HC Deb 24 July 1934 vol 292 cc1656-61

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to extend the facilities for shopping during the Christmas season, and for ether purposes connected therewith. The object of the Bill is to amend the Friendly Societies Act, 1896, the Shops Act, 1928, and the Road Traffic Act, 1930, in order to extend the peak shopping period of the year by increasing shopping facilities during the two weeks immediately preceding Christmas. It provides accordingly for the release of children from school during such period, for the suspension during such period of the provisions with regard to the general closing hours of shops and the restrictions on the hours during which drivers of road vehicles may remain continuously on duty, and that the dividing friendly societies shall share out their surplus funds before the period. This peak shopping period represents 12 shopping days immediately preceding Christmas day. The restrictions which are at present in operation interfere with the freedom of the country's trade at a time when traders hope to make good the deficiencies of the rest of the year. Sales of non-food merchandise during these 12 days represent substantially more than the average month's sale during the 11 months from January to November, and the sales are most intense during the five days before Christmas day. When this period comes about, serious congestion takes place. Some shops are overcrowded, and it is difficult for shopkeepers to cope with the enormous rush of buying. Passenger traffic facilities are overstrained, and the buying public are unable to move about with any degree of comfort. Goods traffic is also congested, preventing dealers from obtaining further supplies promptly to meet the rush of buying, and in many cases sales are lost.

The object of the Bill is to make this extra trade and employment possible, and so to confer on the country as a whole all the benefits which must arise from the very appreciable additions to its trade. There will always be people with a tendency to do Christmas shopping in the two or three days before Christmas, and no Bill can usefully attempt to deal with such a tendency, but there are other factors involved which to a great extent tend to increase the appalling rush of Christmas shopping on those days.


On a point of Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is reading his speech. Is that not against the rules of the House?


The hon. Member has, I think, what is very usual, rather extensive notes.


One of the most important factors is the date for the commencement of the school Christmas holidays, which is only two or three days before Christmas. The Bill suggests that the date might, with advantage to all concerned, be altered to a fortnight before Christmas, not alone for the tremendous benefit it would be to the trade of the country but also for the educational value to the scholars, who could visit the shops and inspect the exhibited displays of British-made goods and materials of a scientific nature, for after-school occupations.


These are very extensive notes.


The advantages to scholars and to the trade will be realised when it is known that there are about 6,000,000 scholars in the elementary and secondary schools. Another essential of Christmas shopping is money. The saving capacity of the British people has to be studied to be appreciated at its true magnitude. It is common knowledge that throughout the country dividing societies, tontines, savings clubs, and other organisations of a similar kind exist in many thousands, and their traditional method at present is to make their distributions within the last two or three trading days previous to Christmas Day. It is difficult to estimate the total amount so distributed in this period, but a conservative calculation puts the amount so made available for the special purpose of Christmas shopping at at least £5,000,000, and it very probably exceeds that figure.

Two other Clauses of the Bill are designed to provide a slightly larger degree of elasticity in the hours of employment of the staffs working in shops and of motor drivers concerned with the delivery of goods. It is intended that these Clauses should apply for the two weeks previous to Christmas Day, and their only effect is to remove statutory disqualifications for this short period. The Bill also provides for payment for the extra hours worked. There is no change in the date of the Christmas festival, and both of these conditions are part of the same organisation. It is not intended that the provisions of the Bill shall apply to Scotland, or to the North of Ireland. The Bill seeks to bring about important changes in many respects, and I hope that the House will agree to give it a First Reading, so that it may at least form the basis of a discussion as to whether it would help the country in the way which at present is of more importance than anything else, namely, by increasing trade and reducing unemployment.


The hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Hornby) intervenes so seldom in our Debates that I am rather reluctant to oppose his Bill, but I am going to do so. Really his Measure, so far as shop life in this country is concerned, is very much more revolutionary than he supposes. It breaks through the whole of the early closing arrangements under the Shops Acts. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman assumes that, if you give a fortnight to the children in which to do their shopping before Christmas, you will thereby increase the trade. Nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, if you gave them a month they would buy just the amount that is represented by the money they have available for spending, and, consequently, the Bill fails on that score. Let me point out something else to the hon. Gentleman. Every argument that he has employed this afternoon in favour of extending these provisions in the way that he has indicated would apply to Whitsuntide, to Easter, and to August Bank Holiday with almost more force than he has indicated in relation to Christmas.

There is one further argument that I want to put. To-day we have dealt with the last stage of a Bill to provide for restrictions on the employment of about 400,000 young persons in the distributive trades, and I can assure the House that, if we passed the hon. Gentleman's Bill this afternoon, it would practically destroy, for two weeks in the year, the work that we have completed within the last quarter of an hour on the Shops Bill. I feel sure that this Bill is on the wrong lines, and that, in common fairness to the shop assistants of this country—and there are 2,000,000 of them by the way, employed for wages in the distributive trades—it ought not to be allowed a. First Reading.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 115; Noes, 101.

Division No. 346] AYES [3.35 p.m.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Runge, Norah Cecil
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Boulton, W. W. Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Knox, Sir Alfred Savery, Samuel Servington
Brass, Captain Sir William Leech, Dr. J. W. Scone, Lord
Broadbent, Colonel John Lees-Jones, John Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Leigh, Sir John Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Levy. Thomas Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Loder, Captain J. de Vere Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Christie, James Archibald Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)
Clarke. Frank McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Cobb, Sir Cyril McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Smithers, Sir Waldron
Cooke, Douglas Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Somerset, Thomas
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Maitland, Adam Soper, Richard
Drewe, Cedric Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C. Martin, Thomas B. Stewart, J H. (Fife, E.)
Edmondson, Major Sir James Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Strauss, Edward A.
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Elmley, Viscount Mitcheson, G. G. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Everard, W. Lindsay Moss, Captain H. J. Summersby, Charles H.
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Munro, Patrick Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Fox, Sir Gifford Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Thompson, Sir Luke
Goff, Sir Park Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Graham. Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.) Oman, Sir Charles William C. Train, John
Granville, Edgar Palmer, Francis Noel Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Patrick, Colin M. Wells, Sydney Richard
Graves, Marjorie Pearson, William G. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Greene, William P. C. Peat, Charles U. Whyte, Jardine Bell
Grimston, R. V. Perkins, Walter R. D. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Guest, Capt. At. Hon. F. E. Petherick, M. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Pete, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllston) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hales, Harold K. Pike, Cecil F. Wise, Alfred R.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Pownall, Sir Assheton Womersley, Sir Walter
Hammersley, Samuel S. Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Worthington, Dr. John V.
Hanley, Dennis A. Rankin, Robert
Harbord, Arthur Ray, Sir William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hartington, Marquess of Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Mr. Hornby and Sir Hugo Rutherford.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Bernays, Robert Burton, Colonel Henry Walter
Dyke Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cadogan, Hon. Edward
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham) Campbell. Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)
Attlee, Clement Richard Brown, Ernest (Leith) Cape, Thomas
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Browne, Captain A. C. Caporn, Arthur Cecil
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Buchanan, George Castlereagh, Viscount
Batey, Joseph Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Cautley, Sir Henry S.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Burnett, John George Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.SirJ.A.(Birm.,W)
Conant, R. J. E. Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd) North, Edward T.
Cranborne, Viscount Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Paling, Wilfred
Curry, A. C. Harris, Sir Percy Parkinson, John Allen
Dagger, George Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Peake, Osbert
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Davies, Stephen Owen Holdsworth, Herbert Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Dobble, William Horsbrugh, Florence Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Duggan, Hubert John Howard, Tom Forrest Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Duncan, James A.L.(Kensington, N.) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Satter. Dr. Alfred
Edwards, Charles Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Kirkwood, David Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Fuller, Captain A. G. Lawson, John James Thorne, William James
Ganzonl, Sir John Leonard, William Tree, Ronald
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Lunn, William Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) McCorquodale, M. S. West, F. R.
Glossop, C. W. H. McKie, John Hamilton Weymouth, Viscount
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton White, Henry Graham
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Mainwaring, William Henry Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Griffiths, George A. (Yorks,W.Riding) Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Wilmot, John
Groves, Thomas E. Mllner, Major James Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Grundy, Thomas W. Moreing, Adrian C.
Gunston, Captain D. W. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Guy, J. C. Morrison Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Mr. Rhys Davies and Mr. Banfield.
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)

Lords Amendments to Commons Amendments and Lords consequential Amendments to the Bill considered accordingly, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hornby, Sir John Rutherford, Mr. Hartland, Major Procter, Mr. Chorlton, Major Colfox, Sir Assheton Pownall, Colonel Broadbent, Mr. Liddall, and Mr. Ross Taylor.