HC Deb 31 January 1985 vol 72 cc400-1
5. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he now expects to make a further statement on the Auld report.

11. Mr. Galley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet able to make a statement about the Auld report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Mellor)

My right hon. and learned Friend proposes to make a statement in the near future setting out the Government's position.

Mr. Hunt

In the meantime, has my hon. Friend seen the results of the survey commissioned by the National Consumer Council, which show that a substantial majority of our fellow citizens, particularly the younger generation, are in favour of a reform of the Shops Act? May we have an assurance that the Government intend to sweep away the anomalies and absurdities which at present surround our Sunday trading laws?

Mr. Mellor

I cannot at this stage give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks, as these matters are now under very active consideration. Concern about the anomalies in the law led to the appointment of the Auld committee, the report of which we are digesting with care.

Mr. Galley

In view of the considerable job creation potential of the relaxation in the Sunday trading laws and the fact that the majority of the population consider that the current law brings the law in general into disrepute, is my hon. Friend prepared to give the House a further assurance that he will put considerable "umph" behind the legislative programme and give priority to it at a very early stage?

Mr. Mellor

I am glad that my hon. Friend has once again called for "umph". I have commended him before on that phrase. The Government's intentions will be announced very soon. My hon. Friend will not have long to wait for some "umph".

Rev. Martin Smyth

Does the Minister recognise that many in the country would prefer the Government and Parliament to pay attention to the principles of the "Auld Book" rather than the Auld report?

Mr. Mellor

That is too well turned a question for me to make an adequate response to it.

Mr. Pike

Will the Minister give an assurance that in any proposals that are made the Government will not only try to meet the requirements of consumers but will take adequate steps to protect those employees who will have to work on Sundays if there is to be a major extension in that direction?

Mr. Mellor

Yes. The position of the staff is a matter of considerable interest to the Government. The hon. Gentleman will know that a senior official of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers was an assessor for the Auld committee. We shall have regard to the views of workers' representatives before we make our final decision.

Sir Edward Gardner

Does my hon. Friend agree that the law is so asinine that it invites contempt? Does he further agree that a law that is so irrational and silly that it tempts people to break it is dangerous and ought to be removed as soon as possible by sensible reform?

Mr. Mellor

I certainly find it hard to disagree with that description of the law, since I used very similar words in the debate on the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) in February 1983. Certainly the law has not become any better in those two years.