HC Deb 11 February 1949 vol 461 cc718-44

Order for Second Reading read.

2.32 p.m.

Mr. Sparks (Acton)

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

May I make one or two comments upon the history of the Bill and the history of the craft with which it is concerned before I deal with the contents of the Bill? No doubt it will be of interest to the House to learn that this is the third occasion upon which this Bill has been submitted to it on a Private Member's Motion. It first came to the House on 29th July, 1936, when the Bill secured the First Reading, but Parliament was prorogued before it was possible to take the further stages of the Bill. Then again, on 28th March, 1939, the Bill was introduced by Sir Robert Tasker under the Ten-minute Rule, but the war intervened before the Bill could proceed to any further stage.

This Bill is supported by the majority of hairdressers, both employees and employers, throughout the length and breadth of this country. It is important to realise that, because we are about to consider an important matter affecting not only those engaged in the craft, but the public as well. The Bill is supported also by the workers' side of the National Joint Industrial Council for the hairdressing craft. It is also supported by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, of which trade union most of the organised employee hairdressers are members. It is estimated that there are about 100,000 hairdressers in the country operating in about 40,000 establishments. It is also estimated that about 40,000 are employers or managers and about 60,000 are hairdresser employees.

The craft of hairdressing is an ancient and honourable calling. It was one of first-rate importance in the ancient civilisations which have existed from the dawn of time. In Egypt, Greece and Rome hairdressing and beauty culture was an important vocation, and we know that it arose largely from the virtues of cleanliness but also, to some extent, from the vanity of the individual. It is as well to know, however, that as long ago as the year 1461 this craft was recognised by the State because Edward IV granted a Charter of Incorporation to what were then known as the Barber Surgeons. Perhaps it is just as well for us to realise that the hairdressers for more than 300 years were also surgeons.

Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)

They had to be to cure the patients.

Mr. Sparks

In addition to cutting hair and shaving faces, they also did a little blood letting and the drawing of teeth. In the year 1560, Henry VIII was responsible for an act of legislation which united the Barber Surgeons with another company which had grown up in the meantime, known as the Company of Surgeons. It was stipulated that the surgeons from the Company of Surgeons could practise the art in its entirety, with the exception of shaving; that privilege was reserved to the Barber Surgeons, which I assume was a somewhat subordinate capacity to that of surgeon. In the year 1745, however, George II was responsible for an Act which finally separated the surgeons and the barbers, and from that day the surgeons have forged ahead independently and, with the development of science, surgery has become a magnificent practice redounding to the general interests of our community. However, the poor hairdressers, as a result of this, lost considerably in prestige and authority because they were no longer recognised by the State. It is interesting to know however, that a Worshipful Company of Barbers is still in existence, and there was a fine old Hall situated in Monkswell Street, E.C.2, known as the Barbers' Hall, until it was destroyed by enemy action.

The first attempts made by those engaged in the trade to attain State recognition for themselves was in the year 1922 when the hairdressers, both employees and employers, formed a voluntary organisation known as the Hairdressers Registration Council. It was a voluntary attempt on their part to improve the standard and competence of the craft by inviting hairdressers to become registered with it, and to obtain from it a certificate which was the hallmark of their competence in the trade. The purpose of this voluntary organisation was not merely to improve the standard of competence of the hairdressers but also to provide a higher standard of service for the public. It endeavoured to promote, and does in fact do so, the training of hairdressers and apprentices, and it is interested in providing educational facilities for them to attain the highest standard of efficiency.

The time has come when this voluntary effort on the part of the hairdressers concerned must be translated into State recognition. It is very doubtful whether their great leadership in the trade can be taken much further. More than 40,000 hairdressers are registered with the Hairdressers Registration Council and the time has come when we ought to decide whether all hairdressers should approximate to the standard of the most competent in the industry. We believe, therefore, that it is the duty of the State to have regard to what has already been done in a voluntary capacity and that, by means of the powers vested in us, we should take steps to effect a complete improvement over the whole field.

In considering the Bill it is most important to know something of the extent of the activities of the trade. Hairdressing is not merely a question of cutting a man's hair or shaving his face; it is something far more extensive than that. Every male person resorts periodically to a hairdresser, on an average, probably once in every three weeks. There are, of course, a few isolated individuals who prefer to wear their hair without having it cut. It is estimated also that 80 per cent. of the female population of this country similarly patronise hairdressing establishments. Practically the whole of our population, therefore, is affected.

Then we should consider the responsibilities of present-day hairdressers, whose duty it is to cater for millions of men and women. Their customers are drawn from all classes and may be clean or dirty; yet any individual, without any knowledge whatever of hygienic standards or of various compounds and lotions, as long as he has a pair of scissors, a comb and a razor, can practise on a multitude of people without any degree of competence or efficiency being required of him. There is undoubtedly a very great danger from the spreading of infectious and contagious diseases. Many of the people who resort to hairdressing establishments may possess skin complaints, which can easily be passed on from head to head by an inexperienced, incompetent and unknowledgeable operator. It is not always easy to recognise the contagious or infectious nature of such complaints. Frequently, infection cannot be determined immediately because it is latent, and by the time it finally reveals itself, it is impossible to trace its origin to negligence on the part of a hairdresser in any one establishment. Additional risks are caused by the non-sterilisation of instruments and general uncleanliness on the part of the hairdresser himself. The only possible remedy for the public is to sue for damages for negligence against the hairdresser or establishment concerned but that is a very difficult undertaking, especially when in many cases it is impossible to prove accurately the source of infection.

I come now to the standard of untrained and unskilled labour in the trade and should like to draw the attention of the House to the report of a Commission of Inquiry on the application of the establishment of a wages council for the hairdressing trade, which was set up by the Minister of Labour and National Service under the Wages Council Act, 1945, and which reported in 1947. Paragraph 22, referring to the hairdressing trade, says this: It would also appear that large sections of the public can be imposed upon in the sense that they are satisfied with an indifferent standard of performance. These factors contributed to the rapid expansion in the women's hairdressing trade which took place before the war, but it is significant that that expansion did not result in any upward movement of rates of wages. Paragraph 23 goes on to say: We feel that it is by no means unlikely that a larger number of persons than the trade can reasonably maintain will again seek to follow the occupation of a hairdresser. —purely and simply because there is no control and because anyone, without any experience whatever, may enter the trade, call himself a hairdresser and establish a hairdressing saloon. It has been said. I know, that the public would not resort to establishments of low standard but in many areas no alternative is available. The public, therefore, must inevitably suffer this lower standard where the opportunity of an alternative does not exist.

Let me explain the reasons for the Bill. It is intended to lay down a standard of competence in the craft; to give to those practising in the trade a knowledge of the chemicals, poisons, electrical and mechanical appliances which are used; to promote knowledge of the use of tints and dyes; and to lay down a standard of hygiene and a code of ethics, which is eminently desirable but which at present is absent except from the better establishments which are registered with the Hairdressers Registration Council. It is hoped to lay down also a standard of medical fitness. We all know the dangers to public health which might be caused by a hairdresser who is medically unfit. Hairdressing is a trade in which the public and the operator come into close and intimate relationship and it is not in the interests of public health that any medically unfit individual should be engaged in so close a relationship

I should like to make one or two corrections which have arisen as a result of printing errors. I refer to them now in case anyone should wish to take objection The first error occurs in line eleven of the First Schedule. After the word "by" should be inserted the word "the" so that the line, when corrected will read: Eight persons who shall be registered hairdressers by the Hairdressers Registration Council. Then, again, in line 13, the word "employees" should be "employers." It is a printer's error.

Hon. Members will appreciate that Clause 1 of the Bill proposes the establishment of a British Hairdressing Board. It refers to the First Schedule, which sets out how that board should be comprised. It is proposed that one person shall be appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who shall be the chairman of the board, one person appointed by the Minister of Health, eight persons appointed by registered employers, and eight persons appointed by registered employees, of whom four should be elected by the appropriate organisation in the trade.

Clause 2 provides for the appointment of a registrar and officers of the board. Clause 3 proposes the provision of a register of hairdressers divided into two parts, one register of hairdressers for men and another of hairdressers for women. Clause 4 outlines in detail the persons entitled to be registered, and here I would like to say there is no attempt made in this Bill to deprive anybody of practising the art of hairdressing. No one who has practised for five years can be excluded; they will automatically be accepted for registration. Members of the Hairdressers Registration Council with no less than one year's membership, will also be registered.

Paragraph (iii) says that any person: engaged as his principal means of livelihood in the practice of hairdressing in Great Britain and within two years of that date passes the prescribed examination in hairdressing shall qualify for registration.

Paragraph (iv) proposes that a person who is responsible for the conduct of a hairdressing establishment although he may not be a hairdresser, and may not know anything about the trade as such, should automatically be registered. But where a person is specially employed to take charge of a hairdressing establishment then they are qualified and become registered hairdressers. Paragraph (iv) provides that in the case of an instructor at any school, college or centre of train- ing should be a qualified person. Paragraph (b) goes on to outline the conditions under which apprentices may be registered and become qualified and competent. The Clause also includes the registration of schools, colleges and centres of training which may be established or set up hereafter to provide the recognised course of training for those desiring to enter the profession.

Clause 5 gives details of the circumstances in which names might be removed from the register of hairdressers. Clause 6 gives power to the individual who might be so removed to be heard by the British Hairdressing Board in person or by solicitor or counsel, and he can, if he desires, take the matter further to the High Court.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)

I should like to ask a question on Clause 5. I realise that we have not yet come to the point where we can discuss the details of the Bill, and while I agree that the man who is dead, or the lunatic, should be struck off, can the hon. Gentleman indicate just what he means in paragraph (e) by the words: Guilty of infamous or disgraceful conduct in a professional respect? Those words conjure up dramatic and exciting scenes in hairdressing establishments.

Mr. Sparks

I think that such a paragraph is already applicable to many of the professions today, including the medical, dental, pharmacist and other professions. I believe that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman will realise that this paragraph is necessary. Unprofessional conduct is a thing which must be excluded.

Clause 7 provides for the issuing of certificates by the Board to persons registered as hairdressers, and Clause 8 lays down a scale of fees which would be payable to the Board, first, upon registration, and, secondly, as an annual fee. The figures mentioned in the Bill are maximum figures, and it is not anticipated that the actual fees required by the Board would be more than about half of those figures. But that is a matter, of course, which is left to the discretion of the Board to decide, because the Bill itself is no charge on public funds, and the Board must finance itself and all its activities from this source. Clause 9 lays down the privileges of becoming registered hairdressers. Clause 10 provides for the prohibition of those persons who are unregistered or otherwise unqualified, or who do not wish to become qualified in the art of hairdressing. Clause 11 proposes that the Board should have power to issue certificates under regulations to approve any school, college or centre of training for hairdressing.

Clause 12 sets out a list of pains and penalties for offences against the Measure if it becomes an Act. It is most important to safeguard against fraud and dishonesty on the part of those who might try to obtain a certificate in a dishonest way. Clause 13 provides the Board with power to make regulations in the ways described, and it also contains a safeguard because such regulations must receive the approval of the Secretary of State for the Home Department and must be laid before both Houses of Parliament. They may be prayed against by either or both Houses of Parliament, and, if such is the case, then they become void without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done. Therefore, all the regulations made by the Board must ultimately secure the approval of both Houses, and both Houses would have the power to render them null and void.

Clause 14 gives the Board power to consider the advisability of instituting an inquiry into the economic position of the craft with special reference to wages, profits and prices, but it does not give the Board power to hold such an inquiry because, obviously, the question of prices and profits is one as between the trade unions and the employers organisations who would meet and negotiate agreement on this matter.

Clause 15 provides the financial provisions relating to the activities of the Board and all the financial transactions of the Board shall be subject to audit by a certified accountant. Clause 16 provides for the service of notices. Clause 17 provides for the publication of the hairdressers' register and reports by the Board, and Clause 18 extends its application to Scotland. Clause 19 lays it down that nothing in this Bill shall prevent the exercise under any other Act of any right or function by a registered medical practitioner a registered chemist or a registered qualified trichologist. Clause 20 is the inter- pretation Clause, and Clause 21 is the short Title—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very pleased that hon. Members are so delighted with the Bill that I have gone through Clause by Clause—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] —for I suspect that not all of it has been read, and I think it is necessary to draw attention to what is contained in the Bill. I think it is a very fine Bill, and I trust it will be given a Second Reading.

I would like to say this in conclusion. The Bill does not restrict the extension or development of hairdressing establishments, nor is it an attempt to make the trade a closed shop. It gives no power whatever to restrict the development of trade, but it does attempt to lay down a standard of competence for those who operate in the craft. I would close my remarks with a very brief quotation from a gentleman who really does know something about this matter—Dr. W. J. O'Donovan, O.B.E., physician to the Skin Department and Lecturer in Dermatology at the London Hospital, and physician to the Skin Department of St. Mary's Hospital. Addressing a meeting of hairdressers at the Central Hall, Westminster, as recently as 18th January this year, he made reference to this question of legislation and standards of hygiene and competence in the craft. He said: Registration is a safeguard of considerable importance. Research and inventiveness have brought into use a multitude of preparations whose correct handling calls for precise knowledge. Ancillary trades and callings have demanded from the hairdresser a know-ledge sufficient to his craft of electricity, chemicals and diseases of the hair and scalp. Dyes which give excellent results when properly used by experts contain ingredients which are not foolproof in the hands of the amateur or the inexpert. Hairdressers should be, and most are, in a position to recognise diseases which are not connected with the hair as such. They must be able to safeguard public health. They must, on occasion, be strong enough to refuse to serve a client who is suffering from such diseases, and if needs be, to collaborate in the notification of contagious diseases on the list of notifiable diseases. Compulsion in this matter has not yet been applied, but for the sake of public health it might well be. The hairdresser can, however, on his own initiative, suggest to clients the advisability of consulting a doctor in certain cases. For his own sake he must take that action from time to time. The hairdresser is in fact, one of the chief custodians of public health. To carry out this office he must himself be sufficiently well trained in the recognition of such pathological conditions as may from time to time come under his observation. Behind this training there must be a standard of efficiency, and a standard of ethics. Only through statutory requirements can the craft itself be safeguarded against the inefficient, the casual and the careless. With every responsibility there should he some reward; with every reward some responsibility. I commend the Bill to the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and, judging by the reception which it has received, I trust that, on this the third occasion on which it has been before hon. Members they will give it an unopposed Second Reading, and let us settle any differences we may have, in the Committee stage which will follow.

3.4 p.m.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

I beg to second the Motion. I hope hon. Members will possess their souls in patience, because I shall be as brief as possible. I am very glad to have the opportunity of speaking in support of the Bill, which I have advocated for many years. When my hon. Friend gave us his historical review of the hairdressing trade, I was reminded that, when I first came to London in 1912, the first office which my union had was, strangely enough, said to have been the domicile of that historic figure Sweeney. Todd, the "Demon Barber of Fleet Street." This Bill is not merely in the interests of the bona fide hairdressers but is also a much-needed safeguard for the public. Therefore, I hope facilities will be given for its passage into law.

After the first world war many ex-Service men were cajoled into buying little tobacconist and sweet shops, and, in order to eke out a living, they opened a barber's shop in the back room. What did we find there?—one soap cup, one brush, and the danger of a foul shave. That was a common occurrence. Since the recent war quite a number of these shops have been opened all over the country. Hygienic arrangements and sanitation are lacking in many of these places, and the need for proper training in hairdressing today is obvious. Modern scientific inventions play a large part in hairdressing establishments. Chemical substances, electrical and mechanical appliances can be of great danger to customers. There have been cases of women having their hair dyed green and various other colours, and I have heard of cases where a defective drier has resulted in burning of the scalp.

Training has been introduced by several unscrupulous hairdressers in London, and I will give an illustration of what happens. Young girls are given indifferent training, and then after a short period they are told that they can rent a cubicle. The customers soon discover that a girl has not been properly trained, and the result is that she has to leave, her future is handicapped, and another victim is engaged. That is what this Bill seeks to prevent. It seeks to ensure that there shall be proper training instead of that indifferent training which is being given at the present time. As the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has said, gone are the days when the barber bled his clients, but in the cases which I have mentioned there is bleeding in another direction.

Modern hairdressers should be skilled in the processes of permanent waving, tinting, dyeing, massage and so on, and it is only by proper training that that can be accomplished. The danger is far too great to be left without these safeguards, and this Bill provides what is essential in the interests of the public. I am glad to say that my trade union, representing hairdressing employees, welcomes this Bill. If the Bill reaches the Committee stage, we shall certainly table some Amendments, and I hope the Bill will be passed into law.

3.8 p.m.

Mr. Harry Thorneycroft (Manchester, Clayton)

I should like to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) on his admirable presentation of this Bill and his very full explanation of the meaning of its provisions. Knowing full well how little time we have in which to discuss this important matter, it is not my intention to speak at length. I do not propose to follow my hon. Friend in his history of hairdressing right from the dawn of time. However, as one who has been associated with hairdressing for more than 40 years, and has occupied the position of national president of its organisation, I think a few words from me which will give the House a picture of what has happened in more recent times, may be appropriate

The registration movement was started in 1922. Those of us who are old enough will remember that the short hair fashion for women came in at the end of the first world war in 1918. Owing to the untidiness of appearance with which women were troubled at that time it was thought that an invention was overdue which would provide some artificial aids to make the head more presentable. As a consequence, we had the invention of the permanent waving machine, we had the extension of the development of Marcel waving and, afterwards, we had dyeing and tinting and so-called beauty culture. The people called upon to carry out this work in this country were, in the large majority of cases, quite unfitted by training or experience to carry it out at all.

We must also bear in mind that in carrying out work of dyeing and tinting many very dangerous chemical substances were used, causing a great deal of damage to the women who visited the saloons. I can say from my own experience, from an organisation which had its own third party public liability scheme, that there were at that time thousands of preventible accidents, largely attributable to the fact that in those days the hairdressers were persons who had no scientific knowledge and who were inflicting a great deal of pain and suffering on their customers.

There was a diminution of this problem because the hairdressing trade itself set up this registration movement and formed schools and colleges with the express purpose of spreading knowledge. The consequence was that there was an improvement until the middle twenties, when somebody outside heard of this new El Dorado, came along to pour their money into it, and there was a big dilution by people who had no hairdressing experience at all. The casualty list was again lengthened.

In 1939, as a consequence of the withdrawal of many of the obnoxious and poisonous substances—they were used in munitions of war rather than as aids to beauty—there was a further reduction in the casualty list, but I can tell the House of the experience of one organisation today which has 9,000 policies current and which since 1935 has had 1,600 claims against hairdressers for damage inflicted on customers, very largely due to the fact that the hairdresser did not thoroughly understand his work. More than £20,000 had been paid out in damages. I can assure the House that the freeing of these substances and the access to them without any control or regulation whatever, will mean that in the coming spacious days the casualty list will be increased.

That is the reason why hairdressers are asking for some control of the industry. They want to see that today none but properly trained and experienced individuals are employed in it. They also-want to see that the premises in which the hairdresser operates are properly hygienic and observe the standards of proper sanitation. In many of the large towns of this country hairdressers have already co-operated with local authorities in the framing of local private Bills in which the local authority has asked for powers for regulations of hairdressing saloons. The hairdressers have not opposed that. The more enlightened and intelligent hairdressers recognise the need for it and, as a consequence, have co-operated with the medical officers of Health, and a very large number of local authorities already have those powers. But we have no powers at all to control the individual. It is possible for a pork butcher to open a hairdressing saloon and set up as a beauty culturist. It is possible for any person without any experience whatever to practise in this trade, which can he highly dangerous and which I confidently predict will become more dangerous still unless the House is prepared to accept this Bill.

3.15 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

This is rather a significant occasion for me, because when Private Members' Bills were last discussed, in 1939, the House was good enough to give a Third Reading to a Bill of mine. I think the list of Private Members' Bills on the Order Paper shows how valuable is this concession—or, rather, this right—of ours, which the Government have restored, to introduce Bills of our own The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), who introduced this Bill, attributed to the Bill itself credit for the cheers he received from the House. I think he was unduly modest, because I think the cheers were directed more to his comprehensive and detailed review of the Bill, and were in appreciation of that, rather than any particular merits of the Bill—though there are, undoubtedly, merits in it. I approach the Bill in a more or less detached attitude, because I stand half way between those who have a lot of hair and those who have none. Those with a lot of hair are naturally rather concerned with the Bill because, I suppose, it is on the health of their hair that the wealth of their brains depends to some extent; whereas those with no hair at all have only such consolation as their hairdressers give them when they appear to be sprouting a few hairs.

This Bill, undoubtedly, will have to become an Act of Parliament some time or other—I do not say now, because it may be that it is premature. From the speeches that have been made I am not quite sure that the sponsors of the Bill are sufficiently aware of the tremendous confidence they are asking the House and the public to give them. The Hairdressers' Protection Registration Council, the hon. Member for Acton said, represents 40,000 hairdressers. However, he did not say how many hairdressers there are in the country.

Mr. Sparks

I think I did. I think I said that it is estimated that there are about 100,000 hairdressers, employers and employees, altogether.

Sir T. Moore

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I did not catch that remark when he previously made it. It gives strength to his argument, because if the organisation is sponsored by 40,000 out of 100,000, and is in favour of certain legislation, then, I think, it deserves the very serious consideration of this House. But I come back to the point that, if we pass this Bill, we shall give to the leaders of this profession—I take it that they would like it to be called a profession—a tremendous trust, because we shall be handing over to them the livelihood, as the hon. Member himself said, of 100,000 people, with many more to come.

Mr. Sparks

May I put the hon. and gallant Gentleman right on that? It is not proposed in the Bill to hand over these powers to the existing Hairdressers' Registration Council. The Bill envisages a board, which is a totally different thing.

Sir T. Moore

I quite understand. I am coming to that in a minute. The Bill lays down that there shall be an administrative board to run the registration provisions, and Clause 12 lays down that pe- nalties that may be inflicted. That Clause alone is sufficient to justify my remark. The penalties proposed, in my opinion, are unduly severe, because the majority of hairdressers, as the hon. Gentleman should know, are small people, and to inflict a penalty of £100 on one of them might knock him out of business. That is the justification for my remark. Of course, these are Committee points which will have to be dealt with when the Bill goes to Committee. There is another matter which the hon. Gentleman, being an Englishman, probably has not considered. In connection with this board, to which so much authority and control is to be handed over, there is no mention made of any representative from Scotland. That is fantastic folly. It may well mean the rejection of the Bill by Scottish Members.

Mr. Sparks

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has misread the Bill. There are hairdressers who are employers and hairdressers who are employees in Scotland, and they will be entitled to representation on the board.

Sir T. Moore

The hon. Gentleman is sliding off the argument. It says in the Bill— One person to be appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department who shall be Chairman of the Board. One person to be appointed by the Minister of Health. There is no reference to Scotland, except when it comes to the administration of penalties.

I believe that we can make a workable Bill out of this in Committee, but it certainly is not one yet. We have to remember that all the great professions who have had registration in the past—doctors, dentists, lawyers and architects—have been professions of very great significance in our national life, and have built up on the very foundations of our history. This Bill will not deal with anything of that sort. It is the first time that registration has been introduced for a comparatively minor profession, although I do not say an unimportant one. Therefore, while we may give it, as I hope the House will, a Second Reading, we must impress both upon the Registration Council and the Board which is to be formed, the importance of the power we are giving them, and the responsibility we are placing on them, which they will have suitably to discharge. Apart from that, I give my support to the Bill.

3.22 p.m.

Mr. John Paton (Norwich)

I do not want to speak for long but I would say a few words in support of the Bill. I happen to be one of those covered by the safety Clause—Clause 19. I think that I happen to be the only registered, qualified trichologist in this House. I have been registered for 33 years and, although I have not practised for 30 years, I am still interested in all aspects of my profession and have maintained a very close watch on all modern development in connection with it. Therefore, I feel that I ought to say something in this Debate.

I do not want to follow the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) except to mention one point. He tried to draw a distinction between the professional bodies who have already been given statutory power for registration, by talking about them as being in some peculiar way more significant for this country than the hairdressers. He drew a distinction, which seemed to me to be entirely false. I cannot conceive anything more significant for this nation than the trade with which we are now dealing. I cannot conceive anything which would distinguish it from other trades in importance. After all, one part of this industry is in the most definite and direct way engaged in what is known as the art of cosmetics, which is of concern to every woman and every girl in this country in these days, and will, I expect, continue to the end of time to apply to them. I cannot conceive anything of more far-reaching importance than a trade which embraces so large and important a part of the general community of this country.

The real reason why I am interested in the Bill is not because it is in any way protective of the people actually engaged in it. My reason for supporting it, and welcoming it, is the public interest. It has always been to me a matter of great surprise that while we in this country, over the last 100 years, have built up a great mass of protective legislation to prevent deleterious practices arising in all sorts of trades and professions, affecting the health of our community, yet we have been content to allow this particular trade, which covers in its operation nearly every man, woman and child in the country, from the cradle to the grave, to carry on at its own sweet will. I want to emphasise very strongly the point made by a previous speaker on this matter. It is perhaps easy enough for hon. Members or members of the public to sense the dangers that may lie in the grimy little shop in a back street, and yet to be wholly ignorant of the similar dangers that lurk behind the gilded facades which may be found on a main street.

This trade, as at present conducted, is quite apt to be a source not only of potential infection but of actual infection equally harmful to wide sections of our community as the practices of the food adulterer, or the practices that ire dealt with commonly under the Foods and Drugs Act over a wide scale of trade and commercial practice. In these great modern developments we find this trade branching out in many directions in a most highly dangerous way, and probably only those who have had intimate contact with it are able to appreciate just what amount of risk is involved. In modern hairdressing establishments, particularly in the women's trade, one finds men and women, completely untrained and ignorant of the operation of the apparatus that they very often employ or the chemicals they use for the various processes they are engaged in, applying these things to human beings, sometimes not only to their grave risk but to their grave injury.

In the Bill we see reference to, for instance, depilation—that is, removal of the hair from the skin, face and scalp. Very few people understand what is involved in that. Two processes are used. One of them involves the use of a chemical, which ignorantly and inexpertly applied may lead to permanent injury to the skin, and very often to temporary injury of a grievous nature. The other process is the removal of these hairs by the application of an electric needle and the operation of minor surgery by completely untrained, inexpert and ignorant people, without the public having any safeguard at all.

It is easy for hon. Members in this House to adopt an attitude of good-humoured tolerance to the sort of case that is being made out. That is because they themselves do not understand how gross has been the risk in the past, and the grave danger to people as a result of what is going on. I have myself repeatedly seen women with their skins permanently and quite horribly disfigured because of the operations of ignorant operators in these processes. I have seen women rendered permanently bald because of the operation by ignorant and inexpert operators of noxious chemical substances the use of which they did not understand, or of which they did not realise the composition and dangers.

I wish to say one more thing before I finish. We have recently seen in the newspapers—and the lady Members are no doubt well aware of it—the advent of something called the cold-waving process. Now, very few people understand that in all hair-waving processes the effective operative substance is a very highly toxic chemical. In this cold-waving process, which is now being adopted in this country, there is a very high toxicity in the chemical employed, and unless care is taken, I am certain that its wide use will be followed by a crop of exceedingly serious cases of injury to the persons to whom it is applied.

Of course, very very few of these cases go to the courts; most of them are hushed up. Those that come to light are comparatively few. I realise that a number do, but that only proves how much greater is the number that never come to the courts at all. I urge upon the House that here in this Bill, which may be faulty but which can be improved in Committee, there are effective steps which could be taken, not necessarily to render those risks and dangers completely negligible, but to reduce them to a minimum. It would mean that people entering this trade would have a minimum standard of training and knowledge to enable them at least to avoid the grosser risks which they now inflict on their customers.

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)

It is the custom of the House for a Member to confess his interest before making a speech, but in this case I can only express my lack of interest. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) had his own explanation of why the House cheered while the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) was introducing this Bill, but the real reason why we cheered was because we were afraid that the hon. Member, in going through the Bill Clause by Clause, would talk out his own Measure. We were delighted that he failed to do so, although it was only by a short head, if the House will forgive the pun. Broadly speaking, we think that the Bill should have a Second Reading. But the Bill is too utterly elaborate and pretentious, and during the Committee stage there is an awful lot that will have to be altered. The Bill sounds as if it had been prepared by some herald appointed by Oliver Cromwell. Just listen to Clause 1 (1). For the purpose of this Act, there shall be established a board which shall be a body corporate by the name of the British Hairdressing Board with perpetual succession and a common seal and with powers to acquire and hold lands without licence in mortmain. Of all the nonsense I have ever heard in this House, that is about the worst example. "Mortmain" means, I suppose, "dead hand"—it is the advantage of compulsory education that we can now translate it into something like that‡

Mr. J. Paton

Is the hon. Member aware that this rigmarole—and I agree with him in his description of it—is simply copied from the charters of the older bodies which have already been registered?

Mr. Baxter

Then it is about time something was done about it. This is nothing but high-falutin' nonsense, with the "dead hand" running through it.

On this question of infamous and disgraceful conduct in a hairdresser's shop, all I can say is that by the time it is discovered, the police and the fire brigade will have arrived. It is all quite ridiculous. The whole of the Bill is conceived in an absurdly pretentious style. There are two kinds of people we want to protect. First, we want to protect the honest hairdresser, who deals with a man's hair —or a woman's hair or hair that falls in between the two like that of the Under-Secretary. We also want to protect the customers from infection, inferior work and from disgraceful conduct. Therefore, we are in favour of giving this Bill a Second Reading. But we do not want to close the door to new entrants, any more than we want to close the door to men of ability for politics, journalism or the law. We do not want to set a plodding pace.

I have nothing more to say, except that I think the charges for hairdressing for men are far too low in this country. In the United States the charges are too high, but the hairdressers do give service and cleanliness. Hairdressers should put up their prices and improve their services. After all, they administer to our comfort, our position in society and our self-respect. Therefore, I hope the Bill will get its Second Reading.

3.36 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Younger)

I think that all speakers on all sides of the House have expressed their general agreement with the purpose of the Bill. I have, however, noticed a good many reservations, particularly those of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), about the manner in which the Bill proposes to attain its legitimate objectives. As we look at the short description of it set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, we cannot fail to agree that none of us wants to see incompetent persons in this craft, or unsatisfactory conditions of hygiene and sanitation. As regards the third objective, the question of training schools, there may be some argument whether the mere fact that they are unorganised is necessarily a serious criticism. Nevertheless, we would agree that some measure of proper training is desirable in this trade. I think those objectives would be common not only to this trade but virtually to every other trade in the whole country.

When one has mentioned those objectives one has not in any way made a special case for dealing with this particular trade. I do not want to be thought to discourage the movement which is clearly widespread in this craft for enhancing its status and improving its standards, but in considering the Bill one has to address oneself to a slightly different question. Granted that we all wish to see a raising of the standards, the question is, whether it is right at this time that those standards should he enforced by law, backed by the sanction of the criminal law; and if so, whether the proposals in the Bill are the right way of doing that. As regards that first question "Do we think that the conditions and standards should be enforced by law?" His Majesty's Government would answer with a qualified assent. I shall come to the qualification in a moment. If we have to answer the question "Are the proposals in the Bill the right method of doing so?" I am afraid that the view of His Majesty's Government is that this is not the right way to do it.

What is it that the Bill proposes? It proposes to set up the British Hairdressing Board, which has to maintain a register, to approve schools of hairdressing, hold examinations and make certain regulations. Persons who wish to ply this trade will have to apply for registration. They will have to pay fees. It is true that the figures in the Bill are maxima. They rise as high as £5 initially, and an annual fee not exceeding £3. Once the Bill is fully enforced, no unregistered person could use the title "Hairdresser" or practise or hold himself out as practising hairdressing. As the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) pointed out, the penalties for any infringement of those provisions are very heavy.

That is what one might call an extremely strict system of control, backed by very heavy penalties indeed. It is on that footing that we must consider whether, in the case of this particular craft or trade, it is appropriate that such a system should be enforced. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill said that it was not the purpose of the Bill to impose restrictions on the trade as a whole. I have no doubt that that is perfectly correct, but if the House considers the standards which are laid down it will be difficult for hon. Members not to think that there is a measure of restriction implied in the Bill. Very considerable power is to be given to the trade. It is assumed throughout the Bill that it is possible and desirable to enforce a very high degree of uniformity both as to the practice of the trade and the training for it throughout the country and through the different types of establishment.

I suggest to the House that we should only assent to this if it is very clearly shown that the public interest, that is to say, the interests not of just one section of the community but of all sections, demands that these measures should be taken. It will be observed that although, in the main, the machinery of the Bill is to be operated by representatives of the craft, nevertheless, considerable responsibilities are to be put upon my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and he has to consider whether the responsibilities put on him are necessary and whether he feels that he would properly be able to carry them out.

Some comparison has been made between these proposals and those measures which are taken to control a number of other professions, notably the doctors, the dentists and the midwives and, in a rather different category, the law and the architects. I do not necessarily want to suggest that any of those professions is more significant—we would all have our own ideas as to what the word "significant" might signify—but I suggest that they present a different type of problem. It is really not right that we should compare, at any rate in degree, the dangers involved in medical practice by entirely untrained and unqualified people and those in hairdressing practice by untrained and unqualified people. There is such a difference in degree that it amounts almost to a difference in kind. Different considerations perhaps apply with the law and architecture, but I would point out that the measures controlling these different professions are not uniform and in general it is fair to say that they are less severe than those provided in the Bill for the hairdressing craft. There is only prohibition about holding oneself out to be a registered medical practitioner. I understand that the position is the same with regard to the architects' profession. One is not prevented entirely from practising in some form but one may not hold oneself out to be a qualified architect. We have therefore to recognise that the Bill sets out to impose an even stricter control than is imposed on those very important professions.

What is the need for the measures proposed here? Let us, first, consider the question of health and hygiene. So far as I am aware there have been no, or at any rate no substantial, representations and no great demand has been shown for legislation on a national scale either on the part of public health authorities—one would think that they would be primarily concerned with the problems of health and hygiene—or on the part of the public at large. As one hon. Member mentioned, many local authorities have already got powers under local Acts to exercise a very considerable degree of control and to enforce a proper minimum standard of health and hygiene. In general there is provision under those Acts for the making of by-laws, subject to confirmation by the Minister of Health, for securing cleanliness of premises, instruments and equipment, cleanliness of persons and their clothing and a power of entry for duly authorised persons to inspect and for inspection by medical officers, sanitary inspectors and so on.

That is a type of provision which is already fairly widespread. There are local authorities who have not yet got those powers who are asking for them at the present time, and in general we have no reason to think that where a genuine public need is felt for that form of control there is any difficulty in obtaining the necessary powers on a local basis. This seems to us to be essentially a matter of public health and consequently a matter which is more appropriately dealt with by the public health authorities than by national legislation of this kind, where the control is given principally to the profession. It is correct to say in respect of this craft that, on the whole, requirements vary to a considerable extent from one area to another, which is an additional reason for leaving it to the public health authorities.

Turning to a slightly different consideration which might justify control of this kind—public safety—it is also true that in a number of areas, though not as many as those that already have the health powers to which I have referred, there is wide power taken under local Acts to control the use of many types of dangerous apparatus and electrical appliances such as have been referred to. Once again I am bound to say that His Majesty's Government have not been made aware of any widespread representation from the public or from health authorities that there is any general danger to be met here.

Mr. J. Paton

Would the Minister make it clear that where precautions are now taken for safety measures in enclosed premises in certain areas, these are precautions applying to the use of inflammable substances, and were forced upon the authorities because women were burned to death through the use of petrol by ignorant operators?

Mr. Younger

I have no doubt that that is one of the purposes, but it is not my information that these powers and measures of control are necessarily confined to inflammable substances. Indeed, I understood from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Clayton (Mr. H. Thorneycroft) that the dangers which he envisages are to some extent dangers which arose in the past, which he thinks may perhaps arise in the future, but that for some years past and at the present time there is no very large number of cases of this kind cropping up. It certainly corresponds with my information that there is not a large number of cases in which serious danger has arisen. Although one can say that in theory such dangers might arise, and that there might be, and are from time to time, lawsuits in respect of them, it would be wrong to use a somewhat hypothetical proposition of that kind to justify such severe restrictions as are proposed by this Bill.

I will not say much about the question of training. Clearly it is desirable that there should be a measure of training before people undertake work of this kind. I rather wonder, however, whether there is a single standard minimum of professional competence which is desirable in all types of establishment and throughout the country, such as one can legitimately say applies to the other professions where there is control of this kind. I wonder whether it really is essential that a village hardresser, before he is allowed to cut anybody's hair, should be fully trained in vibro-massage, and all the other things mentioned in the interpretation Clause as coming within the definition of hairdressing.

Mr. H. Thorneycroft

The Under-Secretary of State denies that there are any standards at all which are conformed to, but there are two standards. There is the London Polytechnic School, where a standard is laid down for this country, and Stowe College, Glasgow, where the standard is laid down for Scotland.

Mr. Younger

Surely my hon. Friend means that there are standards which should be conformed to? If it is the case that these standards are laid down, are conformed to, and are satisfactory, there is less reason for this Bill than there otherwise would be.

In general, my right hon. Friend takes the view that there is a lack of information as to the type of dangers which are arising and occurring that would justify him in being prepared to undertake the responsibilities placed upon him by this Bill. In so far as the need for certain uniform standards exists, he feels that the need is already met in a large measure by the many local Acts and by the control exercised by public health authorities, and that in so far as it requires to be extended, it can easily be extended by the adoption of those powers in other areas. Therefore, while not wishing in any way to damp down the ardour of the profession in improving its own standards, he does not feel that he can recommend the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill which imposes such a very strict measure of control and such very heavy penalties of this kind.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

Despite the criticisms by the Under-Secretary of the Bill, and particularly of the stringent nature of the sanctions it provides—with which latter criticisms I find myself in very considerable agreement—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not oppose the Second Reading. I believe it to be the almost unanimous wish of all those who sat through the Debate that the Bill should go upstairs—and should be further examined in Committee.

Modern woman spends something like three per cent. of her waking hours in the hairdresser's chair, and I had not fully appreciated, until I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) in moving the Second Reading, the grave risks to life and limb, not to mention the risks of disease, to which our womenfolk are so frequently subjected and for such prolonged periods. I suggest, therefore, that, on motives of chivalry alone, we of the male sex ought to support the Second Reading of this Bill.

3.52 p.m.

Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)

I want very briefly in the few minutes that remain to appeal to the Under-Secretary to change the attitude he adopted this afternoon. His speech was a very great dis- appointment. After all, he has one of the best heads of hair on the Front Bench and we might have expected him to have been a little more hair-conscious. I feel very strongly that the case which he made against the Bill was not a case at all. We agree, perhaps, that some of the powers asked for go a little too far; the constitution of the proposed board could be altered, but the principle of the Bill he himself, in his opening remarks, had to accept, for he said that the claims put forward were perfectly legitimate. But he has given us no alternative or suggestion of how we shall meet what is a very serious potential and actual danger.

As a woman who has frequently availed herself of the hairdressing service, I know that this service today enters into the lives of nine women out of ten. It is because of the widespread use of these services that this matter has become one of vital public importance. Today, also, the complications, extent and nature of the hairdressing service are such that it is a matter of extreme seriousness that it should be practised by untrained people. The Under-Secretary had to admit that he had no suggestions to make about how this problem of lack of training should be met. I ask him, therefore, to withdraw his oposition, and I hope that, in the interests of the mass of the people of this country, hon. Members will go into the Division Lobby in support of the Bill.

3.54 p.m.

Mr. Hardy (Salford, South)

Like the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), I am very disappointed. As an old hairdresser of many years' experience and older, at any rate, than the Under-Secretary, I think there has been a genuine demand all over the country for the protection, in the interests of the general public, which is proposed in the Bill. Those of us with experience of the methods of local authorities know that they shelve this kind of question without facing the issue. It appears to be too much trouble for them to try to meet the situation, as was the case with the Under-Secretary today.

A Parliamentary Measure was recently introduced for my own town, in which because the Minister of Health was not in agreement, we sought permission to make periodical visits and registrations of food shops. Because the Government did not agree, it had to be thrown out. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will reconsider this matter and give us an opportunity of dealing with the question. There is a genuine demand for a Bill of this kind. If we want to remove unqualified hairdressers, the only way to do so is by supporting the Second Reading of this Bill, and by trying to eradicate this problem. If we do that, we shall be protecting the general public who are entitled to the protection of Parliament from the filth which exists in many of these establishments and from the contagious diseases which might be spread in this way. We realise the difficulties of the health authorities in the various towns in regard to this problem. It is not too late for the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider his decision.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.