Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill

– in the Scottish Parliament at 11:00 am on 7th March 2007.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 11:00 am, 7th March 2007

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-5436, in the name of Karen Whitefield, that the Parliament agrees that the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill be passed.

I call Karen Whitefield to move the motion. She will be followed by Mary Mulligan, who will speak in support of it.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

Presiding Officer, I have great pleasure in moving the motion in my name. With your permission, Mary Mulligan, who is a supporter of the bill, will make the opening speech.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill be passed.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour 11:05 am, 7th March 2007

I congratulate my colleague Karen Whitefield on introducing the bill, which will provide support for people throughout Scotland. I know that Karen Whitefield might not have taken on the issue if she had realised how difficult it would be to bring about that support, but we can now be positive about the protection that the bill will offer to Scotland's shop workers and the improvement that it will bring to their quality of life. I am sure that shop workers throughout Scotland will thank Karen Whitefield for the efforts that she has made on their behalf.

Presiding Officer, I should probably have declared an interest at the beginning of my speech as a member of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

I have done so.

When I first came to Scotland many years ago to work in retail, stores closed for two days at Christmas and two days at new year. We always sought to give an extra day with either of those holidays. How times have changed. Today, we need legislation to protect even one or two days. That shows the changing society in which we live, where shops are now very much 24/7 operations. The people who work in retail have been at the sharp end of that change.

I recognise that there have been many views on the bill from different groups, including businesses, shop workers and those who look at the way in which the economy as a whole is being developed. I must say that I was somewhat reassured to see the Conservative party return to its true roots. Despite David Cameron's leadership in trying to present his party with a softer and family-friendly face, the Conservatives are really the same old Tories who support the bosses and ignore the rights of the workers.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Would Mary Mulligan extend that criticism to her Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues?

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

I would extend that criticism to any Liberal Democrat who held the same views as the Tories.

As Karen Whitefield said earlier, the Conservatives have, as ever, tried to play both ends. Although they have frequently made such a criticism against our Liberal Democrat colleagues, on this occasion it applies to them. They agreed to the Christmas day holiday, but they could not agree to a new year's day holiday. Despite the economic arguments that they used, they recognised that if they were to vote against a Christmas day holiday, they would face flak from their members, especially—I notice that the Conservative leader is not in the chamber at the moment—from their church-going members. In that sense, today's debate has been quite revealing.

Some 250,000 people are employed in the retail industry in Scotland. They deliver a service that is first class, courteous and professional. Their work adds to Scotland's reputation and, by encouraging people to return to Scotland, they boost our tourism trade. As John Swinney said in the stage 1 debate—I am sorry to see that he is not present at the moment—tourism in Scotland will not collapse because the large stores are closed on Christmas day and new year's day. He was right on that. However, the bill will improve the quality of life for many shop workers.

This is not a shopaholics anonymous meeting, but I feel the need to confess. I like shopping. However, I do not feel that it is essential to shop 365 days a year; 363 days a year will do. I know that many essential workers work on Christmas day and new year's day and I offer my heartfelt thanks to them. However, big shops such as Marks and Spencer and Tesco do not provide essential services. In response to Mr Davidson's earlier comments, I recognise that those who work in the pharmaceutical industry are involved in work that is probably essential, but that is not a good comparison. Let us compare apples with apples.

If stores start to open, other services will be needed—refuse collectors and public transport providers, to name but two. Without legislation, Christmas day and new year's day risk becoming just like any other day. That would be a sad thing and I do not think that many people want it.

The Scottish Executive will be held to account to ensure that the voluntary code is kept to. I do not doubt the genuine reassurances that the Minister for Justice has given us this morning about how we will proceed if people do not adhere to the code. I believe that she recognises the difficulties in enforcing the voluntary code and I hope that she will look at measures to ensure that we overcome the subtle pressures that are put on workers at Christmas and new year. For the sake of shop workers in Scotland, I hope that her confidence in the voluntary code can be carried forward.

I understand that we need a strong economy in Scotland and much has been said about the risk that we would run if we support the bill today. I understand that a strong economy is for the benefit of everybody in Scotland, but more particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities. That is probably why I am in the Labour Party and not the Scottish Socialist Party. I recognise that shop workers are among the more lowly paid workers and more vulnerable people in our community. Anything that we can do to protect them is right. Karen Whitefield's bill goes some way to offering them protection, which I hope will apply to both Christmas day and new year's day.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 11:12 am, 7th March 2007

I congratulate Karen Whitefield on all the work that she has done on the bill over an extended period and in putting the case for how we should protect vulnerable retail staff from having to work on both Christmas and new year's days. We heard from Mary Mulligan about the important principles that underpin the bill and its aim to prohibit large shops from making retail sales on what I have described today as two of our most important public holidays in order to protect the special nature of those holidays in the Scottish calendar and to promote family life.

As I said earlier, we did not hesitate to support the proposals as they concern Christmas day. Many retail staff already work long hours at that time of year. We know that many retail staff, not just those who work in the shops but those who work in distribution and behind the scenes, have to work at weekends when their children and other family members are at home and increasingly, many of them have to work late into the evening or indeed during the night. Christmas is a precious time that is set aside for spending with their family and friends, rather than with their colleagues or boss, however much they might get on. We already have what could be described as pretty liberal trading hours. The vast majority of large retailers close on Christmas day and there has been no indication that people want to move away from that position. The Parliament need not hesitate in formalising that position through the bill.

I have outlined some of the issues about new year's day. I welcome the fact that the Parliament has expressed clearly that it accepts our amendments to the bill that will ensure that we develop the work that I promised. Karen Whitefield and Mary Mulligan have recognised the issues for Scottish tourism and hogmanay in particular, and I know that they will want to work with us as we develop the research and other assessments that require to be done. We need to balance Scotland's wider economic interests with the need to look at the social impact of trading hours.

I restate what I said when we debated the amendments—I do not think that anyone should be coerced or pressurised into working on new year's day. I expect those in the retail sector to take the appropriate steps to ensure that if they decide to open—the vast majority of the large stores have no intention to do so and do not wish to open at this stage—nobody will be coerced to work; if there is any evidence that that has happened, we will certainly want to know about it.

The Parliament has amended the bill to give us time to explore the matter further before enforcing a ban on new year's day trading. It is important to make it clear again that it is our intention to report to Parliament on the impact of new year's day trading on 1 January 2008. That report should contain whatever evidence independent researchers are able to obtain, a report on the consultation and a recommendation on whether a ban on new year's day trading is required to be commenced. We would have to report back to Parliament our reasons for that recommendation, which could and should be about issues of principle as well as of perception; it will not be a simple arithmetical exercise. I expect and hope that USDAW will be involved in that, as well as the Scottish Retail Consortium and the various other players in the industry, to ensure that we get the right mix of information so that those who might be vulnerable to being put under pressure are protected.

Everyone involved in raising awareness of the issue and in campaigning for it can be proud of what they have achieved. At decision time, we will pass a very important bill that not only adds value and protection in certain circumstances for some of our workers, but highlights some of the other issues about social responsibility, in both the retail sector and wider industry, that this Parliament and future Parliaments would do well to consider in more detail. We have heard some impassioned speeches and contributions on that subject.

We must ensure that we balance the needs of families—the work-life balance—that are important to everyone with the wider needs of industry. That message has come through loud and clear and I am sure that those in the retail sector who run the large stores will hear it. I hope that they hear being expressed very clearly today the will of Parliament on what is expected; that they will comply with it; and that we will be able to gather positive evidence that they have actively involved their workers in reaching solutions rather than creating problems.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party 11:17 am, 7th March 2007

The SNP intends to support the bill as amended by the Executive and we echo much of what the minister has said. However, we recognise that the amended bill is a compromise that seeks to balance family and cultural values, modern employment terms and conditions and economic reality. The bill recognises the interests of employees, visitors, business, Government and the brand image of Scotland as the new year capital of the world, in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands and Islands, especially when we are on the cusp of the 2009 year of homecoming, which I hope that the Parliament and this country will seek to make an annual event rather than just a one-off.

We believe that the amended bill deserves our support. We are particularly persuaded that the bill and its amendments offer an opportunity to ensure a sensible balance between the competing pressures of spending time at work, enabling people to earn and trade, and having the time to celebrate and relax with family and friends.

We recognise that the bill is far from perfect and look forward to a time when Scotland has the power to create more economic vibrancy, increased job opportunity and higher living standards. However, the bill and the amendments bank the status of the Christmas day holiday, protect our tourism economy and bring important issues into clearer focus.

The bill exposes our lack of economic powers and our lack of power over employment law, which could make Scotland a better place and give us the makings of a social contract that would see issues such as those in the bill fed into a wider framework such as has rewarded countries such as Ireland over the piece. In addition, the bill process has established that the Parliament cannot solve the problem of workers' rights, low pay and poor terms and conditions by damaging our tourism sector and giving comfort to our international competitors, especially in the absence of evidence. Such a strategy or law would send the wrong signals about Scotland internationally. It would be the wrong solution, because it would risk bringing to bear many adverse unintended consequences on Scotland.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

If Scotland and the Parliament had those powers and if Scotland found itself in the unfortunate position of Mr Mather having responsibility for such decisions, would he make more holidays legally enforceable? Would he increase the minimum wage?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

The member would find that there would be an enlightened social contract. For example, we are watching with great interest what is happening in Ireland, which has just announced "Towards 2016", an update of the social contract on which its success since 1986 has been based. That framework is backed by real money, and the Irish are putting in place a national development plan that works in concert—

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

Let me answer the first question. Under the national development plan that the Irish are putting in place, and which forms the physical framework for delivering the social contract, €184 billion will be spent over a six-year period.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

No. The member is in his final minute.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

That is equivalent to £20 billion a year—or two thirds of the money available under the Barnett formula—for six years. Having that kind of proper structure and framework will build Ireland's economic muscle, make the social contract real and meaningful and allow the country to move forward with genuine cohesion without needing Elastoplasts such as this bill. It will also deliver long-term economic growth that far surpasses ours; after all, while we express delight at 2.3 per cent economic growth, Ireland this year is sitting with 6 per cent. In the midst of the current global boom, even 6 per cent is pretty mediocre. Accession states such as Estonia are scoring 11.6 per cent.

We in Scotland have to get real and work together to lift living standards. It is an absolute disgrace that a third of people in work in this country earn less than £6.50 an hour. We will be able to fix that only by creating an economy that runs itself effectively.

We support the amended bill.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 11:21 am, 7th March 2007

I will try to return to the subject that we are supposed to be debating. I commend Karen Whitefield for her efforts on this member's bill; even though I disagree with much of its content, I know that she has put a lot of work into it and that it has taken up a lot of her time.

However, the bill's passage through Parliament has been a sorry tale of Executive confusion. It is clear that, from the outset, the Executive has been in difficulty, and it has simply failed to provide leadership or set a clear line. That was summed up in the bizarre and sorry situation of amendments being lodged, but not moved, by the Executive during stage 2 consideration of the bill by the Justice 2 Committee, convened by my colleague Mr Davidson.

Today the Executive has lodged a number of manuscript amendments, presumably because it cannot agree what position to take, but its sorry compromise is simply a fudge designed to win support from Labour back benchers. We are left with the rather unfortunate impression of an Executive that is in the pocket of the trade union lobby.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Will the member clarify a point? Mr Davidson had to move certain Executive amendments at stage 2, but it was not incumbent on him then to vote against them. However, the Conservatives voted for those very amendments this morning. Mr Fraser talks about bizarre events during the committee's stage 2 consideration, but why did the Conservatives oppose those amendments then and support them at stage 3?

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

If the Executive is not even prepared to move its own amendments, it can hardly expect other members to support them at committee.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I am talking about the way that the Conservatives voted.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I am sorry, but Mr Purvis should not try to shift the blame for the situation.

The trouble with the bill is that it tries to deal with two separate and distinct issues. I have no problem with the principle of protecting Christmas day—although, as I have pointed out before, there is no evidence base to suggest that we need legislation to do that at this stage. I accept that legislation might be required on this issue in future, but at the moment there is no evidence that shops are prepared to open on Christmas day.

The position with new year's day is quite different. As we heard, there is clear demand from the retail industry and bodies such as VisitScotland for shops to open on new year's day. That is part of the tourist market. Simply to pass the bill without amendment, which would have prevented large shops from opening on new year's day, would have had a detrimental effect on the economy.

The bill is inconsistent. For example, although the member intends the legislation to protect workers' rights, it does nothing of the sort. All it does is to prevent shops above a certain size from opening their doors to the public. Of course, many people work in shops when they are not open to the public. Moreover, why should those who work in small shops not have the same protection afforded to those who work in large shops? Why should we offer protection only to shop workers in large shops and not to those who work, for example, in the hospitality industry, for which Christmas day and new year's day are among the busiest times of the year? The bill is arbitrary, not properly thought out and riddled with flaws and inconsistencies.

The Executive keeps telling us that its top priority is growing the economy. However, this bill is a test of the balance between economic growth on the one hand and the lobbying power of the trade unions on the other. In deciding to lodge its compromise amendment, which puts the interests of the trade union lobby before the interests of economic growth, the Executive has made the wrong choice and come down on the wrong side of the debate. This is a sad and sorry tale, and we will not support the bill.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 11:26 am, 7th March 2007

I thank Karen Whitefield and Mary Mulligan for their work on the bill. The fact that we have reached this point is a testament to their hard work and dogged determination. I also thank the convener, members and clerks of the Justice 2 Committee for their work; all those who gave evidence to the committee; and the many hundreds of members of the public and USDAW members who have done a good job of contacting MSPs and drawing their attention to this very important issue.

I am sorry that John Swinburne has left the chamber, because I want to respond to his intervention on Karen Whitefield. As some members know, I was working on new year's day; I was raising money for local charities by madly throwing myself into the River Forth. I should take this opportunity to thank everyone in the chamber who sponsored my efforts. I am happy to do the same again next year and, indeed, members might give me even more money if I drag John Swinburne in with me.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

I acknowledge the member's point—and appreciate her cheek at attempting to raise funds for charity at such an early stage. However, I am sure that she will agree that her efforts were voluntary and could hardly be called work.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

Well, they felt like work.

I welcome the position that we have reached with the bill and, for the reasons that I mentioned earlier, I am pleased that the amendments on new year's day have been agreed to.

This is all about choice. I accept that many retail workers, many of whom are women, receive low pay. However, I feel that workers have the right to choose to work if they might get time and a half, double time or triple time for doing so. Indeed, they might well feel that it is the right thing to do for their family or their circumstances. Other members have highlighted certain inconsistencies about the new year's day issue, but I have already expressed my views on the matter, which concern the tourism industry.

Murdo Fraser cannot say that the bill puts the Executive in the pocket of the trade unions. This is not about being in anyone's pocket; it is about trying to balance the views, needs and rights of various interests, including workers, employers, the tourism industry, the retail sector—and, indeed, Scotland's public—to find the best way forward. One constant problem in dealing with the bill has been the lack of data, and it would have been a leap in the dark to have gone forward with the new year's day proposals.

That said, the Parliament is sending out the important message that we feel it is important for shop workers to spend time with their families. As I said earlier, I know from members of my family that there is pressure on workers to work over Christmas and new year, and it is not always easy for someone to say no to an employer.

The bill seeks to give statutory underpinning to a voluntary approach. We can introduce legislation in the future if we decide that that is necessary. The amendments to the bill are based on a commonsense and fair approach and they demand and deserve a fair, commonsense response from key players, particularly those in the retail industry. The way forward is in their hands. The message is clear: the Parliament can and will move to act if they do not take seriously their social responsibilities in respect of new year's day.

We believe that the amended bill is the right way forward and I hope that the Parliament will support it.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour 11:30 am, 7th March 2007

I thank Karen Whitefield and all the folk who have supported the bill, organisations such as USDAW and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, and the hundreds of shop workers who have written to me and to members of all parties.

The arguments against the bill are short sighted, particularly those that are motivated by profit. People have only so much money to spend and if they do not spend it all in the January sales—which, of course, start on boxing day—I am sure that they will manage to save it until a few days after new year. People do not want to shop on Christmas day or new year's day. We need only remember the seasonal siege mentality that takes hold of people on every shopping expedition just before Christmas or new year, when they fill up their trolleys with enough to keep their families going for at least a month so that they do not have to go back out to the shops.

If one big store opens, it puts pressure on other stores to open, on workers to work and on consumers to consume. Surely it is not too much to seek to allow people to have a day off at Christmas and a day off at new year. The bill is about giving shop workers—who are mainly low-paid women—a day off. To the big stores that want to open, I say, "Give it a rest." The tourism argument has been made but, frankly, we have heard a lot of nonsense on that subject. Do people honestly think that visitors come to Scotland for new year to go shopping? People come to Scotland for hogmanay to experience our culture and our music and to enjoy simply being in the country over new year. Our celebrations are famous throughout the world. We have given the world a theme song for new year—"Auld Lang Syne"—and the wee dram, which is also associated with the event. Many people come to Scotland to join in the festivities. At that time of year, our hotels are full of people who want to experience new year.

In 2006, many members of my family came up from Manchester to see Scotland at new year. I can tell Margaret Smith that Princes Street gardens were hotchin with people. As we walked round Edinburgh, we came across loads of families. One shop was open, but when I looked through the window, I saw that there were only two people in it. People did not want to shop; they wanted to enjoy Scotland at new year. We have something very special.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

What protection would it be appropriate to give to all the hotel workers who work over that busy period?

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

It is important that no workers should be forced to work. The Parliament could perhaps think about how to protect hotel workers and so on in the future, but it is clear that the bill is about shop workers and the people who support them. It is an important bill.

Christmas and new year are part of our culture and a time for families and friends to come together. The Parliament supported the creation of a public holiday on St Andrew's day. The fact that some members cannot defend the right of workers to have new year's day off makes me almost lost for words. I ask all members to support the bill at 5 o'clock and to send out the message that Scotland respects the workers who keep our trade going every day of the year.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green 11:33 am, 7th March 2007

I join other members in commending Karen Whitefield and Mary Mulligan for all the work they have done to progress the bill through the parliamentary process. We will certainly support it tonight. However, I am disappointed that, at this late stage, we have ended up with only half a bill. I agree strongly with Colin Fox that it is in relation to new year's day that the immediate threat lies. We have missed an opportunity to draw a legislative line in the sand. Secondary legislation, which is what agreement to amendment 2 has left us with, is a poor way to draw such a line in the sand.

We cannot bind the hands of any future Executive, but I hope that any expansion of new year's day trading will be met with a statutory instrument, as laid out in the amended bill. The STUC was right to highlight in its evidence that there is genuine danger that new year's day and Christmas day will develop into normal trading days. Cathy Peattie was correct to say that we should give consumerism a rest for at least a few days a year.

The exemption for small-format stores is crucial to ensure the availability of items such as bread, milk and batteries, which are essentials for beleaguered parents on Christmas day, but the same argument does not apply to large retail stores such as those on Princes Street and it applies even less to out-of-town shopping centres.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

No. I am sorry, but I am just coming to the end of my speech.

There is a clear difference between small-format stores and large retail outlets and I think that the bill strikes the right balance on that. Despite the last-minute amendments, which will stop the bill doing much of the important work that it could have done, we will support it.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour 11:36 am, 7th March 2007

I am pleased to have the opportunity to express my support for Karen Whitefield's bill. Like other members, I congratulate her on all the hard work that she has put in over the past three and a half years, in which she has been ably supported by her USDAW colleague Mary Mulligan.

I am sure that Karen Whitefield will not mind if I say that the bill belongs to a much wider group of people—the thousands of shop workers throughout Scotland who have offered their support for it. I have no doubt that many members have been contacted through the postcard campaign. The bill has been adopted by many church groups and voluntary organisations, which have supported Karen Whitefield's call for the special nature of Christmas day and new year's day to be preserved in a small way by ensuring that large stores are not allowed to trade on those days.

The criticism has been made that the bill suggests that we are in the pocket of the trade unions, but USDAW should be held up as an example of a trade union that works actively for its members and which promotes their interests. That is something that we should all be willing to support.

The consultation process provided strong evidence of widespread support for the proposed measure.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

Cathie Craigie says that the evidence shows widespread support for the bill. Will she clarify why, under amendment 2, more evidence taking will be necessary, which I assume is the position that we will all vote for at decision time at 5 o'clock?

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

I refer Sandra White to the Justice 2 Committee's report, in which it acknowledged that more evidence might need to be taken. I am happy to accept that.

Although members of different parties have different views on whether the bill is necessary, it has received huge support from ordinary members of the public. Shoppers—including Karen Whitefield, who has publicly admitted to being a shopaholic—feel strongly that shop workers, who are mainly low-paid women, deserve to have a guarantee that they can have off the two days in question. With the exception of a minority of members, that is something we all support.

We have heard that the Scottish Retail Consortium and retailers in general oppose the bill, but that is not true. Many large retailers have offered their support for the bill because they want there to be a level playing field on Christmas day and new year's day. They do not want other large companies to pressure them into breaking their code and opening on new year's day.

Do I have four minutes for my speech, Presiding Officer?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

As Mr Ballard took only two minutes, I will give you another minute.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

Thank you.

The key issue about the bill is that it does not seek to revolutionise what we do over the festive period. It does not seek to put restraints on the retail sector; it seeks to protect the convention that we have had for a number of years—that large stores should not open on Christmas day and new year's day. In fact, as Karen Whitefield said in speaking to the amendments, the bill seeks to retain the status quo.

I ask all members to consider, when they vote at 5 o'clock, the positive impact that the bill would have on the quality of life of shop workers and their families during Christmas and the festive period. I also ask members to consider the impact there would be on other services if new year's day became just another day. If that happened, we would need all the workers who are out on the other days of the year to provide the real services—to provide bus services and to pick up litter in the streets. We would also need more emergency service workers on duty, who give their time at Christmas and new year when we are enjoying ourselves. I ask members who have said that they might not support the bill to have another think and to consider the wider implications that not passing the bill would have.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party 11:41 am, 7th March 2007

I am pleased to support the bill, and I am pleased that more shop workers will be able to enjoy new year's day as a holiday. I recognise the great amount of work that members from all parties have put into the bill. We have had an extremely interesting debate this morning.

I will make one specific suggestion to the minister, which I do not think has been made thus far. When he spoke to the amendments, Stewart Maxwell focused on the need to obtain evidence to inform the decision that ministers will make, as is referred to in amendment 2. The minister has said that, as part of that evidence-taking process, there shall be consulted large shops, their representatives and

"such other persons as the Scottish Ministers think fit."

Many members have alluded to the fact that pressure on workers can come in subtle forms. Pressure can be exerted without any explicit statement being made that a worker should work at a particular time on a given day. To get full evidence, would it be appropriate for the workers in shops that are open on new year's day to have the opportunity anonymously to provide a statement of how they feel about working on that day? I think that that would be a method by which genuine evidence could be obtained.

Like other members, I believe that the vast majority of people would like to enjoy new year's day as a family day and a holiday, away from the commercial pressures that put so much strain on families, especially families who do not have very much money coming in. I think that the vast majority of shop workers want the day as a holiday, but there may be a small minority who might like to work for, perhaps, a half day. I am thinking of younger people.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

Some of my colleagues were nodding in agreement when Fergus Ewing was commenting on the commercial pressures. If we gave in to what he suggests, the pressure would be on the people who say that they do not want to work. The pressure on the work force to work and on companies to open their stores would continue.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I have a lot of sympathy with that view. My main point is that, as part of the evidence-taking process, we should ensure that we do not omit to consult the workers as well as the representatives of the businesses. In consulting them, it is right that we ensure that they have the opportunity to give their views under the cloak of anonymity. Perhaps they can do so directly to the minister, rather than through their employer. I think that that would be sensible.

Nevertheless, a small minority of people may want to work at a time when they would be paid overtime or double pay. We should recognise that.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I have only one minute left. I am sorry.

Many arguments about tourism have been put forward. I agree with what John Swinney said in the debate on the amendments. The tourism industry will not collapse if shops are closed on new year's day—but I want to know the views of those in the tourism industry. They need to be more specific and give more evidence than they have so far on the impact of the bill on tourism.

There are also inconsistencies in relation to the hospitality and retail industries. In the Aviemore centre, for example, a retail unit is part of a complex of hotel premises. What is the difference between a worker in the retail premises and a worker in the hotel? I want to know the impact of the bill on the Aviemore centre, which offers an all-round facility for tourists who come to Scotland for many reasons, one of which might be to do a little bit of shopping. We must hear to what extent there is evidence that that is an important factor.

For those reasons, I welcome the minister's approach. I hope that she will respond to my suggestion in her closing remarks.

Photo of Charlie Gordon Charlie Gordon Labour 11:46 am, 7th March 2007

Having had to work on Christmas day in the construction industry and, later, on Christmas day and new year's day in the railway industry, I identify with workers who do not want to be forced to work on those days. The bill is well intentioned, and I congratulate Karen Whitefield on the way in which she has pursued the issue.

The United Kingdom has a culture of long working hours compared with other countries, and I am pleased that the Labour Government at Westminster is currently consulting on a proposal to increase the number of public holidays from 20 to 28, benefiting some 400,000 workers in Scotland. I am sorry if Mr Mather finds that fact confusing. I am taking the opportunity of the consultation around that proposal to advocate personally that employers in all industries should show that voluntary rostering of staff has been tried first when trading on any public holiday is regarded as necessary.

When I was a shop steward in the railway industry, I helped to persuade local management to arrange rosters of volunteers on Christmas day and new year's day when there was a service. There was usually no shortage of volunteers. People had a variety of reasons for volunteering, but there were obvious incentives in the form of an enhanced pay rate and time off in lieu.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I wonder whether Mr Gordon is aware of the understandable concern among many shop workers, who have seen their terms and conditions change, that, if new year's day is just like any other day, they will not get an enhanced rate of pay. That is what has happened on Sundays—the offer of enhanced pay has not been followed through.

Photo of Charlie Gordon Charlie Gordon Labour

Yes. If that trend continues, it will be outrageous. The Westminster Parliament, as well as the Scottish Parliament, has a responsibility to protect workers' rights from erosion. It is absolutely clear to me that, not just on Christmas day and new year's day, but on any public holiday, voluntary rosters are preferable and practicable. I say that from my own experience.

I accept and agree that most people should have the day off on Christmas day. Those who must work on that day should, preferably, be volunteers. There is no desire among retailers to trade on Christmas day, and the level of tourism on that day is negligible. Hotel occupancy in the city of Glasgow on Christmas day is around 18 per cent.

There are some 19,000 tourists in the city of Glasgow on new year's day and hotel occupancy is around 90 per cent. The most recent survey, in 2004, indicated that 56 per cent of those 19,000 tourists cited shopping as the main reason for their visit. Glasgow city centre is not just a shopping mall; it is an interesting place with lots of interesting architecture and excellent restaurants. Given an average spend of £116 per head, the potential loss of trade to Glasgow retailers would be about £1 million.

There is therefore some, although not much, evidence from Glasgow to justify the Executive's precautionary approach in its amendments and its desire to leave the door open for more evidence gathering. The issue is not about being pro shopping per se—personally, I regard the term "leisure shopping" as an oxymoron—and neither is it about being pro business per se. We should be pro workers and pro jobs, because full employment is our overarching objective.

Photo of Colin Fox Colin Fox SSP 11:50 am, 7th March 2007

Like other members, I congratulate Karen Whitefield on her bill and on raising important issues in the Parliament in the past couple of years.

We are discussing the bill today because our biggest department stores have for the past three years opened on new year's day—because there is money in it for them. We are here because there is clear evidence that their staff—the vulnerable retail staff so many members like to talk about when we discuss the issue—are being coerced into working on new year's day. I predict that, as a result of the Executive's amendments today, not only will that continue, but new year's day 2007 will be far busier than it was this year and far more stores will be open. In effect, the Executive has given the green light to employers that want to open.

When retail traders open on new year's day, that puts pressures on other sectors to open. Who here has not noticed that the tourism industry has been desperate for our tourist attractions to open, for the same reasons as it wants our department stores to open? The industry wants Edinburgh castle and other attractions in Edinburgh to be open. Pressure will be brought to bear on public transport. Charlie Gordon rightly talked about trains. There will be a need for more buses and trains, so more bus and train drivers will have to work to get people to and back from the stores. Local authority staff, such as parking attendants and car park workers, will also be required to work. In other words, the retail sector will become the Trojan horse for a wider cultural change.

The impact on Scottish cultural life of new year's day becoming just like any other day will be widespread. In its evidence, the tourism industry overlooked the grave danger of strangling the goose that lays the golden egg. People come to Scotland for a unique experience at new year and hogmanay. By making the experience the same as what they can get in New Orleans, Beijing or Auckland, we will lose the imperative for people to come here.

The Scottish Socialist Party has supported Karen Whitefield's bill throughout the process. We are proud to work with USDAW and the Co-operative movement in supporting it. I fear that the amendments that were passed earlier this morning have rendered the bill, on which Karen Whitefield has worked for four years, absolutely meaningless. The minister made a plea to employers to consider their corporate social responsibility, but if employers took their social responsibility seriously we would not need a trade union movement. The fact is that employers do not take their corporate responsibility seriously. That is why we are considering the bill. The minister should not talk to us about employers' social responsibility just weeks after the debate on Farepak. The minister should tell that to the workers who used to work at Solectron or NCR, or to those who have lost their jobs in Irvine. The employer's interest is to make profit. The minister's threats to employers and all she says about a code are so much hot air.

Murdo Fraser could not have been more wrong when he said that Labour and the Executive are in the pocket of the trade unions. I do not know whether his tongue was in his cheek, as he sits a long way from me in the chamber but, to be frank, the reverse is true. The Labour Party has not been comfortable with the bill from the beginning, which is why it has taken a view on it only this morning. It is trying to face two ways at once—it is electioneering and appealing to vulnerable retail workers, but it jumps to attention when the Confederation of British Industry speaks.

After the stage 1 debate on the bill, a representative of the CBI appeared quickly on television to say that it did not like the bill and did not want it as it would restrict trading. As far as I am concerned, the CBI's complaint that trade will be restricted is behind the amendments that the Executive lodged for stage 3.

During the debate on the amendments, one Labour member—I think it was Susan Deacon—expressed her discomfort, which I am sure other Labour members share, about the fact that we are considering an employment bill that is dressed up as a trading bill. They know fine well that the bill deals with a Westminster issue—employment—but that if it were considered at Westminster it would not have a chance in hell of being passed because Westminster would not support improved employment rights for trade unionists.

Cathie Craigie let the cat out of the bag when she warned Jim Mather that the big retailers are not against the bill—they are not against it now, because they are behind the Executive's amendments. Those amendments are a sell-out of vulnerable trade union members and vulnerable retail staff, who looked to the member's bill in the Parliament for help and assistance, but who have been left standing on their own.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 11:55 am, 7th March 2007

Members seemed to have forgotten that nobody is forced to go shopping and that it is a matter of choice for individuals. It should also be a matter of choice for business owners to decide whether there is a market or public demand. They would then have to negotiate with their staff, as they do currently.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

Not at this time.

Jeremy Purvis asked why I moved the minister's amendments at stage 2 and then voted against them. As I said earlier, the answer is simple: I voted against them because the minister did not have the courage to support her own amendments.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

Sorry. The deputy minister would not move them on the minister's behalf. The Scottish Executive fudged the issue and left it to the last minute—today—to produce something.

As Jim Mather and Murdo Fraser said, the issue is about a compromise. Good legislation often is a compromise, but the bill will not do anything at all if it is passed with the amendments that have been approved today. Colin Fox was right that the tourism industry wants facilities to open when people are here and wish to use them. It is strange that we have had a debate about protecting workers in shops of a certain arbitrary size and in a certain arbitrary type of business when there is no protection at all for the vast majority of people who work on new year's day, such as hospitality workers. I could go on and on, without even mentioning those who do essential work, such as people in the health service. The bill is flawed in principle, because it cherry picks one type of business to get the measure agreed to.

The minister talked about retailers' social responsibility. Is that not proof that it should be for employers to trade and to deal favourably with their staff, in consultation with them? The evidence that the Justice 2 Committee received was clear that some people want to work. For example, many students want to work because of the extra money. If people want to work, why should they be deprived of that opportunity? Why should a business be denied that opportunity if it thinks that a market exists? As Charlie Gordon rightly said, the issue is about employment and job creation. Our economy needs to grow, because it is not doing terribly well and has not done so for the past eight years under the Liberal-Labour pact.

Cathie Craigie said that some stores support the bill. That is their choice. All that I have ever argued is that businesses should have choice. If stores support the bill, they do not have to open, because nobody will force them. However, if they want to open, they should have that choice.

Cathy Peattie said that we need to expand the measures in the future. She seems happy to go down the route of not allowing hospitality workers to work on new year's day, which I find staggering, when the hospitality industry is part of the attraction of coming to Scotland.

Many issues have been discussed today, but the bill fails to grasp one point, which is that if there is no trade, no businesses will want to open. Businesses respond to public demand. The minister is allowing that to carry on, which in a sense I welcome. However, I would like the minister to tell us how she will use her powers if she gets them today. Trade is about satisfying public demand and wealth creation. Wealth creation leads to taxation, without which we would not have public services.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party 11:59 am, 7th March 2007

The debate has been interesting. It was certainly interesting being a member of the Justice 2 Committee as it considered the bill, given the competing demands and views of the large number of witnesses from whom we heard.

I will talk about workers being coerced into working. I used to work on Christmas day because my father coerced me into working in his small business—so the issue of whether workers are coerced into working is not always as black and white as we sometimes think. That may be a tangential and amusing point, but the important point is that workers in small stores often have fewer rights and less opportunity to defend themselves than do workers in large stores. The bill refers only to large stores, but there are issues to do with the rights of workers in small stores and their ability to defend themselves against employers who can be keen to exploit their workers to the nth degree.

I do not believe that people have any appetite for shops to open on Christmas day. Despite its flaws, the bill has been improved by the amendments that we have agreed to this morning. I do not want either Christmas day or new year's day to become normal trading days, and I do not believe that anybody really does. However, we now have a much more sensible balance between the competing demands on those days.

Murdo Fraser and Colin Fox cannot both be correct in their respective assertions that the trade unions and big business have won. Either only one of them is correct or, more likely, neither of them is correct.

Christmas day and new year's day are very different. Throughout the passage of the bill, Karen Whitefield has asserted that the days are similar, but there is a big difference. Although, like many others, I feel that business should be allowed to trade as freely as possible, it should not be allowed to do so at the expense of workers' rights—which brings me on to one of the biggest problems with the bill. Had this Parliament had powers over employment rights, I do not think that anybody would have introduced a bill on trading.

In effect, Karen Whitefield has spent a long time building a square peg before trying to ram it into a round hole. We all know the advert about the product that

"does exactly what it says on the tin."

That claim cannot be made for the bill. It is not the member's fault—she has done as much as is possible using trading laws—but, given normal circumstances and normal powers, I am sure that she would have used employment laws.

The bill will ensure that certain shops in certain circumstances will not be open for business on Christmas day—and perhaps new year's day, depending on the evidence. Shops do not open on Christmas day. I do not believe that they want to open, and nobody would expect them to. New year's day, however, is different. In some parts of the country, a limited number of shops open. They do so because there is demand, and that usually occurs in tourist centres. A reasonable argument can be made for allowing that to continue, but only if workers are willing to go in and work. I accept all members' comments about asserting the right of workers to have those two days off if they so wish. Fergus Ewing's point about workers being able to give evidence anonymously was worth while and should be considered.

Tourist centres must be allowed to grow and thrive, and we must not put unnecessary obstacles in the way of economic growth. I am, therefore, pleased that, at this late stage, we agreed to amend the bill this morning. We can now pause and consider the evidence relating to new year's day.

It has been claimed that the bill will guarantee days off, but it will not really do that; it will only stop trading. It has been claimed that the bill will keep the days special for workers, but that is true only for a minority of workers, and certainly not for those in small shops, in railway stations or in airports, and not for workers in smaller Tesco stores, although it is true for workers in larger Tesco stores. Other members have pointed out other anomalies.

The biggest problem from the start has been the lack of robust evidence on both sides. However, we can now move forward and consider evidence on new year's day trading. We can consider whether trading will have an impact on our tourist centres, on our economy and, in particular, on the right of workers to have the day off and spend time with their families. Today's amendments have inserted important provisions into the bill, and we will support it at decision time.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 12:03 pm, 7th March 2007

I will start by referring to Colin Fox's speech. To suggest that the bill is meaningless in the form that will be put to members at decision time is to do a great disservice to Karen Whitefield, to Mary Mulligan, to USDAW members throughout the country, to the Scottish Retail Consortium and to the industry. Those people have worked to put forward the case and arrive at a solution. Colin Fox should not underestimate what we are doing in this bill. Both Christmas day and new year's day will be covered in statute and there will be a real power.

The question was rightly asked about how the minister would use that power. I hope that the minister would use the power in the same way as they would use any other power. If I were the minister, I would—like any other minister—use the power wisely. The minister would use the power after taking into account the evidence that was brought before them, and they would use the power to advance the will of Parliament. Today, we have heard clearly what the will of Parliament is.

It was difficult to arrive at a consensus, because there is a range of views. I see that David Davidson has not managed to stay in the chamber to hear my response to his comments. The reason why the Executive did not argue a firm position at stage 2 was, quite simply, because one had not been arrived at. It is far more honest to say, "We haven't arrived at a firm position. There is still work to do. Let's go and do that work and come to a conclusion," than to pretend otherwise.

I heard Murdo Fraser's suggestion that various members were in the pockets of the trade unions. That is quite an outdated view of the world, and outdated language.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

On that point, does the minister agree that it is important that the Scottish Executive works alongside the trade unions in Scotland and that the trade unions have just as important a role as the Confederation of British Industry Scotland or any other stakeholder?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I absolutely endorse that view. Throughout the bill process and the debate, I have been at pains to recognise the work of USDAW and the wider trade union movement in introducing, supporting and helping us to refine the bill and making the case for their workers. Murdo Fraser and others talk about workers in the hospitality sector and other industries. I might have had a bit more sympathy with that if the Tories had any track record of considering low pay and of supporting workers in any industry, but they do not.

It is important to recognise that we will put in statute the fact that we can consider the legislation in future on the basis of the evidence. I gave a commitment earlier that the Executive will consider new year's day 2008—I appreciate that Colin Fox was perhaps a year behind us when he mentioned 2007. I want to consider the impact of 2008 and introduce a suitable report to Parliament.

One or two members seem to have a cosy view of what it is like to work in a family business. I am the only person in my family who has not worked in the family business at some stage, and I know that many of them work as many hours in the week as I do as an MSP and a minister. We have heard some strange views of the world from members who have not had to deliver in that context.

I am sorry that Fergus Ewing is not here to listen to my response to his comments on anonymity. He raised a point that has been raised directly with me by USDAW members during the passage of the bill. It is important that we gather evidence in a way that allows people to remain anonymous, so that they do not fear for their position in the workplace. It is also important that we are both proactive and reactive. We could simply sit and wait for the evidence to come in, but that would not be good enough. In order to assess the economic and social impact, we must be proactive and find a way of working with the trade unions and the retail sector. I have been at pains to point that out today.

USDAW has a strong record of campaigning. Its influential freedom from fear campaign highlighted the need to stand up for the workers in the retail sector. I hope that everyone remembers that the next time they go into a shop. They may be a bit hard-pressed, they may be in a hurry and they may not be all that pleasant to the shop worker who serves them. As well as the people who choose a professional career in retailing, many shop workers are students or people who will move on to other things. Everyone should remember that the person they are not being particularly pleasant to might be their dentist, their child's teacher, their financial adviser or maybe even their MSP in future.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 12:08 pm, 7th March 2007

I have a number of people to thank. The title "member's bill" is a bit of a misnomer, because it takes a lot more than one MSP to take a bill through the Parliament.

I offer my sincere thanks to those people who have helped to get us to the point at which the Parliament is ready to vote on the bill. I begin by thanking all the staff and activists at USDAW for their unflinching support. In particular, I thank John Hannett, who has provided me with support and guidance at all stages of the bill. Most important, I thank the individual members of USDAW, because they are who the bill is about. I thank those members of the retail trade who are not members of a trade union who campaigned, took the time to contact their local MSPs and played their part in the democratic process, which, after all, is the reason the Parliament was established.

I also give special thanks to the members of the non-Executive bills unit, particularly Rodger Evans, whose knowledge and understanding of the parliamentary procedures for members' bills proved invaluable.

I thank the members of the Justice 2 Committee, even those I did not always agree with, for their close scrutiny of the bill. I also thank all those who gave evidence and ensured that all the arguments were fully debated.

I should add my thanks to the Justice 2 Committee clerks, who ensured the smooth and efficient passage of the bill through stages 1 and 2. Thanks also go to the clerks of the Finance Committee, which also played an important part in the process.

So many of my colleagues on the Labour back benches have to be thanked, but I give particular thanks to Mary Mulligan, a fellow USDAW member, for her support and for the vital points that she has made today and throughout the process in supporting the bill and reminding us all of the importance of promoting the protection of Scotland's shop workers and the special nature of Christmas day and new year's day. I cannot mention every member of the back-bench Labour group who supported me—there are too many of them—but their support has been invaluable.

It is important to acknowledge where we have come from. Colin Fox suggested that the bill is in some way meaningless, and I take issue with that. It is simply not the case. We might not be where we wanted to be when we started this process, but there was no consensus in the Parliament. If Mr Maxwell had had his way, the Parliament would have voted down the general principles of the bill. We made this happen and we made sure that, while we might not have got everything that we wanted, we have delivered for shop workers. I assure the chamber and Scotland's shop workers that I will work with them and USDAW to hold the Scottish Executive to account. They need be under no illusion about that.

I should mention a couple of the contributions that have been made. I am not surprised that Jim Mather wanted to talk about other things. The nationalists will take any opportunity to talk about independence rather than concentrating on the powers that we have today and the difference that we can make to ordinary people's lives.

I say to Murdo Fraser that I am not in the pocket of any trade union, but I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with any trade unionist in this country, to work for the people who elected me and to represent them by ensuring that this Parliament delivers legislation that protects them. I will never be ashamed of that.

This bill has come about because of the hard work and campaigning of individual shop workers. We are not on the wrong side of the argument. Although the Executive might not have been as quick to understand the issues as I would have liked, it has finally come down on the right side. Today, the Tories will be on the wrong side if they vote against the bill.

Mark Ballard has been very supportive of the bill and I am grateful to the Greens for their support. However, I do not believe that because we have not got everything that we wanted the position has not changed. We have more than half a bill. It might not be everything, but it is more than half a bill.

As I have already said, I assure members that I will work to ensure that the commitments given by Cathy Jamieson are followed through. It is important that the study begins now and that we work together to examine what will happen next new year. It is important that the Executive will work with unions—USDAW in particular—in doing that work. We should be constantly vigilant to ensure that it is not tolerated or accepted for any shop worker in Scotland to be coerced into working, no matter how subtle the coercion, even when it is done not by employers but by colleagues who workers do not want to let down. We need to be aware of the different forms that subtle coercion can take and the need for the Executive to take an innovative approach to monitoring such difficulties.

We have moved some way and there is a choice to be made, but it is not a choice between doing good for business and doing harm, nor is it a choice between growing tourism and holding tourism back. We have a choice between the precious time that is spent with family and friends and an unwelcome shift on the shop floor, which is what we will get if we do not support the bill. We also have a choice between preserving the essence of two special days and creating another two standard shopping days to add to the other 363.

I have said all along that the bill is a modest ambition—it does not ask the earth of retailers. By working in partnership, we can deliver for Scotland's shop workers. I hope that the bill will retain the special nature of the two days. I hope that tonight I can go out and celebrate not by raising a glass in toast but by shopping—as many members know, I like nothing more. I will be able to do that because of the hard work and efforts of Scotland's shop workers.

I do not think that it is too much to ask that the Parliament support the bill.

Meeting suspended until 14:30.

On resuming—