HL Deb 16 November 1920 vol 42 cc263-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the object of this Bill is to continue the existing general Early Closing Orders for shops until the end of 1921 so as to give time for the consideration of a permanent measure. During the war the Orders were made under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and therefore automatically lapse with the termination of the war unless this Bill is passed.

Early closing has been in force for four years under these Regulations, and there can be no doubt that it commands the general approval of shopkeepers and assistants and does not interfere with the convenience of the public to any serious extent. It had been hoped that it would be possible for legislation amending the existing Shops Acts and putting general early closing on a permanent basis to be carried this session, but this has not proved to be the case, and it would be most unfortunate and, of course, a great disappointment to the large majority of retail traders and their assistants throughout the country if the existing Regulations came to an end before an amending Shops Bill was carried through.

The Bill that is before your Lordships to-night has therefore been introduced with the object of continuing in force the existing provisions pending the introduction and consideration of a permanent measure which it is hoped will be brought in next year. This Bill does not apply to Ireland. The general Early Closing Orders made for Ireland ceased to be in force in 1919, and the Government are not satisfied that there is any general desire in Ireland for the reintroduction of early closing. In any case, as the Government of Ireland Bill will be before your Lordships shortly it is felt that it would be inopportune to legislate for Ireland in this matter at present.

On Clause 1 I would remark that the general Early Closing Orders, being Orders under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, are at present enforced by the police, and therefore persons offending against them are liable to the heavy penalties provided for in the Regulations. Under this clause the Orders in future will have effect as if they were evening Closing Orders made under the Shops Act, 1912, which means that the enforcement of the Orders will be under the local authorities, and breaches of them will only carry the moderate penalties contained in Section 5 (5) of the Act of 1912. I do not think there is anything further to which I need call your Lordships' attention.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Onslow.)

On Question, Bill read 2ª and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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