HC Deb 12 October 1939 vol 352 cc518-9
64. Mr. Mathers

asked the Home Secretary whether he has considered the representations made to him on behalf of shop employes urging the need for earlier closing measures under present conditions, and a limitation of the hours of shop assistants; and whether he has any statement to make as to Government policy on this matter?

69. Mr. Leslie

asked the Home Secretary whether he has yet come to a decision with respect to the early closing of shops and a limitation of the working hours of assistants?

Sir J. Anderson

After careful consideration of the various interests of shopkeepers, shop assistants and different sections of the general community, I have reached certain conclusions. What I propose is that, as from 30th October, the general closing hours laid down in Section 1 of the Shops (Hours of Closing) Act, 1928, should be advanced to 7.30 p.m. on the late night and 6 p.m. on other evenings, but that where local conditions make some variation desirable for the convenience of the public, local authorities should be empowered to substitute 8 p.m. on the late night and an hour not later than 7 p.m. on one or more other evenings in any part of their district, for any class of trade or business. An Order in Council to give effect to these proposals will be made as soon as possible. The exemptions contained in the Act of 1928 will not be affected, and the sales of newspapers and of tobacco and smokers' requisites will be allowed to continue up to the present closing hours. The general question of the regulation of working conditions in the distributive trades is a separate matter which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is proposing to consider in consultation with those industrially concerned.

Mr. Leslie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while some shops to-day are closing at 6 o'clock and 6.30 the assistants are kept working until 9 o'clock, and that in the case of women it is very dangerous to travel during the black-out? Will he not consider that matter?

Sir J. Anderson

As I have explained, my responsibility is to fix the hours during which shops may be kept open. The responsibility for the regulation of working conditions rests with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

Mr. Rhys Davies

In view of the fact that the closing of shops earlier has very little to do with the number of hours worked by shop assistants, will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough in dealing with the regulations to consult his right hon. Friend, if they are still on friendly terms, so that the hours of labour of all shop assistants shall be reduced?

Sir J. Anderson

I can reassure the hon. Member that I have already consulted my right hon. Friend, who, I believe, is in full agreement with the decision I have announced, and which, at all events, will not make the position of shop assistants any more difficult.