HC Deb 08 July 1965 vol 715 cc1791-2
3. Mr. Sharples

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he now intends to introduce legislation to rationalise the law relating to Sunday observance.

Sir F. Soskice

In the light of the debates in this House on 15th February and in another place on 17th March, the Government consider that Parliament should be given an opportunity to pronounce on the main recommendations of the Crathorne Committee; and in a matter which so closely affects the consciences of individual Members they believe this could best be arranged if a Bill were introduced in Private Members' time on which all decisions would be left to a free vote of the House. The Government would be very ready to offer facilities for the drafting of such a Bill, but no undertaking can be given to provide Government time.

Account will be taken of the Committee's recommendations regarding Sunday trading in the proposals for legislation to amend the Shops Act, 1950, of which the Government intend to publish an outline within the next few weeks as a basis for further consultation.

Mr. Sharples

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that that was a most unsatisfactory reply? A Bill of this magnitude should be undertaken by the Government, and the responsibility for legislation in a matter of such great importance to every single person in the country should not be shelved by the Government on to a private Member.

Sir F. Soskice

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be a Bill of considerable magnitude. That was one of the reasons why I said that unfortunately no undertaking could be given to provide Government time.

Mr. Paget

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the private Member's procedure is quite unsuitable for Bills of considerable magnitude? Social matters are a Government responsibility and it is no use shelving them in this way.

Sir F. Soskice

I repeat what I have just said, that unfortunately it is impossible to find Government time, having regard to the priority of other legislation which the Government propose to introduce.

Mr. Prior

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of what the Prime Minister said in Glasgow 10 days ago—that he can get any Bill through this House at any time? What is the difficulty in the Government finding time for this Measure?

Mr. Rankin

Could my right hon. and learned Friend tell us why the Opposition were not fully seized of the importance of this Bill during their period in office?

Mr. Speaker

The Home Secretary has many responsibilities but that is not one of them.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Does the Home Secretary realise the significance of the comment he made a moment ago when he said that, because of the size of this Bill, and, presumably, the importance of it, Government time could not be found for it? That is surely the best reason why Government time should be found. Will he stop passing on these Measures of great importance to private Members when they ought to be the responsibility of the Government?

Sir F. Soskice

I do not for a moment wish to imply that it is not a Measure of great importance. Of course it is. It is, however, necessary for Government time to be available before one can bring it before the House in Government time. I am sorry, but it is just not possible to find Government time for it.

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