§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.—(Lord Avebury.)1342
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, before your Lordships go into Committee on this Bill, I should like to say a word, not by way of opposing the Motion which Lord Avebury has just moved, but simply to state that the matter of procedure which will be dealt with in Committee appears to me to be a very secondary matter compared with the great principles which are involved in this Bill. The other night when Lord Ribblesdale, who was first in the field, had his Bill down for Second Reading, I placed a notice on the Paper to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months; but, on that Bill being shunted, through the action of the Lord Chancellor, in favour of Lord Avebury's measure, it appeared to me, owing to the wrangle that took place, that the lest course, for those who object to the Bill on principle, to adopt would be to fight the question on the Third Reading. That is what I propose to do. I propose to move on the Third Reading stage a Resolution setting forth my views, and the views of those who agree with me, against this kind of legislation, and in the meantime I can only hope that those who favour this thoroughly un-English legislation will succeed, in Committee, in making the Bill, which limits for the first lime the labour of adult persons in this country, more restrictive of trade and a greater interference with freedom of contract. I shall take no part in the discussion.
There is, however, "a third Richmond in the field" in the shape of a Bill prepared by Lord Arran, which, in my judgment, if you are going in for this sort of legislation, is a far better Bill than either Lord Ribblesdale's or Lord Avebury's, because "it goes the whole hog." It prescribes the hours for meals, the time that should be given for dinner and for tea, and there is not a Clause—and there are a good many clauses in the Bill—which has not appended at the end of it a £5 penalty. That is the most perfect measure of the three, and I would suggest to your Lordships the adoption of that Bill as the foundation of your legislation. There is only one thing wanting in it. I would humbly suggest that a clause should be introduced compelling shop girls at certain times of the day to sit upon the seats 1343 provided by the Bill of last year, which, I am told, they now positively refuse to do. As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has gone in for this kind of legislation I would suggest to him, in view of the importance of Lord Arran's Bill, that he should follow the precedent he established the other day and move that this debate be now adjourned with a view to the House considering Lord Arran's Bill.
§ EARL COWPER
My Lords, I desire to say a few words upon this Bill before we go into Committee. The debate the other day on the Second Reading was of a peculiar and unsatisfactory nature, the discussion being very much interrupted by some question of procedure which rather diverted your Lordships' attention from the main subject. Besides that, we had come down to consider a B11 the debate on which, alter the speech of the mover, was adjourned, and the substitution of the Bill standing in the name of Lord Avebury rather interfered with the discussion. I confess I do not think I could quite have brought myself to vote against the Second Reading, because I am willing to believe that at the present time great hardships arc inflicted on shop assistants. The more statement that they have to Murk fourteen hours a day continuously, is enough to move our pity. But we must, of course, remember that this is a workman's question on both sides—that the working men and women who use these shops are at work all day, and can only do their shopping in the evening; and it is very difficult to find out how-far they will be injured and how far they will not. We have gone too far in our legislation to lay it down as a general rule that we ought never to interfere with freedom of contract; nevertheless, I think it ought to be very carefully looked into, and there ought to be no legislative interference unless it is proved to be absolutely necessary. I was in hopes that the unpretending little Bill which was introduced by that clear-headed philanthropist the late Duke of Westminster, on, I think, almost the last occasion on which he appeared in this House, and was successfully passed into law—namely, the Bill making it necessary that seats should be provided in shops—would to a certain degree have relieved 1344 the hardships complained of, particularly among women, who are supposed by doctors to be particularly affected by long hours; but whether it has done so or not, I do not know. I am willing to believe that there is a great deal of suffering in these cases, although very little was said upon that by the advocates of these measures when the Second Reading was moved. One is rather afraid, particularly in this House, of making sensational speeches, or of appearing to be sentimental in any way, and that was, perhaps, the reason why the movers of the two Bills contented themselves with referring to Reports of Committees, or to Proceedings in the other House; but I think it is too much to expect of an ordinary Member of your Lordships' House that he should have read the Reports of every Committee during the past few years, or that he should read all the speeches that are made in another place.
I admit that there is a grievance, and that if it can be remedied it should be. I pass to the particular measures proposed in this Bill, which I think require a little more discussion than they have received. There is, in the first place, the question of local option, of allowing these things to be settled by local authorities. I am well aware of the advisability of local authorities being given more to do, and I am in favour of devolution and decentralisation; of relieving as much as possible the overworked central offices such as the Local Government Board, the Home Office, and the Board of Education; but that is altogether a different question. If a thing can be settled by a general statute there is great advantage over its being settled ocally. The difficulty of local action is the want of uniformity which must ensue. County Councils and Borough Councils are generally influenced, like even greater assemblies, by two or three leading men, and it may happen that in one district these men may have old fashioned ideas, and, like the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, be opposed to all interference, whilst in others they may take a more generous view. This, of course, will cause difference of action in different places. However large a district may be, it must have a boundary, and there must, therefore, be 1345 cases in which on one side of the boundary the shops will be shut, while those across the street will be left open. In these cases, of course, the trade will naturally go from the shops which are obliged to close to those which are kept open, and the wretched assistants in the latter shops will see their more happy fellows on the other side of the street go home at seven or eight o'clock, while they have to remain till a much later hour. Not only will there be want of uniformity in these places. I see that in the Bill there is a provision for a classification of shops. Therefore, shops of one class may succeed in getting a majority of two-thirds of their owners to petition in favour of closing, and another class of shops, not really very different, may fail to get this majority. It is, I believe, a rule that a hardship, however great it may be, is better borne and gives less cause of discontent if it is general than if it is partial, and if certain shops, by chance perhaps, or by caprice, are exempted, the others will suffer much more.
I may be told that the reason we are proceeding by districts is that circumstances differ in different places, but I am not quite sure that that is always the case. Shops which are frequented by well-to-do people and the bulk of the middle classes do not, of course, do any considerable trade at night, and it would be no hardship if they were closed; but there are poor men's shops in almost every district, and in those shops there are the two conflicting interests I have mentioned—the interests of the shop assistants and of the customers. I think everything points to the advisability, if possible, of having a general measure which will meet each case instead of proceeding by the principle of local option. Then comes the question as to what form this general Bill should take. So far as I can judge, the grievance is that these people are kept at work for an enormous length of time daily. What is wanted, then, is not an Early Closing Bill, for we do not care how long shops are kept open so long as the assistants are not overworked. It seems to me that when the trade is a night trade the shopkeeper might very reasonably; be allowed to open his shop in the 1346 middle of the day and keep it open till late in the evening. No harm whatever would be done in such a case, provided the assistants did not start work till the middle of the day. Or if the shopkeeper wished to catch the I early morning trade, he could do so and close his shop in the middle of the day until the evening. So far as recreation is concerned, I think it is I well known that one hour in the open air when the sun is shining docs one more good than several hours in a close room after dark, or in the open streets.
What is wanted is not a Shops Closing Bill, but a Shops Hours Bill. I think that will be found to be the only true remedy. This, however, opens up too large a question for me to enter into now, but what I say is—and I think I many of your Lordships will be of my opinion—that the Bill is built upon wrong lines and that a general measure would be far preferable.
§ *LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I can hardly imagine that my noble friend on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) intended his remarks to be taken seriously. There are, however, one or two of his statements to which I must respectfully demur. The noble Earl said that Lord Ribblesdale's Bill was first in the field. As a matter of fact, the Early Closing Bill standing in my name has been a long time in the field. It has been twice read a second time without a division in the House of Commons, and it was before two Committees of that House prior to its coming before your Lordships. The noble Earl spoke of "Lord Ribbledale's Bill" and "Lord Avebury's Bill." I submit that the Bill now before your Lordships is not my Bill. It is, in the first place, the Bill of the shopkeepers. It was drafted at two Congresses of Shopkeepers and is supported by practically the whole of the Shopkeepers' Associations all over the country. Your Lordships referred the subject to a Committee, and it was in consequence of the unanimous Report of that Committee, and with the support of the whole of the members of the Committee, that this Bill was introduced. Surely, when a question is referred to a Committee for consideration, and that Committee arrives at a unanimous con 1347 clusion. it is only natural and reasonable that a Bill based upon that Report and supported by your Committee should be considered.
Now I come to the remarks which fell from the noble Earl who has just sat down. I think he can hardly have been present at the Second Reading, because I then went, as also did Lord Ribblesdale, at some length into the hardships which induced both he and I to submit Bills for your Lordships' consideration. My noble friend demurred to local authorities having these powers, but under our Bill the local authorities are not the initiating bodies; they only have power to carry out the wishes of the shopkeepers themselves. My noble friend is very anxious to have uniformity of treatment, but the members of the Committee will agree with me when I say that the shopkeepers impressed upon us very strongly indeed that the needs of districts varied considerably, and that there was a general consensus of opinion amongst the shop-keeping community that you could not have the same hours in all trades and for all places. Therefore they all advocated the elasticity which is in this Bill. Then the noble Earl spoke of the conflicting interests of employers and employed. To their honour be it said, there is not, and never has been, any conflict between employers and employed as regards this movement. The shopkeepers themselves are most anxious for this Bill, and there is no conflict whatever between them and their employees. Then the noble Lord said ho would favour a Bill which dealt with men and not with shops, but the evidence placed before us was that the small shopkeepers themselves were most anxious to have the small shops closed; otherwise, the men who kept open the latest would do the late trade. We were convinced that no measure which dealt with the hours of assistants and not with shops would meet the wishes of the shopkeeping community, Lastly, the noble Earl spoke of the interests of working men and women. We had before us in the Committee the representatives of the great trade unions of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and they told us that their members were strongly of opinion that some mea- 1348 sure of this kind was most urgently required, and that they were satisfied that it would in no way conflict with the interests of working men and women.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
When I said Lord Ribblesdale was first in the field I referred to this session. I quite admit that he was poaching on the ground of Lord Avebury.
On Question, agreed to: House in Committee (according to order).
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE moved to amend the clause by leaving out the words requiring the local authority to satisfy itself that at least two-thirds of the occupiers of the shops affected approve the application. He confessed that the course of procedure that evening, and the observations that had fallen from noble Lords rather inclined him to make a Second Reading speech, but having already spoken in moving his measure, and having listened to two Second Reading speeches from the noble Lord in charge of the Bill now before their Lordships, he would retrain from doing so. As to being first in the field, he wished to retire from that position altogether. He never pretended to have been first in the field. He happened to be first on the Order Paper, and that, was the whole point on which the controversy turned. He rather agreed with what the noble Earl on the Cross Benches said, that as regards the particular question of the earlier closing of shops, Lord Arran's Bill seemed to be the most practical.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
I would remind: the noble Lord that the House is in Committee, and that he is moving an Amendment to Clause 1.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE, referring to Lord Avebury's statement that the I ill was a Shopkeepers' Bill, said that was the very reason why he moved his Amendment. It was quite clear that without the two-thirds majority of the shopkeepers the Bill would become waste 1349 paper. The shopkeepers were not merely to agree to this legislation; they were to initiate it; and to leave it to the shopkeepers would simply be to rely on that voluntary effort which had always proved quite ineffective. It seemed to him that the arrangements made by the noble Lord presented some ethical and some practical difficulties. The proposal was like that of two-thirds of the forces in a hunting country being empowered to legislate in favour of the poultry and the game; he did not think anything would be done. The shopkeepers, Lord Avebury said, were warm supporters of the Bill, and in his memorandum attached to the Bill, the noble Lord stated that as regarded London a petition in its favour had been signed by about half the shopkeepers affected. They all knew the great attention which the noble Lord and others had given to this matter, and probably that petition had been very carefully put in motion, and all the parties thoroughly canvassed. If, therefore, only half the shopkeepers had signed the petition it was fair to assume that the two-thirds majority would not be forthcoming, and that nothing would be done if the words he proposed to omit were allowed to remain in the Bill. It might be said that they should not force regulations of this sort on shopkeepers if they were unwilling to have them; but his answer was that they would never have seen the Factory Acts passed if they had waited for an expression of opinion from the manufacturers, or for them to take the initiative.
As to his own Bill, he would take this opportunity of laying it to rest. He had said with absolute sincerity the other night that if he could not get his own Bill, he would do his best to further the passing of the present Bill. The point he was coming to when he was interrupted, quite properly, by the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees was that, although he preferred Lord Arran's Bill in many ways, having made this statement the other day he would loyally stick to Lord Avebury's. He quite admitted that the draft order and the placing of it on the Table of the House was better than the, cumbersome provisional order and Act of Parliament which he prescribed in his
Bill; but he would submit to the noble Lord that the clause would be greatly improved if the words he proposed to leave out were omitted. The section would then read—
If an application be made to the council of any county or borough, praying them to make a draft order for the closing throughout the county or borough or any specified part thereof of any class or classes of shops on such days and at such hours as may be specified in the application, then the council shall give public notice of the receipt of such application and of the period within which objections may be made thereto.
He would rather leave it to the local authority, which was conversant with the needs of the community, than to the shopkeepers themselves to initiate this legislation. He submitted that by accepting the Amendment the House would be carrying out, both in the spirit and in the letter, the Report of the Select Committee of 1901, and the recommendation moved by Lord Salisbury, which ran to this effect—
That they recommended unanimously that Town Councils should be authorised to pass provisional orders making such regulations in respect to the closing of shops as might seem to them to be necessary for the areas under their jurisdiction.
In Clause 1, page 1. line 9, to leave out from 'application' to 'them' in line 11."—(Lord Ribblesdale.)
§ *LORD AVEBURY said that as the Bill originally stood it contained two safeguards. In the first place, two-thirds of the shopkeepers had to take the initiative; and, in the second place, they had to convince the local authority that their proposal was a reasonable and proper one. At the suggestion of Lord Salisbury two further safeguards were introduced by which the local authority had to apply to the central authority—in this case the Home Office—and the Home Office had to lay the order before Parliament. In the circumstances he thought they might safely reduce the number of shopkeepers who were to approve the application from two-thirds to one-half. But if the Amendment were accepted, it would be in the power of a single shopkeeper to present an application to the local authority and put the locality to the great expense of an inquiry, though it might turn out that only a handful of 1351 shopkeepers were in favour of the early closing. When it had been alleged that the Bill might press hardly on small shopkeepers, the answer they had always been able to give, was that nothing could be done unless a large majority of the shopkeepers were themselves in favour of it. That had always satisfied the shopkeepers. As the Bill stood the overwhelming body of the shopkeepers wore in favour of it; but he doubted whether they would still support it, if it provided that shops might be closed against their wishes. He was willing, however, and indeed should be glad to reduce the number of shopkeepers who were to approve the application from two-thirds to one-half.
§ LORD MONKSWELL said it seemed to him that the noble Lord had entirely misapprehended the objection which Lord Ribblesdale had taken to the clause as it stood. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill expressly stated in the Memorandum that '.here were three classes principally affected—the customers, the assistants, and the shopkeepers: and, that being the case, it appeared to him singularly unjust and illogical that the shopkeepers, whether by a majority or by one-half, should have the initiation of this matter entirely in their own hands. Apparently the local authority would be bound by the opinion of the shopkeepers even if they found, on investigation, that the customers were dead against it and that the shop assistants would prefer that the regulations were not enforced. He had had the opportunity that afternoon of discussing the two Bills in a Committee of the London County Council, and the Committee unanimously came to the conclusion that it was extremely desirable that all three classes should be consulted in the matter, and that the local authority, having held an investigation, should proceed on the evidence before them as to the wishes of the customers, the assistants, and the shopkeepers, and should not be bound to accept the view of one class only. With regard to Lord Avebury's objection that if the Amendment were adopted it would be in the power of a single shopkeeper to present an application and put the locality to the expense of an inquiry, he did not see 1352 why the local authority should not be empowered to move in the matter at their own option. They would have regard to the state of public feeling in the locality, and would not go to the expense of holding an inquiry unless they had reason to believe that it was desired.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH inquired in what way the local authorities were to satisfy themselves that one-half or two-thirds of the shopkeepers were in favour of earlier closing. He preferred the Amendment moved by Lord Ribblesdale; but, if it was the general feeling that the shopkeepers should be consulted, he would support the reduction of the number who were to approve the application from two-thirds to one half.
§ LORD DAVEY confessed that he saw the same difficulty as the noble Earl who had just sat down. The Bill contained no provision as to the means by which the local authorities were to ascertain what proportion the number of shopkeepers who desired earlier closing bore to the rest of the shopkeepers. How were they to ascertain whether the proportion was two-thirds, or one-half, or one-third? Was it proposed that a poll of the shopkeepers should be taken? In any case, a large expense would be incurred. He thought the provision as to the assent of two-thirds of the shopkeepers ought to be omitted. The members of the local authority, being the representatives of the shopkeepers, might very well decide the matter themselves. He had great apprehension, if the clause remained in its present form, that in London, and in large towns like Manchester, the Pill would be found to be unworkable, because it would be extremely difficult for the local authorities, if anyone outside challenged their decision, to show that the estimate they had formed was a correct estimate. For that reason he supported the Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (the Earl of HALSBURY)
pointed out that there was no poll of the shopkeepers to be taken. All the clause provided was that the local authority should be satisfied in their own minds that two-thirds 1353 of the shopkeepers were in favour of early closing. If they were so satisfied, no one could challenge their decision.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER said that the class injured most by the late hours of shops were the assistants, and, therefore, some attention should be paid to their wishes. The Bill which the shop assistants would no doubt have preferred had had to give place to the present Bill. The question of early closing concerned the shop assistants more closely than the shopkeepers, and there would, therefore, appear to be a certain amount of injustice in making-special provision for the consent of the class least interested, and no provision for the consent of the assistants. Looking to the safeguards which Lord Avebury had himself recounted, there was very little chance of the interests and the opinions of the shopkeepers being overlooked. He thought that in fairness to all the classes affected by the Bill the Amendment ought to be accepted.
§ *LORD AVEBURY quite agreed that local authorities might, with advantage, be empowered to move in the matter at their own option, but he pointed out that the technical result of passing the Amendment would be that they would have to take into consideration any memorial they might receive, even if it only contained one signature. He did not think the locality should be put to the expense of holding an inquiry in the case of such a memoria. With regard to the objection of his noble and learned friend Lord Davey, the evidence given before the Committee was to the effect that the witnesses-had no doubt whatever that they would be able to satisfy their own local authorities that two-thirds of the shopkeepers were in favour of earlier closing. The most difficult case was that of London, where there were some 29,000 shops. He presented a petition to the House of Commons a few years ago in favour of this Bill, signed by over 13,000 London shopkeepers, which he thought was a very strong indication, particularly as that was merely a petition got up by persons who felt a general interest in the question, that if the Bill passed, 1354 there would be no difficulty in satisfying the London County Council that two-thirds of the shopkeepers of London did desire earlier closing. The right rev. Prelate had stated that the shop assistants had not been sufficiently considered, and that they would prefer a different Bill. He believed that the shop assistants would prefer this Bill to any other possible measure. The witnesses before the Committee admitted that they could not expert in London to get earlier closing than 8.30 or 9 o'clock p.m. That would be of no use to many towns, where the shops now closed earlier. The general feeling of the assistants was, that if this Bill passed, they would immediately get a general reduction of their hours, and that the elasticity of the Bill would enable them, if that were found to work well, to close at a still earlier hour, whereas, if the hour was fixed, it would have to be such an hour as would confer no advantage on any town except London The Association of Grocers' Assistants are strongly in favour of the Bill, as also were the Scottish Associations, which combined both shopkeepers and assistants. Indeed, he could safely say that assistants generally were anxious that the Bill should become law.
§ LORD BELPER on behalf of the Government, approved the attitude of the noble Lord in resisting the Amendment, and said it was these safeguards which specially recommended the Bill to the acceptance of the Government and the House. There was no great difficulty about the procedure. It was necessary, in the first place, for the local authority, on the receipt of the application, to be satisfied in their own minds that two-thirds of the shopkeepers were in favour of earlier closing. The council then gave public notice of the receipt of the application and of the period within which objections might be made to it, and, after due consideration of any objections received, and of the area and classes affected by the application, they might submit to the central authority a draft order for earlier closing. This draft order would be still more fully considered by the central authority, who would have additional opportunity of inquiry, and to whose order Parliament 1355 could object if it wished. It would very much destroy the safeguard in the Bill if the Amendment were adopted.
§ *EARL SPENCER, referring to the alternative Bills and proposals before the House, said he was most in favour of the plan of the noble Lord opposite (the Earl of Lytton), who would leave the decision entirely to the local authority without requiring them to apply for a provisional order. Next to that he preferred the Amendment of Lord Ribblesdale. It was exceedingly cumbrous to have to go through all the procedure referred to, and he strongly appealed to His Majesty's Government, if they could not accept the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Lytton, to consider whether this could not accept the proposal of his noble friend behind him. The Bill went a great deal further than the recommendation of the noble Marquess the late Prime Minister with regard to provisional orders, lie hoped the Government would reconsider the point, and accept the simple plan of the noble Earl opposite or that of his noble friend Lord Ribblesdale.
§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OK CANTERBURY understood the opposition to the Amendment to be in harmony with the report of the Select Committee, who were in favour of a two-thirds majority. One of the surprises in the history of this Bill was the change of view regarding the initiative of the shopkeepers, which was originally represented as a necessary safeguard. Whichever view was right in the abstract, he thought the practical course was to advance on1356
§ the lines already approved, and which had just been supported by the noble Lord representing the Home Office.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE would rather have this Bill than no Bill at all; but he wished to know whether it would be absolutely necessary that there should be a two-thirds majority of the shopkeepers in order to set the local authority in motion, and whether, if the local authority were satisfied that a two-thirds majority were in favour of earlier closing, their decision might afterwards be questioned.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR said the only thing the Bill required was that the local authority should themselves be satisfied. If they were, no legal objection whatever could be taken on the ground that some one else was satisfied that there was not a two-thirds majority. Provision for the expenses incurred by the local authorities would have to be inserted in the other House. As to the method by which they were to satisfy themselves that there was a two-thirds majority, that was entirely a matter for the councils themselves. They might adopt the very cheap and easy method of circularising the shopkeepers. He was convinced that if they honestly endeavoured to do their duty there would be no difficulty in reasonably satisfying themselves on this point.
§ On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 57; Not-Contents 21.1357
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Howe, E.||Alverstone, L.|
|Halsbury, E.(L. Chancellor.)||Morley. E.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Onslow, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Romney, E.||Balfour. L.|
|Grafton, D.||Saint Germans, E.||Barnard. L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Shaftesbury, E.||Belper, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Stamford, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Ailesbury. M.||Vane. E. (M. Londonderry.)||Faidie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Verulam, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Hylon, L.|
|Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Kelvin, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Goschen, V.||Kintore, L (E. Kintore,)|
|Dartrey, K.||Lamington, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Salisbury, L. Bp.||Lawrence, L.|
|Ducie, E.||Abinder, L.||Lindley, L.|
|Macnaghten, L.||Norton, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Gramby.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Robertson, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Muncaster, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Newton, L.||Saltonn, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery,)||Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Chesterfield, K. [Teller.]||Burghclere, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Davey, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Denman, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Spencer, E.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Monkswell, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.||Muskerry, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Rochester, L. Bp.||Reay, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BELPER who had given notice of an Amendment providing that the Clause should read,—"if the council are satisfied that at least two-thirds of the occupiers of each class of shops Affected approve the application"—said he did not intend to move the Amendment at this stage. The point which the Amendment was drafted to meet was one of some complexity. Clause 3 of the Bill provided that if at any time it was made to appear to the satisfaction of the council, that the occupiers of more than one-third in number of any class of shops to which an order for the time being in force under this Act related, were opposed to the continuance of the order, the council should make a report accordingly to the central authority, who might thereupon revoke the order in so far as it affected such class of shops. The object of the Amendment was to make Clause I conform with that provision, but he did not think the Amendment necessary at the present stage.
§ Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ LORD BELPER moved to omit the sub-section providing that a draft order made under the section should not apply to shops belonging to any of the classes mentioned in the schedule—those classes being premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor, refreshment houses, tobacconists' shops, and news agencies. It appeared difficult to construe the two sets of provisions that appeared hero and in Clause 5. It was much better to put them in one Clause, and he proposed to move a new Clause 5 later on to carry out this object.1358
In Clause 1, line 20, to leave out subsection (3)."—(Lord Belper.)
§ THE EARL OF LYTTON moved to leave out Clause 1, in order to insert a new Clause providing that the local authority, after giving notice and holding an inquiry, might establish such regulations as from time to time appeared to them necessary with regard to the closing of shops and the limitation of the hours of the shopworkers within the area under their jurisdiction. He said the object of the Amendment was to convert the Bill into one which was neither a Shopkeepers' Bill, as it was at the present moment, nor a Shop Assistants' Bill, as was the one introduced by Lord Arran, but a local option Bill pure and simple—that was to say, a Bill which left the full responsibility to the I cal councils, who were best qualified to know the needs of the particular districts under their jurisdiction. He believed that was more in accordance with the intentions of the Report of the Select Committee. The most rev. Primate had declared that the provision in the Bill with regard to the two-thirds majority was in accordance with the Report of that Committee, but if he would again refer to the Report he would find hat there was no mention whatever of the initiative being left to the shopkeepers. The initiative, as lie read the Report, was intended to be left to the local authorities; but after the decision which had been come to by their Lordships on Lord Ribblesdale's Amendment he would say no more on that point. His Amendment, however, went a great deal further than Lord Ribblesdale's, because it would do away 1359 with the dual control of the local and the central authorities and abolish the provisional order. The limitations of hours for assistants was essential, because the mere closing of the shops did not necessarily effect that limitation. Shop assistants were often kept working for hours after the closing of the shops in packing goods, or, more frequently, in sending out samples, and therefore any Bill which did not provide for the regulation of their hours of labour would not meet the grievances under which the assistants laboured.
§ He pointed out that a Resolution in favour of a regulation of the hours of labour was passed the other day in the House of Commons without a division, and with the support of the present Home Secretary. He had not included in his Amendment the subsection in the present clause which provided that the hour fixed by the draft order for the closing of shops should not be earlier than seven o'clock in the evening, because he did not think that was consistent with his principle of leaving everything to the local authorities; but if his Amendment were accepted he would be prepared to insert that sub-section if it were thought necessary. The evil of long hours arid their disastrous effect upon large portions of the community had been admitted for KO long that, it was high time some really effective steps were taken to put an end to the present state of affairs. Lord Avebury had declared that the Bill had the support of the shop assistants, but he could assure the noble Lord that that support was only given because they could not get anything better. Lord Arran's Bill was their Bill. He (Lord Lytton) would have thought, after the numerous Resolutions that had been passed on this subject by both Houses of Parliament, dating back to 1886, that the Government would themselves have taken the initiative in this matter, and have passed a Bill into law which would have had general support. But the division which had just been taken showed, not only that the Government were reluctant to take steps themselves, but that they were opposed to any very effective steps being taken by anybody else. The only Bills that were allowed to proceed were 1360 those which had very little chance of going any further, or those which, if passed, would have very little effect on the existing situation. He did not know to which category the present Bill belonged, but he thought it belonged to both. He could not help thinking that a Bill in which the only remedy offered was left in the hands of a majority of two-thirds of the shopowners, and which allowed a minority of just over one-third the right of undoing what was done by the majority would have very little effect on the present situation.
To leave out Clause 1, and to insert the following new Clause: (1.) 'The local authority, as hereinafter defined, after giving notice and holding an enquiry, may establish such regulations as from time to time shall appear to them necessary with regard to the dosing of shops and the limitation of the hours of the shop workers within the area under their jurisdiction; (2) Provided that, save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, such regulations-shall not apply to shops belonging to any of the classes mentioned in the schedule of this Act." —(The Earl of Lytton.)
§ *LORD AVEBURY thought that to a great extent the reasons which would guide their Lordships in voting upon this question had been dealt with on the Amendment already negatived. In speaking of the Bill as a shopkeepers' Bill he did not intend to imply in any way that it was in the interests of the shopkeepers rather than of the shop assistants, but simply that it had the general assent and support of the shopkeepers of the country. The noble Earl expressed the opinion that the shop assistants would prefer another Bill.
§ *LORD AVEBURY said the Bill referred to was the Bill of some of the shop assistants. The Grocers' Assistants Union were hearty supporters of the Bill now before their Lordships, and he could assure the House, having been in connection with Shop Assistants' Committees and Unions all over the country, that the great majority of the shop assistants preferred the proposal in his Bill to any other that had any chance of 1361 passing. They were convinced that if the Bill passed their hours of labour would be considerably reduced. The noble Earl was perfectly correct in stating that there was no mention of the two-thirds majority in the Committee's Report, but he confirmed the observation of the most rev. Primate that what was in the minds of the Committee was to preserve the initiative to the shopkeepers.
§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY explained that in making the statement I hat the Report of the (Select Committee favoured a two thirds majority of the shopkeepers, he had in his mind the draft Report, which was subsequently amended. He apologised for having inadvertently misled the House.
§ LORD BELPER resisted the Amendment, on the ground that it would destroy the whole Bill. The Amendment had been described as a very simple one. It was simple because it was a bold proposal to give absolute power, without any provisions or regulations, to the local authority, not only to deal with all the questions referred to in the Bill, but also to tackle the very thorny question of labour in shops and the hours of shop assistants, which went far beyond the scope of the present Bill. Moreover, there would be absolutely no appeal from their decision. He would ask their Lordships to consider what was the practice generally with regard to regulations of this sort. In the case of regulations made by local authorities, even of a comparatively trivial character, there was always an appeal to the Local Government Board or some other central authority, who had the power of saying, subject to Parliament, whether they approved of the regulations or not. But by the noble Earl's Amendment they would be giving to a minor local authority, to a district or urban council who had no knowledge or experience in the matter, absolute powers with regard to the closing of shops without an appeal to any central authority and without reserving to Parliament any voice in the matter. He ventured to say that a proposal of that kind was quite unprecedented, and likely to lead to very great inconvenience and injustice.1362
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause I agreed to.
LORD BELPER said that the Secretary of State was advised that under the Bill as at present drafted each partner might be entitled to be counted as a separate occupier. In order to prevent that, he moved the insertion of the new clause standing in his name.
To insert as a new clause: 'Where any shop is carried on by two or more persons in partnership, they shall lie counted for the purposes of this sect on and of Section 3 as a single occupier.'"—(Lord Belper.)
§ *Lord AVEBURY said that the Amendment carried out the intention of the promoters of the Bill.
§ Clause 2:
LORD RIBBLESDALE moved to amend Section 3 of Clause 2 by substituting the word "shall" for "may" in the provision which enacted that "after such consideration as aforesaid, the central authority may lay the draft order … before Parliament." He submitted this Amendment in order to make sure that, the central authority having satisfied itself in the matter, something would be done. He thought the provisions of the Bill wore almost too polite to the central authority. When the other night he said he had a precedent for making it obligatory on the central authority to lay a provisional order before Parliament, the noble Lord representing the Home Office shook his head, apparently with cheerful confidence that there was no such precedent, lie had since looked the reference up, and could now tell the noble Lord that the precedent was to be found in Section 3 of the Allotment Act, 1887. In Subsection 2 of that section it was enacted that
A county authority may make a provisional order.
and Sub-section 3 provided that—
The Local Government Board, on the application of any country authority, shall introduce into Parliament a Bill confirming the provisional order made by such county authority.
He hoped the noble Lord would be able to accept his Amendment, which would give some guarantee that something would be done.
In Clause 2, page 2, line 16, to leave out 'may' and to insert 'shall.'—(Lord Ribblesdale.)
§ LORD BELPER trusted that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill would not accept the Amendment, which would make it obligatory upon the central authority to bring the draft order before Parliament, and would leave them no discretion in the matter. He bad fully in his mind, when he shook his head the other night on the mention of precedent, the case to which the noble Lord had referred. It was quite true that in that case—and, he believed, in that case only—the Local Government Board had to introduce a Bill confirming the provisional order on the application of the county authority; but in the case of the Allotment Act the original authority to deal with the question was the district authority. The latter authority had power to acquire land, but, if compulsory purchase was necessary it had to appeal to the County Council, which was the superior and supervising authority. The County Council had to go fully into the whole question, and to hold an inquiry, and it was only in those circumstances that the Local Government Board, on the application of the County Council, had to make an order. He shook his head when the noble Lord referred to this because he did not think it was at all an analogous case. Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
LORD BELPER moved to omit Clause 4, which provided that—
If any question arises as to the class or classes of shops to which any particular shop belongs, or as to whether any particular place a shop within the meaning of this Act, or as to whether a shop is or is not within the limits of the part of a district to which the order relates, such question may be referred to any court of summary jurisdiction having jurisdiction within the district, which may hear and determine the question.
§ He said it did not appear that the clause would be workable in its present form. In the first place there was no machinery for making the reference, and it was not said who the parties were to be to the reference, nor was any provision contained in the clause as to cost. The question as to the status of any particular shop could only arise in two cases—first, in proceedings for contravention of a closing order; and, secondly, when the views of the shopkeepers of any particular class were being ascertained. In the first instance it was clear that the clause would not be necessary, because any question raised in the course of the proceedings would be determined by the Court; and, with regard to the second point, a careful classification of shops would probably serve to reduce the difficulty to a minimum. As the clause was at present drawn, the Secretary of State thought it ought to be omitted.
To leave out Clause 4." —(Lord Belper.)
§ Clause 5:
§ LORD BELPER moved to omit Clause t) and to insert a new clause. He said his object was to deal with this difficult question in one clause and in a practical manner. He believed the Amendment carried out the intention of the noble Lord in charge of the Bill.
To leave out Clause 5, and to insert the following new clause—(1) Nothing in this Act or in any order made thereunder shall apply to any shop in which the only trade carried on is one of the trades specified in the schedule. (2) A shop in which two or more trades are carried on shall be closed for the purpose of all such trades at the hour at which it is by any order under this Act required to be closed for the purpose of any of them: Provided that if any such trade is carried on solely in a part of the shop structurally separate from the rest of the shop, it shall be deemed to lie carried on in a separate shop."—(Lord Belper.)
§ Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.1365
§ Clause 8:
§ LORD BELPER moved the omission of Sub-section 3, which provided that it should be the duty of every chief officer of police to cause the provisions of the Act and of any order under it to be enforced throughout the area of his authority, and the substitution of a new sub-section. This was, ho said, a rather important Amendment, as it substituted inspection by the local authority for inspection by the police. It was thought that inspection by the police would be objectionable from a police point of view, it would add very materially to their work, and would probably be disliked by the shopkeepers. Moreover, it was contrary to precedent. In the case of the Factory Acts, the Mines Acts and the Shop Hours Acts, these duties were undertaken by inspectors; and in the case of the latter Acts the inspectors were under the local authority. His Amendment would have the effect of also placing the duty of inspection under this Bill upon the local authority. He did not think it was a matter which ought to be introduced into an Act of Parliament, but he understood there would be no difficulty in giving instructions to the police that in cases where they noticed an infringement they should call the attention of the inspector to it.
In Clause 8, page 3, to leave out Sub-section 3 and to insert as a new sub-section the provisions of the Shops Hour Acts, 1892 and 1893, with regard to the appointment, powers, and salaries of inspectors shall be deemed to apply for the purposes of this Act."—(Lord Belper.)
§ *LORD AVEBURY said that, although there was at first some objection to this clause on the part of shopkeepers, they eventually accepted it because they were anxious that there should be some certainty that the provisions of the Bill would be carried into operation. He would not, however, resist the Amendment.
§ Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.1366
§ Clause 12:
§ LORD BELPER, in moving the omission of Clause 12, said this Amendment was consequential upon the alteration which had been agreed to with regard to Clause 5.
To leave oat Clause 12."(Lord Belper.)
§ Clause 13:
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Lord BALFOUR of BURLEIGH)
intimated that at a later stage of the Bill he would place an Amendment on the Paper interpret the term "county fund" in the case of Scotland.
§ Clause 13 agreed to.
§ Clause 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15:
§ LORD BURGHCLERE inquired whether the authority for London was to be the London County Council or the municipal boroughs
§ LORD AYEBURY said, with regard to Lord Belper's suggestion that he should place an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the case of London, that he thought it would be more convenient if the Government would consider which was the most suitable authority and draft the necessary Amendment. They had better opportunities than he, had of coming to a wise decision on the point.
§ LORD BELPER promised that the Government would consider the case of London at a later stage of the Bill,
§ Consequential Amendment agreed to
§ Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill re-committed to the Standing Committee; and to be printed as amended.