HC Deb 27 July 1950 vol 478 cc824-7

Considered in Committee.

[Colonel Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Clauses 1 to 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 24 to 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

10.24 p.m.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I should like to say a word about Clause 30.

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

We have passed Clause 30.

Sir W. Darling

I was watching very closely and I understood you had not reached Clause 30.

The Deputy-Chairman

I had already called Clauses 24 to 46.

Sir W. Darling

With respect, Clauses 24 to 46 include Clause 30. Is it in order to make an observation on Clause 30 or is it not?

The Deputy-Chairman

I had gathered the voices.

Remaining Clauses and Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

10.26 p.m.

Sir W. Darling

As the House is aware, we are dealing with the Shops Bill, and we are invited to consolidate the law on this subject. I should like to make some observations, putting forward arguments why it is undesirable to consolidate the law.

My reason for putting forward that view is that these Shop Acts ranging from 1912 to 1938, roughly a period of 25 years, have been in operation and have given a large measure of satisfaction. I am engaged in the profession of shop-keeping and have been so engaged over a period of years. I am satisfied—and I think the House will agree—that the public as a whole have been served well by the shops, and these Acts are the guiding principles by which they have been served.

On these grounds, I submit that there is no case for consolidation. Where there is such a case, as there was perhaps in the Adoption Bill, or the Arbitration Bill, there are many circumstances where there are wide varieties of differences of opinion, and I can well understand that there is a case for consolidation. But here there is no such case put forward. At least, I have yet to hear the argument. Here is one of the most important industries in the country—we have been described as a nation of shopkeepers—which, for a quarter of a century, has conducted its affairs with great satisfaction in times of considerable difficulty. There has been rationing, restriction of supplies, shortage of staff, shortage of light and heat; all these complexities have fallen upon this remarkable industry.

Mr. Speaker

It occurs to me that the hon. Gentleman is discussing the merits of the various Acts which have to be consolidated. He is not discussing whether they should be consolidated or not. He cannot discuss the merits of the Acts which have to be consolidated.

Sir W. Darling

I was not discussing the merits. I had no intention of doing so. I am convinced of the merits, and I do not want to consolidate these Measures. I am advised, from my own experience and by bodies with whom I deal, that they prefer the individuality with which they have conducted their business between 1912 and 1938 to this bound volume which is designed to provide a single compendium of these Measures. They prefer the individual Acts to this attempt to bring them all together. That is an idiosyncracy which perhaps does not meet with the approval of many, but I am opposed to the collectivist principle, and this is a piece of collectivism.

Consolidation is designed to join together two persons or two things which should not be joined together, and Acts which should not be joined together. I am seriously attempting to put forward a case for retaining the separate individuality of these various Acts of Parliament. The fact that they have worked well and have promoted the welfare of the staffs concerned and the interests which they represent is the best and most powerful argument for non-consolidation.

I submit that there is no case for consolidation. True there has been no opportunity for attempting to make out such a case because I have presumed to speak first, but I shall await with interest the case for the justification to consolidate, because I can see no justification for consolidation. The old Acts under which these shopkeepers lived had the merit of being serviceable and useful. Now they have been challenged. All that has happened is that someone desires to put them into one book. I prefer that they should continue their separate existences.

10.30 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I think that what the hon. Member is opposed to is not collectivism, but making a collection. I am bound to tell the House, as this comes within my Department in the main, that the present way of having these requirements spread over a number of Statutes, some of which are only distantly connected with the subject, make it highly desirable that the legislation should be brought into one Measure, particularly as that will make it easier to carry out very necessary amendments which may be required in the near future.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed without Amendment.