New Clause. — (Special provisions as to seaside resorts.)

Orders of the Day — Shops (Sunday Trading Restriction) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 24th April 1936.

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(1) Where the local authority are satisfied that their area or any part thereof is a district which is frequented as a seaside resort during certain seasons of the year, and that it is desirable in the interests of the persons frequenting the district that certain trades or businesses should be carried on on Sunday in the district, they may by order provide that during such period or periods as may be specified in the order (not exceeding in the aggregate more than four months in any year) shops situated in the district or such part thereof as may be so specified, being shops in which there are carried on such of the trades or businesses aforesaid as may be so specified, may be open for the serving of customers on Sunday during such hours and subject to such conditions and limitations as may be specified in the order.

(2) Any order made under this section may contain such incidental, supplemental, or consequential provisions as may appear to the local authority necessary or proper.—[Mr. J. Rathbone.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.53 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Rathbone Mr John Rathbone , Bodmin

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

A Clause with a similar aim was moved in Committee and was withdrawn because of its drafting, which meant rather more than it was meant to mean. It was too wide. It has now been re-drafted, and whatever may be said about other Clauses in the Bill, I think I can claim that this Clause at least is straightforward and easily understandable. It has been drafted with two aims in view. The first is to avoid the likelihood of this Bill being held up to all the odium which was so universally enjoyed by the Defence of the Realm Act, and the second is to aim at the same time at preserving the main Bill, that is to say, to avoid a situation in which shopkeepers have to open simply because their neighbours who are in competition with them are doing it also.

Hon. and right hon. Members will notice that, apart from the First Schedule the only concessions to seaside resorts are to be found in the Second Schedule, which deals only with the sale of bread, including rolls and fancy bread, fish, groceries, and other provisions commonly sold in grocers' shops. There are other articles which are essential for the making of a holiday by the seaside. I am thinking more particularly of bathing suits, and, as a seaside holiday is undertaken for the benefit of the children, I might add toy buckets and spades. I am proposing this new Clause for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of day trippers who go from the large cities to the seaside as for instance, from London to Southend, and who do not necessarily go equipped with the various articles they may need to complete the enjoyment of their holiday, and who expect to be able to get them there with, perhaps, some suitable message inscribed on the buckets. These people arrive at the seaside, and having put on their bathing suits, find they have forgotten some essential accessories for the enjoyment of their holiday. If they find that under this Bill they are not able to secure what they want, their holiday is ruined and there arises the very odium which I want to avoid, and which was universally enjoyed by the Defence of the Realm Act.

More important, perhaps, from the point of view of the promoters of the Bill, is that the proposed Clause will make sure that Sunday opening is acceptable in every way from the point of view of the shopkeeper and shop assistant. The Clause may appear at first sight to be somewhat sweeping. I therefore want to emphasise the restrictions which are involved in it. It applies only to seaside resorts and the order may even restrict it to certain areas in those resorts such as the beach, the promenade and shops in the vicinity of the places where these articles may be needed. Added to this, the order is allowable for only a fixed period not exceeding an aggregate of four months in any one year. Perhaps the most important point is that the order can only be made if at least two-thirds of the shops affected by the Clause are in agreement with its aim. Therefore, there is no question of competitive opening. Even if it be brought down to a reductio ad absurdum, and if only two shops in a small seaside town sell bathing suits, neither can have a two-thirds majority over the other and, therefore, there can be no question of one having to open because the other wants to do so.

This new Clause is subject to the rest of the Bill except so far as there is special provision in the Clause itself. For instance, in the matter of people being employed in these shops on a Sunday, the provisions of Clause 9 dealing with compensatory holidays, according to the hours worked on Sunday, covers seaside resorts in the same way as it does shops elsewhere. There is an Amendment down in the name of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) dealing with the retail sale of meat. I do not think that that Amendment is necessary, because not only are retail traders in meat covered by Clause 4, under which they can open only in the event of two-thirds of them desiring to do so, but there is also a special Bill called the Retail Meat Dealers (Sunday Closing) Bill which, if it goes through, will over-ride anything in this Bill, and therefore renders the Amendment to this proposed Clause superfluous. This Clause has been carefully drafted, and I have reason to believe, from the way the suggestion was met in Committee, that there is no great opposition to it. It is designed to meet not only the demands of the public, but the aims of this Bill.

Photo of Sir Richard Denman Sir Richard Denman , Leeds Central

I beg to second the Motion.

12.2 p.m.

Photo of Sir Walter Liddall Sir Walter Liddall , Lincoln

I hope the House will not give a Second Reading to the proposed Clause, which will apply not only to shops where you can obtain bathing suits, buckets and spades, but to butchers' shops, and will enable them to remain open in seaside resorts where an order has been obtained. At the Meat Traders' Federation Conference at Hastings this week, at which 475 delegates were present, the question of opening butchers' shops at seaside resorts was raised, arid only one delegate voted for or spoke in favour of such a proposal. The retail butchers of this country certainly do not wish their shops to be open on Sunday, even at the seaside.

12.3 p.m.

Photo of Sir Henry Channon Sir Henry Channon , Southend-on-Sea

Whatever reform is introduced, there is always a minority that must suffer or be inconvenienced. I represent the constituency of Southend, to which 1,500,000 people go during the summer months by train and boat. I have not counted the hundreds of thousands who go by car, cycle and omnibus, whose numbers cannot be estimated. For many of them it is the only holiday they get. What do they do when they get there? They go to the beach, and spend the whole day by the sea—

Photo of Sir Henry Channon Sir Henry Channon , Southend-on-Sea

When they can see it. They spend the time on the beach, and, eventually, at lunch time, they are hungry. If they do not bring their lunch with them and are rich, they can go to restaurants. The vast majority of them, however, are people of moderate means who do not care to go to an expensive restaurant. Why should they be deprived of the opportunity of supplementing their picnics with the things that can usually be bought on the beach like comets, sandwiches and tea? This Clause is designed to keep open the little shops along the beach which supply those things, and also supply seaside paraphernalia—toys to keep the children quiet, buckets, spades, and things like that—and I see no reason why people should not be allowed to buy these harmless little contributions to their amusement. We see children with a few pennies rushing into these little shops to buy things, and if the shops are shut the children will be deprived of part of their fun.

There is also the point of view of the small shopkeeper to be considered. I know that the Bill is designed to give shopkeepers a day of rest, but in seaside places these people have eight months rest a year—enforced idleness. In the very short season which seaside places enjoy the most important days are the 18 or 19 Sundays which come within the four months of the season, and we ought not to take away their means of livelihood as well as inconveniencing people who go to places like Southend and Blackpool. To do so would be to pass an unnecessarily inconvenient and vexatious piece of legislation which would prevent people enjoying themselves in quite harmless ways. Again I would say that it would appear to be almost class legislation to allow restaurants to remain open but to shut the little shops where one can get fried fish, sandwiches, and things of that sort. I ask the House to accept the Clause.

12.8 p.m.

Photo of Mr Pierse Loftus Mr Pierse Loftus , Lowestoft

The promoters of the Bill, after giving this matter the most careful consideration, are in favour of this new Clause. In a Bill such as this one must have elasticity. I will give one illustration of it. We had a unanimous demand from the Association of Fish Fryers, representing the trade all over England, asking that fish-frying shops should be closed on Sundays, and we agreed and took them out of the First Schedule. But then we heard from Blackpool, which is visited every year by, I suppose, millions of poor people, cotton operatives and others, who like to get cheap meals of fried fish on Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings, and we feel there must be some provision in the Bill to allow the grant of exemptions in such a case. The difficulty is to avoid putting in a Clause which is open to abuse and I submit that there are two provisions which provide a 'safeguard. The first is that the local authority must approve the granting of exemptions, and the second is that the local authority cannot approve unless two-thirds of those particular shops in its locality are in favour of exemption. Having no desire that hardships should be inflicted on poor class people I would ask the House to accept the Clause.

12.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

I was inclined to look favourably at this new Clause until I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Southend (Mr. Channon). I would not so much object to this Clause if it were intended to cover only the things which the hon. Member mentioned, but if those who have submitted this Clause will read it again they will see how very wide are its terms. This is not a Clause to permit the sale only of bathing suits, buckets and spades, ices and sandwiches. As an hon. Member tells me, one can hire a bathing-suit for 2d. in Southend. It may be desirable in the interests of persons in a district that certain trades and businesses should be carried on on a Sunday, but if this new Clause is granted to Blackpool there will be grocery and provision shops open, there will be furniture shops open, there will be tailoring and drapery shops open, there will be radio shops open, bicycle shops open, motor car shops open, and probably aeroplane shops, too. The whole of Blackpool's shops will be open on Sundays for four months in the year—probably more so than on any other day. This is all to be done not in the interests of persons visiting Blackpool but in the interests of the shopkeeping community in Blackpool, and I sincerely trust the Home Office will not readily agree to this very wide provision.

Southend may be a seaside town entirely on its own or it may not—I do not know it at all. Someone tells me that it is a London suburb. I suppose that if I stand up long enough hon. Members will deliver my speech for me. But hon. Members must not forget that there are places where seaside towns almost abut on each other.. Take the case of St. Anne's-on-Sea, a very. respectable town, with Blackpool right near to it, and Cleveleys is also near, I think. As the hon. Member has advertised Southend I think I ought, as a Lancashire man, to say a. few words about the seaside resorts of my own county.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

You are not a Lancashire man.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

I ought to be, by this time. The serious proposition I wish to put forward is that we might have one of these townships adopting the provisions of this Clause and an adjoining township not doing so. The result would be competition between the two townships, and I think hon. Members will see that that would be grossly unfair. Some of us who are interested in this Bill and have followed it throughout all its stages are really apprehensive lest the shopkeeping community and shop assistants be deprived of their day of rest on Sunday by devious means, and in our opinion there are in this Clause opportunities for the introduction of those devious means. I venture to ask hon. Members who agree with my point of view to vote against the Clause if it is forced to a Division.

12.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made a reference to the attitude of the Home Office, perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I stated it. Everyone who was on the Standing Committee knows that the hon. Member played a most constructive part there, and we were so often able to reach agreement on points on which, at the outset, we had differed, that I am sorry he takes up so strong an attitude on this Clause, and I am sorry, also, that we at the Home Office cannot agree with him. The general principle which has guided the Home Office attitude on this Bill has been that we desire to see the adoption of the principle of the restriction of Sunday trading but are most anxious, also, to see that there shall be no vexatious restrictions on the legitimate demands of the public. That is the general principle which governs our attitude to this Clause, and we agree in broad outline with the case made by the hon. Member for Southend (Mr. Channon) which, as a matter of fact, could be made by Members knowing the needs of seaside resorts in all parts of the country. That case is that the Bill as it stands and without this Clause would mean serious inconvenience to hundreds of thousands, indeed, I may say millions, of working-class people, who visit seaside resorts on a Sunday, which is the day on which they are most likely to visit them in large numbers. That being the position, we think this Clause ought to be accepted. We wholeheartedly agree with the principle of this Bill, and when it is passed into law we do not wish to see large sections of the population raising an outcry against vexatious restrictions and thus, perhaps, bringing the whole principle of the Bill into unpopularity. That is our attitude. We agree with the hon. Member who moved this new Clause and we ask the House to accept it.

12.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Denis Pritt Mr Denis Pritt , Hammersmith North

I wish to raise one very short point against the Clause. It really is not easily and fairly workable if we speak of seaside resorts. If we confine it to seaside resorts two or three difficulties arise. The first is that there are many important inland resorts to which the working class and other people resort in large numbers. If we are to add these resorts there will not be much of the Bill left afterwards. Secondly, what is a seaside resort? In the first place there are difficulties in deciding what is the seaside. There is one very important borough represented here to-day, and many people debate whether it is on the seaside or not. Then the question is, what is a resort? It is a question of degree, I know. I ought to welcome this Clause as a lawyer, because it will mean money for lawyers. Take the borough of Sunderland. I have not the honour of representing it but I know it very well. Most hon. Members would laugh at it being described as a seaside resort, but in fact there is inside the borough a mile or more of most beautiful sand on the sea. Is the rest of Sunderland to be submitted to all the ills that this Bill is designed to avoid, because it happens to be in the same borough? The Clause is most unhappily worded.

12.17 p.m.

Photo of Captain James Duncan Captain James Duncan , Kensington North

This Clause has the blessing of the Home Office, but it is necessary to see whether it will work. I would ask either the Home Office or the promoters of the Clause one or two questions. I understand the position to be that the local authority first of all has to satisfy itself that a place is a seaside resort. We have already had some doubt cast upon what is a seaside resort. The local authority having done this, it has to specify either the whole or a part of its area for the benefits of the Clause. Who is going to vote? Suppose the local authority has specified the so-called sea front at Southend as the part of the borough which is to have the benefit of the Clause. If the furniture dealers in Southend who sell buckets wish to apply for the benefit of this provision, who is going to vote? Are the votes to be cast by the whole of the furniture dealers in Southend or only by those furniture dealers who happen to be within the area specified? We ought to be quite clear not only on the question of what is a seaside resort and on the powers of the local authority, but as to what we are voting on.

12.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Muff Mr George Muff , Kingston upon Hull East

The Under-Secretary of State has stated that he will accept this Clause, and I ask him whether he is prepared to accept Amendments exempting Ilkley, Buxton, Matlock and many other places which can properly be called inland resorts Would he consider South-sea as a seaside resort, and is Portsmouth to be exempted Then there is New Brighton, which is on an estuary and cannot properly be called a seaside resort. Is it to be called a seaside resort? Not far away are Liverpool and Bootle, which are nearer to the sea. I suggest to the Under-Secretary that he is putting the House in a somewhat difficult position. The Clause will certainly make my constituency of Kingstonupon-Hull a seaside resort, and Grimsby of course is one. Will this definition prevent Southport from being called a seaside resort? I should imagine that the Under-Secretary will now have to introduce a series of Amendments in order to exempt those delightful spots in Middlesex and Surrey, such as Godstone and similar places, which are godsends for the people of London who want really fresh air and true recreation. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary has given a hint to his friends that they may vote for the Clause, because, if I could use unparliamentary language, he has put us in a hole.

12.21 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Arnold Wilson Lieut-Colonel Sir Arnold Wilson , Hitchin

This new Clause drives not a coach-and-four but a whole convoy of motor omnibuses right through the Bill. I do not wish to press any further the devastating inquiry as to what is a seaside resort and why. If the words used were "pleasure resort" the question would be easier to answer. What I had in mind was the Lakes. It is true that they are fresh water and not salt water, and are not seaside resorts, but they are far more extensively patronised by the people of Lancashire than is the rather gloomy coast at Barrow-in-Furness. We must have some proportion, and if the Clause is to be passed it certainly requires far more consideration. But I wish to speak on a particular question which I beg the Under-Secretary to answer if he can. What is the relation of this Clause to Clause 5? Under Clause 5 a Jew who declares in statutory form that he has a conscientious objection to opening on Saturday will be entitled for 12 months of the year to keep his shop open on Sunday up to two o'clock, provided it is closed on Saturday, but will he have the option during the four months of the year mentioned in this new Clause to keep open for seven days a week? There is clearly some inter-relation between the two Clauses, and I doubt not the Under-Secretary has that in mind. There are hundreds of Jews' shops in Southend and Brighton. The question will certainly arise, and may arise in an acute form. It cannot be dealt with otherwise than by some definite statement in the Bill as to what is the relation between the two Clauses.

12.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Albert Alexander Mr Albert Alexander , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I hope we are to have an answer to the last question, which is important. In any case we ought to say from this side to the Under-Secretary that we are very disappointed with the consideration given to this matter by the Home Office. My hon. Friend the Member for West houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) voiced the main objection to this Clause and showed in detail the extraordinary comprehensiveness of the powers of Sunday trading which could arise under the Clause. The Under-Secretary made no reference at all to that point. It seems to me that the Clause makes fish of one and flesh of another, as between seaside resorts and inland watering places. Does it not destroy the whole basis on which advice has been given to the Home Secretary? As this is in no sense a Government Measure or a party Measure the House ought to feel itself free to vote as it pleases upon this reaction being introduced into the Bill. I can understand, of course, that the private Member who introduced the Bill, who sits for Lowestoft, finds himself readily accepting this dilution of the improvements which are provided by the Bill. We ought not to be unduly influenced by the speech which he has just made on the matter.

I ask hon. Members of all parties to consider whether the workers in seaside resorts have not the same souls and the same bodies to be saved as workers in any other part of the country. If we are to make it possible for groups of traders in seaside resorts, by special agreement among themselves and without any reference to any other consideration, to keep people working on a day which cannot be replaced by any other day in the week in the lives of the workers, we are going too far. If the Government do not object to the general principle of the Bill, they have no case for objecting to the maintenance of the principle in all places where British citizens have to conform to the law for the benefit of the whole. I hope that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will deal with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) and that he will not be too proud—I am sure that he will not be; I know him well—to draw back from the ill-advice which he had to adopt in his speech.

12.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

I should not have spoken on this proposed new Clause had it not been for the speech to which we have just listened. When the representative of the big and powerful societies speaks it is time that some of us put forward the position of the smaller people who have no vast capital behind them. I wish to see the position of shop assistants safeguarded, although, for other reasons, I have taken no part in the discussions on the Bill. I understand that in the new Clause these people are safeguarded, and it is because they are safeguarded that the Home Office have been able to accept the new Clause.

There is another side to the proposed new Clause. The local authorities are to be given the right, in the first place, to decide, but the big cities like London, Birmingham and Sheffield have often not a very close knowledge of local affairs such as is possessed by the local authority of a small seaside resort. All the seaside places are not Torquays, but are very much smaller and are dependent upon a short season. The small shopkeepers in them are very dependent upon their prosperity in that short time, and before we turn this proposal down we should realise that we already have in the Bill full protection for the assistants.

We can meet the wish which has been expressed in this House. The smaller shops in those seaside places can work out a scheme so that opening does not take place over a wide area, but meets a particular local need for the space of four months in the year. The position can be readjusted in other ways and by other methods. I appeal to hon. Members to accept the suggestion, as I know the needs of the smaller people in the smaller seaside resorts. I should not ask the House to do so unless I were satisfied, as I am at the moment, that the assistants in those shops will be safeguarded and looked after. I ask hon. Members to take the wider point of view and to give the benefit of the doubt to the smaller places and to their needs. There is a widespread feeling in the House that we ought not to agree to legislation which imposes too many restrictions on the various industries of the country.

12.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cooper Rawson Mr Cooper Rawson , Brighton

I would ask the Home Office to reconsider the proposed new Clause, which I think has not been sufficiently considered up to the present. I represent a seaside Parliamentary division. Take two seaside resorts; you will have to have a different set of Regulations for each of them, and that will lead to endless complications. We have quite enough restrictions at the present time in regard to trade and enjoyment, and if a seaside resort cannot organise during the week for the accommodation and enjoyment of visitors, it is its own fault and should not be the concern of the State. Let us consider a seaside resort with a huge front, such as Brighton, on a wet day. Are the visitors to go a mile back into the town, and not to be allowed to be served with teas?

Photo of Mr Pierse Loftus Mr Pierse Loftus , Lowestoft

Does the hon. Member realise that two-thirds of the shops in the municipal county borough of Brighton must have moved before the local authority could act?

Photo of Mr Cooper Rawson Mr Cooper Rawson , Brighton

Surely there are enough exemptions in the First and Second Schedules already. If visitors cannot get enough under the First and Second Schedules they ought to go to another seaside resort.

12.32 p.m.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

As the Under-Secretary may ask leave to speak again, may I, as a representative of a seaside resort, ask him one or two questions? I cannot understand the grounds on which this Clause is being moved. When I look at the First and Second Schedules I find that every one of the instances given to the House seems to be covered by those Schedules.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

That is a very interesting point. Fried fish is not in the First Schedule, but in the Second Schedule there is "The sale of fish." Does that not include the sale of fried fish?

Photo of Mr Pierse Loftus Mr Pierse Loftus , Lowestoft

Only up to two o'clock. [Laughter.]

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

The intricacies of the problem can be very amusing. Even the question of buckets and spades might be got in with very much less difficulty in another place, as an Amendment to the last paragraph of the First Schedule, the sale of requisites for any game or sport at any premises or place where that game or sport is played or carried on, than by putting in this special new Clause, which opens the door wide to the closing of Sunday trade in a seaside resort. I suggest that the promoters should reserve this point and amend the Schedules in another place.

12.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Potts Mr John Potts , Barnsley

I would call the attention of the House to the observations made by the representative of the Home Office, who said that the Home Office were not agreed on this matter. If that be the fact, I hope that the House will not be carried away. If the Home Secretary were here instead of the Under-Secretary we might have had both sides of the case put this morning. I hope that the House will riot lose sight of the point that the Home Office are not agreed as to the recommendation embodied in the Bill. Another point is that the question of local option is brought in, and, if this proposal is allowed to go through, it will no doubt be followed by many others of a similar nature. I hope the House will not depart from the principle which has already been laid down in that regard.

12.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

If, by the leave of the House, I may say a word or two in reply to the points which have been raised, I shall be very pleased to do so. I do not think the House will be disposed to disagree with the general principle that I have already put forward namely, that we do not want this Bill to interfere with the supply of the daily requirements of the public, and in particular, in this case, at seaside resorts. When my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) raised the question of fried fish shops, he was getting a little into error in supposing that the opening of such shops would be permitted under the Schedule. It would not be permitted.

Photo of Lord Eustace Percy Lord Eustace Percy , Hastings

Surely the local authority would have power to allow the opening of fried fish shops at a seaside resort until one o'clock on Sundays?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

Yes, but not in the afternoon.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

My Noble Friend will agree that it is a daily requirement to-day—

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

It is true that refreshments are permitted under the Schedule in any case, and therefore I do not think we ought to exaggerate the importance of the subject of the Clause, which is mainly intended to allow of the supply to the public at seaside resorts, on the beach and so forth, of buckets, spades and things of that kind which the public may legitimately require, and the refusal of permission to supply which might be very vexatious. Some hon. Members take up a. certain attitude towards the matter in this House, but I am afraid a very different attitude would be taken on the beach by large numbers of people who were unable to get things that they wanted on Sundays, and I do not think we should be wise in putting excessive restrictions on their doing so. I agree that we do not want to open the floodgates in this matter, but I am sure the House has examined the Clause sufficiently closely to see that there are a great many safeguards in it. I would particularly point out that the Orders which would be made would be subject to the provisions of Clause 4 of the Bill, that is to say, the local authority would have to give public notice of the proposal, and would have to obtain the agreement of not less than two-thirds of the occupiers affected by the Order in the area of the local authority; and the area affected is defined in the proposed new Clause in these words: Where the local authority are satisfied that their area or any part thereof is a district which is frequented as a seaside resort. Therefore, the Order can be made with respect to the whole or a part of the local authority's area, and it can be made to apply to all the shops or to particular classes of shops. The idea upon which the Clause is based—it is not of course one which the Home Office have put forward—is that the local authority and the shop-keepers in the area. concerned are probably the best judges of the conditions in that particular area.

Turning to the question of the assistants—and I have no doubt that it is the interests of the assistants that are specially moving hon. Gentlemen opposite —I would point out that the shop assistants would receive the compensatory holidays provided by Clause 9 of the Bill. That matter was discussed in Committee, and I think the House will probably agree that these provisions are generous, providing, as they do, for a whole or a half-holiday according to the time that it is necessary to work on Sunday. Therefore I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) that the interests of the shop assistants are well safeguarded in this matter. While we at the Home Office believe that this is a principle which ought to be supported, and while I think that as a matter of fact the Clause does really carry out that principle in a reasonable way, we are not, of course, in any way particularly attached to the detailed provisions of the Clause, and if my Noble Friend or any other Member of the House thinks that they require further consideration, we should have a very open mind if proposals were put forward for Amendments in another place.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR:

Would it not be possible to include in the Schedule those articles which my hon. Friend considers the public would desire to buy, and thus obviate the passing of this Clause, which would open the door so widely to the possibility of trading on Sundays?

Photo of Mr George Muff Mr George Muff , Kingston upon Hull East

Would the Under-Secretary consider the advisability of including inland watering places?

12.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

The Under-Secretary did not clear up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Kensington (Mr. Duncan). He said that two-thirds of the shopkeepers would have to approve, but the words of Sub-section (1) of Clause 4 are that the occupiers of not less than two-thirds in number of the shops to be affected by the order approve the order. Therefore, if there, are only three shops on the front, and the occupiers of those three shops desire to open, it does not in the least matter, if those three are in favour of opening, what the rest of the shopkeepers think, if only the front is to be included in the Order. I think the Under-Secretary ought to say what is the correct interpretation of that provision.

12.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alfred Denville Mr Alfred Denville , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I should like to ask two questions. In the first place, do I understand that the Under-Secretary is in charge of the Bill; or is it a private Member's Bill? In the second place, are not fried fish shops bona fide refreshment houses, and therefore entitled to the same privileges as any other refreshment houses in the town, whether hotels or otherwise? Further, I should like to ask why it is possible to sell shrimps on a Sunday afternoon and not fried fish and chip potatoes.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

It is proposed that the local authority should be given power to allow the opening of shops provided that certain conditions under Clause 4 of the Bill are fulfilled, but I am not quite clear whether, provided those conditions are fulfilled, they can allow shops to open for any length of time on Sundays, or whether they can choose what hours they think fit.

12.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Weston-Super-Mare

As representing a place which is undoubtedly a seaside resort, I must say that the position suggested by the supporters of the proposed new Clause and described by the Under-Secretary still leaves me, and, I believe, the whole House, in a state of some misunderstanding. The implications of the Clause are very wide indeed, and personally I feel that both the Home Office and all of those Members who are interested in this problem would appreciate an opportunity of considering the matter further. I beg the Mover of the Clause to consider whether it would not be wise in the interests of the Bill as a whole to withdraw it in order that the whole question may have further consideration.

Photo of Sir Frank Sanderson Sir Frank Sanderson , Ealing

I was rather disappointed when my hon. Friend opposite and the Under-Secretary supported the Clause. We are apt to forget that the object of the Bill is to restrict, and not to increase, Sunday trading. I hope the Clause will be withdrawn and something substituted for it in another place which will meet the wishes of all of us.

Photo of Sir Edward Campbell Sir Edward Campbell , Bromley

I believe it is the wish of the House that a Bill of this sort should go through to-day. If we go on arguing for an hour or two on one Clause, it will never go through. I suggest that the Clause be withdrawn straightaway and that we get on with the business.

Photo of Mr John Rathbone Mr John Rathbone , Bodmin

I am prepared to withdraw the Clause on the understanding that it may be reconsidered and redrafted in another place and narrowed down to the specific articles that have been mentioned.

Photo of Mr Thomas Magnay Mr Thomas Magnay , Gateshead

I hope we shall divide on this question, and not allow it to go to another place. Many of us made up our minds in Committee. We ought not to take up the time of the House on such a comparatively minor point as bathing suits and buckets, as if everyone went to the seaside on Sunday and no other day. I object, as a Member of this major House, to it being left to another place.

12.48 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harbord Sir Arthur Harbord , Great Yarmouth

As representing a seaside resort which caters for summer visitors, I am in a quandary. I want to support restrictions on Sunday trading, but I do not want hardships to be imposed in this loose manner and to confiscate the interests of people, many of whom are ex-service men. This is an ill-considered Measure which will inflict hardship on hundreds of thousands of people. I keep a restaurant myself, though mine is not a fish shop. I think this is one of the most ill-considered things that ever came before the House of Commons. I shall vote against the whole Measure if consideration is not given to this matter. I ask the Minister to say whether this will be left to the local shopkeepers, or whether their interests are to. be confiscated.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Birmingham, Ladywood

The position is that fried fish shops in a seaside resort could open if a majority of two-thirds of the shops concerned expressed the desire and the local authority made an Order. That is, under the new Clause, but there is no provision in the Bill at present for that to. happen. That is one of the reasons why I am in favour of the Clause. But, as there has been a certain measure of misunderstanding, it would be far the most, practicable thing for the Clause to be withdrawn and properly considered at leisure in another place.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.