Whitsuntide Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1957.

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Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 6th June 1957

I think that it would be wrong to accept this Motion without considering the circumstances in which it is put forward. I do not think that it can be claimed that the reason for this unusually long Recess is because there is no legislation to occupy the House. There is legislation and, in particular, there is the Shops Bill.

I hope that I am not being unfair to the Lord Privy Seal when I say that I cannot but think that there was just a touch of cynicism when he told us last week that it was proposed to adjourn until 25th June and then went on immediately, in the very next few words, to tell us that it was not now practicable to proceed with the Shops Bill this Session for lack of Parliamentary time. The Lord Privy Seal spoke about the time that had been taken in another place on this Bill, but that point was raised by Opposition spokesmen in another place and they were assured by the Government spokesman, as recently as 26th March, that it was the Government's intention to put this Bill through Parliament this Session. What has happened since that assurance was given in another place?

Certainly, there has not been any democratic expression of opinion against the Bill. But there has been pressure from certain organs of the national Press and by some of the back benchers of the party opposite, led by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), the self-appointed Jorrocks of the Tories, who gloated last weak about the demise of the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley) voiced last week the indignation of the shopworkers about the decision of the Government to put this Bill aside. I should like to emphasise that it is not only the workers in the retail trades who have been indignant about this decision and not only the employees; all the best employers want this legislation. Practically all the reputable trade organisations have expressed their desire to see this Bill upon the Statute Book.

I am very pleased to see that the Jorrocks of the Tory movement has returned to his place. I was referring to the fact that mention had been made on the benches opposite, and by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, about the wishes of the shopping public.

I was about to say that the Co-operative movement, for which I speak on this occasion, is competent to speak about the wishes of the shopping public and is, in fact, owned and controlled by representatives of the shopping public. It has, throughout, expressed its wish to see the recommendations of the Gowers Report placed upon the Statute Book. There may have been some criticism about the details of this legislation, but it seems to us that the proper place to discuss it and, if necessary, to amend it, is on the Floor of this House.

It seems to me that the Government are too ready to override or to ignore the wishes of the House of Commons. It has been so on other occasions and they appear to be ready to do so on this occasion. I do not think that anyone can doubt that there is a desire to see some review of the Shops Acts. The Government spokesman in another place said that the present legislation is a farrago of nonsense and that the present provisions are quite unworkable.

Therefore, I say that it is reasonable for the Lord Privy Seal, when asking us to accept the Motion, at any rate to give us some assurance that the Shops Bill or similar legislation will be introduced, if not in this Session, then certainly in the next one. I hope that he will take this opportunity to give us that assurance.