I have not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) but, of course, its subject matter may be referred to in the course of the debate.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am pleased, Madam Speaker, that you are in the Chair to call me to open this important debate. I intend to cut short my speech, which would normally take half an hour or 45 minutes if Second Reading were being moved by a Minister or by one of our Front-Bench spokesmen. I am aware that many hon. Members wish to participate in this major debate and, although I am the promoter of the Bill, it would not be fair to deny hon. Members, whatever their opinions, the opportunity to speak simply because it had taken 45 minutes to move Second Reading. I hope that my attitude will be reflected in the time taken by other hon. Members who speak.
I am glad to see that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have now taken the Chair, because when you were elected to your position you promised me that you would take the opportunity of calling me on 22 January. The House will note that you have not even been able to do that—and that since you were elected you have not called me at any time.
I introduce this Bill on behalf of my sponsors. Sometimes sponsors simply add their names to private Members' Bills and forget that they have done so, but that has not happened with this Bill. The sponsors have met regularly for discussion, and the Bill has been dealt with collectively, as an all-party Bill, from the day that I presented it until this morning. I am glad to report to the House that the Bill was presented with unanimous agreement. Hon. Members from the Conservative and Labour parties, and the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, discussed it at the meetings.
This is not a Labour party private Member's Bill. I do not know whether it has the backing of the Labour Front Bench—perhaps we shall be told that later, if at all. I pay tribute to my sponsors and hope that they will be able to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker. They have given the Bill exceptionally loyal and industrious support and encouragement.
I thank, too, the Keep Sunday Special campaign workers, especially Michael Schluter, David Blackmore, Paul Diamond, Hannah Reed, Claire Barford and John Alexander, who have worked so hard for such long hours for so little remuneration to prepare the way for today's debate. I also thank Garfield Davies and Bill Conner of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner), the chairman of the Co-operative parliamentary group, and the members of RECOST, the Retailers Council on Sunday Trading, especially retailers such as CWS, the CRS, the John Lewis Partnership, Iceland, C and A, Etam and Greggs, as well as many others who have given unstintingly towards developing and preparing my Bill.
I also thank all the main church denominations which over the years have continued to uphold the principles of keeping Sunday a special day for friends, family and voluntary activities. Those are the principles for which my Bill stands. Ten minutes ago we had prayers. I should like to thank the people who have prayed for me and for my sponsors, and who have prayed that the House will consider the question seriously on behalf of church denominations and organisations throughout the country.
At this point I declare my interest, in the hope that others who may have an opposing view will declare their interests, even if they are not mentioned in the Register of Members' Interests. Because of selfish interests, millions of pounds are being spent in the fight by those who oppose the Bill. I am proud to be the senior sponsored Member of Parliament on the USDAW parliamentary panel. I represent in the House the interests of 350,000 shop workers, and I seek to promote their concerns whenever I can. They are among the poorest paid workers in the country, and the measures that we are debating are vital to protect their income and their quality of life.
I believe that Lloyd George once said that democracy means government by discussion—but it becomes effective only if one can stop people talking. I hope that that will be a lesson to us all. Let us hope that our contributions will be brief so that all hon. Members may participate.
Before outlining the Bill, I shall put three questions to the House. First, should not right hon. and hon. Members ask why it has taken the Government from 1986 to November 1992 to offer the House a measure to reform Sunday trading? Why has it taken six and a half years for the Government to spring to life when the need for reform has been evident to everybody?
The second question is, why has it been necessary to delay until the end of January the Second Reading of a private Member's Bill which was drawn number three in the ballot in May 1992 and had its First Reading in June 1992? Is there a hidden agenda to prevent this Bill from reaching the statute book? [Laughter.] I warn Conservative Members who are laughing that one of the opportunities that the House gives to Back Benchers is the right to introduce private Members' Bills. If we are lucky in the ballot immediately following an election, and come out at number three, even in a long Session such as the present Session, we do not expect to wait eight months before our Bill is given a Second Reading debate.
The Government know that we have only until November before a new Session starts. With three months for the summer recess, and a month or so for Easter and Whitsun together, four months of that time will be taken out. What earthly hope have Back Benchers of their Bills becoming law, even in a long Session, when the Government do not allow the House to debate Second Reading until eight months after their Bill is presented? That is scandalous, and it is time that something was done in the House to protect Back Benchers' rights.
I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman may be called later. I know that a number of hon. Members who share the hon. Gentleman's opinion want to be called as well.
My third question is why a Government who are committed to law and order enforce every Act on the statute book except for one. Is there any financial link between the retailers who break the law and the party that allows them to do so? That question should be replied to. It is no good the Government hiding behind the cloak of Europe or behind the other cloaks they have used for two or three years and allowing their supporters flagrantly to break the law, which is causing concern throughout the retail industry.
I shall now deal with the goals of the Bill. Today's debate is not about the details of the Bill, because they will be debated and sorted out in Committee. Our debate today is about the cause for legislation. Our debate is about ends, not means.
I have here a booklet entitled "Towards a New Shops Act." I hope that all hon. Members have received a copy. I have sent copies to all 650 hon. Members to ensure that they are aware of the Bill because it is so involved and complicated. On pages 6 and 7, I have set out the seven goals which are the basis of the Bill.
The first goal is to guarantee a common day off for family and community activities, including church worship. The second is to protect the right of workers not to work on Sunday. The third is to protect vulnerable smaller retailers from pressure to work a seven-day week.
I have already said that I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman and I get on very well in the House, but I do not want interventions which take up a lot of time.
The fourth goal is to protect our high streets and those who use them. The fifth is to protect those living near shopping centres or main roads. The sixth goal is to provide for the reasonable needs of consumers and the seventh is to prevent unfair competition. I hope that hon. Members will note that consumers' convenience is only one factor in resolving the Sunday issue. It would be unfair only to consider consumers instead of striking a balance among the various groups with an interest in whether shops open on Sunday.
Some hon. Members who speak today may wish to spend the time of the House in pointing to minor problems and anomalies in the drafting of the Bill—[Laughter.] It is nice to have a laugh. We do not have the backing, as some hon. Members have, of the big retailers and, therefore, of their legal teams. We do not have the services of Government-paid parliamentary draftsmen. Even if we had, I remind the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who is a supporter of the Government, that, whenever a Bill receives a Second Reading and goes into Committee, a ream of amendments is tabled, not by members of the Committee, but by the Government. The hon. Gentleman should not laugh at a Bill that is constructed by people who are volunteers. Let us have some substance in the debate today and not shibboleths.
There is one decisive question before the House today: do we want to keep Sunday a special day or not? No other legislation, apart from the Bill, will guarantee to keep Sunday special.
I have some words for those who object to my proposals. Some say that we can deregulate without any adverse effects. That is an attractive argument because it implies that we can have our cake and eat it. Advocates of that view say that we should look at Scotland where there is already Sunday trading. My reply is that we should indeed look at Scotland, but that we should look at it carefully and not superficially.
In the major cities, Sunday trading is already the norm for many Sundays of the year and it continues to grow rapidly. Many shop workers are on single time and have no day off in lieu. Church attendance has dropped sharply, which may or may not be associated with the growth of Sunday shopping.
Closer to home, let us consider what has happened to Good Friday in England and Wales. It was once a quiet day like a Sunday. Competitive pressures have now made it like any other shopping day because we did not pass legislation to protect it.
It is said that people want Sunday shopping. That argument rests on opinion polls. After the election, hon. Members must have realised how unreliable those polls are. Some years ago, I attempted to introduce a ten-minute Bill to stop the taking of opinion polls during elections and by-elections. I had tremendous support from the House, but, unfortunately, as usual, the Government did not afford me the time to get the Bill on the statute book.
It is true that 5 per cent. of the population go to supermarkets on Sunday—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) is one of them. It is also true that 95 per cent. of the population do not. They are the silent majority who neither want nor need Sunday trading. I well understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow may occasionally shop on a Sunday. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he is in the House of Commons from dawn to dusk every day of the week.
It is said that there is no feasible way to design a law on Sunday trading which will work. How are such laws made to work in almost every other European country? Almost 300 million people out of the 340 million in Europe are governed by laws restricting Sunday trading. The House knows that where there is a will, there is a way.
I shall now deal with the key points of the Bill, which are set out in the booklet "Towards a New Shops Act". I will not repeat them except to outline the four main areas. First, certain types of shop would be allowed to open. The Bill is based on a list of shops and not on a list of goods. Shops that opened could sell all the goods in the shop. Secondly, the types of shop that we wish to allow to open are summarised in the word "REST", which stands for recreation, emergency, social gathering and travel.
Thirdly, we propose a system by which shops will register with the local authority if they want to open. That would ease enforcement and the registration system would be self-funded. Fourthly, there are detailed provisions for employee protection. Given the difficulty of enforcing employee protection in practice, the employee protection in the Bill stands on two legs. The first leg is that most shops would be shut, so most employees would not be asked to work. The second leg is statutory protection for the minority who would have to work.
If the House gives the Bill a Second Reading today, I should welcome discussion in Committee on a number of controversial details of the Bill, such as whether we should allow do-it-yourself shops to be included in some form of definition. We could also discuss whether the size of the corner shop should be increased from 1,500 sq ft and whether all shops should be allowed to open for two or three Sundays before Christmas. I realise that strong views are held on each of those points, and we shall be able to consider the arguments in detail in Committee.
As I have just said what I expect to discuss in Committee, let me once again quote Lloyd George:
I would rather be an opportunist and float than go to the bottom with my principles around my neck.
That is important when we consider whether to accept the option that we are proposing.
Pages 31 to 33 of "Towards a New Shops Act" contain a list of organisations. Appendix 2 lists those who support the REST proposals. Hon. Members will note that that represents a formidable number of people, but it is by no means the entire list. I have been heartened by the amount of mail that my sponsors and I and the Keep Sunday Special campaign have received supporting the REST proposals.
I am sure that all hon. Members in the Chamber today will have received a considerable amount of mail in support of the REST proposals. I received a card last week which stated, "Chin up." It was a note of encouragement from no less a person than Joy Brodier of Bedford who sent that now famous postcard to Terry Waite. In her card to me, she said that any help that she could give on the REST clause would be readily available.
On her card, Joy Brodier wrote that she had sent Christmas cards and requests for Keep Sunday Special proposals to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Employment as well as to that Education chappie whose name she could not remember—and we can all understand why. She also said that today's debate would be taking place the day before her 40th birthday. She hoped that it would be a cause for rejoicing. I share her sentiment.
Retailers who have written to me claim that it is not commercially viable for most retailers to trade every day of the week. Six days trading would merely be spread over seven. There is no extra money out there to be spent and, as margins in food retailing leave no room for manoeuvre, seven-day trading would inevitably increase costs and they, in part, would have to be passed on to the customer.
Currently, some supermarkets claim that Sunday trading is boosting turnover. All I can say is that they are stealing business from those who are upholding the law. One major retailer stated on that issue:
We have a human side too and staff welfare and community issues have also played a major part in our argument. Of our 11,000 staff, 80 per cent. work in the stores and many of them would be called upon to work on a Sunday rota. For some it may not be an inconvenience, indeed for a few it may be welcomed, as double time may well help the family budget. But for most it would be an unwelcome intrusion into their family lives.
Of course, supporters of deregulation are making great play of their support for workers' rights and many of the big names have promised to ensure that only volunteers will work the Sunday rota. However, business cannot operate on a voluntary basis. Pressure will be brought to bear and, within a few years, Sunday working will become the norm for up to 2 million retail and supporting staff. Hon. Members should note that up to 2 million staff may be affected by our decision today.
Smaller shops are not restricted to the high street. Most street corners and village centres have a local store that serves the immediate community and, dare I say it, provides the Sunday newspapers and other essentials that are part of what makes Sunday special. Many of those stores are suffering now and more will be forced to close if Sunday becomes a free for all.
How do community issues fit into the equation? I use that concept in the broadest sense to encompass quality of life. Sunday trading must encourage the move to out-of-town shopping. Malls, retail parks and superstores are most likely to attract the Sunday shopper. The high street is already under threat in many areas. If inner-city life is to be encouraged to thrive, its lifeblood of trade must be preserved.
Let us be clear: Sunday trading will devastate shopping as we know it. That will happen not tomorrow, not next year and perhaps not in this millenium. However, the next generation will certainly suffer the consequences of shopping totally geared to suit the articulate, better-off and more sophisticated members of society.
The Bill, based on the REST proposals, clearly states that those small shops should be alllowed to trade. However, for them to argue their own case against deregulation would obviously be seen as protectionist. Indeed, it may be, but the implications of those community shops disappearing affect us all. We will be affected by noise, pollution, transport and the general hustle and bustle that are part of the rat race that we endure today. Surely Sunday trading can only make life more hectic and disruptive. One day of peace and rest, for whatever recreation one cares to follow, must be sacrosanct and it should be preserved.
We feel that the only people who want Sunday trading are non-shop workers. However, do they realise that if Sunday trading is approved, they too will eventually have to work? After all, people have only one wage packet per week, in whatever way or on whichever day they spend it. More hours to work would mean larger wage bills and that would put many small shops out of business.
Most shop staff work overtime at Christmas and in respect of late night shopping six days a week. Sunday trading would mean late nights and seven working days. That would mean 365 days a year of shopping and 365 days of hustle and bustle with no pause after six days to recharge. There would be no time for family lunches, family teas or family visits. There would be no time to visit mum or dad, grandma or grandfather, no time to worship and no time for recreation.
Shop workers would have no chance to spend one day a week with friends and family. There would be more pressure on young people to work the whole weekend. There would be more pollution, more noise, more traffic wardens. Security officers, cleaners and caterers would be forced to work. There would be no proper compensation for working unsocial hours. One's life would be controlled by one's employer for seven days a week. There would also be higher prices as retailers covered costs. At that rate, shop workers and all those involved in retailing would surely be returning to Victorian times.
I am sure that hon. Members will be glad that I have now turned to the last page in my notes. Winston Churchill once stated:
Sunday is a divine and priceless institution … a necessary pause in the national life … it is the birthright of every British subject … our responsibility, privilege and duty to hand on to posterity.
Most of us will unreservedly agree with those sentiments.
Let me appeal to all right hon. and hon. Members, because this may be the last chance to protect the traditional English Sunday in the form that so many of us enjoy. I ask the House, not from any financial interest or for reasons of private gain or for selfish motives, but for the sake of our grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters and our future grandsons and granddaughters and generations to come, to let them live to enjoy what we have enjoyed. The House should vote for my Bill today and keep Sunday a special day for ever.
It is a great honour to speak second in this debate, following the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), as one of the co-sponsors of his Bill. If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman has manifested the qualities of patience, doggedness, subtlety, courtesy and, occasionally, ruthlessness. That is the prerogative of Members of the Whips Office in every part of the House down the ages. As part of my association with the hon. Gentleman, I hope that I shall never lack a pair on a critical Bill.
It is both daunting and intriguing to reflect on the fact that, whatever view we take about Sunday trading and whatever side we are on, we have in common that we are all trying to conquer a peak—the formulation of a reasonable framework of acceptable Sunday trading laws. The formulation of such a reasonable framework has baffled and defied the most expert political and parliamentary mountaineers throughout the century. Endless Back Benchers have tried and failed to produce a sensible framework for Sunday trading. Even Baroness Thatcher found this particular peak beyond her extraordinary political skills. So the question is: will we, this generation of the House, be the crew which will pull off the final assent? Will my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, who is sitting on the Front Bench this morning, be the Minister who goes down in history as the guy who got to the top?
Against that background, it is reasonable to remind ourselves of the common ground which both assault teams share, so to speak. I doubt whether there are any hon. Members in the House who do not subscribe to the practice and principle of a day of rest for ourselves and our fellow human beings. We will probably go further on the same common ground and specify that the day of rest should be in the proportion of one in seven. The seventh day off but not necessarily Sunday, seems satisfactorily sanctioned by culture, tradition and the natural rhythms of exertion and relaxation, whatever one's religious views may be.
I would go further and argue that there is another important reality in the amount of common ground which is shared on both sides of the debate. Supporters of both options lie in different parts of the House. The approach of the Keep Sunday Special campaign is echoed in the Bill. The other element of common ground between, say, the Keep Sunday Special campaign and the Shopping Hours Reform Council is not only the validity and necessity for a day off but that the day off should be the same day off for as many people as possible.
I am struck by the extent to which those who want more Sunday shops to open or more Sunday shopping hours than the present Shops Act 1950 allows argue that Sunday shopping is an important aspect in itself. Sunday shopping is a family and social recreation. Shopping is essentially something that Mum and Dad and the children can do together precisely because Sunday is a general day off from work and school.
I will be brief. This is very much a British matter and a matter of important domestic legislation for us to put right, and therefore one should not look too much overseas or to Europe at other examples.
It is interesting to reflect, however, that in Germany, for example, the national day of rest is solemnly enshrined in its constitution as a sacred principle. The most successful welfare capitalist economy in Europe enshrines the national day of rest as a sacred principle, and German retailers fully accept that. Why can United Kingdom retailers not accept the same principle? As we do not have a written constitution in the United Kingdom, is not the excellent Bill sponsored by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) the best way of dealing with the problem?
I am not sure whether I am sad or glad about my hon. Friend's intervention because I was doing my best to emphasise common ground and therefore trying to keep Europe and religion out of the argument. If my hon. Friend insists on introducing Europe and religion, let me endorse the fact that the religious Catholic Italy, the secular non-religious France and the Catholic and Protestant Germany, as European partners and neighbours of ours, all subscribe to the common principle which keeps Sunday special. The Shopping Hours Reform Council shares the view that there should be a day off for most people and that that day should be Sunday. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point.
The real issue about Sunday trading is not essentially one of principle nowadays; it is one of degree. Nearly everyone agrees that there should be a day of rest and that the day of rest should apply to as many people as possible for family reasons. The real question then is whether we should maximise the extent of Sunday trading, compatible with giving as many people as possible a day off and on the same day, or whether we should minimise within the agreed framework the extent of Sunday trading. I have no doubt that the answer is that we should minimise, not maximise, the extent of Sunday trading for the reasons that I have outlined.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, with the clearly established pattern of rest on Sunday for most of the population, the best way of preserving a single day of rest for most of the population is to leave things as they are, with suitable minor amendments as proposed by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)?
I very much share my hon. Friend's view. However, I do not want to rest too much on the idea of leaving things as they are at present, because in place today is something positive and constructive but which introduces the notion of some change. I partially go with my hon. Friend, but essentially we agree.
To maximise the scope for Sunday shop opening, which is the approach adopted by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, for example, we might improve the quality of life at the margin for millions of people. I entirely endorse and recognise the improvement in the quality of life which there might be for a large number of people. The trouble is that it would cause much more acute detriment to a smaller number of people. It is like that old joke about the pig and the chicken discussing the significance of bacon and eggs—the egg being relative and marginal for the chicken and the bacon being absolute and final for the pig.
The argument of proportionality should direct our attention, above all, to the smaller number of people for whom the detriment of more widespread Sunday opening is more akin to the fate of the pig than the inconvenience of the chicken. If Sunday opening is maximised, shop workers may have real difficulties with their jobs—their consciences, getting the premium rates of pay which all agree they should have if they must work on Sunday, their family life and so on. The same applies to various ancillary workers who would have to be drawn in to sustain and support those who had to work on Sundays if the maximised approach were adopted.
In some ways, the most serious detriment would be suffered by the tens of thousands of small shops run by individuals or couples. For reasons of competition they would have to open seven days a week and they might literally find it lethal—this is getting close to the fate of the pig—to have to open seven days a week with no relief.
So the detriment caused by maximising Sunday opening would be serious for certain categories, although they would represent relatively small numbers of people. Against that background, the detriment to the millions who would find Sunday shopping convenient and enjoyable, is relatively minor, although not without significance.
It is an interesting phenomenon that where shops open on Sundays without restriction there is a tendency for more and more people to switch their shopping to Sunday. We should weigh the implications of that. Once we liberalised the laws, there would be an intensification of the tendency to shop on Sundays and, therefore, of the detriment to those who are most vulnerable. The very fact that there is a tendency for shopping to move to Sundays when there are no restrictions emphasises, paradoxically, the essential postponability of shopping. If people switch their shopping to Sunday, it means that they give priority on Saturday or Friday afternoons or evenings to activities which are more important to them, such as sporting, cultural or family events. People might say that as the shops were open on Sunday they could leave the relatively minor task of hunting around for the spares or whatever they need to Sunday because it is less important. That shows the postponability and marginality of Sunday shopping for the millions of people for whom it is a convenience but not a critical factor in their lives. They are content to switch their shopping to Sunday if the shops happen to be open.
If people want to do their shopping on Saturday should they have access to sporting activities on Sundays, which means that people have to work on Sundays? I am confused about my right hon. Friend's point about sporting activities on Sundays.
I did not touch on sporting activities on Sundays. I said that people who postponed their shopping to Sunday did so because they wanted to spend Saturday doing other things which had greater priority in their programme, including sporting events and so on. Therefore, it would be more convenient to them to do things which are less important to them on Sunday. That is the only point that I make in that context.
For the reasons that I have given, I believe that a minimalist approach to Sunday trading is both reasonable and humane. The Bill presents a rational but positive framework for Sunday trading based on the REST acronym of the hon. Member for Ogmore, which stands for recreation, emergency, social activities and transport. That gives us a reasonable framework of minimalist opening.
That point is disputed. My hon. Friend heard the speech by the hon. Member for Ogmore. He said that he was introducing essentially a negotiable framework against the background of a minimalist approach. If he is prepared in Committee to think about the prospects for DIY, he is clearly prepared to think about tidying up any doubts at the margin about garden centres. Essentially the approach is to allow garden centres to be open. If there is any doubt about that, let my hon. Friend join the Committee and table appropriate amendments. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ogmore will consider them.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman's experience is the same as mine. He might confirm that some of the fears expressed by garden centres were expressed by people who looked at earlier definitions than the one contained in the Bill, which refers to a wide range of goods, characterising those sold in garden centres, which can be sold under the Bill.
I am particularly glad to note the little firmness on the Benches immediately in front of me of colleagues who have picked out a specific item which worries them. Our essential approach in the House today should be to make the decision in principle on whether to go for maximalist or minimalist approach to Sunday opening. As the hon. Member for Ogmore has already said, if the House allows us to follow the Keep Sunday Special campaign lines, many of the technical and specific points will be negotiable in Committee within the framework of the minimalist approach.
I hope that the House will endorse the approach inherent in the Bill and think about the detriment caused to small numbers of people at the cost of relatively limited inconvenience to millions of others.
There are private Members' Bills and so-called private Members' Bills. Some are genuinely private Members' Bills, others are not. Those which are not are Government Bills masquerading as private Members' Bills. They are Bills which Departments of State have failed to have included in the Queen's Speech and which Ministers, or their Parliamentary Private Secretaries, hawk round among hon. Members who have won high places in the private Members' ballot. Those who accept them from Ministers tread the primrose path to the statute book. They are given a drafted Bill, speeches and briefings for all stages, and the virtual certainty of achieving Royal Assent.
I sometimes think that such Bills should carry, parenthetically, after their short titles, the letter (G), so that people here and in the country will see just how many "private Members' Bills" are, in fact, Government Bills and, therefore, how much of the parliamentary time allocated to private Members is used instead for Government legislation. The point is one which the Select Committee on Procedure might like to consider.
The measure of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) is a private Members' Bill properly so-called and I honour him both for his independent spirit and his success in presenting a Bill so worthy of enactment. He has given the House a Bill which is the first serious attempt to reform Sunday trading law in a sensible and practical way. It respects the special nature of Sunday, while allowing a reasonable range of activities to be pursued. The Bill offers the best possible way of tackling a mess which gets messier week by week.
I have the honour to be sponsored by the Co-operative movement, the first ever Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for the city of Manchester. In declaring my interest, I declare also my pride in being a representative here of a movement whose traditions are among the most admirable this country has to offer.
While there are some details of the Bill we shall want to examine closely in Committee, in particular the case for increasing to 3,000 the square footage limit on small shops allowed to open and the need to allow travel agents to do so—they are concerned purely with recreation—the Co-operative movement supports the Bill as the best framework for reforming the Sunday trading law. In our view, it is far better than the alternatives, which offer only variations on the theme of total deregulation.
Our support for the Bill has four bases: first of all, social policy. We believe that the traditional Sunday, characterised by the opportunities that it gives for recreation with family and friends, is of high value and worth preserving.
In fairness to other Members who want to speak, t cannot give way; more especially as a Privy Councillor, I owe it to them to speak briefly if they are to have any chance of speaking at all.
We recognise that many people do work on Sundays and that some others may wish to do so; but we believe that for retail opening to become the norm would be a major step towards destroying the social benefits of the traditional Sunday for most of the British people. We recognise the need for some shops to open; we recognise that some people regard shopping as a leisure activity; we recognise that others might wish to shop because of their other responsibilities at home and at work. On balance, however, we believe that Parliament should not throw out the baby of demonstrable social benefit to the majority with the bathwater of occasional inconvenience to a minority.
I turn briefly to employment policy, the second basis for our support. We are a major employer, but we support the trade unions who represent the Co-operative movement's employees when they say that the best protection shop workers can have against exploitation in regard to Sunday working is a legal one. We know that there are shopworkers who want to work on Sunday because they receive premium payments, but the overall position is that people would rather not work on Sunday. All of us know that premium payments are by no means universal, nor are they permanent. In a recent survey completed by the Institute of Retail Studies at the university of Stirling, it was found that indeed 30 per cent. of Sunday workers receive no premium payments. Extension of Sunday working in a low-paid work force must result in worsening conditions and wages. At the same time, premium rates in all industries will be threatened if Sunday increasingly becomes a "normal day".
Consumer policy is the third basis for our support. Sunday trading is of most commercial benefit to large private multiples that have been able to invest large capital sums in big stores, often in out-of-town locations. They will be the main beneficiaries of deregulated Sunday trading. The existing illegal trade shows how well placed they are to swallow the trade of smaller shops, more especially food and convenience shops. Retailers who lose out because of Sunday trading are those who do not have access to large investment funds—small traders and the co-operatives. The legal structure of co-operatives, which gives them their democratic practice and allows only a limited return on capital, also limits their access to equity capital. They are unable, for these reasons, to match the recent massive rights issues of the big food chains. There is no need here to spell out why small traders have problems about capital, nor why deregulation will totally deprive many small villages of their only shops.
There would be an argument to maintain diversity of size and legal structure in the retail industry, even if consumer interests were not involved. But they are involved. Co-ops and small shops give particular consumer service to small communities where there is no superstore because it could not make money, and also to a huge number of consumers, a high proportion of them elderly and disabled people, with no access to a car for a trip to the out-of-town retail park. They will suffer if local shops close down from Monday to Saturday because the non-local supermarket opens on Sunday.
The fourth basis of our support is law and order policy. Over the past few years, a growing number of large companies have decided blatantly to ignore the Shops Act 1950 and to open for business on Sundays. We are not concerned whether this was avoidance, or evasion, or finessing or flouting of the law. There is no escaping the reality that a number of large companies have traded illegally. Their conduct debases the law and demeans Parliament itself. The effect is that the law in general is brought into disrepute. The public reaction is that there is one law for the rich private multiples and another law for their poor consumers, who may buy illegally but must not shoplift from the law-breaking retailer—even on Sundays. How can parliamentarians, who make the law and work to uphold the rule of law by discouraging crime, possibly agree to a new Sunday trading law that would, by mass deregulation, serve only to reward transgressors by scrapping the law which they broke?
Of course, other traders have been in touch with me as well as my trading colleagues in the Co-operative movement. An enterprise which has two grocery stores in my constituency tells me in a recent letter:
For staff, the possibility of unrestricted Sunday trading is extremely worrying.
Quite simply, many if not all staff would be required to work at least occasionally on Sundays, possibly on a shift system. This would be offensive to their religious beliefs and disruptive of the social and family life of shop employees. While we would not attempt to force any dissenting employee to work on Sundays, there would almost certainly be perceived pressure on store staff to do so, despite any legislated protection. People in most other walks of life are not suddenly forced to give up their Sundays. Why should shop staff?
The letter goes on:
The unemployment situation would be worsened further by the higher costs involved by Sunday trading in food retailing in particular. Finally, the small local self-employed High Street convenience stores, which currently survive on Sunday trading, would progressively be forced out of business, throwing whole families out of work.
This is one of many letters that I have had in support of the Bill. They demonstrate that the Bill is both worthy of and enjoys widespread approval in the country. Again I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and wish him all success in promoting what is a sensible and reformist Bill, whose enactment has become an urgent necessity.
Friday is often regarded as the "a" in etcetera of the parliamentary week. With my hon. Friend's Bill to debate, that is certainly not true of this week. He merits our highest regard and appreciation and that of everyone who is now prepared to challenge those who have treated the law of this country with studied contempt.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on promoting this private Member's Bill on what has undoubtedly been an exceedingly controversial topic for years. I am happy that he has done so because it is high time that the subject was debated in the House, where a broad set of views are represented which we can consider and determine when voting on his proposals.
I disagree with the Bill, not least because it is inconsistent and does not keep Sunday particularly special. The Bill seems to sanction Sunday shopping by trying to update the Shops Act 1950 and bring it into the 1990s.
As the predecessor of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, I spent much time talking to many people whose interests were almost entirely concentrated on ensuring that we change the Shops Act 1950. When I first approached the subject, I thought that we should try to stay within the existing framework and create as few changes as possible. I am a person who believes in as little change as possible, which is why I am a Conservative. I like to see things remain more or less as they are.
I studied the 1950 Act carefully. 1 looked at its provisions and wondered how they could be reshaped to suit today's circumstances. The first factor to strike me when I looked at the practice of shopping and retailing was that I could not compare the position in 1950 to that of the 1990s. It is as unlikely that we shall be able to compare what happens in the 1990s to what will happen in the year 2030.
If we produce a Bill that merely updates the Shops Act 1950—as I believe the Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore does—it will not stand the test of time. The House should be in the business of enacting legislation that is both simple and lasting. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's Bill will achieve those ends.
It is not just our shopping habits and the sort of goods that we purchase in today's economy that have changed, but there has been a dramatic change in our way of life. People's lifestyles today are different from those of 1950. We may regret that—part of me regrets it. It would be nice if things were much the same today as they were some years ago, but they are not. The economic realities of life mean that a substantial number of households no longer contain one person who stays at home and one person who works. They do not contain somebody who is available to carry out all the tasks within six days and devote himself of herself entirely to the family at home on Sunday.
The right hon. Lady will recognise that the changes that she has described apply to other European countries? Will she explain how the French, Germans and Italians, who have experienced the same changes in social practices and economic factors as we have over the years, have been able to retain a Sunday without the commercialised opening of shops which she and her supporters appear to advocate in Britain?
I can explain that easily. I am a British citizen and part of the British legislature; I am interested only in what affects people in this country. I am not legislating for France, Germany, Italy or any other country, nor would I try to do so.
No, I am sorry, but I shall not give way as I realise that many other hon. Members wish to participate in the debate.
I have set out why I believe that it would be enormously difficult to encapsulate all those factors simply by updating the Shops Act 1950, as the Bill does. I realise that we must make changes, but I want to keep them simple. I want simple changes to accomodate the needs of modern life. The simplest, most straightforward solution to the problem is deregulation, with protection for Sunday shop workers.
When I was a Minister and listened to debates on Sunday trading, I was forcefully struck by the fact that it would be difficult to persuade the House to accept total deregulation. I was pragmatic and realised that some concessions would have to be made to those people who wanted to restrict Sunday shopping.
We must consider carefully how to restrict Sunday trading. We could consider ways to restrict goods. We could decide to restrict certain goods from being sold on Sunday, but it would be almost impossible to make a durable list of items that could not be sold on Sunday. That is simply because, in 10 years' time, goods will have been invented that were not originally contained in the legislation. That would create anomalies, such as those that currently exist in the 1950 Act, which allows one to buy a Chinese takeaway, fried chicken and kebabs, but not fish and chips, which is nonsense.
If we rule out restricting what can be bought on Sundays, we could consider restricting where one can buy goods. The Bill tries to do that. It has been suggested that we could restrict the size of the premises from which goods may be bought on Sunday. We could restrict large hypermarkets and supermarkets from opening and allow to open only small corner shops, which people have, for many years, used by custom and practice. The hon. Gentleman's Bill also tries to do that, but we would create a mess if we tried to legislate for that.
We could allow all shops to open, but only within certain hours. Such restriction does work and is possible. If we restricted opening hours on Sunday, we would have to think carefully about whose businesses we should serve. Newsagents want to open first thing on Sunday morning as people like to read their newspapers with their breakfast. Chemists will have to open to provide medicines in the case of emergencies.
We could restrict commercial family activities on Sundays until after midday or 1 pm. We could ensure that everyone wanting to visit a garden centre or partake of similar activities would have to go in the morning, which would keep Sunday afternoon shopping-free. However, such regulation would not help in the case of licensed premises. People tend to drink alcohol on Sunday, as well as Saturday and Monday.
We would also have to consider new industries that have grown up, such as video shops, many of which would be forced to close down if they had to close after 2 pm on Sunday—that is a sad fact. I am not in hock to the video production industry, but I know that employees of its employees work on Sunday and a large number of people enjoy the opportunity to use video shops. We would have to build into the legislation provisions to cover such activities. If one wants the legislation to provide for exceptions, each one must be built into it. Over a period they will become untenable and the legislation will have to be amended.
People who want to keep Sunday special for recreational activities often do not want professional recreational activities on Sunday, which is another anomaly. People who want to watch professional football or go to the races on their day of rest should be able to do so but it means that people will have to be employed at those events.
That is absolutely true—my hon. Friend makes a good point.
Another exceedingly worrying aspect involves those employed in the retail business, who may come under pressure to work seven days a week. I considered that subject carefully. Clearly, one must accept that a number of people in this country currently work on Saturday and Sunday. Like it or not, legions of women find working on Saturday more satisfactory and more beneficial to their family life. They work on Sunday so that their partners can participate in family life and be with the children. They also work on Sunday because the current economic circumstances—which have existed for some time—mean that it is important for women to contribute to the family finances. Are we to say that we will not allow such women to work on Sundays? The House should think seriously about that.
The right hon. Lady's Government are busy trying to get rid of the wages councils, which are one of the few protections for low-paid women workers. Does she seriously suggest that women work on Sundays out of choice and not because they are driven to do so by appallingly low wages, which are still universal for the sort of jobs about which the right hon. Lady speaks?
It is obvious that the hon. Lady does not speak to the kind of people who come to speak to me about the importance of being able, if they choose, to work on Sundays. The hon. Lady might get a surprise if she spoke to some of those women because she would realise how important it is for them to have a choice.
Like it or not—and many do not—Sunday shopping has become a family activity. People like to go out as a family, even if only to the garden centre. Many people also enjoy Sunday shopping together. That is surprising to me because I intensely dislike shopping in a supermarket. I am greatly bothered by the notion of trying to restrict Sunday trading because many of the people—usually women, but occasionally men—who have to do the weekly shopping are forced by the restrictions to do it at the same time as everybody else. Many people have not experienced pushing a loaded supermarket trolley in a large crowd of people. People who work hard six days a week should not be told, perhaps by those who do not have to push loaded trolleys, that they will not be allowed to shop on Sunday. Such arrogance is unacceptable in this day and age.
It is no part of our work to restrict people's choice about when they should shop or their ability to work on days which many others might regard as unsocial; for some people such days and hours are a lifeline. I share some of the worries about making Sunday like Saturday or Monday, but I do not think that deregulation would cause that to happen. It does not necessarily follow that because shops are allowed to open they will. Apart from the times when they opened just before Christmat in the past two or three years or so, that has not been perceived generally to happen.
It is generous of my right hon. Friend to give way towards the end of her speech, to which I am listening carefully. Does she agree that a totally deregulated Sunday allowing opening for even six hours a day would be a gamble as to whether the things that she mentions survived? She spoke in great detail about why, when she was in the Home Office, she had come to her conclusion that shops should be open for at least six hours. Why did she not have the courage of her convictions then to introduce such a measure?
As my hon. Friend knows, my career in the Home Office was, sadly, brought to an untimely end. I do not think that it is a gamble. We live in a reasonable and responsible society. We have to trust retailers and the British public to operate a voluntary code about how they behave on a Sunday as opposed to a Saturday, a Friday or a Monday. That is deeply built into the way of life in this country. I do not think that it would simply change overnight and it is somewhat hysterical of those who oppose that view to worry about it too much.
I share my hon. Friend's concerns about employee protection and it is important to establish that those currently in work should not be subjected to unreasonable pressure to work seven days a week when that is not their wish. It would be possible to establish a voluntary code of practice for retailers. However, it may not be possible, and on that issue alone I need to be reassured. That might be achieved by legislative protection to ensure that people could not be pressurised to work more than six days a week. I admire the hon. Member for Ogmore for introducing the Bill, but there is no way in which I will support it.
The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) for the adroit and humorous way in which he introduced his Bill on which we can base new laws. It commands support throughout the House, but it also has its opponents. I hope that it will be victorious.
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member—I presume she is right hon.—for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold). Her time at the Home Office may have been brought to a premature conclusion, but it was not entirely clear from the exchange between the right hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) whether the right hon. Lady had been elevated to that title. I shall assume that she has.
The right hon. Lady gave a variety of reasons for being opposed to the measure. She said that the legislation would not last for eternity; but no legislation does and that is not a reason for voting against it. We regularly reform legislation: this is a reforming Parliament and, of course, no legislation is cast in concrete. Whatever the House decides on Sunday trading, I should be surprised if in 40 years' time we did not consider the issues again.
The right hon. Lady said that many of the changes in this country had not been for the good of our nation. Many of us agree when we look at the social ecology and at many of the things happening in our land. An estimated 1 million elderly people do not see a friend, relative or neighbour in an average week. One in three marriages end in divorce and the breakdown of family life, and there has been a great rise in criminality.
I agree that many of the changes in our society are not for the better, but that is another reason not for being defeatist, but for recognising that those are challenges and that we must do all that we can to enshrine family and community life and the values which, on other occasions, the right hon. Lady would certainly espouse. We must examine legislation with a view to seeing how we can keep relationships together and give people time together.
The right hon. Lady said that because we are British we do not need to take any notice of what is happening elsewhere in Europe. Given that we are making slow progress on another Bill, most people agree that that argument does not stand up.
I did not say what the hon. Gentleman says I said about this country. I said that I am in the British legislature trying to influence legislation for this country and for our people. That is my main point. Therefore, I do not need to take into account what happens in other countries.
That is a reversal of arguments that have been advanced in debates over the past few days. Ironically, the hon. Member for Congleton, who intervened in the speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, and the right hon. Lady would find themselves in different Lobbies in Divisions on the other legislation. It is slightly paradoxical for Europe to be quoted in this way.
Every other European Community country has been able to enshrine in its statutes legislation to safeguard their workers and Sundays—and I shall return to that point in my speech. It is not impossible for us to do the same in Britain. We do not have to do what everybody else does, but it is absurd to suggest that it is not possible to legislate in that way because we are British and somehow do not have the same capacity as our friends across the channel to introduce safeguards.
The right hon. Lady also said that there were anomalies in the Bill. The hon. Member for Ogmore has already generously stated that in Committee he will listen to the arguments and that, to use his words, he will be reasonable and pragmatic when considering any anomalies and any concerns that are raised then.
It is an interesting new theory that no legislation to be presented to the House in future by any Government will contain no anomalies. Many of us will be relieved to know that that will be the case. We were also told that registration might be too complicated. That will come as good news to everybody who has to pay value added tax. Presumably, therefore, VAT will be abolished. Why bother to register for elections? It is very complicated. People cannot put their minds to it. The whole House knows that these are pretty implausible arguments. All that came from the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, who was responsible for trying impartially to change our laws. It is no wonder that so many of us were suspicious of her when she was in her former post.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bill would require a large number of small businesses to register the nature of their turnover in a way that they probably do not even record at present? At a time when we are trying to lift the burdens on small businesses, is not that just what we ought not to be doing?
There are 200,000 small retailers in this country, many of whom will be forced out of business unless we ensure that the hypermarkets and supermarkets are unable to trade on Sundays, thus forcing them out of business. To suggest that it would be beyond the wit of a small retailer to fill in a registration form if he wished to trade on Sunday is absurd.
No, not at the moment. I have given way on a number of occasions already.
The right hon. Lady referred to the question of choice. She said that choice should be elevated to the position of a religion or a philosophy. It was the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, who, in his recent excellent book "The Persistence of Faith", said that the word "choice" comes from the same Greek root as the word "herasis". It may be that the word "choice" could be regarded today as a modern heresy: that it is my right to do whatever I want, regardless of the consequences. Choices are invariably made at other people's expense. Nowhere is that more likely to be the case than here. As the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) said earlier today, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping. In the average retail week, 51 hours are available for shopping, so there are plenty of choices already.
It is worth recalling that, when we last considered this issue in 1986, a cross-party coalition in Parliament said that it did not want Sunday to be deregulated. It was the only time during that 13-year period that the Government were defeated on a whipped vote. But did they give up? No. They continued to come back to the House to try to find ways around it.
The story line has constantly changed. We were told to wait for the decision of the European Court; but it came out in favour of keeping Sunday special. No longer, therefore, were we told to wait for the decision of the European Court. We were then told to turn a blind eye to anyone who broke the law. That was said by people who on other occasions tell us that they belong to the party of law and order. That is no example to set to people in our cities and communities who are becoming more and more lawless.
The Home Secretary now offers us his well-known three-card trick. That is through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill: if there are many different options, he will eventually get what he wants because people will be so confused. I have news for the House: I do not believe that that will happen.
If we had the Home Office's preferred option, which is riven with anomalies and confusion, we could end up with no legislation whatsoever, with no reform of the Shops Act 1950. That is why it is so good that the hon. Member for Ogmore has provided us with this practical alternative. It is not based on the principle of he who pays the piper calls the tune. It is based upon his experience of working with shop workers throughout the land who are entitled to protection, a view which has cross-party support in the House because it provides the best means of ensuring that Sunday is not turned into yet another Saturday.
As the European Court has recognised, workers are entitled to a common day off to be used for family and community activities, including time to go to church. Sundays also guarantee equilibrium and stability in busy and pressurised lives by balancing stressful work with time for leisure and recreation. By limiting retail activity on Sundays, we also protect shop workers and those employed in ancillary services from pressure to work unusual hours. For close on 1,000 years, Britain has had laws regulating commercial activity on Sunday, so it is not an impossibility. We have done it for nearly 1,000 years. It was Churchill who once said that our most prized institution is Sunday. He spoke wisely when he used those words. We should remember them today.
As the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) mentioned earlier, safeguards are enshrined in the German constitution. If one looks at the effects on the German economy, one can see that those safeguards have not caused economic chaos or the disintegration of the German economy. It may be the secret of Germany's success—the recognition that workers need time off, that their rights should be enshrined in the constitution and that they should be accorded dignity and respect.
Shop workers are already in a low-paid and vulnerable sector of the economy, for 70 per cent. of retail companies pay their workers less than £3.50 an hour. There is pressure, as we heard from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), for even further deregulation in that respect. Shop workers who refuse to work unsocial hours will not get jobs; they will not be employed; they will not be promoted; they will be the first to be given redundancy notices. Deregulation will lead to inescapable pressure, particularly on women, to work on a day that they would prefer to spend with their families and children.
There is also the problem that faces people who live alongside shopping areas. Only a week ago residents in the Allerton road area of Liverpool came to see me at my advice centre to tell me about the problems that they are experiencing because Woolworths had decided to open its shop there on Sundays. That has led, in the streets of little terraced houses adjacent to that store, to early-morning deliveries, to car doors being banged, and to the roads being congested with parked cars. Even on the one day that they did not have to suffer that commercial activity, they now have to put up with the bustle of hectic business and the consequntial noise, hassle and stress. Most absurdly, of all, no extra money for shopping is available, anyway. If the advocates of Sunday secularisation could only see beyond their greed, they might realise that the financial gain will be negligible.
There is one more reason why I shall support the Bill. In a country where a crime is committed every two seconds and where one in three families experience divorce and the breakdown of family life, the Government are presumably concerned about the reasons for our chronic social maladies. Many of our problems stem from the inadequate time spent together by families. There is no substitute for parental interest, guidance and support. If the Home Secretary gets his way, many children and young people, to say nothing of the elderly relatives who enjoy a Sunday visit, will have even less time spent upon them in future. The social costs far outweigh any supposed advantages of unlimited shopping free for alls.
The Bill protects workers and family and community life. It recognises the basic human need that we all have for unpressurised time for leisure and recreation. It rightly takes a stand against the cult of materialism and the sheer greed that motivates so many other decisions that are taken today. The Home Secretary has made his position clear: a totally secularised, deregulated Sunday. Therefore, I am glad that we are in a position to ask someone else, who is opposed to that objective, to steer through the House a Bill that reflects the will of Parliament as it was expressed in our last vote on the issue.
It is for those reasons that I hope that we shall give the Bill a Second Reading today.
For me, Friday mornings are very precious indeed—second only in importance to Sundays—because, like most north-western hon. Members, I like to be at home, in my case in Lancaster, on Fridays. I am here only because I regard the Bill as absolutely essential to the maintenance of family life.
My favourite occupation on Fridays, come what may, is to go around—we are lucky to have it—our covered shopping market. It is an old Victorian market which, sadly, was devastated by fire, but nevertheless it survives. I wander around the aisles of that lovely old market, do my shopping and natter to people. I vividly remember the previous time when the matter of Sunday trading was before the House. I saw a highly respected confectioner rushing around the market like a steam engine. I said to her, "Mrs."—I will not reveal her name—"what on earth are you doing? I have never seen you go around so fast." "Ooh," she said, "it's my birthday tomorrow, and if the Bill to deregulate Sunday goes through, it will be the last Sunday that our family will ever be able to spend together, because at least one of us will have to be on duty." That business is a family-run concern. That is concrete example of what will happen throughout the land.
I also represent a delightful country area. We are dependent on two things: our schools, which thankfully we have managed, with something of a battle, to maintain, and our village shops. These would be substantially threatened if we allowed the deregulation of Sunday and did not preserve Sunday by this Bill which strikes an admirable balance. I am proud to say that I admire the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), for saying that he is willing to consider clearing up any uncertain matters in Committee, for example in relation to garden centres.
Whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are bringing up a family—I have a rather hefty sized family—or attempting to keep law and order in the Chamber, which is by no means an easy job, or keeping law and order in the country, your prime duty is not to give in to law breakers. One does not give biscuits to a bad child. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, should not call an hon. Member who is obstreperous—that includes me—and the Government should certainly not reward large, wealthy retail chains by scrapping the law that they have so flagrantly violated for the perfectly simple reason that they can afford the fines.
I am in favour of law and order, I am in favour of family life and I am very much in favour of the Bill.
Thank you for calling me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Whatever our views on Sunday trading, many hon. Members are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), who, by pursuing his private Member's Bill has at least given us an opportunity to have this debate—an opportunity which has so far been denied us by the Government, despite the Home Secretary's statement to the House on 26 November, when he declared his determination
to settle the vexed question of the reform of the law on Sunday trading in England and Wales."—[Official Report, 26 November 1992; Vol. 214, c. 997.]
My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has brought forward his Bill in a genuine and honest attempt to sort out the current mess and confusion over Sunday trading. My hon. Friend declared his interest. I should like to declare my long-term interest in this matter. Before I entered the House, when I was a prospective parliamentary candidate, I worked in my constituency as the northern region organiser for the Shopping Hours Reform Council.
As legislators, we must ask ourselves whether the Bill will achieve consensus and establish a satisfactory situation in respect of Sunday trading or whether it will merely serve to sustain circumstances which meet neither the wishes of consumers nor the rights of shop workers. Our overriding priority must be to bring the Sunday trading debate permanently to a close, achieve consensus, and reconcile the rights and conditions of employment of shop workers with the desire of the public to shop on Sundays.
It is essential that any reforming legislation takes sufficient account of reality to command the respect of the general public. Without public support, many local authorities will regard enforcement of this legislation as having as low a priority as that of the current law. Also, the provisions need to be simple and easy to enforce.
The problem with the Bill is that it flies in the face of public opinion. Surveys carried out over 18 years by the well-respected Consumers Association have consistently shown a two thirds majority in favour of liberalisation of the law on Sunday opening, yet in many ways the Bill is more restrictive than the Shops Act 1950. It would close some shops that are currently permitted to open, such as convenience stores and some newsagents if they are larger than 1,500 sq ft. It would also close coin-operated launderettes which can currently operate legally. Moreover, it would close the very shops that most people want to use on Sundays. Although I welcome my hon. Friend's statement that he would be willing to consider concessions on DIY stores, there is a significant question mark over garden centres.
In the view of the Consumers Association, the Bill contains so many complexities that it will create as much confusion and uncertainty as the current Act causes. The main reason for that is that it continues the type-of-shop approach, which was rejected by the Auld committee on the ground that it would not be any easier to select a defensible list of shop types for exemption than it would be to select a list of goods. That view is also upheld by the eminent QC, Eldred Tabachnik, who concluded that
far from removing the themelessness which characterises the 1950 Act, the Bill is every bit as, if not more, anomalous than the current law
the categories of trading on Sundays permitted by the Bill comprise an arbitrary hotch potch.
There are numerous illustrations of the types of problems. No doubt some are due to drafting errors, but most are simply inherent in any such type-of-shop approach and they are exacerbated by the 80 per cent. rule. In effect, the Bill would close almost all petrol stations on Sundays. To be exempt from the closure requirement, a petrol station is required to sell only petrol. If it wished to sell any other product it would have to apply for class A registration. In order to be eligible, it would need to be less than 1,500 sq ft, and 80 per cent. of turnover would need to be from sales of goods from the prescribed list. Petrol is not included in that list.
It is important, whatever else we do, to get some of our facts right; we might differ on our opinions. Is the hon. Lady aware that the House of Commons Chamber measures 68 ft by 45 ft 6 in? It is a little more than 3,000 sq ft. I have no small shops of that size in my constituency. We are talking about 3,000 sq ft, and 1,500 sq ft is still half of the Chamber. I do not know of many garage forecourt shops that will be seriously inconvenienced if their sales area is restricted to that size.
No, I will not give way.
The Bill permits the purchase of a ladder from a garden centre but not from a DIY shop. However, many DIY centres have a garden centre section. DIY retailers might consider sectioning off parts of their store to enable illegal trading in that section to continue. The list of anomalies goes on. I am simply seeking to illustrate the point that the Bill will not end the debate and division on Sunday trading, but will guarantee that they continue.
I know that the position of shop workers has greatly exercised my hon. Friends; it is also a matter of great concern to me. I can do no better than to quote from the general secretary of my trade union, John Edmonds of the GMB, which represents some 60,000 shop workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are women. In a recent letter to hon. Members, Mr. Edmonds said that the
continuing confusion over Sunday shopping has become intolerable for employees within the retail industry.
He also said that local authorities, businesses, shop workers and the public need clarification of the law to put an end to the ridiculous charade which blights the nation's Sundays. He said that it is unacceptable that people should be forced to work on Sundays against their will; I know that most hon. Members would agree.
I am aware of the remarks in that letter, but, as a fellow member of that union, I believe that it was a mistake. My hon. Friend has already accepted that there is a need for the House to debate these issues and resolve them. Because of the lack of any Government Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has provided us with the opportunity to do that. Given the request from the general secretary of the GMB, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be best for the Bill to be given a Second Reading, so that all the issues to which she referred could be properly debated in Committee? Will she therefore support the Bill's Second Reading?
I know that my hon. Friend's views command a great deal of support in the House, but I am afraid that I disagree with them. We should have an opportunity to consider all the possible options and that is why I hope that the Government will not renege on their promise to bring forward appropriate legislation soon.
Mr. Edmonds said that he believed that it was unacceptable that people should be forced to work on Sundays. I agree, because that would contradict religious freedoms, jeopardise family life and be intolerable for existing employees. The GMB and I would support legislation that includes the voluntary principle and carries with it sensible guarantees for trade union recognition rights to enforce that voluntary principle.
No. I must get on because I know that many other hon. Members want to speak.
Mr. Edmonds also went on to say:
We do not believe that Ray Powell's proposals match our policy, nor that they will clarify the position. They would rather add further confusion.
I understand that Mr. Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers union has sent a similar letter to some of my hon. Friends.
As a Member representing a northern constituency and as the mother of three teenage children, I must tell the House that the only time that I get to do my weekly household shop is on Sundays. The same is often true for the more than 70 per cent. of married women who now work outside the home. I also know that there are many women in my constituency who welcome the opportunity to work on Sundays when they do not have to pay for child care because they can rely on their partners. Women want to shop on Sundays and women want to work on Sundays. The Bill does not recognise those demands.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms. Anderson) not only on her speech, with which I totally agree, but on displaying what must be the ultimate courage in the House—opposing a Bill proposed by her own pairing Whip, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell).
Before the hon. Member for Ogmore leaves the Chamber, I should like him to know that I shall follow the two injunctions that he made. I shall try to speak for as short a time as possible—he spoke for nearly half an hour—and, in response to his request, I shall declare my specific interest in the Bill. Until the recent growth in Sunday trading among supermarkets and large shops, it was impossible for me, given that I work six days a week at a minimum, to shop with my family. My family life has been enriched by the recent opportunities to shop that have arisen. [Laughter.] I am sorry that hon. Members regard their days off as so limited that they would not wish to broaden their horizons. They will find that the 4 million people who now regularly shop in large stores on Sundays would agree with me.
The hon. Member for Ogmore referred, rightly, to the document that has been distributed, at considerable expense, to every hon. Member of the House, entitled "Towards a New Shops Act". That document sets out the aims of the Bill. I should like to do the hon. Member for Ogmore the honour, despite the fact that he is no longer in his seat, of referring to the aims set out in the document. It states that the Bill is designed
to guarantee a common day off"—
but not for those people who, for whatever reason, would wish to have a different day off. It is also designed
to protect the right of shopworkers not to work on Sundays.
It says nothing about those people who want the right to work on a Sunday. It states that the Bill is designed to protect smaller retailers from pressure to open. It says nothing about those smaller retailers who wish to open. It also states that the Bill is designed
to provide for the reasonable needs of consumers.
That is something on which the consumers are not entitled to have a say; they must accept whatever the hon. Member for Ogmore defines as their "reasonable needs". The document also states that the Bill would prevent unfair competition. It will do that by preventing all competition in any circumstances.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I shall be brief. Does he accept that 25 per cent. of the business of small shops comes from trading over the weekend and on Sundays, but only 2 per cent. of the business of supermarkets comes from such trading? Therefore, when he says that he is concerned about competition, is not he really concerned about protecting the supermarkets from the smaller shops?
I have no way of checking the hon. Lady's figures and I am happy to accept that they are correct. However, if she considers the trading patterns of supermarkets and the profit margins to which they work she will find that 2 per cent. can be a major factor when determining the viability of a business. As for competition with the small shops, the hon. Lady will find that many people, given the opportunity, prefer to work and to shop in larger stores.
We should not single out those people who should be protected.
The aims set out in the reasoned amendment standing in my name and that of several hon. Members are the reverse of those in the Bill. In any legislation on Sunday trading, employment and business opportunities should be encouraged and meaningless distinctions between one shop and another should be abandoned. Such legislation should protect the quality of life of most people, as they choose to lead it. It should avoid the imposition of extra duties on local authorities and extra burdens on businesses. Above all, it should not destroy jobs. More than 140,000 shop workers would lose their Sunday work and earnings if any Bill remotely like the one before us today were passed. About 50,000 of them would lose their only employment. Is it really the job of the House to destroy employment on such a massive scale, especially since, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) said, most of these people are women who have been the beneficiaries of one of the great liberalisations of our society in recent years—for the first time, they have an equal opportunity to choose when and how to work and how to organise their family lives instead of being tied to a previous view of society supported by law?
The Bill contains other anomalies with regard to encouraging employment. I represent a Bristol constituency and must therefore very much resent the fact that in a tourist area such as Bristol, which is not by the seaside, tourist shops would be barred from opening because only seaside tourist resorts are covered by the Bill's exemption.
Another aim is to encourage business opportunities. As I said, about 4 million customers now pass through and buy at the four leading supermarket groups that currently open on Sundays. The report of Eldred Tabachnik QC, which has been made available to most hon. Members, states that the United Kingdom is no longer a nation of small specialist shops. An increasing number of shops were never contemplated by the 1950 Act and are not even considered by the Bill.
For example, bureaux de change provide a great service to tourists, but they would not be able to open on Sundays. Professional offices increasingly find that their clients can see them only Sundays because they also have to earn a living, but they would also be debarred from opening—I speak as a former full-time practising chartered accountant. The Bill would destroy many of the opportunities for businesses that have opened in recent years.
The Bill perpetuates rather than ends the meaningless distinctions between one shop and another. The hon. Member for Ogmore said that he would accept amendments, but he must stand by the Bill as he has presented it to the House—either he meant what he said in the Bill or he did not. What is the point of getting rid of the 1950 Act when, under the Bill—
No. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I have undertaken not to give way because many other hon. Members wish to speak.
If the Bill were passed unamended, the vast majority of garden centres would have to close—we have that from the garden centres themselves. The remainder of the garden centres which are able to register to open under the Bill can be closed on an arbitrary basis if, by accident, their sales of particular and ill-defined goods happen to go over the limit set by the Bill.
No, I am sorry, but I shall not give way.
The hon. Member for Ogmore claimed that video hire shops would be unaffected, but he may not have noticed that video hire shops also sell videos and, under the terms of the Bill, if they sell one video too many on a Sunday, they will be closed.
The Bill covers the sizes of shops which are permitted to open. There is a good working rule which hon. Members could apply to shops in their constituencies—if a shop has one window, it is under 1,500 sq ft and would be allowed to open. As a general rule, a shop with two windows will be more than 1,500 sq ft and will be forced to close
It is not nonsense—it is based on survey.
With reference to the anomalies which will arise under the Bill, I refer to a letter that I—and, I believe, many other hon. Members—have received from the Boots Company. It states that some brands of toothpaste will qualify for sale on Sundays, others will not and some
food supplements and vitamins will be legally saleable, others will not.
It asks how it will be
possible to differentiate between items in a pharmacy that can be sold only for two hours on a Sunday and those … that can be sold … without restriction?
The letter points out that the Bill allows
baby foods to be sold in garden centres, nappies on garage forecourts, and condoms in video hire shops all day Sunday but none of these to be sold at any time in Pharmacies.
What ridiculous legislation.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ogmore is not here to listen to what I regard as one of the major defects of the
Bill. Despite his not being here, I make this point to him as the proponent of the Bill with all honesty and sincerity, as a member of an ethnic minority. The explanatory document that he has caused to be circulated refers to regulations which are and are not in the Bill relating to Jewish and Muslim shops. The document states that
shops owned by Jewish proprietors are permitted to open on Sunday mornings, provided the shops also shut on Saturdays.
That is a provision of the 1950 legislation which is not changed by the Bill.
The hon. Member for Ogmore has clearly not noticed that most Jewish shops in urban areas found it impossible to survive without expanding under the 1950 Act and that most such shops, especially the successful ones which are permitted to open on Sundays, would be forced to close because they comprise more than 1,500 sq ft. That would certainly apply to most urban Jewish butchers.
There is an equally thoughtless reference in the Bill and the explanatory document to Muslims. The document states:
We did not consider it necessary to make a special provision for Moslems because their religion only requires them to be at prayer for 2 hours on a Friday.
Are not Muslims entitled to take their own view on how to spend the remainder of their day of rest? Do they have to have a licence to practice their religion and nothing else? If a shop is permitted to open on Sunday because of the religion of the proprietor, surely the proprietor is entitled to decide how best to organise his own business even if he is a member of an ethnic minority.
I deal now with the notion of protecting the quality of life. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen for highlighting some of the Bill's anomalies in relation to petrol forecourt shops and motorway service area shops. If the Bill were passed unamended it would be very much more difficult for ordinary people to travel by car on a Sunday because there would be far fewer petrol outlets and far fewer shops on motorway service areas for chance purchases.
If the Bill were passed unamended, people could forget the idea of buying fresh fruit and vegetables on a Sunday because greengrocers would be forced to close. They could also forget the idea of doing any DIY on Sundays and could find, as I frequently do, that they are short of a screw—[Laughter.] Following Mr. Kelvin MacKenzie's evidence to the Select Committee on National Heritage yesterday, I see that Camillagate has had a greater effect on the House than was originally anticipated.
Under the Bill, DIY stores would be closed and the practice of DIY, which is commonly carried out on Sundays, would be severely limited. Markets would also have to close and, certainly in my constituency, markets are extremely popular on Sundays. Under the Bill, a total of 145,000 shops in England and Wales which now open on Sundays would be forced to close.
Time is short, so I shall leave it to colleagues to deal with the impossible burdens that the Bill would place on local authorities and businesses. A vast bureaucracy would be established merely to enforce what are, in essence, unenforceable provisions.
In conclusion, I shall describe, as I promised, the overall damage that the Bill would do to jobs. I shall read out and, if necessary, table a letter that I received yesterday from a constituent. The lady, who has asked that her name and address should not be used, lives in an area of my constituency which was a socialist fiefdom in local
authority terms until last May, when the people saw the light. It is one of the poorest areas of my constituency. My constituent writes:
I am a mother of two children aged 4¼ and 2½ and I am expecting a third child in April. I work in Asda, Cribbs causeway, Bristol on Sundays. I intend to return to work again after my baby has been born. I am a Sunday only worker. I work on Sundays, because I want the best for my children, not the worst. They have a lot more extras and holidays, clothes and outings and they wouldn't have had any of it, if I didn't go and work. When I leave the house on Sunday mornings I leave happy in the knowledge that my husband will be caring for them and that they will all enjoy some "quality time" together. I also get a well needed break from the children and household each week and I look forward to my own independent time … I don't believe in dumping my children on childminders to go to work in the week.
I see nothing wrong in anything that this lady says in her letter. Yet the Bill would debar her from the quality of life that she wants for herself and her family.
The Bill would arrogate to the House the right to determine employment patterns, business opportunities and trade. In a civilised and moderately free society, I do not believe that the House should have that right.
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) in his fairytale and, if I may say so, screwy misinterpretation of the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West made out a case for total deregulation—"Set the people free"—but his proposed deregulation would enslave many more people.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned ethnic minorities. I believe that one of the great virtues of the Jewish tradition is the tradition of family life—parents together with children. The Jewish community is one of those least likely to break the law, partly because of the strength of its family life. After all, it was the creation ordinance which set aside one special day, and that has had a profound effect on the Jewish tradition over the centuries. That one day set aside has a relevance for today. It is part of a pattern, and the Old Testament creation ordinance has a special meaning now, when there is so much social fragmentation.
I shall first consider the history of the Bill and the other measures to reform the clearly anomalous Shops Act 1950. In 1986 a miracle happened. The Government had a majority of more than 100, and the Bill was whipped—yet it was defeated, because the good sense of the people of this country, as reflected in the House, did not want total deregulation. The people realised that there was value in having one day set aside, away from the pressures and heavy rhythms of life.
Since then the Government have done nothing, and we have had the law breakers—those who have chosen to defy the 1950 Act. First, there was just a little defiance, on the four Sundays before Christmas. That reminds me of the housemaid's explanation: "It's only a little baby". Then the law breakers moved on from those four Sundays to total defiance of the law, with the acquiescence of the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General.
Then there was the reference to the European Court of Justice. Anyone who practises at the Bar, as I do, knows that that process is very tardy. Indeed, that was the motive behind the reference. There was no prospect of the European Court ruling against our practice under the Shops Act 1950. As has already been said, all the European countries except one have their own special legislation concerning Sundays, so there is no possible case for suggesting that our practice would be deemed to be in restraint of EC trade.
The motive behind the Government's acquiescence in the actions of the law breakers was an attempt to buy time and to create facts. That is part of the reason why I support the Bill.
I have been trying to restrain myself from intervening because I do not want to take time away from other hon. Members, but I must tell the hon. Gentleman that he is embarking on a course which he knows is wrong. The Government did not take the Sunday trading case to the European Court; it was referred there by the House of Lords, because, due to an earlier judgment by the European Court, the courts could not determine their judgments. The Government have always argued that our laws were on all fours with the treaty of Rome.
If the Government had been so concerned, they would not have said that the law was in abeyance; they could have supported the local authorities, which were frightened because of the potential financial impact on their poll tax payers. Instead, the Government said that they would not support Kirklees, Torfaen and the other councils, but left them to their fate in the certain knowledge that the local authorities would not be able to oppose the big boys, the superstores, the sharks who are happy to swallow up the minnows and the small people. The Government acquiesced in lawbreaking by not supporting the local authorities, which wanted to be protected about any costs that might have been awarded against them. The Attorney-General could have intervened and taken over the action on behalf of the local authorities. But the Government failed to do so; they acquiesced.
Is the Minister seriously suggesting that the Attorney-General could not have taken over the actions from the local authorities? That is nonsense. Is he seriously suggesting that the Attorney-General could not have said to the local authorities, "We are prepared to stand behind you and guarantee the costs that may be thrown away in a prosecution"? Of course he is not. The local authorities were left on their own, and because of the cost pressures they could not proceed in legal actions.
We now have a Home Secretary who, on his own admission, wants total deregulation. That has been the Home Office view ever since it got a bloody nose over the 1986 Shops Bill. The Government have acquiesced in law breaking, seeking to create facts, although they know that most people in this country do not want Sunday to be just like any other day. If we accept the Government's position and wait for a Government Bill, more time will have been bought for the big boys. Another year at least will go by, and another Christmas. Facts will be created and then they will say, "Look, that is the tradition. All the barriers have been thrown away." That is my charge against the Government—that they have acquiesced.
This is an all-party Bill. If I wanted to advance a conspiracy theory, I could say that we should consider the way in which B and Q finances the Tory party dance—and how the Tory party has danced to B and Q's tune thereafter—but I shall not go into that because this is an all-party Bill.
The substantial reasons in favour of the Bill are as follows. I believe that the mass of the people want Sunday to be different. They want it to be a time when the family can be together—husband and wife, or wife with her children, if she is a single parent. Deregulation would have profound effects on the family. In the public interest, the Government should do nothing to increase the pressures on families. Of one thing I am confident: total deregulation would being greater pressure on family life, greater fragmentation, and a great increase in the social problems that we face today. I am equally confident that there would be an acceleration in the closure of smaller shops and in the move towards out-of-town shopping, which has adverse social effects.
The Swansea Herald of Wales has carried out a survey of market traders in Swansea market. It shows overwhelming concern about the fact that families will be forced to work on Sundays. Their freedom will be diminished, yet the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West claims to be in favour of freedom.
The Government will put forward options after a decent lapse of time when the positions have been established. Essentially, there are only two options. The Shopping Hours Reform Council's proposal is not a realistic option. It is a slippery slope—a halfway house. The council wants total deregulation. It cannot have it directly, so it has put forward a proposal which it knows will slip from hour to hour to hour, in the way that the pub licensing provisions have. That is the council's motive.
By contrast, the REST—recreation, emergency, social gathering and travel—proposals, which are the foundation of the Bill, have a coherence and logic. More importantly, they have a stopping place, whereas under the Shopping Hours Reform Council's proposal it would be easy to say, "Just an extra hour: it does not really matter." It is what is called a creeping commitment in planning law, with the plea, "Just another house on this site."
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore and those who drafted the Bill, which has coherence and logic. More importantly, it accords with the spirit of what most people want. We do not want Sunday to be just like every other day of the week. Profound and adverse social effects will follow if we give the unfettered freedom of total deregulation, which the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West and his friends in the Shopping Hours Reform Council want.
Mr. James Coachman:
I am grateful to be called to speak in this important debate. You will have noticed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Shops Bill is No. 3 on the Order Paper today. It also seeks to bring some sanity to Sunday trading. I am the promoter of that Bill and if I talk a little about it, I hope that you will forgive me. I shall try to do so only in the context of this Bill. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on having come higher in the ballot than I did. If our positions had been reversed, we might have been discussing my Bill rather than his.
In 1986, when the Government introduced the Shops Bill, which was defeated on Second Reading, I spoke in favour of total deregulation. At that time, the only two options on offer were either total deregulation or living on with the inconsistencies and anomalies of the Shops Act 1950. In the past six years, other options have developed. The options offered by the Bill by and large carry on the restrictions and presumption to closure of shops on Sundays contained in the 1950 Act.
My Bill—I shall move its Second Reading if we reach that point today—presumes a rather different position. It presumes that shops will be allowed to open, with small shops opening over a wide number of hours on a Sunday and large shops opening over a far more limited period of six hours between 10 am and 6 pm.
One of the tests for any legislation should be that it will enjoy public support and confidence, that it will be easy to understand and to enforce where necessary, and that it will stand the test of time. I shall seek to prove that this Bill would not stand the test of time or fulfil the other two conditions, whereas my Bill would.
We have heard much about the anomalies in the Shops Act 1950 which have produced the present unsatisfactory position. The ludicrous anomalies include the fact that it is legal to sell partly cooked tripe, but not a tin of tuna. It is legal to sell fodder for mules, but not cat food. It is legal to sell bandages, but not nappies. It is legal to sell pornography, but not bibles. I remember the debate in 1986 and those positions were exhaustively debated.
If the Bill proceeds, it will produce a set of anomalies that are at least as confusing, complex and difficult as those contained in the 1950 Act. The Act is, without doubt, out of date. At that time, only 26 per cent. of married women worked. Now 70 per cent. go out to work. In 1950, most shop workers were full time, whereas most now are part time. Shopping has changed since 1950. Do-it-yourself centres and garden centres were unknown. Video shops and out-of-town shopping centres were unheard of. Since 1950, sadly, Christian religious observance has declined while that of Muslims, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) said, has increased.
There has been extreme difficulty in enforcing the Shops Act 1950. Some 145,000 shops are reckoned to open on a Sunday and almost all of them sell things that are prohibited under the Act. Only 4 per cent. of those 145,000 shops are large stores. It is overwhelmingly small and convenience stores that open on Sunday.
There are provisions about tourism in the 1950 Act whereby seaside towns have a limited exemption for shops to open during the summer season. Those provisions would continue under the Bill. The problem is that shops in Scarborough could open whereas those in York could not. Shops in Great Yarmouth could open, but those on the Norfolk broads could not. Shops in Margate may open, but those in Canterbury or Rochester may not. Shops in Torbay may open, but those on Dartmoor may not. That is clearly nonsense. I shall not go into all the anomalies in Bill which have already been listed.
The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms. Anderson) courageously made her stand against the Bill and she did so on a number of sensible grounds. She prayed in aid the letter from the general secretary of the GMB, John Edmonds. He is the representative of 60,000 shop workers, so the House should listen to his advice.
We have also heard of the inconsistencies in pharmacy. It is worth noting that many pharmacies are legally obliged to open on Sundays under NHS rota agreements with family health services authorities. A restriction to only two hours would often place pharmacies in breach of their obligation. The go per cent. threshold could mean that they would be excluded from opening at all.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West brought into sharp relief the question whether we would be able to buy family planning aids on a Sunday. We certainly should not be able to buy them from Boots, according to the letter that he and I received from that organisation.
The hon. Member for Ogmore stated that he was proud to declare his interest on behalf of the Union of Shop, Diestributive and Allied Workers. It is worth examining that point. USDAW represents many thousands of shop workers, many of whom will be disadvantaged if the Bill becomes law. That is something which we should all be well aware of in these days of difficult employment conditions. One hundred and forty thousand jobs would be at grave risk as a result of the Bill.
We have heard much about turning Sunday into an ordinary day. The charge is that if supermarkets opened, the high street shops would open and Sunday would be just another Saturday. That was the thrust of the comments of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). In that regard, I need simply refer to Scotland. There is total deregulation in Scotland. I would not propose total deregulation and I suspect that not many hon. Members would support it at the present time. Scotland enjoys total deregulation, but comparatively few shops—about 25 per cent.—actually open on a Sunday.
The hon. Gentleman gave the game away when he said "at the present time". With regard to Scotland, will the hon. Gentleman consider not the static picture, but the dynamic picture and consider how the number of shops opening has accelerated over the past few years?
I am told that over the past three years, when there has been an atmosphere of uncertainty about Sunday trading, just 2 per cent. of shops in Scotland which did not open on Sundays before 1989 have decided to do so. That does not reveal a great dynamic in terms of shops opening in Scotland. Scotland has had deregulation from time immemorial as I understand it.
My hon. Friend is taking great pains to criticise the Bill. However, he said earlier that he favours deregulation. Some of us believe that the proposals for the Shopping Hours Reform Council are deregulation by the back door. My hon. Friend is very honest. If he believed that total deregulation could be approved by the House, would he support it?
Yes, so long as there was a measure of worker protection. I want to make the position clear. My Bill on the Order Paper includes a substantial measure of worker protection. No one is compelled to shop on a Sunday and no one should be compelled to work on a Sunday. That is terribly important. I also believe that those who work on a Sunday should be rewarded with premium payments although I stop short of the position in the Shops (Amendment) Bill which prescribes double-time payment for Sunday working.
That provision would have an enormously detrimental effect on small shopkeepers who would find it very difficult to afford to pay double time as it is a very big premium. It is also worth noting that the majority of shops in Scotland open on the four Sundays before Christmas. That is their premium time. However, immediately Christmas is over, they return to their normal pattern.
It is an absolute myth that the majority of shops open in Scotland on Sundays. I live in Linwood and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that certain shops do not open. However, the experience with Sunday opening in Scotland is not happy. If I get the chance, I will explain that in detail later. We have lost thousands of shop workers' jobs in Scotland and many small shops have shut. I do not know whether that is the result of unfair competition.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will no doubt repeat that point later, if he has the opportunity to speak.
I do not want to take up too much time now, because it is just possible that we might reach my Bill and I will have to speak again when I move its Second Reading. I am also aware that many hon. Members wish to participate in this debate.
It was my considered view in 1986 that I would support total deregulation. I have changed that view to the extent that I would need to see worker protection written on the face of any Bill seeking to bring the Sunday trading regulations up to date. The Bill would have to be simple and easy to enforce and I was keen to ensure that in my Bill. That is why I have decided to include small shops up to 3,000 sq ft—as has been said, the size of the Chamber. That is the size of many convenience stores, which is rather more realistic than the 1,500 sq ft suggested by the hon. Member for Ogmore. Those shops could be registered easily with local authorities in case of a dispute because the Inland Revenue valuation office already keeps such figures.
Shopping has become popular. Many people shop on Sundays for the very recreation that the hon. Member for Ogmore included in his REST proposals. I am minded of the Sundays that I enjoy when I visit antique fairs. I do not look forward to those Sundays being prohibited by the Bill. Many hundreds of thousands—and perhaps millions—of people go to Sunday markets and to car boot fairs. They will lose that recreation on a Sunday under the terms of the Bill. Where both partners work, people may want to visit a travel agent or an estate agent on a Sunday either to book a holiday or to obtain house details. That will be prohibited by the Bill.
I conclude with the opinion of Eldred Tabachnik, who I believe is well thought of in Labour party and union circles:
The Bill is rife with ambiguities and uncertainties. The particular exemptions permitted and the division between exception and registration appear to have no coherent theme. And on crucial issues like the 80 per cent. rule and the effective scope of the registration provisions, the Bill provides no clear guidance for retailers.
That sums up very well why the House should reject the Bill. Although the hon. Member for Ogmore has given a generous promise of amendments in Committee, I believe that the Bill is fundamentally flawed. It is designed to close shops rather than to open them. The Bill should not receive its Second Reading today.
I disagreed with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), but at least I found his remarks far more logical than those made by the hon Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) who claimed to speak on behalf of that great city. He expressed concern about the commercial and tourist trades. He would have been far more plausible, at a stroke, if he had supported us when we fought to remove tolls on the Severn crossing. Those tolls are a positive deterrent to cross-channel trade and the reason why so few people from Wales now visit Bristol. They are also a major burden for people from Wales who work on the other side of the channel.
I recognise that the Sunday trading issue is very complex. I have noticed that many of the big companies have not been prepared to accept the law as it stands. Likewise, some of our local authorities have, for various reasons, been reluctant to take action against them. It has been said that the law is an ass. With such conduct on the part of the big companies, the law has certainly been undermined. As parliamentarians, we should certainly safeguard against that. There are anomalies in the list of goods which can be sold on Sunday. Overall, there is now a recognition that the Shops Act 1950 needs to be brought up to date.
The Bill introduced by my good friend the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) meets the needs of the day. My hon. Friend is a staunch trade unionist who hails from the Rhondda valley. Throughout his life he has fought for the interests of working people. I feel sad and disappointed that the trade unions have not been able to present a united front on this issue. There is something in the old adage: united we stand, divided we fall. That may be the case on this occasion.
It has been said that the Labour movement in Britain owes more to Methodism than to Marx. That may be so, but I know that in the Labour movement a person has the right to exercise his or her conscience. I intend to exercise my conscience today and vote in favour of my hon. Friend's Bill. What is more, many of my constituents have written, urging me to do so.
Does the hon. Gentleman not see the irony in that he takes upon himself the right to exercise his conscience and, by doing so, seeks to take away the right of citizens to exercise their individual consciences?
I have no wish to do that at all. I am here as the bona fide representative of the people of Newport, East and I have been elected on eight consecutive occasions at general elections.
I would not claim to be a devout Christian, although I attend church from time to time. However I do not wish to walk down the main street of Newport or of any other town in the United Kingdom and witness all the shops being open as they are on the other six days of the week. Over the years—indeed, over the centuries—the rhythm and pattern of our lives has been shaped by the seven-day cycle and the fact that one day of the week—Sunday—is different from the rest. To ignore and try to change that pattern can lead only to more stress and more nervous disorders, which are already prevalent in our society today.
Sunday is different, and long may it remain. It is a day perhaps for the family. I have been blessed, Mr. Lofthouse, with a happy family life.
Order. I hesitate to intervene. It is probably because we have spent so much time in Committee in the past week that the hon. Member has lost his way. With all his experience in the House, I am sure that he knows how to address the Chair.
We need to pay more attention to family values if we are to maintain the stability of our society. The partial breakdown of family life, together with heavy unemployment, has played a major part in the ever-escalating crime figures which give such cause for concern.
In conclusion, I fully realise the need to bring the law up to date. In that regard, the principles of the Bill are worth supporting: first, to guarantee a common day off for family and community activities, including church worship; secondly, to ensure rhythm in people's lives, balancing work and recreation; thirdly, to protect vulnerable sections, the retail work force and those employed in ancillary services, from pressure to work unusual hours.
We had an important case in Newport only a matter of weeks ago when Spar grocers insisted that their work force work until 11 o'clock at night. When the workers objected, they were arbitrarily dismissed. That is the reality of the matter as I see it.
I can support the principles contained in my hon. Friend's Bill with a clear conscience. I will be supporting the Bill in the Lobby this afternoon. The second Reading is essentially a debate on principle. There can be no mass adjustments in the Committee on the Bill, but the principle overall is a good one. Keep Sundays special is a declaration which the House should wholeheartedly support.
I hope that it will assist the House if I intervene with a Government view at this point. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)—I am sorry that he is not in his place to hear this—on winning such a high place in the ballot for private Members' Bills and on the sincerity and humour, which I much enjoyed, with which he introduced his Bill this morning. It was natural and right that he should devote his opportunity to Sunday trading because I know, having listened to him before, that he has taken a long, close and principled interest in the issue.
Like the rest of us, the hon. Gentleman feels that the Shops Act 1950 is outdated. Again like the rest of us, he is deeply concerned that it is so little respected, so widely disregarded and difficult for local authorities to enforce. Like him, the Government and, indeed, the whole House believe that it is high time that the issue is resolved so that the law is clear, commands general respect and can be effectively applied. Where views diverge is how that is to be achieved.
My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), whom I am delighted to see in her place, made an excellent and thoughtful speech. She voluntarily spent much time trying in vain to create common ground between the different campaign groups.
Similar differences of view are to be found on both sides of the House. That is why the Government are taking the unusual course of preparing a Bill which will put before the House the three main options for change—the Scottish option of total deregulation, the Shopping Hours Reform Council scheme and the Keep Sunday Special model. The options have established support in the country, in the retail trade and in Parliament. The House can examine them, contrast them and compare their likely effects before coming to a conclusion.
We are working on that Bill now. The speed with which it will be completed depends very much on what prompt guidance and clarification the Shopping Hours Reform Council and the Keep Sunday Special campaign can give us about their detailed intentions, as compared with their well-understood, overall objections, so that we can reflect them accurately in the drafting of the Government's Bill. I shall be disappointed if we cannot have our Bill ready in a few weeks so that if a legislative opportunity presents itself this Session, we can take it. That is what I and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary would like to do. But I have to tell my hon. Friends and the House that the overhang of business currently before the House is such that I do not hold out much prospect of introducing the Bill before the beginning of the new Session in the autumn.
It is important that this point is clarified beyond any misunderstanding. Can we take it from what my hon. Friend has said that there is no realistic chance of the Government's Bill being on the statute book before next Christmas?
It is extremely unlikely, but I never give up hope.
Today we are debating not the Government's planned Bill, but the Bill which the hon. Member for Ogmore has presented to the House today. As the hon. Gentleman made clear, it is very much the Keep Sunday Special option. It is on that Bill and that option that I shall concentrate during the rest of my speech. I do not wish to range too widely. As I have just said, I shall not seek to respond to the points made during the debate, much as I am tempted to do so, because I am aware that many right hon. and hon. Members are anxious to take part. I, for one, should like to hear all of them before we come to a conclusion at 2.30 pm.
The overall objective of the Bill is to keep Sunday as a special day—at least as far as retailing is concerned—but to make fair and reasonable allowance for shopping activities that the hon. Gentleman regards as consistent with the specialness of Sunday by allowing smaller shops to remain open on Sunday to sell goods required for recreation, emergencies, social gatherings and travel.
Large and medium-sized foodstores, DIY shops, carpet and furniture stores of any size will be shut. For some purposes listed in schedule 1 an outlet of any size may open to sell only petrol, or only medical and surgical appliances. Off licences, restaurants and take-aways may also open. That is a clear and very limited list, to which is added another category which may prove to be anything but clear and not nearly as limited as the hon. Member intends. That is any shop situated at a railway, bus or coach station or in the terminal buildings of a harbour, seaport or hoverport.
I suspect that the hon. Member may be surprised at the vigorous retail development that he may unleash at such travel points if his Bill becomes law. The parade of shops at Victoria station may give him a restrained pretaste of what could be in store.
Elsewhere only some shops of less than 1,500 sq ft may open on a Sunday. That is shops of, say, 50ft by 30ft or less. Anything larger will have to shut. That size limit is clear—although I think that there will have to be a more detailed definition to determine whether, for example, the Bill means selling area or includes store rooms.
What is less clear is which small shops will be able to open under the categories set out in schedule 3. I take it that the hon. Member for Ogmore and his friends have sought to get away from the Shops Act 1950 list of goods which may be legally sold on Sundays and which has created so many anomalies and excited so much derision, and to restrict in future by the type of business that the shop does.
We can all sympathise with that objective, but the hon. Gentleman has set himself a deceptively hard task of devising a formula that effectively permits the categories that he thinks should be free to open to do so, without creating massive loopholes through which every other small retailer can scramble. He has sought to do that by permitting to qualify for opening on Sunday only those small shops that have 80 per cent. of their annual turnover from products listed in one of the categories in schedule 3. I realise that that is to ensure that a store which, for example, sells mainly carpets but also stocks some confectionery and magazines cannot pass itself off as a newsagent.
However, if I have understood the hon. Gentleman's intentions aright in his anxiety to prevent abuse, I fear, like the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms. Anderson), that he will find he has shut many more small shops than he expects. To take the first category in his list, I suspect that many small shops that seek to trade as convenience stores will find that more than 20 per cent. of their turnover is in goods other than those in the very short list in schedule 3. What about light bulbs, for example, or fuse wires to go with domestic cleaning material? I realise that any list will create anomalies. They cannot be avoided with any restrictive law. However, most successful small convenience shops, which effectively serve local community needs, generally cover a wider range of goods than he allows. Of course, they will not be able to restrict their range on Sundays, like such small shops which currently obey the 1950 Act, because the test will no longer be what they sell on Sundays but what proportion of their trade in the past year was in the permitted goods—80 per cent. is a high threshold.
Again, I should be surprised if the hon. Gentleman's Bill did not close a large number of newspaper shops that now legally open. For under his newsagent category, 80 per cent. of an eligible newsagent's turnover in the previous year must have been in newspapers, magazines, stationery, tobacco and confectionery. Many small shops, thinking themselves, and being thought of by their customers, as bona fide small newsagents, will find that more than 20 per cent. of their turnover had been in other products. They will nevertheless have to shut.
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Ogmore and his friends have done any formal study or research to determine what the impact will actually be. I am merely giving voice to my expectations, having read his Bill with great care. But the Government intend to publish alongside their own Bill a formal critique commissioned from London Economics as to the general effects of reform, so that before Members vote on the Government Bill, they can see what they are letting their constituents in for. I shall seek to ensure that we can throw some objective light on the questions that I have just asked.
I have worked with the Minister for several years and I have always found him amiable and helpful. The Government have made promises on the REST proposals of the Keep Sunday Special campaign. I hope that help will be forthcoming even though the Government have their own option of total deregulation.
The Minister has made nit-picking points about our proposals. Only this week the Library produced a study for me of the number of amendments that the Government table on their own Bills immediately after they are presented on Second Reading. I shall not go into the figures. They are formidable. On the monstrous Bill on which we have had all-night debates, the Government tabled some 400 amendments. There is no doubt that my Bill is far more controversial than the Maastricht Bill. [Laughter.] But the Minister should have listened to my opening remarks. Of course, Keep Sunday Special is prepared to listen to all his arguments in Committee. The Sunday trading shops unit that he has just set up could have been set up six and a half years ago. The 42 paragraphs are being looked through and Keep Sunday Special's legal advisers have the answers to most of his questions.
I shall come to some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned. Of course, we shall co-operate with Keep Sunday Special to ensure that the campaign's objectives are properly reflected in the Government Bill. I do not accept, however, that I am nitpicking, because cumulatively my arguments go to the heart of the Bill and what it will mean in practice. I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's opening speech and I hope that he will listen to me and read mine. It is supposed to be helpful to his campaign so that the legislation can be drafted in a form that meets its intentions and the House can vote on them, rather than voting on measures that they do not intend, which would happen with the present Bill.
During the time that that exercise is carried out, until the Government Bill comes into operation some time in 1994, are the Government prepared to countenance continued law breaking?
The hon. Gentleman knows very well that the present law is crystal clear on one point. The enforcement of the law belongs to local authorities, which have a duty to consider a number of factors and the best way to enforce the law in their area. It is difficult for local authorities to enforce the law when this legislation is before the House and it is apparent that the Government intend to introduce legislation. At present, it is up to the local authorities to decide and until the law is changed that is where responsibility must finally lie.
I shall not give way again because I have done so too many times. I am conscious that other hon. Members wish to speak and that I should help the House to come to a sensible conclusion by making other matters clear.
I shall take one more of the seven categories in schedule 3. Souvenir, postcard and fancy goods shops of the sort that cater for tourists may open, according to the Bill, if their turnover is at least 80 per cent. in the permitted range of goods and if they are situated in a seaside holiday area. That would mean that such shops would have to close in inland holiday areas such as Bath, Harrogate or London, which attracts more tourists than any other part of the country. In summer, it is hardly possible to move along the pavement in Westminster, so great is the press of foreign visitors. I wonder whether the hon. Member means to discriminate in that way.
The 80 per cent. rule will also close a great many garden centres, as has been said this morning. Power tools, lawn mowers, garden furniture, paving stones and sheds will, in many cases, make up more than 20 per cent. of their turnover during the year. Their representative trade body believes that closure will be the result.
Again, I wonder whether the hon. Member can tell the House what studies have been done. Can he enlighten the House as to the proportion of garden centres that he will be closing? It is an issue which the Government hope to be able to illuminate with some objective data when the Government Bill comes before the House, as we believe that it is essential for information of that type to be available if hon. Members are to come to an informed conclusion.
Apart from the uncertainty of the effect, to which I have referred, there is a practical difficulty with the qualification tests. Shops would need to keep special records specifying turnover in particular goods for particular periods. Many do not keep such records at present. Shops with computer-operated tills would probably have no great difficulty in doing so, but that means that the Bill discriminates against small traders, which the hon. Member rightly wishes to encourage.
Local authorities will be obliged to collect turnover data and process it, because they will have a duty to enforce the Bill. That would be a considerable bureaucratic task and the cost of that bureaucracy would be passed on, through shopkeepers, to customers.
I must mention another area of uncertainty. The Bill gives local authorities discretion over whether to permit registration for opening. That could close all shops, apart from the few listed in schedule 1 to the Bill. Local authorities would be able to decide whether to permit general convenience stores, newsagents, video hire shops, and shops at galleries, museums and zoos to open on Sundays. Some—no doubt most and perhaps all—would register those shops that met the basic criteria in the Bill, but others might take a more stringent attitude and could, as the Bill is drafted, be fully within their rights to refuse registration for reasons that have nothing to do with retailing, or for reasons that are outside the shopkeeper's control, such as litter. That could easily lead to variations in the application of the law within and between authorities. Similar competing businesses could find themselves subject to different decisions.
No, I shall not give way as I must make progress.
Local discretion is a valid approach, but the way that the Bill is drafted could result in shopkeepers changing the thrust of their marketing to meet the turnover requirement, install complicated machinery to measure turnover in the way required by the Bill and even shift walls to fit into the space requirement, only to find that, having done all that, the local authority turns down their application for registration for entirely unconnected reasons.
There is another effect of the Bill to which I should draw attention. It uses an entirely new definition of a shop. The perfectly valid and understandable aim is to ensure that estate agents, travel agents and perhaps some businesses offering financial services—such as insurance brokers, banks and building societies—should no longer be able to trade on Sundays. But, in doing that, the hon. Member has also brought within the ambit of the Bill a wide range of other businesses. Those include osteopaths, dentists and doctors, accountants and lawyers and could even take in breakdown services such as the Automobile Association. I very much doubt whether that is the hon. Member's intention, as many such businesses offer essential emergency services. But that is, I believe, the effect of the Bill as drafted.
The hon. Member is rightly concerned that local authorities should neither be out of pocket nor make a profit from operating the registration scheme required in the Bill. The Bill therefore provides that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary should set fee levels for each local authority separately, so that each recoups its costs but no more. To do that, it would be necessary to collect very detailed expenditure information from each local authority with a responsibility to enforce the provisions of the Bill, to process the data and predict what the likely volume of business for each will be in the following year. That would constitute an expensive and unwieldy bureaucracy.
The hon. Member intends to provide local authorities with penalties which have real teeth. Under the Bill, shopkeepers trading in defiance of its provisions could go to prison for up to a year. I am sure that many hon. Members will agree that the penalty is disproportionate. It is contrary to the widely held view that imprisonment should be restricted to violent and persistent crime where there is no alternative. It cannot be right that a shopkeeper should be liable to a stiffer term of imprisonment for opening his or her shop on Sunday than if he or she were to assault a police officer in the execution of his duty.
No, I shall not give way. As it is, there are a number of other issues that I would have raised had I not already taken more time than I intended.
I began by congratulating the hon. Member for Ogmore and I did so sincerely—I realise that, as much of my speech has been critical of his Bill, my congratulations may not have seemed sincere. The hon. Gentleman seeks to legislate on a notoriously difficult and complex subject. It is right for me to explore some of the problems inherent in his approach before the House comes to a decision.
Earlier this week I was delighted to receive a letter from Dr. Schluter—to whom the hon. Gentleman paid tribute—confirming that the Keep Sunday Special campaign will work with officials at the Home Office to help us to give clear legislative effect to the intentions of the Keep Sunday Special campaign section of the Government Bill. I hope that, by highlighting some of the problems, I have assisted in that process. It will not serve the interests of the Keep Sunday Special campaign if its model is widely seen to be inoperable or flawed. It will not help the Government satisfactorily to resolve the general issue if they know that, should the House choose it, one of the models in their Bill will have to be heavily amended to make it work. Much more drafting attention and thought must be lavished upon the Bill if it is to be coherent legislation giving full effect to the hon. Gentleman's intention.
I am encouraged by the fact that the hon. Gentleman has said that he is prepared to be flexible. However, the changes that are needed are more than can easily be managed in Committee on a private Member's Bill. As I have said, the best way to untie the Sunday trading knot is to examine and debate the competing solutions that will be on offer in the Government's forthcoming Bill. The hon. Member for Ogmore has been instrumental in bringing about a useful debate and for that I and the House are very much in his debt. I hope that he will agree that the best course is the one that I have suggested and that he will not press his Bill to a Second Reading so that it can rematerialise more perfectly drafted as part of the Government's options Bill.
The Minister suggests that we should not press the Bill into Committee. I intend to do so. A booklet published by the Library on Shops Acts and their history since 1667, when the first such Bill was introduced, shows that most were private Members' Bills. Perhaps the Minister will remember that before he rejects the Bill.
I appreciate that the Shops Act is very much the product of private Members' efforts. Perhaps that is why we are in such difficulties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I entirely understand why the hon. Gentleman wants to press his Bill to a Second Reading, but I hope that he will reflect on what I have said and not seek to do that. By following my suggestions he will not merely expedite the business of the House but will do a practical service for his own cause.
I join in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on his success in the ballot and on his persistence in trying to bring new regulations to the chaotic practice of Sunday trading. My hon. Friend teased me at the beginning of his speech. I told him in advance that I would not be able to support him in the Lobby. A private Members' Bill is subject to a free vote and in due course I shall explain the tradition of the Opposition Front Bench in the matter.
I have great sympathy with the sentiment that Sunday is special. I like nothing better than to lie in bed on a Sunday morning feeling that I have no reason to get up and wishing that everyone else had the same choice. I would prefer that people were not rushing off in their cars and that there was still a sense that Sunday was a day of rest. However, I am in a minority.
It is quite clear that the major changes in our society that have led to the commercialisation of Sunday have not been democratically decided. None the less, most people are positive in their acceptance of a changing way of life. The House should be in no doubt that Sunday trading debates, while focused on the regulation of shopping hours, reflect major changes already under way in society and have far-reaching implications for its future development.
Sadly, there has been far too little effective democratic debate and control over the nature of urban development in the past 30 years. Much of the changed way of life that we experience today has been dictated purely by commercial considerations by big companies. In 1950, when the Shops Act came into force, there were just under 700 supermarkets of more than 2,500 sq ft. Today there are more than 700 of more than 25,000 sq ft each. In 1950 there were 145,000 independent grocers. Today there are just 35,000. Some 30 years ago there were no do-it-yourself shops, no shopping centres or garden centres, and no video shops. As hon. Members have said, there has been a massive growth in out-of-town sites, with all that that implies for town centres, traffic flows, pollution and private car use. Decisions on where and how we shop have largely been made for us by the retailers, but when we shop is still subject to some controls. We cannot allow purely commercial interests to dictate the pattern of change.
I am very interested in what the hon. Lady says because many hon. Members who represent urban constituencies will be aware of the public anger that is caused by, for example, applications to develop new supermarkets. An application has been made for a new supermarket in my constituency. If the hon. Lady is saying, as I take it she is, that the Opposition intend to look at proposals for changes to the planning law, or to other areas of the law that affect these developments, may I ask her to make those discussions, on a genuine cross-party basis, as open as possible, for they are ones in which both sides of the House will wish to join?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I do not disagree with him.
I referred to the purely commercial interests that have dictated the pattern of change. Many of those commercial interests have in recent times attempted to dictate the pattern of change by flouting the law. It would be wrong if their actions were to find easy acquiescence in the House. We have a duty when debating the Bill to reflect not just on how things are and how they have changed but on the consequences of further change.
Those who have campaigned locally against the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore and those who have signed petitions opposing the loss of Sunday trading at their local supermarkets are making a judgment about the current state of affairs. Today, only a minority of large shops in England and Wales open on Sundays. Those who work on Sundays and those who shop on Sundays may well be satisfied by the present arrangements, but their views cannot be interpreted as support for new laws to give all premises the right to open on Sundays. Although people may oppose the loss of a facility, which would occur under the provisions of my hon. Friend's Bill, they may thoroughly approve of the fact that the majority of retail outlets still remain closed.
I believe that any decision of Parliament on Sunday trading will have a profound effect on our quality of life. Whatever the change, there will be an impact on working practices, on social life and on local environments. It is for that reason that Opposition Front-Bench Members believe that the matter must be decided by Government legislation, to be decided by the whole House on a free vote. That is why I shall abstain today.
No, I do not have time to give way.
I am outraged by the Minister's complacency in his acceptance that it will not be possible to bring legislation before the House this Session. We see it as our task to try to ensure that it does come before the House this Session and that the Government bring forward real choices, accurately representing the three or even four options that have been worked through by the pressure groups.
Is my hon. Friend saying that Opposition Front-Bench Members oppose the Bill, not because it could easily be amended and not because there would be a free vote—hon. Members are perfectly capable of making up their own minds, if given the opportunity—but because the Government have not introduced a Bill outlining their alternatives and that even if we have to wait until another Session for the introduction of such a Bill the view of Opposition Front-Bench Members is that nevertheless we should not take a decision today?
We believe that the issue is so complex that the matters that need to be debated should be debated in Government time, when we could expect the participation of all Members of the House; but I repeat that we believe that the process must be undertaken on a free vote and that all stages of the proceedings should be conducted on that basis.
I am sorry, but I intend not to give way, or Back-Bench Members will accuse me of having taken their time.
Let me now refer to some specific aspects of my hon. Friend's Bill. I want to spell out some of the consequences of the Bill, and in so doing I might appear to be critical, but that is inevitable when a measure reflects only one aspect of the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend on fitting his proposals so neatly into the REST acronym. There is good sense in legislating for the opening of a range of outlets which clearly facilitate leisure activities, allow for emergencies and enhance social gatherings. No doubt all hon. Members envisage my hon. Friend's immense difficulties in deciding what should be exempted from the general prohibition on Sunday trading and what should not.
However, sadly, anomalies exist, particularly with regard to the list of goods and the 80 per cent. rule. Perhaps the greatest anomaly for the REST proposals is the exclusion of DIY centres. For many people DIY is a source of recreation, and there is clearly a proven consumer demand. Furthermore, the opening of DIY stores on Sundays offers a chance for families to shop and enjoy DIY together. I can readily understand my hon. Friend's difficulties in that respect. If a large DIY store is to open on an out-of-town site on Sundays, then why not the adjoining supermarket? I appreciate that that would appear to be the thin end of the wedge, but I have no doubt, either, that there will be considerable public anger if DIY stores that presently open on Sundays were to be closed. I am sure that the whole House will welcome the fact that my hon. Friend has accepted the need to examine that issue again in Committee.
The Bill attempts to protect small shops—a laudable objective with which most of us would agree. But there are those who regard themselves as owning small shops, such as relatively small grocery stores, and they are probably so regarded by the public. They would be obliged to close because they had a square footage slightly in excess of 1,500. Again my hon. Friend is well advised to accept the need to re-examine those space distinctions in Committee.
Although I felt it necessary to point out some of the difficulties, I acknowledge the extent to which my hon. Friend has obviously tried to balance different interests. We very much support and endorse his concern for those who work or might be pressed to work on Sundays. The position of the retail work force is crucial to the debate, but in order to put my remarks into context I should like briefly to consider current working practices in Britain.
The normal working day of nine to five is now a minority activity, involving 41 per cent. of men and a mere 26 per cent. of women. Both sexes now enter the work force later and leave earlier. Working patterns have been further radically transformed by the change in women's work. In 1950, only 26 per cent. of married women worked outside the home. Today the figure is 70 per cent. Also, 25 per cent. of the British work force now work part time, and 45 per cent. of working women are part-time workers.
There are many implications. For some people it is a matter of survival in a recession, taking the only work that is available to them, but for others it is a matter of choice. Part-time work often means work of lesser status, poorer promotion prospects and lower pay. Whatever the cause, the consequences of changed working patterns are important to the debate and are reflected, too, in changed domestic patterns, not least opportunities and time for shopping as consumers or working as retail staff.
In my experience, those who work on Sundays for companies such as Tesco with a recognised trade union do so voluntarily. They are paid double wages and they find the atmosphere in the shop more relaxed on Sundays. Many are young people without family responsibilities. But even women with families, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms. Anderson) pointed out, admit to welcoming a few hours out of the house, leaving father to take charge of child care for a change.
Statistics are difficult to come by and are subject to challenge by rival camps, but it is possible that as many as 500,000 retail workers now work on Sundays and that as many as 140,000 of them could lose that opportunity if the Bill became law.
People today do not want a prescription for Sunday behaviour, but, clearly, they want choice. No retail workers should be forced to work on Sunday. We totally deplore the move by some companies to issue seven-day contracts, which give people no control over their working lives and which deprive them of the opportunity to earn a premium wage on a Sunday. Furthermore, a survey conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission found that more than half of the women respondents and a third of men would find it impossible or inconvenient to work on Sundays. That represents a powerful expression of public opinion which should be respected.
A survey conducted by the university of Stirling identified the prime reason for people's willingness to work on Sundays—premium pay. Without that, those who work on Sundays today would be unwilling as the rest of us to do so. I warn those who are enthusiastic for liberalisation that they are unlikely to find any support on the Labour Benches unless the rights and potential rights of shop workers are protected.
It is important that we make the position clear. My hon. Friend said that those on our Front Bench have decided that they would prefer this matter to be dealt with by Government legislation, subject to a free vote. However, we have had no clear Government statement as to whether they are prepared to give a free vote on the question of employment rights and employment protection. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend will make it abundantly clear to the Government that such a Bill would not be acceptable in any shape or form to the Labour party unless there is a free vote on employment protection. That condition is important bearing in mind that the Government have already decided to dispose of what little is left of the wages councils.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will also look up the wonderful speech that was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) in 1986 which led to the defeat of the Government Bill by 14 votes, with 72 Conservative Members voting against the Government. Perhaps my hon. Friend will then reflect and change her mind on the speech that she is making today.
I am aware, as I have already said today and on other occasions, that there will be support for liberalisation only, should that be the will of the House. That is the important issue. Support for liberalisation could not come from the Labour Benches unless it guaranteed employment protection. We have made that absolutely clear at all times.
I invite the Minister, if he would be so kind, to get to his feet now and tell us that if the Government offer the options to which he referred, and if they accurately reflect the views of the major pressure groups, in two out of three cases, they must and will contain provisions for employment protection. We suggest to the Government that they must conduct such proceedings only and properly on a free vote.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the Home Secretary said that there will be a free vote; that is on the record. We have pressed for clarification, and we want a free vote on every stage of the proceedings. The Minister seems to be refusing to get to his feet, and I am sure that hon. Members will take note and decide accordingly.
I was warning hon. Members who are enthusiastic about liberalisation of the unlikelihood of their receiving any support from my colleagues unless shop workers' rights, and potential shop workers' rights, are protected. I suspect that that will be anathema to the Minister whose colleagues have been so active in dismantling workers' rights and who, even now, in face of this debate, seek to remove the protective floor of shop workers' wages by abolishing the wages council.
I cannot because I should exceed my time.
While more people may be willing to accept more flexible working patterns, they do not expect to be treated as robots. The debate on hours and patterns of work is of Europewide concern. The European Community draft working hours directive is another possible influence on the "keep Sunday special" debate. The directive establishes a 48-hour working week, four weeks' paid holiday and at least 35 consecutive hours off each week. Predictably, the directive is being strongly resisted by the Government, but its significance for Sunday trading lies in the fact that it applies to full-time and part-time workers. There is a debate in continental Europe about whether the 35-hour rest period would cover Sundays.
Clearly there are many aspects of the debate that need to be pursued and which lie outside the scope of my hon. Friend's Bill, for example, the proposals of the Shopping Hours Reform Council reflected in today's speech by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), and the proposals of the OPEN Group which appear to be something of a compromise between the positions adopted by the Keep Sunday Special campaign and the SHRC.
There is also much concern and confusion in some sectors, exemplified by representations made to me on behalf of the Trustee Savings bank of anti-competitive practice that might become embodied in reform.
What cannot be in doubt is the long-overdue need to legislate. The Government have allowed themselves to become a laughing stock, with many of their closest political allies openly flouting the law. Sunday trading anomalies abound in the types of goods that can currently be sold legally in England and Wales and, most obviously, in the fact that over the border in Scotland any goods, with the exception of alcohol, may be legally sold on the Sabbath.
Profound changes have occurred in society since the Shops Act 1950 was passed, and it seems likely that a consensus for change now exists in the House. That consensus supports a more liberal position than that adopted by my hon. Friend's Bill, but only a further and more comprehensive debate in Government time can determine that matter.
In bringing us to this debate, my hon. Friend has provided an excellent opportunity for hon. Members to exercise their minds on this issue and for the public to be alerted to the complexity of reforming the law. I am particularly anxious that it is the public who will have been engaged as a result of our deliberations because a paradox must be resolved.
I have no doubt that most people welcome the opportunity to shop on Sundays, but, at the same time, they still feel that it is and should be a slightly different and special day. In our modern and multicultural society, Sunday's religious significance has been diminished; but for most families, it is still the day when they are most likely to spend some time together at a meal or in some shared leisure activity. For many town dwellers it is a day when the roar of traffic is somewhat diluted, and it appears safer to walk in the streets.
Although I do not believe that today is the day on which we can decide the weighty issue of Sunday trading, I seriously thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore for enabling us to have what I believe will be the first of many important debates on the subject.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and the sponsors of the Bill. The attitude of the Front-Bench spokesmen both for the Government and for the Opposition is to be regretted. I say that if we want a free vote on Sunday trading, today is the day to have it. Today is the day for the House to let the Front-Bench spokesmen on both sides know exactly what its feeling is. As one who helped to defeat the Government on their previous proposal for deregulation, I remind the Minister that the 14 Unionist Members of Parliament made up the majority at that time. I am glad that the House has learnt something from that experience and that we have the opportunity of the debate today.
After God created man and woman he gave mankind two gifts—first, the institution of a day of rest and, secondly, the institution of marriage. Neither of those gifts are negative; they are positive. I could say that Adam knew that they were very positive. He got a most beautiful woman as his wife and he had no mother-in-law. I am sure that he must have been very happy. Of course, Eve could have balanced that out by saying that she had no mother-in-law either.
Today I want to emphasise that man has a threefold relationship and each side needs to be fully catered for. He has a relationship to the world about him, a relationship to his fellows and a relationship to God. Except all three parts of man are fully catered for, he will not come to fulfilment or true, abiding happiness.
We should cherish and safeguard the cessation of our usual employment on one day of the week and the turning of our minds to things that are spiritual and bring rest and relaxation. That is for the benefit of all mankind, whatever their religious views may be.
This was said of a humble Back-Bench Member by the name of John Burns at the turn of the century:
He believed that the day of rest, commonly called Sunday, was the day which had done more than anything else to buttress and maintain that excellent institution called Home. Without Sunday the Home would cease to have that advantage which it had previously enjoyed, and no man could say that merely providing one day's rest in seven was as good as the universally accepted Sunday. In a word, the Sunday, as the day of rest, was from nearly every point of view a national treasure and an industrial advantage.
I fully endorse that statement.
A saying of Christ is often misquoted and misapplied with regard to Sunday observance. Christ said:
The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.
I shall illustrate the real meaning of that. When I drive on the road I drive on the left-hand side because the Highway Code says that I should. But if a child dashes out into the left-hand side of the road I immediately swerve to the right-hand side to avoid the child, because the Highway Code was made for man and not man for the Highway Code. Christ made it perfectly clear that there was to be a clear distinction on Sunday concerning the exemption of works of necessity and mercy. Those works of necessity and mercy can be done freely on Sundays.
To get the best out of life physically, time is needed for relaxation. It is imperative for us all to relax physically, mentally and spiritually. Stress-related diseases are very common today. It is necessary for us all to have a period of unwinding. The frustration of tasks of constant repetition, the weary demands of an executive position and the strains of family worries mean that we all require a time of cessation from labour.
God who gave us this ordinance know what was good for his creatures and we should rejoice in the opportunity of having rest. This commandment stands in scripture in the same category as the laws 'Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not kill". We should always remember this commandment's standing in Holy Writ.
A famous Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom wrote four lines that are as applicable today as they were when he wrote them:
A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content
And health for the toils of tomorrow;
But a Sabbath profaned, whate'er may be gained,
Is a certain forerunner of sorrow.
That Lord Chief Justice knew what he was saying many centuries ago.
I welcome the main provisions of the Bill. It proposes a substantial increase in fines for illegal Sunday trading. The law and order Government should deal with the law breakers. I am amazed by those in my city of Belfast who say that they are catering for the general public by opening on Sunday, yet who say to their employees, "You must work on Sunday. If you work on Sunday, we shall give you 50 per cent. cash discounts on all you purchase." That is bribery and a threat and it should be stopped.
If the Minister intends to wait another year before getting legislation on to the statute book, he must take measures to bring people in line with the law. The Government will put off legislation until people are agitating for shops to be kept open because so many of them are shopping on Sundays. A lobby is being created to help the Government to deregulate. That is the whole idea of putting off legislation time and again.
I welcome the inclusion of worker protection in the Bill, but I hope that we can introduce protection for those who seek jobs. If a person seeking a job is told, "You cannot have a job unless you work on Sundays", he is immediately ineligible for that job. I welcome the fact that the precise definition of shops and retail businesses is spelt out in the Bill and the fact that exemption will be made on the basis of type of shop rather than on the basis of certain goods. That is a valuable step. In many cases, the definition of shops and places of business that should remain closed on Sunday is right.
There are anomalies in all legislation and especially in this area. I am sure that those who oppose the Bill will latch on to and exploit every flaw that they can find. We had examples of that today from the hon. Members for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), and for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), from the Minister and, in some ways, from the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock).
There have been efforts to hatchet certain provisions in a way that is totally unacceptable to many hon. Members. The House should let the Bill have a fair wind. We should let it get into Committee and see what happens there. Who will lose by that? If the Minister is so eager to find out what Parliament thinks, he can help us to tell him today.
I close by quoting Lord Macaulay when he introduced the Ten Hours Bill. He said:
We are not poorer, but richer, because we have, through many ages, rested from our labour one day in seven. That day is not lost. While industry is suspended, while the plough lies in the furrow, while the exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from the factory, a process is going on, quite as important to the wealth of nations as any process which is performed on more busy days. Man—the machine of machines—the machine compared with which all the contrivances of the Watts and Arkwrights are worthless—is repairing and winding up, so that he returns to his labours on Monday with clearer intellect, with livelier spirits and with renewed corporeal vigour.
I suggest that we should have private Member's Bills on Mondays in future, instead of on Fridays.
As the debate has progressed, I have become increasingly impressed by the wide range of support for the Bill. That is not accidental and it does not mean that hon. Members are mellowing. I do not remember ever being on the same side on any issue as the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman)—
Perhaps that is a relief to both of us.
On this occasion, the support arises, not by accident, but because the arguments are so powerful. That is something that we should welcome. I welcome the fact that I could admire the words of the hon. Member for Lancaster.
The arguments for keeping Sunday special are powerful. Some of us have particular aspects about which we are especially passionate.
In that respect, I must refer to the sad and remarkable circumstances in which my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms. Anderson) was able to quote a trade union leader advocating that members of this place, including Labour Members, should enter the Lobby and oppose a Bill whose two main principles are that as few people as possible should work on a Sunday and that those who do should receive double time and real protection. It is particularly remarkable that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen could quote that trade union leader in the light of the unanimous decision of the TUC last September that Sundays should remain a rest day and that there should continue to be legal restrictions on Sunday trading.
I speak for shop workers, for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, and for the vast majority of trade unionists in this country. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), who called on the House to vote against the Bill because it called for double-time pay, wanted the House to listen to the words of John Edmonds. I look forward to a time when the hon. Member for Gillingham asks us to listen to a trade union leader again.
As president of USDAW, I can inform the House that we have about 350,000 members, the vast majority of whom work in retailing. I can therefore claim to know something about the subject. One particular aspect irritates me, and that is the problem with DIY.
It is no accident that the Bill does not include DIY stores. This is because of the nature of those stores. They sell a vast range of goods. If we include DIY stores in Sunday shopping legislation, how do we keep out the rest of the high street stores which sell articles such as curtains and lights? Once we allow DIY stores to trade, we enshrine unfair competition into law unless the provision is extended to department stores such as British Home Stores, to specialist shops and all the rest. I do not believe that a Bill should enshrine unfair competiton in law. That is why DIY stores are not included in the Bill. Garden centres are a different matter, and they are included in the Bill. We want garden centres to open. I want to be able to go to a garden centre; it is a day out.
No, I will not give way. I have not intervened at all because of time.
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) said that his life was enriched by taking his family shopping on a Sunday. I suggest that he gives up a couple of his other jobs and uses that time to take his family shopping. Clause 4(3) covers garden centres properly. If it does not, we will correct it. For goodness sake: garden centres are not the issue; the issue is the Keep Sunday Special campaign, the high street shops and the big stores.
We have been told that jobs are threatened by the Bill and that they will be created by Sunday trading; trade will happen on Sunday if it is legalised. It happens now, although it is illegal. Most people do not shop on Sundays. Trade is the key word. Trade will move; it will not increase. People spend what they can on the goods that they buy. I challenge any hon. Member to say that someone has come to his or her surgery and said, "I could not spend my weekly income because the shop was not open on Sunday." People come to my surgery and complain about their weekly income. They say that they cannot afford to buy the goods that they need. That is a different question altogether.
If we want to get rid of the recession, there are political actions which should be taken. The Bill is not about creating jobs. A large retailer tried to tell me—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen was present at the time—that there is a Sunday pound which one can apparently spend only on a Sunday. I throw that in to show the level of briefing given to hon. Members by opponents of the Bill. I have never seen a Sunday pound; there is none in my pocket or purse.
Trade will move. Some jobs will be created by Sunday trading, and people will be compensated for that increase in trade by losing their jobs during the week or having their hours compulsorily reduced. The effect of that will be a greater casualisation in retailing.
What do customers want? They want well-paid staff who have a real stake in a job and an interest. They do not want one-day-only workers. They do not want temporary or casual workers who are pushed into jobs or driven to them. They want well-trained, regular staff who have confidence in the work that they do. The Bill will help to maintain that.
Unregulated Sunday trading or widespread commonplace trading will lead to more casualisation. More casualisation will be to the dreadful disadvantage of trade unions, and John Edmonds should know that. Unregulated Sunday trading will lead to a worse service for customers. I object to both results. I favour the Bill.
As a Scotsman, I have shopped in a do-it-yourself shop on a Sunday. On a Sunday a couple of weeks before Christmas I tried to buy some glue to stick a plastic strip in my bathroom. I stopped a young girl and asked her whether she could tell me the appropriate glue to stick plastic strip. She said, "I haven't got a clue". She worked only part time and did not have any qualifications.
My hon. Friend has distinguished between casual, one-day only work and part-time work. My union organises part-time workers. They can be as regular and well trained as full-time workers. Casual workers cannot be regular and well trained by the nature of the matter. I shall explain to my hon. Friend later how he can ensure that he gets his DIY materials but not on a Sunday, even in Scotland.
My union organises shop workers in Scotland. Those workers are not happy about the situation in Scotland. They want protection. They want restriction. I would not have been surprised if our members in Scotland had gone to the rostrum at our annual delegate meeting and said, "We have to do it. Why should not people in England and Wales do it?" That has never happened. My union is united in its opposition to generalised Sunday trading in Scotland, England and Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, referred to a supermarket which trades on a Sunday and has a recognised trade union. Yes, it has. That union is my union. We represent our members when we say that the Opposition Front-Bench team should support the Bill today. I can tell my hon. Friend that some supermarkets and other traders who previously favoured keeping Sunday special have been driven into the opposite camp by unfair competition and the recession. That is no answer. My hon. Friend should listen to that recognised trade union and act on its advice. I am glad to say that a good many Front-Bench Opposition Members will vote in the Lobby for my hon. Friend's Bill. I am pleased about that.
I conclude by urging that everyone who is interested in trade unionism, worker protection and family life, and in keeping Sunday special, maintaining the quality of our lives and saying that there is more to life than buying and selling—let us have one day which is as free of it as possible—should support my hon. Friend's Bill.
I take a particular interest in the Bill and the whole issue of Sunday trading because I have the honour of being the parliamentary adviser to the Horticultural Trades Association. That is, of course, declared in the Register of Members' Interests.
The Horticultural Trades Association has among its members many thousands of people who operate garden centres both large and small. Under current legislation, certain of the items that they stock may be sold on a Sunday, although obvious anomalies exist. For example, one can buy a shrub but not the compost in which to plant it. One can buy a tree but not the stake that needs to be inserted at the time of planting.
The garden centre industry has developed enormously during the past 20 years. Many centres are now leading local leisure attractions, selling items which do not necessarily fit into the narrow category of gardening goods. However, in practice most local authorities treat garden centres rather than merely the goods that they sell as exempt from current Sunday trading laws.
The importance of Sunday trading for garden centres cannot be underestimated. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) express support for garden centres. The annual turnover of the industry was£800 million in 1991–92, of which 40 per cent. was earned on Sundays.
Gardening is a leisure pursuit in which people tend to indulge on their free weekends. People certainly want to visit garden centres on Sundays. Equally importantly, people want to work in garden centres on Sundays. There is never any shortage of applicants for part-time weekend jobs, or volunteers from the full-time staff.
When the Bill was first proposed by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), the garden centre industry had some difficulty with parts of it. We therefore met the hon. Gentleman to discuss our anxieties. I should like to put on record my gratitude for the way in which he was prepared to accommodate a great many of the matters that bothered us. I regret that he is not in his seat to receive that tribute.
I believe that when the hon. Gentleman drafted his Bill he had other sectors of retailing in mind and was anxious not to impinge on the widely acceptable activities of garden centres.
However, I have a number of worries about the Bill as it is drafted. First, on registration, I worry that the need to demonstrate that at least 80 per cent. of a retailer's annual turnover is in permitted goods will lead to greater form-filling and bureaucracy, especially for smaller centres which may not analyse sales in such detail. Small businesses need less form-filling, not more.
I am concerned about replacing existing anomalies with a new set. For example, it is proposed that establishments classed as farm shops will be allowed to stay open for longer than those classed as garden centres. Given that many goods, including plants, are common to both, that will give an unnatural competitive advantage to some outlets.
Further anomalies arise because of the mix of products included on the list for garden retailers. Garden centre operators will have to demonstrate that at least 80 per cent. of their sales come from goods on that list, yet there are some obvious omissions. The list does not include seeds, bulbs, garden furniture, barbecues, gardening books or conservatories and sheds, but those products form a substantial proportion of turnover for many garden centres and their exclusion will prevent firms from reaching the 80 per cent. threshold.
The employment protection aspects of the Bill are another concern. I am sure that the House will understand when I say that garden centres operate seven days a week, with the majority of trading taking place at the weekend. As I mentioned, in practice garden centres have no problems in recruiting people to work on Sundays, but allowing staff to opt out of working on the busiest day of the week would cause serious problems for the industry.
The fact that those genuine and important concerns exist, despite the generous concessions made by the hon. Member for Ogmore, demonstrates how difficult it is to legislate on Sunday trading. If one simply constructs a new list, one replaces one set of anomalies with another. The law would be set like a snapshot of a moment in time, unable to develop as markets develop, suffering from the problem that affects encylopaedias, which are out of date the moment that they are printed.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the Bill helps garden centres by preserving their position in the retail industry, which enables many of them to trade when other shops are prevented from doing so. For that reason, there is some merit in the Bill, especially given the sympathetic understanding demonstrated by the hon. Member for Ogmore towards representations from the industry. However, the Government have since published their proposals on Sunday trading, which must alter our view of the Bill. It is to the credit of the hon. Member for Ogmore that his persistence has contributed to the Government's move, but, paradoxically, the Bill has brought about its own prematurity.
It is only right that we should look to the Government to introduce legislation to deal with an issue that causes such strong feeling throughout the country. For that reason, I believe that we should not proceed with the Bill but should work on the Government's proposals. I hope that the Home Secretary will note some of the concerns that I have outlined and will be as accommodating as the hon. Member for Ogmore has been.
Perhaps you share my amusement and amazement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at the proceedings of the House this week. Perhaps it is because the Ulster Unionists have been asking for guidance, a lead and partnership that both the Government and Opposition Front Benches seem to be moving towards a Government of national unity. They seem to be working for their own ends and not necessarily for the well-being of the country. Therefore I speak in support of the Bill, so that the mind of the House, which represents the nation, may be made plain.
I understood the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) to say that she had seen the Government's proposal. However, I understood from the Minister that the Government were still working on it. Therefore, there is no reason for hon. Members to say that they will vote against today's Bill in light of the Government proposal, as they have not seen it. We have heard the suggestion that the Government may ask us to vote on three sets of proposals, but they have yet to introduce the Bill. We have a Bill before us which we can examine in Committee.
Some of the arguments deployed against the Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) have been specious. One argument was that, in a short time, the Bill would be outdated. The same hon. Member who said that was a member of the Government who introduced the Bill establishing the community charge. That legislation has not lasted for even five years, so it is illogical to suggest that we should not accept the hon. Gentleman's Bill because the evolutionary processes will make it outdated.
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) gave us an idyllic description of Sunday shopping as a family event. As he did so I was reminded of an article in one of the newspapers that described how a husband and wife in a supermarket had to chase their three boisterous children to try to get them under control. The husband said to his wife, "I told you that if we had more than two, we would be outnumbered and wouldn't be able to control them." Therefore, using illustrations of idyllic shopping on Sunday as an argument for not regulating Sunday trading does not stand up.
Arguments have been made for deregulation. Last Monday evening at a retail association reception, a spokesman said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had introduced 105 new regulations to take effect in retail shops. We cannot have it both ways—we cannot demand deregulation when it suits us and regulations when that suits us.
In supporting the Bill, I remind those who have spoken lovingly of gardens of the opening comment of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). It all began in a garden and, because of disobedience, the people got out of the garden. We should consider whether the discontent and growing lawlessness in this country might have been aggravated by the fact that, for years, the House and the Government have not ensured that the laws of the land are implemented. Our laws have been intact, but the Government have turned a blind eye, under the guise that they have to wait for European Court decisions. It was to the shame of the Government that they did not give an undertaking to local authorities that, had the European Court come to another decision, they would have bailed out the local authorities that were maintaining the law.
Therefore, we should bear in mind the quotation:
A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content".
Perhaps discontent arises because we no longer observe the Sabbath. Some people will suggest that the hon. Member for Antrim, North and I work on Sundays, so do not know what we are talking about. We do not work on Sundays, we worship on Sundays and say liturgies, which is a delight. We work for the rest of the week which allows us to worship on Sunday.
I ask all hon. Members to think of the leadership that they are giving to the country. One cannot serve God and mammon. The big retailers and multiples ask us to serve mammon. Although there has been some decline in religion, it would be wise for us to call people back to God.
I am one of the survivors of the 1986 debate on Sunday trading. Today's debate has been extremely lively, interesting and, at times, amusing and much good wit and humour have made it a delight. We have had some good speeches, not least that by the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) who, without a shadow of a doubt, delivered her best-ever speech. She was rumbustious and positive and I liked what she said. The speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) was also one of his best. It is always a pleasure to listen to the hon. Gentleman and he raised issues with which I and many other hon. Members were in agreement.
The House is divided on both sides and within parties and the only common ground is that the present law on Sunday trading must be changed. I am proud to be a Conservative Member, at times with a small c, because I believe that we should try to conserve the best of the customs, traditions of Britain and our heritage and I am loyal, I hope, to the traditional way of life.
The form of Sunday that we presently enjoy evolved over many years. During that time we have seen many social changes and Sunday has changed with them. The debate is about how to manage that change with least detriment to society as a whole. There are two stark choices—nothing in between. We believe either in total deregulation or in some form of regulation to protect the quality of life about which I have spoken.
I entirely agree with the many hon. Members who said that Sunday is the only commonly held day for family rest, recreation and worship which are essential in the busy, almost frantic lifestyle that so many of us live. There is a change of pace on Sunday which is conducive to refreshment of body and soul. If we throw that out, it will be detrimental to the people of our country.
Hon. Members have rightly mentioned the role of people who will be required to work on Sundays against their will. I accept that many women wish to work on Sunday and enjoy that opportunity. For example, many lonely widows would want that opportunity. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) read to us a letter from one of his constituents. The greatest and most valuable contribution that that lady can make to her family is her time so that children, father and mother can build up the relationship which in future will stand the children in good stead.
I know that those views are unpopular in this day and age, but I adhere to them. The deterioration in family life over the past two, three or four decades is currently exemplified by the lawlessness in society, the violence everywhere and the indiscipline of young people and adults. Without cohesion when children are being brought up, discipline or self-discipline cannot be imposed later in their lives.
As many hon. Members have said, Sunday, as the only commonly held day, is vital for such cohesion. The social changes consequent upon changing the trading patterns of Sunday may start slowly, but in due course we shall look back upon them and say, "Why did we allow this to happen in our name because it has changed once again the focus of family life to the detriment of community life and everything else?"
We have also observed the distortion in the retail sector over a considerable period of time. There have been many changes, including the change away from the high street towards out-of-town shopping centres. There has also been change within the food sector, with supermarkets becoming fewer in number and bigger and having a greater and greater market share, for all sorts of reasons. That is not, overall, in the best interests of consumers. Once again, may I express my conservative belief in a viable independent retail sector and in smaller family-run businesses that provide a good service.
We are all aware that the small corner shop has been hit by Sunday opening. We are also aware that families have a finite amount of money to spend. That finite amount is even more tightly drawn during a recession. Seven-day opening will result in costs and overheads rising. A further share of the market will be taken away from smaller retail outlets that may be unable to open or that may not wish to open on Sundays. That will eventually lead to consumers having less choice. There will be a reduction in retail outlets. There will certainly be fewer of the smaller and medium-sized outlets which need our interest and, to a certain extent, our protection.
The solution of those who favour total deregulation is that shops should be allowed to open for six hours. I am the first to admit that this appears to be a simple solution, but we must not be fooled by it. What they really mean is total deregulation. They believe that if the House were to pass such a measure, it would be the first acceptable step towards winning the bigger apple of total deregulation that is fully supported by many of the big multiples. They have generously funded a nationwide campaign to convert Members of Parliament, opinion-makers outside the House and others. By having been allowed to break the law, they are now able to turn round and say, "Look, so many people want to shop and so many people want to be employed on Sundays."
It is not good enough that the Government of the day, whom I support, have allowed that situation to develop. I deplore the way in which the big stores have flagrantly broken the letter of the law by opening on Sundays, to the detriment of their law-abiding competitors, which, in some cases, have been forced to join them in order to retain their share of the market and to prevent it from being further eroded. The simplicity of the six-hour solution must he seen through. It is a Trojan horse. No cast-iron guarantee can be given by anybody that the six-hour solution is precisely right. The Minister cannot give such a guarantee; nor can those who support the six-hour option. Frankly, it is worthless. What we are talking about is either total deregulation or some form of regulation.
There is much in our national life that is to be admired, the value of which is often not fully appreciated until too late. The traditional Sunday, which has evolved with social changes over the years, is one such example. Today we talk so often of the price of everything but rarely about its value. When the House makes its judgment later today, I hope that it will bear that point in mind and give a fair wind to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) so that these important issues can be fully debated in Committee and changes introduced, if the Committee so wishes. We shall then be able to resolve the difficulties that now face people over our Sunday trading legislation.
I commend the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) for making one point very clear, which is that what is on offer is an option to choose this Bill, on which we have a free vote, or a Government Bill on total deregulation and no employee protection. The House will have noticed that, in his Keep Sunday Special contribution, the Minister emphasised the retailing aspects of the Bill. He did not refer to the other aspects of the Keep Sunday Special campaign. We had to rely on the hon. Members for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) to tell us about the other aspects of keeping Sunday special, which are the religious aspects, the Christian ethic to which we subscribe, and the foundation of our society which has sustained us for so many years. The option is clear. We might wait for a year—it will certainly not happen this year or this parliamentary Session—for a Government Bill which will support total deregulation with no employee protection. That is what is on offer for the Opposition.
I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) for having to argue what she described as a principled abstention. Opposition Members do not believe in the concept of principled abstention. I sympathise with my hon. Friend because she had a difficult brief.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) for making that procedural point.
This is the "last chance saloon". Those words were not used by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) or by the hon. Member for Congleton, but they both said that this is our last opportunity to maintain and defend the traditional Sunday. That is what we shall vote on today.
The speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) was one of the most dramatic and exalting that we have heard. She referred to family values, employment protection and Sunday trading. Sparing the blushes of my own general secretary, Mr. John Edmonds, he has not understood that what is on offer for his 60,000 members is deregulation and minimum statutory provision. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) said that we should listen to Mr. John Edmonds, who has 60,000 members in the shops industry. Opposition Members wait to see how the hon. Gentleman votes on Third Reading of the Employment Bill, which abolishes wages councils. About 2 million women workers will be affected by that legislation.
Hon. Members heard the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) talk about women working. We have heard much about women working and about part-time working. However, we do not hear that it takes five years for a part-time worker to get to an industrial tribunal. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner), has tabled a motion and written a succinct letter to all hon. Members about that matter. A Minister has said that there will be a free vote on employment protection when, in Committee, he is abolishing the wages councils. Are we so naive after 13 years of opposition, that that is the route which we agree to go down? That is not the route which we should adopt.
I invite my colleagues to accept that the principles put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore are the only likely opportunity of bringing about the statutory change that we want.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore persistently said, this is a Second Reading debate. We are not in Committee, but the Minister fell for the trap set by his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), because he talked about the detail of the Bill. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West read from a letter sent out by Boots which contained a series of questions tabled by the company—it also answered them! The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West gave those answers to the House—I am sure that he had no intention of misleading the House, but that was the result.
This is a Second Reading on a Bill of principle. The Bill will be considered in detail in Committee when substantial amendments can be drafted—that is the purpose of Committees. The Bill represents our "last chance saloon" and we must support my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) said that he wanted hon. Members to declare their interests and I should like to declare mine. I do a seven-day-a-week job. I work in London for four days and for three days, except on odd Fridays like today, I am in my constituency also working. The only opportunity I get to do my shopping is on Sunday afternoons in Safeway in Lichfield.
The genie has been let out of the bottle and he cannot be put back. Sunday trading exists. Many people find it more convenient, as I do, to shop on Sunday than on other days, because that fits in with their lifestyle. If they did not shop, the stores would not be open.
Supporters of the Bill claim that it will settle the issue of Sunday trading. It will do no such thing, unless we define "settle" as meaning prohibit. It is generally agreed by hon. Members that four acid tests must be applied to all proposals for new legislation. They should be practicable, enforceable, acceptable and be able to command a majority in Parliament. The Bill fails each and every one of those tests.
When one applies the test of practicality, one looks for legislation that is necessary, fair and easy to understand. The Bill is unnecessary because its provisions will be included in one of the three options of the Bill that the Government intend to introduce. The Bill is unfair because, by imposing a set of arbitrary criteria on Sunday trading, it will force a large proportion of the 140,000 shops that normally open on Sundays, and which meet a real public need, to close. Many of those shops are small businesses that depend upon Sunday opening to keep afloat.
The Bill will have a severe effect on employment opportunities. It will deprive 120,000 workers of their Sunday jobs and cause many others to lose their premium payments for working on Sundays. Is that what the Labour party wants?
The Bill is complicated because it introduces a new set of anomalies and exclusions that are illogical and unrelated to the pattern of consumer demand. For example, the Bill would allow video hire shops and newsagents to open, but not those newsagents selling books or recorded music. It would therefore still be possible to buy a pornographic magazine or a pornographic video on Sundays, but not to buy a bible. So much for family values.
To enforce any Sunday trading legislation requires that the dividing line between legal and illegal trading should be clearly drawn, easily understood and straightforward to police. The perceived unfairness of the Bill would lead to widespread breaches of its main provisions. Local authorities would be faced with a task well beyond their resources and the Bill would achieve nothing.
What about acceptability? No doubt the Bill will commend itself to the vociferous minority who want to impose their views on the rest of us as to how we should spend our Sundays. The vast majority of ordinary people, however, are voting with their feet. Hon. Members will be aware of the MORI Poll which was conducted last September, before the Christmas rush, and which revealed that 67 per cent. of the public favoured liberalisation of the Sunday trading laws while only 12 per cent. said that they were against. A poll carried out last month in my constituency by the Lichfield Post showed that 84 per cent. of respondents said that they wanted shops to open on Sundays. The Bill would prevent that in the run-up to Christmas and all year round.
No, I shall not give way because other hon. Members wish to speak. I shall try to limit my speech to five or six minutes.
The Bill would prevent shops from opening in the run-up to Christmas and all year round. Hon. Members should go to a shop, go to a garden centre, go to a DIY store or a supermarket on Sundays to see for themselves what demand there is.
There is no Sunday trading law in Scotland or Ireland and many shops choose to stay closed. That is a commercial decision, but it is interesting that more people there worship regularly in church on Sunday than in England and Wales where there is legislation. Sunday is still special there.
Times have changed. We should not forget that more than 20 per cent. of the population work on Sundays and do not work regular hours. However, I sympathise with firms such as the John Lewis Partnership which has resolutely kept its department stores and Waitrose supermarkets closed on Sundays. Its integrity—as it sees it—has cost it more than £1 million a week in lost business. The partnership has remained closed because it believes that opening on Sunday flouts the law. Whether or not that is the case, I urge the Minister to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the necessity of passing legislation as quickly as possible. I do not want stores such as the John Lewis Partnership to be in the same position this Christmas as last Christmas.
Of course, existing shop workers must have their rights protected, but major trade unions such as the GMB support Sunday trading. I remind hon. Members that Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers is a minority trade union—fewer than 8 per cent. of shop workers are members. The days of old-time religion are, thankfully, not gone, but in 1993, the nanny state should not tell shops when or when not to open. Such edicts belong to the days of old-time socialism—may it rest in peace.
The description of the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) of his seven-day working and the burdens of shopping on Sunday would carry more weight if he were arguing that we should meet in the House on Sundays in order to free him to do his shopping during the week.
I declare with pride my interest as a Co-operative and Labour Member of Parliament and a member of the parliamentary committee of the Co-operative Union. The Co-operative movement's powerful and enthusiastic support for the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) reflects the interest of responsible employers for the community and employees as well as their own business interests.
I pay tribute to the many businesses and co-operatives which are included in the massive business support for the Bill. That must be put on the record. In the past few days we have had correspondence from the British Hardware Federation; Iceland has played its part; and we received an excellent letter from the John Lewis Partnership showing that the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals will lead rapidly to complete deregulation. A long list of businesses support my hon. Friend's Bill.
Any flaws in the Bill can be dealt with in Committee—arguing about the flaws does not come well from any hon. Member, because there is a chance to amend it, but it especially does not come well from the Minister. By their failure to act, successive Ministers have placed inordinate pressures on law-abiding firms. Sunday law-breaking is theft, and Ministers have condoned it. That is not good enough.
What we have heard today is a further abrogation of responsibility. The Minister said that we shall have to wait another year or so before we have Government legislation. That is a cop-out. The Minister should offer the help of his Department and the facilities of Parliamentary draftsmen to my hon. Friend to give the Bill a fair wind and make it as effective as possible.
Most people want Sunday to be a special day. Flexible hours of work mean that there are plenty of opportunities for people to shop on other days. However, two questions remain. First, where is one to draw the line? Like the SHRC, the Minister gives a series of quibbles which draws the thinnest of veils over the real intention of a total free-for-all which, in fairness to him, the Home Secretary has declared to be his personal choice.
The other consideration is how we ensure fair play not only for the community but for employers and employees. I remind hon. Members again of the words of Winston Churchill in setting up the wages councils. Without regulation, he said,
the good employer is undercut by the bad, and the bad employer is undercut by the worst.
Churchill went on to warn that without legislation things would get out of hand and said:
there is no reason why it should not continue in a sort of squalid welter for a period which compared with our brief lives is indefinite." —[Official Report, 28 April 1909; Vol. 11, c. 388.]
We face the same sort of choice today.
I ask my hon. Friends to bear in mind the fact that in the near future the last vestiges of the wages councils will come to an end. I ask them to look at what deregulation in practice, which has come about because of Government inactivity, has brought us already. If the Shopping Hours Reform Council and others tempted by that siren voice are serious in saying that they recognise the importance of employee protection, they must say unequivocally that the issue must be resolved before any of the Government's options are put before the House.
I sympathise with women who now work one day only at premium rates, but they would totally lose that freedom even more quickly if a defeat for the Bill signalled the onset of a free-for-all. That would be not freedom or liberalisation, but a new form of slavery.
This week I received a letter from my constituent Eddie McCarthy, chairman of the Cardiff branch of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. He wrote:
Some facts emerged from the first branch meeting since Christmas. Firms like James Howells and Woolworths did not pay double time for Sunday work, just single time and time off in lieu, at management's convenience, not the workers'. Howells recently forced all staff to sign an agreement stating they would be willing to work all bank holidays. Woollies are making all new starters sign agreeing to work for single time on Sundays and bank holidays. Anybody showing reluctance to sign is simply not offered a job. Another shop sacked three part-time ladies who refused to work until II pm—they were given two hours' notice of extended opening hours—and a pregnant girl was fired by one firm for refusing to work on Sunday. Of course, none of them had employment protection.
Those are the difficulties that we face already and that is why Eddie McCarthy wrote on behalf of his workers—he said that he could cite many more instances—to thank me for supporting the Bill and giving the same praise to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) for doing the same.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) waxed eloquent about freedom. She should reflect on the need to protect the freedom of employers and employees which was referred to by Winston Churchill. I regret that, although the right hon. Lady claimed objectivity when she was a Home Office Minister, the freedom of the Back Benches has revealed her as a member of what should be described not as the "Aye" lobby but the "I" lobby.
I am surprised that one or two unions have failed to understand that a free-for-all means exploitation. My union, the GMB, which has a fine record of social responsibility, has expressed views which I hope will be reconsidered.
A consensus that can protect the special nature of Sunday and extend freedom and responsibility is attainable. The Government have had their chance. Successive Home Secretaries have failed to take it. Today we have our free vote and we, as Members of Parliament acting as individuals—as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has acted as an individual in introducing the Bill—need to take the law into our hands. Let us take courage on behalf of decent retailers and those who work in the industry and on behalf of families and communities throughout the country. Let us give every support to the Bill; let us give it a Second Reading.
Those who, like myself, have sat through virtually the whole debate—I sadly missed 10 minutes of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman)—will agree on one point, which is that it has been in the high tradition of Friday debates in the House. It has been a spirited and at times a witty debate. Hon. Members have spoken with passion and eloquence, and differing views have been held by hon. Members of all parties. When hon. Members have sought to come to conclusions, they have done so on the merits of the case as they see them. I have always felt that some of the best debates take place on Fridays.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), whom I am delighted to call my hon. Friend on this occasion, has done the House and the country a signal service in introducing the Bill. I am glad to be one of the sponsors of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore and my fellow sponsors have done me the honour of asking me to reply to some of the criticisms of the Bill made during the debate.
I first make my own position plain. I am an unrepentant supporter of the Bill in its broad, general principles, because I do not believe in a high street Sunday. I do not want to see Saturday replicated on Sunday. There is something very special about Sunday. I do not speak from the point of view of one who goes to church from time to time. Whether Sunday is used to wash the car, to play with the children or to have an extended lunch—it is often the only day of the week when families sit down together to have a meal—or for any other purpose, it is a special day in most people's calendar. It is important that we should try to keep that special day.
In a good and eloquent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) referred to wanting to conserve the best of Britian, She made the point that she was using the word with a small "c". I believe that our British Sunday has a special character which is worth safeguarding. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton that one of the root causes of the problems in our society today—goodness knows, there are plenty of them—has been the progressive disintegration of the family unit over the past 30 or 40 years. Wherever we sit in the House, we look at that disintegration of the family unit with real regret.
As I do not want to go in for hyperbole, I do not suggest that by rejecting the Bill the House will drive a final nail into the coffin of the family—of course it will not—but it will be assisting in the process of disintegration, for the reasons I have mentioned. Sunday is still a special day for most families and it is the one occasion on which many of our constituents get together as families and share their thoughts and expectations, and enjoy themselves together.
There is another reason why I strongly support the Bill. I believe that one of the best things in Britain is the small shop. Those of us who represent rural constituencies know how important the village shop is. It is very important in my own village to local community life. If we close the village shop, we take part of the heart out of the community. The same can be said of the corner shop in many urban areas.
Anything that militates against the continuance of small businesses—this is the one party political point that I shall allow myself in responding to the debate—is profoundly inimical to the beliefs of our party. It is wrong for us to do anything that damages the small business and the specialised business. It is a joy to go into a shop where people know what they are selling and care about it. We have often been called a nation of shopkeepers. Shopkeepers should care about what they are keeping. It is difficult to have that care and concern in the enormous, frenetic activity of a huge superstore, whatever it sells. From that personal standpoint, I am delighted to give my support to the Bill.
As I have said, the hon. Member for Ogmore and others have asked me to respond to some of the criticisms. Those criticisms fall into two categories. First, there are those from colleagues such as my near neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), who are unashamedly libertarian. They believe that there should be no restrictions. I believe that they are mistaken. That philosophy sits ill with our own. However, I respect them for that belief.
I particularly respect my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire because, if I may say so without sounding unkind, he was the most brazen about it. He did not try to pick holes in the Bill. He was not concerned about faults in the Bill. He simply thought that it was wrong to regulate and he was bold enough to say so.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), I am a sponsor of the Bill. Is it not important that the House must decide on whether we want to preserve our Sunday through regulation? It may be complicated and troublesome to put the legislation together, but the alternative is deregulation under one guise or another. At least my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) was honest about that.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) has been able to make those entirely appropriate remarks because he has been in the Chamber throughout the debate.
Other of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) and for Gillingham, also strongly opposed the Bill. I do not blame them for attacking the Bill, but none of their criticisms could not be met with constructive amendments. Their root-and-branch opposition is, of course, a different matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West, confessed—and here I quote his words—that he was frequently a screw loose on a Sunday. If he wishes, he can table an amendment on DIY stores, secure in the knowledge that at least some of the Bill's sponsors would respond positively to such an amendment.
I should like now to move on to the criticisms that were levelled by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office. He sought to give us a detailed critique of the Bill. However, in response to an intervention, he honestly said that there was no chance of having a Government Bill before next Session. He acknowledged that there is virtually no chance of a Bill reaching the statute book before Christmas.
By the admission of my hon. Friend the Minister, the Bill is, broadly speaking, one of the three options that the Government will offer to the House at a later date. Therefore, why does not my hon. Friend accept the invitation offered from a number of quarters and provide the services of the Home Office draftsmen and experts and sit down with the Bill's promoter to consider the matter? Perhaps we could consider having a Special Standing Committee. If my hon. Friend the Minister were prepared to do that, it would be possible to iron out the anomalies, about which he quite understandably complained, and deal with them in good time and certainly well before Christmas.
A common thread of criticism in the debate has been a widespread sense of annoyance, and even anger, about the way in which the law has been flouted by some of the larger stores. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), who spoke from the Opposition Front-Bench, made an extraordinary speech because she placed her faith in the Government. From some points of view, that might be rather touching and appealing to hon. Members on this side of the House. In a debate on a Bill introduced by one of her colleagues, and a Whip to boot—I bet that she will have some very late nights in future—for an Opposition spokeswoman to say that she placed her faith in the Government without receiving any of the assurances that she sought is extraordinary. Why can she not, as my hon. Friend the Minister did, take part in discussions to iron out the anomalies and introduce some mutually agreed amendments?
The other common threads that have run through the debate fall into three broad categories. The first is those who are concerned that the restrictions on size are inhibiting. That may well be the case. The hon. Member for Ogmore made the reasonable point that the figure could be the subject of amendment, and so it can. My hon. Friend the Minister suggested that a Government Bill would get it right. As he has been reminded, it is not always the case that because legislation comes galloping out of the Government stable, it is pristine and perfect in all regards. I will not mention certain recent legislation which was perhaps less than perfect to emphaise the point. The issue of size can be dealt with.
It is clearly the intention of the hon. Member for Ogmore and his fellow sponsors of the Bill that garden centres should be allowed to continue to open on Sunday. It has been said that one is closer to God in a garden than anywhere else, so perhaps it is appropriate that garden centres should be open on Sundays. That is certainly our intention, and we wish to meet any valid objections by suitable amendment. In an eloquent persuasive speech, the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) said that DIY centres may present greater problems. I suggest to her that they are not insuperable problems. Once again, that matter can form the basis of an amendment to the Bill.
I simply remind all hon. Members in the Chamber, some of whom have not had the benefit of hearing the debate today, that, although only a relatively small number of Members will be on the Committee, all Members can take part in a debate on Report. My hon. Friends on the Front Bench can make another contribution by giving extra time for the Report stage if necessary so that the matter is got right in every aspect. In so doing, they will save Government time in the long run in legislation which will not be necessary next year.
My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton obliquely referred to Oscar Wilde without directly quoting him. When she referred to people who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing, she struck an important note. There is great value in our British Sunday and in small shops in the United Kingdom. There is considerable merit and value in the Bill, and I urge all hon. Members to give it a Second Reading; it deserves it. I believe that it can be improved in Committee.
We have a unique opportunity to get the law in order before next Christmas. It can do no hon. Member whatever his or her views, any good to connive, however unwillingly, at large organisations breaking the law. We know now beyond any peradventure that we cannot hide behind European cloaks. We know that our law is the law. It must be either enforced or amended. Here is a special opportunity to amend it sensibly so that we can set in order the law on Sunday trading for the next generation.
In her excellent speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) said that she opposed the Bill. One of the reasons that she gave was that it would not put things right for ever. What legislation ever did? None. I have great respect for my right hon. Friend, but the Bill would certainly tidy things up effectively when suitably amended and take us well into the next century. Few of us will be in the House by the time the law needs looking at again. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend, even at this late stage, with her well-known reputation for generosity of spirit and breadth of mind, will come into the Lobby with us in a few minutes.
|Division No. 120]||[2.25 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Denham, John|
|Ainger, Nick||Dixon, Don|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Dowd, Jim|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Allen, Graham||Dykes, Hugh|
|Alton, David||Eagle, Ms Angela|
|Amess, David||Eastham, Ken|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Enright, Derek|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Etherington, Bill|
|Ashton, Joe||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Barnes, Harry||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Barron, Kevin||Evennett, David|
|Battle, John||Fatchett, Derek|
|Bayley, Hugh||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Flynn, Paul|
|Beggs, Roy||Forman, Nigel|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Bell, Stuart||Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Foulkes, George|
|Benton, Joe||Gale, Roger|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Gapes, Mike|
|Berry, Dr. Roger||Garrett, John|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Gerrard, Neil|
|Boateng, Paul||Gill, Christopher|
|Body, Sir Richard||Godsiff, Roger|
|Booth, Hartley||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Boyce, Jimmy||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Gordon, Mildred|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Graham, Thomas|
|Burden, Richard||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Burns, Simon||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Byers, Stephen||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Grocott, Bruce|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Hain, Peter|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hall, Mike|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Hannam, Sir John|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hanson, David|
|Cann, Jamie||Hardy, Peter|
|Cash, William||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Heppell, John|
|Clapham, Michael||Hoey, Kate|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Clelland, David||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Coffey, Ann||Hoyle, Doug|
|Cohen, Harry||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Corbett, Robin||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Illsley, Eric|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Ingram, Adam|
|Cousins, Jim||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Cox, Tom||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Cryer, Bob||Janner, Greville|
|Cummings, John||Jessel, Toby|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Dafis, Cynog||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Davidson, Ian||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Keen, Alan|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Khabra, Piara S.||Purchase, Ken|
|Kilfedder, Sir James||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Randall, Stuart|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Redmond, Martin|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Litherland, Robert||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Livingstone, Ken||Rogers, Allan|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Ross, William (E Londonderry)|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Rowlands, Ted|
|Loyden, Eddie||Ruddock, Joan|
|Luff, Peter||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lynne, Ms Liz||Sheerman, Barry|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McCrea, Rev William||Short, Clare|
|Macdonald, Calum||Simpson, Alan|
|McFall, John||Sims, Roger|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Skinner, Dennis|
|Maclennan, Robert||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McMaster, Gordon||Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Madden, Max||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Maginnis, Ken||Spearing, Nigel|
|Mahon, Alice||Spellar, John|
|Marek, Dr John||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Meacher, Michael||Streeter, Gary|
|Meale, Alan||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Michael, Alun||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Tracey, Richard|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)||Tredinnick, David|
|Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Trimble, David|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Vaz, Keith|
|Mudie, George||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Mullin, Chris||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Murphy, Paul||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|O'Hara, Edward||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Olner, William||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wilson, Brian|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Winnick, David|
|Pawsey, James||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Pickthall, Colin||Wise, Audrey|
|Pike, Peter L.||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Prescott, John||Mr. Michael Lord and|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Mr. Dennis Turner.|
|Alexander, Richard||Ottaway, Richard|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Page, Richard|
|Ashby, David||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Betts, Clive||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Couchman, James||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Soley, Clive|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Thurnham, Peter|
|Hayes, Jerry||Tyler, Paul|
|Horam, John||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Knox, David||Mr. Michael Stern and|
|Legg, Barry||Mr. John Marshall.|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Division No. 121]||[2.36 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)|
|Ainger, Nick||Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)|
|Allen, Graham||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Alton, David||Gordon, Mildred|
|Amess, David||Graham, Thomas|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Barnes, Harry||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Barron, Kevin||Grocott, Bruce|
|Battle, John||Hain, Peter|
|Bayley, Hugh||Hall, Mike|
|Beckett, Margaret||Hannam, Sir John|
|Beggs, Roy||Hanson, David|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Hardy, Peter|
|Bell, Stuart||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Heppell, John|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Hoey, Kate|
|Benton, Joe||Hood, Jimmy|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Berry, Dr. Roger||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Hoyle, Doug|
|Boateng, Paul||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Booth, Hartley||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Boyce, Jimmy||Illsley, Eric|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Ingram, Adam|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Burden, Richard||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Burns, Simon||Janner, Greville|
|Byers, Stephen||Jessel, Toby|
|Callaghan, Jim||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Cann, Jamie||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cash, William||Keen, Alan|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Clapham, Michael||Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Clelland, David||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Coffey, Ann||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Cohen, Harry||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Corbett, Robin||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Litherland, Robert|
|Cormack, Patrick||Livingstone, Ken|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cousins, Jim||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Cox, Tom||Loyden, Eddie|
|Cryer, Bob||Luff, Peter|
|Cummings, John||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||McCrea, Rev William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Macdonald, Calum|
|Davidson, Ian||McFall, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||McMaster, Gordon|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Denham, John||Madden, Max|
|Dixon, Don||Maginnis, Ken|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Mahon, Alice|
|Dykes, Hugh||Marek, Dr John|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Eastham, Ken||Meacher, Michael|
|Enright, Derek||Meale, Alan|
|Etherington, Bill||Michael, Alun|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Evennett, David||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Fatchett, Derek||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)|
|Flynn, Paul||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Forman, Nigel||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Mudie, George|
|Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)||Mullin, Chris|
|Foulkes, George||Murphy, Paul|
|Gale, Roger||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Gapes, Mike||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Garrett, John||O'Hara, Edward|
|Gerrard, Neil||Olner, William|
|Godsiff, Roger||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Pawsey, James||Spearing, Nigel|
|Pickthall, Colin||Spellar, John|
|Pike, Peter L.||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Streeter, Gary|
|Prescott, John||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)|
|Purchase, Ken||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Randall, Stuart||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Trimble, David|
|Redmond, Martin||Vaz, Keith|
|Robathan, Andrew||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Rogers, Allan||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Ross, William (E Londonderry)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Sheerman, Barry||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Winnick, David|
|Short, Clare||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Simpson, Alan||Wise, Audrey|
|Skinner, Dennis||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Mr. Dennis Turner and|
|Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)||Mr. Michael Lord.|
|Alexander, Richard||Legg, Barry|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Lidington, David|
|Ashby, David||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Page, Richard|
|Betts, Clive||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Couchman, James||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Dowd, Jim||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Sims, Roger|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Soley, Clive|
|Faber, David||Thurnham, Peter|
|Fabricant, Michael||Tredinnick, David|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Tyler, Paul|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Harvey, Nick||Wilshire, David|
|Hayes, Jerry||Wolfson, Mark|
|Hunter, Andrew||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Mr. John Marshall and|
|Knox, David||Mr. Michael Stern.|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui|