§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. C. D. Murray)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I do so on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, and if the House gives me a few moments, I can explain the object and extent of the Bill. It proposes to remedy what, in Scotland, at any rate, has proved to be a defect in the Act of 1918. Two series of Statutes—the Education Acts on the one hand, and the Employment of Children Acts on the other—are directed towards restricting or prohibiting the employment of children of tender years during school hours and otherwise. The Employment of Children series restricts or prohibits what is known as street trading, and a difficulty has arisen in the administration of the Statutes in this respect in Scotland. A number of years ago the age of prohibition in connection with the employment of children in this way was, in Scotland, up to 11 years. Since then a number of Statutes have been 1376 passed raising the age, and in 1910 or thereabouts a Departmental Committee reported against the employment of children in street trading in any form up to the ages of 17 for boys and 18 for girls. In 1918 an Education Act was passed, and the opportunity was taken—as was thought—to give effect to the recommendation of the Committee. If hon. Members will look at Clause 1 of the Bill they will see the present position of the law. As things stand, under the Act of 1903, as amended by the Act of 1908, it is provided thatno child or young person under the age of seventeen shall he employed in street trading.It was, no doubt, the intention of Parliament that full effect should be given to the recommendation of the Departmental Committee. In what respect has it failed? It has failed in this respect. The Scottish Courts have held that while Parliament intended there should be a prohibition upon children either being employed by others, or engaging themselves, in street trading, the Act is—and I do not quarrel with the decision of the Scottish judges—defective in that the wordsno child or young person … shall be employed in street trading,limit its application to cases where the child or young person is employed 1377 by or in the service of another. Accordingly, the Act has failed to strike against the very numerous cases of young people who engage in trade by themselves on their own account. That is the whole point, and we propose, therefore, to remedy this defect which has emerged in Scotland by amplifying the definition, or rather the provision, of 1918, and making it strike, not only at the employment by others of children of tender years, but also against young children or young persons engaged in street-trading on their own account. That is the inception of the Bill, and I think the House will take it from me that the remainder of the Bill is executorial and consequential on the proposal referred to. That is the only effect and intention of the Measure, which is put forward in the hope that it will be non-controversial, and that the House will agree that in promoting the Bill we are only seeking to give full effect to the recommendation which it was thought in 1918 had been sanctioned by Parliament.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I do not wish to oppose the progress of the Bill at all, but merely to say that such information as has come to my knowledge, or been sent to me, is entirely in favour of the Bill, and I wish it a speedy passage.