HL Deb 22 June 1886 vol 307 cc178-84

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the said Bill."—(The Lord Sudeley.)


said, that the evidence which had been gathered relating to this subject had not been published, and their Lordships were not in a position to say whether the Bill had been founded on that evidence or not. The measure was an important one. It interfered to a great extent with the whole retail trade of the Kingdom, and would lead to the discharge of many employés. It fixed the hours during which persons were to be employed, but no machinery was provided by which its provisions could be carried out. When a measure of this kind was brought forward their Lordships ought to be in possession of the fullest information regarding its necessity. It was really indecent that a Bill of this importance should be shuffled through the House of Commons at the close of a Session and sent up to their Lordships without any means being afforded to judge of its necessity, and the evidence upon which it was based. He would not, however, oppose the Bill further on the present stage, but should move its rejection on the third reading.


(for the Home Department) said, that the noble Earl appeared to be entirely opposed to the principle of the Bill, which he thought would interfere with the whole retail trade of the country. What this Bill really did was to carry still further the principle of the factory legislation amongst a class of workers who were not at present able to take care of themselves. So far as the retail trade was concerned the Bill had a very considerable support—not only amongst the employed, but the employers also. He would point out that a great many meetings had been held in favour of the Bill. The other day there was a great dinner given at which 600 shopkeepers supported the Bill. Their Lordships were aware that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wemyss) was President of the Liberty and Property Defence League. A Colleague of the noble Earl's in the League was the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell), and perhaps the noble Earl was not aware that at a large meeting in favour of the Bill that noble and learned Lord had attended and stated that this measure was of great social importance and ought to be passed.


asked what machinery was to be provided in order to carry out the provisions of the Bill?


said, there was no system of inspection provided in the Bill; but it was considered by the promoters of the measure and the Home Office that the effect of its being passed into law would be to produce a strong moral effect, and would be likely to cure the evil to a great extent. It must also be remembered that a large number of shopkeepers would, in their own interests, from a competitive point of view, be determined to see the law carried out. An Association for this purpose was already in existence, and would take very good care that no unfair advantage was gained in this respect. There was also a considerable fine in the Bill for the evasion of the law, and this, of course, any policeman could be the means of putting in force.


said, he believed that the moral effect of the Bill would be considerable indeed. There was a large number of tradesmen who were cruel to the young people in their shops through carelessness and thoughtlessness. Owing to a lack of real concern for the welfare of their workpeople these employers pressed them on day after day. If it were authoritatively put before these employers that they must not employ their young people more than 74 hours a-week, he believed that a very large number who now employed their servants longer would cease to do so. The class of persons in whose interests the Bill was promoted was probably the most defenceless class they had among them. They were most subject to the will and the caprices of those on whom they were wholly dependent for their bread. He was, however, able to bear witness to the fact that a large number of tradesmen in many of their great towns were eager for the passing of the Bill. Very many shopkeepers would employ their servants for a less length of time if they could, and they could if only they were free from the competition of those who would not consent to the same terms. He was sure that a majority of tradesmen were desirous to do this. He did not think that this was a case in which Inspectors were necessary. Experience of the working of the Act for a year or two would show what kind of machinery was needed; but it would be premature now to say that Inspectors were necessary. Inspection did not seem to him to be the right way of beginning. The pressure of each other's opinion backed by this law would call for the right machinery. It was not a matter affecting so much the retail trade of the country as the life and health and usefulness of a large number of human beings.


said, he sympathized with the tone of the most rev. Prelate. He believed the principle of this Bill in its broadest sense was sound—namely, that it was their duty to protect young people who could not protect themselves. That was a principle enshrined in their law, and was not, he should imagine, a subject of dispute. But he could not admit that the excellent object of the Bill was any excuse for the slovenly form in which the Bill had been brought before the House. It was a Bill which had no practical effect whatever. The most rev. Prelate represented the Bill as in the nature of a moral lesson. Moral lessons were the business of the most rev. Prelate, but were not the business of the two Houses of Parliament. He objected to the Bill because if any person was not inclined to look into it for a moral lesson, but to take it as a law, he would be puzzled by it. When he was told that young persons should not be employed in or about a shop for more than 74 hours in the week, including meal times, he was inclined to ask what meal times did they mean to include? Were the meal times on Sunday to be deducted? With regard to the refreshment rooms at railway stations, the persons employed must be in or about them all the time because they lived at the stations. He did not think their Lordships ought to pass such a piece of slovenly workmanship. If the Government wished the Bill should pass they ought to have used some efforts to put it in a shape more suitable for passing into law.


wished to take that opportunity of expressing a very emphatic approbation of the general principle of the Bill, which, as the noble Marquess had observed, had been enshrined for many years in the legislation of the country. That principle seemed perfectly clear—that when life, health, and morals were concerned Parliament had a right to interfere; and life, health, and morals were concerned where young persons were employed for an excessive number of hours. As to the objection on the score of the defective machinery of the Bill, it ought to be remembered that many shopkeepers had actually applied to Parliament to put them under universal compulsion, because as individuals they could not adopt it. If this Bill was passed, the result would be that there would be a large number of persons all over the country interested in seeing that the law was obeyed. He believed that by means of voluntary Associations, some of which had started and were in operation, the law would be carried into effect bettor than by police inspection. He hoped his noble Friend on the Cross Benches would not oppose the Bill on its further stages, and that it would pass their Lordships' House.

Motion agreed to: House in Committee accordingly.

Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.

Clause 2 (Commencement of Act).


said, he thought it would be well that they should see how the Bill worked after a few years, and therefore he would move to add at the end of the clause the words— To operate until the end of 1888 and to the end of the then next Session of Parliament.

New Clause:— This Bill shall continue in force until the thirty-first day of December one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven, or the end of the then next session of Parliament, and no longer."—(The Earl Beauchamp.)


, on the part of the Government, said, there was no objection to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed, to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 (Hours of employment in shops) agreed to.

Clause 4 (Notice of hours to be given).


said, that it was absurd that a man should be required to stick up the number of hours in his window, and he would therefore move that the clause be struck out.

Moved, "To strike out Clause 4."—(The Earl of Wemyss.)


asked whether it was such a dreadful thing that a man should be required to put up the number of hours?


said, it might serve a good purpose.


said, that there was some difficulty as to whether the words in the clause meant the time of day or the length of the hours allowed.


observed, that the Factory Acts provided for the variation of hours, and he thought that it was reasonable that in this Bill there should be some rule providing for a similar variation in the business hours for shops.


thought that it would be better to invent a new section than to tinker at the present one. He would suggest a short section providing that a notice should be hung in the shop referring to the Act and its principal provisions, and, in particular, saying that employés should not have more than 74 hours a-week of work.


remarked, that the Bill was not a Government measure, although the Government had given it benevolent assistance. He thought that, perhaps, a better course would be to introduce a provision to the effect that in every shop there should be hung up a statement of the number of hours.


suggested that, as there seemed to be great uncertainty as to the meaning of this clause, it would be better to drop it.

Clause (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Clauses 5 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 8 (Interpretation).


said, he rose to move an Amendment to exclude licensed houses and places of refreshment from the scope of the Bill. Those interested in such establishments had had no reason to suppose that they were going to be included in the action of this Bill until it had reached a late stage, nor had they been among the witnesses examined before the Committee. Even if it were desirable to include them in this Bill, he thought that they ought to have an opportunity of being heard. He had received a letter from a gentleman who represented some of the largest hotels and refreshment places in London, stating that the effect of the passing of this Bill as it stood would be absolutely the dismissing of every young person under 18 in their employment. They all knew that a number of boys were employed in large hotels at all hours of the day, very often waiting to be sent on messages more than actually working, but who would, nevertheless, come under the operation of this clause, and would thus be cast out of a respectable employment. It was only owing to having had this matter thus put before him that he had ventured to propose this Amendment. He thought that the large industries affected by this clause had hardly been treated fairly. To leave out these establishments from the scope of the Bill did not materially affect the principle of the Bill, and it would be easy to deal with them in a separate Bill in the next Parliament after the persons concerned had had an opportunity of expressing their opinions.

Amendment moved, In page 2, line 22, leave out ("and includes licensed public houses and refreshment houses of any kind.")—(The Earl of Limerick.)


said, he could not agree with what had been urged by the noble Earl. He thought that they were especially bound to protect young persons under 18 years of age in licensed houses and places of refreshment. With reference to what had been said by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), he would express a hope that moral lessons would not only be given by the Episcopal Members of the House, but also by the other Members. He thought their Lordships read a moral lesson to the House of Commons in the way in which they dealt with the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.


said, he did not wish to be misunderstood. He certainly never meant to say that the House or its Members ought not to read moral lessons to any who might benefit by them; but Acts of Parliament and sermons were two different kinds of composition, and he objected to Acts of Parliament which read only a moral lesson.


said, that the argument that the Bill would lead to a number of young persons being thrown out of employment had been urged at the time of the Factory Acts; but experience showed that employers adapted their arrangements to the law.


said, he would press his Amendment to a division.

On Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause? Their Lordsips divided:—Contents 20; Not-Contents 5: Majority 15.

The Report of the Amendments to be received To-morrow, and Standing Order No. XXXV. to be considered in order to its being dispensed with: Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 199.)