Power of Secretary of State to Amend Provisions of the Act

Orders of the Day — Noise and Statutory Nuisance Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:45 am on 14th May 1993.

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' —(1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, the Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, amend —

  1. (a) the categories of shop exempt from the provisions of this Act under section 2 above;
  2. (b) Schedule 2 to this Act (which relates to the categories of shop entitled to Class A registration);
  3. (c) the classes of shop entitled to be registered under subsection (5) of section 3 above; and
  4. (d) subsection (5) of section 3 above by substituting for the words "two hours", such longer period, not exceeding six hours as the Secretary of State may specify.

(2) An order under subsection (1) may also include such incidental, consequential, supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate.

(3)No order shall be made under subsection (1) which (either alone or together with any other similar orders) would have the effect of exempting all shops, or substantially all shops, from the provisions of this Act.

(4) No order shall be made under subsection (1) unless a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by each House of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Ray Powell.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. RayPowell:

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment (a) to the new clause, in line 15, leave out subsection (3).

New clause 10 —Extension of Classes of Registration'.—(1) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument modify section 3 above by adding further classes under which shops may be registered or amending or removing any classes for the time being specified in that section.(2) An order under this section makes such transitional, consequential or incidental provision (including provision modifying this Act or any other enactment) as the Secretary of State considers expedient in connection with the order.(3) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.

Mr. Powell:

I recall that I was once promised an orange box, so perhaps the footstool to which the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) referred was brought in for me in the hope that, when I stood on it, at least I would be recognised by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and called to move my new clause. I am pleased that, at last, after 12 months, you have been able to catch my eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker and call me to speak. I am extremely grateful.

A point of order was raised earlier this morning about the cordoning off of Lambeth bridge and part of the Thames embankment. I was rather alarmed when my taxi was diverted from the House of Commons. I thought that perhaps it was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Home Secretary to keep hon. Members from attending this important debate in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has declared a great interest.

Mr. Powell:

Is it to do with Lambeth bridge?

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

No; it is germane to the Bill.

Mr. Powell:

But I have not started to discuss it yet. With all due respect, I was just about to start discussing my new clause, but first I want to wish you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a very good morning. Before I put my strong case for the new clause, I shall give way to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall).

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

The answer to my question will be of great help to the House, the Minister and the country. Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Bill, as amended in Committee, is now the preferred option of the Keep Sunday Special campaign to the Bill that the Minister has promised to produce next month?

Mr. Powell:

When hon. Members thoroughly examine the Bill, as amended in Committee, I hope that they will understand that if it receives its Third Reading before 2.30 pm and is then sent to the Lords, in all probability it will come back, as amended in the Lords, and be further considered. Numerous amendments and new clauses have been tabled. I am surprised that they were not tabled in Committee by the same Members who have tabled them today. I know that the hon. Member for Hendon, South is rather aggrieved that he did not serve on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill, but that was not entirely my fault, although I appointed all the hon. Members who served on the Committee.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I think that we have had sufficient preliminaries. Will the hon. Gentleman now come to the new clause, please?

10 am

Mr. Powell:

It was not my intention to table any new clauses or further amendments for the Report stage of the Bill, which was not first, but second, in today's list. An attempt could have been made by a number of hon. Members, even Opposition Members, to filibuster on the previous Bill until about 2.30 pm to prevent further consideration of my Bill on Report. It was not the intention of any of my Bill's supporters to table any new clauses or amendments.

As someone who is innocent and trusting, even naive, I thought that very few amendments or new clauses would be tabled due to the efforts of my colleagues and me to ensure that the Committee represented the views of the Government and the Shopping Hours Reform Council. The majority of Government Members appointed to serve on the Committee had ample opportunity to submit new clauses and amendments to which the Committee could have given detailed consideration.

Mr. Powell:

I shall not give way now.

I was appalled, disappointed, disillusioned and frustrated to find that those who had asked to be members of the Committee and who had opposing views found it necessary on Report to table 13 new clauses and 99 amendments.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman come to the subject of the new clause?

Hon. Members:

The hon. Gentleman is filibustering.

Mr. Powell:

I am not filibustering. Hon. Members will be surprised at the shortness of my speech. I want to allow everyone else the opportunity to speak.

The new clause covers the wide aspects of the alternatives open to the House. I hope that later today the House will be given the opportunity to vote on the issues. The House must decide whether it agrees with the Government view of total deregulation or the Shopping Hours Reform Council's view of partial deregulation. It is important to discuss the other items on the agenda, so I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be tolerant and will allow me to develop my argument, which needs to be placed on record, if nothing else.

What hope did I, as a Back Bencher, have of presenting a Bill of such complexity and steering it to its Report stage? It was an achievement to pilot it through Committee, and I was able to bring it to its Report stage only with the help of devoted people from the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and other specialists. They have helped us to accomplish what we have achieved.

Mr. Powell:

I shall give way in a minute as the hon. Gentleman made excellent contributions in Committee, and I give him credit for his regular attendance. He was particularly helpful in resolving a legal complexity in Committee, for which I am grateful. I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but first I want to place on record some necessary remarks.

The new clause embraces the main issues being debated throughout the country by organisations, many of which have millions of pounds' worth of vested interests. Others, like myself, have a main interest in trying to keep Sunday special for as long as is humanly possible.

Mr. Powell:

I shall give way as I can see that the hon. Gentleman is becoming very frustrated.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

The hon. Gentleman said that the Government have a particular view on Sunday trading, but would he not concede that the Government have no view? Individual Government Members may have a view, but the Government have no view and will be offering free choice. The hon. Gentleman also said that we had the opportunity to discuss the subject fully in Committee, but would he not concede that, of 21 members of the Committee, barely two or three are actually deregulationists?

Mr. Powell:

I am surprised: the hon. Gentleman is more naive than I if he thinks that the Government do not have a view on the matter. The Home Secretary and a number of other Ministers have shown that they are in favour of total deregulation. Therefore, it is important to give the new clause serious consideration.

I stayed awake by my telephone most of the night thinking that, after so many U-turns in the House since last Thursday, there might be another one and I would receive a telephone call from the Home Secretary to say that he had changed his mind and was prepared to give my Bill a free wind and perhaps even help it be placed on the statute book. When the House considers the new clause, I hope that we shall vote and decide that it is high time that the Shops Act 1950 was altered. I hope that my Bill will be enacted, so that instead of the present state of limbo we can protect those people who need it —small shopkeepers who are being exploited as a result of the big five being allowed to violate the law, open on Sunday and profit from it.

I read an article in yesterday's Daily Mail on Sainbury's profits. David Sainsbury said that part of the profits had accrued as a result of trading on Sunday—[HON. MEMBERS: "Illegally. "] Yes, illegally. Not many of the big stores are legally entitled to trade on Sunday. David Sainsbury admitted frankly that Sainsbury was trading illegally and gained extra profits as a result.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to address his remarks to the new clause. I have been very tolerant with him, but he has strayed rather far from it.

Mr. Powell:

Perhaps if I were to read out the new clause that would be the best solution to the dilemma facing you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It reads: '.—(1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, the Secretary of State may, by order made by statutory instrument, amend —

  1. (a) the categories of shop exempt from the provisions of this Act under section 2 above;
  2. (b) Schedule 2 to this Act (which relates to the categories of shop entitled to Class A registration);
  3. (c) the classes of shop entitled to be registered under subsection (5) of section 3 above; and
  4. (d) subsection (5) of section 3 above by substituting for the words "two hours", such longer period, not exceeding six hours as the Secretary of State may specify.
(2) An order under subsection (1) may also include such incidental, consequential, supplementary and transitional provisions as the Secretary of State may specify.(3) No order shall be made under subsection (1) which (either alone or together with any other similar orders) would have the effect of exempting all shops, or substantially all shops, from the provisions of this Act.(4) No order shall be made under subsection (1) unless a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by each House of Parliament.'.

If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, analyse what I have been saying, you will find that it was all relevant to the new clause that I have read out to the House, even though it is a highly technical clause.

I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members gathered here this morning will have been able to follow and understand the provisions of the new clause far more quickly than I could when I first read it. I am sure that they are all cleverer than I am; they know exactly what it means, how it affects the Bill and how it will bear on the votes to be taken later today

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight

In a constituency such as mine—if I may be so impertinent, I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is the Isle of Wight—we regularly play host to yacht races that come across the channel and across other long distances. Those yachts are regularly delayed by heavy weather, such as gales, and local chandleries stay open so that the crews can make their purchases and repair their breakages. If I understand the new clause correctly, it would require the Secretary of State to have the powers of the Almighty to be able to predict when such heavy weather might take place in the channel, so that he could then prescribe the opening hours for the chandleries in the Isle of Wight in advance.

At present we are covered by the exemptions in the law, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to put his mind to this point, because it worries my constituents.

Mr. Powell:

The hon. Gentleman's point is not relevant to the new clause, but regulations under the Bill would allow for the problem of special exemptions. The last thing that I or the sponsors of the Bill want is to subject the hon. Gentleman's constituents to restrictions. He represents a lovely area where people enjoy their regattas. The Isle of Wight does have occasional bad weather—but not as much as we get in Wales. We have no desire to curtail the enjoyment of people in the Isle of Wight or of those who visit the area. The Bill provides for resort areas and for towns that are frequented by visitors. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have looked after his constituents' interests in preparing the Bill.

I believe that all hon. Members who may be called to speak in today's debates should declare their financial interest if they have one. Quite a number of them have a direct interest in the businesses that we specify in the Bill. As for me, I proudly declare my interest: it is my true belief that we desperately need to keep Sunday a special day in this country. The new clause attempts to do just that. Crime is on the increase. We desperately need to keep one day of the week different from the other six working days.

I should like to read out a letter from a Mrs. Hilda Stevens: I have just found your address in my parish magazine. I am 87 years old and nearly housebound, but Sunday has been a special day all my life and I hope it is not too late for me to send you a little help. The letter is signed by Mrs. Stevens, who enclosed a £10 cheque to help the Keep Sunday Special campaign.

I was impressed by that lady's generosity—no doubt £10 represents a great deal for someone of 87. She has obviously kept Sunday a special day all her life, and throughout the country most families keep Sunday a special day when they can get together, the grandchildren can visit the grandparents, and people can have a day of rest.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, psychologically, millions of people need a day to recharge their batteries as well as for religious purposes? Is he aware, though, that many of my constituents are concerned, because their day of rest, of religious reflection and of pause in the hurly burly of the working week is Saturday because of their Jewish faith? Is he confident that the Bill, as amended in Committee, would take care of those anxieties and would allow Jewish shops to be open on a Sunday?

Mr. Powell:

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Committee gave careful consideration to the Jewish problem. I am entirely satisfied that it is comprehensively covered in one of the amendments tabled for consideration today. It is fully in accord with what the Jewish people wanted. In Committee, I spoke at great length on that subject when moving a new clause, but we found that it had to be amended, so we withdrew it. I know that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) has tabled a new clause on the subject. I consulted one of the appropriate officers of the Jewish people only this week to ensure that the interests of the Jewish people are fully covered and that they are not left out, and they submitted amendments for Report.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

Sales of wet fish on a Sunday—which are permitted under the 1950 Act—are a matter of vital interest to Grimsby. My hon. Friend gave undertakings in Committee that such sales would be allowed under the Bill. How will that commitment be fulfilled? Is it fulfilled by the new clause?

Mr. Powell:

If we have a vote on the three major issues, I am sure that the clause can be inserted and amendments can be inserted into the Bill as it stands.

I have spoken of my interest in keeping Sunday special. One of my other interests is—

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has said that new amendments can be added to the Bill today. I concede that I have been a Member of Parliament for only 13 months and that I am inexperienced, but is that correct? Can new amendments be added over and above those already on the amendment paper?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

No. Before I call the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) to resume his speech, let me yet again draw his attention to the fact that he has been speaking at some length, but much of what he has said goes outside the new clause. I know that he has tried, and he has read out the new clause, but he is still straying rather wide.

Mr. Powell:

I am guided by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as we all are, but I thought that the new clause was comprehensive. It covers all aspects of the Bill. I am sorry if I have strayed.

An important point of the Bill that would also be affected by the new clause is that giving employment protection to employees in Scotland. Shops have been opening on Sundays in Scotland for many years, but there has been no such protection for employees. Of all the available options, that is the only one which would offer employees protection.

Mr. Powell:

Wait a minute. If the hon. Gentleman is not popping up to make interventions, he is popping up to make points of order. He should let the hon. Member who is promoting the Bill have a chance. Let me pay tribute to the deputy general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and others who have assisted in attempts to ensure that the Bill provides employment protection.

The Committee considered three major contentious issues—DIY stores, garden centres, and the size of convenience stores. The new clause incorporates the views expressed on those issues. It includes a new class of registration, a wider range of tourist shops, registration provisions and definition of shops that was revised to limit the number of services regulated by the Bill.

The Committee considered all the issues and hon. Members were rightly disturbed to find on the amendment paper so many new clauses and amendments. We feel that it is an attempt to stop the Bill having a Third Reading so that it can go on to the House of Lords for further amendment. How does any hon. Member think that a Bill of this magnitude could start its Report stage at 10 o'clock on a Friday and finish at 2.30 with the House having debated 13 new clauses and 135 amendments? It would be impossible. Those who have tabled the new clauses and amendments know that.

The new clause allows the House to decide whether it wants complete deregulation, shopping hours reform proposals or the Bill as greatly amended in Committee and presented here this morning. I hope that all hon. Members will consider the issues involved and give the Bill a fair wind so that it can go on to the other place. When it comes back, I hope that it will be further considered in time given by the Government so that the question of Sunday trading can be resolved properly by the House.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

Unfortunately, I was not a member of the Committee. Is my hon. Friend saying that the Committee gave long and detailed consideration to the issues in the Bill, but that, even so, all the new clauses and amendments have been tabled as a deliberate attempt to block progress on an important social issue?

Mr. Powell:

I agree with my hon. Friend, who represents the neighbouring constituency to mine—indeed, the constituency that I represented in 1983. I am glad that he has made that point, which emphasises and repeats mine, because it is necessary not only for hon. Members but those outside who might be listening to realise and appreciate how easy it is to filibuster and spoil private Members' Bills.

I am sure that in our deliberations today we shall consider the consequences of what happened last Thursday. We shall consider the message delivered by the Prime Minister about curbing arrogance. I am sure that all hon. Members will try to appreciate that we need a new amended Shops Act to deal with Sunday trading. The vehicle for achieving that is available this morning for all hon. Members to vote on. If hon. Members give it proper consideration, without bias or selfishness, the Bill will proceed to the Lords.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby 10:30 am, 14th May 1993

This is a useful new clause, although its drafting is complex. It presents three options, which the Government have said that they, too, will present in due course. Subsection (3) states: No order shall be made under subsection (1) which … would have the effect of exempting all shops"— that is the total deregulation formula. Voting for amendment (a) would make that part of our future Sunday trading arrangements: a majority in favour of the amendment would clearly constitute a majority in favour of full deregulation. We should then know where we stood. If the amendment were disallowed, we should at least know that the majority did not want full deregulation.

As it stands, new clause 14 incorporates, in outline, many of the suggestions of the Shopping Hours Reform Council, including the substitution of six hours for two hours. If the new clause—with or without amendment (a) —were opposed, that would suggest that the House broadly preferred the Bill in its present form.

Today's debate provides us with an opportunity to choose between the three options in the new clause. Would not it be tantalising for everyone concerned, not least the Government's business managers, if the House were able —on a single Friday before the Whitsun recess—to decide a matter so controversial that, were the Government to present their own legislation in the autumn next year, it would involve a lengthy process of Second Reading, Committee and so forth, with several late-night sittings? This measure has a convenience-package factor in that it involves hours of debate, rather than whole days and nights.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

Of course I will give way to my hon. Friend, to whom I gave way frequently in Committee.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

I appreciate my right hon. Friend's courtesy, as I did in Committee.

Surely my right hon. Friend is not suggesting that the House could make such a decision today, given the small number of hon. Members present. It being a Friday, many hon. Members are in their constituencies. Will not the real test come in the next Session of Parliament when, we hope, the matter will be given Government time?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

My hon. Friend usually prefaces his interventions with "I am a very new boy in the House", or "I am not very familiar with the way things work here, but—". I am sorry that he did not do so on this occasion, for his intervention reflects his inexperience. He cannot understand what really happens on Fridays if he believes that the number of hon. Members present now represents the number who will appear from the highways and byways, the chambers and television rooms, to pour through the Lobbies.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I had better make progress. If my hon. Friend wishes to correct me on a factual point, I am happy to stand corrected without even hearing what he has to say.

A certain precondition is inherent in our attempt to crowd all the essential decisions that the Government want us to make into a single Friday sitting. The Bill may be amended further in the House of Lords; as it stands, however—having been amended in Committee—is it yet mature enough, albeit not perfect, for the House to be able to decide whether to go for full deregulation, to insert the variation suggested by the Shopping Hours Reform Council or to leave the Bill in its present form? I believe that it is mature enough and has been sufficiently amended.

I hope that this will not be taken as a personal attack, but I must draw attention to a feature of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), who was a valued member of the Standing Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I note that my view is shared by those who were not on the Committee. My right hon. Friend suffers from a rare parliamentary malady—particularly rare among Front Benchers. She is addicted to amendments. What moth holes are to moths, what rabbit holes are to rabbits, amendments are to my right hon. Friend: she cannot have too many of them.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I have not yet finished my devastating attack on my right hon. Friend; let me develop it further.

My right hon. Friend put her name to 200 amendments in Committee and there must be 90 or 100 on the amendment paper today. Hon. Members may point out that she was a Minister for many years and has spent most of her parliamentary life resisting amendments; that, however, is no proof that she is not an addict. Many a schoolmistress has confiscated crisps and sweets in class, in order to devour them when the bereft children have gone home. I can tell the House in confidence that, if it were possible by a flick of a magic wand to substitute for this Bill one of my right hon. Friend's Criminal Justice Acts —she presented several in earlier days—she would cover the amendment paper with amendments to it. It would be instinctive. Indeed, this illness of hers—this addiction to amendments—has spilled over, and now affects her erstwhile Front—Bench colleague, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. He, too, has now caught the habit. He cannot resist amendments. Amendments are to be tabled in the other place to the current Criminal Justice Bill. The addiction of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden for amendments should be borne in mind when I outline the important amendments that have already been made to make the Bill a mature Bill.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

I was much amused by my right hon. Friend's choice of words when expressing his views about the number of amendments that stand in my name on the amendment paper. Does he agree that it is just as well that Members of Parliament who hold the same views as I were in favour of some of the motions that were before the House earlier this parliamentary Session? I hope that my right hon. Friend can imagine the consequences of extending our debates on this Bill even further than those that we had on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. On a more serious note, I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept that it is important that this Bill, which is complex and difficult and which has caused so much distress to a large number of people, should be as near perfect as we can possibly make it and that that is the reason for the amendments.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I must point out that those hon. Members whose interventions are lengthy and who also expect to catch my eye later will find that long interventions are taken into consideration.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

Thank goodness I am on my feet, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall apply that principle to myself and will not take too long.

My hon. Friend is right and how grateful I am to her that she did not table a large number of amendments to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. That, of course, shows that for the alcoholic—my right hon. Friend is far from that, but I use the word just as a metaphor —there is selectivity about one's particular tipple. Mercifully, my right hon. Friend's tipple is not the Maastricht Bill, but the Shops (Amendment) Bill.

Let me refer to some of the improvements that were made in Committee, in response to some of the amendments that my right hon. Friend tried to table. The size restriction for the main category of smaller shops authorised to open has been doubled from 1,500 to 3,000 ft—about the size of the Central Lobby. Sweeping improvements for the opening of Jewish shops have been accepted. Do-it-yourself shops have been enfranchised for Sunday opening, whereas earlier they were excluded. Garden centres and farm shops can now not only open but can open to sell the full range of their goods. The self-assessment or registration procedures for smaller shops opening on Sundays, as originally proposed in the Bill, are now, thanks to what has been said by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), to be drastically revised and simplified. No statistical measure of turnover will be called for.

All these amendments, and others, have been made or tabled not only to assuage my right hon. Friend's addiction but to produce a moderate, reasonable and viable Bill. Moderation, viability and reasonableness are the hallmarks of the Bill.

I must ask right hon. and hon. Members to reflecct for a moment on the significance of the fact that the Shops Act 1950 is well over 40 years old and that serious efforts over many years to amend or replace a 43-year-old Shops Act have been unsuccessful and unrequited. The House, successive Governments of all parties and the country at large have in effect demonstrated that they are comfortable with the old ways. Like an old but comfortable coat or pair of shoes, or even an old house, we are loth to change or discard something that works and suits us, even though it could be amended and perhaps made slightly better.

It is not the sabbatarian religious fanatics who want to keep Sunday special. It is the eastender who wants a day off, as well as many millions of others, of every class and background. The traditional, quietish and different character of Sunday has wide appeal. There may be scope for a little bit of make-do-and-mend with the Shops Act, but it is the wild-eyed fanatics of commercial activism, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden and my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) and for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who is the most fanatically and commercially minded of them all, who are the true revolutionaries. What they want, essentially, is a change to complete deregulation—a change as sweeping as the execution of royalty in the French revolution.

Photo of Mr Simon Coombs Mr Simon Coombs , Swindon 10:45 am, 14th May 1993

I appreciate that my right hon. Friend has not singled me out for one of his extremely charming ways of insulting people, but does he accept that some of us are in the House this morning on behalf of our constituents who have indicated, in opinion poll after opinion poll by a margin of 70 per cent., that they would like to be able to shop on Sundays and who demonstrate every Sunday that they want to shop on Sunday by going and doing just that? That is why some of us are here to talk about the issue. While I am on my feet, can I say that I should have liked to talk in Committee but that I was prevented—

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I am on my feet. It looks as though the hon. Gentleman and others who have intervened are continuing the Second Reading debate. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) will speak to the new clause.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am sorry that I have lured my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), whom I would only ever want to help, into making an intervention that may have damaged his prospects of speaking in the debate.

Let me remind him, however, that public opinion polls have a tatty and disreputable past. I do not believe that we need to think too much about them.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the rights of the people who have to work in order to cater for those who want to shop on Sunday? Have they no rights to be protected?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

They are, I believe, overwhelmingly the silent majority.

If we do not pass the Bill, amended or unamended, today, and reach the stage of full or partial deregulation, I do not deny that there will be a switch to Sunday shopping. It will probably be a substantial switch, but that will be the manifestation not of a pent-up demand for Sunday shopping but of the secondary importance and postponability of shopping. The possibility of Sunday shopping means that we can do things that we care about more, such as tiddly winks or boules, on days and at times that are put in front of shopping and that we postpone shopping until Sunday because shopping is not important to us.

The essential postponability of shopping will lead to a switch to Sunday shopping, but what virtually every expert expects is that if there is widespread Sunday opening, costs will rise. No more goods, overall, will be sold. There will be merely a switch from shopping on other days of the week. Volumes will remain static. Prices will go up and retailing jobs will go down. Everybody—the silent majority to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred, the shop workers and the general public—will be disadvantaged.

I hope that we do not agree the amendments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden. I hope that we shall settle, here and now, for the option that we prefer. My advice to the House is to stick to the old ways.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

I shall not speak at great length and will conclude as quickly as I can out of regard for others who want to speak to the new clause.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has proved that his word is his bond. On Second Reading on 22 January, he promised to give sympathetic consideration to every constructive amendment moved in Committee. That promise was kept. Many significant amendments were approved, notably the increase to 3,000 sq ft in the size of shop allowed to open, and we now have a Bill that is the first serious attempt to reform the Sunday trading law in a sensible and practical way. While liberalising the 1950 Act, the Bill respects the special nature of Sunday and is the best possible means of tackling a mess that has become messier month by month.

In declaring my interest in the debate—I have the honour to be sponsored by the Co-operative movement —I again declare my pride in being an upholder here of a trading concept that is among the most admirable this country ever gave to the world.

By tabling the new clause, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has gone further than his promise on Second Reading in responding positively to amendments in Committee. He has accepted the Government's wish to offer right hon. and hon. Members three options for reforming the law: first total deregulation; secondly, the Shopping Hours Reform Council's plan for partial deregulation; and, thirdly, what the Bill proposes. The Government's intention was to allow the House to vote on the three options in the autumn, possibly in November, but my hon. Friend's initiative in tabling the new clause makes it possible for us to decide the issue in this debate. That will be very widely welcomed outside the House by a public who have grown weary of the policy of dither, delay and drift. I support my hon. Friend's initiative and hope that the House will do so by an emphatic majority when we vote on the new clause.

It is no secret that each of the three options which this debate is addressing has its supporters in the Cabinet. The Home Secretary, for example, favours deregulation, the Heritage Secretary and others support variations of the SHRC plan and the Employment Secretary, among others, wants what the Bill proposes. What should unite them all, however, and every other right hon. and hon. Member, is a determination to resolve the issue now, and that is what my hon. Friend's ingenious new clause makes possible.

There is no reason whatever why we should delay until the autumn a decision that we can take today. What makes it extremely urgent to decide and to legislate now is the issue of law and order. The Government are said to be deeply concerned by the extent of public discontent with their failure to cope with increasing lawlessness in Britain today. Let me give them one reason for that discontent. Everyone knows that lawbreaking on Sunday trading by retailers is totally out of hand. Not only is the law debased but Parliament itself is demeaned by some very rich people who regard themselves as being above the law and, by implication, are contemptuous of those who make and work to uphold the law.

The chairmen of major plcs now blatantly ignore the law because it does not suit them. They will not be able to do so if the purpose of the new clause is achieved, as I hope it will be at the conclusion of the debate. I refer to people such as Sir Ian MacLaurin, David Sainsbury and Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy. A spokesman for Tesco apparently did not see the irony of his recent comment with reference to graffiti and damaged fences at one of Tesco's superstore developments when he said: Breaking the law is not the way to protest. That is what this House must tell him today. Many much poorer people who fail to pay their poll tax wonder why the chairman of a plc is allowed to break the law but they are put in prison for doing so.

Lawbreaking on today's massive scale is creating unfair competition between large retailers. That is why the new clause is so important. Those who break the law are stealing market share from their law-abiding competitors. David Sainsbury publicly admitted this week that this accounted for part of his profit. He might as well have said that part of his profit was due to stealing. Waitrose, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, is losing £1 million a week of turnover for obeying the law. How can we allow that to go on for month after month when we have the chance today to update the law and stop lawbreaking?

The Prime Minister is said to be speaking to Scottish Conservatives today about the explosion in crime and the need for better law and order.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

Very briefly; I said that I want to conclude quickly.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Marks and Spencer, too, is losing a lot of money. It has good proposals that differ only in the smallest possible way from the new clause. It is to be commended for keeping the law.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

What Marks and Spencer is saying is taken into account by the new clause, which allows the House to take a decision today that should not be deferred for six more months. I agree with the hon. Lady that we must look carefully and sympathetically at every proposal that is before us. Most of all, we must act quickly.

I was saying that I understand that the Prime Minister is addressing Scottish Conservatives today on the need for better law and order. Many people will think that, instead, he should be here at Westminster to vote for law and order by supporting the new clause on the good old principle that action speaks louder than words.

Lawbreaking on Sunday trading is resulting in many small shops being driven over the edge into bankruptcy. Even loss of between 5 and 10 per cent. is often enough to cause a small corner or village shop to go from profit to loss. Corner shops and small village shops situated near super—stores are losing vital turnover. They are bleeding to death from this haemorrhage of their businesses, yet I am sure that every hon. Member wants these small shops to be able to trade legally on Sunday with their entire range of goods. The recent London Economics report concluded that Sunday trading would greatly increase the pressure on small shops. Again, how can we allow such extensive lawbreaking to go on day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, when it is making life so wretched for smaller retailers?

Hugo Young, writing in The Guardian on 4 May, highlighted how inappropriate it is that some of the large companies that are breaking the law are also major contributors to the funds of one political party. These companies are breaking the law every Sunday and not even Mr. Gummer has been heard to utter the Phillipic appropriate to a law and order party. In fact Ministers have been blandly silent. When it suits politics, every Minister becomes an accomplice to the degrading of law. No fewer than 256 Members of the House have signed an early-day motion demanding that Major national retailers set an example by closing their stores on Sundays in observance of the rule of law and in recognition of the sovereignty of Parliament. The issue now is whether Parliament makes the laws in this country or whether the overmighty will be allowed to defy the will of Parliament. It will be quite intolerable for the Bill to be yet another victim of organised filibustering. If that happens, there will be widespread anger among people who are sick and tired of lawbreaking by the rich and powerful. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore on the new clause and I commend its purpose most warmly to the House.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

I wish to speak to new clause 10 and I hope very much that we shall be able to have a separate debate on it. I do not wish to pursue the arguments about new clause 14. I suspect that a number of hon. Members believe that new clause 10 sits more appropriately with the spirit of the long title of the Bill; I am not so convinced that new clause 14 does so.

I have no wish other than to make the Bill perfect and that is why I have tabled amendments. I genuinely believe that the amendments that my hon. Friends and I have tabled will be beneficial to the general appearance of the Bill. However, the timing and placing of new clause 14 is a little suspect, so it would be better for us to concentrate on the proposals in new clause 10, which to a certain extent addresses some of the problems that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) was trying to tackle.

The key point to new clause 10 is to consider the extension of classes of registration, in order to broaden the Bill. The new clause would allow the Secretary of State to remedy oversights in the legislation and to close loopholes, and we need to consider that idea carefully. I suspect that if the sponsors of the Bill were trying to translate their long title, it would fall into roughly the following phraseology: "This Bill closes shops on Sundays except those that sell goods and services that contribute to four main areas." The four areas named have always been recreation, emergencies, social gathering and travel, as advocated by the REST proposals. Those of us who served on the Committee, and greatly enjoyed the experience, those of us who paid a great deal of attention and were grateful to the hon. Member for Ogmore for being flexible and for accepting many of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and by me, accept that it is incredibly difficult to identify those areas exactly and to specify the shops, products and recreations simply by listing them, as the Bill tries to do.

We welcomed, for example, the acceptance of the principle of allowing do-it-yourself shops to open on Sundays. But why only DIY shops? What is wrong with second-hand bookshops, which represent just as much of a recreation for many of us? I shall not take up too much of the time of the House, but I shall use one example to illustrate the difficulties involved in trying to identify by shop exactly how one can provide for recreation. I rest my case on that principle.

11 am

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

My right hon. Friend is right. The moment we start listing, we get into a legislative mess. For example, the Bill proposes that a shop registered under class B will be permitted to sell live tropical fish. Will a shopkeeper be prosecuted if he sells a goldfish? That is the sort of mess that will be created if trading standards officers interpret the legislation aggressively, and that is the sort of prosecution that we shall see.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

To prevent such confusion is the very purpose of the new clause. It would give the Secretary of State the power to deal with those loopholes and omissions and to say, for very good reason, "Yes, we forgot that loophole and we shall deal with it."

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

I shall point out to the right hon. Lady that there is a rationale behind the approach in the Bill. It is to keep open the shops that men use and keep closed the shops that women use, so that they will stay behind and do the cooking for us, for when we get home.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

I am sure that if the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) reflects on the purport of what he just said, he will realise what a sexist remark that was. None the less, I assure him that I should prefer to cook on a Sunday than to shop. As everyone knows, I have frequently declared my dislike of shopping every day of the week, and Sunday is no exception.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the comments of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) were probably heavily influenced by an article that appeared in The Independent yesterday, saying that male Members of Parliament were prejudiced because they allowed shops for the boys to be open on a Sunday? However, the article, which was written by the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), was rather wrongly illustrated with a photograph of both a man and a woman leaving a DIY shop carrying DIY products.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of the article in The Independent, which I have read. Perhaps my hon. Friend should see my daughter going to pick up the cement on a Sunday, and then he would recognise that she is one of the members of my family who not only does it herself but makes DIY purchases at a time convenient for her. She is a busy full-time worker so, unfortunately, she has to choose Sundays on which to do her shopping. It should be her right to do that.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox , Woodspring

Does my right hon. Friend agree that although some politicians cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, most women, being infinitely more flexible, can certainly shop and cook on the same day, so the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) is unlikely to be disappointed?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I can see no way of differentiating between male and female in either of the new clauses that we are considering.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was simply trying to re-emphasise the point made by new clause 10, which gives the Secretary of State the power to add new classes of shop to the Bill. That is an important power, which we should not deny the Secretary of State.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Will the right hon. Lady correct the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who referred to tropical fish? He was clearly misreading the Bill, probably mischievously. All that is mentioned in connection with tropical fish is the fact that they can be part of the principal goods sold, which must amount to 80 per cent. of the trade. Any other kind of product, including coldwater fish, can be sold as part of the remaining 20 per cent. Please let us not have misrepresentation.

Hon. Members:

It is a red herring.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

The hon. Lady has made her point, although I am not sure whether it has been well taken by my hon. Friends.

Another principle introduced by new clause 10 is the importance of keeping the law up to date. We have all seen what has happened to the Shops Act 1950, and we all know that it has been exceedingly difficult to try to introduce a new Act. My right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), like other hon. Members, said that there had been no opportunity to change the law, but I suspect that in 1986, when the Home Secretary of the day tried to introduce deregulation, my right hon. Friend probably chose to vote against it. It was his right to do so, but it would be incorrect to leave the House with the impression that there had been no genuine attempt by the Government to change the 1950 Act.

That Act was introduced a long time ago, and many people simply fail to recognise the huge social changes that have taken place since then. I shall not make a sexist remark, but I suspect that some hon. Members would like us to go back to the 1950s. Unfortunately for them, they cannot take us back there. It is important to remember that in 1950 only 26 per cent. of married women went to work, whereas 61 per cent. now do so. Those women have an equal right to make choices about the way in which they conduct the rest of their lives. One of the most important things that they have to do is to decide how to conduct their lives in concert with the needs of their working lives and of their families. The Bill would deprive those women of that opportunity. Therefore, it is important that we examine the exact extent of the deprivation that the Bill would impose on many women.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

May I make again to my right hon. Friend the point that I made in Committee, because it is as relevant now as it was then? It is a red herring to flog to death the argument that, because of changes in the way in which society goes about its business, women cannot shop except on a Sunday and that shops have to be open on a Sunday because women are working. As I said in Committee, my wife is no different from the wives of many hon. Members. She has a full-time job and she has to look after two young children, yet she can easily do food and non-food shopping during the week and on Saturdays without needing the law to give her time to do shopping on Sundays because she cannot find any other time. It is a question of organisation rather than of changing social patterns.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

That comment outlines precisely the objection to the Bill of many working women who have to work and to look after families. The Bill simply does not recognise the difficulties that women face. It is perfectly all right to say that women can arrange their lives so that they can do the shopping on Saturday, leaving them free to do housework and to cook lunch on Sunday. However, let us remember that women have just as much right to have a day when they can pursue recreational activities and it does not need to be Sunday. Why must the House declare that Sunday is the one day on which women can choose to take their time off?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

What will the right hon. Lady say to women who will be forced to work on Sundays as a result of the deregulation that she favours?

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

We shall come later to some important amendments that deal with the protection of people who may have to work on Sunday. A number of women choose to work on Sunday and I should like to know what would happen to them.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

Does the right hon. Lady agree that many women value the opportunity to work on Sundays? In my constituency there are women who do not want to abandon their children to child minders during the week. They can work in the local Asda in Rawtenstall on a Sunday while their husbands care for their children and they can earn some much-needed income for the family. It suits them very well.

I remind the right hon. Lady of the letter that I read out in Committee from a women who works in a B and Q store on a Sunday and who receives double time for that. She says at the end of her letter: I believe in God and I believe he knows that I am doing the best for my family.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

The hon. Lady has expressed the point far more perfectly than I could. It is not only because of this issue that we want new clause 10 to be inserted in the Bill. New clause 10 leads us to future proofing, to use engineering terminology, on a number of other issues. It would allow the law to be changed when there was public demand for change without the necessity of going through the difficult and time-consuming process of introducing legislation. No hon. Member, including the promoter and the sponsors of the Bill, wants the lengthy debate and agonising that we have gone through in past years over the introduction of legislation to replace the Shops Act 1950. It is clear that the issue raises enormous and intense emotional concerns. We want on the statute book, therefore, legislation that is sufficiently flexible and that will allow Parliament to make decisions, about Sunday trading and about people's ability to use Sundays in the way that they wish, which are in concert with the time, the place and the year.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I have looked with great interest at new clause 10 and I am listening with rapt attention to what my right hon. Friend is saying about it. If new clause 10 were accepted, should we then not have to worry about any further amendments in the House of Commons? Could the Bill, with the inclusion of new clause 10, ride through to Third Reading and be amended in the House of Lords? Would it then represent the flexible and adaptable regime that my right hon. Friend has expounded? If so, and if, on condition that new clause 10 were accepted, my right hon. Friend would encourage us to go through to Third Reading and to allow the Bill to go to the House of Lords, many of us would look sympathetically at new clause 10.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. There are a number of amendments today on which we should like to take the view of the House, as is perfectly legitimate on Report. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for saying that he might be able to support new clause 10. It is a step forward for those of us who would like greater flexibility and an extension of the powers given in the Bill. We should like to have a vote on new clause 10.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 11:15 am, 14th May 1993

I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) for his hard work on the Bill and I also praise the hard work done by the Keep Sunday Special campaign and by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and other hon. Members who worked hard to get the Bill through its Committee stage and to produce what many people felt was a satisfactory solution to the problems of Sunday trading.

I regret that the Government have not got on with their task rather more quickly. It is sad that the Government are still talking about bringing three Bills before the House and giving the House a choice some time next year although, for the past 18 months or so, many people have broken the law. The Government should give a far more vigorous lead in trying to decide which option is best.

I have a great deal of sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore, who was faced by many amendments. As they were grouped, we could have had 35 or 36 Divisions. We could have spent nine hours simply voting on all the amendments before there was any discussion. It was sensible of my hon. Friend to table new clause 14, which has at least ensured that today's debate has taken account of some of the important issues that underlie the Bill and has avoided the whole Friday being given up to going over the minutiae of the Bill as hon. Members who did not want it to progress talked at great length.

Having done that, we must address ourselves to the crucial issues raised by new clause 14. The House must address the important question whether it is appropriate to deal with the detail of the Bill through regulations. The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) addressed that point in new clause 10. I have a great deal of unease about regulations because they take power away from the House of Commons in terms of legislation and hand it to Ministers in the form of regulations. Legislation can be amended line by line and it is not easy to get through good things and bad things in a package. We have all seen how easy it is to put together a package of regulations and to persuade the House to support a regulation because although it does not like some things in it, it likes others. It is a little dangerous to go along the line of regulations.

However, I accept that the details of Sunday trading and changing customs and practices raise the problem of having to keep legislating. One reason why Sunday trading is now in such a mess is that the primary legislation has not been easy to amend by regulation and so has been unable to adapt. There is a problem for the House. Is it better to deal with the matter by primary legislation or by having an enabling Act and many regulations? I think that there is a case for dealing with Sunday trading by regulations. However, if we do so, we must keep the major safeguards with the House.

One of the attractions of new clause 14 is that any regulation would be subject to an affirmative resolution. New clause 10 would simply involve a prayer and we know how difficult it is even to get prayers debated and voted on. I go further and suggest to the Minister that if the Government are considering including regulations in any of their three options on Sunday trading, they should go for affirmative resolutions to change regulations and they should make the regulations amendable. That is not often done, although it was done in respect of regulations under the census legislation. The adoption of such a course would allow the House of Commons to retain a certain amount of power over the regulations, but would also give us considerable flexibility.

A second issue is addressed in the new clause—and, certainly, in my amendment (a) to which I shall come in a moment. The House is to be confronted with a problem: it will have to choose from three options as opposed to choosing either for or against what the Government propose. We all know that the procedures of the House are designed to enable us to vote yes or no. But the Government say that they will come forward with three proposals on Sunday trading. Will the Minister explain how we are to vote on three proposals?

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

As my hon. Friend says, maybe.

The great difficulty with such a vote is that its outcome will depend on which of the three proposals comes first. That decision may be made by the parliamentary draftsman; if it is not, the onus will be on Madam Speaker to choose which option should come first. The danger is that, unless there is a clear majority for one proposal, whichever option comes first is likely to be defeated. If we manage to get the three options voted on today, that problem may become evident.

Suppose that deregulation is the first option voted on. Those who want the present Sunday trading laws relaxed to some extent and those who want to keep Sunday special will vote against. If the middle option is voted on first, those who support deregulation and those who wish to keep Sunday special will vote against. That presents a major difficulty—unless we can design new voting procedures whereby it will be possible to establish that, say, 300 hon. Members voted for option A, 200 for option B and 150 for option C. I hope that the Government will address that major problem and ensure that, when they put the three options before us, they do not stack the decision in favour of what they want while pretending to the country that hon. Members will have a free vote on all the proposals.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I support the hon. Gentleman's line of argument. Does he recall that when the present Home Secretary was Secretary of State for Health, he had experience of using this three-card trick in relation to the human fertilisation and embryology legislation?

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I may not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman as regards the outcome on that occasion, but I take his point that that is the problem with the way in which voting is conducted.

I hope that the House will today give the Government a clear indication that one of the options—if not two—is unacceptable and that we may thus narrow the Government's focus. The House will see that amendment (a), which stands in my name, embodies the deregulation option.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

May I again make the point that I raised with my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) concerning the number of hon. Members present today. Are not members of the Government—

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. The number of hon. Members present has nothing to do with the new clause.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I have certainly been conscious that many people in my constituency know that we are to vote on Sunday trading today; they have been writing me letters asking me to be here and I have had the day marked in my diary for a long time. I know the strength of feeling that exists in my constituency on this matter—not all of it on the same side. My constituents expect me to be here. We must accept responsibility. There are many Fridays on which we do not need to attend, but that is our choice.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not reply to the intervention of the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), on which I have already ruled.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We all have a responsibility as regards whether we are here for votes that take place in the House. If an hon. Member is not here, that is his fault: he cannot complain about the result.

Hon. Members will have the opportunity to choose from three options. My amendment embodies the deregulation option. Let me explain to the House that I tabled it to help my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore to get it on to the amendment paper. I instructed him to try to find someone who was an enthusiastic deregulator to put his or her name to it. My hon. Friend was unable to find such an enthusiastic deregulator.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

I cannot see how amendment (a) fits in with the long title of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Let us put it this way: Madam Speaker selected it and, as far as I am concerned, that is that question answered. If my hon. Friend wants to pursue the matter further, he is entitled to do so. The explanation given to me was that it would help if one included regulations subject to affirmative resolution by the House.

If they have the opportunity to do so, enthusiastic deregulators should vote for amendment (a), although I may say that my hon. Friend's failure to find any hon. Member to put his name to the deregulation amendment was not for want of trying. The fact is that not many people in this country want total deregulation.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

Is not it the case that, when the Government introduced their own proposals for total deregulation, they could not muster a majority in prime time—let alone on a Friday?

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

I accept that argument. If we do nothing else, we should try today to establish that there is not a majority in the House for total deregulation and so get that option out of the way.

Although I tabled the amendment, I hope that deregulation will ultimately be rejected. I think that it is important that we should keep Sunday special to enable people to enjoy their religious rights. It is important that one day of the week is kept different. I am worried about the greed implicit in the fact that people continually want to go shopping. Given the tremendous commercial pressures, it is well worth having certain restrictions. I believe that keeping Sunday special has advantages for family life. I also accept the point made by the right hon. Member for Selby that seven-day trading, especially in food, only serves to put up prices. I also have sympathy with many of my constituents who live near supermarkets and who bought their property on the understanding that, on one day at least, they would be free of all the traffic and noise. It would be unfair to inflict extra trading hours on those people.

People say that we should be free to shop on Sundays. The trouble with most freedoms is that one person's freedom is someone else's restriction. I hope that the House will be able to vote today and make it absolutely clear that it would like the Government to go ahead with a Bill along the lines of my hon. Friend's Bill. If that happens, it would be logical not to wait for a Government Bill but to ask the Government to find extra time so that we can continue and complete our deliberations on a Bill along the present lines. That would enable us to stop the illegal trading that is taking place at present. It would also save the House a lot of time in the next Session, in which the Government claim that they will have a lot of work to do.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

It may be helpful if I intervene, on what I intend to be the only occasion this morning, to make some observations on what the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) almost described as this unique, not-to-be-repeated special offer of new clause 14, with added amendment (a).

I am sure that it will be helpful—if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me—if I restate briefly the Government's position on the Bill and on the way in which Sunday trading issues might best be resolved. The Government have long believed that Sunday trading cannot satisfactorily be sorted out by means of a private Member's Bill: the issues are too involved; the House is too divided; and the time available is too short. The huge number of amendments on the amendment paper bears out the correctness of that judgment, as do the further major amendments that the hon. Member for Ogmore promises will be introduced in the other place.

Although I admire the hon. Gentleman's tenacity and dedication, which have brought his Bill such a long way, and the sincerity and devotion of those advising him in the Keep Sunday Special campaign, I have to say that the Government do not believe that it will be possible to reach an effective, coherent and durable conclusion by means of his Bill or any other private Member's Bill.

11.30 am

The House must have the opportunity to compare, contrast and choose between fully worked versions of all the major reform proposals, which command support in the country and the retail trade as well as the House, with time for hon. Members and their constituents to assess and weigh what it will mean for their constituencies, and shopping arrangements locally. Putting in a complex new clause and a further amendment like this at the last moment on a Friday and saying that it will provide for the whole range of choices is not a substitute for that considered debate that the House believes is necessary before it can come to a satisfactory conclusion—despite the witty but unconvincing dismissal of the point by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison)—especially when few hon. Members, not least those who support the other reform options, had any inkling of what would apparently be on offer today before the letter from the hon. Member for Ogmore dated Tuesday 11 May.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) acknowledged that the new clause does not give the House those fully worked choices. Instead, it will give the Secretary of State at some time in the future the power, if he so decided, to bring forward orders to change the categories of shops that might register to open. I do not think, therefore, that the new clause represents the generous offer that the hon. Member for Ogmore clearly believes it to be, even supposing that the order-making power of the Secretary of State was as broad as the hon. Gentleman expects the new clause to make it.

I have not had sufficient time to study the clause and take advice, but I am sceptical, like the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), about whether a Bill with a long title which says that it provides for a general prohibition on Sunday opening—-and debated as such on Second Reading—could possibly be elastic enough to provide power to the Secretary of State to make a valid order allowing a majority of, let alone all, shops, lo open. Of course, that will he a matter finally for the Chair, not for me.

The issue of Sunday trading has come to the House so many times in the past and has always been left unresolved. The long way round by way of a Government Bill next Session on this issue will prove to be the shortest way home, and the new clause and the further amendments promised by the hon. Member for Ogmore for another place confirm me in that view. That is why the Government will publish, in the next few weeks, their own Bill containing the major reform proposals. I cannot give a more precise date, as the Government are heavily dependent on the campaign groups coming to decisions on the details of their proposals. With the hon. Gentleman saying that there were additional important amendments to the Bill to be tabled in another place, even the Keep Sunday Special campaign has not got its Bill in its final form.

Together with the Bill, the Government will publish an objective commentary explaining what each of the options would do—who would be able to open, who would have to shut and when, and, most crucially, how the resultant legislation would be enforced.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I will not give way to my hon. Friend, although I should like to do so. If I start to give way, I will be taking a great deal of time—and that would be unfair. When I come to the end of my remarks, and if I have not answered my hon. Friend's questions, I will take his intervention. I hope that he will understand that there will be many interventions on what the Government intend to do, which is not on the subject of this Bill, and it would be wrong for me to take up the time of the House on that matter.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I will not give way for the same reasons that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). At the end, I will give way to my hon. Friend and then the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) if I have not covered their points in my remaining remarks.

I stressed that it was important that the new Act should be enforceable. Many hon. Members—I agree with them—complain that the present law is ignored. Local authorities, whose job it is to enforce it, say that it is too difficult and too expensive. I am sorry that they believe that, but I understand why they do. Whichever choice is made—whether it is now or, as the Government would advise, with a more considered opportunity by means of a Government Bill later—it is agreed by virtually everyone that it is essential that the provisions of any new Act must be readily capable of effective enforcement. The Bill that we are debating would be even more difficult to enforce than the Shops Act 1950. That legislation has proved especially difficult to put into effect.

Although the hon. Member for Ogmore no longer intends to rely on the 80:20 per cent. turnover provision for small shops, if he is successful with his amendments in another place he will still require them to register under one or other class A head. Registration would be granted on information supplied by shopkeepers. The Bill would not require local authorities to verify what they are told, but would give them a duty to enforce the law. How would local authorities enforce it? How would they know which shops they should check? To check them all would be a gargantuan job. To leave it to chance or complaint from the public or a bruised competitor would be grossly unfair and generally ineffective.

The larger stores over 3,000 sq ft would still be allowed to trade on Sunday only if 80 per cent. of turnover was derived from a specified list of products. That would mean that neither the retailer nor the local authority would know whether an offence had been committed until a certain period had passed. The law cannot operate effectively in that way. An offence must relate to a specific act on a specific date, not to a pattern of trading over time.

I do not want to labour that point and take up precious time; nor do I want to pass judgment on what the hon. Member for Ogmore and other hon. Members want to achieve. However, I have a duty to leave the House with the full realisation that if it decides to give the Bill a Third Reading today, and if the resultant Act is to be capable of enforcement and restoring respect for the law in this area, it will have to be not only amended but comprehensively recast in another place.

Therefore, I hope that the House will conclude that it would be best if this Bill were reconstructed for inclusion in a Government Bill in the autumn. It may take a few months longer, but that course will produce legislation that is fair, more effective and durable, and be much more likely to reflect the mature judgment of the House and the country.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way because this is a crucial point for many people.. Is my hon. Friend giving the House an unequivocal undertaking that there will be legislation in the Queen's speech and that that will be proceeded with before the summer recess, together with the document that he discussed'? Will he be making some strong recommendations about what will happen to the lawbreakers?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

The Government intend to introduce a Bill early in the next Session. I can confirm that we intend, well before the summer recess, to publish a Bill with the major choices in it, together with a commentary describing what those major choices would do in practice and how they would be enforced. It is vital that hon. Members and their constituents are able to see what those complicated choices would do. There needs to be sufficient time for a public debate before a Bill comes to the House.

I, together with my hon. and right hon. Friends in the Government, regard it as most important that, whichever choices we end up with, the law should be clear and capable of being effectively enforced. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South that the present situation has a corrosive effect on respect for the law. We have a major law with which many people do not agree, and those who are charged by law to enforce it—the local authorities—find it extremely difficult to do so. We want to get away from that position.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

It is not a simple matter of backing them up, as the right hon. Gentleman says. The law is perfectly clear: it falls to the local authorities to enforce it, not to the Government. Therein lies the Government's major difficulty in that respect.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

The Minister presents a well-thought-out case about how to give the House real options. He uses in support of that the pressure groups. He says that they have not yet worked up their options. Will he acknowledge that all those pressure groups include in their proposals full employment protection for workers who might work on Sundays? Will he make it clear that if the choices are to be comprehensive and representative of the pressure groups, they must embody employment protection? That is a matter not of choice but of consensus.

If the Minister looks at early-day motion 1929, it will be clear to him that the number of his hon. Friends who have supported it is more than his parliamentary majority. In a free and real choice, employment protection for Sunday workers would have to be presented by the Government.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I accept the hon. Lady's point that employment protection and the way in which it should be incorporated into the Bill is a lively issue which is important to many people. Part of the Bill will be devoted to employee protection. Like any other part of the Bill, it will be subject to amendments and votes of the House. I believe that we shall end up with a Bill that includes a clause on employee protection which commands the support of a majority of the House. But I would be straying from the new clause if I were to expand on that.

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Ogmore and his friends in KSS for bringing this complex Bill so far. I also thank them for the constructive and lengthy discussions that they have held with my officials in which many problems with the practical working of the Bill were identified. I am impressed by the determination with which they have set about the difficult and frustrating task of curing them. However, as I have said today as clearly as I can, there is, alas, still a long way to go. However, I am sure that the curative process could be completed well in time for the Government Bill in the autumn and, I hope, for the publication of the Government's draft Bill before the summer recess, although there are only a few more weeks for that.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

The Minister has tried to convince the House that we should have a touching regard for the Government's superior ability to introduce legislation on complex issues such as Sunday trading, which mere Back Benchers cannot possibly understand. On the day after the Government—indeed, the Minister's own Department— came to the House to tell us that they got the Criminal Justice Bill wrong and they could not understand issues such as unitary fines and access to previous records, and leaving aside the community charge or compulsory testing, the Minister will forgive us for saying that his great confidence in the Government's superiority over Back Benchers is misplaced.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

Does the hon. Gentleman share my wish that the Government's proposals will include not only proposals in law but explanations? Bearing in mind the stated views of the Home Secretary, which I suspect that the Minister of State shares, and the views of the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), there is clearly a great weight of opinion at the top of the Conservative party in favour of total deregulation. Does the hon. Gentleman share my anxiety that the explanations may be weighted the wrong way? Perhaps we ought to consider that carefully.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

On this occasion, as on many occasions in the Committee, I am happy to be associated with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Gentleman. He has put them succinctly today. I am also worried about the motives of those within the Department who will present both the explanatory memoranda and the Bill.

The House will perhaps forgive me if I recall for a moment the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. It was mentioned in the context of this Bill during an earlier intervention. Three choices were laid before the House, as they have been in new clause 14. I shall not detain the House long on this point, but, as a result of the confusion that arose, we ended up with legislation which allows abortion up to birth on the handicapped. I do not believe that it was ever the intention of the House to allow that. But that is what happens when legislation is drafted and choices are offered in this manner. People become confused.

So I hope that people will not be gulled into believing that the Government can introduce proposals that will have great clarity, but Back Benchers cannot. After all, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and many other Acts are the Government's legislation, not ours.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 11:45 am, 14th May 1993

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that after listening to the Minister today, people will have grave concern that he could not give an unequivocal declaration that those who would have to work on Sunday and refused to do so would be protected? He failed to give such a declaration today.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

Indeed, he did. The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden also failed to deal with that. Conservative Members talk, as she did, about choice. They say that choice is the most important thing. They elevate the idea of choice to an ideology or philosophy. Yet they fail to understand that for many people there is no choice when economic pressures are placed on them to work on Sundays. Such workers will often be women. We have heard people suggest that those of us who take a different view are misogynists. What nonsense. Many women want to be protected from having to work on Sunday and from exploitation by commercial pressures. What choice will there be for employees who want to operate their conscience if their employer says that they will either work on Sunday or lose their job? Those people will be forced to work on Sundays and we know it.

The Minister also said that it would be impossible under the terms of the Bill to deal with enforcement. There is no way in which that can be true. Local authorities up and down the land are capable of enforcement on a range of issues. I was deputy leader of the city council for some years and a member of the council for eight years. Enforcement is a day-to-day part of the work of local authorities. They will be able to enforce the legislation, just as they enforce many other requirements.

The Minister said that it would not be possible to go back and see what went on before. That is precisely what happens in cases of tax evasion every day of the week. Of course the Inland Revenue does not know that an offence is being committed at that moment. But it finds out about it and prosecutes subsequently. So the Minister's argument is ludicrous.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Minister's argument is perfectly absurd. The Health and Safety Executive does not examine every factory, but it expects that spot checks will work. They could work equally well for the Bill.

Photo of Mr Roy Thomason Mr Roy Thomason , Bromsgrove

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I cannot give way until I have dealt with the first intervention. The Minister was sparing in taking interventions. He took only two—one from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman and the other at the end of his remarks. That gave the game away. The Government do not want to have an open and free debate in the House today or at any other time because they know what they want—total deregulation. That is the agenda. They will try to push it through. If they cannot do it by fair means, they will do it by foul. If they can load the three options placed before the House, they will do it in that way. The Minister is grinning because he knows that that is true. He knows that if the Government can load the options, they will succeed. By chicanery and trickery, they will put their agenda through.

New clause 14 gives us a chance to deal with the three options. I hope that we will take it.

Photo of Mr Hugh Dykes Mr Hugh Dykes , Harrow East

What is the point of the Government indulging in such antics? They know full well that they cannot get full deregulation through the House.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

Absolutely. The only time that the Government were defeated in the 13 years up to the last general election was on this issue. A coalition of Members from across the House said that they wished to keep Sunday as a special day. That is what the House of Commons decided to do. Will the Government accept that verdict? No. They have come back time and again, as have Members such as the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, and tabled amendments. They have tabled 135 amendments and 13 new clauses; 99 of the amendments and new clauses are in the name of the right hon. Lady. She is a former Minister in the Home Office. She had the chance to legislate.

The Government were not prepared to accept the will of the House and they never will be. That is why they do not deserve our trust today and why we should proceed with the vote which I hope you will allow, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in due course so that we can determine the issues and they are not determined by people of whose motives we should be deeply suspicious.

Photo of Mr Roy Thomason Mr Roy Thomason , Bromsgrove

The hon. Gentleman alleged that it would be easy for local authorities to enforce the legislation encapsulated in the Bill. Does he agree that the Bill requires local government officers to investigate the books of those businesses that they want to open on Sunday in order to establish the 80:20 rule? The Bill does not specify, however, which books of which year should be under inspection. A degree of accountancy expertise would be required by the inspectors expected to enforce the legislation—expertise which is beyond their normal job specification. Although many of us may not object to the principles underlying the Bill, their practical enforcement would be almost impossible.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

It will not be impossible. The 80:20 rule is clear. Shops will be able to show from their accounts of a previous year their precise trading figures. Any trading standards officer worth his salt will have no difficulty with that. The common sense of the courts will also be at play and vicarious prosecutions will not be brought purely on the basis of malice against some small shopkeeper.

At present, there are clear abuses, day by day, of the Shops Act 1950, but the Government have encouraged local authorities to turn a blind eye to the law breakers. How can hon. Members claim to be concerned about the epidemic of crime, or the standards and values of our young people when they break the law, when we are prepared to condone the breaking of a law when it is done by people for the sole reason of mercenary, monetary interest? They make huge sums of money from being able to keep their shops open.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we cannot trust the Government, because we have already had experience of what Government promises on employee rights mean not only for Sunday work, but weekday work. The Government claimed that if betting shops were open in the evening it would make no difference to the terms and conditions of the employees, if they chose not to work at night.

William Hill has now presented its employees with a contract that covers evening work. If any employee refuses to sign it—most of them are women—he or she will simply be sacked. Two people with more than 30 years of experience between them were given the alternative of signing that new contract or going down the road in search of a job. The Government have refused to take any action in that case.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing that to the attention of the House, because that is why those on the Front Bench must not be lured into voting for new clause 14.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, who was not prepared to give way himself, in a moment. No guarantees have been given on employment protection and until there are, how anyone can vote for the Government's proposals, even if he is in favour of Sunday trading, I do not know.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Any employee whose contract is unilaterally changed by his employer and who is dismissed if he does not agree to that contract, is dismissed unfairly. There is a remedy at law, which is exactly the same for any other employee who is treated unfairly.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I am grateful for that intervention, which enables me to refer to a letter sent to me in April from the chief executive of Budgens in which he dealt specifically with the employment implications of the Bill. He stated: As a multiple grocer with 98 stores, Budgens plc has been one of the pioneers of Sunday Trading. In other words, it has broken the law and is on the Minister's side. He went on: On balance, we have experienced an increase in sales of 10 per cent. It has been doing well and making money. We understand that other large food retailer multiples have similar experiences.The issue of Sunday Trading is not important to Budgens as such. Our commercial losses and gains are about equal. But, for the following reasons we believe only food stores with less than 3,000 sq. ft. sales area should be allowed to trade on Sundays:Approximately £5 billion of market share at today's prices will shift towards the multiple food chains. This potentially represents a net loss of employment of 44,000–50,000 people due to the labour cost differential…as a result of much higher labour productivity in large food stores/superstores.This is likely to cost the nation between £400–500 million in unemployment support. Social, criminal and economic problems associated with unemployment are widespread. That is what Budgens, an ally of the Government, thinks about the Bill. That letter makes the point about the potential loss of jobs, to which the Minister also referred, very well. Added to that will be the many people who will be forced to work on Sunday who currently do not.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

The hon. Gentleman has been extremely generous in giving way. He has speculated about the viewpoint of the Minister of State, as have others on both sides of the House. Is not this debate the best opportunity for the Minister to say exactly where he stands? He has addressed the House, but should not he tell us, if only by intervention, exactly where he stands on the three options?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to give way and I will happily give way to the Minister if, in due course, he wants to intervene to make that point.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

I shall do so in a moment, but I should make progress, consider the three options and explain my position on them.

We have the chance to sort things out with new clause 14. The first of the options, to which the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) referred, is total deregulation. I hope that the House will vote against that, as it has in the past. If we were to give the Secretary of State total power to decide which shops should or should not open on a Sunday, far too much responsibility would be passed into the hands of someone whose motives are only too well known.

The second option is that of the SHRC, which is deregulation by the back door. It proposes that all shops under 3,000 sq. ft. should be able to open at any hour on a Sunday, regardless of the goods sold, and that large shops exceeding that size must notify the local authority of which six hours they wish to open out of a specified eight-hour period. The SHRC proposals effectively provide for total deregulation. They do not offer effective employment protection, enforceable in tribunals. According to the latest statement from the Minister and his colleagues, the only employment protection to be offered in the Government Bill is for existing employees. Until we obtain clarification on that, I do not see how anyone who cares about employment protection could possibly vote for the SHRC proposal.

No employment protection is offered for workers in shops in Scotland, as there is in the Bill offered by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), which represents the third option. To achieve the third option it is therefore necessary to vote against new clause 14, if we get to that vote. I should like to explain why the House should vote accordingly.

The Bill received its Second Reading with a majority of 173. It is also worth noting that 257 hon. Members have now signed the early-day motion before the House, so there is clearly a majority view that Parliament should do something along the lines of the Keep Sunday Special campaign proposals. Those proposals have been pragmatically amended in Committee, in line with what the hon. Member for Ogmore promised the House on Second Reading.

In Committee, more than 200 amendments were given detailed consideration. The Bill was amended in a number of important respects, including allowing DIY stores to open on a Sunday and garden centres to sell their full range of goods. It provides for a wide variety of shops to be open —a total of 26 categories, which are up to 3,000 sq ft in size. Anyone who suggests that the hon. Member for Ogmore has been inflexible or unreasonable entirely misses the point. Many of us would argue that he has gone too far, but we recognise that the Bill needs to command the widest possible support and I believe that the hon. Gentleman has gone a long way to achieving that.

The Bill will not allow Sunday to become a free-for-all. When my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) was speaking on the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Bill earlier, someone questioned his motives for doing so. I am not sure what those motives were, but he referred to Corky the cockerel. I should like to refer to another bird, the kingfisher. That bird is found on the headed notepaper of many large stores that are members of the Kingfisher Group, one of which is Woolworths.

A woman came to my surgery on Saturday last to complain about the Woolworths store in the Allerton road area of Liverpool, which I have mentioned in the House before. It chooses to break the law and is currently open on a Sunday. That causes congestion in the small terraced street in which that woman lives. During the week, she works with mentally handicapped people and she told me that she will soon develop mental illness because of the noise, rowdiness and comings and goings on the street on the one day when she expects to be able to build up her energy to face her demanding job in the next six days.

This week I have written to the Woolworths store and the Kingfisher group to ask them to comply with the law. The Bill and new clause 14 gives us the chance to sort the matter out and ensure that people living in such areas do not have their Sundays disrupted and that Sunday remains a special day. That is why the House should vote against deregulation, against the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals and against the new clause, and leave the Bill intact.

12 noon

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

No, I am about to conclude my speech—I have spoken at length. I have been generous in giving way and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to speak later in the debate.

The Minister said that the Government were not prepared to provide time for the Bill, which is to their discredit. The status of Back Benchers in this place is constantly being reduced. It seems that the only things that we can deal with are tethering ponies and other obscure issues, and the House of Commons cannot decide on an issue such as Sunday trading—which the Government have conceded should be on a free vote. Why do not the Government provide the time for the Bill, which has completed its Second Reading and Committee stage, and which will have completed much of its Report stage today?

Here is an opportunity for the official Opposition, who are also given time in the House. Regardless of whether they are for or against the Bill, I hope that they will allow the Bill to make further progress by considering the use of Opposition time—an Opposition day. We could also consider using minority party time, although there is precious little of it. If the Government are not prepared to honour the intentions behind the Bill and the overriding view of the majority of hon. Members that it should make progress, we shall ensure that Back Benchers' rights are upheld. Other parties in the House must achieve what the Government have so lamentably failed to do.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who made a passionate appeal and a sensible speech. I appreciated the fact that my hon. Friend the Minister gave way to me, but I could not understand what he was getting at. It is not as if the arguments have not been well rehearsed—even over-rehearsed. It has been made abundantly clear, from the vote on Second Reading, the early-day motion signed by—I think—257 hon. Members and in so many other ways, that the manifest will of the majority of hon. Members is to amend the law on Sunday trading, but not to have total deregulation.

One talks about the dog that barked in the night—or did not. I was surprised and disappointed that my hon. Friend the Minister did not intervene when he was given the opportunity to do so and was challenged to give his personal views on Sunday trading. I suspect that today we are debating, not the Bill's Report stage, which was so well orchestrated by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), but the Government's hidden agenda—total deregulation.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, with his characteristically robust bravado, has made it clear that he supports total deregulation. He is fully entitled to that view. It also seems that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has a similar view—I should be delighted to be corrected. It is apparent that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Mordan (Dame A. Rumbold)—who, as a previous Minister with responsibility for the subject, has to display a certain agnosticism —is also very much in favour of total deregulation. She is fully entitled to those views.

From time to time, all of us, whatever views we embrace, find ourselves in a minority. It is not the job or prerogative of the Government at any time or in any place to usurp the manifest will of the majority, which is what is happening.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden

It is a dangerous practice to assume that one knows the way in which one's colleagues are likely to vote. My hon. Friend is not entirely correct in his assumptions about my personal choice.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

If I am wrong, I am delighted. If my right hon. Friend, for whom I have a high regard, does not believe in total deregulation, but in something along the lines of the Bill, that is fine.

We had a full debate on Second Reading. The hon. Member for Ogmore showed exemplary flexibility in Committee and accepted amendments. I am sorry that I could not serve on the Standing Committee which was, by all accounts, a good Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden said that it was a good Committee. Issues were debated at length and amendments were made. In a true non-partisan spirit, the hon. Member for Ogmore has made it absolutely plain that if the Bill leaves this House for another place, he does not expect it to return unaltered. Time and again, he has made it plain that he is happy to sit down with Ministers to discuss refinements and improvements. The Government do not have a prerogative on perfection in legislation. We only have to recall the events of less than 24 hours ago to be aware of that.

What is the obstacle? In another place, there are many Members on both sides of the House and on the Cross Benches with enormous experience who can contribute to the Bill. I am not talking about the Bench of Bishops; my views do not stem from a sabbatarian stance—far from it. I do not want, and never have wanted, a high street Sunday. I do not want Saturday to be replicated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Stay away."] My hon. Friends tell me to stay away. In doing so, they show a total misunderstanding of what I am trying to say.

As the hon. Member for Mossley Hill made clear when he quoted the letter from his constituent, if there is a high street Sunday that replicates Saturday, one cannot stop the world and get off. If one lives in the heart of a city or town, one is stuck there, and surrounded and enveloped by the activity. I remember a Good Friday in Wolverhampton soon after I moved to the midlands nearly 25 years ago. I was so astounded by the frenetic commercial activity, which was so different from the atmosphere in my native Lincolnshire, that I rammed my car into the one in front —it was a costly Good Friday. A high street Sunday would result in many such incidents.

Today we have been given an opportunity—in-geniously devised by the hon. Member for Ogmore, assisted by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett)—to exercise choice. The House can pronouce on the three choices—total deregulation and the two forms of amendment. The hon. Member for Mossley Hill, with his characteristic skill, took us through the details of the choice; I shall not attempt to repeat what he said, as it would be superfluous to do so.

We have a choice. There is no problem about hon. Members not knowing about today's business. Of course, it is commonly understood that one does not know the nature of specific amendments until close to the day on which they are to be debated. We constantly live our lives in ignorance of what is to happen in the week ahead. We do not know the business for the following week until the previous Thursday and many of us have to adjust our timetables accordingly. But that does not apply to Fridays. We have known for a very long time that this day would be largely devoted to the issue of Sunday trading, and we have known for a few days that this crucial new clause existed. There is no reason, therefore, why the Lobbies should not be full at 2.30 pm or thereabouts. I believe that it would be wrong of the Government to insist on frustrating the will of the House—

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

It is not nonsense. My hon. Friend, who is a near neighbour of mine, is an expert on the subject of nonsense. We know what the subject before us is—

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

My hon. Friend served on the Committee, and if he will just contain himself for a moment I will point out to him that no Member of the House, present or absent, has any excuse for not knowing the business today.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

I thank my near neighbour for giving way. I said "nonsense" because we have known for only three days that there was to be a choice between these three areas. I also said it because my hon. Friend claimed that the Lobbies could be full. There are 651 Members of Parliament. Does my hon. Friend seriously claim that they will all be in the Lobbies? I think not.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. The hon. Gentleman has repeatedly intervened on this and related subjects this morning. I hope that he will not do that any more.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Every Member knows the business of the House for the day and makes his or her choice accordingly. As to the nature of the amendments, hon. Members can look at the amendment paper and see what amendments are being tabled—and they can adjust their diaries, if they feel it necessary to do so.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

I hesitate to intervene on this fraternal strife, but the hon. Gentleman has said that it would be superfluous to go through the alternative procedures when we come to vote. But surely those procedures are an incomprehensible dog's breakfast? If hon. Members want to secure what I take it the hon. Gentleman himself wants—restricted Sunday trading—they must vote against the new clause moved by the promoter of the Bill, who may have to vote against it himself. What sense is there in that?

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

As I said when I paid the hon. Member for Ogmore a compliment, he is adopting an ingenious procedure, in response to requests from various parts of the House. He is doing it to tell the Government that they do not need to waste their time with the three options, because the House can pronounce on them this Friday.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

I am sorry, but I must get on. I promised to be brief, and I have already gone on for far too long —[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—because I have given way to those who have intervened.

The Government are always saying that they need more time to get their legislation right. Here is a marvellous opportunity for them to allow a subject to be dealt with in a private Member's Bill. To claim that the subject is too complicated is an insult to the House. One has only to look at many of the issues that have been decided in the past by private Members' Bills—the abolition of the death penalty, the creation of conservation areas—to recognise that matters of great moment and of fundamental importance to many people have frequently been decided in this way.

12.15 pm

Hon. Members have referred to workers' rights. I wholly accept the Government's wish for proper protection in legislation for workers, but if we move towards total deregulation it will he increasingly difficult to maintain that stance. Only the other day, I was told by a member of Her Majesty's Government, whose driver's wife works in a branch of Sainsbury, that, in spite of Sainsbury's frequently proclaimed assertion that it does not wish to interfere with the freedom of conscience of its workers, the women had come under intolerable pressure —so much so that it had been acknowledged in a letter from the company's head or regional office.

This would happen increasingly, and over time it would have the inevitable consequence of cutting away the very foundations on which the village and corner shop economy is built. We would be destroying an element of the very choice in which we frequently proclaim we believe, to the disadvantage of our constituents, whether they live in villages or in small streets served by the corner shop. Total deregulation would spell the slow decline and death of most of these shops.

Hon. Members have mentioned the lawbreakers. One of the reasons why I regret the Government's refusal to allow the Bill to proceed is the fact—the Minister acknowledged his own unease on this score—that so many people are breaking the law. All over the country, large stores are opening in flagrant violation of the law. It is no excuse to blame local authorities. We have not heard from the Dispatch Box the ringing denunciation of this lawbreaking that we should have heard. It is inexcusable and it creates perverse double standards for those who talk of law and order and the need to enforce them.

If for no other reason than that, I ask the Minister to think again and allow the Bill to go to another place to be further improved. My hon. Friend can play a part in improving it, so that we can have something on the statute book well before next Christmas, thereby doing something positive and definite to stop a pernicious kind of lawbreaking.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I wish to commend new clause 10 to the House. The Report stage of a private Member's Bill is the last place to be holding a debate such as this, on new clause 14. It is much more a Second Reading matter as it goes to the heart of the Bill.

New clause 10 is a genuine attempt to amend the Bill, and is much more in keeping with it. It does not go as far as new clause 14, but it would introduce a welcome element of flexibility by allowing more classes of shop to register under clause 3 and by altering some of the current requirements that might, in the fullness of time, seem unnecessary or irrelevant.

If the sponsers of the Bill were forced to translate the long title into plain English, they would probably say, "This is a Bill that closes shops on Sundays, unless they sell goods or services that contribute to recreation, emergencies, social gatherings or travel"—the REST proposals—"and provides protection for Sunday shop workers." Most of us agree about the necessity for that protection.

That is not quite the approach that the Bill takes in practice. No doubt for good legal reasons, the sponsors of the Bill have not tried to insert into law tests based on whether shops satisfy the REST proposals. Instead, they have set out all the goods and types of shop which they think meet the various REST proposals. That presents a problem. Because the REST proposals are not defined in a detailed way, it is hard to see how some shops have been fitted into them but others rejected. For example, DIY shops are recreational, but second-hand book shops are not. I endorse the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), as set out in the article in The Independent yesterday to which reference has already been made. She said: Given the number of men on the committee (18 out of 21) it was perhaps predictable that various exceptions have been proposed to the general ban on Sunday shopping. 'Boys' shops' such as DIY stores and motor spares shops will be allowed to open; supermarkets and the clothes shops that women want will not. It appears that a woman's place is in the home, at least on Sundays, while a man's is out at the shops, down the pub. up a ladder or under a car. Is it not also a case of double standards for many male MPs to favour more Sunday sporting events but not more Sunday shopping? It is essential that the law, if it is not to be brought into disrepute, keeps up to date with what people want, and remains enforceable. New clause 10 gives the Secretary of State power to add new classes of shop to the Bill. It will allow the Government of the day to remedy any oversights that we have not picked up. Without it, it is entirely possible that we shall face a whole new set of private Members' Bill adjusting this one as oversights are remedied.

It is possible that the Bill will have unexpected loopholes. We know that the Shops Act 1950 has brought a great deal of income to lawyers down the years, as they have pored over it looking for new ways to stretch its meaning. Almost by definition, we would not expect to discover loopholes today, or we would have closed them. If the Bill contains loopholes—it would be a brave Member of Parliament who declared any but the most simple legislative measure free of such loopholes—the new clause gives the Government of the day the power to close them.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

I raised this point earlier, but I did not get a satisfactory answer. The sale of wet fish, which is covered by the 1950 Act, is important to Grimsby. Is new clause 10 the way to allow what I want to be allowed—the sale of wet fish on Sundays?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I agree with my hon. Friend. As he has said, with all the amendments, concessions and compromises, the Bill has become something of a dog's breakfast. Those of us who support the SHRC proposals, are constantly misrepresented as being in favour of deregulation, but we are not. We are in favour of legislation based on size of outlet rather than on type of goods sold. Any Bill based on the latter is bound to be anomalous, as my hon. Friend has rightly said.

Photo of Mr Roy Thomason Mr Roy Thomason , Bromsgrove

Does the hon. Lady agree thai it is a strange anomaly that, under new clause 14, spare parts for motor vehicles can be sold, but motor vehicles themselves cannot be?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

That is a good example of the mess that the Bill has become.

One of the most obvious problems of the Shops Act 1950 is that it has failed to keep up not just with changes to retailing but with changes of life style in our wider society. The Act was already pretty outdated when it came into being. It was largely a consolidating measure and much of it can be dated back as far as 1936. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that it cannot cope with the huge changes in the way that we work and shop. In 1950, 26 per cent. of married women worked. Now, 61 per cent. work, even though they are still largely responsible for the shopping. I speak as a working mother who is still largely responsible for the shopping. That is not to say that my husband is not willing to do the shopping. He is, but he generally gets it wrong.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

As one who has overcome that barrier, may I recommend a course of action to the hon. Lady? If she allows him enough practice, he will eventually get it right.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that advice.

DIY shops, video shops, garden centres and out-of-town shopping developments did not exist in 1950. Shop workers were largely full-time workers; now they are largely part-time workers. Whether we like it or not, religious observance by Christians has declined, while that by Muslims, whose holy day has no legal recognition, has increased.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Does the hon. Lady agree that in Scotland, where there are no Sunday trading restrictions, more people attend church on Sundays than is the case in England, where there are Sunday trading restrictions?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

The hon. Gentleman is right. Attendance at places of worship on Sunday in Scotland is higher than it is in England and Wales, and shops there have been allowed to open for many years.

The new clause, as the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) said earlier, is an attempt to give the Bill what engineers would call future-proofing. If whole new sectors of shopping come into being, the Bill can be amended by statutory instrument to take account of those changes.

Perhaps most importantly, the new clause will allow the law to be changed when there is public demand for change, without Parliament having to go through the difficult and time-consuming process of introducing new legislation. The sponsors of the Bill might be a little suspicious of that argument, although they claim to have public opinion on their side, but the actions in recent months of hon. Members on both sides of the House who support the Bill make the case for incorporating the new clause, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) showed when he predicted that, if the Bill goes further, there will be more amendments to it.

The main argument in the behind-the-scenes lobbying that has gone on in the corridors, tea rooms and bars in recent weeks is that the Bill is now a compromise and has caught up with the overwhelming public desire to open DIY stores. At one level, that shows a welcome flexibility by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore and his colleagues, but it also confirms that, even in a short time, views about what should or should not be opened can be changed. Think how much could change in 43 years if we had to wait that long before the House got to grips with Sunday trading again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) will be putting the views of USDAW at great length later if she catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall take the opportunity to place on the record the position of the Transport and General Workers Union and GMB. The TGWU recommended that the Bill be opposed on Second Reading because of fears that it would be too restrictive. It is now carrying out an extensive consultation with its membership to get a clear and comprehensive picture of views on working on Sunday. The union expects that its position will be resolved at this summer's biennial conference.

The GMB has said that it accepts that public pressure for Sunday trading will result in a change in law. Its aim is to protect its members by supporting a limit on the number of hours that shops can open on any day of the week. No worker should be forced to work on Sundays and a refusal to work should not lead to a setback in the worker's prospects. Premium payments should be made in recognition of the special nature of Sunday working.

Photo of Jim Dowd Jim Dowd , Lewisham West

My hon. Friend may not know that the position of my union, Manufacturing, Science and Finance, has recently been declared identical with that of the two unions that she mentioned. It has been decided that, as long as provision is made for adequate worker protection—whether by statute or through traditional trade union channels—MSF agrees broadly with the position of the other two unions. It has also been decided that, unless such provision is enshrined in primary legislation, no majority for any other measures will be possible in the House. I have a good deal of experience of such matters, having worked regularly on Sundays before I became a Member of Parliament—that is, when I had a proper job.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention; my position is the same.

Several of our major trade union colleagues have recognised that flexibility is needed, and that whatever legislation is presented should not he too restrictive. That is the aim of new clause 10, and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central 12:30 pm, 14th May 1993

As almost everything has been said already, I shall try to be brief.

I was disappointed by the Minister's speech, which I did not consider particularly helpful. I thought it rather patronising, which was surprising in his case; I also thought that, in view of all the effort that has gone into the Bill, his approach was very negative. We have been considering this subject since 1986, and it really is time that we got on with it. The Home Secretary's speech yesterday suggested a fresh attitude—a new willingness to accept reality and make progress. That was not true of the Minister's contribution. Moreover, it seemed to reveal his own views—although they have not yet been confirmed; it will be interesting to find out what they are in the end. It is taking time to tease out hon. Members' views.

It is difficult for me to talk about my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) when she is not in the Chamber, but I have talked to her more than once about the problems of the legislation. At the time, she gave the impression that she was relatively unbiased, and was trying to find the best possible solution. Now she seems to be one of those most rabidly in favour of deregulation. When challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), she said that that was not the case, and implied that she might not favour complete deregulation—which, surely, must mean that she favours some kind of regulation. If so, I welcome her attitude, but I hope that the i's will be dotted and the t's crossed in due course.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I have been pressed several times to give my view. I did not want to take up the House's time with something that is irrelevant to the Bill and the House's decision on it; let me say, however, that—as many of my hon. Friends know, along with all my constituents who have written to me on the subject—Scotland, in my view, has the best arrangement. That is none the less subordinate to my overriding objective of securing effective, enforceable legislation that reflects the considered view of Parliament. I do not believe that this Bill will do that, which is why I made the speech that I made. However, it will be for the House to decide, on a free vote.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

I understand the Minister's position: he is in favour of total deregulation. That, basically, is the decision that the House will have to make, however we wrap it up. Either we want total deregulation, and are prepared to risk Sunday's becoming just another day of the week, or we must accept that the House has a responsibility to produce some kind of legislation—however difficult it may be—to preserve Sunday as it has been preserved over the years by our forefathers, who were perhaps much wiser in this regard than we seem to be now.

In a sense, new clause 14 sums up the issue. Others have already spoken, so I shall not go into much detail; but it seems to me that either we want to keep Sunday special a stance that is addressed by the Bill—or we want deregulation. The alternatives involved in deregulation are total deregulation—that is the honest description, and the Minister has been honest—and partial deregulation. I believe that both would result in total deregulation, one way or the other. One alternative makes no bones about it, suggesting that we should clear the decks without troubling to work out the complications; the other would allow all shops measuring less than 3,000 sq ft to open on Sundays, and others for six hours a day.

This Chamber measures approximately 3,000 sq ft. The provision encompasses the vast majority of shops in the country. Under partial deregulation, such shops will be able to open on Sundays regardless of what they sell, while all shops—regardless of size—will be able to open for six hours. Six hours is not far short of a complete trading day. Technically, it is two hours short of a complete trading day, but how long will it be before trading is extended to eight hours a day?

The fact that all shops of the size of the House of Commons would be able to open and that all shops, regardless of size, would be able to open for six hours on a Sunday really means that partial deregulation will result in total deregulation. The two options are not, therefore, what they seem to be. Either we vote for the Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) or we vote for deregulation in one form or another.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox , Woodspring

Does my hon. Friend accept that all hon. Members know the business of the House and have a duty to be here, if they think that it is important to be here?

None the less, a clearer view of the will of the House would be achieved under the proposals outlined by the Minister this morning. We should then have all the summer to consider the proposals and then take a vote, with more Members being aware by the autumn of what they are.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

I disagree entirely with my hon. Friend. Any hon. Member who is interested in a subject as important as this could have been here today. I accept that a small minority have engagements that it would have been impossible for them to cancel, but all of us have to be fairly light on our feet in the House of Commons and able to respond, often within hours, to various issues. Most hon. Members could have made time to be here and should have been here.

My hon. Friend also referred to the Government's proposals. The Minister told us this morning that the Government do not intend just to introduce legal proposals; there will be explanations of the effect of those proposals. I do not wish to impugn the Government's motives, but when one moves to explanations rather than pure facts there is always room for manoeuvre, depending upon the individual's point of view. We have had a lot of time to think about this issue.

By and large, hon. Members have made up their minds about the matter. If they have not made up their minds about it by now, they jolly well ought to have done. There has been ample opportunity to go into it in great detail. By now, therefore, they should have decided what their constituents want and what they believe they want on behalf of their constituents.

In Committee, we also dealt comprehensively with the issue of Sunday opening before Christmas. It was suggested that all shops should be allowed to open on the four Sundays before Christmas. This was regarded by the majority of the Committee as a matter of principle. where there was no room for negotiation. The Committee decided that there was room for movement on other aspects, but on the issue of shops opening on the four Sundays before Christmas it felt that it could not budge. It is a Christian holiday. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South, I am not sabbatarian about the matter, but it is an important one. It is interesting that my hon. Friend also mentioned Good Friday. It is a long time since we all had a holiday on Good Friday. It is also interesting that we are thinking of introducing a new national holiday and inventing a name for it. But we once had a name for a bank holiday, and that name was Good Friday. Sadly, Good Friday now means business as usual.

If we want to accommodate the extra shopping that is done before Christmas, there is a simple way of accommodating it; by allowing shops to open later in the evening from Monday to Saturday. There is no reason why that should not be allowed. In that way, it would be possible to accommodate the extra shopping required in the weeks before Christmas.

Even though life is hectic and busy for shops in the weeks before Christmas—they want their tills to ring and to make as much money as they can—we must remember that life is also hectic for those who work in shops. They are just as entitled to have their Sundays protected and preserved in the run-up to a Christian holiday as they are at other times of the year.

If there is talk about opening on four Sundays before Christmas, why not make it six Sundays, or 10 Sundays?

What not open on Sundays during the January sales, or in the run-up to Easter or in midsummer? Once the principle is breached, there is no knowing where it might lead.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

The hon. Gentleman has rightly referred to the position of shop workers. Is he aware that if they were to resort to the employment tribunals that were mentioned by the Minister in his speech, the prospects of their being reinstated would be pretty bleak? The figures show that only 1 per cent. of all those who go to a tribunal are reinstated, that only 10 per cent. are able successfully to fight their cases in tribunals and that they receive, on average, £1,700 in compensation. In other words, for 99 per cent. of shop workers, there will be no chance of reinstatement and for 90 per cent. of them there will be no compensation.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

I agree very much with the hon. Gentleman. This is a minefield. Whatever is written in contracts and whatever assurances are given, pressure builds up and it is easier for someone who wants to keep their job to acquiesce and to accept that pressure. Hon. Members will never hear of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been pressurised into doing something that they do not want to do because they do not want to complain or permanently to damage the atmosphere of their workplace.

It is often said that this matter is complicated and that, in trying to draft legislation we are almost certain to get it wrong—if only slightly. I accept that it is extremely difficult to make such legislation watertight, but is that any reason for taking the easy way out and abandoning all legislation, because that is what is being urged on us? I am sure that it is not. If we believe that Sunday should be a special day, surely it is worth getting our intelligent and highly paid civil servants to redraft the law so that it fits what we want to do to preserve Sunday.

That, in effect, is what the hon. Member for Ogmore has done under this private Member's Bill and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South referred to huge changes in our life that have been made by private Member's Bills. An enormous amount of effort has gone into the Bill, and I believe that it is the will of the House —with the exception, perhaps, of the Government Front Bench—to preserve our Sundays. Here is the vehicle to do it and we must not waste the opportunity.

Supporters of the Bill are not narrow minded. We are anxious to protect and preserve what is good in our national life. There is so much upheaval now in our country on every possible front. Surely we should fight for stability and to keep in place what we have had for such a long time.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

No, I am not giving way any more—

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. I do not want unduly to curb the hon. Gentleman, but he is now making a more general speech suitable to, say, a Second Reading debate rather than to the two new clauses under consideration.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

I appreciate that, and I apologise if I have strayed slightly from the straight and narrow.

To most people, Sunday still is an oasis in this hectic life of ours, and future generations will never forgive us if we let our Sunday go.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

We heard how anxious the Minister was that the House should have a chance to compare and contrast several fully worked-out choices. That is a novel doctrine of legislation and I wonder whether he intends to extend it to other controversial issues. For instance, will we have several fully worked-out choices on the future of British Rail—a matter which is equally controversial and over which the controversy crosses the Floor? I suspect not. The Minister's expression tells me all. That shows that the Minister is talking now about comparing and contrasting because the Government have no confidence in getting through the House the measures that they want.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has been generous to the opponents of the Bill in new clause 14. Despite my surprise and misgivings, I realise that that generosity is intended to benefit the whole House: hon. Members can debate the options to save the Government the trouble and the time of waiting until the autumn. I appreciate my hon. Friend's motives.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox , Woodspring

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

No. I have not intervened and I am conscious of the time.

I am conscious of the fact that this new clause offers a succinct means of discussing the issues that are raised in all the other amendments. I trust that even the opponents of the Bill would agree that the amendments would not be necessary if the new clause were passed.

12.45 pm

The new clause allows the Shopping Hours Reform Council's proposals to be brought before the House and I shall examine something of what that means. First, there is the six hours of trading. We are told that our legislation is the slippery slope. We are asked, "Why not this sort of shop? Why not that sort of product?" Well, why not seven hours or 10 hours? The six-hour provision is certainly the top of a slippery slope, because there is no principle whatever behind it.

The Bill rests on the desire of the House—and, I believe, of the country—not to have a high street Sunday. As the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) said, we do not want to replicate Saturday on a Sunday. That is the principle of the Bill, and the schedules and other devices are the means to carry it out. They have a perfectly logical basis.

The Shopping Hours Reform Council's proposals on worker protection are interesting. We have heard from some hon. Members, including from the Opposition Front Bench, that there is common ground that there should be full worker protection. That is not so. It depends whom one considers to be workers. There are even amendments before us today to remove anyone engaged in any management task from all employee protection. In its unadulterated form, the Bill would protect all grades and types of employee, including managers. And why not? What is it about management staff in retailing that makes them neither need nor deserve support and protection? I speak now for my union and as the president of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers as well as the Member of Parliament for Preston. I make it clear that all grades and types of staff join trade unions because they realise that they need protection, and the House should realise that, too.

The Shopping Hours Reform Council offers no protection for workers in Scotland, yet they need it even more than workers in England, because there is more Sunday trading in Scotland. The Bill, as it emerged from Committee, extends employee protection to Scotland. Everybody who is genuinely in favour of employee protection should vote for the Bill on that ground if on no other. Certainly all Scottish Members with the interests of shop workers at heart should vote for it.

The Shopping Hours Reform Council would not protect Sunday-only workers. That is deplorable, but, of course, it is part of the pattern of the results of deregulation and partial deregulation, which increase casualisation and increase the number of workers with no rights, no security and no status who work for peanuts. The fact that the Shopping Hours Reform Council would exclude those people from protection is typical. There would also be no guarantee of any protection for remuneration. The Bill enshrines the principle of double time on a Sunday and that provision went through Committee unanimously, without amendment. If members of the Committee were so worried about the Bill, why did not they table suitable amendments then? They accepted the provisions for employment protection and the Bill, unlike new clause 14, is specific about double time. In case anybody thinks that that is a daring and innovative idea, I must tell the House that double time in retailing on a Sunday was guaranteed in law until 1986. Nor was it removed from the law because of any pressure from employers or from the public. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers continues to have agreements with various employers which still enshrine double time. Of course, there is some Sunday working in retailing even without Sunday trading. There is stocktaking and preparatory work to do and that is why agreements mention pay and protection on Sunday.

What would happen if the deregulators got their way or if the Shopping Hours Reform Council got its way? Retailing is already a cut-throat business, so the main brunt of the competitive pressure would fall on the work force. That is why it is vital to have protection spelt out and vital not to have a high street Sunday which would even brush aside legal protection. I am not interested in lip service to worker protection. I am interested in real protection, in money, in the voluntary principle and in the protection of all grades of workers throughout the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) talked about the Transport and General Workers Union and the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Workers Union. She says that they do not like the Bill and that they are consulting their members. It is a pity that they did not consult their members before they gave advice to hon. Members. We in USDAW have just had an annual delegate meeting with representatives of every branch of the union, which is by far the largest union in retailing, and it was solidly behind the Bill. We are the union which, above all others, organises shop workers. We understand retailing and we know what would happen with a high street Sunday.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

No. The hon. Member has intervened repeatedly this morning and never to good account.

Photo of Ms Audrey Wise Ms Audrey Wise , Preston

The hon. Gentleman is beyond redemption.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) was even more generous than my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore in tabling his amendment and I understand why perfectly. I will certainly protect his reputation.

The deregulators do not even pay lip service to workers' protection; they are for "anything goes" and they welcome the Prime Minister's statement that the present law of the land is bizarre. It ill becomes Ministers to complain if local authorities find it difficult to enforce the law when they create such an atmosphere.

I will not resist the Second Reading of the new clause, but I will certainly resist the amendment and I will certainly fiercely resist any suggestion that the new clause should stand part of the Bill, as should anybody who is interested in keeping Sunday special and who has any concern for women workers who overwhelmingly staff our shops. When some people in the House talk about women, they seem to have a blind spot for the women who work on the check-outs, who fill the shelves and who do not want to work on a Sunday, but who want proper pay and conditions for the other days of the week. Nobody can tell us that there is no time during the week, with 12-hour shopping days in many cases, to shop. Anybody who can organise his or her time properly can find time to shop.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I listened with interest to the speech made by the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), who said that, as president of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, she could confirm that USDAW was the largest union of shopworkers. What she did not tell the House was that nine shopworkers out of 10 choose not to be members of USDAW.

We have been asked to state our interest in this debate. I can do so succinctly. I believe in the maximum freedom of choice. I also believe that the burden of bureaucratic intervention on industry and commerce should be reduced. Unfortunately, the Bill seeks to increase the level of bureaucratic intervention in commerce. Much more important, it seeks to deny freedom. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) said that his wife was quite capable of organising her week so that she did not have to shop on Sunday. Good for her. No one is asking her to shop on Sunday. But I do not believe that the fact that Mrs. Burns does not want to shop on Sunday is a reason why I should not shop on Sunday or a good reason for preventing supermarkets from opening on Sunday.

We have listened this morning to some of the most arrant twaddle possible. We have heard the supermarkets described as the lawbreakers, as if every other retailer behaved legally on Sundays. I remind the House that 95 per cent. of shops that open on this coming Sunday will be trading illegally. It is not just the supermarkets that trade illegally: every corner shop that sells a can of baked beans, a packet of cod fish fingers—no doubt made in Grimsby—

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

—or even a packet of sugar, or that rents out a video is trading illegally. We are also talking about every DIY centre that sells Miss Rumbold some cement and every garden centre that is open this Sunday. It is quite wrong of hon. Members to say that they are fighting a battle against the lawbreakers. They are selective a s to the lawbreakers against whom they are fighting the battle and they are ignoring the fact that the first shops to break the law on a Sunday were not the supermarket chains but small traders and that the supermarkets have merely caught up—

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton , Congleton

If I follow the hon. Gentleman's argument, he will welcome the fact that he has before him a Bill on which he can vote which will prevent the delay in a new law being enacted and enforced and will prevent the free-for-all before Christmas, which is such a disgrace to the Government whom I support, who purport to be the Government of law and order.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I do not welcome the Bill because it is bureaucratic. What is worse, it seems to embody an obsessive dislike of supermarkets, as if sin sat on the supermarket shelf.

We should welcome the fact that we have one of the most efficient retailing industries in the world. I should like at this point to do something that I have not done since I became a Member of the House and pay tribute to the Father of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir. E. Heath). The Retail Prices Act 1964, which my right hon. Friend introduced, has enabled Britain to have such an efficient retailing system.

Our supermarkets offer cheap prices and wide choice. The Bill would close them on Sundays. New clause 10 offers them a ray of hope. Some of the supporters of the Bill are the self-satisfied, the sanctimonious, the well paid and the well fed, who seek to make life less convenient and more expensive for my constituents.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman is a passionate supporter of Sunday working. Does his support extend to Sunday working by Members of Parliament? Would he advocate that the House of Commons should normally work on a Sunday?

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Those of my constituents who know me well know that I frequently work in my constituency on Sunday morning, afternoon and evening. Many organisations will confirm that I am happy to attend meetings on Sundays if I am asked to do so.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

The hon. Gentleman is making a rod for his own back.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I am not a part-timer like the hon. Gentleman, who suddenly appears at 12.30 pm on a Friday. He is such a part-timer that he refuses to serve on Standing Committees and lectures the rest of us on the fact that we do too much work.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

As a matter of fact, I was on a Standing Committee only last week, so the hon. Gentleman is totally wrong. As for being a part-timer, I voted in 98 per cent. of the votes in the last Session of Parliament and in 96 per cent. of the votes in another Session. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would check his record, which is probably similar to the average for other hon. Members—about 50 per cent. He should not talk to me about being a part-timer when he is lining his pockets with other jobs.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Before the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) continues, I hope that we will return to the two clauses under consideration and that matters will not get too personal. It would not be unparliamentary to discuss personal matters, but I do not like it. We should be discussing issues, not personalities.

1 pm

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I agree, Madam Deputy Speaker. Some people incite one into straying down the ways of misguided thoughts—I will try not to yield to temptation. To err is human: to forgive, divine.

Recently, I visited two shops in my constituency. One was Food Giant, which would be closed on Sundays by the Bill, and the other was 7-Eleven, which would be allowed to trade on Sundays. That is why I regard the new clause as important. The House may like to know the cost of some of the commodities on that shopping expedition. I wanted to buy a pint of semi-skimmed milk, because I am conscious of the need to keep weight under control. It cost 25p at Food Giant and 38p at 7-Eleven. I wanted to buy a loaf of Mother's Pride bread—it was 29p at Food Giant and 71p at 7-Eleven. I wanted to buy some Nescafe—it was £1·29 at Food Giant and £1·79 at 7-Eleven.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) thought that his fish would not be mentioned. But I wanted to buy some fish fingers made in Grimsby. They were £1·15 for 10 at Food Giant and £1·89 at 7-Eleven —a difference on first-class Bird's Eye fish fingers of 74p. That is a high rate of valued added tax to impose to keep the Sunday sabatarian conscience. I thought that if I were eating all that food, I should brush my teeth. What was the cost of oral hygiene? A tube of Aquafresh was £1·29 at Food Giant and £1–95 at 7-Eleven.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Food Giant is not the most prosperous retailing group, but it is getting a free plug this morning. For a basket of well-known basic commodities and foodstuffs, the cost at Food Giant was £14·28. That shop would be closed down by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), who talked about the need for pensioners, single-parent families and widows to have a better deal. He would close down Food Giant at £14·28 and give 7-Eleven a licence to open at £19·56. I suggest that the cost of all that to the average family could be as much as £500 a year. That is from an hon. Member who objects to the imposition of VAT on fuel. The cost of the Bill to many families would be much greater than the cost of the imposition of VAT on heating and lighting.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton , Congleton

The hon. Gentleman voted for that.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

I know that the hon. Lady's husband voted against the imposition of VAT on fuel but she did not vote against it, so she is caught out by her own intervention.

It is accepted by people that supermarkets are relatively inexpensive and popular. Indeed, on Sunday, more people will shop in the supermarkets of England than listen to the vicars of the Church of England preach. We must ask ourselves what right we have to say to the people of the United Kingdom that they are wrong and we are right.

Lord Randolph Churchill, the great-grandfather of my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), told the Tory party to trust the people. Those of us who support a liberalisation of the law say, "Trust the people; the people will decide whether they want to shop on Sunday." They should be given that choice.

Those who say that they want to change the law and keep Sunday special forget that Sunday will not he kept special by legislative fiat. Sunday will be kept special out of conviction. When I was young, my family and I used to walk around the streets of Dundee on a Sunday because that was what we wanted to do. We did not want to stop in the shops that could legally trade on Sunday in Scotland.

When I go around my constituency tomorrow afternoon, I shall see walking around Hendon Jewish family after Jewish family. Why do they walk around Hendon as a family on a Saturday? It is not because a law of the land says that they cannot go and shop. It is because, out of conviction, they do not want to shop on Shabbat. That is surely the way to keep Sunday special.

The way to keep Sunday special is for the Church of England to have a message for the people. The Church of England should ask itself why its pews are full on Christmas eve and on Christmas day and why they are not full for the other 363 days of the year. If it could answer that question, there would be no need for legislation on Sunday trading. But it cannot. People want to shop on a Sunday and they should be free to do so.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

If today's debate on new clauses 14 and 10 demonstrates anything, it is the need for Government legislation on Sunday trading. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has made a brave attempt, and I congratulate him on all the effort and hard work that has gone into it. But it has proved that to legislate on issues of conscience is beyond the resources of the Back Bencher and the resources allowed to back private Members' legislation.

The problem is that out of the good intentions of the legislation we have ended up with a mess; we have ended up with a dog's breakfast. We have ended up with Ogmore pie half baked as it has been presented to the House today. The Bill started with a simple, single, clear-cut objective. It has ended up with a mess. My hon. Friend is now attempting to pull the plug on that mess by means of new clause 14 which, I understand, he intends to vote against. That is an incomprehensible way to legislate on Sunday trading.

My hon. Friend started with a virtuous vestal virgin of a Bill and has ended up with not total but semi-promiscuity. The Bill cannot be totally promiscuous because of the long title of the Bill. At the end of the long evolution of the vestal virgin into a semi-harlot, my hon. Friend shoots her by tabling new clause 14. It does not make sense to proceed in that fashion. It shows the difficulties which face private Members in legislating on topics as controversial as shopping on Sundays.

If the Committee has done anything, it has given us a huge demonstration of the problem and has been a learning process. It has turned out highly trained neurotics, but it has gone a long way to explaining how difficult such legislation is.

We have heard all the arguments about Sunday trading. The debate on the new clause has been in some measure a Second Reading debate. Yesterday, I was reading Peter Paterson's book on Lord George-Brown entitled "Tired and Emotional", which is presumably how the members of the Standing Committee ended up. It gives the example of Lord George-Brown as Minister of Works in 1950–51 opening the Tower of London on Sundays.

All the stock arguments came out. People said that there was no demand to have the Tower of London open on Sundays. They said that the Beefeaters wanted to go to church and the sermons sometimes overran. They said that the Beefeaters must have a hot dinner on Sundays. They said that the Beefeaters must be able to take their children to the countryside or the seaside on Sundays. All the arguments against the Sunday opening of the Tower of London have been repeated today.

At the end of the debate, we must decide on new clause 14. It would be much preferable to make an immediate decision on new clause 10, which is a more realistic solution to the problems posed by the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore started out with a simple principle designed to stop shopping on Sundays—the basic principle of the Keep Sunday Special campaign. One would think that it was possible to legislate for a simple principle, but people then offer various exceptions to it. What about wet fish, for instance, about which more perceptive Members have argued? As soon as one enshrines a simple principle, everyone comes along with a list of exceptions.

The Bill started with a simple principle, but an increasing number of loopholes have been allowed in it. That list of exceptions is open to many mistakes, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has already admitted, many gaps will have to be filled in the House of Lords. New clause 10, tabled by my hon. Friend, allows for that as part of the legislative process.

One can never get a perfect list of exemptions and those that we have ended up with seem to be male-oriented. As has already been remarked upon, there are many things for the boys, the lads, to do on Sunday. They can go to the DIY, get the motor spares and go down to the garage. There is not much for the girls, the women, to do, except to stay at home and cook the dinner for the lads to arrive back, drunk, loaded down with motor spares and DIY equipment to start cutting up their wives, the joint, or whatever on a Sunday.

The exemptions will be allowed under an extremely bureaucratic procedure. People must register and prove that 80 per cent. of the business is in the specified, exempt categories. Those registrations must be processed within a month, but there is no suggestion about who will pay for that. Newsagents, for example, who have traded on Sundays for years, will have to go through that formal procedure to prove that they are fit to be exempt. We have ended up with a Bill that no longer keeps Sunday special; it does not even keep it semi-special, because it will be left in a mess.

Photo of Jim Dowd Jim Dowd , Lewisham West

Does my hon. Friend agree that KSS no longer means keeping Sunday special but keeping supermarkets shut?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. Before the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) continues, may I remind the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd) that he should address me and not the Bench behind him.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is the weakness in the argument about protecting pay and conditions. Those terms will be protected by firing workers in supermarkets who want to work on a Sunday. The Bill will deprive them of that opportunity and it will, in the end, result in lost jobs.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

In the mid-1980s, I was the junior Minister responsible for this issue, when 4 million people worked regularly on Sundays and 4 million others worked part-time or occasionally on a Sunday. Not a single one sent a single letter of complaint to his or her Member of Parliament which was then passed to me.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

That bears out my experience of talking to shop workers—they want to work on Sunday. They do not feel that they will be discriminated against if they do not work on a Sunday, but the great majority of them want to work on that day to earn extra money. It also gives them the opportunity to arrange their working week to suit their family circumstances. The father could stay at home on Sunday, for example, to look after the kids while the wife was working.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

The big four supermarkets employ 57,000 shop workers every Sunday, the vast majority of whom are women. In 1992 alone, they earned, between them, £100 million.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

I want to encourage that process, but I do not feel that the Bill does so. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.

It is as if my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore realised the impossibility of succeeding with the Bill and decided, at the last minute, to throw in what he calls an opportunity to debate the three options, even though he will vote against all three. However, we are not debating the three options that the Government will advance. We are certainly not debating total deregulation. How could we when the Bill's long title states that it is to Provide for a general prohibition on the opening on Sunday of shops for retail trade or business"? 1.15 pm

We are not even debating what is, for me and for most Opposition Members, the central issue: the pay and the regulation of labour conditions necessary for working on Sunday. Under the Bill, we cannot debate that subject because to do so we would have to reject new clause 14 —under which we were supposed to debate the options —and go back to the Bill itself, which is incomprehensible. The procedure is unsatisfactory and we cannot even have a proper discussion. How can it be said that we can have a proper discussion in the House of Commons when we have an attendance such as we have today and when hon.Members knew only at the last minute that we were to debate the alternatives?

Therefore, I conclude that the procedure turns what was a mess into a farce, and the House of Commons should not be asked to decide on it. It is essential that we wait for the Government's measures. I am sorry that their proposals are so belated. The Government have been dilatory and could not make up their minds about what to do. However, the only way is to use the authority of Government, with the backing of the research available to them and their legislative powers, to discuss the three choices and come to a decision.

Ultimately, even this place and the Government have to maintain certain standards on legislation. The Bill falls well below the standards even of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and the abolition of pit bull terriers Bill—the previous dogs' breakfasts that we have approved in the House. We cannot legislate on a principle that starts simple and ends up a mess, then attempt to salvage it by way of a new clause.

What are we to do? The only option is to support new clause 10, with which I agree, but which is irrelevant if the Bill is to flounder, and abstain on new clause 14. We would then await the Government's proposals and opt for the principle of regulated liberalisation, as my own union, the GMB, and the Shopping Hours Reform Council are urging us to do.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I have listened to the debate with great interest. I shall first refer to the Minister's response—if one can call it a response. The people of this country will be alarmed that the Government were unable to make an unequivocal statement to the effect that those who have to work on Sundays will be protected by safeguards if deregulation is introduced. The Minister was silent when pressure was placed on him by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and he was asked for a clear statement. We must take note of his reluctance. Surely the Government should uphold the principle that those people who do not wish to work on Sunday due to their convictions are given adequate protection. Such protection has not been afforded them by the shops that have been breaking the law.

A lady who is a member of my congregation works in a large store in the centre of Belfast which gives 50 per cent. discounts to all its workers—but that discount has been withdrawn from those who do not work on Sunday. If that is not discrimination and intimidation I do not know what is.

The Minister must make it clear where the Government stand on this issue. He says that we will vote on three separate matters, but he has not told the House whether we will be allowed a proper vote. Which vote will be taken first? Will the other two issues then fall?

The Minister has also told us that we will be given explanations of the reasons for the various proposals. Will he allow those opposed to Sunday opening to explain their position? Will he ask people who believe in partial opening to submit an explanation of their position? He is certainly quite capable of writing out his own explanation. What standing will these various explanations be given?

I believe that the Government are conniving at getting rid of all Sunday regulation. They want another Christmas, with all the large shops open. They will say that everyone wants that. They are putting off the day, however, because that suits them—the Government want as much time as possible.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

The Minister has still not made it clear to us —perhaps he will take the opportunity to intervene on the hon. Gentleman—whether the Government will introduce a Bill in the Queen's Speech in the autumn. He said only that they intend to introduce a Bill, but he did not specificically mention the Queen's Speech.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I thought that I heard the Minister say something about the Queen's Speech, but I shall allow him to intervene.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

We shall introduce a Bill in the autumn. Most Bills introduced in the autumn are listed in the Queen's Speech. I do not write that speech, but I can say that the Government have decided that there will be such a Bill.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Still a bit vague.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

We will see how the Government proceed, but we are certainly not hearing any firm commitment from the Government about the rights of workers and how they will be protected. That is the foundation on which they should build.

If the Government deregulate Sunday, will they then consider the day the same as any other working day? Do they believe that people who work on Sunday should be paid the same rate as they would be on another day? We need to know the Government's attitude.

I do not know whether any hon. Member lives beside one of these supermarkets, but many of my constituents do. The supermarkets are often built in areas where people live in their rows of houses. We have had a great deal of representation from them about the troubles with traffic, trolleys and congestion. Now Sunday will go the same way; but people should be allowed a breather, one day when they can escape traffic congestion and not be bothered by trolleys and the hustle and bustle of people shopping.

I listened with amazement to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who said that the Bill's supporters want to close shops. They want nothing of the kind. They want to close them on a Sunday, that is all. Anyone listening to the hon. Gentleman would have thought that the Bill's sponsors are trying to close down shops for ever. Not so; if people want to shop in them, they can certainly go on doing so. The hon. Gentleman spoke as though he were pleading for ordinary working people, but ordinary working people, the elderly and those who are busy cannot go to the supermarkets. The local independent shops supply them.

I draw attention to the findings of a Royal Town Planning Institute working party. In its paper, it said: Those who are disadvantaged by reason of poverty, who do not have access to a car, and who therefore are dependent on existing local and neighbourhood shops cannot easily take advantage of the facilities of the distant superstore. There is widespread concern that these disadvantaged consumers will increasingly suffer from double deprivation caused by lack of access to the advantageous, convenient and efficient forms of retailing combined with dependence on deteriorating quality, prices and choice in neighbourhood shops.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

No, I will not give way because time is short and others may wish to take part.

Independent local shops are important to the very fabric of society and they form a focus for the community. They are not impersonal like the big stores. That is why it is important that we get our priorities right. I welcome the fact that today we can vote on the three main issues. Now is the time to do that. It has been put off for far too long. Let us have it today.

If people did not think it worth while turning up for the debate today, that is their fault. Hon. Members may have been discouraged from attending, but if those who want a free vote to sort our Sunday trading in a complete sweep do not have their followers here, that is their business. We have to vote today. That is the job that we are called to do. If we do not make ourselves acquainted with the business of the House, that is our business. We have to vote on the issue and show what the House of Commons wants. I am glad that, in the previous vote, hon. Members representing Ulster pointed the way.

Photo of Mr Donald Dixon Mr Donald Dixon , Jarrow

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put:

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 119, Noes 13.

Division No. 268][1.27 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeKeen, Alan
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Livingstone, Ken
Allen, GrahamLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Alton, DavidLord, Michael
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Lynne, Ms Liz
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Macdonald, Calum
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)McMaster, Gordon
Barnes, HarryMcWilliam, John
Barron, KevinMadden, Max
Beggs, RoyMeale, Alan
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Michael, Alun
Bell, StuartMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Benton, JoeMoate, Sir Roger
Berry, Dr. RogerMoonie, Dr Lewis
Body, Sir RichardMorgan, Rhodri
Booth, HartleyMorley, Elliot
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesMorris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Bray, Dr JeremyMorris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Burden, RichardMudie, George
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Mullin, Chris
Cann, JamieMurphy, Paul
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Coffey, AnnOlner, William
Cohen, HarryPaisley, Rev Ian
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Pawsey, James
Corbett, RobinPendry, Tom
Corbyn, JeremyPickthall, Colin
Cormack, PatrickPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Corston, Ms JeanPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Cryer, BobPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Cummings, JohnPurchase, Ken
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Quin, Ms Joyce
Dafis, CynogRaynsford, Nick
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)Rogers, Allan
Denham, JohnRowlands, Ted
Dixon, DonRuddock, Joan
Dover, DenSedgemore, Brian
Dowd, JimShore, Rt Hon Peter
Dunnachie, JimmyShort, Clare
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethSims, Roger
Eastham, KenSkinner, Dennis
Etherington, BillSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Fatchett, DerekSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Fisher, MarkSoley, Clive
Foster, Rt Hon DerekSpearing, Nigel
Fraser, JohnTrimble, David
Gerrard, NeilTurner, Dennis
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Vaz, Keith
Hain, PeterWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hall, MikeWicks, Malcolm
Hoey, KateWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Hoyle, DougWilliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Winnick, David
Ingram, AdamWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Wise, Audrey
Jessel, Toby
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)Tellers for the Ayes:
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and Mr. John Spellar.
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
NOES
Ashby, DavidRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Shaw, David (Dover)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Devlin, TimWhittingdale, John
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeTellers for the Noes:
Montgomery, Sir FergusMr. John Marshall and Mr. Michael Fabricant.
Rathbone, Tim
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 120, Noes 9.

Division No. 269][1.40 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeKhabra, Piara S.
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Livingstone, Ken
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Allen, GrahamLord, Michael
Alton, DavidLynne, Ms Liz
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Macdonald, Calum
Barnes, HarryMackinlay, Andrew
Barron, KevinMaclennan, Robert
Beggs, RoyMcMaster, Gordon
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.McWilliam, John
Bell, StuartMadden, Max
Benton, JoeMeacher, Michael
Berry, Dr. RogerMeale, Alan
Body, Sir RichardMichael, Alun
Booth, HartleyMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesMoate, Sir Roger
Bray, Dr JeremyMoonie, Dr Lewis
Burden, RichardMorgan, Rhodri
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Morley, Elliot
Cann, JamieMorris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Coffey, AnnMudie, George
Cohen, HarryMullin, Chris
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Murphy, Paul
Corbett, RobinO'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Corbyn, JeremyOlner, William
Cormack, PatrickOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Corston, Ms JeanPaisley, Rev Ian
Cryer, BobPawsey, James
Cummings, JohnPendry, Tom
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Pickthall, Colin
Dafis, CynogPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Prescott, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)Purchase, Ken
Denham, JohnQuin, Ms Joyce
Dixon, DonRaynsford, Nick
Dover, DenRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Dunnachie, JimmyRogers, Allan
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethRowlands, Ted
Dykes, HughSedgemore, Brian
Eastham, KenShersby, Michael
Etherington, BillShore, Rt Hon Peter
Fatchett, DerekShort, Clare
Foster, Rt Hon DerekSims, Roger
Fraser, JohnSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Gapes, MikeSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Gerrard, NeilSpearing, Nigel
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Thomason, Roy
Hain, PeterTrimble, David
Hall, MikeTurner, Dennis
Hoey, KateVaz, Keith
Hoyle, DougWaller, Gary
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Ingram, AdamWicks, Malcolm
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Jessel, TobyWilliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)Winnick, David
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldTellers for the Ayes:
Keen, AlanMr. John Spellar and Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
NOES
Ashby, DavidWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Wilshire, David
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Montgomery, Sir FergusTellers for the Noes:
Skinner, DennisMr. John Marshall and Mr. Michael Fabricant.
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Ward, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment (a) proposed to the proposed clause, in line15, leave out subsection (3).—[Mr. Bennett.]

Question put, That the amendment to the proposed clause be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 13, Noes 127.

Division No. 270][1.51 pm
AYES
Ashby, DavidThomason, Roy
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Fabricant, MichaelWilshire, David
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeTellers for the Ayes:
Montgomery, Sir FergusMr. John Marshall and Mr. Peter Bottomley.
Sims, Roger
Stern, Michael
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeJessel, Toby
Ainger, NickJones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Allen, GrahamKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Alton, DavidKeen, Alan
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyKhabra, Piara S.
Barnes, HarryLivingstone, Ken
Barron, KevinLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Beggs, RoyLord, Michael
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Lynne, Ms Liz
Bell, StuartMacdonald, Calum
Benton, JoeMackinlay, Andrew
Bermingham, GeraldMaclennan, Robert
Berry, Dr. RogerMcMaster, Gordon
Body, Sir RichardMcWilliam, John
Booth, HartleyMadden, Max
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesMeacher, Michael
Bray, Dr JeremyMichael, Alun
Burden, RichardMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Moate, Sir Roger
Cann, JamieMoonie, Dr Lewis
Clapham, MichaelMorgan, Rhodri
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Morley, Elliot
Cohen, HarryMorris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Corbett, RobinMudie, George
Corbyn, JeremyMullin, Chris
Cormack, PatrickMurphy, Paul
Corston, Ms JeanO'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Cryer, BobOlner, William
Cummings, JohnOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Paisley, Rev Ian
Dafis, CynogPawsey, James
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Pendry, Tom
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)Pickthall, Colin
Denham, JohnPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Dixon, DonPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Dover, DenPrescott, John
Dowd, JimPurchase, Ken
Dunnachie, JimmyQuin, Ms Joyce
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethRaynsford, Nick
Dykes, HughRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Eastham, KenRogers, Allan
Etherington, BillRowlands, Ted
Fatchett, DerekSedgemore, Brian
Fisher, MarkShore, Rt Hon Peter
Foster, Rt Hon DerekShort, Clare
Fraser, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Gapes, MikeSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Gerrard, NeilSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Soley, Clive
Hain, PeterSpearing, Nigel
Hall, MikeSpellar, John
Hoey, KateTrimble, David
Hoyle, DougTurner, Dennis
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Vaz, Keith
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Illsley, EricWicks, Malcolm
Ingram, AdamWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Winnick, DavidTellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)Mr. Alan Meale and Ms Ann Coffey.
Wise, Audrey

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put, Thatn the clause be added to the Bill:—

The House divided:Ayes 13, Noes 124.

Division No. 271][2.03 pm
AYES
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyThomason, Roy
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Waller, Gary
Devlin, TimWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeWilshire, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir CranleyTellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, David (Dover)Mr. John Marshall and Mr. Michael Fabricant.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Ainger, NickHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Illsley, Eric
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Ingram, Adam
Allen, GrahamJackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Alton, DavidJessel, Toby
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Barnes, HarryJones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Barron, KevinKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Beggs, RoyKeen, Alan
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Bell, StuartKhabra, Piara S.
Benton, JoeLivingstone, Ken
Bermingham, GeraldLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Berry, Dr. RogerLord, Michael
Body, Sir RichardLynne, Ms Liz
Booth, HartleyMacdonald, Calum
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesMackinlay, Andrew
Bray, Dr JeremyMcMaster, Gordon
Burden, RichardMcWilliam, John
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Madden, Max
Cann, JamieMeacher, Michael
Clapham, MichaelMichael, Alun
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Coffey, AnnMoate, Sir Roger
Cohen, HarryMoonie, Dr Lewis
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Morgan, Rhodri
Corbett, RobinMorley, Elliot
Corbyn, JeremyMorris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Cormack, PatrickMorris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Corston, Ms JeanMudie, George
Cryer, BobMullin, Chris
Cummings, JohnMurphy, Paul
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Olner, William
Dafis, CynogOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Paisley, Rev Ian
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)Pawsey, James
Denham, JohnPendry, Tom
Dixon, DonPickthall, Colin
Dover, DenPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Dunnachie, JimmyPrescott, John
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethPurchase, Ken
Dykes, HughQuin, Ms Joyce
Eastham, KenRaynsford, Nick
Etherington, BillRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Fatchett, DerekRogers, Allan
Foster, Rt Hon DerekRowlands, Ted
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Sedgemore, Brian
Fraser, JohnShort, Clare
Gapes, MikeSkinner, Dennis
Gerrard, NeilSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Golding, Mrs LlinSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Spearing, Nigel
Hain, PeterSpellar, John
Hall, MikeStern, Michael
Hoey, KateTrimble, David
Hoyle, DougTurner, Dennis
Vaz, KeithWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)Wise, Audrey
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)Tellers for the Noes:
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and Mr. Alan Meale.
Winnick, David

Qusetion accordingly negatived.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You were in the Chair when the votes were taken on a contentious issue that could clarify whether or not Parliament is in favour of the proposals of the Shopping Hours Reform Council, total deregulation or the proposals in my Bill. The wish of the House has been made clear beyond any shadow of doubt by the last vote of 124 for to 13 against. Even more votes were cast against total deregulation, as one would expect. In the debate, one of my hon. Friends said that we had failed to find anyone who totally agreed with total deregulation to append his or her signature to the amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) said that he would table an amendment so that a vote could be taken. This is a democracy, we are meeting on a Friday and every one of the 651 Members of Parliament has been informed that the debate is to take place today. Therefore, bearing in mind the decisions taken this afternoon, will you, Madam Deputy Speaker, accept a motion from me that we should now proceed to take the Third Reading of my Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Where is the democracy —hon. Members cannot even accept a decision when—

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make a speech. I understood his point of order and my answer is an unequivocal no. Madam Speaker has made her selection of new clauses and amendments. It is my duty to ensure that they are debated within the necessary constraints of time.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I hope that this is a different point of order.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

It certainly is. I have been a Member for some time and I think that I have heard the occupant of the Chair give guidance on occasion that Members' votes are expected to follow their speeches. We have had two debates—one on amendment (a) and one on new clause 14. I think that those who moved the amendment and the new clause may not have voted for them. I should be grateful for your guidance on the conventions of the House and whether they merely provide guidance or are supposed to be adhered to.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

The rule is not quite as the hon. Gentleman thinks. The rule refers to the voice, when giving tongue to aye or no—not an actual speech. Those are the two factors that must go together. For example, an hon. Member could give a speech in favour of a measure and then vote against it.

Photo of Mr Donald Anderson Mr Donald Anderson Shadow Spokesperson (Defence, Disarmament and Arms Control)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I appeal to you in your role as defender of the traditions of the House and of the rights of Back Benchers. Has not the sad saga of the passage of this Bill shown the extent to which the Executive rules the procedures of this House and to which the w ill of Back Benchers has become as nothing? We have become nothing but ciphers. The clear will of the House is that there should be progress on the lines of the Bill, but the Government and their friends have, by this manoeuvre, ensured that there will be more lawbreaking for at least another 12 months. Surely time should be allowed for the will of the House to prevail over the will of the Government, who are conniving at the continuation of lawbreaking.

Madam Deputyn Speaker:

I am afraid that these are not matters over and for which the Chair has any control or responsibility.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Would you be prepared to discuss with Madam Speaker the implications not just of these votes but of the time allocated to Bills which manifestly enjoy the support of an overwhelming majority of the House, as demonstrated in the decisive Second Reading vote? I put it to you that in cases such as this it should be possible to work out a procedure to provide time. After all, in percentage terms the Bill had as decisive a majority on Second Reading as any Bill of recent years.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I have no doubt that Madam Speaker, who assiduously follows the proceedings of the Chamber, will be aware of what has been said today; but I remind the hon. Gentleman that these are precisely matters for consideration by the Procedure Committee, which was set up to deal with difficulties and disputes of this kind.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I might be permitted to provide a helpful solution to the dilemma. Given this overwhelming majority, it is more than likely that some people who have tabled amendments might decide not to move them. I should be grateful for your confirmation that that is possible. If they did not move them, we could move on to a formal Third Reading and the Bill could go to the Lords. If those who have tabled the amendments do not withdraw them, I fear that outsiders will come to the conclusion that those who are not willing to co-operate in this way are influenced by the big vested interests of the multinationals, which are lawbreakers themselves. I hate to see members of the law and order party in conspiracy with concerted lawbreakers such as B and Q and all the rest of them.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

There is no dilemma for me here. We shall not find out whether people are willing not to move their amendments unless we proceed to do so.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As a new Member of the House, may I ask whether it is usual to be given only three days' notice that issues as important as these are to be debated?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

If it were not in order, it would not have been permitted.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Over the years the Government have time after time—yesterday was a classic example of this—broadened Bills to encompass matters well outside their long titles, although technically they may have come within the titles. Is not it sad that no way can be found to enable the House to exercise its will at this stage? It seems that everything depends on Ministers and on the Government's business managers, operating through the usual channels. Surely, if this is a democracy —I sometimes think that, regrettably, it is an elective dictatorship—we can find a way to ensure that the will and the spirit of the House and the country bring to an end a scandal and a shame that has continued for many years. If we cannot do that, we might as well all pack our bags and go home.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

That is a lamentation with which I am familiar, but it is not my responsibility. Once again, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Procedure Committee.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope that, in discussing with Madam Speaker the issues arising out of the debate and proceedings on the Bill, you will draw her attention to two factors that have long-term implications for private Members' Bills. The first is the apparent ability of certain hon. Members to bully through support for a measure by reason of their position. The second is what happened today, when a long line of speakers spoke in support of a new clause against which they then voted.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I have nothing to add to the points that I have already made.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that, in the terms of the procedure of the House, there is nothing to prevent the Leader of the House from making time available to deal with the 99 amendments and new clauses in the name of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) and the other amendments? It might assist in the process that the Minister described earlier—of the Government having established that the will of the House is broadly in favour of one route, not deregulation or that described by the SHRC—if the Government would use their time to proceed in the matter. As the Leader of the House is not here, will you confirm that it is open to him to do that?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

It is not for me to offer advice to the Leader of the House. However, I have no doubt that the right hon. Member can communicate directly with the Leader of the House.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank you for standing up for the rights of Back Benchers who wish to debate the issues. It is wrong that the Chamber should be used as a constitutional steamroller, as the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) wanted. We have a right to debate the issues and he should not have interfered. Is not it an absurdity that we have been debating a new clause, proposed by the hon. Gentleman, against which he then voted?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I have no further observation on that point. I have made it already.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

On a point of order. Madam Deputy Speaker. In a recent statement from the Chair, Madam Speaker acceped for debate two hotly contested amendments to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. In doing so, she said that they were incompatible and that if the House voted in favour of one of the amendments, there could be no vote on the other. Can you now rule, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how many of the remaining amendments on the amendment paper are incompatible with the decisions that have been taken by the House on the Bill today?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I do not offer views in advance of consideration of amendments.

Photo of Mr Timothy Devlin Mr Timothy Devlin , Stockton South

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have received several hundred cards from people writing in favour of restricting Sunday trading and several hundred from people opposed to Sunday trading. I have six cards sent to me by people both opposed and in favour. In view of the confusion throughout the country that that shows, I urge you to ask the Government to bring forward a Bill or a mechanism as soon as possible because many people obviously wish to have the matter resolved at a time when all hon. Members are here to decide on it.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I wonder sometimes whether people actually hear what I say. I have said that the proper procedure is to go to the Procedure Committee, which is set up to deal with just such problems.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. If I were now to propose, That the Bill be now read the Third time, it is clear in the light of what you said earlier that you would have to reply that you could not accept my proposal, because amendments on the order paper would have to be called. Given that the time factor now makes it impossible for any amendment to be called, I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I must decline to propose the Question.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Lest those outside the House misunderstand your ruling, will you confirm that the matters that you say will be dealt with by the Procedure Committee will, in fact, be dealt with by a Committee dominated by Government supporters appointed by Whips who are in favour of rejecting the Bill? In what sense does the Procedure Committee provide a remedy for the problem that we encounter today?

It being hale past Two o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.