New Clause B. — (Power of local authority to make by-laws with respect to employment of juvenile persons.)

Part of Children and Young Persons Bill – in the House of Commons on 30th June 1932.

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Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

I sympathise very much indeed with the position of the Under-Secretary. Really the situation has been very difficult for him. I will state the attitude of my hon. Friends and myself towards this problem. It has to be remembered that the new Clause deals only with approximately 400,000 young persons, between 14 and 18 years of age, in employment in the unregulated trades. It has nothing to do with young persons employed in factories and workshops. If the hon. Gentleman will look at the new Clause he will see that it proposes to do something on the one hand, and then, on the other hand, it makes sure that it is not done at all. Members who sat on the Committee upstairs will remember what we would have liked to do. We said that the only way to settle the problem was to set up a maximum 48-hours week for those young people. We were defeated by the Government. They would have none of it. I am certain now that it would have been very much better if we had adopted a maximum 48-hours week in respect of those young persons. The weakness of the new Clause is obvious. It says, in effect, that the local authority may make by-laws. Let us ask ourselves how many local authorities would make such by-laws, and, if they did so, how many hours would be set forth as the maximum for those young persons.

Hon. Gentlemen will realise how very weak the Clause really is. It throws upon local authorities a duty which ought to devolve upon Parliament. The hon. Gentleman must have in mind, in this connection, the report of the Select Committee on Shop Assistants, which deals with part of this problem. We shall continually be pressing the Government to do something in the light of that report, and at that stage the whole of the problem dealing with the 400,000 young persons engaged in unregulated trades can be dealt with. Finally, we say of the Clause that, in spite of all its weaknesses and the fact that it may not do very much, it has one thing in its favour. It sets forth in legal enactment the idea that local authorities ought to take the initiative to regulate the employment of those young persons between 14 and 18 years of age. It comes to this, that if the local authorities do not carry out the duties suggested in the new Clause it will be their own fault, and nobody can do otherwise than accept their decision. We support the Clause, not because we think that it will do very much, but as a small beginning in the right direction.