THURSDAY, 5th AUGUST, 1920.783
The Committee consists of the following Members:—
Turton, Mr. (Chairman)
Adair, Rear-Admiral (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Archdale, Mr. (Fermanagh, North)
*Baird, Sir John (Warwick, Rugby)
*Barnett, Major (St. Pancras, South-West)
Barrie, Mr. C. C. (Banff)
Bell, Mr. James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)
Blake, Sir Francis (Northumberland, Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Bowyer, Captain (Bucks, Buckingham)
Britton, Mr. (Bristol, East)
Campion, Lieut.-Col. (East Sussex, Lewes)
Cayzer, Major (Portsmouth, South)
Clay, Lieut.-Col. Spender (Kent, Tonbridge)
Davies, Major David (Montgomery)
Dawes, Mr. (Southwark, S.E.)
Doyle, Mr. Grattan (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Edwards, Mr. Charles (Monmouth, Bedwellty)
FitzRoy, Captain (Northampton, Daventry)
Ford, Mr. (Edinburgh, North)
Forrest, Mr. (York, W. R., Pontefract)
Gardner, Mr. Ernest (Berks, Windsor)
*Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Hackney, North)
Greig, Colonel (Renfrew, Western)
Hailwood, Mr. (Manchester, Ardwick)
Hinds, Mr. (Carmarthen, Carmarthen)
Hirst, Mr. (York, W. R., Wentworth)
Hope, Sir Harry (Stirling and Clackmannan, Western)
Hope, Lieut.-Col. Sir John (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
Hotchkin, Capt. (Parts of Lindsey, Horncastle)
Howard, Major (West Suffolk, Sudbury)
Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil, Merthyr)
Jones, Mr. Haydn (Merioneth)
Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander (Kingston-upon-Hull, Central)
*Kiley, Mr. (Stepney, Whitechapel & St. Georges)
M'Guffin, Mr. (Belfast, Shankhill)
*Macquisten, Mr. (Glasgow, Springburn)
Morrison, Mr. Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)
*Munro, Mr. (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Murray, Lt.-Col. Arthur (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Kincardine and Western)
Murray, Mr. C. D. (Edinburgh, South)
Myers, Mr. (York, W. R., Spen Valley)
*Percy, Mr. (Tynemouth)
Raffan, Mr. (Leigh)
Rees, Captain Tudor- (Devon, Barnstaple)
Royds, Lieut.-Col. (Parts of Kesteven and Rutland, Grantham)
Seddon, Mr. (Sioke-on-Trent, Hanley)
Short, Mr. Alfred (Wednesbury)
*Shortt, Mr. (Newcastle-on-Tyne, West)
Spencer, Mr. (Nottingham, Broxtowe)
Stanier, Captain Sir Beville (Salop, Ludlow)
Swan, Mr. (Durham, Barnard Castle)
Terrell, Mr. George (Wilts, Chippenham)
Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)
Thomas, Sir Robert (Denbigh, Wrexham)
*Thorpe, Captain (Manchester, Rusholme)
Townley, Mr. (Bedford, Mid)
Warner, Sir Courtenay (Stafford, Lichfield)
Waterson, Mr. (Northampton, Kettering)
Wedgwood, Colonel (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel (Kent, Faversham)
White, Mr. Charles (Derby, Western)
Wigan, Brigadier-General (Berks, Abingdon)
Wignall, Mr. (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
Williams, Colonel Penry (Middlesbrough, East)
Wilson, Lt.-Col. Murrough (York, W. R., Richmond)
Wintringham, Mr. (Parts of LAndsey, Louth)
Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
*Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, West)
Young, Mr. Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
*Added in respect of the Shops (Early Closing) (No. 2) Bill.
Committee Clerks Mr. BRAMWELL,
Committee Clerks Mr. FELLOWES,784 785 STANDING COMMITTEE E Thursday, 5th August, 1920
[Mr. E. R. TURTON in the Chair.]
The Committee was summoned to meet at 11 a.m., and at 11.10 a quorum was formed.CLAUSE 1.
(1)The order made by the Secretary of State dated the twenty-fourth day of April nineteen hundred and seventeen, under Regulation 10B of the Defence of the Realm Regulations as amended by any subsequent orders (which order as so amended is set out in Part I. of the Schedule to this Act), shall continue in force notwithstanding the expiry of the Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Act, 1914, and shall have effect in the area of any local authority as if it were a closing order made and confirmed under the Shops Act, 1912, and sub-section (5) of section five and sections thirteen and fourteen of that Act shall apply accordingly.
The CHAIRMAN: The first Amendment of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Percy)—in Sub-section (1) after the word "shall" ["shall continue in force"] to insert the words "except as hereinafter provided"—is not really necessary. It would be permissible if it met the convenience of the Committee to have a general discussion on practically all the hon. Member's Amendments. 786 I suggest that it is really unnecessary for this Amendment to be moved, and, if the hon. Member agrees, I will call upon the next Amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Captain Bowyer).
Mr. PERCY: It will be quite unnecessary to move the Amendment at this stage, because this interlineation will be dependent upon the results of the afternoon.
The CHAIRMAN: At this stage it is "now or never" with the hon. Member.
The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Shortt): I will undertake, if it be necessary, that it shall be moved on Report.
Mr. PERCY: That is exactly what I want.
Mr. DOYLE: I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words Save and except the following words in Section four of the said Order:— (b) Refreshments shall not be deemed to include sweets, chocolate, or other sugar confectionery, or ice cream. The arguments in regard to this Amendment are pretty well known, and therefore I do not intend to trouble' the Committee with a repetition of them. The Amendment applies specially to the sale of refreshments in theatres. It has been alleged that it is unfair to the shopkeepers, particularly the small vendors of these commodities, that there should be competition of this kind. There is another side to that question. Even assuming— which I do not admit—that that is so, it is a great hardship that the people who attend theatres, music halls, and who by reason of their employment, are not in a position, before they go, to obtain the necessary refreshments, should be prevented from buying these reasonable refreshments. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend sympathetically to consider and, if possible, to accept this Amendment.
Sir KINGSLEY WOOD: I hope the Home Secretary will not accept this Amendment. As members of the Committee know, this matter has been the subject of a very curious kind of propaganda during the last few months. We have had all sorts of curious processions, and messages flashed upon theatre and cinema films and screens. Whether the 787 promoters of that kind of movement think that that is the sort of appeal which should be made to Members of the House of Commons I do not know. On the merits of the case I venture to say that, if this Amendment were inserted, it would be utterly unfair to the shopkeepers, and especially the small shopkeepers, of this country. This restriction as regards the sale of confectionery in theatres has now been in operation for some considerable time. I do not myself know that any really grave public inconvenience has been caused by it. I cannot understand the contention of my hon. Friend behind me —that people who want to have sweets in theatres cannot purchase them before they go in.
Mr. DOYLE: Because they are otherwise employed.
Sir K. WOOD: I venture to say that a large majority of the workers to-day who attend the theatre, say at eight o'clock in the evening, certainly finish work in time sufficient to make any purchases of this kind long before eight o'clock.
Mr. KILEY: And carry them about for two hours in their possession.
Sir K. WOOD: In the first place, as my hon. Friend knows, outside a good many of these places of entertainment arrangements have been made by which confectionery can be purchased as one enters the theatre. Just for the sake of providing people with sweets in theatres it is suggested that this very considerable exception should be made, which would be most unfair. I am not one of those who restrict people, and I know that in my own family there has been a considerable difference of opinion upon the subject, but weighing the whole facts as this Committee must do, to insert a very considerable exception to the detriment of the small shopkeepers in this country—after all it is a concession made only to a very few, and of that few a large majority can easily purchase whatever they want before they go into the theatre—would be a great mistake I hope therefore the Committee will refuse to accept the Amendment. After all, it is only putting money in very many cases into the hands of large theatre and cinema proprietors. One knows the large sums of money which have been spent by these associations for this purpose. Really to 788 a large extent it is a manufactured agitation. The public themselves have not been affected by the curious propaganda to which I have referred. The public would prefer to make a sacrifice in this connection rather than injure a large class of people who are very deserving of this country and who should be protected by this Committee, namely, the small shopkeepers.
Mr. KILEY: I have no interest in wealthy cinemas, or proprietors of places of amusements, but I do feel an objection to this kind of legislation. Why on earth interfere with a person if he desires to purchase a box of chocolates? It is perfectly open to him to buy a jam puff but not chocolates. He can procure an ice but not ice-cream. All this kind of grandmotherly, tomfoolery legislation is irritating and annoying, and cannot do any useful service. In St. Martin's Lane for instance, there is no morning trade, and why should not a shopkeeper be allowed to keep his shop open until places of amusement close? Why, if I want to purchase a box of chocolates, should I not be allowed to do so outside the theatre? The only injury I can see it would inflict upon the shop assistant is that he would work longer hours than the State deems advisable. There are plenty of ways of meeting a difficulty of that kind by regulating the hours of labour, and that, I submit, is the right and proper way to proceed in dealing with the problem, and not by such restrictions as it is proposed to continue. During the War one naturally accepted this or anything else for a definite object, but that object no longer exists, and the Home Secretary might well consider the exclusion of all such commodities as are mentioned on the Paper from the scope of this Bill.
Mr. SHORTT: The real point we are discusing now is as between the convenience of theatre audiences—and, inciden tally, also, of course, the pockets of those who run the theatres and sell the sweets— and the legitimate interests of the small traders. It is not a matter which affects the big traders at all. This has been called grandmotherly legislation, and in the House all sorts of absurdities were pointed out. This legislation might be described as grandmotherly. Lots of grandmotherly things are extromely necessary in this world, and this is probably one of them. The 789 object of this Bill is to secure that people employed in shops shall be able to get reasonable leisure, and reasonable opportunities for enjoying that leisure. If you allow these sweets to be sold in theatres you must, in fairness, allow sweets to be sold by the small retail shops which are around those theatres. When this Order was originally made it did not include the sale of sweets in theatres and cinemas, and the retail traders all over the country put up a very strong case indeed. They showed the injustice of it. They showed the injury it was doing to their trade, and, therefore, the Order was altered, so as to include theatres and cinemas. Since the Armistice there has been a very strong agitation got up by the cinemas. Whether they have carried out all the dire threats to expose us and all our iniquities upon the screen, I do not know, but I do know they have threatened me with a perfect deluge of protests from all over the country. I have waited and waited for the protests. I have had a few hundred printed forms sent, such as anyone could get for anything. I have never known a smaller response to a very keenly organised agitation such as this has been. The small traders have put up, as I say, a very strong case indeed. They say that if you allow these sweets to be sold in theatres, the people who to-day, knowing of the regulation, buy their sweets on the way to the theatre, will buy them at the theatre. After all, if a man leaves his work to take himself or his family to a theatre, he can spare the half-minute necessary to buy chocolates on the way, and it does not involve a great deal of personal exertion to carry the small amount of chocolates his children will eat. I do not think there is much in those points; but if you allow sweets to be sold in the theatre, the small retail trader will lose all that business. In many of the poorer parts where the cinemas are it is their main business, and they would be deprived of it. The result would be that you would be obliged to allow those shops to keep open longer. That would mean loss of leisure, and then the shops next to them would say, "We should have got some of this trade. As these shops are allowed to keep open, we must be allowed to do the same." The thing would spread and spread. The moment you allow A. or B. to break a rule of this description, C, D., and F. will insist on the same 790 thing, until you are finally through the whole alphabet, and the whole Bill is destroyed. No one wishes to cause any undue inconvenience to those who go to the theatre, but we all have to put up with a little inconvenience in this world if, by so doing, we can bring a lot of good to the great majority of our fellow-creatures, and this is one of the cases in which we ask audiences to put up with a little inconvenience, about which they knew nothing until it was discovered by owners of theatres and cinemas, and I ask the Committee to reject this Amendment for the sake of the small traders.
Mr. WIGNALL: I want to utter my emphatic protest against any alteration of this Clause. The argument is often used about the working classes having no time. I do not know if hon. Members have wandered about the streets and seen the queues very often waiting for two hours to get into a theatre, so that there is plenty of time to buy all the chocolates and sweets they require. Go into the Provinces, and you will find wherever there is a theatre there are two or three small sweet shops near it. A very large number of these small shopkeepers are discharged soldiers and sailors, men who have fought, bled, and suffered for this country. Are you going to say, for the sake of the wealthy proprietors of theatres, that those traders must shut their shops so that those theatre proprietors can sell their goods? The thing is too absurd for words. My colleagues and I mix with the working-classes every hour of the day, except when we are in the House of Commons, and then we only mix with a few of them, although this is the hardest-worked place in the whole world. If a Clause could be introduced into this Bill to make it a penal offence for people to be here after nine o'clock at night, you would be doing a really good service to humanity, and saving a great amount of unpleasantness at home, because it takes me all my time to explain to my wife why, since I have got into such good company, I keep such bad hours. I have been in the last week in my own constituency, and have mixed with a purely working-class population, and talked about this business. A little speech I made last week was fully reported and fully discussed. I have been at meetings attended by thousands of people, and I have never had a single 791 protest all through the last few days against the early closing of shops, but I have had hundreds of protests against the sale of sweets in theatres, cinemas, and other shows while the shops are closed. We must be fair to all concerned, and deal with all alike. It does not trouble me a moment whether they eat chocolates until they are sick of them, or sweets or ice-cream till they have to call in a doctor. What concerns me is the injustice done to people outside, and it is on behalf of the people who would be penalised that I hope this Committee will maintain the original Clause, and reject the proposed privilege to the theatres, cinemas, and so forth.
Captain TUDOR-REES: I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words "Provided that the said order shall not, after the passing of this Act, affect or apply to any shop or business conducted solely by the owner thereof and in which no assistants are employed." My task has been rendered very much more easy by reason of the speech which the Home Secretary has just made. He laid it down as the governing principle of this Bill that people employed in shops should have a reasonable amount of leisure. We all agree with that, and, if that is the governing principle of the Bill, then there is every reason in the world for adopting my amendment, because the amendment only applies to those shops in which no people are employed except the owners of the shops. It seems to me a very simple and a very clear proposition that the State should have the right— and unquestionably it has the right—to say how long a man may work his fellow-men, but, in my humble judgment, it has no right to say how long a man shall work himself. It is a very vexed question, and I am not going to recapitulate the old arguments. My principal anxiety is with regard to ex-Service men. In my own constituency, and in many other parts of the country, of course, large numbers of these ex-Service men have managed to get together a bit of money. The Civil Liabilities Department have, in one or two cases, I believe, out of many thousands of applications, made grants, and these fellows, by accumulating a little wealth, have been able to start a very small business. It 792 does seem to me particularly hard, and an indication of that petty tyranny which, unfortunately, is becoming exaggerated and extended, that those men, who are endeavouring to make a living to add to their meagre pension, should be told by the State that after 7, 8, or 9 o'clock they are not allowed to keep their shops open, or to make a single penny profit, and they have to engage in other forms of activity. I want to know why those people should be selected for this unfortunate treatment. The Minister of Health has been doing —not with a large measure of success I am afraid—all in his power to get bricklayers to lay more bricks, and I am sure he would be only too delighted if the bricklayers and carpenters of this country would come to a decision to extend their labour by two or three hours a day. That would be to the interest of the community. From the standpoint of the workmen, they would not continue their labours for the sake of their health. They might, perhaps, out of patriotic motives, but principally because they might receive a greater income for themselves. If men in other forms of employment are encouraged to continue their work, I do not see why these fellows, who are not employing others in their shops, and are therefore not inflicting hardship upon anybody should be prevented from carrying on their business until what hour they like. Under these circumstances, and in the interests of the ex-Service man who is doing his best to add to his meagre pension, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, because, in my judgment at any rate, it is not going to inflict any hardship upon anybody. I know the argument will be used that it is a question of competition and that if you allow these small shops to be open you are going to inflict a hardship on those shops that do employ assistants. My answer to that is that the shops in which no assistants are employed do a very small business, and the larger shops in which assistants are employed can well afford to put up with their competition, particularly having regard to the fact that the competition would be that of ex-Service men.
Sir K. WOOD: I think the Committee ought to understand how far this Amendment would lead if it were accepted. It would mean that in the administration of 793 this Act the shopkeepers of this country would be divided into two classes, one of which would have to close at 8 o'clock, while the others would be able to remain open as long as ever they liked.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: Why should they not?
Sir K. WOOD: It would be almost impossible from an administrative point of view to make all the necessary inquiries up and down the land. My hon. Friend objects to inspectors and restrictions, but this would mean the employment of hundreds of inspectors to inquire into the administration of every shop in the kingdom, in the first place to ascertain whether the business was conducted solely by the owner thereof. If it were, the owner could keep it open as long as he liked, but he might go away the next week, and so the inspectors would have to make periodical visits, at least monthly, to see whether there had been any change of ownership. In fact, this experiment has been tried in Australia, where, rather giving way to the kind of appeals that are being made to us here, an endeavour was made to distinguish between the one-man business and the others. I am informed that that distinction proved to be utterly unworkable. The whole system broke down, and now in Australia, as in other countries where there is early closing in operation, no such distinction is made. I feel very much the case that has been presented to the Committee on behalf of the ex-Service men, but I cannot accept it. Under this Amendment you might have a disabled ex-Service man, both legs off, obliged to employ an assistant, because he had been so badly damaged in the War. He might have to employ, to run his errands in the shop, we will say, a little girl, and under this Amendment that man would be absolutely at the mercy of, we will say, a strong, able-bodied man of 50 or 60 who had never served in the War and who happened to conduct his shop himself. The totally disabled ex-Service man under this Amendment would be obliged to close his shop at 8, and the strong, able-bodied man could keep open till any time he liked. It is utterly preposterous, and no such arrangement could be fair or equitable. Directly you begin to examine this proposal you see the difficulties which its administration would entail. 794 The idea of this early closing movement is not only for assistants. Some of the strongest support that is given to the movement has come from the shopkeepers themselves. What would happen if this Amendment were adopted? They would be practically at the mercy of any selfish sole-owner in the district. The greatest measure of support we have received in connection with this movement for early closing has come from the owners of shops themselves. The large majority do not want to keep open till all hours of the night. The experience of War-time legislation has been disastrous in some directions, but not in connection with early closing, and the average owner of a small shop has been very glad to shut at eight and get some decent hours of leisure and recreation. I do not want the Committee to go away with the impression that there is any large body of support behind this Amendment, and on all these grounds, therefore, I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.
Sir COURTENAY WARNER: Might I appeal to the Home Secretary to give a brief answer to the mover of the Amendment, because, though there is very little support for any of these Amendments—
Captain TUDOR-REES: How do you know?
Sir C. WARNER: There was very little for the first, anyhow. I think it is a great pity that long orations should be made in support of Amendments without us having any information from the Home Secretary.
Captain TUDOR-REES: On a point of order. Is the hon. Member speaking to the Amendment?
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member is in order in suggesting that the Horns Secretary should at the earliest possible moment intervene to give information to the Committee.
Sir C. WARNER: There is one strong point in favour of the Amendment. It would be a handicap to all large shops in favour of the small shops, but would it not upset the whole of the Bill if it were accepted?
Mr. MACQUISTEN: I am surprised at the remarks of the hon. Member for 795 Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). This is an Amendment which was carried in the House of Commons and it is very extraordinary that this Committee should propose to upset the findings of His Majesty's House. When the hon. Member for Woolwich introduced his Bill an Amendment like this was carried by a large House to protect these small shopkeepers, and I think it is unconstitutional that in the same Session we should have another Bill brought in. The other Bill was unfortunately talked out, and it was a great misfortune for the small shopkeepers, but is it not unconstitutional to bring in another Bill in opposition to a decision which the House of Commons has already expressed? I join issue with what the hon. Member for Woolwich said in every word of his speech. There is a strong feeling in favour of the small shopkeeper. I have received many letters, and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Percy) has received hundreds of letters from others in favour of this.
Mr. DAWES: Why do not we get them?
Mr. MACQUISTEN: I do not know. I did not get hundreds, but I got a number. The position of the small shop-keeper is totally different from that of the large shopkeeper. I do not want to repeat what I said in the House, but the explanation of all these attempts to limit the hours of labour is because there are so many large corporations and large stores, with large numbers of assistants, and there is the tendency of the capitalist to exploit his assistants, but the small shopkeeper cannot exploit or oppress himself, and why should he not work as many hours as he wants? We are to be told, on the ca'canny principle, that one man can keep the others open, but is not that how the world has progressed, that one man is prepared to work harder than another? How would the hon. Member for Wool wich like it if he in his practice, or the Home Secretary in his practice, was interfered with, with his clerks, and told they were not to read their papers longer than a certain time because somebody did not like working longer hours?
Mr. SHORTT: I should like it very much.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: There would be no progress in the world at all, and we 796 should be in the position of those Central African tribes, where nobody goes out to hunt singly, because if he does and brings home a carcase, he has to divide it with all the rest of the tribe. The result is that they hunt en masse and the tribe is always in a state of misery and starvation. This principle could be applied to the small-holder, and the market gardener, and to every other industry. There is no substance in it. I wish to see the small shopkeeper get a handicap at the expense of the large shopkeeper, because the large shopkeeper is generally a commercially-minded man, with perhaps higher business talents and plenty of capital, and probably greater business training. The small man may not have the same mercantile skill, but he is the individualist and the individual man, and the curse of our modern civilisation is that we have too many employees and two few individualists. That is why our social system is unstable, because men go every week-end lifting a wage without having any stake in the country. All legislation should tend to multiply the individualist. In a country from which I do not wish to make an analogy, because I mean Germany, Prince Bismarck had a most beneficent provision against the large shopkeepers. The taxation was differentiated. A man who had one shop paid the lowest scale of taxation. If he had two shops he paid on the second scale of taxation, which was much higher; and if he had three shops the rate became higher still, with the result that if he had very many shops taxation exterminated him, and he could not go on developing. That is the principle I would like to see encouraged here. I want to see as many men here as possible who own no master. That is the case in the Scottish Highlands, and that is why Lord Leverhulme is having his difficulties, because the Highlander does not want to be a wage-earner, but an individualist. He wants to be his own master, to close or open his shop when he chooses, to do his fishing when he pleases, and not to be constantly dependent upon the blow of the whistle, or the ring of the bell, or the blast of the steam-horn. I say that this measure which is proposed, unless you give the small man his freedom, is striking a blow at individualism, and you are passing a measure which is entirely in favour of the big combine and the big capitalist. You are 797 striking a blow at the possibility of restoring greater political health and social strength to our community by leaving the individual to develop his own personality. I should prefer the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Percy). That was agreed to by the House of Commons, and I do not think it is for this Committee to overturn that decision.
Mr. SHORTT: I shall certainly ask the Committee to reject this Amendment. In the first place, it is an Amendment which is not in favour of the small, single shopkeeper in the main. It is an Amendment in favour of that small, selfish few who do not care what happens to their neighbours, but mean to make money as quickly as they can themselves. The only way in which a measure of this kind can be effective is by treating all alike. I do not want to weary the Committee with the arguments that have been heard before, but it is evident that, if you allow one small shop to keep open, all the others are forced to do so, whether they like it or not. It is no good saying that there is freedom of choice in a case of that kind. I remember a great Judge once saying that a man had freedom of choice as to whether he took a job or not, even if the alternative were starvation; but that is not freedom of choice. When a man knows that, unless he keeps open until 10 or 11 at night, his selfish neighbours will collar all the trade, it is idle to say that that man has freedom of choice. In addition to that, this is an absolutely new principle. We had a Shop Hours Bill brought in in 1912. It was thoroughly debated; it became an Act; and there is no provision there for the single owner of a shop. Indeed, any Order made under that Act applies to him just as it applies to anyone else. What is this Bill that is now before the Committee? It is a Bill brought in merely to keep the existing state of things going until the whole matter can be properly discussed and considered and threshed out. I know that a Bill was before the House of Commons a little while ago, and I know that an Amendment somewhat of the nature of this one was carried in the House. I was not in charge of that Bill, but I have no doubt that it would not have been proceeded with any further by its promoters. The whole good of it was gone after that Amendment had been inserted, in the 798 opinion of those who were in favour of that Bill. This Bill is merely one to keep things going until the whole matter can be threshed out and permanent legislation passed. The war has taught us that these regulations are approved of by the very large majority of those concerned. My hon. Friend quoted me as saying that this Bill was for the benefit of those employed in shops; but I did not use the term "employed" in the narrow sense of meaning merely the wage-earner. By "people who are employed" I meant people whose occupation is in the retail trade. It includes just as many owners of shops as assistants. I would ask the Committee to recollect that this is upsetting the whole existing state of things. It is putting upon a permanent footing something which the House would not have looked at in 1912. I ask the Committee to reject this Amendment for two reasons. Firstly, it is not really in favour of the small shopkeepers as a class. It is greatly to the detriment of the majority of them, and is simply for the benefit of a few selfish people who would sacrifice the whole of their class for their own ends. In the second place, it is introducing a totally new principle into our shop legislation, and one which ought to be far more carefully considered than it has been in connection with this Amendment. This Bill is only temporary; it is introduced merely in order to give time to consider this amongst other questions.
Mr. SPENCER: So far as the party with whom I am associated are concerned, we are delighted to hear what the Home Secretary has said. No case has been made out for this Amendment. In order to do so, two points should have been cleared up. In the first place, it ought to have been shown that at least a large majority of the shopkeepers of this description desire this Amendment. There has not been any attempt to show that, and as a matter of fact I think the reverse would be found to be the case. Personally, I have spoken only to one man—an ex-Service man, who has a small shop for the sale of chocolates and newspapers. He now closes at eight o'clock, and he says, "I do not want to stay open another minute longer; eight o'clock is quite sufficient. I am here before 7 in the morning to sell my papers, and I am here till 8 o'clock at night. That is quite sufficient for me. I do not want any pro- 799 vision for me or anyone else to keep a shop open longer than that." That is only one instance, and it may be taken for what is worth. I should not like to draw the deduction that everyone would say the same thing, but that is one case. The Home Secretary has said that, if this amendment be accepted, this man to whom I have referred, if his neighbour be allowed to keep open and sell papers and chocolates, would himself have to do the same thing against his will. Therefore, you penalise him in order to give an advantage to someone else who desires to stay open a little longer. The second thing that ought to be shown is that they would all suffer unless these shops are allowed to remain open. I do not think any attempt has been made to show that. Those of us who know small shopkeepers best, know that they are more or less in the back parts of our towns and villages, and that to a large extent they derive their advantages from, if I may say so respectfully, the most improvident section of the community. The most respectable artisan does notvery often go to a small shop; he goes either to the larger shops or to the Co-operative Stores. In the districts to which I am referring, the person who goes to the small shop late at night is some Mrs. Gamp, who continually goes there late because she knows that the shop will be open until the last thing at night; and I believe I am stating a fact when I say that there were shopkeepers who even had to wait and say, "Has Mrs. So-and-so been?" At half past ten or eleven when the shops were open till that time they had to wait until the customer came, because they did not want to offend her by closing. If the shop must be closed, she will have to come earlier and do her business before that time at night. Instead of small shopkeepers suffering, I venture to state that they will derive considerable advantage from the provision that the shop must close at eight. If this Amendment were accepted it would mean that one section would be allowed to stay open, that is to say, the people who employ no assistants. An attempt has béen 800 made to make out a case on their behalf; but if you take two shops that are side by side, one with no assistants and the other with an assistant, and you say that the shop which has no assistant may keep open while the shop which has an assistant must close, you will immediately evoke an agitation for keeping the other shop open, and therefore, sooner or later, you are going to affect the assistant who is employed in that shop. Who are the assistants in these shops? Many of them are ex-soldiers, and you would be affecting them. For these reasons I sincerely hope that the Committee will reject the Amendment.
Major BARNETT: I should like to reinforce by one argument what has been said by the Home Secretary. An entirely false antithesis has been set up by my hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Amendment and by the hon. and learned Member who supported it, between the big shop with many assistants and the little shop. That is not the real contrast at all under this Amendment. It is the one referred to by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Spencer), that is to say, between the little shop with no assistant at all and the little shop with, perhaps, one assistant. What is going to be the effect of this Amendment, if carried, on the one assistant in the little shop next door to the shop that is allowed to be open all the time? A struggling employer finds that his rival next door, because he works the shop with his own family, is allowed to remain open, and he will say to his assistant, "I am sorry, but you will have to go; I cannot afford to face this competition."
Mr. MACQUISTEN: Take him into partnership.
Major BARNETT: As a result of that, many people will be thrown out of employment. That is not what my hon. and gallant Friend wants, but it is going to be the effect.
Question put, "That the words proposed be there inserted."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 4; Noes, 21.
|Division No. 1.]||AYES|
|Kiley, James D.||Percy, Charles||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Macqulsten, F. A.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Greig, Colonel James William||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Hailwood, Augustine||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hirst, G. H.||Spencer, George A.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Morrison, Hugh||Wignall, James|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Myers, Thomas||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 (Short title, extent, and duration), ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of section seven of The Shops Act, 1912.—[Mr. Kiley.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. KILEY: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I should like just to read the opening part of Section 7 of the Act of 1912. It runs as follows:— "Where it appears to the Secretary of State, on the representation of the local authority or a joint representation from a substantial number of occupiers of shops and shop assistants in the area of the local authority, that it is expedient to ascertain the extent to which there is a demand for early closing in any locality, and to promote and facilitate the making of a closing Order therein, the Secretary of State may appoint a competent person to hold a local inquiry." The rest of the Section goes on to out line the procedure which would enable any local authority in any district where there is a demand, on the part either of the local authority itself or of a substantial number of the shopkeepers, to fix such hours of closing, such a half day for holidays, and such conditions of trading, as may be applicable to that district. I prefer legislation of that type to any uniform proposal that will be adopted under this Bill. I need not spend much time in outlining the advantages of that method of procedure. What is useful and suitable for the district of Westminster, which one might describe as an entirely residential district, with plenty of facilities and accommodation for those who desire to do their shopping under certain conditions and within certain hours, would not be suitable for other districts. Let us take, for instance, a district such as Wapping, where there is a large amount of casual labour.
Mr. SHORTT: May I assist my hon. Friend to this extent. There is nothing 802 so far as I know in this Bill which affects Section 7. The promoters of this Bill have no intention of affecting Section 7. The intention is that it should remain as it is to-day. Existing orders do not affect Section 7 at all. If my hon. Friend thinks there is anything in the Bill which in any way affects Section 7 and he will point it out for me, I will have it put right on Report.
Mr. KILEY: Suppose the local authority of Wapping decides that certain shops shall keep open until 9 o'clock at night, are they permitted to do so?
Mr. SHORTT: Oh no.
Mr. KILEY: There are places where the people are paid per shift and have no means of buying their commodities before they go to their work, or where, as in many cases, they have no means to store their food if they buy it and the object of my Clause is to enable such a district to accommodate itself to that condition. Many of these people have not got much cupboard room and so forth. It means a good deal of hardship in these places There are also, it may be, seaside districts where they get a rush of population at certain times, and where people have to make their purchases on the spot. It may be argued: "Let them buy at the places whence they start, and let them take their commodities along with them." That is absurd. It is to meet cases of that kind that I propose this new Clause, which will enable each locality to settle its own peculiar conditions in its own way. The Home Secretary has made a great point that the shopkeepers are now practically agreed as to what conditions suit them and their trade. This will meet the difficult case of the shopkeepers in an area like Wapping, or any of the great districts in the harvesting time when people work long hours. The local authority of that district can make such rules and regulations as will enable them to meet the reasonable requirements of these people. This in no way, I think, interferes with the object the Home Secretary has in view in the Bill. At the same time, 803 it will permit each locality to decide what best suits the convenience of that locality.
Mr. SHORTT: Either this new Clause is quite useless and unnecessary, or else it is intended to defeat the whole object of the Clause we have just passed.
Mr. KILEY: No, it is not.
Mr. SHORTT: As I understand Section 7, and as it was understood by the House when it was passed, its object was to enable people in any locality to close at an earlier hour than that laid down by the ordinary law.
Mr. KILEY: There was no law.
Mr. SHORTT: There is nothing in Section 7 which was ever intended to say that people in any district could fix a later hour than any law brought into effect in regard to the shops. Section 7 will remain. If it is to be treated as defeating the whole of Clause 1, then it is simply asking the Committee to reconsider what it has done, and to make Clause 1 practically useless in many areas. If the Amendment is not to do that, it is quite unnecessary, because, after all, whatever Section 7 may be, the Bill leaves it as it stands.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: This is just a classic sample of the bureaucratic attempt to bring about perfect symmetry irrespective of local government or local conditions. If there be anything in the nature of "self-determination"—to use a much abused phrase—it is surely here! The local authority knows the local circumstances, say, beside the docks where men come out of the shop in shifts; or watering places where the people come down and under the conditions suggested may in the present state of traffic have to carry huge picnic baskets. If there be one thing which we should encourage it is these local places to have their own conditions and hours, and this Bill is going to deprive them of that opportunity. We have the case put up of the objection of the small shopkeeper, and of the lady who always comes in late, Mrs. Somebody or the other, to do her shopping. It may be that she has a large family and a fractious child, and cannot get out at all till it is late. Circumstances of this kind have never been considered. Here is a Clause to give power to the local people who 804 know the circumstances to have the hours to suit themselves, and why the Home Office or even this great Government should interfere is beyond me. I cannot understand it.
Captain TUDOR-REES: I understand the Home Secretary to say that nothing in this Bill or any regulation will affect Section 7 of the Act of 1912. If that be so, I want to put this point. If this Section still operates, will it be competent for any local authority to proceed under it, and if they do not, will it be competent for the Home Secretary to make the order referred to in that Section?
Sir C. WARNER: There was, I think, a statement—I cannot quite remember it— when this matter was debated in the Commons to the effect that this Section 7 was not simply for making the hours earlier but was for altering the hours; not to make them longer but later in some cases so long as the total hours were not exceeded.
Mr. SHORTT: I remember, but I do not think it was so."
Sir C. WARNER: There was the case of altering the hours and of keeping them quite as short. There were cases in which the traders wished to keep open till a different time at night.
Mr. SHORTT: My recollection is not the same as my hon. Friend's. On referring to the title of the Clause it says, "Local inquiries for the purpose of promoting and facilitating early closing." That was the object of the Section. My recollection is that it was put forward for that purpose, and still exists for that purpose. Under the regulations which exist to-day, and which we ask should exist till the end of next year, and no longer, the shops close at eight during the week and nine on Saturdays. Any local authority, if the people there close at seven instead of eight, can still make that order, which is for early closing. That means earlier than the regular hour now in existence.
Mr. KILEY: I hope the Committee will realise the object of the 1912 Act. There were many shopkeepers who kept open to hours at night which were unreasonable. There was no power of compelling these shopkeepers to close earlier. Under the 1912 Act it was enacted that, after an inquiry, if two-thirds of a par- 805 ticular trade satisfied the Home Secretary that there was a legitimate demand in the district for earlier closing, and that instead of permitting shops to remain open till twelve o'clock, six o'clock on certain days of the week would meet all that was necessary, with one or two nights till nine or ten o'clock, that that should come about. In regard to the special circumstances, such as harvest time or holidays, special exceptions could be made. Under this Bill, if passed, whether there are holidays or not, no shopkeeper will be able to keep open without the risk of being taken to the police court and being fined. I hope the Home Secretary will not think I am unreasonable in persisting in this Clause.
Mr. WSGNALL: We have heard much as to what is contained in and what is meant by the 1912 Act. I always understood that Parliament made a provision for a certain closing time, but if the majority in a district desired to close even earlier they had the power to do so. I have known in my experience where there has been a real demand on the part of a great majority for this, and by a manufactured agitation the whole thing has been destroyed. If this Amendment be allowed to go through it is going to destroy all the good work of the past. It is going to destroy every effort to maintain early closing. We hear all this talk about facili-
|Division No. 2.]||AYES|
|Kiley, James D.||Macquisten, F. A.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Greig, Colonel James William||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Hirst, G. H.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Morrison, Hugh||Spencer, George A.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh)||Wignall, James|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)|
The CHAIRMAN: The new Clause of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Percy)—(Limitation of the hours of employment)—is clearly outside the scope of the Bill. This is a Bill dealing; entirely with the early closing of shops.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: Surely that has a bearing on the Bill. It is very unfortunate that this should not be allowed. It goes to the root of the whole question of the closing of shops. If you limit the806
ties for shopping, but if you keep your shops open till 11 o'clock at night you will hear people saying that they ought to be kept open until midnight. The war has taught us to adapt ourselves to altered circumstances. Nobody has been very much handicapped by early closing. We do not want to go back to the old, wicked, wilful conditions of the past. All these lovers of freedom here to-day have made marvellous speeches. We have heard about the scrapping of rules, regulations, and laws, and of the freedom of the subject to do as he likes. It is a wonder to me that the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macquisten) does not go to some island or place where there are no such rules and regulations. We are living under civilised conditions.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: Glasgow.
Mr. WIGNALL: I thought it could not be Edinburgh. I can understand a lot when my hon. Friend says he represents Glasgow. I beg his pardon. Still, these constituencies are Scottish. However, I do hope the Committee will reject this Amendment, because it will be a very serious defect in the Bill.
Question put "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 3; Noes, 19.
hours of labour to 48, you limit the hours of shops.
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Gentleman has added nothing to my information. I think it is entirely outside the scope of the Bill.
Mr. MACQUISTEN: I will raise this point of Order.
Mr. PERCY: I am quite content with your decision, Mr. Turton, and bow to it.807
1.—(a) Every shop shall be closed for the serving of customers not later than 8 o'clock in the evening on every day other than Saturday and not later than 9 o'clock in the evening on Saturday, and in the case of a contravention of this provision the occupier of the shop and any manager, agent, servant, or other person by whom the contravention has in fact been committed shall be liable to a penalty; and
(b) Any person who carries on in any place not being a shop any retail trade or business after 8 o'clock in the evening on any day other other than Saturday or after 9 o'clock in the evening on Saturday shall be liable to a penalty.
This Order shall not prevent—
The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. C. D. Murray): I beg to move, in paragraph 3, after the word "apply," to insert the words "to any fair lawfully held or." This is a drafting error, per incuriam, as this Scottish Order does not conform to the English Order, Part I. of the Schedule, in this respect.
Major BARNETT: I do not really wish to oppose this admirable Amendment, but may I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to give an explanation of the words "blaeberries" and "loganberries" in the list of exempted fruits. These are foreign words—
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. and gallant Member will have the opportunity, when I put the Schedule, of raising any question about loganberries.809
Mr. KILEY: Do I understand that, if we agree to this, it will be possible to get ice-creams, chocolates and other sweets at fairs and bazaars without restriction?
Mr. SHORTT: Just as it is now.810
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to. Bill, with Amendment, ordered to be reported to the House.
Committee rose at Seventeen minutes after Twelve noon.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Mr. Turton (Chairman)
Baird, Sir John
Doyle, Mr. Grattan
Greene, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Raymond
Hope, Sir Harry
Morrison, Mr. Hugh
Murray, Mr. C. D.
Rees, Captain Tudor-
Warner, Sir Courtenay
Wood, Sir Kingsley
Young, Mr. Robert