HC Deb 21 January 1982 vol 16 cc399-400
3. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he hopes to complete his review of the Shops Act 1950.

20. Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to be able to make the statement on shop hours, which was promised in his replies to questions by the hon. Member for Flint, West, Official Report 7 May, c. 259, and Official Report 30 July, c. 464.

Mr. Raison

Our examination of the shop hour restrictions in the Shops Act 1950 is now complete and my right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement very soon.

Mr. Atkinson

I thank my right hon. Friend for his encouraging reply. Is he aware that, as the Act stands, church bookstalls that sell bibles to churchgoers on Sunday are breaking the law? Will he commit himself now to introducing amending legislation to avoid such farcical situations?

Mr. Raison

I am aware of the point that my hon. Friend makes about bibles. I am also aware of many other oddities and anomalies in the legislation. I cannot make a commitment to introduce new legislation. The problem is lack of consensus about what should be done.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware—I congratulate him on his promotion—that, after all this time, it is absurd for the Home Office to shelter behind the absence of any consensus? Is it not for the Home Office to give a lead?

Mr. Raison

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words.

My hon. Friend accuses the Home Office of failing to give a lead. It has been the tradition in matters of this kind that we can best move forward with widespread agreement. My hon. Friend will remember that a debate on his Bill last year failed to produce anything remotely resembling agreement between the two sides.

Mr. McNally

Is the Minister assuring the House that at long last there is to be a radical amendment of the 1950 Act to get rid of the absurdities that it contains and to allow traders to trade on a Sunday? At the moment, a do-it-yourself shop cannot open on a Sunday but a garden centre can. These absurdities make a mockery of the law. Is the right hon. Gentleman assuring the House that the Home Office now intends to act?

Mr. Raison

I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any assurance that we will act. I would, however, point out that the House will shortly debate a Bill introduced by one of my hon. Friends, and the other place will debate a Bill proposed by Baroness Trumpington. Both will give opportunities for Members of the two Houses to express their views on the matter.

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