§ 40. Captain BARNETT
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the fact that the new Shop-Closing Order allows shops to remain open until 9 p.m. on Saturdays, the Order can be amended so as to make the closing hour on the other days of the week 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., as at present proposed?
§ 83. Sir CLEMENT KINLOCH-COOKE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the closing of all shops at 7 p.m. must cause inconvenience to a large body of persons, more especially to women engaged in clerical work; that in many cases it will necessitate women giving up working overtime and so lowering their weekly wage; and can he see his 1287 way to modify the arrangements so as to allow of certain food shops remaining open until 7.45 p.m.?
The question of the effect of the Closing Order on the small shopkeepers and on the convenience of the working classes was very fully considered. After consultation with several of the largest local authorities and with the Labour Adviser of the Government, it was decided to fix the hours at 8 o'clock on Fridays, 9 on Saturdays, and 7 on the other days of the week. From some quarters earlier hours had been suggested, and they have, indeed, already been adopted in many places. The Order exempts the sale of meals to be consumed on the premises or newly-cooked provisions to be consumed off the premises. I would add that I have been pressed by the organisations representing the great retail trades to make this Order.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this regulation plays directly into the hands of the great firms and means absolute ruin to nine-tenths of the small traders?
I cannot accept that. After all, it only affects them on three days of the week as a rule. They are allowed to keep open till 9 o'clock on Saturdays, and till 8 on Fridays. On Sundays they are as a rule closed, and there is an early closing day for most of the shopkeepers, so it only applies on three days of the week.
§ Captain BARNETT
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I will raise the question this evening on the Adjournment.
§ 41. Major NEWMAN
asked under what Act the recent Order as to the early closing of shops has been made; and have the Government, before making the Order, considered the loss of trade that will be inflicted on suburban retail businesses whose customers are largely the class that only return to their homes after the new hour of closing, and, in the case of tobacconists, to the fact that intending purchasers will be diverted to licensed premises or clubs for the purchase of their tobacco?
The Order has been made under the powers conferred by No. 10b of the Defence of the Realm Regula- 1288 tions. The position of suburban businesses was carefully considered before the Order was made. It will not be permissible under the Order for licensed victuallers or other retail traders to sell tobacco after the hour at which tobacconists are required to close.
§ 67. Mr. BROOKES
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider the possibility of extending the hours during the Christmas holidays beyond those now laid down for the closing of the shops under his new Departmental Order?
Yes, Sir; this matter will certainly receive consideration. No reference was made to Christmas trade in the Order because I am anxious to consult the local authorities further on the point. A decision will be reached in good time.
§ 68. Mr. YEO
asked the Home Secretary if he has fully considered the injustice that will be inflicted upon the small shopkeeper who, under the new Regulations, will be obliged to close at 7 p.m.; if such places as picture palaces, theatres, public-houses, and bookstalls are to be permitted to sell such articles as are usually sold by the small shopkeeper as tobacco and confectionery after 7 p.m. when the shopkeeper is closed; and if he will cause all dealers in the same article to be placed on the same footing?
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. The Order is intended to place all retail trade under the same restrictions, subject to the exceptions specified in the terms of the Order itself. I am advised that it will not be permissible under the Order for tobacco and confectionery to be sold on premises such as are referred to by the hon. Member after the hour at which tobaconnists' and confectioners' shops are required to be closed.
That is a question similar to that which I have just answered. I think that the opposition on the part of certain traders is due to the fact that they 1289 are under a misapprehension which I have met in the answer to the question. They think that while they are closed certain competitors are open. That is not so.
Sir H. DALZIEL
Does that mean that a hotel or restaurant must not provide a cigar after closing time—after eight o'clock?
§ Mr. MCNEILL
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the retail confectionery trade depends largely upon the public amusements with which they are connected, and if public amusements are allowed to be open to a late hour, will there not be a great loss to that trade, and to a much greater extent to the tobacconist trade?
I can hardly accept that. On the questions generally of tobacconists and confectioners at a time when the most earnest appeals are made to the whole nation to avoid any form of unnecessary expenditure, I hardly think that the House would desire that a special exception should be made in order to enable tobacco and confectionery to be purchased up to a late hour.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Question Time has been extended on purpose to enable questions to be answered, and hon. Members really must not occupy time unduly with supplementary questions.