§ `(1) A local authority may resolve that Schedule [Loading and unloading at large shops on Sunday morning] to this Act is to apply to their area.
§ (2) If a local authority do so resolve, Schedule [Loading and unloading at large shops on Sunday morning] shall come into force in their area on such date as may be specified for that purpose in the resolution, being a date at least one month after the date on which the resolution is passed.'.—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
§ Madam Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 3—Meaning of "local authority"—and Government amendments Nos. 50, 49 and 52 to 55.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I gave a commitment in Standing Committee to consider the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), among others, about deliveries to large shops in residential areas on Sunday mornings. The worry was that, if shops opened at 10 am, local people could be disturbed by deliveries arriving early in the morning.
We have discussed the matter with local authority organisations and retailers, and I am extremely grateful to them, particularly the local authority organisations, for their prompt advice.
As I said in Committee, there are already a range of powers to deal with noise nuisance, and most stores want to be regarded as good neighbours, especially by potential customers living nearby. However, the local authorities were clear that they would like a specific power between exhortation and general statutory powers. The new clause and schedule bridge that gap.
284 The new clause permits a local authority to take the powers in the schedule which will enable it to prohibit deliveries before 9 am—late enough to preserve the quiet of an early Sunday morning. If the local authority proceeds in that way, a shop may still apply for consent for deliveries to take place before 9 am. Consent must be granted after consultation with local residents, unless the local authority believes that the deliveries will cause undue disturbance to those living nearby.
§ Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)
in the discussions with local authorities and local authority associations, was any comment made about the fact that local authorities are so strapped for resources that it would be extremely difficult for them to police such activities on Sunday mornings? If not, will the Minister seek their views on policing them?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That point was not put to me. Local authorities are glad to have a more simple power, so that they may use fewer resources than if they were to use the wider statutory powers they already have. Although I understand that all local authorities would like more resources, it will not use up more resources but will enable them to carry out their task more speedily and efficiently in the interests of local residents.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
Does my hon. Friend accept that local residents would also be efficient policemen of that power? If they were disturbed by lorries before 9 o'clock where that permission had been refused, I guarantee that they would be willing to be witnesses and to complain to the authority the next morning, if not that day.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am sure that my hon. Friend is quite right. All I would add to what I have just said is that there are a number of other amendments in the group. They are all technical, defining "local authority" for this purpose and the purposes of the Bill in general.
I am quite sure that everyone, whether they are in favour of or opposed to Sunday opening, will welcome the extra powers that local authorities will now have to deal with the noise nuisance that opening may cause.
§ Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)
The Minister's speeches are always very brief. I shall take a little more time, because I believe that this is an extremely important issue.
As the Minister acknowledged, Labour raised in Committee a number of amendments designed to explore the environmental impact of Sunday trading.
The Minister referred in Committee, as he did today, to the measures already available to local authorities under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and Environmental Protection Act 1990. We acknowledge their importance and the existing provisions of planning law, but maintain that additional powers should be granted to local authorities, to recognise the consequences of much-increased Sunday trading.
In pursuing that matter, we reflect the concerns of our constituents and their local authority representatives. I am glad that the Minister accepts the importance of the issue and, through these amendments, has allowed us to address it. Both the hon. Gentleman and I have maintained close contact with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and other organisations, which in turn consulted their members.
285 The response of the director of health and community services for Gateshead metropolitan borough council is typical. That authority confirms that it has had to deal with disturbance to residents caused by deliveries to supermarkets. Gateshead's director of health and community services wrote:Disturbance can be widespread and at locations remote from the supermarket due to the movement of large articulated delivery lorries passing through residential areas.Noise at or near the supermarket is caused by the manoeuvring of large delivery vehicles; lorry reverse warning signals; the idling of lorry engines which is required to power ancillary equipment such as lifts; the movement of large metal containers over hard surfaces, and the shouting of delivery/supermarket personnel.It is the experience of this Authority that people living near or on the route to a supermarket will tolerate a certain degree of disamenity from the above-mentioned sources, but only during less noise-sensitive times of the day eg Monday to Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm.
§ Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)
I have sympathy with some of the hon. Lady's points, but does she not concede that vigorous application of highways Acts would discourage and make illegal deliveries before 9 am, if that caused a nuisance?
§ Ms Ruddock
The hon. Gentleman may have shared my experience and that of other hon. Members. When constituents bring noise problems to one's attention and one requests the local authority to address them through the legislation to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the process is cumbersome and lengthy. The nuisance must be caused before action can be taken, whereas the merit of the Minister's proposals is that it would be possible to try to prevent the nuisance arising in the first place.
The letter from Gateshead's director of health and community services continues:Planning legislation and planning conditions are a useful means of avoiding disturbance from deliveries and have been used effectively by this Authority. However planning conditions will only apply to new development and cannot be applied retrospectively.Early morning or late night deliveries can cause acute noise problems and complainants demand a speedy remedy.The Noise Abatement Zone provisions and procedures of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 which are lengthy are therefore not the answer.Not every superstore is in a location where there is a potential for disturbance, however many are, and so each case must be judged on its merits. I would support a procedure which would require each superstore to notify a local authority of its intentions so that the effects on local residents can be assessed. The procedure should promote discussion between Local Authorities and superstores so that sensible agreement can be reached.That "sensible agreement" would, we hope, follow notification of Sunday opening by large stores to their local authorities under the registration scheme that is central to the Bill. However, experience tells us that, often, much damage is done and offence caused before remedies are provided under existing environmental protection law.
§ Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)
Will the hon. Lady confirm that these problems arise mostly from what she is describing as superstores? Whichever way we look at it, there will be some activity, whether it is noise, or those people who are having to work to prevent noise and police the whole thing. Does she accept that those problems could not arise were those large stores simply not allowed to open on a Sunday?
§ Ms Ruddock
There is an undeniable logic in that point, but, as the hon. Member will recall—as I recall today and recalled during much of the proceedings in Committee —the House in its wisdom decided that the larger stores, the superstores, should be allowed to trade on Sunday for a limited period of six hours.
§ Ms Ruddock
If they are to trade, I consider it my duty and that of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to endeavour in every way possible to try to ameliorate the problems that could be so caused.
§ 4 pm
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I agree with her that a lack of wisdom was shown. Does that mean that she will now support the amendments to be called later today to limit the size of shops that can open?
§ Ms Ruddock
— saying that there was a lack of wisdom, but I did not say that; he is mistaken. He knows from our discussions and deliberations in Committee that, on that matter, I shall probably be on the other side, although there have been matters on which we have agreed. I know that the hon. Gentleman very much wanted to see some amelioration of environmental impacts should they occur after the Bill be passed.
I believe that protection is required, particularly in relation to older premises, many of which are situated in residential neighbourhoods. As I said in Committee, I believe that many stores would not need to have any deliveries on a Sunday; many do not have perishable goods and there is no reason why deliveries should be made.
However, where they are taking place—I believe that there would be fewer than on other days of the week—there is a need to try to see that the least possible disturbance is caused. The modest provisions of the new clauses and amendments should be eminently workable, and are patently in the interests of those who live adjacent to such stores and who have every right to expect some protection from increasing commercialisation.
Finally, much could be done in addition to early morning restriction of deliveries. A number of changes have already been entered into by some companies in consultation with local authorities and have led to a considerable reduction in noise nuisance during existing weekday deliveries: the re-routing of delivery vehicles, a common request with which we would expect all firms to comply where it is possible; development of acoustic loading bays; use of wooden pallets; and secondary double glazing of residents' homes. Those are all proven examples of positive local action to ameliorate the environmental impact of large-scale deliveries.
§ Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)
The hon. Lady mentioned doubling glazing of residents' homes. Obviously that is a benefit. Does she agree, however, that that is the benefit of last resort, that limiting the emanation 287 of noise is the key factor, and that, when one has to double-glaze, it is an admission that one has failed in the first place?
§ Ms Ruddock
I accept that. The force of the new clauses and amendments is that there should be prevention rather than cure. Of course those measures are measures of last resort, but it is important that we note that such things have been done, that there are examples, that companies have been obliged to take such measures to protect local neighbourhoods. Those measures are important. The burden of my case is that we should expect all possible measures to be put in place if the Bill becomes law.
Many local authorities have been conscious that prevention is better than cure, and have therefore built into their planning consents restrictions on Sunday activities, such as the time when deliveries may be made or, in some cases, that no deliveries are allowed. These constraints tend to apply only to the most recent supermarket and other large store developments.
Furthermore, I believe that, if the Bill becomes law, companies will seek the lifting of the existing restrictions.We are pleased to have on the record the Minister's assurances, given in Committee, that a new Sunday trading law could in no way provide automatic relief from those restrictions; none the less, we feel that these new measures are necessary.
I believe that hon. Members will welcome the protection from the curse of noise nuisance that the new clause and amendments would give their constituents. Large companies must consider themselves under a public duty to reduce noise wherever possible; while we must expect them to make much of that effort voluntarily and willingly, the prohibition of early morning loading and unloading would give more force to what I am sure all hon. Members want—the protection of the local environments of our constituents.
§ Mr. Alton
The new clause and amendments are worthy of our support, because they constitute an attempt to improve the Bill; I am tempted, however, to see them as yet another example of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. How much easier it would have been had the House decided at a much earlier stage to limit Sunday opening to small shops.
I was extremely disappointed to hear from the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) that, although no changes had been made to provide proper employee protection and no guarantees had been given on such issues as premium payments and double-time working, she was prepared to budge at all in the votes that will take place later. Those votes will give the House a chance to think again, and to try to undo some of the damage done by earlier votes.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that, whether he agrees or disagrees, the House decided on 6 December that shops should be allowed to open on Sundays? There was no three-line Whip—at least on either Labour or the Conservative party—and, given that the House made the decision, it is arrogant in the extreme to argue in Committee and on Report that it should be deferred.
§ Mr. Alton
The hon. Gentleman should realise that, until the Bill receives Royal Assent, it remains a Bill, and we in the House of Commons—and, indeed, the other 288 place—have the right to reform it at any stage. When hon. Members voted at an earlier stage, they did so with a false prospectus before them: they were told that emplolyment protection would be provided, but it was never set out in the Bill. Nor were they told that the House would be presented with another Bill—the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill—which would allow shops to open from Monday to Saturday, 24 hours a day. If they had been told that, I do not believe that they would have voted as they did.
§ Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)
Some hon. Members—including me—voted on the options before us after saying, in points of order, that the way in which we were being asked to vote was wrong, and that employment protection should have been debated first. We voted conditionally, on the basis of what that employee protection—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)
Order. The debate is about loading and unloading, but we are moving very wide of that subject.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
We repeatedly warned that that would be the result, and that shopworkers would be affected. Now Opposition Members are ruing their actions.
§ Mr. Alton
The hon. Lady reinforces my point: hon. Members voted without the necessary information before them and with no knowledge of the other agenda with which they would be presented.
Now there are attempts, such as those in the amendment, to tidy up the Bill, to give it a more attractive face, but those are superficial amendments and the House should not be conned into believing otherwise. The amendments before us are, as the hon. Member for Deptford said, modest. That is a charitable use of the word. They are minor amendments, which will simply tidy things up.
If we think about the real environmental pressures that are linked in the amendment to the trading and the opening of shops on Sundays, we can obtain some idea of what will happen when Sunday becomes yet another Saturday. There will be increased energy consumption, greater air pollution and greater noise.
I draw the attention of the House to a report that appeared in The Independent on 6 December 1993:A shift to widespread Sunday trading could result in an extra one million tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted when the Government wants to cut ten million tonnes per annum from Britain's present emissions in 2000, to comply with the Rio climate protection treaty.In other words, however much good the amendments do in trying to reduce the environmental impact on a Sunday, widespread Sunday opening will have a catastrophic effect on the environment because of the extra noise, the extra air pollution, the extra wear and tear on road surfaces, and the traffic that will be generated as a result of all that extra trading.
There is clear evidence of lower levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide in London on Sundays at present, which makes life easier for asthmatics. How much worse it will be for them—and for 289 anyone else who cares about their children, in the light of reports that we have seen in the newspapers recently about the high concentration of air pollution at the level of prams and cots, as people take their children on walks through high streets. They will not even be able to do that on a Sunday in the future without coming into contact with that air pollution.
In addition, the cross-party Association of District Councils warned of the dangers from Sunday trading in increasing traffic congestion, which would force them to levy the increased costs of traffic wardens on the motorist through car park charges. That report appeared in the Financial Times on 10 December 1993.
I believe that those reasons show why we are wrong, as a House of Commons, to give widespread powers to shops to open as and when they wish on a Sunday, and indeed every other day of the week, but, if they are going to do so, new clauses such as this at least try to limit that. For those reasons, I would give what the hon. Lady called "a modest amendment" my support.
§ Mr. Lord
Are not all the things that we foresaw starting to happen? We are discussing noise in the vicinity of supermarkets, but we have to think of policemen, of traffic wardens, of refuse collection and of those people in local authorities whose job it is to regulate shops and their activities. It is the thin end of the wedge. It is all coming about as those of us who did not want Sunday trading prophesied. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is not too late for those people who think that they were misled earlier in the debate to change their minds today and ensure that we keep our Sundays.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We are not discussing employment protection: we are discussing loading and unloading. The hon. Gentleman must get back to the new clause.
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
Will the hon. Gentleman express a view on the subject of arrogance in dealing with relevant issues now? Surely it is the job of the House, and the business of elected representatives, to make the necessary changes—if changes are to be made—now, before the Bill becomes law. Is it not arrogant to suggest otherwise?
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
New Clause 1 on unloading and unloading demonstrates well the dangers 290 and difficulties that arise with Sunday trading. The Government are supposed to be taking regulations off people's backs, but here are more regulations. As the schedule relates to unloading before 9 am, lorries will arrive before 9 am, disturbing other people en route. Local authorities will have to apply for powers to deal with that problem, but I already have a problem in my constituency.
Lorries make deliveries to a 24-hour operation called Allied Colloids, where there was a major fire about two years ago. There is a group of houses near the factory to which lorries make deliveries at all hours, although Allied Colloids has asked them not to do so. At 6 am or 7 am, people have to ask the lorry drivers to switch off their engines or move away. Some drivers are helpful and co-operative, while others tell them to get lost.
Lives are being permanently disrupted because of gross pollution. Hon. Members are in a difficult position. The new clause is designed to remedy such pollution and the intrusion into people's lives. By and large, they will agree to the clause because they believe that it might help people who will be oppressed by this wretched legislation.
However, those are only peripheral matters. The very existence of the new clause is a recognition of the fact that lives will be intruded on by deliveries and unloading. Pollution and noise will be created first, and only after they have occurred will people, as a reaction, have to try to stop them. The fact that the new clause is necessary is a measure of the deterioration that will occur on Sundays.
The new clause is a sop to get the legislation passed. The sop will no doubt be accepted by the House, but there is an alternative. If hon. Members are seriously concerned about providing decent quiet lives for people—and, incidentally, about providing protection for people who work on Sundays—they must vote against the Bill on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Wolfson
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) because some of his constituents are clearly in exactly the same position as some of mine. My constituents have two problems.
The first involves an organisation called the West Kent Cold Store in Sevenoaks from which lorries move at all times. There are some limitations on their movements, but it is a continual battle to get them to conform. My experience is that, by and large, the traffic commissioners tend to give increased leeway to such companies when they apply for a more liberal regime which means that the residents lose out time and again.
The problem will, of course, get worse when there is an increased demand for activity on Sundays. Sundays will be busier and there will be more traffic and more lorries waiting outside people's homes with their engines running to keep the refrigeration going, whether or not it is allowed. As the hon. Member for Bradford, South said, when residents remonstrate with a driver they get a mouthful. That will be no more pleasant on a Sunday than on any other day of the week.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
Although the Bill does not apply specifically to Northern Ireland, I understand the arguments being presented. This week, we have been told that we should not pass legislation that will be difficult to police. Some of us have had experience of trying to get the law on quietness enforced six days a week 291 but what will it be like trying to get this law enforced on the seventh day? Will it not be impossible to enforce properly?
§ Mr. Wolfson
It will certainly be very difficult to enforce, which brings me to my second point.
Under the new law the local authority will be given increased powers. Will the Minister clarify for me whether there will still be the opportunity for companies to appeal against its decisions, so that they can be overridden? When Sainsbury's opened a superstore in Sevenoaks, which we were happy to have, no sooner was the ink dry on the consent to build, the building ready and the store about to open, than the company appealed against the original restrictions set on traffic movement. I want to know whether that difficulty will be adequately dealt with, because in my experience superstores tend to get what they want, even if it takes a long time for them to get it.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
The council's decision will be made through its power to pass a resolution to take advantage of the new schedule introduced by the new clause. If a store does not like a local authority's decision—for instance, if it has applied to the local authority to deliver before 9 o'clock and been refused—as things stand it may go for judicial review if it can argue before a judge that the decision was unreasonable. That is the only route available, but it is the usual route with administrative decisions of that nature.
§ Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East)
Although the hon. Gentleman is thanking the Minister for clarifying the position, does he agree that he has clarified it into such a mess that it can hardly be untangled? Will we not have to untangle what the Minister said about the process and the judicial review that he suggested would have to take place?
§ Mr. Wolfson
If the hon. Gentleman will give me a moment to develop my argument I shall come to that.
Certainly my hon. Friend has clarified the position, but my experience of the way in which the superstores look to their own opportunities at the expense of local residents does not make me feel optimistic about how the provision will work. Superstores have the resources, the opportunity and often the desire to go to judicial review, so that may well happen.
I support the new clause and the amendments because they help to deal with a problem that the House has created by agreeing to a relative free-for-all on Sunday trading, but I firmly hold to the view that I greatly regret our having taken that decision. Having seen some recent Sundays in London, I know that the city is already becoming a great deal busier than before the decision was taken. As other hon. Members have said, we are already seeing many of the problems that were aired on Second Reading coming to light. The amendments are designed to deal with them, but they will not deal with them satisfactorily.
§ Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness)
In general terms, the amendments should be welcomed. If they are carried, as I suspect they will be, they will represent a modest improvement to the Bill. But, following what the 292 hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) said, I must tell the House that I have some specific concerns about the collection of amendments, especially No. 49.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the position on appeals against local authorities' decisions, and the Minister said that any company that had received an unwelcome decision from a local authority could exercise its right to go for judicial review.
The group of amendments and the other issues that we shall deal with today concern matters that are in the main related to planning. It is normal and customary for there to be an appeal to a planning inspector in respect of planning applications, so it is rather bizarre for the Minister to tell the House that the best solution for a dissatisfied company is to exercise its right to go the High Court and seek judicial review. That is an immensely expensive option. I wonder whether underlying the Minister's response to the hon. Gentleman's question is something of a lack of preparedness on the part of his Department with regard to the issues raised by these amendments.
I should like now to say something about my second concern with regard to the amendments. They lay down a detailed procedure relating to local authority decisions on any restrictions that are to be imposed on the delivery of goods at a superstore on a Sunday. I welcome this move, but it seems that the amendments contain nothing concerning a procedure for revoking a council's original decision. We know what will happen when a council wants to exercise its powers under these provisions, but what procedure will it have to follow if it wants to revoke its original decision?
As the amendments are constructed, it is reasonably clear that a council will be able to exercise its powers only if a written application is received from a company that wants to open a large shop on a Sunday. What will happen if, for example, as a result of complaints from residents, a council wants to tighten restrictions that it has imposed —perhaps to lessen noise or inconvenience? What revocation procedure does the Minister have in mind? It seems to me that the amendments contain nothing to address that issue. The Minister may well say that a council wanting to revoke a decision will simply have to pass a new resolution. It seems to me that the amendments contain no such provision.
§ Mr. Lord
The hon. Gentleman is talking about judicial reviews and a whole variety of processes. Is not the history of this problem one of people hiding behind long, drawn-out legal processes, whether in this country or in Europe? Those of us whose constituencies have noise problems can envisage the judicial process grinding along for months, if not years, while the lorries continue to run and the noise and all the other problems remain.
§ Mr. Hutton
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's point about delays in the legal system, though it may well be outside the scope of the amendments. One of the problems about judicial review is that delay is built into the system. I am not here to argue the case for the supermarkets and the big superstores—they have their own lawyers—but it seems logical that these amendments should incorporate an appeals procedure. This is quite clearly an omission, which I hope the Government will take into account in another place.
The crucial point is that the amendments contain nothing by way of power to revoke a local authority's 293 original decision. As I have said, it is hardly good enough, by way of response, to say that a local authority can pass another resolution amending its original decision. Such a procedure does not appear to be envisaged in the amendments.
Anyone looking at amendment No. 49 will see that a local authority must carry a resolution within 21 days of submission of the written application to the local authority. In the nature of planning applications—and it is right that these amendments should be considered as an aspect of planning procedure—21 days is a remarkably short period. I wonder whether it will be sufficient to enable the consultation with residents that the amendments envisage. I have in mind in particular a number of superstore developments right in the centre of my constituency that continue to cause immense disturbance to residents. I do not believe that the period of 21 days is sufficient for consultation that most council taxpayers would think acceptable.
With these quite substantial reservations about their accuracy and comprehensiveness, I express my general support for the amendments, as they represent an improvement in the Bill. My point to the Minister is simply that there are three gaps or holes in the new clauses and amendments on which I urge him to respond and reconsider and, if necessary, in another place ask his right hon. Friends to table further amendments.
§ Mr. Lord
Throughout the debate, some of us have argued that if Sunday is totally deregulated it will become just another day of the week—just another working day. We all know that from Monday to Friday or perhaps Monday to Saturday, 9 am is the time at which we all start work—perhaps not in the House but in schools and most offices, it is the beginning of the working day. Thankfully, until now 9 o'clock on Sunday has not meant a great deal to anyone. The time at which we go to church or go about our Sunday activities is not scheduled like the rest of the week.
On the specific point dealt with in the new clause, by talking about "9 o'clock", "before 9 o'clock" and "after 9 o'clock", we are admitting that we are bringing Sunday into the working week and no longer is it a special day.
§ Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)
The point that I should like the Minister to clarify for me in the light of the amendments is whether any assistance will be given to local authorities in funding the additional costs that will inevitably occur. In my constituency, the two supermarkets that come to mind are older and literally cheek by jowl with residential areas. It will not be sufficient for the local authority simply to write yea or nay on the application by the owners of those supermarkets to trade on a Sunday. The local authority will physically have to change parking arrangements that already exist and, indeed, are posited for my constituents.
To make such changes is no small thing. Will the local authority be assisted with changing notices, repainting lines and redefining bays? If one of the superstores wishes to open on a Sunday, residents of the street will have no right whatever to park in the spaces because it will be physically impossible for a lorry to draw up to the delivery 294 bay. That is where my constituents, and their families who may be visiting, park their cars on Sundays when parking restrictions in delivery bays are lifted.
On the face of it, the procedures proposed in the new clauses and amendments seem simple for the local authority to undertake. They are simply the granting or denying of permission for lorries to deliver at 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning. However, for my constituents in two particular areas, if such permission is given, it will not only be vastly deleterious to their Sundays by virtue of the noise that they will have to endure, the fumes that they will have to breathe and all the points that hon. Members on both sides of the House have already made, but it will involve costs for their local authority. I believe that those costs will be sizeable.
One of the earlier points was about the cost of policing this particular arrangement. The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) said that the best policemen would be the residents. He said that they could alert their local authority on the day if noise was worrying them. But that presumably would mean that the local authority had to set up on that Sunday, either at the town hall or in some office so designated, employees to take phone calls, log complaints and forward complaints to the necessary committee.
There will be a great deal of hidden expense for local authorities in the new clauses and amendments, if the House sees fit to pass them. I should be grateful if the Minister could give some idea of whether central Government will assist local authorities, if the Bill is passed. If not, will the Government enter into negotiations with the owners of superstores to help relieve local authorities of an undoubted financial burden?
§ Rev. William McCrea
I shall not detain the House long in speaking to these new clauses and amendments. I want to point out two things. First, while the amendments are an improvement on what we had before, they are an acknowledgement that the legislation on Sunday trading is flawed. If the Bill goes through and becomes law, it will cause serious problems and anxieties to local communities. The amendments themselves are an acknowledgment of problems that were dismissed with a wave of the hand in the original debate and were regarded as foolish, not only by the Government Front Bench but by the Opposition Front Bench—something which genuinely surprised me because there are a lot of other rights that I thought they would have been concerned about.
§ Ms Ruddock
If I have understood him correctly, the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Opposition Front Bench has not been concerned about these issues or has not expressed such concerns. I can assure him that if he reads the proceedings of the Committee on the Bill, he will see the extent to which we were concerned, as shown by the number of amendments that we raised. If he had listened to my opening remarks today, he would know full well that I dealt in detail with our concern about the environmental impact of Sunday trading. I relate our responsibility, as I said earlier, to the fact that the House made a decision. The decision having been made, our task has been to try to ameliorate some of the effects which we agree would be adverse.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but it was the Front Bench of the Labour party who, with other hon. Members, helped the Bill through, so 295 they cannot now say that they have a particular concern. We should not be discussing the legislation today had they joined many other hon. Members in taking a pat-ocular stand on Sunday trading, so they cannot piously wipe their hands now.
Coming back to the issue—I could easily be led off the track by the hon. Lady on this particular issue, and one would not desire to do that—of lorries and deliveries after 9 o'clock, mention was made of the large stores having adequate legal advice of their own on this. They also have adequate resources of their own.
The people who concern me are those in the community who have few resources or none at all with which to defend their rights. They are being cast aside. Ordinary members of the community will be unable to afford to establish even the rights that this Bill would give them.
That is why I believe that the legislation is flawed and why I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will think again, if they are really concerned about the Bill's environmental and other effects on the community.
§ Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)
There is one question, in particular, that I should like the Minister to answer. He refers, in new clause 1 and amendment No. 49, to local authorities having the right to agree to applications for loading and unloading to take place at big stores before 9 o'clock in the morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) made an important point when she referred to the expense incurred by local authorities in introducing this provision. The Shops Act 1950 puts a responsibility on local authorities which over the past 10 years they have failed to meet, yet the Government have taken no action whatever to ensure compliance with the law on Sunday trading. Can the Minister tell the House what action he will take if this new provision becomes part of the law and the local authority does not implement it, either because it is not prepared to meet the expense involved or for any other reason? It is possible that large companies such as Tesco, B and Q and a number of others will put a lot of pressure on local authorities to allow them to be serviced by this agreement.
We know the problems that are encountered when large shops are serviced by large vans, as happens on weekdays and, illegally, on Sundays when such shops are open. I do not want to encourage the two branches of Tesco—one each end of my town of Bridgend—to be serviced in that way. I do not want my authority to grant those stores licences allowing big vans to load and unload before 9 am on Sunday. Bridgend is a market town of some 25,000 to 35,000 people, and the district has always enjoyed the tranquillity of Sundays. But the position is getting worse by the week, with more shops and large stores opening. If the licence is granted, it will cause great concern and difficulty.
Listening to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), I was alarmed at what I thought I heard. My hearing is not all that good and I do not know whether I caught what she said correctly. I am of the firm belief that the Bill must contain employment protection for people who deliver goods to the stores and are expected to work on Sunday.
In the last debate on the Floor of the House on the subject of transport workers, I read out a letter from start to finish. I shall not read it out again today as it can be seen in the Official Report. The letter dealt with the protests of workers who will have to drive their lorries early in the 296 morning to deliver and take away goods from big stores. Those people do not want to work on Sundays. Most of them—long-distance lorry drivers—say that they have never worked on Sundays, but will be expected to do so in the future.
Employment protection is highly relevant to the group of new clauses and amendments. I was surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford said that she thought that we had won some employment protection measures from the Government through minor amendments. I am not satisfied that the Government have made any amendments involving employment protection that would allow the Opposition Front Bench team to support the Government. We should not support the Government unless they give us more guarantees on employment protection before the end of the debates. Those guarantees should be stated clearly and precisely by the Minister so that we know the exact position.
§ Ms Ruddock
I shall help by hon. Friend and the House, without passing comment on my hon. Friend's hearing. I have not mentioned employment protection at any time during my contributions. The most important vote will be on Third Reading, and we have made it clear that that is to be a free vote.
§ Mr. Powell
I thank my hon. Friend, and I am sorry if I presupposed her remarks, but I have probably saved myself a later intervention as she has been warned of my intentions.
Before we vote on this group, particularly amendment No. 49, I should like an assurance from the Minister that local authorities will implement the legislation and that the Government will not show the indifference that they have shown to the Shops Act 1950.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
I thought that this would be a short debate and did not even propose to reply to it. I shall not respond to most of the issues raised because many of the contributions rehearsed general attitudes to the Bill. They did not engage in debate on the principles or practicalities of the new clause.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
My hon. Friend spoke of matters that we have rehearsed, but the Opposition were under a misapprehension. They thought that they had won certain conditions which we warned them that they would not be granted—the ball game has changed.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
My hon. Friend seems to be saying that the ball game is just the same.
I shall reply to three questions posed on new clause 1. The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) animadverted that the new clause was prepared quickly. He was right—I made an undertaking in Committee and wanted to produce the new clause on Report. The hon. Gentleman is right that there is no appeal process. I am aware of that and I will certainly reflect on the hon. Gentleman's words to see whether it might be sensible, in another place, to introduce an appeal process. I am not convinced that it would be for two reasons. First, it would lead to some extra expense for local authorities—that in itself is not decisive. Secondly, it would encourage some companies to appeal rather than simply obey the local authority's determination. The possibility of a judicial review remains, but I would not encourage people to take 297 that option—although it is widely used—unless they felt that the procedures and the reasons used by the local authority were unreasonable. The judicial review remains a possibility for anyone who seeks to use it in relation to an administrative decision.
The hon. Gentleman has made a good point, on which I shall reflect. Usually, it is the Opposition who call on the Government to find ways of setting aside decisions. I am willing to be convinced, but I am not yet convinced. I shall consider the matter and there will be an opportunity to adopt the proposal in another place should it seem sensible to do so.
The hon. Gentleman also asked whether it would be possible for a local authority to revoke permission once given. Yes, it would be possible to revoke permission or to provide additional conditions. A local authority could do that and, no doubt, there will be occasions when it will want to do so.
§ Mr. Hutton
The Minister says that the local authorities have the power to revoke an earlier decision. What procedures will they have to follow if they want to do that? The new group of amendments and new clauses contains no information about the procedures that a council will have to follow if it wants to revoke its original decision.
§ Mr. Lloyd
A local authority would have to use a fair and equitable procedure. It would doubtless do so on the basis of complaints received from local residents or knowledge that noise and disturbance were being caused. The local authority would have to talk to the store and its suppliers to see whether the problem could be remedied and to draw the store's attention to its displeasure. That would be done when consultation had taken place, but failed to resolve the problem. If the local authority did not do that, it would lay itself open to a judicial review because it would be proceeding unfairly and unreasonably.
§ Mr. Hutton
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again—he is being very indulgent.
If it is appropriate for the amendment to specify a procedure giving the authority the power to grant exemption from the 9 o'clock rule, why is it not appropriate for the Government to introduce in the House a procedure for allowing the local authority to revoke such permission? The Minister has rightly described a number of administrative and procedural methods that a council can use. But, in the context of such an important issue, if it is right to specify how the permission should be granted, should not it also be right to introduce a procedure for the withdrawal of that consent?
§ Mr. Lloyd
It would certainly not be wrong. As I said, I am perfectly prepared to look at the hon. Gentleman's suggestions. I do not want to make the procedure too complicated. I want to retain the benefit that the provision grants to local authorities—it gives them extra muscle. It does not give them powers that they could never acquire under other legislation, but it allows them to gain powers more speedily and accurately so that they can deal with the problems that arise, even now, early on Sunday mornings.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase) seemed confused when he said that my response to one of my hon. Friends had confused him further. He was definitely confused. Were a council to impose a ban 298 that was then challenged at judicial review, the ban would remain in place until the court set it aside. So the hon. Gentleman's worry about the matter going on for several years should be entertained no longer.
§ Mr. Cryer
The Minister answered an earlier point about a council's ability to revoke a decision and the fact that nothing on that matter is included in the Bill. He will be sensitive to the problem that councillors have been surcharged. If they revoke a decision, they can be surcharged by a district auditor. If there must be clear rules within which councils can operate, in circumstances where two factions are arguing, such as residents and a large store, would it help if the Government made it clear that a local authority that decides for or against will not be subject to local authority surcharge?
§ Mr. Lloyd
This is not a matter of surcharge. The hon. Gentleman is muddling it up with a different worry. I agreed with the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness that the new clause was brought in rapidly to take account of a real worry expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. In the light of this debate and, particularly, anything that local authorities may wish to tell us—we have already conversed with them—I shall look at the matter again. We want the new clause to be effective and clear. I hope that that also satisfies the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer).
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) asked a number of questions, including whether we would give financial assistance to local authorities. I responded to that point on an intervention by another hon. Member earlier and said that those were not the sort of circumstances in which we would consider doing so. Rather than giving new powers and responsibilities to a local authority, the Bill enables them more speedily and effectively to discharge the responsibilities that it already has.
The hon. Lady's second point was about parking in some of the streets in her constituency. That is a problem for the store concerned and those delivering to it. If, early in the morning, cars are parked in such a way as those delivering to the store cannot make an early-morning delivery, that is a problem not for the local authority but for the store and those who deliver to it. They need to find an acceptable way to make that delivery, perhaps adapting the size of the delivery vehicle. The point is not directly germane to the powers of the local authority.
§ Ms Glenda Jackson
The point that I was trying to make was that those matters all affect my constituents. If the local authority assented to such a request, it would mean, in the street that I have in mind, the local authority having to introduce earlier than it intended a residents parking scheme to facilitate the entry of lorries to stores. That will have a knock-on effect on the lives of my constituents and also involve the local authority in additional costs.
§ Mr. Lloyd
As matters stand, deliveries may be made very early in the morning. The new clause will give local authorities the power to say that deliveries may not be made before 9 am. I do not believe that the new clause worsens the position of local residents or creates an additional problem for the council. Rather, it gives local authorities a new weapon with which to deal with such a problem. The local authority associations say that they are 299 already engaged in consultation with local residents and retailers throughout the country about perfectly lawful Sunday deliveries for perfectly lawful Sunday opening. But they do not have specific powers to deal with them early on a Sunday morning, which is what we are providing.
The hon. Lady and several other hon. Members mentioned extra costs imposed by traffic regulation. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy thought that, on balance, there would be no extra cost because local authorities would gain back any extra costs from parking charges and other such imposts. On policing, the Association of Chief Police Officers said that, if Sunday trading produced any extra work at all, it would be minimal and manageable. So the problem is one of enforcement rather than cost.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) asked whether the Government would make local authorities use that new power and I replied that, obviously, we would not. We are giving the new authorities a power that they want, but it will be up to the local authority when to use it. If they do not use it when they should, that is matter between them and angry local residents and voters, not a matter for the Government.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.