Sunday observance

Part of Petitions – in the House of Commons at 1:55 pm on 17th February 1989.

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Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West 1:55 pm, 17th February 1989

The debate has been very stimulating. Although I am opposed to the Bill, I believe that the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) has done the House, racing, entertainment and British people a service. I very much hope that the points that have been rasied in the debate can be built on so that we can reach an agreement that will be good for those who enjoy the sport, those outside the sport, religious groups and those with moral views on the matter. That is a good thing. We are all for racing. There is no question about that. It is just a question of how we link it to betting.

I was disappointed by some of the bad humour earlier in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) is very knowledgable on these matters and expressed concern about the sensitivity surrounding the issue. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) responded as he did. I do not think that it added to the debate. Nevertheless it demonstrated that sensitivity and concern exist and are being expressed in the correspondence that we receive on the subject.

Unquestionably, the issue is sensitive and the solution in the Bill is not satisfactory. The Bill is based on straight deregulation. No Bill based upon straight deregulation will get through the House. It is necessary to win over a great many people in the country and achieve a consensus. We have to reach a balance, and the notion of using a free-market approach to deregulation, forgetting everyone's feelings, will not win. The Opposition will never support the Bill, although we support racing, until we have an assurance that the 100,000 or so people who operate the industry will have a decent standard of living, reasonable terms and conditions of employment, and so on. Those matters have to be taken into account. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Berkshire, East mentioned the appalling conditions in which stable lads work.

We also have to take account of the sensitivities of members of the Church and those who believe that Sunday should be kept special. Some Conservative Members tend to dismiss such things because they consider that only the market matters, but we feel that even those who are not believers should take those matters into account in reaching a balanced solution. We advocate a balanced solution.