HC Deb 06 August 1924 vol 176 cc2926-8
65. Duchess of ATHOLL

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that there are a number of girls employed in the sale of confectionery from 9 a.m. until 9.30 p.m. with an hour and-a-half off for luncheon; that these girls get one day off per week and one Sunday afternoon only every third Sunday; and whether he will exercise his powers under existing enactments or, if necessary, take further powers to have these hours shortened?


I have no definite information as to the hours worked by girls in confectioners' shops, but provided there is no contravention of the provisions of the Shops Acts neither the local authority, which is responsible for the administration of those Acts, nor the Home Office has any power to interfere. As stated in reply to previous questions, my right hon. Friend recognises the need for a Bill to amend and consolidate the Shops Acts and the question of the hours of these girls can be considered in connection with that legislation.

Viscountess ASTOR

Could these girls, possibly, come in under the catering trade? Could the trade board, set up to deal with girls in that trade, in any way bring in girls employed in confectionery shops?


Is it not the case that two problems are involved—one that of early closing and the other that of shop assistants' hours; and does the hon. Gentleman propose to bring in legislation to regulate the hours of shop assistants and separate legislation to deal with the opening and closing of shops, or does he propose to include both in one Measure?


Am I to understand from the answer that the Government are prepared to take up the. Shops Bill, which I had the honour of introducing?


That is an entirely new question. The hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will understand that there is no Regulation connected with shop hours for adult shop assistants. They may be worked any hours the employer likes, provided they get a weekly half-holiday. With regard to juniors, however, there is a law prohibiting hours beyond 74 per week, inclusive of meal times.


Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the people who employ these girls have a moral obligation to treat them in a humane way?


That is one of the reasons why the Government have under consideration the consolidation and amendment of the Shops Acts.


My question has not been answered. Does the Government propose to bring in legislation which will include both early closing and shop assistants' hours, or are these two subjects to be dealt with separately?


I cannot at the moment state what is the intention of the Government in that respect.