HC Deb 21 December 1966 vol 738 cc1475-92

2.51 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to raise the subject of the tourist industry, sport and Sunday entertainment. I do so largely in a representative capacity as chairman of the all-party committee on tourism. I have had a number of apologies from colleagues on both sides of the House who have been unable to attend and contribute to the debate. I regret particularly the fact that the representative of the Liberal Party and two of my hon. Friends, who have a particular knowledge of certain aspects of the industry, cannot attend this debate.

The first difficulty that arose in this matter was that there was naturally a flutter in the dovecots amongst the Ministries, because there are no fewer than six Ministries any one of which could equally have dealt with this important matter. This is by far the most important issue because the main objective to which I wish to draw attention today is the need for the co-ordination of policy by the Government in respect of the tourist industry and the proper pursuit of leisure. There is absolutely no co-ordination of any kind between the Departments in respect of any proper cohesive policy for the tourist industry or for the ancillary and equally important subjects of sport, entertainment, culture and, indeed, the pursuit of leisure in the modern age.

I will briefly state the five assurances that I should like to have from the Minister of State, Home Office, which I believe are reasonable because they do not commit her or, indeed, the Home Office as such, save one of them. They are as follows. I ask that the hon. Lady will, together with the other Ministers, consider carefully whether the time is not ripe for a committee of the House of Commons, analogous to the Committee on Nationalised Industries, for example, to he set up for the following purposes: to inquire into and to recommend action and measures designed to promote tourism and to encourage proper leisure pursuits, including the field of sport and culture. Such a committee of this House would be an all-party committee, of course. I should like to think, too, that to a large degree it would not be very partisan, but that it would embody the immeasurable experience of hon. Members of this House. I think the time has now come for a committee of this kind to be set up.

Secondly, I ask that there shall be a continuing inter-departmental committee of advisers from the Ministry to assist and to set the guidelines for Government policy. Such an inter-departmental committee would, of course, be of the greatest value in advising a committee of this House. I ask that both those matters should receive attention and, I would hope, at Cabinet level.

Thirdly—this is more directly in the hon. Lady's province; indeed, it is directly within the province of the Home Secretary—I ask for an opportunity for this House to debate a Bill from another place, the Sunday Entertainments Bill introduced by Lord Willis, as and when it has received its Third Reading in another place. It does not follow that it would automatically come here, but, having had the widest measure of careful consideration in another place, it is certainly more than opportune that this Measure should then be given time for debate with a view to securing a Second Reading in this House.

Fourthly, I ask for an assurance that we shall have an early White Paper from the Home Secretary on Sunday trading and a promise that after there has been a debate, there will be early legislation to deal with that subject, one hopes in the 1967 Queen's Speech—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Rees-Davies

Yes, I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member obviously knows what I am going to say. He may refer only incidentally to legislation.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I realised, Mr. Speaker, that I had been guilty of an incidental transgression. I withdraw the last part of my remarks. May I put it in this way: I should like an assurance that all the matters relating to Sunday trading will be carefully considered at an early opportunity.

Finally, I hope that the gaming laws will he brought up to date, more particularly because of their important impact upon the revenue of the tourist industry.

Dealing with these items in turn, taking the Board of Trade, the difficulty is that international tourism is largely involved and there is little executive power for the Minister of State, Board of Trade here. He is nearly always defeated by the greater power of manufacturing industry. The Treasury is extremely helpful in matters of works of art which are in the particular province of the Treasury, but is is a small province. The Ministry of Education, which deals with sport and with museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, is without cognate power. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government deals with some houses, whilst the Ministry of Public Building and Works deals with Stonehenge and other aspects of the subject. The Minister responsible for sport, whom we are delighted to see here, is left with noble words, with a desire for action but with no money and no executive authority to give strength to his elbow. I have no doubt that it is a good elbow; as understand it was an even better foot in the old days.

I think it is fair to say that there are many hon. Members who do not recognise that there is a tourist industry, an industry of sport or an entertainment industry. They regard these as pleasures which are in no sense measurable against manufacturing industry. The truth is that the fourth largest industry in this country and one which could become the largest is tourism. I do not need to go into the figures this afternoon, but they are there for all to see. This is a major industry and I invite the Minister to recognise that It is now practicable to take the view that the tourist industry should have the same yardstick as manufacturing industry.

This involves directly the Board of Trade. It equally involves not only the question of Selective Employment Tax but the abolition of investment allowances and the lack of any investment grants. The extraordinary situation is that there is no capital or modernisation grant available to modernise our hotels, and this has resulted in the complete arrest of all building in the hotel and catering industry.

The situation overseas is in marked contrast. In Switzerland there is a bank to provide merchant banking facilities for tourism. In Italy one may build hotels with capital loans and grants provided by the Government. In Eire one can get a tax-free holiday to enable one to promote tourism. None of these facilities obtain in this country. All of these are matters which I would have thought ought probably to be referable to a committee of this House to consider and to put forward to the Government with a view to inviting action.

I turn from hotels and the catering industry, upon which a great deal has been said on other occasions, to sport. What is the picture here? We find, firstly, that large numbers, indeed, approximately 90 per cent. of football clubs are at present operating on a deficit and in the red. Almost all county cricket clubs are at present in dire financial straits.

Turning to music, we find that classical music badly needs, and receives, some form of subsidy. Theatres find themselves at an acute disadvantage with television. Looking at the other field of entertainment, at gaming, we find that here is a field which is likely to attract suitable revenue and in which tourism could provide a benefit. We find here that there is certainly a sad need for improvement. Right across the field of sport there hangs today the spectre of a lack of finance to provide improvements which are so sorely needed and which are unable to be achieved at present.

Continuing on the subject of sport—I said that it was a question not of words alone, but of inability to take financial action—there is one startling fact regarding the provision of capital. Whereas approximately £15½ million was spent in 1964, the estimate for 1966 is a mere £4 million. Expenditure outside the schools has reached the lowest level since shortly after the post-war period. While it is true that the school provision may continue, we find ourselves with a virtual stop since July, 1965, on all building projects.

Without the executive power resident in the Minister, without anybody to supply separate grants and finance for sport, we are unable to achieve what is basically necessary for improvement. What are these improvements which are most urgently needed? I list a mere four of them: the need for international sports centres, the need to provide far better indoor facilities for sport, the need to ensure a greater and more adequate provision of swimming pools and, more particularly, of sports halls.

Regarding swimming pools, the attractive report produced by the Sports Council illustrated the fact that today there are only about 500 swimming pools. There are 600 local authorities without any at all, and three-quarters of those that do exist are from 30 to 80 years old. There are only 63 sports halls of over 7,000 sq. ft.

Here is a field of need for facilities which requires the provision of capital. I urge reconsideration in the next year to enable us to get ahead with these projects.

Another important reason for there being a committee of the House as I suggest and an inter-departmental committee available to consider these matters, is that at the moment there are no accepted standards for local authorities to provide a yardstick for them. Furthermore, there are no direct grants in this field. The grants which come under the General Grant Order do not make specific provision to cover these items which I have envisaged as needing direct grant. I therefore feel that this whole matter requires to be taken at a higher level than hitherto.

Regarding the regional sports councils which have been admirably set up, the next stage surely is to ensure that there are local sports advisory councils. This field is one where local authorities could provide a valuable service. In the main, the criteria would seem to be, first, the need of the community for sport and recreation, secondly, the need to develop local facilities; third, the need to ensure in particular that school leavers are able to continue in the participation of sport, and fourthly, with a view to future planning, to collect together the facilities under one umbrella so as to avoid duplication. I believe that action along those lines would go a long way to assist in the proper pursuit of sport and of our leisure. To expect this to fall merely upon the shoulders of one Minister, without any proper co-ordination and with an absence of finance, is really not a viable policy.

Turning to Sunday entertainment, it cannot be gainsaid that if the Bill from another place comes to this House for consideration it will not have arrived too soon. It is two years or more now since the Crathorne Report, which we had an opportunity to debate, and I venture to say that the House of Commons as a whole, will accept a measure of reform. I have no doubt at all that a Bill of this nature would certainly receive the sanction of this House and would be passed into law, certainly so far as it would affect Sunday evenings. I refer to provision for theatres and Sunday entertainment and for getting rid of the ludicrous anomalies where a person cannot even wear a false moustache for a performance in the evening but he can, sing without it. Whereas at present one can watch the London Palladium on television, one cannot watch the London Palladium performance itself. It seems to me that these are matters which must be remedied at an early date.

We should have an opportunity to deal with them and also to see whether afternoon commercial sport can receive the support of the House. There could be no greater boon to cricket and football than that there should be the opportunity to have commercial sport on Sunday afternoons. Theatres would certainly wish to open on Sundays, but would close on Mondays. The labour situation would be made little worse, if at all.

Regarding Sunday trading, we have had the valuable report of the Crathorne Committee and we await further action. I take the view that it provides a perfectly adequate basis for legislation, but clearly the Government have had second thoughts about it. We wait anxiously to hear from the right hon. Lady exactly what is proposed.

The all-party Committee, as it sits at present, attracts the attention of those of us who are concerned with tourism and seaside resorts. It also from time to time attracts the attention of some other Members. But the tourist industry today and the proper pursuit of leisure in this country is a matter of the closest interest to everybody in this House and the country. The House of Commons all too seldom talks about the pleasures of life. This is an occasion where if we have suitable assurances from the right hon. Lady they will provide, if I may say so, a Christmas present for the nation, and, I hope, a New Year resolution which will be thoroughly well worth while in the forthcoming year.

That resolution will be substantially reinforced if the right hon. Lady can give the assurances for which I have asked. They would not commit her Ministry; they would merely commit her to saying that the Government will now carefully consider setting up an all-party committee with, one would hope, a strong chairman, to which these questions of tourism, sport, culture and leisure can go, and become co-ordinated for thought and action.

I hope that the Ministries will get together to see whether we can promote something which would be for the benefit of Britain as a whole, of its exports, the provision of better home holidays, which the British Travel Association will try to promote within the next week or two, and at the same time, of the interests of sport, culture, historic homes, museums, and of those many things which at the moment are handled by no fewer than six different Ministries. With such a committee we could have a co-ordinated policy, and I believe that it would be for the benefit of everyone. I do not believe that it would be opposed by anyone.

3.10 p.m.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), whose speech ranged very widely, for raising this matter. I regard his suggestion for an all-party committee as an especially stimulating one. I have no doubt that it will receive very careful consideration by my right hon. Friends.

The debate gives me an opportunity very briefly to raise two matters which are of considerable interest in the City of Manchester. The first concerns the lack of playing fields and sports grounds for many amateur soccer and other teams. I hope to hear by right hon. Friend emphasise today that sport and recreation are regarded as a totality. Our problem here is not so much a lack of facilities as the under-use of facilities owned by local education and other public authorities. This causes much frustration and I should like to see school playing fields open at weekends and during the school holidays so that people engaged in amateur sport could have access to many excellent facilities which are now denied to them.

My second point relates to the question of Sunday trading. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will recall the debate on 15th February, 1965, on the Report by Lord Crathorne's Committee. I referred then to paragraph 134 of the Report, and I should like my right hon. Friend, if she can, to let me know now whether the Home Office have considered the points which I raised in that debate. If I may remind her, my observations are reported in columns 916–9 of the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet spoke of the Minister for sport as one of the more deprived Ministers in the present Government. He has certainly been one of the most successful Ministers. The House should not forget that there have been some important sporting achievements during the past year. Thus, if I may say so, the money which has been spent by my hon. Friend the Minister has been a very good investment. Finally, may I emphasise again my hope that we shall have full use for youth generally, at weekends and during school holidays, of all the resources so far invested by local education authorities and the Government in school sports grounds and other playing facilities.

3.14 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) on raising this subject today. He has long taken an interest in it in the House and has done a great deal to promote British tourism in so far as we can promote it in Parliament.

It will be accepted generally, and certainly by the Government and any Chancellor of the Exchequer, that tourism is one of the main ways by which we can earn foreign currency. There is no better way. Tourism is also a two-way traffic. What we lack in sunshine here we have to make up for by the facilities which we offer to the holiday-maker. The kind of holiday we should go for, more than any other, for the foreigner coming here is the short stay—people coming here for a week or so or even for long weekends—and I am not sure that the British tourist trade is as geared to this as it might be.

For example, our hotels do not give to foreigners coming to this country the same facilities as hotels overseas have long given to British tourists going abroad. British Rail hotels have started to do this; they have now started to accept block bookings at cheaper rates. I hope that this will be copied by many other hotels in Britain.

The Government must do something to help, and I am not sure that they have assisted the hotel trade by some of their actions in recent months. The Selective Employment Tax, bearing as it does on hotels, does not help, and neither has the abolition of the investment grants. I very much hope that the Government will look at these matters again because it is vital that the hotel trade, on which we depend to encourage foreign visitors here, be recognised as playing a most important part in the earning of foreign currency for us.

Something must be done, also, about the British Travel Association grant. The Government subsidise the B.T.A. fairly heavily, but money spent in grants to the B.T.A., in so far as it enables this country to advertise overseas, is money well spent, and it comes back in the form of visitors from abroad.

A word now about the £50 allowance and the £15 sterling which one is allowed to take out of the country. Tourism is a two-way traffic. Obviously, if we are to go into Europe, there must be an open door. There is an open door for British travellers going abroad, and there must be an open door for people to come here. The sooner the Chancellor of the Exchequer removes this restriction—I hope that he will take it off next year—the better. It is becoming clear that it is not really working. People will spend just as much. There is a traffic in "V" forms, as there always is such traffic when restrictions of this kind are imposed. The restriction affects the heavy spender abroad, but heavy spenders are very few. Its removal would, on the other hand, help the general mass of travellers. Overseas Governments feel that their people are coming here and spending foreign currency with us, whereas there is a restriction on our people spending their currency abroad. I am sure that this is a disadvantage to us, and the sooner it goes the better.

During recent years, tourism has given a big boost to our balance of payments. It can do more in the years to come, and it deserves all the support the Government can give it.

3.19 p.m.

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

I am very grateful for the opportunity to intervene briefly in the debate. I undertake to sit down in time to give the right hon. Lady the 18 minutes which I believe she wants for her reply.

I wish to express my gratitude and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends to the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) for raising a subject of vital interest to hon. Members on both sides of the House and the whole country. He said that the tourist industry is the fourth largest in the country. It is, indeed, one of the fastest-growing industries and should not be restrained in any way by Government action. The constituents who are fortunate enough to be represented by the hon. Member are aware of his very keen interest in this matter, which affects them as indeed it affects my constituents.

Tourism is one of our major dollar earners, but over and above that is the fact that in the areas of high unemployment in many parts of the country, including Cornwall, in particular, and also Scotland—I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) is present—tourism is vitally important because it is a mainstay of the economy. It not only produces dollars and employment, but also makes a direct contribution to the welfare of the economy of those difficult areas, which the Government are concerned to assist.

At this moment I am concerned, as are many other hon. Members who represent rural constituencies, that this will not be a happy Christmas for many people in areas like Cornwall. Unemployment there is at an all-time high, particularly in my constituency. In one place in my constituency unemployment is over 13 per cent., and in an area which depends so much on the tourist trade it is tragic that the effect of the Selective Employment Tax has been to force certain hotels in my constituency to close this Christmas, when they would otherwise have remained open. That must apply to many other areas of the country.

The absence of the investment allowances has prevented the building of new hotels not only in the under-developed areas, but in many of our major cities. London is more fortunate than many provincial areas. Nevertheless, absence of good hotel facilities detracts from opportunities of attracting the high dollar-spenders who are essential to the welfare of the economy. The hon. and learned Member referred to the position in Switzerland, and there are many other countries which provide facilities for the development of hotels, and the money for their building and, in some cases. operation. It is a very sad reflection on the present and past Governments that we have been so slow to recognise this opportunity to obtain additional foreign currency earnings by this means.

The areas which have often been promised the greatest help have, alas, been the worst hit by the present squeeze. I now refer particularly to my own constituency. There is a short sightedness in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attitude. There is not only the loss of overseas currency at present but the tendency for people to be attracted to other countries in the future. Holidays are habit-forming. People who travel abroad tend to visit more and more the one country they like, and there is no doubt that this will have an effect in the long term, as well as the short term, on Britain's tourist trade.

I should have liked to refer to the question of Sunday entertainment which the hon. Gentleman raised. I shall not do so, because I should then encroach upon the time of the right hon. Lady. That is the last thing I would wish to do, because I am sure that those in the tourist industry, especially hotel owners and many thousands of hotel employees who are out of work, are looking to her at this moment for a little light and hope at Christmas.

3.24 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Alice Bacon)

When the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) gave novice that he would raise the ques- tions of tourism, sport and Sunday observance, there was a little to-ing and fro-ing in Ministerial circles to decide who would reply to the debate. As the hon. Gentleman said in his speech, about six Ministries are involved. But we had a word with him and he said he would perhaps raise the question of Sunday observance more than anything else, and, in any case, the maxim is, "When in doubt always pass it over to the Home Office", so here I am. I shall do my best to reply for the various Ministries involved although, of course, I am more au fait with the things for which my Department is responsible.

At the beginning of his speech the hon. Gentleman pressed the need for co-ordination, and suggested that there should be a Committee of the House to look at all these matters. He also stressed the need for a continuing inter-departmental committee. I assure him that we have a great deal of inter-departmental co-ordination in these matters already, although perhaps not as formally as he would like. I do not want to commit my right hon. and hon. Friends in any way, but we shall look at his other point about an all-party Committee.

I thought that he was a little less than fair when he spoke of a lack of co-ordination on tourism, sports and the arts. I cannot forbear saying that while we may not have had the co-ordination he would like under this Government we have made a great deal of progress in tourism, sports and the arts, indeed, more than any other previous Government. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, was given special responsibility for tourism. While the hon. Gentleman might feel that my hon. Friend has not as many powers as he thinks he should, this was at any rate the first time a Minister was given specific responsibility for tourism.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I think that the right hon. Lady is not quite right about that. When Lord Erroll of Hale was a Board of Trade Minister, he had a specific responsibility under the previous Government for tourism. He was the first at the Board of Trade.

Miss Bacon

I am glad to hear that. I must say that I had not realised it from the work which was being done at that time.

As has been mentioned, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science, has been responsible for sport and has done a magnificent job during the past two years. My hon. Friend the other Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science, has done for arts what no other Minister has ever done. Credit should be given for what the Government have done in those respects.

Before I deal with the hon. and learned Gentleman's main point, I wish to deal with one or two points raised by other hon. Members. First, on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), the Government view the better use of school sports facilities as very important, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has made many speeches urging that policy. But that is a matter for the local authorities. The Government have no mandatory powers on it. Each of the nine regional sports councils, plus those for Scotland and Wales, has been asked to undertake a survey of all existing facilities including the degree of their use.

The surveys are expected to be completed during next year. It is then my hon. Friend's intention to ask each council to discuss with the appropriate authorities, the local education authorities, the way in which they could bring about the fullest possible use of those grounds.

I am not in a position to deal with all the points raised by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). I noted his points about the British Travel Association, which was set up by the present Prime Minister in 1950 when he was President of the Board of Trade. Therefore, my right hon. Friend has a sort of proprietary interest in seeing what is happening.

I noted what the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) said about the difficulties in which his constituents find themselves. He stressed the question of the Selective Employment Tax, which has been fully discussed, as he will be aware, during our debates. There is very little that I can add. We realise that there may be some difficulties, particularly in such constituencies as he mentioned.

I have spoken of some of the things which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science is doing in sport. This year has seen the setting up of 11 regional Sports Councils. This is a most important development in co-operation between central Government, local government and sports bodies. The Sports Councils are still in their infancy, but we look to them to do a good job in co-ordinating the various sports activities in their areas. A great deal has been done. Both the Sports Council and the Regional Sports Councils are co-operating with other bodies interested in the open air, such as the National Parks Commission, the Nature Conservancy, and the Forestry Commission.

On the problems of tourism generally, the Government realise that tourism is a factor which is of major significance in correcting our balance of payments problem. International tourism today is big business. In the past two decades our own tourist earnings from overseas visitors to Britain have developed from relatively small proportions to a point at which they go quite a long way to off-setting the still bigger debits for our own people's holidays abroad.

In 1965, the United Kingdom received almost 3½ million visitors from overseas, including those from the Irish Republic, who spent an estimated £193 million. However, I must admit that for various reasons the revenue from tourism, during the last year or two, has not been increasing as rapidly as it has been increasing in previous years. More substantial increases in our earnings will certainly not be achieved without the most strenuous promotional efforts being made.

To this end, the B.T.A. is engaged in carrying out a "Holiday in Britain" campaign at a total cost for this winter of £75,000. It may be small, but it is something. Subject to Parliament's approving the necessary Supplementary Estimate, this will be made up of a special Board of Trade grant of £40,000 and £35,000 subscribed by local authorities.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Presumably the £75,000 does not include expenditure on advertising abroad. If it does, it is a very small amount and it should be considered again. If we are to promote overseas the attraction of holidays in Britain, ten times that amount will need to be spent.

Miss Bacon

I agree. I am not sure whether that includes the amount spent abroad. But it is a start. I know that if we can afford it it should be more, but we are alive to this problem.

The Prime Minister announced the hotel loans scheme to the House on 20th July. It might be considered to be a comparatively small amount, but it will be about £5 million in the first experimental year.

I come to some of the problems for which my Department is responsible. I refer particularly to Sunday observance, which was raised by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet and by my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe. Members will no doubt recollect that following the debate on the Crathorne Report last year the then Home Secretary stated that this was a matter on which Parliament should be given an opportunity to pronounce and that, in a matter so closely affecting the individual conscience of Members, this could best be arranged if a Bill were introduced in private Members' time. This is still our view, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, no Member who was lucky in securing a place in the Ballot decided to introduce such a Bill.

However, we welcome Lord Willis's initiative in introducing his Bill in another place and thus providing an opportunity for Parliament to consider the question whether and, if so, how best the law on Sunday observance might be rationalised and liberalised. We have made drafting facilities available to Lord Willis, which was in accordance with the undertaking which we gave. But the collective view of the Government is one of neutrality, because we feel that it would not be right in a matter of conscience for the Government to try to impose a view.

Leaving that aside, as the Crathorne Committee pointed out, the existing law about what may or may not be done on Sundays is full of anachronisms. There would b advantage in tidying it up and establishing a single set of rules easily understood by all and of common application to all forms of Sunday entertainment. Sunday sport, whether amateur or professional, will not flourish unless there is a public demand for it, but the purpose of Lord Willis's Bill is to provide that if the public want to spend their Sunday afternoons and evenings at sport, they should not be precluded from doing so.

The hon. Member asked specifically whether we would be able to give time for the Bill if it goes through the House of Lords. The hon. Member will not expect me to be in a position to give that undertaking today. This is a matter for the Government as a whole. When the Government have given Government time for Private Members' Bills in the House of Commons, the decision has usually been taken after Second Reading of the Private Member's Bill, when it has been possible to see what degree of support the Measure has.

Mr. Rees-Davies

If the Bill received a Third Reading in the Lords, I hope that the right hon. Lady, having discussed the matter with her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, can go as far as to say that the Home Office would certainly strongly invite the Leader of this House to regard it as a proper case for the Government to give time. I quite agree that the right hon. Lady cannot give a Cabinet decision, but can she go that far?

Miss Bacon

I could not go that far at the moment. I might, perhaps, go as far as to say that if a Measure of that kind came before the House I should probably be in the same Division Lobby as the hon. Member. I cannot, however, commit the Government about the provision of time a considerable distance ahead. We had better wait and see what happens to Lord Willis's Bill in the other place.

Broadly speaking, the effect of Lord Willis's Bill is to remove all restrictions under existing Sunday observance laws concerning sport and entertainment on Sunday afternoon and evening and to impose restrictions on Sunday morning only in respect of entertainment and spectator sport that the public have to pay to watch. I am sure that all these things will be discussed at great length when the matter comes before the House of Lords.

Lord Willis's Bill is not concerned with Sunday trading. Sunday trading recommendations are being considered separately by my Department as part and parcel of the much wider and more general review that we are undertaking of the whole of the law relating to retail trading hours generally. We all know that there are anomalies not only in Sunday trading hours, but in weekday trading hours, also. The problem of Sunday trading is best dealt with from the viewpoint of retail trading as a whole rather than as part of Sunday observance.

We are undertaking that review arising from the recommendations put forward in Part III of the Crathorne Report. My Department followed this up with a booklet entitled, "Retail Trading Hours", published by the Stationery Office in 1965. This booklet was sent to all interested organisations and bodies, and we have now received the replies. When I was asked about this matter recently at Question Time by an hon. Member opposite, I said that the replies which we have received show that there is no consensus of opinion on the matter and that it is fraught with difficulty. It is a matter in which it is difficult to get agreement between the various interested bodies.

But we are at present studying the replies that we have, and we hope that we will then be able to produce—I do not want to give any undertaking that this will be in the near future—some kind of legislation arising out of the replies which we have received.

I have not time to deal with the other points—

Mr. Rees-Davies

The White Paper, or whatever is the outcome of this matter—can it be expected early in the new year?

Miss Bacon

Well, I could not say that it could be expected early in the new year. We have received all these replies, as I have said, there are very great and wide differences of opinion among all the various parties interested in this matter. I remember that some years ago I was a member of the Gowers Committee on shop closing hours, in the 1945–50 Parliament. We sat for about two years and produced a Report, and I know the intricacies and the great difficulties which are associated with this problem. I agree that there are some anomalies which need to be dealt with.

We have had a very interesting debate. My time is up. I can only promise that all the points which have been raised will be noted. While we may not be able to satisfy the hon. Gentleman on every point, I should like to thank him for raising these matters. They are important matters of which the Government are fully aware and we will do our best to deal with them.