HC Deb 11 March 1924 vol 170 cc2141-5

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable persons to sell to the public Ice Cream and Mineral Waters between the hours of 9.30 p.m. and midnight, both on and off the premises. This is a very simple Bill, and its object is to encourage the development of ice cream and soda fountains in this country. That would be an undoubted benefit.


Is this Bill not for the benefit of aliens?


The idea is to develop the ice cream and soda water business so that the young people of the country can have an alternative to the public-house. Under the Shops (Early Closing) Act of 1921 you can sell mineral waters for consumption on the premises at all hours of the day, but you cannot sell mineral waters for consumption off the premises after 9.30 p.m. you can sell ice cream, if part of a meal, after 9.30 on the premises, but if it is not part of a meal it cannot be sold after 9.30 by caterers or by anyone else. That is a purely vexatious infringement of the liberties of people. I hope that the Bill will be given facilities to pass. The Bill would not entail longer hours for shop assistants. Caterers have their caterers' licences now, and can keep their premises open until 10 or 10.30, but they are not now allowed to sell these two commodities after 9.30 p.m. In the summer, when daylight saving is in operation, 9.30 by the clock is really 8.30 by the sun, and the sale of these commodities is really stopped at 8.30 p.m. Caterers nowadays often get their ice cream from big manufacturers. There is enough ice packed round the cream to last a day. If the cream is not sold at the end of the day it melts during the night, bacteria develop in the melted cream, and on the following morning it is mixed with fresh ice cream and sold to customers, who, of course, absorb the bacteria. Had the ice cream been sold the previous evening when it was still in a frozen state the germs would not have been able to develop.

I believe it was an official of the Ministry of Health who once said that ice cream was one of the finest articles of food that one could have. In the summer we are to have the Wembley Exhibition open. I wonder what will be thought by our friends from the Dominions and Crown Colonies, and by foreigners from all over the world, when they find that they are not allowed to sit in a café and obtain ice cream when they want it, or, if they wish to entertain their friends at home in the evening, that they cannot get the mineral waters they require. Under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act of 1920 a caterer is not allowed to sell refreshments off the premises after 9.30 except newly-cooked provisions, tripe or soft goods. The definition of soft fruit, however, includes plums, but not pears; apricots, but not apples. Tobacco supplied at a meal for immediate consumption was deemed to form part of the meal, though the ordinary tobacconist was not allowed to sell it. Ice cream, on the other hand, or sweets or other sugar confectionery, could not be sold, because they were expressly excluded from the definition of the term "refreshments." Then came the Act of 1921, providing that fruit, table waters, sweets, chocolates, or other sugar confectionery (but not tobacco) might be sold till 9.30 on week-days other than Saturdays, and till 10 p.m. on Saturdays. So now the shopkeeper has three time-tables. Up to 8 o'clock he can sell all sorts of refreshments. After eight o'clock he can sell only newly-cooked provisions, tripe, fruit, confectionery, and table waters. After 9.30 he may sell certain kinds of fruit and newly-cooked provisions or tripe, but after 8 o'clock it is an offence to sell for consumption off the premises bread and cheese, saveloys, ham, corned beef, meat pies, tarts, biscuits. After 9.30 it is an offence to sell for consumption oft the premises a bottle of ginger beer, lemonade, or an ice cream.

I agree that it is humorous to think that, with a perfectly sane Constitution and a well-regulated House of Commons, Regulations which make us all roar with laughter when they are recited should have been allowed to get on to the Statute Book. These particular Regulations are still in operation. The Bill contains only one Clause, which provides that mineral waters and ice cream shall be sold at all hours of the day. It would be an incentive to temperance. In the provision of temperance drinks this country lags far behind others. In a constituency like that which I have the honour to represent people spend much time on the river in the summer, and the restrictions I have mentioned are irksome. You can buy beer and take it with you on the river, but you cannot get ginger-beer when you want it. These restrictions are absurd, and I hope that one day we shall have them entirely removed, and go back to the Shops (Early Closing) Act of 1912, under which local authorities could fix trading conditions and hours of opening.


I beg to oppose the Motion. I hope that the House will not be misled by the hon. Member's inordinate love of ice cream and soda water. It is a fact that if the sale of these commoditites were allowed until any time at night it would increase the hours of work of those who sell them.


They would not work any longer, because these caterers keep open now.


There has been issued to the Members of the House a circular which explains in detail the object of those who have requested the hon. Member to bring this Motion forward. In that circular, which has been issued by a person named Pompa, Secretary of the Ice Cream Vendors' Association, it is stated that the object of the Measure is to allow the sale of non-intoxicating liquors off the premises until any time at night. That sale now is not allowed after half past 9 o'clock. If, therefore, the sale of these articles is excluded from the present Order, the hours of those who sell them must also be extended.


You can buy them now on the premises after half past nine, but not off the premises.


I suggest that the Act of 1921 ought not to be niggled at in the fashion in which the hon. Member wishes. If there be anything wrong with the Act of 1921—and I am not disputing for a single moment that there are not difficulties In respect to it—those difficulties are not going to be overcome in the piecemeal manner in which the hon. Member seems to wish to deal with them. He is constantly asking the leave of the House to introduce Measures of this sort to try and alter the balance of the 1921 Act. He has even suggested that presently he may introduce a Measure to allow people to sell tripe after half-past nine at night. There should be a Committee of Inquiry into the working of the whole of the 1921 Act and the whole of the Shop Acts in order to safeguard the interests of those concerned, and those concerned are the shop assistants as much as anyone else. I therefore respectfully ask the House not to agree to this Bill being printed—it is a waste of public money—or to allow it to go abroad that the House considers that this reform is necessary without making proper inquiry.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Becker, Mr. Rawson, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy Gaunt, Mr. Cassels, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Penny, and Mr. Turner-Samuels.

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