§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
§ *LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill with a deep feeling of responsibility, because I know the intense anxiety with which your Lordships' decision is awaited by thousands and thousands of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen who feel that on your verdict hangs the health and happiness of their lives. This is no new question. When the Bill of 1886 was before the House of Commons, the House referred it to a Select Committee. That Committee unanimously reported that the hours of labour in shops in many places were 84 per week, and that such long hours must be grievously injurious to health, especially in the case of women. They suggested the remedy comprised in the present Bill, but nothing was done. In 1893 I moved in the House of Commons:—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.That Resolution was unanimously adopted. On it the present Bill was drafted. In 1895 it was read a second time in the House of Commons and referred to a Select Committee, which, after taking a great deal of evidence, went through the Bill carefully and approved it, but were never able to get a day for the Third Reading. In 1896 it was again read a second time without opposition and referred to the Grand Committee, on which the Government were ably represented. We accepted all the Amendments—they were not many—suggested by the Home Office, and the Bill passed through Committee with general approval. But, again, we were unable to get a day for the Third 315 Reading. The Bill has, therefore, the support of a unanimous Resolution of the House of Commons, and it has been twice read a second time, and passed through two Committees. Last year your Lordships appointed a Committee to inquire into the subject. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government was a member of the Committee, and I know that I am voicing the general feeling of the shop-keeping community in expressing to him their thanks for having devoted so much of his valuable time to this matter. The Committee held many sittings; they heard an immense amount of evidence, and came to a unanimous Report. They found that—In many places the hours during which shops are open range as high as from 80 to 90 per week, in addition to which some time is occupied in clearing up and putting away the goods.They pointed out that—Eighty-four hours per week of six days amount to 14 hours a day, and it is almost self-evident that such long hours, especially when the shops are crowded, ill-ventilated, and lighted by gas, must (as pointed out by the House of Commons Committee of 1886) be injurious, and often ruinous to health, especially in the case of women. We are able to appeal to the highest medical testimony as to the injury thus caused. In 1888 the Presidents of the two great medical colleges, with some of the other leaders of the medical profession—Sir James Paget, Sir Andrew Clarke, Dr. Matthew Duncan, Mr. John Marshall, Dr. Playfair, Dr. Priestly, Sir Richard Quain, Sir William Savory, Sir Samuel Wilks—called the attention of Parliament to the subject and urged the passing of the Early Closing Bill.Moreover, the Presidents of the two great medical colleges appeared before the Committee and gave very strong evidence. This part of the case, however, I hoped to have been able to leave to my friend Lord Lister, who speaks with such pre-eminent authority. He is, I regret to say, seriously ill, but he writes me that—The measure is manifestly conceived in the best interests of the health and well-being of the community.It would be easy to occupy hours with harrowing details of the sufferings involved in these terribly long hours But, indeed, they are self-evident. Eighty-four hours a week are fourteen a day, and if we allow eight hours for sleep—little enough under such circumstances 316 —and two for dressing and undressing and going to and from the shop, not a moment is left for fresh air and exercise, for recreation or self-improvement, for seeing friends and relatives. My Lords, this is the Shopkeepers' Bill. They deplore the evil and implore you to enable them to apply a remedy. The Committee ascertained the views of over 290 Tradesmen's Associations in all parts of the country. As they state in their Report, over 290 supported this Bill, and only two opposed it. May I add that since last summer other Tradesmen's Associations have given in their adhesion, and the number is now well over 300. The working men, again, as represented by the Trades Councils, are strongly in favour of legislation on the subject. The noble Marquess himself moved on the Committee—That Town Councils should be authorised to pass Provisional Orders making such regulations in respect to the closing of shops as may seem to them to be necessary for the areas under their jurisdiction; and these Provisional Orders should be submitted to Parliament in the usual manner before acquiring the force of law. Special enactments for restraining the outlay involved and providing for its discharge, may be necessary.This was agreed to, and we feel bound to accept such words as may be necessary to carry it into effect. We did not, however, know exactly what special enactments the noble Marquess contemplated as regards expense, and I am not sure that as a private individual I could technically have inserted them. Nor do I understand exactly how far the noble Marquess would wish that any Provisional Orders should go into details. Having, however, accepted the suggestions the noble Marquess was good enough to make in the Committee, we feel, of course, bound to do so now. As regards the Provisional Orders, I presume that a simple proviso that the resolutions of the Town Councils should require confirmation by Provisional Orders would meet the case. However, I am ready to accept any words the noble Marquess may consider necessary to carry out his suggestion, and it is only on that understanding that I ask him to support the Bill. I will only trouble your Lordships with a few words from one typical witness—Mr. Wallauer. He appeared for the London Master Bakers' Society, repre- 317 senting over 6,000 shops, and employing from 18,000 to 20,000 women, of whom he told us 90 per cent. are employed from 7 in the morning to 10 o'clock at night and 12 o'clock on Saturdays. That makes 92 hours a week; and, on behalf of his trade Mr. Wallauer supported this Bill which, indeed, he would have liked to see more stringent, because they see no hope of improvement by voluntary action. "The hours," he said, "are unnecessarily long and excessively cruel, and as a matter of fact, it is white slavery for the 18,000 to 20,000 females in our own trade alone."
And yet, my Lords, my noble friend Lord Wemyss, in his usual picturesque and vigorous language, denounces the Bill as an "act of intolerable tyranny and injustice." On whom? If my noble friend was a shop assistant, and had to work for fifteen hours a day, he would regard that as the intolerable tyranny and injustice, and would welcome relief as a godsend. The other two classes concerned are the shopkeepers and the public. The shopkeepers have shown in every possible way that they are overwhelmingly and enthusiastically in favour of the Bill. It has been years before the public. Where is the evidence of any opposition? There have been great meetings in all our cities, any number of petitions in favour, but practically none against. It has been before all the Trades Councils. If they thought it would inconvenience themselves or their wives, we may be sure that we should have heard of it; but, on the contrary, they unanimously support the Bill as it is, or wish to see it strengthened. The evil, my Lords, is great and urgent; the remedy we suggest has an overwhelming and almost unanimous support from those concerned. Your Lordships appointed a strong Committee, and their Report was unanimous. They told you that—The evidence has convinced us that earlier closing would be an immense, boon to the shop-keeping community, to shopkeepers and shop assistants alike, that the present hours are grievously injurious to health, especially in the case of women, and that the subject is one of urgent importance, as such serious warnings from the heads of the medical profession cannot, in our judgment, safely be disregarded.My Lords, I do not now ask you, of 318 course, to do more than assent to the general principle of the Bill, with the additional safeguard suggested by the noble Marquess. Your Lordships verdict is awaited with intense anxiety in all parts of the country in England, Scotland, and Ireland. If you reject the Bill, the sorrow and disappointment will be keen indeed; but if you pass it, you will rejoice the whole shopkeeping community, and you will lengthen, strengthen, and brighten the lives of thousands and thousands of our countrymen and countrywomen.
Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Avebury.)
§ *THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, notwithstanding the arguments of my noble friend and his reference to the Reports of Committees and the opinions of doctors and others in favour of his Bill, I am going to ask your Lordships to resist the Second Reading. I move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months, on the ground that the compulsory regulation by Parliament, of the hours of labour of full grown men is an undue interference with individual liberty, hurtful alike to trade and industry, and a dangerous departure from sound principles in the government of a free people, and that to empower two-thirds of the tradesmen in a town to shut up the shops of the remaining one-third, as proposed by the Bill, would be an act of intolerable tyranny and injustice. This Bill is a great advance on legislation of this kind, for it asks your Lordships to limit indirectly the rights of a full grown man to labour as long as he likes. My noble friend says the Bill does not ask Parliament to do it; it is to be done by the shop-keepers themselves. But the shop-keepers could not do it if it were not for this Bill; therefore I am justified in saying that my noble friend comes to Parliament asking that power should be given to limit the hours of labour of full grown men. This is a good instance of what exceptional legislation in this country leads to. Mr. Gladstone introduced the term when he passed his Land Bill in 1870. It was an exceptional Bill to deal with an exceptional state of things, and on no 319 consideration were the principles of that Bill to extend beyond Ireland. But what has been the result of that exceptional legislation? It very soon crossed the sea from Ireland to the south of Scotland and settled on the crofts of Mull and of the Western Highlands—the sea by the way being only 11 miles wide there. You have had several Irish Bills since, and you have on every estate in England and Scotland the principle of the Irish Land Act in the Agricultural Holdings Act.
To show the demoralisation of that sort of legislation, I have only to point to the fact that my noble friend Lord Balfour has received a petition from a body of crofters in South Uist who have taken a liking to adjoining farms, and who state that, if the noble Lord does not give them that to which they have taken a fancy, they will secure it by force. Therefore you see what exceptional legislation leads to. You have it now in the Bill of my noble friend. Its germ was the Factory and Workshop Act. I recollect that Act very well. It was very strongly fought for by Lord Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley, and carried. No doubt it was right that the labour of women and young persons should be regulated by Parliament, but, in the course of the discussion, at that time the Home Secretary, Sir James Graham, who resisted the Bill in many respects, said, with regard to the question of State interference with labour, thatHe did not think it would conduce to human happiness to impose a limit on human industry.I believe that to be a sound view on this question, and that even if it were necessary and desirable to control by law the labour of women and young children, it is contrary to sound principles that that interference should be extended to full grown male persons. In the Resolution which stands in my name I have said that this compulsory limit of the hours of labour of full grown men is an undue interference with individual liberty. Can any one deny that it is? I hold that in a free country a full grown man ought to be free to work for whom he likes, at what wages he likes, and as long as he likes. If the State steps in and says, directly or indirectly, that he 320 shall not do so, the State takes away from that man his inborn right of freedom. There can, be no doubt, that this Bill does that, and that the proposal is contrary to sound principles in the government of free men.
I hold that instead of taking away from men their rights to freely exercise the powers nature has given them, you ought to maintain them in every possible way. I wish that great lawyer and wise man, Lord Bramwell was alive and in this House at this time. I think those who knew him would have no doubt as to the attitude which he would take up with regard to this Bill. I will read what the noble and learned Lord said in 1867, in the course of a famous trade union case—The liberty of a man's mind and will to say how he shall bestow himself, his means, his talents, and his industry, is as much a subject of the law's protection as is that of his body.He further went on to say that he considered compulsion, as in the case of picketing, to be a criminal offence. I will not say that my noble friend is guilty of a criminal offence, but the quotation I have read shows the view which a wise lawyer took on this question. I state in the Resolution that this sort of legislation is contrary to the sound principles of government of a free people. We know that principles sometimes give way to expediency; but I do not wish to enter into that. I think any one who has been long in Parliament must have observed that up to 1870, the whole tendency was to free men from restrictions and to leave them at liberty to exercise their talents in the best possible way. But what has been the tendency since? Not to free men from restrictions but to impose upon them restrictions of every sort and kind. The State now enters into their business and trade concerns, alters, breaks, makes and forbids contracts. That is an entirely new form of legislation. Governments now take credit, not for making men safe in their person and secure in their property—the original object of government—but for the passing of Bills interfering and meddling with business and trade concerns in every possible way. I think it is an entirely mistaken view of the objects of government to imagine that Parliament was intended to be a machine, for the pur- 321 pose of turning out so many Acts of Parliament a year. To conduct foreign affairs well and to leave men free and secure in this country with full liberty is the right and sound form of government.
My noble friend referred to my Resolution as declaring that the Bill was tyrannical. What my Resolution says is that there are provisions in it which would make it tyrannical. I hold that the provision in the Bill empowering a majority of shop-keepers to appeal to the local authority to close the shops of the remaining third, involves an intolerable tyranny; and I cannot believe that your Lordships will allow this gross injustice to be perpetrated in a free country. The Bill will enable the well-to-do tradesman—the Marshalls and the Maples—to get two-thirds of the tradesmen in their district to support the closing of all shops at seven o'clock. Is there any likelihood of the local authority being any check on this sort of legislation? The people who will come to them will be a majority of two-thirds of the shop-keepers, and, as the local authority is an elected body, there is not the slightest doubt but that they will bow to the wishes of the majority. The customers of the larger shops are driving, or at the Ranelagh Club or playing ping-pong or bridge, or dining early in order to go to the play, when the customers of the smaller shopkeepers are just coming out to do their shopping. I have a letter in my hand from a hairdresser, in which he says that if the Bill passes it means ruin all round for the small tradespeople. He claims to be scheduled, as his business is necessary to the cleanliness and health of his working customers, who can only come at late hours, after their work is done. I think common sense and ordidary intelligence point in that direction. The noble Lord referred to the Committee which sat on this Bill. I have yet to learn and I have been a good many years in Parliament—that we must bow down to the opinions of the members of Committees as if they were so many popes. For myself, I claim a Scotchman's right of private judgment on such a question, and I object to have the report of a Committee thrown at my head.
Who was the Chairman of this Committee—the judge, counsel, and jury all in one? Why, my noble friend who brings 322 in this Bill. I have not had the pleasure, I am happy to say, of serving on your Lordships' Committees, and I do not know whether it is the custom for a member who brings in an outrageous Bill like this to be put in the Chair of a Committee which has been called to inquire into it. But if this is the custom, then I think the sooner it is changed the better. At a public meeting, held last year in the Westminster Palace Hotel with regard to this Bill, Mr. Harris (the hon. Secretary of the Traders' Defence Association) referred in his speech to his experience the day before at a meeting of Lord Avebury's Committee. He said—Lord Avebury had been very angry with him for saying that only supporters of the Bill were heard. Notwithstanding that denial, however, he still held that the proceedings had been conducted with great unfairness, and he had been only able to appear before the Committee after special pressure had been brought to bear on the Chairman; and when he did get there he was not allowed to state his views in his own way. He was limited to such questions as Lord Avebury chose to put to him, and even in answering those he was suddenly pulled up when the Chairman thought he was about to say anything injurious to the Bill. Anything more unjust than to place a man like Lord Avebury in the Chair of a Committee to inquire into Early Closing he could not conceive. It was exactly like a plaintiff in an action being allowed to place his own counsel on the Bench.I do not know this gentleman. This extract was sent to me, and I leave the question to be settled by my noble friend and Mr. not Mrs. Harris. Lord Peel will be glad to hear that it is the general opinion that the result of the proposed early closing will be to drive people into the public-houses.
§ *THE EARL OF WEMYSS
At any rate, that is the opinion so far as I can ascertain it. They will have to go somewhere, and if they cannot go into the shops, they will go into the public-houses. My noble friend has put the cart before the horse. He should first get rid of the public-houses and then pass his Bill. I earnestly hope that your Lordships will reject the measure, which is an interference with individual liberty and the right of a man to bestow his talents and his industry in the way he thinks best. I hold that life I without liberty is not worth living. The 323 noble Marquess at the head of the Government has said in this House that the noblest idol before which man could bow was liberty. In the name of liberty, I ask your Lordships to reject this Motion for the reasons which are tersely stated in the Resolution standing in my name on the Paper. Last year, as the final Court of Appeal, this House rescued the rights of free Englishmen to their labour from the tyranny of trades unionism, and I now appeal to your Lordships to act in a like spirit as a legislative assembly. I ask you to reject this Bill and rescue the rights of the poor man to his labour from the would-be tyranny of well-meaning but mistaken philanthropy.
§ Moved, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, it is perhaps convenient that before the debate goes any further I should state what the view of the Secretary of State for the Home Department is regarding the provisions of this Bill, and what the Government propose to do with regard to the Second Reading. I listened with great interest to the speech which my noble friend made in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, and I am sure that your Lordships will heartily recognise the disinterested spirit and the humanity which he has shown in pressing this question forward. I believe it is admitted—at all events, the Committee admitted it—that it would be a very great boon if the hours of labour in shops could be shortened in the interest of the health as well as the recreation of those engaged in shops. But the question which the House has to decide is whether the provisions of this Bill are such as can be accepted to bring about this desirable state of things. I confess that I should have been glad if my noble friend had devoted more of his speech to the particular provisions of this Bill, and had not taken up the greater part of the time by pressing upon the House what I think the House fully recognises that there are evils to be remedied. I notice that in the Memorandum which my noble friend has presented to the House with the Bill, he goes in considerable length into the previous history of the measure, 324 mostly in the House of Commons. I conceive that the only object of a Memorandum explaining the Bill is to give an accurate account of what has taken place, and to supply a guide to, the House with regard to the provisions of the Bill before it. The complaint I have to make in this case is that the Memorandum, if not misleading, seems to give a wrong impression of what has taken place.
It is said that all the Amendments which the Home Office suggested had been introduced. I am authorised to say that the Home Office have not given their approval to the provisions of this Bill. The Memorandum states that the House of Lords Committee of last year reported unanimously that "the evidence has convinced us that earlier closing would be an immense boon to the shop-keeping community, to shopkeepers and shop assistants alike; that the present hours are grievously injurious to health, especially in the case of women;" and that "the subject is one of urgent importance," as "such serious warnings from the heads of the medical profession cannot, in our judgment, safely be disregarded." All those paragraphs are certainly contained in the Report of the Committee, but the point which I wish to press is that you would assume, after the reference to this unanimous feeling of the Committee, that this Bill represented their recommendations. As I shall show presently, that is not the case. I do not wish to put it any stronger, but I think the statement is likely to mislead those not fully conversant with the subject.
I should like to call the attention of the House to the later history of this measure, which was not alluded to by my noble friend. This identical Bill was brought forward in this House two years ago. On that occasion a considerable amount of discussion and criticism of the provisions of the Bill took place. It was criticised not only from the Front Government Bench, but also from the Front Bench opposite, and also by independent Members of the House. My noble friend, the Chairman of Committees, went so far as to say, alluding to the special clauses with regard to the majority necessary, the means of ascertaining 325 that majority and of dividing the districts, that he considered the clauses of the Bill perfectly unworkable. The result of that discussion was that this identical Bill was rejected by the House by nearly five to one. The Bill, for that session, naturally fell to the ground. My noble friend, in answering the criticisms that were made, appealed to the Government to give the Bill an opportunity of being thrashed out before a Select Committee, and he said that if these criticisms were proved to be good, then the Bill could be amended and put into workable form. Last year my noble friend himself moved for a Select Committee, which was granted by the noble Marquess, the Prime Minister, who I very much regret is not able to be in his place today. The Committee took a considerable amount of evidence, but they do not appear to have taken evidence with regard to the one class who might be supposed to be most affected by the Bill, namely, the purchasers. No doubt a large mass of evidence was brought before them on behalf of the shopkeepers and shop-assistants, but there is a clause in the Report which states that they were unable to get direct evidence from the smaller shopkeepers, and that, with regard to the public, if they had attempted to get much evidence from them, the Committee would have been obliged to sit for another session. What was the result of that Committee? A Draft Report was presented to the Committee by the noble Lord who presided. After setting forth that the Committee were satisfied that there were grievances to be remedied, and after alluding to the opinions of eminent medical men who had given evidence affirming against the evils which arose from long hours, the draft Report went on to say that the present hours were grievously injurious to health, and that, therefore, the Early Closing Bill—the Bill now before your Lordships — was recommended to the favourable consideration of the House. But on that part of the Report being put to the Committee, an Amendment was moved by Lord Salisbury to omit all reference to the Bill before the House, and to insert these words—That Town Councils should be authorised to pass Provisional Orders making such regu- 326 lations in respect to the early closing of shops as may seem to them to be necessary for the areas under their jurisdiction; and these Provisional Orders should be submitted to Parliament in the usual manner before acquiring the force of law.My noble friend admitted that he would be willing to accept Amendments; but I would ask the House whether it is usual that a noble Lord who has a Bill before the House, having himself moved its reference to a Select Committee, and having acted as Chairman of that Committee, should pass by the particular recommendation of the Committee and come back to the House with the identical Bill which was practically rejected by the Committee?
In these circumstances the Home Secretary feels that he cannot give his assent to the Second Reading of the Bill. It is very difficult to say how far Amendments could be introduced without entirely re-drafting the measure. It is possible, of course, that in some way a system of Provisional Orders might be introduced, and tacked on to the provisions at present in the Bill, so that Parliament would be given the power of saying whether or not the Provisional Orders should acquire the force of law. But there are the strongest possible criticisms on the framework of the present Bill. The Bill, for instance, refers to the Factory and Workshop Acts. In the opinion of the Home Office these matters have nothing whatever to do with the Factory and Workshop Acts. The provision to call in the police is an entirely novel one, and will be quite unworkable. The Secretary of State is not prepared to take the responsibility of moving Amendments in this Bill as it at present stands. Of course, if a measure was proposed carrying out the Report of the Committee it would be for him to consider how far he could give his support to its provision. But in this case, what the Home Office has to deal with is the Bill in its present form. I notice that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches did not move is Amendment as on the Paper but moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months. The words in the Amendment might be said, not only to prevent the Government from dealing with this measure at all, but to assert a general principle with regard to the hours of labour which would be extremely 327 undesirable in an Amendment to a small measure of this sort, and which might be inconvenient in discussions in the future. I am glad, therefore, that the noble Lord has moved the rejection of the Bill in the form now before the House.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I detained your Lordships at some length on this subject when the Bill was last before the House, and I do not propose therefore to say more than a few words on this occasion. But I would point out that the Committee of which I had the honour of being a member, the Committee which has been described by the noble Earl as being under tire numbing tyranny of Lord Avebury included the Prime Minister and several others who in ordinary circumstances are regarded as being well able to take care of themselves. While I am far from claiming for those who sit on the Episcopal Bench any unique knowledge on such subjects as that treated in this Bill, I do say that it is an indisputable fact that whether we have used them or wasted them we Bishops have had better opportunities than many of your Lordships of getting into touch with those to whom such subjects are matters of daily concern I myself and my right rev. Brother the Bishop of Rochester have had the advantage of residing in the very centre of one of the poorest districts in South London, where the question of the early closing of shops may be described as a burning question, and I venture to think that if the noble Earl lived in such a district he would be converted to what I believe to be the ever-growing feeling in favour of some action being taken on the lines laid down by this Bill. It is for its principle and not for its details that we contend. The fact that the Bill is introduced by Lord Avebury, who has given 30 years special consideration to the question, shows that it is not one of those crude measures of which the Legislature is legitimately suspicious. It has, under his guidance, obtained a Second Reading twice in the House of Commons, an Assembly containing representatives eminently qualified to speak on behalf of the country on this subject. It is true that your Lordships' House rejected the Bill two years ago, but it was then opposed 328 by the Prime Minister, as your Lordships will see by referring to the debate, on the ground that, as the subject required more consideration, it should be referred to a Committee. That course was adopted; the Prime Minister himself sat on the Committee, and surely the Government will not now refuse to it a Second Reading, especially after the admission of Lord Belper that the evil is great and needs a remedy. It would be easy for the Government to amend the Bill subsequently so as to make it correspond more precisely with the recommendations put forward on their behalf before the Committee. My noble friend Lord Avebury has abundantly proved to your Lordships that among shopkeepers themselves there is what we may virtually call unanimity in favour of the measure. No doubt there are many individual shopkeepers among the countless thousands affected by the Bill, who object to such legislation; but, speaking generally, the shopkeepers, both large and small, have either refrained altogether front opposing the measure, or have actively co-operated for its promotion. The statement of the noble Earl who has moved the rejection of the Bill, that it is more in the interest of the large than of the small shopkeepers, is the exact contrary of the evidence taken by the Committee. I entirely agree with what was said two years ago by the Prime Minister, and repeated tonight by Lord Belper, that the real question to be considered is whether the measure is in the interest of the community at large. It was to this special point, as the members of the Select Committee will testify, that I personally directed my special efforts when we were taking evidence. If your Lordships will consider the matter you will realise that it is difficult in any accurate statistical way to obtain the opinion of small consumers on the subject; but we summoned representatives of the trade unions to see whether they considered that the families of working men would be inconvenienced by the Bill. The evidence given by these representatives of the working classes, as well as by the clergy, who are, perforce, in touch with the poor from day to day, was very definitely in favour of 329 the measure. Certain special trades were mentioned, the members of which would be specially inconvenienced. In particular we were told that this would be the case with cabmen and with waiters. In each case we did the best we could. We called as witnesses the chosen representatives of those classes, and their evidence was again in strong support of the Bill. I confess that I was surprised to find that the noble Earl had fallen into the rather popular error that this Bill provides that shops are to be closed at 7 o'clock. I have not the slightest anticipation that 7 o'clock will be the hour adopted; it is merely mentioned because we wished to lay down some limit beyond which, even in the most extreme case, legislation of that kind ought not to be allowed to go. I am well aware that in moving the rejection of this Bill the noble Earl on the Cross Benches is perfectly consistent, and acting in strict accordance with Isis regular attitude on all measures of this kind. Your Lordships will probably recollect the eloquent terms in winch, three years ago, he referred to the disasters which he felt confident would follow the passing of the Bill to provide seats in shops for shop assistants. I would ask the noble Earl to ascertain today what has been the result of that Act, and to judge by the conclusion he then forms what is likely to be the value of the apprehensions which he at this moment entertains with regard to this Bill. If it could be shown that the interests of the public at large or the interests of the poor consumer were sacrificed to the interests of the shop assistant, I admit that the shop assistant must go to the wall; but we find that nothing of the kind is the case, while the Bill will he of great I value to the individual shopkeepers, who in this age of competition have not the pluck or the capital necessary to enable them to face the difficulties involved in this endeavour by voluntary effort to do all that is required. They therefore ask for legislative aid so as to protect them against the mischief which can be done even by a very small minority which selfishly exists on thwarting the general wish. Such protection would be 330 given by this Bill, and I hope your Lordships will read it a second time.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I feel that I ought to say a few words on this subject, especially as I propose to give a different vote from that which I gave two years ago. The right rev. Prelate who has just sat down has made a most lucid statement of the position, and I entirely endorse what he said. In 1900 there was considerable doubt on this side of the House, as well as on the other, as to the course that ought to be taken. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government stated in the clearest possible language that the Bill had not been thrashed out by your Lordships as it had been in another place, and that it was not desirable to at once pass without inquiry a measure which might injuriously affect the small consumer. Since then, however, a Committee, on which the Prime Minister sat, has considered the matter and reported. As to the general form in which the Bill is brought forward, there is always the possibility of altering the form of the Bill when it is in Committee. Tonight we are only considering the Second heading. I cannot see that there is any force in the objection of Lord Belper that because this Bill does not come before the House in the form suggested by the draft Report as amended by the noble Marquess, we ought not to give it a Second Reading.
§ EARL SPENCER
But the unanimous vote of the Committee was also in favour of the general principle, and of the necessity of dealing with this matter in a broad and comprehensive way. I maintain that the difference between these proposals and those which the noble Marquess introduced is a mere matter of detail; and I understand that the noble Lord who has introduced the Bill is quite willing to consider that point in Committee. I earnestly trust that your Lordships will not be persuaded by the Government to reject this measure which is evidently of the highest importance to the health of an enormous number of persons in the community. I think the right rev. Prelate entirely 331 disposed of the argument which the noble Earl brought forward—that the Committee only considered the large shopkeepers. In explaining the course which they took, the Committee stated—We have made it our endeavour to ascertain, by the secondary or indirect evidence of those conversant with the subject, whether a reasonable curtailment of hours would inflict any serious inconvenience on any class of the community. The co-operative stores, even those which endeavour to cater for the very poor, we find invariably close early, and their representatives assured us that, this was in no way inconvenient to their customers.I think the Committee have very thorough investigated the matter, and it is on account of their very able Report, which the Prime Minister was a party to, that on this occasion I shall give my cordial support to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
My Lords, I should not have interposed in this debate, had it not been that certain statements have been made by various speakers tins evening, in reference to what took place last year in the Committee. on the Early Closing of Shops, of which I had the honour to be a member. There seems to be a serious misconception as to the action that was taken by the noble Marquess the Prime Minister, when he moved the Amendment which has been referred to this afternoon. The Early Closing Bill which the Committee had before them was very carefully considered from all points of view, and there was a very strong feeling, which I held myself, and which, I believe, the noble Marquess and two other members of the Committee entertained, that the Bill was absolutely unworkable. We were totally opposed to local Option of any sort or kind, and we recognised that, if a majority of two-thirds was to be able to over-rule the minority, in numerous instances very hard and cruel results would ensue. Another point which the Committee gave considerable attention to was the difficulty of carrying out local option in towns where there might be two or more local authorities. Take, for instance, a street in London under two Borough Councils. You might have two-thirds of the tradesmen on one side petitioning for early closing, whereas the shopkeepers on the other 332 side of the street, being in another Borough, would not be in favour of it; and the question would arise, why should those on one side of the street have to close early, while those on the other were not so compelled? Naturally, those who closed early would suffer greatly by the advantage given to the shops on the other side of the street.
Had I understood that the Early Closing Bill was going to be brought before Parliament as a Bill that had the support of the Committee of which I was a member, I should most certainly have ventured to father a Minority Report. It was not until the Prime Minister came down to the Committee and made the suggestion that Provisional Orders should be passed, bringing the question of the closing of shops under the authority of Parliament that it was possible to produce a Report that could receive the signatures of all the members of the Committee; and when I point that out to the House, I think your Lordships will recognise that the proposal that has been made by the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill this afternoon, that it should receive a Second Reading and then be amended so as to carry out the recommendations of the Committee, is practically unworkable. In my opinion, there is not one single clause of the Bill now before your Lordships which could stand if the recommendations of the Committee are to be carried out. It seems to me that the proper course to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee is to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill. The noble Lord himself, who was Chairman of the Committee, and who signed the report, knew that not one single word was said in favour of the Bill. It he had intended to introduce this Bill, and to convey to, Parliament and to the public that it was this Bill which the Committee were in favour of, he would have insisted on words being put into the Report to that effect. But the noble Lord did nothing of the kind. He accepted the noble Marquess's. Amendment, and he now collies down to the House and states that the Committee in favour of this Bill. The Government have absolutely no option but, in order to give effect to the Report of your Lordships' Committee, to negative the-Second Reading.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I intervene in this discussion simply for the purpose of asking a question. We have heard from the noble Earl who has just sat down that the noble Marquess was primarily responsible for the 14th paragraph of the Report, in which it is stated that—The evidence has convinced us that earlier closing would be an immense boon to the shop-keeping community, to shopkeepers and shop assistants alike, that the present hours are grievously injurious to health, especially in the case of women, and under these circumstances we recommend that Town Councils should be authorised to pass Provisional Orders," and so forth.The question I desire to ask is, supposing the Bill is negatived or withdrawn, will the Government be prepared to bring in a Bill on the lines of the paragraph which was suggested by the Prime Minister?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The DUKE of DEVONSHIRE)
I understand the noble Earl to inquire whether the Government are prepared to bring in a Bill on this subject. I was under the impression that in one, at least, of his recent speeches the noble Earl expressed a great deal of doubt whether the Government would make effectual progress with the legislation which they had promised. It is, therefore, with surprise that I hear the suggestion that to those promised should be added another Bill which they have not announced their intention of bringing forward.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I do not remember which of the late speeches is alluded to. What I wish to know is, the Prime Minister having become personally responsible for this statement and having suggested a remedy, whether the Government are prepared to act upon them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
I do not think that is the question under debate. The question is whether, a Bill having been referred to a Select Committee, having been by that Committee rejected with suggested alternatives for another form of proceeding absolutely inconsistent with every line of the Bill, 334 whether in these circumstances the House should be asked to give a Second Reading to a Bill which the Select Committee have absolutely refused. To do that seems to me an inconsistent course not respectful to the Committee. Those who are in favour of the object of the Bill would act more in accordance with precedent if they framed their Bill on the lines of the Committee's recommendation. I am aware that the answer was that it was difficult to do this, and so the Bill was introduced in its original form, that anybody, if they thought proper, might propose Amendments to bring it into line with the recommendations of the Committee. Those who bring forward a Bill should present it in the form in which they desire it to pass; but the cardinal principle of the Bill, the mode in which the new regulations are to be enforced, is absolutely inconsistent with the recommendations of the Committee.
§ *LORD AVEBURY
I hope the House will allow me to say a few words in reply to the various points raised in the discussion. The noble Earl the Earl of Wemyss was very severe on me because I had the honour to preside over this Committee. I would point out that it was not my wish to occupy the chair, but that I was urged to take it by the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, who himself moved my appointment. The noble Earl brought forward the ease of the hairdressers. I can assure my noble friend that the hairdressers' associations throughout the country are most anxious to come under this Bill. My noble friend referred to the case of Mr. Harris. The Committee was not appointed till the end of March, and Mr. Harris was heard early in May. It was of course impossible to hear all the evidence at once. The statement read by the noble Earl is absolutely without foundation. Mr. Harris had every opportunity of laying his views before the Committee. The noble Lord who represents the Home Office seemed to imply that I was incorrect in stating that the Amendments suggested by the Home Office had been accepted, but I adhere to my statement. The Secretary of State and the Under Secretary were 335 both Members of the Grand Committee on Trade, and we accepted all their amendments. The noble Earl Lord Hardwicke says he is opposed to local option, but the Report to which he agreed expressly recommends that Town Councils should be authorised to pass Provisional Orders. Well, is not that local option?
§ *THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
It is not local option as I understand it, because the Town Councils have to take into consideration the wishes of the whole community, and not only those of a two-thirds majority, and then can do nothing without the sanction of Parliament.
§ *LORD AVEBURY
The noble Earl says that local option was rejected, but local option was expressly agreed to. Of course the Town Councils would consider the general wishes of the Community, but the provision that they should not pass an order except on the initia-
§ Bill to be read 2a this day six months.336
§ tive of the shopkeepers is inserted to protect the small shopkeepers. In addition to the local option which was to be exercised by the Town Councils, the noble Marquess suggested an additional safeguard in the passing of a Provisional Order. On this point the supporters of the Bill think they might reasonably ask the Government to insert the exact words, for carrying out the suggestion. With the exception of this one point, the Bill is in accordance with the general recommendations of the Committee, and as we have agreed to insert any words the Government may codsider necessary to carry out Lord Salisbury's suggestion, I do not see how the Bill can logically be objected to on this score.
§ Question put, "Whether the word 'now' shall stand part of the Motion."
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 26; not contents, 57.335
|Fife, D.||Hampden, V.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|Ripon, M.||Knutsford, V.||Crofton, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Peel, V. [Teller.]||Monkswell, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Hereford, L. Bp.||Northbourne, L.|
|Crewe, E.||London, L. Bp.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Rochester, L. Bp.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery)|
|Stamford, E.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Avebury, L. [Teller.]||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Selborne, E.||Lindley, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Llandaff, V.||Newton, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Alverstone, L.||Pirbright, L.|
|Craven, E.||Balfour, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Belper, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Braye, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Derby, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Middleton.)||Rowton, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Chelmsford, L.||Shand, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Churchill, L. [Teller.]||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Forteseue, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||De Mauley, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Howe, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Lauderdale, E.||Dunboyne, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Glenesk, L.||Wentworth, L.|
|Lonsdale, E.||Kenyon, L.||Wimborne, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Wrottesley, L.|
|Romney, E.||Lawrence, L.|
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past Six, to Thursday next, Eleven o clock.