HL Deb 26 February 1957 vol 202 cc47-70

5.12 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 43:

Construction of references to allowance of half-holidays and whole holidays

43.—(1) For the purposes of this Part of this Act, a person employed to work about the business of a shop—

  1. (a) shall be deemed to be allowed by the occupier of that shop a half-holiday on a day if on that day that person is not employed to work about the business of that shop after half-past one o'clock in the afternoon or the expiration of four and a half hours from the time when he begins to be so employed on that day, whichever is the later;

LORD MILVERTON moved in paragraph (a) of subsection (1), after "work" to insert "by that occupier". The noble Lord said: With the permission of the Committee, I should like to deal with Amendments Nos. 74, 75, 78 and 79 together, as they deal with the same point, which is a drafting point. As subsection (1) is drafted, it appears that the half-holiday requirements may be escaped if the employer operates more than one shop. The expression "that shop" is used referring back to the shop in which the person is employed to work. I understand it is argued that this part of the Bill as a whole, coupled with certain decisions in case law, will prevent an employer from employing an assistant at another shop on a day on which he is required to give him a holiday from the shop in which he normally works. It seems desirable, then, that the opportunity should be taken in this Bill to make the statute law stand by itself without any reliance upon case law. These Amendments have been drafted with that end. From the wording of the clause alone, it seems doubtful whether the words "that shop" include any other shop of the same employer, and from the point of view of enforcement it seems desirable that the law should say exactly what it means and that it should not be necessary to rely upon any extraneous matter. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 37, line 8, after (" work ") insert (" by that occupier ").—(Lord Milverton.)


My noble friend who moved this Amendment anticipated what I had to say. It has been established now for thirty-five years that the owner of multiple shops cannot escape in this way, and it is thought that the phraseology employed is fairly plain, even apart from the decided case. Perhaps I should give the reference—it is the case of the London County Council v. Weltmann and it is reported in 1922 1 King's Bench at page 151. It was held in that case that where an employer carries on the same business in several shops, a person employed in one of them is "employed about the business" of all of them, because the business is the same. If noble Lords will look at the phraseology, for example, in subsection (1) (a), they will see that the test is whether the person is, or is not, employed to work "about the business of that shop"—not "in that shop "—and it is thought that it is reasonably plain. Even if it were not reasonably plain, it has been established for more than thirty-five years that where the law says "the business of that shop" it does not mean the same thing as "in that shop"; it means in any business which is the same business as the business carried on in the shop in question. I think it is plain, and I respectfully submit that the Amendment is, for that reason alone, unnecessary.


I am bound to say that I am not satisfied with the explanation of the noble and learned Viscount. It is true that this decision was given about twenty-five or thirty years ago; but here a piece of legislation is being put on the Statute Book twenty-five years after that decision. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not learned in the law, but I can visualise a case's being fought out up to the House of Lords, and its being held that the decision given twenty-five years ago did not in any way necessarily bind the Law Lords, because of this fresh legislation dealing again with the provision. They would look at it in the light of this fresh legislation. That being so, it seems to me that we ought now to take the opportunity of making clear beyond peradventure, that the man is to have his half-holiday even if it is argued that it is the same business. Many people owning several shops may own shops doing different kinds of retail business. The retail business conducted in one shop from which a man gets his half-holiday may be entirely different from the business to which the owner of two, three or more shops may send this man to work on another afternoon. There are more opportunities now, with the staggering of the hours.

I put it to the noble and learned Viscount that to rely on a decision which is twenty-five years old when we are putting fresh legislation on the Statute Book, is rather a weak defence. In the interests of those who have to administer this legislation. I beg of him to get the thing right for the future. It would be quite easy for a shop inspector to ask for the man's insurance cards. They will bear the name and address of the place where he is normally employed. They would not show that he is normally employed in a second shop. That would enable the shop inspector, or whoever does the checking, to bring the man up short. Therefore I ask the noble and learned Viscount to look at this matter again.


I do not think I am deeply impressed with that argument, for two reasons. In the first place, I must try to reassure the noble Lord that the fact that a decision, when it is plain enough, is thirty-five years old, is not a reason for thinking that it will be reversed in the House of Lords.


Not with fresh legislation?


I was about to say, nor is the fact that there is a decision on legislation dealing with the same subject matter in identical words a reason for supposing that the courts will come to a different conclusion. There was a gentleman who said, "The law is ' a hass'". His name was Bumble and he said the law was "a hass" because he found that it was not such "a hass" as he had expected it to be; and I can assure the noble Lord that he can rest his mind about that matter. My own feeling is very much against changing the language of Statutes where the decision is on the old language and where the decision is right and desirable. If one does so one sometimes finds that the new language introduces new possibilities of confusion. I suspect that that is the case with this Amendment, although I have not taken advice on the point. I notice that my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, are pinning their faith to the words "that occupier". If I were asked to advise on the subject, I could reasonably get out of the whole restriction by a series of holding and associated companies, which are not: all that uncommon to-day. So I think we had better leave it as it is.


In view of the reassurances of the noble and learned Viscount, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WISE moved in subsection (1) (a) to leave out all words from "afternoon" to the end of the paragraph. The noble Lord said: The noble and learned Viscount has already twice referred to this particular clause in acceptable language. He mentioned it last Monday in these words [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 201 (No. 34), Col. 980]: The Bill was intended to make reasonable and flexible provision for part-timers. To give a striking example, the 4½ hours provision in Clause 43 (1) (a) is a new provision which has been specially designed for part-timers… The noble and learned Viscount has also referred to it this afternoon in more or less similar words, so that I am afraid tiny Amendment seems doomed to failure before I start. However, I want just to explain its purpose. Subsection (1) (b) is unambiguous and clear about what is meant by a whole holiday, but I seek in subsection (1) (a) to protect the employee (though it may be that it does protect him) by providing that his half holiday should commence not later than half past one. Personally, I would have an earlier time.

According to the noble arid learned Viscount, the second part of subsection (1) (a) refers to the part-timer. Is it in any way possible for the full-timer to be hit by this particular reference to 4½ hours? Is it possible that he would have to work longer than 3 o'clock, or whatever is his time? The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, has referred to the old Act in which 3 o'clock is stated, but according to this particular subsection the employee may have to work beyond 3 o'clock. I seek only to protect the employee, and I suggest that, if the latter part of the subsection is not quite clear, it would perhaps be better to draft a further subsection dealing entirely with part-timers. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 37, line 9, leave out from ("afternoon ") to end of line 12.—(Lord Wise.)


The noble Lord has rather anticipated my remarks, and I believe that, as usual, he has anticipated them correctly. Her Majesty's Government do attach importance to the words proposed to be omitted, since, in their view, they provide the degree of flexibility that is needed. As the law stands at present, and without the Amendment, an assistant starting work at, say, 11 o'clock, or even later, must be released at 1.30 p.m.; and part-timers working afternoons only cannot be employed at all on one weekday in each week. The new provision cures the absurdity by allowing the employer adopting it to release his assistants 4½ hours after they have started work. That is the effect of the words proposed to be omitted.

The noble Lord asks, pertinently: Can anyone be made to suffer from that? The view of Her Majesty's Government is that they cannot, because the words, in the way in which they are drafted, do not permit broken periods. The release must be after the expiration of 4½ hours from the time when the employee starts to be employed on that day. The result is that he cannot be required to work a total of 4½ hours in broken periods and that he must genuinely have a half-day. I believe that that is the object of all of us.


In view of the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


With your Lordships' permission I will move this Amendment, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. It seeks to define and classify the position of the night worker in regard to his half-holiday. I am advised that the case of the full-time night worker is not really dealt with under this Bill, and there are a considerable number of full-time night workers. For instance, many factories work round the clock, and staff are employed in canteens throughout the night. Under the clause as it stands, if the night worker who finishes work at 12 o'clock is given a half-holiday, it starts next morning and must not end later than 1.30, which is not very much use to him. I think the practice of night workers when they come off work varies. Some of them like to sleep in the morning, while others like to sleep in the afternoon and then go straight from bed to work. I should like to get from the noble and learned Viscount in charge of the Bill, even if he does not accept my Amendment, same indication of what Her Majesty's Government are going to do about half-holidays for night workers. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 37, line 12, at end insert (" or, as respects employment at night, that it may commence at midnight provided that person is not employed to work about the business of that shop before half-past one o'clock in the afternoon: ").—(Lord Jessel.)


There have been complaints at some stages of this Bill that some phrases in the Bill are difficult to understand. On this point I propose to turn the tables. I have tried very hard to understand the effect of this Amendment, but I have not succeeded in doing so. Had my noble friend Lord Derwent been here to move his Amendment I was going to ask him what he meant by it. I can only repeat the advice that I have received about the Amendment: that it is difficult to see what its effect would be, and that it will certainly not do whatever its object is. Not only is the Amendment defective in drafting, but a night employee is not defined, and the Amendment is so inconsistent with the remainder of Clause 43 (1) (a) that its general intention is far from clear. Even if it means anything, it would either be unfair or would not change the effect of the clause as it stands. If an assistant began work at 6 p.m., under the terms of this Amendment he would be deemed to get a half-holiday even though he had worked six hours out of, say, an eight-hour shift. If, however, he began at 8 p.m. he would be deemed, as the clause stands, to get a half-holiday on that day, since he would not be employed for more than 4½ hours on that day.

When we return to Clause 43 (1) (a) we get into the comparative light of day, because under the provisions of that clause a man is deemed to be allowed by the occupier of the shop a half-holiday on a day he is not employed working about the business of the shop after half past one in the afternoon or the expiration of 4½ hours from the time when he begins to be so employed on the day. That seems to me to be pretty plain. So on this occasion I think I can stand in a white sheet levelling an indictment of obscurity against my noble friend.


I stand in a white sheet—or a grey sheet—because it is not my Amendment. I did not draft it, and with your Lordships' permission I will withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 agreed to.

Clause 45:

Application of foregoing provisions of Part V to persons employed in connection with retail trade or business otherwise than in shops

(2) The foregoing subsection shall not apply to a person employed to work about the business of a warehouse occupied for the purposes of his trade or business by a person carrying on a retail trade or business or to work wholly or mainly as a milk roundsman.

5.30 p.m.

LORD JESSEL moved to add to subsection (2): or to persons engaged in the sale of meals or refreshments at places otherwise than in shops.

The noble Lord said: These are provisions in Part V of this Bill which relate to conditions of employment which are to apply to persons employed in the retail trade or business elsewhere than in the shop. This would mean that they would apply to workers employed in public or private outside catering—that is, catering at public or private functions away from the caterers' premises; for instance, at such functions as agricultural shows or race meetings, or private functions such as weddings. The provisions of the 1950 Act apply only to such workers so far as Sunday employment is concerned. I am sure we all appreciate that catering of this kind requires the keeping of rather special hours. I suggest it is only reasonable that workers engaged by the day should be excluded from the requirement of weekly half-days and intervals for meals. Catering Wages regulations provide adequate safeguards against the exploitation of workers who volunteer for this kind of work. The people who take part in this kind of catering know that it is going to be hard work. They probably work all day for three days and then have a couple of days off. To give them normal meal-times at an agricultural show or a race meeting would, I think, make things very difficult. Nor would they expect it. So I suggest that in relation to this very special kind of work this Amendment makes sense. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 11, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Jessel.)


This is not altogether an easy matter, but it is hard to suppose that the difficulties in the way of outside caterers are such as to justify depriving the assistants concerned of the protection enjoyed by those who work in shops. I think there would he a great deal of difficulty in enforcement, but I am not sure that I can go the whole way with my noble friend in thinking that the difficulties are so great that the assistants concerned should be deprived of the advantages of the Bill. The principal objection to this Amendment is that it reintroduces the whole difficulty of the present law as to whether or not assistants such as those employed in selling ice-cream or fruit from barrows are exempted from the provisions of the Bill. One of the subordinate purposes of the Bill is to remove the doubt created by the decision in the well known Eldorado Ice-cream case in 1938, the effect of which is widely thought to be that the legislation applies to static street traders but not to mobile ones. That was an effect which was never intended but which this Amendment would perpetuate. Therefore, on the whole, I feel that I must resist this Amendment. Should my noble friend have further thoughts on a way of giving effect to his feeling with regard to outside caterers which does not reintroduce the whole problem of the Eldorado Ice-cream case, then I think my right honourable friend would certainly be willing to consider it. I do not want at this stage to shut the door to any possible concession.


I thank the noble Viscount for his sympathetic attitude. I am glad that he appreciates that there is a case for special consideration for these workers in outside catering. In view of what he has said, I will ask my friends also to reconsider the matter in the same way as he is going to ask his right honourable friend to do. I now beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 45 agreed to.

Clauses 46 and 47 agreed to.

Clause 48:

Offences under Part V

(2) A person who contravenes any provision of this Part of this Act with respect to the making or preservation of records shall he guilty of an offence.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, in subsection (2), after "records" to insert "or display of notices". The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend the Earl of Listowel, in whose name it stands. It is consequential upon Amendment 61. As I did not happen to be in the Chamber when that Amendment was discussed, I can only assume that the noble Viscount who is in charge of the Bill gave my noble friend the Earl of Listowel a favourable answer to it. Perhaps he will tell me whether he did or not, and also whether he can accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 24, after ("records") insert ("or display of notices ").—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


Unfortunately I have lost my old Marshalled List of Amendments; therefore I may be making a mistake of recollection in what I am about to say. The present Marshalled List does not go back as far as Amendment 61. My recollection is that this was the old problem of notices in writing. I was not favourable to the noble Earl who moved the Amendment, and he withdrew it, having regard to the fact that I assured him that the object of the Bill was to provide the simplest method of performance to the shopkeeper consistent with adequacy of enforcement. In that connection—unless my recollection plays me false—the noble Earl was saying that it was necessary, in order to achieve enforceability, to send notice in writing to the local authority, and I was sticking to the notice in the shop—which is the reverse of the rôles we were playing this afternoon.


I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied with the way in which the noble Viscount and I have dealt with his interest in this matter. In case he should not be, in withdrawing this Amendment I would reserve the right to him to return to it at another stage of the Bill. I now beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 48 agreed to.

Clause 49:

Local authorities for purposes of this Act

49.—(1) The local authority for the purposes of this Act as respects England and Wales, other than the administrative county of London, shall be the council of the borough, urban district or rural district.

5.40 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, in subsection (1), after "Act" to insert "and the Shops Act, 1950,". The noble Lord said: We now come to a different stage of the Bill. We are entering into Part VI, which deals with administration. When we embarked on the Committee stage of this Bill—it seems a long time ago now—and the noble Viscount had moved "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee," I asked him what I thought was a very friendly question, though he regarded it as a hostile one. I asked him whether or not it was correct that the Government did not propose to bring the Bill into force until 1959. I can assure him that that was a friendly question. I thought that your Lordships should know if that was the case before we embarked upon what I forecast would be a long and tortuous road through this Bill, and that is what it is proving to be—how long, I do not know: I cannot yet see the end. The noble Viscount was not forthcoming, and said that if I wanted any further information, I had better put down a Question. The question is about to be asked.

The administration of this Bill will be complicated and, I think, rather stupid. Under the Shops Act, 1950, county councils are the enforcement authorities for all urban districts with a population of under 20,000 and all rural districts. The only exceptions are under Section 38 (1) and (2), which makes the rural district councils responsible, as sanitary authorities, for ensuring the maintenance of adequate ventilation, temperatures and sanitary conveniences. This Bill repeals most of the provisions of the 1950 Act and replaces them with fresh provisions, the enforcement of which will be the responsibility of the county district councils, but the unrepealed provisions of the 1950 Act will remain the responsibility of the county councils. The effect will be that the same shops will be visited by two separate sets of enforcement officers operating two separate sets of enforcement machinery. That seems an absurd thing. Tweedledum and Tweedledee will arrive at the same village shop at different times, to see that slightly different amenities are there for the same employee. I should have thought that all the functions in connection with the Shops Acts, whether the Act of 1950 or the Ad of 1957, 1958, 1959 or 1960, or whatever year it may be when this Bill comes into force, should be operated by the same authority.

Perhaps I should have said that Amendment No. 84 goes together with the present Amendment. The "ham" in this "sandwich" is an alternative about which I shall speak later. I should have thought that the right thing to do would be to make the administration of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, the responsibility of the county district councils; and that is the simple proposition in this Amendment. I will not say much more at the present time, because I have something more to say of how this may turn into farce. The Bill, as drafted, takes no regard whatsoever of any reorientation of local authority boundaries, duties or responsibilities. The Bill puts responsibilities on to local district authorities who may not be in existence when the Bill conies into force, or who may have their boundaries altered. This Amendment tries to do something to clean up what I can see will be an unholy mess by trying to get all the functions under the Bill into one set of hands. It makes a start by preventing the duplication which is bound to ensue under the Bill as drafted. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 32, after (" Act ") insert ("and the Shops Act, 1950,").—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has painted a lurid picture of what life may be like under the Bill we are considering. I hope that it will not be so bad as that, but I am bound to say that the question of administration is causing a great deal of anxiety to the County Councils Association. I do not pose as an expert on this question, but I understand that the whole of the Government scheme for the administration of the Bill cannot be brought completely into force until two other events have happened: first, until further legislation is brought forward to deal with the second part of the Gowers Report; and secondly, until there is the reform of local government which, at long last, has been foreshadowed. I think that county councils must face the fact that for some time there must be some duplication. It is the modest and, I think, reasonable hope of the County Councils Association that this duplication will be reduced to the minimum. They seek to ensure that by asking for a certain flexibility to be brought into the procedure, and also by trying to make sure that the same sort of inspection is carried out by the same inspectors. I think it will be generally agreed that until the reform of local government boundaries has taken place, there is bound to be a great deal of difference in conditions in different parts of the country. That in itself is an argument for flexibility.

I agree that these points are, perhaps, small compared with many of the issues that we have discussed, but they are points which excite the maximum of irritability. They are small pettifogging irritabilities, no doubt, but this is out of all proportion to the intention of the Bill, and if it is possible to avoid such things happening, surely some effort should be made to do that. I have followed the example of the noble Lord in dealing rather generally with this group of Amendments, and no doubt by so doing I have been technically out of order, but I did not want to inflict more than one speech on your Lordships in this connection.


I think we are dealing with Amendments Nos. 82, 83 and 84.


It is really Nos. 82 and 84.


Then I will confine myself to those two. I confess at once that on questions of local government, which are of extreme and almost notorious complexity, I speak with a great deal of trepidation, and the more so as I now learn that I speak in the presence of my noble friend Lord Gage, whose knowledge of this subject is as profound as his experience has been prolonged. I must say that I would defer to his opinion on almost any matter connected with the subject. However, I think I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, about what he claims will be an "unholy mess" if the present Amendment is not carried. I was not convinced with that case at all.


I used that rather in the general sense. I did not mean it only on this particular Amendment, but on the whole series of Amendments dealing with administration.


I do not think the noble Lord has applied his mind to the "unholy mess" which would follow if the Amendment were carried. As the Bill stands, the county council's inspectors will have to visit shops and other places where retail trade is carried on, for the purpose of enforcing the remaining unrepealed provisions of the Shops Act, 1950; and the district council's inspectors will have to visit shops and other places where trade is carried on, for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the present Bill. Then, says the noble Lord: "If this Amendment is passed, it will only be necessary for the district council's inspectors to visit shops and other places, both to enforce the unrepealed provision of the Shops Act, 1950, and for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this Bill. How much neater and simpler to have one group of inspectors instead of two!"

If the matter rested there, I should, of course, agree with the noble Lord. But, unhappily, it does not. The crux of the matter is young persons' hours. The responsibility for enforcing the almost identical provisions contained in the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, is, and must remain, with the county councils—I say "must remain", because an arrangement designed to transfer it from the county councils would be outside the scope of this Bill and, therefore, out of order. The result, therefore, would be that, while the Amendment would shift the responsibility for enforcing the provisions in the Shops Act about young persons' hours to the smaller county district councils, the responsibility for the almost identical provisions would remain with the county councils. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Gage said about the necessity of clearing up all these points when one comes to deal with the reorganisation of local government, but as matters stand now, and dealing with the Shops Bill at this stage, I think probably the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will agree that the balance of advantage would be to leave the matter as it is. There is a small anomaly, to which the noble Lord has drawn attention, but we think that a greater anomaly would be created, and there would still be the two groups of inspectors.

Moreover, the Amendment would have the effect of transferring to all non-county borough, urban and rural district councils the enforcement of the provisions of the Shops Act, 1950, as to the hours of employment of young persons, in so far as these provisions affect employment in street trading. By Section 72 (1) of the Act of 1950 it appears to be recognised that it is proper for the responsibility for enforcing these street trading provisions to rest with the authority responsible for enforcing the provisions of Section 20 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933—that is, again, the county council. So that, by passing this Amendment, we should not get rid of an anomaly, but should have an anomaly of a different kind, and it would not get rid of two sets of inspectors, but would only shift the burden as between the two sets of inspectors. We can get rid of overlap, to some extent, by delegation by the county councils to the county districts under the Act of 1950.

The underlying attitude of the Government is that they have under consideration the whole complicated and controversial subject of the hours of employment of young persons in a wide range of non-industrial work places, and we do not want to change the responsibility for enforcing all the existing provisions in relation to young persons while that consideration remains outstanding. For that reason, although I am far from saying that the noble Lord is not on to what is fundamentally a good point, I would, on the whole, ask him not to press the Amendment.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for what he has said, which is rather what I anticipated would be his argument. It is a good argument. There will be an anomaly, when we pass this Bill, and there will be duplication. There may still be more duplication, or duplication of another kind, because, as he said, the Government do not appear to be ready yet to implement the Second Gowers Report upon the employment of young persons. With your Lordships' permission, I will withdraw this Amendment and then move the next one which seeks to assist the noble Viscount over the stile in the interim.


Before we leave this Amendment, I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount (incidentally, it is the first opportunity I have had of welcoming him back from the sea, which I do cordially) whether he is satisfied that the Bill in its present form is as good as it can be made from the point of view that the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, put forward. It is a nuisance not only to the local authorities but to the shopkeepers to have a number of inspectors coming in from different authorities about different points. The Government have this in mind, and I should like to know whether the Bill, as it is, is the best they can do.


I do not complain that that question should have been asked me. The Bill represents the best we can do at present. We are carrying along, with the assistance of this House of Parliament, and later we shall have the assistance of another place. It may be that in the course of our discussions we shall discover something better; but at present it is the best we can do.


I beg to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to subsection (1): save that for the purposes of Part V of this Act the local authority shall be—

elsewhere the county council, and a county council may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, make arrangements with the council of an urban district in the county with a population of less than twenty thousand, or with the council of a rural district, for the exercise by the council of the district as agents for the county council, on such terms and subject to such conditions as may be agreed on, of any powers of the county council under Part V of this Act within the district, and the council of the district may, as part of the agreement, undertake to pay the whole or any part of the expenses incurred in connection with the exercise of the powers delegated to them,

The noble Lord said: Perhaps the noble Viscount will give consideration to this, my alternative Amendment. This is, I think, the only practical alternative to the one proposed, and it takes care of the difficulties which the noble Viscount has quite rightly pointed out. This Amendment provides that the employment provisions of this Bill—that is, Part V of the Bill—should be the responsibility of county councils, because they are already, and will continue to be, responsible for the unrepealed employment provisions of the 1950 Act. What I am trying to get at in simple language is this: that one authority, the county council, should be concerned with enforcing all the employment provisions under the Shops Act. Then the transfer of the whole of these functions to the county district councils can take place when, as the noble Viscount has hinted, the Government are ready at some time in the future, when they consider the second Gowers Report which deals with the employment of young persons in all its aspects.

This will not do away with all the anomalies, but what it will do is to take care that related functions of employment shall be the responsibility of the county councils—who have now so many employment functions to take care of the unrepealed ones of the 1950 Act—and then, at some date when the Government are ready, the whole lot will be transferred to the district councils. That, I suggest to the noble Viscount, is a practical alternative that will not in any way trespass upon the ground that he does not want trespassed upon at the present time, but will make for a far smoother administrative job than is evident at the present time. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 41, line 35, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


Again I stress the fact that I enter upon this thorny subject with fear and trepidation. As I understand the case for the Amendment, it is that, without the Amendment, county councils would be left with responsibility in rural districts and the smaller urban districts for the unrepealed provisions of the 1950 Act about the hours of employment of young persons in shops and the Young Persons' Employment Act, 1938, which prescribes hours of employment. On the other hand, the county district councils, the rural district councils and the smaller urban district councils would be responsible for the employment provisions in Part V of the Bill, which relates to young persons as well as to adults. I would not deny that there is something to be said on those lines, and that it is a perfectly sensible case to make. If it meant that only one instead of two inspectors visited a shop it would, I think, be a desirable Amendment, even though rural district councils and urban district councils might have some opposition to offer.

But I am advised that it would not mean that. It would mean that the district council inspector would visit a shop for the purpose of enforcing the closing hour provisions of the Bill, and the county council inspector would visit it to enforce the employment provisions. As the Bill stands, the district council inspector would be responsible for all the provisions of the Bill, and the county council inspector for the separate law about young persons' hours. That was the point I was making on the last Amendment. It would be conceded that adult assistants greatly outnumber young persons, and therefore the district council inspector, having both the employment provisions of the Bill and its closing provisions to enforce, would have much more to do with the shop than the county council inspector. If, however, the Amendment were accepted, the responsibility would be fairly evenly divided between the two inspectors, and it is thought that this would lead to a consequent loss of efficiency. Moreover, there are a great number of shops which have no juvenile assistants at all. Under the Bill as it stands, in these shops at least, only one, mainly the county district inspector, would be concerned, whereas if the Amendment were accepted both sets of inspectors would be involved.

That is the case against the Amendment. As I said in answer to the earlier Amendment, if it is thought by the county councils that even the small overlap which will occur under the Bill is undesirable, they can, if they please, delegate their responsibilities to the district councils. I quite agree that in principle the easiest solution to the whole problem would be to transfer responsibility for the law about young persons also to the smaller councils, and I am far from saying that that will not be the ultimate target. It might well be the solution. But this will, of course, affect not only shops, but a wide variety of non-industrial places of work, including offices as well. As I said in the conclusion of my remarks to the last Amendment, the Government have this subject, which is both complicated and controversial, under consideration, but they are reluctant to change responsibility for young persons in relation to shops before dealing with the subject of young persons as a whole, in which case the simpler solution might be the one we ultimately take. Having made that explanation, I would suggest to the noble Lord that although there is a perfectly valid case to be made for the Amendment, the balance of advantage still lies against it, because it is, on the whole, desirable to leave the young persons' provisions untouched for the present. That involves leaving them with the county councils, and the balance of advantage lies in leaving the responsibility with the smaller councils to the degree in the Bill as drafted. I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this subject, and I hope that my explanation has done something to clear matters up.


The noble Viscount attributed to me a knowledge of this Bill which I expressly disclaim; I find myself easily confused by this matter. I should like to consider what the noble Viscount has said without prejudice to further action at another stage of the Bill. Possibly further negotiations could take place, as I rather gathered that the Government were not too happy themselves about the present possibility of unwanted duplication. It is a question of machinery rather than principle.


I am grateful to the noble Viscount for expressing gratitude to me for raising this subject. As in his case, this is not a subject upon which I pose as an expert. I have applied my mind to the problem as best I am able, and, while the Amendment about which I am speaking at the present time does not clear up the anomalies, it does at least obliterate one or two. I am, therefore, sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, does not look upon it with any more favour. Not being an expert, I shall have to plead that I want time to study what he has said, which I promise him I will do. Then I know he will accept it in the most friendly spirit if I come back to this subject at a later stage of the Bill, because there is nothing between us on this matter. We both want to do what we think is right in the period of interval, which will be very confusing for many other people besides ourselves. If the noble Viscount will allow me to do that, I will ask your Lordships' leave at the present moment to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.12 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to the clause: (5) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, as respects any administrative county in England and Wales, other than the administrative county of London, the council of a borough, urban district or rural district may at any time, by agreement with the council of the county in which the borough or district is situate relinquish in favour of, and transfer to, the council of the county any of their functions under this Act for such period and upon such terms and subject to such conditions, if any, including terms and conditions as to the transfer of property and liabilities, as may be specified in the agreement.

The noble Lord said: This is the other leg of this three-legged stool. I cannot blind myself, and if the noble Viscount will allow me to say so with respect, I do not think he should blind himself, to the fact that at about the same time as this Bill becomes law the Government may well have to make up their mind what they are going to do about the reorganisation of local authorities. It may well be that some of the rural district councils will go out of existence. It may be that some small urban district councils will be absorbed by others. There may be many changes. What this Bill does is to put responsibilities upon small local authorities, such as the rural and urban district councils, which they may not wish to undertake. The condemned man, or the man who thinks lie is going to have his life suddenly ended, does not take on a lot of expensive responsibilities. There is no provision in this Bill for them to relieve themselves of them, Is it right to say to a rural district council, "Here is this Bill, which may come into force in two or three years' time "—I should not think it stands a chance of coming into force until 1959—" You have got to set up an organisation. You have got to employ inspectors to carry out the functions of this Act."? Almost before those people are there, arid before they have been employed there and the organisation is set up, a Bill may be presented to Parliament to abolish the council. That is the danger.

I have sought in some way to get over this difficulty by this Amendment, which your Lordships will see really means that a district council can elect to opt out. A district council cart say to a county council, "That is all very nice, but we do not want to take over these functions from you; we should prefer you to carry on." That may be a very sensible thing to do if the county council is willing to undertake them. I think that there might be a mutual agreement if a small local authority did not wish to incur the expense. And do not forget this point—I ask the noble Viscount to consider it. I am not an expert upon local authority administration; there are noble Lords on this side of the House who have forgotten more than I shall ever know about it. But what about the officers who are engaged and then are surplus to requirements when a district council is either done away with or amalgamated with another authority? If, in their wisdom, a district council want to opt out, and if a mutual arrangement can be arrived at, I think there should be something in this Bill to allow the county councils to take over these functions. That is the purpose of this Amendment. It is completely helpful.


The noble Lord does not move Amendment No. 84?


No; that went with No. 82. I have just spoken to Amendment No. 85. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 42, line 6, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


The purpose of this Amendment is to enable county district councils to relinquish to county councils any of their responsibilities under the Bill. This is another interesting and thorny topic. Broadly speaking, the Government's attitude towards the matter is that we are not at this stage prepared to accept that relinquishment is a principle which ought to be applied in the field of shops legislation. It forms, of course, part of the complex subject of local government reorganisation. There is no power of relinquishment at present under the 1950 Act, and it is very doubtful whether or to what extent such a power is desirable over the whole field of local government responsibilities. It is perfectly true, of course, that we are contemplating local government reorganisation, but it would be quite premature for me to speculate about what form that may take. I should very much doubt whether it was even conceivable that subordinate authorities beneath the county council level would not continue to exist. Therefore I cannot go the whole way with the noble Lord in accepting the analogy of a condemned man simply because some smaller authorities may be merged with others.

I do not think that local authorities can be condemned in that sense: they simply fade away; they are merged; they are translated. But their functions still continue to exist. Very largely, in practice, the new bodies, or the amalgamated bodies which come into existence, are composed of precisely the same people, employing almost exactly the same staff. It is a question of organisation rather than of entity. In practice, therefore, I do not think the difficulty will arise very much. Our view, as I have indicated, is that any overlap that may exist in the period of interval is best dealt with by delegation of the county council to the county district council, and not by the county district council's relinquishment Ito the county council of their responsibilities. On the whole, we feel that if we were to accept this interesting Amendment we should compromise the whole issue of relinquishment in this field, which at the moment we do not regard as particularly applicable.


Again, I am rather sorry that my noble friend has been so adamant in regard to this series of Amendments, which was designed. I think simply for the purposes of flexibility. I am reminded that during this interim period there will be a number of very small authorities which may or may not be in operation before they are amalgamated. But if a district council is in operation before the amalgamations take place. I should have thought that it was a sensible arrangement for that council to be willing to relinquish to the larger authority. I quite appreciate what has been said about the principle of the relinquishment generally, but this is a difficult time and one wants to make the period as easy as possible. Again, I hope that we may be allowed to consider what the noble Viscount has said, and possibly return to the charge. I know that what my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has been saying represents the feeling of the County Councils Association in regard to a matter over which they have spent considerable time.


I am sorry that on this Amendment Lord Hailsham has not been a little more accommodating. Let me tell him, quite frankly, that I have no authority—I should not pretend to have—to speak on behalf of the county councils of the country. But I think I have sensed the position aright, as I said in moving a previous Amendment, that, far from absorbing the rights or the duties or responsibilities of local district councils in respect of this Bill, it would be their desire to transfer the whole lot to them. It would perhaps be only as a temporary measure that the county councils would accept the responsibility, until the reorganisation is nearer in prospect.

I think that where the Government are foolish in this is that they put the cart before the horse. I have puzzled my head as to why, suddenly, after ten years of brooding, they have decided to bring in this Shops Bill. I think that this doubt will be expressed even mere forcefully if this Bill—I make this proviso—ever reaches another place. Surely to pass this Bill for administration and, before the print is dry upon the paper, to then turn topsy-turvy all whose who are being asked to administer it, seems to be quite a wrong thing to do. Perhaps it had been lying on the dusty shelves of the Home Office for so long that it was thought that it had better be given the light of day.

I can assure the noble Viscount, that there are a number of small district councils who are looking at their next door neighbours, the boroughs, with the thought that they are going to be devoured. I should have thought that it was common sense to speculate that one of the ideas behind any reorientation of local government was to save money. I should have thought that one of the main objects of reorganising local authorities was that the staffs of the smaller ones that were absorbed would be completely redundant. I should have thought that that would be one of the first principles of, and reasons for, more economic working.

I am not going to weary the Committee any further this evening, but I think I shall come back to this Amendment at a later stage because it is something which I think the Government are rather foolish not to accept. What is going to be done with a small district council which says, "We do not want these functions. We have no machinery and we are not going to set up the machinery to operate these functions in the sparsely populated area in which we operate "? The functions have to be carried out by somebody. Why not give them the option of making arrangements with the county council? As the noble Viscount says, the county council can delegate some of its functions to a district council. Why not say that, by arrangement, a district council can transfer some of its functions to the county council?

I will consult with my colleagues and with those who perhaps know something more about this than I do, to see what we shall do at a later stage of the Bill. I think that if we accede to the noble Viscount's request upon the former matter, we shall prove a little more obstinate on this one. We will consider what the noble Viscount has said. It may be that we can read into it something that I have not been able to follow. In the meantime, if the Committee is in agreement, I will withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 agreed to.

House resumed.



My Lords, before the House adjourns, I should like to direct your Lordships' attention to the fact that we shall continue with the Committee stage of the Shops Bill on Tuesday next, March 5.


Referred to a Select Committee.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes pact six o'clock.