Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I have received no recent requests from small traders to be allowed to keep their shops open for longer hours. I propose, however, to invite the up-to-date views of interested organisations, including representatives of shop keepers, trade unions, consumers and local authorities, as to the need, if any, for further legislation.
Now that resale price maintenance is to end, is there not a case for allowing much greater freedom to small traders to keep their shops open during those hours which best suit them? Is there not a justification for the total abolition of the existing Shops Acts and their replacement by a Measure which will allow much greater flexibility in trading hours?
I am sure that my hon. Friend will support the policy, which I have just announced, of obtaining the up-to-date views of all those who are concerned, including the small traders. I think that we ought to have those up-to-date views and then make up our minds.
Mr. J. T. Price:
Will the Home Secretary resist all temptation to respond to the blandishments of his back benchers in this matter without the fullest consultation with the trade unions which are responsible for the welfare of the people employed in shops, and will he bear in mind that, prior to the original Shops Act and its successors being put on the Statute Book, the most refined form of slavery in this country was to be found among shopworkers, going back to the days of H. G. Wells, who wrote about it eloquently in one of his most famous novels?
This is 1964, not the time of H. G. Wells. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will approve my statement that I intend to consult the trade unions, but not only the trade unions. I intend to consult also shopkeepers, local authorities and, above all, the consumers.
In considering this matter, will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the great change in the composition of the working population of this country since the war? Will he bear in mind that nowadays one-third of our entire working population consists of women and that roughly one married woman in every three now goes out to work? Does not he think that this great social change since the war justifies a reconsideration of shopping hours?