HC Deb 10 May 1938 vol 335 cc1423-5
Sir Arnold Wilson

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Chimney Sweepers and Chimneys Regulation Acts, 1840 and 1864, the Chimney Sweepers Act, 1875, and the Chimney Sweepers Act, 1894. I am asking the permission of the House under the Ten Minutes Rule to introduce a Bill to repeal the four Acts relating to chimney sweepers mentioned on the Order Paper. The Bill will be a one-Clause Measure, which, instead of adding to the Statute Book, will take off about 10 pages. These Statutes are now, for all practical purposes, completely obsolete, and would have been dealt with by one of the periodical revisions in Statute law long ago but for the fact that they include provision for the sum of half-a-crown a year in aid of the local police pension fund to be paid by every chimney sweeper who employs an assistant. That being the case, it has been utterly impossible to deal with it hitherto in Statute law revisions. The Acts, as everyone knows, arose originally from the necessity of bringing chimney sweepers under control in order to prevent them from employing young children in sweeping chimneys. That necessity has long ago disappeared, and the Acts to-day not only encumber the Statute Book and Stone's Justices' Manual, but they also add one additional duty to the police. Moreover, they are regarded by chimney sweepers, who in England and Wales number about 6,000, as being a slur upon their profession, for chimney sweepers are the only manual workers in the country who have to get an annual permit from the police in order to perform their duties.

Those whom I have consulted and with whom I have been in touch—if I may say so—regard it as high time that these Statutes were removed. Chimney sweeps are people who do more to prevent fires than all the fire brigades in the Kingdom, and that is why I selected this day in order to seek the leave of the House to introduce this Bill. They are people whom it is regarded as fortunate for a bride to be able to kiss. I think it was Shakespeare who likened them in their old age to "Golden lads and girls." They have been alone for the last 50 years under the statutory inability to knock at one's door or to ring one's bell without incurring the liability to a penalty of £5, and they regard themselves as respectable and useful members of society who ought no longer to be under this particular disability. They are proud, as no other profession is to-day, to call themselves on their notice boards "Practical." That being the case, I commend this Bill, which will have the support, as I am assured, of Members on all sides, to the consideration of the House.

Bill ordered to he brought in by Sir Arnold Wilson.