§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, the Bill be now read a second time."254
§ Mr. BAIRD
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."
I move this Amendment in the interests of a certain number of my Constituents who are engaged in the manufacture of celluloid. It is an exemplary factory where a great number of people obtain work at a good wage and under very admirable conditions. And I think that before a Bill is passed which threatens to deprive them of their livelihood some very good reason ought to be shown to prove its necessity. This Bill is based upon a certain amount of confusion with regard to the celluloid business. It deals with manufacturers of celluloid and dealers in celluloid. As regards manufacturers of celluloid, so far as I am informed, they have not the slightest objection to regulations for securing the safety of those engaged in the business. Nobody denies that celluloid is a dangerous, inflammable material, though it is quite easy to exaggerate the degree of danger. It is perfectly practicable to make regulations which will secure that that danger shall be reduced to a minimum. As an instance of the excellent arrangements which have been made for that purpose I may refer to the low terms of insurance which are exacted at a large celluloid factory where some 2,400 men are employed. The rates are: sheet warehouses only 10s. 6d. per cent., for the warehouses 11s. 6d. per cent., for the collar finishing and boxing warehouses 12s. 6d. per cent., for the drawing-room 17s. 6d. per cent., with a rebate on the above for sprinklers of 50 per cent. If a business can be insured on those terms it is obvious that, though it is a dangerous business, steps are taken by the manufacturers engaged to do their utmost to secure the safety of those employed in the business. The utility of celluloid makes this business particularly one which has to be considered rather from a different standpoint than other businesses. The increasing scarcity of fibrine, and to a certain extent of horn, the superiority of celluloid in appearance to bone, the increasing dearness of rubber, have all combined to lead to the employment of celluloid in a great many forms which I dare say a good many people do not suspect.
For instance, I fancy that many hon. Members would not be aware of the fact that the eyelets on their shoes are made of celluloid, and a good many other homely 255 useful articles are made of celluloid, the consequence being that it is an extremely difficult thing fairly to impose regulations dealing with celluloid alone which will not be exceedingly extravagant and expensive, and the enforcing of which will not lead to such hampering or harassing treatment of the dealers in that material that they will find it pay them better to give up its use and thereby throw out of employment those who are engaged in the manufacture of that article. Before we consent to any measure of that sort it behoves us to be quite certain that such a measure is required for the safety of the community, and I would suggest that the terms of this Bill have not been sufficiently thought out, in the light of the information which can be obtained in the celluloid trade, to secure that no injustice shall be done. There is another very important point in connection with this Bill. After the regrettable affair which occurred in a Christmas card factory last July—it was a factory, and not a store where celluloid was handled or where it was simply stored—a Departmental Committee was appointed, very properly, by the Home Office for the purpose of investigating the whole business of celluloid. That Committee has taken a great deal of evidence, and, from what one can learn, has impressed those who have come before it in the capacity of witnesses as having done its work in a thoroughly businesslike manner. It has not yet reported. I understand that it is at present engaged in inquiring into these questions in Germany and France, and there is no doubt that its report will be exceedingly valuable. What can the promoters of this Bill point to as having occurred which excuses or justifies the introduction of legislation which, if carried into effect, would have far-reaching results on this trade, while we who have got to consider it are not in possession of the necessary information which alone can be supplied from these expert gentlemen who are engaged in the examination of this important; question?
I have not heard what justification there is for this kind of what I may call panicky legislation, which really requires far greater justification than appears on the surface of this measure. I may deal briefly with some of the objections to the Bill itself. The Preamble of the Bill states that it is expedient to impose licences on premises in which celluloid is 256 manufactured or subject to any process of manufacture, or kept, handled, or otherwise dealt with. Nobody objects to regulations for factories and in their own interests, and, from the point of view of good business principles and humanity, all manufacturers of celluloid have very stringent regulations enforced, and they are prepared to adopt any regulations. But when you come to talk about a place where celluloid is kept, handled, or otherwise dealt with, then you have got to consider how far-reaching that phrase may be. There are no shops I understand which deal solely in articles made of celluloid, therefore this does not apply to any particular kind of warehouse or stores. A friend of mine tells me that he caused an examination to be made of Holloway Road, and he discovered in the course of his examination that 40 per cent. of the shopkeepers on that road dealt in articles which contained celluloid; and he said at the same time that 5 per cent. would be a very high proportion of the articles dealt with in those stores into the composition of which celluloid entered. Furthermore, celluloid articles are not all kept in one place, and it is impossibe in a general store containing a variety of articles to separate those special articles into the composition of which a certain proportion of celluloid enters. For instance, you may have a battery on a motor weighing 10 or 12 lbs., and you may have articles of celluloid in it; there are appliances the tips of which are made of celluloid. How are you going to say what proportion of the entire appliance is celluloid and what proportion consists of other material?
If you take a motor car weighing a ton, you have the tyre and other parts, which are partly composed of celluloid, and right through the whole list of motor-car accessories you have articles made of celluloid; brushes and combs are entirely made of celluloid. Then, when you come to consider how these articles are to be dealt with, you say to the dealer in his shop, that if there is an amount of celluloid exceeding 10 lbs. and not exceeding 560 lbs., he must have a licence. Inevitably that would lead, so my friends tell me, to dealers no longer storing articles in which celluloid was used, and the result would be detrimental to the manufacturers of celluloid and cause inconvenience to the public. That is what I desire to say as regards the-application of the Bill to places in which celluloid is now "handled or otherwise dealt with." What is meant by "handled" is left to conjecture. If it means only 257 handling in the process of manufacture, or in the application of celluloid in some industry, then, of course, that is a process of manufacture, and nobody would object to stringent regulations; but if handling means simply handling and lifting about articles of celluloid in stores, then, I submit, that is carrying the matter too far. The main objection of those who are opposed to this Bill has reference to the question of the definition of a store and of a shop. Under this Bill the shop is a place in which at least 10 lbs. and not more than 560 lbs. of celluloid is stored.
I have endeavoured to indicate the difficulty from a practical point of view by showing that 10 lbs. of celluloid might be contained in an enormous number of articles into the composition of which it partly entered. There might be only 5 per cent. in the whole of the articles, and that is a very small proportion. That is one difficulty. According to Clause 2 of this Bill, a "shop" means "any premises in the City of London in or upon which for the purposes of sale or hire or profit celluloid is kept, handled, or otherwise dealt with in quantities which in the aggregate at any one time exceed 10 lbs., but never exceed 560 lbs. in weight." That shop has to be subject to regulations which would be made by the corporation, and as regards the City of London, the hardship is that if appeal be made against the regulations to a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, in the case of the City of London, the Court will be either the Mansion House or the Guildhall, where the aldermen and the Lord Mayor would be judges in their own cause, in their capacity of members of the corporation that has drawn up the regulations against which complaint may presumably be made by those who object to them. That seems to me a very unfair position. Then there is the case of what is known as the "store," and here we are told that the store is a place where celluloid is "kept, handled, or otherwise dealt with in quantities which at any one time exceed in the aggregate 560 lbs. in weight." Nobody objects to that, and, if it is desired to impose regulations, those who manufacture celluloid, according to my information, are perfectly ready to submit to reasonable regulations, but they desire, and I think any fair-minded person will agree to them, that those regulations should not be made until the Committee appointed by the Home Office have presented their Report.
258 They desire, inasmuch as their livelihood depends upon it, that any regulation shall be based on a thorough examination on the whole matter by fair-minded men. You cannot say that this Bill is based on any inquiry. Whatever else it may be based upon, it is certainly not based upon an inquiry of that kind. I do think we are justified in requiring that those who support this measure should give some justification for bringing it forward, for it is a Bill which would certainly hamper and dislocate a very important and rising industry in this country, while it would lead to a great deal of loss and inconvenience to dealers as well as a good deal of inconvenience to the general public. I have only endeavoured to plead the cause of a considerable number of my Constituents who depend upon the celluloid trade being carried on. While they are perfectly prepared, after proper investigation has been made, to submit to any regulations which are fair and in the interests of the community, yet they are not persuaded that in this Bill sufficient precautions have been taken to avoid injustice, and they believe that they would certainly suffer, in common with a great many other sections of the community, if the Bill becomes law.
§ Sir CROYDON MARKS
I think this Bill has been founded on a complete misunderstanding and misapprehension as to the nature of this very important industry. It is quite possible to carry on this industry in a manner to cause no trouble, no loss of life, and no inconvenience, or no more inconvenience to those who happen to occupy adjacent premises in which the manufacture is carried on than arises from many other manufactures not attempted to be dealt with in this Bill. At the present moment a very important Committee, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Rugby, is examining into the conditions which may be necessary in connection with the manufacture of articles in which there may be something inflammable. On the other hand, in this Bill you have a sectional proposal which may rob the citizens of London of advantages which will result to them by waiting a little longer for suggestions which the Home Office inquiry may bring about. It may be that the Committee of Inquiry may be able to get from other countries where the industry is carried on some evidence of the process of manufacture which would be very much better than anything that is at the present time known to us. This seems to be hurried and rushed legislation for 259 one part of the country only, and a Bill hurried and rushed through will harass a large number of people who are now engaged in the industry, and cause inconvenience in many districts where, as a matter of fact, the business is carried on without the slightest trouble. The hon. Member referred to one road where 40 per cent. of the shopkeepers have 10 lbs. of this material called celluloid, or other similar substance, at the present time on their premises. What is proposed is that every shopkeeper who happens to have 10 lbs. of material called celluloid or other similar substance on his premises is to come under this Bill. This particular person, who may have a yearly tenancy of his shop, must obtain plans and sections of his premises and of the adjacent premises and submit them to the corporation, pay a sum and ask for a licence.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
The licence is only for people dealing on a large scale. A dealer dealing with only 10 lbs. weight up to 580 lbs. weight is only subjected to regulations.
§ Sir C. MARKS
According to this he has to produce plans and sections on his application. If the hon. Member looks at page 3, line 25, he will find that he must produce plans and sections of the premises in which this business is carried on.
§ Sir C. MARKS
I suggest in connection with this that 10 lbs. of material, or for that matter, 560 lbs. of material would not be a very large amount to be in a store in which there might be bags, on which there are mounts, billiard balls which may be almost entirely made of celluloid, brushes, combs, mounts for picture frames, and in connection with motor cars, and a great many other articles where ivory is to be replaced by something which is of constant colour, and very much less cost. Those people are to be harassed simply because the City of London is endeavouring to legislate for itself without waiting for the advice to be obtained from the scientific and impartial tribunal which is at present investigating the matter. Then the City of London also wishes to be in connection with this matter its own appellant. They are to have the opportunity, if they so wish, of refusing to grant a licence to a manufacturer, who has been to all the expense, and here I will take 260 the hon. Member's suggestion that this refers to the licences. If that person appeals, having gone to the City of London with his plans, his only appeal is to the City of London itself, to the aldermen and others connected with the City Corporation, who are then sitting in a judicial capacity, to review that which has been done by their colleagues in another place or by themselves, and who are to give a final decision in reference to it. It is a travesty of appeal to suggest taking it from one body of the City of London to another body on which the City of London authorities may themselves be sitting. An industry such as this, which goes into businesses that are not solely engaged upon the selling of articles that may be celluloid, ought not to be hampered or to be restrained in any manner in one district more than it is to be restrained or controlled in another district. That which is attempted to be done is putting the City of London at an advantage or a disadvantage in connection with that which may hereafter be done in the rest of the country, when general legislation is attempted. I think this House should very carefully consider any attempt that may be made by any authority to come here and get behind that which may by general regulation be imposed, and to apply conditions which will have a most deleterious effect not only upon their own people, but on the industry of others not resident in the district controlled.
There are a great many things we have suffered in the past from what is known as grandmotherly legislation. For years, this country was held back, and we lost the start in the motor car industry owing to the fact that it was necessary under our legislation for a man with a red flag to walk in front of a vehicle going at more than five miles an hour. Simply because of a restriction which was put in to prevent horses being frightened and timid persons being annoyed when they saw smoke coming from a vehicle, we lost our lead, which we ought to have had from the first, in connection with that which has now a world wide industry. Here now is a big industry. Rubber has got costly and ivory is becoming scarce, horn has become dear, and here is an artificial product which will replace all those, and which can be made just as safely as any other, and it is attempted to cripple it, not in the place where it is made, but in the place where it is to be handled, in the great City of London. It seems to me that the City fathers have gone mad in their methods 261 in connection with this legislation. I hope the House will take it on itself to suggest that no Bill should pass through this House dealing with sectional legislation on any subject in reference to which there is a Committee of Inquiry sitting, and to deal with that which has reference to the whole nation. I therefore seriously suggest that this is not the proper time and that it is not fitting for anybody to come here and ask for exceptional powers for legislation in a matter concerning which public money is already being spent, in order that the country may be benefited by inquiry, and arrangements may be made hereafter to prevent trouble and cause greater convenience and greater safety in reference to that in which there may be any carelessness. I second this Motion, and I hope the House will consider it is not by any means a City of London proposal or a party proposal, but a national proposal. We do not want to harass industry. What we want to do is to protect industry, and to protect dealers and sellers of the articles as well as the citizens. The best way of doing that is to wait until the inquiry is finished, and, arming ourselves with the recommendations that will be made, it will then be possible to have better precautions granted to the City than possibly could be given to them by what they propose now.
§ Mr. MORTON
The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill talked about there being confusion. Let me assure him that there is no confusion with regard to the matter at all, and that it is simply a question of protecting life, and especially the lives of young girls who work, and who cannot help themselves. It is admitted that this is a dangerous trade which wants regulating, and that is all we claim. They think we ought to wait until the Departmental Committee has reported. We do not think that is necessary. We think that the Report of the Departmental Committee will probably come to hand just in time to help the Home Secretary in the regulations, whatever they are to be. The hon. Member referred to the Preamble, and said something about Clause 2. All I wish to say in regard to that is that we are most anxious to have all those points considered upstairs fairly by the Committee. I was sorry to hear the attack upon the City aldermen. Somebody said, "The City aldermen and others." Let me inform my hon. Friend that there are no 262 others concerned in it, as only the twenty-six aldermen are magistrates in the City. I do not want to argue the question, but they have 600 years' good character. I never heard a complaint that they were likely to do injustice, and I am sorry that any Members of this House should make such a charge. It is said that we are going to harass people. We never harass people in the City of London. We know what we owe to traders and the trading community, and we act fairly towards them. We are charged with legislating for ourselves. I am glad to hear that. For many years we have been legislating in the City of London in advance of the country generally. We began some years ago by introducing and carrying a Bill whereby we have an inquiry by the coroner into every fire, whether there has been loss of life or not. That is legislation for ourselves. Nobody else has done it. We have set an example to the rest of the country, and it has been most useful in preventing fires. Then we started an ambulance service. They have not got that elsewhere the same as we have it. Two or three years ago we asked to be allowed to make regulations with regard to traffic in the City of London. We were told distinctly that there would be some difficulty in applying the system anywhere else. My advice to the corporation was that they should go to the Home Office and see what they thought about it. The present Lord Gladstone, who was then Home Secretary, after considering the matter, said that he would not oppose our Bill, and he added that he would be exceedingly pleased to see the City of London showing how these things should be attended to.
That is exactly what we want to do with regard to this dangerous trade. We may be in advance of the rest of the country, but it is necessary that we should consider the question. As showing the effect that such regulations may have, I may point out in connection with the traffic regulations that, according to the Police Commissioner's report, during the three months ending 31st March, 1913, there were 270 accidents resulting in injuries and six deaths, while in the corresponding three months of last year there were 320 accidents and seven deaths. So that apparently owing to these regulations, which we have got and other authorities have not, there has been a saving of fifty accidents and one life. I mention this because it has been said that we 263 ought not to act by ourselves, but should wait for other parts of the country. That has not been our custom. This is not a political Bill in any sense whatever. Its object is simply to save life and protect the workers. I hope that every hon. Member will bear that in mind. In consequence of the verdicts of juries and the strong remarks made by the City coroner the corporation felt bound to come to Parliament and ask for power to deal with this matter. Our attention was called to it in the first place in 1902, when there was a fire in Queen Victoria Street and ten lives were lost. In 1912 there was the fire in Moor Lane, when nine lives were lost. In both cases the victims were mostly young girls, who were quite unable to make regulations for themselves. There have been many other fires, but those two afford ample reason why the corporation should intervene. The City has always fully recognised traders' and trade interests and treated them fairly, but in our opinion the protection of life must come first, and what has been proved to be a dangerous trade must be regulated.
The City may almost be called a congested and exceptional district. Every week-day about a million people come in and out of the City, and about 400,000 of those people come in to work of different kinds. Those workers are entitled to our protection, and I hope we shall have the fullest possible credit for endeavouring to help those who cannot help themselves. We say that there is no reason for delay. The matter is urgent. The City has always been in advance with these improvements, with most excellent results. We have done everything that could be done by way of safeguarding the traders and those connected with the work. If anything else can be suggested, if the Bill is sent upstairs where everything can be taken into consideration, we shall be only too pleased to consider any reasonable proposal. We have given the right of appeal to the City magistrates. If the Committee do not like that appeal—although the City magistrates have the highest character of any magistracy in the Kingdom—some other Court can be appointed. We shall make no difficulty about that. These regulations, before they come into force, have to be made by the corporation, and the same course will be followed as in the case of the traffic regulations. The matter will be sent to a Committee, where everybody interested 264 will be heard before the regulations are drafted. Here in open Court, if necessary, people can come and say what they like. After the regulations have passed the corporation they are to be sent to the Home Office, where, before they are approved, the authorities will again hear anybody who wishes to be heard on the matter. I should think that that will be sufficient protection for anybody against unfair or improper regulations. Let me repeat what I said before. I think, on the whole, that the Report of the Departmental Committee will just come in time to help the Home Office to consider and approve of these particular regulations. As I have said, the corporation will be pleased to consider all reasonable suggestions towards the further protection of trades, and so on. Under all these circumstances, I do hope that this House will bear in mind that we are quite honest and sincere in bringing this forward. We would rather not have had to bring it forward, but it is our duty to protect those hundreds of thousands of people who come into the City, amongst them being the workers that I have referred to. I hope that this House will read this Bill a second time and allow it to go before the Local Legislation Committee for the very fullest possible consideration. If that is refused, I respectfully say that the traders may go farther and fare worse. I mention that because the City has always had the highest possible character in dealing with all these matters, and I have often heard that people would sooner go before the City magistrate or the City Council than any other body. I mention that with all due deference as a member of the corporation. At any rate, the corporation will have done its best to protect the workers who are not always able to protect themselves. I am satisfied that we have done right in coming to ask for this power to deal with this matter. Everyone says there must be regulation; that it is time there was regulation. We do not intend—in fact we are most anxious otherwise—to harass anybody or to interfere with any of the trades in the City, for it is trade which has made the City what it is. All we ask is that Parliament will do, as in the case of the traffic and in relation to coroner's inquests, where there is no loss of life—that it will allow the City to show the way to do these things.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. NEWTON
I think the opponents of this Bill can not have been much reassured by the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. He gave us an interesting 265 defence of the ancient corporation of the City of London, which I think—at all events, which I hope—was not necessary, but which certainly had very little to do with the particular Bill that the House is now considering. We were told that the corporation initiated electrical ambulance before any other body, but how that really comes into consideration of the question before us, dealing with the regulation of the celluloid trade and vendors, I am unable to see. The hon. Member told us that 400,000 persons came daily into the City, and I was under the impression that those 400,000 persons must be engaged in the celluloid business, or surely the hon. Gentleman would not have mentioned the matter in the way he did. Surely the promoters of this Bill must have overlooked one or two very obvious facts. In the first place; they must have overlooked the fact, drawn attention to by an hon. Member, that celluloid plays an important part in a huge variety of articles in daily use, and it is not, as some seem to imagine, employed only in making films for the cinematograph. Look at the matter from the point of view of danger from cinematograph films. I think the promoters of this Bill must have forgotten that many of these films are worth from £500 to £1,000, and the owners of them are going to take the very greatest possible precautions against the possibility of risk by fire. I further understand that celluloid is not liable to spontaneous combustion. I am told, in fact, it is hardly more inflammable than perhaps 40 per cent of a draper's stock. Therefore, I should have thought that the promoters of this Bill in fairness to that industry would have legislated, or attempted to legislate at all events, for all those inflammable articles, and not confined their attention to one article just because there happened to be a regrettable and disastrous fire on which they were able to hang this Bill, and so try to work on the panic feelings of some Members of the House of Commons.
I oppose this Bill, I quite frankly say, in the interests of a number of my Constituents who are employed in a very important and, I am glad to say, a prosperous factory some sixty or seventy miles from the City of London. How are they affected? Clearly in this way, that if these regulations are insisted upon, undoubtedly there will be great temptation put upon traders—in fact, upon a large majority of the shopkeepers in the area covered—to dispense altogether with stocking any of the 266 articles in which celluloid plays any part—this rather than subject themselves to the regulations that are foreshadowed in this Bill. I have had some experience of a large business house with a large number of departments, and except the butcher's meat and fish department I cannot for a moment think of any department that would not employ celluloid in some way or another. One runs through the departments in one's mind, and it is quite easy to prove that celluloid is employed in a vast number of articles. Apart from that altogether, I would like to congratulate the hon. Gentleman who preceded me upon one thing, and one thing only, in his speech, and that was where he seemed to display a willingness—if this Bill should receive a Second Reading—to be very reasonable upstairs. I think it would have been more satisfactory to the House if he had indicated any concessions which the promoters would be prepared to make. The concession of transferring appeals from the bench of City aldermen to some other Court is not one which appeals much to me, because it is not the criticism that I should myself have directed against the Bill. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that for many centuries the magistrates of the City of London have had a reputation second to no other bench of magistrates.
§ Mr. MORTON
May I inform the hon. Member that we shall be glad to consider any suggestions, but none have been made to us?
§ Mr. NEWTON
The hon. Member would not expect me to make these proposals at this particular time, nor, in fact, do I think it would be in order for me to do so, but it would be in order for him to indicate how to meet the objections to the Bill. In regard to a fact which has already been drawn attention to that a Committee of Experts has been sitting, I agree with those who have said that the Report of that. Committee ought to have been awaited, for this reason, it is probable that the Committee will recommend regulations in regard to this industry. The hon. Member opposite says he hopes that these recommendations will be issued just at the time, at the psychological moment, when the Home Secretary has to approve or amend the regulations of the City Corporation. That may or may not be so. If it be not so, the trade will be faced with this position, that they will have in the City of London, a set of regulations to comply with, that they will have to make structural alterations perhaps in the case 267 they desire a licence as a store, while they will find prevailing in the rest of the country under the National Bill, if I may so describe it, a different set of regulations. In fact you will have conflict between the traders in the City and traders in other parts of the country that do not come in under the City Corporation Bill, and that may be a great disadvantage to the traders in the City. For these reasons amongst others, I hope this Bill will not be read a second time, nor will any Bill which treats the trade in different ways. Should the Bill be read a second time, then I think we shall have to rely upon the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, and upon the promoters, to act in this matter with caution, and to avoid passing any regulations which might have the effect of inducing traders to abandon stocking these goods, and so inflict very serious injury upon a body of men engaged in the manufacturing industry in various parts of the country.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
The hon. Member for Rugby said this was an instance of panic legislation brought forward in great haste, but this is not the first proposal to deal with celluloid that has been before the House of Commons, as the London County Council last year brought forward with their General Powers Bill, Clauses that covered very much the same ground. [Hon. MEMBERS: "What happened then?"]—I am coming to that—It is obviously what I am leading up to—and again this year they are bringing forward proposals to try and deal with the danger of inflammable substances and celluloid, and I think that will meet the points raised by the hon. Member that celluloid is not the only combustible material which causes danger. I am therefore supporting this Bill, not only upon its individual merits, but because I have a particular interest in its passing, feeling, as I do, that if these proposals are defeated the wider and perhaps the more important proposals of the London County Council will share their fate. I understand the alarm with traders against any vexatious interference. I do not think it is necessary for me to follow the hon. Member for Sutherland in giving a testimonial to the City Corporation, and saying they will avoid anything vexatious. I think the traders who are afraid of this Bill are labouring under a certain confusion of mind as to its provisions. My reason for that is that both the hon. Member for Rugby and the hon. 268 Member for Launceston appear not to have fully mastered the proposals of the Bill. They apparently are confused between the licensing proposals of the Bill and the regulations which it imposes. Retailers, with whose interest both hon. Members are very rightly concerned, would not be affected by the licensing proposals at all. Retailers would not have to produce plans or to pay a fee; they would only have to carry out the regulations. These regulations would not be the mere whim of the local authority; they would have to be approved by the Home Office, and these regulations would no doubt embody the proposals of those to whom so much weight was given this evening. The hon. Member for Rugby pointed out that certain commodities, such as ladies' stay-bones and various other articles such as electrical apparatus, contain only a small proportion of celluloid. These obviously would only come under the regulations if the Home Office approved. If the article only contained an infinitesimal proportion of celluloid, or if it was not a very combustible proportion, we rely upon the Home Office not allowing these regulations which it has to approve of to deal with these articles at all.
Last year the County Council Bill did not deal with celluloid at all except in the form of cinematograph films. Since last year their hands have been very much forced by the fire alluded to, and the jury in the case of that fire, where nine girls perished, held it was preventible by reasonable precautions such as having no naked lights and not using sealing wax for the boxes. They held that such accidents could be prevented in future by registration and proper supervision on the part of the local authorities. We have been told the manufacturers generally object to reasonable licences or regulations on the ground naturally that they take very full precautions themselves. I think that the people affected by licences really have no ground for complaint. The Home Office suggested last year that instead of these licences the matter could be dealt with by the extension of Clause 11 of the London Building Act, which deals with inflammable liquids. That Clause only Prevents rooms used for stores from communicating with living rooms unless there are adequate means for preventing the spread of fire and adequate means for escape. Under that provision there is no control over sites, and it has been long felt it is obviously necessary to have 269 control over sites, and that it is obviously undesirable, if you have tenement houses or if you have a street where inflammable liquids are likely to run down, that new buildings should be put up where such trades are carried on. Unless you have some provision of this kind there is no onus on the owners of those buildings to notify the local authorities of the class of business carried on. I think that is a danger, because where there is manufacture as opposed to a local dealer, I think the local authorities and the fire authority ought to be warned. The local authority already licenses business on very much the same lines. They license retail dealers in explosives; they license the sale and storing of petroleum, and no complaint is made that any vexatious interference takes place under those licensing powers.
The details of this Bill are susceptible of drastic amendment, if necessary. The local authorities only wish to do their duty to prevent a recurrence of those regrettable fires, and I think that the proper course is to send the Bill upstairs, and to knock out any of those proposals that may be found too onerous. Personally, I think 10 lbs. weight is too low a figure to choose as a cause of regulation. I think that any building with so small a quantity as 15 lbs. weight need not be under regulations, much less licence, and the London County Council is agreeable to raise that figure to 56 lbs. weight. The Home Office will be able to embody the Report of the Select Committee in the regulations brought forward. The Home Office suggested last year that sufficient steps could be taken under the Factory Acts, but they have not been taken, and so far the Home Office have failed to make any move to provide greater safety. Under the Factory Acts, you can only deal with the interests of the workers, and not the interests of the general public, passers by in the street, or dwellers in tenement houses in a dangerous position. The Home Office powers have proved absolutely insufficient in this connection, and in view of the recent fires and recommendations of coroners' juries, local authorities would have been neglecting their duties if they had failed to bring forward some such measure as I suggest.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
I am challenging the present law, because I do not believe the Factory Acts give the Home Office the power necessary to secure public safety. If the law does give them the necessary power then they have not put it into force. I suggest that this is a matter which could be sent to the Committee to hear evidence, and if they find that this Bill is unduly restrictive on the celluloid trades, they can drastically amend it. If the House rejects this course, and takes no other steps, then the responsibility for these constantly recurring fires in London, which are continually being brought to the notice of local authorities, will be removed from the London County Council and the City Corporation, and it will rest upon the shoulders of the Home Office.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Mr. Maclean)
Although I formally moved the Second Reading, I wish to make a statement. I have carefully listened to the arguments addressed to the House in favour and against this Bill. With very great respect I hope the House will permit me to express the opinion I have formed after hearing what has been said, and also in view of the information I possess as to the line of action which the Home Office will be compelled to take should this Bill proceed to a Committee upstairs. The position we find ourselves in is that the Home Office would be compelled to oppose the Bill, owing to the fact that a Departmental Committee has been appointed under the Chairmanship of Lord Plymouth, and has not yet finished its labours, and the fact that experts are engaged in some most important practical experiments for our guidance. I feel that should the House give a Second Reading to this Bill, in view of the attitude of the Home Office the Committee would come to the same conclusion as it did last year, and would again reject these proposals. What does that amount to? This is a crowded Session and the Committees upstairs are very much overworked, and that course would entail enormous and increasing expense to all the parties who have to appear before the Committee. Above all things, this is a matter for experts, and the traders placed their case before the Committee last year. Those traders will have to do that over again with I fear precisely the same result. Therefore, I most respectfully suggest to the House to consider whether under all these circumstances, giving every possible 271 credit to those who are promoting this Bill in the public interests and who are anxious for the public safety, it is worth while to send this Bill upstairs.
§ Mr. NEWTON
Could the hon. Member say anything as to the probable attitude of the Home Office in regard to the county council proposals on this question?
I have no hesitation in saying that the attitude of the Home Office would be identical in the case of the County Council Bill with its attitude in regard to the Bill now before the House.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I wish to ask the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, as this Bill and the County Councils Bill are closely connected with this question, whether he can indicate what course he suggests with
§ regard to the next Order on the Paper? The House has now given a considerable amount of time to this Bill. This is the second time it has been put down, and if the idea is to bring the celluloid question up again, and thus interfere with the smooth working of a debate on some important Bill, then I think the House is quite competent to dispose of this question on this occasion. I did not quite gather what the suggestion of the Deputy-Chairman amounted to.
My suggestion is to move the next Order on the Paper. I sincerely trust the House will dispose of the Question now before it, and take up the London County Council (General Powers) Bill. That is a measure of very considerable importance, and I urge the House to spend as little time as possible on these Bills, allowing them to go upstairs in order that the Committees may get to work upon them.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 47; Noes, 127.273
|Division No. 93.]||AYES.||[9.23 p.m.|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Goldstone, Frank||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Hancock, John George||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Harris, Henry Percy||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Barnes, George N.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Blair, Reginald||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Sutton, John E.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Thomas, James Henry|
|Cassel, Felix||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Clough, William||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||O'Grady, James||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Crooks, William||Parker, James (Halifax)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Perkins, Walter F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Fell, Arthur||Pringle, William M. R.||Morton and Mr. W. Guinness|
|Gill, A. H.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Cotton, William Francis||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Adamson, William||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Glanville, H. J.|
|Arnold, Sidney||Craik, Sir Henry||Goldsmith, Frank|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Crumley, Patrick||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Gulland, John William|
|Barrie, H. T.||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Delany, William||Hackett, John|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Dickinson, W. H.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Doris, William||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Duffy, William J.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Bentham, G. J.||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Boland, John Pius||Essex, Sir Walter Richard||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Farrell, James Patrick||Higham, John Sharp|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Hinds, John|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Forster, Henry William||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||France, Gerald Ashburner||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Furness, Stephen||John, Edward Thomas|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Gelder, Sir W. A.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Gilmour, Captain John||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Doherty, Philip||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Sandys, G. J.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Kelly, Edward||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|King, Joseph||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Leach, Charles||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Peto, Basil Edward||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Lynch, A. A.||Pirie, Duncan V.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|McGhee, Richard||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford)||Webb, H.|
|Martin, Joseph||Radford, G. H.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Millar, James Duncan||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Morison, Hector||Reddy, Michael||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Muldoon, John||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Newton, Harry Kottingham||Robinson, Sidney||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Rowlands, James|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Baird and Sir Croydon Marks|
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Second Reading put off for three months.