Sunday Trading Bill
(Clauses Nos. 1 and 2 and Schedule No. 4)
Considered in Committee
[MR. MICHAEL MORRIS in the Chair]
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I make a statement on how I intend to chair today's proceedings.The Committee will see from my provisional list that there will be a single debate on the selected amendments to clause 1. Underlying that common debate are five competing proposals, each with a principal amendment to which is attached one or more related or consequential amendments. Details are set out in the Note on the selection list. The procedure at the end of the debate will be as follows. The Committee will first dispose of the principal amendment then before it, amendment No. 35. If that amendment is agreed to, all the other amendments will fall except those related to amendment No. 35—that is, amendments Nos. 7 and 8—which will then be decided on. If amendment No. 35 is not agreed to, the Committee will turn to the next principal amendment, so that each of the principal amendments—Nos. 35, 1, 2, 3, and 21—will be taken in turn. Once one amendment is agreed to, the Committee will go directly to the amendment or amendments related to it and the remaining principal amendments will fall. If a principal amendment is disagreed to, we go at once to the next one.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I accept your ruling in this matter—I do not disagree with it in any way. However, having seen your list of amendments and having listened to what you said, it is not clear to hon. Members who may be outside the House at present with which amendments we are dealing. As I understand it—and you may correct me—amendment No. 1 relates to total deregulation, the next one is Keep Sunday Special, and the next is the Shopping Hours Reform Council. It is important that hon. Members should enter the right Lobby for the right reason. If there is any way in which you could make it more clear which amendment is which, because it is not stated in your list of amendments, it would be helpful.
First, hon. Members should be in their places and those who are not here have only themselves to blame if they are confused. Secondly, I urge hon. Members to read the Note. It is not for the Chair to describe what particular amendments are colloquially known as; it is for the Chair to abide by the rules of the Committee. Nevertheless, the Note that I have written is there for all to see. We are starting with amendment No. 35, not amendment No. 1. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is clear on that point.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. My point relates to an issue that concerns hon. Members who do not have a problem with an extension of Sunday trading but who need to look carefully at the employment protections offered in the Bill to help us to make a final decision on which clause we wish to support. It seems wrong that those of us who are taking that line cannot make an informed decision because the Committee will not be debating the employment protection aspects of the Bill in schedule 4 until after we have had the votes on the three different options. That puts those of us who do not object to extra trading on Sundays but who have serious worries about the efficacy of the employment protections offered in the Bill in a difficult situation. Would you consider changing the order so that we can have a debate on the employment protection aspects of the Bill before voting on the three different options? [Interruption.]
Order. I would like to rule on that point of order and then see whether another point of order is necessary. First, it is the job of the Chair to take the Bill in the order that it is laid down. Secondly, only a business motion can alter that order, and that business motion must be tabled the night before. As matters stand this afternoon, the Chair is duty bound to take the order as it is laid down.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I would be grateful for your guidance. If by chance none of the recommendations is accepted by the Committee, what will happen? If I am right in saying that the matter will then be dealt with by a Committee upstairs, how will the composition of that Committee be determined, given that the House overwhelmingly voted for the Second Reading but that it did not necessarily mean that the hon. Members who voted for that Second Reading agreed on the approach to the options that should then be taken?
The composition of the Committee is a matter for the Committee of Selection and has absolutely nothing to do with me, but hon. Members should be clear that the Bill has had a Second Reading so, of what decisions or non-decisions are made tonight, nevertheless the Bill will proceed to Committee.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. It refers to the point of order that my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) raised a moment ago. I accept your ruling, but do you advise the Committee that it will be quite in order at the end of the day for the Committee, if we do not believe that satisfactory provision is included in the Bill for protection of workers, at a later stage—whether it be today or in Committee upstairs—to reject the Bill on Third Reading or, indeed, in the House of Lords?
The hon. Gentleman's supposition is entirely correct.
Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), if she is very concerned about the clauses which, perfectly properly, according to your ruling, cannot be taken until after the other vote has been taken, she would be well advised to vote for what is colloquially known as the Keep Sunday Special option.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. As I understand it, the advice that you are giving to the Committee, following the point of order by my hon Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), is just that, namely, that if anyone has any reservations about protection for workers' right not to work on Sunday, they should vote for the Keep Sunday Special option. I hope that the House fully understands that and acts upon it.
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I am not giving any advice to any hon. Member on how they may or may not choose to vote. I call Sir Peter Emery to move amendment No. 35.
Mr. Chairman, I rise—
O a point of order, Mr. Morris. Would you please give us an explanation—if you have already explained, I would not mind if you were to repeat it—as to why amendment No. 35, tabled by the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), has taken precedence over the other options as contained in the Bill?
It might help the Committee if I explained that. It is a principle of the arrangement of amendments offered at the same point in a Bill that proposals to leave out some words and insert others take precedence over amendments simply to leave out words. Page 488 of the current edition of "Erskine May" makes that plain. The amendment paper before the Committee follows that principle, correcting yesterday's notices of amendments, which did not.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. May the Committee have some ruling from you? We know that we are debating the five options today. The most powerful retail lobby outside is saying clearly that if we do not vote on the option that it prefers, it will continue to break the law. What is your guidance to the Committee and to those lobbyists outside?
That is not a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means this evening; it is a matter for the courts.
Alternative Schemes For Reform Of Law Relating To Sunday Trading
I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 1, leave out lines 5 to 17 and insert
'Schedules (Prohibition of trade in shops during Sunday morning) and 3 to this Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint (in this section referred to as "the appointed day").'.
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'sections' in line 7.No. 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'Schedules' in line 1o. No. 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'Schedules' in line 12. No. 21, in clause 1, page 1, line 6, after 'following', insert
No. 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out from 'effect' to end of line 23. No. 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 11, leave out from 'such' to end of line 17 and insert'in respect of each local authority area'.
No. 6, in page 1, line 13, leave out from 'such' to end of line 17 and insert'day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint (in this section referred to as "the appointed day")'.
No. 25, in page 1, line 15, at end insert'day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint (in this section referred to as "the appointed day")'.
No. 7, in page 1, line 18, leave out from beginning to 'sections'. No. 26, in page 1, line 20, at end insert'and different orders may specify different appointed days'.
No. 8, in page 1, leave out lines 21 to 23. No. 29, page 1, line 21, leave out from 'unless' to end of line 23 and insert'in the relevant local authority area'.
No. 32, in page 1, line 23, at end add'the local authority concerned have passed a resolution to the effect that such an order should be made in respect of that local authority area.'.
No. 34, in page 1, line 23, at end add'(4A) An order under subsection (4) above shall be laid before each House of Parliament and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House.'.
'(4B) In this section "local authority" has the same meaning as in Schedules 1 and 2 to this Act and "local authority area" shall be construed accordingly.'.
At last, the House can decide. Everyone has known for too long that the present regulations concerning Sunday trading are a nonsense and, what is more, they have brought the law into disrespect many times. I hope today to be able to demonstrate that it is possible for us to make a sensible, common-sense and easily understood decision, which I hope that my amendment allows us to do.It has been said that my amendment was put in at the last moment. I am sorry that, because I was on parliamentary duty at the meeting of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe parliamentary assembly, I could not be here for the Second Reading, but the amendment was tabled immediately on the conclusion of Second Reading. It was altered because it was tabled before I knew that the Government were going to amend their own Bill, which they had just published. Because the Bill had been amended I had to restructure my amendment so that it would do exactly the same as had always been intended. My amendment had to take account of the Government amendment. 4.30 pm My amendment is simple and straightforward, and does only two things. It says that we should tighten the law to ensure that only a few special shops are allowed to open on a Sunday morning before 1 o'clock, but that after that time there would be complete deregulation. I shall take the House through the details, because even I could not arrange for the schedule mentioned in the amendment to appear on the Order Paper today. I must therefore take the House clearly through what the schedule says. Basically, paragraph 2 says:
or is registered for the Jewish Sabbath. Paragraph 3 defines quickly and simply what a special shop would be:"A shop shall not be open on Sunday for the serving of customers before 1 p.m.—unless… it is a special shop",
that is designed to ensure that everybody can still get their Sunday papers if they want to—"A shop is a special shop by virtue of this paragraph if … the shop is a newsagent's shop and is open only for the sale of newspapers registered at the Post Office and published only on a Sunday"—
That exemption could not be extended to allow the shop to sell food, or to compete in any way other than as a garden centre. A shop would also be special if:"the shop is a registered pharmacy and is open only for the sale … or otherwise … of medicinal products or surgical appliances … the shop is a nursery or garden centre and is open only for the sale of plants, flowers and garden supplies and garden accessories".
or alcohol"the shop is a petrol filling station … the shop is at a designated airport … or … the trade or business carried on in the shop consists wholly or mainly of … the sale of meals or refreshments for consumption on the premises",
In other words, the place has to be a restaurant or cafe."for consumption on those premises."
If I went to a newsagent to buy a newspaper at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning, and decided that I needed to buy a couple of pints of milk at the same time, would my right hon. Friend's proposed arrangements allow me to do so?
No. That is clear; there is no doubt about it. The schedule says clearly that the shop must be:
and that is all that would be allowed."open only for the sale of newspapers registered",
As the Government seek to impose fewer and fewer regulations, does not my right hon. Friend believe that the ideas that he suggests would herald a welter of new regulations, and give rise to the most preposterous situations?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will listen to the whole of my speech before commenting, because the arrangement that I believe that he favours—complete deregulation—will not obtain the necessary majority to stand part of the Bill. In that case, the best that he can do is to support my amendment. I at least provide deregulation for half the day, and that is what he should urge me to do.I envisage that the amendment will be completely and simply understood; its whole purpose is to provide unrestricted simplicity. The amendment is necessary because I do not believe that a majority exists for the three options offered in the Bill. What philosophy have I tried to adopt? I may be old fashioned, but I believe that the greatness of Great Britain has been based on Anglo-Saxon Celtic Christian philosophy and action. I believe—
May I finish my sentence?People who believe in that philosophy, although they may be in a minority, have the right to have their views heard. When we consider the protection of ethnic minorities in other ways, surely the rights of the Christian minority have to be considered.
Is the thrust of my right hon. Friend's argument that Christians will be more likely to go to church if his amendment is carried?
I have not used that argument in any way and my hon. Friend knows that. If my hon. Friend were to go to any of the Christian churches—be it Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of England or even some of the Catholic churches—they would urge that there should be protection for Sunday, and that Sunday should be different from the other days of the week.The Keep Sunday Special campaign protects the whole of Sunday, but that is against the wishes of many people who wish to go shopping on Sunday. I believe that they have the right to be considered, and my amendment goes a long way towards doing that.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
I will give way once more, and I suggest that I do not give way again until I come to the conclusion of my speech. If I have not answered questions by hon. Members by then, I shall be delighted to give way.
Will my hon. Friend explain the difference between allowing people to go to a garden centre on Sunday and prohibiting them from going to a DIY centre or a centre which specialises in the sale of furnishings or carpets?
The decision is not easy to make, as the hon. Gentleman will recognise. There is a great demand from people who can garden only at the weekend to be able to go to a garden centre, and, as I understand, there is considerable demand for that to be an exception in the Bill.I believe that people should be allowed to arrange their lives as they want to. Therefore, there is particular strength to the argument of those who wish to see complete deregulation. I accept that; there is no doubt about it. If there were to be a referendum on the matter, that view would probably carry the day. I am arguing that there are minorities which deserve to be protected. My amendment tries to provide a balance between two sections of society, and it will be able to cope with the problems which may arise. I was asked when I appeared on television about shops in stately homes. It seems that a noble Lord might well be able to go to church or to stay in bed, but he would not have to look after his shop in the morning. What are the weaknesses of the alternatives? The weakness of the Keep Sunday Special campaign is that it does not take into account the vast number of people who want to be able to shop on Sunday. That is a real weakness, and I am sorry about it. The people involved in the campaign claim—wrongly, I believe—that they should regulate people's lives. I believe that if people wish to shop on Sunday, they do not expect the law to stop them doing so. I have outlined the case made by the Church and there cannot be one hon. Member who has not had a host of letters from religious organisations demanding that protection be given so Sunday can be different from other days. The amendments relating to the Keep Sunday Special campaign are nonsense in many areas. First, what about the extent of the regulations on the square footage of shops? Who is to do the measuring? How will it be carried out? Who will check it? What is 280 sq m? Is it 17 by 18 sq yds? That is about the size of the centre of the Chamber. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) mentioned garden centres, but I note that video recordings are to be sold. What about tapes, records and the machines used to play them on? Are they in or out? What about a florist? Can it sell only cut flowers and plants; and what about artificial flowers? In fact, small shops in general are an area of contention. The Keep Sunday Special regulations are too detailed, and the House should not be attempting to go in for more detail. We need a simple conclusion to this matter. I come now to total deregulation. I have already said under cross-questioning that the weakness of this option is that it does not pay due regard to the large number of people who have a right to be considered. It does not seem right to me that we should ride roughshod over such people, and my amendment would go a long way to ensuring that that does not happen. In some ways my amendment attempts to replace the third àlternative. The Shopping Hours Reform Council proposal attempts to bridge the differences between Keep Sunday Special and complete deregulation, but fails to do so. It is not as simple or as sensible as my amendment, for the following reasons. Which of us wants to load on to local authorities the necessity of keeping a register of everything that goes on? Local government already complains that it is given too much to do by central Government with too little money to do it. I see no point in making local authorities responsible for this additional workload. Furthermore, who will decide what constitutes the allowed six hours out of eight? Who will check? Who is to know precisely how many hours a shop stays open? To those who favour keeping Sunday special I should point out that my amendment at least keeps it special until 1 pm, whereas the alternative we are discussing would allow opening from 10 am. Some bigger shops would be allowed to open too—but how big? The great advantage of my amendment is its simplicity and its lack of regulations to be enforced—
I find my right hon. Friend's argument confusing. In attempting to keep Sunday special in the morning he has fallen into the trap of allowing certain elements of trade to go on, which is not so special. Why is it, in his logic, that those who wish to eat cannot buy food, whereas those who wish to read or garden occupy a superior state?
People who want to eat in a restaurant can do so—the amendment allows for that. I am sorry; if people want to go to a grocer's shop, they will have to wait until 1 pm.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that his proposals are more restrictive for newsagents than the provisions in the Shops Act 1950, in that they would prevent them from selling until 1 pm many things that they can legally sell now?
I had not intended that. If it can be proved to me, we can alter it easily enough in Committee, because it is more a Committee point than a general one —[HON. MEMBERS: "We are in Committee."] Indeed we are, but I meant when we go into Committee upstairs, as opposed to a Committee of the whole House. The Government themselves may want to tighten up certain legal niceties there.I do not say that my amendment is watertight, but I do say that the principle is right. My proposal will be just as open to amendment in Standing Committee as any other.
I commend my right hon. Friend's efforts to try to find a way through many of our problems with Sunday trading, but I am anxious to know how, under this amendment, the many corner shops run by people who are not Christians will be monitored. Does he really believe it to be a good thing that such shops will be closed, the more so since they serve the needs of the elderly and others who cannot get to the larger stores at any time?
I ask my right hon. Friend to come to my constituency, where she would learn that those who most strongly oppose deregulation are the elderly. They are not asking for reform; they want to ensure that at least Sunday morning is kept special, and they would be happy to go along with what I have said.
The right hon. Gentleman has been rather scathing about regulation, but if, as his amendment proposes, mornings are to be kept free, there must be some regulation to ensure that shops do not open on Sunday mornings. Would there not have to be a check on newsagents to ascertain that they sold only newspapers? The right hon. Gentleman is therefore not against every sort of regulation to make sure that Sunday is kept special, at least in part.
I always enjoy crossing swords with the hon. Gentleman; it is fun. His point is relevant to some degree—but only to a small degree. My amendment provides for fines of £50,000 for those who break the law —that would apply under any of the options, I believe. Mine is no different.The verdict on all this, sent to many Members of Parliament and giving us the views of Mr. Anthony Scrivener QC, was rather interesting. The legal opinion is that the Keep Sunday Special option in the Bill
I am disappointed; I was hoping for something more simple than what is in force, given our difficulties with so much of the current law. We want to avoid complication at all costs, and that is exactly what my amendment proceeds to do. It is a common sense approach and an approach that can be understood by everyone. There are no ifs or buts about it. It requires no local government registration and little or no real monitoring—and it discards worries about floor size. On the subject of floor size, what would happen if a 280 sq ft shop that was trading successfully wanted to expand by adding another 30 sq ft? Would it be outside the regulations then? Does that make sense? Should businesses be prevented from the benefits of expansion? That is clearly nonsense. 4.45 pm The KSS option is designed to protect the whole day, but I do not believe that that option and that for total deregulation command majority support in the House. In that case, my amendment should attract the support of certain Opposition Members because, of all the alternatives, it offers the best chance of keeping Sunday special until 1 pm rather than until 10 am, as offered in the third alternative. If hon. Members have any doubts about whether the KSS option will fall, they should, at the outset, go through the Lobby in support of my amendment. That is the best thought that I can offer. If hon. Members wish to save some part of their preferred option they should line up behind me in support of my amendment. Similarly, those in favour of total deregulation will not win, so they should support my amendment, which offers partial deregulation for half of the day."presents no more difficulty in interpretation or enforcement than many other statutes currently in force".
Would it not be better to turn the argument the other way round? If people want to keep Sunday special in any way, the only proper means of doing so is by voting for the KSS option.
That argument could be put, but it does not make sense. Under my amendment, hon. Members will get half of what they want rather than none of it. I have a high regard for the hon. Gentleman, but I am afraid that he will not win tonight, so the sooner that he supports my amendment the better for him.
Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether his idea could be amended in Committee to allow all small shops but no large shops to open in the morning? Such a simple proposal would command a great deal of support.
There is nothing in my schedule to prevent such an amendment from being made. It would have to be selected by the Chairman and carried by the Committee. I cannot, therefore, give an absolute answer to my hon. Friend except to say that, were I to serve on the Committee, I would listen to the argument and judge whether it was acceptable. The argument may well make good sense.There is no doubt about the fact that my amendment is a compromise. Compromises are not necessarily disadvantageous and many a time good British compromises have proved to be right. I believe that my amendment represents a fair solution, which meets both points of view. It is a common sense solution and it has a simplicity about it which none of the other amendments offers. I ask the House to support my amendment.
I do not intend to support amendment No. 35, but I wish to discuss the other amendments selected in the group. I must make it clear that I will support the Retailers for Shops Act Reform-Keep Sunday Special compromise proposal when we vote. I will not, therefore, spend much of my speech on that of the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery).My view has changed little since we last debated this issue in 1986. On that occasion, the Government were defeated by 14 votes on the Shops Bill, which originated in the other place. Today's Bill was given its Second Reading last week and we are now debating the proposed options. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) was right to raise a point of order about the difficulties that many of us face in trying to debate any of the options, because, when deciding whether to allow the Bill to proceed, the overriding factor must be acceptable protection for workers. Given the Government's track record on pay and trade unions, I have grave doubts that they will deliver a Bill with acceptable protection for workers. I shall say no more about that because that matter will be dealt with in the debate on the next group of amendments. I agreed also with the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who said that if there was any doubt about the protection to be offered to workers, hon. Members who might be minded to go further than the RSAR-KSS option should support that option as the minimum one, because the overriding factor was worker protection.
I do not intend to criticise my hon. Friend, but I should like to jog his memory. He said that he has not changed his mind much since the 1986 debate, but, at the end of it, we agreed that some change to Sunday trading legislation was necessary. We agreed that do-it-yourself centres, garden centres and small shops should be allowed to open so long as workers were offered adequate protection. I must remind him that our opinion has changed a great deal. The option that we prefer represents real, flexible change that will help the consumer.
My hon. Friend is right and that is why I advocate the RSAR-KSS option. I know that my hon. Friend and I have been persuaded by the wisdom of it, but those hon. Members who wish to go beyond that option and who care about worker protection should think carefully about doing so. They should be wary of going further and they should not be conned by the Government. Therefore, although they might not vote for the RSAR-KSS option on the grounds advocated by my hon. Friend and by me, they should do so for slightly different reasons. Given the Government's track record, those hon. Members should provide workers with the safeguard offered by that option.I was a member of the Committee on the Bill that became the Local Government Act 1988 and the present Home Secretary was the Minister responsible for the legislation. I always recall that when I moved a particular amendment he said that I always wore my GMB union hat. He said that I wanted council workers to be paid double time on a Sunday. Such a comment is fundamental to today's debate because the right hon. and learned Gentleman was opposed to such payments then and he is still opposed to them. That is why we should not support the option advocated by him.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, USDAW, has sent a letter to a number of hon. Members, which states:
Does he accept that USDAW and the Transport and General Workers Union support the option advocated by the Shopping Hours Reform Council and not the option that he supports?"Your support is crucial to ensure the six hour option receives a clear majority support."
I will never listen to anyone from the Conservative party who tries to use the trade union movement to influence our view. What the hon. Gentleman has quoted is a load of rubbish. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is in the letter.") I have seen that letter, but I am also aware that particular motion was not carried at USDAW's annual conference. I do not want to fall out with USDAW. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, I do not.Conservatives often accuse the Labour party of jumping when the trade unions so demand and suggest that we are under their tight control. On a free vote, however, the Labour party is completely at liberty to advocate a particular case, unlike some Conservative Members who have been paid by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, which has spent substantial amounts of money to try to persuade hon. Members how to vote on the issue.
On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I support the Shopping Hours Reform Council. Is it not an absolute slur on certain Conservative Members to say that those who support the Shopping Hours Reform Council have been paid by that organisation, when we have not been? Moreover, if we had been, and we have not, we would have made a statement in the Register of Members' Interests.
Order. That was a helpful point of order and I am quite sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee listened to what the hon. Gentleman said.
I was not casting any slur but was simply referring to the vast amount that has been spent by that organisation to persuade people which option they should support in the debate. If anybody believes that Sainsbury and Tesco have put money into SHRC for the benefit of their workers or the public, he is kidding himself.
If my hon. Friend wishes to test the credibility of the claim of those large stores to be acting in the public and consumer interest, he should look at the way in which they used legal devices—the planning laws—to attempt to stop the warehouse development in east London. Had they been so interested in consumer protection, perhaps they would have taken a different view. Surely that undermines the credibility of their claim to be acting in favour of the consumer and shows conclusively that they are concerned with their market share and not with the public interest.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point, as he always does on these matters. The vast control being gained by a small number of supermarkets in the grocery retail trade in Britain is a growing worry to many of us. Four big supermarket chains are controlling an ever-increasing share of the market. They now tell manufacturers what size products should be and what cuts of meat there should be. They are controlling the market, not in the best interests of the public but because they can make substantial profits.In the debate to which my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) referred, the point was made that one additional shopping day would not increase the amount of trade. The same financial limitations apply whether we have six or seven shopping days. The superstores trade successfully because they sell a higher volume of products in relation to the number of staff they employ. Contrary to the claim that superstores create jobs, if one were to analyse the position across the board, it would become clear that superstores lead to job losses. I am sure that, if they were allowed to trade on Sundays, they would not save jobs or create employment and there would be bigger job losses.
I shall make one point before giving way as it ties in with what my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield said.One retailer in my constituency, Christopher Redman of T. Redman and Co. Ltd., wrote to me, saying:
I believe that there is an overwhelming view that, provided we can get an acceptable solution with worker protection, we should remove the Shops Act from the statute book."In asking for your support, I would also ask you to bring your influence to bear in seeking a speedy resolution to this important piece of legislation. We have lived with the nonsense of the 1950 Shops Act for long enough."
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in April, London Economics published a paper stating that there would be a net loss from deregulation of 20,000 jobs? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find that helpful.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for making such a valid point.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the interests of consumers. Does he agree that, if all shops, including food shops, were allowed to open on Sunday, inevitably the cost of living of ordinary families would increase? The extra opening hours on Sunday, with their added wage costs, including overtime, would proportionately be far in excess of the extra trade generated in food and that would increase prices, to the detriment of the standard of living of ordinary families.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. If workers are to be given proper remuneration for working on Sundays, exactly that will happen. We will avoid that only if shops are not prepared to give workers the payment that they should get for Sunday working.Before I became a Member, I worked in a glass factory which had to operate seven days a week. I am not totally against the principle of working on Sundays, but that was clearly my choice and I was remunerated very well for working them. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) makes an important point. I shall now get into the main thrust of the debate and say why I believe that the Keep Sunday Special-RSAR option should be given the approval of the House. I want to go back to the letter from Mr. Redman which states:
That is a crucial part of the debate. We should not assume that in 1993 everyone in Britain has a motor car and can get to a superstore. If superstores are allowed to open on Sundays, more public transport will be needed, but, once again, elderly, disabled and sick people will be disadvantaged. They will not be able to take advantage of Sunday opening and more corner stores and grocers' shops will disappear. So many corner shops have disappeared over the past few years. They are an important part of the fabric of the nation, and we have a duty to ensure that they remain in existence for the sick, the disabled and the elderly."Total or partial deregulation would have dire consequences not just for hard working retailers like me, but for our customers, many of whom lack the ability to get to a superstore regularly —and in any case, like popping into their local convenience store. It is part of the fabric of community life".
I am most confused by what the hon. Gentleman said. If fewer people can get to the superstores because they do not have transport, he does not have to worry that superstores will be crammed with people on a Sunday, nor does he have to worry about the small stores. Surely, in any event, the people about whom he is concerned will shop in corner stores.
If more trade is attracted to the superstores, there will be less trade for the corner shops. I accept that a large proportion of the people to whom I referred may not use corner shops. However, some of the people who use superstores also use the corner shops at certain times. If they do not do so because they go to a superstore on Sunday, they will make the corner shops vulnerable, some of which will go out of business.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I shall carry on for a while as I am mindful of the time and I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. I shall give way again in a few moments.I want to make one strong condemnation of large stores such as Sainsbury and Tesco and others that have chosen to break the law to change it. We live in a democratic society and with an elected House of Commons and this place makes the law. It is for those stores to operate within the law. I disagreed with the poll tax, but I never supported the breaking of the law. I believed that the way to change it was through the ballot box. I asked the management of Sainsbury, and others who believe that it is right to break the law, whether it was right to break a law to try to change it, because once one goes down that dangerous path one is on a road to anarchy, which is unacceptable.
Does the hon. Gentleman find it remarkable that a quite senior person at Sainsbury wrote to inform those working under him that promotion prospects would definitely depend on their being able to work on Sundays? That was immediatley disowned—I brought the matter up in the House, so it is on the record—by the chairman of Sainsbury when he realised that that chap had let the cat out of the bag.Exactly the same happened with W. H. Smith. One of its managers at Milton Keynes wrote a similar letter, which, of course, was immediately disowned, but relatively senior people are sending out such letters, showing that they are going to disregard the law. It is only because the cat has been let out of the bag that the top brass are denying it.
I thank the hon. Lady for making that point. It is rare that the hon. Lady and I agree on any issue, but on this issue I agree with her 100 per cent.
I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment.I referred to pay but I did not refer to the choice that faces workers. The Bill will offer workers no protection. We know that it will affect promotion prospects. Job applicants will be asked whether they are willing to work on Sunday and those who are not will not get jobs.
My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the fact that the issue of law and order is fundamental to the debate. Does he recall that, on Second Reading, I asked the Home Secretary to make it unequivocally clear that, if the Committee accepted the KSS-RSAR option, he would strictly enforce its decision? I received no reply to that request, but I hope that I shall today. Nor did I receive a reply to the suggestion that, before we vote tonight, Ministers should seek an undertaking from the major lawbreakers that they will abide by any decision of the House of Commons.
My right hon. Friend makes a valid point. We all know that the challenge of the superstores and the big trading groups was taken to Europe and to the House of Lords. They knew that what they were doing was illegal under the 1950 Act. They were playing for time, but because they had money, and were able to make more, they were prepared to drag the system along.
I must correct the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary did not reply. My right hon. and learned Friend made it perfectly clear that local authorities would continue to be responsible for enforcing the law, which is one of the KSS-RSAR options. If the right hon. Gentleman and those who support KSS or any of the other options had wanted them enforced in any other way, they would have suggested different options.
That is the Pontius Pilote stance.
The Minister fudges the issue. It confirms what my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said. He repeated what has been said many times when questions have been asked about enforcement—that it is a matter for local authorities. The Government should have given a lead. The Home Secretary should have given a directive that authorities should carry out the law of the land—it would not have been out of order for him to do so.
I have said from the Dispatch Box many times, as has my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, that all members of the public and all organisations should obey the law, including the law on Sunday trading.
The Minister may say that, but the Government did nothing to make it happen. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe is absolutely right when he says that they are unlikely to do so again.We should be asking Sainsbury, Tesco and others—if the option that they do not want is carried today—whether they will accept the will of the Committee and, ultimately, accept the Bill when it is enacted.
I thought that the objective of the debate was to try to tidy up the law, which local authorities will have to enforce once it has been sorted out. It is precisely because the law is in such a mess that we are having the debate. I wanted the hon. Gentleman to give way earlier because he said that we live in a democratic society and that he is a democrat. I hope that, before the end of his speech, he will say a few words about the millions of people who want to shop on Sunday and, when they have the opportunity of voting with their feet, do so by shopping on a Sunday. It would not be fair if he did not say something about them as well.
The hon. Gentleman has confused two issues. He should allow me to make my own speech and make the case that I am trying to make. If he doubts that Sainsbury and Tesco knew that it was illegal for them to sell probably 80 per cent. of the items that they sold under existing legislation, he is kidding himself and misleading the Committee. I know that he is not stupid enough to believe that they did not know what items they could or could not sell.
Surely the core issue is that, with the best will in the world, more often than not local authorities do not have the resources to investigate and, ultimately, to prosecute. It behoves the Home Secretary to ensure that local authorities have the power to enforce the law.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. So often, the Government put responsibilities on local authorities, such as to administer mandatory grants and so on. We could have a long debate on that, and if we did, you would rule us out of order, Mr. Morris. The Government place responsibility on local authorities but do not give the finance to carry out their responsibilities.I shall refer to another letter that I have received on breaking the law, not from a constituent but from Rev. Ray Skinner, the rector of the St. Lawrence church in Morden. I do so for sentimental reasons—I was married there 31 years ago to the very day. The final paragraph is relevant to my point. It says:
That underlines the point that I am trying to make."If the big Stores, through their recent wilful breaking of the law can change it to their own advantage, what example is this to previously law-abiding citizens? No law, or lax law may cost less to enforce than good law in the short term, but please do not vote for the god of money. Please, vote for the 'KSSC/RSAR' option."
Has the hon. Gentleman received letters from people who are employed on Sunday by the stores to which he referred, saying that they need their earnings to pay the mortgage, because they are students or because of other factors? Does he not think that, despite the fact that one is bound to be concerned about people who are in that position, immoral, indirect presssure has been exerted on Members, and that that pressure should not have been exerted because it has been brought about by illegality?
The hon. Gentleman has made a point that I was not going to make in my speech. However, because I wish to deal with the issue honestly, I accept that I have received some letters that made that point. I have also received letters from people who are employed by Sainsbury and by others, which say that the story that they are told by management is very different from the reality. They are under considerable pressure to work on Sundays. If one is fair and balanced about it—
Will my hon. Friend give way?
If my hon. Friend will just let me finish my sentence, I will gladly give way to her, because I know that she has been trying to make a point for some time. I have letters from both groups, a number of which make it clear that people are under considerable pressure.
Only today, my office received a telephone call from an under-manager in a retail store, who would give neither his name nor that of his employer. The message that he wished to impart, which is of particular significance as the Committee is debating the issue today, is that he was told by his manager that if he refused to work on Sunday, he could give up any hope of promotion.
I thank my hon. Friend for that example. It underlines our fears about what will happen. We all know that those dangers are real and that no Act of Parliament can prevent abuses from taking place. Even if the Government were generously minded on employment protection issues—they are not—it would be impossible for such protection to be enforced.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as he has already given way many times. Is it not interesting that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, including myself, have received letters from the employees of perhaps the two most successful and dynamic retailers—Marks and Spencer and the John Lewis Partnership—saying, thank God, that their organisations have no intention of opening on Sundays?
The hon. Gentleman makes another valid point. The case presented by both managers and partners in the John Lewis Partnership is a good one. I think that the workers are in some way involved in the management of John Lewis. Although I do not know the details of that scheme, I know that it is unique.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, even if an incredibly unlikely event were to occur and proper worker protection were written into the Bill, there would be no prospect, if Sunday became a free-for-all as some Conservative Members wish, of protection for the associated workers who would be put under increasing pressure to work on a Sunday?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Clearly, if the SHRC option or total deregulation were to be carried today, there would be pressure on car park attendants, delivery people, bus drivers and others to work.I appeal to my hon. Friends who have any inclination to vote for deregulation or for the SHRC option to understand that, once we have breached the principle that Sunday is special, people who have to work on Sundays—as I did —will be unlikely in a few years to get double pay. Once Sunday is just an ordinary day, employers will not want to pay anything special for it. Deregulation would be the thin end of the wedge. It would lead to a breaching of an important principle that has applied for a long time.
I shall not give way for a while now because I have been extremely generous so far.I want to refer to a few letters from my constituency. P.D. Lees, the general manager of Warburton's, a family baker, has said:
In a slightly different way, the hon. Member for Twickenham was making the same point—that the customers will pay for the privilege if we go along with deregulation.There is no doubt that if our customers, the most important of which are the large multiple retailers, were to open seven days they would expect bread deliveries on Sunday. Competition in the industry and the power of these key customers is such that it is very unlikely we would be able to resist. Margins in the industry are so slim that the considerable extra cost in distribution and production which would result would have to be passed on to our customers."
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
The hon. Gentleman has already intervened once.I have used the example of bread; as well as baking bread, that firm sells it. If we have deregulation or the SHRC option, not just the corner shops but the character shops that make Burnley different from Blackburn, Blackburn different from Caerphilly and Caerphilly different from Chester will be under attack. They give towns their character. They give a personal service in a personal way, whether in a specialist sausage shop in Clitheroe—I know that a number of people went in there when there was a by-election in that area—or in a shop run by a greengrocer, a baker or a butcher. Specialist shops are under threat. They will gradually disappear from our high streets, with a resulting loss of character, if either of the proposals is accepted. I have another letter, from the Bishop of Blackburn, Alan Chesters. He says of the Bill:
Such shops are vulnerable and might go if we voted for deregulation. Marks and Spencer has said that, if the vote goes the wrong way, it"In my view, it effectively removes any safeguards to the character of Sunday. It would also have a severe effect on the well-being of small shops, which provide a vital service to so many, particularly those without a car or too old or frail to venture far for their shopping. Many elderly people, lone parents and people on low incomes are dependent on local shops. During the last thirty years, the number of independent grocery outlets has fallen from 116,000 to 32,800. Many of those which still survive depend upon the custom of those who 'top up' on their main shopping."
Those who do not believe that that is true are kidding themselves."will lead to the closure of thousands of small shops, the further decline of the High Street, less consumer choice and higher prices."
The hon. Gentleman has quoted Marks and Spencer. Does he know of any plans that it has to close its shops in Scotland?
We are not debating Scotland. I accept that Marks and Spencer has recently opened a couple of shops there. I am not speaking on behalf of Marks and Spencer. I am telling the Committee the good reasons why the company is against the principle of the extension of Sunday opening in England.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to help him. It is well known that Marks and Spencer does not wish to trade on Sunday in Scotland. It has been forced, although it does not want to be forced, by market share—
Order. The Bill does not relate to Scotland.
You underline the point that I was making, Mr. Morris. We are not dealing with Scotland.Marks and Spencer has made the point clearly that, if we accept deregulation or the SHRC option, small shops and specialist shops will not survive. For example, the National Association of Health Stores has sent a letter to all hon. Members, saying:
That again underlines the case that the specialist shops will disappear. I have here a letter from Timpson Shoe Repairs Ltd., saying:"Free for all Sunday trading would place a further burden on these individuals. Many would not survive and the very special services they provide to the community would be lost."
Kwik Save has three stores in my constituency. Graeme Bowler, the managing director, says:"Within five years, cobblers will start to disappear. In 10 years, half of them will be gone—forever—but will it be for the better?"
Iceland has said:"My very recent experience of retailing in Australia confirms that the combination of large new out-of-town retail developments and a move to deregulate trading has a devastating effect on high street, village communities and the many small traders whose livelihoods depend on them."
That is right. Workers will suffer and consumers will pay the price for deregulation. If we do not go for the KSS-RSAR option, we shall make a sad mistake and the people of this country will blame us for years to come."Be under no illusion. Schedule 4 of the Sunday Trading Bill 'Rights of Shop Workers' offers absolutely no protection."
I wish the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) a happy wedding anniversary. The church in which he was married 31 years ago is in my constituency and is especially beautiful. I am sure that he has many fond memories of that day, and may he see another 31 years of happy marriage.I listened carefully to what has been said on amendment No. 35 moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). I wanted to support it because if anyone could come through the debate and suggest a solution that was both workable and answered all the various questions that have arisen, I was willing to listen. Like many right hon. and hon. Members, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the issues that surround Sunday trading. I have said on a number of occasions that the most important task that faces the House is to ensure that we pass a law that is enforceable. The present situation is nonsensical. Most right hon. and hon. Members feel extremely uncomfortable with the fact that people are unable to work the existing law and instead are breaking it. None of us wishes to see that continue. I must declare immediately that the most sensible decision would be in favour of total deregulation. I know that a number of hon. Members will take a different view. I am perfectly willing to listen to their arguments and perfectly willing to accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House will not be able to bring themselves to vote for total deregulation. I ask them only to listen to the points that I wish to make. If we wish to have a law that is easily enforceable, we should pass a law that does not contain any regulation, under which people can act on their own behalf and make decisions whether to open their shops. There would then be no need to worry who enforces it, whether the Government or the local authorities. Retailers would simply assess demand and ask themselves, in view of that demand, whether they wanted to open on some Sundays, every Sunday or not open on any Sunday.
How does the right hon. Lady see her option of deregulation fitting in with the enforcement of proposals for employment protection and the protection of those workers who will be working on Sundays?
The hon. Lady will be able to debate that issue more closely later. I am comfortable with the way in which the Bill currently stands for the protection of people who may or may not wish to work on Sundays. That issue seems to be set out clearly and does not present a problem to me; the notion that causes problems is the idea that we should in some way have to set out in great detail exactly who may shop on Sundays, where they may shop, what they may buy and into what type of store they may go. It is for that principal reason that the House should consider the possibility of total deregulation to make a clear and understandable law.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument, no restriction on what people can or cannot buy is implied in any of the options before the Committee. It is a type of shops approach, not a type of goods, approach.
I wish that that were so. Unfortunately, after carefully reading the schedules it seems to me that there are a number of restrictions on what people can buy because the schedules say what can or cannot be sold.
May I rebut the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff)? One category of shops that would not be allowed to open is antique shops. Browsing around antique shops is a classic leisure time activity and people will not buy antiques at motorway service stations or in tobacconists. People will not be able to buy antiques on Sunday, so my hon. Friend is quite wrong.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification.
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later, but first I wish to make a little progress.A great deal has been made of the issue that Sunday is a special day of the week. It is no secret to hon. Members who have listened to previous debates that I do not like shopping at all and that little would persuade me to go shopping on a Sunday. Having said that, I know how I can choose to make my Sunday a different day and I do not see that it is my job as a legislator or as an individual to say that nobody else may shop on a Sunday. If people want Sunday to be a special day—many of us want to choose how we spend days at weekends, although a large number of people work—many of us would choose according to the needs and wishes of our families. Parliament should allow people the opportunity to make that decision for themselves. Why do we as legislators have not only to tell people whether they can open shops on Sundays, where they can shop and what they can buy, but to tell them that they are not allowed to buy certain items on Sundays? It seems an extraordinary business. It is almost like sitting on a local authority planning committee and then on the development control committee and starting to think about whether people can put their dustbins behind or in front of the back door. I thought that as legislators we had grown a little more than that in this great Parliament. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will think about that issue a little more.
We have heard a lot about added costs if shops open on Sundays or have restricted Sunday opening. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the difficulty with cost will be due to the policing and patrolling of those shops, big or small, to determine whether they are selling goods that are not allowed? Would not that cost the taxpayer and the shopper a great deal of money compared with total deregulation, which will not cost anything?
I want to come on to that issue as my third point. I was especially concerned at Opposition Members saying that they felt that the Government and not local authorities should police whatever system the Committee chooses. As a democrat, I am perfectly prepared to accept the will of the Committee, whichever way hon. Members vote. I want to see that carried to its logical conclusion and I most certainly want to see it vigorously enforced.
Anyone who reads the Second Reading debate in Hansard will see that the Opposition challenged the Government on the issue that they should not and must not stand aside if a decision of the House is trampled on by people whose motive is to steal their market share from law-abiding retailers. The right hon. Lady says that she does not want to instruct other people. She sent a letter to all Members of Parliament saying:
She has been telling hon. Members to do that in the debate. I hope that they will make up their own minds."Option 1: Total Deregulation—Yes. Option 2: Regulation/ Restriction (KSSC/RSAR)—No. Option 3: Partial Deregulation (SHRC)—Yes"
All of us would accept that when one is sometimes asked for guidance, one is entitled to give that guidance and that people are willing to accept it. It is entirely up to hon. Members to make up their own minds. I simply tell them the answer to the question asked. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman should object to that. His argument about local authorities is fallacious. If Parliament decides to opt for one of the options requiring policing by local authorities, we must recognise that those authorities are the vehicle through which that policing will be done. That is perfectly right and proper. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is the way in which many laws at local level are enforced. I think that the majority of hon. Members would understand and accept that.
The right hon. Lady is misleading the Committee through her interpretation of the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). What he said on Second Reading and what we have said earlier today was not that we want central Government to be in charge; of course, regulation should work through local authorities. We want it made clear—and we wanted it made clear when she was a Minister—that it is as wrong for the rich fat cats such as Sainsbury, Tesco and Argyll to break the law democratically as it is for a youngster to burgle a house or steal a car. Whatever the circumstances, the law should be honoured. Ministers have not stood up and said that the law must be obeyed, whoever administers it.
I believe that it is wrong for people to break the law—it is wrong for the large stores and the very small stores to break the law. As I acknowledged when I was a Minister, small stores have been breaking the law. All those which have been opening on Sundays have been breaking the Shops Act 1950. Many stores have also been breaking it in terms of the products that they have been selling. That was the case under the Labour Government, right up until now. That is undeniable. We should have a law that is enforceable, which is why we are holding this debate today. It is interesting to see how difficult it is to get hon. Members to agree.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the issues to be considered is the cost of goods sold by the various shops? Is she aware that, in my constituency, one can buy a bundle of branded groceries for £13·74 at Food Giant, a shop that the Keep Sunday Special campaign would close, but that at 7-Eleven, which the campaign would allow to remain open, the same bundle of goods costs £18·35? Why should my constituents be deprived of the right to buy cheap milk, bread and other goods in order to keep some hon. Members happy?
My hon. Friend makes a sensible point. My solution would resolve the problem. I suspect that if there were total deregulation such matters would come to a natural conclusion.I am deeply disturbed by some of the impositions that we would place on local authorities if we opt for one of the regulatory options. It is true that local authorities have been under considerable pressure for a number of years to manage their affairs effectively. It is interesting to note that, while a number have tried to enforce the 1950 Act, others have merely said that it has been impossible for them to police the Act efficiently. My concern is that a restrictive option such as the KSS-RSAR option would place an even greater burden on local authorities as they would have to employ more people to police the Act. There would be armies of people rushing around the streets trying to ensure that shops were not selling what they should not be selling. It would therefore cost a fortune merely to ensure that the legislation was being observed, and it would not be too long before the House was again forced to consider a law that it had become almost impossible for local authorities to monitor.
Surely, the essence of local authorities' objection is that, if they seek to enforce the Act not against individual stores but against the major retailers which are together seeking to defy the law, they put so much of their council tax payers' money at risk. For example, is the right hon. Lady awere that if Kirklees council had lost its case against Wickes in the House of Lords, perhaps on a technicality, it would have risked in excess of £250,000 of its own money? No local authority would dare to risk such a large proportion of its resources. The Government were opting out of enforcement but, had the Attorney-General so wished, they could have stepped into the place of the local authorities. While the right hon. Lady was at the Home Office, she did precisely nothing to help.
The hon. Gentleman has made my case for me about the law as it stands, showing the difficulties that there have been in enforcing it. I hope that he will now help us. To a certain extent, the debate is about how we can reduce the burden on local authorities. We are asking hon. Members not to make life more difficult for them or put them into a similar position to that of Kirklees council.
My right hon. Friend is using two arguments. She says that she wants no regulation on Sunday trading, but she then says that it is difficult to enforce regulation in any case. We should at least be honest in this debate. Is it her true position that, even if the regulations were quite straightforward to enforce, she would not want them enforced because she believes in total deregulation? Is she merely using that idea to buttress her argument without believing in it at all?
That distorts what I said and, if I may say so, it is a rather disgraceful remark. I have made it absolutely plain that if the House favours one of the most restrictive options, I should be one of the first to ask that there should be solid and strict enforcement of it through the local authorities. I very much resent the implication that I was asking the House to break the law —I most certainly am not.
Further to the issue of costs to local authorities, if there is to be deregulation, and if the market giants take over not only their own share but everyone else's, surely there will be a denuding not only of the small corner shop but of town centres. That would have a deleterious knock-on effect on local authorities, not least in terms of what they can raise in rates. It has already happened in parts of central London. There is a concomitant to turning central shopping areas in the inner cities into deserts: they also become crime ridden, which has further enormous knock-on effects.
I understand the hon. Lady's point, but I do not agree with her. There has not been a massive restriction on small shops as a result of what has happened in the past three to four years. Part of the reason for town centres being denuded is not Sunday trading but planning legislation which has encouraged the large stores to move out of town. The notion of encouraging large stores to move out of town is as much a cause of small shops having problems in town centres as is pedestrianisation, which is a monstrous idea.
Like me, the right hon. Lady is a patron of the National Organisation of Asian Businesses. Earlier this year, she co-sponsored with me a reception in the Members' Dining Room, which was attended by the Prime Minister. She made a speech supporting the Asian business community. In relation to what my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) said, a sizeable proportion of inner-city shops are owned by members of the Asian community. Has the right hon. Lady considered the effect of her proposals on Asian small shopkeepers? Can she continue as a patron of that organisation, knowing that her solution would devastate many small Asian businesses?
I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. If I did, it would clearly be very difficult for me to sustain my patronage of that organisation. Asian business men have prospered and many have opened shops recently. They are doing extremely well, and nothing in my proposal would damage their prospects.I am aware that many hon. Members want to participate in the debate and that it is unfair for one speaker to take up too much time, so I will quickly move on. It is important that someone mentions the issue of employment on behalf of those people who wish to work on a Sunday. Currently, some 140,000 people work in shops on Sundays, about a third of whom work only on Sundays and not during the rest of the week. They are, in the main, women. They choose to work on a Sunday because it is the one day on which they can leave their children and families safely with their partner. In that way they contribute to the finances of the family and are able to buy little luxuries—or simply contribute towards a decent standard of living. I do not see that it is any part of my job as a legislator to prevent them from taking such jobs. Under the more restrictive option, a number of those women would be deprived of the opportunity to work on a Sunday. Hon. Members should think carefully about that as a substantial number of women and families will not thank them if they do not consider that issue before voting today.
As an ex-Home Office Minister, has my right hon. Friend seen the report by a firm called London Economics, commissioned by the Home Office and published in April this year, which shows that not just part-time employment but the whole jobs scene would lose 20,000 jobs if we had total deregulation?
If we go for a very restrictive option, we shall lose considerably more than 20,000 jobs. That might not make a difference to those who do not wish to see or understand the difficulties that some women have. Those women are working to keep their families together and to ensure that their children have the same things as other children in school, but they can do so only on a Saturday or a Sunday. It is my duty to bring that issue before the House.We have entirely ignored the views of the shoppers. We shall not be able to explain to those people who currently shop on a Sunday why in future some garden centres will be unable to open on a Sunday, and why those that are open will be able to sell only certain goods. It will not be easy to explain to the people who come into our advice bureaux why some do-it-yourself stores that have been selling goods for a long time will have to close, or why, if they are open, they will not be able to sell certain products on a Sunday. I can imagine the kind of complaints that this will bring in our postbags, and the irritation that it will cause. Those are some of the points that I ask my hon. Friends and also the Opposition to consider before casting their votes today. It is extremely important to remember that a number of people have approached us, written to us and put to us all the points raised this afternoon and this evening. We have to weigh up those judgments and make a decision on behalf of our constituents. It is a burdensome but very important decision that we as individuals must make. We must choose with extreme care, not believing only those people who have written to us but judging for ourselves what our other constituents will say.
I have listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend has said. There is great strength in her argument and I understand it. If she does not succed in her argument, will she not throw her strength behind my amendment?
I have listened to my right hon. Friend's argument with great interest and weighed it up very carefully, as I will the arguments of other hon. Members. My right hon. Friend knows that I am hoping that my proposal for total deregulation will win the day.
Let me follow the speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) with a few remarks concerning her activities on the contentious issue of Sunday trading.The right hon. Lady served on the Committee that considered a Bill that I promoted earlier this year, and she tabled some 122 amendments. She participated in a debate on Friday 14 May, and on that occasion she tabled a further 99 amendments. Having been afforded every opportunity in Committee to make whatever amendments she wanted, she tabled 99 amendments and 13 new clauses. I was fortunate that my Bill was the third Bill drawn out in the ballot immediately after the election. In a free vote on a Friday, the Bill had a majority of 214 and went to Committee. The right hon. lady made a special request to serve on the Committee and, because of her activities and her interest—and because I thought that she had learnt a lot in the Home Office as the Minister responsible for shops —I thought that she would make a good contribution to the debate in Committee, and I agreed that she should be appointed.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I have not reached the point yet.Every hon. Member is responsible for his own actions. If I had served for four years in the Home Office as a Minister with responsibility for shops, and if during that time I had not lifted a finger to try to introduce legislation to alter the Shops Act 1950, I would not have the gall to come to the House and spend 25 minutes criticising the suggestions of the Shopping Hours Reform Council—or even criticising the Keep Sunday Special or the Retailers for Shops Act Reform options. It is galling that the right hon. Lady should do that having not introduced, or made any attempt to introduce, any legislation while she was at the Home Office. Before the right hon. Lady intervenes, I would like her to explain the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) made about a letter that was sent to me. I do not know how it arrived in my mail, but it did. We should be accurate in any correspondence that we circulate to other hon. Members. If, as the right hon. Lady suggests, she is going to have an advice centre in the Lobby tonight, will she make sure that the advice she gives is correct? In the letter she asks hon. Members whether they are going to participate in the vote on Wednesday, and concludes by saying in the last paragraph:
We have a responsibility to ensure that when we circulate letters to hon. Members on an issue such as Sunday trading our advice is correct, so that when hon. Members go into the Lobby we retain some credibility for knowing how we will direct them in the vote. I have a mischievous mind. Will the right hon. Lady tell me whether she has been asked by the Government to do a whipping job in the Lobby tonight because of her experience as a Minister in the Home Office and her role in the Conservative party as a chairman? It is a free vote, and no Whips are supposed to be employed in the Lobby tonight."Please be in the House on Thursday."
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way; it is most kind of him. I was a little surprised to learn that it was the hon. Gentleman who had appointed me to sit on the Committee dealing with his private Member's Bill. I had suspected that the Selection Committee was responsible, but I may be entirely wrong.A number of the amendments that were tabled at that time were either accepted before the time came to discuss them, or accepted with slight alterations. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that that is the case?
I serve on the Selection Committee, but I also promoted the Bill. Because of the majority that the Bill received in the House on the Friday when it was first debated, only four hon. Members who were opposed to it were allowed on to the Standing Committee. I received a number of requests from hon. Members who opposed the Bill: indeed, one Conservative Member—he is now sitting only three seats away from the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden—complained bitterly about his exclusion. Having explained that, I should like to hear an explanation in regard to the letter, which was plainly circulated with the primary aim of confusing people.I myself have no wish to confuse the Committee further, but I hope that the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) will explain why amendment No. 35 arrived on the agenda in his name at such a late stage. If he had arranged to be paired tonight, he would be in Russia. It is passing strange, as Enoch Powell would say, that an amendment should be tabled on the eve of a debate to ensure that everyone is confused about the voting. All the groups involved have circulated letters among their supporters, suggesting that they vote for one of the three options. Overnight, however—no doubt following advice from the learned Clerks—a new amendment has been conjured up. The night before last, no one had seen it. Did the Government promote that amendment in order to confuse the issue even further? Organisations such as Keep Sunday Special and RSAR decided to present a combined option to help the Committee to make its decision respectfully and properly. That limited the number of options to three.
I strongly object to the hon. Gentleman's implication. First, he is incorrect: the amendment was tabled, in my name, the moment after Second Reading. It was not a new amendment. If the hon. Gentleman had been present when I began my speech, he would have heard me say that. I explained then why amendment No. 1 had become amendment No. 35: it was tabled before the Government had tabled their amendment to alter the way in which the Bill would operate. Following the alteration brought about by the Government's amendments, I had to redraft my own amendment.I thoroughly object to the suggestion that I should have been elsewhere. I am meant to be leading a delegation to the Parliament of the Confederation of Independent States in Gorky at this very moment, observing the Russian elections, but I felt that my duties to the House came first. I shall leave on the first plane tomorrow, but now I am here to do what I believe is right—not sponsored by the Government, or by anyone but myself. My constituents know my views, and could tell the hon. Gentleman that I have held them for many years. Perhaps he will withdraw his implication.
I made no allegations. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I might not have been present for his speech, but I have been present since the beginning of the debate: if anyone should withdraw an allegation, it is the right hon. Gentleman. I know that I am short, and on occasion it may be necessary for me to stand on my seat to catch the Speaker's eye; however, I am not so short that Conservative Members sitting below the Gangway cannot see me when I am in the Chamber.As other hon. Members have spoken for as long as 35 minutes, I had better proceed with my speech. Undoubtedly, most hon. Members are now suffering from "Sunday trading fatigue", and we hope that after tonight's vote the deluge of mail from a wide range of interest groups will cease. I believe, however, that no hon. Member should be in any doubt about the issues involved, and it behoves me to spell them out. They are embodied on page 9 of the Government's document on Sunday trading, which explains the Keep Sunday Special campaign option. The campaign agrees that the Shops Act 1950 is out of date and contains too many anomalies, arguing that
The first is"there is a strong case in favour of an improved regulatory scheme. There are at least three arguments which point towards limiting shops opening on Sundays".
The second is"To guarantee a common day off for the family and community activities, including church worship."
The third is"To ensure rhythm in people's lives, balancing work and recreation."
As we all know, those are the arrangements advocated by Keep Sunday Special under the REST—"recreation, emergencies, social gatherings and travel"—proposals, and they appeared in my Bill in the spring. I am proud of the arduous and industrious campaign that Keep Sunday Special has waged throughout the year, after waiting since 1986 to promote a reasonable and effective measure in place of the 1950 Act. I am also proud of my loyal and trustworthy friends in the organisation, who helped me tremendously in my endeavours to promote my Bill. I am grateful for the support of the many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who served so well on the Standing Committee. Despite certain pressures from many quarters, they have remained convinced of their cause, and have continued to advocate their principles relentlessly. They did so not for profit, personal gain or exploitation but out of sheer and sincere conviction and neighbourliness. With the help of thousands outside the House and of many in the House, and with the help of prayers from religious organisations, I feel confident that the Keep Sunday Special-RSAR option will be rewarded tonight with a tremendous victory. The main argument against seven-day trading is that the additional costs of servicing the community at the existing level would increase the price of goods to the public, which would be inflationary. Also, increased police, health and safety inspectorate and transport cover would make additional demands on Government expenditure. What causes most dismay and alarm, however, is the devastating, octopus-like, outreaching effect that seven-day trading would have on crime and the enormously increased cost of that to the community. Law and order become effective when individuals act responsibly and with integrity, and are not dominated by self-interest and expediency. Promoting those qualities is one of the tasks of the churches. While many question the effectiveness of the chuches, it would be fatal to underestimate the value of their work—which is inseparable from law and order. While the former is a seven-day operation, on Sunday special emphasis is placed on promoting ideals. Making Sunday just another day would greatly hamper the effectiveness of the churches' work. Any of the deregulation options would have that effect, because in most large cities—and this touches on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz)—85 per cent. of retail businesses are owned and run by Asians. Twenty-five per cent. of their profits come from Sunday turnover. They work long hours and provide a valuable service to the community. If total deregulation or the SHRC option is implemented, the majority of Asian shop owners will be forced out of business, with disastrous social consequences for themselves and for their customers. The elderly, infirm, those without transport, and those without the money to bulk-buy weekly would be disadvantaged. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that this is a battle for their survival. Small stores are already under pressure from the recession, fluctuating interest rates, and competition from superstores and hypermarkets. In the past 30 years, the number of small, neighbourhood stores has fallen from 145,000 in 1950 to 36,000 today. If total or partial deregulation were to occur, corner stores all over Britain would disappear and vandalism would raise its ugly head, bringing increased crime. Our inner cities would resemble the downtown areas of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is a worrying prospect."To protect vulnerable sections of the retail workforce and those employed in ancillary services from pressure to work unusual hours."
My constituency has several small stores in a thriving inner city. I believe that it is the fourth most profitable shopping centre in Britain. However, small companies are experiencing difficulties. One business man contacted me recently to say that his three small butcher shops in the city lost 20 per cent. of their business after large stores started opening illegally two years ago. He fears that, unless Parliament enacts legislation to protect small firms, he will have to close his business.
My hon. Friend's constituency contains the largest number of shops of any constituency in the whole of Wales. He knows from his connections with the Co-operative movement of the problems faced by small grocers who provide a community service. If we are not careful about how we vote tonight, they will be lost.
There were a couple of gasps when my hon. Friend cited American examples. As I have recent experience of the situation in the United States, I can tell the Committee that 800 towns and cities there have a gang warfare structure. American experts say that the power of big, efficient retailing has wiped out inner-city retailers and brought crime to those districts. That is already happening in my constituency. A Sainsbury store opened there only one year ago and already 18 charity shops and the market are struggling. My hon. Friend's point about America was absolutely correct.
Order. I do not address this remark only to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), but if there are any more interventions of that length, many hon. Members who hope to catch the eye of the Chair will not be successful.
I appreciate that my hon. Friend made a lengthy intervention, but it was important to the debate. Senators from all over America on visits to the House have told me, "Whatever you do, keep Sunday special. We have lost it in America, and would love to return to the days when we could enjoy the tranquillity of Sunday."
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is much more church-going in the United States than in the United Kingdom?
We have suffered a crime-ridden society since 1979, but there is much more crime in America than in this country.Once Sunday shopping is deregulated to any extent, it will be irreversible and the damage will have been done. Small shops and stores will close for ever, and we shall become used to Sunday being just another day. Family life will suffer, supermarkets will increase their domination of the food trade, workers will have even more fragmented leisure time and a Sunday off will be only a memory for retail workers. I am convinced that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee are not prepared to let the Government or anyone else kill off our tranquil Sunday with total deregulation. I am equally confident that the Committee will oppose deregulators whose goal is to reward those firms that have blatantly and relentlessly broken the law to achieve a monopoly of the retail trade on not only Sundays but all 365 days of the year. The Shopping Hours Reform Council option is not a compromise; it is the wolf of deregulation in a cynical sheep's clothing. I received a letter from Unison, which now has 1·25 million members. I understand that the letter has been circulated to all hon. Members. It refers to a contentious issue that has yet to be resolved—the question of employment protection. I realise that we will have a debate shortly on the whole issue of employment protection. However, the issue is of grave concern to those who want to make decisions tonight. Some hon. Members must go into one Lobby or another not knowing whether they will do so because they support a principle argument that I have explained to the Committee or on the basis of whether people who will be employed on a Sunday will have certain protection. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me for reading an excerpt from the letter from the general secretary of Unison, Alan Jinkinson, which was sent to us on 6 December. I quote:
I read that part of the letter because there might be some confusion regarding my association with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers as one of its sponsored Members, and because of its recent decision to support not Keep Sunday Special but some other organisation. Let me make it abundantly clear that the executive council of USDAW took the decision, not the collective membership. Having explained that, I must emphasise that USDAW still supports employment protection and double time for all workers on a Sunday. Earlier this year, employment protection was included in my Bill, together with the request for double-time payments. I am glad that the Committee which dealt with my Bill agreed in principle to employment protection and double-time payments being embodied in my Bill."there is confusion surrounding the proposals in the Sunday Trading Bill and in particular the issue of employment protection … the Bill now contains a measure of 'protection' for current and future shop workers in terms of non compulsory working on Sundays. However, our legal advice is that the provisions in the Bill will be more or less unworkable and ineffective. The clauses on employees being able to opt in or out of Sunday working are complicated and are likely to cause serious confusion. More importantly, unscrupulous employers will be able to exploit the weaknesses in the legislation and use a range of excuses to get around the rights of individuals not to work on Sunday. The Government's proposals for employment protection in the Bill are therefore illusory. The Bill also does not contain any provision concerning double time payments for Sunday working. Premium payments are an important compensation for those who have to work on Sundays and the neglect of any reference to payment in the Bill is an important omission."
I ask my hon. Friend to acknowledge that an amendment relating to double-time payments has been tabled. The weaknesses in the employment protection scheme that exists in Britain as a whole, to which my hon. Friend alluded, were known to hon. Members and, indeed, were known to him at the time that he drafted the employment protection provisions for his private Member's Bill. Does he acknowledge that, on the face of the Bill, employment protection—whether it is weak or strong, or however one might define it—will apply to all the options in the Bill? It is clear that if there are weaknesses, they apply equally to all the options.
My hon. Friend makes a good contribution. Mr. Lofthouse, I hope that you are watching the clock and will give me injury time because of the length of interventions.On Second Reading, I referred to an employee of Woolworths who was told that, if he was not prepared to sign an agreement to work on a Sunday, obviously he would lose his job. The personnel director of Woolworths Mr. Leo McKee, sent me a haughty letter saying:
I have not yet replied to the letter, which is dated 3 December. If some hon. Members have a copy of the letter, I can assure them that the document to which I was referring was a contract compiled by Woolworths which the worker was asked to sign by a date in late November. It was not a booklet of terms and conditions; it was a contract that the man was asked to sign. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) raised the question of employment contracts. If we have total deregulation or partial deregulation without ensuring that we have real employment protection and double time for workers, we will be selling poorly paid workers in the retail industry throughout the country down the river."the Terms and Conditions you cited would seem to refer to a booklet that was withdrawn by Woolworths over a year ago and is now obsolete".
Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that the more shops are open on Sunday, the less opportunity there will be for workers who do not want to work on Sunday to seek jobs in other companies and therefore the more pressure there will be on them?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I wish her sincere best wishes in her quest to become the president of USDAW once again. I hope that the members of USDAW will support her in that quest.I am grateful that the Chair afforded me an opportunity to speak last week and has done so again this week. I am aware of the pressure to call as many hon. Members as possible in such an emotive debate. Therefore, I shall conclude my remarks by appealing to hon. Members once again.
As my hon. Friend concludes his short speech on this issue, perhaps he would like to comment on what happened when betting shops were deregulated with regard to employment protection in that sector.
Mr. Lofthouse, I am sure that if my hon. Friend catches your eye, you will give him an opportunity to raise that matter. But I see that you are checking the clock.I appeal to all hon. Members once again: let our communities, our children and our grandchildren enjoy what we have been fortunate to enjoy—the tranquillity and comfort of one day in the week that is special. Let us treasure our Sunday for as long as we can. I ask hon. Members to vote for the Keep Sunday Special and RSAR proposals tonight.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) concluded his speech with some important references, and he drew the intervention of his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), the Front Bench spokesman on that issue, in connection with employment protection. I should just remind the House of what Anthony Scrivener QC said in his opinion, commissioned by the John Lewis Partnership in this connection, in relation to the amendments which the Government have brought forward on employment protection:
Nothing that can be done by way of wording? There is something which can be done to support and protect the employee, and that is to make and to keep Sunday special."There is no problem in dealing with a situation where an employee is openly dismissed for refusing to work on Sundays but that is not how it is likely to happen. That reason will not be stated openly and an employee will know that various excuses can be given for dismissal which may not be the real one. The appreciation of this fact alone puts the employee at risk to pressure and there is nothing that can be done by way of wording which can remove this apprehension."
Does my right hon. Friend know that there are already contracts circulating? I have one in my hands now, which says:
That is a firm called Contessa in Wolverhampton. It is similar to the Smith's contract. Such contracts are being circulated all over the country."If it is decided that your branch will trade on a Sunday or a bank holiday you may be asked to work on these days. Your employment is subject to your full agreement on this condition…"
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supporting me. I make the point, which I believe is relevant and of significance to us all, whichever side of the argument we are on already, that there will be no serious employment protection in the future other than by keeping Sunday special and having a regulatory framework of shopowners.
I have noted that the First Deputy Chairman wants us to make shorter speeches. I will give way to my hon. Friend a little later, but I want to make progress. I want to strike a note of harmony with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold)—
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
I am sorry, I cannot give way.I fear possibly drawing or crossing swords with my very real right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). My right hon. Friend is distinguished by being a colleague of courage and of discretion. One has to have both courage and discretion to be Chairman of our parliamentary Procedure Committee. I fear that on this occasion, in bringing forward another option for Sunday reform, my right hon. Friend has shown that he is exceedingly courageous but a little less prominent in discretion because he has managed somehow, by introducing What he calls a simple solution, to introduce a final solution. He has produced a final solution which effectively buries in the same grave the sponsors of the Shopping Hours Reform Council and those who support Keep Sunday Special. Let me illustrate that by drawing attention to what happens to DIYs, the great vogue theme in all Sunday opening. This is what happens to DIYs under the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton. Everyone knows that one needs to have DIYs open on Sunday mornings because if one is going to do any DIY one does it after one has been to the shop and bought the goods. DIY is something that one does in the afternoon. Miraculously, my right hon. Friend, courageous but lacking in discretion, has brought forward a proposal for DIY that manages to close them in the morning, which is exactly when we want them open.
I will just complete this. Even more miraculously, at the same time, not only did he manage to frustrate the shopowners by making certain that DIY stores are shut in the morning, but he then managed to totally frustrate the owners of DIY stores by letting them open only in the afternoon. There is no business for them in the afternoon. They have lost all the trade. They do not want to open on half a day. My right hon. Friend has miraculously, therefore, outraged those people who want to use DIY shops and those who want to sell goods to the consumers of DIYs.My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden and I would unite and say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton has got it precisely wrong. The theme of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton is a good one; it is to try to keep Sunday special. When he is convinced that his option is not acceptable from either side of the great debate, I hope that he will at least vote for the Keep Sunday Special option.
It is always possible for people to make errors and it would be quite possible in Committee for the DIYs to be added. If that is done, will my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) support my amendment? If that is the only thing wrong with it, I am delighted to give way to him.
I would recommend that, as my right hon. Friend is so keen to modify and improve options in Committee, he takes a ride on the Keep Sunday Special slogan, where he will find plenty of opportunities in Committee to introduce a variation on his own special theme, namely, that DIY shops should shut in the afternoon but open in the morning. We can then have a debate on a total Honiton reverse option, which is best done when we come to consider in Committee upstairs the Keep Sunday Special procedures because I think that my hon. and right hon. Friends and colleagues in all parts of the Committee are now getting a bellyful of the various options before us.I shall summarise the Keep Sunday Special approach by saying that I believe that it is a positive Sunday shop-opening framework; it is not a Sunday shop-closing framework. I emphasise that it does something helpful for shoppers and at the same time it does something helpful for Sunday.
I will give way to my hon. Friend if I can get on a little bit. My hon. Friend, incidentally, has a bee in his bonnet about antique shops. Antiques, under the Keep Sunday Special proposals, will be saleable—antiques will be saleable in DIYs. [Interruption.] My right hon. and hon. Friends mentioned that they had not studied the scope. I am glad to have the opportunity to make the point.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
Let me complete what I am trying to say on the subject.My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton and other honourable colleagues have not appreciated the flexibility of the framework in the Keep Sunday Special proposals, which uses the phrase "wholly or mainly". If the smaller kind of DIY shops choose, because they think that there is a market for antiques, one will be able to buy antiques in a DIY shop. [Interruption.]
Hon. Members do not appreciate the extent to which there is genuine flexibility in the Keep Sunday Special proposals.
Is it not the case that the REST proposals, on which the KSS-RSAR proposals are founded, have been around for four or five years? They have been through the course with the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). Is it not a bit late to start talking about amending the proposal in Committee and changing this and changing that? Surely by now it should have been perfect. Has not the proposal gone so far from keeping Sunday special that it has lost any intellectual integrity and is a complete and utter mishmash?
As my hon. Friend would expect, I totally disagree with his analysis. Since the original Bill that was introduced by my right hon. Friend Baroness Thatcher was thrown out, it has been possible to bring those proposals forward only through the vehicle of private Members' legislation. We know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden suddenly found it desirable to introduce 99 amendments the last time that we had an attempt to legislate in private Members' time. So the integrity has not yet been properly tested. It is about to be tested tonight, and I am convinced that the general view of thè Committee will overwhelmingly favour the framework of law that gives great scope for opening shops, but still reflects the fact that most people want to keep Sunday as a special day. Under the Keep Sunday Special proposals, there will be more opening of shops than is permitted now, and a wider range of goods than is now available will be sold. But at least there will be some sort of regulatory framework to protect home, family, leisure and the general pattern of life that we know.
I have been especially troubled by one aspect of the Keep Sunday Special proposals—the fact that they allow the four Sundays before Christmas to be totally deregulated. That does not seem consistent with the rest of the group's views. Moreover, the very people whom it claims to protect—small shopkeepers —are to be deprived of the best four weeks of trading, because there will be a free-for-all on the four Sundays before Christmas. Will my right hon. Friend explain the logic of that?
That is easy to explain. We are trying to establish a reasonable balance for life on Sunday. If we allow four Sunday openings out of the total number of Sundays in the year, there will be 48 Sundays left, on which there will not be a free-for-all. In all conscience, is that not a reasonable balance?
No, I must get on. It is not fair to other hon. Members if I give way too much.Everyone has his own favourite poll on the options before us, and there is one poll that I believe conveys the real flavour of the attitude of the great mass of the British public in the world outside this rather hyped-up—
The English public.
The English public, then.For the Harris Research Centre survey of 1989 respondents were asked to list the five most popular things to do on a Sunday—[Laughter.] I know from long parliamentary experience that if one talks of asking people to list the five most popular things to do on a Sunday—[HON. MEMBERS: "DIY."]—one must immediately continue, without leaving a gap for hon. Members to fill. Let me tell hon. Members, including my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), who I know will sympathise, the list of what people prefer to do on Sundays—[Laughter.] These are serious matters. Number 1 on the list was:
Number 2 was:"Spending time with husband/wife and children (21 per cent.)"
Number 3 was:"Having a quiet day at home with the papers or television (15 per cent.)"
Number 4 was:"Visiting friends or relatives or having them visit (12 per cent.)"
Number 5 was:"Having a day out visiting the seaside/country or historical town (11 per cent.)"
The idea that the Keep Sunday Special proposals are being swept along by Church-oriented pressure groups is nonsense. The activities that I have mentioned are what people like to do on Sunday. Shopping came 11th. Only 1 per cent. of respondents listed it as the thing that they would most like to do on a Sunday."Going to a Church service (8 per cent.)"
Does my right hon. Friend accept that that poll was taken before supermarkets opened on Sundays? Does he also accept that many more people shop in supermarkets on Sundays than go to church?
That is a highly unlikely statistic, which I do not believe could be proved. Ten per cent. of the population goes to church on Sunday, and I doubt whether they could all be crowded into the supermarkets that open on a Sunday.To help my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) get his riposte in perspective, I shall tell him about a slightly more up-to-date poll, which came from NOP in September 1990 and is cited by the John Lewis Partnership in its broadsheet. The question asked in that poll was singularly straightforward and unweighted:
People were asked to say whether they were inconvenienced "a lot", "a fair amount", "a little", or "not at all". Only 5 per cent. said that they were inconvenienced a lot, and only 8 per cent. that they were inconvenienced a fair amount; 22 per cent. said that they would be inconvenienced a little, and 64 per cent. said that they would not be inconvenienced at all; 1 per cent. said, "Don't know". The argument that there is a huge amount—"Are you inconvenienced by most shops being closed on Sunday?"
No, I am sorry to say that my hon. and learned Friend has given away his identity by the way that he is dressed this afternoon, and this is not a Scottish Bill, so I shall not give way to him.
I am afraid that I must get on. My hon. Friend will understand that allowing too many interventions is not fair to others who wish to speak.To say that there are hungry shoppers frustrated almost to the point of suicide because they cannot get into shops all over the place on Sunday is a ludicrous misrepresentation of what is happening in the outside world. The idea is irrelevant and untrue. The great mass of the public is not seriously inconvenienced at all by a restrictive shopping regime.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
No, I am afraid that I must get on.What I say is expecially true in the light of the positive options offered by the Keep Sunday Special procedures. There may be restricted shop opening, but there will be a rational framework for shops, based on the principles of REST—recreation, emergencies, social facilities and amenities, and transport. The whole range of shops offering such services will be open and able to trade. We must think about the down side, and the problems that will arise if there is total deregulation, with no regulatory framework. Mr. David Sieff of Marks and Spencer put the case vividly in the Evening Standard last night:
Instead it involves spreading the profits of six days' trading over seven days' costs. Prices would have to increase, premium rates of pay on Sundays would have to be dropped, and large shops would tend to increase their market share at the expense of smaller convenient village shops. Exactly what David Sieff forecast—and itemised in his article—would happen. for example, as he wrote:"Sunday trading does not make the retail cake bigger."
That is a significant number. Another way of describing our proposal is to call it the KSSC option—the "keep small shops competitive" option. On the other hand, the Shopping Hours Reform Council option could be described as the SHRC option—the "superstores hoping to rake in cash" option. That is the reality that we are debating. KSSC proposes that a flexible and increasing range of shops would be able to open on Sundays, whereas the Shopping Hours Reform Council would sweep regulations away and bring about a massive free-for-all. Sunday opening would not be restricted to shops. It would extend to banks, building societies and estate agents. If Sunday is to be like any other day, why should not everybody open on Sunday? All those who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South said, cannot shop on Sundays will not be able to shop on Sundays because they will be forced to work in their own premises. I resisted giving way because you asked for short speeches, Mr. Lofthouse. I apologise for speaking as long as I have. I hope that hon. Members and right hon. Members will keep Sunday special."Already, nearly 2,000 small stores have gone out of business in the past two years since the large supermarkets began regular Sunday trading."
I am grateful to the Chairman, Mr. Lofthouse, for announcing at the beginning of the debate that my amendment No. 21, with its consequential amendments, would be selected for a vote.I wish to address the Committee on the basis of two principal points. The first is the amendment as a fall-back, and we may need a fall-back position, and the second is in its context as one of the earlier votes. There will be a series of votes later, as the Committee knows. There is the total deregulation option, the Keep Sunday Special option with little deregulation plus the four Sundays, and there is the six hours between 10 am and 6 pm option. I argue that if all of those are defeated we shall be left either with the law as it is—that is clearly a nonsense, and few people voted against Second Reading—or something that would bring into effect the option to decide at a local level. I beg the Committee's indulgence to consider whether that might not be, for many people, the second best option available. There is strong evidence for that. Logically, it would have been better to have a vote on the local option first, but procedurally that is not possible. I would ask the Committee to accept that also. I will first state my preferred position, so that there can be no dissembling about it. I voted for the Bill on Second Reading and I believe that the present law is a nonsense which needs to be reformed urgently. I also think that the law-breaking that has happened is indefensible. The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), who was a Minister, and also the Attorney-General and others who were in office when shops started opening on Sunday did not make it clear enough that what was going on was unacceptable. Had the Government called in the managing directors and the chairmen and chairwomen of the boards and formally made it clear that it was unacceptable, there might have been far less Sunday opening of big stores.
I must continue. We may have only until 10 o'clock for the debate.I will declare all my interests. I share many of them with most of my colleagues, but one or two may be unusual and it seems reasonable to put all of them on the record. Like all hon. Members, I represent many small shops, market stalls, markets and big shops. Sadly, like many hon. Members, I also represent many unemployed people who want to work. My constituency has one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain. Like many hon. Members, I represent shoppers and employees. I also represent large, good, clean, efficient and pleasant stores. Those stores include the Tesco store which opened two or three yars ago at Surrey Quays—a store which is currently opening illegally on Sundays. Tesco did me the courtesy of asking me to meet the employees of that store last Sunday to hear their views. Lastly, the registered headquarters office of J. Sainsbury plc is also in my constituency. No option will please all of the people all of the time —that is self-evident. We must do what is for the best, not just in the short term but in the long term. I am for keeping Sunday special. It is important to me as a Christian, but I can arrange to keep my Sunday special without the law. It is not on that basis which I argue the point. I do not claim special protection for my faith, nor for the faiths of others. Much more importantly, I believe that it is in the interests of our society as a whole—for people of all faiths and people of no faith—that we have a common context for our work and for our leisure. That context should have an order to it and it should respect the pattern of work and leisure. It should build in a guarantee that, on one day at least, there is a presumption in favour of something other than work.
I will not, for the reason which I gave earlier. I do not want to use up too much time. I listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, who argued for the deregulation option. The right hon. Lady has been a Home Office Minister.One cannot reasonably argue that deregulation is good in principle—or else one would argue that deregulation is good for health and safety at work, for pubs which could open at any time day or night, or for speed limits. That is an invalid argument. One cannot say that one person's freedom to choose does not have an impact on other people's freedoms. That is a dangerous argument which the right hon. Lady made. One cannot argue for regulation to be left to local authorities and yet argue that they cannot do the enforcing, which is one of the difficulties of the present law. The Minister argued that we live in a market economy. In a market economy, the big fish eat the little fish, and the little fish increasingly are no longer there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not necessarily."] Not necessarily may be correct, but the big fish have the power and the capacity more often to eat the little fish. Lastly, one cannot say that deregulation is necessary for women in particular, or workers in general, to have Sunday work in order to get a better deal. I would say to Tesco and Sainsbury's that if they are so concerned about workers' rights, they should pay the workers double time on a Saturday. They could certainly do that, and there is no need to get them in on Sunday to give them double time. What would more Sunday trading mean? It would mean more transport on our roads. It would mean that there would be a greater incentive to spread the business of six days over seven, and that is what is happening. There would be a greater incentive to work every day and there would be greater pressure on people not to have a day of rest at all. More people are doing so, including hon. Members it may be said. Many people wish that they did have more spare time, but they cannot now find a way to do so. There would be a greater incentive to spend money on seven days—money which some, regrettably, may not have. There would be a greater incentive to advertise more and to appeal to people's commercial interests. There would be greater pressure both on and from children and young people. There would be more pressure for more people. Simply, there would just be more pressure. It is important that we listen to the voices of leaders from all faiths—Christian, Jewish and others—who share the views of a letter to The Times which was headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and which was printed on the day of the Second Reading. The letter said:
I say amen to that. What has been the experience in Scotland under a different regime? I spoke to my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), who speaks for my party on Scottish affairs, before the debate. He told me that the number of people who shop on Sunday has gone up. What happened in Scotland will happen here. When I was at my local Tesco last Sunday listening to the views of Sunday shoppers, some of them said that they liked shopping there on Sunday because it was quiet. It is not so quiet as it was when it first opened on Sundays two years ago. In five or ten years' time, Sunday will be much more like a Saturday, a Friday, a Thursday or a Wednesday. I gather that that is the general experience in Scotland, too."Commercial pressures already loom large enough in our society. Sunday affords space for the nurture of other values, pursuits and dimensions of family life in a more restful atmosphere. On the grounds of not only religious conviction but also pastoral experience, we believe that the spiritual, psychological and physical health of our nation would be poorer if there were no longer one common day in the week which was substantially different from the rest."
I will not give way, but only because time is limited. The reality is that the amount of shopping might be little today, but once the door is open there is no turning back.
It is not rubbish, and I will give the reason for that in a moment. The local authority option—the fall-back position—at least allows a turning back, because local authorities will be able to change their minds. If we vote for the Honiton option, or if we vote for six hours now, then we will be asked later to vote for longer.Of course it would be convenient for all if shops were open on a Sunday. It would be convenient if they were open when we finish here at 2 a.m.—indeed, some of them are. If the shops were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it would be convenient for some people and there would be people in the shops. Especially in urban areas and city centres, that would be convenient for at least some people. Convenience is not the most important argument, however, and I hope that we shall resist it. I am convinced that, whatever the best practices and best intentions of the best managers may be, given the choice between employing someone who says that he or she will never work on a Sunday and someone else who says that he or she will, there will be a great deal of hidden pressure to appoint or promote the person who agrees to work. He or she will be a more valued and useful employee. Let us be honest: in this place we prefer to employ staff who are willing at least occasionally to work anti-social hours. 7 pm Marks and Spencer and Iceland both agree with me that deregulation kills small shops. The opening of the new Tesco in Surrey docks has meant that shops in the market square in the Blue in Bermondsey have been under more pressure. Their profits have declined, some have closed, and some market stalls are struggling. That is fact, not speculation. Deregulation will not ultimately help people who cannot get to out-of-town big shops. Such people want to go next door, but they will find when they do so that next door is no longer there.
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has a clear view in favour of deregulation which he has often presented. I, on the other hand, did not speak on Second Reading, and this is my first contribution to the debate.I do not say that there should not be shopping on Sunday. I do not argue for an unrealistic world. The Honiton option is unrealistic; it decrees that everything shall be closed on a Sunday morning, and people will be able to buy only newspapers. That is not an acceptable option. I am arguing against large shops and for small shops. I am arguing against more traffic, more pollution, more consumption of fuel and more damage to the atmosphere, and I am arguing for a quieter and more pleasant existence in urban and rural Britain. Above all, I am arguing against big profits for the few and in favour of the greater number of people who need a little profit to be able to survive. The Keep Sunday Special proposal is that on four Sundays before Christmas shops may open. That is realistic, as most people do need to shop more then—the evidence for that is clear. People shop more in December than in any other month of the year. Let us therefore respect that fact and respond to it. It is no good being strongly dogmatic and failing to take account of the real world.
That defeats your own argument.
Not at all. I am arguing for the best possible conclusion compatible with people's reasonable demands. That conclusion is that we should keep Sunday special for as many weekends of the year as possible. Regardless of whether people are religious, many of them celebrate at Christmas and go shopping more in December as a result. That, too, is a fact.I hope that we defeat the Honiton option and the total deregulation option. I hope that we will then vote in favour of the third opion—the KSS option. But that may not happen, as there may be a coalition against it. We shall then face the prospect of the six hour opening option between 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays—not many shops would open at different hours anyway. If this last option is rejected too, I ask the House to consider that it might be better to leave the decision to local councils. I thought about whether I could propose a valid amendment for a local referendum—the precedent was set by the Welsh decision-making process on Sunday drinking —but I cannot validly propose the idea in this Bill. My local council decision option is at least better than keeping the law as it is. There are different views in different communities. For instance, in my urban London constituency I am sure that there are stronger views in favour of Sunday opening, even though I do not believe in that, than are held in rural Herefordshire or rural Suffolk. We should respect that diversity. England and Scotland are already different—as are different areas in Switzerland, for that matter. The enforceability question is also important in this context. Those who should decide about the local rules should be those who are legally obliged to carry out the enforcement. If they think that they cannot enforce a tight option, let them decide as much, and vice versa. This option would also allow a change of mind. If, say, Southwark council decided to vote for six hours between 10 am and 6 pm but after five years the local community said that that was a pain—the traffic was awful, and so on —the council could change its decision. This is a way of turning the clock back. Either way, local authorities will be able to decide what is best for their areas. Some communities are multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-racial, others are of predominantly one faith, one culture and one ethnic background. That is the glory of Britain, and let us respect it. Local environmental issues also vary. A supermarket may be sited next to a lot of houses in one area but far from them in another. The Sunday drinking precedent worked well in Wales, where Sunday drinking has been allowed in one district but not in another. That solution respects local views and allows local people to participate in the process. Local communities can get involved in the debate. I am worried about legislating with one answer to meet the breadth of views being expressed in this debate. How much better it would be if the issue could be handled in a non-partisan manner by local people. I do not believe that Parliament should enforce one view on the communities of widely varying local authority areas. If a certain community wants to keep Sunday special, let it do so. If shops opening in another community will cause a nuisance to residents, let them decide.
Would the hon. Gentleman clarify how he envisages this working? I can understand how it would work in a country district, but I am confused as to how it would work in a big metropolis, where there would be far more pressure for everyone to go for one option or another. It would be difficult for local authorities to hang on to their communities under the hon. Gentleman's proposal.
The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has fairly described my proposal as the least worst solution. What the right hon. Lady says holds true only for London, because all the other metropolitan areas are one local authority. Uniquely, London is not.I ask colleagues what the greater good is. My answer is a cycle of work and rest, upheld by us, within which people can make as many choices as possible. As for my "least worst" option, if we cannot come to another conclusion, I suggest that the decision should be taken by local communities. We should certainly not leave them under the present nonsensical law. I hope that the Committee will agree that this is an acceptable fallback, if we need one. It is better to allow people to have their say than to perpetuate a nonsensical law.
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate. We are all aware that Sunday trading is one of the most vexed issues to come before the House in recent years. I have never known a time when a larger number of hon. Members had yet to make up their minds. I like certain parts of some proposals, but, as I will explain, none of them completely mirrors my own ideas.The issue is made more difficult for us by the voting arrangements, because the first amendment to command a majority wins all. That means that we will never know whether another option might have commanded a bigger majority had we been able to vote on it. That puts us in an unusual procedural position. We all agree that the existing legislation is full of anomalies. We all agree that it is a bad precedent for the law to be flouted, especially when law breaking is carried out by prestigious major companies, which should behave within the law. Sainsbury and Tesco would be quite happy to seek redress from the law if their windows were smashed. They expect the law to be respected when it defends their interests, but they are prepared to break it when their profits are at risk.
The hon. Gentleman has underlined a point made in a letter from one of my constituents, who pointed out that, although the big retailers are not prosecuted for opening illegally on Sundays, someone caught shoplifting in one of those stores most certainly would be prosecuted.
The hon. Lady has summed up exactly the point that I was trying to make.I believe that Sunday should be a day for leisure and for the family. Our Good Lord said:
I believe that the modern effect of that instruction is that we should have a day free from stress in which we can recharge our batteries and sustain family life."Six days shalt thou labour … But the seventh day is the sabbath".
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will not give way to my hon. and learned Friend because long speeches have been made and I want to make a brief one.If one accepts the idea that Sunday is a day for leisure and for the family, it logically follows that the businesses that should be open should be those that enable people to enjoy leisure pursuits and enjoy a family day. That means almost all the businesses, apart from supermarkets, which now open normally on Sundays. Full deregulation is said to be popular, but we need to keep its effects in mind. It is important that the House is aware that the danger is that that opinion may lead to short-term popularity and long-term damage. The village and corner shops rely heavily on Sunday trading. We already know that many of those shops are trading at the margin. It will not take much to tip them over into loss-making concerns. Their closure would mean that a facility upon which local communities rely would be lost. Local communities in villages or urban areas rely on the corner shop because of their convenience. They are convenient for the elderly who may have difficulty in travelling to supermarkets, especially if no bus service operates. They are convenient to the less well-off who cannot afford to travel some distance to supermarkets for their shopping. The loss of the village shop is too high a price to pay, and once it is paid it will never be possible to get that shop back. It is also important to draw attention to the effect of Sunday trading on prices. Joe Public's spending power will not be any greater because of trading on seven days instead of six; he will simply spread his spending power over that time. Similarly, shops that decide to open for seven days will find that their costs will increase, and eventually they will be passed on to the consuming public. The restrictive solution, which allows shops under 3,000 sq ft—a reasonable size—to trade on a Sunday, is worth considering because it would include the village shop, the corner shop, the newsagents, video shops, chemists, florists, tourist shops, farm shops, sport centre outlets, theatre and cinema shops and petrol station shops. Those shops that are not bound by any size restriction include off licences, take-aways, cafes, public houses, pharmacies, vehicle hire shops, motorway service shops, airport shops, post offices, undertakers, wine warehouses, garden centres, DIYs and motor supplies shops. They will be able to open on Sunday for the sale of leisure goods. No restrictions would be imposed on Sunday markets. On any basis, that means that a great amount of shopping could be done on a Sunday by those who particularly wanted to do so. For that reason, I am against the concept of total deregulation. Partial deregulation would allow supermarkets to operate for six hours. Today, those supermarkets that are breaking the law open for eight hours. Once it is legal for all to trade, the amount of available business will barely be enough to fill six hours and no supermarket will want to trade for more than that time. What we have been given in the supposedly split-the-difference solution is total deregulation to the extent that the supermarkets want to have the opportunity to trade on Sundays. The law breakers now trade for eight hours, but when everyone is allowed to trade I am sure that, given the business available, six hours would be sufficient. 7.15 pm I believe that the KSS-RSAR amendment is a little too restrictive, but I shall vote for it because we will be able to make further changes to it in Standing Committee and on Report. We can offer a more relaxed formula for Sunday trading, which is what I would like, but if we voted for total deregulation there would be no turning back. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will vote for the more restrictive of the three options and, having done so, that it will seek to amend it as the Bill completes its further progress through the House.
We all agree that the Shops Act 1950 is in desperate need of reform. It is important to reflect on exactly what has happened in recent months.Hon. Members have made it plain that they do not condone law breaking and nor do I. I share the concern that has been expressed about the fact that the Government should have stepped in sooner to try to make it easier for local authorities to enforce the law. I hope that what has happened has made it plain to us that it is the responsibility of Parliament to pass a law now which is enforceable, workable and meets the wishes and needs of the majority. There is no doubt that the majority of the public want shopping choice to be extended. They want to be able to shop on Sundays. If they did not want to do so, there would be no point in shops opening. Most hon. Gentlemen may rarely be responsible for shopping for a growing family. They should understand, however, that women, and working women in particular, value the extra choice that Sunday shopping offers them. Several months ago the organisation Working Women for Sunday Shopping was established. Its co-ordinator wrote to me recently to report:
"Since Working Women for Sunday Shopping was launched last month I have been inundated with letters from women questioning why legislation should dictate what they can or cannot do on Sundays. Poll after poll has shown that working women want the shops to open on Sunday. 83 per cent. of those surveyed by MORI said they would find Sunday trading convenient—69 per cent. want to see more shops open. The majority of women are now active in the workforce, very many are juggling the competing demands of home, work and family —seven day opening is a necessity for them, not a luxury."
Will the hon. Lady give way?
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, I will not give way because many other hon. Members wish to speak.One of the problems that has been apparent throughout the lengthy debate on Sunday trading is thåt those who want to keep the shops shut have been the most vocal. For a long time they have told us that the shops must be kept shut in the name of employee protection. They said that the Government would never agree to the voluntary principle for Sunday working and that workers would be forced to work if shops were open. Now, an albeit reluctant Government have included a guarantee of voluntary working. They have changed their tune again. Before the Minister of State beams too broadly, I must tell him that I have serious reservations about the Bill's proposals and I hope that we will be able to toughen them in Standing Committee. As he will also know, it is a priority of Opposition Members that there should be a principle of double time for Sunday working. Those who want to close shops on Sundays say that such protection is meaningless and that there are higher principles at stake than the thousands of shop workers who will lose their Sunday work if shops shut. Shop worker unions which unanimously reject that message are simply the tools of management rather than genuinely representing their members' views. I should like to read an extract from a letter from the deputy general secretary of USDAW to Members of Parliament. USDAW should be congratulated on listening to the views of its members. The letter says:
"If you wish to follow the Shop Workers' Union position, you will need to vote as follows:—
Total deregulation (1st Vote) … No
Keep Sunday Special (2nd Vote) … No
6 HOUR OPTION (3RD VOTE) … YES
Many thousands of USDAW members are currently working on Sundays and, provided that working is entirely voluntary and they are paid at double-time rates, they wish to continue to have that opportunity.
If the KSS proposals were to go through this would deny many of our members the opportunity to work and would have a significant effect on their income. USDAW members are mainly located in the large stores and large companies and there is little organisation, if any, in small shops and the majority of them do not pay double-time and may not have even followed the Wages Council rates."
I have great respect for my hon. Friend, but that is not what I heard. Perhaps it is a total calumny against USDAW, and I have a lot of friends in USDAW, but is it not a fact that Tesco marched the executive of USDAW in and said, "Change your mind or we will recognise another union"? That is why USDAW changed its mind; it had nothing to do with principles.
I am glad that my hon. Friend raised that point as it is a misconception that has been doing the rounds in recent days and weeks. I have seen the statement from the USDAW executive which categorically states that the union held a meeting with 96 of its shop stewards, 93 of whom said that their members wanted to work on Sunday.
My hon. Friend has just read out some correspondence addressed to Members of Parliament from the union USDAW. Let me read a short extract from a letter from USDAW sent to me on 16 December 1992 saying:
What has changed?"The Shopping Hours Reform Council… after all, is backed by employers who have already ridden rough shod over the current law protecting shopworkers from Sunday working and we have no confidence in them when they say they are prepared to protect shopworkers in the future."
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. I shall tell him what has changed since that letter was written. The major retailers to whom it refers have made a statement saying that they would be happy for the voluntary principle and the entitlement to premium pay to be written into legislation. Clearly that has had some effect.Those who want the shops shut tell us that Sunday shopping destroys family life. Yet what causes most disruption to family Sundays—an open pub or a branch of Boots? Most people do not live in 1950s-style happy families who come back from church to a Sunday roast. Many people cannot afford a Sunday roast these days. There is a huge diversity in the way people live their lives in the modern world and, although that nostalgic view may be tempting to some hon. Members, shutting shops will not bring it back.
Is the hon. Lady aware that the Home Office commissioned what I hope is an unbiased report into the effects of the various options we are considering on jobs in the retail trade? It did not concentrate on part-time or full-time jobs, but stated that, if the KSS proposal is accepted, there will be 5,000 more jobs in the retail industry. If partial deregulation is accepted, there will be 5,000 fewer jobs in the retail industry and total deregulation would mean 20,000 fewer jobs in the retail industry. Surely the hon. Lady must be concerned about that.
I am extremely concerned about jobs. That is precisely why I shall be supporting the six-hour option. We estimate 80,000 Sunday-only jobs would be lost under the more restrictive option.We are told that the restrictive option will help small shops. They should try telling that to small shops that depend on their Sunday trade and would be forced to shut on Sunday. It will destroy the attractiveness of tourist destinations and rip the heart out of ethnic minority shopping areas which are dependent on the percentage of their groceries goods. The idea that browsing in a second-hand book shop on a Sunday afternoon is a threat to civilisation is absurd. Some people will say that, if Members of Parliament vote for Sunday shopping, they will be giving in to commercial lobbying.
Before my hon. Friend leaves the point about small shops, may I ask her whether she agrees that the issue is not that there has been a decline in the number of small shops over many years? It has had nothing to do with Sunday trading but with the development of very large stores. To reverse that, we would need to close very large stores not just on Sundays but on every day of the week. There is now a different shopping pattern. Several years ago, two superstores opened in my area. There has also been a small increase in the number of small shops. The small shops are mainly Asian and not necessarily against Sunday opening. People go to the big stores for the weekly shopping and down the road to their local shops on Sunday. That is what I do.
I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. He is quite right.Many people suggest that Sunday shopping will be giving in to commercial lobbying. However, there are commercial lobbies on every side of the argument. For every Tesco arguing for opening, there is an Iceland arguing for closure. Then they say that they will allow shops that people want to open. That actually means the shops that men want to open. DIY stores and motor accessory shops will be allowed to open, although the wording of the Bill is so restrictive that real DIY shops probably will not be able to open. Any outlet selling alcohol will be allowed to open, but supermarkets and clothes shops uniquely threaten family life and therefore must shut. I understand and accept that few want Sunday to become just another day of the week. That is why I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House will reject total deregulation. However, Sunday is special because it is the day when people have most choice about what they do. Some go to church, others play sports, others visit friends and family while others simply laze about with the Sunday papers. That will not change if people are allowed to shop as one of their Sunday alternatives. Sunday is still special in Scotland, yet shops are free to open. That is why I hope hon. Members will support the partial deregulation option. It is the only option before us tonight which reconciles the wishes of those who want to shop with those who want to work—particularly women —and at the same time make sure that Sunday will remain just a little special.
I shall try to speak more briefly than some earlier in the debate, to whom we listened with fascination.A pervading theme so far in the debate has been that Sunday should be a special day. Many go further and argue, as Christians, that the law must reinforce the requirement in chapter 20 of Exodus, which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell). I understand that many church worshippers wish to obey that injunction in their weekly lives reinforcing the special nature of Sunday. I consider myself a Christian and a somewhat irregular churchgoer and regard Sunday as a day different in character from the rest, but the question that I ask myself is what moral right have I, as a Member of Parliament, to dictate to the rest of the population how they must spend their Sundays, especially as a majority of them do not wish to abide by that literal injunction of the ten commandments.
Does my hon. Friend accept that Parliament constantly dictates to the citizens of the country on almost every subject under the sun?
It does, but if we can define areas where we need not do so, I do not see why we should.Sunday is special, as the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) said. It is special for different people in different ways. For some, it is special because it starts with an act of collective worship. For others, it is a day of leisure and relaxation, perhaps visiting a garden centre in the morning and planting the produce in the afternoon. For others, it means a walk or a drive in the country, perhaps stopping at a village antique shop or at a farm shop. For others, it is a day when the whole family can go and choose a suite of furniture. 7.30 pm For many—some 5 million—sunday offers the chance to do the family shopping in a supermarket without the hassle of trying to concentrate everything into Saturday. For some 80,000 people, including students and part-time workers, it offers the chance of earning some money, often at premium rates, using a different day of the week for leisure activity. I therefore ask myself, if millions of citizens wish to shop on Sunday, and so many shopworkers are eager to serve them, what moral right have we to stop them? That is why I support amendment No. 1, the complete deregulation option, but which I have always called the free-choice option. I do not believe that free choice would destroy the special nature of Sunday. It has not done so in the United States, Canada, southern Ireland or Scotland.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a clash of choices and that people whose houses are disturbed on Sunday—or indeed Saturday—mornings should have a choice to have their house and premises quiet?
Highways legislation should cover the position of such people.Free choice has not destroyed the special nature of Sundays in a variety of countries, including Scotland. To hear some bishops talk, one would think that Scotland was some heathen land where family cohesion has been smashed into oblivion. Scotland has had free Sunday choice for years, and Sunday shop opening there has settled to a level that meets the public demand. The same would happen here if we approved the free-choice option. Throughout large parts of England, it already has. A further advantage of the free-choice option is that it would add almost nothing to the cost of administration that would have to be borne by local councils and ultimately by council tax payers. I shall vote for option one. If that fails, I will most certainly oppose amendment No. 2, the Keep Sunday Special option. I cannot comprehend how the Bill's sponsors can seriously advocate replacing one set of ridiculous and unenforceable rules with another. The KSS "type of shop" approach would create many more anomalies. As the Consumers Association has pointed out, and I shall quote a couple of extracts from its report, under the KSS option
On the "type of shop" approach, it continues:"toys or books could be bought from a newsagent, but not from a toy or bookshop; meat or bread from a small supermarket, but not from a butcher or baker. Auction houses, antique shops, clothes shops, record shops, book shops and any number of other shops will be unable to open, regardless of size, unless they are in a hospital, harbour, seaport, hoverport or airport."
Do we really want to return to such a clumsy, bureaucratic and repressive system?"A convenience shop, under 280 square metres, with a principal trade of groceries and confectionery, will be unable to open unless it also sells domestic cleaning materials. A chemist shop such as Boots, whose trade may include medical products and surgical appliances but not as its main trade, will be unable to open to sell nappies—yet a small neighbouring DIY store could. And a video shop will be able to sell or hire soft-porn movies, but a bookshop could not open to sell a bible."
I took advice this morning, and the advice is that all of these matters—the type of shop, type of goods, time of opening and the size of shops—can be dealt with by amendments in Committee upstairs. My hon. Friend should join the Committee and deal with such matters.
If all the objections of the Consumers Association are to be met, as my hon. Friends have said, the Bill will require hundreds of amendments to be tabled in Committee. I cannot see how one can defend that.Those who argue the KSS option wish to restrict working on Sundays. It would involve a vast increase in Sunday working for an army of environmental health and trading standards officers, scurrying to and fro with their measuring lines checking floor sizes and whether the shops that were opened were dealing in the exempt categories of goods listed.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?