HC Deb 14 November 1988 vol 140 cc739-40
63. Mr. Cran

To ask the Attorney-General what plans he has to publish the findings submitted to him by the Association of District Councils regarding the enforcement of Sunday trading laws; and if he will make a statement.

The Solicitor-General

I am placing in the Library a copy of the letter of 11 July 1988 from the Association of District Councils, which summarises the survey of enforcement undertaken by the association, together with the Attorney-General's letter requesting such information and his reply.

Mr. Cran

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that whether the public can shop on a Sunday depends less on the law than on geography? Does he agree that that is wholly unsatisfactory and that it is bringing the law alto disrepute?

The Solicitor-General

Section 71 of the Shops Act 1950 places a clear duty of enforcement and the discretion as to whether to exercise that duty in a proper case upon each local authority. No local authority has the right to abrogate that duty as a matter of principle.

Mr. Skinner

I wonder whether the Director of Public Prosecutions and his Department have discussed what they intend to do with Lady Porter and her friends on Westminster council—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are on question 63.

Mr. Stanbrook

I welcome my hon. and learned Friend's answer about the duty of local authorities to prosecute. Will he deprecate the decision of those local authorities which say that, because of the referral of a certain case to the European Court, they do not intend to prosecute? Is it not undesirable that we have to wait upon a European institution before deciding to enforce our existing law?

The Solicitor-General

Referrals by the courts to the European Court by no means affect every case on Sunday trading, and local authorities should not, as a matter of course, regard them as any impediment to bringing prosecutions where they think it proper to do so.