HC Deb 13 May 1964 vol 695 cc426-8

3.33 p.m.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to extend the kinds of occupations in the case of which the hours of employment of young persons employed therein are regulated by the Young Persons (Employment) Act 1938 and to increase the penalty for an offence against Section 1 of that Act. I hope that the House will give me leave to bring in a short Bill dealing with the employment of young girls and boys. Its main object is to extend the types of occupation in which conditions of employment are regulated by the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938. This Act applies to young people who are employed, for instance, in the collection or delivery of goods, in carrying messages, running errands, in operating lifts, in laundries, or in receiving guests or members in a residential hotel or club.

The Act, however, does not apply to places like night clubs Under the Act, all persons under the age of 18 are subject to the following conditions—a working week not exceeding 48 hours, or 44 hours in respect of a person under 16 years of age; restrictions on the amount of overtime which can be worked; proper intervals for meals and rest; a weekly half holiday after 1 p.m.; a ban on Sunday employment without an additional whole holiday in the week and—this is the condition on which I am basing my proposed Bill—a ban on night employment between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. which must be included in a minimum rest interval of 11 consecutive hours.

I am sure that all hon. Members have been concerned, especially in recent years, about reports of girls of 16 or 17 years of age being employed in night clubs and similar places. This type of atmosphere must be corrupting, and at its lowest level it cannot be more than a cover for prostitution. By bringing within the scope of the Young Persons (Employment) Act the employment of both sexes in any occupation in the establishments that I have mentioned it will be possible to ensure that girls and boys under the age of 18 years may not be employed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The establishments concerned are those which regularly and lawfully sell or supply liquor at 11 p.m.

The Bill is designed to exclude the ordinary public house or club which closes at 10.30 p.m. or 11 p.m. I have tried to work out a formula which will ensure the minimum disturbance to legitimate and well-run establishments, while, at the same time, not providing a loophole for the unprincipled operators who exploit the lives of young persons. No country can afford to have the morals of its youth corrupted by too early an introduction to the less attractive haunts which are to be found in most of the major cities of the world.

One of the difficulties in drafting protective measures has been the superficial air of respectability of some establishments. However, I hope that next year some other London establishments will be brought under control by the new provisions in the London Government Act, 1963. I hope, too, that hon. Members will be able to help me by suggesting how the definition of these establishments can be improved.

In my Bill I am proposing a revision of the penalties under the 1938 Act, so as to bring them into line with those contained in the Children and Young Persons Acts of 1933 and 1963. This will mean a fine not exceeding £20 for a first offence and £50 for subsequent offences.

Some hon. Members may ask why the minimum age should be fixed at 18 years, which appears to be rather high. The reason is that up to date this appears to be the age at which Parliament has considered it to be right to give protection to young people. For example, the licensing laws impose a ban on the employment of persons under 18 years of age in bars, and also on their purchasing and being served with drinks. There is also the precedent of the 1938 Act, which the Bill seeks to amend.

The main object of the Bill would be to prevent young people from being employed in jobs which, in the past, have only too often led to their early and, perhaps, permanent moral degradation—I do not think that it is exaggerating too much to say that—and so prevent a great deal of unhappiness and anxiety, especially to their parents.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Miss Joan Vickers, Mrs. Braddock, Mr. Compton Carr, Mr. Alan Fitch, Mr. Philip N. Hocking, and Dr. Horace King.