Orders of the Day — Sunday Trading Bill

– in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 29th November 1993.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Before I call the Secretary of State, I ask hon. Members, in the circumstances, to exercise restraint in their speeches. I have allowed an important statement to run so that each hon. Member who wished to ask a question could do so. I now seek hon. Members' co-operation by keeping speeches short so that each hon. Member may be called.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:35 pm, 29th November 1993

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

May I begin by expressing the hope that a day that has so far seen a good measure of agreement across the Floor of the House will continue in that vein—at least for today's stage of the Bill?

The Bill seeks to reform the law governing Sunday trading in England and Wales. This is a matter that touches directly right hon. and hon. Members and their constituents. It arouses passionate interest in the House and beyond. We can look forward to many interesting debates on the Bill as it makes its way through the House.

The Bill is, in many respects, unique. It contains three options for reform—regulation, deregulation and partial deregulation, as proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council. It is the essence of the Government's position in presenting the Bill that we shall argue neither for nor against any of the options for reform, although I make no secret of the fact that, as an individual Member of Parliament, I favour deregulation. As a result, I hope to be somewhat briefer in introducing the Bill than is usual.

The origin of the Government's policy lies with the report of the committee of inquiry into proposals to amend the Shops Act 1950, the Auld committee. As is well known, that committee came to the view that no system of regulation would be fair, simple and readily enforceable and the House endorsed the report's findings by a vote of 305 to 185. A Shops Bill was introduced in 1985 to give effect to that report's findings, but it failed to commend itself to the House, despite the fact that it had successfully completed its passage through the other place.

The Government then attempted to find consensus on the way forward—a search that proved ultimately fruitless. There was passionate support for options for reform but there were passionate antagonisms to each of the options, and there was little common ground.

When Parliament rejected the Government's Shops Bill in 1986, it set itself and the Government a rare problem. Few, if any, hon. Members believed that the Sunday trading provisions of the Shops Act made sense. Most hon. Members, if not all, wanted the muddle over Sunday trading to be resolved, but there was no obvious agreement about what should replace those provisions.

This Bill was devised to unravel that riddle. It does so in a unique way. It presents Parliament with a choice between the leading options for reform. Each option has been drafted by parliamentary counsel. Each reflects the policy aims of the campaigning group that supports it. Parliament can compare and contrast the options and, on a free vote, choose between them.

There is no doubt that reform is needed. Changes in retailing and leisure activities have put pressure on the Shops Act regime. As a result, the Sunday trading provisions of the 1950 Act are well past their sell-by date. Under the Act, milk and cream, including clotted cream, may be sold on Sundays but not dried milk or tinned cream unless it is tinned clotted cream. Fish and chips may be sold at a takeaway outlet other than a fish and chip shop, but fish and chip shops may sell takeaway food other than fish and chips. If Peter Piper was still in the habit of picking a peck of pickled peppers, he could not pick them from a shop on Sunday, although he could pick a peck of fresh peppers if he wanted to.

It is time that that muddle was sorted out. I have written to all hon. Members describing in detail the options for reform. My letter also contains information about general handling matters. The question for the House today is whether it agrees in principle that any one of the three options in the Bill should replace the existing provision on Sunday trading in the 1950 Act. It is not being asked to choose today between the three options for reform.

If the Bill secures a Second Reading, the House will be invited immediately to agree the motion on the Order Paper in my name and the name of my right hon. Friend the Lord President committing clauses 1 and 2 and schedule 4 to a Committee of the whole House. If agreed, that will have the effect, among other things, that clause 1 will be considered on the Floor of the House, ensuring that all hon. Members will be involved in the choice between the options.

So how is that choice to be made? Clause 1 enables the Secretary of State to bring into effect by order any one of the three options for reform. Deregulation would be achieved through repeals to the 1950 Act contained in clause 1. The substance of the other two options is contained in schedules 1 and 2.

Clearly, there will be a full debate in Committee of the whole House on the options' merits. To choose among the options, the Committee will vote on a series of amendments to clause 1, which will remove from clause 1 references to two of the three options for reform. So if any group of amendments secures a majority, clause 1 will be amended to refer to one option only. That option will then be the choice of the House.

The amendments would also remove the order-making power so that the chosen option and the rest of the Bill will ultimately be brought into force in the normal way, riot through the affirmative resolution procedure.

It is not a question of which option gets the biggest vote. It is conceivable that only one option will be voted on if that were to secure a majority. Voting against earlier options is the only way in which hon. Members can seek to ensure that they can vote on their favourite option if it comes later in the order. Hon. Members cannot fudge the issue by abstaining in a vote without risking that their preferred option may fail by default.

When the Committee of the whole House has completed consideration of clause 1, the Standing Committee will consider in detail the chosen option and other provisions of the Bill in the normal way. It will also remove those schedules that are no longer introduced by clause 1. Schedule 4, which deals with employment rights, will also be taken in Committee of the whole House. The Government will give their supporters a free vote, both in choosing between the options and in dealing with the amendments to the opening provisions of whichever option wins. The Government have made available officials and counsel to the campaigning groups so that their policy aims can be best translated into draft clauses. But the Government neither endorse those policies nor intend to defend those models from attacks by opponents. It is for Parliament to test the options thoroughly. Within reason, the Government will provide time for this important debate to be properly undertaken, but they will not take sides in the debate.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

We all look forward to the opportunity of a free vote on this issue. However, from what the Secretary of State has just said, the order in which the vote on the options is taken is important. How will that be decided, and what does he recommend in relation to the order in which the vote is taken?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

That is entirely a matter for the Chair. It would not be appropriate for me to make recommendations on such a matter.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

Will the Secretary of State make it clear to the House whether his comments about the Government taking a neutral position throughout the conduct of the debate mean that they will do so throughout the whole debate or just the debate on the three clauses? Will they take a neutral position on all the issues from now until the Bill's accession, or will they wheel in the payroll vote or whip their people on other parts of the Bill?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

It has never been the Government's position that there will be a free vote on every aspect of the Bill, as I shall now make clear. I should be astonished if that occasioned the hon. Gentleman the slightest surprise.

On the contents of the Bill, clause 1 introduces the three options for reform: deregulation; regulation, proposed jointly by the Keep Sunday Special campaign and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform; and partial deregulation, supported by the Shopping Hours Reform Council. Schedule 1 contains the regulatory model and schedule 2 contains partial deregulation. In brief, deregulation allows any shop to trade on Sundays, as in Scotland; regulation would require most shops to close other than on the four Sundays before Christmas, with exceptions for some types of shops; and partial deregulation would allow all small shops to trade at any hour on Sundàys but restrict larger shops to six hours' trading.

Schedule 3 will be needed if either of the options short of deregulation wins Parliament's approval. It continues the special exemption for Jewish traders to trade on Sundays and also provides local authorities with enforcement powers. The rest of the Bill, other than schedule 4, contains technical and consequential provisions.

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the principal scandal of the present legislation is the fact that it has been impossible to enforce it evenly and properly? Will he kindly explain how schedule 3 will deal with the problem of enforcement if the House opts for something other than total deregulation?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The provisions made for enforcement in schedule 3 are set out clearly, and my hon. Friend may be better qualified than many hon. Members to follow the detail of those provisions. To the extent that any of the three options chosen will be an improvement on the existing legislation, it will facilitate the problem of enforcement. But the greater the number of anomalies and the greater the number of questions that fall to be decided by the courts, the more difficult enforcement will inevitably be.

The Government's aims are straightforward: we want Parliament to choose one of those options and we want that option to reach the statute book. We want the option to work in practice and to command the respect throughout the country which the current regime sadly lacks.

The debate in Committee of the whole House will enable the broad options to be argued for and against, and the Standing Committee will no doubt fine tune whichever option for reform is chosen.

Although, as Home Secretary, I share the Government's view that it is better that the matter be resolved once and for all than that any one option should triumph, as an individual Member I shall vote for deregulation.

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

The Home Secretary will recall that last week there was criticism from within his Department of the Churches, which were described as being strangely silent about moral and ethical questions facing the country. He will also recall that this morning, in The Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and the Moderator of the Free Churches gave a moral and ethical lead in arguing, very vocally, that Sundays should remain a special day. Will the Home Secretary reflect on how important it is to family life that the traditional value of people spending Sunday together will be lost if there is total deregulation, which he favours?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I treat, as I expect all hon. Members would, the observations of those religious leaders with the greatest respect. But on that matter, I did not find them wholly persuasive. There are many different ways in which family life can be strengthened. There are many ways in which families wish to spend Sundays together. Many families would prefer to spend Sundays shopping together than in pursuit of other activities.

I do not want to dwell on my reasons for supporting deregulation. However, it is noteworthy that Scotland, and some other countries, does not regulate Sunday trading. It would be difficult to argue that that has had any discernible impact on the character of Sunday in Scotland. Family life and church life seem to be as robust north of the border as they are anywhere else in Great Britain.

I believe that the law should intervene only where it serves a justifiable purpose in doing so—where failure to intervene would create a serious mischief. I believe that people should be able to spend Sunday as they wish. Many people want to shop on Sunday. Whether shops should open should be a matter for the conscience of individual shopkeepers and shoppers and not for the courts and criminal law.

I shall turn now to a point that was raised earlier. There is a distinction between the issue of which shops can open on Sundays, which cuts across party lines, and employee rights. There will be a free vote on the choice between the options, but the Government have a clear employment policy and we shall defend that policy vigorously.

Clause 2 and schedule 4 to the Bill provide additional rights for shopworkers. If the House agrees, they will be considered by Committee of the whole House. The rights will apply whichever of the options for reform is chosen by Parliament.

When the Act comes into force, existing shopworkers will have the right not to be dismissed or suffer detriment through refusing to work on Sunday, and can surrender those rights only by agreeing in writing to work on Sunday. That reflects the fact that existing shopworkers are in a special position. They may have taken employment knowing that they could not be obliged to work on Sunday because, for the most part, the 1950 Act prohibited shops from opening.

I made clear when I published a draft Bill in July that the Government saw no case for making statutory provision for premium or double payment for Sunday shop work. We shall resist vigorously any attempt to introduce into schedule 4 a provision requiring premium or double pay. Such a provision would destroy jobs. Outlets Providing for Everyday Needs, which represents many small traders, has said that such a provision would bring death to hundreds of independent grocers and convenience stores.

It is absurd to attempt to establish a common benchmark in an industry where there are 240,000 different retail businesses varying from large multiples with turnovers of £500 million to single outlet retailers.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have given way to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) once, so I shall give way to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness.

Photo of John Hutton John Hutton , Barrow and Furness

I am grateful to the Home Secretary. My question relates to the impact and range of clause 2 and schedule 4 with which the Home Secretary is dealing. Is it a correct interpretation of the clause and the schedule that existing employees and prospective employees will enjoy a measure of employment protection, but that that employment protection will not be extended to job applicants—those who are seeking employment—and who may be confronted with an employer who says, "You will get employment with me only if you are prepared to work on a Sunday"?

Is that not a loophole in the clause and the schedule with which the Home Secretary should be concerned? If it is right to protect existing and future employees, is it not right also to protect job seekers in the same way?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We take the view that it is perfectly reasonable for employers to inquire at the time that employment is offered whether the employee or prospective employee is prepared to work on Sunday. It is possible, as the hon. Gentleman recognises and conceded in his question, for such employees subsequently to give notice that they did not wish to work on Sundays.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

My right hon. and learned Friend has rightly suggested that the Government will resist an attempt to put premium pay on the face of the Bill, but he will be aware that the major groups that are presently trading on Sunday, which include Asda, Argyll, Tesco, Sainsbury, Boots and Kingfisher, all pay premium pay to their employees on Sundays. Does he agree that that will set the trend for the rest of the market should they open on Sundays?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I think that that will have an important influence on rates of pay. My hon. Friend is quite right in his assertion.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Will my right hon. and learned Friend clarify what he has just said, which was that an applicant, once he becomes an employee, could give notice that he did not wish to work on Sundays? Would not a contract have been signed? How will that work?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Bill's provisions, in being statutory provisions, would override any contract and would make it possible for any future employees to give three months' notice that they were not prepared to work on Sundays.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but then I must press on, as I know that many hon. Members wish to speak.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way, because I hope that he will clarify a number of issues.

The Home Secretary has quite rightly been concerned with the number of people employed, and who are capable of being employed, by small businesses and small shops if there were a statutory duty to pay double or triple time. Is he not aware that many of us have had practical objections by small businesses and shopkeepers in our areas that the advantages now pursued by supermarkets and hypermarkets will put them at further disadvantage if deregulation of the two major sorts goes ahead? Is that not equally an important matter for the threat to their employees and their businesses?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman raises a different point. If he thinks about it, the implication of his point is an admission on his part that many people wish to shop in large stores on Sundays but do not have the opportunity to do so. That is the implication that is at the heart of the question that he has put to me. We think, or I think—I am expressing my personal view and not that of the Government—that if people wish to shop in large stores on Sundays, for the reasons that I gave earlier, people should have that opportunity.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

No; I must press on.

We believe, too, that a provision enabling all shopworkers to have a right to withdraw from a contractual obligation to work on Sundays is by and large unnecessary. We have received many representations on that matter during the summer. It is quite clear that many hon. Members are concerned that shopworkers may face changes in life that require them to reconsider their agreement to work on Sundays. That is why we have included the provision to which I have just referred, the additional right in schedule 4 to enable any shopworker to opt out of Sunday shop work on giving three months' notice to that effect.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I am grateful to the Secretary of State, as it is a very important point.

If the House agrees to total deregulation, that will mean that we will get universal opening in Scotland, which we do not have at the moment, contrary to what was said earlier. [Hon. Members: "Why not?"] Because it does not exist south of the border. There are multiples that do not open in Scotland because they do not open south of the border.

Surely the protection in the Bill, whether it be premium payments—and we can argue about that—or, importantly, the right to refuse to work on Sundays, should apply also to Scotland. Will it be possible to amend the Bill in Committee to enable that section to apply to Scotland?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The logic of the hon. Gentleman's question totally defeats me, but the answer to his question is no. I will not be the ultimate arbiter of whether an amendment is in order or not, but it is my understanding that it will not be possible to introduce an amendment of that kind to the Bill.

The Bill provides all the materials necessary for Parliament to design a Sunday trading regime to replace the existing muddle. The Government have forgone their privilege of presenting a single-option Bill to serve the wider interest of presenting a Bill that will resolve the Sunday trading issue once and for all.

I also recognise the hard work that the campaigning groups have done and the constructive spirit with which they have engaged in discussions with my officials so that the options in the Bill properly reflect their aims. The Bill owes a great debt to those groups.

This Bill provides Parliament with a unique opportunity to solve a problem that has dogged it for 40 years. Thirty Bills have failed to resolve the Sunday trading tangle. I believe that this Bill could resolve it once and for all. It is up to all hon. Members to ensure that it resolves the issue by choosing one of the options for reform in the Bill which will work and be accepted by the country.

If Parliament fails to make a choice between the options and does not resolve the issue, the country will find that failure difficult to comprehend or to forgive. We shall all have to bear responsibility for that failure. It is in the hope and belief that we shall live up to the responsibilities that are placed upon us that I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield 5:59 pm, 29th November 1993

There is, at least, unanimity in the House on one point—the Shops Act 1950 is out of date and must be changed. The question is: what should the nature of the change be? Doubtless, strongly conflicting views will be expressed by hon. Members, and whatever option is chosen will then itself be the subject of amendment and debate.

I intend to offer my personal view of the options later, but I want to concentrate on employment protection. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has said that schedule 4, dealing with employment protection, will be taken on the Floor of the House so that the whole House can debate the issue, attributing to it the significance that it deserves. We would have preferred a free vote on this and on all aspects of the legislation, however.

It is correct to say that the 1950 Act requires change, partly because of the well-known anomalies and partly because the patterns of life and of working life have changed. The vast majority of women of working age work. Fewer women stay in the home full time. The range of products sold by shops has increased dramatically and, similarly, patterns of employment among shop workers have changed.

For the past few years at least, several of the smaller shops and smaller supermarkets have been open on a Sunday. Nevertheless, there has been a strong feeling in the country against turning Sunday into just any other day—and there has been an acknowledgement that, if customers are to enjoy greater freedom to shop, that freedom should not be exercised at the expense of the conditions of employment of shopworkers.

Until now, although there has been consensus on the need for change, there has been no consensus on what form that change should take. Partly because of that and partly for commercial reasons, for the past 18 months the law has been broken by default. Whatever view we take, it is plainly urgent to legislate because it is not right that laws, whether popular or not, should be changed merely by direct action by those to whom they apply.

According to some estimates, as much as 38 per cent. of shop capacity is already open on a Sunday and, according to the latest MORI polls, about 11 million people over the age of 15 have shopped on each of the past four Sundays—not to mention large numbers of people who shop in the DIYs and supermarkets that are illegally trading. Tens of thousands of people are employed in those shops. Indeed, a greater percentage of shopping capacity is open in England on a Sunday than is open in Scotland, even though the restrictions do not apply in the latter area.

Let us be clear about the matter of disagreement. No significant group is asking for limits on Sunday trading anywhere near as restrictive as those in the 1950 Act. The only question is to what extent the law should be liberalised, and on what conditions.

I offer three guiding principles that should inform our debate. First, although it will be and should be for each hon. Member to decide how to vote, I feel personally that it is sensible that our decisions should reflect mainstream public opinion—as far as it can be calculated.

Secondly, the reason why the 1950 Act fell into disrepute was that it sought to make distinctions which were out of date or which could not be logically justified. Whatever distinctions we make, it is important that the legislation be rational, not arbitrary, and capable of enforcement.

Thirdly, we should fully protect the rights of those who work on Sundays in order that we may shop then. For me and for many of my colleagues, employee protection must go hand in hand with the freedom to shop. The two issues are not distinct; such rights are an inalienable part of a better shopping regime. I mentioned that we should take account of public opinion, so I should point out that the view of the public—whatever their ideas about the options—as expressed in poll after poll is that the two issues are inextricably linked.

I understand, of course, that there is always the problem of enforcing in practice rights to protection given in theory. Ultimately, the only cast-iron way to ensure that there is no abuse of employment protection for Sunday workers is to ban Sunday working altogether, but that is not sought by anyone. We are, therefore, left inevitably with the task of how to legislate for employee protection, while recognising the limits of what legislation can do. It is precisely for those reasons that large numbers of shopworkers want to and do belong to a trade union. That right must be given to every employee to exercise as a matter of free will.

I should like to give my view of the options before returning to employee protection. First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and others who have worked so hard to put these options together. Whatever our disagreements about the options chosen, I believe that my hon. Friend has signally left his mark on the legislation—particularly on the provisions for the protection of shopworkers against exploitation. Such measures and changes as have been included in the legislation, which has changed greatly since its early drafts, are in no small way due to the work of my hon. Friend, of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) and of others.

I agree with many of the motivating ideas behind Keep Sunday Special. I certainly believe that Sunday should be a special day. In fact, many people already work on a Sunday, yet for most people Sunday is a day that is special and apart from any other. In the end, however, my view is that the Keep Sunday Special proposals—although not the sentiments behind them—do not offer us a workable solution. I have arrived at that view with reluctance, but I have concluded that the KSS proposals do not conform to the principles that I have set out: in particular, the distinctions that they make are not capable of legal enforcement.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene, I will readily give way to him. Each of us makes our own judgment on the proposals before us—

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

Just to be clear about this: is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government's carefully thought out proposals, carefully drafted and introduced as a sensible legal option, are not

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

Yes, I am saying that. I do not believe that they are capable of rational, legal enforcement. I do not say that the drafting is wrong; the distinctions that they seek to make are wrong. For example, it is difficult to argue that video shops, but not record or book shops, should be allowed to open on a Sunday or that people can buy car radios from motor accessory shops but cannot buy anything from antique or handicraft shops. It is not logical to be able to buy a power drill but not a suit of clothing. Such distinctions are difficult to make and, in any case, under the KSS proposals the four Sundays before Christmas will enjoy complete deregulation. Such is the problem of trying to marry up the public's desire to shop with the desire to keep Sunday special. My view—I do not seek to impose it on anyone—is that the balance in these proposals is not right.

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

The hon. Gentleman will know that, in the Committee that considered the Shops (Amendment) Bill, which was before the House last year, his hon. Friends the Members for Ogmore and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) extensively put forward the Keep Sunday Special proposals, with the support of hon. Members from both sides of the House. The arguments were aired there, and the majority of the members of the Standing Committee agreed that they were considered, well thought out, practical and enforceable. I urge the hon. Gentleman to look at the Hansard transcript of those Committee sittings before categorically stating that those proposals, which have been put before the House, cannot be implemented.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

I have studied the Hansard transcript. In the end, it is a matter of whether one is persuaded. I am not.The danger is that we may replace one set of distinctions that have brought the law into disrepute with another. That is my view; I have given it, and it is for other hon. Members to air their views.

Whatever view one takes of the options, it is important to remember that the options will be discussed and subject to amendment, so it may be that some of the problems will be lessened or cured. Each one of us will have to choose an option, but my option is not that one.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. He is an Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson—who attends the Committee stages of many Bills—and surely he is aware that the Government, having proposed a Bill, will sometimes amend it in Committee to the point where it becomes unrecognisable as the Bill that was debated in the House on Second Reading.

My hon. Friend readily admitted that any option offered to the House at this stage could be amended in Committee, and for him to discount any particular option on the basis on which it has been presented is totally wrong and misguided.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

That is precisely the point that I was making—the options are open to amendment. I am simply expressing my view of the options as they are now.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I enjoy these free voting arrangements. Will my hon. Friend maintain his support for the option if he does not get his way on workers' protection?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

I have said that workers' protection is essential. I believe that we will succeed on workers' protection, and I will come to that point in a moment.

There are further considerations to bear in mind. There will inevitably be an impact on the local environment if there is complete deregulation and the large shops have all-day opening. The Auld committee—when it dismissed the problem that there would be an impact on the local environment if all shops were open all day—said that it believed that there was an inevitable trend to move shops out of town. That has not happened to the degree that the committee anticipated. Many very large superstores remain in the centre of towns, and the impact that the proposals will have on the local environment is another matter that we should take into account.

I believe that public have two objectives, which can be summarised as gaining greater freedom to shop and preserving something of the special nature of Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Those two objectives can sometimes come into conflict, and for that reason some limitations on the opening hours of the larger shops would accord with that public sentiment.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said about employees' rights, but consumers' rights are long-term as well as short-term. The top four main supermarket food retailers—which are behind total deregulation and the Shopping Hours Reform Council—control 61 per cent. of retailing. Is my hon. Friend not worried that we will get into a situation where the consumer is totally dominated by a small number of companies?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

I accept that a degree of concentration has occurred, but one cannot ascribe that to Sunday opening. Over a period, many consumers have got into the practice of doing one day of shopping, and they use the supermarket chains to do that. Of course, that can have an impact on small shops, but it a practice that has developed quite apart from Sunday opening.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that small shopkeepers have already been penalised because large retailers are opening? Does he agree that that will cause much more hardship for small shopkeepers in the future?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

It is a question of balance. People who use large stores do so because that is where they do their entire shopping. They use small shops for something different. If we restrict and shut down the large shops, those who now work in those shops will not get the opportunity to work. It is a balance both ways.

A report was issued by Mr. Deakin and Mr. Wilkinson of the Small Business Research Centre at Cambridge. They found that the majority of those who did not work on a Sunday did not want to do so. They made it clear that most of those who did work, did so for the pay it provided and that there will be many people who want to work on a Sunday and many who will not.

Mr. Deakin and Mr. Wilkinson paid particular attention to the dangers of deregulating without granting employee protection to future as well as existing employees. They showed that some 20 per cent. of current shopworkers had been working for less than two years and 60 per cent. had been working for less than five years. It is vital that we include future employees as well as existing ones in employment protection; otherwise, those refusing to work on a Sunday will simply find themselves replaced by those who are obliged to work. We also have to look carefully at the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) made about those applying for work.

I hope that the Minister, when he winds up, will confirm that schedule 4 will not only protect people from being dismissed for refusing to work on a Sunday but prevent them from suffering any detriment at all in their employment, including to their promotional prospects. The position of employees should be entirely neutral whether or not they wish to work on a Sunday.

We want to see premium rates for Sunday working. The Wages Councils Act 1979 used to specify double time for Sunday working. When the Auld committee looked at the problem some 10 years ago, it advocated deregulation on the basis that employment protection would exist, and on no other basis. Premium pay is supported not only by the partial deregulation option but by the Keep Sunday Special option and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform proposals. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House who have advocated either the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals or the Keep Sunday Special campaign and RSAR proposals join us in ensuring that employees get the protection that they need in order not to suffer as a result of the introduction of any form of deregulation.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle , Wallasey

Does my hon. Friend agree that if provision for premium payment is not included in the final Bill, many of those who work on Sundays now will be unwilling to work on Sundays? Many of those who work on Sundays do so only because of the premium payments that they can earn. Does my hon. Friend agree that it will be difficult to staff shops that wish to stay open on Sundays, except by force?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

My hon. Friend is right. The retention of the premium pay element is particularly important—in everyone's interest. As the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) pointed out earlier, many employers are committed to that.

There are elements of agreement between the two sides. It is agreed that certain significant small shops should open on Sundays, that some larger shops should open and that all shops should open for at least four out of the 52 Sundays in the year. There is wide agreement about the need to protect employees. The remaining difference concerns the range and nature of opening hours. That difference covers an important and wide spectrum, but it covers a spectrum: the argument is no longer conducted according to absolutes. No one is arguing for no Sunday opening; not even the Government now argue for no regulation, at least of employees' conditions.

We are searching for a way through the impasse—a method that works, that is capable of being enforced with sense and respect for the law and that treats employees fairly, a method that seeks to balance the public's twin objectives of greater freedom to shop and of keeping Sunday special. We believe that that is possible. The Bill should be given a Second Reading; after that, let us draw up a workable framework for the future on the Floor of the House, where such matters should be decided.

Several hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I reinforce Madam Speaker's plea for short speeches? Otherwise, many hon. Members will be disappointed.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby 6:21 pm, 29th November 1993

I warmly welcome the Government's initiative, and their imaginative action in introducing a Bill to enable us to reach a final decision on an issue that has eluded Parliament and the population for decades. Now, it seems to be within shouting distance of determination. I believe that our debates on the Bill can settle the legislative aspect, although they will not necessarily decide the real issue of Sunday trading.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the tremendous amount of helpful work that he has done for all who have sought to integrate their schemes in the overall package of the Bill. He has produced genuinely viable options. One of the really successful aspects of the Bill is the fact that every hon. Member can be confident that whatever option he chooses in the Lobbies will be viable and workable.

In an opinion given to the John Lewis Partnership, Anthony Scrivener, the eminent Queen's counsel, stated: There can be no objection to a statute on the grounds that it is elaborate or complicated if it in fact achieves its purpose. In my view there is no reason at all for rejecting this option"— that is, the Keep Sunday Special/RSAR option— on the grounds of interpretation difficulties or difficulties in enforcement. I emphasise that opinion for the benefit of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr Blair).

Mr Scrivener continued: Some of the perceived problems are misconceived: others are simply overstated. He went on to say: Local Authorities, the courts, lawyers and even retailers are well used to having to deal with questions of the application of legislation to their activities and the legislation involves a consideration of definitions. Anyone familiar with food law or consumer law generally is well aware of such problems—they are commonplace. I cannot see any greater problems arising under this Bill than in numerous other existing Statutes which have proved to be effective. Ascertaining the meaning of such terms is common place. I think that the hon. Member for Sedgefield has underestimated the viability of the Bill as now presented—with the help of the Home Office—in respect of the KSS/RSAR option.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

The right hon. Gentleman will know that I have considerable experience of long hours of debate on Bills, including Criminal Justice Bills. Does he agree that if the criterion for the Sunday Trading Bill were applied to Criminal Justice Bills we would never have passed any? Admittedly, we would all have been relieved of a great burden, but we would never have tackled any of the difficult problems of law and order in our society.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I agree that any legislation involving any sort of discrimination—for instance, sex discrimination or immigration legislation—will require complex definitions, which nevertheless are in principle perfectly viable and which in most cases have produced effective legislation. I believe that, with the help of the Home Office team, we have now secured a regulatory option that is fully viable.

I must point out to my hon. Friend the Minister of State that in one sense the Government have slightly overstated the Bill—although, as I have said, I welcome it in principle. They argue that three options exist, but no one is so naive as to believe that. There are two options before us: the regulatory option associated with the Keep Sunday Special campaign and the RSAR, and the full deregulatory option contained in clause 1 of the Bill. Surely no one believes that the two hours per week which separate full deregulation from the option presented by the Shopping Hours Reform Council represent anything more than a fig leaf.

If I have a criticism to make of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, it relates to his use of the term "compromise scheme" to describe the proposals of the SHRC in a letter that he sent to all hon. Members on 19 November. The use of that phrase to define the council's two-hours option is almost disingenuous. It is like a judge passing sentence in court telling the defendant: "I have two options—to set you free, fully and unconditionally, or to sentence you to life imprisonment; I am going to compromise and sentence you to two hours community service." That is not a compromise. It is almost indistinguishable from total liberation and it is an abuse of language to describe it as a compromise.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am happy to give way to my old Committee sparring partner.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his own proposals represent a compromise option? For instance, he says that the shops specified in that option should be closed because Sunday is a special day. He would argue that it is special because of the nature of people's lives, but also for religious reasons. Yet he then suggests the compromise that the four Sundays running up to Christmas should not fall into that category. Is that not the ultimate compromise?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I cannot imagine why, but my hon. Friend has suddenly brought religion into the argument. I have certainly not deployed that argument in my speech, and I do not consider compromise relevant to the context of a Bill which distinguishes full deregulation from the very full regulatory scheme that the KSSC and RSAR are trying to introduce. Anything in between could be called a compromise if it were in any meaningful sense a regulatory scheme, but the Shopping Hours Reform Council scheme really is not a compromise and it is an abuse of language to imagine that it is.

Photo of James Paice James Paice , South East Cambridgeshire

I must challenge my right hon. Friend's assertion that the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals do not constitute a sensible compromise between the other two options. My right hon. Friend ridicules the proposal on the basis of two hours per week—assuming, it would seem, that the shops which will be allowed to open for six hours on Sunday would otherwise be open for eight. Does he accept that, under the Keep Sunday Special proposal, a small food shop—a corner shop or whatever—could open from 6 am until midnight while the big shops would be restricted to six hours? That strikes me as significantly different from complete deregulation, which would allow the big shops to open for those same hours—from 6 am until midnight.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

My hon. Friend must bear in mind the fact that, both under the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals and under the Keep Sunday Special/RS AR proposals, the small category of small shops to which he referred will be free to open as often as they like and for as long as they like, so in that respect the two schemes are on all fours. The difference lies in the provision for large shops. Under the KSS proposals, large shops will not be able to open except on the four Sundays before Christmas, whereas under the SHRC's liberalising deregulatory proposal they will be able to open, with only a two-hour limitation in respect of normal eight-hour opening hours. Moreover, as soon as the regulatory framework is abandoned, those opening hours will almost certainly expand to the full eight hours.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield argued that it was necessary and desirable to keep Sunday special—even though he would not embrace or advocate the full KSS scheme. He talked about premium pay. He wants a scheme whereby Sunday can be kept special to some extent, with an associated framework of premium pay for those who have to work on Sunday. I ask him to reflect on the necessary argument that the less Sunday is kept special and the more shops open on Sundays, the more impossible it becomes to argue rationally for premium pay.

If we have the full deregulatory framework or the full SHRC framework, with six hours leading in a short space of time to full eight-hour opening, the time will rapidly come when insurance companies, travel agencies, building societies, banks, small property and house agencies—any kind of business with a high street presence or deployment—will follow suit. All such business are perfectly free to open now and if the high street is busy on Sunday because all the shops are open, they will open, too.

Why should there not be a progressive development with all forms of employment operating on Sundays? The whole idea of Sunday being a special day will long since have been abandoned in favour of normal retail activity. Why should that not spread to all other forms of employment?

I hope that the hon. Member for Sedgefield will accept that if that happens the case for premium Sunday pay entirely disappears. Sunday will become a day like any other day. Employers do not pay premium pay on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday because some people take their day off on that day. Why should Sunday be a special day? Why should nurses or those in the emergency services get premium pay on a Sunday if it is no longer a special day but a day on which all businesses are open, as will almost certainly be the case once there is a complete free-for-all on the retail side?

I warn the hon. Member for Sedgefield of what is likely to happen by drawing his attention to the phenomenon of Good Friday opening. We have some interesting statistics. In 1976, when the first of a series of analyses and monitoring operations were carried out, 80 per cent. of all retail premises closed on Good Friday—only 20 per cent. of shops opened on Good Friday. By 1986, 10 years later, 40 per cent. of all retail shops opened on Good Friday. Another three years on, in 1989, 60 per cent. of all retail outlets opened on Good Friday. In 1993, 100 per cent. of shops opened on Good Friday.

If we are completely to liberalise all retail trading on Sundays—that applies to the full deregulatory framework as well as to the limited fig leaf of two hours for the major stores—why should the trend not spread to all other forms of employment, in much the same way as Good Friday opening has spread?

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

It has not happened in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

My hon. Friend says that it has not happened in Scotland. I will come to that point in a moment. I ask the hon. Member for Sedgefield to bear in mind that as the trend develops and the Good Friday pattern is followed, the argument for premium pay on Sunday will disappear. There can be premium pay only if Sunday is a special day, and Sunday will be a special day only if there is a framework of strict limitation on the shops that can open on Sunday. There is only one option that holds out that prospect.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair , Sedgefield

I would not normally respond, but the right hon. Gentleman has directed so much of his speech to me that I feel that I should. It is precisely to ensure that we designate Sunday a special day that we argue in favour of premium pay and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will support us when we table amendments on that issue.

Many of the points that the right hon. Gentleman is making could equally be made in relation to his own proposal. The distinctions that he is making have to be justified. He says that we are keeping Sunday special if we tell people that they can buy food in a small shop but not in a large shop. I cannot understand what is his basis for making those distinctions. Unless the basis can be made rational we are in danger of legislating for the same type of folly as we have at the moment.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I do not want to bore the House or the hon. Gentleman by cantering over old ground, but I must point out that the essential difference between the options before us is that, under the Keep Sunday Special/RSAR proposals, the very large shops are virtually disbarred from opening—except on the four Sundays before Christmas—and only the smaller shops, as defined in a way that is perfectly statutorily manageable and feasible, will be able to open. A great gulf will be fixed between the great supermarket stores that are taking all the business out of the high street and the town centre and the small businesses that they are putting out of action. The fact that the large stores will be disbarred will be a special feature of Sunday. That is how Sunday will be kept special, as it would not under the full deregulatory option.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) mentioned Scotland. When the John Lewis Partnership carried out a survey in Edinburgh only a few weeks ago, it discovered an interesting phenomenon: 100 per cent. of the large out-of-town supermarkets and very large stores around Edinburgh were opening on the Sunday in question, whereas only 25 per cent. of the Edinburgh city centre shops were open. We are talking about the familiar doughnut with the hole in the middle. All the opening will take place in the large supermarket premises on the perimeters of cities while the small and medium-sized shops—the hole in the doughnut—will be driven out of business.

If there is a restricted regulatory framework in England, the Scots will rapidly seek its help for the problem that is looming in Scotland. The Scottish solution is no solution. I repeat that we need the KSS regulatory framework if Sunday is to be kept special and if there is to be any chance of premium pay retaining effectiveness and reality on the English social and economic scene.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore 6:39 pm, 29th November 1993

We have been told that the occupant of the Chair will decide when the options are to be called. To avoid any confusion about when the options are to be debated or voted on, may we be told when options 1, 2 and 3 are to be called and in what order?

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

When I know the date for Committee, I shall be better able to help the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it correct that amendments will have to be tabled in Committee so that hon. Members can choose which options to delete? Someone will have to move those amendments. If the Government table amendments to allow hon. Members to decide, is it not for the Government to decide the order of those amendments? Is it not a procedural fact that the Chairman will have no option but to take them in the order in which they are tabled?

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

It is for the Chair to view all amendments and the Government are free to table whatever amendments they wish. However, we have not yet given the Bill its Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

In view of your last sentence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall get on with my speech.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr Blair) for his kind remarks about my efforts and those of my colleagues. I thank the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr Alison) for his efforts and his devotion to trying to change the law on Sunday trading. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield about free votes. Why will there not be a free vote on Second Reading? Conservative Members are on a three-line Whip, but Opposition Members are on a one-liner, which means that we may vote as we please. I hope that for the other debates on the Bill there will be a free vote.

The Home Secretary openly declared that he supports total deregulation. His predecessor, who is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is a total deregulator. Above all, the Prime Minister is a total deregulator. Does that mean that we can take heart from the Keep Sunday Special/Retailers for Shops Act Reform group of options, and that we shall be supported by Conservative Members because the Government back total deregulation? I look forward to the result.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

Does my hon. Friend agree that those members of the Cabinet who support total deregulation are going for a double whammy? They hope to get through the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals, which are the most deregulatory. They will then bring in the Whips to make sure that there are no concessions on Sunday working. As I say, the Government are going for a double whammy, and when the first proposals are concluded we shall not be able to stop them.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

I agree, but I do not know what my hon. Friend means by a double whammy. Perhaps he will explain it to me later. I accept that the Government may use diversions, especially as they have now declared their intention.

I recall the debate on Sunday trading in 1985–86. At that time the Government had a majority of well over 100 and there was talk in the Chamber and elsewhere of their Bill being pushed through. The Lords agreed to it, and when the Bill returned to this Chamber I was the home affairs Whip. To my amazement, Conservative Members were prepared to vote against the wishes of their Whips and, as a result, the Bill was defeated by 14 votes.

Some of the people who voted against that Bill are still in the House. When we have discussed the matter with some of the new faces, I am sure that the House will once again reject total deregulation and will probably reject partial deregulation. I look forward to the vote on those matters.

Discussions have continued since. 1986 and there have been attempts to introduce private Members' Bills. I was fortunate, if one can call it that, to be No. 3 in the ballot immediately after the last election and I chose to promote the Shops (Amendment) Bill. Perhaps it was not a wise move because there was much work involved and there was a good deal of criticism, even from some of my Front-Bench colleagues. They spoke about unacceptable Bills, but there was advice from the Clerks and from the Home Office. I do not know whether the new shop unit was set up deliberately to confuse or to assist the hon. Members who debated my Bill.

On 14 May my Bill hit the rocks. There were a number of reasons for that. The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) is in her place, so I shall mention that in Committee on my Bill she tabled 122 amendments, most of which were called. On Friday 14 May she tabled 99 amendments and 30 new clauses. I thank the right hon. Lady for that because it meant that the House could decide whether to have the three options instead of the amendments and the new clauses that she had tabled. On 14 May there was a tremendous amount of support for my option, which was to keep Sunday special.

There is no need for the Government to waste time on the current Bill and there is no need for the three options. On 14 May they could have adopted my Bill. The RASA and Keep Sunday Special proposals provide ample opportunity for reasonable shopping and most of the anomalies in the Shops Act 1950 could be avoided. I console myself with the fact that the Government would not have acted at all on Sunday trading if it had not been for the agitation of those of us who campaigned for a new Act to replace the 1950 Act.

We have always been promised a free vote and the Prime Minister has reiterated that during Prime Minister's Question Time. The Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr Lloyd), who is in his place, also promised a free vote, and on numerous occasions the Home Secretary promised a free vote on every issue. However, we have never been promised a free vote on employment protection. Indeed, it surprised most of us when we found that employment protection was included in the Bill, in any shape or form. Of course, the main reason for its inclusion is the combination of the two options suggested by Keep Sunday Special and the RSAR group.

I ask the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield to look closely at what the Government are offering. They should also read a document dated 26 November that I received today in my post bag. It is a report on Sunday trading and employment protection by S. F. Deakin, a fellow of Peterhouse and lecturer in law at the university of Cambridge, and K. D. Ewing, professor of public law at King's college, university of London. It details why the proposals on employment protection included in the Bill cannot possibly work.

Because of the time factor, I shall refer only briefly to the statement issued by Sainsbury on Tuesday 23 November, which the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) mentioned last week during Home Office questions. An article in The Independent stated: J. Sainsbury, one of the country's largest supermarket chains, was at the centre of a Sunday trading storm last night after the leak of a memorandum which warned managers that a willingness to work on Sundays could affect promotion… The memo, from Colin Harvey, retail sales manager, warns that Sunday working will become 'a way of life' if the Sunday Trading Bill succeeds. Mr. Harvey says reluctance to work on Sundays will not affect Sainsbury's assessment of an employee's potential, but he adds: 'Willingness to work on Sundays will obviously be one, although clearly not the only, factor that we have to take into account when making appointments to such stores. I am sure that that will be the position with all supermarket chains.

I have worked behind a shop counter and as a manager of a shop. I have been a member of USDAW since I was 16—which is one or two years ago! Therefore, I can say quite frankly that there is no way in which we can protect the promotion prospects of workers if they fail to work on Sundays.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Has the hon. Gentleman received the letter dated 24 November from the chairman and chief executive of Sainsbury disowning the employee to whom the hon. Gentleman referred? I wrote to the chairman of Sainsbury, saying, Do I take it that you will now be reviewing his career development? The two are at odds, so in which one should we put our faith?

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

I agree with the hon. Lady.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I have a memorandum issued by the joint managing director of Sainsbury in an attempt to clarify that very point. I do not wish to bore the House by reading the whole memorandum as I believe all hon. Members have received a copy. The joint managing director said: I now wish to state categorically that the Board's policy in this matter is that a manager's willingness to work on Sundays will not be a consideration in making managerial appointments.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

I must continue with what I have to say, which is even more important than the point made by my hon. Friend.

I was overjoyed when RSAR and Keep Sunday Special agreed to combine their options. I am sure that all hon. Members will be pleased at their attempt to produce a realistic Bill which will be acceptable and workable and which covers the wishes of most hon. Members. I must put on record the fact that the agreement was reached to avoid the House being confused by four options. For some reason the three options that were included in all the options that we discussed for some considerable time overnight became four options.

The RSAR group referred to the four major issues. The first was the size of the shop, which would be between 1,500 and 3,000 sq ft. That was agreed in the Committee on my Bill. The second was the extent to which garden centres should open, which was also agreed in the Committee on my Bill. The third major issue was the question of employment protection. The fourth, which we put to RSAR, was a compromise solution for Sunday opening on four Sundays before Christmas.

When the matter was debated in Committee on my Bill, that fourth issue proved to be a stumbling block. The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden tabled an amendment to allow opening on six Sundays before Christmas. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) tabled an amendment specifying three Sundays before Christmas. I tabled a probing amendment suggesting four Sundays before Christmas. The matter was debated for two hours, and the principle of Sunday opening for four Sundays before Christmas was overwhelmingly established. However, when it came to the vote each and every option was rejected, including that suggested by the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden. That is why the issue was so delicate when we discussed it with the RSAR group. I am glad that opening for four Sundays before Christmas is now one of the options in the Bill.

As the right hon. Member for Selby said, in effect there are only two options, not three. One option is total deregulation—or deregulation that is practically total—and the other is to keep Sunday special as suggested by Keep Sunday Special. Those are the options that are really on offer to the House. If the Government were prepared simply to put those two alternatives before the House, we would know where we were going with the Bill. Insisting on the three options makes matters complicated. Indeed, when the Home Secretary explained the procedure for voting, I wanted to intervene to ask him to repeat what he had said because it was obvious that even he was becoming confused. However, with your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in all probability we will have some idea of the procedure for voting. I repeat: there should be two options, not three.

We should all remember the protections that the Government have stripped away from trade unionists since 1979. I say to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench and to trade union leaders—especially those who have campaigned side by side with Keep Sunday Special since 1976—to examine the debate that eventually led to the abolition of the wages councils. We must also remember the Government's views on the social chapter and their general attitude towards workers' protection. We must then ask ourselves why, at this late hour, they have included schedule 4 to the Bill.

It is the Government's last stand to compensate their financial backers for the hundreds of thousands of pounds that they have paid into Tory party funds. It is a reward for the further sell-out of workers—[Hon. Members: "Rubbish."] It is not rubbish. How long will all the promises for worker protection that were forced out of the Government without mention of double-time payments last? How workable is what is on offer? I remind all those who oppose the proposals that it did not take the Government long to abolish wages councils, and it will take them even less time to abolish that which they are promising today.

The major campaign waged by Usdaw is the only option demanding not only full worker protection for those who decline to work Sundays but double time for all hours worked. That is a Keep Sunday Special proposal, which was backed and funded by USDAW until October 19. On 5 May 1993, an USDAW executive council spokesperson, speaking at the union's annual delegate meeting at Blackpool, said: I can give this ADM, on behalf of the Executive Council, an absolute assurance that we will go on campaigning, we will go on lobbying, we will go on working with our friends and allies, and we will go on tackling our opponents. This issue is too important for this union to be swept aside by the rantings of the Shopping Hours Reform Council and the profit-only entrepreneurs who have no interest in the trade in the general but interest only in profit in general.That is why we have spent so much time in the Executive Council statement to ADM looking at the principal proposals for reform that are currently being put forward. Everyone will understand why the Executive Council and this union can have no truck with the Shopping Hours Reform Council. Their proposals are only one small step away from a total free-for-all. The only protection they offer our people is a tinpot code of practice that is not worth the paper it is written on. Some of their own supporters, like Woolworth until recent date, are already trampling over the code of practice in any event. Actually to argue that a code of practice would be useful to shopworkers when one of the main proponents of that policy is in actual fact breaking that code of practice, shows how bankrupt and how sinister that particular offer is.And there are some deeply suspicious links between the people to run and back the Shopping Hours Reform Council. We have to be concerned that because of the publicity given by this union to their insidious propaganda, and because of our attacks on Tory-orientated Shopping Hours Reform Council officers, they have now tried to buy a Trojan horse into the Labour Party. They have appointed a leading Labour person, Margaret JayThere are some very good points but also some unresolved problems about the REST proposals. So we intend to develop our relationship with the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, pursue our concerns with them, and we have every confidence that on all those issues that we see as being of critical importance, provided they embrace the concept of keeping Sunday special, they will give us a favourable hearing. USDAW's executive council pledged unqualified support for the REST and Keep Sunday Special proposals. I hope that the House understands why I was compelled to make that statement.

Only yesterday, I received a letter from an employee of Woolworth, stating that he was asked by his manager to sign the new terms and conditions of employment for Woolworth's retail staff. They include the sentence: You may be required to work evening, Sundays, public holidays or following reasonable notice. He was unwilling to sign unless he could strike out the reference to Sunday working, and was told that unless he signed he could consider himself dismissed. That is happening before the Bill has received its Second Reading or all the options in respect of the comprehensive employment protection that we have always demanded have been considered.

I doubt that the protection on offer will be acceptable to the House. It is vital that debate is not curtailed. Earlier, the House was, rightly, presented with a long statement on Northern Ireland, but it served to reduce the speeches that right hon. and hon. Members can make to this important debate. Given that, and the number of issues that right hon. and hon. Members want to raise, I shall resume my place—but I had much more to say.

Photo of Mrs Angela Rumbold Mrs Angela Rumbold , Mitcham and Morden 7:06 pm, 29th November 1993

I begin by congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and his colleagues. I know only too well from my own experience of working at the Home Office the long discussions and negotiations that were the forerunner of the Bill. This is the right and proper way to take this contentious matter forward.

I much enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the Committee that considered the private Member's Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). It was an interesting experience and, for no reason to do with the number of amendments that I tabled, one of the most interesting aspects was the number of concessions that were made—often before amendments came before the Committee. As time went on, we found ourselves in more agreement, due to the concessions made to those of us who opposed the heavy regulatory provisions contained in the hon. Gentleman's Bill.

Interestingly, that debate continues. The proposal that the four Sundays before Christmas should be totally deregulated differs from the hon. Gentleman's Bill. He rightly pointed out that we voted down that proposal, so clearly we are still on shifting sands in respect of the Keep Sunday Special and RSAR proposals. Were that the will of the House, the Committee stage will be most interesting, for I suspect that a number of amendments will necessarily be tabled to try to ease any proposed restrictions.

I took the approach of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) seriously in my own constituency. I not only listened carefully to the views of Churches and constituents, but called a meeting of local retailers only last week. It covered the spectrum of small retailers and large stores, including representatives of large stores that are not in favour of total deregulation. Nevertheless, at the end of that meeting, there was general agreement that close attention should be paid to customers in reaching our conclusions on the Bill.

This evening, I shall make it perfectly plain that I support total deregulation. It is exceedingly important that we make a decision for a Second Reading of the Bill this evening. Otherwise, we will be left with the Shops Act 1950, which most people in the House would agree is not workable in this day and age. Thus, it seems to me that we have to go that far at least.

It is equally important that we should endeavour to put a lasting measure on the statute book, and I have many worries about that. I do not necessarily agree with those people who have said that the issue is confined to two options only. That is a simplistic view. It is tempting to listen to and possibly to accept, but I do not accept it.

It is reasonable for the Government to come forward with a third option, which is not the strict and regulatory proposal from the Keep Sunday Special campaign and Retailers for Shops Act Reform groups, but a proposal for partial deregulation which would at least allow those of my colleagues who have some concerns about the concept of Sunday being different from the rest of the week, to feel easy and at rest with their own views and, at the same time, to take into account the strong arguments that will have been communicated to them by many of their constituents who wish to be able to exercise freedom of choice about whether or not they shop on a Sunday.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

Is not the truth of the matter that those people who want total deregulation know that they cannot get it through the House of Commons in that form and that therefore partial deregulation, as it is called, has been devised in order for them to get what they want—total deregulation—by another route?

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

I would prefer to leave that issue to hon. Members, for them to demonstrate their views when we have an opportunity to vote on the options in Committee. I would not wish to predict how people will vote or how they are minded to represent their constituents.

Any measure that the House now puts on to the statute book should be logical and comprehensible, and I mean comprehensible to all the people who have to make it work. Even were we to accept the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), that whatever one puts on to the statute book can be made to work—I would not deny that at any stage—none the less we have an opportunity to exercise some restraint and caution on the subject as a legislative body.

It seems to me that what we put on to the statute book should be as unrestricted as possible, with as simple an approach as possible in terms of interpretation for those people who will be charged with the task of interpretation. Thus, I would argue that a simple measure which allows deregulation on Sunday would be the best option that the House could obtain, simply because it will not involve a large amount of enforcement or interpretation. I understand the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby that that might not be the will of the House. We shall have to see how that goes.

Another general principle that we should consider carefully is enforcement. Should we put a more restrictive option on to the statute book, local authorities will be charged with the responsibility of enforcing that measure. Local authorities have already made it plain that they are not especially happy or content to accept a new responsibility of that nature. They—and I agree with them—have said that they would now feel more comfortable with total deregulation, simply because it will be expensive and onerous for them to enforce and to monitor what would flow from a regulation along the lines of, for example, the Keep Sunday Special option.

Simply and swiftly—because I believe that this is a Second Reading of the principle and not a debate on the various options, so I do not want to get into detailed argument about the various options now—I shall make a few simple points about my reasons for wishing to support the change.

I do not think that it is in debate that there are considerable differences between the 1950s and the 1990s. I have argued that before on the Floor of the House. It is therefore important that we acknowledge that people who live in the country today have totally different aspirations about what happens on Sundays as well as on other days of the week, and also about what they may or may not purchase at any given time in a shop. Many things that people purchase today were not available to them in the 1950s; many facilities are available to them today that were not available to them then.

I think it is a quite sustainable argument that, in some cases, retailers have wrongly offered people the opportunity to exercise their choice. None the less, people have exercised that choice where it has been available to them, and today about two thirds of the population are in favour of the general proposition that there should be an opportunity to shop on Sunday. Every week, at least 5 million people are said to visit a supermarket on Sunday. That is a substantial number, and I suspect that most Members of Parliament would be reluctant to ignore the views and wishes of their constituents to that extent.

A substantial number of people who are employed on a Sunday would be deeply disappointed were the House to make a choice which restricted or limited their opportunities to work. Again, the situation in the 1990s is totally different from that in earlier decades.

In the 1990s, and especially most recently, large numbers of women have found that it has been extremely convenient to work at weekends and to look after their small children during the week. That has been possible for them simply because opportunities have been offered to them in retailing work that were not available to them in the past. Sadly, not all but some of those jobs would not be available were we to impose a stricter regime than currently exists, albeit outside the law. I therefore believe that we have to pay some attention to the wishes and needs of our constituents in terms of how they work and how they obtain their income.

I have already argued that local councils will have to implement and enforce whatever legislation we pass. The more complex that legislation is, the more difficult it is for one to assure oneself, and for local councils to assure themselves, that some shops are not breaching the new legislation. That will inevitably involve cases coming to court for interpretation. There will be a great deal of bureaucracy, and a considerable amount of money will be spent, most of it ending up in the lawyers' pockets—not, I dare say, something that we necessarily ought to wish to see.

My final argument—

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

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

I would like to make my final argument, if I may, because I do not want to take up the time of the House.

People argue passionately—and with a great deal of earnest belief, I am sure—that total deregulation would overnight, or perhaps not overnight but over a period, totally change Sunday as we know it. I do not believe that there is any evidence for that assumption. Indeed, we have evidence from north of the border, in Scotland, where there has been total deregulation for a long time, that Sunday is as special there as it is or is not in the southern part of the United Kingdom.

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

May I draw to the hon. Lady's attention a letter that was sent today by Bishop David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool, who refers to the Scottish experience? He says that the Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland gave evidence to the Home Secretary: It made absolutely clear that they believe that the experiment in Scotland was not a success and was no model to be followed elsewhere.

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

If that is the belief of the Churches, it is not necessarily the experience of all the people. It is almost impossible to believe the serious and sweeping statement, which we would ultimately expect to hear in the country as a result of total deregulation, that every day of the week is exactly the same, one as another. I do not believe that that will happen, and that people want to change their habits to that extent. I simply believe that what happens at present outside the law would in many senses be much better encapsulated in a total deregulation measure. I do not necessarily think that that would encourage or substantially increase the amount of shopping that would take place as a result.

Certainly, nothing that we will do on this measure will prevent people from going out with their families on Sunday to enjoy themselves at whatever event they wish to take, or prevent them from going to church. Indeed, if we were to talk on a religious basis—the reasons for keeping Sunday special—and bring the Churches into the argument, it is entirely a matter for the Churches to attract a larger number of people to worship, and I wish that were the case. But it still would not prevent people from going beyond that into the world around them and enjoying themselves by either shopping or participating in any other leisure activity.

Thus, I do not see that there is a great argument that, simply by deregulating shopping hours, we will make a specific difference to Sunday. As I said at the beginning—my constituents are well aware of this—I support total deregulation, and I shall argue for it in detail on another occasion.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland 7:21 pm, 29th November 1993

The final point of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) that Sundays would remain special despite total deregulation was comprehensively answered by the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), who talked about what happened to the special nature of Good Friday when shopping practices were changed. The right hon. Lady's predictions are less reliable than the lessons of history.

In this debate, one is at some risk of getting bogged down in arguments about anomalies that exist under the present law, or which might exist under putative alternatives, and overlooking the fundamental deep and important question which originally led to Sunday trade being restricted. It reflects not the changes of a few decades, to which the right hon. Lady referred, but the wisdom of at least two millennia —that people need a day of rest for mental, spiritual and physical reasons.

It is not the view only of modern doctors, psychiatrists, personnel managers and many people involved in trade and commerce, and the professions. Throughout the ages, people have shared the view that without rest we cannot enjoy the fruits of our labour. Even the slaves of ancient Egypt and Rome were given a day of rest. If we cannot rest, we no longer work to live but live to work. The trends of the society in which we live have tended to lose sight of that. We have been told that God did not go to a supermarket on the seventh day.

We may ask why we require a common day of rest. To put it simply, in our society it is possible to provide for one. Sunday is a valuable and still powerful social tradition. It is a wise institution. As we all take the same day to rest, we appreciate not only our own rest but that of other people. People who want to shop or work on Sundays believe that they do so for no reason other than convenience, but we must remember that one person's convenience is another's labour; we can become so enamoured of the need for convenience that we forget that a balance must be struck between getting what we want when we want it and having someone provide it for us.

In the light of what the Home Secretary said, I am not confident that that balance will be properly struck. The protections for those employed on Sunday—and some people will always necessarily be employed on Sunday—would be safeguarded if the Bill proceeded through the House in its present form. For all the anomalies that exist, and those that would exist if regulation were retained, some degree of protection for those in employment and those seeking employment in the retail sector would be secured by maintaining the proposals advanced by the Keep Sunday Special organisation and the RSAR.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) is a little too trusting if he believes that the interests of workers employed in the retail trade can be secured by transitory assurances from transient Home Secretaries about employment protection. The Home Secretary is committed to total deregulation and has made his preferences abundantly clear not only in this area but in many others. He believes that regulation is an intrusion on private choice and freedom of decision-making and he vigorously resisted the social chapter. It is therefore a little strange to hear the hon. Member for Sedgefield buying the arguments of the Home Secretary with such enthusiasm; it seems a little out of character.

It seems indisputable that the law needs changing. The Shops Act 1950 used concepts similar to the wartime reserved trades to proscribe non-essential trading. Clearly, it was flawed, and it was recognised as such early in its life. The momentum for its reform began almost as soon as it came into force. My research assistant is a bright young man called Charles Cohen whose grandfather was involved in a leading case which became known as the kipper case—the case of Newbury v. Cohen (Smoked Salmon) Ltd. in 1956.

In that case, it was held that it would be illegal to sell kippers on a Sunday if they had to be cooked before being eaten but not if cooking was unnecessary. The defence case consisted of a raw kipper sandwich that was presented to the judge. As it was decided that the sandwich was edible, and the clerk of the court enjoyed it, the case was dismissed. Such anomalies will undoubtedly continue wherever one chooses to draw the line. It is a counsel of perfection to imagine that we can produce an anomaly-free law to regulate this area.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central

Is not the hon. Gentleman getting to the nub of the argument there? If we want to keep Sunday special, we can do so even if it is a little difficult. If we do not, we simply wash our hands of it and say that it is impossible to produce such regulations and so the only sensible thing is total deregulation. That is a fallacious argument, and I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's point.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I am extremely grateful for the support of the hon. Gentleman. The other argument used by the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden was that many were voting with their feet, and that many millions of people were going to the shops. Certainly, if shops are available and open on Sunday there is no doubt that their convenience is sufficient to attract people.

There are some people for whom the non-availability of shops on Sunday can definitely provide genuine hardship. I acknowledge that. There are numbers of single mothers, for example, who are working on other days and who find it difficult to get to the shops on those days. Those people have genuine problems and genuine needs. We have to strike a balance.

Excluding, for the purposes of the debate, all arguments about religious norms, we must consider where the balance of public interest lies. The argument cannot be confined just to what happens to those shop workers who have to remain in their places to serve those who want hie convenience of shopping on Sunday. We must recognise that there are many activities associated with the fact that the shops are open which would also have to multiply. We would expect greater policing and greater shopping inspection to take place. We would also expect, if shops are to become more universally open, much more refuse collection on Sundays.

We would expect also to see a substantial increase in the volume of traffic, and I wish to comment on that. I believe that, on Sunday, people in cities, or people who are trying to leave cities to enjoy a day of leisure and recreation in the countryside, will face increasing unpleasantness. I do not know whether it is expected that public transport will take up the additional traffic engendered by the new Sunday shopping habits following total deregulation, but I doubt it. There will be a sea of cars on the road, and queues will stretch out into the suburbs and the countryside. Of course, there is the option to stay at home, but the quality of life will not be enhanced if that additional traffic is engendered.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

It is not just the freedom of shoppers that we must bear in mind. The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise the freedom of those people on whose lives traffic has a major impact. The hon. Gentleman's words will be particularly welcome to those who live near major supermarkets located in residential areas and who, even if they choose to stay at home, will have the imposition of cars and lorries thundering past their homes on not six but seven days a week.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I was drawing attention to those people who perhaps do not want to shop at all but who are not unaffected by the activity of those who do. I was talking also about the balance of convenience.

The nature of Sunday has already changed, in advance of the proposed change of law, so that Sunday is a much less restful day than many who are concerned about the health of the nation would wish.

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

May I reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend? Within my constituency, in the Allerton road area, a law-breaking branch of Woolworth's has made life intolerable for those living in the terraced streets alongside. Despite petitions been to Kingfisher, the owners of the chain, no action has been taken. My hon. Friend is right to state that the lives of people who live around the massive supermarkets and hypermarkets could be made miserable.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

I agree with my hon. Friend, as is so often the case.

There is a further point. If one is to judge the matter in terms of consumer advantage, one must look at more than just the availability of goods on a counter on a particular day of the week. One must look at the long-term effect of shopping and retailing patterns.

From the avalanche of briefings that have landed on my desk from shops of varying sizes, I have observed that no one expects the proposal to have a neutral effect on the shops. It is clear that most of those in the retail business consider the volume of trade to be constant. The proposal will mean a rearrangement of the business between the companies concerned.

Most of those concerned about the matter believe that total deregulation, or deregulation of the type advocated by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, would result in some loss of that total volume to the small businesses because small shops tend to provide what might be regarded as goods which it is necessary to acquire, including things which may be needed in the event of a medical or other emergency on a Sunday. Changes in those trends would be highly disadvantageous. I cannot in conscience vote for a measure which will damage small corner shops, which shops are at some risk of being lost in any event because of the trends in shopping habits.

It is not just the smaller shops which expect that their market share would be adversely affected by the proposed changes. The multiples, which provide a great deal of liveliness in the centres of the shopping districts of our towns and cities, also believe that. I hold no brief for any particular type of shop—I believe that they all have something to offer—but one cannot suggest that the impact of the proposed change would be neutral.

One has to acknowledge that firms such as the John Lewis Partnership have been profoundly sensible about the prospects for their businesses if the changes were made. I noticed that one statement from the group said: In the event of deregulation, the public would end up paying more for their retail service to cover the additional costs incurred. And since Sunday would in time become one of the two busiest days of the week, shops that wished to remain closed would do so only at a cost. We should have to reckon that we would, against our will, be obliged to open on Sundays; not necessarily everywhere, not at once, but pretty generally in due course. The additional cost of shopping is certainly a factor that one would want to take into account. It is not something that manifests itself under the present anomalous law because the shops have to bear in mind the prices available in other shops, but that becomes less true if one sector of the market vastly increases its market share.

I listened to the Home Secretary's speech and I would have greatly enjoyed it if he had felt able to give a more personal view about the matter. He was absolutely candid about his headline view of total deregulation legislation, but what led him to that position? Whether he felt that he was defending consumer interests, or whether he was defending the principle of the free market for seven days a week was less clear.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Surely the hon. Gentleman would not want to put a false antithesis before the House. The free market is the best protection for the consumer.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

The Home Secretary has confirmed his reputation as a man who deals in slogans. That intervention was quite helpful. I know that he and his colleagues intend to have a bonfire of regulations and we all look forward to the impact of that on consumer safety, on consumer standards and on many of the other measures passed, with the protection of the consumer in mind, by his Government and Governments of very different hues.

The Minister whose views on this most closely agree with mine is of equal or perhaps of even greater seniority than the Home Secretary—the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. He and his wife happen to be constituents of mine and he has viewed those matters with great wisdom—the wisdom of ages. I share his judgment that it would be folly for England and Wales to follow the path of Scotland.

It is a misrepresentation to suggest that we would be moving to the Scottish pattern if we legislated in the manner recommended by the Home Secretary. Shopping patterns in Scotland are very different from those in England. Only 25 per cent. of the shops in Scotland are open on Sunday, under a legal regime, whereas even today, under the existing laws, some 38 per cent. of the shops in England and Wales are open on a Sunday. A London economist has predicted that 65 per cent. of English and Welsh food retailers would open in a completely deregulated Sunday market.

There are several reasons for the differences. First, Scotland is much less densely populated and the incidence of car ownership is lower, which means that shopping involves greater travel and expense and thus there is much less convenience, relatively, in Sunday shopping. There is much higher church attendance on Sunday and there is apparently more emphasis on family life on Sundays. I cannot account for that difference of practice, but it is recognisable and the law must be judged against that background.

The large multiples do not have a significant presence in Scotland while they dominate the scene in England. There are 651 hypermarkets in England and Wales and only 49 in Scotland. Scottish retailers face relatively lower fixed costs, most notably the cost of property, but relatively higher marginal costs, in energy and wages, than in England, which means that longer hours are less profitable.

Costs would rise notably for retailers if they had to maintain shop opening seven days a week. Costs will not be reduced by the need to make premium payments to those who work on Sundays. They are more likely to be taken account of in rising prices for those who shop, so even on the narrow question of consumer interest the case for an extension of shopping hours on Sundays does not seem to be made.

Having said that, I do not put forward the alternative as the last word in sense. It is a patent compromise. It does not rest on an absolute principle. It is impossible to defend a proposal that advocates four open shopping Sundays before Christmas as founded on a solid bedrock of principle. It is a compromise designed to meet the interests of the groups involved—which have applied themselves most carefully to the problem—around which we can find it easy to unite.

Whatever we may do with the Bill, it will not become like the laws of the Medes and the Persians. It will not necessarily remain unchanged for another 40 or 50 years. It can be amended to take account of changing social attitudes and economic practices. It seems to me good enough for today and certainly a great deal better for today than the free-for-all that has the support of the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe , Broxbourne 7:44 pm, 29th November 1993

I warmly welcome the Bill. For too long the anomalies of the Shops Act 1950 have been allowed to create confusion. I do not intend to debate the generalities of Sunday trading. I am mindful of Madam Speaker's plea for brief speeches, so I shall restrict myself to one issue—what will happen to garden centres as a result of the Bill in whichever form it becomes law.

I represent a constituency with a long horticultural history. I am chairman of the Conservative Back-Bench horticulture committee, and I also have the honour to be the parliamentary consultant for the Horticultural Trades Association.

The law allows garden centres to open on Sunday for the sale of certain specified gardening goods. There is no doubt about the importance that trading on a Sunday has for garden centres, both large and small. The annual turnover of horticultural retailing between the years 1991 and 1992 was some £800 million, of which 40 per cent. was earned on Sundays. That means that Sunday trading was worth some £320 million to the industry in those years. That not only represents a significant amount of economic activity but creates many thousands of jobs for people who actively seek to work on a Sunday through their own free choice.

As garden centres have grown in number and popularity from the 1970s, they have developed into a wholly different entity. They have become a leisure venue for many people. The range of products that they sell has expanded greatly and now include such items as pottery, books, pet food, and—important at the moment—Christmas decorations.

By selling that wider range of goods, many garden centres are breaking the law, but many local authorities have turned a blind eye to the sale of goods unauthorised under the 1950 Act. However, some have acted to prevent certain garden centres from trading to their full potential on Sundays. I think that everyone believes that garden centres should open on Sundays. I have had many conversations with the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on that point and I believe that we are agreed on it.

What people find hard to accept is why items that they have come to expect garden centres to sell should be on sale for six days in the week but not on the seventh. It all seems artificially restrictive, especially as Sunday is the day when most people visit garden centres. It is important that, with the Bill, we sort out the situation once and for all.

The millions of people who visit garden centres each Sunday, and the thousands who work in them, need to be reassured that what they do, they do legitimately. The legislation that we introduce must be sufficiently comprehensive and flexible to accommodate current and future anomalies. I am concerned that one of the options—regulation—will adversely affect many larger garden centres and lead to great practical difficulties. Garden centre shops would have to be arranged not according to what is best from a commercial point of view but rather to meet the administrative needs resulting from the necessity to cordon off certain goods each Sunday. That is an unnecessary restriction on their trade at a time when we are trying to reduce burdens on our businesses.

The House will select its preferred option, but no matter which the House chooses, there are three specific technical issues relating to garden centres that I would wish to be addressed. It is important to recognise that a number of businesses such as garden centres have been trading legitimately on Sundays for many years. They have adopted trading practices that best suit their business. Any new legislation should not adversely affect such companies. If it did, that would be a retrograde step. Even those options that are viewed as deregulation for many shops may lead to more regulation for garden centres.

I have three concerns about extra regulation on garden centres. The first relates to restrictions on the hours of opening. Garden centres have a seasonal trade. The vast majority of their income is earned between Easter and June, when people are actively gardening. It is vital that, during those few months, garden centres seize every opportunity to maximise their income. They need to trade in as many daylight hours as possible. A restriction to six or eight hours on a Sunday—normally the busiest day of their week—would damage the industry. The busy months are counterbalanced by months such as January and February when trade is slack and there is less pressure to open for such long hours. The proposal to permit opening hours should be flexible enough to reflect the fact that certain businesses are seasonal and need to open for longer on certain Sundays.

My second concern is about the paying of premium wages for Sunday working. Under current legislation, most garden centres already open on Sundays, and have done so for many years. Staff recruitment has always been on the basis that the business operates seven days a week and that there will need to be some Sunday working. That is reflected in the wages and conditions offered to staff when they are employed. Therefore, the garden centre industry has already built into its system premium wages for Sunday working.

Profits at garden centres will not support the imposition of compulsory double time and time off in lieu of Sunday working. Introducing that for garden centres that have operated successfully on Sundays for many years would be a retrograde step and would inflict unnecessary extra costs. Rather than encouraging Sunday opening, in many instances it might force closure.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

The hon. Lady said that garden centres have built the equivalent of premium rates into their terms and conditions, which—I hope that I am not putting words in her mouth—reflect a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. What are average earnings in the garden centre industry, and how do they compare with those of the other shops that have been referred to in the debate?

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe , Broxbourne

I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman that detail because there is quite a lot of part-time work in garden centres. I shall provide him with the information, which I think he will find supports my point.

The final issue that I want to raise relates to the one that I have just mentioned. Provisions for opting out of Sunday working will also damage garden centres, which for many years have operated a successful system of employing staff to work on Sundays. Garden centres are normally small businesses that employ a few staff. Unlike larger retailers, they simply do not have the flexibility to cope with such a provision within a small operating team.

I do not think that there is much objection among the garden centre industry to giving existing staff the single opportunity to opt out on the passing of the Bill, but to allow the option to run indefinitely could certainly wreck managers' ability to plan and run their businesses efficiently.

I hope that the House will consider ensuring that small businesses are not penalised by being burdened by regulations appropriate to larger companies but inappropriate to smaller ones. I welcome the opportunity to consider the issue of Sunday trading, but I urge the House to ensure that we do not burden smaller businesses such as garden centres with more regulation at a time when the ethos of Government is to move towards deregulation.

Companies that have been successfully trading legitimately on Sundays should not be forced to close as a result of new regulations introduced under the Bill.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 7:54 pm, 29th November 1993

I begin with a word, across the Floor, of appreciation to the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison). It was both helpful to the House and very timely for him to quote the lucid and incisive opinion of Anthony Scrivener QC, a distinguished former chairman of the Bar Council, on one of the options provided in the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman said, Anthony Scrivener effectively demolished the claim that the Keep Sunday Special/Retailers for Shops Act Reform option presents any particular difficulties of interpretation or enforcement. Anyone who still believes that fallacious claim should hasten to read Anthony Scrivener's compellingly persuasive opinion.

One hon. Member has so far declared an interest in the debate and I want to inform the House of mine. I have the honour to be sponsored by the Co-operative Movement. In declaring that interest, I declare also my pride in being sponsored by a movement whose traditions are among the most admirable this country has to offer. The Co-operative Movement will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year and, as the anniversary approaches, I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House will congratulate the movement on its achievements worldwide. There are now 700 million co-operators across the world.

Today's debate is not mainly about how, but whether we should amend the Sunday trading law. It is not about the options for change the Bill offers, but whether we should proceed at all to amend the Shops Act 1950. The Bill offers the means of tackling a mess that gets messier every week and, for my part, I am in no doubt that we should amend the Act providing adequate safeguards for working people can be secured.

We should amend the Act in a way that respects the special nature of Sunday while allowing a reasonable range of activities to be pursued. I entirely agree with the letter in The Times today from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council, and I offer no apology for making further reference to their letter. They write: Commercial pressures already loom large enough in our society. Sunday affords space for the nurture of other values, pursuits and dimensions… we believe that the spirituai, psychological and physical health of our nation would be poorer if there were no longer one common day in the week which was substantially different from the rest. I also agree with the Bishop of Manchester, who says in a letter I received from him today: One person's freedom to shop means another person's obligation to work. Even if the legislation proposes safeguards against Sunday working, the creation of a commercial climate in which Sunday trading becomes a competitive necessity will mean unbearable pressure on individuals and organisations. However, my principal reason for intervening on Second Reading is to comment very briefly on the deeply serious effects of illegal Sunday trading on law and order policies. Over recent years, a growing number of major companies have decided blatantly to ignore the Shops Act. There are people who believe that, but for the BBC's public service broadcasting role—such is the huge advertising revenue these companies dispose of—there would have been scant if any media coverage of their malfeasance. They have acted, and persist in acting, in straight defiance of the law. They have taken the law into their own hands by trading illegally, and make not the merest apology for iaw-breaking on a massive scale. They have been even luckier than Roger Levitt.

Their conduct debases the law and is grossly contemptuous of Parliament at a time when the Government say that law and order is their priority of priorities. The public reaction is that there is one law for the rich private multiple and another for their poor consumers, who may buy illegally but must not shoplift from the law-breaking retailer—even on a Sunday. How can parliamentarians, in any part of this House, who make the law and work to uphold the rule of law by discouraging crime, even think of condoning law breaking by major companies on the present scale?

What the Home Secretary must tell us unequivocally today is that, whichever option for reforming the Shops Act 1950 is approved by the House, it will be very strictly enforced. Otherwise, shall we not be wasting our time in debating the options in the Bill? We need to know also whether the Government have sought any undertaking from powerful law-breaking traders, such as Sainsbury and Safeway, that their stores will not open in defiance of the law if the joint KSS/RSAR option is approved by this House. Has any such undertaking been sought? That question is of crucial importance to hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House and must be answered by the end of this debate.

Allegations in The Sunday Times of "price coordination" by Sainsbury, Safeway and others, and their attempts to stop the American cut-price food store, Costco, from opening in Thurrock, show how determined these chains are either to break the law or to buy access to it beyond the means of others, whenever it serves to protect or increase their market share. The only way to make them respect and obey the law is to introduce a system of fines for illegal trading that will make sure that crime does not pay. We should also deal firmly now with companies that obtained planning permission on the strict condition that they would not trade on Sundays and have since broken their undertakings.

In December 1992, the European Court of Justice made it clear that the British Parliament was free to legislate as it saw fit on the issue of Sunday trading. This decision was endorsed by the House of Lords in March this year when B and Q's claim that the Shops Acts 1950 was in breach of European law was firmly rejected. That decision makes it crystal clear that it is for this Parliament, not the big multiples or the European Court, to determine the law on Sunday trading, and for Ministers accountable to this Parliament to enforce what we determine.

Again, I most strongly emphasise that law and order is a fundamentally important issue in this debate. Not only is the Government's credibility at stake but also the reputation and respect for the authority of this House.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord , Suffolk Central 8:03 pm, 29th November 1993

I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and I echo his point about law and order. On Sunday trading, it seems as though there has been one rule for the big multiples and another for other people. We in the Conservative party are now making law and order a big issue, as we should, and this issue highlights the point. It would be a travesty if the major retailers were allowed to bully the House into changing legislation. That would set a bad precedent.

The Conservative party has coined the slogan "back to basics", with which I very much agree. What could be more basic than the traditional British Sunday? Keeping our Sunday as a different day of the week is essential for all sorts of reasons. We may not have time to go into all those reasons tonight, but we all know what we mean when we talk about the importance of keeping Sunday as a different day of the week. For some people it is a clay for religion and going to church, and for others it is a clay for family life or simply a day that breaks the rhythm of the week and gives people time to think and to rest from their ordinary labours.

Hon. Members may demand further definitions of Sunday and may nitpick about what we mean by a "traditional Sunday" but, if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we all know what we are talking about. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said that Sunday was not a new day of the week and that for the past 2,000 years, we had had such a break in our working week to rest and refresh ourselves. It is crucial that Britain keeps Sunday special.

The point that I wish to make strongly on Second Reading is that we shall have to choose between two separate options. The water has been muddled, accidentally or deliberately, by the third option of six hours' trading, described as "partial deregulation". My right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) destroyed the idea that that could be a sensible, intelligent compromise. That option is no such thing; it is a fig leaf for total deregulation.

The House has before it two options: first, a framework to preserve our Sundays and, secondly, deregulation in one form or another. How can six hours' trading, from 10 am to 4 pm, which many big supermarkets enjoy now on Sundays, be described as a compromise? Those are the hours that they want to open and the hours that they will get if we are daft enough to fool ourselves into believing that that is a sensible compromise. So let us have no wishy-washy arguments about the matter. Either we want regulation to look after Sundays or we want deregulation in some form.

I have no doubt that if we decide to keep our Sundays special and to frame that in legislation it will be difficult to do so. A massive amount of effort has now gone into that attempt. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Standing Committee on the Shops (Amendment) Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). We had a difficult time trying to thrash out a compromise that would work, but it can be done, and it has been done. No one who believes in keeping Sunday special can be entirely happy with our compromise. However, if one believes that it is worth marking Sunday out as different from a working day and if one wants regulations to do that, some compromises must be made. It is difficult to do, but not impossible.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who said that enforcement was impossible. Those who argue that enforcement is impossible and say that that is why they want total deregulation either fool themselves or have other reasons for putting forward that argument. They really want total deregulation and are using the argument that the other regulations cannot be enforced to support their position. I believe that a framework will be difficult but not impossible. If it is worth having, it is worth working for.

Although, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland said, whatever we decide is unlikely to be perfect, no legislation is perfect. A good example of how it is possible to distort legislation if one wants to do so is the argument that we often hear about girlie magazines and the Bible. Those who want to joke about the possibility of making enforceable regulations say that it is ridiculous that one can buy a girlie magazine but not a Bible on a Sunday. That is true. However, the people who framed the legislation said that one could buy newspapers but not books, for many other reasons, on a Sunday, and that is not stupid. The fact remains that a girlie magazine is a newspaper and a Bible is a book. That is how the argument can be stretched to its most ridiculous extent. That is the kind of argument that those opposed to keeping Sunday special are using to put forward their case and it is quite ridiculous.

I must make the point—it has been made more than once this evening—about the dominance of the large retailers. There is no doubt that if we have total deregulation on Sundays, the large supermarkets will grow at the expense of the smaller corner shops. Nobody denies that. Is not that a strange thing to be doing when times are difficult and when our smaller shops are struggling, while our large grocery retailers are one of the few sections of industry turning in massive and record profits? There is something rather strange about that balance. It is stranger still that when profits are so huge, the large retailers should want even more trading at the expense of the smaller shops, which will undoubtedly suffer.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) has said that we are no longer in the 1950s and that we are now in the 1990s. That is patently obvious and true. But some people would suggest that in terms of standards and the way in which we run our national life, the 1950s were not so bad in many areas, and that perhaps we should look backwards to some of those standards to see whether we have gone wrong on our way from the 1950s to the 1990s. I do not suggest that we should look backwards or that we should in any way be hidebound about such things, but I suggest that we may be wrong in thinking that we are always right in terms of deregulation and letting retail business in particular do exactly what it wants to do.

The supporters of Keep Sunday Special are often described as killjoys. That is nonsense, because more shops will be able to open under the proposed regulations than in the past. That is not entirely a false impression. If the regulatory system proposed by KSS comes about, we shall have open things that used to be open before all the lawbreaking started, plus sensible additions such as garden centres and DIY stores. The four Sundays before Christmas have already been mentioned. We need sensible regulations to keep Sunday a different day of the week.

We should think carefully before we finally pass total deregulation measures through the House of Commons. If we do that, it will be an irreversible decision. Having done that—having cast off all the regulations to allow Sunday to become just another day of the week—we shall never be able to put the clock back. I believe that we shall look back with sadness, and possibly with shame, in the years to come. I wonder what future generations will think about what we in the House of Commons have done. Most countries have some form of regulation. What a sad statement by our nation it would be if we consigned all our regulations for Sunday to the dustbin and the history books.

I started by talking about the slogan "back to basics". I believe very much that that is what we should be doing as a country. What better place to start than by preserving the basic traditions of the British Sunday?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen 8:12 pm, 29th November 1993

I believe that we are here this evening to discuss the general case for reform. That is what I would like to concentrate on.

As we all know, the present Shops Act goes back to 1950. It was largely a consolidating measure, based on original legislation that goes back to 1936. It fails to recognise the huge social changes in the way that we shop and work.

When the 1950 Act was passed, I was still a small baby. My mother did not work, and had the time to do the shopping every day. Forty-three years on, as a working mother of three teenage children, it would be quite impossible for me to meet my family's shopping needs on a daily basis.

That change in working and shopping patterns has not just happened overnight. It has been a gradual change as more women have sought paid work outside the home—some voluntarily and some forced to by necessity.

But for whatever reasons those changes have occurred, the fact is that they have occurred. The Shops Act 1950 is now out of date, unworkable and virtually impossible for local authorities to enforce. In 1950, there were no DIY shops, video shops or rental centres, and, I suspect, few if any supermarkets—certainly none on the scale that we have today.

In 1950, shops sold a relatively limited range of goods. It may have been possible then to believe that Sunday shopping could be regulated by a list of goods. But by doing so, the legislation has produced a list of test cases such as whether a kipper is a meal or refreshment, or whether marzipan and toffee apples are confectionery. If legislation based on the type of goods sold threw up anomalies in the 1950s, clearly it was bound to produce more and more as patterns of work and shopping, and indeed of retailing, have changed.

The list pretty well now stretches into infinity. One can sell fresh vegetables but not frozen; bottled water but not fruit juice; gin but not baby milk; cigarettes but not fresh meat. One can even sell mule fodder on a Sunday—it is specifically mentioned in the 1950 Act. I do not suppose that there is much demand for that these days.

It is a scandal that such a nonsensical piece of legislation should have been allowed to remain on the statute book for so long. It is important to remember that it is not Parliament that has to enforce it, but long-suffering local authorities up and down the country, with trading standards officers forced, probably, to work on a Sunday to ensure that no shopkeeper tries to boost his takings by attempting to sell the odd bag of frozen peas.

It is no wonder that the Association of District Councils, of which I have the honour of being vice-president, has said that securing a change to the Shops Act was one of its most important objectives. It went on to say that the overriding concern of district councils was being saddled with the onerous responsibility for a piece of legislation that has proved very difficult and costly to enforce.

Seldom has a statute been so frequently and regularly challenged. It does not enjoy the confidence of business, local authorities or the public, and is now almost untenable. Reform should be brought forward as soon as possible.

Although I know that we shall be dealing with various options in the Bill at a later stage, it is important to point out that the ADC would not wish the anomalies of the 1950 Act, which have been exploited with such vigour and ingenuity, to be replaced with a new set. The law must make entirely clear, without ambiguity, those shops that are permitted to open and those that are not.

For local authorities, the cost of enforcement will largely depend on the complexity of the model. The cost of enforcing the regulatory models will increase depending on the number of restrictions. Those hon. Members—from the Opposition or from Government—who care about local government will, I am sure, bear that in mind should they be tempted by the KSS-RSAR option, for behind the smiling and welcoming faces of Mr. Michael Schluter and Marks and Spencer lies the reality of a situation that could prove to be as confusing and anomalous as the one that we seek to reform today.

I return to the case for reform. There are two rather special groups around whom the whole debate should revolve—the consumer and the shopworker. The most convincing case for change is that it is what people want. Polls over the past 10 years have shown consistent majority support by 2:1 for Sunday trading. A 1991 Gallup poll found that 44 per cent. of people wanted food supermarkets open; 43 per cent. DIY shops; 43 per cent. convenience stores; 37 per cent. garden centres; and between 20 and 30 per cent. for video, clothes, and book and record stores. How many of those even existed in 1950?

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

Did my hon. Friend see the very watchable "To Play The King", which is a serial on Sunday evening? There was an interesting part, which perhaps my hon. Friend should have watched carefully, where the character Sarah promised the Prime Minister that she could arrange any result he liked from any opinion poll that he liked to give her.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I cannot comment, because I did not happen to see the programme in question.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Is the hon. Lady aware that the television programme "To Play the King" is fiction? Is she aware that she is describing reality?

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

I could not possibly comment.

Many families find that the only day when they can go shopping together is Sunday. If the House will indulge me, I would like to read out a letter that I received only the other day from two constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, who live in Darwen, Lancashire: Dear Ms Anderson,We strongly support Sunday shopping because we are busy working parents with two small children, and Sunday is the only day we can buy our weekly shopping and our children's needs, like nappies etc. It is also a very enjoyable day out for us which would otherwise be boring. As the shopworkers' union USDAW has said, while we must all deplore lawbreaking in any form, we must also recognise that illegal Sunday trading has been taking place largely unchecked and on an increasingly widespread basis.

Large numbers of consumers have become accustomed to being able to shop freely on a Sunday. It would be difficult for Parliament now to legislate significantly to obstruct or curtail that activity, much less reverse it. Moreover, large numbers of retail employees have become used to working on Sundays. Many of them will have taken on financial commitments on the strength of the income that their Sunday working generates. It is simply not feasible for Parliament to deny such opportunities to working people, many of whom have come to rely on their Sunday earnings.

Only sensible reform of the 1950 Act can guarantee the continuation of these opportunities for working people. I believe that a new consensus has emerged on Sunday shopping—a consensus that crosses political party boundaries and embraces consumers, trade unions and local authorities. It is a consensus to which Members of this House must, and I hope will, respond tonight.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham 8:21 pm, 29th November 1993

I am delighted to have caught the Chair's eye during this historic debate, for I have worked for 10 years since first I entered this House for reform of the outdated and ludicrous Sunday trading provisions of the Shops Act 1950. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on introducing this Bill today.

Through two private Members' Bills, drafted for me by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, and recently as chairman of the all-party group for shopping hours reform, I have sought to bring sense to the present untenable situation. In so doing, I have tried to respond to the very first request—nay, demand—put to me by my local district council, Gillingham borough council, 10 years ago, when it exhorted me to sort out the Sunday trading mess.

That early instruction from Gillingham council mirrored the frustration felt by councillors and council officers throughout the country as they recognised their inability to perform their statutory task of enforcing the 1950 Act. They recognise that the Act has become irrelevant and is widely flouted by otherwise law-abiding citizens.

The shortcomings of the 1950 Act, itself a consolidation measure, have long been recognised. The anomalies are legendary; my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned some which have led to extraordinary court cases. I will not weary the House by repeating them, but it is worth noting that the option put up by the KSS and the RSAR merger would actually perpetuate some of those very anomalies.

For instance, a shop whose main trade was selling pornographic magazines could open, but a shop selling bibles and religious tracts could not, even if located in a church. A tobacconist could not open, but smokers' requisites could be sold from newsagents and convenience stores as long as they did not form too large a share of the business.

Large DIY shops could sell fire extinguishers for use in cars but not for use in the home. An art gallery could sell local scenes but not abstract art—unless the pictures were given local names. Programmes could be sold in concert halls, but not recordings of the works played. This seems a perpetuation of the sort of nonsense that has plagued us for 40 years.

I believe that the simple thrust for reform comes from the fact that the 1950 Act was designed to protect workers who did not want to work on Sundays, but in circumstances wholly different from today's. Only 26 per cent. of married women wanted to, or did, work in 1950. Now, 70 per cent. of them go to work, although most are still the main shoppers in the family. In 1950, few people had refrigerators, and almost none had a deep freeze. Shopping was therefore necessarily done several times a week.

Today, because most people have fridges and many families have freezers, shopping has become a once-aweek trip, frequently on a Saturday or Sunday because the principal shopper works during the week. Even the relaxation of the strict terms of the 1950 Act governing tourism related to the family seaside holiday of yesteryear, taken during the summer at a traditional resort. No account is taken of today's trend towards short breaks in non-traditional locations.

In 1950, shopworkers were almost all employed full time in small, single-commodity shops, many of which served a small catchment area of people who did not have cars, whose income came into the household in the form of a weekly wage, and who therefore shopped frequently for modest purchases from several shops. The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the greengrocer, the sweetshop and the ironmonger were all likely to be small, owner-run shops with one or two shop assistants.

Today, many shopworkers are part-time employees working for only a fraction of the opening hours of large, multi-commodity supermarkets serving wide catchment areas in which live people who mostly arrive by car and who, being paid monthly, fill their trolleys with a variety of purchases at considerable cost.

In short, the 1950 Act is riddled with anomalies, irrelevant to today's employment, irksome to today's life style and impossible to enforce. I cannot believe that any hon. Member does not accept the urgent need to reform the Sunday trading provisions of the Act, if only to clarify the law and restore obedience to it. Each of us must be uncomfortable with a statute that has fallen into such disrepute.

An estimated 150,000 shops open on Sunday, almost all of them selling some goods prohibited by the 1950 Act. Those shops serve more than half the population—25 million people—regularly and at least once a month, and more than a quarter of the population every week. So shopping on Sunday is clearly popular. It follows that reforming the outdated law on Sunday shopping is likely to be popular too, and opinion polls confirm that large majorities favour reform—and not just reform, but liberal reform to allow more shops to open.

Although the House is today debating whether the Sunday trading provisions of the 1950 Act should be reformed without specifying the form that that reform should take, it is impossible not to consider what form it should take, or at least what the essential qualities of any reform should be. The perceptive analysis of the Bill offered by Queen's counsel—by David Vaughan, John Samuels, Gerald Barling, Nicholas Davidson—and by David Anderson for solicitors Hepherd Winstanley and Pugh seems to me to lay down an excellent set of parameters for successful reform.

First, is the reform morally acceptable: does it accord with the views of right-thinking persons? Is the reform socially desirable and acceptable? Will the reform prove to be durable? Is the reform territorially coherent? Will it remove or perpetuate the differences in trading law in different parts of the United Kingdom? Is the law likely to be regarded as economically fair to shopowners and shopworkers, full and part-time? Is the proposed reform logical and comprehensible to the citizen? Shopkeepers and shoppers do not want to have to consult a lawyer to discover what can and cannot be sold on a Sunday.

Is the proposed law easy to interpret? It is essential that any reform leads to a law that is easy for courts and local authorities to apply consistently. The past two years of confusion over the 1950 Act should warn us against passing a new law that could be bedevilled by as much controversy as the one being reformed.

Will the new law be treated with general respect? It is evident to all that the present law is widely disregarded and flouted. Whichever of the three options for reform that Parliament chooses to support, it must satisfy these questions positively for that reform to stand the test of time.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Does the hon. Gentleman honestly think that those questions have been adequately answered by this proposed legislation? For example, it omits Scotland. The scope of the Bill has been tightened to such an extent that there can be no amendments to it. It does not apply to Northern Ireland, yet I understand that one of the questions posed by the hon. Gentleman related to the United Kingdom. More specifically, when he refers to "right-thinking people", is it right to go against the Maker's instructions? Would it be possible to carry any insurance cover were we to break the instructions of the Maker?

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

I am grateful to my hon. Friend—I can refer to him as such, because he is a friend—for that intervention. I am not going to swap biblical quotations with him. The Bill contains sensible and reasonable proposals. If either the total or partial deregulation option were to find favour with the House, I would like to see it applied to the whole of the United Kingdom, although in Scotland it would be unnecessary. I would also like to see it applied to Northern Ireland, although I know that the hon. Gentleman would resist that.

The Sunday trading provisions of the 1950 Act have had a troubled history, and it would be a tragedy if the House chose an option which failed to command popular support. In that event, it would be a matter of weeks or months before pressure began to build up for a fresh reform that did appeal to the public.

Whatever reform Parliament chooses needs to be easy to apply. Local authorities and courts should not have too great a burden put upon them by the new law—there are more important tasks for them to undertake. In the event of infringement, penalties should not be disproportionate. At least one of the options proposed contemplates penalties which could bankrupt all but the largest retailers. That is quite unrealistic, and immediately throws that option into question.

That option fails to answer many of the other questions that I asked a few moments ago, and depends for its foundation on a series of 56 exemptions to a total ban, leaves me believing that Parliament has a duty to reform the Sunday trading provisions of the Shops Act 1950—not by placing a new set of vexatious restrictions on the freedom of a willing seller and a willing buyer to do business on a Sunday, but by seeking to legitimise the present position. Either the total deregulation or the partial deregulation envisaged by the Shopping Hours Reform Council would fulfil that aspiration.

The public have, over the past two years, become used to being able to shop on Sundays. I believe that we cannot put the genie back in the bottle, and I shall be consistent and support the partial deregulation of the Shopping Hours Reform Council—an option which I believe will preserve the specialness of Sunday without imposing restrictions which are massively unpopular and which would catalyse contention and possible court action.

I will be in good company. I am encouraged by a letter from the deputy general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, Mr. Bill Connor, dated 23 November 1993, in which he says: First, on the question of trading hours and the options for reform which the Government is presenting to Parliament, we are urging all Members of Parliament to vote in favour of option 2, which would basically permit all small shops to open on a Sunday and all larger ones to open for up to six hours.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

I wonder whether USDAW has taken into account the fact that many shops will clearly be unlikely to observe the restrictions placed on them by the law. I have a letter from W. H. Smith: It is now certain that the Centre will be open for the last three Sundays before Christmas from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.In view of this I feel it is important to give you warning that you will be required to work all three Sundays…If, in the final resort, you are asked to work, you must. That is when the law says that they cannot work. What are they going to do when the law says that they can but that there has to be some protection? What happens then.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

My hon. Friend is wrong; there is currently no protection. This Bill envisages bringing in the sort of protection that will make it illegal for that firm to put that onerous burden on its workers who do not want to work on Sunday. She has totally missed the point.

I know that other hon. Members would like to speak. I will enthusiastically support the Second Reading of the Bill tonight. I look forward to supporting the partial deregulation option when the House debates clause 1 in Committee in the near future.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights) 8:34 pm, 29th November 1993

It has been a great pleasure to participate in this debate. It is not often that one gets the chance to intervene on political friends and foe alike and to enjoy the freedom of the Back Benches. The way in which the debate has developed has been most instructive.

I have to declare an interest in this matter. I am sponsored by the Co-operative party—that is something that I am very proud of, as is my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchetster, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris)—there is no financial bond involved in my voting for or against this measure. There is no whip on this matter in the Co-operative party; I am my own person on this issue.

I have long been in favour of Sunday trading reform. Like all the other speakers in the debate, I think that the Sunday trading laws are outdated and nonsense and that they need to be updated and changed.

I will take a slightly different tack from many of the points which have been made and which do not need repeating. This debate on Sunday trading is important, not only because of the specific issue before the House but because it begs some interesting questions about the way in which we organise our democracy and run our Parliament.

I have always believed in a measure of reform, and my constituents have consistently said to me that they want to be able to go to DIY centres, garden centres and small shops. That is my position on this matter and I shall support that option when we vote.

I have not had very many, what I call, free and independent spirits writing to me. We have all received letters, dictated by a manager, which say, "I must write to say that I am in favour of Sunday trading, otherwise the manager will be very displeased with me." There have been lots of those letters. None of us has been fooled by the endless requests made by the nice man or woman at the checkout who asks, "Will you sign our petition?" Following the great British tradition of good manners, people sign the petitions and do not think much about them. I do not think that they are worth the paper they are printed on. The petitions are well organised, but they all come from one direction.

I have had five genuine letters about Sunday trading. Let us get it into proportion. Some hon. Members would suggest that the whole world is demonstrating to be able to shop on Sundays. That is total nonsense and a myth. But why do we get the feeling that there is a great deal of activity and interest out there? I think it is because certain people are organising a campaign.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Does the hon. Gentleman not think that much of the interest might exist because 25 million people shop on Sundays? Are they not the ones who are showing an interest?

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

If I develop my argument, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied by the way in which I answer his point.

Many Opposition speakers have tried to define the essence of Sunday, although it is impossible to quantify. It is valuable to think in terms of the regenerative nature of a Sunday. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), the shadow Home Secretary, should bear firmly in mind the fact that it is a very important day, the one day in the week for ordinary people to relax, to regenerate their spirit. That is meant in some slightly mystical way, not a religious way. It is a day for people to take a break from the traumas and pressures of other days. In that respect, both my hon. Friend and I have been involved in home affairs, and I think that the restful and recuperative nature of Sunday keeps the crime rate down.

I do not think that it is a simple case of retailers breaking the law; that is a disgraceful example. It should not be suggested that household names such as Sainsbury have been breaking the law ruthlessly for the sake of their profits. A quieter voice, however, suggests that if people are not allowed some rest—some opportunity to stay together as a family and to relax on one day a week—there will be a knock-on effect on criminality, and on the general way in which people face life.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson , Rossendale and Darwen

Do not some families regard shopping as a relaxation? If I can go shopping on a Sunday, my family go to help me. It is a much more pleasureable activity than shopping alone on a weekday.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

May I answer one question before I begin on another?

I wonder what these people are doing. They must be working extremely hard if they cannot shop on a Saturday. When I return to my flat in the Barbican, I can go across to the local Safeway, which is open until 8 pm. An enormous amount of shopping time is now available. However, I do not want to pursue that point now; I want to return to the nature of consumerism.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Has the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) ever tried to shop with two small boys below counter height and a shopping bag in each hand? It is impossible to hold the children, who are off around the next corner before you can say knife. That is not my idea of relaxation.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

I have been shopping with my four children, and have found it enjoyable. In that regard, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen. Not being a very modern man, I simply let them run riot; I think that it is the shop proprietor's responsibility to call them to order.

Some people object to the fact that most of our holidays have traditionally been driven by religion. Holidays followed the Church timetable, which itself followed the pattern of the seasons. A spiritual, agrarian tradition decided when we worked and when we rested. I accept that holidays—rightly—now follow a different pattern and have a different tone, reflecting the modern urban realities of the late 20th century, in which few people are tied to the land by occupation and far fewer would describe themselves as active members of any religion or creed.

I suggest, however, that a new religion now holds sway in Britain. Its name is consumerism. It is preached by its high priests, the successful retail bosses—the chairmen and chief executives of the big retail chains, the David Sainsburys of the high street. Those new high priests have a great deal of power.

In Britain, retailing power lies in the hands of a select few—a point that I have tried to bring to the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield. That is more true of us than of any of our European neighbours or American counterparts. In food retailing alone, five companies control a massive share of the total market. The top three—Sainsbury, Tesco and Safeway—together account for more than 50 per cent. of the retail food market; the top four account for 61 per cent. Is that what we want, in terms of retailing diversity? I do not believe so. I believe that Sunday trading will increase the power of those few retailers and will be very damaging to society.

In any other society and under any other Government, that degree of power and that share of the market—the inflated profit margins and the lack of competition—would have led to accusations of monopoly, followed by investigation and a curb on at least the worst excesses of such market domination. In Britain, however, retail power has been allowed to grow to terrifying proportions. Increasingly, the retail monopolists are eager to win friends in government and other political parties and to influence political decision making. To achieve their aims, they have in turn aided and financed a huge expansion in the world of the political lobbyist: the lobbying of parliamentarians, civil servants, regulators in Europe and those in the United Kingdom has reached an unprecedented scale.

Any hon. Member present now would honestly admit that we have not seen such a movement in the political lobby during the time in which we have been in Parliament. A small group of monopoly retailers, ever hungry for higher profit and in the single-minded pursuit of increased market share, decided some time ago to launch an overall strategy. Let us picture the scene. They could afford the best—all the top lawyers, the posters, the public relations and the lobbyists. All were invited to talk about thow the market share of particular companies could be expanded. It was decided, as one of the strategies, that they must be able to use their fixed capital as often as possible, and that, over the next two or three years, they must target the ability to trade on Sundays.

Some of my hon. Friends have suggested that tens of thousands of pounds are involved. When the research into the campaign has been completed, it will be proved that millions are involved. Which Member of Parliament has not been inundated with glossy leaflets and telephone calls, and asked to participate in lavish entertainment? Champagne, oysters and caviare were available; it was only necessary to go along to Sainsbury, Tesco and Safeway and join in their campaigns.

Some of our opponents may laugh, but it is true, and there is a serious message behind it. Millions of pounds have been spent on persuading Members of Parliamentt to change their minds—on persuading them that the British people want not a peaceful Sunday, but a retailing Sunday.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for one hon. Member to accuse others of being corrupt—of being open to bribes of caviare offered in an attempt to make us think that we should vote in a particular way?

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

I think that the hon. Gentleman is taking this a little too seriously.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

The hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) knows, as the House knows, that that kind of pressure—that kind of entertainment—does not work with independent-minded Members of Parliament. That is why those who organise it will not succeed in changing the law and giving it a non-regulatory framework.

The first piece of advice that the experts offered their paymasters was that, to be successful, the whole campaign should be fought in the name of the consumer and should purport to come from a genuine desire of the part of the British public not only to shop till they drop, but to do it on Sundays as well. During the campaign, intolerable pressure has been exerted on Members of Parliament by the band of monopoly retailers, through their lobbyists.

I believe, however, that some good may come of this. I believe that, after the debate is over and when we win our preferred option, an analysis will be made of what has gone on over the past two years. I think that there will be a general call for an examination of the political lobbying techniques that have been used over the period. I also believe that there will be a heightened awareness of what is going on in our democracy when large retailers—or interests with large amounts to spend—can mount a campaign of the size and power of the one that we have seen over the past weeks and months. Some good will come out of this campaign, but I tell the House most seriously that I believe that that is the only good that will come from it.

The issues in the debate are clear. I am sure that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members will support the Second Reading of the Bill. However, I beg the House to adopt a careful approach to the subsequent vote on the two choices. I agree with my hon. Friends on both sides of the House that there are only two choices. A characteristic of the campaign has been that the experts—the spin doctors —have said, "You must make yourselves look as though you are in the centre—as though yours is the compromise position." It was because of that that we saw the emergence of the total deregulation lobby, which I regard as absolutely phoney. Then we had the RSAR and Keep Sunday Special and—nicely positioned, as it thought—the Shopping Hours Reform Council.

By good footwork, we have marred the SHRC's ability to present its position as the compromise position. The genuine compromise on Sunday trading is the compromise that we offer, which would allow people to choose to shop in DIY stores, garden centres and small shops. If that alternative is not chosen, we will see the end of Sunday as we know it—and, as has been said, we are talking not just about Sunday being special but about Sunday being precious. Once we have got rid of Sunday as we know it, it will never come back. We shall not have an oppportunity to debate a motion to the effect that we should bring back Sunday.

My hon. Friends and I and, on this issue, my good friends on the other side of the House are making common cause tonight because we want not only to highlight what is going on in British politics today but to take this opportunity to show the British public—our constituents, who have a view on the matter—that we are not beguiled by the big lobbyists or persuaded, as the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire suggested, by lavish entertainment. We owe our constituents our judgment, and our judgment must be that we want to keep Sunday special and we want to keep it precious. We owe that duty to our constituents, and when the options are voted on, next week or the week after, we will win the day.

Photo of James Paice James Paice , South East Cambridgeshire 8:52 pm, 29th November 1993

I must start by reminding the House that I have an interest, which is declared in the Register of Member's Interests, as a consultant to the Dixon group of companies.

I suspect that an analysis of today's Hansard will show that by far the longest speeches in the debate have been those made by the proponents of the Keep Sunday Special proposals. What one can read into that I do not know—unless it is that it takes longer to make a difficult case.

Before I deal with specific points, I want to refer to a peripheral matter which might, none the less, form the basis of an important sequel to this debate. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister is to wind up the debate because the matter to which I refer falls within his remit. I refer to the absurdities and anomalies in relation to Sunday betting under the betting, gaming and lotteries legislation.

My hon. Friend knows of my great interest in the racing industry. He will be aware that, earlier this year, the previous Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), gave the all-party committee on Racing and Bloodstock an undertaking that, once the Sunday trading issue had been resolved, he would seek to bring into line and liberalise the betting, gaming and lotteries legislation as it applies to Sundays. I hope that my hon. Friend will confirm that that remains his position and that, once this matter has been resolved—as I am sure that we all wish it to be—he will fulfil that undertaking.

The issue of Sunday trading gives rise to strong emotions, and we have heard some of them expressed this evening. There are strong feelings on both sides. Unlike the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), I have been inundated with what I believe to be genuine letters on both sides of the argument in which strong points have been made.

In seeking to reform Sunday trading we must start with two fundamental criteria: first, we must be as fair as possible; and, secondly, any legislation must be enforceable. The latter point has been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the argument, but I shall refer to it again in a moment.

I started from the position that I wanted to keep Sunday special. That is a policy that I still maintain. I will not undertake political engagements on a Sunday because I value Sunday as the one day in the week that I spend with my family. I think that that is important, but I question whether I have the right or responsibility to impose my position on others. The position that I adopted was a matter of personal choice. I do not pretend to be a regular churchgoer—I am not—but Sunday is the one day of the week that I keep for myself.

Initially therefore, I looked at the KSS proposals in a favourable light—not least because KSS is based in Cambridge, in the constituency immediately adjoining my own. The more I looked at those proposals, the more I came to believe that they did not constitute the right way forward.

There are only two ways of regulating Sunday trading —if, that is, it is to be regulated at all. One can define the type of shop that can open or the type of product that can be sold, or one can specify the number of hours for which a shop can open. I emphasise that type of shop and type of product are closely related. The existing legislation is based on the products that may be sold; the KSS proposals refer to types of shop, but they are defined by the type of product that can be sold in those shops.

Many hon. Members have accused the large shops of breaking the law—and that has been a theme of many of the letters that I have received—but, in reality, virtually every shop that is open on Sundays is breaking the law. Any shop may open if it does not sell anything. That is how the law is framed at present—the type of product that can be sold is the basis of the existing legislation. Virtually every shop that is open on Sundays sells goods which, strictly speaking, are prohibited. We must be clear that it is not just the big shops that are breaking the law, although they are certainly breaking the letter of the law.

Part of the reason why the existing law has fallen into disrepute is that the definition of products in the 1950 Act is completely out of date. First, many of the products now on offer in shops had not even been dreamt of in 1950 and, secondly, people's behaviour and shopping habits and lifestyles have changed dramatically since then.

The type of shop approach—the KSS approach—gives rise to risks identical to those that have already completely destroyed the basis of the existing legislation. The KSS approach would create a lawyers' paradise. Take for example, the DIY shops. At present, the provision refers specifically to goods on sale which are wholly or mainly … Material and tools suitable for use in the construction, repair or decoration of the structure of dwellings. I undertake a good deal of do-it-yourself work in my home and regularly visit the local DIY shop. Such shops sell tools, materials, hardware, tiles, lamps, lightshades, outdoor chairs, barbecue units, curtains and all manner of electrical items, because almost anything nowadays can be electrically operated.

How does one define those items? When an item is invented to help the DIY person, will it be classified as a DIY item? Who will decide? Such a decision will ultimately require case law. The Bill's provisions will be extremely difficult to enforce and ultra expensive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) spoke about the report containing the joint opinion of four QCs and David Anderson. They referred to the term "domestic cleaning materials" which also occurs in the Bill. They state: Does it mean items reqired for the cleaning of the house and fittings and fixtures or does it extend to general cleaning in or about the house and thus include soaps, powders and liquids for the washing of dishes or clothes as opposed to those for the cleaning of floors and baths? Does it extend to brushes, dusters, mops and other items used in the process of domestic cleaning? That is an example of how the law would quickly fall into the disrepute that attaches to the present law.

What happens if the DIY shop starts to stock more electrical items, either those that are currently available or those that may soon be invented? Beyond the lamps, lights and tools, it may stock camcorders and built-in ovens. Who can say that a built-in oven is not part of the structure of a building? Such items still fall within the defined primary activity.

Near my home but not in my constituency, in a small area in Newmarket adjoining a shared car park, there is a major DIY shop and a major store owned by Eastern Electricity. It is incredible that on a Sunday one can enter the DIY shop to buy electrical items while the Eastern Electricity store will be closed. That is not fair in anybody's judgment and it has to be addressed.

In terms of fairness, how do we define the principal activity? A small activity in a large store which does not hinder the principal activity argument may be the principal activity in a smaller store. I question the fairness of saying that one store can open to sell a particular product while another cannot. I used the example of purchasing curtains. Why should I be able to buy curtains in a big DIY store and not be able to buy them in a high street shop that specialises in curtains and other soft furnishings and furniture?

I understand the desire to protect Sunday trading and small shops. I represent a large rural constituency and to me village shops matter a great deal. My life has been spent in villages and in trying to defend their interests. However, I do not accept the argument that more liberal Sunday trading would destroy village shops. Such shops face immense pressures: the very existence of supermarkets has damaged them considerably. Our shopping behaviour has affected them dramatically and, dare I say it, rating valuation and the penal business rates levied on some village shops and post offices have had an effect.

In its report, the Rural Development Commission concluded that the best way to help is to improve competitiveness and commercial viability. The rural pressure group ACRE concluded that Sunday opening was not a key factor in the changes already affecting the whole question of the future of small shops.

Another aspect of Sunday trading relates to the workers who are involved. I welcome the White Paper changes on worker protection, which are entirely sensible. Many people who advocate the restrictive measures option in the Bill are applying double standards. We all accept that people in the emergency services work on Sundays, we expect them to do so, but how many of those who write to me pressing for keeping Sunday special appreciate that many other people work on Sundays?

A recent survey estimated that some 40 per cent. of the work force work regularly on Sundays. That applies not only to those in the emergency services but to people in the media—television and the press—although perhaps we do not worry too much about them. What about our electricity supply industry? People expect the television and the lights to work on a Sunday. The gas supply for heating and cooking and the water supply are all expected to operate. We forget that many factories work a seven-day rota shift and that for many people Sunday is part of the working pattern. One of the oldest industries in the world, the farming industry, has Sunday as a natural part of its working pattern.

All those are people who work regularly on Sundays. It is not something relatively unique to shopworkers; indeed, we could almost argue that it is the shopworkers who are unique in never having to work on Sundays, as the law stands.

I am a little concerned about complete deregulation, which would give the wrong signals about an end to Sunday as a particular day. That is why I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham, intend to support the proposals which were described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) as a minor compromise but which I believe to be a significant compromise between the two extremes. That compromise will retain a degree of regulation that is both enforceable and reasonably fair to everybody.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York 9:05 pm, 29th November 1993

I must tell the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) that I have not experienced the flood of public opinion to which he referred, with people knocking on my door or writing to me demanding the right to shop on Sundays. I have received 101 unsolicited letters on the issue, 78 of which were from people who supported either the Keep Sunday Special option or the RSAR option. Twenty came from people who supported the SHRC proposal, a large number of those being from employees writing on company notepaper. I received three letters from constituents urging me to support total deregulation.

I recognise that many people find it convenient to shop on Sundays, and do so. If that were not the case, none of the shops would open. However, I do not get the feeling that for those people it is a critical, life-or-death issue. It is not something about which they feel strongly enough to write to their Members of Parliament. I have not felt under any pressure from the public to support the deregulation of Sunday shopping.

However, I have felt under some pressure from managers of the companies in the SHRC group. I recently had a meeting, which it kindly organised, with the York managers of all the stores in the group. Perhaps the final factor that tilted me in favour of the RSAR proposal was that one of the managers of a large food superstore in my constituency, from within the SHRC group, said that if I did not support its proposal he would tell all his Sunday workers that I was putting them out of a job. I regret that threat. I realise that Sunday work is important to those workers, but the work of the draper's assistant, the shoemender's assistant and those in the small Spar store or corner shop are equally important.

Research shows quite clearly that if large stores open on a Sunday there will be a net loss of jobs in retailing. As a Member of Parliament, I cannot support one group of retail workers against another—I have to support the interests of all.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

If the hon. Gentleman supports the RSAR-KSS option, he is supporting one group of workers against another. He is supporting the employees of small shopkeepers against the employees of large shopkeepers. He is being partial.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

Yes, I accept that; I am being partial. The House must make a choice and, faced with a choice between the interests of big business and those of small business, the interests of large retailers—as my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said, the biggest of four control 61 per cent. of the market—against the interests of a range of shops that provide a great deal of diversity—the small, local businesses—I shall support the latter.

The debate is about the interests of big business versus the interests of the small trader. It is about the interests of out-of-town shopping centres against those of the high street. It is about the interests of big employers against the interests of employees. A vote for deregulation would be a vote for giving some large chain stores the freedom to increase their market share at the expense of small shops and businesses. It would be a vote for the hypermarket at the expense of the high street.

I have to make a choice, and in an historic city such as York that attracts may tourists, I want to maintain its city centre shops. They are an important part of the city—important to local people and to visitors. At the latest count, 79 shops in the centre of York were empty, partly because of extremely high business rates, partly because of high rents—which increased at the end of the 1980s—and partly because of the recession, but also partly because of increased pressure from Sunday opening in out-of-town shopping centres.

It is claimed that freedom to shop on Sundays is a matter of freedom of choice. For some shoppers, it is a matter of choice. Unrestricted Sunday shopping would give those with cars the choice of shopping at the supermarket on Sunday as well as on the other six days of the week, but their freedom would mean restricted choice for other shoppers—especially the elderly, who do not have cars and who may in some cases lose the opportunity to shop at a local store. They will lose the independence that is terribly important to them. They will have to become dependent on somebody else—a home help if they can get one, or a friend. Someone else will have to do their shopping for them.

It is claimed also that Sunday shopping would be a boon to working women—not to all, because 1·5 million working women are retail workers who would have to work on Sunday. It is hard to believe the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) that large numbers of working women cannot shop on the other six days a week, when the shops are open from 8 o'clock in the morning until 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. It will be true for some, but I do not believe that large numbers of working women work a 12-hour day, six days a week, and cannot get to the shops except on Sunday. Some of them may find it convenient to shop on Sunday, but that convenience may be at the expense of the ability of others else to shop at all.

It is hard to believe also that there is an overwhelming demand for Sunday shopping. I read in The Daily Telegraph on 20 November that Sainsbury does not intend to open many of the high street stores that are closed on Sundays now, because it does not see the demand.

I received a number of letters from small businesses in my constituency urging me to support their interests against those of the large stores. Stuart Watson, who manages a number of Spar stores, states that, since the large out-of-town shopping centres around York started trading on Sunday, his trade has dropped 30 per cent. He believes that if Sunday shopping is deregulated, thousands of small shops and tens of thousands of jobs will be lost.

Mr. Beresford, a shoe repairer, wrote: Everyone seems just to think about the big supermarkets with no thought for the small specialist retailer. Mr. Woodhead, a baker, describes deregulation as a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Maurice Vassie, an architectural ironmonger, wrote: It is ironic, though not surprising, that a Government which pontificates about family values should be so busily promoting a measure that will create tens of thousands of latch-key kids.

Photo of James Paice James Paice , South East Cambridgeshire

The hon. Gentleman has just referred to an architectural ironmonger. I do not know the size of that store, but does he consider it fair that I could go into Texas or B & Q and buy architectural ironmongery, but I could not go into a specialist shop if it happened to be one of more than 3,000 sq ft?

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley , City of York

If it is a DIY store, all DIY stores would be able to open.

Michael Frampton, a jeweller in my constituency, sent me an article from the Financial Times, which said that Shopping Hours Reform Council directors have no objection to a statutory enforcement of the SHRC proposals, but he points out that they have not abided by the current statute law.

There are 2 million shopworkers whose future is being considered when we debate this measure, but it is not just that of the shopworkers; it is that of the other workers who will have to service shopping centres—street cleaners, the police and so on. Whichever option the House chooses, we must ensure that there is statutory protection, and doublle time payment—not just statutory protection of an enhanced rate, because that could simply be an enhanced rate of one penny a day.

In my meetings with local store managers, both from the SHRC and the RSAR, I have asked them specifically whether their stores would object to the Bill containing a stipulation that payment for Sunday working for those shopworkers who work on Sundays would be at double time. Not one of those store managers said that they would object. It is essential, to my mind, that double time should go into the Bill.

Finally, there are two other issues which I would like to be discussed in Committee. The first is the issue of car boot sales and Sunday markets. They are driving down quality and they are now competing with the food retailers, but trading standards officers find it impossible to enforce standards because one trader who is there one week selling dodgy meat, for example, is not there subsequently. Car boot sales and Sunday markets encourage crime; they are places where stolen goods change hands. They are also taking market share from large and small retailers.

Secondly, in Committee I would want the status of electrical goods shops to be reconsidered in relation to the RSAR proposal.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid 9:17 pm, 29th November 1993

I know that two other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, so I shall be fairly brief, unlike some of my predecessors.

It is anathema, as we enter the year 2000—the third millennium—that we are discussing the question of controlling whether shops should or should not open on a Sunday. It seems absolutely astonishing to me. Nevertheless, we are witnessing a move in the House towards reality. It was interesting that, as we heard from a previous speaker, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has already come out in favour of trading on Sunday. I notice that the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), who was so active and vituperative in relation to the private Member's Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), is not in her place and has been absent throughout the debate, despite being president—unless she has been deposed—of USDAW.

I have also noticed, during the debate, that the most incredible horror stories have been suggested by hon. Members who would like to keep Sunday special. They feel that if the deregulation option is chosen, or the option proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, there would be a great difference to life in the United Kingdom, and in England and Wales in particular. Why do they take that view? In Scotland and indeed Ireland, where there has been total deregulation, a larger proportion of people regularly worship in church on a Sunday than in England and Wales where there is regulation. The situation in Scotland is interesting because it has stabilised. Only about 25 per cent. of the shops choose to open.

As the hon. Member for York (Mr. Bayley) said, Sainsbury does not intend to open every shop, because there is no demand for it. However, there is certainly a demand for shopping on Sunday, as evidenced by 25 million people regularly shopping on Sundays. I have visited retail outlets such as Tesco and Safeway, and I have met shopworkers who do not want to work on a Sunday, but that is not a problem—there is no question of compulsion as the majority of shopworkers want to work on a Sunday and are queueing up to do so. Those who do not wish to work on a Sunday need not do so as there is no shortage of people willing to work on a Sunday for all sorts of reasons, and premium payments are but one of them.

The Retailers for Shops Act Reform have an amazing morality. They would like to keep Sundays special for all sorts of economic reasons. We have heard about those reasons today, and most of them are fallacious. One of the reasons that hon. Members have spoken about is that Sunday is the seventh day, and they made religious allusions. It is the utmost irony, then, that Sunday is a religious day, but that the four Sundays leading up to the birth of Christ are not, and they would have shops open then. Some hon. Members have accused the Shop Hours Reform Council's option of being some sort of strange compromise, but in fact RSAR's is the compromise.

The John Lewis Partnership is an interesting case. The company has been stringent in keeping all of its stores closed on a Sunday, at a cost of more than £1 million per week. One of the arguments that it gives for keeping shops closed on a Sunday, apart from not wanting to break the law, is that it would increase the cost of sales of goods. However, that it not the case. Research by London Economics shows that, far from leading to increased cost, deregulation would produce a saving for households. Under more regulatory schemes, the converse would happen.

I do not want to filibuster, as some of my colleagues have done. I recommend that hon. Members read the briefing provided by the Library on the Sunday Trading Bill as it contains all the details.

It seems that those hon. Members who say that people should not shop on Sundays are the same ones who do not go out and shop for themselves. They have wives to do it. Heaven forbid—they may even have servants to do it for them. Being a single man—I am still single despite the inaccurate caption in the Evening Standard today—I know that women and single men need to shop on a Sunday. Therefore, I commend to the House that we support Second Reading and support either deregulation or the Shopping Hours Reform Council's option.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston 9:22 pm, 29th November 1993

My speech will be extremely brief, and I shall get straight to the salient point. I intervened on the Home Secretary to ask whether the Government would force Conservative members to vote a particular way on some parts of the Bill. Recently, I had a debate with a regional manager of Sainsbury's on that very point. He was shocked by my suggestion that the Government would not allow a genuine free vote on all aspects of the Bill. Earlier, however, the Home Secretary made it clear that I was right and the regional manager was wrong. Perhaps I should have told that Sainsbury's manager, "As in all trading arrangements, caveat emptor," if one is permitted to drift into Latin in the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) made an extremely important point relating to employment protection. Undoubtedly, the Government have operated double standards in the context of this debate. Earlier this year, on 16 June, on the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill, in the interests of companies of a specific size the Government set a totally arbitrary figure of 20 employees below which different regulations would apply. They cannot have it both ways. Either there is a mechanism for differentiating between small shops and the largest chains, or there is not. If the Government were consistent, they would at least look at column 912 of Hansard for 16 June and try to find a formula which would meet all the interests throughout the country on that point.

My intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe), who was talking about small local garden centres, illustrated precisely that point. Those small centres are often family businesses which could be protected by a formula devised in the same way as the Government suggested in earlier legislation. That is what the country is looking for, and in many ways it is what the House wants to see.

If the Government were prepared to allow a free vote, perhaps taking into account a formula derived from that in the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, a solution might be found which could satisfy a wide proportion of the population and virtually all hon. Members, except for the die-hards who do not believe in employment protection at all.

Photo of Mr Douglas French Mr Douglas French , Gloucester 9:26 pm, 29th November 1993

In the few moments which are available to me, I wish to stress what I consider to be the most important point. In framing the legislation, we must find a simple solution which can be easily understood.

I am sorry to find myself disagreeing with my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) who described the regulation proposal as "workable." That view was endorsed by my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) and by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshaw (Mr. Morris). The name of Anthony Scrivener QC has been raised in support of that view. I am not interested in the views of learned silks who look at the problem from their eyrie in the Temple. I am interested in the extent to which the laws are understood by the shopkeepers in the back streets of Gloucester. While they are good at running small shops, they are not necessarily legal eagles, so my prime concern is that the solution should be straightforward.

The moment I see the words "wholly or mainly" in a set of proposals, I am reminded of the extent to which we over-complicate so much legislation. In relation to the tax, benefit and VAT systems, for example, we so often make things far more complicated than is needed. That is a fault which we would be well-advised to correct, if we can.

Regarding the proposals in the regulatory formula on specialist shops, my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) drew attention to some of the anomalies which that would cause. They would be even greater than those which exist in the legislation which we are seeking to get rid of.

The anomalies include the fact that one would be able to buy toys and books at a newsagent, but not from a toys or book shop. One could buy meat or bread from a small supermarket but not from a butcher or baker. That seems to be impractical, confusing, unfair and virtually unenforceable.

We see similar problems with the size requirements, which appear both in the regulation and the partial deregulation proposals. I urge the House not to underestimate the difficulty of deciding when an outlet is less than 280 sq m and when it is more. This is a charter for lawyers and surveyors to get their teeth into, at the expense always of the shopkeepers.

One can think of all kinds of practical difficulties. For example, what if the lobby of a shop has a couple of trays of goods, or the storeroom of a shop has a couple of shelves which are in reach of the customer? Will they come within the 280 sq m requirement or not? Even if one could agree about those things, the design of shops does change and can be subject to constant evolution.

Another hon. Member mentioned the contrast between a do-it-yourself store of 270 sq m, which would be allowed to sell a lampshade, and a branch of precisely the same store down the road which is slightly over 280 sq rn. The latter would have to cordon off not only its lampshades, but its smoke alarms and other things. That seems to be a recipe for maximum confusion.

I also think of the effect of the regulations on the business man himself. Whenever he starts to think about taking on a new line, he will have to have regard to whether it alters his "wholly or mainly" position, and if he considers an extension of his premises, he will have to have an eye to the size limit. There will also be the enforcement problems for the local authorities, which will incur enormous expenses checking on the size of the establishment, on the wholly or mainly provisions and on the stock being carried. It is a recipe for disputes and disagreements, and for plenty of work for solicitors and surveyors. It will lead to an even more complex situation than the one we are trying to get rid of.

I am much more attracted to the partial regulation formula, but it raises the question of how small shops should be treated. I place great value on the diversity of small shops, and the importance of them in the retailing network. Nothing should be done to tilt the balance against the interests of small shops.

I am somewhat concerned that the partial deregulation proposals will do precisely that, because they go too far in the direction of large shops, which would be permitted to open for six hours. I do not agree with that approach. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby that Sunday has a special character that is worth preserving, and one does not preserve that special character by making it a sort of low-key Saturday.

My formula would be a compromise, avoiding the complexities of the type of shop and the type of goods, of the size of the shop or the hours of opening. We can do without all that in the interests of having effective, low-cost enforcement and easy-to-understand laws. We could achieve a result that acknowledged the fact that some people wish to shop on Sundays and some people wish to work on Sundays by a simple formula along the lines of allowing all shops to open, whatever they are selling, for half of Sunday. I have a personal preference for Sunday afternoons, but there are arguments for Sunday morning.

That is a simple proposal that would be understood by everyone. It would not be a charter for lawyers or surveyors. It would be understood in the Temple as it would be understood in the high streets of Gloucester. I recommend it to the House.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford 9:31 pm, 29th November 1993

The debate has been remarkably restrained compared to some of the knockabout exchanges of the past. None the less, there has been plenty of claim and counter-claim, as befits a debate about a fundamental change in our way of life, a change that some would seek to halt, some to endorse and some to encourage.

All the proposals in the Bill represent an extension of Sunday trading beyond that of the Shops Act 1950. Some of us would like to put the clock back, not to the absurd anomalies of the Act but to that kinder, gentler society, to a time when rampant commercialism did not hold sway and Governments did not promote competition and personal acquisitiveness as a politically correct way of life.

Let us be clear about the nature of today's debate. Of course there is a need to update the Act, but that would have been done a decade ago by a responsible Government. Today's debate has been conditioned less by the changes in society over the past 40 years than by an unprecedented orgy of law-breaking for commercial ends.

There are those, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who have argued that law-breakers should not be rewarded. I have great sympathy with that view, but unfortunately rewards have already been granted. The Government's failure to act since the defeat of their 1985 Bill has enabled a new climate and a new market to be created. Today's debate is taking place against public opinion formed by the new circumstances and new experience of widespread Sunday trading. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) said, that public opinion is one of the factors that has to inform our choice of options.

I cannot accept, however, that ordinary people have created the demand for Sunday trading. For many smaller family shops, it has been the struggle to stay in business during repeated recessions that has led to increasingly long hours and Sunday opening. For the larger supermarket chains and DIY stores—here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman)—Sunday opening has been about carving out, maintaining or increasing market share.

I accept that there has been a consumer response to Sunday trading from workers and shoppers. That response undoubtedly stems from changes in the pattern of our working and domestic lives, which were so eloquently described by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson).

Only a minority now work 9 to 5. A quarter of Britain's work force are part-timers, and 70 per cent. of married women work outside the home. Part-time work can be desirable and Sunday shopping can be convenient and pleasurable, but neither is entirely neutral in its impact on society. In general, part-time work attracts lower pay and more limited prospects. Sunday trading is acceptable to those who are shopping, but can be a nuisance to those who are not.

Most important, current levels of Sunday trading do not tell us how things would be under new Sunday trading laws. Complete deregulation would have an effect far beyond current trading levels, and clearly would endanger the special nature of Sunday.

Some hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) and the Home Secretary, have cited complete deregulation in Scotland as having had no significant effect on society north of the border. That has more to do with the good sense of the Scots and the ambient culture in Scotland than with the state of legislation.

Commercial pressures, population density and, consequently, potential profits are radically different in England than in Scotland. The proportion of outlets trading illegally on Sunday in England is already considerably higher than in Scotland. Furthermore, there is clear evidence that, because of the lack of employee protection in that completely deregulated society, wages and conditions for Scottish Sunday workers have worsened in recent years as Sunday trading has increased.

All extensions of Sunday trading in England, Scotland or Wales will impact on our local environment. Even where outlets are on industrial estates, experience in urban areas such as mine in south-east London is of long traffic queues along high streets and in residential areas.

For those reasons, and for many others, we believe that complete deregulation must be unacceptable to the House. We are, however, prepared to give a Second Reading to the Bill, acknowledging that the issue must now be settled. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield said, we desire an outcome that is logical, fair and enforceable.

We do so in the belief that Sunday is a special day. For most people, it is still the day when they are most likely to be able to spend leisure time with family and friends. In most social circles, the majority of people are still not required to work on a Sunday. In that respect, Sunday remains different from Monday to Saturday, and most people have developed a life style that takes account of that.

We believe that, although all aspects of the Bill will give rise to more Sunday trading there is a duty on the House, in recognising the special nature of Sunday, to attempt to find a formula that will in some way preserve that and at the same time be responsive to changing circumstances, the changing way of life and changing public opinion.

If some people are to be denied the opportunity to take advantage of a free Sunday and to act as others will do in their social and family circles, and if they are to be required to work for the convenience or pleasure of others, they must do so voluntarily and be rewarded appropriately for that sacrifice. The Opposition are united on that matter.

The Government have been forced to concede the strength of our argument, not least because they have done their arithmetic and know how hon. Members' votes are likely to be cast. For a Government who have systematically undermined rights at work, abolished wages councils and set their face against the social chapter, this must be a bitter pill.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

The hon. Lady has stated her personal views, and I fully accept that they are not the views of the entire Opposition Front Bench. She says that she would like to control trading on Sundays and has now mentioned the social chapter. What would she say to the 150,000 shopworkers who would lose their jobs if, on top of bringing in the social chapter, we were to control trading on Sundays?

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

Like all my colleagues, I have no doubt that introducing the social chapter would be to the advantage of our society, our workers and our businesses. If it is good enough for all the other members of the EC, their businesses, industries and workers, it is certainly good enough for British workers. The hon. Gentleman has been arguing in favour of deregulation or partial deregulation. He would be wise not to present himself as someone seeking to reduce the conditions and wages of British workers, as one could impute from what he has just said about the social chapter.

I am not expressing a personal view on the options in the Bill. I believe that Sunday should be a special day, and I try to act that out in my personal life. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield spelled out what we seek from the Bill, and I shall mention that in a moment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) asked why, at this late hour, the Government had put schedule 4 into the Bill. It was simply because of our pressure, my hon. Friend's pressure and pressure by the campaign groups that the Government realised that that was the price they must pay to guarantee a Second Reading.

Even so, we shall go on to seek amendments to the schedule, not least in favour of premium pay. Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) said, we believe that special financial reward would give proper recognition to the continuing special nature of Sunday. That premium payment—we shall propose double payment—will force employers to recognise that people who work voluntarily on Sunday are sacrificing family life and should be appropriately rewarded. That would be the case whether the KSS-RSAR option or the SHRC option were adopted.

We urge the Minister again to allow the House—perhaps he will comment on this in winding up—to decide that issue as all the other issues of the Bill. If it is a matter of conscience whether shops should open, equally it is a matter of conscience how workers who must staff those shops should be treated. A free vote on that issue is essential to the House expressing its view.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford

I am about to finish. I will not give way at this stage, because it would take up the Minister's time.

I want to reiterate what the Labour party seeks from the Bill; that the choice that is made will be fair and enforceable, and, particularly and importantly, that it recognises the rights of shopworkers and the fact that there must be choice about Sunday working.

Much further debate is required. Choices have to be made. Amendments will be tabled, but, for the moment, we are content to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham 9:45 pm, 29th November 1993

This has been an unavoidably short debate, but with the impressive increase in pace after 9.15 pm, I am glad to see that all those who wanted to speak just managed to do so.

However, the central issues of the Bill—the way in which Sunday is special, and how far the criminal law should prescribe which shops may open and what they may sell on a Sunday—will, if the Bill is read a Second time, and if the business motion is accepted, be continued in the Chamber on the first day in Committee.

During the debate this evening, we have listened to different recipes for Sunday espoused on both sides of the House. But I did not hear—although I was looking out for it — anyone argue that the Shops Act 1950 represents the best arrangement for Sunday shopping, and that it should be kept. Far from it. Every hon. Member who spoke wanted the law changed in one direction or another. There were many who backed one of the three options just as they stood. Quite a number would obviously like to fine-tune their preferred option in Committee.

I am confident that there is an overwhelming desire to sort out Sunday on both sides of the House, and a general agreement that the options give a real opportunity to do so properly. I hope, therefore, that whatever detailed changes hon. Members individually want to bring to our existing Sunday trading legislation, the House will overwhelmingly support the Second Reading of the Bill as the only realistic chance of reforming it at this present time. If we reject it, I do not believe that we shall be able to secure ourselves another chance for a considerable time to come.

It is not for me to argue for or against any of the options. They represent the aspirations of the different campaigning groups, not of the Government. It is for hon. Members to weigh and choose between them.

Although I shall do what I can to help the Committee examine in detail how the chosen option will work and the impact that any amendments tabled might have, I do not think that it would be right for me, as I would in the normal way—I hope that hon. Members who have spoken will not take it as a discourtesy—to try to answer the detailed points raised by hon. Members about the options and the way that they will work. They are neither mine nor the Government's, and there is not too much time before 10 o'clock.

A number of points have been raised on which I think it would be useful if I commented. First, I have been asked by several hon. Members about the voting of Conservative Members. On the options and on the way that the options will be dealt with in Committee, there will certainly be a free vote for everyone on the Government side of the House.

On schedule 4—employment matters—the Government will, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said, be expecting to whip in the normal way. That question was put to me by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). I pay tribute to him for the energy and determination that he has shown in his cause, but he was wrong to think that the Government would not have introduced a Bill on that issue had it not been for his efforts, although I accept that his Bill has strongly influenced the shape of part of the Government Bill.

Although the options are for the House to judge, the law protecting Sunday working is certainly a matter for the Government——

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but I should like clarification of one point before he moves on to employment protection. If the KSS option is chosen on the first day in Committee of the whole House and that is the option that then goes into Standing Committee, will the Government attempt to table Government amendments to the freely chosen option in Committee? If so, will there be a free vote on those Government amendments?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

If that option is chosen on the first day of Committee on the Floor of the House, then I imagine that the Committee of Selection will select a Committee that reflects that decision. If I serve on that Committee—as the Minister in charge of the Bill, it seems to me that that is likely—I do not expect to introduce Government amendments. I will take the decision of the House as moral guidance on how the House wants to proceed.

If, as I dare say there will be, there are amendments in Committee, there will be a free vote on them. My role will be to advise the Committee on their significance and how they would work out in practice, but it would be for the Committee to decide on a free vote what to accept and what to reject.

As I said, the law protecting Sunday working is very much a matter for the Government. It is one on which virtually every speaker has had something to say. The Government accept that all shopworkers, including those taking up employment after the Bill becomes law, should be able to withdraw from Sunday work, subject to three months' notice.

As the House knows, because of what I have said on previous occasions, I am not convinced that extra formal protection is necessary in practice, as the retail trade has always been confident that it has more than enough volunteers for Sunday work. But it is clear that, whichever option they support, hon. Members believe such a statutory right to be an important ingredient of any successful solution. As the whole exercise is designed to find the broadest acceptable set of arrangements, we have been happy to meet their concerns.

I therefore remind the House of the full package that we are offering. The new rights will apply to all current shopworkers, even if they have already signed a contract to do Sunday work. They will immediately have the right not to work on Sundays. All shopworkers will be able to opt out of Sunday working on giving three months' notice. That applies to new shopworkers or to shopworkers who agree in writing to work on Sundays.

To answer the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), schedule 4 will protect any employee declining to work on Sunday from dismissal and from any detriment short of that. The rights apply to all who work in or about a shop, and include managers, cleaners and warehouse staff. The rights apply if a shop is open for a period in 24 hours, starting at midnight on Saturday through to midnight on Sunday. They do not apply only to employees who work in the shop when it is open.

The new rights have no qualifying period of service and no upper age limit. Premium pay, however, is quite another matter. The Government are firmly opposed to such a proposal. Many large shops can afford premium pay and will pay it whether or not there is a statutory requirement to do so. Naturally, they would like their competitors to be compelled to pay it as well. The hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), in an intervention, expressed her worry that, without premium pay, shops may not get the staff they need. If she is right, any shop that wants to open will have to pay premium pay. On the hon. Lady's argument, there is no need to legislate on premium pay if that is what we want to see.

Not all shops can afford premium payments. Many shops which have been legally trading on Sundays for years—newsagents and flower stalls, for example—may well not be able to afford premium pay rates. A requirement to pay them could drive such shops out of business. That would be quite wrong in principle, and it could lead to job losses. We have heard much today about small shops suffering at the hands of big shops; premium pay would give that statutory backing. The Government believe that statutory premium pay is wrong in principle. It would also be impossible to enforce.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

I did offer the Minister a potential solution. Would he like to comment on it? I referred to the debate that took place on the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill. There the Government created an arbitrary differentiation between sizes of companies. According to the Government, that created a solution in that case. Why cannot a similar debate take place in the context of the Bill?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

We could of course gerrymander the arrangements in favour of small shops.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

So arrangements were gerrymandered in June?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Of course arrangements would be gerrymandered if one required larger shops to pay more than small shops, rather than leave it to negotiations between employees and employers and what they are able to afford.

There is another problem, which is that it would be impossible to enforce. The problem surrounding the 1950 Act shows that it is essential to have a law that can be easily enforced. If an employer is prepared to offer somebody a job in a shop on Sunday, and that person is happy to accept the rate offered, is it seriously proposed that there should be some system to check whether that person is getting a premium rate? Ask the local authorities whether they want to take on that responsibility, and I know what they will say.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Shadow Spokesperson (Disabled Peoples' Rights)

Does not the same rule apply to people such as those in Sainsbury who are stopped in their promotions, and stopped in their tracks, because they refuse to work on Sundays?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

Let me make it quite clear that nobody will be disadvantaged by not wishing to work on a Sunday. If any manager was so disadvantaged, he would have protection under schedule 4 of the Bill.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

For as long as the Act stays on the statute book.

Since the Government's Sunday Trading Bill was defeated in 1986, shopping habits have continued to change, the number of women working has continued to grow, the range of products on the market has continued to expand, and the structure of the retail trade has continued to evolve. The only factor that has remained absolutely static is the Sunday trading legislation—set in a mould that was antique even in 1950.

Public impatience with the Act has grown, on the part of shoppers, shopkeepers and local authorities, whether they want to liberalise or to regulate, but on a more coherent and up-to-date basis.

Despite strenuous efforts by my predecessors, my right hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) and for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), we found no common ground between the campaigning groups outside the House on which a broadly acceptable Bill could be based. That is why we have constructed a Bill containing all the main options, so that Parliament can examine, contrast and compare those options and select the one that it believes will put the law on a coherent and principled basis, commanding once again the support and respect of the community.

I am sure that the House will want to seize that opportunity by giving the Bill an overwhelming Second Reading tonight.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 311, Noes 26.

Division No. 6][10.00
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Ashton, Joe
Aitken, JonathanAtkins, Robert
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Alton, DavidBaker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Amess, DavidBaldry, Tony
Ancram, MichaelBanks, Robert (Harrogate)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Bates, Michael
Arbuthnot, JamesBatiste, Spencer
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Bayley, Hugh
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Ashby, DavidBellingham, Henry
Beresford, Sir PaulFrench, Douglas
Betts, CliveFry, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGale, Roger
Blackburn, Dr John G.Gallie, Phil
Booth, HartleyGardiner, Sir George
Boswell, TimGarnier, Edward
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaGill, Christopher
Bowden, AndrewGillan, Cheryl
Bowis, JohnGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesGorman, Mrs Teresa
Brandreth, GylesGorst, John
Brazier, JulianGrant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Bright, GrahamGreenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Browning, Mrs. AngelaGrylls, Sir Michael
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Budgen, NicholasHague, William
Burns, SimonHamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Burt, AlistairHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butcher, JohnHampson, Dr Keith
Butler, PeterHannam, Sir John
Butterfill, JohnHargreaves, Andrew
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)Harvey, Nick
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Hawksley, Warren
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Heald, Oliver
Carrington, MatthewHeath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Carttiss, MichaelHeathcoat-Amory, David
Cash, WilliamHendry, Charles
Churchill, MrHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clappison, JamesHill, James (Southampton Test)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Horam, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHowarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Colvin, MichaelHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Congdon, DavidHowell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Connarty, MichaelHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Conway, DerekHughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnHunter, Andrew
Couchman, JamesHutton, John
Cran, JamesJack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Janner, Greville
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Jenkin, Bernard
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jessel, Toby
Day, StephenJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Deva, Nirj JosephJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Devlin, TimJones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Dickens, GeoffreyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dorrell, StephenKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Dover, DenKey, Robert
Duncan, AlanKhabra, Piara S.
Duncan-Smith, IainKing, Rt Hon Tom
Dunn, BobKirkhope, Timothy
Durant, Sir AnthonyKnapman, Roger
Eggar, TimKnight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Elletson, HaroldKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Knox, Sir David
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evennett, DavidLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Faber, DavidLang, Rt Hon Ian
Fabricant, MichaelLawrence, Sir Ivan
Fenner, Dame PeggyLegg, Barry
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Leigh, Edward
Fishburn, DudleyLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, NigelLidington, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forth, EricLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Foster, Don (Bath)Lord, Michael
Foulkes, GeorgeLuff, Peter
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Lynne, Ms Liz
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)MacKay, Andrew
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerMaclean, David
Maclennan, RobertShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McLoughlin, PatrickShersby, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir PatrickSims, Roger
Maddock, Mrs DianaSkeet, Sir Trevor
Madel, DavidSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maitland, Lady OlgaSoames, Nicholas
Major, Rt Hon JohnSpencer, Sir Derek
Malone, GeraldSpicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mans, KeithSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marland, PaulSpink, Dr Robert
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Spring, Richard
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Sproat, Iain
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mellor, Rt Hon DavidSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Merchant, PiersSteen, Anthony
Milligan, StephenStephen, Michael
Mills, IainStern, Michael
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Streeter, Gary
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)Sumberg, David
Moate, Sir RogerSweeney, Walter
Monro, Sir HectorSykes, John
Montgomery, Sir FergusTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Moss, MalcolmTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Nelson, AnthonyTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Neubert, Sir MichaelTemple-Morris, Peter
Newton, Rt Hon TonyThomason, Roy
Nicholls, PatrickThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Norris, SteveThurnham, Peter
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonTownend, John (Bridlington)
Olner, WilliamTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
O'Neill, MartinTracey, Richard
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir CranleyTredinnick, David
Ottaway, RichardTrend, Michael
Page, RichardTwinn, Dr Ian
Paice, JamesTyler, Paul
Patnick, IrvineVaughan, Sir Gerard
Patten, Rt Hon JohnWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWalden, George
Pickles, EricWaller, Gary
Porter, David (Waveney)Ward, John
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelWaterson, Nigel
Powell, William (Corby)Watts, John
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnWells, Bowen
Rendel, DavidWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Renton, Rt Hon TimWhittingdale, John
Richards, RodWiddecombe, Ann
Riddick, GrahamWiggin, Sir Jerry
Robathan, AndrewWilkinson, John
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynWilletts, David
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Wilshire, David
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame AngelaWolfson, Mark
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardWood, Timothy
Sackville, TomYeo, Tim
Sainsbury, Rt Hon TimYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Shaw, David (Dover)Tellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Mr. David Lightbown and
Sheerman, BarryMr. Sydney Chapman.
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
NOES
Beggs, RoyMaginnis, Ken
Bennett, Andrew F.Marek, Dr John
Boyce, JimmyMolyneaux, Rt Hon James
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterMorris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Callaghan, JimParry, Robert
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Patchett, Terry
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Corbyn, JeremySimpson, Alan
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Macdonald, CalumTaylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Madden, MaxTrimble, David
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)Tellers for the Noes:
Young, David (Bolton SE)Mr. Bob Cryer and
Mr. Dennis Skinner.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills),That Clauses 1 and 2 and Schedule 4 be committed to a Committee of the whole House; That the remainder of the Bill be committed to a Standing Committee; That, when the provisions of the Bill considered respectively, by the Committee of the whole House, the Bill be proceeded with as if the Bill had been reported as a whole to the House from the Standing Committee. —Mr. MacKay.]

Question agreed to.

Committee tomorrow.