HL Deb 09 November 1926 vol 65 cc600-3

VISCOUNT ASTOR asked the Government in what measure it is proposed to give the protection promised on 18th May, 1926, to juveniles between the ages of 14 and 18 engaged in occupations at present unregulated by Statute. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it will be within your recollection that last Spring I introduced into your Lordships' House a Bill intended to safeguard juveniles between the ages of 14 and 18 engaged in certain occupations where, at present, there is no State regulation. I did not press that Bill to a Division, but withdrew it on the undertaking given by the noble Lord, Lord Desborough, on behalf of the Home Office, that the Government intended to bring in another measure which would deal with this particular problem.

I gathered from what the noble Lord said that it was the intention of His Majesty's Government to deal with these juveniles in their Factories Bill. That Bill has now been introduced and is before the country, and I placed this Question on the Paper in order to ask the noble Lord who represents the Home Office whether the Factories Bill does, in fact, cover the class of juveniles that I had in mind—a class which includes page boys, messenger boys, warehouse boys, van boys, errand boys, cinema attendants and juveniles engaged in kitchens and eating houses. I am advised by those who are interested in the welfare of these juveniles that the Bill does not cover them. I am further advised, and I hope the noble Lord will be in a position to tell me whether it is so or not, that it would not be possible to move an Amendment to the Factories Bill as the definition of "factory" does not include the forms of employment I have indicated. I have asked this Question in order to ascertain from the Government in what measure they propose to deal with these forms of employment.


My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Desborough, I have been asked to reply to the Question asked by the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount is quite correct in assuming that the Factories Bill does not include the kind of juveniles that he wishes to have included. I am not certain whether the Bill could be amended so as to include those juveniles, but I rather think not. I regret that I am not in a position to give any more definite answer to the Question of my noble friend. The Government have not yet taken a decision on the matter.

When my noble friend brought his Bill before your Lordships' House last May the noble Lord, Lord Desborough, who then replied for the Home Office, stated that the Government would take the matter up at the earliest opportunity: that is, the question of juveniles employed in those employments which are unregulated by Statute. I am afraid, however, that the conditions arising out of the state of public business which prevailed in May and rendered it inadvisable then to proceed with legislation still prevail. The House of Commons has not yet taken any decision on the Factories Bill, which was introduced in another place immediately before the Recess, and while the Government have every sympathy with the desire to improve the lot of juveniles employed in unregulated employments, they feel that it would be premature to initiate legislation on the matter until the question of the regulation of hours and conditions of employment a young persons in factories, which will have and is bound to have an important bearing on the regulation of their employment in other occupations, has been settled. That is really the point. The Government are very much in sympathy with the object of the noble Viscount, but they feel that the questions of the employment of juveniles in factories and of the employment of young persons in unregulated employments are so very closely connected that it would be certainly inadvisable to initiate any legislation regarding the latter before a definite decision had been come to with reference to the regulation of the employment of juveniles in factories.


My Lords, may I remind the noble Earl that the noble Lord, Lord Desborough, was quite clear that in the Factories Bill the Government proposed to deal with this class of juvenile? Your Lordships will find it recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I should like to quote a few sentences from what I said as the result of the noble Lord's speech— …I am entirely satisfied with the assurance which has been given on behalf of the Government. The Government recognise that there is a problem which ought to be dealt with, and they have announced to-day that they intend at the very earliest moment, in fact, this Session, to introduce a Bill"— that being the Factories Bill which was explicitly referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Desborough— dealing with other matters but including clauses in regard to this particular problem. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to persuade the Home Office to give expression to the undertaking which was given.


My Lords, I am very sorry that my noble friend Lord Desborough is not here to speak for himself with regard to this point. I was advised that it might arise and I certainly agree from what the noble Lord, Lord Desborough, said upon that occasion, that it is possible to give his words the meaning which the noble Viscount has given them. I was led to understand that after that debate the noble Lord, Lord Desborough, spoke to the noble Viscount and tried to explain to him that he did not actually mean that these juveniles employed in unregulated employments would be included in this Bill. The noble Viscount shakes his head and, of course, I cannot say anything more than that but that I am advised that it was the noble Lord's intention to convey that and to explain to the noble Viscount that he did not mean by what he said that these juveniles would be included in the Factories Bill certainly is the case. I quite frankly admit that they are not included in the Bill and all I can do is to assure the noble Viscount that as soon as the state of business permits the Home Office intend to take this matter up and deal with it as they promised to on that occasion.