Clause 1 - Sunday working: shop andbetting workers in Scotland

Part of Sunday Working (Scotland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 26th March 2003.

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Photo of Mr Peter Duncan Mr Peter Duncan Conservative, Galloway and Upper Nithsdale 9:30 am, 26th March 2003

Thank you, Mr. Gale. It gives me great pleasure to respond on the clause. As I said previously to the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns), I apologise for not being present on Second Reading. He might recall that I had a certain high-profile visit in my constituency, which was not, I happily inform the Committee, for the purposes of Sunday shopping. It is ironic, but not surprising, that

the hon. Gentleman has promoted the Bill, given his close handle on Scottish affairs.

I have personal experience of employing Sunday staff in Greenock, among other locations. As hon. Members will know, before I entered the House, I was involved with retail businesses that opened on Sundays throughout Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, and in Greenock. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said. One of the ironies in the proposed legislation is that it is not necessary for the best employers. In fact, for the best employers, it has not been necessary. While I would not automatically have called myself the best of employers, I would have thought that I was equitable and balanced enough without the proposed legislation. We did not generally force people to work on Sundays; if people did not want to work on Sundays, they did not. One of the processes of managing a business was that one recruited a spread of people, many of whom had expectations about when they wanted to work. Some wanted to work during the week and some wanted to work on Sundays. That was balanced as part of the management exercise. One of my regrets is that the Bill is necessary at all, but the official Opposition generally welcome it. It is overdue and it ties up the loose ends left behind from the legislation of the 1990s.

One of the interesting aspects of the legislation in Scotland is that we have different traditions of holiday and Sunday working. In fact, it is only about 25 years since people in my own business worked half days on Christmas day. I said that I was a good employer, but that was not unusual in the late-1960s and 1970s. That shows the different history and traditions of Scotland. It was not an unusual thing to do and the local population welcomed it, but the staff who had to work did not, which is probably why it stopped. One of the welcome aspects of the clause and the Bill is that it ties up the loose ends and, while we have a different tradition, we will henceforth have the same rights. I welcome the fact that employees in Scotland will no longer be disadvantaged in that respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Liddell-Grainger) asked about the transitory arrangements. That is something we will perhaps want to tease out, especially when we move into the phase of tying up the equivalent rights in Scotland, England and Wales. There will be a lead-in period and I was interested to see how many of the employers' organisations that were consulted had responded, despite the difficulty of getting through to the Scotland Office website, overloaded as it was due to the friends of Scotland initiative. Employers will be concerned about how the transitory arrangements will be introduced and what will be the lead-in times and delays before their obligations are set in stone. They will want those matters to be teased out later.

On behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, I welcome the hon. Gentleman's Bill and the tenacity with which he has promoted it. We look forward to giving it a fair wind today and in future.