HC Deb 12 April 1984 vol 58 cc517-8
8. Mr. Favell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has had from local authorities about Sunday trading laws.

Mr. Mellor

The committee of inquiry that my right hon. and learned Friend has set up to consider what changes are needed in the Shops Act has received evidence from four local authority associations, and from 22 local authorities. He has passed to the committee the letters that he has received from a further six local authorities.

Mr. Favell

Is my hon. Friend aware that certain aspects of the Sunday trading laws are the object of widespread ridicule and that the law is ignored by many and respected by relatively few?

Mr. Skinner

Oh! Not just miners, then.

Mr. Favell

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that legislation will be introduced next Session and, in the meantime, will he advise local authorities such as Stockport, in my constituency, when and in what circumstances the law should be implemented?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend has a very real point. I made it clear to the House when my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) introduced his private Member's Bill at the end of the previous Parliament that the law on Sunday trading was in tatters and in grave need of reform. That is why the committee of inquiry was set up.

I remind my hon. Friend that the committee's remit is not to consider whether changes should be made in Sunday trading laws, but what changes should be made. Everyone agrees that the law should be changed. It is difficult, however, to achieve a consensus on what those changes should be.

Mr. Speed

Does my hon. Friend realise that local authorities have real difficulties in deciding whether to prosecute? Will he give an assurance that legislation will be introduced as soon as possible after the committee of inquiry has reported?

Mr. Mellor

As my hon. Friend knows, unfortunately it does not lie in my mouth to promise legislation. All that I can say is that I am firmly convinced that the law on Sunday trading must be modernised. I hope that as a result of the committee's report a consensus will develop behind the changes that should be made. I hope that that will go further than the scrappy debate on the private Member's Bill, which revealed no consensus at all.

Mr. Pavitt

I appreciate that the Minister has seen evidence from the local authorities, but has he taken full cognisance of evidence from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and the non-party Retail Consortium? Will he take that evidence fully into account when legislation is being prepared?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman knows well that we are taking into account evidence submitted by those groups, so much so that Mr. Flood of USDAW is one of the assessors on the Committee. Plainly, the view of the shopworkers is an important factor and has proved to be one of the difficulties in making the changes that many think should be made.