§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Heading read.
§ * LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, it may probably be asserted with confidence that no class of our fellow-countrymen or countrywomen work for longer hours than shop assistants and small shopkeepers. During the last thirty years the subject has been frequently before the House of Commons, and in 1886 the Shop Hours Regulation Bill, which deals with young persons under eighteen, became law. That Bill was referred by the House of Commons to a Select Committee, which took a great deal of evidence; and so impressed were they with the magnitude and gravity of the evil, that besides passing the Bill they presented to the House a special Report suggesting legislation on the lines of the present Early Closing Bill. The Report—which I may say was adopted unanimously — called attention to the fact that —The practice of keeping open shops until a late hour of the evening prevails extensively.That the hours of shop assistants range in many places as high as eighty-four per week; that such hours must be generally injurious, and often ruinous, to health.That the great majority of witnesses expressed their opinion that little could be expected from voluntary action in the poorer neighbourhoods.And the Committee ended by expressing their opinion that —Nothing short of legislation would be effective, and that your Committee believe that employers are not indisposed to such limitation, provided it takes the form of a general early closing of shops.863 We had it also in evidence that the inspectors of factories were now almost, if not quite, unanimous in favour of some such measure. This Report was brought to the attention of the presidents of the two great colleges—the College of Physicians and the College of Surgeons—and they were so convinced of the gravity of the evil that, in conjunction with Sir James Paget, Sir W. Priestley, Sir S. Wilks, Sir E. Quain, Sir A. Clark, and Dr. Playfair—representing, as I am sure everyone will admit, the very highest possible medical authority—they issued a circular inviting the opinion of London medical men to the subject, and the result was a memorial—technically a petition—signed by over 300 of the London doctors, stating that—Having had our attention called to the very late hours to which shops are open, and being satisfied that such prolonged hours of labour are grievously injurious to health, especially in the case of women, we pray your honourable House to enact the Early Closing Bill introduced by Sir J. Lubbock.The late Archbishop of Canterbury and the then Bishop of London (now Archbishop of Canterbury) issued a similar circular from a moral and religious point of view, and a petition in support of the Bill was presented by a large majority of the clergy of London. No doubt the injury is greatest in the case of women, and a similar memorial was presented, signed by some 400 of the nurses in our great metropolitan hospitals. A great deal has been done of late to improve the moral and intellectual condition of our London people; but what use are evening schools, or polytechnics, or public libraries to shop-keepers and assistants, who are at work till nine, ten, or eleven o'clock every night? The House of Commons Committee reported that in many places the hours of labour in shops amount to eighty-four in the week, or about thirty hours a week more than artisans; and, having made a special study of the question, I confidently assert that matters are, on the whole, no better than they were then. Competition is, indeed, perhaps even keener, and the hours longer than ever. Eighty-four hours a week is fourteen hours a day. If we allow eight for sleep—little enough under such circumstances—there remain two hours out of the twenty-four for dressing and undressing, for going to and from the work, for breakfast and supper. 864 Not an hour, not a moment, is left for amusement, for fresh air, for self-improve-ment or family intercourse. No wonder their health breaks down; no wonder our medical men made their solemn protest. On the 21st March, 1893, the House of Commons unanimously resolved✶—That in the opinion of this House, the excessive and unnecessarily long hours of labour in shops are injurious to the comfort, health, and well-being of all concerned; and that it is desirable to give to local authorities such powers as may be necessary to enable them to carry out the general wishes of the shop-keeping community with reference to the hours of closing.In pursuance of this resolution the present Bill was introduced. We propose that two-thirds of the shopkeepers in any locality should be authorised to memorialise the local authority, and that the local authority should then be empowered, if they think fit, to close the shops (with one or two specific exceptions) at the hour named; and that with some safeguards the local authority should be empowered to enact a half-holiday. The provisions have been approved by two House of Commons Committees, and we have accepted all the Amendments suggested by the Home Office. The classes primarily affected by the Bill are the assistants, the customers, and the shopkeepers, and the Bill has the support of all three. I may just also observe in passing that it is the measure which has the general support of early closing associations throughout the country. They have, of course, studied the question most carefully, and this Bill is the result. Nor is it, probably, necessary to convince anyone that the shop assistants are anxious for shorter hours. As regards customers, we rely, as we think we safely may, on the local authorities to safeguard the convenience of the public. Moreover, we rely also partly on public meetings. In almost every great city one or more public meetings, with the mayor in the chair—Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and many more—have been held in support of the Bill, and I believe there has never been one against it. Again, petitions with thousands of signatures have been presented for the Bill, and scarcely any against it. The trades councils of London, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol,* For Debate on this Resolution, see The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. x., page 731.865 Hull, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, and other places may fairly be taken to represent the views of working men, and they have passed unanimous resolutions in favour of the Bill. Moreover, the Bill can only come into action with the consent of the local authority, and we may trust them to protect the interests of the consumer. Lastly, I come to the shopkeepers themselves. Happily, this is no case of the masses against the classes, or of class against class. The shopkeepers are—I say it to their credit—warm supporters of the Bill. It is, in fact, the shopkeepers' Bill. They only ask Parliament to grant them the power and they will shorten the hours. The petitions in favour of the Bill were to a great extent signed by shopkeepers. As regards London, I presented a petition in its favour signed by more than half the shopkeepers affected. The Bill has also been considered clause by clause and line by line, and approved by two important congresses of shopkeepers, one hold at Nottingham, and one at Glasgow. But the strongest evidence is the action of shopkeepers' associations. We are supported by about one hundred shopkeepers' associations in all parts of the country. At the end of 1897 I introduced a deputation to Sir M, White Ridley, representing the principal tradesmen's associations, who came up to support the Bill, and he admitted that they represented the great shopkeeping interest of the country. On the other hand, so far as we know, there is practically no opposition. I claim, then, to have shown the overwhelming medical opinion as regards the necessity of some such measure in the interest of health; the overwhelming clerical opinion in the interests of morals and education; that the working men support the measure from their generous sympathy with the most overworked class of the community; that the Factory Inspectors support us; and last, not least, that we are supported by an overwhelming majority of the shopkeepers themselves. I firmly believe that there is no measure which Parliament could enact which would do more to promote the well-being, the health and happiness of the people of our great cities than this Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord Avebury.)866
§ * LORD LISTER
My Lords, I do not think it is necessary for mo to add many words to what has been said by the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading of the Bill. There can be doubt whatever of the greatness of the evil with which this Bill proposes to deal. That the extravagantly late hours which are often observed by shopkeepers produce a very injurious effect upon the health of the employees, and, more especially, of the women, is admitted by all medical authorities, and I need not add anything to the very weighty statement which my noble friend Lord Avebury has himself given, and which shows that the best medical opinion is unanimous on this point. The moral disadvantages caused by late hours are, of course, exceedingly great, the employees being debarred from any rational recreation, and prevented from engaging in any pursuit apart from the monotonous routine of their daily service. I can conceive no objection to legislation of this kind except, possibly, that it may seem to interfere with the liberty of the subject; but here we have a case in which those concerned are enslaved by custom and desiring the aid of the law to free them. As to the general convenience of the public, I think there is sufficient guarantee that it will not be interfered with by this Bill. The shopkeepers themselves will determine the hours of closing in any particular district, and we may be sure they would not fix hours which would be so inconvenient to their customers as to interfere with their business and their profits. As Lord Avebury has told us, the provisions of this Bill are of an exceedingly moderate character. Each district will judge for itself whether it will avail itself of the provisions of the law. More than two-thirds of the shopkeepers concerned in any district must not only have a desire for the application of the law to that district, but must express it by petition. No one law for the whole country is proposed. Each district is to arrange the hours most suitable to that particular district, and if at any time shopkeepers found that the law pressed injuriously upon them, they would be at liberty, if one third of their number petitioned against it, to have the law made no longer operative in that district. The measure altogether seems to be conceived in the best interests of the public.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It would be idle for me to deny that the late hours which prevail in a certain; number of shops are a great evil, and that it is very much to be desired that they should cease. Nor do I for a moment dispute the weighty testimony of my noble friend behind me as to the , medical evils which result from late hours, especially, as he said, in the case of women. I would remind your Lord- ' ships that this Bill is not confined to women, but extends to men as well. But the question is whether the remedy is one which your Lordships ought to apply. The subject is entirely new in this House. I do not believe it has ever been raised here before. I am told it has been raised several times in the House of Commons by the noble Lord (Lord Ave-bury) himself, whose philanthropic feelings have led him to attach himself to this question, but during the fifteen or twenty years it has been before the House of Commons it does not seem to have made any progress there. The points to which I think it desirable to draw your Lordships' attention are that this is entirely a novel system of legislation, and that the principles which have been adopted are so different from any which have been hitherto adopted by the Legislature of this country that it behaves your Lordships to consider very carefully before you give legislative sanction to the Bill. In the first place, this will be, as far as I know, the first time, if this Bill passes, that Parliament has interfered with the right of each grown man to dispose of his labour as he likes. Here it is to be made penal for any shopkeeper to give employment to a man, however much he may desire it, if that employment lasts beyond seven o'clock in the evening. Then, again, if Parliament has interfered in the details of the life of the subjects of the Queen, it has laid down principles which after consideration it is prepared to sanction and to enforce. But it has left no doubt in the minds of the subjects of this country what those principles are and what the legislation has to sustain; but here you have a perfectly new idea—that there shall be no right or wrong in the matter, no system sanctioned by Parliament for any part of the country. What is provided is that any tradesman who desires that his own business and the business of his rivals shall terminate at seven o'clock 868 may sketch out a district where he likes, take in whom he likes belonging to this particular branch of commerce, and if he can obtain two-thirds of his neighbours to combine with him he may coerce by penal enactment the rest of the tradesmen not to conduct their business at this time. Such a measure has never certainly been on the Statute-book of England before. Hitherto grown-up men have been at liberty to dispose of their labour as they liked, and tradesmen have been allowed to conduct such business as they thought fit under such conditions as they pleased. But here they are not to be subject to any special disability; there is no specially wrong thing or unwise thing which Parliament is to warn them to abandon; but if two to one of any district join together, on most fanciful grounds, in any system you please, if they can be got to say that they prefer the earlier hours, the minority will have to bow to their decision, and not conduct their business after the time that suits the majority. That is undoubtedly a very new principle to introduce in the legislation of this country. Besides that, it is not a matter to be decided by a majority, or decided by the number of people in a district who have particular views, but it is to be decided by an odd kind of plebiscite of those who pursue a particular branch of commerce, and they are to determine how late in the day their neighbours may pursue their industry. If the thing stopped there, I should still say that it was a very novel interference with the liberty of men to dispose of their labour and to dispose of their capital as they please; and it would behave Parliament to give a very great deal of thought indeed before it sanctioned a principle so entirely novel. But I was very much struck with a remark in the speech of the noble Lord behind me that he seemed to have answered all objections when he said that these things were to be conducted by the will of the shopkeepers themselves, and that if two-thirds were agreeable no further objection could be raised. In the first place, I think that the shop assistants are hardly sufficiently considered, but that is comparatively a very small matter. They are not the most important persons that are affected by the opening or shutting of shops; some consideration, a great deal of consideration, is due to the consumer. The con- 869 sumer is the important person. If the shopkeeper or the shop assistant does not like his trade, he can leave it and go to another; but if the consumer is not to have that which he is in the habit of consuming, which is perhaps a necessary of life, he has no resource left whatever. What is the state of the case? If the Bill is efficient—if it is not efficient we need not trouble about it—a certain number of districts, probably the poorest, will be under a law that they may not keep their shops open or pursue their business after seven o'clock at night. In a recent discussion I ventured to observe on the unfortunate tendency in the legislation we adopted rather to regard that which from our point of view was convenient and agreeable than that which might be convenient or agreeable to those for whom we are legislating. No doubt for us—for the Members of the two Houses of Parliament—the shutting up of shops at seven o'clock would hurt very few people. There is no shopping for them after that time, but there may be some matters for which one of your Lordships would desire to enter a shop after seven o'clock. You might wish to go to a restaurant; you might wish to buy a cigar—that is a very reasonable proposal.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That is just the point I am going to raise. The restaurant, the cigar shop, the news-shop, are the places to which Members of this House and the other House of Parliament might readily desire to go, but these shops are carefully excluded from the operation of the Bill. I do not say for a moment that my noble friend has had any desire to favour the class to which he belongs; I think he is incapable of it; but it is unfortunate that in dealing with these matters you would remove the inconveniences which affect our own class and pay no regard to the inconveniences of the class not represented in numbers in either House of Parliament. What, then, is the state of the case? There are few Members of this House who will want, except in those selected and excluded articles, to shop after seven o'clock; but there are hundreds of thousands of women in our large towns who spend their day in work and who 870 have not the time for making the requisite provision for their necessities and their household goods until after six o'clock. A Bill of this kind closing all the shops at seven o'clock would exclude them from any purchases they desired to make. I know in one case it is provided, by an odd sort of special provision, that nothing in the Bill is to interfere with the traffic either in hot meat or spirituous liquors. I should be sorry to suppose, or to go so far as to say, that the whole of the necessities of mankind are included in the two things hot meat and spirituous liquors. I gather, however, that the provision was inserted in order to silence an opponent, and that it is not a part of the permanent policy of the Bill. But let us consider what a woman coming home from her work has to do who has to provide for husband and children during the next day or week. She has to buy meet -not necessarily hot meat—bread, fish, oil, coal, candles—I might go on and give an indefinite list; but you shut her out from the whole of that commerce at the only time of the day when she has leisure to pursue it. Is that considerate treatment for the necessitous portion of the population? I can only understand the spirit in which this Bill was framed by listening to the speech of my noble friend behind me. He had the idea before him—"What will the shopkeepers think; what will the shop assistants think?" I maintain that there is a far more important body, a far larger body, a body whose necessities are greater, a body whose claims in legislation of this kind should press more imperiously on your Lordships, and those are the consumers who frequent these shops. If you shut up these shops by legislative action you at all events enormously increase their difficulty in providing for the necessities of their daily life. It is true, as has been said, that the end will be that the shopkeepers will not like it, and they will try to go back to the old system. But is that a fair or healthy way of dealing with the primary necessities of the poor? You should leave their commerce to be pursued by them according to their ancient practice, and not insist that they should wait until they have fought out with the shopkeeper and the shop assistant a question which Parliament has thrown down for both of them to settle. I pay full homage to the philanthropic and excellent intentions by 871 which this Bill is moved. I will join in the desire by every legitimate means to lessen the evils at which it is directed, but I do earnestly implore your Lordships not to throw upon the most necessitous and the most numerous class of the community, with whom you have no immediate contact, burdens and difficulties and embarrassments which have never been thrown upon them in legislation adoped by Parliament before.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I find myself on this occasion to a very considerable extent in agreement on many points with the noble Marquess. Some of his arguments appear to be weighty and conclusive. To me it seems a perfectly new and very objectionable system to allow two-thirds of any class in some small district of the country to put in force a law of this kind. If this law is a good one, if it is a necessary one, it ought to be passed by Parliament and made applicable to every portion of the country. To leave it to some small district to determine the hour of closing is a novel and dangerous proposal. What would be the practical working of the Bill? The power is to be lodged in two-thirds of the shopkeepers in any district. The district may be urban or rural. In a rural district you frequently have two or three small towns. In those towns I can easily conceive that it might suit the shopkeepers to close early; but is the whole of the district to be subordinated to their wishes? What would be suitable for the small town might not be suitable for the rural district. Then this Bill loses sight of the very large number of the very poor people. It seems to me that the hardship which might be inflicted on these people is much more important than the hardship suffered by the shopkeepers now. I admit that in many cases it is desirable that the shop hours should be shortened. But to a not inconsiderable extent shops are now closed at an early hour where there is no inconvenience caused to the consumers. If you walk down Bond Street you will hardly find a single shop open after seven o'clock. In a small town in the country with which I am acquainted the shopkeepers have agreed that there shall be an early closing of the shops, and it is not the case that because some insist on keeping open all the others are prevented from closing. On the con- 872 trary, the principal shopkeepers close because they find that it does not injure their business to do so after a certain, hour, and there is a half holiday also observed by a large number of them. But the very shops frequented by the poorest people—the small butchers' and bakers' shops—are not closed. In the very poor quarters, where people live in miserable tenements, there are no places where meat and milk can be kept sweet for any length of time. Such food must be obtained as it is wanted; and it is not to be supposed that the very poor people have always, and at any moment, the money to buy their food. Many of them live from hand to mouth, picking up sixpences hero and there; and if they are precluded from spending their money after a certain hour., they may suffer a great hardship. In London there are streets where on certain nights you can see hundreds of the poorer classes making their small purchases; and that is a class whom you are specially bound to consider. It is the poorest class, of all. No one in this House would be inconvenienced, and there are many persons not as wealthy as most of your Lordships who would not be inconvenienced, but the mass of very poor people would find their difficulties much increased by restrictions of this kind;. and I have come to the conclusion, after giving some thought to the question, that such restrictions are likely to do more harm than good. Though I fully appreciate the views of Lord Lister as to the harm that results from long; hours, I cannot find myself in a position to support this Bill.
* THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I venture to think that if the noble Lords who have opposed this Bill to-night had lived, as some of us have lived, in those parts of London which are inhabited by the classes whose customs and supposed, rights they have, as they believe, so forcibly contended for, they would have seen reason to take a different view of the matter. Noble Lords have spoken as. if this Bill had been suddenly devised by Lord Avebury and sprung upon us without proper notice and without the country having had an opportunity to consider it. Nothing could be further from the facts. If anyone will take the trouble to see what have been the expressions of opinion. by not only the tradesmen concerned, 873 but by their customers, they will had that whereas there have been in every part of England public meetings held at which resolutions favourable to the measure have been passed, there has not been a single public meeting held on the other side, and scarcely a single voice raised against the Bill on the part of the class mentioned as likely to suffer. If your Lordships wish to see those supposed difficulties and dangers discussed by a competent judge, I would refer you to a speech on this question delivered by one whose knowledge of the wants of the working classes is as great as that of any public man now to the front in England, and whose opinion is not likely, I think, to be quite set aside by the noble Marquess himself. I refer to a speech made a few years ago by the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which, speaking as a Unionist, and a supporter of the present Government, he dealt seriatim, with the objections which have been raised to the Bill in to-night's debate, and he summed the matter up in words which I certainly should not myself have thought of using, but which, perhaps, I may quote to your Lordships. Mr. Chamberlain is speaking, of course, of the objections raised outside Parliament, not of those raised within its walls, and this is how he characterises them—The objection which is made does not come from the working classes. Ft conies from those well-meaning pedants and theorists who have got themselves into such a terror of government interference, such a suspicion of all Government action, that they resist almost without examination any proposal to develop the authority of Government even though that extension be desired by the great majority of the people who are governed.The right hon. Gentleman who used those words has been, from boyhood upwards, as the noble Marquess will admit, in close touch with the class supposed to be adversely affected if this Bill becomes law. Moreover, the House of Commons has twice given a Second Heading to this Bill.
* THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
The noble Marquess knows better than I do what are the circumstances which frequently prevent measures from getting beyond the Second Heading stage in the House of Commons, and I 874 should have thought that it would not have been difficult to find a parallel case in connection with Bills which certainly cannot be supposed to be contrary to the general welfare of the people, but which have long waited after Second Reading in the House of Commons before becoming law. As to the objection that the districts in the Bill may be fantastically arranged, any amendments which are thought desirable can be moved in Committee, and the noble Lord who moved the Second Heading has expressed his perfect readiness to consider such amendments favourably. Noble Lords have spoken as if the Bill said that seven o'clock should be the hour for closing; all that the Bill says is that even if all the required sanction were obtained, nobody should be compelled to close at an earlier hour than seven, and everything tends to show that the appointed hour would be a later one. To say why in some of the Metropolitan districts it is the habit to shop at so late an hour when people with equal ease might shop earlier is undoubtedly somewhat difficult. I think I could show conclusively that whatever be the customary hour of closing, people will wait till that hour approaches in the hope of making slightly better bargains. But it would be out of place to discuss that now. In a schedule to the Bill certain shops are exempted from its provisions, and the noble Marquess referred to the exceptions as intended to safeguard such articles as might be wanted by Members of the legislature and by their friends.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I beg the noble Lord not to impute any such doctrines to me. I said it was a remarkable exception, which might give rise to misconstruction.
* THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
It is evident that purchases of a perishable character are different from other purchases; but the real point is this: What is the opinion of the working classes themselves on the question? I will give your Lordships one instance. In one of the large towns in my diocese there is a weekly gathering of working men of the artisan class to discuss social questions. It is attended by large numbers; sometimes as many as 300 men are present. The discussions are not necessarily of a religious character, 875 but are conducted under the chairmanship and guidance of certain of the clergy interested in social matters. This particular question of compulsory closing of shops at a certain hour has within the past few weeks been specially brought before and considered by that body, and the chairman writes to me stating that there was practical unanimity on the part of the meeting in expressing an opinion that there was no real necessity in the home life of the working classes, even on pay-nights, for such late shopping; that it would be just as easy to finish shopping at nine o'clock as at eleven or twelve; that the reason why late shopping was indulged in was not any necessity or great degree of convenience, but simply inconsiderateness; that so long as there was a section of the shopkeepers who would not fall into line for earlier closing there would always be a section of the less methodical amongst the working classes who would give them custom, and that the opening by the few of such late shops would prevent shopkeepers generally throughout a district from adopting earlier hours. My Lords, as one who has lived in South London, in the midst of the very class most affected, and who has again and' again had opportunities of hearing at first hand the opinions of people concerned, not the opinions of the tradesmen only, but also of the customers, I earnestly urge your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Heading.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
I do not wish in any way to add to the arguments that have been used this evening, but T wish to call special attention to Clause 1 and the mode in which it is to be put into operation. The procedure, as I understand it, is to be this. An application is to be made in writing to the local authority, and the local authority has to make an order on being satisfied that the occupiers of not less than two-thirds in number of the shops within such district have signed the application. What is a district? The county of London is a district. How on earth is the London County Council to ascertain whether two-thirds of the shopkeepers in their district have signed an application? Take even a rural district, who is to ascertain how many shops there are in the district? There is no register. Even if there were a register, how could you ascertain for 876 certain that two-thirds of the shopkeepers on the register had signed the application? The machinery by which it is proposed to bring the Bill into effect is absolutely unworkable.
§ LORD NORTON
There are two ideas entirely confused in the minds of those who are proposing and opposing this Bill. It may be true that the closing of shops at an inconvenient hour to the working classes is an intolerable proposition, but is that the only way to prevent persons being employed eighty-four hours a week in shops? the whole object of this Bill is to prevent excessive hours of employment in shops. Why does not the noble Lord bring in a Bill to say employees shall not be compelled to work eighty-four hours a week? That would meet his object, without this intolerable order that all shops should be shut up at a certain hour. I know there is a feeling that men should be allowed to work as long as they like. Supposing that is the case, let the noble Lord bring in a Bill declaring that women and children should not be employed more than a certain number of hours in a day. That would secure his object and would be much more convenient than closing shops at seven o'clock.
§ * THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
In listening to the debate I cannot help thinking that my noble friend who has introduced this Bill has not been fairly dealt with, especially by my noble friend behind me (the Earl of Kimberley). There may be much to be said on both sides, but the noble Earl behind me took the greatest exception to the Bill because, as he said, a district was defined in the Bill to be an urban or rural district, and he argued that in his own neighbourhood, a district of that class—I presume n rural district — including two small towns, would, under this Bill, be affected in a lump, and that it would be very hard indeed upon the tradesmen of the villages to be dealt with by the same order. My noble friend could hardly have read the Bill. In the first clause there is a distinct provision that an order can be made for a district or any part thereof. With regard to the general question, I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I attach great weight to the opinion of right rev. friend the Bishop of Winchester, who, I believe, knows much more of the feelings and opinions of the work- 877 ing classes upon this measure than either the noble Marquess at the head of the Government or the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition.
§ * LORD AVEBURY
I hope the House will allow me to say a few words in reply to the criticisms which have been made, because, as my noble friend who has just sat down pointed out, several of the objections most strongly urged have been founded on misapprehension. I think anyone who had listened to this discussion, and who had not read the Bill would have imagined that we proposed that shops should be closed at seven o'clock; but that is not so. Seven o'clock is only a limit earlier than which it is impossible to close shops under the Bill.! It has been suggested that there should be one fixed hour for the whole country, but the House of Commons Committee wisely considered that the conditions of different districts being so different, it was better to let each decide for itself. It would be impossible to treat London as a whole. It is quite true that in Bond Street the shops are shut at seven o'clock, but in many parts of London they are open till ten, eleven, and even twelve o'clock. What those who support this Bill believe they would secure is that shopkeepers in the poorer districts, instead of keeping open till eleven o'clock, should have an opportunity of closing at ten, and by degrees at nine or eight o'clock. The noble Lord said it ought to be a Bill applying to the whole country. That would be in opposition to the whole of the suggestions made by the House of Commons. The Select Committee of that House took a great deal of evidence upon the Bill, and all the suggestions made
§ by the Home Office have been incorporated. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government, and the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition, laid great stress on the interests of the consumers. They spoke all the way through as if the shopkeepers could settle the hours for closing. Even if it were so they are not likely to agree on an hour which would lose them business, but I would point out that shopkeepers have to memorialise the local authority, and that it is the local authority who will carry the Bill into effect. Is it likely that shopkeepers would wish to close at an hour at which they could do business, or that if they wished to close at an inconvenient hour the local authority would allow them to do so? Surely we may trust the local authorities to protect the interests of consumers. Something has also been said about the half holiday. One o'clock is not the hour that is fixed; it is the earliest possible hour. We at first suggested two o'clock, but there was so strong a feeling in the different parts of the country that two o'clock was late that the House of Commons Committee altered the time to one o'clock. The gravity of the evil has, I think, been admitted. Why, then, not allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee, where these questions can be threshed out? If you throw the Bill out now nothing can be done. I trust your Lordships will pass the Second Reading, and allow it to go to a Select Committee, where any faults in the drafting can be put right. I do not hesitate to say that this Bill is anxiously desired by, and would confer a great boon on, the people of our great cities.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided:— Contents, 10; Not Contents, 77.879
|Camperdown, E.||Peel, V.||Burghclere, L.|
|Carrington, E.||London, L. Bp.||Farrer, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Salisbury, L. Bp.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Lister, L. [Teller]|
|Mendip. L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Falkland, V.||Avebury, L. [Teller.]||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Salisbury, M.||Denbigh, E.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Fortescue, E.|
|Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Brownlow, E.||Grey, E.|
|Cawdor, E.||Kimberley, E.|
|Grafton, D.||Clarendon, E.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Crewe, E.||Mansfield, E.|
|Dartrey, E.||Manvers, E.|
|Lansdowne, M.||de Montalt, E.||Morley, E.|
|Onslow, E.||Brampton, L.||Kelvin, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Romney, E.||Calthorpe, L.||Muncaster, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Napier, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Churchill, L. [Teller]||Newlands, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan-||Newton, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||william.)||Norton, L.|
|Yarhorough, E.||Colville of Culross, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Connemara, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Cranworth, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Landaff, V.||Crawshaw, L.||Shand, L.|
|Portman, V.||De Mauley, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Powerscourt, V.||Erskine, L.||Stratheona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Farquhar, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.)||Glenesk, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|(L. Chamberlain.)||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Ventry, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Harlech, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Bagot, L.||Hawkesbury, L.||Wimborne, L.|
|Balfour, L.||Herries, L.|
|Belper, L.||James, L.|