It is little enough I am asking on their behalf, but let us make sure that they get it. I thank the House for the reception they have given to the measure. It is not a Bill which will gain the Government a great deal of popularity or many votes. The powerful interests which it disturbs will not be in all cases friendly. The class it helps most is a class not at all strong in voting strength. It is a Bill which will encounter opposition in many quarters. Let it therefore receive support as widely. I welcome particularly the support which has been given by those who are opposed to the Government on many of the controverted issues of the day. I join with the hon. Member (Mr. George Roberts) in recognising and acknowledging the spontaneous support which the measure has received from many speakers on the benches of the Conservative party. I appeal for the aid, in the Grand Committee and now, of all persons who are soberly resolute to carry forward projects of social reform. We have been called in the past, tauntingly, 1754 scornfully, a nation of shopkeepers. We have never been much ashamed of that in former times, and when this Bill is upon the statute book we shall have no reason to be ashamed of it in future times.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I should not enter on the Debate if it were not that I was a Member of the last Select Committee appointed by the House to examine into the question, and also to test the merits of the Bill introduced by Lord Avebury. It seems a strange thing that neither the Home Secretary nor the Under-Secretary has mentioned Lord Avebury's name in connection with this movement. He was undoubtedly its pioneer, and I think, in spite of his being a Peer of Parliament, there might have been some recognition on their part of what he has done. A Select Committee is really the proper tribunal to examine into the question, and what the Home Secretary has said confirms that view. He has said the Bill meets with great opposition from many quarters, but he has information at the Home Office which has enabled him to decide that the Clauses of the Bill deal with it in the right way. The House has not that information, and the House is shirking its duty, as it would not have done in the old days, when it had a higher sense of responsibility, in not inquiring into the question for itself. But I do not want to make a party point. I want to appeal to the Home Secretary. Will he see his way to lay on the Table of the House such information as is in his possession from the hundred interviews he has had, and the thousand communications that the Under-Secretary says he has received, as will enable those who go on the Grand Committee to be seized of the case? I think that will do away with a great deal of the disadvantage of not hearing witnesses.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I shall be very glad to put a selection of all that is useful in the deputation. I believe I have the shorthand notes.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
That is a very valuable concession, and it meets part of the objection I have to not having a Select Committee of the House itself to inquire into the case before it. It is not, of course, a question of the extent of the grievance, but of the nature of the remedy. Any man here must have a stony heart if he does not consider that great injury is done to the health of women by the hours worked. We know that it was stated before a Committee which inquired into the subject that 1755 the injury went to the extent even of producing sterility. What you are proposing to do by this Bill is to change the habits of a great portion of the population, and I say that we ought ourselves to he in possession of all the information which the Home Office has on the subject. I understand this is to be given. I do not take the stand that we ought not to interfere with trade by this kind of legislation. It is too late to protest against grandmotherly legislation, and I prefer grandmotherly legislation to stepmotherly legislation.
What I wish to point out to the Home Secretary is that unless there is some general law on the subject I am afraid his efforts to reach a large class of shop assistants will be in vain. It is not necessary to have a general closing order over the whole country, but the right hon. Gentleman can lay down by statute that on two or three evenings in the week shops are to be closed at a certain hour, and then leave it to the local authority to determine what hours are most suitable to the requirements of the inhabitants. That I think meets the point of the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Glyn-Jones), who spoke earlier. I want a general law that on certain nights shops shall close early if any real and useful work in this connection is to be done. I would point out the danger of the procedure we are asked to adopt. The Government are asking the House to give to the Home Secretary power to intervene on any petition in consequence of any complaint, and to over-ride the local authority. What I have to complain of in this Bill is that there is the greatest amount of interference with local and personal liberty with, as the Bill is at present framed, the least public gain. If you had a general law you would not require an inspector everywhere. This Bill, as framed, tends to increase central officialism and local officialism. Once you get your general law it is obeyed as a matter of course, and you have no necessity for an inspector going into every house and making the demands which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), which can be done now, but which is not done, because so few schemes have been adopted under the last Act. Therefore, I ask the Home Secretary to say whether he cannot establish a general law and leave it to the local authorities to make provisions to suit the requirements of the local population. That will meet the point the hon. Member raised. It would 1756 not be a cast-iron law for all localities and all trades, and at the same time it would do away with the aggrandisement of the Home Office, which I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman seeks, and which I certainly do not believe is consonant to the wish of the House or the temper of the country. There are no doubt small tradesmen who stand to suffer by this Bill. It may be inevitable in all such reforms that they tend to the aggrandisement of great firms and big companies. All these reforms which are carried one after another tend to establish quasi monopolies, and the small man goes to the wall. If the House is going to do it, they should have the fullest information in their power. This is by far the largest step in advance in the practical application of Socialism which this House has considered. You are trying to change the shopping habits of the people. You are telling them when to go out and when to come in, and there is no use relieving one hardship by inflicting another. There is no doubt that the working classes stand to lose a great deal by the Bill as it stands now. It was stated before the Committee that was last appointed that a workman's wife goes out to buy goods late at night. What was true then is true now. It is especially the case in London and outskirts of big towns. I do plead for the fullest light on the question, and I shall be very glad to think that in considering the Bill party ties will be relaxed. If we are going to deal with these social questions effectively we ought to have a free hand, and I trust that the Home Secretary will give the greatest personal attention to the matter, because, as at present before the House, this Bill is one of the crudest pieces of legislation that has ever been laid on the Table, and I want the right hon. Gentleman to hammer it into something better.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is very doubtful whether any measure of this character has ever received such a large amount of scrutiny.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I dare say, but it has only made confusion worse confounded. There has been an attempt made to meet a great many objections without the criticism of this House. But we are not going to dispute over that. We all of us have the same aim. We all recognise that the hours of work in some shops have been excessive, and that where they have been excessive they have been very dangerous to the health of men and 1757 women, and that the voluntary system has broken down. Even the custom of some of the localities in London which closed the shops at eight o'clock has ceased to obtain. Because the voluntary system has broken down, I believe legislation to be necessary, but if it is necessary it ought to be passed in the fullest light and realising what the real requirements of the people are in Committee upon the Bill, in fact, how much the people will put up with at the hands of this House.
§ Mr. SHEEHAN
The outstanding feature of this Debate is that the very humane feeling towards the improvement of the condition of the working classes which has been shown does not appear to be the exclusive property of any one section or party in this House. For myself I have no sympathy whatever with the view that there should be any further delay in legislation in regard to this matter by referring it to a Select Committee or any other Committee. As was stated by the hon. Member who introduced the measure this is a question of long delayed social reform in this country. It is owing to the action of an organised body of trade unionists both in England and Ireland that we are now considering the Second Reading of this measure. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has not yielded to the view expressed by the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy), that publicans' assistants in Ireland were to be outside the scope of the measure. I cannot understand the frame of mind which approves of the principle of the measure and excludes from its scope the class in Ireland who require its operation more than any other. The hon. Member for North Dublin has admitted that he has thrown out this soft solatium to the publicans of the country after he has been a party to voting increased taxation for them in this House. I am sure that the shop assistants of Ireland would not desire to see excluded from this measure one section of their brethren, the publicans' assistants, whose hours of work are longer than those of any other class, and among whom, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, mortality is higher than among any other body of workers. I hope, in the consideration of this Bill before the Committee, the limitation in it, which does not apply its operations to rural districts in Ireland, will be eliminated, and I hope, as regards the small towns in Ireland where workers are unfairly treated the same powers will be 1758 given to the local authorities to deal with these towns as are given in the case of the larger towns. It is ridiculous that a town which may have an urban authority and a population of over 2,000 may apply to have the operations of this Act extended to it, and that a town with possibly a larger population, which has no urban council, cannot have its operations applied. We who speak for the shop assistants here will give every facility for the passage of this measure speedily into law. There is no class which suffers greater grievances, or has borne its grievances so patiently and so long as the class of whom I am speaking I regret that there is not a Clause dealing with the living-in system in a drastic manner, because I believe there is need of special legislation dealing with this class of workers. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will receive the support of those with whom I am associated in carrying this Bill into law.
§ Sir GEORGE KEMP
The Constituency which I represent is particularly affected by this Bill. The hon. Member for Hackney, in moving the rejection of the Bill, said it was hurriedly and hastily put together, and had not been properly considered. I can only say that the shopkeepers and assistants of the Constituency which I represent were opposed to the original Bill, but they were in favour of a reduction of the number of hours and a weekly half-holiday Representation was made to the Home Secretary of that view, and, after going most carefully into the case, he altered the Bill in such a way that I believe at the present time it meets with the hearty approval of the shopkeepers and shop assistants in my Constituency. I was very astonished when I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney in moving the rejection of the Bill, because it was unlike the speech which he made when this Shops Bill was brought into the House in the previous year. He said on that occasion:—The provisions of this Bill if they were limited to the laudable object of regulating the hours of work of shop assistants would commend themselves with every Member of the House.When that is exactly what is being done in this Bill the hon. Member says, "Oh, no; not the shop assistants' hours," but if it were for the closing of shops it would have his hearty co-operation.
§ Mr. BOTTOMLEY
I am still heartily in favour of limiting the hours of shop assistants, but I said that the compulsory closing of the shops would be the best way of doing it.
§ Sir G. KEMP
Surely when it was proposed before to deal with this question of the closing of the shops it had the hon. Member's opposition. I must say it is obvious from the whole Debate that the general feeling of the House in all quarters is in favour of dealing with this question of curtailing the hours, and is in favour of giving a weekly half holiday to the shop assistants. We have had a speech, which I listened to with great pleasure, from a new Member, in which he said that nobody had so far unreservedly said that he was in favour of the Bill. If there is only to be one person who is going to do that I am that person. Of course there may be alterations that will have to be made. When I say I am unreservedly in favour of the Bill, I mean I am in favour of the main principles of the Bill, and the main methods of carrying it out. There may be alterations of a word here or there which will happen in any Bill. As to the question of Jews, of whom I have a great number in my Constituency, the hon. Member who spoke for the Jews met the main objection with regard to the provisions dealing with the Jews in the Bill. He said
§ with perfect justice that the Jews do not wish to trade on their Sabbath, and that the Christians do not wish to trade on their Sabbath. If that is so, there will be no hardship if the Jews only deal with the Jews on the Christian Sabbath, and would meet the entire objection made by the Jews that their shops should not be confined to dealing with their co-religionists. I hope, as the principles of the Bill have met with the general adherence of all quarters of the House, with the exception of the Plymouth Brethren, that it will go forward and be placed on the Statute Book.
§ Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 21; Noes, 262.1761
|Division No. 103.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gastrell, Major W. H.||Rawlison, John Frederick Peel|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury)||Rice, Hon. W. F.|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Kerry, Earl of||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark. Wes)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Valentla, Viscount|
|Craig, Norman (Kent)||Malcolm, Ian|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Bottomley and Sir F. Banbury.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Ffrench, Peter|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cawley, Sir Fredk. (Prestwich)||Fltzgibbon, John|
|Adamson, William||Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||Flavin, Michael J.|
|Addison Dr C.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gardner, Ernest|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Clancy, John Joseph||Gilhooly, James|
|Alden, Percy||Clive, Percy Archer||Gill, A. H.|
|Allen, Arthur Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Gilmour, Captain J.|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Glanville, H. J.|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Goldsmith, Frank|
|Ashley, W. W.||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Goldstone, Frank|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Griffith, Ellis Jones (Anglesey)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Gulland, John W.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Crooks, William||Hackett, J.|
|Barnes, George N.||Crumley, Patrick||Hall, F. (Yorka, Normanton)|
|Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Hancock, John Georgo|
|Beale, W. P.||Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montross)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Dawes, J. A.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Delany, William||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, H. E.)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Devlin, Joseph||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Dickinson, W. H.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Boland, John Plus||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. (Glasgow, E.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith-||Dillon, John||Hayward, Evan|
|Bowerman, C. W||Donelan, Captain A.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Henderson, Major H. (Berks.)|
|Bridgeman, W. Cilve||Edwards, Allen C. (Glamorgan, E.)||Herbert, Cot. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Bryce, John Annan||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)||Hills, John Waller|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hill-Wood, Samuel|
|Bytes, William Pollard||Falconer, J.||Hinds, John|
|Carille, E. Hildred||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Hodge, John|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Hudson, Walter||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Hughes, S. L.||Needham, Christopher T.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Hunter, William (Lanark, Gevan)||Nicholson, Wm G. (Petersfield)||Sheehy, David|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Nolan, Joseph||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)||Norman, Sir Henry||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Norton, Capt. Cecil W.||Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)|
|Johnson, W.||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||O'Brien, William (Cork, N. E.)||Snowden, Philip|
|Jowett, Frederick William||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Scares, Ernest J.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Doherty, Philip||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Keating, M.||O'Donnell, Thomas||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Kemp, Sir George||O'Grady, James||Summers, James Woolley|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Sutton, John E.|
|Kilbride, Denis||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Swift, Rigby|
|King, J. (Somerset, N.)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Lansbury, George||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid., Cockerm'th)||Palmer, Godfrey M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Parker, James (Halifax)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Lundon, T.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Toulmin, George|
|Lynch, A. A.||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Wadsworth, John|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Pointer, Joseph||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Maclean, Donald||Power, Patrick Joseph||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Wardle, George J.|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|McCallum, John M.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|M'Kean, John||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Leics., Bosworth)||Pringle, William M. R.||Watt, Henry A.|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Radford, George Heynes||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Marks, George Croydon||Rainy, Adam Rolland||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Martin, Joseph||Reddy, Michael||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Remnant, James Farquharson||Williams J. (Glamorgan)|
|Meagher, Michael||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Williams, P. (Middlesborough)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Menzles, Sir Walter||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Wilson, H. J. (York, E. R.)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Robinson, Sydney||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Molloy, Michael||Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Roche, John (Galway, E.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Mond, Sir Alfred M.||Rose, Sir Charles Day||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Rothschild, Lionel de||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Mooney, J. J.||Rowlands, James||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Morgan, George Hay||St. Maur, Harold-||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Younger, George|
|Morrell, Philip||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.|
|Muldoon, John||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.