HC Deb 08 December 1911 vol 32 cc1840-3

Nothing in this Act shall prevent customers from being served at a time when the shop in which they are sold is required to be closed under Part II. of this Act, or on Sunday, with victuals, stores, or, other necessaries for a ship, on her arrival at or before her departure from a port, or shall prevent a shop assistant from serving customers as aforesaid at a time when the shop is closed, notwithstanding that he may be employed for the purpose contrary to the provisions of Part I. of this Act, if within a fortnight from being so employed he is allowed an equivalent reduction in his hours of employment.


I beg to move, to leave out Clause 29.

4.0 P.M.

My argument is that this Clause provides an entirely unnecessary loophole of exemption from the early closing provisions. It is quite a mistake to suppose that we are making early closing compulsory for all shops. When the House looks at the exemptions in the Second Schedule dealing with the provisions as to early closing, they will see it is unnecessary to have this third exemption in Clause 29. Clause 29 provides that in the event of a ship entering port on an early closing day anyone may get exemption so long as they are asked to supply necessaries for the ship "on her arrival at or before her departure from" the port. I suppose that means, in plain English, that anyone in a seaport town who goes into a shop and says, "I want something which is necessary for a ship," is entitled to get it and that that shop is entitled to keep open on the early closing day for the purpose of providing those necessaries. What possible check can you have in practice in a district of that sort? A man goes into a shop, and says, "I want something for a ship." The Clause says it must be for a ship before her departure from a port. Who is likely to go for the necessaries after she has gone? I do not see the value of the words "before her departure." If it said, "immediately before her departure" it would be better. I suppose that what was in the minds of the draftsmen was that you might have a ship getting into Cardiff early on the closing day and going out before the early closing day was over, but one answers that by saying that if the ship is there, it will be before her departure. Apart from that, what is the good of enacting exemptions such as these? Let the House see what anybody may get. There is intoxicating liquors. I do not suggest they would be wanted for the ship. Exemption is given for the sale of refreshments, including the business carried on at the railway refreshment room, for the sale of motor, cycle, and aircraft supplies and accessories, newspapers and periodicals, meat, fish, milk, cream, bread, confectionery, fruit, vegetables, flowers and other articles of a perishable nature. All these things are outside the present compulsory early closing day provisions and anybody may obtain these whether they want them for a ship or not. Why you want to throw an obligation on the shopowner in a seaport to say, "I cannot supply you unless you assure me that what you ask for is necessary for the ship," I do not know. The provision is quite unnecessary; it is another loophole to enable people who want to take advantage of their law-abiding competitors to escape the obligation of the early closing day. Seeing that the Second Schedule is unfortunately so wide, I ask the House to say there is no need for this extra exemption.


I beg to Second the Amendment.


Now that the Bill has shrunken from its original dimensions to such a very small size, I am bound to say that the dangers against which this provision was designed to guard are very remote, and only very peculiar circumstances would call them into existence. I do not think the provision can now be said to be practically necessary, and after the speech of my hon. Friend, which I think was very convincing and quite well-founded, if it is the will of the House I shall be prepared to accept the Amendment.


The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that he is now First Lord of the Admiralty. There are other things required for the sea than those mentioned in the Schedule. Ships want stores. What the Clause is wanted for now is the case of a ship which comes into a port on an early closing Saturday, let us say a coasting vessel, she wants oil for her lights and cordage to replace that which has been carried away, and ship's stores of that kind. They may find every shop closed, and the vessel may have to lie in port till Monday morning and thus lose part of her voyage, because the lack of stores prevents her from proceeding. This is a serious matter for the sea-coast, but a small matter from the general point of view of the Bill. I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that the ways of the sea are not the ways of the land. Tide and time wait for no man. Considerations of that kind should be taken into account in order to make it a practical measure, so that it will not prevent the shops supplying the smaller necessaries required for ships. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to stand by the decision of the Committee and not give way to what seems to be very weak and unnecessary sentiment in the matter.


Without improving on the romantic eloquence of the hon. Gentleman I want to make a practical suggestion that the First Lord should keep the Clause in and see in another place whether it can be amended so as to provide for an exceptional case. There is a grave danger in taking it out altogether, though I agree generally with the arguments of the hon. Gentleman opposite.


To give a practical instance, if a fleet of smacks comes in on a weekly half-holiday and wants to purchase gear the whole fleet is held up for a day, and if it is a Saturday they are held up till some time on Monday morning, which may be a very serious matter.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: Leave out the words "under Part II. of this Act, or on Sunday."

Leave out the words "or shall prevent a shop assistant from serving customers as aforesaid at a time when the shop is closed, notwithstanding that he may be employed for the purpose contrary to the provisions of Part I. of this Act, if within a, fortnight of being so employed he is allowed an equivalent reduction in his hours of employment.—[Mr. Churchill.]