Second Reading

Part of Sunday Trading (London Olympic and Paralympic Games) Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 24th April 2012.

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Photo of Lord Glasman Lord Glasman Labour 8:45 pm, 24th April 2012

I begin my answer by saying that, certainly within the framework of the NHS and other large employers, there is a much better organised union system. I can speak only from my experience in the retail trade to say that the conditions of its workers were characterised by a lack of organisation and extremely strong pressure to work longer hours. I will look at the other cases in due course.

The point that I was making was about supporting the strong and larger retailers against the smaller ones. It is a distinctive feature of a tradition of our country, which goes across all forms of people, that having some pause in the demands of the working week is extremely important. In relation to the type of procedure that has been used to push this through, there has been a lack of proper negotiation. One of the characteristic features of Athens and Rome was the stipulation of decrees without any form of negotiation. One of the founding points of Labour was that there should always be some form of negotiation there. Negotiation is very different from consultation, which both sides of the House should bear in mind.

The nature of the procedure and the assumption of who should benefit-that it should be businesses and consumers, without adequate recognition of the cost involved for the workforce-is an extremely important consideration, too. Therefore, while I welcome the opportunity to debate this, we should say that there are traditions involved that oppose it and do not undermine the importance of the Games. In China and Russia we heard the strong echo of a very nasty tradition in the use of the Games. I remember the Red Army being used to shield the athlete who lit the flame in China, where there were certainly no restrictions on the exploitation of workers or oppression by the state. It would be wonderful if, in England, we did not just capitulate to the corporate demands of the Games but used them as a showcase for our gentler and more humane traditions.