HL Deb 23 June 1886 vol 307 cc189-92

Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendments read.

Moved, "That the said Report be now received."—(The Lord Sudeley.)


, in rising to move, as an Amendment— That it is not desirable to proceed further with this Bill until the evidence upon the subject taken by the Select Committee of the House of Commons has been communicated to this House, said, that that measure had been brought before their Lordships under such circumstances and in such a way that, considering the importance of the subject, as affecting the retail trade of the whole Kingdom, it was not desirable that the Bill should now proceed further. It had been hurried through the other House at the close of the Session; it stood for a second reading by their Lordships before most of them had even seen it in print; it was presented to them without their having had an opportunity of seeing the evidence upon which it rested; and they were now asked to rush it through in the last hours of an expiring Parliament. The Bill, if passed, could only be carried out by a system of espionage; he believed that it was unworkable, and that those who were pushing it forward knew that it was unworkable, but they hoped when it was found to be so that they would be able to insist on dealing with adult labour by the same kind of legislation as they now sought to deal with the labour of young persons. A main reason for the existence of the House of Lords was that it should be a check on crude and hasty legislation. The country would be disappointed if the Lords did not act as a Court of Appeal on legislation of this character, and insist that full knowledge and time should be given for the consideration of a Bill of such a grave character. The agitation on this subject had been organized by Mr. Sutherst, standing counsel to the Salvation Army, and its object was, not to limit the hours of labour of persons below 18, but "effectually to reduce the hours of labour in shops and similar places." That meant the shutting up of shops and interfering with adult male labour, which was a new principle. If their Lordships passed this Bill in its present crude form, and without any prospect of its being brought into actual operation, they would before the end of next Session have a Bill to regulate all labour in shops. That would be an intolerable tyranny, an intolerable interference with the trade of this country. When he and those who agreed with him raised this question they were met by moral lessons from the Episcopal Bench and from a lay Bishop, the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), and were told that the principle of the Bill was in the Factory Acts. But their Lordships ought to have before them the evidence upon which the measure rested. The Chairman of the Shopkeepers' Defence Association wrote to him to say that though over 60 witnesses had been examined before the Committee of the House of Commons, only seven were examined on the side he represented. The probability, there- fore, was that if the evidence was before their Lordships they would find it to be unsatisfactory. The Committee was not unanimous. A counter Report was drafted and laid before the Committee by Sir James Fergusson, in which it was stated that some of the witnesses expressed a willingness to accept the Bill as a step in the right direction. His experience was that steps in the right direction were strides in the wrong. The conclusion to which Sir James Fergusson came was that the evils complained of were not so great as to require a legislative remedy. The Factory Inspectors themselves said that the Factory Acts had no bearing on the labour employed in shops. He was not opposed to the principle of the Bill, but he looked to its practical effect. He did not believe that this Bill would be good for the young people themselves. Practically, kindly feeling, philanthropy, and the pressure of public opinion were effecting all that the Bill aimed at. The noble Earl concluded by moving the Amendment which stood in his name.

Amendment moved, To leave out all the words after ("That") and insert ("it is not desirable to proceed farther with this Bill until the evidence upon the subject taken before the Select Committee of the House of Commons has been communicated to this House.")—(The Earl of Wemyss.)


said, that he objected to the Bill because its effect would be to close shops in poor districts at times when they were now kept open to suit the needs of the inhabitants.


said, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss) had referred to him as a member of a Society for promoting the objects of this Bill. He had not been a member of that Society, because he had made it a rule in his public life never to join any Society whatever of a political character, for he had ascertained that membership of such a Society almost always converted a man, otherwise sensible, into a fanatic. For that reason it would have been better if his noble Friend had not joined and become Chairman of another Society, for in his speech that night his noble Friend had shown himself to be a lay fanatic. Although he knew nothing of the Society to which the noble Earl had referred, he did know something of the Gentleman who was in charge of this Bill in "another place" —Sir John Lubbock. He was one of the most eminent men in the country, and by no means a man who would take up a measure of this kind from any feeling of fanaticism, but one who would deal calmly and coolly with the evidence before him. The noble Earl denounced the principle of this Bill, denying that it had any analogy to the Factory Acts. To his mind the Bill contained exactly the same principle as the Factory Acts. Every large shop might become a factory, though, no doubt, it was an extension of the principle of factory legislation to apply it to shops. The question was whether the evidence before them justified that extension.


There is no evidence.


Although they had not the evidence taken by the Select Committee of the House of Commons before them, they knew perfectly well, from the discussions which had taken place in the public Press, that the attendance of young persons, and especially of young women and girls in shops, was sometimes very great indeed and most injurious. Under these circumstances, he trusted that their Lordships would not be induced by the somewhat fanatical denunciations of the noble Earl to reject the Bill.


wished to say that he was guided in this matter by the principle which he enunciated last night. The principle of this Bill was sound. It was a principle which had again and again been sanctioned by the Legislature, and he did not feel justified in rejecting a Bill of which the principle was sound unless some specific evil or inconvenience could be shown to be likely to result from it. In the present case no evil or inconvenience had been shown as likely to be produced by the Bill, and, therefore, in his opinion, there was no ground for rejecting the measure.

On Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion? Resolved in the Affirmative: Amendments reported accordingly.

Standing Order No. XXXV. considered (according to order), and dispensed with: Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and sent to the Commons; and to be printed as amended. (No. 204.)