HL Deb 23 March 1938 vol 108 cc374-82

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill has been reintroduced in a slightly different form from the Bill which I had the privilege of introducing in this House last year, and the alterations have been made to meet the objections then put forward by certain interested persons—namely, the shop assistants, the cooperators, and others. The object of the Bill is set out in an explanatory Memorandum. In a sentence it is to give the hairdressing profession an opportunity of putting its own house in order, and imposing some means of internal discipline, as is the case in other professions. May I very briefly mention the former regulations which existed. In 1461 King Edward IV granted a Charter of Incorporation to the hairdressers of the day. The principle therefore is not new, whatever the noble Earl who will reply for the Home Office may presently say. A century later Henry VIII united the hairdressers with the surgeons in the Company of the Barber-Surgeons, and that alliance lasted until 1745. Therefore up to 1745, under the original Charter of Incorporation under the Act of Henry VIII, there was a means of regulating the hairdressers.

To show the extent of the profession of which I am asking your Lordships to consider the needs, the 1931 census showed that there were 91,600 persons engaged in the professions of hairdresser, barber, manicurist, and chiropodist. Today, probably over 100,000 persons are so engaged. Twelve local authorities, including York, have obtained Parliamentary powers in various Parliamentary Bills to control hairdressing establishments. I submit that there is need of regulation of this industry, because the dressing of women's hair has become once again a very complicated matter, in which electrical machinery is used, and all sorts of chemicals and heating apparatus. It has become complicated, and, as your Lordships are no doubt aware, expensive, and in the hands of ignorant or unskilful people much damage can be done. I have a long list of Court cases in recent years in which heavy damages have been awarded for injury caused by negligence and so on to unfortunate people who fell into the hands of incompetent hairdressers. Every association of the hairdressing trade supports the Bill. The National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers, and the Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks, both support the Bill. The opposition formerly offered by co-operators has been removed by alterations in the Bill.

Now let me come to the attitude of the Departments concerned, the Home Office and the Ministry of Health. I have indeed for some years been endeavouring to make contact with these Ministries to find out to what extent they would bless such a Bill, or what alterations they would want in it, or whether it could be made workable from the departmental point of view. The reply from the Ministry of Health has always been, "Let this Bill receive its Second Reading in Parliament, and then we shall be able to talk about it." All we desire is that the Bill may have its Second Reading, so that the people concerned may sit down with the very able officials of the two Ministries to see how this could be made into a workable measure. If that is done I will not put the Bill down for a further stage at all until it is agreed that it satisfies the requirements of the two Departments of State. I could not hope to get it through Parliament without that agreement, and if those Departments will tell us what is needed the promoters and myself undertake to do anything that is reasonable.

All we want is some means of regulating and disciplining this important profession from inside. Not only have a number of ignorant people come into the industry without proper qualifications, especially in recent years, but some undesirable characters also, who, if they had been cases of dentists, surgeons, or architects, could have been removed by the ordinary machinery of their profession. With these cases, however, the respectable hairdressers have no means of dealing; they can only be dealt with by the police, and that is not always easy. After all, the hairdresser who goes to a woman's house is in a professional capacity, and it is very desirable that people of good character should carry on this profession. Quite a number of countries have either an established apprenticeship system or some form of internal or State control, or both, and in some cases all three. The following countries have—in the case of the first one, had—some degree of State control, or else the industry itself is allowed to govern itself:—Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Rumania, Sweden, Switzerland, the Cape Province of South Africa, and British Columbia. In all those countries there is some form of organisation, but very little exists in this country.

If your Lordships will glance at the Bill you will see that Clause 1 is the title. Clause 2 is the definition clause, the principal definition being that of "hairdressing", which has been carefully drawn so as to avoid impinging on the sphere of any other profession. Clause 3 establishes the British Hairdressing Board which is to administer the Bill, and its constitution is laid down. It is suggested that the chairman should be appointed by the Privy Council. I understand that there is an objection to that, but that is one of the matters that can be dealt with after the Bill receives Second Reading. Clause 4 provides for the appointment of officers, and Clause 5 for the establishment, within twelve months, of a register in two sections, of hairdressers for men and hairdressers for women. It is very necessary to have a register of hairdressers. Clause 6 defines the methods of admission. It is not proposed to deprive any one of his or her living. Any one who has practised for five years will automatically be admitted to the register. Those in practice for a lesser period, mostly young people, are given two years in which to satisfy the Board of their proficiency. Clauses 7 and 8 enable the Board to remove the names of unfit persons from the register, with a right of appeal to the High Court. Clause 9 provides for the issue of certificates of registration, while Clause 10 prescribes the maximum fees chargeable. It is estimated that in practice the annual fee will only be £1masters and 10s. for assistants. This is considered to be enough to meet the costs of administration and instruction, and also to provide a substantial margin for the development of training facilities, which are badly required.

Clause 11 restricts the right to sue for charges to those who are on the register, with an exception for medical practitioners. Clause 12 prohibits the practice of hairdressing or the use of the name of hairdresser to unregistered persons after January 1, 1940. Without this prohibition the Bill could not be made effective. I am quite prepared however, to extend the date, if necessary. Clause 13 empowers the Board to approve schools and training centres. Clause 14 deals with penalties, following the lines of similar previous Acts. Clause 15 enables the Board to make the necessary regulations, including those prescribing standards of hygiene and sanitation, and the regulations they make must be approved by the Minister of Health and laid before Parliament for twenty-one days before becoming operative. Clause 16 envisages the possibility of an inquiry into the economic position of the trade. That is particularly desired by masters and assistants alike. Clauses 17 to 21 cover details of administration. Clause 22 safeguards the existing rights of doctors and chemists. The First Schedule I have dealt with under Clause 3, and the Second Schedule prescribes the types of certificates to be issued under Clause 9. I would ask the Government and the House to allow the Bill to have a Second Reading, so that it can be further dealt with and any necessary alterations made to make it a workable and beneficial measure. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Strabolgi.)


My Lords, I hope the noble Earl who will reply for the Government will not accede to the Second Reading of this Bill. I was approached just: before the debate began by the Institute of Trichologists, who gave me a large number of reasons why this Bill should not be accepted. The institute are strongly opposed to the Bill, not only on the ground that it would be prejudicial to their members, but on the larger ground that it would be contrary to the public interest, which it is the aim of the institute to protect and foster. Under this Bill it would be open to persons registered as hairdressers to hold themselves out as treating the diseases of the hair and scalp, and the fact that they were entitled by Statute to call themselves registered hairdressers would result in the public—knowing nothing of the statutory definition of hairdressing—assuming that all registered hairdressers were fully qualified to diagnose and treat such maladies. In other words, the passing of the Bill would involve the granting of an implied statutory guarantee of efficiency in trichology to all those registered as hairdressers under it, irrespective of their qualifications, or lack of them. The result of this would be that the public would assume that all registered hairdressers were qualified to carry out the various skilled treatments of the hair and scalp for which extensive and highly specialised knowledge and training, such as are possessed by members of the institute, are essential. The passing of the Bill would also prevent the members of the institute from practising as trichologists unless they became registered hairdressers.


My Lords, perhaps I might be permitted to ask one or two questions, as the noble Lord who introduced this Bill with his usual courtesy and Parliamentary experience appeared to me to gloss over some of the difficulties with which it seems to be surrounded. I do not quite know what is meant by a hairdresser. Is any individual who cuts hair at any time for a fee a hairdresser? And will it be an offence for such a per son to undertake to cut another person's hair if he has not been registered? The reason why I ask these questions is that in rural areas, particularly in outlying villages, there are men who call themselves hairdressers and just cut their neighbours' and their friends' hair, generally for the price of a glass of beer; in other words, just out of courtesy. Will those men in future be debarred from rendering that very necessary service to their neighbours? As I read the Bill, such action will be subject to a fine of £100 every time such a man cuts his neighbour's hair. I do not know whether I read the Bill aright. Again, what will be the position of the lady's maid who attends to her lady's hair? Has she got to have a qualification as a registered hairdresser before she can carry on these domestic duties? I must apologise for asking these questions, to which there may be a very good answer, but it is not at all clear. Many of us would be in complete accord and sympathy with any measure which betters conditions of employment, hours of labour, and so on. Possibly the law wants strengthening in certain of these respects, but I do hope that those who live in rural areas will not be caught in this net and obliged to register before carrying out this necessary service for their friends and neighbours.


My Lords, I have been asked to state the views of His Majesty's Government on this Bill, a measure which concerns both my right honourable friends the Minister of Health and the Home Secretary, and a Bill which in fact seeks to apply to the hairdressing trade restrictions similar to the most severe applied to doctors, dentists, midwives, nurses, and a host of other important occupations. Noble Lords will have read in the explanatory Memorandum the main justifications for the introduction of this Bill, and the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading explained the general contents of the measure to your Lordships. One of the reasons which prompted the promoters to proceed with this measure was that they thought it necessary to remove dangers to the health of their customers caused by either the introduction of untrained or incompetent persons or the unsatisfactory conditions of hygiene and sanitation in many of these hairdressing establishments. It is proposed in this Bill, as I see it, to set up machinery involving heavy burdens on central Departments and to inflict heavy penalties on unregistered persons practising the hairdressing trade. These proposals can only be justified by reasons of health, and, after listening carefully to the remarks of the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading, I do not think I could agree that injury to health results or may result from unregulated hairdressing. I believe there is no such health problem as would justify the very far-reaching proposals contained in this Bill. If any control is necessary on the grounds of health, I am advised that forty-seven local authorities are already empowered under local Acts to make by-laws for securing the cleanliness not only of the hairdresser's premises but also of the instruments and materials he might use. We believe that this existing machinery is fully adequate to deal with the problem of health.

The Memorandum further refers to the need for better training of hairdressers. I do not think I could agree that this affords sufficient reason for the very drastic provisions of the Bill and for the setting up of a Board with such immense powers as outlined in the measure. As advised, I have every reason to believe that such a scheme as this would work very severely and very harshly, particularly in the case of hairdressers who earn their living in the working-class districts of this country. The Government have every reason to sympathise with the desire of trades and professions to improve their status, but we are not satisfied that there is any sufficient public interest at stake to justify the stringent statutory restrictions on the right to practise this ancient craft. I, too, see difficulties such as were outlined by my noble friend behind me, but in view of the proposals the noble Lord has asked your Lordships to approve we thought it would be more appropriate that we should leave this Bill to the free vote of your Lordships, but at the same time it is only fair and right to inform the noble Lord that the Government will have to vote against the Second Reading.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie, raised a question about the trichologists. Last night I received at my house a similar protest from the trichologists. I did not know there was that opposition. I have sent it to the promoters of the Bill, who have their organisation, and I am sure they will do their best to meet the position and satisfy the trichologists. With regard to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, he asked about the man who cuts his friend's hair. I suppose he was thinking of the farmer's wife cutting her son's hair round a pudding basin and that sort of thing. We have an Act registering and regulating the practice of dentistry, and yet I would not be surprised if the noble Lord, when he was young, pulled out one of his own teeth or even pulled out a brother's tooth or that his father might have pulled out his son's tooth when it was loose. Is he therefore practising as a dentist and liable to pains and penalties for not being registered as a dentist?


The service I was referring to is being performed for payment, but it is not a whole-time job.


Exactly. There would not be any sort of objection to these people. They are covered by the Bill. The noble Lord asked what the definition of "hairdressing" was. That appears at the top of page 2 of the Bill, and it includes all the various services which are performed in hairdressing establishments. The man who does that kind of work in the village will not have his livelihood taken away from him at all.

With regard to the noble Earl who speaks for the Home Office and who said that in the opinion of the Minister of Health there was absolutely no danger to health, I have in front of me a number of cases in the Courts for damages because of neglect and particularly in respect of permanent wave burnings. This year alone, 1938, I have these three cases. In Clerkenwell County Court in January, before Judge Earengey, damages of £40 were given for burning of the head by incompetent assistants. In Whitechapel County Court in the same month, before Judge Lilley, damages of £15 were given, and in the King's Bench Division last month, before Mr. Justice Singleton, damages of £275 were given for the burning of the head during permanent wave operations by incompetent people. I have a list of a great number of cases of damage caused by the use of improper dyes during last year and some this year. Very many of these cases are undoubtedly injurious to health, and these are only the ones that come into Court. I really think that the case for the Bill on the ground of the health of the people is a strong one. However, the Government will not support the Second Reading, and in those circumstances I have no chance of getting the Bill through in this particular Session. We shall have to renew our efforts to get a Bill that will pass. Under those circumstances I do not propose to put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division.

On Question, Motion negatived.