I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I would not wish the progess of my Bill to be delayed, but, as a shareholder in Aston Villa football club, I can think of no better petition to be presented by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). He and I have been associated with that football club for a long time, and I wish him well.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), who ably moved the Sunday Sports (No. 2) Bill in the last Session of Parliament, and also to Lord Wyatt of Weeford, who moved a similar Bill in another place. Hon. Members will find that I have amended their legislation in two significant respects. In due course, I shall explain the reasons for that.
I shall tell the House about the guiding principle which caused me to enter political life. I have always believed that the people of this country are best able to decide how to run their own lives, and that, by and large, interfering politicians, civil servants, Governments and other do-gooders who put themselves forward as the guardians of public morals and try to tell people what to do are repugnant. I have every faith in the British public. 'Normally, they have pretty good judgment and can decide for themselves how to run their own lives. Provided that someone does not hurt anybody else, it is up to him to decide what to do on a Sunday or any other day.
I am not in favour of sport or gambling on Sunday. I am simply in favour of people being able to decide whether they want to go to sporting events on Sunday, whether they want to organise sporting events on Sunday, and whether to gamble on Sunday. That is not a matter for me or, with respect, for you, Mr. Speaker. It is a matter for individuals to decide. In a free society, it is repugnant to have a nanny state that continually tells us what we should and should not do. Our legislation should be kept to a bare minimum. It should only protect people and not control the great majority and tell them what they should do.
Even my most severe critics would concede that the current legislation is arcane and outdated. The Sunday Observance Act 1780 expressly forbids sporting events for which the public are charged admission to be organised on a Sunday. Those who organise the men's finals day at Wimbledon, the final rounds of most of our major professional and amateur golf championships, the British grand prix, athletic meetings, professional football matches and professional cricket matches on Sunday are breaching the law.
One may well ask, "So what? There has not been a prosecution since 1956. Is it necessary to change the law? Is this not an irrelevant measure?" Every hon. Member should believe in the rule of law. In a free society—a democracy—we must obey the law. We have two choices. We must either prosecute those who break the law, which is clearly absurd and would be immensely unpopular, or we must amend or scrap arcane and outdated laws. That is what I am seeking to do. It is manifestly absurd that otherwise law-abiding people, such as the organisers of sporting events to which I referred, should find themselves breaking the law. I am anxious to change that and to bring them within the law.
I shall refer to that point later. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) will forgive me if I do not respond straight away.
It is quite wrong that the organisers of sporting events are breaking the law. From discussions that I have had in the House and elsewhere with supporters and opponents of the measure, I sense that there is general agreement that sporting events should be brought within the law.
I have much sympathy with my hon. Friend, but does he accept that, by deregulating Sunday piecemeal, he will increase rather than decrease anomalies? Whereas, under his proposals, betting shops will be able to function, grocery shops will not. He is not tidying up the law; he is creating further anomalies.
I shall refer to betting shops in some detail later. I do not see a direct relationship between Sunday trading, which we are not discussing today, and Sunday sport and leisure, which we are discussing. Many of our colleagues who voted against the Sunday trading legislation in the previous Parliament will support me in the Lobby because they believe that it is right that there should be leisure on Sunday and that it is wrong that we should trade on Sunday. They are two distinct issues.
My hon. Friend is dealing with matters of principle, anomalies and so on with regard to Sunday. I have one specific question. Does he believe that Sunday should be kept special?
As I have said, individuals should decide what they do on a Sunday.
There is general consensus that we should amend or abolish the law on sporting events. A more controversial matter is what we should do about Sunday racing, which is inextricably linked to gambling. There is no suggestion that we can have horse racing without gambling. As somebody who is not closely associated with horse racing, my first reaction was to say that sports should take place on a Sunday if people want to organise them and others wish to attend, but that there should be on-course betting only. That would avoid the problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) referred—the anomaly of having bookmakers open for business in our high streets on a Sunday.
I went to see my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He said, "If you have on-course betting only, you will return to the 1950s. You will return to illegal gambling and racketeering. I, as Home Secretary, could not possibly countenance that. The Government would withdraw their support for your Bill and would do everything possible to oppose it and ensure that it did not proceed." When I am advised by the Home Secretary that that would lead to illegal gambling, I must take note, and the House, too, will want to take note of that. Clearly, Sunday racing can proceed only with on and off-course betting, which means bookmakers being open on a Sunday.
It is worth clarifying the fact that bookmakers would be open on a Sunday between noon and 6.30 pm. They would not be open all day, as some critics have suggested. I acknowledge that many, including the Keep Sunday Special campaign and other moderate critics who are not Sabbatarians, are worried about bookmaker shops in our high streets and shopping malls being open on a Sunday. The additional clause that I have added, which differentiates this Bill from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley, will restrict gambling to 12 Sundays a year, which will also restrict horse racing to 12 Sundays a year. As the House will readily concede, we are not likely to have horse racing without gambling.
For 40 Sundays a year bookmakers could not be open, and on 12 Sundays between noon and 6.30 pm they could. "Ah," say my critics, "This is the foot in the door. You start with 12 and it will increase." I have noted that point. Whereas initially I was minded to say that Parliament could increase or decrease the 12 Sunday limit by Order in Council, the Bill does not provide for that. If the Bill becomes law and anybody wishes to change the limit, they will have to introduce completely fresh legislation. There is no possibility of quietly and quickly rushing through an order to increase that limit.
There are 59 race courses in this country. The Jockey Club advises me that it is unlikely that there would be more than three meetings per Sunday. Three times 12 makes 36. Therefore, a number of race courses will never be open on a Sunday. If some race courses have two or three meetings a year on a Sunday, a majority of race courses will possibly never have racing on a Sunday.
Moderate opponents of the Bill make a further criticism. They ask whether people who live near sporting grounds and race courses will be affected. Apart from horse racing, other sporting events are already taking place on a Sunday. The law is being breached and ignored, and there have been no prosecutions. If more football clubs want to change their fixtures from Saturday to Sunday they will do so whether or not the Bill is passed. The only change that the Bill makes in practice is that there would be horse racing on 12 Sundays a year, at no race course more than once or twice and at a majority not at all. Therefore, the argument that my measure would lead to greater nuisance for people who live near sporting stadiums is invalid.
When the hon. Gentleman discussed with the Jockey Club the implications of Sunday racing and the number of fixtures did he ask how many fixtures might take place on a bank holiday Sunday?
I did not. That is entirely a matter for the Jockey Club. It is the governing body and can decide. The hon. Gentleman, who takes a great interest in horse racing, knows that a limited number of horses, jockeys and trainers are available, so logistically it would be impossible to have every race course open on a Sunday. I am advised by the Jockey Club that for practical reasons it is unlikely that there can normally be more than three race meetings on a Sunday.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are already a dozen or more fixtures on more than one bank holiday Monday? Those fixtures are already running into double figures. Is it not conceivable that some, if not most, will spill over to Sunday, given the attractions that the Jockey Club now attaches to Sunday racing?
That is for the Jockey Club to decide. Logistically there cannot be a large number of horse race meetings on two consecutive days because the horses are not available. The hon. Gentleman will confirm that.
That brings me to another interesting point. There are not likely to be additional meetings or sporting events in any sport, just a change of dates. There are enough people going to football grounds, as the right hon. Member for Small Heath will recall—even at Birmingham City—to disturb those who live near the grounds. That disturbance will be moved from a Saturday to a Sunday. It is having a disruption at any time that offends them, not having it on a particular day of the week. So the House will need to address that matter at another time.
Every horse racing country, with the exception of Great Britain and New Zealand, has Sunday racing. It appears to be most popular in France, Italy and, most recently, the Republic of Ireland. The House will agree that those countries are deeply religious. There is absolutely no doubt that there is greater religious observance there than there ever is in Great Britain. That confirms the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East. There is nothing unchristian about enjoying a Sunday. There is nothing anomalous in worshiping in the morning and seeing Aston Villa play in the afternoon. There is nothing unreasonable about gambling in the afternoon and going on to Evensong, particularly if one puts most of one's winnings in the collection.
In developing his argument about racing on Sunday, is my hon. Friend aware that churchgoing per head in France is far higher than here? Perhaps the most attractive part of racing on Sunday in France is the large presence of families and children. It is part of the French way of life to worship in the morning, have an agreeable family lunch and go racing—excellent provisions are made for children—in the afternoon.
I have no doubt that racecourses in Great Britain would seek to provide exactly the same facilities, which is more than can be said for any other sports.
I entirely agree. My hon. Friend makes the point very well about the large number of people who go to church in France—in fact, it is a family occasion. The more that sporting events can be a family occasion the better. I can think of no better way of spending a Sunday than going to a sporting event.
Of course, the killjoys will disagree. When Dr. Donald Coggan was Archbishop of Canterbury, he said:
a Christian is not a killjoy. If he is, he ought to question whether he's a Christian.
I would ask the House to consider what Dr. Coggan said. I can see no connection between being a practising Christian and a Sabbatarian and opposing leisure facilities on a Sunday. It makes no sense.
Moderate critics have raised another worry, which I have covered in a second additional clause to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley. It is what I would deem an employment protection clause. There are those who believe that it would be possible for existing employees, who decline to work on a Sunday, to be dismissed. Frankly, I am doubtful about that. We can look at the Scottish experience of Sunday trading. The complaint of most employers is that far more of their employees want to work on a. Sunday than there are jobs available. The discrimination is that employees say to their employers, "You have chosen your favourites to work on a Sunday and get double time and a day off in the week. Why have you not chosen me?" I acknowledge, however, that there are those who fear dismissal. My employment protection clause, therefore, clearly states that no existing employee can be dismissed for declining to work on a Sunday.
Horse racing will be the only addition to the sports that take place on a Sunday, and many people in that sport already work on a Sunday. With Sunday racing on the Continent, many or most jockeys race, and almost all trainers and stable lads already work on a Sunday. Few of those would have their lives radically changed.
My Bill covers all Sunday sports. However, I have received no indication from those involved in dog racing that they have any desire to race dogs on a Sunday. I have deliberately had endless contacts with every interested party on this controversial issue, but I have not heard from those involved in dog racing.
I hope that you will not rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because what I am about to say is not directly relevant to the Bill. There is a real worry about the stable lads. I have received very powerful representations from the Stable Lads Association and I have also met representatives of the Transport and General Workers Union. The case put forward by the Stable Lads Association is a strong one. As somebody who is not involved in the racing industry, I find it amazing, and anomalous, that there is a terrific amount of money in the industry—substantial amounts of prize money and substantial amounts of money changing hands when good horses are sold—but that stable lads are just about the worst-paid people anywhere in the country. I am appalled by their conditions of service, the hours that they work, and their pay.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the position of stable lads. Does my hon. Friend feel that during the past nine years the Horserace Betting Levy Board has been negligent in its duty in the way in which it hands out the money that is collected from bookmakers to put back into the industry? It has complete control over that money, but it fails miserably to look after the lot of the stable lads, who, incidentally, have to work on a Sunday with or without my hon. Friend's Bill, because they must feed and clean out the horses?
I agree with my hon. Friend that, of course, on a rota system stable lads must exercise and feed the horses. I do not believe that this is an appropriate time to say how the matter will be resolved, but I feel that it is important that the House returns at a later date to tackle this subject properly. People with expert knowledge, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt), would then be able to speak on the matter, and action would be taken.
I want to leave the House with my clear impressions as an outsider. Perhaps it is more significant when someone not involved in the racing industry mentions the working conditions of stable lads than it is when someone who has a vested or constituency interests mentions those matters. I have no stable lads in my suburban constituency. A terrific amount of money is washing around within horse racing, but, at the same time, a group of dedicated people are being appallingly treated. I suggest to the business managers—I can see the Government Whip on the Front Bench-that there should be an opportunity for hon. Members on both sides of the House—I believe there is terrific agreement—to discuss the matter further.
I sympathise with much that the hon. Gentleman has said. He would perhaps have been better introducing a Bill that would improve the lot of the stable lads. How can we really be justified in making special provisions for those who work in the racing industry and in the betting shops, but not protect the other workers who must work on a Sunday? That appears anomalous.
I know many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak and I shall finish, as I started, by saying that I believe in freedom of choice. People know best how to run their own lives, and the House would do well to pass this measure of deregulation and trust the people.
I do not believe that this is the right time to introduce a Bill of this kind. I thought so, too, when Lord Wyatt introduced a similar measure in the other place—and I told him so. The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) will recall that before he introduced his Bill to the House I invited him to withdraw it, because I again believed that it was not an appropriate time, and its assured defeat would only set back the cause of Sunday racing unnecessarily. I maintain the same views about the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay).
Those within the racing industry also share my belief that timing is important. I am vice-chairman of the all-party racing and bloodstock industries group and I serve under the distinguished chairmanship of the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) for whom I have affection as well as respect. We work together harmoniously but we disagree about this matter.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East is not the right person to introduce such a Bill. Such a sensitive issue calls for careful handling and there are only a few hon. Members—[Interruption.] Well, the hon. Gentleman could not have invited more unnecessary controversy in recent weeks if he had tried. He has generated controversy in that quarter of the population from whom he could not have relied upon for support and, after a moment's, consideration he should have realised that such a group could retaliate once this Bill was introduced. That unnecessary controversy in no way detracts from his integrity or his effective parliamentary skills. Nevertheless in recent weeks his judgment has slipped a little.
There are not many hon. Members who are qualified to introduce such a Bill. It must be someone who understands racing, commands the confidence of both sides of the House and the confidence of the Labour movement. It is not enough for the hon. Member for Berkshire, East to say that the wages of stable lads are appalling, he should be closer to that part of the industry. Having been drawn number four in the ballot for private Members' Bills, he should not simply have taken up this issue as a suitable vehicle, he should have been identified with the cause in advance.
The hon. Gentleman has said that I was not associated with the cause in advance, but my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) will confirm that, last year, I was one of the sponsors of his Bill. An alternative argument to that advanced by the hon. Gentleman has been put to me by people in the racing industry who claim that it would not be helpful if such a Bill was introduced by someone whom outsiders saw as having a vested interest and that it would be more helpful if that person was neutral. Although the hon. Gentleman and I have devoted much of our speeches to horse racing, which is the most controversial part of the Bill, he should bear in mind that that is only one element of the Bill, which covers all sports.
It is also important to have a feel for the subject matter. The hon. Gentleman has claimed that his credentials rest on being a sponsor of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Crawley. Eleven other hon. Members are sponsors of the Bill that has been proposed today, but only three of them are present. Prior to drawing number four in the private Members' ballot, the hon. Member for Berkshire, East never came near the all-party racing group nor those Labour Members who are closely involved with some of the problems with which the hon. Gentleman has expressed commendable sympathy.
My belief that the hon. Member for Berkshire, East is the wrong person to introduce such a Bill also rests on an article that appeared in The Racing Post three weeks ago when he described racing as "boring". It all adds up to a lack of conviction, credibility and acceptability to both sides of the House which, to my mind, cannot but seriously prejudice his chances of success today.
I am listening with some incredulity to these objections. I am a sponsor of the Bill and if the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) gets a Second Reading for his Bill today I wonder whether he would kindly hand the Bill over to me so that I can take it through the House? I wonder whether that would meet the objections raised by my hon. Friend and we could proceed without further difficulties?
No. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) stimulates me into revealing to the House that he was a close adviser to Lord Wyatt and we know what happened to his Bill. As far as I am aware, my right hon. Friend had no supporters on the Labour Benches for that Bill.
It was more than association, it was advice. No one was more surprised than my right hon. Friend when he realised how many of his hon. Friends were opposed to him.
I will say no more about Lord Wyatt except, in common with the hon. Member for Berkshire, East, he was the wrong person at the wrong time and I told him so. Lord Wyatt's Bill would not be accepted if it reached the House.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East has provided the House with the wrong brief and his presentation is indistinguishable from a Jockey Club brief—in recent years its judgment on this matter has been deplorable and I have told it so.
The hon. Gentleman displays a woeful ignorance of the structure of racing, its organisation and the present opinion within the industry on Sunday racing. In the absence of Sunday racing, he believes that the industry is placed at a "severe disadvantage" compared with other sports, but the reverse is true. No spectator sport enjoys greater exposure than racing, which takes place on every weekday—most days it takes place at more than one venue. There are evening meetings during the summer and on bank holidays, as I have already reminded the hon. Gentleman, the number of racing fixtures runs into double figures. According to the last annual report from the Jockey Club's senior steward. Lord Fairhaven, racing
has rarely looked so challenging and exciting".
He says that with attendances, betting turnover and prize money all on the increase
racing is in an exceptionally healthy state".
Therefore the racing industry is not desperate for the Bill.
I do not want to keep interrupting the hon. Gentleman's speech and I hope that this will be the last time that I do so. The hon. Gentleman has said that I do not appear to be in touch or to understand people involved with horse racing and they do not share my views. I have corresponded, spoken to or met every possible organisation within horse racing. They are all strongly in favour of my Bill with two exceptions. One is the Transport and General Workers Union—my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will confirm its opposition as he was at the meeting. The other exception is the Stable Lads Association which has serious reservations about the Bill, some of which I have acknowledged today. Everyone else is in favour and, with the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, it is possible that I am more in touch with the industry than he is.
I shall be surprised if the hon. Gentleman is able to sustain that argument after he hears the rest of my speech.
The hon. Gentleman has sought to draw an unfavourable comparison between Britain and other countries where racing takes place. In terms of fixtures, however, the British racegoer is much better provided for than those in other countries—I only wish that our racegoers were as well provided with facilities. No doubt the hon. Gentleman has noticed that, during the past six months, The Times has published a weekly guide to racecourses. I am sure that he has read some of the biting criticisms in those surveys to which I shall return later.
The pattern of racing at home is different from that found in the countries mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has recognised that the success of Sunday racing rests on the willing co-operation of the 100,000 people engaged in the racing and betting industries. Apart from consulting the Jockey Club I wonder how thoroughly the hon. Gentleman has sought to discover the opinion of the racing industry? Did the hon. Gentleman consult the Horserace Betting Levy Board?
Did the hon. Gentleman consult the Racecourse Staff Association—the men who man the gates? Well, did he? Silence. The hon. Gentleman claimed that of the bodies he consulted he found only two who were opposed to the Bill. However, my chairman, the hon. Member for Devizes, and I attended the last conference of the industry held on this subject less than 18 months ago at Sandown park. The hon. Member for Devizes will confirm—because he is familiar with the record which I have here—that more than two of the organisations on the list of the hon. Member for Berkshire, East came out against Sunday racing before this most representative gathering of the industry. More than two qualified their position, as I shall show.
The Horserace Betting Levy Board asked if racing was united and—as I have done—if this was the right time to introduce Sunday racing. The Betting Office Licensees Associaton said that there should be no compensatory blank day, but the National Trainers Federation thought that there would have to be one. To some of us, that seemed to torpedo the case for Sunday racing.
Why is there such anxiety for Sunday racing if there has to be another blank day in lieu of Sunday?
Did the hon. Member for Berkshire, East consult the staff of the Betting Office Licensees Association, as distinct from the TGWU? It is true that the TGWU organises both sets of staff but it tends to be identified with the stable lads. Did the hon. Gentleman consult the staff of the betting offices? They firmly oppose the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that the whole of Sunday racing should be run by a sort of cartel of people who would get together to decide whether there should be racing on certain days. The Bill does not suggest for a moment that anyone should be made to race on Sunday. If people do not want to, they need not.
The stable lads, under the leadership of Bill Adams—as opposed to the TGWU—told the conference that 95 per cent. of its members voted against Sunday racing. They oppose the present pay structure, the unacceptable pay deal for evening racing which gives them little, or sometimes no, overtime, and the small payment—
The hon. Gentleman is speaking entirely about racing. The Bill before us is about Sunday sport. Let us take the hon. Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion—did the professional Football Association consult anyone before starting to play football on Sundays? Did anyone go round asking the men who man the turnstiles whether they wanted Sunday football? As the hon. Gentleman is against racing on Sunday, would he also seek to enforce the law and ban all other sports that take place on Sundays?
Before he leaves this subject, will the hon. Gentleman answer this question: does he think that it is purely my advocacy that has caused people to write to me with a completely different view from the one that he says that they put forward at the meeting at Sandown park 18 months ago; or does he think that they are all lying to me in their letters?
The hon. Gentleman must make up his own mind on that matter. I have already shown the House a considerable and growing discrepancy between his earlier claims and my findings, from which his hon. Friend the Member for Devizes cannot and, I know will not, dissent.
The National Trainers Federation entertains reservations, not only about the possible blank day but about costs and staff redeployment. The Jockeys Association thought there should be a blank day, possibly, Monday, on which there could be evening racing. It was concerned about the possibility of traffic jams on bank holiday Mondays.
The Jockeys' Valets Association was against the Bill because it thought that seven days work would erode family life. Interestingly, the Racegoers Club said that 78 per cent. of its members were in favour but warned that attendances would not rise dramatically because they would drop between Monday and Friday. It did not believe the Bill would increase opportunities to generate increased spending throughout the industry over the week.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East will accept that the industry is not united on this matter. Important components of it are either against the idea or have strong reservations about it. The hon. Gentleman also said that it was vitally important that no one working in racing should feel exploited or he denied the opportunity of consultation. However, in a recent survey by The Times, the facilities for stable staff at Wolverhampton racecourse were described as a disgrace. A recent survey, not by the Jockey Club but by a trade union, discovered that mattresses in the lads' hostel were dirty and showed signs of bedwetting.
It has this to do with it—when, only recently, the Jockey Club set up a working party on Sunday racing, it could not be bothered to invite the stable lads' representatives—either Bill Adams or the TGWU—to join it. That is how important my example is.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East said that no one in racing should feel exploited or be denied the opportunity of consultation, but to that I would add that no one should feel neglected. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Crawley—who described the idyllic conditions at Longchamp—believe that racecourses can provide family entertainment. In the view of the Horserace Betting Levy Board we shall not see those conditions here until hooliganism has been dealt with. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on—try harder."] I shall come on. I do not have to try any harder because there is enough evidence of the growing incidence not only of hooliganism but of loutish behaviour and violence. Last year there was a fatal stabbing of a racegoer at Newmarket.
Bookmakers have been assaulted at Redcar, Haydock and York. Even at such fashionable courses as Ascot, Lingfield and Goodwood there has been drunkenness and hooliganism, despite the best efforts of the Jockey Club to stamp out such problems.
The hon. Gentleman is raising an important point that is of great concern to the industry and to the people who run racecourses. Does he accept—even in the middle of his bilious little speech—that the Jockey Club and the racing authorities throughout the country acknowledge the problem? They have taken important, prompt and effective steps to ensure that, where possible, such problems do not arise, and they will take any necessary further steps. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the thrust of his argument is entirely negative. It is not a reason in any sense for not proceeding with the Bill.
No, because I wish to proceed with my speech. I shall give those hon. Members, who have not spoken a chance to intervene, but I hope that those hon. Members who have already intervened will allow me to proceed.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East claimed that racing is now ripe for family entertainment. The Horserace Betting Levy Board takes the view that that is not so, and in view of the evidence that I have given to the House it is quite demonstrably not ripe for family entertainment. The hon. Gentleman said that he had been influenced by racegoers interviewed on a racecourse, but he has not taken the trouble to consult those who live near racecourses and who will be most affected. I have done that and I can tell the House that such people object very strongly to the traditional peace of their Sunday afternoons being disturbed in this way. They ask, "Can we not have one day free?" I now come to what seems to be the strongest argument made by the hon. Gentleman, the matter of choice.
Has the hon. Gentleman discovered from his researches which racecourse has the most days' racing per year? As a consequence of the Bill that course would have one more day's racing per year. How can the people in the neighbourhood of that course be materially affected if at the moment the maximum number of days out of 365 on which they can be disturbed is probably 18?
I have no doubt that when research in the neighbourhood of racecourses similar to that undertaken in the area of football grounds is available to us we shall find the same results. The hon. Member for Berkshire, East settled for an interview of racegoers carried out at Haydock park. My consultations with people who live near racecourses, which did not depend on second hand research, show that those people will be as much opposed to Sunday racing as people who live near football grounds are opposed to Sunday football.
I shall now return to what seemed to be the strongest point made by the hon. Member for Berkshire, East—the one about choice. A balance needs to be maintained. Freedom to pursue leisure interests for some involves others in the obligation of work. A meeting called by the Transport and General Workers Union at Newmarket a year ago attracted the attendance of Bill Adams arid prompted a report. The report says:
One lad caught the mood of the meeting when he said: 'I think we are going to be told "there is Sunday racing and you must work", rather than us having any choice in the matter.
I want to be at home with my family, not working. A day off during the week is no good, because wives are working and kids are at school.'
In many important respects that simple contribution from the stable lad says more than any of us will say in the debate for that side of the argument.
When racing is on an ordinary day it will become an ordinary working day for many people, in addition lo those employed in racing. Can we not have one day free from normal pressures to provide opportunities for rest, recreation, reflection and worship? Must all seven days of the week now become the same? Of course, recreation, leisure pursuits and social habits have changed. They may now involve some of us in travel and organised recreation, but there is a balance to be kept. There is more to social life than trading, commerce and betting and in opening betting shops in the high street especially for the purpose, irrespective of the wishes of the staff in those betting shops. I challenge the hon. Member for Crawley to repeat what he said sotto voce to his hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East a moment ago. I thought I heard him say, "Quite right."
What I said was, "Hear, hear." The hon. Gentleman is getting so carried away with his bile that he is losing track of what other Members have said. I agree that proper arrangements have to be made for people who work on Sunday. Does he admit that part of his bitch against Sunday racing is that the Ladbroke organisation will not allow TGWU membership in its branches? I remember a senior official of the TGWU telling me plainly that if we were able to square this away we could have the Bill without any opposition from the TGWU. How does the hon. Gentleman answer that?
I know what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Ladbroke and especially its chairman, are only part of the problem. Unfortunately there is a bigger problem here and it is coming across. I say with the greatest respect that some Conservative Members are giving the impression that there will be Sunday racing irrespective of the wishes of the people who are most directly involved, and especially the wishes of stable lads and others, such as the staff of betting shops who are organised by the Transport and General Workers' Union.
There must be a balance, not only within the industry but between the industry and the rest of society. Genuine humanism requires such a perspective. That is confirmed by the Christian vision of Sunday. For all its shortcomings the regulated Sunday is a sign that points society beyond itself and affords people the opportunity to stand back and renew themselves. That is the meaning of recreation. It is not horse racing, motor racing, cricket, football or cinemas. That is the view of 1,800 people across the city of Sheffield who have signed these petitions and have asked me to convey their views to the House.
Those people believe that there is another view of Sunday that is precious, has served this country well and needs to be retained. For racing on Sunday to become a practical possibility there must be, first, greater unity in the industry, such as that which the Horserace Betting Levy Board has called for. Secondly, there must be such improvement in the working conditions as is acceptable to the labour movement. Thirdly, there must be a more sensitive approach by the promoters of the Bill to the social consequences. Fourthly and finally, there must be reassurances for the churches and for those hon. Members who wish to preserve our traditional Sunday. We must not simply dismiss those people, as the hon. Member for Berkshire, East has done, as sabbatarian zealots. The hon. Gentleman does not meet those requirements and neither does his Bill. I shall vote against it.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) has the best interests of racing at heart. I well know that because, as he has told the House, he is vice chairman of the racing committee of which I have the honour to be chairman. I also know that the hon. Gentleman has done a great deal on behalf of racing, especially in the north of England. Therefore, it is with considerable regret that I have to take him to task and strongly disagree with him on the Bill. He is misjudging the situation to a considerable extent.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe said that this is not the right time to introduce the Bill, but by the end of his speech I was no clearer about when the right time would be. He said that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) was not the right person to introduce the Bill. I entirely disagree. In my judgment my hon. Friend spoke as a very good constituency Member of Parliament. After all, in his constituency he has one of the three or four major racecourses at which there are a considerable number of race meetings during the year. He has taken the trouble to obtain the reactions of his constituents who live in the vicinity of the racecourse and he has concluded—I am not sure whether it was unanimous—that a large number and certainly a fair majority—
Certainly a majority favour Sunday racing. I would go further than that. Far from being unsuitable to support his Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East is a much more suitable hon. Member to introduce the Bill than someone who might be described as a racing Member.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East has not been influenced by any subjective, partisan or pro-racing thoughts. He is reported as saying that racing bores him. Therefore he clearly has the interests of his constituents and other members of the public at heart, in spite of his being bored with the sport.
My hon. Friend has reached an objective judgment about the right of his constituents to do what they want on a Sunday. On the other hand, it is quite clear that he will have taken account of any opposition among his constituents before he concluded that he wanted to sponsor the Bill.
Taking all those considerations into account, the foremost evidence of the support for the Bill is the fact that my hon. Friend has decided to introduce it once again. I do not detract from the splendid job performed by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) last year. He was a kind of John the Baptist in this respect. The Bill has a better chance of reaching fruition as people interested in Sunday sport, and particularly in racing, have had more time to consider the Bill's pros and cons.
It seemed rather excessive for the hon. Member for Attercliffe to assume that there should be unanimous support for the Bill from everyone who has anything to do with racing or from every member of the public. If this House worked on that basis, no legislation would be passed.
Well, that is almost a good thing, but not quite.
With one exception, the Bill regularises what is happening already in the light of changing social conditions. Sunday sports have become a tradition. It may be a tradition which did not exist 20 years ago, but in recent years people have traditionally enjoyed some form of Sunday sport for which they have paid, either legally or illegally—and very often the latter.
If the Bill's opponents feel so strongly, why have they not tried to initiate prosecutions under the Sunday Observance Act 1780? Why has the Lord's Day Observance Society not done that? Does it want to stop the final of the Open golf, or Wimbledon or Henley Royal regatta? Does it want to stop Sunday cricket or Sunday football? Does it not have the courage of its own convictions? Or does it realise that it would have very little public support, and if it acted it would create a major wave of public indignation and hostility?
In truth, I suspect that the Lord's Day Observance Society knows as well as the rest of us that it is no more than an anachronistic facade dedicated solely to opposing the entainment and freedom of other people. My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East referred to the more moderate Keep Sunday Special campaign. It is worth mentioning in passing that a publication produced last year entitled "The Sunday Sport Question" by Mr. Simon Jones contained a foreword by the Right Rev. David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool. The foreword's first sentence reads:
As Christians we have no right to impose our values on the whole of society.
I think that he is absolutely right. Of course he went on to qualify that statement. However, I agree with his opening statement. That was a reasonable way of approaching the question whether sport on Sunday should be legalised.
My hon. Friend has just referred to the fact that Christians should not seek to impose their standards on the rest of society, and a similar comment was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay). Does my hon. Friend accept that the opposition to deregulation measures for Sundays comes from much wider quarters than just Christians? It also comes from workers who are concerned about their days of rest and from people who want a traditional Sunday. The opposition is somewhat broader than he has given it credit for.
Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. There is some opposition to this measure, not just from active Christians, but from a range of people. However, the same is true of every measure that passes through the House. There is no compulsion in the Bill. It simply provides a certain number of people with an opportunity to do what they want on Sunday in the same way as the people described by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) have the opportunity to do what they want on Sunday.
I want now to consider the exception in the Bill relating to the legalisation of existing Sunday sports—explicitly betting and implicitly horse racing. Is horse racing wanted on Sunday? The evidence is that it is. Last year, before the Bill reached the light of day, there was considerable discussion. The Jockey Club had undertaken a comprehensive inquiry and concluded that there was strong support for Sunday racing.
A recent survey on Sunday horse racing showed that 51 per cent. of those questioned said that Sunday racing should be allowed and another 20 per cent. said that they did not mind whether it happened, or they had no opinion. In other words, 71 per cent, of those questioned were in favour of, or not opposed to it. Obviously those figures show that 29 per cent. said that Sunday racing should not be allowed.
With regard to opinion polls, is the hon. Gentleman aware that 75 per cent. of the population of this country are against the privatisation of water? I suspect that that will not stop it getting through the House.
I do not believe that opinion polls are the be-all or end-all, but they provide a guide. Whereas 75 per cent. may be against the privatisation of water now—no doubt many will change their minds in the fullness of time—in relation to this Bill we start with the knowledge that 71 per cent. of the public are in favour of, or not opposed to, Sunday racing. The only conclusion that I can draw from that is that the arguments in favour of the Sunday Sports Bill are infinitely greater than those in favour of the privatisation of water.
I accept that there is a strong linkage. The Government have said that if there is to be Sunday racing, there must be off-course betting—and, therefore, betting shops must be open.
A questionnaire enclosed in a race card for a meeting at Warwick on Easter Monday last year asked,
If racing is introduced on Sundays, will you visit Warwick more often?
In response to that question, 124 people answered yes, 28 answered no, and there was one "Don't know." My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East spoke about public support for racing in other countries. In France, it is much greater than on the average weekday. In Ireland, where Sunday racing was only recently introduced, the same is true.
No, I am not saying that we should automatically follow the French, in doing something that they do. I am saying only that in countries where there is Sunday racing there is more support for it than there is for racing on an ordinary weekday.
They may not race every weekday, but they do on some weekdays.
There cannot be horse racing without betting, and that is the crunch for many people who oppose gambling on Sunday. However, there is already Sunday gambling, so I find that argument difficult to accept. On Sundays, casinos and bingo halls are allowed to open, and credit betting is available to those who are well enough off to enjoy it. The only people who cannot make a bet on a horse race on Sunday are those who do not have the facility of credit betting. That is nonsensical in 1989, when most people can legally go to a bingo hall, or can pour money into a fruit machine.
Another aspect that must be considered is the arrival of satellite television, because, as that becomes more prominent in everyday life, more racing will be transmitted from countries that stage Sunday race meetings and will be seen in British homes. The consequence will be that those who enjoy credit betting facilities will indulge in their desire to bet. What will people do who if they do not have that facility? It is an odds-on certainty that unless people are given a legal opportunity to make their bets in betting shops, there will be a renewed growth of illegal betting. That is a point to which the Government must pay considerable attention in forming their attitude to the Bill.
As for employment and those who work in racing and allied industries, my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East has already referred to the protection that the Bill provides. Paragraph I of the scheule to the Bill states that
Subject to paragraph 3 below, the dismissal of an employee who is employed in a licensed betting office or in connection with sport and was so employed on the day before the commencement date shall be regarded as unfair for the purposes of Part V of Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978.
It is not only the person employed in a betting office or in a stable, not only the stable lad or the racing staff, but, presumably, also the man who drives the horse box to the meeting who will be protected. the schedule provides considerable protection.
The hon. Gentleman skipped very quickly over the words
and was so employed on the day before the commencement date".
That is a closing door form of protection that applies to people already employed in the industry, but not to anyone who subsequently enters it.
Anyone who enters a new form of employment should know beforehand what are his working conditions. Having entered that employment, the employee then knows what to expect, in the same way that a waiter in a restaurant knows that he has to work on Saturdays, but is protected if the law is changed and he does not wish to observe a new requirement to work on Sundays. Anyone entering a new form of employment knows what are the conditions, and enters it with eyes open.
When I was director of personnel for the William Hill organisation 25 years ago, all new employees were told that they were liable to work on Sundays. That was because, in those days, we had a large business in fixed odds football pools that had to be checked on Sundays.
My hon. Friend emphasises the validity of my argument, and demonstrates that, for a long time, people have been required to work on Sundays in relation to one aspect of the betting industry.
The success of Sunday racing will depend on the good will of all those employed in racing and in related industries. That good will shall be forthcoming only if their pay and conditions of work are adequate. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East laid such stress on that point. I believe that a larger return from the levy would be the main and best means of bringing more money into racing. That money would gradually feed through to the benefit of everybody employed in the industry. I equally believe that if Sunday racing were to be supported in this country to the extent that it is in every other racing country where it occurs—which is every country except New Zealand—it will follow that Sunday racing itself will bring in a little more money to the benefit of all those employed in the industry.
It is important to put the Bill in its proper perspective. It is an important Bill for racing, and it will remove the fear of prosecution and the dislike of acting in breach of the law felt by the organisers of sports that are already enjoyed on Sundays. In national terms, the effect of the Bill will be virtually unnoticed. There will be 12 Sundays, on each of which there will be three race meetings, making a total of 36 meetings spread over 59 racecourses. Twenty-three courses, therefore, will never have a Sunday meeting. That number may be even larger, because certain courses may hold two or more meetings. In the holiday season, one or two seaside race courses may hold two Sunday meetings, but that will be a matter for the judgment of the Jockey Club and for the owners of the various racecourses.
Overall, I believe that Sunday racing will have a minimal impact on non-racing people. I am convinced that there will be Sunday racing sooner or later, and there is no better time for it to start than now.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on the way in which he introduced the Bill and his skilled advocacy of it. I am profoundly against his Bill, but he made an excellent speech. He stuck to the arguments, and I shall endeavour to do so myself. This is a short Bill and—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you normally take points of order on Fridays at 11 o'clock, especially on issues that hon. Members think are of grave importance. You will recall, having been here in the early hours of the morning, at 10 past 12, the disruption caused by Conservative Members during the Adjournment debate. Have you taken up this matter with Mr. Speaker? If so, has he made any decision about what future attitude will be taken by the Chair about points of order when an hon. Member is speaking on the Adjournment particularly on a Thursday night, which is when Mr. Speaker makes the selection, and has been interrupted for the best part of the half an hour allowed for the Adjournment debate? Could you inform the House, for future reference, whether a decision has been reached?
This is a short Bill of four simple clauses, but it has immense implications and complex ramifications. It would appear innocuous in itself, in that it requests that
The entertainments and amusements to which the Sunday Observance Act 1780 applies shall not include any race, athletic sports or other sporting event.
It could be seen as a stalking horse, whether wittingly or unwittingly, for Sunday trading. That is the implication, and that is the next step along from the Bill.
Some say that the Bill would introduce a creeping growth in unfettered Sunday commercial sport and its links to Sunday trading. Against the Bill is a coalition made up of churches, trade unions, retail groups, trade organisations and communities, so that the opposition goes across the spectrum. They are opposed to the Bill because they feel that, if it is passed, the traditional character of Sunday will be fundamentally and irreversibly changed.
Yes it has. The issue in Scotland is not relevant to the debate because Scotland was not included in the Shops Bill because the drafters overlooked it, assuming that Scotland, being a Presbyterian country, would not need the restrictions which they thought appropriate for England. That situation held until 10 years ago, when certain major firms—mostly English-based retailers—decided that it was worth while to take advantage of the loophole in the law of Scotland. Therefore, the position of Scotland is different, and we cannot compare it with that in England.
The Bill will allow shops to be open on Sunday, and if some shops are open the floodgates of complete deregulation will be open, with all its attendant problems. Those who want the Bill advocate deregulation. Hon. Members have referred to questionnaires and have said that a certain percentage of people are in favour of the Bill, but I should like any questionnaire about Sunday trading to be linked to a complementary one about working on Sunday.
When the Auld committee considered the implications of the Shops Bill, it realised that there were many difficulties in the protection of shopworkers. In 1986, the late Earl of Stockton, speaking in the Committee on the Shops Bill, said:
The Bill is meant to make it possible for people to trade freely on Sundays … It is not meant to make life more difficult for shop assistants. It is not meant to make the conditions of their labour worse. I am not talking now about the kind of shops that probably will not open on a Sunday anyway … But there are many small shops that will take advantage of this legislation. They will just be the kind of people who will try to exploit the weak and often transient population who are the kind of people likely to become shop assistants."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 January 1986; Vol. 470, c. 159.]
Also, Baroness Ewart-Biggs said in a debate in the other place:
We must always remember that the two very vulnerable groups who would be most affected are the shopworkers".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 February 1989; Vol. 503, c. 1568.]
I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I respect his deeply held views. He seems to believe that, if my Bill is passed, shops will be open on Sundays on a fairly large scale. On 12 Sundays of the year, between noon and 6.30, bookmakers would be open, but not any other shops. Sunday opening could not be extended by my Bill. That would require the introduction of fresh legislation.
I accept that that is what is in the Bill. However, if the Bill were passed, a head of steam would build up. There is already a lobby in favour of changing the Shops Act and of deregulation. The Bill would give it added impetus.
The racing fraternity wants to have its cake and eat it. Why not simply allow on-course betting? The hon. Member for Berkshire, East spoke about his discussions with the Home Secretary. The Republic of Ireland has introduced racing on Sundays, but its betting shops do not open on Sundays. They take bets on Saturdays, and I see no inconsistency in that. Why should we not apply that system here?
Many of those who support the Bill say that they are in favour of preserving the traditional Sunday, but that is fraudulent, because the two are mutually exclusive.
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers is against the Bill because it fears that there will be no protection for shopworkers against exploitation. I realise that the Bill includes a schedule protecting the rights of existing employees, but employment legislation would need to be revised if the Bill were passed. There cannot be any meaningful protection for workers, and in support of that argument I cite the latest changes to the industrial tribunals for workers which make it harder for them to appeal. Unfortunately, what the hon. Gentleman, in good faith, has put in his Bill will not be sufficient protection for shopworkers.
My hon. Friend mentioned USDAW. He will know that that union sponsors me. It is concerned not only about the effects of the Bill but about the fact that it could be the thin edge of the wedge for the introduction of Sunday shop opening. Will my hon. Friend comment on the USDAW stand on this matter since 1986?
USDAW has genuine fears. I have been into shops in my constituency over the past few weeks, knowing that the Bill was to be debated. In many supermarkets, 15, 16 and 17-year-olds take the money, and when I ask them what their conditions of work are they say that they work for a limited time, that there is no protection for them and that they can be dismissed just like that.
In my constituency there are two cases involving young people of 16 and 17. I have written to the supermarkets in question, as I have in other instances in the past year, and in reply to my letters to the supermarket chairmen I receive answers saying that they are sorry and that it will not happen again. That does nothing for the advancement and consolidation of shopworkers' rights. Therefore, USDAW is concerned about the Bill.
We are talking about management problems. It has already been suggested that there will be one free day, so that people will be left having to work a six-day week. Marks and Spencer carried out a study of shopping on Sundays. It looked at shopping patterns in America and concluded that the same amount of money is taken in six days as is taken in seven.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the hon. Gentleman had followed the logic of what I was saying, he would not have raised that point of order.
Sunday racing is but one step away from Sunday trading and it should be viewed in that light. Shopworkers and local residents ought to be consulted because they will be affected by the Bill. No hon. Member has referred to consulting individuals who will be affected by the Bill. Local issues are involved. There will have to be safeguards against unwarranted problems caused by hooligans. Local authorities as well as local groups have a role to play.
Local authorities should be given the power to license Sunday sport, after consultations with local groups. If the sponsor of the Bill had included such a provision, genuine consultation with all involved would have been assured. That would have been the best way to go about it. The Bill can be compared with the authoritarian way that the Government intend to go about issuing identity cards to football supporters.
There is a precedent for my suggestion that local people ought to be consulted over sporting fixtures—the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963. A sports stadium is required to obtain a licence from the local authority before betting is allowed there. If such a provision were included in the Bill, it would be a much better Bill.
There is a special quality about Sundays. Soon after the French Revolution of 1789 Sunday was abolished. Latin words were used to describe the days of the week, but Sunday was quickly re-established. Despite what the sponsors of the Bill want to do, I believe that Sunday is here to stay.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on having introduced the Bill. It improves and expands the Bill that I introduced. It is right and proper that important and contentious matters of this kind should be debated by the House on a number of occasions. In that way they are refined and honed before they go into Committee; meat can be put on the bare bones. My hon. Friend has done a remarkably good job in carrying out such full and extensive consultation. He has produced a little beauty of a Bill which deserves the full and wholehearted support of the House. At the least, it should be given a Second Reading and considered in Committee.
I regret that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) is not here to take his medicine, but I am going to give it to him in his absence. He made a disagreeable, sanctimonious and arrogant beast of a speech. It was destructive and mean. I think that the all-party racing and bloodstock committee should consider appointing a new vice-chairman. His portrayal of the racing industry was a travesty. No doubt we shall hear a similar speech from the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale). His assertion that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East was not the right and proper person to introduce the Bill was downright offensive. With his sponsors, such as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), my hon. Friend has done a thorough job. They have examined carefully the opportunities that were open to them to produce a better and more effective measure.
That was the most extraordinary remark to make. The hon. Member for Attercliffe made a very long, offensive and controversial speech and then left the Chamber. If he did not have the manners to stay, that is a matter for him. Had I intended to raise the matter on another occasion, of course I should have informed him, but since he has not had the manners to stay he will have to read what I have said about him. I should be happy to repeat what I have said to him outside the Chamber.
Last Sunday, West Ham football club and the club of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), played an important match in front of a crowd of 22,000 people. A further 6 million watched the match on television. I am proud to say—because I know that Opposition Members do not follow football as keenly as Conservative Members—that my hon. Friend's team cantered to an easy victory and that they are coasting towards the final of the Littlewoods cup. We look forward to receiving the same hospitality as we did on the last occasion. Such sporting events take place every Sunday.
After listening to the hon. Gentleman's speech, I can only say that I hope that he does not do it on Sundays.
Every Sunday, sporting events take place against the background of the Sunday Observance Act 1780, in a spirit that openly and flagrantly breaches the law of the land. By charging for admission—whether for cash or tickets sold in advance, or for car parking or other reasons—Those events are taking place illegally. They include the Wimbledon finals, the British Open golf championships, the Littlewoods cup final, at which we hope to be the guest of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield, the British grand prix, the Sunday cricket league and the International polo championships, so frequented by Opposition Members. The list goes on.
In theory as well as in fact, all these events take place quite improperly. Their organisers are breaking the law when they charge for admission. The law is self-evidently being brought into disrepute. The House of Commons should not allow that to continue for a moment longer. It is a most unhappy and unsatisfactory state of affairs which cannot and must not be allowed to continue.
It should not be for this House to prevent the extension of facilities for the further enjoyment of leisure by millions of our constituents. Sundays have changed. In my view they have changed for the better. Sunday is becoming an even more special day. More and more opportunities are opening up for families to spend the day together at a wide variety of events—and rightly so. The leisure industry, which is one of our biggest and most important of employers, is expanding all the time as demand grows.
I do not regard betting shops as being the crux of the Bill, but they are an important part of it. I understand the hang-up that the hon. Gentleman has about gambling, but I think that he is talking nonsense. It is perfectly possible and legal for all of us to go into a pub, or a bingo hall, or any other public place and fill slot machines with 50p coins on a Sunday. We can go to a casino—I am sure that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is never out of them on Sundays. If, like Opposition Members, we are better off, we probably have credit accounts at Ladbrokes, but the ordinary fellow who is not deemed creditworthy by that august organisation is not permitted to have a bet. It is a leftover from the nanny state which could be swept aside without any harm to the British populace. It is the worst sort of class distinction—the sort that the Opposition have practised for many years.
I must get on.
More than 110,000 public houses, restaurants and other licensed premises are open on Sundays. They have reached harmonious, honourable and satisfactory arrangements with their employees. There is no reason why racing should not do the same. There are many thousands more cafes, pizza parlours, hamburger houses and other eating places that do not sell drinks and are open on Sundays.
I hear no great clamour in the House for those facilities to be closed. I hear no great claims from the Lord's Day Observance Society that those are unsatisfactory and improper places. Does the House really believe that the opening of National Trust properties, gardens and museums as well as casinos and bingo halls has wrecked the spirit of the family Sunday? Of course it has not, and no more would racing on Sundays.
By and large, those who oppose the Bill are entirely out of touch with the feelings, demands and aspirations of family life in Britain today. They tend to use the word "family" as an entirely emotive red herring. The Bill prevents no one from going to church. Nor, I am glad to say, does it make it compulsory for people to go to church, and it does not stop people staying at home if they want to. But it does enable people to go legally, with or without their family, to the sporting event of their choice, and—whisper it not in Sodom—to have a bet. It is hardly Sodom and Gomorrah made flesh at Kempton Park on a Sunday afternoon. We welcome back the hon. Member for Attercliffe. I am so sorry that he was away when I was having a word about his disagreeable little speech.
One of the most strictly observed conventions of the House is that an hon. Member does not refer to another hon. Member without giving him notice of his intention to do so or, during the course of the debate, waiting until that hon. Member has resumed his seat. The hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that after I sat down I would be required in the Hansard room, as he shall be soon.
The hon. Gentleman speaks with much more experience than I do, but normally when one receives a note from Hansard it says, "Your speech will be ready for inspection within one hour " Because the hon.
Gentleman's speech was extremely simplistic, I am sure that it will be ready in about 10 minutes. I was not to know that the hon. Member would spend so long correcting his speech, although it was a rotten little speech. I was not to know that the hon. Gentleman would come back, and I shall be very happy to repeat to the hon. Gentleman outside the Chamber exactly what I said inside the Chamber. Although the hon. Gentleman is a senior Member, he would do well to remember that if he plans lo make a constroversial speech, he should wait to hear what other folk have to say about it.
At present, sporting events are taking place entirely in contravention and breach of the Sunday Observance Act 1780, which describes such gatherings as "disorderly houses" or, "disorderly places"—rather like the parliamentary Labour party. [Interruption.] I am so sorry; that was a terrible thing to say. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not be offended.
The present state of the law has surprised and shocked some of the eminent and important people who attend the Wimbledon finals and other great sporting occasions which take place on Sundays. The organisers of such events are liable to fines and, indeed, imprisonment. The law is still liable to pounce on Sunday sport, but it is largely unenforceable and unenforced, and for that reason it is brought into disrepute. That is an unattractive and unwelcome state of affairs for any Government of whatever persuasion. I believe that it should be put right.
Cricket, football and rugger matches at which admission is charged are held on Sundays as a matter of course. Some organisers, particularly of Sunday gold tournaments, try to get round the law by making spectators one-day club members. Sports venues such as Wembley have one free gate which they hope and pray no one will find. If it is found, there is room only for 200 people. Such transparent devices would rightly founder if tested in court. Some sporting organisations that do not have the muscle of the big sporting bodies are frightened to stage events on Sundays, although their members would very much like them to do so. That is further evidence of the higly discriminatory nature of the way in which the law has evolved.
The sporting organisations, which I know have been fully canvassed by my hon. Friend, contrary to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), strongly wish these matters to be cleared up so that they no longer have to resort to subterfuge and continued malpractice. Surely, when a law is so widely and frequently broken in the presence of so many millions of people, it must be right for the House to adjust it to remove the threat of penalties. That is what happened when the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932 at last allowed admission to be charged for singing, musical and similar entertainments. Forty years later the Sunday Theatre Act 1972 made a similar provision and Sunday cinema shows have gradually been made legal and become popular. I hear no great cry from the Opposition, or from Conservative Members who disagree with the Bill, that such facilities should be withdrawn. But sport remains a major and serious victim. Parliament should not be seen to be too lax or easy going about such matters, but every Sunday the law of the land is brought into grave disrepute.
Although I greatly respect the views of the hon. Member for Dumbarton, the Bill has nothing to do with the Shops Act. I hope that he will accept that when I introduced my Bill, and when my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) introduced his, it had nothing to do with the Shops Act. It is not a stalking horse for Sunday trading. I share the views of the Opposition about some aspects of Sunday trading.
We accept that that is the case and we accept the sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman has spoken. However, does he agree that the Bill will make it legal for betting shops to be opened on Sundays? Why does he feel that that is essential and why are they to open on 12 Sundays? Why should they be open at all?
The hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) was not in his place when I made the point, so I shall clarify it for him. I would have been quite happy with on-course betting only when the organisers wanted to stage horse racing meetings on Sundays. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear that he and his advisers believed that having only on-course betting would lead to a return to the bad old days of the 1950s with illegal gambling and racketeering. I have to accept that from an eminent Home Secretary who has good professional advice. In order to take into account the views of hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), who are concerned about bookmakers opening on a Sunday, they have been restricted to opening on only 12 Sundays a year between noon and 6.30 pm.
I know and understand the reservations of the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), but he must accept in good faith that the Bill is not a stalking horse for the Shops Act. It would not allow a single extra retail shop to open or to spoil in any way the special nature of Sunday.
Most fixtures take place on grounds away from major centres of population. Horse racing is gravely discriminated against by Sunday laws and yet it is the favourite sport of millions of our fellow citizens from all backgrounds and all parts of the United Kingdom. The racing industry is rightly proud that it already provides marvellous entertainment for all the family. No other sporting gathering should find such favour with the Labour party. There is no sporting gathering at which the atmosphere is more friendly and welcoming than a gathering at a racecourse. A day at the races is a proper, old-fashioned day out in the open air with the added attraction of a superb spectator sport.
By their very nature, most of the 59 racecourses in Britain are away from built-up areas. To open racecourses on a Sunday would do no more to destroy the special nature of Sundays than does the opening of historic houses, garden centres, safari parks and museums. We are the only major racing country, apart from New Zealand, which does not have Sunday racing. In France, more than three times as many people go racing on a Sunday as the daily average for the rest of the week, including Saturday.
Many times today France has been offered as an example that we should follow. Is it not a fact that in France one can lose one's money on a horse on Sunday and then eat the horse for dinner on Monday evening? They eat horses in France. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should follow the French example?
I regret having given way to the hon. Gentleman. That is the most absurd point I have heard from an Opposition Member this year.
I should tell the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) that my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson), the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, was a practising butcher before coming to the House. He went to see the film "Watership Down" and, as a good selling point, he bought 150 rabbits which he strung up outside his shop. He put a sign underneath saying "You've read the book, you've seen the film, now eat the cast." I know that that will be deeply shocking to Opposition Members, who are all vegetarian.
The House should know that many more people go to church in France than in Britain.
The point made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe with which I have the most sympathy—if it is possible to have such sympathy—is the only serious point in his speech. It concerns the difficulties of work and the problems attached to that. The hon. Gentleman and I duelled across the Floor when we debated this matter last year. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East consulted various bodies, including jockeys' valets, and my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) consulted many more organisations. I think that we have covered everybody. None of us was in any doubt that Sunday racing could not take place, and nor would the racing industry wish it to take place, without honourable and decent arrangements being made for all those who would take part, including stable lads, jockeys, jockeys' valets, racecourse staff and everyone else. An agreement would have to be arrived at which would enable Sunday racing to take place. That must go without saying.
Clause 3 incorporates a schedule into the Bill, which is certainly not perfect—my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East does not claim that it is perfect—but it is a decent starting point for the Bill to go into Committee and for discussions to take place which will help us to arrive at an honourable arrangement.
My hon. Friend said that more people in France go to church on a Sunday—and may then go to a race if they wish—than go to church in this country. Does he not think that the Lord's Day Observance Society should address itself more to that problem? In my constituency there are more Moslems in their mosques on a Friday and Jews in their synagogues on a Saturday than Christians in church on a Sunday.
I would not wish to be drawn into such an argument because I may have to debate those matters with the bishop of Durham. I agree with my hon. Friend that that is one of the fallacies of the argument put by Opposition Members. Those who oppose the Bill do so for such rag, tag and bobtail reasons that it is difficult to find out where their objections lie.
This is an excellent and important Bill. It will bring great pleasure to millions of ordinary folk in Britain and will harm no one. It will return to the law the respect to which it is entitled. I urge the House to consider carefully allowing the Bill to go into Committee for further and deeper consideration.
I am glad to be the first Opposition Member to endorse the Bill and to congratulate the hon. Members for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) and for Crawley (Mr. Soames), who introduced a similar Bill on a previous occasion, on the impeccable logic of their speeches today as well as their support for the measure. I should also like to congratulate Lord Wyatt in another place who introduced a similar Bill and, with great skill, persuaded their Lordships that it should be passed into law.
I have a record on this matter. On 14 March 1958, shortly after coming to the House, I won first place in a ballot for private Members' motions. I introduced a motion calling for a Select Committee to be set up to deal with Sunday observance. It is now 30 years on and one would have liked to think that we would have made more progress on people's cultural activities, which is how sport should be described.
When we changed the rules for the arts, music and the theatre we had none of the unacceptable and illogical opposition that arises when we deal with sport. As a sporting man, I take grave exception to the distinction that has been made by some—and I am sorry to say that some of the opposition comes from my hon. Friends—between one man's sporting and leisure activities and those of another. I hope that we can put that right.
The Sunday observance laws still obtain in this country and go back to the 17th century. I mention that because we have to explain how we approach these matters. I respect the views of those who have spoken today but with which I thoroughly disagree. Few people in the House or outside would think it right to defend legislation of a social character which looked back over 300 years. The Sunday Observance Act 1625 says that there should be no sport or pastimes on a Sunday and a fine is still in operation. It is three shillings and fourpence. In those days I suppose that it was a lot of money. There was further legislation on Sunday observance in 1677 and 1780. Those who oppose the Bill for football supporters' identity cards will find a certain piquancy about the Sunday Observance Act 1780 which in retrospect, should be known as the "Moynihan Act". It makes it illegal to row or ride in a boat which is mechanically propelled. Hon. Members know that the Minister with responsibility for sport does no sport better than rowing a boat. The legislation, which was 300 years ahead of its time, was designed to curtail his activities. I only hope that the authors of the legislation come to our assistance when we debate the diabolical plan to introduce football identity cards.
Although they are still on the statute book, those laws have fallen into disrepute, and we must face up to that fact. Many years ago, it was illegal for a working man to place a bet with a bookmaker. I used to do that on behalf of my father when he was ill. It gave him a lot of pleasure to have a flutter. It occupied his mind to read the Daily Herald, as it was in those days, and ask, "Would you please put a bet on for me?" That was his great interest in life. Some hon. Members like to think that they represent the working classes. I accept that the definition of working people is much broader than it was in the old days, but we must not despise the simple pleasures of ordinary people who want to have a bet on a Sunday or on any other day.
Sport and worship on a Sunday are not incompatible. I regularly watch Warwickshire cricket club play on Sundays and then go to evensong, which happens to be my favourite service, and I greatly enjoy it. Next Sunday, when I am in Torquay having a weekend's break, I shall go to the United Reformed central club. If it were possible to watch Torquay United, I would do so, but they will not be playing. I shall indulge in some other pleasures which certainly rely upon the employment of people in the hotel, leisure, recreation or boating industries. If I decide, as I often do when I am on holiday, to do a little sea angling and hire a boat and a boatman to take me out to sea, it never occurs to me that there is anything incompatible between worship and that enjoyment.
It has always been my approach to life that, in essence, the purpose of recreation is spiritual. We should emphasise the word "recreation". That is what we do on Sundays, and that is one reason I do not want to see the nature of Sunday greatly transformed and why I have always voted against Sunday trading regulations, and I shall continue to do so. Sport, recreation, theatre and the arts are part of recreation.
On a theological subject, if the House will not mind my indulging myself for a moment. I shall refer to something that I said in the House on 14 March 1958. I said that William Temple, one of the greatest archbishops of this country—I am certain that that is accepted by Opposition Members—speaking on this very subject, said:
The most precious gift of God to man is that of individual free will.
On the importance of individual free will, which he said was greater than almost any other concept in a democratic society, he said:
It is worthwhile to notice how absolute was Christ's respect for the freedom of personal choice. He would neither bribe nor coerce men to become followers. Judas must be allowed to betray Him if he is so determined. Not even to save a man from that will the Lord override his freedom. For on freedom all spiritual life utterly depends. It is astonishing and terrifying that the Church has so often failed to understand this.
That is extremely moving writing by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and we should take it into account. I rest my case on the essence of free will representing the centre of the Christian faith.
I have another interest to confess. More than anybody else, I am responsible for the start of Sunday football in this country. It started during the war when we were working six and a half days a week in Birmingham. The only time we had for relaxation was on Sunday afternoons. Therefore, I decided to form a Sunday football league. It was the first Sunday league ever affliated with the Football Association. Such was the humbug operating in those days that, to get it affliated, we had to call it the Birmingham Monday League—Sunday Section. That is how Sunday football originated in this country.
At the end of the war, when people were a little more relaxed and we were clearly winning and there was the development of Sunday cricket, the great Cavaliers organisation was started by the late Basil Harvey, and it included people such as Denis Compton and others who, although they were in the forces, turned out on Sundays. One of the greatest cricket performances I have ever seen was performed by the late Sir Learie Constantine, who later became Lord Constantine—he was Learie to us. He gave a magnificent demonstration of all aspects of cricket—batting, bowling and fielding—on a Sunday at the Edgbaston cricket ground. I had spiritual uplifting from that performance. Some people might find that hard to understand, but I treasure that experience.
As we have been told many times today, Sunday sport is an essential part of the fabric of life of this country. No right hon. or hon. Member would dare say that we want to invoke the Sunday Observance Act and stop all Sunday sport. I am glad to say that nodoby is proposing any such thing. One of the great virtues of the Bill, against which people have a legitimate point to raise in opposition, is its sense of balance. Hon. Members must ask themselves whether, because they object to betting shops being open on 12 Sundays, they should oppose legitimising all sport. The royal family and the Prime Minister attend events such as Wimbledon. I like to think that the right hon. Lady's occasional association with sport is for the benefit of the nation. I wish that she would go more often. We might then get better political decisions from her.
We have Sunday football. I acknowledge the great achievements of Luton Town. I wish the team well in its forthcoming encounters. In the presence of the distinguished chairman of that club, the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), I am glad to say that if his team goes to Wembley, none of his supporters will need identification cards. Many more thousands will be there to cheer them on than he could manage to get into his ground at Luton, where he is keeping them out. But that matter is for another day. I genuinely wish Luton every success.
What are we to say to the 500,000 people who turn up to watch motor racing events such as the grand prix? Are we to discount those people and say that they are engaged in some evil activity? Certainly not. What about people who watch motorcycle scrambles, rugby league matches and golf—the Ryder cup and the British Open? We have to take account of their wishes. If there are good reasons, who is to override them? We are not entitled to do so. That is our purpose here. But there are no good reasons to override the recreational activities of millions of British people.
I wonder what people who object to Sunday sport do on Sundays in their homes. If they were logical, they would never turn on the radio or watch the television. Millions of people get pleasure from watching football matches, cricket or golf on television on Sundays. Sometimes they even watch racing, but that must be projected from abroad. I have never met people—I suspect that there are only few—who say that they will not allow any activity on Sunday in their household, and who do not listen to the radio or watch television. To provide us with those pleasures entails the employment on Sunday of large numbers of people, most of whom do not wish to work on Sundays.
I am a lifelong trade unionist. This is almost my 50th year of membership of my union, for 12 years of which I have been president. I understand the difficulties about trade union rights and protecting working people. The Bill will give more statutory protection to workers in Sunday employment than has ever been put on the statute book by any Act in my 30-odd years in this House. I welcome that and want to take advantage of it.
If Ladbrokes will not allow people to join the union, to which I understand one of my colleagues who is sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union will draw attention, that is disgraceful. Everybody has a right to join a trade union and to be organised. If I am fortunate enough to serve on the Committee, I shall be happy to do what I can to extend trade union rights, protections and recognition as far as possible. Certainly protection for those who do not want to work on Sundays and proper rates of pay for Sunday work can be included in the Bill. That will be a great advance for the trade union movement and something which we have not had previously.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman was extremely helpful to me last year when we were discussing these matters and that he helped Lord Wyatt to draft the schedule. Does he agree that it is not possible to have racing on Sunday, leaving aside the question of TGWU representation in betting offices, unless an honourable agreement is reached by all concerned on day one? It would not work without it.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. At the end of the day we must have good will to enact anything. However, I have sympathy with the points raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) read, I think from a survey in The Times, about the conditions of race courses. Some of us would like to apply our mind to that. The Jockey Club and other institutions must be as zealous about safeguarding conditions and paying proper wages to stable boys and others as about prize money and other aspects of racing. I should like them to go down that road. It is to the great credit of Lord Wyatt that in the other place he raised several outrageous matters and managed to get the Jockey Club and others for the first time to think about the welfare of their employees.
I am all for protecting stable boys and people in betting shops, but we all take full advantage of others who work on Sundays, for example, in hotels, restaurants and seaside resorts. When my hon. Friends tell me that we must not allow anything which causes a disturbance on Sunday, I wonder what they think happens in Blackpool, Torquay or Cornwall during the summer season. People work for our pleasure and convenience and we should be glad that they do. As a trade unionist and Socialist, I want those people to have every possible protection, the right to join a union and proper rates of overtime. That is perfectly legitimate and arguable. We can no longer say to people in the leisure business, any more than we can say to doctors, nurses, and workers in the gas, electricity, water and transport industries, "We do not want you to work on Sundays." We know that they do not want to work on Sundays, but they work for the convenience of the nation. We should ensure that their rights and conditions are protected.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more than 5·5 million people work on Sundays? The proposals to deregulate Sundays would increase that figure by only about 10 per cent. or less. Does he agree that a great deal of humbug and hypocrisy is spoken about this?
I would not go that far, but I know from my 35 years' experience in this House that a lot of humbug and hypocrisy is spoken on every conceivable subject that we are likely to debate. We must consider these matters as reasonable men and women.
I have listened with great interest to my right hon. Friend's logic and his point about how we all enjoy services provided by all sorts of people on Sundays. It seems that he supports the notion of Sunday opening and the deregulation of trading.
Not at all. I am afraid that my hon. Friend has not been following my argument with his customary diligence. I was saying that Sunday is a day of recreation and re-creation. It almost has a spiritual aroma. When people are re-created through leisure, that is special. That is the case for sports and the arts on Sunday. It must not be confused with the case for wholesale commercialism and Sunday opening. I am against that. I do not regard Sunday sport for recreation, spiritual uplift and cultural enjoyment as an extension of commercialism. I hope that my hon. Friend will not draw me on to that track.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman find it curious that racing is one of the richest sports. yet stable lads are some of the worst paid people? The reason is that many people want to become stable lads. Does he genuinely think that people will be employed as stable lads if they say that they are not prepared to work on Sundays?
If the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I was saying, he would know that I had just dealt with that. If he has just come in, I am sorry that I gave way to him [HON. MEMBERS: "He has been here all the time."] In that case, I apologise to him. I shall have to repeat what I said before. People should not be exploited on Sundays. People are entitled to protection and trade union rights on Sundays. I fully support that. It is astonishing that the Jockey Club has not given sufficient attention to that aspect of the industry. I am glad that Lord Wyatt is moving in the right direction. I hope that the Bill will make progress in the other place.
Should we oppose all that I have been talking about because the Bill proposes to allow betting shops to open on 12 Sundays a year? I do not believe that it is logical to do so. It is necessary for the betting shops to be open so that the punters can have their flutter—of which I approve.
What has emerged on both sides of this House—especially from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) and from the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay)—is that we now have for the first time Sunday racing in Ireland. I support my hon. Friend's view that, if we are to avoid illegal betting, we cannot have Sunday racing without betting shops being open. The advent of Sunday racing in Ireland should be monitored carefully. For Sunday racing in Ireland there is on-track betting only. I ask the Minister to find out whether that has led to an extension of illegal betting, which he and I both fear. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton that we should study this new situation and not be afraid to rethink matters if that fear is justified. Of course, if it is, it would enforce the Home Office's view, and I would he the first to acknowledge that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a certain inconsistency of thinking in the Home Office, because for evening racing, which is now more frequent—it is certainly far more frequent than the number of Sundays on which it is proposed to have racing—the punters cannot by law go to the betting shop in the evening and have a bet. Yet the same Home Office says that we cannot have Sunday racing without the betting shops being open, because otherwise illegal betting will be encouraged. If it does not encourage illegal betting in the evenings, the industry can be run perfectly well without betting shops being open in the evenings, why would it do so on Sundays?
I am tempted to say "game, set and match" to that comment, because I believe that it is completely logical. I hope that the Minister will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said.
I understand the concern, but my overriding concern is to allow people to exercise their free right to enjoy themselves and to provide proper safeguards for the staff who must work on Sundays in order that we achieve our aims. If the Irish experience is successful, we should take note of it. Whatever view we take of this, if our objection is to the opening of betting shops, that may be the catalyst around which we can find common ground.
I say to my friends in the Jockey Club that they need to be careful about the comments in support of this measure. I shall cite one example. The Jockey Club said that the Grand National could be run on a Sunday if the Bill was passed. It could not. The hon. Member for Berkshire, East is quite right in restricting the hours of opening of betting shops on Sundays to 12 noon to 6.30 pm. The Grand National attracts more betting than almost any other race. There is an avalanche of flutters among housewives. Their interests could not possibly be maintained by opening the betting shops at 12 o'clock.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that bookmakers, almost without exception, have to act illegally on Grand National day to pay out winning punters after the official closing time of 6 o'clock?
They must have been backing better horses than the ones which I backed. I may add, however, that the Grand National is one of my lucky races.
I hope that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading. I hope that it will go to Committee. There are good grounds for trade unionists to get their teeth into the Bill in Committee.
My hon. Friend must control himself. The trouble with my hon. Friend. is that he assumes that his own personal view is automatically the view of everyone else.
I am not with the Tories. If we fought a general election on this matter, more Labour voters would support my view than would support his. I do not want to turn this into a party political discussion. For Heaven's sake, let us understand where we are.
I support the Bill. I want it to go to Committee so that we can consider the question of protection of staff, betting and all the other matters involved. I support it because I believe that it is a move towards the encouragement of a civilised life on Sundays. People can enrich their lives by enjoying themselves in a non-commercial way in sport. It will not change the character of Sundays. As a committed Christian, I believe that it enshrines the Christian concept of individual free will, which I regard as paramount.
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate. I begin by saying to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) that I was rather surprised by the tone of some of his remarks about my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay). He appeared to be suggesting in an ill-natured way—although he is normally an extremely courteous opponent—that because my hon. Friend has taken a high profile on another issue it was somehow unwise or improper of him also to take a high profile on this one. It would be a rather extraordinary state of affairs if we could exercise our consciences in only one area at a time. It is a rather alarming proposition and one which I would not have expected even from the Opposition.
I should have thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East had proved by the extensive nature of his consultations that he was eminently qualified and, indeed, sufficiently devoted to the cause to be introducing the Bill. Although I certainly would not go so far as to compare his qualities with the one who came after John the Baptist—which I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) was in severe danger of doing at one point—nevertheless the way in which he has presented the Bill, about which I am about to disagree profoundly, should have won the respect of the House as well as of those on whose behalf he is moving it.
In absolutely opposing the Bill, I hope that I cannot be accused of being a Sabbatarian zealot. In fact, I favour deregulation. The churches in my constituency and constituents of mine who do not share my view are fully aware of that. I believe that the anomalies in the existing law need tidying up and I have never seen—although I remain open to conviction—a sensible compromise which makes it possible to enter partial deregulation. That is the basis of my disagreement with the Bill.
In essence my hon. Friend is suggesting piecemeal legislation. It does not matter very much to me whether the Bill is a stalking horse for total deregulation. In its own right, as a measure of piecemeal deregulation, it is fundamentally flawed and it will create far more anomalies than it will solve, particularly in the high streets with the opening of betting shops. Nothing that I have heard convinces me that those flaws are superficial and that they can be ironed out if the Bill is sent into Committee. The plea, "Let the Bill go to Committee upstairs" is common and I cannot deny that I have made that plea on occasions. I fully expected to hear such a plea from the proponents of the Bill.
When considering whether a Bill should go upstairs one must decide, looking at the essential nature of the Bill as opposed to its clauses, whether it is possible for it to emerge from Committee in a form to satisfy the misgivings of those who did not want it to be sent there in the first place. So far I have heard nothing that convinces me that the essential nature of the Bill is viable. It is a piecemeal measure.
My hon. Friend started to go down the road of complicated legislation by promising us that if there were any alterations to the 12 Sundays that he proposed for off-course betting, they would need to be decided separately and that, therefore, we need not worry. The fact that my hon. Friend has already started to limit his Bill and has started to introduce complications about how often the things that he seeks to legalise can be legalised suggests that we are still floundering around with anomaly after anomaly and are trying to solve an already overregulated situation with even more complicated regulations.
Given that there may be genuine fears, does my hon. Friend not agree that a step-by-step approach is a good idea? If betting shops are open on 12 Sundays a year we can judge, over a number of years, how that goes. If initial fears are ill-founded, another hon. Member can introduce legislation to make changes. Surely such a compromise is a better way of proceeding than making a definite decision when some people are uncertain of the final results.
I respect what my hon. Friend has said. He is seeking to go gently rather than rushing in, and that is an appealing argument. Nevertheless, as a result of his Bill, we will have another set of shops open on another regulated number of days while other shops will stay shut and others, which are supposed to stay shut, will open. The Bill does not clear up anomalies, it adds to them.
I am not convinced by the way in which my hon. Friend and others have approached the question of noise and disturbance. Forgetting the theological arguments for a moment and considering the social ones, Sunday is, for better or for worse, a special day of relative peace and quiet for much of the population.
I once had the gross misfortune to live fairly close to Fulham football ground, which was also used on alternate Sundays for rugby league. First, I was disturbed by the noise of the cheering and shouting that penetrated my back garden. Secondly, there was the hassle of the traffic that filled up all the normally peaceful residential roads and made it impossible for residents to move their cars on a Sunday or to park within a mile or one and a half miles of their own homes—
The logic of my argument is that I do not want present policy to be extended. I shall address later the points raised by my hon. Friend.
The residential roads in Fulham were cluttered. The spectators were orderly and there was no misbehaviour, but they filled the streets and there was continual noise and traffic. I can understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East might say that, just as I have a right to cut my honeysuckle in a peaceful garden in Fulham, so someone else has the right to raise a lot of cheering and noise not too far from me. Freedom, however, is essentially a question of balance and I am not convinced that that balance is reached when something that could be done on another day of the week disturbs the peace and the orderly routine of the citizens and their families on a Sunday.
I detected a flaw in my hon. Friend's argument when he attempted to address that question. My hon. Friend said that we should not pick out a particular day of the week. He said that those who live near a racecourse or a sports ground encounter noise and disturbance on other days of the week, and that, therefore, there was no particular objection to Sunday. I respectfully suggest that there is a particular objection to Sunday because it is the day when it is most likely that all the family will be at home and the clay when people want peace and quiet. On an ordinary working day, when adult members of the family are likely to be at work and their children at school, what is going on in the immediate neighbourhood is of less importance than what goes on on a Sunday.
My hon. Friend was clever to concentrate all his efforts on racing. I believe that the Sunday Sports Bill—it is not a Sunday racing Bill—will inevitably lead to intensification and the extension of other sports on a Sunday.
Confusion is arising about the extension of other sports on a Sunday. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Health (Mr. Howell) and I have already clearly demonstrated that there are many sporting events on a Sunday that break the law. Few of those sports will extend the number of matches played beyond the present number once my Bill is in operation. Craven Cottage will not host any extra football matches on a Sunday because of my Bill. There will not be an increase in the current number of football matches, rugby matches and golf matches that take place on a Sunday; the only increase will be in horse racing.
There is already an increasing number of such matches and an increasing degree of commercialisation, with all that that implies. I believe that my hon. Friend's Bill will give an impetus to that increase.
I shall finish this point and then give way.
I have no sympathy with the view that if the law is broken extensively the only way in which to meet that is to legitimise the law breakers. Those who share my views were challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) who asked why the Lord's Day Observance Society did not prosecute more often and why we did not seek to close down enterprises that were already open? Why the law is not enforced more rigidly is a valid question, but there is a difference—
I am attempting to. There is a difference between saying that we should enforce the law, recognising that there are some breaches, and saying that we will go for wholesale deregulation which will not only regularise the breaches, but increase their numbers.
Much has been said today about employment protection.
My hon. Friend cannot have it both ways. She does not like piecemeal legislation. She says that she is reasonably happy with the present situation, and refuses to give the House her opinion on whether existing sporting events on Sundays should not take place and whether the Lord's Day Observance Society should prosecute those who take part in them. Does she want Sunday with or without sport?
Usually. I should be pleased to give way to the chairman of Luton football club, but on this occasion I want to move on. I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East wants me to make progress.
My hon. Friend has not convinced me of the efficacy of his provisions for employment protection. He says that he has built into the Bill protection for existing employees, but that is a naive idea, since employees can be penalised in more ways than one. I do not believe that my hon. Friend's measures will protect people who do not want to work on Sundays from other forms of penalty that can be inflicted on them—overty and covertly—by their employers. My hon. Friend has not satisfied the House on that point.
The Bill creates another anomaly, too. My hon. Friend is fond of saying that he wants to iron out anomalies, but he creates them. One group of workers would be protected against dismissal for refusal to work on Sundays, and another would not. He was rather coy about whether he had consulted the staff of betting offices. He talked a great deal about choice and the freedom to choose.
The people who will be disturbed by noise from sporting and racing events have no choice, and neither do staff. What choice is my hon. Friend giving stable lads and betting shop staff?
There are 10,000 betting shops—[Interruption.] I have extended the courtesy of giving way several times to my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East, and I think that he should either stand up or stop making sedentary interventions. As I was saying, these 10,000 shops employ up to 40,000 people, who, if the Bill were passed, would stand to lose Sunday as a day of rest. So another 40,000 families would be affected by the measure.
My h on. Friend encouraged me to intervene, properly, and I agree that I should. Does she think that people who run restaurants, hotels, hospitals, television stations and petrol stations on Sundays have freedom of choice, or does she think they should not open for business? Perhaps we should stop petrol being sold and close down Heathrow on Sundays? That seems the logical conclusion.
The logical conclusion of my hon. Friend's argument is further to limit choice in an area in which it is already limited.
Next, my hon. Friend addressed the problem of illegal betting, completely ignoring the Irish experience and the fact that by naming runners on a Friday and placing bets on a Saturday there should be no need for illegal betting on Sunday.
There are too many flaws, fresh anomalies and piecemeal ideas in this Bill, however much my hon. Friend and I might agree about the basic principle of deregulation. His legislation would lead to more anomalies in our high streets and further limitations of choice being imposed on working people. The Bill is too flawed to be capable of rescue in Committee. I urge hon. Members to reject it.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on introducing the Bill, not because I support it but because he has given us a chance to debate a sporting issue in the Chamber, and that is to his credit. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) whose judgment on sporting matters I value. However, I disagree with them both and I shall oppose the Bill.
It was rather unfortunate that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) should have made the comments that he did about my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). It is also unfortunate that the chairman of the all-party racing group was present to hear them and did not object to them at the time, given the harmonious relationship between hon. Members from all sides in that committee.
I do not oppose the Bill because I am against Sunday racing. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, I believe that it would benefit the racing industry and provide a pleasure that could be enjoyed by many. However, this is not the Bill for the job. It is primarily a betting Bill to enable off-course betting to proceed. Should anyone doubt that he should have a look at the Bill. It is true that the Sunday Observance Act 1780 needs changing, but the exemption of sporting fixtures for which admission is charged creates an additional complication in this Bill and is not acceptable to the Government unless provision is made for such events to be carried-out legally.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East reminded us of his interest in Sunday sport in November 1987. He asked the Home Secretary:
what is his policy on the introduction of horse racing on Sundays.
A junior Minister replied:
Provided suitable arrangements are made for betting to take place lawfully, we see no reason to stand in the way of horse racing on Sundays. That is the view we have expressed on the Bill introduced in another place by Lord Wyatt of Weeford and we are following the debate about that Bill and
the public debate which has arisen with interest. We have no plans at present to introduce legislation on this subject"—[Official Report, 5 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 822.]
Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to remove section 5(4) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, and restrictions covering on and off-course betting on Sundays. I should like to quote from "Recreation and the law" written by Valerie Collins in 1984. It says: