HL Deb 13 July 1964 vol 260 cc88-98

7.2 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Your Lordships may think that hairdressing is the dressing of hair and a barber is someone who cuts the hair. If this Bill becomes law the Brothers Fowler can get their notebooks out, because according to Clause 16 hairdressing means the following: shaving, cutting, shampooing, tinting, dyeing, bleaching, waving, curling, straightening, setting, or dressing of the hair, upon the scalp or face, with or without the aid of any apparatus or appliance, preparation or substance; the hand or vibro massage of the scalp or face; and 'form of hairdressing' shall be construed accordingly to include any such operations". "When I use a word" said Humpty Dumpty to Alice, "it means exactly what I want it to mean, neither more nor less".

Since the first introduction of hairdressing coupled with surgery, we have progressed, and to-day there are a number of very dangerous chemicals and reagents in use. I am going to quote from a little handbook which is issued by the Hairdressers' Registration Council, which describes, among other things, the effect of para-phenylene diamine. It says: This chemical causes a rash to erupt on the skin of a person who is allergic or susceptible to this kind of chemical, i.e., a permanent hair dye containing either para-phenylene diamine or para-phenylene toluene or any of the 'para' equivalents. The effects can be most serious. The head, in serious cases, will appear to grow larger, the eyes may become almost invisible, as well as the ears, the irritation is maddening, and the scalp and face may become moist with a serous fluid. A person developing such symptoms is in great danger. Again, the handbook says of ammonium thioglycolate: This is the active ingredient of most cold permanent waving solutions. It is a chemical which softens the hair, thus enabling a new shape (the curl) to form before it is hardened back to its previous tensile strength by a solution yielding oxygen that is called the neutraliser. This chemical that: softens the hard"— part— of the hair, will also soften the skin or scalp. This makes the cold wave solution a dangerous chemical, for which special knowledge is required when it is used on clients. It can produce inflammation and activate susceptible conditions. When an unskilled person employs the lotion carelessly in an excess of zeal to produce a tight curl, the skin in the area, after softening, may be torn away, or abraded, and is very open to infection. I mention these two cases merely to indicate how important it is that hairdressing should be carried out by skilled persons. It is not so very long ago, in fact only on May 30 this year, that a hairdressing assistant called a young boy to go and fetch some soda. The boy went down, the soda was mixed and a lady lost all her hair and suffered serious burning of the scalp, because instead of getting ordinary soda the boy had got caustic soda. In fact, neither caustic nor ordinary soda should have been used on the head at all. Some might say that this Bill is not necessary, because a person has his own legal rights to fall back on, but that is after the event. This Bill is intended to prevent the happening before it happens, as the legal rights only provide redress afterwards.

In its present form the Bill is a little untidy and it will be necessary to look, for instance, at the provision in the first Schedule relating to the constitution of the Council. In this Bill's original form registration was mandatory, and now failure to secure registration is no longer a bar. There are no longer any appeals to the Privy Council and all penal provisions in the Bill have been struck out, leaving a purely voluntary organisation which will carry on the sterling pioneering work which has been done by the Hairdressers' Registration Council to promote proper standards of competency.

Having regard to the lateness of the hour, I do not propose, unless noble Lords wish it, to go through the Bill clause by clause and to give explana- tions of all of them. I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading, and perhaps, if the noble Lord, Lord Willis, had been here, even a polite "Hello!". If there are any questions that I can answer on any clauses in the Bill, I shall be glad to do so.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Cowley.)

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl has made the best possible presentation of this Bill to the House, but despite anything he has said I doubt very much whether the Bill should ever have troubled the House at all. When the Bill had its Second Reading in another place, it was a Bill which was intended to give effect to the aspirations of the Hairdressers' Registration Council, to turn hairdressing into a profession, with its registered members, a highly skilled body of people, admitted to the register only after a suitable training in the skills required, and closed to new entrants who had not reached a standard required by the Hairdressing Council. The noble Earl has told us that the Bill has emerged from the other place with all the mandatory clauses and attempts to ensure compulsion having been struck out.

Clause 3 in the original Bill contained these words: On and after the appointed day no person shall practise hairdressing unless he is registered by the Hairdressing Council as entitled to practise hairdressing. In Committee stage on this Bill in another place that clause was struck out. Clearly, Parliament was not going to be committed to a situation in which anyone wielding a pair of scissors or a pair of clippers for gain, without having undergone a lengthy period of training and passed an examination, would have his exercise declared illegal. This was especially the case because it had refused a similar sort of "closed shop" to chiropodists, dietitians and others covered by the 1960 Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act. It was quite clear that Parliament was not likely to give to the hairdressers a mandatory power, a power to enforce compulsory registration before practising, which it had refused to those people whom I have just mentioned.

However, we have to ask ourselves: what are we left with in the Bill which is now before us? It sets up a Hair-dressing Council, whose functions are to establish a register of hairdressers, decide the qualifications for registration, approve the course of training and the qualifications of instructors, supervise examinations, set up committees for investigations and discipline, and, where necessary, remove names from the register. The question that I am bound to ask here is: why is it necessary to have an Act of Parliament at all for those purposes? As I understand it, the Hair-dressers' Registration Council already holds examinations, enters those who have qualified on to a register, and presumably can take names off such a register if it wishes. A person who appears on that register can make it known that he is regarded as a suitable person to carry on the trade of hair-dressing. He does that by means of a certificate granted by the Council and displayed in his establishment.

Throughout the passage of this Bill in another place, reference was made to the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act, 1960. That Act, although Parliament refused to include a section barring unregistered persons from practising chiropody, et cetera, nevertheless made sense, for, after provisions setting up a council for professions supplementary to medicine, whose functions were similar to those of the council proposed by this Bill, it incorporated a section giving a registered person a legal right to the use of the title "State registered chiropodist", or whatever it might be. It also made provision for the penalties which would be incurred by persons using such a title illegally. This Bill makes no provision at all for the use of a title by people whose names appear on this register, nor for penalties against those who wrongfully claim to be registered persons under this particular Bill.

Mr. Woodhouse, the Joint Undersecretary of State for the Home Department, said of this Bill on Third Reading in another place, at column 843 on June 26 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 697 (No. 130)]: The fact of having one's name inscribed on the register will be an indication of standing, but not a legal requirement of the practice of hairdressing ". This, of course, was after Clause 3 had been struck out. He went on: We are left, therefore, with a purely voluntary organisation which will carry on the pioneering work which has been done by the Hairdressers' Registration Council to promote proper standards of competency. The functions of the new organisation, however, will be more precise than those of the present Council and will be legislatively defined, but the Council will not be able to claim a monopoly for its registered members. This might well be the best approach, but at the same time the House might well question whether it requires legislative backing. My Lords, that is the question that I am asking here to-day: is it necessary that the Mother of Parliaments should be bothered with such a trifling Bill, which really does nothing at all?

I must emphasise that nothing I am saying here must be taken by anybody as being in any way in derogation of the profession, or trade, as I should prefer to call it, of hairdressing. Properly conducted and carried on, it is a highly skilled trade using electrical instruments and chemicals which, in unskilled hands, may be dangerous to life, and certainly to appearance, which some ladies seem to regard as being even more important than life itself. I agree entirely with what the noble Earl said about the use of chemicals. Chemicals used for this purpose can be dangerous. They can produce diseases. Stupid actions by people engaged in this trade can, of course, lead to the sort of thing he talked about—the use of caustic soda where clearly no soda at all should have been used, let alone caustic soda. My Lords, there is nothing at all in this Bill to prevent unskilled persons from using the chemicals described by the noble Earl. Any person can set up a hairdressing establishment, even after this Bill is passed, and can do these things.

There is, however, just this little trifle. If my wife goes to a hairdressing establishment for this purpose, she might, if I have told her something about this Bill, go in and say, "Are you a person registered under the Act which was passed by Parliament in the year 1964?"—that is, of course, provided this Bill goes through. But that is just about all this Bill would, in fact, do. As it is to-day, she could go to a hairdresser and say, "Are you registered by the Hair-dressers' Registration Council?" She could ask that, and she would be reasonably satisfied, if the answer were, "Yes", that that hairdresser had been admitted to the register of that body only after a suitable examination and after a suitable period of training. I believe that hairdressing needs the skill and care of some of the professions that are supplementary to medicine, and if Parliament is to legislate for it it ought to be done by a very different Bill from the one we have before us to-day. The model that should have been adopted for this Bill is the Act of 1960, which I have mentioned. This Bill should never have started its life with Clause 3, with its compulsory powers, in it at all, for when that clause was deleted it left the Bill in its present futile condition.

I suppose that what we are faced with now is this. If we seek to amend the Bill substantially we shall be told that, if we do, the Bill will be lost; that the existing Hairdressers' Council would prefer a crust at this stage rather than no bread at all; and that we should let it go through in the hope that Parliament will at some later stage pass a worthwhile measure. The only reply I would make to that is that if this trifling Bill goes through now it may well delay the eventual passing of the sort of Bill I should like to see and I am sure most hairdressers in the country would like to see. However, if the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, assures me that the hair-dressers want this Bill, I will not vote against it on Second Reading. I would not vote against this Bill on Second Reading if I thought for one moment that some member of the existing Council would go to bed happier on the night this Bill received the Royal Assent, if it does receive the Royal Assent. I noticed that the noble Earl referred to the Amendments which will have to be made. He gave us some ideas of the Amendments that will be moved, and they will be so clearly of a drafting nature that there is not likely to be any difficulty when they go back to the other place. This is what I imagine he has in mind. But, if I welcome this Bill at all, it is a very doubtful welcome; and your Lordships will have gathered from me, I think, that the hairdressers of this country would be much better off without it and would be much better advised at this time to be agitating for a worthwhile Bill. Quite clearly I am not a great supporter of the Bill.

7.21 p.m.


My Lords, I do not dissent from the views which have been put forward by my noble friend Lord Champion. I have no intention of opposing the Bill; I think this could have been a most useful one. Apart from the safety measures, women spend a lot of money on their hair nowadays. A good many women go once a week to the hair-dresser, and I think that women's hair, though it may have some rather odd styles—as indeed does some of the men's—has never perhaps looked so cared for as it does to-day.

I do not know whether this thought has struck any of your Lordships, or possibly your wives, but I do know that when I have been to my hairdresser I have asked him: "Is it really true that anybody can set up in business as a hairdresser?". I have thought of this when I have read some of the scarifying tales which make the headlines from time to time. My hairdresser has said: "Yes, it is perfectly possible." And I have thought that this state of affairs is crazy. It is quite ridiculous. It is no use taking the case to court for loss of hair; for you cannot get your hair back.

When I heard that the Hairdressers (Registration) Bill was coming up I thought that this was splendid. I con-fess my ignorance; I did not know much about it at the time. But I feel a little better now about my ignorance, for when I got home this week-end and began to look in Hansard of another place for Friday, February 28, the date when the Bill was before another place, thinking that I should find a lot of arguments presented (and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, knows what I am going to say now), I read merely that the Hair-dressers (Registration) Bill was read a second time. And that was all the help I got. So I put that away. Then I referred to Hansard of another place, Friday, June 26, and found that the Bill was considered as amended, and read the third time. So, my ignorance was not helped any more than it had been before. My scepticism, however, was increased, when I looked at column 842, and saw that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department had said [OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons) Vol. 697 (No. 130) col. 842]: …the Amendments made to the Bill in Committee have been so extensive as to alter its whole nature. I did not think I was going to get very far on that.

Government support for this Bill in another place has been lukewarm, and I hope that I shall not embarrass the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, for whom I have a great regard, if I ask whether his reception is equally lukewarm. In another place, at column 843, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said: For all these reasons it is not possible for me to give an absolutely unqualified blessing to the Bill as it stands before the House to-day, I think my noble friend Lord Champion said that if this Bill were passed his wife would be able to go to her hair-dresser and say: "Are you registered with the Hairdressers' Registration Council?"


She can do it now.


As my noble friend says, she can do it now. I have been interested in consumers for a long time, and consumers are customers, and I do not think you will get many women going to an establishment and asking the owner whether he is registered. The type of man who is not registered would in any case give her a "dusty" reception if she were to do so—of that I am sure. I have been told—and perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply can tell me whether this is true—that it is only within the last five years that the more dangerous reagents have come into the hands of the hair-dressers. I think it is undoubtedly true that with each year more and more of these reagents are being introduced. I should like to know that.

The other point on which I should like to have information is this. I have been told that hairdressing is registered by statutory control in many other countries, such as America, Canada and most of Western Europe. I do not know whether this is true. I should be glad to know, because I think it is a most valid point. I am sorry to give the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, such poor assistance—he probably would not call it assistance at all, except that I do not intend to oppose the Bill. But what concerns me is this. Does this House really feel that a Bill of this nature is going to guard the interests of the customers?—because I am really interested in the customers; and I do not know that you are going to get anywhere unless you set compulsory standards and people have to adhere to them. I should have thought that people who work in hairdressing establishments should be assumed by all the customers that go to them to have sufficient qualifications to carry out their trade safely. I shall be interested to know what the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, says about this. I share the views of my noble friend Lord Champion. I do not think this Bill is going to get us any further forward; but I do not intend to oppose the Second Reading.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, may I say that I am not going to answer the noble Baroness's questions and remarks, but will leave that to my noble friend Lord Cowley. As I have already said, this Bill has had a rather curious history in its passage through another place. Although there was no debate on the Second Reading, it ran into considerable opposition in its Committee stage, and to secure its passage the promoters agreed to drop every element of compulsion from the Bill. As a result, a very large number of Amendments were made. Whether the Bill in fact does anything that could not be done without legislation is, I think, doubtful; but for reasons that are perfectly understandable the sponsors of the Bill attach importance to the recognition that it affords.

If your Lordships grant this Bill a Second Reading a good deal of work will remain to be done to improve its consistency and to correct anomalies of drafting. This is a consequence of the change of purpose of the Bill and the hasty and extensive deletions necessitated by it. Apart from some tidying-up in the main body of the Bill it will be necessary, in particular, to look closely at the provisions of Schedule 1, which relate to the constitution of the Hair-dressing Council. I have no doubt that your Lordships will wish to give attention at a later stage to these not unimportant points of detail so as to ensure that the principles of the Bill are correctly and clearly expressed. If my noble friend wishes for some assistance in drafting the appropriate Amendments, they will be done by Parliamentary draftsmen.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank noble Lords and the noble Baroness for their helpfulness and for what they have said in this debate, and also my noble friend Lord Derwent for the suggestion that he will assist in drafting the Amendments that will be needed. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, I would point out that this is a greatly reduced Bill. All the "sting" has been taken out of it; but it is supported, even in this reduced form, by the majority of the hairdressers' organisations, including the Hairdressers' Registration Council. It will give their work some measure of recognition if this Bill is passed; and it will mean that a hairdresser will be able to say he is registered under the Hairdressers (Registration) Act, 1964.

The noble Baroness wanted to know about reagents and dangerous chemicals. They have been used for some years—longer than five, and probably fifteen. In answer to the second question, about registration in other countries, registration of hairdressers is compulsory in all the European countries, and in some States of the U.S.A. But I understand that in the case of the United States they do not register on skill. Every hairdresser or operator has to be registered by the State in which he works, in order to ensure that he has no criminal record and that he is not suffering from any disease that he may pass on to his clients. He has to put in front or above his mirror a registration notice with his photograph, so that his clients know that the man who is cutting their hair is the same man as in the photograph. But in this case it has nothing to do with skill.

I have recently heard, in reference to the constitution of the Council that is to be set up, that the Royal College of Physicians have agreed to appoint some-one to serve on the Council. It will be an added advantage to the Council to have someone skilled in medicine, when there are so many chemicals used in hairdressing and when there are so many diseases which can be passed on by contact with the head and which should be recognised by those who practise hairdressing.

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