HL Deb 09 July 1930 vol 78 cc355-64

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment, moved by Lord Banbury of Southam on May 27, to the Motion for the Second Reading—namely, That the Bill he read a second time this day three months.


My Lords, some few weeks ago the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill was adjourned in response, I think, to a general feeling that prima facie there were some few objections to the Bill which had not been entirely met to the satisfaction of your Lordships' House. I think it is fair to say that the attitude of your Lordships was one of sympathy towards the object of the Bill but that there were certain objections, particularly that regarding a Committee which was stated to be sitting, which your Lordships felt required to be met rather more fully than they had been met on that occasion. If your Lordships will allow me, I should like very briefly to re-state, as I understand it, the case for the Bill and the urgent necessity which I believe exists for it, and then to tell your Lordships what is, in fact, the answer to the objections that were raised on the occasion of the last debate.

The object of this Bill is to secure Sunday closing of hairdressers' and barbers' shops, and the real fact of the matter is that Sunday opening of such shops is a comparatively new thing. It is true that prior to the end of the last century, under stress of competition, some hairdressers and barbers were beginning to open their places of business on Sunday, but it was done, I might almost say, furtively, because there was a general impression that the trade of a hairdresser came under the ban of the Lord's Day Observance Act, 1677. Competition greatly increased the number of shops opened, and in 1900 a test case was brought. I believe a local authority brought an action against a trader who had his shop open on Sunday, and the case went to the High Court, which held that the hairdressers' trade was not one that fell within the scope of the Act of 1677. The moment that decision was given the opening of barbers' shops on Sunday, instead of being unusual and rather furtive, became very much intensified, and, as your Lordships will readily see, competition ensured that in any area, once Sunday opening began, it was very difficult for traders to hold out, with the result that Sunday opening became very much more general than it had ever been.

The position became very much worse in that respect after the War. About 1920 there came a kind of boom in hairdressing—your Lordships will recollect the circumstances—and particularly in ladies' hairdressing, and owing to this great boom a very large number of young people went into the trade. I believe that in the Census of 1921 hairdressers numbered only about 32,000—I presume this refers to England and Wales—and it is confidently anticipated that in the coming Census of 1931 that number will he doubled. That large increase is largely due to young people, almost boys and girls, who are working excessively long hours. This is a trade in which very long hours indeed are worked, because under the Shops Act an extra hour is allowed in this particular trade. The hours are commonly from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and in addition up to 1 p.m. on Sunday, or, quite commonly, up to 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. In North London there are shops that are open for those excessive hours, averaging over twelve hours a day.

I am quite sure that no one of your Lordships would think it right that young people should be forced to work such excessive hours as that. Indeed, that is not the whole story, because in the trade of a barber, when there are customers in the shop at closing time, they expect to be attended to, and therefore the unfortunate assistant does not finish his work for another twenty minutes or half an hour over the very extended official time. I think, therefore, it is fair to say that Sunday closing in this trade is urgently required. A point was made the other day by a noble Lord who asked why this trade should be treated exceptionally. The answer, of course, is that the promoters of this Bill are not asking your Lordships to treat this trade exceptionally, but to put it back where it really belongs—namely, under the Lord's Day Observance Act.

The main objections that were brought forward against the Second Reading of this Bill were two in number. One was that a Select Committee is at present sitting to consider this subject or something cognate. The fact of the matter is that the Select Committee referred to has really been appointed to enquire into and report upon the hours of labour in shops. It is a subject totally unconnected with the closing of hairdressers' shops on Sunday. It is perfectly clear that the Report cannot possibly deal with this question of the Sunday closing of hairdressers' shops. Other noble Lords, I think, expressed some doubt as to the attitude of the Home Office, and I can say with complete confidence that the attitude of the Home Office since 1925 has been one of complete sympathy and support. This Bill has received the support of all Parties in another place. It was fully discussed and was passed on the Third Reading without a Division. The hairdressing trade, it is no exaggeration to say, are unanimous in support of the Bill.


Oh no. May I present a letter to the noble Lord from a hairdressers' association, praying that the Bill may be rejected?


Possibly unanimity is not a thing we shall obtain in this world, whether among hairdressers or any other body, but I am in a position to say that there have been three plebiscites of employers in this trade, and they supported the Bill to the, extent of 93, 95 and 97 per cent. respectively. That was before the element of Jewish opposition had been overcome. Since these plebiscites were taken the Jewish section have agreed to support the Bill, owing to the provision enabling Jewish traders to contract out by closing on Saturday in return for trading on Sunday. That enables hairdressers, whether Jewish or Christian, to have five and a half days work. In addition to its being supported by the trade, I may mention that it is a non-Party Bill, that it is backed by members of every Party, and by a large number of outside organisations. It has received the support of the National Federation of Chambers of Trade. The various traders' organisations, the various organisations of employees, the trade unions, the Anglican and the Free Churches, the National Federation of Brotherhoods, the Early Closing Association, all give the Bill support. Moreover it has had an almost unanimously favourable reception in the Press of the country. I know that your Lordships look with suspicion upon anything which is described as an agreed Bill—there is always some cantankerous person ready to get up and say, "I do not agree"—but if ever there was such a thing as an agreed Bill this is it, and I sincerely hope that your Lordships will give the measure a Second Reading to-day.


My Lords, I always hesitate before I inflict my views upon you twice in one evening. Indeed often think an apology is needed if I make even a slighter demand upon your patience. But upon this Bill I have some information which I think should be laid before the House. Several years ago I was asked to preside over an inquiry as to the labour of children under fourteen in the County of London, and one of the special subjects of inquiry were the conditions in hairdressers' shops. There were many charges made which it is wholly unnecessary to examine, but the one thing which impressed me most forcibly was this, that the percentage of tuberculosis in those shops was so far in excess of the normal figure that it was obviously in the interests of young people that they should be as far as possible exempted from the obvious peril of being employed in those places. We all know that a great number of hairdressers' shops are underground, and the obvious susceptibility of the employees to tuberculosis is, I believe, due to this, that in those places there is an enormous amount of small fine hair, which necessarily gets breathed by the people in those places, causing an irritation of the lungs and, therefore, producing a condition very favourable for the development of the germ of tuberculosis.

It follows that this particular business is above all others the one in which you ought to secure that there shall be one clear, clean day in the week. Therefore I think that this Bill, which strives to secure that that day should be fixed for Sunday, which is the day on which other trades close, is a fair and rational Bill, which ought to be supported. Of course we all know that the subject of Sunday trading in this country is what a noble Lord who has now left the House would call an anomaly. It certainly is very odd. As your Lordships know, if a tailor contracts to make clothes on Sunday, the contract is void, but if he contracts to make boots it is good. In one case he has contracted to do something within his trade and it is void. But in the other he has contracted to do something outside his trade and it is good. With these eccentricities of the law, however, we need not concern ourselves at this moment. Is there any particular reason why this particular industry should be carried on on Sunday? My submission is that not only is there no reason why it should be, but there is every reason why it should not be. I am glad to hear that there is such a general measure of agreement with regard to the Bill, and I hope it will not meet with opposition in this House.


My Lords, I moved the rejection of the Bill some weeks ago, when it was introduced by a noble Earl on the opposite side of the House. Now it has been supported by a noble Lord on this side. The objection which I raised was this, that I did not think it was right to interfere with a grown man who wished to work himself—not to employ an assistant but to work himself—whenever he chose to work. I pointed out that if there was objection to the long hours of his assistants, there was at the present moment a Committee sitting to deal with the hours of shop assistants, and that therefore the proper course was to reject this Bill and to allow the findings of the Committee, if they desired to include hairdressers' assistants, to be put into another Bill. I considered that there was no reason at the present moment, above every other moment, when this country was suffering from unemployment and depression and a bad financial state, to say that I as a grown man must not do what I like on certain days. It is a new idea in the world that a grown man may not do what he likes with his own labour.

The noble Lord says that hairdressers are unanimously in favour of the Bill. Undoubtedly there are a great number in favour of the Bill, but I have had several letters, and especially from hairdressers who do not employ assistants, asking me to persist in my objection to the Bill. I have here a letter, which I handed to the noble Lord, from the East London Hairdressers' Association. It says that a resolution was passed at the general meeting: That this meeting of master hairdressers of East London strongly object to the religious principle of the Sunday Closing Bill"— and it is added that they "implore you to use your best endeavour to reject the Bill, in view of the hardships it will entail." I am sure my noble and learned friend Lord Buckmaster has read the Bill carefully, but let me point out to him that under the Bill if you happen to be a Jew you can work on Sunday, if you happen to be on board a ship you can work en Sunday, and if you happen to be in an hotel you can work on Sunday. Why should the richer people who live in hotels be able to have their hair cut or to be shaved on Sunday, when the poorer people who do not live in hotels are not able to do that?

Then there is also the question of whether or not it is advisable to say that a Jew may do what a Christian cannot. How are you going to establish whether or not a man is a Jew? He may be converted. This Bill may convert certain not very earnest Christians, who may become Jews for the purpose of this Bill. How are you going to find out whether or not they are Jews? It seems to me that what we ought to do, instead of preventing people from working on Sundays, is to encourage everybody to work as long, and as often, and as much, and as hard as they possibly can if this country is to return to prosperity. Then the noble Lord spoke of other trades. May I point out that there is no Act which prevents a railway man driving an engine on Sunday, and there is no Act which prevents a man driving a motor omnibus on Sunday? I think I saw in the newspaper some time ago a report of an accident to a motor omnibus driver who was burnt on a Sunday. There is nothing to prevent working on Sunday, either in omnibuses, or on the railway, or in cinemas. If anything were done in this direction it is in the cinemas, which should be closed on Sundays, and not in the shops of honest workers like hairdressers.

There are undoubtedly two causes that work for this Bill. First of all, there is Sunday observance, and then there is the idea that you should dictate to people what they ought to do. There is not any doubt that on the day we adjourned the debate last time we should have defeated the Bill, and I hope sincerely that we shall defeat the Bill now. I would again emphasise the face that this does not in any way prevent legislation being passed with regard to the long hours of work of shop assistants. That can be decided by the Committee which is sitting at the present time to deal with this matter.


My Lords, I shall not stand between the right rev. Prelate opposite and the House for more than a moment, for the best of reasons—namely, that I believe that I have no right to speak at all. I am afraid that technically I exhausted my right when I spoke urging the adjournment of the debate on the last, occasion. Perhaps I may be permitted to say in one sentence that I cannot follow the argument of my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam altogether. It seemed to be directed to proving that there ought to be no restriction of work on Sunday in any trade. I am sure he did not mean that, but that was the logical conclusion of his argument. All I feel entitled to say, in the circumstances to which I have alluded, is that if my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh goes to a Division I shall feel bound to support him. I do so because there seems to be no reason why hairdressers should be exempted from the general rule of not working on Sundays. All the more do I say so because up till the beginning of the century that was thought to be the law. It is only comparatively recently that it was found not to be so. All I have said is that I should propose to vote myself for the Second Reading, but I hope your Lordships will allow me to add that that does not mean that I support all the provisions of the Bill. I think there are some which are extremely doubtful, and I would not like to pledge myself in any way to give an equal support to the details of the Bill when your Lordships come to consider them in Committee.


My Lords, I admit that I was very disappointed with, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam. I quite hoped that, with the explana- tions which had been given, he would have withdrawn his opposition to the Bill. This is not a Bill which compels men to abstain from work against their will. It is a Bill which has received the overwhelming support both of employers and employed in the trade. Again and again, this matter has been discussed and if you could take a plebiscite of the 50,000 people engaged in this business I have not the slightest doubt that you would obtain almost a unanimous vote in favour of this Bill. The noble Lord tells us that the Bill presses hardly upon the Jews, and that it may possibly lead to the conversion of some Jew to Christianity. What are the facts? The Bill provides that if a Jew works on Sunday he must not carry on his business on Saturday. He will have his holy day on the Saturday. There is no kind of hardship to the Jews. And, as a matter of fact, I understand that the Jews have accepted this measure.

Let me point out what would happen if this little Bill were defeated. For thirty or forty years people engaged in this trade have been trying to secure a holiday on Sundays. If the Bill is defeated there will be no great agitation. There is behind this measure no strong organisation, no strong trade union which will affect votes. But what will happen is that it will mean bitter disappointment to a large number of men who are already working long hours, and it will mean that a large number of boys and girls who ought to be having some time off on the Sunday, who are working already long hours in the week, will have to go on working year after year until some Bill like this is passed. I am not so much concerned for the older people who own these businesses, though I am sure that it would be well for them to have their holiday, but I am deeply concerned for the younger people engaged in this trade, who, like their contemporaries, ought to have at any rate one day in the week free from labour. I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this Bill.


My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to make a short observation on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, with regard to the association from which he read a letter. I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the objection is emphasised upon religious grounds, and it is perfectly clear that that letter comes from some Jewish organisation. That I think we may safely disregard, because it is the fact that the representatives of the Jewish religion have accepted this Bill as being fair treatment for their co-religionists, and therefore I do not think that a single objection emanating from that source need weigh with your Lordships. Then there is the question of how you are going to establish whether a man is a Jew or not. That is met by the definition in the Bill. A man has to give notice to the local authority, and, having given notice that he intends to be open on Saturday or Sunday, that will be the arrangement to which he has to adhere. The only other objections raised by the noble Lord, I think, was that he was considering those hairdressers who do not employ assistants.

Resolved in the affirmative and Motion agreed to accordingly.

That is one of the very classes that will he most helped by this Bill. The hairdresser who does not employ any assistants is one of the people who find the competition hardest if he keeps open, and who is most keenly in favour of having this Bill passed. I hope that your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading.


My Lords, I beg to move that leave be given to the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, to vote in his place for the remainder of the Session.

On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 3.

Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.) Cecil of Chelwood, V. Clwyd, L.
Elibank, V. [Teller.] Daryngton, L.
Salisbury, M. Falkland, V. Faringdon, L.
Mersey, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
De La Warr, E. Hanworth, L.
Grey, E. Southwark, L. Bp. Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)
Lichfield, E. Abinger, L. Marley, L.
Lucan, E. Alvingham, L. O'Hagan, L.
Onslow, E. Arnold, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L
Peel, E. Askwith, L. Sanderson, L.
Plymouth, E. Balfour of Burleigh, L. [Teller.] Stanmore, L.
Wicklow, E. Templemore, L.
Buckmaster, L. Waleran, L.
Astor, V.
Auckland, L. Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.] Teynham, L. [Teller.]

Moved, accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at five minutes before six o'clock.