HC Deb 05 February 1930 vol 234 cc2024-6

Order for Second Beading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."


I have no desire to hold up the passage of this Bill, but I want to ask the promoters one or two questions about one Clause in the Measure. It is a Bill dealing with local government in Cardiff, but included in it is a Clause dealing with a subject which appears to be entirely outside the scope of the Bill. Sub-section (2) of Clause 132 says: The Corporation may also make by-laws prescribing the maximum fees to be charged by any person holding a licence to carry on an employment agency to applicants for employment or to persons engaging or desiring to engage employés through such agency. It may be desirable that some of these employment agencies should be controlled, and that the fees they exact should be controlled also, but that is a very wide subject. There are different kinds of agencies in the country, different classes of agencies. It may be that some of the theatrical and domestic agencies should be subject to some measure of control, but that is a subject which concerns agencies in general and should be dealt with in a Bill brought in for that purpose and not in a Bill with the local government of one special city. It has this further serious drawback, that you treat all agencies as being of the same class. Many of them deal with professional people, doctors, teachers, architects, and so on. They go to employment agencies and make their own contracts. The powers which should be sought should be for dealing with those agencies which exact harsh and unconscionable fees, and not a provision in a Bill governing the maximum fees which agencies should charge. How is the corporation to know what are the maximum fees? I should like an assurance from the promoters of the Bill that they will amend the Clause to deal with a certain class of agencies which may be objectionable and merely that they charge harsh and unconscionable fees, or delete the Sub-section entirely from this Bill and deal with the matter in a general way.


In reply to the statement made by the hon. Member, may I say that under Clause 132 the Corporation seek to prescribe the maximum fees to be charged by any person holding a licence to carry on an employment agency to applicants for employment or to persons engaging or desiring to engage employés through such agencies? The Home Secretary sees some difficulties in the administration of this Clause in its present form. In the first place the subject matter of the Clause will come under the jurisdiction of the Home Secretary, and if the Clause be included in the Bill Amendments will have to be made so that the jurisdiction passes to the Home Secretary rather than to the Minister of Health. The proposed limitation of fees may in some quarters be regarded as a very novel feature, but I think it is a matter that ought to be sent to the Local Legislation Committee so that evidence might be heard from the one side and other and a proper judgment be reached.


The Under-Secretary has said that this is a novel procedure and that the Home Office is directly interested because it raises a question of general principle and administration. In that he is right. That being so, following the regular precedent that has always been followed by Government Departments where matters of general interest are involved, I hope we may take it that the Home Office will tender to any Committee before which this Bill goes such advice as is desirable with a view to the proper co-ordination and administration of the law. I am sure that we shall have that assurance.


I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance at once. He will see from the observations that I am about to make that because of the difficulties which will arise in the administration of this Clause it is desirable that some Amendments be made in the Clause. The Home Office should be the deciding authority. It may be necessary, of course, to fix different fees for the different occupations which have been mentioned by the hon. Member who opened the discussion. It may also be necessary for the Home Secretary to decide the appropriate maximum for the particular occupation. My right hon. Friend thinks that this not only creates a difficulty, but that it is not a task that ought to be placed upon his shoulders. Therefore we suggest that the Clause be sent to the Local Legislation Committee for consideration and amendment, and we are of opinion that it might be far better and simpler to give the licensing authority power to investigate complaints of extortionate and unfair charges and to withdraw the licence, subject to an appeal to a Court of Summary Jurisdiction or Quarter Sessions, if satisfied that some grave abuse has existed. With the assurance that I have given the right hon. Gentleman and the evidence that my right hon. Friend realises that some difficulty may arise in the administration of the Clause as it stands, I hope that the House will allow the Bill to go upstairs so that it may receive the consideration to which it is entitled.