HL Deb 12 March 1903 vol 119 cc541-57

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to address you this evening with a deep sense of responsibility, because I know the intense anxiety with which your decision is awaited by thousands and thousands of our countrymen and countrywomen, who feel that on your verdict rests the health and happiness of their lives. This is no new Question. It has been for more than thirty years before the House of Commons. We have been supported by two unanimous resolutions of the House of Commons; our Bill has passed twice through Second Reading in that House, and it has passed through two Committees, but we were never able to get it through all its stages in one session. The House always supported us, but obstruction has hitherto been victorious. Two years ago your Lordships appointed a Committee to inquire into the whole subject. The noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury) was good enough to serve on it, and I am sure that I express the general feeling of the shop keeping community in expressing to him their thanks for having devoted to the inquiry so much of his valuable time. We held many sittings, heard a great deal of evidence, and came to a unanimous Report. Your Committee, in their Report, state as the result of their inquiries that in many places the hours of labour in shops range as high as eighty to ninety a week, making fourteen hours a day. In factories the hours are now fifty-six and a half, so that those shops are now actually working thirty hours a week longer than factories.

We have had Bill after Bill, and Act after Act dealing with factories. Why should nothing be done for the shopkeeping community? I would ask your Lordships to consider what fourteen hours a day mean. Allow eight hours for sleep, and two for getting to and from the shop, for dressing and undressing, for breakfast and supper, and the twenty-four are gone. There is not a moment for relaxation or fresh air, for self-improvement or family life. They have the Sunday, a blessed day of rest, but, under such circumstances, of rest and nothing more. Men so over-worked cannot be useful citizens; women, as the medical authorities pressed on us, gradually fade away, and they can never become the mothers of strong and healthy children. This is a most serious consideration, and imposes on us a great responsibility. It would be vain to enlarge on the terribly long hours and the evil they entail. Let me just give you one case. Mr. Wallauer, who represented the London Master Bakers' Society, some 6,000 to 7,000 employers, told us that he and his colleagues employ between them from 18,000 to 20,000 women, of whom nine-tenths a re now working ninety hours a week. His society supports the Bill, because, as he said, these hours— Are unnecessarily long and exceedingly cruel, and it is white slavery for the 18,000 to 20,000 females whom I refer to in our own one trade. I speak, indeed, for over 300 shopkeepers' associations, representing all trades and in all parts of the country, all of whom support our Bill, while, as far as we know, only two oppose it. Your Committee also point out that in such a matter the trade unions may fairly be considered to represent the working classes, and the Trade Councils of England, Scotland and Ireland all support legislation, while indeed some of them wish to see the Bill made more stringent. There are two Bills before your Lordships this afternoon dealing with the same subject. As your Lordships will see by the Paper which has been circulated this morning, the Bill which I am now moving is supported certainly by seven out of the nine members of the Committee appointed by your Lordships to inquire into the subject, and I have every reason to hope by the other two also. Our Bill, in fact, is the Bill of the shop keepers, and it is the Bill of your Lordships Committee. Lord Ribblesdale's Bill is his own. Our objects are the same, and I have to thank him for his support on previous occasions. His Bill differs from ours in some important respects, and I confess that the provisions do not seem to me to be improvements. He proposes that it should be administered not by the Home Office but by the Local Government Board. I have always understood that the Home Office is the proper Department to deal with the subject. They have the information and the experienced staff. That, however, is a matter for the Government.

My noble friend, Lord Ribblesdale, in the Memorandum prefixed to his Bill, says that it is introduced for the purpose of carrying out the recommendation of the Committee. But I submit that he does not do so. The Committee recommended that any order made by the Home Office should be submitted to Parliament, but my noble friend goes further and proposes that it should not come into effect until embodied in an Act of Parliament. If Parliament agrees, as I hope it will, to the general principle, the exact hours in each case might well be left to the shopkeepers, the local authority, and the Home Office. It may, and no doubt often will, happen that some small or temporary change may be desirable, for the week, let us say, before Christmas, in holiday resorts at the height of the season, or on the occasion of some great function. But under the noble Lord's Bill every change, however small, however temporary, would require an Act of Parliament. and would therefore practically be impossible. This proposal would, I fear, involve considerable delay, unnecessary expense, and render the Act more difficult to work.

Lord Ribblesdale's Bill is no doubt shorter than ours, but that is because he omits many things which are of great importance. Under his Bill the whole area under one Local Authority must be treated alike. But this is not always desirable, or even possible. Take London. Saturday is generally recognised as a holiday in some parts of the Metropolis: it is the longest day in others. You could not make Saturday a half-holiday, or even an early day, in the poorer parts of London. In the counties, again, different towns have different habits and different requirements. So, again, in many cases trades may require special treatment. Let us take one case—the chemists. Under my noble friend's Bill a chemist would be fined for selling medicine after the shop closed. We have a special clause, approved by the chemists thmselves, to meet this point. The last difference to which I will refer is that we leave the initiative to the shopkeepers themselves. The principal objection we have hitherto had to meet is the fear that our Bill might ruin the small shopkeepers. To this we have always replied that the Act could not be put into operation against their wishes. With this provision I believe the small shopkeepers are quite safe, and quite satisfied, but to some such provision they do attach importance; and though two-thirds is perhaps too large a proportion—and personally I should be glad to say instead a majority—still it seems very important in such a matter to carry the shopkeeping community with us. I am not afraid that local authorities would do anything unreasonable, but they might, whereas under our Bill shopkeepers know they are, and would be, safe.

Our Bill has been considered clause by clause, and I might say line by line, by two representative congresses of shopkeepers—always, of course, excepting the additional safeguard, which, somewhat reluctantly, we have accepted in deference to the great authority of Lord Salisbury—and it is supported by over 300 associations of shopkeepers representing all our great trades and all our great cities. Lord Ribblesdale's Bill, on the other hand, so far as it differs from theirs, the shopkeepers have had no opportunity of examining. The noble Lord below me (Lord Wemyss) has on former occasions denounced the Bill in his usual picturesque and vigorous language. He professes to speak in the interests of the small shopkeepers. But they have always been the backbone of our movement. And why? They believe that they will get more rest and leisure, that their health will be better, that they will save in gas and other expenses, and last, but not least, that they will do more business. I have always maintained that they would do as much, but there is among them a general belief, for which several of their witnesses gave good reasons, that they will do more. They allege firstly that if shops shut earlier people will buy what they want nearer home; and, secondly, that more will be, spent in the shop and less in the public-house.

Happily, my Lords, this is no question of employers against employed, or class against class. This is the shopkeepers' own Bill. They deplore the evil, and implore you to enable them to apply a remedy. Your Committee heard every Association which desired to give evidence. Over 300 support the Bill, and only two oppose it. My Lords, I cannot sum up the question better than in the words of the unanimous Report of your Lordships' Committee. They have told you that "the subject is one of urgent importance," that "in many places the hours of labour in shops range as high as eighty to ninety per week," that the heads of the two great medical colleges '" have come before us and spoken strongly on the great and increasing evils of the present long hours; "that "such serious warnings from the heads of the medical profession cannot in our judgment safely be disregarded; "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." The subject is then, I submit, ripe for legislation. Your Lordships have before you two unanimous Resolutions of the House of Commons, one passed only last week, the results of the unanimous Report of your Lordships Committee, Resolutions passed by the Trade Councils of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the support of over 300 tradesmen's associations; and I am satisfied that in passing the Early Closing Hill your Lordships would confer an inestimable boon on the shop keeping community, would do much to improve the health of our great cities, and to prolong, strengthen, and brighten the lives of many thousands of our countrymen and countrywomen.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(Lord Avebury.)


In the interests of equal treatment I beg to move, without further words, the adjournment of the debate.

Moved," That the debate on the Bill be now adjourned."—(Earl Spencer)


I do not think the House quite understands the Motion of the noble Earl. I understand that because the House, for certain reasons which were given by the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack, decided to adjourn the discussion of the Bill moved by Lord Ribblesdale, the noble Earl opposite thinks it reasonable to ask the House to adjourn the debate on this Bill without giving any reason whatever. It seems to me that if the noble Earl succeeds in the course he has suggested we shall be placed in a somewhat inconvenient, not to say absurd, position. If the House decides not to proceed with the discussion of Lord Avebury's Bill to-night, I imagine that both Bills will stand in the same position to-morrow, or on whatever day they may be put down for. If this operation was repeated indefinitely, we should thereby be in the position of declining to discuss the subject at all, which I do not suppose is the object of the noble Earl. It seems to me a very extraordinary thing that so much exception should be taken to the House being permitted to express its opinion which of two Bills, on the same subject and of very much the same character, it proposes to take as the subject matter for discussion. Noble Lords opposite, seem to think that that is a point which ought to be fairly decided by the position which Bills occupy on the Notice Paper. On the contrary it seems to me a more reasonable proceeding that the House should decide for itself, which of the two Bills should form the basis for discussion. The House has taken one step in the direction of that position by assenting to the adjournment of the discussion on Lord Ribblesdale's Bill, and I hope it will complete the process by refusing to adjourn the discussion on the Bill now before the House.


I think some of the noble Lords present have not taken into their minds the difference between reading two Bills on the 3ame subject and rejecting one of two Bills. What I wished to point out was that Lord Ribblesdale's Bill, as I happened to know, was by many of my friends regarded less favourably than was Lord Avebury's, and would undoubtedly be rejected. Therefore, I desired that Lord Avebury's should be first considered, because, had Lord Ribblesdale's been so rejected, it would have been contrary to order to enter into a discussion of the second Bill at all. I am amazed at the view which has been taken of my action, and that it should be supposed there was any affront intended in the course I took. I could have moved the reference of both Bills to a Committee, but I understood that the noble Lords would have objected to this course. I and a number of my friends would certainly have voted against Lord Ribblesdale's Bill, and under these circumstances I did that which I conceived to be most convenient to the House.


The speech the Lord Chancellor made in moving the adjournment, which was most unexpected, was to the effect that the past merits of Lord Avebury entitled his Bill to prior consideration. Let me say I can quite understand that point being taken, but I do not think that the method adopted to give effect to the opinion was quite respectful or seemly to the House. I think if the noble and learned Lord had put on the Paper an intimation to the effect that on the Motion for the Second Reading of Lord Ribblesdale's Bill he would move that the House should adjourn the discussion with a view to giving priority to Lord Avebury's Bill, no one would have had any reasonable cause to complain. But what happened? Lord Ribblesdale, in a fluent and picturesque speech, proposed his Bill, and we were prepared to listen with our accustomed eagerness to my noble friend on the Cross Benches, the Earl of Wemyss, who is equally prepared annually to move the rejection of the Bill. In the middle of this, however, the leading authority on order in this House, the Lord Chancellor himself, gets up and moves the adjournment of the debate on the somewhat personal grounds I have stated I think that Prima facie it would have been more convenient, and possibly more decent. if fair notice had been given that this course was to be taken. The noble Duke takes another line and says— Surely there is nothing; more reasonable than that the House should have an opportunity of declaring at once which Bill it prefers.


Which Bill it prefers to discuss.


Since the Motion I notice that there have been reinforcements on the Government side, but the House on a division has only been able to express its passionate wish for the discussion of the second Bill by a majority of two.


I said nothing about "passion."


No, there is no passion in the noble Duke's composition, but I think I have a right to add an epithet to give force to the argument he advanced. I venture to think that the Motion for the adjournment had better not be pressed. Although in my opinion there is no foundation for the doctrine of the noble and learned Lord that the rejection of Lord Ribblesdale's Bill would have prevented our discussing another Bill on the same subject this afternoon, I trust, even if we should be so fortunate as to pass Lord Avebury's Bill, it will not preclude a fair discussion of Lord Ribblesdale's Bill to-morrow.


The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said he would have voted against the Bill of my noble friend, Lord Ribblesdale, while he would have voted for Lord Avebury's Bill. Well, my Lords, if the difference between those two Bills is so great, though dealing with the same subject, that the noble and learned Lord is totally unable to support the one while he can give his hearty support to the other, I would submit that the difference is sufficient, even though the first Bill might have been rejected, to allow of a discussion being taken on the second one. I think the noble and learned Lord has proved rather too much in that case. Our only object is to meet the tactics from the Woolsack, with the same tactics in regard to the Bill which is supported by the noble Earl.


I hardly like, after the appeal which has been made to me, to press the Motion which I moved with the object of giving Lord Ribblesdale equal treatment with Lord Avebury. At the same time I strongly desire to protest against the course, which was taken by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I believe it was perfectly unnecessary, and for this reason—that if Lord Avebury, or any other noble Lord, or the Government, disliked the chaises in the Bill of my noble friend, Lord Ribblesdale, they could very properly have amended that Bill, and could have practically transformed it into the second Bill. If tire feeling of your Lordships is against my Motion I will not put the House to the trouble of a division.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


My Lords, I paused before rising to say a few words on this matter under the impression that the noble Earl who had given notice to move the rejection of Lord Ribblesdale's Bill would have taken a similar course with regard to the present Bill, but I am delighted to see that he takes no step to that effect. I do not know in those circumstances that very much need be added to the weighty words which have fallen from the noble Lord, who has for more than a quarter of a century given such close attention and care to this very important subject. As one who sat with him on the Select Committee which considered this question I should like to say one or two words as to the main line of objection which has ordinarily been taken to the measure, and which I understood would have been taken by the noble Earl to-night. We are usually told that this is a Bill which sacrifices the interests of the small shop keepers to the interests of the great shopkeepers, but I contend that the evidence which has been adduced shows that the opposite is the case. There are no more enthusiastic supporters of this Bill than the mass of small shopkeepers in our great towns. The second class we had to consider were the assistants, on whom, above all others, the benefit will be conferred by the passing of this Bill.

Apart from the paramount question of health, upon which my noble friend dwelt so forcibly, we have the question of the dullness and enforced intellectual poverty of the life to which they are condemned. It is a melancholy fact that the very men and women whom we might expect to find taking advantage of the opportunities for higher education and self-improvement which are now provided in nearly all our great towns are practically precluded by their long hours from doing so. I quite admit that neither the interests of the shopkeepers, large or small, nor the interests of the shop assistants, ought to be allowed to stand in the way if the interests of the public at large are to sutler. We tried in the Select Committee to test, as far as possible, the real opinion of those who would be likely to be most prejudicially affected were such a Bill as this to become law—the general body of purchasers of the poorer classes. Difficult as it is to obtain from this necessarily wholly undefined, unorganised body, any definite expression of. opinion, all the steps we took towards obtaining that expression of opinion seemed to show that the grievance, when the Bill is safeguarded in the manner my noble friend proposes, would be reduced to an absolute minimum, and would be insignificant in extent. There would undoubtedly be here and there cases of difficulty and of hardship, hut they would be so few and far between that they could not legitimately be allowed to stand in the way of a measure which would, in its general effect, be so beneficial. I most earnestly hope that the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill, which has been so long and carefully considered, and that we may feel that we are taking a step which may lead to its finding a place on the Statute-book before the close of the present Session.


My Lords, having been a Member of the Select Committee over which the noble Lord presided, I should like to say a few words in support of this Bill. On former occasions, when the Bill has been introduced in your Lordships' House, it has met with some opposition, but on this occasion there has been no word of opposition uttered. We are, therefore, in some difficulty in bringing forward the arguments in favour of it. As a rule, noble Lords in this House have opposed the measure because there is generally a prejudice against compulsory legislation of this character, but, surely, if the Bill is to be a real Bill and to achieve anything at all, it must contain an element of compulsion. I do not think it would be of very great value if it were simply the pious expression of an empty hope. I confess I am in favour of voluntary effort, if you could achieve by voluntary effort the same results as those you seek to achieve by legislation, but this Bill owes its very existence to the fact that the voluntary effort among the shopkeeping community, in the direction of the earlier closing of shops, has completely and hopelessly broken down. The history of the movement, and of its failure, is a long and almost pathetic one. There is a mass of evidence from all parts of the country showing the failure of the voluntary effort, which has not broken down because shop keepers themselves are opposed to it, not because there is any reasonable minority of shopkeepers who decline to allow the majority to impose their wishes upon them, but it has broken down simply and solely because an insignificant number of shopkeepers have been able to render the voluntary effort of the majority of no avail.

It is true that in this Bill there is a certain element of compulsion, but I trust your Lordships will recognise how limited that compulsion is. It] is proposed that a two-thirds majority of the shopkeepers in a locality can approach the local authority for power to close their shops at a certain hour. The draft order of the local authority requires the sanction of the central authority, and that, in its turn, requires the approval of Parliament. Your Lordships will therefore see that we do not aim at imposing a check on the freedom of individuals. We do not desire to enforce a series of restrictions on shopkeepers, nor to interfere with their private enterprise. The principle of this Bill is based less upon a system of compulsion than of making the existing voluntary effort effective. It has been urged on former occasions in this House that the labouring classes are opposed to this measure, and that, if it became law, great injury would be inflicted on the working classes who desired to shop late at night, between, say, the hours of nine and eleven. If that were so. I admit it would be a weighty consideration, and it is possible to get evidence in support of either side. I suppose there never was a Committee, either of this House or the House of Commons, who did not have to take conflicting evidence into consideration. What I do ask your Lordships to do on the present occasion is to look at this matter in its broad and general outline. If the working classes were opposed to this measure, surely their protests would have been heard before now from the labour Members in the House of Commons. But I think I am right in saying that the labour Members have spoken in favour of the general principle of the Bill, and have given their support to it. Again, if this Bill was at all injurious to the working classes, we should have had a strong protest before now from the Trade Unionists, who are giving the measure their support. Finally, if the artizan class were opposed to the measure, and thought that any injury was likely to be inflicted on them by it, we should have had meetings of protest in all the large towns. On the other hand, meetings have been held in Liverpool, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and other centres, not against this measure, but in favour of it. I do not share the apprehensions that I have heard expressed, not in this House, but outside, that a measure of this kind would be difficult to enforce. Your Lordships will remember the Act regulating the hours of labour of children in shops. I believe I am right in saying that, two years after the passing of that Act, there were hardly any people who had to be prosecuted for violating it.

I should like for a moment to deal with some of the principles which underlie this Bill. We have generally been told that this is grandmotherly legislation, and I daresay there are some noble Lords who think that the freedom of the individual is being interfered with. I hope your Lordships will notice how carefully that interference is restricted and limited, and, I may say.

that we justify that experience on the one ground of health. Lord Beacons field laid it down that it was the duty of the Government to safeguard the health of the nation, and I contend that we are entitled to interfere with the liberty of the subject to the small extent proposed, in order to safeguard the health of the shopkeeping community, who are seriously affected by the present state of things. The Committee of the House of Commons which sat in 1888 on the subject of the regulation of shop hours, received med cal testimony that the effect of long hours on health was most deplorable. It is a long story of suffering and misery. The medical witnesses stated that the health of females deteriorated to a degree lamentable to themselves and disastrous to their offspring. In the case of men, consumption and other diseases are produced, and the late Sir William M'Cormack stated before our Committee that the long hours in shops promoted disease in an accumulative degree. I do not believe there are any noble Lords who would urge that the effects and the strain of excessive toil are insignificant compared with the slight interference that would result from the passing of this Bill.

I think there is a greater consideration. Can the State afford to become wealthy if, by so doing, it diminishes the vigour and stamina of its citizens? I can well understand noble Lords who say that it is a cruel thing to limit the right of an individual to work to his utmost capacity for his own support, and forthesupportofthosedependent upon him. When that toil is healthy, when it is in the open air, when the resulting strain is distributed throughout the body, I should not advocate interference. But in the case of those industries with which this measure proposes to deal, where the work is often performed under unhealthy circumstances, and in unwholesome surroundings, the case is very different. I claim that there is here a legitimate field for your Lordships' intervention. Those of us who are deeply interested in this measure, and believe in its beneficial effect, claim on its behalf that it will ultimately remove a great evil which now exists among the shopkeeping community; that shop- people themselves will welcome it; that it will not be difficult to enforce, and that only a small pinch of compulsion is required to render effective the vast volume of voluntary effort. It is not within the power of Parliament directly to grant the people of this country either health, wisdom, or strength, but it is within our power, and I think I may say within our duty, to encourage and foster those tendencies which make for a better state of things, and to retard those influences which are most harmful and wasteful: it is in the belief that the Bill of my noble friend will in no small degree promote the health of the shopkeeping community, that I for one desire to give it my wholehearted and unstinted support.


My Lords, I think before the debate closes I ought to say a few words on behalf of the Government. After the very general assent which has been given to the principle of this Bill to-night, I do not think I need go into any of its details. The House will remember that on the last occasion when my noble friend Lord Avebury brought forward a Bill on this subject, it was my duty to say, on behalf of the Government, that they could not accept it because it did not contain provisions carrying out the recommendation of the Committee for the control of Parliament. That is not the case in the present Bill. The noble Lord has, I think, done his best to carry out the recommendations of the Committee, and it would have been a great misfortune if by any procedure to-night we had been deprived of having the Bill explained to us by Lord Avebury. He has taken such an active part in this matter in the past, that really the position the Bill now holds in Parliament is due in a great measure to his energy; and he has this advantage, that he represents the feelings, the views, and the wishes of the shop keeping class themselves. In addition, he has given attention to the objections that have been raised in some quarters, and in the Bill now presented has. done everything possible to prevent any inconvenience or difficulty arising.

With regard to the Bill itself, the Home Office certainly like the provisions in this Bill better than those in Lord Ribblesdale's—and for this reason, that Lord Avebury's Bill goes more fully into detail with regard to the regulations that the local authority have to make. I have not the least intention of trespassing upon the time of the House by alluding to a Bill which is not before us, but I must emphasise the fact that the regulations contained in Lord Avebury's Bill are of Very great value. The local authority cannot act at all unless, in the first place, the initiative is taken by some of those who are interested, and they cannot act unless an application is made to the Council. Then, again, they can take no action unless at least two-thirds of the shopkeepers affected approve of the application, and, after holding an enquiry and satisfying themselves that it is desirable to make an Order, there is a further safeguard, because after they have made a Draft Order, that Order goes to the central authority for consideration. The central authority is not allowed to take any action on the Draft Order unless it has been published for a certain time, and they are bound to consider any objections to it. I know that in some quarters exception has been taken to this procedure, whereby the central authority does not actually make the Provisional Order, as suggested by the Committee. But I think your Lordships will see that the action that has to be taken by the Home Office—and it is the central authority, very properly, under this Bill—is of such a character as practically to carry out the spirit, and I believe even the letter, of the Committee's proposal. The procedure is that the Home Office shall, if they approve of the Draft Order, lay it on the Table of Parliament, and after lying on the Table for forty days, it shall take effect unless any objection is raised to it. I think that practically carries out the proposal of the Committee that the Order should be submitted to Parliament, and should not be operative unless it had the approval of Parliament. I will not detain your Lordships by saying anything with regard to the other provisions of the Bill. I would only add that if the Bill goes forward, as I hope it will, to Committee, there may be Amendments which it may be necessary for the Home Office to introduce. On behalf of the Government, I have to say that they give their approval to the Bill, and believe it will form a reasonable basis for the settlement of this question.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships at any length, especially as the fate of this Bill has now been decided by the speech of my noble friend Lord Belper. Without the assistance of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, the Government have now got rid of the first Bill on the Order Paper and have declared themselves in favour of the second Bill. Although I have a great deal to say upon the merits and the details of Lord Avebury's Bill, I shall reserve that for a future occasion; but I would just like to state that I regard the Bill at the present moment as entirely unsatisfactory in its scope, and as going not nearly far enough to satisfy the demands of the country. The noble Duke who spoke just now declared that the Bill had the support of the Trades Unions and of the representatives of the working classes in the House of Commons, but T would point out that the Bill which has that support, and has it in a larger extent, is a very much stronger Bill than either of the two produced to-day. I hope the Bill will be very considerably strengthened in Committee, and I trust that the Amendments which the noble Lord referred to just now on the part of the Home Office will take that form. Otherwise I do not believe it will have the slightest chance of passing the House of Commons.

I would remind your Lordships of the fact that we have just had another by election. I saw the result of that by election hawked about the streets this morning as the knell of the Government. What is the meaning of that election? Do your Lordships suppose that the working men of Woolwich returned Mr. Crooks to Parliament in order to tell His Majesty's Ministers that they are over-legislated for, that they are over governed? I do not believe it for a moment. They sent Mr. Crooks to Parliament in order to tell His Majesty's Ministers that they want a more active interest taken in their affairs. They do not want to be left alone, but want the Government to take effective steps in order to improve their condition: and I think that if the policy of mere "let alone," the policy of administrative Nihilism, is continued by every Department of the Government, it will be impossible for us to remain for long in that position of commercial supremacy of which we are so proud, for the industrial strength of this country never can rest upon the weakness and the degradation of the working classes. I will postpone what I have to say on the merits of the Bill, but I trust when we come to discuss the Bill in Committee, the Amendments will take the form of putting some strength into it.

On Question, agreed to; Bill read 2aaccordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.

House adjourned at half-past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.