§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR In the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Amendment of section 7(1) of 1938 Act]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
During the Second Reading of this Bill I referred to an undertaking which was given by my right honourable friend in another place, that he would promote consultations with local authority associations on the Bill, and particularly on the question of introducing some form of licensing or exemption for the entertainment industry. I thought that it might be to the convenience of your Lordships' Committee if I were to explain what were the outcomes of these consultations. Of course, these associations had extremely short notice to supply detailed observations, and I should like to pay tribute to them for the manner in which they succeeded in studying the problem and letting us know their views. Those concerned were the Association of Municipal Corporations, the County Councils Association, the Urban District Councils Association and the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee. The London County Council, because of the large number of night clubs which it has in its area, was also consulted and supplied extremely helpful comments. Therefore, all the local authorities as defined in Section 6 of the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, were covered by the consultations.
Two main questions were posed in these consultations. The first concerned the views of the associations on the Bill as it now stands, with reference to the responsibilities of local authorities under Section 3 of the 1938 Act for its enforcement. To this, all replied that they had no observations on, or indeed criticisms to make of, the Bill as it now stands. The 432 second and main question concerned the possibility of some procedure of licensing or exemption for young persons in the entertainment industry, perhaps on the lines of an Amendment which was tabled but was not in fact called in another place, and which might apply to the performer, or to the performance, or indeed to the premises in which the performance takes place. On this, the majority view was that no such provision should be included in the Bill. One association expressed the opinion that the Bill was not unduly restrictive on the employment of young entertainers, and the general view was that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce or to operate any licensing procedures.
The view was expressed that it would be an invidious task for anyone to decide which premises or which performer or which performance should be exempted, and it was held to be impossible to lay down satisfactory conditions in a licence to protect the health or the welfare, whether moral or physical, of a young person aged 16 or 17 in his or her appearances in a night club. One of the bodies consulted placed particular emphasis on the fact that the 1938 Act is concerned with the health and welfare of young persons, and their health and welfare are just as much affected whatever is the precise job performed. A few municipal authorities, albeit reluctantly, were prepared to try to operate a licensing procedure, but there was doubt about the real need for such a procedure.
The Government themselves are in no doubt as to the wisdom of the majority view of the local authority associations, and therefore have not tabled an Amendment on the lines which my noble friend Lord Aberdare suggested on Second Reading. In reaching this decision, Her Majesty's Government have not been unmindful of the remarks that were made by my noble friend and, indeed, by noble Lords opposite. Our advice, however, is that the careers of young artistes under the age of 18 would not be unduly inhibited by a ban on appearances in night clubs. This is equally true of the period when they are relatively unknown, of their rise to stardom and, indeed, of the struggles which they have to remain stars. They are not brought to stardom on the basis 433 of the reaction of small audiences in night clubs, which, in any case, prefer and receive a rather more sophisticated form of entertainment of a kind which is not usually associated with the teenage performer. It is the recording industry, television and the live shows in dance halls and cinemas, before audiences of hundreds of teenagers, whether screaming or not, which tend to provide them with more popular performances. While appreciating the considerations put forward by noble Lords, Her Majesty's Government do not feel that, in prohibiting the employment of these young people in night clubs after 10 p.m., they are preventing them from learning their trade; nor are they seriously prejudicing their opportunities for employment at the age of 16 or 17.
If further argument were needed, it lies in the fact that, as some of the bodies consulted were quick to point out, this is a Bill dealing with the health and welfare of young persons in employment, and the conditions laid down in Section 1 of the 1938 Act can be regarded as a statutory minimum. Any exemption in respect of a particular occupation in a night club is clearly open to objections. The first is that it is impossible to demonstrate any difference in the relative importance of the health and welfare of an employee in one occupation, as opposed to that of an employee in another occupation—for instance, the dancer as opposed to the electrician, or the page boy as opposed to the drummer. They all need an interval for meals, not too long working hours and a good night's rest, all of which are provided for in the 1938 Act; and this Bill gives it to them. The second objection lies in the fact that any exemption must, by its very nature, leave a loophole for evasion.
Therefore, if I may sum up briefly, I would say that the local authorities who are responsible for enforcing this Bill support it in its present form. The evidence that young entertainers—or, indeed, young persons in any other occupation—would be seriously prejudiced or deprived by its provisions is hardly convincing, and is certainly not proven; and to draw distinctions between one occupation and another in a night club, or between one night club and another, would be invidious. Further, such a 434 distinction would be difficult, even impossible, to operate, and attempts to do so would almost certainly give rise to evasion.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Having supported my noble friend Lord Willis on the Second Reading on this point, may I say that I am sure that my noble friend would join with me in agreeing with the attitude of the Government on this matter. We spoke to the point because there was some concern in the entertainment world and we felt it was right that it should be put. Having said that, I am sure that we are all in agreement with the Government in their attitude here. In fact—and here I must be careful because I do not want the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to rise in wrath—frankly, the statement that the noble Earl has made about the need for protecting the moral welfare of young persons in these establishments only adds to and enforces our view that these requirements are necessary. But they should not start merely at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. as was the case in previous legislation; there should be some control where these establishments operate whether it be at 2 o'clock in the afternoon or at 11 o'clock in the evening.
§ LORD ABERDARE
It is rather unusual, I think, to have a long discussion on the absence of an Amendment on the Committee stage; but I should like to express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for the trouble he has taken in consulting with local authority organisations and to say that, like the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Willis, I felt that there was a case for some Amendment, but that I am thoroughly convinced by what my noble friend has said, and I am grateful to him.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.