HC Deb 09 February 1994 vol 237 cc290-304
Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

I beg to move amendment No. 63, in page 15, line 46, after 'customers', insert 'and includes any work in connection with the delivery of goods for retail sale at the shop which necessarily involves attendance at or adjacent to the shop for the purpose of those deliveries'. Many hon. Members, especially Opposition Members, wish as few workers as possible to have to go to work on a Sunday. However, under the Bill, many workers may be obliged to work on a Sunday, and the conditions that apply to them are at the heart of the debate, and are of considerable concern to my hon. Friends and to myself.

Employees are covered by many provisions in the schedule. It contains definitions both of shopworkers and of shop work, and it was our original intention to explore the definition of the term "shopworker". However, we have been advised that it is more appropriate to try to amend the definition of "shop work", and that is what the amendment is designed to do.

The amendment is not only probing but is of substance, too. I hope that, as a probing amendment, it will draw from the Minister a clear and expanded definition of what is meant by shop work and therefore how those who undertake that work can be described. It is also an amendment of substance, because it would bring within the ambit of the schedule and the Bill workers involved in deliveries to shops that open on a Sunday.

We are most anxious to understand precisely who is covered by the provisions of the Bill. There are many workers whom a lay person might not regard as shopworkers as such. They are not necessarily serving at counters, providing goods or taking cash or cheque payments; they may be workers replenishing the shelves, or working in the yard around the shop bringing goods in from delivery vehicles. They may be the people who go out and collect those trolleys that always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We may presume that all such workers are covered by the definition on the face of the Bill, but in our debates on the specific employment protection measures, it will be essential to know which workers are specifically covered by the provisions.

Shop work is defined on the face of the Bill as work in or about a shop in England or Wales on a day on which the shop is open for the serving of customers". That appears to include workers in the yard at the back of the shop, doing the ancillary tasks. But we wish to know definitely whether it covers, for example, workers who may be housed in offices at the back of the part of the retail premises where goods are being sold, operating the computers dealing with the cash tills and the flow of goods out of the store.

Does the definition of shop work as in or about a shop cover such workers whom a lay person might not imagine were involved in retail work of any kind? Does it cover the manager? Are we clear whether it will cover all managers associated with work in or about a shop that is open on a Sunday? Because we want to know the answers to those questions, we are testing the Minister by including in the amendment a definition of shop work that would include all those whom I have described—I have not yet heard a clear explanation whether they are covered or not—and also people delivering goods to the store.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Is it not important to establish whether the definition covers people who serve staff meals and refreshments? They may not serve the public, but many superstores such as Sainsbury's have staff cafeterias, and it is essential that the people who work in them be covered by the protection we seek.

Ms Ruddock

I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. He has mentioned yet another area where clarification is needed. I see that the Minister is beaming, which must mean that he will be able to say that those people are covered. We shall be delighted if he does. It is important to get such information on the record. I encourage all my hon. Friends to intervene as often as possible, so that we can have as clear and comprehensible a list as possible of workers defined as doing shop work "in or about a shop".

I shall now comment on those workers who make deliveries. It may be a somewhat controversial subject, and those who make deliveries may hold differing views on whether they wish to be included in the Sunday Trading Bill. Many of those people who will be required to work on Sunday and to make deliveries to stores which are trading on Sundays may already have to work on Sunday.

I acknowledge that some delivery workers already work on Sundays because they supply stores that open early on Monday morning. We also know that many workers who currently make deliveries, especially of fresh fruit, vegetables and milk, and who work illegally under the present arrangements which stores have instituted, will be required to work legally if the Bill becomes law. We wish to test the Minister to clarify whether such people are already included in the Bill's provisions. If not, our amendment would include those who make deliveries.

Delivery men and women are an important group of people who already often work unsociable hours. Many deliveries are made in the early hours of the morning in preparation for a day's trading, and they have a work pattern which is not conducive to the best sort of family life. As for other workers who will be required to work if the Bill becomes law, we believe there ought to be an opportunity for delivery workers to opt out of Sunday working.

We seek to make Sunday working a voluntary activity, and people should be able to choose whether to go to work or not on a Sunday when they are performing an activity where choice is of the essence. Of course we do not expect there to be a choice over the provision of emergency services or essential services which require people to drive vehicles on Sunday—that is clearly understood. However, we are discussing retail opening. It should be voluntary and would be a new provision in our society on Sundays, and therefore would affect a group of workers who could have to work in new conditions.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

I welcome the attempt that my hon. Friend is making to present as broad a range as possible of the groups of workers who should be protected. Does she agree that there is no possible protection in the Bill for workers who are currently being pressured, including one group of maintenance engineering workers I know of, who have been told that, probably, they would have to work on a Sunday as all the shops would be open? Those jobs are unrelated to retailing, yet, because of the whole ethos of Sunday opening, there is pressure on those workers to work on Sundays as well, which is of major concern to many of us.

Ms Ruddock

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is clear that the consequences of Sunday opening and of legalised Sunday trading are wide-ranging. We have debated those matters in Committee, and that debate will clearly continue. I firmly believe that, when the House opted for limited Sunday opening and partial deregulation, it was not giving the Government a free-for-all approach to Sunday trading and to the commercialisation of Sundays.

There is a sense throughout the House, especially among Opposition Members, that many workers could be adversely affected. It is our intention to extend the protection provided in the Bill to as wide a group of workers as possible.

4 pm

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

I support the amendment tabled by those on the Labour Front Bench, which extends the employment protection contained in schedule 4 to lorry drivers and distributive workers employed to deliver goods to shops opening on a Sunday. I welcome the amendment, because it will offer protection to some people working in ancillary retail services who will be substantially affected if Sunday trading became law: workers who will no longer be guaranteed respite from work at weekends; workers who are often separated from their families during the week and who will no longer be guaranteed free time with them at weekends; workers who will be required to work longer hours at low rates of pay. I support the amendment in recognition of the fact that employees in ancillary retail services should and must be given comprehensive protection on Sundays.

I want to draw to the attention of the House two inadequacies in the amendment—inadequacies that also permeate the Bill itself. The first is that the amendment applies only to a limited section of those employed in the distributive industry. It would offer no protection to those working in warehouses and regional distributive centres who, equally, will be required to work throughout the weekend if Sunday trading becomes prevalent.

Nor does the amendment offer protection to other employees working in ancillary services who will be affected directly by the introduction of full Sunday trading—for instance, those employed in food preparation. I am sure that we are all aware of the case of workers at Middlebrook Mushrooms who were dismissed for refusing to work longer hours at weekends in order to prevent further instances of discrimination and the harassment of workers into working unsociable hours.

The House has a responsibility to introduce comprehensive employment protection. That cannot be achieved through employment protection provisions such as those contained in schedule 4. It can be achieved only by restricting the level of trading on Sundays.

Equally, no protection is offered under schedule 4 to local government workers such as inspectors, traffic wardens and the police, all of whom will be required to have a larger presence in the community on Sunday if the Bill is passed. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) mentioned that in an intervention. It is important that all employees who are affected should be protected.

The second inadequacy to which I wish to draw attention is the fact that neither the amendment nor the Bill deals with the increased pressure that will be exerted on workers such as lorry drivers to work on Saturdays as well as Sundays. Information received from the United Road Transport Union shows that the experience of limited de facto Sunday trading is that, in order to serve shopping needs on Sundays, lorry drivers and warehouse workers have had to work on Saturdays, often every Saturday.

That pressure will increase if Sunday trading becomes widespread. Already, most lorry drivers work 60 hours a week, and are away from home from Monday or even Sunday to Friday. The only chance those workers get to see and spend time with their partners and their children is at weekends. Is it right, in a modern society, that workers should be deprived of the right to go to football matches with their children?

Already society is suffering the worst effects of the break-up of extended family networks in which parents, grandparents and children met and interacted regularly, and in which there was usually someone around who cared enough to keep the youngsters out of trouble. Nowadays, children are all too often left to fend for themselves long before they are ready to face the world alone.

While we cannot blame all the break-ups in society on Sunday trading, the preservation of a common day of recreation forms the central plank in a strong family-orientated community. Therefore, today and on Report, the House must vote to keep Sunday a special day for as many people as possible.

Yesterday, I received a letter from the general secretary of the United Road Transport Union. It is necessary to record parts of that letter. I quote: It is not generally appreciated that the deregulation of Sunday trading will have a significant impact not only upon shop workers but, also, upon those engaged in the road transport and distribution industry". It is right for the general secretary to send letters to Members of Parliament who are involved and interested in this Bill to ensure that his workers are protected. The letter continues: The advent of 'just in time' regimes, coupled with deregulation, will affect everyone in the supply chain; those delivering to regional distribution centres will find themselves working on Saturday afternoons and on through the night, whilst those delivering directly to retail outlets will be required to work on Sunday. Those changes, designed to bring benefits to retailers and shoppers, will be achieved at the expense of professional drivers, and at a huge cost to the social lives of them and their families … Substantial changes in working practices, leading to even greater pressure to breach existing regulations on drivers' hours, as there is no immediate prospect of a significant increase in the number of available qualified and experienced drivers to meet increased demand. A detrimental effect upon road safety caused by those pressures and by the absence of opportunity for rest and relaxation. A serious deterioration in family relationships as drivers become increasingly unable to fit in with the free time of the rest of the family … A substantial cost to society in dealing with the effect upon family relationships, higher rates of divorce and juvenile offending as the influence of the breadwinner is removed from the family home for longer and longer periods. Complete deprivation of any real choice about whether or not to work in accordance with the new demands as they become incorporated into the core of commercial activity. Concerns for the social welfare of the family and the well-being of children will, of necessity, be replaced by concerns for the security of employment and continuance of income. David Higginbottom, the general secretary of that union, is concerned about his members. He also expressed concern about a number of other people who will not be safeguarded by this amendment. The Government do not intend to safeguard some employees.

In other letters that I have received, workers have complained bitterly—Members of Parliament have also complained bitterly about this—that no hint was given or effort made to inform hon. Members that a deregulation Bill would extend weekday shopping to 24 hours a day Monday to Saturday. Why on earth do we want a Sunday Trading Bill to extend shopping on a Sunday when we will have shopping 24 hours a day six days a week?

What employment protection will be extended to workers when we take away the Shops Act 1950, which at least limits the number of hours that shopworkers are expected to work? The ancillary workers whom I mentioned—in all probability, my hon. Friends will mention them later—do not have employment protection. No amendment has been tabled that would give them protection. What protection will they be given by this Bill? I cannot see that happening.

In addition, my hon. Friends have already received complaints, and I tell Government Members in Scotland that their constituents will have no protection. We should be looking at that matter when we talk about the protection of workers. I will not take up any more of the Committee's time, because a number of my hon. Friends would like to express similar opinions.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

I support the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and amendment No. 63. The amendment should be seen in the context of later amendments, which deal with the protection of workers who will be required to work on Sunday.

Many hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) and myself, would say that one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This is a bad piece of legislation which cannot possibly be enforced in law. It will lead to the exploitation of employees who will be pressurised in the labour market.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

It is a bad Bill.

Mr. Alton

However many of the amendments are passed today—I will vote for those before the Committee because they attempt genuinely to make a bad situation better—the fact is, as the hon. Lady says, it is still a bad Bill.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, rather than trying to deal in a highly complex and convoluted way with the narrow group of retail workers who work on Sunday, we should be looking to much simpler legislation which provides full-time rights for part-time workers? Should not that legislation be available on the hour that a person takes up employment, no matter how many hours they work or how long they have served in a shop? Would not that help to solve most of the problems in this area?

Mr. Alton

I agree with the hon. Lady, but she will recall that, only yesterday, the House discussed further deregulation for the rest of the week. We are going against the rights of workers. We rejected the inclusion of the social chapter when we debated the Maastricht treaty, and the rights of workers have been eroded week in, week out, during this Parliament.

I support what the hon. Lady says, although some of the amendments ought undoubtedly to commend themselves to the Committee. For example, some seek to protect applicants at interviews for retail work from discrimination because they choose not to work on Sundays. Other amendments shift the burden of proof from the employee on to the employer in cases of unfair dismissal on Sunday-related grounds.

One reduces the notice period for opting out from Sunday work from three months to one month, and another ensures that employees are informed of their Sunday employment rights. An amendment improves the remedies available to shopworkers who are seeking redress for the violation of their Sunday rights.

Perhaps most importantly, there is an amendment to introduce statutory double-time payments for all shopworkers on Sundays, thereby extending the best existing practice relating to pay within larger stores to workers throughout the retail industry and fairly compensating employees for time sacrificed with their families and friends, as the hon. Member for Ogmore described.

All the matters which we will debate—including amendment No. 63, which extends employee protection to people in distribution who work on Sunday—are worthy, and ought to be commended to the Committee. We should not fool ourselves into believing that the measures will protect people, because everything is based on a wish and a prayer.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) talked about the voluntary principle, which shows a trust and belief in those who will be responsible for taking on employees in the future. Past practice does not give us any grounds for that touching belief expressed by the hon. Lady. The Shops Act 1950, after all, is what we are seeking to replace, and employee protection is at its heart. That principle has been tested in the British courts and the European courts, yet its provisions at the moment are paper-thin.

Legal aid is not available for industrial tribunal applications, and costs are not awarded except in wholly exceptional cases. Applicants without legal representation have been successful in only some 10 per cent. of cases when the employer has been represented. That is the present situation, so should we be making a bad situation even worse? Undoubtedly, the Bill will do that.

The remedies which are awarded are totally inadequate. Reinstatement—the primary remedy available—is awarded in only 1 per cent. of cases which proceed to a hearing. The compensation is derisory. The median compensation awarded in 1990 and 1991 was just £1,773.

Applications to industrial tribunals are subject to delay, and no interim relief is available. In June 1992, it was reported that, in a majority of regional jurisdictions, fewer than half of all applicants received a hearing within 26 weeks of their application being registered. Throughout the process of the hearing, the burden of proof of discrimination for refusing to work on Sundays lies with the employee. That is difficult to satisfy.

Even if later amendments are accepted, it will still be difficult to enforce the law.

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

The burden of proof does not lie on the appellant—the employee; it lies on the employer. We shall come to that later. The later amendment is unnecessary. What the hon. Gentleman has said—I know that he has read it elsewhere—is wrong.

4.15 pm
Mr. Alton

It is not simply that I have read it elsewhere: it is the practice on the ground. If the Minister looks at the case law that is available, he will see that any employee faced with the full weight of an employer is in a vulnerable position. We must bear it in mind that most of the retail industry is not unionised. Of the 2.2 million workers in the retail industry, probably 1.8 million are not in a union and have no real protection.

As the figures that I gave demonstrate, when workers receive a tribunal hearing following all the delays, they are not properly represented and, even if the courts find in their favour, they are not properly compensated. We shall see: what the problems of employment protection will be. The Bill is a charter for exploitation.

Britain is taking a retrograde step. Not only will we leave employees more vulnerable, but we shall destroy the one opportunity that many employees in the retail sector have to spend time with their family in their home and community. It would not be right to rehearse all those arguments again. They were heard on Second Reading and in other sittings in Committee. The Bill damages employees who like to have time with their families, and places them in a vulnerable position.

The amendment and those which follow try to make a bad situation better. I shall recommend that my right hon. and hon. Friends support them, but we do so in the recognition that, even if we passed every one, workers would still be vulnerable. Conservative Members will tramp through the Lobby to vote each amendment down like a row of skittles. I suspect that we shall be left with an unamended Bill at the end of the Committee stage. Then it will be left to Opposition Members to determine what to do on Report.

The intransigence of the Government, having—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Alton

Of course I will.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Gentleman will not like the point that I am going to make. If the shopworkers had not changed their mind, the Bill would not be before us in the state it is.

Mr. Alton

I regret that as much as the hon. Lady. I wrote to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers expressing my regret that some of their members had changed their view. But in fairness to the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise)—

The Chairman

Order. We are going wide of the amendment. I urge the hon. Gentleman to come back to it.

Mr. Alton

I was about to provide some employee protection for the hon. Member for Preston, who is the president of USDAW. She has taken an entirely consistent position on the Bill throughout, so what the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) says is not entirely correct.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Oh, yes it is, about the executive of the union.

Mr. Alton

I agree with what she says about the executive of the union, but it is not true of some of its representatives in the House.

The amendment is narrow. The debate that we shall have in the next few hours will rove around the employment protection issues in their many guises. I hope that the amendment will commend itself to the Committee.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

As the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) said, the amendment would include the delivery of goods to a shop in the definition of shop work covered by the schedule. That definition is already wide, as she acknowledged. She asked just how wide it was. All I can say is that all the roles to which she referred as performed in or about a shop would be covered.

The definition would include cleaners, storemen, shelf-fillers and trolley supervisors. The hon. Lady particularly asked about trolley supervisors. The definition would also include clerical workers at the back or above the shop or doing work related to the shop. Staff of the shop and staff cafeterias and managers on or about the premises would also be covered.

As well as the staff who serve customers, all those people will be covered, and I believe that van drivers based at the store, who deliver goods to customers, would also be included. In fact, all those whose work is connected with and for a shop that decides to open on a Sunday will be covered.

I hope that my remarks will help the hon. Member for Deptford and her hon. Friends with the probing part of the amendment.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Lloyd

Perhaps I spoke too soon.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

The Minister referred to deliveries to a shop. We all know of the large superstore chains, which have large lorries carrying their brand name on the side. I am concerned about smaller shops which are perhaps contracted out as part of a chain of deliveries. If I understood the Minister correctly, those drivers who have to work on Sunday, delivering to six shops that are owned and managed by different people, will not be covered.

Mr. Lloyd

I may have inadvertently misled the hon. Lady, or I did not make myself clear. When I referred to van drivers, I meant those drivers based at shops who deliver to their customers, and not drivers delivering goods to shops for onward sale. If she meant the latter, they are not covered, but I shall come to that in a moment.

I think that there were other potential interventions.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

It has been put to the Minister, Mr. Morris, that we are determining the conditions of employment not only for people who work in the retail trades but for many others, not least local authority workers, cleansing workers, bank employees, bus drivers and other people who work in public transport. The Minister really must address himself to what has been a theme in Opposition Members' speeches—that the issue is much wider than the Government have so far addressed.

Mr. Lloyd

I was going to come to that later, but I shall deal with it now.

The schedule covers those people who work in and about a shop; it does not cover people employed by other agencies or authorities. Some part of their work on a Sunday may have to do with a shop opening. For example, if a policeman is on duty, a tiny part of his work—perhaps an infinitesimal part—might have something to do with a shop being open, but by and large a policeman is on duty for the whole range of public order reasons.

It would therefore be absurd if the police were covered, and the same is true for health inspectors, local authority workers and traffic wardens. It is not reasonable that they should be covered, or for hon. Members to imply that, in 99 cases out of 100—or more probably 999 out of a 1,000—their work will have anything to do with the Sunday opening allowed by the Bill.

For example, if health workers and cleaners are involved, it is most likely to be in catering establishments and fast food outlets, which can already open on Sundays quite lawfully. The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is not worthy of greater scrutiny as these people will be on duty not because a particular shop decides to open but because of a wide range of responsibilities, only a tiny proportion of which have anything to do with Sunday opening.

Mr. Alfred Morris

How can the Minister possibly doubt that many people who are not employed in retail trades will now, for the first time ever, have to work on a Sunday? He says that the number will be tiny, but we are talking here about principles as well as numbers. These principles are very important to all Opposition Members.

Mr. Lloyd

Retailing is the only activity that, in large measure, may not be legitimately engaged in on a Sunday. The people who work in factories that make goods for the shops may work on Sunday. Many of them have an evening shift. When I worked in the food industry, we always had a Sunday evening shift. There will be no change in that situation. The hon. Gentleman exaggerates very heavily.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

What about attendants in car parks that would not be open but for the passage of this Bill?

Mr. Lloyd

Many car parks are open on a Sunday. If a local authority were to decide to charge for Sunday use of its car parks, it would have to recruit people. In fact, local authorities do recruit people for this purpose, irrespective of Sunday trading. I see here the intervention of no novel principle.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

I should like to come back to the question of delivery workers. It seems to me that there is fundamental illogicality in what the Minister has said so far, and I hope that he will remedy it.

He has said that a person employed by a shop to deliver goods to its customers will be covered. The hon. Gentleman must know that that is now a very rare service. The number of drivers so employed will be tiny—the Minister is keen on the word "tiny"—whereas the number of people delivering to shops may be very large indeed. It is quite clear that the latter would not have to be employed if the shops were not open. Can the Minister explain his reasoning? I hope that, in the rest of his speech, he will do better.

Mr. Lloyd

I had not reached the question of drivers who deliver to shops. The hon. Lady is quite right in saying that the number of delivery drivers employed by shops is very small. I have mentioned these people for the purpose of establishing even a minute piece of common ground between the hon. Member for Deptford and myself about the major part of the hon. Lady's amendment.

It would not be reasonable to extend the provision to drivers working for another company who deliver goods to a store but who do not, by any stretch of the imagination, work at or around the store. As the hon. Lady said. we should have the anomally that a driver making Monday's deliveries on a Sunday to a shop that opened on a Sunday would be included, whereas a driver making Monday's deliveries on Sunday to a shop that did not open on Sunday would not be covered.

The employers of the delivery driver would never know where they were. Even if the amendment were taken away and revised to remove some of the confusion, there would remain the fact that the relationship between employer and employee would depend not on their negotiations or decisions but on whether one or other of a string of customer stores decided to open on Sunday. The position could vary from week to week, without the knowledge of the employer or even of the employee.

The hon. Lady mentioned the delivery of fresh goods. These are delivered not just to the supermarkets and grocery shops that will be affected by this legislation but also to restaurants and catering outlets that are currently allowed to open on Sunday.

I wonder whether the hon. Lady intends the protection under this Bill to apply if a delivery driver's journey includes one shop that chooses to open. Which will govern the relationship of the driver to his employer—the one shop opening under this Bill, the others that remain shut, or the ones that have always been allowed to open and are not affected by the legislation?

Ms Eagle

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he has just begun to touch on some of the anomalies that we are coming across because we are attempting in this complex web of legislation to give a very narrow group of workers protection, when many other people work on Sunday, and, in my view, should he guaranteed similar protection? Would it not be better to withdraw the entire Bill and return to the House with a Bill that gives thorough and complete protection to all workers, whether they work part-time or full-time, during the week or on Sundays.

4.30 pm
Mr. Lloyd

Withdrawing the Bill would cause enormous disappointment not merely to the majority in the House who voted for this solution to the Sunday trading problem but to the retail trade and the many, many people who work on Sundays and would like their position to be completely regularised, with the protections contained in the Bill.

The hon. Lady talks of anomalies. I, too, am discussing anomalies, which inevitably arise when protections are provided. All I can say is, were we to accept this amendment, those anomalies would be greatly increased, in the ways that I have described and in others.

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

May I take the Minister back to the problem of deliveries? He has conceded that a driver who delivers from a shop—most of us agree that the problem would arise in the context of small supermarkets rather than large superstores—would be covered by the definition under schedule 4. But what happens if the same driver is also engaged in collecting goods from a warehouse or elsewhere, as could easily happen in such a shop? Would not that open up the difficulty which the Government are trying to avoid?

Mr. Lloyd

I am in no difficulty whatever. It would be for the courts to determine where the borderline lay. But if the driver worked in and around a shop that opened on Sundays and was partly delivering to customers and partly collecting goods from a cash-and-carry or central warehouse, I believe that he would be covered by the protections provided in schedule 4. Ultimately, if the matter came before a court, it would be for the court to decide. I can only give my best judgment.

Of course there are anomalies. It is anomalous to protect one group of workers in this way, but the hon. Gentleman knows why we are doing it. Sunday work has always been treated differently and, compared with the Shops Act 1950, we are fundamentally changing the rules on Sunday working. The only way to get rid of those anomalies is to protect every other worker.

If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that train drivers, doctors, nurses and policemen should all have similar protection, that might rule out the theoretical anomalies, but such huge practical difficulties would arise that the hon. Gentleman would wish that he had never embarked on that course.

Mr. Grocott

Does the Minister acknowledge the deep alarm that is felt on this side of the House when a smiling Minister speaks at the Dispatch Box, with the authority of the Government, about a schedule headed "Rights of…workers"? In so far as the schedule provides a minuscule protection, will he confirm that the Government are offering that protection with the sole objective of getting the legislation through? Is it not absolutely abhorrent to the Government's fundamental instincts, which are to provide no protection for workers whatever?

Mr. Lloyd

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman on both points. First, the protection is not minuscule: it is wide, radical and sweeping. We shall return to that matter later. Secondly, as the Minister guiding the Bill, my objective is to find workable arrangements for the combination of Sunday trading and employee protection that satisfy a majority in the House. In that way, the problems with which the trade, Sunday workers, and those who wish to shop on Sundays are fed up can be sorted out in a clear and enforceable way.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

On the point about testing these issues in court, will the Minister explain where a van driver working in the retail trade is supposed to find the money to test the issue in court?

Mr. Lloyd

I dare say that the unions would be interested in the general issues of principle. If it is a question of testing it from his own interest in a tribunal, he does not need money for that. I was going to come to that later.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) talked about how long it took to get to a tribunal, how difficult it was to be represented and how the employee seldom won. He should know that two thirds of cases are decided before they get to a formal tribunal hearing, because the employer and employee have settled; they would settle when the employee realised that perhaps he had breached the rules.

We do not know the details of every case that has been settled, but the fact that two thirds are settled beforehand suggests to me that the law works well. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the statistics for 1991—I do not have them to hand at the moment—he will find that, of those who did go to a tribunal, there was a greater success rate among those employees who had attended without formal representation, either with a friend or on their own accord, than those who had secured professional and full representation, which suggests to me that tribunals work well informally, look behind the case that is brought and are not particularly impressed by professional representation.

Mr. Hoon

Just to set the record straight, in relation to cases that are settled from industrial tribunals, they do not particularly assist the Minister, because it is highly unlikely that a settlement would involve the continuation of that person's employment. Almost every settlement involves the payment of compensation. Therefore, in effect the Minister is saying that it does not matter that the person does not wish to work on a Sunday, that the settlement will resolve that matter and that the employer would pay a modest amount by way of compensation—the settlement figures are very modest. In those circumstances, the company would in effect avoid the problem of employing somebody who chose not to work on a Sunday.

Mr. Lloyd

I venture into a subject for which I do not have ministerial responsibility, so my familiarity with the figures and the detailed background is not great. The hon. Gentleman may correct me if I am wrong, as may the officials in the box, but I believe that, in the majority of unfair dismissals, the employee does not want to go back to that place. Only a minority of employers are uninterested in whether they lose a case or settle out of court. The fact that the rules are there and can be enforced has a salutary effect. One should not judge the effectiveness of the rights or the tribunal by cases that are settled by it. One should judge the effect that it has further down the line and on the behaviour of employers. I think that that will be true in this case.

By the way that it is worded, the amendment would have a wider effect than the hon. Member for Deptford appeared to have intended, but not wider than many of her hon. Friends would have liked. The phrase any work in connection with the delivery of goods could stretch, as the right hon. Gentleman wanted, to traffic wardens and police overseeing the parking regulations near the shop. One must then ask whether it would affect them if five minutes of their 10-hour shift were related to parking that had something to do with the shop. The amendments should be more clear on whether that is so. It would be ridiculous if it were. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is getting up to tell me that he had no intention of suggesting anything quite so absurd.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Minister does not accept that any group of workers outside the retail trade will, for the first time, have to work on Sundays as a consequence of legalising the Sunday opening of shops. If he can be convinced that there will be other groups of workers who for the first time will have to work on Sunday, will he then accept that they should have the same protection that we are seeking as retail shop workers?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is in error. If some workers are not currently working on Sundays, such work is not part of their jobs, and will not be in their contracts. If their employer wants them to work on Sundays, he cannot make them do so; he cannot break or change their contracts unilaterally. He may open negotiations, but it will then be up to both sides to agree.

This is no different from a hundred and one other changes that an employer may wish to make—introducing evening working, for instance. That is where the protection lies.

Ms Eagle

Is the Minister aware of the increasing prevalence of contracts that do not specify when work will be required—"zero hours" contracts, for instance? Many employees in the non-retail sector may be forced to work on Sundays, with no requirement for a change in their contracts. Such contracts, which do not establish the hours that should be worked or when they should be worked, are virtually a sham.

Mr. Lloyd

I am aware that some people have no written contracts, and that some written contracts are completely inadequate to describe the nature of the job involved. If it came to a dispute, and if that dispute went to court—which would be the last place along the line—it would be for the court to determine what was properly understood between employer and employee.

It would constitute a change of contract if there had originally been no question of Sunday working, and the employer was now asking for a whole set of different arrangements—even if there was nothing in writing, or the contract required the employee to "attend the place of employment at the usual time".

The hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) has entered a vexed area. The Bill cannot make up for the inadequacy of contracts elsewhere; the problem that we are discussing, however, relates not to the vagueness of some contracts, but to contracts that clearly require an employee to work on Sundays if Sunday working is necessary. Employees may enter into such a contract believing that they will never be asked to honour the agreement.

I believe that the provisions in schedule 4 are very wide, in that they cover all workers associated with the work of a shop on or around that shop's premises. They do not extend to delivery drivers, and I do not believe that they should. I hope that the Committee will agree.

Ms Ruddock

Replying to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), the Minister made it clear that he did not consider car park attendants to be associated with the company providing the retail premises. Some car parks, however, are organised by the retail premises. I assume—the Minister nods helpfully—that their attendants are covered by the Bill in its present form.

My hon. Friends and I fear that many workers would have to undertake new tasks if the Bill became law. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) is absolutely right: what we need, and what the Government have constantly and pitifully refused to give us, is proper protection for all workers, so that they can exercise real choice and real control over the way in which employers institute and enforce contracts.

The Minister has made a great deal of the point about anomalies. All he has done, however, is encourage us to reconsider our amendment, engage in consultation and bring it back on Report. It is clear to us that some workers' contracts, and the requirement for Sunday working, will be fundamentally rearranged as a consequence of the Bill—which would not happen in any other circumstances.

That applies particularly to an instance that the Minister has not considered: the case of workers employed by a company—Sainsbury is a good example—which has its own delivery vehicles and drivers, and delivers its own goods from its own warehouses to its own stores. Deliveries of fresh goods resulting from the introduction of Sunday opening would be a specific result of the Bill's enactment: in every other respect, those workers are working for the same employer, while performing tasks that could arise only if the Bill became law.

We shall want to press our case further; but, on this occasion, I shall not press it to a Division. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 pm
Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness)

I beg to move amendment No. 64, in schedule 4, page 16, line 23, after `to', insert `section (Discrimination against prospective employees who object to Sunday working) and'.

The Chairman

With this it will be convenient to take new clause 4—