HL Deb 28 June 1932 vol 85 cc278-88

Order of the day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, who unfortunately is absent to-day owing to indisposition, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 9 [Powers of juvenile court in respect of children and young persons needing care or protection]:


My Lords, the Amendment to this clause is purely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 9, after ("may") insert ("notwithstanding anything in Part I of this Act").—(Viscount Hailsham.)

Clause 18 [Power of any court to remit juvenile offender to a juvenile court]:


My Lords, this also is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 29, leave out ("a conviction") and insert ("the verdict or finding").—(Viscount Hailsham.)

Clause 52:

Amendment of law with respect to street trading.

(2) A local authority may make by-laws for regulating or prohibiting street trading by persons under the age of eighteen, and bylaws so made may distinguish between persons of different ages and sexes and between different localities, and may contain provisions—

  1. (a) forbidding any such person to engage or be employed in street trading unless he holds a licence granted by the authority, and regulating the conditions on which such licences may be granted, suspended and revoked;
  2. (b) determining the days and hours during which, and the places at which, such persons may engage or be employed in street trading;
  3. (c) requiring such persons so engaged or employed to wear badges;
  4. (d) regulating in any other respect the conduct of such persons whilst so engaged or employed.

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Lord said: My Lords, you will remember that on the Committee stage I moved to leave out Clause 52, and it was pointed out that the first part of Clause 52, which dealt with persons under the age of sixteen, might be considered a good thing and ought not to be left out. The most rev. Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke upon it, and I pointed out to him that the remainder of the clause, which I think he did not approve of, could be amended on the Third Reading in such a way as to meet his objection. I now propose to move the Amendment in the form in which it was approved by a good many members of your Lordships' House. I propose to leave out subsection (2) of Clause 52. The result of that will be that no persons under the age of sixteen shall be employed in street trading, except that bylaws may permit them to be employed by their parents. I leave out the next subsection, which deals with young people under the age of eighteen. As it stands now, a person under the age of eighteen may not engage in street trading or, as far as I can understand it, any trading without the sanction of the local authority, which has to determine the days and hours and places at which such persons may engage in street trading, require them to wear badges, and regulate their conduct in any other respect. In these days, when it is necessary for everybody to work as long, as often, and as much as possible, it seems rather absurd to give the local authority power to say that a person of seventeen, who, as Lord Mount Temple reminded us in the Committee stage, is considered fit to fight for his country, is not fit to sell newspapers in the street. I hope the Government will accept my Amendment.

Amendment moved— page 42, line 13, leave out subsection (2). —(Lord Banbury of Southam.)


My Lords, may I appeal to the Government, if they cannot accept the Amendment, at any rate to make some modification in the Bill? We were all agreed, when we had the debate the other day, that young people under sixteen should not be allowed, except in very exceptional circumstances, to trade in the street. Yet here we have a much more drastic proposal, that the local authority may tell a young man of seventeen that they will not allow him to trade or sell newspapers in the street and that, although he is fit to fight for his country, he is not responsible enough to sell newspapers at a street corner. That is a very considerable restriction on personal liberty. Is it necessary I would personally warmly support the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Banbury, but one does not always get one's ideal in this life and I suggest that the Government could possibly compromise and substitute the age of seventeen for the age of eighteen. I would agree to such a com- promise. Surely, this is not a time to restrict unduly the desire of young people to do some work. It is difficult enough for them to find work and many of them do not want to work. We do not want to discourage those who want to engage in an honest occupation. Is there any disgrace in street trading or in selling newspapers in the street? The only argument against it is that it may tempt young people to lead a life they should not lead. Surely when a young person reaches the age of eighteen and is fit to go into the Army, he is fit to sell newspapers in the street.


My Lords, both the noble Lords have made an appeal to the Government, but I am not sure that they fully appreciate the strength of the case against the Amendment. May I explain what the position is with regard to this Amendment? It has always been the law—at any rate for nearly thirty years past—that there shall be a certain age below which no one may be allowed to go in for street trading and that beyond that age there shall be another period—once it was three years and now it is two years—within which there is no general prohibition but a local authority, in some cases the local education authority, shall have power to make regulations prohibiting or restricting the employment of children. The law has always stood as we propose that it should stand to-day, except—and of course it is a material alteration—that we are raising the age both for the basic prohibition and for the power to regulate. In other words we are not introducing some novel doctrine when we ask the House to agree that, beyond the age at which no one in any circumstances will be allowed to trade in the street, there shall be a higher limit of age within which local authorities may prohibit or regulate the employment of children. That has always been the law and we are only seeking to continue that practice. It may, of course, be that for the last thirty years Parliament has been on the wrong track and we ought not to have that bar.

I ought to add that, as long ago as 1910, twenty-two years ago, there was a Committee appointed to consider the employment of children and that committee produced a Majority and a Minority Report. The Majority Report recommended that no girl should be allowed to go in for street trading below the age of eighteen and no boy below the age of seventeen. The Minority Report recommended that local authorities should be empowered to prohibit street trading up to eighteen for both sexes in areas where other forms of employment were available. We have not gone as far as the majority because the absolute prohibition is kept at sixteen for both sexes. We have gone perhaps a little further than the minority in some respects but in others not so far, because we have given a power to regulate as opposed to a power to prohibit, which gives a certain discretion to the local authority. It was asked last time—and I am not sure that Lord Mount Temple did not ask to-day—why people should not be allowed to go and work in the streets, as it was a highly honourable and desirable thing that children should go to work—


I did not say that. I said that when they reached the age of seventeen there was no great danger of contamination.


I pointed out that the Departmental Committee did not agree with my noble friend. Further there are two or three reasons of some little importance. Firstly, street trading is pre-eminently what is known as a blind alley occupation. It is the sort of occupation which does not give any scope to children when they grow to adult years to get any permanent form of livelihood and, therefore, it is the sort of occupation which one wants to discourage or closely to control. If you have the power of regulation, which this Bill gives, it has been found in practice that the local authority, by keeping a certain control over those engaged in this form of trading, have been able quite often to deflect them from street trading into some more useful and permanent employment and to prevent them from getting into the most hopeless condition of all, grown-up children remaining in an occupation which was only fit for them before they were grown up.

There is another reason. Street trading very often takes place at night. I am not sure that that is not the busiest time for a great many street trades. To have girls from sixteen to eighteen years of age thrown on the streets at night, exposed to the sort of contamination and temptation which is very apt to prevail then in the streets, is, in the opinion I think of everybody who has studied the problem— and it is not studied for the first time by the present Government—an evil which society as a whole and the country as a whole is called upon to check and to regulate. By enabling the local authorities as we do enable them by this clause to regulate the hours of street trading we are able very largely to diminish that risk. I would remind your Lordships that these by-laws are all subject to confirmation by the Home Office. It is not an arbitrary power which we are giving to the local authorities. The Home Office have required in the past—they have been doing this for thirty years—and will require in future, proof that there is real cause for prohibition in such cases as prohibition is sought by the local authority, and they will take into account, as they always have taken into account, the prospects of other forms of employment for the children shut out from street trading.

There is reason, too, for giving the local authorities discretion because your Lordships will realise that in different parts of the country conditions vary in regard to employment. They vary according to the sort of town in which young people are working; the conditions under which they labour vary; and trades carried on in the streets vary a great deal according to the town. What might be harmful in one case might be innocent in another. Therefore it has seemed to the Government desirable that this power of regulation, and in extreme cases of prohibition under the check of the Home Office, should be kept in force in the Bill, that the rule which has hitherto prevailed, and which as far as we know every committee has always thought ought to prevail—the rule that there should be an age beyond the age of sixteen at which regulations should continue—should still prevail, and that the clause should be kept in the Bill by this House, as it has been kept in after discussion in another place.


My Lords, my noble friend said that in certain circumstances it was necessary to raise the age. I am not objecting to that. I have not made any objection to Parliament saying that no person under the age of sixteen shall be engaged or employed in street trading. What I do object to is giving powers to the local authorities—which, as my noble friend says, may be administered in different ways in different localities—to prevent people who may be of the age of seventeen and three quarter years or seventeen and a half, perfectly fit and capable to understand what they ought to do, from earning an honest livelihood if the local authority in their particular area happen to be very cranky, foolish and narrow-minded people who will not allow them to do perhaps the only work which is open to them at the present moment. I am afraid it is useless to hope that the Amendment will be accepted and I shall have to ask the House to divide on it, because I think it is a very important matter. I do not wish to make too long a speech at this late hour, but I must ask your Lordships to consider the position in London. You might find people living in Camberwell not allowed by the local authority to trade in the streets and you might have people living in Lambeth who are allowed by the local authority to trade. It means that on one side of the street people might not be allowed to trade and on the other side of the street, which happened to be in the area of another local authority, you might see boys and girls under eighteen engaged in street trading. It seems to me most prejudicial, and I hope I shall get support in the Division.


My Lords, as the noble Lord indicates that he will press his Amendment to a Division, may I be allowed to say that while when I spoke before I expressed no opinion about subsection (2): I was only anxious to make certain that subsection (1) would be carried before I gave further attention to subsection (2)? Having had communication with some of those most closely concerned with the work of young people, not only in London but in other parts of the country, I strongly wish your Lordships' House to follow the lead given by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham. He said it is undesirable to permit any young woman under eighteen to be engaged in street trading at any hour. That is overwhelmingly true and it is corroborated by my own very special experience in that matter. I also feel quite sure that if there is a large amount of unemployment in any district and if any reputable young man makes application to engage in street trading the local authority will not refuse the necessary licence, even though, quite likely, they make restrictions as to the hours during which it might be exercised. As to the point that it is ridiculous to allow youths of seventeen to fight for their country and not to trade in the streets, I think it is most undesirable to allow them to continue in their idleness when, if taken in hand, they might make first-rate recruits.


My Lords, I do not often disagree with my

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 62 [Savings]:


My Lords, the Amendment to this clause is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 48, line 38, leave out ("a child taking part as a chorister") and insert ("a chorister taking part").—(Viscount Hail-sham.)

Clause 63 [Saving for British Broadcasting Corporation]:


My Lords, the two Amendments on this clause are drafting. I beg to move. Page 49, line 2, leave out ("the employment of children and") and insert ("employment or on").

noble friend Lord Banbury, but I hope he will not press this Amendment to a Division. As the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House has pointed out already there is an appeal, and if anyone feels aggrieved under this clause he can always take an appeal to, the Minister.

On Question, Whether subsection (2) shall stand part of the clause?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 60; Not-Contents, 3.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Gage, L.(V. Gage.)
Greville, L.
Sankey, V.(L. Chancellor.) Allendale, V. Hampton, L.
Astor, V. Hanworth, L.
Somerset, D. Bertie of Thame, V. Harlech, L.
Wellington, D. FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Hay, L.(E. Kinnoull.)
Hailsham, V. Heneage, L.
Bath, M. Mersey, V. Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)
Dufferin and Ava, M. Marley, L.
Winchester, L. Bp. Moyne, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)
Lauderdale, E. Addington, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Lucan. E.[Teller.] Alvingham, L. Redesdale, L.
Macclesfield, E. Annaly, L. Rhayader, L.
Midleton, E. Arnold, L. Rochester, L.
Morton, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Sanderson, L.
Plymouth, E. Sinclair, L.
Powis, E. Clinton, L. Snell, L.
Radnor, E. Clwyd, L. Somerleyton, L.
Rothes, E. Conway of Allington, L. Stanmore, L.
Stanhope, E. de Clifford, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Stradbroke, E. Ernle, L.
Strafford, E. Forester, L. Templemore, L. [Teller.]
Novar, V. [Teller.] Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.] Fairfax of Cameron, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Page 49, line 5, leave out ("child") and insert ("person").—(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, after Clause 70, to insert the following new clause:

Amendment of s. 14 of principal Act.

".At the end of Section fourteen of the principal Act (which relates to the punishment of persons who allow children to be in streets for the purpose of receiving, or inducing the giving of, alms) there shall be inserted the following subsection— '(3) If any person while singing, playing, performing or offering anything for sale in a street or public place has with him a child who has been lent or hired out to him, the child shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to be in that street or place for the purpose of inducing the giving of alms.' The noble Viscount said: My Lords, some of your Lordships may remember that on Report I moved an Amendment in the following terms: It shall be unlawful for a person to hire or let out on hire or borrow or lend an infant under nine years for the purpose of accompanying a person while engaged in street trading. The noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal suggested that the point was already covered, but the Home Office on looking into the matter find it is not so, with the result that I have on the Paper this Amendment which I understand the Government will be good enough to accept. I am most grateful to them for doing so, as I think it will remove what was a great abuse. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 70, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, as the noble Viscount has said there was a discussion on this subject on the last occasion. I think the form in which the Amendment was down did not quite meet the difficulty, but it has been slightly altered and now the Home Office is satisfied that this subsection is a useful reinforcement of the provisions of the Bill and prevents possible loopholes from which mischief might ensue. The Government are obliged to the noble Viscount for calling attention to the matter and I advise the House to accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 75 [Institution of proceedings by local or Poor Law authorities]:


My Lords, the two Amendments to this clause are drafting.

Amendments moved— Page 56, line 31, after ("proceedings") insert ("for any offence"). Page 56, line 32, leave out ("for any offence in relation to a child or young person").—(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 82 [Special provisions as to the City of London]:


My Lords, the two Amendments on this clause are drafting.

Amendments moved— Page 62, line 14, leave out ("the"). Page 62, line 14, leave out ("of children").—(Viscount Hailshum.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Second Schedule [Minor and Consequential Amendments of Principal Act]:


My Lords, the Amendment to this Schedule is consequential on the acceptance of a previous Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 79, line 34, at end insert: S. 99.—Subsection (3) shall be omitted. —(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Fifth Schedule [Adaptations and Modifications of this Act in its Application to Scotland]:


My Lords, the Amendment to this Schedule is drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 100, lines 15 and 16, leave out ("the first section of Part II") and insert ("Section nine").—(Viscount Hailsham.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.