Skip to main content

Shops (No 2)

Volume 97: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1986

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.57 pm

I beg to move.

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to reform the law relating to Sunday trading and to amend the Shops Acts.
Those of us in the Conservative party who opposed the Government's Shops Bill always argued that a fair compromise was possible between the need to reform the law and the desire to keep Sunday as a special day.

We were dealing only with the Second Reading.

That was not the view of the Government, who believed that the only way to reform the law was to abolish all restrictions on Sunday trading. It was their view that the position of Sunday would not thereby be harmed. As the House knows, the Government's Bill was rejected, and we are told that it will not be restored.

Therefore, we are left with the situation in which almost everyone agrees that the present law is unsatisfactory and the need for reform urgent. Ministers actually gave these grounds for introducing the Bill in the first place. If it is true, it is hard to see how they can put off legislating, or encouraging private Members' legislation, in a Parliament that still has another two years to run. On the other hand, many Conservative Members want to assist the Government out of the dilemma by suggesting the main lines of a compromise that they, at least, would be prepared to support.

The Bill is an attempt to produce that compromise. It starts from the basic principle that Sunday is a special day, the status of which should be supported by legal restrictions on the opening of shops on Sunday. Subject to that principle, it proposes the deregulation of Sunday trading for all small shops and the removal of restrictions on garden centres. For larger shops that serve the needs of the public in their leisure and recreational activities, including do-it-yourself shops, there is provision for opening on Sundays for a limited period at the option of the local authority. There is provision for holiday resorts and tourist areas. No shop that opens lawfully now would be subject to further restrictions.

Like all compromises, the Bill will not wholly satisfy anyone. It will certainly not please those large enterprises which seek to make Sunday just another trading day. As for most small shops, it is fear of losing trade to the big stores that would drive them to open on Sundays. Without that fear, it is unlikely that many would open except to meet existing local demand. The Bill defines small shops as those with no more than three persons engaged in the business of the shop present at any one time. Obviously, this and other details would be open to amendment in Committee—[Laughter.]—on a free vote.

The passage of this Bill, or something like it, would put to rest a controversy which has bedevilled local government, undermined the law, frustrated commercial enterprise and affronted the consciences of millions of people. It will make the law of Sunday trading simple. fair and enforceable, with the minimum of anomalies, while at the same time preserving Sunday as a special day, a day predominantly of rest, recreation and family life. I ask the House to give me leave to bring in the Bill.

4.1 pm

I wish to oppose the Bill, Sir. I do not intend to take up time by dividing the House, but I believe that a number of points should be made.

I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) is making an hone1st and honourable attempt to—

I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I thought that it was against the rules of the House for an hon. Member to object to a ten-minute Bill if he did not intend to divide the House.

Normally, if an hon. Member seeks to oppose a ten-minute Bill, his feet should follow his voice.

Let us see where we get, Mr. Speaker. A number of points need to be made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington suggests that we can get around the present anomaly on Sunday trading by drawing up a number of categories of shops and saying that certain categories should be allowed to open on Sundays. Who will define a small shop? My hon. Friend says that it is a shop in which only three people are employed. Clearly, that will result in enforcement problems, and inspectors will need constantly to check whether shops are employing more than three people. Shops will need constantly to notify local authorities of the number of people they employ.

Garden centres will be allowed to open. That is fine, but what is the logic in allowing a person to buy a pot from a garden centre but not from a local hardware shop? We understand that shops in tourist areas will be allowed to open. There will be considerable resentment in Banbury if shops in Stratford-upon-Avon are allowed to open on Sundays to attract tourists but shops in Banbury are not.

I understand that shops involved in leisure and recreational activities will be allowed to open on Sundays. Does that mean that clothing shops will be allowed to sell leisurewear on Sundays but not formal suits and that chemists will be allowed to sell sunglasses and suntan lotion but not other items to people who want to go on the beaches?

With all due respect to my hon. Friend, I suggest that the Bill will simply replace one set of anomalies with another. That is not the way forward to resolve what I think all hon. Members agree is a ridiculous piece of legislation. I suggest that the best way forward still is total deregulation, with adequate and proper safeguards for those who may be employed on Sundays.

I do not intend to take up time by dividing the House, but I believe that those points had to be made. If other hon. Members wish to divide the House, that is their right.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 64, Noes 25.

Division No174]

[4.05 pm


Alexander, RichardKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelKey, Robert
Alton, DavidKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Ashdown, PaddyLatham, Michael
Aspinwall, JackLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyMeadowcroft, Michael
Bellingham, HenryMeyer, Sir Anthony
Benyon, WilliamMudd, David
Best, KeithPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Bevan, David GilroyProctor, K. Harvey
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnRathbone, Tim
Body, Sir RichardRhodes James, Robert
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardSackville, Hon Thomas
Brandon-Bravo, MartinSayeed, Jonathan
Burt, AlistairShersby, Michael
Chapman, SydneyShields, Mrs Elizabeth
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Stanbrook, Ivor
Conway, DerekSteel, Rt Hon David
Cormack, PatrickStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Dorrell, StephenStokes, John
Fry, PeterTapsell, Sir Peter
Gale, RogerTaylor, John (Solihull)
Glyn, Dr AlanThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipThornton, Malcolm
Gower, Sir RaymondTrotter, Neville
Grant, Sir AnthonyWainwright, R.
Greenway, HarryWallace, James
Hargreaves, KennethWigley, Dafydd
Harris, David
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Sir Adam Butler and Mr. Patrick Thompson.
Hunter, Andrew


Ashby, DavidNorris, Steven
Baldry, TonyOsborn, Sir John
Benn, Rt Hon TonyPortillo, Michael
Brinton, TimSkinner, Dennis
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Stern, Michael
Faulds, AndrewStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Thurnham, Peter
Forth, EricWood, Timothy
Freud, ClementWrigglesworth, Ian
Hayes, J.
Hicks, RobertTellers for the Noes:
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)Mr. Neil Hamilton and Mr. Greg Knight.
Jones, Robert (Herts W)
McCrindle, Robert

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Ivor Stanbrook, Mr. Jack Aspinwall, Mr. W. Benyon, Sir Bernard Braine, Sir Adam Butler, Mr. Roger Gale, Sir Raymond Gower, Mr. Andrew Hunter, Sir Kenneth Lewis, Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson, Sir Peter Mills and Sir William van Straubenzee.