HC Deb 08 December 1911 vol 32 cc1828-34

(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority to enforce within the district the provisions of this Act and of the orders made thereunder, and for that purpose to institute and carry on such proceedings in respect of failures to comply with or contraventions of this Act and the orders made thereunder as may be necessary to secure the observance thereof, and to appoint inspectors, and an inspector so appointed shall, for the purposes of his powers and duties, have in relation to shops all the powers conferred in relation to factories and workshops on inspectors by Section one hundred and nineteen of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, and that Section and Section one hundred and twenty-one of the same Act shall apply accordingly, and an inspector may, if so authorised by the local authority, institute and carry on any proceedings under this Act on behalf of the authority.

(2) Every local authority shall send to the Secretary of State before the first day of March in each year a report containing the prescribed particulars with respect to the administration of this Act in their district during the year ending on the preceding thirty-first of December.

(3) A local authority for the purposes of this Act means— as respects any municipal borough, the borough council; as respects any urban district with a population of twenty thousand or upwards, the district council; elsewhere the county council.

(4) The expenses of a local authority under this Act shall, save as otherwise expressly provided, be defrayed— in the case of the London County Council, as expenses for general county purposes; in the case of any other county council, as expenses for special county purposes; in the case of a borough council, out of the borough fund or borough rate; in the case of an urban district council, as part of the general expenses incurred in the execution of the Public Health Acts.

(5) Any two or more local authorities may combine for any of the purposes of this Act, and may for that purpose appoint a joint committee in accordance with Section eighty-one of the Local Government Act, 1888, and accordingly that Section shall apply to all local authorities in like manner as to county councils.

Amendment proposed: In Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "this Act" ["the provisions of this Act"], and to insert instead thereof the words "the Shops Regulation Acts, 1892 to 1911."


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain this Amendment. As the Bill came down from the Committee, there was no reference to any other authority, and Section 19 made it quite clear what authorities were to administer this Act. This Amendment substitutes for the words "this Act" the comprehensive phrase "the Shops Regulation Acts, 1892 to 1911." A further Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman goes on to provide,

(2) A local authority for the purposes of this Act and of the Shop Hours Act, 1892, shall be the same as a local authority for the purposes of the Shop Hours Act, 1901, and the expenses of all local authorities under the Shops Regulation Acts, 1892 to 1911, shall be defrayed in like manner as expenses of local authorities under the Shop Hours Act, 1904, are defrayed.

Really we cannot find out what are the authorities under the Act of 1904, and if these are to be the authorities under this Act why not state what they are instead of referring back in this way. The Amendments provide that the authorities under the 1892 Act and the 1904 Act and this Act shall be the same authorities. Under the 1892 Act the authorities are the council of any county or borough, and in the city of London the common council; therefore you have got as far as London is concerned the county council and the city corporation. Outside London the authority will be the borough council or the county council. I think that is fairly clear as far as the 1892 Act is concerned. Then there is the 1904 Act to which we are now referred, and this is the Section which will tell us what are to be the authorities to administer this Act and the 1892 Act. In the 1904 Act the expression local authority means in London outside the city the Metropolitan borough council, and elsewhere an urban district with a population according to the census of 1901 of 20,000, and any council or other authority having power to appoint inspectors under the Act of 1892. We are first of all in this Act referred to 1904 and then to 1892, and the effect of it is that for the purpose of the 1904 Act any authority which had power to appoint inspectors under the 1892 Act shall be the authority under the 1904 Act. Under the 1892 Act the county council had power to appoint inspectors, and so did the urban district council, and under this 1911 Act you are going to say that the same people are to have those powers. I am quite unable myself, in reading this Section, to find out who are the authorities. Why not state exactly what is meant by the authorities in this Bill. If there is no reason why we should go all round in this way let us stick to the words in the Bill as it came down from the Grand Committee.


I think if this Bill passed into law in the form in which it is now it would be one of the worst on the Statute Book. The Bill is going to another place, and clarifying Amendments can be introduced there. I agree with a good deal of what the hon. Member for Stepney has said, but may I point out that in practice the difficulties are not so formidable. The county council, under the old Act, did appoint officers for the purpose of inspection. Under the Act of 1904 borough councils only have to make inquiries with a view to closing orders being approved, and they made inquiries through the officers of the present council. Westminster did that, and this was the case with the borough of Stepney, and no additional appointments were required, and there was no increase of staff for the purpose. But now we are having the double authority. The County Council of London and the borough councils are brought in for the first time. When this Bill goes to another place the thing ought to be dove-tailed instead of making this legislation by reference, because there cannot be anything worse than that. This is to be a popular Bill to be "understanded of the people," and the more explicit the Statute is the better. Now that the opportunity has occurred and this Bill is going elsewhere there will be time to clear up the doubts and make this provision as clear as it can be, and this will be not only to the advantage of the traders but to the advantage of the local authorities as well.


This difficulty arises owing to the fact that the Bill is not any longer a Consolidation Bill. We have left out all the consolidation part of the Bill, and, therefore, we are bound to refer to the authorities who are charged with these powers under various other Acts. I do think there are great advantages from the point of view of drafting to have the authorities who are charged with the administration of the Act carefully and plainly stated upon the face of the Bill. I could not do it now, but I will have it most carefully considered with a view of seeing whether the wish of the House cannot be met by introducing a clear definition in another place.


May I ask my right hon. Friend whether what he is going to get embodied in his Act will be the authorities specified in Clause 19. That is what we want here.


Yes, that is so.


And the purposes for which they act.

Question, "That the words 'this Act' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Words "The Shops Regulation Acts, 1892 to 1911" there inserted.

Further Amendments made: In Sub-section (1), leave out the words "this Act" ["contraventions of this Act,"] and insert instead thereof the words "those Acts."

Leave out Sub-sections (2), (3), (4), and (5), and insert instead thereof the following new Sub-section, (2) A local authority for the purposes of this Act and of the Shop Hours Act, 1892, shall be the same as a local authority for the purposes of the Shop Hours Act, 1904, and the expenses of all local authorities under the Shops Regulation Acts, 1892 to 1911, shall be defrayed in like manner as expenses of local authorities under the Shop Hours Act, 1904, are defrayed. Provided that for the purposes of all the said Acts the local authority in London outside the City shall be the London County Council.


I beg to move, after the words last inserted, to add the words, A county council may delegate to the council of any urban or rural district, not being a local authority within the meaning of the Shop Hours Act, 1904, its powers as a local authority under this Act within the area of such urban or rural district council. Where powers are delegated hereunder the expenses of any local authority to which such powers are delegated shall be defrayed in like manner as the general expenses of such local authority. I think it is pretty clear what a local authority is as defined by the Act of 1904. In London, outside the City, it means the Metropolitan borough council, and elsewhere the council of an urban district council, which, by the Census of 1901, has a population of 20,000. It will be observed the smallest unit of local management is an urban district of 20,000 souls. Everything less than that will be thrown upon the county council, and the inspectors will have to be appointed by the county council. The work will have to be done by the county councils, and the expenses will have to be borne by the county rates. There are an enormous number of places where the work could not only be better done locally, but where it ought to be done locally, and the expense of it borne locally, and not put upon the county rates. It must be manifest it will be more convenient that the inspector should be appointed by the authority which has charge of the locality. The powers of delegation which I propose by the Amendment are similar to those which have been created under the 1904 Act. The local authority is defined by the Clause, and I ask for powers of delegation by the county council to smaller local authorities, and that where there is such delegation the smaller local authority shall bear the expense as if it were the local authority.


I beg to second the Amendment. It is one of a very important character, and has been very strongly urged by the representatives of the local authorities. The inconvenience of confining delegation to those districts only which have 20,000 inhabitants by the Census of 1901 will be found, in practice, to be very great, and may cause a very great deal of dissatisfaction and some friction. Only this morning I came across the legal adviser of one of these local bodies, and he told me that in Kent there are several of these districts where there ought to be the power of delegation for the administration of the Shop Hours Act. It would greatly facilitate getting closing orders which has been so very much urged. At a later stage the right hon. Gentleman proposes to leave out Clause 32, which excepts certain parishes in rural districts. He has provided no machinery for the administration of this Act in rural districts except the county council, no matter how numerous the population, how wide the county may be from one end to the other. It is clearly necessary there should be these powers of delegation to the local authority. I quite agree there has been no time for the expert advisers to give an exact legal construction of some of the Amendments, but I think, at any rate, we might agree on the principle of the power of delegation in addition to the powers which already exist in the Acts of 1902 and 1904, and insert that in the Bill. If it is a mere matter of drafting, that at any rate could be put right in another place.


I agree with the substance of the proposal. I think there should be power of delegation and that that power of delegation should operate not only outside, but also inside London in the case of the Metropolitan boroughs, if desirable. To achieve that object the Amendment, I think, should be made in the next Clause, which I had proposed to leave out, but to meet the point raised by the hon. Member I will not move to omit Clause 20; I will instead move an Amendment which will give effect to the purpose he has in view.


I take it there will be no delegation without the consent of those to whom the authority is delegated. Some authorities may not care to have it.


I hope power will be retained for the central authority to frame general regulations.


There are similar powers of delegation given under Clause 20, which contains what seems to me to be a very valuable provision. I think that should be retained.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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