§ 4.7 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the deliberate flouting of the Sunday trading laws by major companies yesterday".
Yesterday several major stores opened for trading in deliberate violation of the Shops Act 1950. They did so knowingly and blatantly. This is a matter that the House should debate urgently. These stores took their unlawful action in anticipation of the enactment of a Bill which will be based on a report on which a White Paper has not yet been issued.
Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister told the Carlton club:Now that democracy has been won, it is not heroic to flout the law of the land as if we still struggled in a quagmire where civilisation had yet to be built.Does that apply to Heals as well as to the National Union of Mineworkers? Does it apply to Habitat as well as to the Transport and General Workers Union? That happened yesterday and those who flouted the law have said openly that they intend to do so again on a number of subsequent occasions before Christmas. It is now after 4 o'clock, but the Prime Minister has not yet condemned this breach of the rule of law. The Home Secretary is in the Chamber today. He has not yet condemned this breach of the rule of law. The House needs to establish clearly whether there is one law for the miners and another for merchants.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the deliberate flouting of the Sunday trading laws by major companies yesterday".The right hon. Gentleman and the House know that the only decision that I have to take is whether to give this matter precedence over the business already set down for today or tomorrow. I have listened with care to the right hon. Gentleman, but I regret that I do not consider that the 748 matter he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Willie W. Hamilton (Fife, Central)
I did not realise that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) would raise the subject of the shops legislation, but I had intended to raise a point of order on the matter anyway. You, Mr. Speaker, and the whole House will recall that the Prime Minister is constantly lecturing everybody on the need to obey the law. May we ask the Leader of the House through you, Mr. Speaker, to advise her to come to the House tomorrow to make a statement condemning Debenhams, Habitat and so on for flagrantly disobeying the law?
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
On a point of order arising from your decision on the Standing Order No. 10 application, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate your decision because you are dealing with the business of the House for today, but may I seek your guidance? When will it be possible for the matter to be debated in the House?
On Thursday 29 November on Question No. 1 to the Prime Minister, I referred to the Employment Act 1980 and the Shops Act 1950. I asked the Prime Minister about double standards. I said that the Government were using their influence to ensure that the Employment Act 1980 was obscenely used by the courts and magistrates, resulting in the sequestration of trade union funds. Is it possible for the Home Secretary and the Leader of the House to consider providing time for the Shops Act 1950 to be considered seriously along with the action by business people who are openly defying the law? What sequestration can be operated against these firms for taking the liberty of flouting the law? The Government are deliberately ensuring that the courts enforce one Act but not the other. We want an explanation and a debate on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman heard what I said about the Standing Order No. 10 application. I cannot advise the hon. Gentleman on tactics, but there are such things as Adjournment debates and I am sure that Question Time will provide opportunities to refer to the subject.