HC Deb 16 May 1930 vol 238 cc2250-73

Notwithstanding anything in this Act any person may carry on the business of a hairdresser or a barber on Sunday if the only persons employed by him in the business are members of his family.—[Sir R. Rodd.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

1.0 p.m.

The Bill now coming up for consideration is one, introduced in the interests of a particular and perhaps not very influential class of the community, which has not received very great interest among hon. Members other than the relatively small number of them who have given attention to its details and to the bearings of the Measure. I shall be very brief, in view of certain comments I heard last Friday, in order to deprecate any suspicion on the part of hon. Members and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crook-shank), whose merit it is to have brought forward this Bill, that I wish to contest the reputation which I gather he enjoys in the eyes of the noble Lady the Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). The Amendment which I am putting forward is one for which I hope to obtain consideration from the House. It is a serious Amendment, and one I would like to see carried. The text of it makes it very clear. The Sunday trading that is involved is of a very small kind. I have no special interest in bringing forward this point. I hope the House will realise that, as far as I am concerned, my representations must be disinterested. I always shave myself and have not very much hair to cut, but in a very busy life like mine, like probably other Members whose heads are better furnished, externally, at any rate, I often find it difficult on a busy week day to fit in that half-hour which is required for a visit to a hairdresser and which is often prolonged by a shampoo, wet or dry, and other amenities of the tonsorial art. If that be so in my own case, who am more or less master of the free disposition of my time, how much more must that be the case with those whose whole working hours on week days are filled up and have very few opportunities of departing from them!

The object of this Measure with which I am personally entirely in sympathy is that those who, not owning their own establishments, are employed in barbers' and hairdressers' shops, should not be deprived of that weekly rest which every man has claimed as his right ever since Moses imposed the Decalogue. I do not see why the acceptance of that principle, with which I am entirely in sympathy, should necessarily deprive the barber who runs a small domestic business, perhaps assisted only by his own family, from being allowed to minister to the convenience of those who have very few opportunities of invoking his services except on Sunday mornings, when, in view of their weekly holiday, they are naturally anxious to make the best of their personal appearance, whether they intend to devote the day to social intercourse or to devotional contemplation.

In many of the countries in which I have lived, Sunday is by far the busiest day with barbers and hairdressers. In Italy they close for the whole of Monday in compensation for keeping open on Sunday. The reason for this the Sunday opening is fairly obvious. When Sunday arrives a man who has been at work all the week puts on his best clothes and, after satisfying the claims of conscience by a hasty visit to church, goes off with his wife and family to enjoy the day; or it may be he turns his footsteps towards the paths in which a young man's fancy lightly runs, and he knows that as a suitor he will be far more acceptable with a smooth cheek than with a rough one. In those countries, when the weekly holiday comes round, it is the almost invariable practice for a man to pay an early visit to the barber's shop to prepare himself for the occasion. In that country a great many people still have a constitutional inability to shave themselves. In this country most of us, I think, shave ourselves; but the same considerations may apply with regard to a timely hair-cut or a trimming of the beard when the holiday comes round. Then there is the case of farmers and their assistants, who may live a long way from any town or village and are able to enlist the ministrations of a barber only on Sunday mornings. I am quite unable to see why a man who runs a little family business and is willing to devote a certain number of hours to work on Sunday morning, during which time he employs nobody else, unless, it may be, some of his own family, should be deprived of rendering this convenience to the public.


Happily it it not necessary to second this new Clause, because the right hon. Gentleman who moved it is a Privy Councillor, but I wish to support it. He did me an injustice just now. He was complimentary to me in one sense, but he said that I was the promoter of the Bill. In that he was wrong, and I do not know how that impression came to his mind, because I bitterly oppose this Bill. It is one of the worst Friday Bills we have had. [Interruption.] It is no good hon. Members opposite trying to provoke me at this early hour.


You ought to support a Bill for a hair restorer.


This Bill has been introduced several times, but it has never had a Second Reading Debate. The principles of this Bill have never yet been adopted by the House after a discussion of them. This year it slipped through—I do not know how or why, but I dare say there was an agreement in the days when it was still possible to have honourable agreements with the Socialist party on matters of business. The Bill slipped through after 11 o'clock, and the House has not given a verdict on whether it accepts the principle that, barbers' shops should be shut on Sundays if they are run by Christians but open if they are kept by Jews. That is one of the vital features of the Bill.

Before we come to that point the right hon. Gentleman has quite rightly brought up the question of whether a man who runs a family business should be allowed to open on Sundays. The whole question of hair dressing and barbering is a difficult problem. I am sure that is admitted by those who are supporting the Bill, because it is not an occupation in the same category as that of ordinary trade or shopkeeping. [Interruption.] They claim to be artists, and when one looks round at some of the results of their efforts in this House one is perhaps inclined to agree with that definition. I will not mention anybody in particular. My point is that their calling is not trading in the sense of keeping a shop, so the question of the Sunday closing of shops is not entirely relevant here. There are a great many people who for one reason and another are physically incapable of shaving themselves, and I imagine that we are all physically incapable of cutting our own hair. There are great numbers of people who through infirmity or illness or through lack of sight cannot shave themselves; and I have heard of those who, for some psychological reason, cannot put a razor into their hands. I am not referring to lunatics.


Shell-shock cases.


No, I do not mean shell-shock cases, but there are people who are incapable of shaving themselves and one has to recognise it. That being so, it puts the whole profession or whatever you like to call it outside the scope of the ordinary restriction on shops on Sundays. If I am wrong in that, and if those who are promoting the Bill think that barbers and hairdressers should come under the category of shopkeepers rather than of the professions, what they had better do is to allow this Bill to be withdrawn and send the matter to the Committee which is investigating the whole question of shop hours. We have to decide the problem of whether we are dealing with this question from the point of view that the shop must not be open on Sunday—not because it is a place of gaiety or amusement—on Sabbatarian grounds, or whether we are taking the point of view that it is wrong that the hair dresser and the barber, his family and his children and his employés should be employed more than a certain time either per day or per week. Is this pro-Sabbatarian and against people who wish to break the Sabbath either for purposes of gain or business; or is it an attempt to make conditions more tolerable for the workers in this business?

As we did not have any full Debate on the principle of the Bill we are entitled to get at what is in the minds of the promoters, because that does seem to affect the whole issue raised in this Amendment. If they are supporting this Bill because employés are being kept in the shops on Sundays, because of their long hours of labour, then it is a question which the Select Committee is investigating, the question of regulating the hours of labour, and whether in the general public interest it is not desirable that this special thing, the hairdressing and barbering trade, this special thing, I do not know how to describe it, should be made available for the people who need it through the custom and habit of going to barbers' shops on Sunday morning. Of course, if you are taking the purely Sabbatarian point of view, I agree that you cannot accept this proposed new Clause, but if the underlying principle of the Bill is to say that these places should be shut entirely on Sundays, as shops are supposed to be to-day—I will not go into that question now, because it would be out of order—if the idea is to shut barbers' shops tight, so that no one can go in at all, I quite agree that you cannot accept this proposed new Clause, which would make it possible for the man to open and for his family, if be wishes them to do so, during a pressure of business or something of that kind, to help him.

If you are not taking the Sabbatarian point of view, but merely the question of hours of labour per week, or per fortnight, or anything else, then it is a very open question, and I think the promoters of the Bill had better accept this Clause and recognise the fact that there is a Select Committee investigating all these questions, and that their attention might very well be drawn to this particular problem. On the assumption that the second of these points of view is being taken, and not the Sabbatarian one, then if out of deference to the profession to which the hon. Member belongs we are going to call it a profession, and not just a business like a shop, that brings it into the same category as a good many other professional people who have to attend to their work on Sundays. Professional people like doctors and surgeons often have to work on Sundays, and in certain instances they may have to call upon the hairdresser and barber to assist them in carrying out their business.


That is in the Bill.


It is in Clause 2.


I know all about Clause 2. The hon. Member will keep on trying to interrupt me, but it only makes matters worse, because it is very difficult to keep to the thread that I am trying to follow. It would simplify the argument if one knew which of the principles to which I have referred is behind the Bill. [Interruption.] I do not think that they are compatible, and, as we have never had a Second Reading Debate on the Bill, we do not know which principle it is. Take the question of the man who is assisted by his family. The right hon. Gentleman and those who support him would make an exception in that case. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out, quite rightly, that a great many people in all parts of the world are accustomed to being shaved on Sundays. The promoters of the Bill agree to that, because, if a barber's shop is run by a Jew, it may be opened on Sunday,


But not on Saturday.


But not on Saturday. Therefore, it is not the Sabbatarian point of view that is taken there; it is not wrong in every case that a shop should be opened on Sunday. Now we are getting down to it. There is nothing wicked about a barber's shop being open on Sunday, and, therefore, we are thrown back on the question of hours of labour, and I should say that the Select Committee had better investigate that to begin with. Further, I must put in the protest which has so often been voiced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), with regard to the case of the small man in business. Measures of this kind are sometimes brought in by those who are interested in large organisations, in order to squeeze out the one-man shop or business. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says "No." All I can say is that during the last Parliament, when this Bill came up, I intervened during the Committee stage, and, as a result of some remarks that I made there, for about three months my letter-box was absolutely chock-full of correspondence from barbers all over the country who were small people with one-man shops, thanking me for sticking up for their rights and saying that they were being squeezed out by larger organisations and by the attitude of people like the hon. Member and his colleagues. I have had such communications again already during this Session, since this Bill has been on the Order Paper.

If the small man wants to open hisshop on Sunday—and it is admitted now by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills) that there is nothing wrong in having a shop open on Sunday—why should this House always take it upon itself on a Friday to interfere with the liberty of the individual? It does it a good deal on other days of the week, but Friday is the day above all on which hon. Members set out on this crusade. There are still, however, Members in the Conservative party, though apparently there are not any more in the Liberal party, who are prepared to stick up for the rights of the individual, and for not making every shop and every other organisation exactly the same up and down the country.

I am not a representative of an East London constituency, but I should like someone who is, and who is in touch with the people in this business there, to express their views. A great many of them have sent their views to me through the post, but really I cannot, nor can other Members of this House, go down to different parts of the country to see whether such communications are bogus or not. One can only assume, if one gets a letter which is apparently bonâ fide, from a bonâ fide address, that the correspondent has some reason for addressing the particular Member concerned; but I should like someone who has intimate knowledge of that part of London to tell us exactly what the situation is there.

Nor must we forget, in dealing with this problem, the large foreign communities in London. The promoters of the Bill have not forgotten them, because, in the case of the Jews—if I may for a moment mention them with foreign communities, though I know that a great many of them are not foreigners, but British—the promoters of the Bill have admitted that it is reasonable to exclude them on the ground of their religious views, and have said that, if they shut on Saturday, they may keep open on Sunday. That, again, raises a very large question of principle, which is not suitable for discussion on this Clause, but while I am dealing with the Clause, I should like to remind the hon. Member of that fact. It raises a large question of principle whether people who come to this country are to adopt the views and prejudices, if you like, of the country as a whole, or whether they are to keep their own views. It is admitted, in the Clause dealing with the Jews, that they may keep their own views, but what about communities like the Italian community in London, or the Polish, or the Spanish, or any others who have their own barbers, probably men working by themselves or with their families, because, more than anywhere else, you find family businesses in foreign communities? The right hon. Gentleman himself alluded to this point. It is admitted that in the case of the Jews they are to have special privileges, and I say that—


Say something about Melanesia!


My experience of Melanesia, when I visited those islands in the Pacific, was that the people there did not go in very much for hairdressing at all.

Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER: (Mr. Dunnico)

Order, order! The hon. and gallant Member is now going really too far afield.


I only made that remark because the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) referred to Melanesia. No doubt he has been to Melanesia, and I was trying to tell him that I had been there also, and my experience of the people there is that they do not cut their hair, on Sunday or on any other day. The argument to which I should like the hon. Member to address himself is this: He admits that those who hold a certain religious belief can be excluded from the Bill, and, if you are going to admit that in the case of the Jews, how is it that you cannot admit it—unless the hon. Member is going to accept the Clause—in the case of those people who run their business on family lines, namely, foreigners in London and in other parts of the country? If the hon. Member can give me an answer to that question, well and good. If not, I certainly think that this Clause ought to be put into this Bill.

The hon. Member will probably say that the father will sweat the family, that he will make the children work long hours, overtime, and so on. We have had that argument already on the Shop Hours Bill, and it has been very thoroughly investigated. It is not really a valid argument, because it involves the assumption that all the family are quite incapable of expressing themselves, but at the same time are capable of barbering. It is a big order, if you take the sons as being capable of shaving and cutting hair, to ask us to assume that they will be quite incompetent to say "No" if their father tries to make them work on Sundays when they do not want to do so. If they are old enough and sensible enough to be able to shave, they are old enough and sensible enough to say "No" to their father if they do not want to do something.

Those are some of the arguments that present themselves on this important Amendment. It is very important. Hon. Members opposite would have us believe that they, like the rest of us, are interested in family life. They are always interested in family life except on Fridays. Last Friday their interest in family life entirely dissolved when it was a question of the small community of people who live on canal boats. To-day, unless this Clause is accepted, it also dissolves, because this equally small community of hairdressers who employ their families in the business are not to be able to do what they would like to do. Although the word is "employ," I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has in mind a contractual obligation, whether they are employed in the sense of being paid so much per day, or per week, or per job—


Per head!


I said "per job". It was intended to cover the point—whether he means contractual obligations to their father or whether he merely means employed in about the father's business. The hon. Member can answer that and I am glad to see he is going to, but he had better accept the Clause and put it, if he has any doubts about it, to the Select Committee on the whole question of the hours of employment in this trade, business or profession, whichever you like to call it. If he does that, there would not be very much objection to getting a great deal of this Bill if we had some safeguard of that sort. I hope the hon. Member will do that. I hope he will remember that the Bill has not had any formal approval of its principles from the House as a whole. He has to tell us whether the words in the Clause are the vital ones or not, whether it is the words "on Sunday", that is to say whether it is a Sabbatarian Bill, or whether it is the words "persons employed", that is to say whether it is a Bill to protect the people who are employed in the business. In the absence of any statement from any of the promoters, I am prepared to support my right hon. Friend in what seems to me a very sensible and wise Clause and I hope we shall see to it that, whatever we do in this or any other of these Bills, we will allow some right to a man to run his own business in the way he wants to, provided that in doing so he does not inflict unduly hard conditions on those whom he employs. Hon. Members opposite surely agree to that as a general proposition. If they do, why should they not accept this very proper Clause? I hope the House will unanimously agree that it should be read a Second time.


My position, as far as this Clause is concerned, is one of very great difficulty indeed. In the first place, I am not in complete agreement with my right hon. Friend, and I am only in partial agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken. I cannot say I have ever had the honour of having my name on the back of the Bill. I was not asked, or it might have been there but, of course, the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill knows that he has my wholehearted sympathy throughout the whole of the proceedings. I only give him that assurance because we have known each other for some while and I should not like him to think that any little Amendment that I have down was in any way antagonistic to him. I will show my friendship straight away by saying that on the whole, up to the present, unless I hear some more powerful arguments, it is highly probable that I shall find myself reluctantly compelled—I cannot vote in two Lobbies unfortunately, not being a Liberal—to oppose the Clause. It puts us in a very difficult position. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has just spoken of people who on Sundays are quite incapable of shaving. I do not know whether he meant that they were incapable of shaving on Sunday because it follows Saturday or that they were incapable of shaving throughout the whole of the week.


If my hon. Friend challenges me on something I said, I can only say I have no personal experience of anyone who is in a state of incapacity on Sunday morning. My acquaintance does not run, like his, to people of that kind. What I had in mind, as I thought I made clear, was that the people I was dealing with who were incapable of shaving on Sundays were always incapable through the fact that they were unable to use a razor or any other sharp instrument.


As far as my hon. and gallant Friend's friends and mine are concerned, that is not quite the point I was raising. The trouble with my hon. and gallant Friend is that he has such an overwhelming love of shortness of speech and brevity that he is really ruling out much of what is vital in the sentences that he utters. I quite agree that there are the two classes which I was endeavouring to mention. As understand it, the class of what I might call the habitual incapables was in his mind and the other class which had occurred to me, not so much from experience as from hearsay, never entered his mind which, naturally, is one that keeps very closely to a single point. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend refers me to the man who has lost his razor. That is a matter of carelessness.


One is always prepared to give a certain amount of latitude but the hon. Member is really trespassing too far beyond the Rules of Order. The issue is very simple. It is whether a person may carry on business on Sunday if the only persons employed are members of his family. The hon. Member must keep to that issue.


I will come back very severely to the point whether the hairdresser, or barber, who is the only person employed should be allowed to keep open on Sundays. Of course, that brings in the question of the one man shop being open on Sundays. This Clause largely widens the scope of the Bill. I have some reasons, as far as my own mind is concerned, for opposing the Clause. The controversy concerning the one-man shop leads us into great difficulty. It has been explained that the one-man shop is a business in which, very often, a small barber does not do a great deal of trade during the middle of the week owing to the nature of the locality in which he works. He is perhaps not quite in the same position to-day as he was 10 years ago owing to the fact that there is a difference in the length of the hair of the female population, which means that there is more work for him to do in the middle of the week. But barbers of this character very often rely upon the week-end for getting the bulk of their clients. My right hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir R. Rodd) referred to certain conditions regarding other countries. I will not attempt to follow up that matter, but one does know from experience—and hon. Gentlemen opposite undoubtedly know—that throughout the country there are scores of small barbers' shops where a very large proportion of the trade is done on Saturday and Sunday. You are proposing—and it is the argument in favour of this new Clause—to prevent them from working their employés on Sunday. I sympathise with them in regard to that difficulty, and have done so for a great many years.

You would, by allowing the privilege provided for in this new Clause, create a further difficulty. You do not think of the man who may employ two or three outside assistants. I will amplify what I say in this way. The latter part of this proposed new Clause says that a man may employ persons who are members of his family. It is possible for a man and his wife and two, three or four members of his family to be employed together, and for them to employ each other in one shop, and that would mean, for practical purposes, that the shop was a comparatively big establishment. Next door you may have a smaller shop where there may be one man employing one or two outside assistants. I am presuming for the moment that you have a proper definition of "members of the family." Compared with the shop employing four or five persons in this way, the small man paying outside wages will be at a great disadvantage, because he is to lose this particular privilege. This is one of the reasons why I hold that it is not right that we should accept the Clause.

There is a further point in this connection. There is no definition of the word "family." I should like some information from my legal friends on this point. I see that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is present. What is the definition of the word "family?" How widely can it be applied? Is it possible to take in great-grandfathers, for instance? We really ought to have this information before a new Clause of this kind is accepted. I can see that the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) realises quite plainly that my paint is a good and adequate one and that he is pleased at the defence I am putting up regarding his position on the Bill. Then there is the question of what is meant by Sunday trading. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) thought that it was really only a matter of hours. I take the opposite line. I think that as far as this Clause is concerned the question of Sunday trading is the guiding principle. Although it may be necessary to have Amendments to meet certain modern conditions of life, I do not want in this case to amend the Bill in such a way that, as far as the Sabbath is concerned, you will rule out one particular section of the community. I come to another very important question in connection with this Bill. The proposed new Clause says: Notwithstanding anything in this Act any person may carry on the business of a hairdresser or barber on Sunday. I should like to know from the Mover of the Clause what he means precisely by "hairdresser or barber." The word "barber," I would remind him, has a wider meaning in some parts of the country than in others. In the old days it meant a barber surgeon as well, and part of the barber's duty was to bleed the subject.


That is outside the scope of this Amendment.


I will try to cover it by an Amendment. If I am not allowed to raise the point now, I am afraid that it will have to be raised at some other time. I should like to know from the promoters of the Bill what rules or regulations would have to be brought in to separate the two sorts of shops — the family business and the other kind of business. If we accept this proposed new clause, will the administration be left to the local authorities or to the Home Office? As far as Scotland is concerned, how will it be administered in those great northern cities? If we bring in an exception such as is suggested in this new clause, there might be a considerable amount of abuse and maladministration by people being brought in who are not members of the family. I have considered this matter with a desire to help my hon. Friends who are promoting the Bill, and I hope that they will extend their hand to me. It would not be well to pass a Clause such as the one now proposed, which seems to cut across what I conceive to be almost the guiding principle of the Bill.


I am opposed to all work on Sunday, except the old definition of work of necessity and mercy. St. Margaret of Scotland found that the Scottish people worked on the Lord's day as well as the other days of the week. She found that they worked much too hard. I do not think that if she revisited the country now she would find so much to complain about on that score. In those far distant years she held that people should not work on the Sabbath except in feeding the cattle and in doing other works of necessity and mercy. The provision now proposed will make an exception. In 1837, the question came up as to whether shaving of customers on Sunday by an apprentice boy was a work of necessity or mercy. The boy refused to do the work because he was devout, and his employer dismissed him, whereupon the youth sued for damages for wrongful dismissal. The Court of Session, which was in touch with the views of the Scottish people, decided that it was not a work of necessity or mercy and that if people could not shave themselves, they could go to church on one day of the week, unshaven. There was an appeal to the House of Lords, however, and they decided that shaving was a work of necessity and mercy.


What is the name of the case?


I cannot give the reference at the moment, but the case arose in 1837. I do not think that this House is in any way bound by that decision. There is a discrepancy in this Bill. Why should people engage in labour on Sunday in shaving mental deficients or physical deficients. If a man is bodily deficient he will not be going about on Sunday, and it does not matter whether he is shaved or not. If he is mentally deficient, he probably does not care whether he is shaved or not. Therefore, I do not see that this particular class of individuals should be indulged with this right to break the Fourth Commandment. Moreover, I do not see why the barbers should go to any hotel if a person resident there requires attention, or why they should attend those who go down to the sea in ships who require to be shaved. I do not see that the individual and his family should have any rights any more than the rest. This is not the worst type of Sunday labour. The worst thing we have is the issue and sale of Sunday newspapers. I wish they could be abolished along with the Sunday barber. This Bill is a step in that direction, and I am inclined to vote for it for that reason. I think this new clause would injure the general purpose of the Bill, therefore I am not prepared to support it.


I congratulate the hon. Members who have spoken on having attempted to say a good deal in a long time, so that one could hardly understand what they were driving at. I want us to get back to the Bill and to consider seriously what this new Clause would mean. If by any accident we added the new Clause to the Bill, it would mean that the Bill would become non-operative. The Clause suggests that members of a family, or a business where only members of a family are employed, should be allowed to conduct their business on Sundays. A very large number of barbers' and hairdressers' shops are what may be termed family businesses, and if the Clause were added, the Bill would become absolutely useless. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) said that the small business man must be considered. He must, and the consideration that he desires is that this Bill should become law in order to protect him against the unfair competition of those people who desire to take his business from him.

The reason why we have so many barbers' shops open on Sundays is not that, these people desire to open their shops, but that they are forced to do so by the action of individuals who open their shops, and to meet the competition that is set up against them. In the provinces there is a strong desire that this Bill should become law. I hope that now that hon. Members have had their say and have taken up so much time in saying many things that were not relevant to the new Clause, they will be content to withdraw the new Clause and let the Bill proceed to its further stages.


I am anxious that this Bill should become law. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill will bear me out in that statement. It is not a question of my assisting him with the Bill this Session, because I have done my bit to assist him in other Sessions when he had not the wholehearted support for the Bill that he is receiving to-day. I am satisfied that the House agrees with the principle of the Bill and will not assent to the new Clause. We have discussed this matter on every Shops Bill that has been introduced. Every year when the Shops Act is reaffirmed, under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the question of the one man business has been discussed. It has always been urged, as a plea against anything in the way of shop hours legislation, that these men would suffer severely if they were compelled to close their business. That argument does not apply in this case. The bulk of those who follow the profession of hair-dresser and barber in the provinces are men who can be described as small business men, and they carry on with just a boy or perhaps one assistant.

What would be the position if the new Clause was accepted? It would wreck the Bill altogether. Look at the position in which it would put barbers who employ one assistant. They would have to close their premises or themselves carry on the business on Sunday and allow their assistant to take his holiday. I do not know how the Courts would interpret this Bill if the Amendment was inserted; whether they would regard it as right and proper for a man to carry on himself on Sundays and send his assistant away, or whether trey would hold that any man who employs an assistant at any time cannot keep open on Sunday, because it is not a one-man business. At any rate certain people would keep open and others would have to close, and you would create, undoubtedly, a gross injustice in the case of certain people.

I regret that I did not hear the speech of the right hon. Member who moved the new Clause, but I have no doubt that the argument that you should not interfere with the liberty of the subject was used; that if a man wants to work on Sundays let him work. That is all very well so long as he is not doing an injury to other people. It may not be to the financial advantage of a man to work on Sundays. Where he is the only one in the district, and gets a monopoly, then, indeed, it is worth while, but what really happens is that if one man opens on Sunday gradually all the others who are his rivals in business follow suit. They consider that he is taking away some of their customers. So shop after shop opens, and in the long run the whole of the shops in the district are opened and nobody is one penny better off. They get the same number of people to shave and the same number of heads to shear, and they work on Sundays in addition to all the other days of the week. I cannot see why the House should accept this new Clause. We have no right to accept a proposal which will allow certain people to keep open and compel others to close.

2.0 p.m.


I approach this Bill from the point of view of one who has not made up his mind whether to oppose or support it. There is certainly a great deal in what the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) has said, but his arguments were wider than the particular point at issue in this new Clause. I fully agree with the principle of the liberty of the subject, but the day has gone by when in relation to any trade you can say that a man should be allowed to do what he likes with his own. That principle has gone, for good or ill. Where the argument of the hon. Member for Grimsby failed was in saying that if the Amendment is adopted it will destroy the principle of the Bill, in effect, that this is a purely wrecking proposal. Looking at the Bill I do not understand why this should be so, as very wide exceptions have been allowed from the general principle. I gather that a person can be shaved or have his hair cut in an hotel. It is true that he must be a resident in the hotel, but it will be a very difficult thing for the barber to make sure that every person who enters the hairdresser's saloon was actually resident in the hotel. There is no safeguard in the Bill to ensure that people who make use of the hairdresser's shop in an hotel are actually residing there.

Nor does there appear to be any reason why a person who is suffering from bodily or mental infirmity should have the right to be shaved on Sunday any more than any other person. I do not suppose his recovery will be retarded if he has to be shaved on any other day. But most important of all, and this is the most serious exception to the general rule, the Bill gives a right to the Jewish population in this country to open their shops on Sunday and so compete with a person of any other religion who cannot open his shop on Sunday. I am astonished that any Committee of this House should have agreed to such a proposal.


The Noble Lord is getting far away from the new Clause which is now under discussion.


I am referring to the question of exceptions. The new clause is opposed on the ground that it affects the principle of the Bill, and I am arguing that if you make an exception of so fundamental a character as to allow a shop in an hotel to be opened, allow people who are ill to be shaved on Sundays, and allow Jewish shops to be open, we should have much more powerful arguments from the supporters of the Measure before we reject the Clause.


There is nothing in the Bill which says that a person who is suffering from bodily or mental infirmity shall be attended to inside a barber's shop. The barber may attend him in an institution or his home for that purpose, but not in the shop.


I am much obliged for the hon. Member's courteous explanation. I was not fully aware of that fact. It would not be in order for me to pursue the subject. What I do assert is that this is an important exception in the Bill and that it involves Sunday labour for hairdressers. Let me refer to the new Clause. It is simply another exception such as the promoters of the Bill accepted in Committee. The Home Office should tell us why they consider that this exception is less necessary or less fair than the exceptions which presumably they agreed to in Standing Committee. It has been said with great truth to-day that the rights of the owners of one-man businesses have been greatly exaggerated. No one desires that the general trend of legislation, which has been so happily carried in recent years in the direction of giving more opportunities for recreation to shop assistants, should be altered by the fact that there are one-man businesses in this country. At the same time in the case of the businesses of hairdressers and barbers there is some ground for making an exception. It would, of course, be undesirable to have a large establishment open on a Sunday, but in any event very few people would be likely to make use of it. There is something to be said in favour of the one-man business being allowed to keep open on Sunday under certain conditions. There are, for instance, the hairdressers' shops in seaports. In Cardiff there are Mohammedan barbers. Friday is their Sabbath. Why should their establishments be closed on a Friday while Jewish shops are allowed to remain open?


Various speeches against the Bill have dealt with the subject as if this were the Second Reading. I do not want to weary the House with a Second Reading speech. [HON. MEMBERS: "Others have done it!"] Yes, and they have been allowed.


Is it in order for the hon. Members to question whether previous speeches have been in order or not?


I did not understand that the hon. Member was questioning my Ruling. I understood he was merely expressing an opinion.


The last thing I would do would be to question the ruling of yourself as the guiding spirit of the deliberations of this House. The House already knows all that there is to be known about this Bill. The Bill has been before the House on six occasions in recent years, and by one means or another Members have become fully acquainted with its provisions. Members of my trade—I do not call it a profession—have for long years been carrying on an agitation as best they could to get this alteration made in the law. They are a poor trade, but they have spent money to a very considerable extent in working for the change that this Bill would bring about. There are among the people of the trade employers, so-called master barbers or hairdressers, who are working 365 or 366 days a year. It is true that by compulsion they have a half holiday once a week, but little boys of 14 years of age or less, half-timers, are working every day of the week. It is the trade itself, not the men who work in the shops, not the assistants, but the employers themselves who have carried on this agitation through all these years and have asked to be saved from conditions over which they have little control.

I was born in the trade, and when I was a boy there was no such thing in the City of Glasgow as a barber's shop open on a Sunday. I was in business for myself, a so-called business, when this thing made its appearance. For some years in Glasgow there was only one man who kept his shop open on the Sabbath day. Then there was an invasion, shall I say? of foreigners, both in religion and nationality, and they brought with them their conditions and opened on Sundays.


The hon. Member is now endeavouring to do what he suggested that I allowed others to do.


I am sorry, and I will say nothing further on that point. But the Mover of the new Clause referred to various nationalities and said that Italians opened on a Sunday and then closed on a Monday. The new Clause does not provide for opening on Sunday and closing on Monday. It is not suggested that we should open on Sunday and should be compelled to close during the whole day on Monday, but if the suggestion of the new Clause were to be carried out, this Bill, with all its good intentions and with all the wisdom which, in my opinion, is contained therein, would go by the board. If we pass the new Clause the Bill will be dead. The new Clause asks for the exemption of a family business. How are who decide who are "the members of a family"? If the barber is a married man, is that term to include his brothers and his wife's brothers and any relatives of that kind? Do hon. Members understand the results which would follow from such a new Clause? It would mean that a man under this exemption would get an advantage of a kind which cannot be conceded in a trade like ours. We are too poor to allow advantages of that kind and, thus, one man with his family, might become the dictator of my lot and the lot of many other families who work at this trade.

I do not reply to certain further remarks that have been made because I do not think that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would permit me to do so, and I can only say that it was the remarks which were made on the other side which led me to adopt the line of argument which I did adopt a few minutes ago. I conclude, however, by pointing out to hon. Members that this is not a party Bill; that Members who sit on the Front Opposition Bench are backing it, and that Members in all parts of the House are supporting it. In Committee, in the course of less than two hours, we came to a unanimous decision recommending this Bill as it now stands to the House and I hope that that recommendation will be followed. I appeal to hon. Members, on behalf of the trade to which I belong, to give us an opportunity to have some freedom and happiness in our lives. I myself have never worked these hours which have been described, but I know what it is to do so, and 'I hope that the House will, without further delay, complete the remaining stages of the Bill.

Commander SOUTHBY

I also wish to—[Interruption.] The hon. Member opposite who is so vociferous in interruption and so silent in Debate, might, at least, allow some other Member to say a word in favour of this Bill in addition to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. Perhaps if the hon. Member who interrupts had waited, he might have changed the nature of his interruption. I also wish to support what has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) who is in charge of the Bill. Although I feel very strongly that there should be the greatest possible measure of freedom for the individual to do what he likes, when he likes and as he likes, at the same time I believe that this new Clause, instead of giving freedom to the members of a family in this trade, would, in its operation, prove to be simply an act of tyranny to them. Undoubtedly it is a wrecking proposal and even if the House were to accept it, I do not believe that the trade would be one penny the better for it.

I think that Members of the House must be impressed, as the Committee upstairs were impressed, by the fact that this Bill is asked for by the whole trade. It is not brought forward by the assistants but by the employers in the trade. As has been pointed out, a new Clause such as this would raise the difficulty of defining who were the members of an employer's family. It would be possible to include, for instance, cousins of a very distant degree of relationship. They might be accepted as members of the family and employed under the terms of this new Clause. The whole object of the Bill is to give one day's rest a week to a trade which now knows practically no rest at all. Members of the House must know from their experience that this is a trade in which there is very little off-time. Many of those engaged in it work under conditions which are particularly bad, and those are the very businesses which the Bill seeks to protect. I sincerely hope that if this proposal is pressed to a Division the House will reject it. Before concluding, I should like to refer to the point raised by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Horsham (Earl Winter-ton). The day's rest which the Bill gives to the trade is given also to the Jewish members of the trade, but this Amendment would give no day of rest at all to-any member of the trade whether Jew or Gentile. The new Clause would differentiate between people in the trade in a way which is quite contrary to the intention of the Bill.


I have followed the fortunes of this and similar Bills for many years, and think nobody with any humanity in his heart or mind could fail to be impressed by the plea which has been made by the hon. Member of St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart). I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir B. Rodd), whose excellent speech I listened to with great pleasure, that he should now withdraw his proposed new Clause because it is quite clear that there is a large amount of support for the Bill in all quarters of the House. As a Scotsman, I am firmly of opinion that if the law of Scotland were put into force, it would not permit of the opening of a single barber's shop or any other shop on Sunday. I believe that that is, in fact, the law of Scotland although it is not put into force. This Bill is asked for by the trade itself; it is asked for on behalf of the trade by one of the most respected of all men in the trade, and one of our own colleagues in this House, and I think that a Measure of this kind having been discussed on six previous occasions, we ought now to pass it into law.


It was not, in the least, my intention to make a wrecking proposal, nor had I solely in my mind the idea of protecting the small trade. I have very great sympathy with the small trader, and I will not say that his position was not in my mind in making this proposal, but I was really thinking of the convenience of the public. But if the new Clause is regarded, as it seems to be regarded, as a wreckage proposal, I should not wish to press it because I am entirely in sympathy with the general provisions of the Bill. I should add that I did not myself draft the terms of the new Clause. I think that had I done so I would have put it in rather different terms, but, in all the circumstances, and having heard the pathetic speech of the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart), I shall be very glad to accept what I feel is the sense of the House and to withdraw the proposed new Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.