HC Deb 22 July 1938 vol 338 cc2673-6
Mr. Rhys Davies

I beg to move, in page 4, line 21, leave out "second" and insert "first."

This is merely a drafting Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Liddall

I beg to move, in page 4, line 27, at the end, to insert: Provided that the said subsection (1) shall not have effect as aforesaid in the case where such young person is employed in the collection and delivery of newspapers for not less than eight working hours in any week. I wish to take this opportunity of correcting several misstatements, misunderstandings, and mischievous statements in regard to this matter. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan), whom I am glad to see in his place, said on the Second Reading: I believe it is most injurious that these young people should have to work at six o'clock in the morning and at ten o'clock at night.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1938; col. 2142, Vol. 338.] The obvious inference of that is that such a thing was being proposed by me. When I remember that the hon. Member has often been referred to as an educationist, I submit that he should have known better than to have attempted to mislead the House as he did on that occasion. The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), whom I also see in his place, said I was pleading that newspapers are more important than young lives. In addition to being an old newspaper man, I am also the father of children, and I am content to let my public and private record speak for itself. It is true that children are of great national importance, but so too are our newspapers, and our newspapers can only remain of national importance so long as they can be distributed among the people, who will then be able to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest." The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), who also spoke during the Second Reading Debate, delivered the most misleading speech of all. He said: I happen to be one of those grown-up newspaper boys of days gone by, and I suggest seriously that if you want to bring out the devil in a lad you should let him sell newspapers. It is not an economic advantage, even in a struggling home, to allow a boy to turn out early in the morning and late at night to sell newspapers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1938; col. 2149, Vol. 338.] There is no suggestion in this Amendment or in the speech that I made the other night that the National Federation of Retail Newsagents wants to send boys out on the streets to sell newspapers. All that we ask is that these boys, after they have left school, from 14 years of age and upwards, shall be permitted to deliver ordered newspapers.—[An HON. MEMBER: "At what time?"] From seven to eight in the morning, on six days a week. I would ask hon. Members to remember what they are doing when they are going to deprive these young men from adding a few shillings every week to the family exchequer. [Interruption.] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to adopt the attitude that they are taking to-day, but let them remember that there is such a thing as a General Election. In recent years they have taken the wrong turning every time.

I submit to the House and the country that this is a reasonable Amendment which the Government should accept. It does not exploit child labour and does not interfere with the child's attendance at school. It permits young men who have left school for a little time before they take up more permanent employment to deliver ordered newspapers, a clean light job which the young men who do it like doing. They appreciate the few extra shillings it brings in. I appeal to the Committee, and particularly to the Government, which is so largely comprised of Conservative Members, who believe in private enterprise and individual freedom, not merely to give lip service to those sentiments, but to be practical and accept the Amendment. Let the country see that the National Government consider the interests of the small trader who show initiative and enterprise in earning their own living rather than exist on the dole. I appeal earnestly to the Government, and particularly to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, after having conceded certain things to the Socialists, to concede one to a loyal member of the Conservative party.

3.53 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I wish I had the time to deal adequately with the vigorous and eloquent speech of my hon. Friend. He has made a personal appeal to me as a representative of this party to meet him on this Amendment. I wish I could, but I fear I cannot, for a very simple reason. We are here engaged upon reducing the hours during which young people between 14 and 18 shall be employed. We are doing that with the approval of almost every hon. Member. We cannot possibly make an exception to one particular class of young person. I say nothing whatever in disparagement of the newspaper trade or the newsvendors, but I put it to the Committee that it is impossible, when we are advanced upon what we believe to be a further measure of progress in reducing hours of work, to make an exception in the case of young persons between 14 and 18 who may be delivering newspapers. We are not stopping this work; all we are doing is to say that their hours of work in the course of the week shall be the same as those of all young people who come under this Bill.

That is the argument in a single sentence. It is not obstinacy on my part, it is not failure to recognise that these young people play a useful part in the life of the community in distributing newspapers, but we have embarked upon a certain scheme of social reform and to admit this exception would be to destroy the foundations of it.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 4, line 30, leave out "second" and insert "first."—[Mr. Rhys Davies.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 4 and 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.