HL Deb 21 June 1900 vol 84 cc601-2

My Lords, I rise to ask the Prime Minister whether he would consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the long hours of labour in shops. In a recent debate on the Early Closing Bill the noble Marquess, while admitting the length of hours of labour in shops, objected to the Bill, on the ground, mainly, or at any rate among other reasons, that though it was drawn in accordance with a unanimous resolution of the House of Commons, and had passed through two Committees of that House, it did not, in his judgment, sufficiently protect the interests of the consumer. The loss of the Bill has caused great disappointment to the shopkeeping community, and I beg to ask the noble Marquess whether he will consent to the appointment of a Committee to consider the subject.


My Lords, I do not think that this matter is at all an unfit one for the consideration of this House, but I should demur to the appointment of a Committee so late in the session, when it would hardly be possible to obtain the attendance of Peers who would be adequately fitted for examining into a question of such complexity. The great novelty of the proposal made by the noble Lord imposes upon us the duty of examining very carefully what the effect will be of limiting the hours of labour in shops, and how far the interest of various classes of the community would be injuriously touched by it. In some recent debates we have had the doctrine laid down, which, I confess, very much alarmed me, that whenever a Commission or Committee which was appointed by the Government was unanimous on a. subject, the Government was thereupon bound to accept the conclusions to which they had arrived. I entirely demur to any such suggestion. I have no belief in the infallibility of Commissions or Committees, though they may be of great assistance to Parliament in the investigations of social phenomena which it is their duty to make. I will not pledge myself as to the course we shall pursue with respect to the recommendations which may be made, but I entirely concur with the noble Lord that this is a suitable matter for Parliament to investigate. It is a matter of extreme difficulty, and I hope that some care will be taken to appoint an impartial Committee.


I am very much obliged to the noble Marquess for consenting to the appointment of a Select Committee. I quite concur that it should not be a partisan Committee, and I am sure the advocates of early closing would be desirous that it should be a Committee which would inspire the confidence of your Lordships' House. I beg to give notice that I will move for the appointment of a Committee at the commencement of next session.