HL Deb 04 March 1912 vol 11 cc306-8

Debate on the Motion for the Second Reading resumed (according to Order).


My Lords, I should like to call attention to a new clause in this Bill which did not appear in the Bill which was presented to us last year. I refer to Clause 2, which provides that no person under the age of 18 years shall be employed about the business of a shop for a longer period than 74 hours, inclusive of meal times, in any one week. The fact that this is inclusive of meal times does not get rid of the difficulty. Meal times generally mean an hour for dinner and half-an-hour for tea, which at the outside is 8 hours a week. Therefore these young persons might be employed for 66 hours, or for nearly 13 hours a day, at the will of the employer. I cannot think that that is intended. It must be remembered that one of the six days is only a half-day. Therefore the young person might be employed for 66 hours during the 5, working days. There is another reason why this provision should not be agreed to—namely, that there will be a tendency for employers to work up to the maximum; the maximum of hours will be what will be demanded, and the minimum will be the exception. Again, I do not know of any shop that would be open so long. A shop is usually open from 8 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock in the evening, but under the clause in question these young persons might be compulsorily kept at the shop several hours longer during the week, at the will of the employer, and it seems to me that it is of no use to the employer to have them there at a time when the shop is not, likely to be open. I should like to ask what reason there is for this new clause and why such a long period of employment is allowed.


I would remind the noble Lord that this is a Consolidation Bill. We do not in any part of the Bill alter the law as it at present stands. This clause is taken verbatim from the Act of 1892. We have no power in a purely Consolidation Bill to make any amendment in the law.


I should like to ask the noble Lord a question concerning one point in the Bill. I refer to Clause 4, which enacts that every shop must be closed not later than 1 o'clock in the afternoon on one week-day in every week. If your Lordships refer to Clause 10 you will find that the expression "shop" includes any premises where any retail trade or business is carried on, and the expression "retail trade or business" is interpreted as including the sale of refreshments or intoxicating liquors. The effect of that is that restaurants will come under the closing order mentioned in Clause 4. I quite agree that the object of giving a half-holiday every week is a good one, but in the case of restaurants the provision is extremely hard because some of the employés—cooks and others—do not go to business until midday. Therefore the provision in the Bill means that the restaurant employer will have to pay a whole day's wages for one hour's work. Perhaps the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will look into that point before the Committee Stage.


My Lords, I should like to explain that this is purely a consolidating Bill and does not alter the law. There has been a custom during the past five or six years, which I am glad to say has been encouraged by both Houses of Parliament, of selecting branches of the law in order to put the law in an intelligible shape by means of consolidation or codification Bills. The law in regard to shops is not altered a jot or title by this Bill, which merely states in a single Statute what the law is, without obliging people to look through law books and successive Statutes to ascertain the law. This Bill will be referred to a strongly composed Joint Committee on which the legal element will be well represented. I have, at the request of the Joint Committee, presided over their proceedings during the last few years, and our constant endeavour has been to prevent any alteration in the law at all. If, however, there is any alteration in a small matter, it is necessary that we should report it and lay our Report before both Houses of Parliament before the Bill reaches a further stage. If on such a Bill as this we are to have a discussion on the merits of the law as it is, we shall have to abandon the practice of consolidation which has been so successful during recent years. It is only by their being treated as Consolidation Bills that we get the necessary facilities for them in both Houses of Parliament. This is, I repeat, a purely consolidation Bill. Therefore I hope the noble Earl will not think us disrespectful if we say that we really are not discussing the merits of what the law is.


I entirely agree with what the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack has said. But I would point out to the noble Earl, Lord Galloway, that he is mistaken in his interpretation of the provision to which he called attention, for if he will read subsection (6) of Clause 4 he will find that certain trades and businesses are exempted, and if he examines the Bill further he will find that restaurants are one of the businesses which are so exempted.

On Question, Bill read 2a.


It was my intention to move that this Bill be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, but so far we have had no reply from the other House to the Message sent down communicating the Resolution of this House for the setting up of a Joint Committee for the present session and desiring their concurrence. I understand that there is no objection to the setting up of a Joint Committee, and the success which has attended these Joint Committees in the past is a proof, I think, that when we receive the reply from the other House we cannot do better than refer this Bill to such a Committee.