§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister, the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill, two questions. The first is whether, in view of the fact that the Bill has already been before the House so long, there is any substance in the still spread rumour that it is not the Government's intention to proceed with the Bill in all its stages this Session; and, 734 secondly, whether or not it is the case, as has been suggested in the Press, that the Government have made up their minds to accept an Amendment to revert to the 8 o'clock late hour closing? It is quite fortuitous, as I gave the noble Viscount notice of the question last week, that there is in The Times newspaper this morning a leader, obviously inspired by some organised reaction to the Bill, which describes the Bill as "a bad Bill". I hope very much that the Government, in their endeavours to bring the law into its proper form, in the light of the ten-years' old Report of the Gowers Committee, do not intend to give way to pressure.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I certainly was not aware, and I am very shocked to hear, that the Bill has been before the House too long. I hope the noble Viscount is not suggesting that we have been dealing with it otherwise than in the most expeditious way possible. I was under the impression that we had, in fact, attempted to be conciliatory, and therefore had not tried to curtail discussion in any way, but that we had dealt with the matter to the general satisfaction of noble Lords on both sides of the House. I can only say, as I said to the noble Viscount on February 12, that we intend to go on with our business. As regards the second part of his question, I have had no notice of it, and I should like to see it on the Paper.
My Lords, the noble Viscount has rather indicated that this Bill should go through. That is a point of view supported by the Government and by his Party, but it has been opposed by noble Lords on these Benches. I think it only reasonable to say at this stage that if some such Amendment as has been suggested were put forward we, at least, should support it; but, failing that, I think that we should oppose the passage of the Bill either on Report stage or on Third Reading.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]
§ Clause 66:
§ Provisions as to libraries
- (a) a library at which the business of lending books or periodicals for the purpose of gain is not carried on otherwise than for the purpose of making profits—
- (i) for a philanthropic or charitable object (including a religious or eductional object); or
- (ii) for a club or institution which is not carried on for purposes of gain; or
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL had given notice of four Amendments in subsection (1), the first being to leave out the first "or" and after "periodicals," where that word first occurs, to insert, "gramophone records or cinematograph films". The noble Earl said: Perhaps I may be allowed to speak to Amendments Nos. 99 to 102 together, as they all cover the same subject matter. If the Gowers Committee had sat ten years later, I think they might well have reported in favour of what we want to do by means of these Amendments, because they simply cover events which have happened since the Gowers Committee reported. This clause seeks to bring ordinary lending libraries into the same category as businesses, for the purposes of the Bill, so that they also will have the same limitations about closing, and so on, with the one exception that charitable libraries, libraries that are run on a non-profit-making basis, will be exempted. Since the war, in London, at any rate—I cannot speak for other great towns—the business of lending gramophone records and films has also grown up and become a form of lending on a commercial basis very comparable with the lending of books. All I am seeking to do in these Amendments is to bring the lending of gramophone records and films for commercial purposes into line with the lending of books by libraries, so that the same restrictions apply to firms engaged in this modern business development. I beg to move the first Amendment.
Page 49, line 7, leave our (" or ").—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (Lord Strathclyde)
I have listened with great care to what the noble Earl has said in support of the Amendment. He spoke of what the Gowers Committee might have reported if it had sat ten years later, but I would 736 remind him that in the year 1953 the proposals were circulated to some sixty-six different organisations, including the local authorities, and I would tell the noble Earl that, until he put down this Amendment, this proposal had never been discussed, or even mentioned, by any of those particular organisations. It may well be that there is a case on abstract grounds for the principle of treating these libraries in the same way as the libraries which lend books—I would agree with that—but at this moment we are not aware that there is any practical need for the restrictions. I would say to the noble Earl that the Government's general attitude to the Bill is that restrictions should be applied only where, on reasonable balance of consideration, they can be shown to be necessary. So far, a case for the Amendment on these grounds does not seem to me, or to the Government, to be made out.
There is a further consideration which I should like to put to your Lordships. We do not know what the practical effect of applying the Bill to film and record libraries might be. If the Amendment were to be accepted, there might be quite unexpected and unintended consequences. The Bill is a very complicated piece of legislation, and it would be impossible to rule out repercussions of that kind. It is for these reasons that I must tell the noble Earl that I am afraid I cannot accept his Amendment. I would ask him to withdraw it.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
With great respect, I hope the noble Lord will not mind my saying that I have never before heard such an unsatisfactory reply to an Amendment. Is he not aware that there is a modern tendency among all local authorities who provide that most necessary lending-library service now to have record libraries? It is common practice, the more so, perhaps, in rural areas than in urban areas. That is the modern trend. Parliament is here to legislate. Parliament does not follow the dictates of representations made to them by vested interests. Surely Parliament is something more than a rubber stamp. The noble Lord has said that the Government have not had representations over these ten years from all the interests concerned. Surely he does not mean to imply that Parliament must not do anything about it until it has seen the repercussions upon 737 vested interests. I do not think there is any vested interest at all connected with my noble friend's Amendment. I should have thought that the noble Lord would at least have said that he would take it back and thoroughly consider it, as it deserves to be considered, instead of saying that he must resist it upon grounds which I think, if he will forgive my saying so, are totally inadequate.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I would only say, in reply to that comment, that the noble Lord's knowledge of these things is evidently much wider than mine or that of the noble Earl who moved the Amendment, who referred to London only. I do not know whether the noble Lord would be prepared to provide me with a list of these local authorities—
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I shall be most grateful if the noble Lord will allow me to continue. Perhaps he would supply me with such a list, because it is outwith my knowledge, and, as I am advised, there is no general need for this particular Amendment. I have already explained the Government's attitude towards the Bill as a whole.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
With great respect, why should I do the noble Lord's work? Surely his advisers at the Home Office who are sponsoring this Bill are able to get the information that I have imparted to the noble Lord. They can communicate with every local authority or county council in this country. They will soon tell the noble Lord which of them provide a lending library for records as well as for books. Surely it does not rest with the Opposition to have to tell the Government where to get this information.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I noticed that the noble Lord said he thought that there was a good deal to be said in favour of this Amendment on abstract grounds. Perhaps he would not disagree with me if I were to substitute the word "logical" for "abstract." If that is the case—and it appears to be so—it seems rather strange to resist the Amendment. I think his principal argument was that there was not sufficient demand for this change to be made. I have raised the example of London because that is the only example with which I personally am 738 familiar. My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth referred to other local authorities. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether, if between now and Report stage my noble friend and I are able to produce more evidence of the demand on the part of local authorities for this change, the Government will be willing to reconsider this Amendment. I would also express the hope that in the meantime the noble Lord himself might be willing to do a little research.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
Perhaps I should go a little further than I have gone. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was, I think, referring to local authority libraries. Of course, these are not affected by the operation of the Bill: only commercial libraries are concerned here. But certainly I will look at the point again.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for saying that he will look at this Amendment again. On that undertaking, I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 66 agreed to.
§ Clauses 67 to 75 agreed to.
§ Clause 76:
§ Short title, commencement and extent
§ (2) This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint.
§ 2.56 p.m.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to subsection (2):
Provided that such order shall be contained in a statutory instrument which shall be of no effect unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by resolution by each House of Parliament.
The noble Lord said: If it is not too far back in the dim and distant past, the Committee will recollect the discussions we had on Clause 49 of the Bill in dealing with Amendments Nos. 82, 83, 84 and 85. I then pointed out the difficulties that would arise in putting into operation Part VI of this Bill, after the duties of administration had been transferred from county councils to district councils. I said that there would be duplication and other difficulties, especially in view of the fact that it was known at the time when I was speaking that the Government had in
view a reorganisation of local authority responsibility. Since I made those remarks—I think it must be now about three weeks ago—the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government has made an announcement that during next Session the Government intend to introduce legislation with reference to the reorganisation of local authority responsibility.
§ The Committee will remember that when I raised the whole question of administration I asked the Government whether it was their intention to bring this measure into operation before 1959. I then said that if this measure, with its duplications and its transfer of responsibility from the Shops Act, 1950, is going to be brought into operation before the Government are ready with their reorientation of local authority administration, confusion would be worse confounded. I have not altered my opinion, in spite of the arguments and the speech made by the noble Viscount who was then speaking on behalf of the Government.
The Amendment I now move is a simple one. If it is adopted, subsection (2) will read:
This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint.
Provided that such order shall be contained in a Statutory Instrument which shall be of no effect unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
In other words, what I seek to get from the Government is acceptance of the fact that Parliament shall have an opportunity of discussing in the context of this Bill any alterations that will have to be made to this Bill, or Act, as it will be, when the Government have made up their minds, and Parliament has acquiesed or otherwise, in regard to the new duties of local authorities.
§ I hope the noble Lord who is going to reply will be impressed with the seriousness of the position. Duties are to be altered, responsibilities are to be placed upon local district councils which may or may not be in existence in the state of things to come. They may have their boundaries altered; they may have their responsibilities altered. They may not wish, in their new status, to assume the responsibilities that are put upon them in this Bill. Surely I need not impress upon 740 the noble Lord who is going to reply the necessity of ensuring that Parliament has the opportunity of seeing that what it finally approves is in this Act, as the Bill will become—and in parenthesis, I repeat what my noble Leader has said: we gather that the Government are going on with this Bill. If the Government do go on with it, and it gets on to the Statute Book before the reorganisation of local authorities, surely Parliament should have the opportunity of seeing whether all the responsibilities which have been placed upon various local authorities—county councils and district councils—will then be fitting for the new organisation to bear. That is the simple reason for my Amendment, and I hope that the noble Lord will accept it. I beg to move.
Page 53, line 21, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
Without in any way wishing to derogate from my noble friend's argument, which I think is a very important one, I should like to say a word on the general principle of making a Bill come into operation at some uncertain date in the future which the Secretary of State may by order appoint. Normally a Bill comes into operation when it is passed, or it may come into operation on a fixed date which is stated in the Bill. But it must be very rarely that a Bill is left, as it were, in the air, with no date fixed for its coming into operation, and it is left entirely to a Minister to decide by order some date in the future when it is going to come into operation.
This Bill involves important changes to the business community. Their hours are going to be shortened generally, but in some cases they are going to be lengthened. It is only fair to the business community as well as to the shopping community that they should have good notice of when this Bill is going to come into operation. Unless there is some good reason which has not been disclosed, I cannot understand why it should be left in this uncertain state. So I very much hope that it will be possible to look into this question (I think it is an important one) and either fix a date for the Bill to come into operation or fix no date, in which case it comes into operation on the passing of the Bill.
741 I realise (and I hope that the noble Lord who is going to reply will not make a debating point of this) that this is not exactly my noble friend's point. His point is that the Bill should not come into operation until the whole question of local government has been determined. That is quite a separate question and is one which is well worthy of being dealt with on its merits. I am taking the constitutional question. I cannot think of any Bill with regard to which it has been left open merely for a Minister to decide, possibly at the shortest possible notice, when it will come into operation. I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will address himself to that point as well as to the point made by my noble friend.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
May I address myself first to the argument which has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. The Amendment commences with the wordsProvided that such order shall be contained in a statutory instrument.The Bill already provides for that in Clause 55 (2). If the noble Lord will look at it he will see that it is there laid down. I realise the other consideration which the noble Lord has in mind. I am aware that the county councils want transfer of responsibility deferred until local government reorganisation has taken place. I wonder whether the noble Lord would be satisfied if I give him this assurance: that the position in regard to local government reorganisation will be one of the factors which the Home Secretary will take into account before making an order. Further, the Home Secretary will also consult with the local authority associations. In that way I think we shall get over the difficulty which the noble Lord has stressed, because it is clear that the Home Secretary would not make an order until his consultations with local authority associations had been completed. He would also take into account the effect of local government reorganisation.
Lord Silkin's point was a somewhat different one. He raised the whole question of the principle involved here; the uncertainty of the date of operation and the fact of the Bill's being brought into operation as the result of a decision by the Minister concerned. Certainly there are important changes; but this Bill is so intricate in many of its details that I 742 think it is well that plenty of time should be given for everyone concerned to be consulted and for the fullest consideration to be given. The noble Lord I am sure appreciates that it is not only local authorities but the business community, as he said, who are concerned. I cannot see any need to fear that the Minister will bring the Act into operation before he has given plenty of time for consultation and for consideration. I think this period must in essence be unlimited, to give everyone an opportunity to understand what the Act is all about. Perhaps in these circumstances the noble Lord would agree to withdraw his amendment.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I am very appreciative of what the noble Lord has said. Of course, having consultation with interested parties and having consultation with local authorities is a different thing from having consultation with Parliament. I hope the noble Lord will not think that this is one of my prejudices, but one becomes accustomed to Governments thinking that after they have agreed with the vested interest concerned "that is that" and Parliament must act as a rubber stamp. I have always quarrelled with that view. I feel that the Government must get the endorsement of Parliament on this matter. I am not saying it is not necessary to carry vested interests with you, if possible—I use the expression "vested interests" in no offensive sense; I mean local authority interests or industrial interests. It is necessary to carry them with you. But whether they agree or whether they do not, the noble Lord really has said that then, without coming to Parliament, the Minister may make an order bringing the Act into force. That is my interpretation of what the noble Lord has said.
I quickly read Clause 55 but that does not help me very much. What I want the noble Lord to say is that, in view of the administrative difficulties of the Bill and the state of flux in which the Government find themselves, vis-à-vis this Bill and local authority reorganisation, they will not make the statutory order bringing this Bill into operation, irrespective of any consultations they may have, without first coming to Parliament. I think that in a serious and far-reaching matter like this Parliament should have the last word; it should not rest with the Department. The Department have 743 had consultations on this Bill with local authorities for almost as long as the Gowers Report has been in circulation, and there are still major disagreements with the local authorities on the Bill. I think that Parliament should be able to debate it and any difference of opinion that may exist in future before the step is taken of bringing this Bill into operation by a simple declaration of the Secretary of State.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I really do not see the force of the noble Lord's argument. The noble Lord referred to a "rubber stamp". Surely he would not argue that all the proceedings on this Bill in this House have been of the nature of "rubber stamp". What is it that the House have to argue? The House will already have passed the Bill before we reach the point of bringing it into operation; it will have become an Act of Parliament. It is the will of Parliament that that Bill should be on the Statute Book. What are we going to argue about—the date from which the Minister says the Bill should operate? That does not give room for a great deal of discussion. Surely that is something which does not need to be discussed by Parliament. In the normal course of events, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, the Act would operate from the date on which it received the Royal Assent. Here, all the Government are doing is to postpone that date until such time as the Minister is absolutely sure in his own mind that I everything necessary to be done has been done. Local authorities have to make orders under this Bill, as well as other things. I honestly do not see the force of the argument which the noble Lord is putting forward.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
May I put this consideration before the noble Lord? This Bill places on small district councils the responsibility of setting up an organisation for a shop inspectorate, because heretofore these responsibilities have been vested in the county council. Here, if I may, I will go back a little. The noble Lord will remember that the Amendment to which I have just referred sought to give power to a district council, if they did not want to assume the responsibilities placed upon them by this Bill, to hand it over to the county council by arrangement with the 744 county council. That proposal was resisted by the Government. While in this Bill county councils may give powers they now possess to the district councils, the obverse was not acceptable. Why, I do not know. Let us suppose that when the Government bring in their Bill for the reorganisation of local government, some of the local authorities have their areas whittled down, their responsibilities altered or absorbed by others, and that some of them who have been compelled to set up organisations for the enforcement of this Bill when it becomes law, do not exist in the legislation which the Government are going to bring forward. What happens?
I am quite prepared to accept the noble Lord's assurance that no Minister worth calling a Minister is going to put into operation an Act that places responsibilities on non-existent bodies; but he has to find some method of putting these responsibilities on somebody, and that might well require some amendment to this Bill. Some of the local authorities who have these responsibilities placed on them will not know whether they are going to live or die. Surely it is not too much to ask that, before this is done, the Secretary of State shall come before Parliament with his proposals for doing this. I am not saying that they will not be passed. Surely it is not beyond the possibility that this kind of thing might happen. The noble Lord did not like my expression "rubber stamp," but that is what it will amount to unless we are going to give Parliament the power which I seek to give by this Amendment.
I am not going to press the Amendment, but will the noble Lord consider it, and the arguments that I have put forward, between now and the next stage? This is entirely an administrative matter. We want to know what is going to be done. The noble Lord will appreciate that the reason why the previous Shops Act has been brought into disrepute and, as his noble friend Lord Mancroft said on Second Reading, has become a "farrago of nonsense" is that the Act has become incapable of being put into operation. Let us learn from that experience and not follow the same foolish course that has been followed in the past. That is all I ask the noble Lord. If he will consider that, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I came down to your Lordships' House to press the very constitutional point that has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I was going to raise it on the Motion that the clause stand part, but perhaps it is appropriate to touch on the matter now. I would not, with respect support the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, because I do not think that it meets the constitutional point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I do not remember—my memory may well be at fault—many other Bills being passed by Parliament in which it says:This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint.Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to cite other cases. It is certainly an unusual provision, that an administrative order shall be passed which will bring into effect a Bill which has passed through both Houses of Parliament and has received the Royal Assent. It seems to me that it would be much better if we could get away from this unsatisfactory vagueness of an administrative order, to be issued at any time the Secretary of State wishes, which would automatically bring into operation an Act which has had the Royal Assent. I think that this is a dangerous precedent for the future. There may in the future be Governments with other political complexions, and if we are to accept a position that, because Parliament passes a Bill which may have much wider provisions than those contained in this Bill, the present Bill is, so to speak, to be kept in suspense until it is a convenient time, from the point of view either of the Minister or of the Government, for it to come into operation, then I believe we shall be introducing something of a dangerous custom—I will not say "precedent"—and one that is certainly not to be encouraged.
The coming into operation of this Shops Bill, when it is an Act, will affect not only local authorities and Government Departments but many small citizens and business people, who may not read the Press widely and may not be aware of the issuing by the Minister of an order bringing the Bill into operation. Would it not be better if a fixed time could be set saying, for example, 746 that the Bill shall not come into operation until this day six months or a year hence? I would prefer to say that it shall be read this day six months hence, but that is another question. Would that not be preferable to giving the Executive power to implement, as and when the Executive wish, the decision of the Legislature? Would the Minister be good enough to consider that point between now and the next stage?
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I thank the noble Lord for his contribution. The matter might have been argued one way or the other, as he readily admits. Though I cannot give him the actual Titles of the Acts, my information is that many Acts contain provisions postponing commencement of effect until the Minister decides. Delay is necessary because of regulations and orders which have to be made by the Secretary of State and local authorities. That is the reason for allowing the Minister to decide.
§ LORD SILKIN
The noble Lord is explaining why the Act cannot come into operation at once, but he is not explaining why a date cannot be fixed. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, spoke of a delay of six months, but I do not suppose he would object if it were six years.
§ LORD SILKIN
But whether it be a year or two years, I urge the Government: fix a date, and within that time all the formalities can be carried out. That would be far more satisfactory.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I agree that it would be perfectly possible to fix a date a prescribed number of months ahead, and to insert that date in the Bill. I presume that the date is left indefinite because it is more convenient that it should be so; but I will report to my noble friend what the noble Lord has said, and he may give it consideration. I still do not follow the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, because the fact of the matter is that the Bill will have been passed and become an Act of Parliament, and will be on the Statute Book. That is the position. The noble Lord says, "Let it come back to Parliament again and let us amend the Act." But that cannot be done 747 except by passing another Act. I really do not see what the noble Lord wishes to do when the Act comes back.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 76 agreed to.
§ First Schedule:
§ PART II
§ GOODS WHOSE SALE IS PERMISSIBLE UNTIL LATER HOUR OR, IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, WITHOUT LIMIT OF TIME
§ 4. Sweets, chocolates and other sugar confectionery.
§ 8. Newspapers, periodicals, magazines, guidebooks, picture post-cards and photographs.
§ 9. Bread.
§ LORD MILVERTON
This Amendment and the next go together and they represent a minor attempt to try to clarify or make easier the working of the intention of the Act; and in speaking to this Amendment, with the permission of the Committee, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 109, 113, 118 and 119, all of them dealing with the same point—that as flour confectionery is excluded from the Schedules, shops inspectors must be able to advise shopkeepers which articles are deemed to be sugar confectionery. I understand that frequent requests for guidance in this matter are received from shopkeepers, and in the absence of a definition no consistent answer can be given. The result is that shops in the same street, where the boundaries of local authorities meet, may be given different advice, and the public may be able to buy an article in one shop yet be refused the same article in a neighbouring shop. Presumably it is intended that the sale of articles similar in kind to sweets shall be permitted outside the ordinary closing hours. Since a definition of "sugar confectionery" seems to be out of the question, and since no great hardship would be entailed by the deletion of sugar confectionery from the Schedules altogether, the course which these two Amendments suggest is submitted. I beg to move.
Page 54, line 13, after (" sweets ") insert (" and ").—(Lord Milverton.)
§ LORD MACKINTOSH OF HALIFAX
Perhaps I am the only Member of your 748 Lordships' House who is closely associated with the sugar confectionery business, and I am not sure that it would be wise to leave out the words "sugar confectionery". The three major associations connected with the business are the manufacturers' association, known as the Cocoa, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance; the wholesalers' association, represented by the National Association of Wholesale Confectioners; and the retailers' association, which is the National Association of Retail Confectioners. Sweets, as such, are never mentioned in the technical jargon of the confectionery business. The word "sweets" has become a general, common term used by the man in the street for all kinds of sweets—chocolates, as well as sugar confectionery—just as the term "candy" is used in the United States of America. I believe that it would be unwise to leave out the term "sugar confectionery". There is, of course, flour confectionery. I suggest that it would be wiser to leave it as "Sweets, chocolates and other sugar confectionery." Then every point of view will be met.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mackintosh of Halifax, for his explanation. The argument of my noble friend Lord Milverton was that the words "sugar confectionery" must give rise to doubt. The noble Lord will have heard what has been said in that connection by the noble Lord, Lord Mackintosh of Halifax. Her Majesty's Government are informed by the trade that the meaning of the term "sugar confectionery" is as clear as any such term can possibly be. It means articles mainly confected of sugar, as opposed to articles mainly confected of flour. If the words "and other sugar confectionery" were to be excluded, it would have an effect which is not intended by the noble Lord who moved the Amendment. The term "sweets" means more than goods ordinarily sold in sweet shops. To give the Committee an example, it includes a certain kind of intoxicating liquor. The view of Her Majesty's Government is that "sweets" here, joined with the words "and other sugar confectionery", clearly does not include such items; but if the words "and sugar confectionery" were to be left out, there is the possibility that doubt would be very much increased. In these circumstances, I trust that the 749 noble Lord will be satisfied with the explanation I have given and will be kind efnough to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD MILVERTON
In view of the assurances given by the noble Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in paragraph 8, to leave out: "and photographs". The noble Earl said: This Amendment is in line with the spirit of the Gowers Report. As your Lordships will remember, one of the recommendations of the Gowers Committee was that as many exemptions as possible from the restrictions on the opening hours of shops should be cut out; and this, I think, is an exemption that should not be made. I do not think photographs should be exempted as articles which may be sold at times when shops are closed for the sale of other articles. It seems to me that there is a case for museums and art galleries, but surely they are covered by the exemption of picture postcards; that is to say, the reproduction in picture postcard form of objects that have been shown in these museums or art galleries. There is no need for that purpose to include photographs.
§ Again, I can see that there is a case for the sale of photographs, which sometimes have to be done at short notice on an afternoon when other shops are closed; but they are specifically dealt with in the Second Schedule. Surely, however, the photography business is no different from the business of a shoemaker or a tailor. I cannot see why I should be able to go to a photographer and buy a photograph of myself or of Miss Marlene Dietrich on an afternoon when all the neighbouring shops are closed and I cannot buy a pair of shoes or a suit. It seems to me that there is little justification (I hope the noble Lord may be able to show that there is) for the inclusion of photographs among the articles that may be sold at hours when shops are closed for the sale of other articles. I beg to move.
Page 54, line 19, leave out ("and photographs ").—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD SILKIN
When the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, replies, I should be 750 glad if he would explain what is meant by "photographs". Does it mean a portrait? It does not mean picture postcards, or the kind of photograph which you buy at the seaside. What is the justification for making it possible to buy photographs at any time of the day or night? I can understand a person's being seized with a sudden desire to buy ice cream or tobacco, or even a periodical, at a late hour. But is it necessary for a person to be able to buy a photograph outside the normal shopping hours? I am puzzled on two grounds. One is that without some definition of "photograph" it seems to cover far too wide a field; and the other is where the justification comes in for linking it up with newspapers, periodicals, guide books, or even, conceivably, a picture postcard, which one might want at all hours. I do not understand why a photograph should be included. Perhaps the noble Lord could explain that.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
The object the Government have in view is to prevent what we consider to be an absurdity. You can purchase a postcard, which is, in fact, a photograph, except that it has an address place on the back. This Amendment would prohibit the purchase of exactly the same picture without the place for writing an address on the back. It seems to be an absurd distinction. There are many things that tourists want: for instance, there are those little booklets which one pulls out with photographs of the various surrounding places of interest. These are photographs, and we think they they should not be excluded. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked me what a photograph is. I can only tell him that it is a photograph. We feel it is absurd that a photograph which has the place for an address on the back can be sold, but that exactly the same photograph, because it is plain on the back, cannot be sold. I may say in this connection that the Bill follows the present Act, and I can assure your Lordships that there is no evidence that the provision has been found to cause any real difficulty. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wondered why one should be able to buy photo-graphs, portraits, or whatever they might be. There are times when one wants a photograph quickly, as, for instance, in the case of a passport photograph.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The noble Lord will observe that passport photographs are exempted in the next Schedule.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
That is one form of photograph, and I accept what the noble Earl says. I hope I have explained why "photographs" is included, and I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I must say that I am not very happy about that reply. It seems to me that the essential point is that there is no definition of what is a photograph. The result is that not only can photographs that are sold in art galleries, museums, and so on, which are not picture postcards—as the noble Lord said they have not a space on the back on which to write an address; no one would have any objection to those being sold outside the normal hours—be sold, but any photographer can sell a photograph of any person or any object at any time. It seems to me that this provision is much too wide, and that what is needed—it is beyond my ingenuity, but I am sure it is not beyond that of the Government draftsmen—is to define "photograph" in a way that will allow photographs that are sold in art galleries or museums to be included in the Bill and exempted from the ordinary closing restrictions, but will exclude the ordinary photographer's business, such as we see in any of the main streets of our large towns, from that privileged position as compared with other tradesmen, because their articles are exempted from the restrictions on opening hours of shops. I hope that between now and the Report stage the noble Lord will ask his advisers to turn their minds to the possibility of some definition which will narrow the meaning of the word "photograph" so that on both sides we can get what we want.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
May I intervene for a moment? I hope that we shall not try to find some technical definition of something that we all know. We must all know a photograph when we see it, just as we know a hippopotamus when we see it. But if the skilled draftsmen get busy trying to define what a photograph is, one does not know where it will lead us. I remember, as no doubt will the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, that many years ago, when I was 752 President of the Board of Trade, somebody moved the adjournment of the House because my Under-Secretary was asked: "What is a blank?", and he replied, "A blank is a blank." That was a good answer. And a photograph is a photograph.
I should like to look at the question from the point of view of a person who is going to commit a criminal offence if he does something which is not permitted by this Bill. If you are to have some wonderful definition of "When is a photograph not a photograph?", nobody will know whether the kind of thing he is selling, which may be a picture postcard of Britain or of the Mona Lisa—it does not matter what it is—can be sold. On the other hand, if you leave the simple English word, or the mixed word "photograph", in, the man will know what he is allowed to do and what he is not allowed to do. I hope that we shall not go in for any of these pseudo-scientific refinements.
§ LORD MANCROFT
Might I intervene for a moment to suggest that the House should resume for a short while in order to enable me to make a statement about the present situation of the strikes.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.