§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)
Since my reply on 25 April to a question from the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright), up to 4 June we had received some 150 further written representations broadly in favour of greater Sunday trading and some 130 against.
§ Mr. Cran
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the present situation is absolutely anarchical and makes it quite impossible for local authorities such as mine, the borough of Beverley, to enforce the law, whatever it may be at the moment? That being so, will my right hon. Friend tell the House when proposals will be brought forward for reform, bearing in mind that no one wishes the issue to be rushed?
§ Mr. Rumbold
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I am sure that he is aware that I am conducting consultations with all the interested parties in the hope that it will be possible to find some measure of agreement between them and to bring proposals before the House. The measures that are brought forward will have to be agreed, workable and enforceable, and carry general support.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Does the Minister agree that part of the problem is that there are those who will not enforce the law, which leads to further discrediting of it? Is the right hon. Lady aware that many of us throughout the country want to maintain the peace and quietness of our Sabbath day?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
The Government take the view that the law should be enforced and we stand four square behind those who enforce it. There are many who prefer Sunday to be at least a different and special day.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this Sunday about 60,000 shops will be open, many of them selling goods illegally? May I have an assurance that during the discussions my right hon. Friend will not give the "Keep Sunday Special" campaign a right of veto over Government policy?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall give no one the right of veto over Government policy. It is a matter for the Government to decide and we are consulting to ensure that what ensues carries broad support throughout the country.
§ Mr. Randall
Is the Minister aware that there is concern about the extent of the law-breaking that is taking place? Is she aware also that recent court rulings have seriously weakened the enforcement powers of local authorities and 401 have made enforcement extremely risky? Will the right hon. Lady have a word with the Attorney-General with a view to encouraging him to use his extensive powers to restore law and order? I ask the right hon. Lady to do this without delay.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I am interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's comments. I am interested also to know whether the Labour party is moving towards some change in the Sunday trading laws. It is clear to me that the hon. Gentleman shares my view that matters need to be resolved and that the law must not continue to be broken. We must have a sensible resolution of these matters which is enforceable.