HC Deb 10 November 1976 vol 919 cc471-8

6.23 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to Sunday trading. This has been a contentious subject in the House, but what I am about to introduce is not a particularly contentious measure. If it has any claim to remark-ability, it might well be the time of day at which this Ten-Minute Bill comes before the House.

I think that the whole House will agree that if we are to have legislation it should be good legislation, and that if we are to enforce laws, the laws that we enforce should be evenly enforced. My Bill would reform the Shops Acts of 1950 and 1965, specifically in respect of Schedule 7 dealing with Sunday trading. I want to do it predominantly because the Shops Act 1950 is a bad Act and is desperately unevenly enforced, if it is enforced at all. It dates back to the Sunday Fairs Act 1448 and the Sunday Observance Act 1677, and has steadily tried to hold a delicate balance between religious observance and the problem of the little woman who needs a twist of sugar on a Sunday.

I shall give a few instances so that the House can decide just how bad is the law that we have at the moment. The state of play currently is that on a Sunday one may buy fresh milk but not powdered milk. One may buy fresh cream but not tinned cream. One may buy prophylactics only if they are on prescription. One cannot go to a chemist and buy one without a prescription. One may buy newspapers but not the Book of Common Prayer—unless one goes to a bookshop which is open on a Sunday; the only bookshops allowed to be open on a Sunday are those at an approved station. There is in the law nothing to tell one how to approve or disapprove of a station. In view of the rail cuts I disapprove of all stations, except for one or two which have remained open on a Sunday.

With regard to take-away food, almost any take-away food—[Interruption.] In the case of take-away food—[Interruption.] I can hardly hear myself speak—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman complains that he can hardly hear himself speak, it makes it much more difficult for the rest of us.

Mr. Freud

With regard to takeaway food, almost any take-away food may be sold on a Sunday, with the exception of fish and chips. One may not buy fish and chips on a Sunday. One may buy spares for motor cars, motor cycles and cycles on a Sunday. One may buy the wheels, the spokes, the tyres, the chassis, the engine and the windscreen wipers. The only thing one cannot buy is the whole car, the whole motor cycle or the whole cycle.

I do not think that I need to give any further instances of the fact that this is a plumb bad law. It is, of course, a law which is very hard to enforce, because I think that all of us, I say with respect, at some time have broken the Sunday trading laws. [Interruption.] I shall be interested to hear from anyone who has not.

There was a case, which received a fair amount of publicity, where a furniture shop opened on a Sunday, was prosecuted and then managed to get a change of usage certificate. It became a furniture and vegetable shop, and sold a carrot for £200, with a three-piece suite as a promotional gift. A law that allows people to bring the legislation of this country into such disrepute is a bad law and ought to be amended.

One of the great dangers of a bad law such as this is not only that it is unevenly enforced, if it is enforced at all, but that very frequently the police, who are unable to summon the shop in question under any other section of the law, use this outdated, outmoded and bad Schedule 7 to the Shops Act to prosecute a shop which is only doing what everyone else is doing, namely, selling things on a Sunday.

My Bill recognises Sunday as a day of worship and will not seek to have any more establishments opened on a Sunday. What it does is look at the general picture of the present law and rationalise it.

At the moment, there is a closing time for all shops, but there is no opening time. Shops may close at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., but there is no opening time laid down in the Shops Act, and, presumably, a shop-keeper could open his premises at one minute past midnight if he wished to.

My Bill would scrap all existing restrictions on what may or may not be sold on Sundays. It is quite invidious to go into a shop on a Sunday only to find half the shelves covered because the goods on them may not be sold. My Bill would seek simply to allow all shops which are already open on Sundays to sell on Sundays those goods they normally sell on weekdays.

In the present law there are certain religious exemptions, especially those applying in the East End of London where markets are allowed to operate on Sundays because the Jews who live there worship on Saturdays and the shops round there do not open on Saturdays. My Bill seeks to extend the exemptions to other minorities, such as Indians, to people who have religious convictions which cause them to close their shops on other days of the week and thereby permit them to trade on Sundays.

The third object of my Bill is to give local authorities a greater say in authorising shops to open on Sundays. At the moment, a local authority may allow shops to open for 17 Sundays in the year provided that it is a holiday resort." It seems to me that it would be sensible to extend the principle of the referenda held in Wales about whether local authorities shall allow drinking on Sundays. If local authorities wish to hold a referendum, well and good, but it seems to me that they are the ultimate people who know and who should be able to decide whether a shop may open, whether there is a demand and whether people should be allowed to go to shops on Sundays.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the rights of employees would be protected. It would be made clear that no shopkeeper could give notice to an employee who did not want to work on Sundays. By the same token, it would control the wages which could be paid for Sunday working so that it would not be made so attractive financially that people found it irresistible to work on the seventh day.

Those are the very simple purposes of my Bill. I hope that the House will allow me to introduce it. It will not increase the incidence of Sunday trading, but it will regularise the absurdities and anomalies in the current law.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)

I do not propose to waste the time of the House any further. A great deal of time has been wasted already by the forcing of Divisions. I wish merely to declare my opposition to the motion and my hope that the Bill will not see the light of day.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):

The House divided: Ayes 93, Noes 197.

Division No. 388.] AYES [6.34 p.m.
Aitken, Jonathan Hodgson, Robin Reid, George
Bain, Mrs Margaret Hooson, Emlyn Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Baker, Kenneth Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Berry, Hon Anthony Hunt, John (Bromley) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Biggs-Davison, John Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Body, Richard Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Kimball, Marcus Scott-Hopkins, James
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Knox, David Shersby, Michael
Brittan, Leon Lawrence, Ivan Sims, Roger
Brotherton, Michael Lawson, Nigel Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Le Marchant, Spencer Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Buck, Antony McAdden, Sir Stephen Speed, Keith
Budgen, Nick Macfarlane, Neil Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Burden, F. A. Marten, Neil Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Carlisle, Mark Mates, Michael Stradling Thomas, J.
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Miscampbell, Norman Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Churchill, W. S. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thompson, George
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Montgomery, Fergus Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Cockcroft, John More, Jasper (Ludlow) Trotter, Neville
Cormack, Patrick Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Viggers, Peter
Crawford, Douglas Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wainwright, Richard (Coine V)
Durant, Tony Mudd, David Wakenham, John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Normanton, Tom Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Fookes, Miss Janet Nott, John Warren, Kenneth
Glyn, Dr Alan Onslow, Cranley Weatherhill, Bernard
Goodhew, Victor Page, Richard (Workington) Weish, Andrew
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Pardoe, John Wigley, Dafydd
Grist, Ian Penhaligon, David Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Hampson, Dr Keith Percival, Ian
Hayhoe, Barney Price, C. (Lewisham W) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hicks, Robert Price, David (Eastleigh) Mr. Clement Freud and
Higgins, Terence L. Prior, Rt Hon James Mr. Geraint Howells.
Holland, Philip
Allaun, Frank Corbett, Robin Golding, John
Anderson, Donald Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Graham, Ted
Archer, Peter Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Ashley, Jack Cronin, John Grant, John (Islington C)
Ashton, Joe Crowder, F. P. Gray, Hamish
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cryer, Bob Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bates, Alf Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hardy, Peter
Bean, R. E. Cowans, Harry Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Beith, A. J. Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hatton, Frank
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Huckfield, Les
Boardman, H. Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Hutchison, Michael Clark
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Dormand, J. D. Janner, Greville
Braine, Sir Bernard Dunn, James A. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Edge, Geoff Johnson, James (Hull West)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) English, Michael Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Judd, Frank
Canavan, Dennis Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Kelley, Richard
Cant, R. B. Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Kerr, Russell
Carmichael, Neil Farr, John Kilfedder, James
Carson, John Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Lambie, David
Carter-Jones, Lewis Flannery, Martin Lamborn, Harry
Cartwright, John Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Channon, Paul Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Leadbitter, Ted
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Forrester, John Lee, John
Clemitson, Ivor Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Lipton, Marcus
Cohen, Stanley Freeson, Reginald Litterick, Tom
Coleman, Donald Fry, Peter Lomas, Kenneth
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Garrett, John (Norwich S) Loyden, Eddie
Concannon, J. D. Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Luard, Evan
Conlan, Bernard George, Bruce Lyon, Alexander (York)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Ginsburg, David Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Padley, Walter Spriggs, Leslie
McCartney, Hugh Paisley, Rev Ian Stanbrook, Ivor
McCusker, H. Palmer, Arthur Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
MacKenzie, Gregor Park, George Stoddart, David
Maclennan, Robert Parker, John Strang, Gavin
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Parry, Robert Swain, Thomas
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Pavitt, Laurie Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
McNamara, Kevin Pendry, Tom Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh) Perry, Ernest Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. Price, William (Rugby) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Marks, Kenneth Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Tierney, Sydney
Meacher, Michael Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Urwin, T. W.
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Mendelson, John Robertson, John (Paisley) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Robinson, Geoffrey Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Roderick, Caerwyn Ward, Michael
Molloy, William Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Watkins, David
Molyneaux, James Rooker, J. W. Watkinson, John
Moonman, Eric Rose, Paul B. Weitzman, David
Morgan, Geraint Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Ross, William (Londonderry) Whitehead, Phillip
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Ryman, John Whitlock, William
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Selby, Harry Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Sillars, James Wise, Mrs Audrey
Newens, Stanley Skinner, Dennis
Ogden, Eric Small, William TELLERS for THE NOES:
O'Halloran, Michael Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Rt. Hon. E. Fernyhough and
Orbach, Maurice Snape, Peter Mr. Thomas Torney

Question accordingly negatived.