HC Deb 08 December 1993 vol 234 cc328-404 4.23 pm
Sir Peter Emery

I beg to move amendment No. 35, in page 1, leave out lines 5 to 17 and insert 'Schedules (Prohibition of trade in shops during Sunday morning) and 3 to this Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint (in this section referred to as "the appointed day").'.

The Chairman

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'sections' in line 7.

No. 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'Schedules' in line 1o.

No. 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out from beginning to 'Schedules' in line 12.

No. 21, in clause 1, page 1, line 6, after 'following', insert 'in respect of each local authority area'.

No. 4, in clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out from 'effect' to end of line 23.

No. 5, in clause 1, page 1, line 11, leave out from 'such' to end of line 17 and insert 'day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint (in this section referred to as "the appointed day")'. No. 6, in page 1, line 13, leave out from 'such' to end of line 17 and insert 'day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint (in this section referred to as "the appointed day")'.

No. 25, in page 1, line 15, at end insert 'and different orders may specify different appointed days'.

No. 7, in page 1, line 18, leave out from beginning to 'sections'.

No. 26, in page 1, line 20, at end insert 'in the relevant local authority area'.

No. 8, in page 1, leave out lines 21 to 23.

No. 29, page 1, line 21, leave out from 'unless' to end of line 23 and insert 'the local authority concerned have passed a resolution to the effect that such an order should be made in respect of that local authority area.'.

No. 32, in page 1, line 23, at end add '(4A) An order under subsection (4) above shall be laid before each House of Parliament and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House.'.

No. 34, in page 1, line 23, at end add '(4B) In this section "local authority" has the same meaning as in Schedules 1 and 2 to this Act and "local authority area" shall be construed accordingly.'.

Sir Peter Emery

At last, the House can decide. Everyone has known for too long that the present regulations concerning Sunday trading are a nonsense and, what is more, they have brought the law into disrespect many times. I hope today to be able to demonstrate that it is possible for us to make a sensible, common-sense and easily understood decision, which I hope that my amendment allows us to do.

It has been said that my amendment was put in at the last moment. I am sorry that, because I was on parliamentary duty at the meeting of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe parliamentary assembly, I could not be here for the Second Reading, but the amendment was tabled immediately on the conclusion of Second Reading. It was altered because it was tabled before I knew that the Government were going to amend their own Bill, which they had just published. Because the Bill had been amended I had to restructure my amendment so that it would do exactly the same as had always been intended. My amendment had to take account of the Government amendment.

4.30 pm

My amendment is simple and straightforward, and does only two things. It says that we should tighten the law to ensure that only a few special shops are allowed to open on a Sunday morning before 1 o'clock, but that after that time there would be complete deregulation.

I shall take the House through the details, because even I could not arrange for the schedule mentioned in the amendment to appear on the Order Paper today. I must therefore take the House clearly through what the schedule says. Basically, paragraph 2 says: A shop shall not be open on Sunday for the serving of customers before 1 p.m.—unless… it is a special shop", or is registered for the Jewish Sabbath. Paragraph 3 defines quickly and simply what a special shop would be: A shop is a special shop by virtue of this paragraph if … the shop is a newsagent's shop and is open only for the sale of newspapers registered at the Post Office and published only on a Sunday"— that is designed to ensure that everybody can still get their Sunday papers if they want to— the shop is a registered pharmacy and is open only for the sale … or otherwise … of medicinal products or surgical appliances … the shop is a nursery or garden centre and is open only for the sale of plants, flowers and garden supplies and garden accessories". That exemption could not be extended to allow the shop to sell food, or to compete in any way other than as a garden centre. A shop would also be special if: the shop is a petrol filling station … the shop is at a designated airport … or … the trade or business carried on in the shop consists wholly or mainly of … the sale of meals or refreshments for consumption on the premises", or alcohol for consumption on those premises. In other words, the place has to be a restaurant or cafe.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

If I went to a newsagent to buy a newspaper at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning, and decided that I needed to buy a couple of pints of milk at the same time, would my right hon. Friend's proposed arrangements allow me to do so?

Sir Peter Emery

No. That is clear; there is no doubt about it. The schedule says clearly that the shop must be: open only for the sale of newspapers registered", and that is all that would be allowed.

Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West)

As the Government seek to impose fewer and fewer regulations, does not my right hon. Friend believe that the ideas that he suggests would herald a welter of new regulations, and give rise to the most preposterous situations?

Sir Peter Emery

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will listen to the whole of my speech before commenting, because the arrangement that I believe that he favours—complete deregulation—will not obtain the necessary majority to stand part of the Bill. In that case, the best that he can do is to support my amendment. I at least provide deregulation for half the day, and that is what he should urge me to do.

I envisage that the amendment will be completely and simply understood; its whole purpose is to provide unrestricted simplicity. The amendment is necessary because I do not believe that a majority exists for the three options offered in the Bill. What philosophy have I tried to adopt? I may be old fashioned, but I believe that the greatness of Great Britain has been based on Anglo-Saxon Celtic Christian philosophy and action. I believe—

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)


Sir Peter Emery

May I finish my sentence?

People who believe in that philosophy, although they may be in a minority, have the right to have their views heard. When we consider the protection of ethnic minorities in other ways, surely the rights of the Christian minority have to be considered.

Mr. Fabricant

Is the thrust of my right hon. Friend's argument that Christians will be more likely to go to church if his amendment is carried?

Sir Peter Emery

I have not used that argument in any way and my hon. Friend knows that. If my hon. Friend were to go to any of the Christian churches—be it Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Church of England or even some of the Catholic churches—they would urge that there should be protection for Sunday, and that Sunday should be different from the other days of the week.

The Keep Sunday Special campaign protects the whole of Sunday, but that is against the wishes of many people who wish to go shopping on Sunday. I believe that they have the right to be considered, and my amendment goes a long way towards doing that.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Peter Emery

I will give way once more, and I suggest that I do not give way again until I come to the conclusion of my speech. If I have not answered questions by hon. Members by then, I shall be delighted to give way.

Mr. Banks

Will my hon. Friend explain the difference between allowing people to go to a garden centre on Sunday and prohibiting them from going to a DIY centre or a centre which specialises in the sale of furnishings or carpets?

Sir Peter Emery

The decision is not easy to make, as the hon. Gentleman will recognise. There is a great demand from people who can garden only at the weekend to be able to go to a garden centre, and, as I understand, there is considerable demand for that to be an exception in the Bill.

I believe that people should be allowed to arrange their lives as they want to. Therefore, there is particular strength to the argument of those who wish to see complete deregulation. I accept that; there is no doubt about it. If there were to be a referendum on the matter, that view would probably carry the day.

I am arguing that there are minorities which deserve to be protected. My amendment tries to provide a balance between two sections of society, and it will be able to cope with the problems which may arise. I was asked when I appeared on television about shops in stately homes. It seems that a noble Lord might well be able to go to church or to stay in bed, but he would not have to look after his shop in the morning.

What are the weaknesses of the alternatives? The weakness of the Keep Sunday Special campaign is that it does not take into account the vast number of people who want to be able to shop on Sunday. That is a real weakness, and I am sorry about it. The people involved in the campaign claim—wrongly, I believe—that they should regulate people's lives. I believe that if people wish to shop on Sunday, they do not expect the law to stop them doing so.

I have outlined the case made by the Church and there cannot be one hon. Member who has not had a host of letters from religious organisations demanding that protection be given so Sunday can be different from other days. The amendments relating to the Keep Sunday Special campaign are nonsense in many areas. First, what about the extent of the regulations on the square footage of shops? Who is to do the measuring? How will it be carried out? Who will check it? What is 280 sq m? Is it 17 by 18 sq yds? That is about the size of the centre of the Chamber.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) mentioned garden centres, but I note that video recordings are to be sold. What about tapes, records and the machines used to play them on? Are they in or out? What about a florist? Can it sell only cut flowers and plants; and what about artificial flowers? In fact, small shops in general are an area of contention.

The Keep Sunday Special regulations are too detailed, and the House should not be attempting to go in for more detail. We need a simple conclusion to this matter.

I come now to total deregulation. I have already said under cross-questioning that the weakness of this option is that it does not pay due regard to the large number of people who have a right to be considered. It does not seem right to me that we should ride roughshod over such people, and my amendment would go a long way to ensuring that that does not happen.

In some ways my amendment attempts to replace the third àlternative. The Shopping Hours Reform Council proposal attempts to bridge the differences between Keep Sunday Special and complete deregulation, but fails to do so. It is not as simple or as sensible as my amendment, for the following reasons.

Which of us wants to load on to local authorities the necessity of keeping a register of everything that goes on? Local government already complains that it is given too much to do by central Government with too little money to do it. I see no point in making local authorities responsible for this additional workload.

Furthermore, who will decide what constitutes the allowed six hours out of eight? Who will check? Who is to know precisely how many hours a shop stays open? To those who favour keeping Sunday special I should point out that my amendment at least keeps it special until 1 pm, whereas the alternative we are discussing would allow opening from 10 am. Some bigger shops would be allowed to open too—but how big?

The great advantage of my amendment is its simplicity and its lack of regulations to be enforced—

Mr. Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford)

I find my right hon. Friend's argument confusing. In attempting to keep Sunday special in the morning he has fallen into the trap of allowing certain elements of trade to go on, which is not so special. Why is it, in his logic, that those who wish to eat cannot buy food, whereas those who wish to read or garden occupy a superior state?

Sir Peter Emery

People who want to eat in a restaurant can do so—the amendment allows for that. I am sorry; if people want to go to a grocer's shop, they will have to wait until 1 pm.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his proposals are more restrictive for newsagents than the provisions in the Shops Act 1950, in that they would prevent them from selling until 1 pm many things that they can legally sell now?

Sir Peter Emery

I had not intended that. If it can be proved to me, we can alter it easily enough in Committee, because it is more a Committee point than a general one —[HON. MEMBERS: "We are in Committee."] Indeed we are, but I meant when we go into Committee upstairs, as opposed to a Committee of the whole House. The Government themselves may want to tighten up certain legal niceties there.

I do not say that my amendment is watertight, but I do say that the principle is right. My proposal will be just as open to amendment in Standing Committee as any other.

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I commend my right hon. Friend's efforts to try to find a way through many of our problems with Sunday trading, but I am anxious to know how, under this amendment, the many corner shops run by people who are not Christians will be monitored. Does he really believe it to be a good thing that such shops will be closed, the more so since they serve the needs of the elderly and others who cannot get to the larger stores at any time?

Sir Peter Emery

I ask my right hon. Friend to come to my constituency, where she would learn that those who most strongly oppose deregulation are the elderly. They are not asking for reform; they want to ensure that at least Sunday morning is kept special, and they would be happy to go along with what I have said.

Mr. Cryer

The right hon. Gentleman has been rather scathing about regulation, but if, as his amendment proposes, mornings are to be kept free, there must be some regulation to ensure that shops do not open on Sunday mornings. Would there not have to be a check on newsagents to ascertain that they sold only newspapers? The right hon. Gentleman is therefore not against every sort of regulation to make sure that Sunday is kept special, at least in part.

Sir Peter Emery

I always enjoy crossing swords with the hon. Gentleman; it is fun. His point is relevant to some degree—but only to a small degree. My amendment provides for fines of £50,000 for those who break the law —that would apply under any of the options, I believe. Mine is no different.

The verdict on all this, sent to many Members of Parliament and giving us the views of Mr. Anthony Scrivener QC, was rather interesting. The legal opinion is that the Keep Sunday Special option in the Bill presents no more difficulty in interpretation or enforcement than many other statutes currently in force". I am disappointed; I was hoping for something more simple than what is in force, given our difficulties with so much of the current law. We want to avoid complication at all costs, and that is exactly what my amendment proceeds to do. It is a common sense approach and an approach that can be understood by everyone. There are no ifs or buts about it. It requires no local government registration and little or no real monitoring—and it discards worries about floor size.

On the subject of floor size, what would happen if a 280 sq ft shop that was trading successfully wanted to expand by adding another 30 sq ft? Would it be outside the regulations then? Does that make sense? Should businesses be prevented from the benefits of expansion? That is clearly nonsense.

4.45 pm

The KSS option is designed to protect the whole day, but I do not believe that that option and that for total deregulation command majority support in the House. In that case, my amendment should attract the support of certain Opposition Members because, of all the alternatives, it offers the best chance of keeping Sunday special until 1 pm rather than until 10 am, as offered in the third alternative.

If hon. Members have any doubts about whether the KSS option will fall, they should, at the outset, go through the Lobby in support of my amendment. That is the best thought that I can offer. If hon. Members wish to save some part of their preferred option they should line up behind me in support of my amendment. Similarly, those in favour of total deregulation will not win, so they should support my amendment, which offers partial deregulation for half of the day.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Would it not be better to turn the argument the other way round? If people want to keep Sunday special in any way, the only proper means of doing so is by voting for the KSS option.

Sir Peter Emery

That argument could be put, but it does not make sense. Under my amendment, hon. Members will get half of what they want rather than none of it. I have a high regard for the hon. Gentleman, but I am afraid that he will not win tonight, so the sooner that he supports my amendment the better for him.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether his idea could be amended in Committee to allow all small shops but no large shops to open in the morning? Such a simple proposal would command a great deal of support.

Sir Peter Emery

There is nothing in my schedule to prevent such an amendment from being made. It would have to be selected by the Chairman and carried by the Committee. I cannot, therefore, give an absolute answer to my hon. Friend except to say that, were I to serve on the Committee, I would listen to the argument and judge whether it was acceptable. The argument may well make good sense.

There is no doubt about the fact that my amendment is a compromise. Compromises are not necessarily disadvantageous and many a time good British compromises have proved to be right. I believe that my amendment represents a fair solution, which meets both points of view. It is a common sense solution and it has a simplicity about it which none of the other amendments offers. I ask the House to support my amendment.

Mr. Pike

I do not intend to support amendment No. 35, but I wish to discuss the other amendments selected in the group. I must make it clear that I will support the Retailers for Shops Act Reform-Keep Sunday Special compromise proposal when we vote. I will not, therefore, spend much of my speech on that of the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery).

My view has changed little since we last debated this issue in 1986. On that occasion, the Government were defeated by 14 votes on the Shops Bill, which originated in the other place.

Today's Bill was given its Second Reading last week and we are now debating the proposed options. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) was right to raise a point of order about the difficulties that many of us face in trying to debate any of the options, because, when deciding whether to allow the Bill to proceed, the overriding factor must be acceptable protection for workers. Given the Government's track record on pay and trade unions, I have grave doubts that they will deliver a Bill with acceptable protection for workers. I shall say no more about that because that matter will be dealt with in the debate on the next group of amendments.

I agreed also with the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who said that if there was any doubt about the protection to be offered to workers, hon. Members who might be minded to go further than the RSAR-KSS option should support that option as the minimum one, because the overriding factor was worker protection.

Mr. Sheerman

I do not intend to criticise my hon. Friend, but I should like to jog his memory. He said that he has not changed his mind much since the 1986 debate, but, at the end of it, we agreed that some change to Sunday trading legislation was necessary. We agreed that do-it-yourself centres, garden centres and small shops should be allowed to open so long as workers were offered adequate protection. I must remind him that our opinion has changed a great deal. The option that we prefer represents real, flexible change that will help the consumer.

Mr. Pike

My hon. Friend is right and that is why I advocate the RSAR-KSS option. I know that my hon. Friend and I have been persuaded by the wisdom of it, but those hon. Members who wish to go beyond that option and who care about worker protection should think carefully about doing so. They should be wary of going further and they should not be conned by the Government. Therefore, although they might not vote for the RSAR-KSS option on the grounds advocated by my hon. Friend and by me, they should do so for slightly different reasons. Given the Government's track record, those hon. Members should provide workers with the safeguard offered by that option.

I was a member of the Committee on the Bill that became the Local Government Act 1988 and the present Home Secretary was the Minister responsible for the legislation. I always recall that when I moved a particular amendment he said that I always wore my GMB union hat. He said that I wanted council workers to be paid double time on a Sunday. Such a comment is fundamental to today's debate because the right hon. and learned Gentleman was opposed to such payments then and he is still opposed to them. That is why we should not support the option advocated by him.

Mr. John Marshall

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, USDAW, has sent a letter to a number of hon. Members, which states: Your support is crucial to ensure the six hour option receives a clear majority support. Does he accept that USDAW and the Transport and General Workers Union support the option advocated by the Shopping Hours Reform Council and not the option that he supports?

Hon. Members

Not true.

Mr. Pike

I will never listen to anyone from the Conservative party who tries to use the trade union movement to influence our view. What the hon. Gentleman has quoted is a load of rubbish. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is in the letter.") I have seen that letter, but I am also aware that particular motion was not carried at USDAW's annual conference. I do not want to fall out with USDAW. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, I do not.

Conservatives often accuse the Labour party of jumping when the trade unions so demand and suggest that we are under their tight control. On a free vote, however, the Labour party is completely at liberty to advocate a particular case, unlike some Conservative Members who have been paid by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, which has spent substantial amounts of money to try to persuade hon. Members how to vote on the issue.

Mr. Fabricant

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I support the Shopping Hours Reform Council. Is it not an absolute slur on certain Conservative Members to say that those who support the Shopping Hours Reform Council have been paid by that organisation, when we have not been? Moreover, if we had been, and we have not, we would have made a statement in the Register of Members' Interests.

The Chairman

Order. That was a helpful point of order and I am quite sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee listened to what the hon. Gentleman said.

5 pm

Mr. Pike

I was not casting any slur but was simply referring to the vast amount that has been spent by that organisation to persuade people which option they should support in the debate. If anybody believes that Sainsbury and Tesco have put money into SHRC for the benefit of their workers or the public, he is kidding himself.

Mr. Donald Anderson

If my hon. Friend wishes to test the credibility of the claim of those large stores to be acting in the public and consumer interest, he should look at the way in which they used legal devices—the planning laws—to attempt to stop the warehouse development in east London. Had they been so interested in consumer protection, perhaps they would have taken a different view. Surely that undermines the credibility of their claim to be acting in favour of the consumer and shows conclusively that they are concerned with their market share and not with the public interest.

Mr. Pike

My hon. Friend makes a valid point, as he always does on these matters. The vast control being gained by a small number of supermarkets in the grocery retail trade in Britain is a growing worry to many of us. Four big supermarket chains are controlling an ever-increasing share of the market. They now tell manufacturers what size products should be and what cuts of meat there should be. They are controlling the market, not in the best interests of the public but because they can make substantial profits.

In the debate to which my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) referred, the point was made that one additional shopping day would not increase the amount of trade. The same financial limitations apply whether we have six or seven shopping days.

The superstores trade successfully because they sell a higher volume of products in relation to the number of staff they employ. Contrary to the claim that superstores create jobs, if one were to analyse the position across the board, it would become clear that superstores lead to job losses. I am sure that, if they were allowed to trade on Sundays, they would not save jobs or create employment and there would be bigger job losses.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Pike

I shall make one point before giving way as it ties in with what my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield said.

One retailer in my constituency, Christopher Redman of T. Redman and Co. Ltd., wrote to me, saying: In asking for your support, I would also ask you to bring your influence to bear in seeking a speedy resolution to this important piece of legislation. We have lived with the nonsense of the 1950 Shops Act for long enough. I believe that there is an overwhelming view that, provided we can get an acceptable solution with worker protection, we should remove the Shops Act from the statute book.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in April, London Economics published a paper stating that there would be a net loss from deregulation of 20,000 jobs? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find that helpful.

Mr. Pike

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making such a valid point.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

The hon. Gentleman referred to the interests of consumers. Does he agree that, if all shops, including food shops, were allowed to open on Sunday, inevitably the cost of living of ordinary families would increase? The extra opening hours on Sunday, with their added wage costs, including overtime, would proportionately be far in excess of the extra trade generated in food and that would increase prices, to the detriment of the standard of living of ordinary families.

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. If workers are to be given proper remuneration for working on Sundays, exactly that will happen. We will avoid that only if shops are not prepared to give workers the payment that they should get for Sunday working.

Before I became a Member, I worked in a glass factory which had to operate seven days a week. I am not totally against the principle of working on Sundays, but that was clearly my choice and I was remunerated very well for working them. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) makes an important point.

I shall now get into the main thrust of the debate and say why I believe that the Keep Sunday Special-RSAR option should be given the approval of the House.

I want to go back to the letter from Mr. Redman which states: Total or partial deregulation would have dire consequences not just for hard working retailers like me, but for our customers, many of whom lack the ability to get to a superstore regularly —and in any case, like popping into their local convenience store. It is part of the fabric of community life". That is a crucial part of the debate. We should not assume that in 1993 everyone in Britain has a motor car and can get to a superstore.

If superstores are allowed to open on Sundays, more public transport will be needed, but, once again, elderly, disabled and sick people will be disadvantaged. They will not be able to take advantage of Sunday opening and more corner stores and grocers' shops will disappear.

So many corner shops have disappeared over the past few years. They are an important part of the fabric of the nation, and we have a duty to ensure that they remain in existence for the sick, the disabled and the elderly.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I am most confused by what the hon. Gentleman said. If fewer people can get to the superstores because they do not have transport, he does not have to worry that superstores will be crammed with people on a Sunday, nor does he have to worry about the small stores. Surely, in any event, the people about whom he is concerned will shop in corner stores.

Mr. Pike

If more trade is attracted to the superstores, there will be less trade for the corner shops. I accept that a large proportion of the people to whom I referred may not use corner shops. However, some of the people who use superstores also use the corner shops at certain times. If they do not do so because they go to a superstore on Sunday, they will make the corner shops vulnerable, some of which will go out of business.

Mr. Marland

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pike

I shall carry on for a while as I am mindful of the time and I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. I shall give way again in a few moments.

I want to make one strong condemnation of large stores such as Sainsbury and Tesco and others that have chosen to break the law to change it. We live in a democratic society and with an elected House of Commons and this place makes the law. It is for those stores to operate within the law. I disagreed with the poll tax, but I never supported the breaking of the law. I believed that the way to change it was through the ballot box. I asked the management of Sainsbury, and others who believe that it is right to break the law, whether it was right to break a law to try to change it, because once one goes down that dangerous path one is on a road to anarchy, which is unacceptable.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does the hon. Gentleman find it remarkable that a quite senior person at Sainsbury wrote to inform those working under him that promotion prospects would definitely depend on their being able to work on Sundays? That was immediatley disowned—I brought the matter up in the House, so it is on the record—by the chairman of Sainsbury when he realised that that chap had let the cat out of the bag.

Exactly the same happened with W. H. Smith. One of its managers at Milton Keynes wrote a similar letter, which, of course, was immediately disowned, but relatively senior people are sending out such letters, showing that they are going to disregard the law. It is only because the cat has been let out of the bag that the top brass are denying it.

Mr. Pile

I thank the hon. Lady for making that point. It is rare that the hon. Lady and I agree on any issue, but on this issue I agree with her 100 per cent.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)


Mr. Pike

I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment.

I referred to pay but I did not refer to the choice that faces workers. The Bill will offer workers no protection. We know that it will affect promotion prospects. Job applicants will be asked whether they are willing to work on Sunday and those who are not will not get jobs.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the fact that the issue of law and order is fundamental to the debate. Does he recall that, on Second Reading, I asked the Home Secretary to make it unequivocally clear that, if the Committee accepted the KSS-RSAR option, he would strictly enforce its decision? I received no reply to that request, but I hope that I shall today. Nor did I receive a reply to the suggestion that, before we vote tonight, Ministers should seek an undertaking from the major lawbreakers that they will abide by any decision of the House of Commons.

Mr. Pike

My right hon. Friend makes a valid point. We all know that the challenge of the superstores and the big trading groups was taken to Europe and to the House of Lords. They knew that what they were doing was illegal under the 1950 Act. They were playing for time, but because they had money, and were able to make more, they were prepared to drag the system along.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd)

I must correct the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary did not reply. My right hon. and learned Friend made it perfectly clear that local authorities would continue to be responsible for enforcing the law, which is one of the KSS-RSAR options. If the right hon. Gentleman and those who support KSS or any of the other options had wanted them enforced in any other way, they would have suggested different options.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

That is the Pontius Pilote stance.

Mr. Pike

The Minister fudges the issue. It confirms what my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said. He repeated what has been said many times when questions have been asked about enforcement—that it is a matter for local authorities. The Government should have given a lead. The Home Secretary should have given a directive that authorities should carry out the law of the land—it would not have been out of order for him to do so.

Mr. Lloyd

I have said from the Dispatch Box many times, as has my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, that all members of the public and all organisations should obey the law, including the law on Sunday trading.

Mr. Pike

The Minister may say that, but the Government did nothing to make it happen. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe is absolutely right when he says that they are unlikely to do so again.

We should be asking Sainsbury, Tesco and others—if the option that they do not want is carried today—whether they will accept the will of the Committee and, ultimately, accept the Bill when it is enacted.

5.15 pm
Mr. Marland

I thought that the objective of the debate was to try to tidy up the law, which local authorities will have to enforce once it has been sorted out. It is precisely because the law is in such a mess that we are having the debate. I wanted the hon. Gentleman to give way earlier because he said that we live in a democratic society and that he is a democrat. I hope that, before the end of his speech, he will say a few words about the millions of people who want to shop on Sunday and, when they have the opportunity of voting with their feet, do so by shopping on a Sunday. It would not be fair if he did not say something about them as well.

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman has confused two issues. He should allow me to make my own speech and make the case that I am trying to make. If he doubts that Sainsbury and Tesco knew that it was illegal for them to sell probably 80 per cent. of the items that they sold under existing legislation, he is kidding himself and misleading the Committee. I know that he is not stupid enough to believe that they did not know what items they could or could not sell.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Surely the core issue is that, with the best will in the world, more often than not local authorities do not have the resources to investigate and, ultimately, to prosecute. It behoves the Home Secretary to ensure that local authorities have the power to enforce the law.

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. So often, the Government put responsibilities on local authorities, such as to administer mandatory grants and so on. We could have a long debate on that, and if we did, you would rule us out of order, Mr. Morris. The Government place responsibility on local authorities but do not give the finance to carry out their responsibilities.

I shall refer to another letter that I have received on breaking the law, not from a constituent but from Rev. Ray Skinner, the rector of the St. Lawrence church in Morden. I do so for sentimental reasons—I was married there 31 years ago to the very day. The final paragraph is relevant to my point. It says: If the big Stores, through their recent wilful breaking of the law can change it to their own advantage, what example is this to previously law-abiding citizens? No law, or lax law may cost less to enforce than good law in the short term, but please do not vote for the god of money. Please, vote for the 'KSSC/RSAR' option. That underlines the point that I am trying to make.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Has the hon. Gentleman received letters from people who are employed on Sunday by the stores to which he referred, saying that they need their earnings to pay the mortgage, because they are students or because of other factors? Does he not think that, despite the fact that one is bound to be concerned about people who are in that position, immoral, indirect presssure has been exerted on Members, and that that pressure should not have been exerted because it has been brought about by illegality?

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman has made a point that I was not going to make in my speech. However, because I wish to deal with the issue honestly, I accept that I have received some letters that made that point. I have also received letters from people who are employed by Sainsbury and by others, which say that the story that they are told by management is very different from the reality. They are under considerable pressure to work on Sundays. If one is fair and balanced about it—

Ms Glenda Jackson

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pike

If my hon. Friend will just let me finish my sentence, I will gladly give way to her, because I know that she has been trying to make a point for some time. I have letters from both groups, a number of which make it clear that people are under considerable pressure.

Ms Jackson

Only today, my office received a telephone call from an under-manager in a retail store, who would give neither his name nor that of his employer. The message that he wished to impart, which is of particular significance as the Committee is debating the issue today, is that he was told by his manager that if he refused to work on Sunday, he could give up any hope of promotion.

Mr. Pike

I thank my hon. Friend for that example. It underlines our fears about what will happen. We all know that those dangers are real and that no Act of Parliament can prevent abuses from taking place. Even if the Government were generously minded on employment protection issues—they are not—it would be impossible for such protection to be enforced.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as he has already given way many times. Is it not interesting that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, including myself, have received letters from the employees of perhaps the two most successful and dynamic retailers—Marks and Spencer and the John Lewis Partnership—saying, thank God, that their organisations have no intention of opening on Sundays?

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman makes another valid point. The case presented by both managers and partners in the John Lewis Partnership is a good one. I think that the workers are in some way involved in the management of John Lewis. Although I do not know the details of that scheme, I know that it is unique.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, even if an incredibly unlikely event were to occur and proper worker protection were written into the Bill, there would be no prospect, if Sunday became a free-for-all as some Conservative Members wish, of protection for the associated workers who would be put under increasing pressure to work on a Sunday?

Mr. Pike

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Clearly, if the SHRC option or total deregulation were to be carried today, there would be pressure on car park attendants, delivery people, bus drivers and others to work.

I appeal to my hon. Friends who have any inclination to vote for deregulation or for the SHRC option to understand that, once we have breached the principle that Sunday is special, people who have to work on Sundays—as I did —will be unlikely in a few years to get double pay. Once Sunday is just an ordinary day, employers will not want to pay anything special for it. Deregulation would be the thin end of the wedge. It would lead to a breaching of an important principle that has applied for a long time.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Pike

I shall not give way for a while now because I have been extremely generous so far.

I want to refer to a few letters from my constituency. P.D. Lees, the general manager of Warburton's, a family baker, has said: There is no doubt that if our customers, the most important of which are the large multiple retailers, were to open seven days they would expect bread deliveries on Sunday. Competition in the industry and the power of these key customers is such that it is very unlikely we would be able to resist. Margins in the industry are so slim that the considerable extra cost in distribution and production which would result would have to be passed on to our customers. In a slightly different way, the hon. Member for Twickenham was making the same point—that the customers will pay for the privilege if we go along with deregulation.

Mr. Fabricant

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman has already intervened once.

I have used the example of bread; as well as baking bread, that firm sells it. If we have deregulation or the SHRC option, not just the corner shops but the character shops that make Burnley different from Blackburn, Blackburn different from Caerphilly and Caerphilly different from Chester will be under attack. They give towns their character. They give a personal service in a personal way, whether in a specialist sausage shop in Clitheroe—I know that a number of people went in there when there was a by-election in that area—or in a shop run by a greengrocer, a baker or a butcher. Specialist shops are under threat. They will gradually disappear from our high streets, with a resulting loss of character, if either of the proposals is accepted.

I have another letter, from the Bishop of Blackburn, Alan Chesters. He says of the Bill: In my view, it effectively removes any safeguards to the character of Sunday. It would also have a severe effect on the well-being of small shops, which provide a vital service to so many, particularly those without a car or too old or frail to venture far for their shopping. Many elderly people, lone parents and people on low incomes are dependent on local shops. During the last thirty years, the number of independent grocery outlets has fallen from 116,000 to 32,800. Many of those which still survive depend upon the custom of those who 'top up' on their main shopping. Such shops are vulnerable and might go if we voted for deregulation.

Marks and Spencer has said that, if the vote goes the wrong way, it will lead to the closure of thousands of small shops, the further decline of the High Street, less consumer choice and higher prices. Those who do not believe that that is true are kidding themselves.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

The hon. Gentleman has quoted Marks and Spencer. Does he know of any plans that it has to close its shops in Scotland?

Mr. Pike

We are not debating Scotland. I accept that Marks and Spencer has recently opened a couple of shops there. I am not speaking on behalf of Marks and Spencer. I am telling the Committee the good reasons why the company is against the principle of the extension of Sunday opening in England.

Mr. Sheerman

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to help him. It is well known that Marks and Spencer does not wish to trade on Sunday in Scotland. It has been forced, although it does not want to be forced, by market share—

The Chairman

Order. The Bill does not relate to Scotland.

Mr. Pike

You underline the point that I was making, Mr. Morris. We are not dealing with Scotland.

Marks and Spencer has made the point clearly that, if we accept deregulation or the SHRC option, small shops and specialist shops will not survive. For example, the National Association of Health Stores has sent a letter to all hon. Members, saying: Free for all Sunday trading would place a further burden on these individuals. Many would not survive and the very special services they provide to the community would be lost. That again underlines the case that the specialist shops will disappear. I have here a letter from Timpson Shoe Repairs Ltd., saying: Within five years, cobblers will start to disappear. In 10 years, half of them will be gone—forever—but will it be for the better? Kwik Save has three stores in my constituency. Graeme Bowler, the managing director, says: My very recent experience of retailing in Australia confirms that the combination of large new out-of-town retail developments and a move to deregulate trading has a devastating effect on high street, village communities and the many small traders whose livelihoods depend on them. Iceland has said: Be under no illusion. Schedule 4 of the Sunday Trading Bill 'Rights of Shop Workers' offers absolutely no protection. That is right. Workers will suffer and consumers will pay the price for deregulation. If we do not go for the KSS-RSAR option, we shall make a sad mistake and the people of this country will blame us for years to come.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I wish the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) a happy wedding anniversary. The church in which he was married 31 years ago is in my constituency and is especially beautiful. I am sure that he has many fond memories of that day, and may he see another 31 years of happy marriage.

I listened carefully to what has been said on amendment No. 35 moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). I wanted to support it because if anyone could come through the debate and suggest a solution that was both workable and answered all the various questions that have arisen, I was willing to listen. Like many right hon. and hon. Members, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the issues that surround Sunday trading.

I have said on a number of occasions that the most important task that faces the House is to ensure that we pass a law that is enforceable. The present situation is nonsensical. Most right hon. and hon. Members feel extremely uncomfortable with the fact that people are unable to work the existing law and instead are breaking it. None of us wishes to see that continue.

I must declare immediately that the most sensible decision would be in favour of total deregulation. I know that a number of hon. Members will take a different view. I am perfectly willing to listen to their arguments and perfectly willing to accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House will not be able to bring themselves to vote for total deregulation. I ask them only to listen to the points that I wish to make.

If we wish to have a law that is easily enforceable, we should pass a law that does not contain any regulation, under which people can act on their own behalf and make decisions whether to open their shops. There would then be no need to worry who enforces it, whether the Government or the local authorities. Retailers would simply assess demand and ask themselves, in view of that demand, whether they wanted to open on some Sundays, every Sunday or not open on any Sunday.

5.30 pm
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

How does the right hon. Lady see her option of deregulation fitting in with the enforcement of proposals for employment protection and the protection of those workers who will be working on Sundays?

Dame Angela Rumbold

The hon. Lady will be able to debate that issue more closely later. I am comfortable with the way in which the Bill currently stands for the protection of people who may or may not wish to work on Sundays. That issue seems to be set out clearly and does not present a problem to me; the notion that causes problems is the idea that we should in some way have to set out in great detail exactly who may shop on Sundays, where they may shop, what they may buy and into what type of store they may go. It is for that principal reason that the House should consider the possibility of total deregulation to make a clear and understandable law.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument, no restriction on what people can or cannot buy is implied in any of the options before the Committee. It is a type of shops approach, not a type of goods, approach.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I wish that that were so. Unfortunately, after carefully reading the schedules it seems to me that there are a number of restrictions on what people can buy because the schedules say what can or cannot be sold.

Mr. Couchman

May I rebut the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff)? One category of shops that would not be allowed to open is antique shops. Browsing around antique shops is a classic leisure time activity and people will not buy antiques at motorway service stations or in tobacconists. People will not be able to buy antiques on Sunday, so my hon. Friend is quite wrong.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification.

Mr. Sheerman


Dame Angela Rumbold

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman later, but first I wish to make a little progress.

A great deal has been made of the issue that Sunday is a special day of the week. It is no secret to hon. Members who have listened to previous debates that I do not like shopping at all and that little would persuade me to go shopping on a Sunday. Having said that, I know how I can choose to make my Sunday a different day and I do not see that it is my job as a legislator or as an individual to say that nobody else may shop on a Sunday. If people want Sunday to be a special day—many of us want to choose how we spend days at weekends, although a large number of people work—many of us would choose according to the needs and wishes of our families. Parliament should allow people the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.

Why do we as legislators have not only to tell people whether they can open shops on Sundays, where they can shop and what they can buy, but to tell them that they are not allowed to buy certain items on Sundays? It seems an extraordinary business. It is almost like sitting on a local authority planning committee and then on the development control committee and starting to think about whether people can put their dustbins behind or in front of the back door. I thought that as legislators we had grown a little more than that in this great Parliament. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will think about that issue a little more.

Mr. Marland

We have heard a lot about added costs if shops open on Sundays or have restricted Sunday opening. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the difficulty with cost will be due to the policing and patrolling of those shops, big or small, to determine whether they are selling goods that are not allowed? Would not that cost the taxpayer and the shopper a great deal of money compared with total deregulation, which will not cost anything?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I want to come on to that issue as my third point. I was especially concerned at Opposition Members saying that they felt that the Government and not local authorities should police whatever system the Committee chooses. As a democrat, I am perfectly prepared to accept the will of the Committee, whichever way hon. Members vote. I want to see that carried to its logical conclusion and I most certainly want to see it vigorously enforced.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Anyone who reads the Second Reading debate in Hansard will see that the Opposition challenged the Government on the issue that they should not and must not stand aside if a decision of the House is trampled on by people whose motive is to steal their market share from law-abiding retailers. The right hon. Lady says that she does not want to instruct other people. She sent a letter to all Members of Parliament saying: Option 1: Total Deregulation—Yes. Option 2: Regulation/ Restriction (KSSC/RSAR)—No. Option 3: Partial Deregulation (SHRC)—Yes She has been telling hon. Members to do that in the debate. I hope that they will make up their own minds.

Dame Angela Rumbold

All of us would accept that when one is sometimes asked for guidance, one is entitled to give that guidance and that people are willing to accept it. It is entirely up to hon. Members to make up their own minds. I simply tell them the answer to the question asked. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman should object to that. His argument about local authorities is fallacious. If Parliament decides to opt for one of the options requiring policing by local authorities, we must recognise that those authorities are the vehicle through which that policing will be done. That is perfectly right and proper. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is the way in which many laws at local level are enforced. I think that the majority of hon. Members would understand and accept that.

Mr. Sheerman

The right hon. Lady is misleading the Committee through her interpretation of the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). What he said on Second Reading and what we have said earlier today was not that we want central Government to be in charge; of course, regulation should work through local authorities. We want it made clear—and we wanted it made clear when she was a Minister—that it is as wrong for the rich fat cats such as Sainsbury, Tesco and Argyll to break the law democratically as it is for a youngster to burgle a house or steal a car. Whatever the circumstances, the law should be honoured. Ministers have not stood up and said that the law must be obeyed, whoever administers it.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I believe that it is wrong for people to break the law—it is wrong for the large stores and the very small stores to break the law. As I acknowledged when I was a Minister, small stores have been breaking the law. All those which have been opening on Sundays have been breaking the Shops Act 1950. Many stores have also been breaking it in terms of the products that they have been selling. That was the case under the Labour Government, right up until now. That is undeniable. We should have a law that is enforceable, which is why we are holding this debate today. It is interesting to see how difficult it is to get hon. Members to agree.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the issues to be considered is the cost of goods sold by the various shops? Is she aware that, in my constituency, one can buy a bundle of branded groceries for £13.74 at Food Giant, a shop that the Keep Sunday Special campaign would close, but that at 7-Eleven, which the campaign would allow to remain open, the same bundle of goods costs £18.35? Why should my constituents be deprived of the right to buy cheap milk, bread and other goods in order to keep some hon. Members happy?

Dame Angela Rumbold

My hon. Friend makes a sensible point. My solution would resolve the problem. I suspect that if there were total deregulation such matters would come to a natural conclusion.

I am deeply disturbed by some of the impositions that we would place on local authorities if we opt for one of the regulatory options. It is true that local authorities have been under considerable pressure for a number of years to manage their affairs effectively. It is interesting to note that, while a number have tried to enforce the 1950 Act, others have merely said that it has been impossible for them to police the Act efficiently. My concern is that a restrictive option such as the KSS-RSAR option would place an even greater burden on local authorities as they would have to employ more people to police the Act. There would be armies of people rushing around the streets trying to ensure that shops were not selling what they should not be selling. It would therefore cost a fortune merely to ensure that the legislation was being observed, and it would not be too long before the House was again forced to consider a law that it had become almost impossible for local authorities to monitor.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Surely, the essence of local authorities' objection is that, if they seek to enforce the Act not against individual stores but against the major retailers which are together seeking to defy the law, they put so much of their council tax payers' money at risk. For example, is the right hon. Lady awere that if Kirklees council had lost its case against Wickes in the House of Lords, perhaps on a technicality, it would have risked in excess of £250,000 of its own money? No local authority would dare to risk such a large proportion of its resources. The Government were opting out of enforcement but, had the Attorney-General so wished, they could have stepped into the place of the local authorities. While the right hon. Lady was at the Home Office, she did precisely nothing to help.

Dame Angela Rumbold

The hon. Gentleman has made my case for me about the law as it stands, showing the difficulties that there have been in enforcing it. I hope that he will now help us. To a certain extent, the debate is about how we can reduce the burden on local authorities. We are asking hon. Members not to make life more difficult for them or put them into a similar position to that of Kirklees council.

5.45 pm
Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

My right hon. Friend is using two arguments. She says that she wants no regulation on Sunday trading, but she then says that it is difficult to enforce regulation in any case. We should at least be honest in this debate. Is it her true position that, even if the regulations were quite straightforward to enforce, she would not want them enforced because she believes in total deregulation? Is she merely using that idea to buttress her argument without believing in it at all?

Dame Angela Rumbold

That distorts what I said and, if I may say so, it is a rather disgraceful remark. I have made it absolutely plain that if the House favours one of the most restrictive options, I should be one of the first to ask that there should be solid and strict enforcement of it through the local authorities. I very much resent the implication that I was asking the House to break the law —I most certainly am not.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Further to the issue of costs to local authorities, if there is to be deregulation, and if the market giants take over not only their own share but everyone else's, surely there will be a denuding not only of the small corner shop but of town centres. That would have a deleterious knock-on effect on local authorities, not least in terms of what they can raise in rates. It has already happened in parts of central London. There is a concomitant to turning central shopping areas in the inner cities into deserts: they also become crime ridden, which has further enormous knock-on effects.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I understand the hon. Lady's point, but I do not agree with her. There has not been a massive restriction on small shops as a result of what has happened in the past three to four years. Part of the reason for town centres being denuded is not Sunday trading but planning legislation which has encouraged the large stores to move out of town. The notion of encouraging large stores to move out of town is as much a cause of small shops having problems in town centres as is pedestrianisation, which is a monstrous idea.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Like me, the right hon. Lady is a patron of the National Organisation of Asian Businesses. Earlier this year, she co-sponsored with me a reception in the Members' Dining Room, which was attended by the Prime Minister. She made a speech supporting the Asian business community. In relation to what my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) said, a sizeable proportion of inner-city shops are owned by members of the Asian community. Has the right hon. Lady considered the effect of her proposals on Asian small shopkeepers? Can she continue as a patron of that organisation, knowing that her solution would devastate many small Asian businesses?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. If I did, it would clearly be very difficult for me to sustain my patronage of that organisation. Asian business men have prospered and many have opened shops recently. They are doing extremely well, and nothing in my proposal would damage their prospects.

I am aware that many hon. Members want to participate in the debate and that it is unfair for one speaker to take up too much time, so I will quickly move on.

It is important that someone mentions the issue of employment on behalf of those people who wish to work on a Sunday. Currently, some 140,000 people work in shops on Sundays, about a third of whom work only on Sundays and not during the rest of the week. They are, in the main, women. They choose to work on a Sunday because it is the one day on which they can leave their children and families safely with their partner. In that way they contribute to the finances of the family and are able to buy little luxuries—or simply contribute towards a decent standard of living. I do not see that it is any part of my job as a legislator to prevent them from taking such jobs.

Under the more restrictive option, a number of those women would be deprived of the opportunity to work on a Sunday. Hon. Members should think carefully about that as a substantial number of women and families will not thank them if they do not consider that issue before voting today.

Mr. Lord

As an ex-Home Office Minister, has my right hon. Friend seen the report by a firm called London Economics, commissioned by the Home Office and published in April this year, which shows that not just part-time employment but the whole jobs scene would lose 20,000 jobs if we had total deregulation?

Dame Angela Rumbold

If we go for a very restrictive option, we shall lose considerably more than 20,000 jobs. That might not make a difference to those who do not wish to see or understand the difficulties that some women have. Those women are working to keep their families together and to ensure that their children have the same things as other children in school, but they can do so only on a Saturday or a Sunday. It is my duty to bring that issue before the House.

We have entirely ignored the views of the shoppers. We shall not be able to explain to those people who currently shop on a Sunday why in future some garden centres will be unable to open on a Sunday, and why those that are open will be able to sell only certain goods. It will not be easy to explain to the people who come into our advice bureaux why some do-it-yourself stores that have been selling goods for a long time will have to close, or why, if they are open, they will not be able to sell certain products on a Sunday. I can imagine the kind of complaints that this will bring in our postbags, and the irritation that it will cause.

Those are some of the points that I ask my hon. Friends and also the Opposition to consider before casting their votes today. It is extremely important to remember that a number of people have approached us, written to us and put to us all the points raised this afternoon and this evening. We have to weigh up those judgments and make a decision on behalf of our constituents. It is a burdensome but very important decision that we as individuals must make. We must choose with extreme care, not believing only those people who have written to us but judging for ourselves what our other constituents will say.

Sir Peter Emery

I have listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend has said. There is great strength in her argument and I understand it. If she does not succed in her argument, will she not throw her strength behind my amendment?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I have listened to my right hon. Friend's argument with great interest and weighed it up very carefully, as I will the arguments of other hon. Members. My right hon. Friend knows that I am hoping that my proposal for total deregulation will win the day.

Mr. Ray Powell

Let me follow the speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) with a few remarks concerning her activities on the contentious issue of Sunday trading.

The right hon. Lady served on the Committee that considered a Bill that I promoted earlier this year, and she tabled some 122 amendments. She participated in a debate on Friday 14 May, and on that occasion she tabled a further 99 amendments. Having been afforded every opportunity in Committee to make whatever amendments she wanted, she tabled 99 amendments and 13 new clauses.

I was fortunate that my Bill was the third Bill drawn out in the ballot immediately after the election. In a free vote on a Friday, the Bill had a majority of 214 and went to Committee. The right hon. lady made a special request to serve on the Committee and, because of her activities and her interest—and because I thought that she had learnt a lot in the Home Office as the Minister responsible for shops —I thought that she would make a good contribution to the debate in Committee, and I agreed that she should be appointed.

Dame Angela Rumbold

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Powell

I have not reached the point yet.

Every hon. Member is responsible for his own actions. If I had served for four years in the Home Office as a Minister with responsibility for shops, and if during that time I had not lifted a finger to try to introduce legislation to alter the Shops Act 1950, I would not have the gall to come to the House and spend 25 minutes criticising the suggestions of the Shopping Hours Reform Council—or even criticising the Keep Sunday Special or the Retailers for Shops Act Reform options. It is galling that the right hon. Lady should do that having not introduced, or made any attempt to introduce, any legislation while she was at the Home Office.

Before the right hon. Lady intervenes, I would like her to explain the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) made about a letter that was sent to me. I do not know how it arrived in my mail, but it did. We should be accurate in any correspondence that we circulate to other hon. Members. If, as the right hon. Lady suggests, she is going to have an advice centre in the Lobby tonight, will she make sure that the advice she gives is correct? In the letter she asks hon. Members whether they are going to participate in the vote on Wednesday, and concludes by saying in the last paragraph: Please be in the House on Thursday.

We have a responsibility to ensure that when we circulate letters to hon. Members on an issue such as Sunday trading our advice is correct, so that when hon. Members go into the Lobby we retain some credibility for knowing how we will direct them in the vote.

I have a mischievous mind. Will the right hon. Lady tell me whether she has been asked by the Government to do a whipping job in the Lobby tonight because of her experience as a Minister in the Home Office and her role in the Conservative party as a chairman? It is a free vote, and no Whips are supposed to be employed in the Lobby tonight.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way; it is most kind of him. I was a little surprised to learn that it was the hon. Gentleman who had appointed me to sit on the Committee dealing with his private Member's Bill. I had suspected that the Selection Committee was responsible, but I may be entirely wrong.

A number of the amendments that were tabled at that time were either accepted before the time came to discuss them, or accepted with slight alterations. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that that is the case?

6 pm

Mr. Powell

I serve on the Selection Committee, but I also promoted the Bill. Because of the majority that the Bill received in the House on the Friday when it was first debated, only four hon. Members who were opposed to it were allowed on to the Standing Committee. I received a number of requests from hon. Members who opposed the Bill: indeed, one Conservative Member—he is now sitting only three seats away from the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden—complained bitterly about his exclusion. Having explained that, I should like to hear an explanation in regard to the letter, which was plainly circulated with the primary aim of confusing people.

I myself have no wish to confuse the Committee further, but I hope that the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) will explain why amendment No. 35 arrived on the agenda in his name at such a late stage. If he had arranged to be paired tonight, he would be in Russia. It is passing strange, as Enoch Powell would say, that an amendment should be tabled on the eve of a debate to ensure that everyone is confused about the voting.

All the groups involved have circulated letters among their supporters, suggesting that they vote for one of the three options. Overnight, however—no doubt following advice from the learned Clerks—a new amendment has been conjured up. The night before last, no one had seen it. Did the Government promote that amendment in order to confuse the issue even further? Organisations such as Keep Sunday Special and RSAR decided to present a combined option to help the Committee to make its decision respectfully and properly. That limited the number of options to three.

Sir Peter Emery

I strongly object to the hon. Gentleman's implication. First, he is incorrect: the amendment was tabled, in my name, the moment after Second Reading. It was not a new amendment. If the hon. Gentleman had been present when I began my speech, he would have heard me say that. I explained then why amendment No. 1 had become amendment No. 35: it was tabled before the Government had tabled their amendment to alter the way in which the Bill would operate. Following the alteration brought about by the Government's amendments, I had to redraft my own amendment.

I thoroughly object to the suggestion that I should have been elsewhere. I am meant to be leading a delegation to the Parliament of the Confederation of Independent States in Gorky at this very moment, observing the Russian elections, but I felt that my duties to the House came first. I shall leave on the first plane tomorrow, but now I am here to do what I believe is right—not sponsored by the Government, or by anyone but myself. My constituents know my views, and could tell the hon. Gentleman that I have held them for many years. Perhaps he will withdraw his implication.

Mr. Powell

I made no allegations. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I might not have been present for his speech, but I have been present since the beginning of the debate: if anyone should withdraw an allegation, it is the right hon. Gentleman. I know that I am short, and on occasion it may be necessary for me to stand on my seat to catch the Speaker's eye; however, I am not so short that Conservative Members sitting below the Gangway cannot see me when I am in the Chamber.

As other hon. Members have spoken for as long as 35 minutes, I had better proceed with my speech. Undoubtedly, most hon. Members are now suffering from "Sunday trading fatigue", and we hope that after tonight's vote the deluge of mail from a wide range of interest groups will cease. I believe, however, that no hon. Member should be in any doubt about the issues involved, and it behoves me to spell them out. They are embodied on page 9 of the Government's document on Sunday trading, which explains the Keep Sunday Special campaign option. The campaign agrees that the Shops Act 1950 is out of date and contains too many anomalies, arguing that there is a strong case in favour of an improved regulatory scheme. There are at least three arguments which point towards limiting shops opening on Sundays". The first is To guarantee a common day off for the family and community activities, including church worship. The second is To ensure rhythm in people's lives, balancing work and recreation. The third is To protect vulnerable sections of the retail workforce and those employed in ancillary services from pressure to work unusual hours. As we all know, those are the arrangements advocated by Keep Sunday Special under the REST—"recreation, emergencies, social gatherings and travel"—proposals, and they appeared in my Bill in the spring.

I am proud of the arduous and industrious campaign that Keep Sunday Special has waged throughout the year, after waiting since 1986 to promote a reasonable and effective measure in place of the 1950 Act. I am also proud of my loyal and trustworthy friends in the organisation, who helped me tremendously in my endeavours to promote my Bill. I am grateful for the support of the many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who served so well on the Standing Committee. Despite certain pressures from many quarters, they have remained convinced of their cause, and have continued to advocate their principles relentlessly. They did so not for profit, personal gain or exploitation but out of sheer and sincere conviction and neighbourliness. With the help of thousands outside the House and of many in the House, and with the help of prayers from religious organisations, I feel confident that the Keep Sunday Special-RSAR option will be rewarded tonight with a tremendous victory.

The main argument against seven-day trading is that the additional costs of servicing the community at the existing level would increase the price of goods to the public, which would be inflationary. Also, increased police, health and safety inspectorate and transport cover would make additional demands on Government expenditure. What causes most dismay and alarm, however, is the devastating, octopus-like, outreaching effect that seven-day trading would have on crime and the enormously increased cost of that to the community.

Law and order become effective when individuals act responsibly and with integrity, and are not dominated by self-interest and expediency. Promoting those qualities is one of the tasks of the churches. While many question the effectiveness of the chuches, it would be fatal to underestimate the value of their work—which is inseparable from law and order. While the former is a seven-day operation, on Sunday special emphasis is placed on promoting ideals. Making Sunday just another day would greatly hamper the effectiveness of the churches' work.

Any of the deregulation options would have that effect, because in most large cities—and this touches on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz)—85 per cent. of retail businesses are owned and run by Asians. Twenty-five per cent. of their profits come from Sunday turnover. They work long hours and provide a valuable service to the community. If total deregulation or the SHRC option is implemented, the majority of Asian shop owners will be forced out of business, with disastrous social consequences for themselves and for their customers. The elderly, infirm, those without transport, and those without the money to bulk-buy weekly would be disadvantaged. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that this is a battle for their survival.

Small stores are already under pressure from the recession, fluctuating interest rates, and competition from superstores and hypermarkets. In the past 30 years, the number of small, neighbourhood stores has fallen from 145,000 in 1950 to 36,000 today. If total or partial deregulation were to occur, corner stores all over Britain would disappear and vandalism would raise its ugly head, bringing increased crime. Our inner cities would resemble the downtown areas of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is a worrying prospect.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)

My constituency has several small stores in a thriving inner city. I believe that it is the fourth most profitable shopping centre in Britain. However, small companies are experiencing difficulties. One business man contacted me recently to say that his three small butcher shops in the city lost 20 per cent. of their business after large stores started opening illegally two years ago. He fears that, unless Parliament enacts legislation to protect small firms, he will have to close his business.

Mr. Powell

My hon. Friend's constituency contains the largest number of shops of any constituency in the whole of Wales. He knows from his connections with the Co-operative movement of the problems faced by small grocers who provide a community service. If we are not careful about how we vote tonight, they will be lost.

6.15 pm
Mr. Sheerman

There were a couple of gasps when my hon. Friend cited American examples. As I have recent experience of the situation in the United States, I can tell the Committee that 800 towns and cities there have a gang warfare structure. American experts say that the power of big, efficient retailing has wiped out inner-city retailers and brought crime to those districts. That is already happening in my constituency. A Sainsbury store opened there only one year ago and already 18 charity shops and the market are struggling. My hon. Friend's point about America was absolutely correct.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I do not address this remark only to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), but if there are any more interventions of that length, many hon. Members who hope to catch the eye of the Chair will not be successful.

Mr. Powell

I appreciate that my hon. Friend made a lengthy intervention, but it was important to the debate. Senators from all over America on visits to the House have told me, "Whatever you do, keep Sunday special. We have lost it in America, and would love to return to the days when we could enjoy the tranquillity of Sunday."

Mr. John Marshall

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is much more church-going in the United States than in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Powell

We have suffered a crime-ridden society since 1979, but there is much more crime in America than in this country.

Once Sunday shopping is deregulated to any extent, it will be irreversible and the damage will have been done. Small shops and stores will close for ever, and we shall become used to Sunday being just another day. Family life will suffer, supermarkets will increase their domination of the food trade, workers will have even more fragmented leisure time and a Sunday off will be only a memory for retail workers.

I am convinced that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee are not prepared to let the Government or anyone else kill off our tranquil Sunday with total deregulation. I am equally confident that the Committee will oppose deregulators whose goal is to reward those firms that have blatantly and relentlessly broken the law to achieve a monopoly of the retail trade on not only Sundays but all 365 days of the year. The Shopping Hours Reform Council option is not a compromise; it is the wolf of deregulation in a cynical sheep's clothing.

I received a letter from Unison, which now has 1.25 million members. I understand that the letter has been circulated to all hon. Members. It refers to a contentious issue that has yet to be resolved—the question of employment protection. I realise that we will have a debate shortly on the whole issue of employment protection. However, the issue is of grave concern to those who want to make decisions tonight. Some hon. Members must go into one Lobby or another not knowing whether they will do so because they support a principle argument that I have explained to the Committee or on the basis of whether people who will be employed on a Sunday will have certain protection.

I hope that hon. Members will forgive me for reading an excerpt from the letter from the general secretary of Unison, Alan Jinkinson, which was sent to us on 6 December. I quote: there is confusion surrounding the proposals in the Sunday Trading Bill and in particular the issue of employment protection … the Bill now contains a measure of 'protection' for current and future shop workers in terms of non compulsory working on Sundays. However, our legal advice is that the provisions in the Bill will be more or less unworkable and ineffective. The clauses on employees being able to opt in or out of Sunday working are complicated and are likely to cause serious confusion. More importantly, unscrupulous employers will be able to exploit the weaknesses in the legislation and use a range of excuses to get around the rights of individuals not to work on Sunday. The Government's proposals for employment protection in the Bill are therefore illusory. The Bill also does not contain any provision concerning double time payments for Sunday working. Premium payments are an important compensation for those who have to work on Sundays and the neglect of any reference to payment in the Bill is an important omission. I read that part of the letter because there might be some confusion regarding my association with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers as one of its sponsored Members, and because of its recent decision to support not Keep Sunday Special but some other organisation. Let me make it abundantly clear that the executive council of USDAW took the decision, not the collective membership. Having explained that, I must emphasise that USDAW still supports employment protection and double time for all workers on a Sunday.

Earlier this year, employment protection was included in my Bill, together with the request for double-time payments. I am glad that the Committee which dealt with my Bill agreed in principle to employment protection and double-time payments being embodied in my Bill.

Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

I ask my hon. Friend to acknowledge that an amendment relating to double-time payments has been tabled. The weaknesses in the employment protection scheme that exists in Britain as a whole, to which my hon. Friend alluded, were known to hon. Members and, indeed, were known to him at the time that he drafted the employment protection provisions for his private Member's Bill. Does he acknowledge that, on the face of the Bill, employment protection—whether it is weak or strong, or however one might define it—will apply to all the options in the Bill? It is clear that if there are weaknesses, they apply equally to all the options.

Mr. Powell

My hon. Friend makes a good contribution. Mr. Lofthouse, I hope that you are watching the clock and will give me injury time because of the length of interventions.

On Second Reading, I referred to an employee of Woolworths who was told that, if he was not prepared to sign an agreement to work on a Sunday, obviously he would lose his job. The personnel director of Woolworths Mr. Leo McKee, sent me a haughty letter saying: the Terms and Conditions you cited would seem to refer to a booklet that was withdrawn by Woolworths over a year ago and is now obsolete". I have not yet replied to the letter, which is dated 3 December. If some hon. Members have a copy of the letter, I can assure them that the document to which I was referring was a contract compiled by Woolworths which the worker was asked to sign by a date in late November. It was not a booklet of terms and conditions; it was a contract that the man was asked to sign.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) raised the question of employment contracts. If we have total deregulation or partial deregulation without ensuring that we have real employment protection and double time for workers, we will be selling poorly paid workers in the retail industry throughout the country down the river.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that the more shops are open on Sunday, the less opportunity there will be for workers who do not want to work on Sunday to seek jobs in other companies and therefore the more pressure there will be on them?

Mr. Powell

I agree with my hon. Friend. I wish her sincere best wishes in her quest to become the president of USDAW once again. I hope that the members of USDAW will support her in that quest.

I am grateful that the Chair afforded me an opportunity to speak last week and has done so again this week. I am aware of the pressure to call as many hon. Members as possible in such an emotive debate. Therefore, I shall conclude my remarks by appealing to hon. Members once again.

Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North)

As my hon. Friend concludes his short speech on this issue, perhaps he would like to comment on what happened when betting shops were deregulated with regard to employment protection in that sector.

Mr. Powell

Mr. Lofthouse, I am sure that if my hon. Friend catches your eye, you will give him an opportunity to raise that matter. But I see that you are checking the clock.

I appeal to all hon. Members once again: let our communities, our children and our grandchildren enjoy what we have been fortunate to enjoy—the tranquillity and comfort of one day in the week that is special. Let us treasure our Sunday for as long as we can. I ask hon. Members to vote for the Keep Sunday Special and RSAR proposals tonight.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) concluded his speech with some important references, and he drew the intervention of his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), the Front Bench spokesman on that issue, in connection with employment protection. I should just remind the House of what Anthony Scrivener QC said in his opinion, commissioned by the John Lewis Partnership in this connection, in relation to the amendments which the Government have brought forward on employment protection: There is no problem in dealing with a situation where an employee is openly dismissed for refusing to work on Sundays but that is not how it is likely to happen. That reason will not be stated openly and an employee will know that various excuses can be given for dismissal which may not be the real one. The appreciation of this fact alone puts the employee at risk to pressure and there is nothing that can be done by way of wording which can remove this apprehension. Nothing that can be done by way of wording? There is something which can be done to support and protect the employee, and that is to make and to keep Sunday special.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Does my right hon. Friend know that there are already contracts circulating? I have one in my hands now, which says: If it is decided that your branch will trade on a Sunday or a bank holiday you may be asked to work on these days. Your employment is subject to your full agreement on this condition… That is a firm called Contessa in Wolverhampton. It is similar to the Smith's contract. Such contracts are being circulated all over the country.

Mr. Alison

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supporting me. I make the point, which I believe is relevant and of significance to us all, whichever side of the argument we are on already, that there will be no serious employment protection in the future other than by keeping Sunday special and having a regulatory framework of shopowners.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)


6.30 pm
Mr. Alison

I have noted that the First Deputy Chairman wants us to make shorter speeches. I will give way to my hon. Friend a little later, but I want to make progress. I want to strike a note of harmony with my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold)—

Mr. Paice

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Alison

I am sorry, I cannot give way.

I fear possibly drawing or crossing swords with my very real right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). My right hon. Friend is distinguished by being a colleague of courage and of discretion. One has to have both courage and discretion to be Chairman of our parliamentary Procedure Committee. I fear that on this occasion, in bringing forward another option for Sunday reform, my right hon. Friend has shown that he is exceedingly courageous but a little less prominent in discretion because he has managed somehow, by introducing What he calls a simple solution, to introduce a final solution. He has produced a final solution which effectively buries in the same grave the sponsors of the Shopping Hours Reform Council and those who support Keep Sunday Special.

Let me illustrate that by drawing attention to what happens to DIYs, the great vogue theme in all Sunday opening. This is what happens to DIYs under the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton. Everyone knows that one needs to have DIYs open on Sunday mornings because if one is going to do any DIY one does it after one has been to the shop and bought the goods. DIY is something that one does in the afternoon. Miraculously, my right hon. Friend, courageous but lacking in discretion, has brought forward a proposal for DIY that manages to close them in the morning, which is exactly when we want them open.

Sir Peter Emery


Mr. Alison

I will just complete this. Even more miraculously, at the same time, not only did he manage to frustrate the shopowners by making certain that DIY stores are shut in the morning, but he then managed to totally frustrate the owners of DIY stores by letting them open only in the afternoon. There is no business for them in the afternoon. They have lost all the trade. They do not want to open on half a day. My right hon. Friend has miraculously, therefore, outraged those people who want to use DIY shops and those who want to sell goods to the consumers of DIYs.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden and I would unite and say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton has got it precisely wrong. The theme of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton is a good one; it is to try to keep Sunday special. When he is convinced that his option is not acceptable from either side of the great debate, I hope that he will at least vote for the Keep Sunday Special option.

Sir Peter Emery

It is always possible for people to make errors and it would be quite possible in Committee for the DIYs to be added. If that is done, will my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) support my amendment? If that is the only thing wrong with it, I am delighted to give way to him.

Mr. Alison

I would recommend that, as my right hon. Friend is so keen to modify and improve options in Committee, he takes a ride on the Keep Sunday Special slogan, where he will find plenty of opportunities in Committee to introduce a variation on his own special theme, namely, that DIY shops should shut in the afternoon but open in the morning. We can then have a debate on a total Honiton reverse option, which is best done when we come to consider in Committee upstairs the Keep Sunday Special procedures because I think that my hon. and right hon. Friends and colleagues in all parts of the Committee are now getting a bellyful of the various options before us.

I shall summarise the Keep Sunday Special approach by saying that I believe that it is a positive Sunday shop-opening framework; it is not a Sunday shop-closing framework. I emphasise that it does something helpful for shoppers and at the same time it does something helpful for Sunday.

Mr. Couchman


Mr. Alison

I will give way to my hon. Friend if I can get on a little bit. My hon. Friend, incidentally, has a bee in his bonnet about antique shops. Antiques, under the Keep Sunday Special proposals, will be saleable—antiques will be saleable in DIYs. [Interruption.] My right hon. and hon. Friends mentioned that they had not studied the scope. I am glad to have the opportunity to make the point.

Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Alison

Let me complete what I am trying to say on the subject.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton and other honourable colleagues have not appreciated the flexibility of the framework in the Keep Sunday Special proposals, which uses the phrase "wholly or mainly". If the smaller kind of DIY shops choose, because they think that there is a market for antiques, one will be able to buy antiques in a DIY shop. [Interruption.]

The Chairman


Mr. Alison

Hon. Members do not appreciate the extent to which there is genuine flexibility in the Keep Sunday Special proposals.

Mr. Paice

Is it not the case that the REST proposals, on which the KSS-RSAR proposals are founded, have been around for four or five years? They have been through the course with the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). Is it not a bit late to start talking about amending the proposal in Committee and changing this and changing that? Surely by now it should have been perfect. Has not the proposal gone so far from keeping Sunday special that it has lost any intellectual integrity and is a complete and utter mishmash?

Mr. Alison

As my hon. Friend would expect, I totally disagree with his analysis. Since the original Bill that was introduced by my right hon. Friend Baroness Thatcher was thrown out, it has been possible to bring those proposals forward only through the vehicle of private Members' legislation. We know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden suddenly found it desirable to introduce 99 amendments the last time that we had an attempt to legislate in private Members' time. So the integrity has not yet been properly tested. It is about to be tested tonight, and I am convinced that the general view of thè Committee will overwhelmingly favour the framework of law that gives great scope for opening shops, but still reflects the fact that most people want to keep Sunday as a special day. Under the Keep Sunday Special proposals, there will be more opening of shops than is permitted now, and a wider range of goods than is now available will be sold. But at least there will be some sort of regulatory framework to protect home, family, leisure and the general pattern of life that we know.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I have been especially troubled by one aspect of the Keep Sunday Special proposals—the fact that they allow the four Sundays before Christmas to be totally deregulated. That does not seem consistent with the rest of the group's views. Moreover, the very people whom it claims to protect—small shopkeepers —are to be deprived of the best four weeks of trading, because there will be a free-for-all on the four Sundays before Christmas. Will my right hon. Friend explain the logic of that?

Mr. Alison

That is easy to explain. We are trying to establish a reasonable balance for life on Sunday. If we allow four Sunday openings out of the total number of Sundays in the year, there will be 48 Sundays left, on which there will not be a free-for-all. In all conscience, is that not a reasonable balance?

Dr. Spink


Mr. Alison

No, I must get on. It is not fair to other hon. Members if I give way too much.

Everyone has his own favourite poll on the options before us, and there is one poll that I believe conveys the real flavour of the attitude of the great mass of the British public in the world outside this rather hyped-up—

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

The English public.

Mr. Alison

The English public, then.

For the Harris Research Centre survey of 1989 respondents were asked to list the five most popular things to do on a Sunday—[Laughter.] I know from long parliamentary experience that if one talks of asking people to list the five most popular things to do on a Sunday—[HON. MEMBERS: "DIY."]—one must immediately continue, without leaving a gap for hon. Members to fill. Let me tell hon. Members, including my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), who I know will sympathise, the list of what people prefer to do on Sundays—[Laughter.] These are serious matters.

Number 1 on the list was: Spending time with husband/wife and children (21 per cent.) Number 2 was: Having a quiet day at home with the papers or television (15 per cent.) Number 3 was: Visiting friends or relatives or having them visit (12 per cent.) Number 4 was: Having a day out visiting the seaside/country or historical town (11 per cent.) Number 5 was: Going to a Church service (8 per cent.) The idea that the Keep Sunday Special proposals are being swept along by Church-oriented pressure groups is nonsense.

The activities that I have mentioned are what people like to do on Sunday. Shopping came 11th. Only 1 per cent. of respondents listed it as the thing that they would most like to do on a Sunday.

6.45 pm
Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend accept that that poll was taken before supermarkets opened on Sundays? Does he also accept that many more people shop in supermarkets on Sundays than go to church?

Mr. Alison

That is a highly unlikely statistic, which I do not believe could be proved. Ten per cent. of the population goes to church on Sunday, and I doubt whether they could all be crowded into the supermarkets that open on a Sunday.

To help my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) get his riposte in perspective, I shall tell him about a slightly more up-to-date poll, which came from NOP in September 1990 and is cited by the John Lewis Partnership in its broadsheet. The question asked in that poll was singularly straightforward and unweighted: Are you inconvenienced by most shops being closed on Sunday? People were asked to say whether they were inconvenienced "a lot", "a fair amount", "a little", or "not at all". Only 5 per cent. said that they were inconvenienced a lot, and only 8 per cent. that they were inconvenienced a fair amount; 22 per cent. said that they would be inconvenienced a little, and 64 per cent. said that they would not be inconvenienced at all; 1 per cent. said, "Don't know". The argument that there is a huge amount—

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn


Mr. Alison

No, I am sorry to say that my hon. and learned Friend has given away his identity by the way that he is dressed this afternoon, and this is not a Scottish Bill, so I shall not give way to him.

Mr. Dykes


Mr. Alison

I am afraid that I must get on. My hon. Friend will understand that allowing too many interventions is not fair to others who wish to speak.

To say that there are hungry shoppers frustrated almost to the point of suicide because they cannot get into shops all over the place on Sunday is a ludicrous misrepresentation of what is happening in the outside world. The idea is irrelevant and untrue. The great mass of the public is not seriously inconvenienced at all by a restrictive shopping regime.

Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Alison

No, I am afraid that I must get on.

What I say is expecially true in the light of the positive options offered by the Keep Sunday Special procedures. There may be restricted shop opening, but there will be a rational framework for shops, based on the principles of REST—recreation, emergencies, social facilities and amenities, and transport. The whole range of shops offering such services will be open and able to trade.

We must think about the down side, and the problems that will arise if there is total deregulation, with no regulatory framework. Mr. David Sieff of Marks and Spencer put the case vividly in the Evening Standard last night: Sunday trading does not make the retail cake bigger. Instead it involves spreading the profits of six days' trading over seven days' costs. Prices would have to increase, premium rates of pay on Sundays would have to be dropped, and large shops would tend to increase their market share at the expense of smaller convenient village shops. Exactly what David Sieff forecast—and itemised in his article—would happen. for example, as he wrote: Already, nearly 2,000 small stores have gone out of business in the past two years since the large supermarkets began regular Sunday trading. That is a significant number.

Another way of describing our proposal is to call it the KSSC option—the "keep small shops competitive" option. On the other hand, the Shopping Hours Reform Council option could be described as the SHRC option—the "superstores hoping to rake in cash" option. That is the reality that we are debating. KSSC proposes that a flexible and increasing range of shops would be able to open on Sundays, whereas the Shopping Hours Reform Council would sweep regulations away and bring about a massive free-for-all.

Sunday opening would not be restricted to shops. It would extend to banks, building societies and estate agents. If Sunday is to be like any other day, why should not everybody open on Sunday? All those who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South said, cannot shop on Sundays will not be able to shop on Sundays because they will be forced to work in their own premises.

I resisted giving way because you asked for short speeches, Mr. Lofthouse. I apologise for speaking as long as I have. I hope that hon. Members and right hon. Members will keep Sunday special.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

I am grateful to the Chairman, Mr. Lofthouse, for announcing at the beginning of the debate that my amendment No. 21, with its consequential amendments, would be selected for a vote.

I wish to address the Committee on the basis of two principal points. The first is the amendment as a fall-back, and we may need a fall-back position, and the second is in its context as one of the earlier votes. There will be a series of votes later, as the Committee knows. There is the total deregulation option, the Keep Sunday Special option with little deregulation plus the four Sundays, and there is the six hours between 10 am and 6 pm option.

I argue that if all of those are defeated we shall be left either with the law as it is—that is clearly a nonsense, and few people voted against Second Reading—or something that would bring into effect the option to decide at a local level. I beg the Committee's indulgence to consider whether that might not be, for many people, the second best option available. There is strong evidence for that.

Logically, it would have been better to have a vote on the local option first, but procedurally that is not possible. I would ask the Committee to accept that also.

I will first state my preferred position, so that there can be no dissembling about it. I voted for the Bill on Second Reading and I believe that the present law is a nonsense which needs to be reformed urgently.

I also think that the law-breaking that has happened is indefensible. The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), who was a Minister, and also the Attorney-General and others who were in office when shops started opening on Sunday did not make it clear enough that what was going on was unacceptable. Had the Government called in the managing directors and the chairmen and chairwomen of the boards and formally made it clear that it was unacceptable, there might have been far less Sunday opening of big stores.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Hughes

I must continue. We may have only until 10 o'clock for the debate.

I will declare all my interests. I share many of them with most of my colleagues, but one or two may be unusual and it seems reasonable to put all of them on the record.

Like all hon. Members, I represent many small shops, market stalls, markets and big shops. Sadly, like many hon. Members, I also represent many unemployed people who want to work. My constituency has one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain. Like many hon. Members, I represent shoppers and employees. I also represent large, good, clean, efficient and pleasant stores. Those stores include the Tesco store which opened two or three yars ago at Surrey Quays—a store which is currently opening illegally on Sundays. Tesco did me the courtesy of asking me to meet the employees of that store last Sunday to hear their views. Lastly, the registered headquarters office of J. Sainsbury plc is also in my constituency.

No option will please all of the people all of the time —that is self-evident. We must do what is for the best, not just in the short term but in the long term.

I am for keeping Sunday special. It is important to me as a Christian, but I can arrange to keep my Sunday special without the law. It is not on that basis which I argue the point. I do not claim special protection for my faith, nor for the faiths of others. Much more importantly, I believe that it is in the interests of our society as a whole—for people of all faiths and people of no faith—that we have a common context for our work and for our leisure. That context should have an order to it and it should respect the pattern of work and leisure. It should build in a guarantee that, on one day at least, there is a presumption in favour of something other than work.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I will not, for the reason which I gave earlier. I do not want to use up too much time. I listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, who argued for the deregulation option. The right hon. Lady has been a Home Office Minister.

One cannot reasonably argue that deregulation is good in principle—or else one would argue that deregulation is good for health and safety at work, for pubs which could open at any time day or night, or for speed limits. That is an invalid argument. One cannot say that one person's freedom to choose does not have an impact on other people's freedoms. That is a dangerous argument which the right hon. Lady made. One cannot argue for regulation to be left to local authorities and yet argue that they cannot do the enforcing, which is one of the difficulties of the present law.

The Minister argued that we live in a market economy. In a market economy, the big fish eat the little fish, and the little fish increasingly are no longer there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not necessarily."] Not necessarily may be correct, but the big fish have the power and the capacity more often to eat the little fish. Lastly, one cannot say that deregulation is necessary for women in particular, or workers in general, to have Sunday work in order to get a better deal. I would say to Tesco and Sainsbury's that if they are so concerned about workers' rights, they should pay the workers double time on a Saturday. They could certainly do that, and there is no need to get them in on Sunday to give them double time.

What would more Sunday trading mean? It would mean more transport on our roads. It would mean that there would be a greater incentive to spread the business of six days over seven, and that is what is happening. There would be a greater incentive to work every day and there would be greater pressure on people not to have a day of rest at all. More people are doing so, including hon. Members it may be said. Many people wish that they did have more spare time, but they cannot now find a way to do so. There would be a greater incentive to spend money on seven days—money which some, regrettably, may not have. There would be a greater incentive to advertise more and to appeal to people's commercial interests. There would be greater pressure both on and from children and young people. There would be more pressure for more people. Simply, there would just be more pressure.

It is important that we listen to the voices of leaders from all faiths—Christian, Jewish and others—who share the views of a letter to The Times which was headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and which was printed on the day of the Second Reading. The letter said: Commercial pressures already loom large enough in our society. Sunday affords space for the nurture of other values, pursuits and dimensions of family life in a more restful atmosphere. On the grounds of not only religious conviction but also pastoral experience, we believe that the spiritual, psychological and physical health of our nation would be poorer if there were no longer one common day in the week which was substantially different from the rest. I say amen to that.

What has been the experience in Scotland under a different regime? I spoke to my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), who speaks for my party on Scottish affairs, before the debate. He told me that the number of people who shop on Sunday has gone up. What happened in Scotland will happen here. When I was at my local Tesco last Sunday listening to the views of Sunday shoppers, some of them said that they liked shopping there on Sunday because it was quiet. It is not so quiet as it was when it first opened on Sundays two years ago. In five or ten years' time, Sunday will be much more like a Saturday, a Friday, a Thursday or a Wednesday. I gather that that is the general experience in Scotland, too.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

I will not give way, but only because time is limited. The reality is that the amount of shopping might be little today, but once the door is open there is no turning back.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn


Mr. Hughes

It is not rubbish, and I will give the reason for that in a moment. The local authority option—the fall-back position—at least allows a turning back, because local authorities will be able to change their minds. If we vote for the Honiton option, or if we vote for six hours now, then we will be asked later to vote for longer.

Of course it would be convenient for all if shops were open on a Sunday. It would be convenient if they were open when we finish here at 2 a.m.—indeed, some of them are. If the shops were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it would be convenient for some people and there would be people in the shops. Especially in urban areas and city centres, that would be convenient for at least some people. Convenience is not the most important argument, however, and I hope that we shall resist it.

I am convinced that, whatever the best practices and best intentions of the best managers may be, given the choice between employing someone who says that he or she will never work on a Sunday and someone else who says that he or she will, there will be a great deal of hidden pressure to appoint or promote the person who agrees to work. He or she will be a more valued and useful employee. Let us be honest: in this place we prefer to employ staff who are willing at least occasionally to work anti-social hours.

7 pm

Marks and Spencer and Iceland both agree with me that deregulation kills small shops. The opening of the new Tesco in Surrey docks has meant that shops in the market square in the Blue in Bermondsey have been under more pressure. Their profits have declined, some have closed, and some market stalls are struggling. That is fact, not speculation.

Deregulation will not ultimately help people who cannot get to out-of-town big shops. Such people want to go next door, but they will find when they do so that next door is no longer there.

Mr. Couchman


Mr. Hughes

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has a clear view in favour of deregulation which he has often presented. I, on the other hand, did not speak on Second Reading, and this is my first contribution to the debate.

I do not say that there should not be shopping on Sunday. I do not argue for an unrealistic world. The Honiton option is unrealistic; it decrees that everything shall be closed on a Sunday morning, and people will be able to buy only newspapers. That is not an acceptable option.

I am arguing against large shops and for small shops. I am arguing against more traffic, more pollution, more consumption of fuel and more damage to the atmosphere, and I am arguing for a quieter and more pleasant existence in urban and rural Britain. Above all, I am arguing against big profits for the few and in favour of the greater number of people who need a little profit to be able to survive.

The Keep Sunday Special proposal is that on four Sundays before Christmas shops may open. That is realistic, as most people do need to shop more then—the evidence for that is clear. People shop more in December than in any other month of the year. Let us therefore respect that fact and respond to it. It is no good being strongly dogmatic and failing to take account of the real world.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East)

That defeats your own argument.

Mr. Hughes

Not at all. I am arguing for the best possible conclusion compatible with people's reasonable demands. That conclusion is that we should keep Sunday special for as many weekends of the year as possible. Regardless of whether people are religious, many of them celebrate at Christmas and go shopping more in December as a result. That, too, is a fact.

I hope that we defeat the Honiton option and the total deregulation option. I hope that we will then vote in favour of the third opion—the KSS option. But that may not happen, as there may be a coalition against it. We shall then face the prospect of the six hour opening option between 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays—not many shops would open at different hours anyway. If this last option is rejected too, I ask the House to consider that it might be better to leave the decision to local councils.

I thought about whether I could propose a valid amendment for a local referendum—the precedent was set by the Welsh decision-making process on Sunday drinking —but I cannot validly propose the idea in this Bill. My local council decision option is at least better than keeping the law as it is.

There are different views in different communities. For instance, in my urban London constituency I am sure that there are stronger views in favour of Sunday opening, even though I do not believe in that, than are held in rural Herefordshire or rural Suffolk. We should respect that diversity. England and Scotland are already different—as are different areas in Switzerland, for that matter.

The enforceability question is also important in this context. Those who should decide about the local rules should be those who are legally obliged to carry out the enforcement. If they think that they cannot enforce a tight option, let them decide as much, and vice versa.

This option would also allow a change of mind. If, say, Southwark council decided to vote for six hours between 10 am and 6 pm but after five years the local community said that that was a pain—the traffic was awful, and so on —the council could change its decision. This is a way of turning the clock back. Either way, local authorities will be able to decide what is best for their areas.

Some communities are multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-racial, others are of predominantly one faith, one culture and one ethnic background. That is the glory of Britain, and let us respect it. Local environmental issues also vary. A supermarket may be sited next to a lot of houses in one area but far from them in another.

The Sunday drinking precedent worked well in Wales, where Sunday drinking has been allowed in one district but not in another. That solution respects local views and allows local people to participate in the process. Local communities can get involved in the debate. I am worried about legislating with one answer to meet the breadth of views being expressed in this debate. How much better it would be if the issue could be handled in a non-partisan manner by local people. I do not believe that Parliament should enforce one view on the communities of widely varying local authority areas. If a certain community wants to keep Sunday special, let it do so. If shops opening in another community will cause a nuisance to residents, let them decide.

Dame Angela Rumbold

Would the hon. Gentleman clarify how he envisages this working? I can understand how it would work in a country district, but I am confused as to how it would work in a big metropolis, where there would be far more pressure for everyone to go for one option or another. It would be difficult for local authorities to hang on to their communities under the hon. Gentleman's proposal.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has fairly described my proposal as the least worst solution. What the right hon. Lady says holds true only for London, because all the other metropolitan areas are one local authority. Uniquely, London is not.

I ask colleagues what the greater good is. My answer is a cycle of work and rest, upheld by us, within which people can make as many choices as possible. As for my "least worst" option, if we cannot come to another conclusion, I suggest that the decision should be taken by local communities. We should certainly not leave them under the present nonsensical law. I hope that the Committee will agree that this is an acceptable fallback, if we need one. It is better to allow people to have their say than to perpetuate a nonsensical law.

Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West)

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate. We are all aware that Sunday trading is one of the most vexed issues to come before the House in recent years. I have never known a time when a larger number of hon. Members had yet to make up their minds. I like certain parts of some proposals, but, as I will explain, none of them completely mirrors my own ideas.

The issue is made more difficult for us by the voting arrangements, because the first amendment to command a majority wins all. That means that we will never know whether another option might have commanded a bigger majority had we been able to vote on it. That puts us in an unusual procedural position.

We all agree that the existing legislation is full of anomalies. We all agree that it is a bad precedent for the law to be flouted, especially when law breaking is carried out by prestigious major companies, which should behave within the law. Sainsbury and Tesco would be quite happy to seek redress from the law if their windows were smashed. They expect the law to be respected when it defends their interests, but they are prepared to break it when their profits are at risk.

Ms Glenda Jackson

The hon. Gentleman has underlined a point made in a letter from one of my constituents, who pointed out that, although the big retailers are not prosecuted for opening illegally on Sundays, someone caught shoplifting in one of those stores most certainly would be prosecuted.

Sir David Mitchell

The hon. Lady has summed up exactly the point that I was trying to make.

I believe that Sunday should be a day for leisure and for the family. Our Good Lord said: Six days shalt thou labour … But the seventh day is the sabbath". I believe that the modern effect of that instruction is that we should have a day free from stress in which we can recharge our batteries and sustain family life.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir David Mitchell

I will not give way to my hon. and learned Friend because long speeches have been made and I want to make a brief one.

If one accepts the idea that Sunday is a day for leisure and for the family, it logically follows that the businesses that should be open should be those that enable people to enjoy leisure pursuits and enjoy a family day. That means almost all the businesses, apart from supermarkets, which now open normally on Sundays.

Full deregulation is said to be popular, but we need to keep its effects in mind. It is important that the House is aware that the danger is that that opinion may lead to short-term popularity and long-term damage.

The village and corner shops rely heavily on Sunday trading. We already know that many of those shops are trading at the margin. It will not take much to tip them over into loss-making concerns. Their closure would mean that a facility upon which local communities rely would be lost.

Local communities in villages or urban areas rely on the corner shop because of their convenience. They are convenient for the elderly who may have difficulty in travelling to supermarkets, especially if no bus service operates. They are convenient to the less well-off who cannot afford to travel some distance to supermarkets for their shopping. The loss of the village shop is too high a price to pay, and once it is paid it will never be possible to get that shop back.

It is also important to draw attention to the effect of Sunday trading on prices. Joe Public's spending power will not be any greater because of trading on seven days instead of six; he will simply spread his spending power over that time. Similarly, shops that decide to open for seven days will find that their costs will increase, and eventually they will be passed on to the consuming public.

The restrictive solution, which allows shops under 3,000 sq ft—a reasonable size—to trade on a Sunday, is worth considering because it would include the village shop, the corner shop, the newsagents, video shops, chemists, florists, tourist shops, farm shops, sport centre outlets, theatre and cinema shops and petrol station shops. Those shops that are not bound by any size restriction include off licences, take-aways, cafes, public houses, pharmacies, vehicle hire shops, motorway service shops, airport shops, post offices, undertakers, wine warehouses, garden centres, DIYs and motor supplies shops. They will be able to open on Sunday for the sale of leisure goods. No restrictions would be imposed on Sunday markets. On any basis, that means that a great amount of shopping could be done on a Sunday by those who particularly wanted to do so. For that reason, I am against the concept of total deregulation.

Partial deregulation would allow supermarkets to operate for six hours. Today, those supermarkets that are breaking the law open for eight hours. Once it is legal for all to trade, the amount of available business will barely be enough to fill six hours and no supermarket will want to trade for more than that time. What we have been given in the supposedly split-the-difference solution is total deregulation to the extent that the supermarkets want to have the opportunity to trade on Sundays. The law breakers now trade for eight hours, but when everyone is allowed to trade I am sure that, given the business available, six hours would be sufficient.

7.15 pm

I believe that the KSS-RSAR amendment is a little too restrictive, but I shall vote for it because we will be able to make further changes to it in Standing Committee and on Report. We can offer a more relaxed formula for Sunday trading, which is what I would like, but if we voted for total deregulation there would be no turning back. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will vote for the more restrictive of the three options and, having done so, that it will seek to amend it as the Bill completes its further progress through the House.

Ms Janet Anderson (Rossendale and Darwen)

We all agree that the Shops Act 1950 is in desperate need of reform. It is important to reflect on exactly what has happened in recent months.

Hon. Members have made it plain that they do not condone law breaking and nor do I. I share the concern that has been expressed about the fact that the Government should have stepped in sooner to try to make it easier for local authorities to enforce the law. I hope that what has happened has made it plain to us that it is the responsibility of Parliament to pass a law now which is enforceable, workable and meets the wishes and needs of the majority.

There is no doubt that the majority of the public want shopping choice to be extended. They want to be able to shop on Sundays. If they did not want to do so, there would be no point in shops opening.

Most hon. Gentlemen may rarely be responsible for shopping for a growing family. They should understand, however, that women, and working women in particular, value the extra choice that Sunday shopping offers them. Several months ago the organisation Working Women for Sunday Shopping was established. Its co-ordinator wrote to me recently to report: Since Working Women for Sunday Shopping was launched last month I have been inundated with letters from women questioning why legislation should dictate what they can or cannot do on Sundays. Poll after poll has shown that working women want the shops to open on Sunday. 83 per cent. of those surveyed by MORI said they would find Sunday trading convenient—69 per cent. want to see more shops open. The majority of women are now active in the workforce, very many are juggling the competing demands of home, work and family —seven day opening is a necessity for them, not a luxury.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Anderson

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, I will not give way because many other hon. Members wish to speak.

One of the problems that has been apparent throughout the lengthy debate on Sunday trading is thåt those who want to keep the shops shut have been the most vocal. For a long time they have told us that the shops must be kept shut in the name of employee protection. They said that the Government would never agree to the voluntary principle for Sunday working and that workers would be forced to work if shops were open.

Now, an albeit reluctant Government have included a guarantee of voluntary working. They have changed their tune again. Before the Minister of State beams too broadly, I must tell him that I have serious reservations about the Bill's proposals and I hope that we will be able to toughen them in Standing Committee. As he will also know, it is a priority of Opposition Members that there should be a principle of double time for Sunday working.

Those who want to close shops on Sundays say that such protection is meaningless and that there are higher principles at stake than the thousands of shop workers who will lose their Sunday work if shops shut. Shop worker unions which unanimously reject that message are simply the tools of management rather than genuinely representing their members' views.

I should like to read an extract from a letter from the deputy general secretary of USDAW to Members of Parliament. USDAW should be congratulated on listening to the views of its members. The letter says: If you wish to follow the Shop Workers' Union position, you will need to vote as follows:— Total deregulation (1st Vote) … No Keep Sunday Special (2nd Vote) … No 6 HOUR OPTION (3RD VOTE) … YES Many thousands of USDAW members are currently working on Sundays and, provided that working is entirely voluntary and they are paid at double-time rates, they wish to continue to have that opportunity. If the KSS proposals were to go through this would deny many of our members the opportunity to work and would have a significant effect on their income. USDAW members are mainly located in the large stores and large companies and there is little organisation, if any, in small shops and the majority of them do not pay double-time and may not have even followed the Wages Council rates.

Mr. Sheerman

I have great respect for my hon. Friend, but that is not what I heard. Perhaps it is a total calumny against USDAW, and I have a lot of friends in USDAW, but is it not a fact that Tesco marched the executive of USDAW in and said, "Change your mind or we will recognise another union"? That is why USDAW changed its mind; it had nothing to do with principles.

Ms Anderson

I am glad that my hon. Friend raised that point as it is a misconception that has been doing the rounds in recent days and weeks. I have seen the statement from the USDAW executive which categorically states that the union held a meeting with 96 of its shop stewards, 93 of whom said that their members wanted to work on Sunday.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

My hon. Friend has just read out some correspondence addressed to Members of Parliament from the union USDAW. Let me read a short extract from a letter from USDAW sent to me on 16 December 1992 saying: The Shopping Hours Reform Council… after all, is backed by employers who have already ridden rough shod over the current law protecting shopworkers from Sunday working and we have no confidence in them when they say they are prepared to protect shopworkers in the future. What has changed?

Ms Anderson

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. I shall tell him what has changed since that letter was written. The major retailers to whom it refers have made a statement saying that they would be happy for the voluntary principle and the entitlement to premium pay to be written into legislation. Clearly that has had some effect.

Those who want the shops shut tell us that Sunday shopping destroys family life. Yet what causes most disruption to family Sundays—an open pub or a branch of Boots? Most people do not live in 1950s-style happy families who come back from church to a Sunday roast. Many people cannot afford a Sunday roast these days. There is a huge diversity in the way people live their lives in the modern world and, although that nostalgic view may be tempting to some hon. Members, shutting shops will not bring it back.

Mr. Lord

Is the hon. Lady aware that the Home Office commissioned what I hope is an unbiased report into the effects of the various options we are considering on jobs in the retail trade? It did not concentrate on part-time or full-time jobs, but stated that, if the KSS proposal is accepted, there will be 5,000 more jobs in the retail industry. If partial deregulation is accepted, there will be 5,000 fewer jobs in the retail industry and total deregulation would mean 20,000 fewer jobs in the retail industry. Surely the hon. Lady must be concerned about that.

Ms Anderson

I am extremely concerned about jobs. That is precisely why I shall be supporting the six-hour option. We estimate 80,000 Sunday-only jobs would be lost under the more restrictive option.

We are told that the restrictive option will help small shops. They should try telling that to small shops that depend on their Sunday trade and would be forced to shut on Sunday. It will destroy the attractiveness of tourist destinations and rip the heart out of ethnic minority shopping areas which are dependent on the percentage of their groceries goods. The idea that browsing in a second-hand book shop on a Sunday afternoon is a threat to civilisation is absurd.

Some people will say that, if Members of Parliament vote for Sunday shopping, they will be giving in to commercial lobbying.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

Before my hon. Friend leaves the point about small shops, may I ask her whether she agrees that the issue is not that there has been a decline in the number of small shops over many years? It has had nothing to do with Sunday trading but with the development of very large stores. To reverse that, we would need to close very large stores not just on Sundays but on every day of the week. There is now a different shopping pattern. Several years ago, two superstores opened in my area. There has also been a small increase in the number of small shops. The small shops are mainly Asian and not necessarily against Sunday opening. People go to the big stores for the weekly shopping and down the road to their local shops on Sunday. That is what I do.

Ms Anderson

I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. He is quite right.

Many people suggest that Sunday shopping will be giving in to commercial lobbying. However, there are commercial lobbies on every side of the argument. For every Tesco arguing for opening, there is an Iceland arguing for closure. Then they say that they will allow shops that people want to open. That actually means the shops that men want to open. DIY stores and motor accessory shops will be allowed to open, although the wording of the Bill is so restrictive that real DIY shops probably will not be able to open. Any outlet selling alcohol will be allowed to open, but supermarkets and clothes shops uniquely threaten family life and therefore must shut.

I understand and accept that few want Sunday to become just another day of the week. That is why I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House will reject total deregulation. However, Sunday is special because it is the day when people have most choice about what they do. Some go to church, others play sports, others visit friends and family while others simply laze about with the Sunday papers. That will not change if people are allowed to shop as one of their Sunday alternatives.

Sunday is still special in Scotland, yet shops are free to open. That is why I hope hon. Members will support the partial deregulation option. It is the only option before us tonight which reconciles the wishes of those who want to shop with those who want to work—particularly women —and at the same time make sure that Sunday will remain just a little special.

Sir George Gardiner (Reigate)

I shall try to speak more briefly than some earlier in the debate, to whom we listened with fascination.

A pervading theme so far in the debate has been that Sunday should be a special day. Many go further and argue, as Christians, that the law must reinforce the requirement in chapter 20 of Exodus, which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell).

I understand that many church worshippers wish to obey that injunction in their weekly lives reinforcing the special nature of Sunday. I consider myself a Christian and a somewhat irregular churchgoer and regard Sunday as a day different in character from the rest, but the question that I ask myself is what moral right have I, as a Member of Parliament, to dictate to the rest of the population how they must spend their Sundays, especially as a majority of them do not wish to abide by that literal injunction of the ten commandments.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my hon. Friend accept that Parliament constantly dictates to the citizens of the country on almost every subject under the sun?

Sir George Gardiner

It does, but if we can define areas where we need not do so, I do not see why we should.

Sunday is special, as the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) said. It is special for different people in different ways. For some, it is special because it starts with an act of collective worship. For others, it is a day of leisure and relaxation, perhaps visiting a garden centre in the morning and planting the produce in the afternoon. For others, it means a walk or a drive in the country, perhaps stopping at a village antique shop or at a farm shop. For others, it is a day when the whole family can go and choose a suite of furniture.

7.30 pm

For many—some 5 million—sunday offers the chance to do the family shopping in a supermarket without the hassle of trying to concentrate everything into Saturday. For some 80,000 people, including students and part-time workers, it offers the chance of earning some money, often at premium rates, using a different day of the week for leisure activity.

I therefore ask myself, if millions of citizens wish to shop on Sunday, and so many shopworkers are eager to serve them, what moral right have we to stop them? That is why I support amendment No. 1, the complete deregulation option, but which I have always called the free-choice option. I do not believe that free choice would destroy the special nature of Sunday. It has not done so in the United States, Canada, southern Ireland or Scotland.

Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley)

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a clash of choices and that people whose houses are disturbed on Sunday—or indeed Saturday—mornings should have a choice to have their house and premises quiet?

Sir George Gardiner

Highways legislation should cover the position of such people.

Free choice has not destroyed the special nature of Sundays in a variety of countries, including Scotland. To hear some bishops talk, one would think that Scotland was some heathen land where family cohesion has been smashed into oblivion. Scotland has had free Sunday choice for years, and Sunday shop opening there has settled to a level that meets the public demand. The same would happen here if we approved the free-choice option. Throughout large parts of England, it already has.

A further advantage of the free-choice option is that it would add almost nothing to the cost of administration that would have to be borne by local councils and ultimately by council tax payers. I shall vote for option one.

If that fails, I will most certainly oppose amendment No. 2, the Keep Sunday Special option. I cannot comprehend how the Bill's sponsors can seriously advocate replacing one set of ridiculous and unenforceable rules with another. The KSS "type of shop" approach would create many more anomalies.

As the Consumers Association has pointed out, and I shall quote a couple of extracts from its report, under the KSS option toys or books could be bought from a newsagent, but not from a toy or bookshop; meat or bread from a small supermarket, but not from a butcher or baker. Auction houses, antique shops, clothes shops, record shops, book shops and any number of other shops will be unable to open, regardless of size, unless they are in a hospital, harbour, seaport, hoverport or airport. On the "type of shop" approach, it continues: A convenience shop, under 280 square metres, with a principal trade of groceries and confectionery, will be unable to open unless it also sells domestic cleaning materials. A chemist shop such as Boots, whose trade may include medical products and surgical appliances but not as its main trade, will be unable to open to sell nappies—yet a small neighbouring DIY store could. And a video shop will be able to sell or hire soft-porn movies, but a bookshop could not open to sell a bible. Do we really want to return to such a clumsy, bureaucratic and repressive system?

Dr. Spink

I took advice this morning, and the advice is that all of these matters—the type of shop, type of goods, time of opening and the size of shops—can be dealt with by amendments in Committee upstairs. My hon. Friend should join the Committee and deal with such matters.

Sir George Gardiner

If all the objections of the Consumers Association are to be met, as my hon. Friends have said, the Bill will require hundreds of amendments to be tabled in Committee. I cannot see how one can defend that.

Those who argue the KSS option wish to restrict working on Sundays. It would involve a vast increase in Sunday working for an army of environmental health and trading standards officers, scurrying to and fro with their measuring lines checking floor sizes and whether the shops that were opened were dealing in the exempt categories of goods listed.

Mr. Hugh Bayley (York)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir George Gardiner

No, I want to be brief and will not take any further interventions.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy estimates that the KSS will cost local authorities £12 million. I must warn hon. Members that if they pass that option, they must be prepared for a flood of protest from constituents who are part of the 5 million who are now able to shop on Sundays, or from the 80,000 who will lose their jobs in consequence. Do not be surprised if those people take their revenge. If the free Sunday choice option fails, I shall support the SHRC compromise. Short of free choice, that will most closely meet the needs of my constituents.

Overall, I appeal to hon. Members: please let us treat our constituents as adults. They are quite capable of deciding how to spend their Sundays, so let us not be seen by them as agents for repression.

Mr. Donald Anderson

The hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) has put his finger on the problem—the essence of the debate is whether we want Sunday to be special, and therefore try to promote, encourage and accept it for all sorts of good social reasons, or whether, either immediately or in a creeping way, we are prepared to erase all the differences that now exist on a Sunday. I believe that there is some value in having a day that is separate and unique and that that is proper for all the people of our country. Parliament and the public should encourage that and not have creeping deregulation. When shopping was first allowed on Good Friday, perhaps 20 per cent. of shops opened; now, 100 per cent. of the shops are open, and the tide has come completely over the difference. That will be the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. He should keep his eyes open. If he wants that, so be it, but I believe that the great majority of our people do not want it.

We shall understand the four options that are now before the Committee only by understanding the context within which the debate has developed since 1976 when, based on the Auld committee report—against all the odds, as the Government had an overall majority—the Government proposal for total deregulation was defeated on Second Reading.

After that, the stores embarked on a softening-up process, in which the Government colluded. To start with, they opened only on the four Sundays before Christmas. Having tested the Government that far and realised that not only would there be no opposition but there would be connivance, they went all the way. The subject was then passed to the European Court of Justice as a delaying device, knowing the way that that court—

Mr. Peter Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, because I have told him so from the Dispatch Box before, that the Government did not take the case to the European Court. In the court, the Government argued that what the law meant was entirely a matter for this country. The hon. Gentleman is wrong, and I hope that he will withdraw that remark.

There has been no collusion. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the law requires that the regulations be enforced by local authorities. The law must be changed before any other agency can enforce them. We are debating a change in the law now. The option that he supports—KSS—is modelled on the campaign that has been fought. It does not include a provision to allow any other agency apart from local authorities to enforce it. The hon. Gentleman is therefore speaking in favour of an option that would rely on local authorities to enforce it and it would not be for the Government directly to do so.

Mr. Anderson

I believe that the Minister is not a lawyer. He should be aware that, at any stage, the Attorney-General could have taken over by taking out injunctions against those major stores that defied the law. He must be aware that the Shops Act 1950 deals with the situation where a local authority takes action against a store. It does not deal with a conspiracy among a large number of stores collectively to break the law. The Government could have stopped that either by the Attorney-General taking out an injunction nationally against those stores or, knowing that local authorities could not risk their limited moneys in major legal actions, by being prepared to indemnify local authorities against cases that would put them at risk.

Earlier, I gave the Minister the example of the Kirklees case, which, as he knows, was considered by the House of Lords. Had Kirklees council lost that case, it would have been liable for £250,000-worth of costs. That is clearly well beyond the resources of a local authority, which could not afford to risk so much. The Government colluded by doing nothing when they might have done something. They allowed law breaking on a vast scale.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman, who I believe is a lawyer, knows perfectly well that the role of the Attorney-General in such matters is as a Law Officer, not as a member of the Government, and my right hon. and learned Friend explained his position from the Dispatch Box. The law, as passed by Parliament, adequately allowed local authorities to enforce it and there was no proper role that would allow him to intervene.

The Kirklees case resulted in the judgment that local authorities would be responsible for the losses of stores that those authorities closed by injunction if the European Court decided that the law was incompatible with Community law. That decision was overturned on appeal, so there was only a certain period when the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and claims is a general point, would have applied. As an excellent lawyer, he would know that.

Mr. Anderson

Does the Minister suggest that the Government could not have agreed, had they so willed, to indemnify local authorities against the costs thrown away by seeking to enforce the law?

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I am saying that the hon. Gentleman had heard the Attorney-General's speech from the Dispatch Box. He said that it would not be proper for him to intervene, that there was no proper basis on which he should intervene and that the law passed by Parliament, which made local authorities responsible for enforcing it, was adequate. The hon. Gentleman has said, quite rightly, that I am not a lawyer, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is. The hon. Gentleman's argument was with the then Attorney-General and I am sure that his successor in office now would be able to repeat the position that the then Attorney-General took.

The hon. Gentleman pretends that the Government have powers to enforce the law, when the law passed by Parliament quite clearly says that it is for local authorities to enforce it. We wish to change the law and that is why we have introduced the Bill. Any hon. Member, or campaigning group, can suggest different modes of enforcement. The hon. Gentleman's preference does not include any such change. I wonder why not.

7.45 pm
Mr. Anderson

The Minister makes my point. Had he so willed it, the Attorney-General could have intervened, but he chose not to do so. As a result, the big stores have been allowed to get away with it—the same stores that would have been the first to take to court a single mother who shoplifted in one of their supermarkets. They rely on the law when they want to do so and disobey the law when they choose to do so. The claim by the big stores that they are concerned about consumer choice is a little less credible in the light of their action when trying to prevent United States' warehouse companies from coming here to increase choice.

The normal principle of law is that when a law breaker, by law breaking, adversely affects the interests of a third party which loses financially, the law will intervene to compensate that third party. Stores such as Marks and Spencer and John Lewis have obeyed the law and lost substantial sums as a result. I say again that the Government have connived at that loss and, by the way in which they have encouraged acceptance of the deregulation option, they are encouraging those who have defied the law so wilfully for so long.

The Government have tried to encourage support by, for example, offering worker protection. At a fairly late stage, they included schedule 4, as if they had a real commitment to worker protection. I practised a little in employment law and I can tell the Minister that that protection is illusory. Not only are there great delays in hearings before industrial tribunals but there is no legal aid, as he will know. Only those who are unionised will be likely to have any support. Damages will be limited. I am convinced that the only real protection for workers would be afforded by an option like the Keep Sunday Special option.

The Financial Times report on the way in which Sainsbury puts pressure on its managers was immediately repudiated, and tactically and wisely reversed, but who knows what Sainsbury and others will do if their option is successful today?

My answer to the hon. Member for Reigate, who is consistent in that he supports the free market ideology, is that he and his friends are prepared to put that free market ideology above their concern for law and order. I would have been more impressed had I heard him urging the major stores, when they selectively obeyed the law, to obey all the laws. They have put that ideology above their concern for small shopkeepers, whose decline in numbers would be accelerated massively if there were total deregulation, and above their concern for the family.

I am confident that one certain feature of total deregulation and the working of one member of the family on a Sunday would be to increase pressures on the family. It would create a negative future for family life, along with all the other pressures. Behind the disintegration of the family and the pressures on the family is the concomitant evil of increasing criminality. One of the joys of the Jewish family and the Indian family is that a day is set aside for family members to be together. Part of the Jewish community's respect for the law derives from the high value that is placed in the Jewish community on the family.

With all respect to the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), I believe that there are only two major options: either deregulation or an attempt to preserve the special nature of Sunday. Deregulation is the aim of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. Just as in 1986, I am convinced that people do not want total deregulation.

Alas, the BBC and others fall into the trap of calling the Shopping Hours Reform Council option a compromise. It is a compromise only in the sense that it would mean deregulation by stages. If the majority of the people who support the SHRC were honest with themselves and honest to hon. Members, they would say that they want total deregulation. They realise that there is not a majority in the House of Commons for total deregulation, so they are attempting to persuade others that they are taking deregulation as far as they want. They should be honest. There is no relevant stopping point to deregulation. If it is six hours, why not make it seven or eight hours?

What would be the Government's position if, by some mischance, the SHRC option were to win a majority, and the Standing Committee were composed, as it must be, of a majority of those who voted in favour of the option, who then altered the provision from six hours to seven or eight hours and took the road to total deregulation?

With respect to the right hon. Member for Honiton, his motive is not the same as that of those who have proposed the so-called compromise; it would amount to a staging post on the way to total deregulation. The right hon. Gentleman's motive is different, although the effect of his amendment would be the same. As there is no natural stopping point, if the opening time were 1 o'clock, why not make it 12 o'clock? It is similar to the Home Office's approach to the opening hours of licensed premises on Sundays. Initially, the Home Office said that it should be 2 o'clock, then it thought, "What is another hour between friends?" Slippage occurred. This issue could go down that same slope.

The deregulation option is proposed by those with a self-interest, in contrast to the KSS option which is supported by those who see the issue as a matter of public interest. I am proud to come from a Christian background and I believe that the Old Testament ordinances in this matter, as in many others such as hygiene, are still relevant to people. We would be acting against the interest of mankind if we sought to disregard them in this context or in others. It is important for the human condition that a day is set aside for recreation. Let it be the same day on which families can choose to stay together. It would be wrong for Sunday working to become a way of life. There would be adverse social consequences for the vulnerable, those without cars, the disabled and so on. There would be major pressure on city centre shopping and it would, of course, accelerate the existing trend of pressure on small, convenience shops, to their detriment.

If the SHRC were to win today, it would be a triumph for a sectional, highly financed lobby over the public interest. Marks and Spencer has lost a lot of money by obeying the law, unlike those major stores behind whom some Conservative Members now stand. I stand with those hon. Members who admire shops such as the John Lewis Partnership and Marks and Spencer which, to their financial detriment, have decided to obey the law. I hope that Conservative Members also admire those stores. The KSS option is the only one that is likely to create a balance by preserving Sunday and all its pleasures as a special day. I believe that that is right and that it is what our people want.

Mr. Rowe

I shall be brief and hope that the Committee will forgive me and allow me to escape soon after I sit down as I have an important appointment elsewhere. A small but important group of people have a totally principled view about Sunday, and I have enormous respect and admiration for them. They do not shop or travel or expect services from other people on Sunday. That small group of people can genuinely say that they are standing on a solid ground of principle.

In almost every other case such principles have been so distorted that it is difficult to claim a principled stand. For example, it is strange that many of my Christian friends and acquaintances write to me and speak in passionate terms about how wrong it would be to have many people working on Sunday. About 8 million people work on Sunday, and many of them provide inessential services to my Christian friends who think nothing of taking journeys, entering cafes and restaurants or doing a whole range of other things that they need not do but choose to do. Therefore, that element of principle has disappeared.

If those in the Christian community want to persuade Parliament to act in their best interests, they need to mobilise and persuade more people of the truth of their belief—which is my belief. Having done so, they will exercise the kind of power that I would like to see them able to exercise in a democratic society. As a small minority, it cannot ask Parliament to legislate for its purposes as if that were somehow a duty.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) for providing me with a way out of my dilemma. I was inclined to support the partial deregulation option because, although it has no special ground of principle, it gives a slight edge to small shops, which I have a great yearning to preserve. I have become increasingly dissatisfied with my position and feel that many of my constituents yearn for a day that is marked off from other days in a way that they can recognise and be able to use. For example, there is great force in the argument that if every day is exactly the same, any suggestion that premium payments will survive is a myth. Such payments will survive for a little while but they will slide away, like so much else.

I worry about the KSS's desire that the big shops should open for the four Sundays before Christmas. If most of Advent is deliberately used for shopping and Christmas is taken to be nothing special, the shops may find that, when Christmas has lost virtually all its meaning, the public will not spend any more in December than in any other month. Why should they if Christmas has become like any other time of the year?

Ms Glenda Jackson

The hon. Gentleman mentions the introduction of Christmas during the weeks of Advent. Surely he must be aware that most supermarkets start introducing Christmas, by way of Christmas cards, wrapping paper and specially wrapped boxes of chocolates, as early as September or, in some instances, almost immediately after Easter.

8 pm

Mr. Rowe

The hon. Lady is right to suggest that Christmas becomes more like fashion every day. I understand that in February it is already too late to buy summer fashions as they have all gone.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton has provided me with a way out of my dilemma. If he were to clean up his act—if I may put it that way—he would have a satisfactory solution. In its present form, his proposition is wrong in that it contains another list of anomalies, as do the other options. There would be no anomalies if he agreed that shops below a certain size, which can be defined in Committee, should be able to open to sell anything that they choose on Sunday morning, as well as in the afternoon if they choose to stay open, and that shops above a certain size should not be allowed to open until Sunday afternoon. That would mean that the large number of people mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth)—those who value having at least part of Sunday free of the heavy traffic and noise that the rest of the week brings and who are just as entitled as anyone else to have some peace—would at least know that Sunday mornings were different from the rest of the week. They would not suffer as much disturbance as usual if they chose to have a long lie-in. It would also allow the elderly and frail and those who cannot drive to have access to their local shops.

It is worth bearing in mind that only about 17 per cent. of women over 65 have a driving licence, which is a minute proportion. If local shops were kept open, it would be of tremendous value to such people and give them an edge but the demand to go shopping on Sundays, which does exist, would be met by people being able to shop on Sunday afternoons. The advantage of that solution is that it would be exceedingly easy to administer. When a shop registered for the uniform business rate, it could also register its size. If it were below a certain size, it would be able to open and if it were above that size, it would not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) was wrong to suggest that full, unrestricted, 24-hours-a-day opening would involve no cost for local authorities. That is manifestly untrue as cleansing, inspection and a range of duties would need to be carried out at the expense of local authorities. It would be unrealistic and wrong for the Committee entirely to dictate the country's shopping patterns by legislation. Shopping patterns keep changing. Small shops are struggling and will continue to do so, but it is reasonable to protect the privacy and tranquillity of a substantial slice of the population by saying that Sunday tradinġ should be restricted, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton. His is a very good solution to the problem,+ and I shall support it.

If that solution fails, as is conceivable, I shall support the KSS option, but not because I think that it would be easy to work in its present form. It involves far too many anomalies to make it a comfortable solution but they can, to some extent, be refined. I am disappointed that they have not been refined over the many years that have been available to work them out, but we could perhaps improve the option. I shall support it, if necessary, because I believe that it is sometimes right to suggest by public statement that there is more to life than shopping.

Ms Glenda Jackson

I cannot join the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) in supporting the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). In an admirably succinct argument, my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) established the fact that the Committee will be voting either for deregulation or to keep Sunday special—there is no halfway house that can meet the needs and requirements of the country at large.

The hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) said that he would vote for the first option because it offered free choice. As one whose first experience of the world of work was as a shop assistant, I can tell him that deregulation gives little or no free choice to people who work in shops. I shall read out part of a letter from a constituent who said that the Bill was very personal to me because I work in the retail industry, in Central London. This means that time to spend with my family and friends is already in short supply, so anything that lessens it will seriously affect the quality of my family life. I am worried that companies like mine would not be able to operate voluntary arrangements and that everyone would be expected to work Sundays eventually, so cutting into precious time with my family. Another constituent wrote: As I see it the main problem from legal Sunday Opening is the probable coercion on Shop Staff. While in legal theory, retail store staff might be given a choice, in reality, the only choice is either, treat Sundays as a normal working day or lose your job, or at the very best your chances of promotion.

Sir George Gardiner

How does the hon. Lady react to what I have been told by many managers of supermarkets in my constituency? Their workers are queuing up to work on Sundays, and they have no difficulty in finding the necessary staff.

Ms Jackson

With respect, when there are 3 million unemployed people, one could offer any kind of gainful employment and queues would form. The hon. Gentleman must not regard any kind of remuneration as being a wage. Shop assistants—certainly part-time shop assistants—receive what I regard as disgracefully low rates of pay. The Government have a large slate of deregulation planned for the coming Session, and I have no doubt that one of the first things to be deregulated—as proved by the abolition of the wages councils—will be any protection of workers' wages or workers' rights.

I have also received a letter from the managing director of Robert Dyas, ironmongers. It states: We are also very doubtful that any Government proposals for protection of staff are workable, should Sunday trading become the norm. This Company is taking on a steady trickle of staff who have become dismayed at the pressure placed upon them to work on Sundays, whilst their previous employers proclaim that such work is voluntary. I myself have no doubt that if this company was forced, through competitive pressures, to trade on Sundays, we would be able (if we wished) to 'persuade' large numbers to work … No legislation can cope with this style of insidious pressure. Another choice about which we have heard a great deal is that of individuals being able to shop when they please. A managing director of the John Lewis Partnership disagrees with that option, saying: Contrary to what some would suggest, choice for the consumer is actually likely to diminish as larger shops take over the business of smaller ones and villages lose their small convenience stores. London used to be a series of villages—in many instances it could still be—but that is being rapidly eroded because of the enormous pressures on small businesses. Small businesses are closing at the rate of approximately eight a week. The corner shop, the local shop and the local small market centre will be absolutely demoralised and destroyed by deregulation. Deregulation is not about choice for the consumer or reducing prices, but about the large retail outlets fighting to increase their market share, and that will continue.

The pattern of shopping in this country, as in America, is to move shops to greenfield sites and away from where people live. That is a wonderful way to shop if one has the means of getting to and from those sites. A large proportion of my constituents are pensioners, on some form of social security or exist only because they can make a legal claim on the benefit system. Those people are utterly and totally dependent upon the local shop and being able to walk to it. They cannot afford private transport; in many instances they can barely afford public transport.

The suggestion that everyone does one large weekly shop is nonsense. I know many people who buy only after counting penny and twopenny pieces—and the older one gets the more difficult it is to differentiate between our coins.

The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth) referred to the issue of choice raised by the hon. Member for Reigate. Surely there must be a choice for the people who live near retail outlets. They will have no choice at all about a quiet Sunday, or about one day of the week being different from the other six. In my constituency there are two residential areas in which there are large multiple superstores. People live above one of those superstores and the delivery bays of the other store are next door to my residents' front doors. For seven days a week those people will be plagued by enormous delivery vans and by the clanging backwards and forwards of the large steel doors that cover the delivery bays. There will be no Sunday for people who live next door to such superstores.

Mr. Fabricant

The hon. Lady raises a valid point. My constituents know where I stand on this issue. They have asked me whether there will be a problem of disturbance by delivery vans. I have looked into the matter and it is apparent that the Highways Acts cover this point. Local authorities can, if they wish, implement the measures contained in those Acts to restrict the number of lorries visiting certain premises. They can even forbid lorries to arrive at particular times of the day or days of the week. The Acts are there; it is for the authorities to use them.

Ms Jackson

If existing Acts are so all-powerful, why were they not enforced? That is why we are here debating the whole issue.

Mr. Fabricant

They are different Acts.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. However strongly hon. Members may feel about the subject, there must be no sedentary interventions.

Ms Jackson

I will give way to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink).

8.15 pm
Dr. Spink

Does the hon. Lady believe that her constituents and mine should be free to have a day away from the disturbance of other people's noise, fumes, traffic and the hustle and bustle of a normal weekday?

Ms Jackson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because he brings me to my next point.

The hon. Member for Reigate talked about constituents' wishes. The issue of Sunday trading has increased my post by dozens of letters. When I knew that we would be debating this particular amendment I made a less than scientific breakdown of percentages. Of the people who wrote to me of their own volition—they did not forward cards presented to them by the big multiple stores—73.6 per cent. of my constituents wished to keep Sunday special. I was interested to see on the front page of The Independent today that nationally 74 per cent. of people wish to keep Sunday special.

That is not surprising because the pressures of modern-day life are enormous and the break-up of families seems to be continuous. Sunday is the only day on which families can meet and be together. I endorse the opinions of all hon. Members who have said that there should be one day in the week that should be nationally regarded as special.

How can special payments for people who work on Sunday logically be achieved? What would be special about people working on Sunday if we were to take away its special nature? There would be no logical reason to pay them double time or overtime.

I believe that we have seen sufficient decay and sufficient reduction of the things that individuals value intensely and totally. It may be religion, it may be being able to communicate within families, it may be to be able to indulge in some kind of sporting activity—a pursuit I am not particularly interested in—it may be a whole range of issues, but if we continually reduce everything to a norm we take away something that is vital and essential to our experience as human beings. There are differences; there should be differences; we must keep Sunday special.

Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)

It is important that the Committee does not lose sight of the fact that tonight we are trying to select a particular option. That will then go forward to Standing Committee for further refinement. I assume that the further refinement will be in the broad spirit of whatever option is chosen, but it means that there will be another opportunity to make some modifications to whatever option is selected. Hon. Members should choose the option that comes nearest to the particular one that they would like to see, with a view to further modification later. Hon. Members must seek to select an option that they think stands a reasonable chance of getting through with the largest majority, bearing in mind the order of voting. That could make a significant difference.

The Committee must consider the fact that the solution needs to be a simple one, which is easily understood by not only the expert lawyers but by the small shopkeepers who will have to comply with it. It must be capable of being enforced with a maximum amount of certainty and a minimum amount of cost.

We need to guard against replacing the current confused and confusing set of laws with a further set of laws that are unenforceable and equally confusing. Whenever we make laws we should make good sound laws, not laws that invite people to break them at the first opportunity. The conduct of certain retailers in breaking the law as they have during the past year has been despicable.

The guiding principle that we must try to stick to is that the formula that we adopt must not be too complex. At first glance, that principle drew me towards the simplicity and ease of enforcement of the total deregulation solution. I was much impressed by the persuasive advocacy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold). Total deregulation is the easiest option to enforce, and the easiest for people to understand; I do not believe, however, that it is really in keeping with the mood of the people.

I am sure that some people want to take advantage of shopping facilities on Sundays, although others do not. Some want to be able to work on Sundays, while others prefer not to. Most important, a significant group want Sunday to be a day on which they can be fairly certain of securing a degree of peace and quiet—a day on which they can relax, indulge in recreation and pause to wind down before the start of the week. In that regard, I agree with the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell).

I regard Sunday as a different day: a day on which the pace of life should be slower, which provides the opportunity to do something a little different from what one does for the rest of the week. It is clear from the 700 or more letters that I have received from constituents that a significant number of them want to ensure that Sunday does not become like every other day of the week.

Mr. Fabricant

Like other hon. Members, my hon. Friend wants to keep Sunday special. I think that most of us want to keep it special, but is it not special in Scotland, where deregulation has taken place? If, as some have said, retailers are already behaving as though there were no law in operation, is not Sunday special now?

Mr. French

I do not consider the comparison with Scotland particularly valid. It does not promote my hon. Friend's case very well. Scotland is, after all, an entirely different place, and its circumstances are also different.

As I was saying, I subscribe to the sentiments of the Keep Sunday Special campaign to some extent. I feel, however, that in trying to give effect to what are certainly laudable sentiments the campaign has advanced a solution that does its case no good, because it is largely unenforceable. It fails all the criteria of simplicity and easy enforcement that I require.

We need only examine the campaign's proposed formula to realise how difficult its enforcement would be. It proposes, for instance, that whether shops open should depend on whether the goods sold are "wholly or mainly" of a particular type. I searched the proposals for a definition of "wholly or mainly", but was unable to find one. It is not at all easy to identify when a shop would be fulfilling the Keep Sunday Special formula and when it would not. I could take hon. Members to certain shops that would present them with considerable difficulty.

Let us examine the second and third categories on the KSS list. First, there is the newsagent's shop where the goods on sale are wholly or mainly newspapers, periodicals and confectionery; secondly, there is the convenience shop where the goods are wholly or mainly groceries, domestic cleaning materials and confectionery. Confectionery is common to both categories; but, as has already been pointed out, a sweetshop would not qualify.

Most important, a "wholly or mainly" provision is likely to be extremely unfair to specialist shops, many of which are small and which often bring character to our city centres—character that can all too easily be lost. We should ensure that such shops remain viable.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

If the KSS —RSAR proposals were accepted, would such shops open alone in city centres whose streets were deserted?

Mr. French

My point is that specialist shops selling precisely the same items as convenience stores, newsagents and other shops in the same category would not be able to sell their goods, unlike the designated shops.

Mr. Butterfill

My hon. Friend has not answered my question.

Mr. French

I am happy to give way again.

Mr. Butterfill

Even if the provision were extended to the specialist shops about which my hon. Friend professes concern, would they open on their own in city centres?

Mr. French

I think it highly likely. Certainly, I think that they should be given the same opportunity as other shops selling the same items.

I had some sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner), who drew on some of the telling examples presented by the Consumers Association. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the KSS proposals would make it possible to buy toys and books from a newsagent, but not from a toyshop or bookshop. It would be possible to buy meat or bread from a small supermarket, but not from a butcher or baker. A drill could be bought from a small do-it-yourself store, but not from a specialist electrical store. That strikes me as completely lacking in logic. It is confusing and unfair, and I believe that it would ultimately be unenforceable.

Mr. Alison

I must contest my hon. Friend's claim that the proposal lacks logic. By definition, in the category of shops that could open, the articles described by my hon. Friend could not be part of the "wholly or mainly" definition; they would be residual items, and would present no kind of competition with shops whose whole occupation is selling such goods.

Mr. French

I understand my right hon. Friend's point. However, we would have to be constantly involved in judgments about what constitutes "wholly or mainly". Of course, there will be clear-cut illustrations, but many will be on the margin. That is the difficulty with your proposals.

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. They are not my proposals.

Mr. French

I am sorry, Dame Janet. I meant the KSS proposals. I also see some difficulty in another aspect of the KSS proposals—the demarcation line in the definition of an area of 280 sq m as the relevant floor area. It appears that car parks and other external areas, storage areas, corridors and stairs, staff rooms and lavatories are all excluded from the calculation of floor area in the consideration where the shops meet the size criterion; but any areas where goods are displayed, such as window areas, are to be considered part of the relevant floor area, even if customers have no access to them. Parts of the shop from which customers are normally excluded, such as the area behind the counter or the till booths at a check-out, will be included in the calculation. What a crystal-clear definition that is.

Mr. Luff

Does my hon. Friend accept that those who will be charged with the responsibility of enforcement— representative bodies, the Association of District Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities—say that they foresee no difficulties in enforcing the KSS proposals?

Mr. French

That appears to be the official line of those associations. I have spoken to many individual councils, however, and it seems that that view is not widely held. This is another example of associations not properly representing the views of many of their members.

Mr. Llwyd

Every day magistrates courts impose demarcation zones in shops for off-licence purposes. As a lawyer, I have never encountered any difficulties in that regard.

Mr. French

I shall describe the difficulties in a moment. I maintain that such an arrangement would present problems. It might produce a lot of work for surveyors, but it would also create difficulties whenever a shop was altered. I do not want someone who is developing a business to encounter the complication of falling into a different category the moment he wants to add a small extension to his shop.

Mr. Butterfill

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. French

No, I must press on.

Such a provision would be difficult to enforce and would produce peculiar anomalies. The most obvious is that a shop of 270 sq m would be treated differently from a sister shop down the road of 290 sq m selling the same goods. That lacks logic. Although local authorities may be able to undertake the task, they would incur costs in measuring shops and reaching agreement on the wholly or mainly definition. That is a recipe for disagreement and dispute—even if it produced a lot of work for solicitors and surveyors. I reject the KSS proposal for those reasons.

8.30 pm
Mr. Butterfill

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene again. I am a chartered surveyor and can relieve him of his anxieties. Local authorities already perform that function because, under planning regulations and byelaws, they have responsibility for ensuring that permitted floor areas for sales as against other purposes are not exceeded. The problems that my hon. Friend envisages will not arise.

Mr. French

It would entail a lot of unnecessary cost.

Mr. Butterfill

But local authorities alreådy incur it.

Mr. French

But shops change all the time. No doubt my hon. Friend, as a surveyor, sees some benefit in that arrangement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I am arguing that such an arrangement would create unnecessary work for solicitors and surveyors, for which the local authority and ultimately the taxpayer would have to pay.

A different approach is adopted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). Amendment No. 35 does not, in relation to the goods that may be sold, adopt the wholly or mainly formula but specifies a limited number of goods that might be sold in specific shops on Sunday morning. One accepts that involves some complexity but one sees the logic. I cannot envisage a Sunday on which one could not buy a newspaper from a newsagent or medicinal or surgical products from a pharmacy. It is also very much part of Sunday to be able to buy plants and garden supplies from nurseries.

I have difficulty with some of my right hon. Friend's other categories. Garden accessories present many definitional difficulties, but my right hon. Friend's broad approach of tightly restricted morning trading combined with total deregulation in the afternoon is good. My right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) made fun of the Sunday morning formula proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, yet suggested that antiques might be sold by a do-it-yourself centre. That verges on a far more ridiculous situation than does the formula suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton.

There has been no mention yet of the KSS proposal relating to permitted goods sold from garden centres, motor supply and do-it-yourself shops. The word "permitted" presents a definitional quandary every bit as difficult as that criticised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby in respect of the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton.

In a nutshell, amendment No. 35 would keep Sunday morning special and has many attractive features. It is an appropriate solution, not least because of the obvious inadequacies of other proposals before the Committee. Partial deregulation is not credible—[Interruption.]

The Second Deputy Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but there is a constant buzz of what I imagine to be private conversations, which is not acceptable. If the hon. Members responsible hope to catch my eye later, they will be unlucky.

Mr. French

I agree with the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) that partial deregulation is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is far too close to full deregulation and would quickly destroy the character of Sunday, which I have an interest in preserving. Partial deregulation would be harmful to small shopkeepers, and a diversity of small shops is valuable and must be retained—particularly in city shopping centres. Allowing large shops a continuous six-hour period of trading between 10 am and 6 pm would turn Sunday into a low-key Saturday—and that is not something that I or the majority of my constituents desire. I want Sunday to remain a trading half day with the minimum of complexities in respect of the type or size of shop, type of goods or hours of opening.

If amendment No. 35 is passed, I would want to make one or two modifications in Committee and to re-examine the types of shop that it allowed to open and the sort of goods they could sell. I would like to place some finite limit on afternoon deregulation. At present, all shops could continue to remain open for the rest of the day, and a six o'clock closing time would strike a fair balance. Such a formula would get rid of complexities, keep costs to a minimum, make enforcement practicable and satisfy both those who want to shop on Sunday and those who do not and want it to remain a little different. It would satisfy also those who want to work on Sunday and those who do not. Amendment No. 35 therefore represents the best option before the Committee.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. French), [...]ho clearly brings his legal expertise at the Bar to analysing the various options. He has a special interest in small businesses but perhaps did not examine that sector sufficiently in relation to small shops. The hon. Gentleman referred to the mood of the people, and it is incumbent on the Committee to reflect the totality of that mood.

The hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) indicated in an intervention that Parliament should adopt the views taken by constituents, and he warned that if we do not we shall receive an avalanche of letters from constituents who will lose their jobs if we do not follow a particular route. With 3 million unemployed, there will anyway be many redundant Conservative Members after the next general election. That would truly be retribution. However, as to the mood of the public, we cannot abrogate our responsibilities.

We are not here to respond to the dictates of single-issue pressure groups. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) referred to a single-issue pressure group. We have all received letters on this subject from such groups. But at the end of the day it falls to the House of Commons to make a balanced decision in the interests of our constituents.

The hon. Member for Gloucester talked about the mood of the people. It is incumbent on us to catch that mood tonight. The hon. Gentleman referred to peace and quiet. He said that he supported amendment No. 35. If we were to get full deregulation, there would not be much peace and quiet in our daily lives.

The hon. Gentleman referred to a variety of anomalies that he found in the Keep Sunday Special documentation and the option. Those anomalies fall in the category of myths, myths and shibboleths. We can spend a lot of time talking about those anomalies. It was suggested that they could be examined on Report and I am sure that that will be the case.

The hon. Gentlemn referred to the extra cost to local authorities if the Keep Sunday Special option is adopted. If there is full deregulation, there will be additional costs on local authorities. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) referred to services that are offered at present by local authorities on a Sunday.

I support the option put forward by Keep Sunday Special and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform. I will vote for amendments Nos. 2, 5, 7, and 8 in accordance with the advice given by the Secretary of State when he set out the options open to us. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) in his place because he referred to a specific point to which I shall return later. He said: No serious employment protection in the future is available without keeping Sunday special … keeping Sunday special is the only way to protect our workers. That must be the case. We have seen many documents on what happens in Europe. For example, there is no trading on Sunday in Germany. There has never been trading on Sunday and there has been no question of the German economy faltering, floundering, weakening or slipping.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

It is in a terrible state.

Mr. Bell

That is because of reunification, not because there is no shopping on Sunday.

Another significant fact about Germany is that, notwithstanding the fact that there is no law for trading on a Sunday, there is no breaking of the law. The law has not been broken and enforceability has not been necessary. That is a significant difference between Germany and the United Kingdom. Many hon. Members have talked about the way in which large retail stores have broken the law over many years. That reflects a different attitude from that in Germany.

I spent many years in France. Certainly, Sunday in France is not the same as Sunday in this country. There have been many jokes from French tourists about Sunday closing in London and England. It is not the same in France where Sunday is certainly much livelier. France has a Sunday shopping law which prevents all stores from opening on a Sunday. The Virgin megastore was the last to discover what can happen when one opens on a Sunday against the law of the land.

The difference between France and the United Kingdom is that the law has been enforced in France. Local inspectors have been involved and there are several cases before the courts. It is interesting to see that the French have not gone along the route of taking cases of being open on a Sunday to the European Court under article 30 and saying that this is somehow a quantitive restriction on imports on a Sunday.

The French law has something which we have had since the Shops Act 1950 came into force—employee protection for Sunday work. It is a legal obligation that a person does not work on a Sunday, but if he does work on a Sunday there must be another day in lieu. One of the consequences of the Shops Act has been that penalties have been imposed in the criminal courts if employers did not respect the obligation not to make someone work on a Sunday. Under this Bill, that provision will go.

8.45 pm

The right hon. Member for Selby referred to employee protection. At the outset, I must say that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) has worked extremely hard to get some form of employee protection into the Bill. There has been a series of extensions of the original proposals into the area of worker protection. However, the worker protection that will come out of the Bill will be through the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 which deals with industrial tribunals.

If a worker on a Sunday has any difficulty with the owner of the retail shop or chain, he must take his case to an industrial tribunal. That is not necessarily a way forward that protects the right of the worker. He may have bought himself a law suit but he has certainly not bought himself justice. We should bear that in mind when we consider employee protection. It is not sufficient simply to say that we are protecting those who work on a Sunday by introducing employee protection. The employer then has a whole series of hurdles to get over if he is to enforce his right.

Mr. Butterfill

The hon. Gentleman may recollect that the state of Massachusetts in the United States introduced a similar employee protection law when it deregulated some time ago. Indeed, I introduced a similar provision when we debated the issue previously. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there have been no problems with the law in the state of Massachusetts—it has not led to any significant litigation or difficulties.

Mr. Bell

There has been a whole series of erosions of rights before industrial tribunals. Our research clearly shows that applicants without legal representation have been successful in only 1 per cent. of cases where the employer was represented. Other figures show that trade unions frequently help their members to fight cases before industrial tribunals, thus mitigating the absence of legal aid provision. However, most of the 2.2 million retail employees are part-time, non-union workers and do not have the same way of defending their actions.

That is not simply my view; it is the view of those who have specialised in this subject. They have examined the subject and believe that the unfair dismissal law cannot be used to provide unqualified job security rights for shopworkers. Both the substance of the law and the statutory remedies for unfair dismissal suffer from weaknesses which would substantially limit the effectiveness of schedule 4 to the Bill. I return to the point made by the right hon. Member for Selby. If we wish to have employee protection on a Sunday, we will get it only by voting for the Keep Sunday Special option.

A number of statements have been made by trade union leaders. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen referred to USDAW. I have received representations from the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union. I must declare an interest. I am sponsored by the GMB and I am comfortable with that fact, although I do not propose to follow its recommendation. I am being whiter than white when it comes to this issue.

We have also had the views of Unison. That union has clearly said that the Keep Sunday Special option is the one that we should support. Lest I give the impression that we are entirely unionised and we entirely support the view of certain trade unions, let me say that we also have the views of the British Chamber of Commerce and therefore I link the interests of trade unions with those of businesses. They say clearly that the updating of the Shops Act along the lines of schedule 1 to the Bill—that is, the joint option of KSS and RSAR—offers a relatively straightforward basis for updating the law on Sunday trading which is economically enforceable. I quote: Total deregulation would lead to many small shop closures, less protection of staff, increased local authority and public service costs and ultimately higher prices to the consumer. I shall return to the subject of small businesses because small shops and medium-sized shops are small businesses. Two weeks ago, in the Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer lifted the requirement of an audit on small businesses. He lifted the threshold on VAT. He offered a consultation on late payment for small businesses. Yet the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, who is with us tonight and is listening—I know how barristers listen with one ear even if they have another one occupied—are going for total deregulation. That is incompatible with the objective of helping small businesses and overlooks the point that small shopkeepers are small businesses.

At least the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold), to whose speech I listened with great interest, had the grace not to say that the document which we have, urging Conservative Members in the first instance to vote for total deregulation and, if that was not acceptable, partial deregulation, had been left on a photocopying machine. Generally, when we have leaks from the Conservatives, the document is left on the photocopying machine for a Labour party researcher. That was not the case.

The argument that I wish to make in relation to the speech of the right hon. Lady is that there is no halfway house between full deregulation and partial deregulation. The Committee must decide clearly tonight that either it wants total deregulation or it wants the option of Keep Sunday Special. We all know the route that partial deregulation will take—it will fairly quickly become full deregulation. I seek, therefore, to persuade the Committee, as we are in the business of persuading, that the Keep Sunday Special option is the option available.

I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) in his place because he made an interesting and incisive speech on Second Reading. He referred to defining the essence of Sunday. We have all looked upon that concept of Sunday. We have all said how we want to keep Sunday special. Some of us regard it as a day of leisure. Some of us regard it as a day of rest. Others talked of a day of tranquillity, of contemplation, of reflection. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) talked of it as a day special to the six others.

We have touched briefly upon the question of religion. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) mentioned it; the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) mentioned it; but we have to bear in mind that in this country we have a Christian ethic and a Christian ethos. We fully accept the other religions. We accept that we are a multi-racial society and also a multi-religious society—we respect the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith—but we open each sitting of Parliament with prayers as part of the established Church. We cannot simply take out of the equation the element of the sabbath, that essence of our belief, when it comes to the subject of Sunday opening.

I was quite enlivened one day in church when the priest said that more people go to a church on a Sunday than go to a football match on a Saturday. It may be that more people now watch the football match on Sky television on a Sunday than go to church, but we have the Christian ethos and we have the Christian value. We ought not to overlook that when we discuss these issues.

I would not wish to take up the time of the Committee unduly, but I must leave the issue where I began. It is incumbent upon the Committee to make a decision in the national interest, in the interests of all of our people; not simply those who have written letters; not simply those who have enlisted single-issue pressure groups; not simply those who have lobbied today for a six-hour day for Sunday shopping. It is for us to make the final decision. It is in our hands to resolve the issue once and for all and to resolve in Committee and on Report other aspects that might arise. The gift is ours; it cannot be taken away from us. Members of Parliament must decide tonight, and, in my view, the only option is the Keep Sunday Special option.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

We can all agree on what the hon. Gentleman has just finished by saying—that the matter has been dragging on for far too long and must be settled once and for all. I applaud the Government's determination to do just that.

On the subject of small businesses, and on the subject of Scotland, a friend of mine who runs a small business in Scotland said that when the big shops in Princes street open on Sunday, as British Home Stores does, more people come in to shop in the small shops in the arcades on Sunday. If big shops open, it appears to do good to small businesses rather than the harm that is sometimes expected.

Mr. Lord

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

I will not, because a lot of people want to speak and if I give way to my hon. Friend I shall be tempted to give way to all sorts of other people who want to ask me lots of questions. It is out of fairness to everyone else. Perhaps my hon. Friend will catch the Chairman's eye.

What are the elements that I believe must affect the decision that I make this evening? The first is that it should accord as far as possible with the wishes of the majority of the people. Secondly, we should decide on an approach which will give people as much freedom as possible to make a choice about whether they want to shop or they do not. Thirdly, we must do it in such a way that we should respect the law rather than have contempt for it. Fourthly, we must do it in a way which incurs the least possible cost to the taxpayer. Fifthly, we must protect the consciences of those who choose not to work on Sunday.

Applying those rules, what do I find to be the situation? As far as the overwhelming will of the people is concerned, I am persuaded that the majority want to be free to shop or not, as they choose, on Sunday. It has nothing to do with keeping Sunday special. If they want it to be special by not shopping they will not shop. Some will want it to be special by being the one day in the week when they can shop with their families. Bearing in mind that the patterns of life have changed very much since the Shops Act was introduced in 1950, that families often come together and it is much better that they should come together with some kind of an activity on Sunday than sit stewing in front of the television set, and that 11 million people already shop on Sundays and will go on doing so whichever way we decide tonight, and that the church shops are often open on Sunday so the sin has gone out of Sunday shopping, I think that the first of those elements has been fulfilled if the overwhelming majority of people want to choose deregulation.

As to free choice, the Keep Sunday Special option offers the least free choice, the partial deregulation, the next least free choice, amendment No. 35 the next degree of free choice and total deregulation the most free choice.

As to respect for the law, we should have learnt the lesson by now that restrictions in this area lead to contempt for the law and the injustice of some being prosecuted while others are not, some being forcibly closed down while others are open, and theė absurdity of thė distinctions which are so much honoured in the breach, governing what one may sell, what one may not sell and in what shop one may not do it.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) said, it is crazy to substitute one set of restrictions for another. It will bring the law into disrepute, as powerful and wealthy shops break the law, get round it or ignore it. About 30 years ago I was asked to advise whether a certain well known company was breaking the Shops Act by holding sales of all the wonderful items that it made in people's houses on Sunday. The name of the company must, of course, remain secret, but it produced plastic ware. I was a young barrister, and I advised the firm that what it suggested would be in breach of the Shops Act. I do not blame the firm, but it totally ignored my advice, and went on to make large fortunes for anyone who invested in the business.

I say that merely to make the point that, in one way or another, people get round, ignore or break such laws, and it will be the wealthy organisations and companies that do so.

9 pm

Mr. Butterfill

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

No. The same rule must apply to my hon. Friend, tempting though his interruption may be, as applied to my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord), to whom I had to say no.

There is no doubt that unless we get rid of all those regulations there will not be respect for the law.

With regard to expense, we have only to consider the expense of policing those multifarious regulations, whichever option we choose. If we choose partial deregulation someone will have to decide whether a shop is larger than 280 sq m, or whether it is open for minutes longer than six hours between 10 am and 6 pm. Someone will have to decide whether a shop really is a pharmacy, and therefore exempt. There would be the absurdity whereby a supermarket of 270 sq m could open all day, but one of 290 sq m could open for only six hours.

That is nothing compared with the policing necessary to enforce option 2 of the Keep Sunday Special regulations. Policing at some cost would be required to see whether a shop was exempt, regardless of size. Someone would have to ask: is it a pharmacy, selling medicines, or, if it size-limited, is it no larger than 280 sq m? Is it selling goods that are "wholly or mainly" the goods that one would expect to buy in a grocery shop, a newsagent, or a flower shop? If it is a larger exempt shop, is it selling only permitted goods? If it is exempt because of location, is it a tourist shop selling "wholly or mainly" souvenirs or confectionery? If it is a farm shop, is it selling "wholly or mainly" home-grown produce? If a very small shop claiming to be 10 sq m or less is being investigated, is it 10.25 sq m, or 11.2 sq m, and so on? That is crazy.

If hon. Members want to hear me make a speech against my interests as a lawyer, I am making one now. Having as many regulations as we can is a wonderful way to give money to lawyers. [Interruption.] I am speaking against my own professional interests, and my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) knows that that will strengthen my argument. When one speaks against one's interests there is more credibility in what one says—or so one hopes. No doubt it will be in the interests of some people for there to be some form of regulation, but there can be no possible doubt that the least expensive option—my fourth requirement—is total deregulation.

Mr. Booth


Sir Ivan Lawrence

No; the same rule must apply. I am sorry.

Finally, my fifth requirement is to protect the consciences of those who do not choose to work. That is an important matter and I am delighted that the Government have come round to the idea of accepting all the requirements of those most closely concerned with that aspect. The Government have given that protection in total regulation, as in all others, and I do not need to repeat those provisions.

I am driven, Miss Fookes, to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Dame Janet."] I am sorry, Dame Janet.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes)

That is quite all right, Mr. Lawrence.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Applying the facts as I see them to the requirements that I believe necessary, I am driven inexorably to the conclusion that there should be total deregulation. Once we accept that Sunday opening is not a sin but is what a majority of people want, and that Sunday will still be special if, for any reason—people have different ideas about what the special nature of Sunday is —we want to make it special, once we ensure that those who do not want to work are not forced to do so, once we ensure that it will be cheaper for the taxpayer, simpler and less likely to bring the law into disrepute than total deregulation, then total deregulation seems to me to be the only sensible conclusion.

That is what the Auld committee, after 18 months' work during which it contacted 500 individuals and organisations, and considered 7,000 submissions, decided: We are firmly of the view that there is no interest, or combination of interests, that justifies the retention of … regulation of shopping hours. We have considered as an independent issue whether in any event a form of control can be devised that would be fair, simple and readily enforceable. We have examined in great detail a wide range of suggested different forms of legal control … none would provide a fair or readily enforceable system. That is what has always happened in Scotland, and it works well there. I am not impressed at all by my hon. Friends who brush aside Scotland as though it is of no interest in the matter just because it is the most inconvenient example to their argument. Three-quarters of the shops in Scotland do not open, so there would be far less noise than my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) fears.

The quarter of the shops which do open bring shopping interest to their area. The big shops, as I have said, bring trade to the smaller shops also—or so my Scottish friends tell me. They also provide jobs for students at the weekends or for people who want to have some time at the weekend to supplement their incomes.

My hon. Friend will know that I do not follow the Scots everywhere, particularly in legal matters. However, on this occasion we would all do well to follow the call of the bagpipers.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

The standard of debate during this evening and this afternoon has been very high. The Whips are off, and there may be a lesson for us all in that.

I wish to comment on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), although I hesitate to do so because I well know his standing as a Queen's counsel of great eminence. However, if I understood his thesis in connection with the Keep Sunday Special option, I believe that he said that the law would be brought into some disrepute if regulation were necessary. That must be the best possible argument for abolishing Parliament.

I shall be brief, as time is short. I believe sincerely that total deregulation is wrong in principle and that it will not work. I listened carefully to the extremely powerful and well-argued speech of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold). I disagreed with her and shall elaborate on why shortly.

The right hon. Lady said that the second option, the Keep Sunday Special option, was in some way complex and would be unworkable. I will make the obvious point that the fine-tuning exercises can take place at another stage and that today we are dealing more with the principle. We are not dealing with the minutiae of the Bill, and those matters can be discussed on another occasion.

I am afraid that the partial deregulation option appears to me to be a Pandora's box. As the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said, it is also a slippery slope. It will bring deregulation via the back door and, to that extent, it may be a dishonest—I use that word advisedly—option.

The fourth option was introduced by the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) for what were, I am sure, the best possible and most honourable of motives. However, I would classify his version with the Pandora's box. It will open the door, and the door will then fly open with the wind.

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Llwyd

Time is short, and I should like to make progress if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.

Total deregulation is, in my view, wrong. It is not only simplistic but a dangerous option for many thousands of small shop proprietors. They would face two real problems. The first is the problem of having to open for seven days. If a shop has a staff of perhaps one or two persons, will the proprietors be able to handle a seven-day working week? Should they have to face a seven-day working week? The short answer is no. Hon. Members have a seven-day working week, but we are a funny breed anyway. One should not reasonably expect a person to work for seven days a week.

What happens if small shop proprietors do not work for seven days and want to keep their customers? I am talking not about city centre areas but about smaller towns, such as those which I represent, which have the larger stores on their outskirts. If proprietors want to keep their customers and they do not want to work seven days a week, they will have to bring in extra employees to cover the seventh day. Many of those businesses operate on minimal margins, and the proposals will break them as surely as I am standing here. No doubt, there are one or two problems of fine-tuning to be dealt with. I do not pretend that this option is perfect as it stands, but surely in this place we can fine-tune or hone measures when necessary.

The right hon. Member for Honiton foresaw that a major problem would be posed by the need to know the floor area of shops. But all that information is on file already. District valuers have it for the purposes of the uniform business rate. All they need to do is put it on someone's desk. I fear that no surveyors will have to be instructed—the information is all on file, so there is no problem. It is a dud point. Moreover, I am sure that analysis of the problems that hon. Members have identified in the KSS option will show that none is insurmountable.

I firmly believe that the KSS option is the right one, because it is a reasonable package. It is also highly practical, and as a lawyer I do not foresee any problems with implementation. It will open the door to smaller firms; if they want to, they can open their shops. Larger concerns may open during the run-up to Christmas. That provides choice. I therefore disagree with hon. Members who say that it is the least attractive option in terms of free choice. The choice offered by the KSS proposal is more than adequate.

One of two fine-tuning exercises may take place; I acknowledge that one or two slight problems may need ironing out. Like other hon. Members, I am concerned about the rights of employees. I believe that the KSS option ensures that their rights are protected and will mean an extension of choice to the public—with added safeguards for staff.

I am sure that I speak for the whole Committee when I say that legislation is overdue. Tonight we have a real opportunity, and hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber must grasp it. The law certainly has fallen into disrepute, and our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that the new legislation does not fall into the same trap.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) pointedly and rightly said that the cynical lawbreaking by some of our larger concerns had been disgracefully bad for the rule of law. He asked what we should do about the lawbreakers. The short answer is that the Bill provides for bringing them before a court of law. I hope sincerely that they will be taken to court; otherwise, the whole exercise will be a complete waste of time.

Mr. Sheerman

Some of the companies in the forefront of this campaign used to be names that we regarded with great admiration. We used to think that the Sainsburys of this world were progressive companies in the retail trade, but they have changed. They have led this charge; they have led this lawbreaking. Is not that disturbing and astounding?

Mr. Llwyd

I entirely agree; it has been a disgrace. Those companies should be ashamed of themselves, driven as they are by only one motive—profit. That is abhorrent—

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

They also have their customers in mind.

Mr. Llwyd

The hon. Lady has not been in the Chamber long. She has been here for five minutes, whereas I have sat through five hours of debate. Let us have an element of decorum.

Those companies should be ashamed of themselves because they have been selective about adhering to the law. If a person is caught shoplifting, whether on a Saturday, a Sunday or any other day, he is likely to be prosecuted.

Time and time again, local authorities have turned a blind eye to lawbreaking. Some have decided as a matter of policy not to enforce the law, but I am sure that others are unable to do so because of financial constraints. I hope that the Committee will vote for the second option, but that new law can only be adhered to if local authorities are able to ensure that it is upheld. It is no use saying that some local authorities will police the law and others will not, because we would then be back at square one. We must ensure that local authorities have the resources to police the new legislation carefully and properly. They must prosecute all fairly and without fear. The Home Office must accept the scale of the problem and ensure that the local authorities receive the required resources to perform their function.

9.15 pm

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) spoke about the environmental impact of Sunday trading. The Association for the Conservation of Energy estimates that 1 million tonnes of additional CO2 emissions will result from complete deregulation and the resulting extra traffic.

It is important to remind the Committee of one topical, important point. When the Government introduced VAT on fuel, with which I disagreed, they argued that it would lead to a reduction of 1.5 million tonnes in CO2 emissions. In one fell swoop, however, we could drive a coach and horses through that intention, because total deregulation would sanction the emission of an extra 1 million tonnes of CO2. That point is not peripheral to the argument because we live in the world and we have a duty to protect our environment. If the Government are truly committed to the Rio agreement on emissions, they should take that on board.

The only viable option is the Keep Sunday Special option. I urge hon. Members to vote for that option because it will give the consumer what he needs, protect smaller shops and give larger retailers a say. It will also ensure that workers' rights are preserved. I urge hon. Members to vote for that option.

Mr. Couchman

I am pleased to have been called to speak in this important debate.

Last week, the House gave the Bill a Second Reading by a massive majority. It did so for one good reason—the law is in disrepute. It has proved to be unenforceable because it is shot through with anomalies. Tonight when we vote, however, we must ensure that we do not support an option that will create similar anomalies and contention.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) produced a most interesting option at the very last moment. It is, however, a complete nightmare. Who will tell housewives who run out of something on a Sunday morning that they cannot buy the necessary groceries from the corner shop? That is absolutely beyond the pale. It is not possible to support something so fundamentally flawed.

Mr. Butterfill

We are on common ground so far.

Mr. Couchman

My hon. Friend might care to listen.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton suggested that it might be possible to amend his option in Standing Committee. That seems to me to be an entire cop-out.

We are then faced with the possibility of total deregulation, which was proposed most eloquently and powerfully by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold). It still has a good deal of attraction for me. I voted for total deregulation in the unsuccessful attempt to reform the law in 1986 and I still feel considerable warmth towards that option. However, I do not expect it to succeed in the Committee tonight.

For a long time, I have nailed my colours to the mast of the Shopping Hours Reform Council compromise—the only real compromise among the options that are offered.

I have a great deal to say about the Keep Sunday Special campaign. I view it as a complete nightmare for lawyers. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) said that it would be a real field day for lawyers if we were to end up with the Keep Sunday Special option.

It seems that there is a certain amount of dissembling among those who proposed the RSAR option, which has now become the combined KSS-RSAR option. In Scotland, Marks and Spencer opens two of its stores on Sunday. It announced several months in advance—even before the shopping centre was open—that a recently opened store would be open on Sundays. Marks and Spencer led the way and was not led by others. That gives the lie to the comments of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) earlier this evening.

Much has been made of the way in which Marks and Spencer is preserving the small shopkeeper. I found an interesting article on a shuttle bus which it runs to the Fosse Park shopping centre in Leicestershire. The shuttle bus runs through all the villages, taking the villagers away from the small village shops and putting them in the large store at Fosse Park.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Couchman

I shall not give way at all because I have sat here for five hours waiting to make a short contribution.

Mr. Lord

Marks and Spencer did not break the law.

Mr. Couchman

My hon. Friend says that Marks and Spencer has not been breaking the law, and indeed it has not. However, it may well be that Marks and Spencer is preparing for a change in the law.

I understand that, when stores are interviewing applicants for new jobs, potential employees are asked whether they would be prepared to work Sundays. There has been a certain amount of dissembling on that matter. If the law changes to allow Marks and Spencer to trade legally south of the border, as it is doing north of the border, it certainly will do so. We should do away with the dissembling on that issue.

It seems that the Keep Sunday Special option totally ignores the social changes that have occurred in the 40-odd years since the 1950 Act was passed. It ignores the fact that many more women go out to work but remain the principal shoppers in households. Sunday shopping has come as a great boon to them. I visited a shop in my constituency where many families were doing their weekly shop as a family because mum could come out, too, because she was not at work as she was during the week.

There is a demand for a liberal change in the law and not for a more restrictive change in the law. Half the population who regularly shop once a month on a Sunday do not want to find themselves with a more restrictive choice than they have now. The list of exceptions that the KSS option would allow leads one to believe that that option has been drawn up in a way that is as near Sabbatarian as its promoters could get away with.

Much fun was had by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) about the fact that I like to go to antique shops on Sunday. I only wish that I could have responded to his suggestion that, in future, I will have to go to B and Q for my antiques. That seems a most unlikely place for antique collectors to spend their leisure time on Sundays.

There are, as we have heard from various hon. Members, bakers, butchers, book shops, boat yards, car showrooms, caravan showrooms, carpet shops, compact disc sellers, charity shops, china and glass shops, clothes shops, confectioners, craft shops, curtain and blind shops, electrical shops, furniture shops—even greengrocers—jewellers, kitchen shops, lingerie shops, pet shops, shoe shops, stationers, textile shops and toy shops.

Mr. Sheerman

On a point of order, Dame Janet. That is a very tedious list. This is the Committee stage of the Bill, yet hon. Members are getting up and refusing all interventions. Will you rule on that? It is quite extraordinary that hon. Members are starting their speeches by saying that they will not take interventions and then they go on to read long and boring lists.

The Second Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that it is entirely up to the hon. Member who has the Floor whether to permit an intervention. I am not able as Chairman to judge the value of a speech unless it becomes tedious repetition.

Mr. Sheerman

It is.

The Second Deputy Chairman

It has to be considerably more tedious than that.

Mr. Couchman

Thank you, Dame Janet, for your support.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield has made many interventions during this debate. My point is that, among those many categories of shops—mostly small shops—some 39,000 will not be allowed to trade on a Sunday. That will mean that 39,000 shops that are currently trading, either legally or illegally, will have to close under the KSS option. Many thousands of workers will lose their Sunday work, alongside the 80,000 who now work for the major stores—the supermarkets—on Sundays. What sort of worker protection do the proponents of the KSS option view that to be? It seems to me that it is no option whatever.

I know that other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will not speak for much longer. We need some form of compromise, because many people hold deep reservations about Sunday shop opening. In reforming the law, I believe that the Committee must take those worries into account. The restriction on large shops, which is in the SHRC option—the six-hour option—will mean a freezing of the present situation and we shall not see many more shops opening on a Sunday. If the partial deregulation option were passed, Sunday would continue to be maintained in a special way and the specialness that all of us crave would be preserved.

Whatever we do by way of reform to this outdated and anomalous law, we should ensure that it is durable. The one thing that we do not wish to see coming back next year is a shopping hours reform Bill. That is what will happen if we end up with a restrictive and regulatory option such as that proposed by the KSS campaign. If, as I suspect, total deregulation does not gain favour with the Committee, I hope that it will give massive support to the alternative compromise SHRC proposal.

Mr. Soley

I intend to be brief and speak in support of the SHRC position, and bring in a couple of new points, which might seem a little difficult after so much time. I shall touch equally briefly on a couple of points that have already been mentioned.

The importance of the employee's rights has been mentioned. I would vote against legislation if I thought that it was against those rights. As the main trade unions, including one of which I am a member, have concluded that the compromise proposal is in the best interests of their members, I am not in the business of telling them to go back and tell their members that they are wrong. Nor am I in the business of telling them to go back and renegotiate. That is an important point, and so far as I am concerned, it deals with that issue.

My second point is about small shops. Again, if I felt that a measure that extended shopping hours would cripple small shops, I would be tempted to vote against it. [Interruption.] I ask hon. Members on the Liberal Democrat Bench to listen to me. I do not want to take too many interventions, but when they have heard what I have to say, one of them may wish to intervene and, if so, I shall consider giving way.

The important point to remember about the regrettable decline of small shops is that it started long before the Sunday trading issue. It is the result of the growth in supermarkets and large stores. In the debate, hon. Members have blamed the growth of the great stores for closing the small shops and said that if they open for another day, yet more small shops will close. That theory is not correct and it is not supported by the experience in my area or by a look at the types of shopping.

9.30 pm

When people go to the large superstores, particularly those out of town, they tend to do a different type of shopping from the shopping they do at local shops. They stock up for a week, 10 days or two weeks; they buy in bulk and it does not matter what day of the week they do that. If one went on the Wednesday because the shop was closed on a Thursday, Sunday opening would not make much difference to the pattern. It makes little odds what the day is. If I cannot go on a Sunday now, I will go on a Monday, but if I can go on a Sunday, I will not go on a Monday.

If hon. Members really believe that Sunday opening will lead to the decline of the small shop, they should listen to my experience. Only a couple of years ago a couple of large stores—both Sainsbury—opened in my area within about five miles of each other with my main patch, Shepherd's Bush, right in between them. [Interruption.] I should be grateful if I could have a little less noise around me.

There should have been a decline in the number of small shops in the area as a result of those two stores opening, but in fact there was probably a marginal increase, although not one connected with Sunday shopping. People go to the large shops on Sunday but down the end of the road for local shopping. That is what I do where I live in Shepherd's Bush. [...]f I want five, six or 10 items, I will go down the road for them, even on a Sunday, when I go to my local Asian shops, whose owners are not in favour of the KSS option, or at least have not told me that they are. On the other hand, if I want to stock up for a week or two, I go to the nearby Sainsbury store, or whatever.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Soley

I will give way, but I do not want to give way too often because of the lack of time.

Mr. Gapes

I thank my hon. Friend. Is he arguing that there is a limitless increase in the amount of goods that will be bought in the shops to which he is referring? Is there not a finite amount of shopping that will be done, and if that amount is spread over a longer time, will not that result in higher overheads and other costs?

Mr. Soley

I would like to think that it was as simple as that, but as is so often the case, there are variables. My hon. Friend has not taken into account the changed nature of shopping. If he was right in his argument, the situation in Scotland would have changed much more drastically. However, the argument that Scotland is different does not wash. I lived in Scotland for a number of years and I know that there is not much difference between the areas around Glasgow and Edinburgh and those around London. There is a far greater difference between living in London and living in the southern rural areas. One must also take into account the change in shopping patterns, which is vital.

Hon. Members have spoken about family life. It is hard to determine what improves or makes worse family life in an issue like this. The majority of shoppers are women. That is changing, I am pleased to say, but it is still true. I would like to think that hon. Members, like me, have gone shopping with young children. Those who have will know that going to shops with young children on one's own is a difficult job.

It is far better to go to the shops with another person. One of the advantages to the family, and to the mother, of shopping on a weekend, whether it is a Saturday or Sunday, is that there is partnership of people to shop and look after children. Another equally important option, which I employ, is to share the child care—either stay at home with the children while the other partner goes shopping, or vice versa. It is therefore not an argument to say that Sunday trading undermines family life. There is considerable evidence that it makes family life much easier and that it certainly makes the woman's role much easier.

The majority of representations that I have received from women are in favour of that sort of flexibility.

We must also be careful about the impact of technological change. Superstores grew in number because with the growing availability of cars and fridge freezers people were able to travel to those stores and stock up for a week or more. We must also consider another imminent situation in which people will sit in front of their television sets and order goods by telephone. If we are to go down that road in a few years, we must be clear about whether that will be allowed to happen on a Sunday. Technology drives social change. Whether that change is the growth of superstores or the ability to shop by telephone and television is marginal to the issue before us. However, it is critical if we kid ourselves that we can stand in the way of that social change.

We must ensure that we protect certain values and rights. We must protect the rights of the employees to the satisfaction of the trade unions involved and ensure that we do not introduce anything that is destructive of family life—there are some advantages. Logically, to protect small shops, the big shops would have to close. That would al[...]ow growth in the small shops, but apparently nobody is arguing for that.

The SHRC approach is the best option, not because it is perfect but because the others do not bear the analysis which is sometimes applied.

Mr. Cormack

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) always makes a thoughtful and interesting speech, as he has done tonight, although I could not follow his logic or his argument.

My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth), who had hoped to participate in the debate, a few moments ago handed me an interesting quotation of the words of an eminent neurologist, Dr. James Brown. He said: We doctors, in the treatment of nervous diseases, are compelled to prescribe periods of rest. Some of these periods are, I think, only Sundays in arrears. It is an interesting observation from a medical man. I stand full square behind the special nature of Sundays. It is not a question of whether one goes to church; it is a question of a day when the tempo of life is slower, when the family can be together more and when it is different from the rest of the week.

I have always opposed the deregulation of Sunday trading because I am completely against a high-street Sunday. I do not want Saturday to be replicated the day after and if there is total deregulation through either of the deregulation options before the Committee, Sundays will certainly be a second Saturday. I also oppose the deregulation of Sunday trading because I strongly believe in the value of small shops. Members of Parliament have a prime duty to those who are most vulnerable in society. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) who talked about the rich and powerful. We do not have to worry about the rich and the powerful a great deal. As we have seen in recent years, the law has been flagrantly violated by those who ought to know better. We are concerned with protecting those who are less able to protect themselves—small shop keepers, workers in shops and those who live in modest houses who will suffer the greatest disruption from the clutter and bustle of a high-street Sunday.

Let us consider those three categories one at a time, beginning with the small shopkeeper. I am afraid that I was not convinced by what the hon. Member for Hammersmith said. I believe that they would suffer in one of two ways—they would be driven out of business or forced to open on Sundays and people who work all around the clock would lose the little rest and recreation that they sometimes have.

I was much influenced by a letter that I received from the National Organisation of Asian Businesses. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) is a member of its advisory board. I fully respect her position but it is certainly not in accord with that of the organisation which urges us to support the RSAR initiative, allowing shops of up to 3,000 sq ft to remain open on Sundays.

Small shops perform a significant and signal service in rural areas such as mine, where they are often the centre of the community where people gather, and in urban and suburban areas where they are the corner shops. They would all be endangered by the unrestricted Sunday opening of the large shops. There is no doubt about that.

The second category concerns those who work in the shops. I am especially worried about the total inadequacy of the well-meant provisions in the Bill which are supposed to give some protection. I intervened on my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) to quote a contract circulating in the Wolverhampton area. I received a very sad letter from a lady who received a copy of that contract. She drew my attention to a clause in the contract which states: If it is decided that your branch will trade on a Sunday or a Bank holiday, you may be asked to work on these days. Your employment is subject to your full agreement to this condition of employment. What option does the ordinary shop worker have if there is unrestricted Sunday trading? As has already been said, if Sunday ceases to be special, there is not much of a logical case for arguing for double time or overtime, so shop workers will suffer whatever happens.

The third group of small people are those who live in modest terraced houses and other accommodation in or near the centres of towns and cities. Their lives will be disrupted by the clutter and clatter of the commercial Sunday. When I listen to debates on this topic, I often think of Oscar Wilde's words about people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. We have a duty to know the value of Sunday, and we should not allow it to be driven out of our heads by purely commercial instincts.

I urge all hon. Members to realise that if we abolish the special nature of Sunday, we cannot call it back—it will be gone for ever. If we accept the Keep Sunday Special option, linked with what I call the Marks and Spencer option—meaning that shops would be allowed to open for the four Sundays before Christmas—we could amend and adjust it to meet changing demands. Total deregulation, however, would mean the removal of all restrictions to the disadvantage of everyone.

I end with two examples to support my argument. The first involves the effect of total deregulation on many of our town centres and cities. I do not know how many right hon. and hon. Members know Dudley in the west midlands, which has become a ghost town since the opening of the Merry Hill shopping centre. Such competition sucks the life out of a town—the hoardings go up, the criminals come in, and the town is dehumanised. I believe strongly that we would be doing a great disservice if we allowed that to happen everywhere, which would be the result of total deregulation.

Secondly, I think that it was the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) who mentioned Good Friday. Many hon. Members must remember when commerce stopped on Good Friday. It was an extra day of the year—another Sunday, if you like—when people could sit back; whether or not they went to church, it was a day of rest and recreation. For the more serious people it was a day of contemplation; and for the even more serious it was a day of contemplation about the most serious thing in their lives.

Good Friday is now another commercial day. One can drive down the main streets of any of our towns and cities, in almost any part of the country, and the cash tills are ringing and the queues are there. The rest, the recreation and the opportunity for contemplation has gone for ever. If we move along that road tonight, we will condemn every Sunday to go the way that Good Friday has gone in so many parts of the world.

I urge all right hon. and hon. Members not to throw away something that is priceless and beyond recall. The special character of Sunday is priceless. If it goes tonight it will be beyond recall.

9.45 pm
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I apologise for missing the earlier parts of the debate but I was delayed by traffic.

I welcome the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), who made telling points. I may be in danger of going over old ground, so I will try to keep my remarks concise and deal with some of the points that I have heard.

We have heard some specious arguments tonight. For example, according to the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), the more people break a law the less likelihood there is of that law being upheld and therefore we must change it. It is a strange argument. Perhaps I am more aware of that because I come from Northern Ireland.

I did not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). In this debate at least, my experience has been that trade union officials—having entered into agreement with some of the bigger stores to collect dues—have been protecting their jobs rather than those of some of their members.

The debate is about whether we go for further materialism or stand for other values. I declare my interest without any ambiguity as an ordained minister of the word and sacraments. We are living in a materialistic society. Reference has been made to the Jews, Moslems and Christians, and we all accept the principle that one day in seven must be kept different. In other countries, where the predominant religion may be Jewish or Moslem, their specific day is different. Because of our heritage, traditionally our's is the first day of the week.

When people were arguing for Sunday football and Sunday sport some years ago, one of the arguments was, "We must play on Sunday because Saturday is the only day that we can go shopping with our wives." When the premier league was introduced and the main matches played on a Sunday were televised, it was amazing how many found that they could play football on a Saturday because they were not getting the gates on a Sunday. That reflects the materialistic spirit that is passing through our world.

Reference was made to Germany and France. It is not surprising that those who have been leading the advance to totally deregulate Sunday trading in this country are now beginning to spread their wings and seeking to influence thinking in France and Germany.

The Government are calling us back to basics. Tonight is an opportunity to get back to the basics of the decalogue and to remember that the fourth commandment is one of the fundamental basics that gives us a day of rest, when we can recycle ourselves and opt for values that are more important than profits.

Mr. John Marshall

Having listened to every speech, I shall resist the temptation to comment on all but one—that of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), whose integrity, principles and commitment to Christianity we all accept, but some of whose conclusions are not acceptable to me.

I noted the hon. Gentleman's kind comments about the Jewish community, and his observation that that community honours Shebat. I suppose that I represent more orthodox members of the Jewish community than any other Member of Parliament. When I go around Hendon on a Saturday, I can guarantee that orthodox Jewish families will also be walking around my constituency. They do not do so because there is any lack of temptation. Nearly all the shops in Golders Green open on Saturdays, as do virtually all the shops in Hendon. Those families could go to the shops at Brent Cross, or to the cinema, but they do not do so for reasons of conviction—and I believe that Sunday will remain special through conviction rather than legislative fiat.

Mr. Donald Anderson

I was trying to make a point about the value of family life. I am certain that, if deregulation were introduced—either immediately or by stages—it would impose an undesirable additional pressure on the family. In many cases, a key member of the family would not be present on that one day.

Mr. Marshall

There is no reason why family life should be destroyed by partial deregulation, as recommended by the Shopping Hours Reform Council. Over the past few weeks, I have visited a number of supermarkets and have noted the instances in which father, mother and children go shopping together.

Let me give the hon. Gentleman an example of the way in which seven-day trading can aid family life. I asked a gentleman of about 50 who was shopping in Asda, "Why are you shopping today?" He replied, "I shop for myself on Saturdays, and on Sundays I take my elderly mother out in the car so that she and I can shop together. That is the only way in which she can visit the supermarket: it is open on Sundays, and I can go with her and help." That is family life—a son helping his elderly mother. It would stop if supermarkets closed on Sundays.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Is not one of the greatest joys of childhood sitting on a supermarket trolley while the parents do the shopping?

Mr. Marshall

I went to a supermarket with my children last weekend—(Interruption.]

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. I should be grateful if hon. Members would listen to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall).

Mr. Marshall

My children thoroughly enjoyed the experience, although I did not enjoy paying for their extravagances; they thought that I should buy whatever they selected.

The hon. Member for Swansea, East said that the supermarkets had been breaking the law. Every shop that has opened on Sunday has been breaking the law for generations: every shop that has sold a bag of sugar or Tetley tea bags—Tetley's beer can be sold on Sundays, but the tea bags cannot—or a can of beans has broken the law. Every shop that would benefit from the amendment supported by the hon. Member for Swansea, East has been breaking the law. The argument that lawbreakers must not be allowed to benefit is an argument for voting for none of the amendments.

Over the past few weeks, an unholy alliance—a marriage of convenience—has been created between the Keep Sunday Special and RSAR campaigns. It should be remembered that the two campaigns came together only because they knew that individually they could not get their proposals through the House of Commons. It is the most disgracefully restrictive and protectionist group of retailers imaginable.

Waitrose does not want to open Sundays. I would not force Waitrose to do so, but why should it stop Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury opening on Sunday? Marks and Spencer wants to open only four Sundays a year. Why should it prevent British Home Stores or Woolworth opening the other 48 Sundays? Marks and Spencer wants to deny consumer choice and to restrict competition. Marks and Spencer wrongly claims that it will be forced to open on Sundays if the SHRC option succeeds. One only has to look at the experience of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee to realise that if shops were allowed to open on Sundays in England, Marks and Spencer would not be forced to do so and would not do so most Sundays.

Keep Sunday Special's decision to get into bed with the RSAR was completely unprincipled. When we debated the private Member's Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) earlier this year, one understood that the hon. Gentleman was advancing the principle of no trading on Sundays by the big boys. We no longer have that principle, but we are told that there should be no trading except on four Sundays. Why four and not six, eight or 10? No one has said. We have been told that shops should only trade on the four Sundays before Christmas, and see the KSS campaign supporting the commercialisation of Christmas. I find that completely—(Interruption.]

Mr. Sheerman

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. It is difficult to hear the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), and a rumour that is circulating is adding to the noise. The rumour is that the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) has withdrawn his amendment, which would change the voting pattern. If that rumour is true, right hon. and hon. Members should know before they flood out of here and into the wrong Lobby.

The Chairman

It is not for the Chair to listen to any rumour that may be circulating. If any right hon. or hon. Member wants to withdraw an amendment at any time, it is up to him to do so. At this point, the Committee is debating amendment No. 35 and the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) has the Floor.

Mr. Marshall

Much of the debate has been muddied by discussion of the small shopkeeper. It is amusing to see Marks and Spencer, which has been competing against small shopkeepers for generations, suddenly come along and say, "We are terribly concerned about the small corner shop." Marks and Spencer could not care two hoots. It is amusing also that Iceland, which has been trying to win business from the small corner shop, says, "Vote for our option to help the small corner shop." It would be more honest of Iceland to say, "Vote for our option to benefit Iceland"—because that is what it seeks to do.

The dramatic decline in the number of small shops in the 1980s had nothing to do with Sunday opening by supermarkets, because they did not open on Sundays then. It all had to do with a changing pattern of retailing, which presented small shops with intense competition, not from supermarkets but from petrol stations.

The test is simple. What would benefit the consumer, what do workers want and what do local authorities, which will have to enforce any change in the law, want? Local authorities prefer deregulation. They consider the SHRC option to be tolerable and the KSS-RSAR option to be intolerable, because it is riddled with illogical concepts.

This evening, my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) said, "Vote for the KSS option so that you can buy antiques in a DIY store on Sunday." Does my right hon. Friend really believe that the public would go to B & Q to buy a George IV desk? What arrant nonsense. How out of touch is my right hon. Friend.

The consumer enjoys Sunday shopping. Several million people shop on a Sunday. One of the reasons they do so is that supermarkets give good value. The supporters of KSS and RSAR want to keep convenience stores open. I went to a convenience store and a supermarket on a Sunday. In the convenience store, I had to pay 38p for a pint of milk. In the supermarket, the cost was 25p. Why should the pensioners of Hendon be prevented from paying low prices for their milk, bread and Nescafe? The supporters of KSS want to stop the pensioners, the low-paid and those who are not well off in my constituency from enjoying the benefits of cheap prices on Sunday. There is nothing moral about Labour Members voting to impose higher prices on my constituents.

It being Ten o'clock, THE CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.

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