HC Deb 21 June 1994 vol 245 cc154-86

Lords amendment: No. 5, in page 4, leave out line 9

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

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 6 to 8, 10, 11 and 13.

Mr. Lloyd

During the many changes that the Bill has undergone, any reference to "licensed premises", other than in the list of definitions, has been removed from schedule 1. The definition is therefore redundant, and amendment No. 5 seeks to delete it. I hope that it will assist the House if I also say a word about the other amendments in the group.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 would provide an exemption for any stand used in an exhibition from the six-hour restriction that the Bill places on trading by large shops. According to the current law, stands at most exhibitions are able to trade legally on a Sunday, notwithstanding the provisions of the Shops Act 1950, because of a series of provisions in various local Acts, which allow trading at specific and listed sites. For example, the West Midlands County Council Act 1980 disapplies the closing and Sunday trading provisions of the 1950 Act to any shop or stand open during the course of an exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre.

This is, of course, a matter for the House, but, as I see it, the amendments do not provide a loophole for large retailers to slip through. They would lay to rest any concerns of exhibitors who have always hitherto enjoyed free trading on a Sunday.

Amendment No. 7 would allow large farm shops to trade at any hour on a Sunday instead of being restricted to six hours trading like other large stores. Up to a point, shops on farms have always been in a privileged position regarding Sunday trading. Section 58 of the 1950 Act allows on a Sunday the sale at a farm, of produce produced thereon". That provision was intended to provide that, if a farmer sold a customer some of his own produce, he would not be in breach of the Sunday trading provisions.

Times have changed, however, and some of the farm shops now in operation are larger than 3,000 sq ft. If those shops have been trading on a Sunday they may well have been doing so in breach of the 1950 Act by selling far more than the produce of the farm on which they are situated. Whatever the potential anomaly in allowing a large shop to open at any hour on a Sunday, as long as it is on a farm and sells wholly or mainly home-grown produce, the practical effect of the amendment would be very limited.

Amendment No. 8 would extend the list of those large shops that the Bill allows to open beyond six hours to include shops where the goods sold were "wholly or mainly" motor and cycle supplies. The 1950 Act allows the sale of motor and cycle supplies and accessories on a Sunday. Partly as a result of that provision, large motor supplies shops, such as Halfords, have been trading all day on a Sunday for a considerable number of years. Such retailers have managed their business, at least in part, on the assumption that all-day trading on Sunday is a lawful activity for them.

Amendment No. 10 concerns pharmacies. Under the 1950 Act, pharmacies may sell medicines and medical and surgical appliances on a Sunday. That reflects the fact that, irrespective of the general considerations that Parliament might wish to apply to Sunday trading, it should be possible for a pharmacy to open at any time on a Sunday to dispense medicine and sell products that can genuinely be considered to have a medical application.

The Bill as originally worded provided an exemption only for the sale of medicinal products and surgical appliances. That meant that items such as thermometers could not be sold by large pharmacies outside the six permitted hours on a Sunday. The amendment simply allows large pharmacies to sell those items that, under current legislation, they are permitted to sell on Sunday outside the new six-hour period—for example, when they are on rota duty.

I make those points for clarification. The Government are, of course, entirely content for the House to decide freely upon the amendments.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

The debate has fallen rather earlier than some may have anticipated, but it is good to see that so many hon. Members are in their place.

The Sunday Trading Bill and the Bill presented by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) have been debated in the Chamber and in the other place for what seems to have been an interminable time. The Minister will be as pleased as everyone else in Parliament when this matter is finally resolved.

May I say at the outset of consideration of the Lords amendments that, although those of us opposed to Sunday trading regretted the measures agreed at an earlier stage, we felt that at least a commitment to compromise had been made. Indeed, the word was used both by the Minister and other hon. Members at various stages. Having been amended in another place, the idea that the Bill remains a compromise has now been blown out of the water.

The shopping hours reform lobby has abused the law, spent its millions and bought its preferred option at bargain basement prices from legislators who salve their consciences at the expense of families, communities, low-paid shop workers and small businesses. Everything we warned about in this Chamber during the earlier stages of the Bill has now come to pass. Every commodity under the sun is now on sale on Sundays. Employees who once spent Sundays with their families are now forced to work, and the special traditional nature of one day of peace and quiet has been destroyed by mercenaries whose only ideals may be measured in sterling.

The Bill was sold on the basis of the right to shop. That flaccid language of rights and choice, shorn of reference to duties, obligations or responsibilities, hides the real cost of Sunday trading. Thoreau once said that, if we cut down the trees, the birds will no longer be able to sing. By destroying Sunday as a unique day, ordinary people will lose the opportunity to spend time with one another, their families and relatives, and to have a day of tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of every other day of shopping.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

The hon. Gentleman makes many presumptions. He presumes that the House will agree with the Lords amendments. He should wait for the debate.

Mr. Alton

Far from waiting for the debate, I am participating in it, and trying to persuade the hon. Gentleman, who has been one of the leading advocates of Sunday trading, that he should join us in the Lobby later, should it be necessary, to oppose the Lords amendments.

The noble Lord Earl Ferrers, the Minister dealing with Sunday trading in the other place, said: I would add just one personal caveat. I have mentioned it before, and I do so without any form of direction. I think that we should be careful about bringing into the Bill a great number of additional exceptions. We have already agreed an exception for motor supply shops. If all the exceptions which have been proposed were accepted, we might well find, as my noble friend Lady Young has said, that the reform is becoming largely indistinguishable from the total deregulation which this place has already rejected."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 April 1994; Vol. 553, c. 1682–3.] Thus, the Home Office Minister in another place has said that, were the amendments then before the other place accepted, the Bill would become indistinguishable from the total deregulation which the House of Commons had earlier rejected. I remind hon. Members that those amendments are now incorporated in the Bill, and we are invited to vote on them this afternoon.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned motor accessory shops. We are not changing the law on those, as they have been allowed to trade since 1950. If his wife or children were to break down on a Sunday and wanted a part for their car, he would not want them stranded on the motorway because the shop had closed. We are not changing the law, but simply putting it back.

Mr. Alton

I take that point. I am not dealing with all the amendments in precisely the same way. I shall come to the detail in a moment.

We should listen carefully to the warning of the noble Lord Earl Ferrers, that, if a range of new exemptions and exceptions were agreed, the carefully crafted compromise made in this House would be placed in jeopardy. The compromise left many of us cold, because we still said that Sundays should remain a special day.

Amendment No. 7 deals with farm shops. I feel strongly that it is unnecessary. When considering its merits, it is important to do so from a rational perspective. Were the amendment passed, any farm shop which had an internal floor area exceeding 280 sq m or 3,000 sq ft or, from another perspective, was larger than the Chamber of the House of Commons could open for unlimited hours on Sundays. How many farm shops fall within that category, and what is the nature of their business? I hope that the Minister will answer those points.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Those are not my amendments, but I have explained them to the House. The hon. Gentleman has given only half the picture and, in fairness to the House, he should give the whole picture. Only shops situated on a farm that sell products wholly or mainly supplied from that farm will fall within the scope of the amendment. So it is drastically restricted, as I said in my explanation.

Mr. Alton

That makes the measurements which I gave the House sound equally absurd. What sort of business will be able to produce such a volume? I am arguing that the amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

I urge the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the efficient use of space by farm shops. In my experience, they are often located within large barns, so are comfortably in excess of the floor area that he mentioned, although they are genuinely small businesses of the kind that he and I are trying to protect.

Mr. Alton

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point.

Another issue is why farm shops need to open for longer than six hours on Sundays, given that they will not provide an emergency service. Any farm shop that exceeds 280 sq m must be entering into significant commercial activity, selling a wide variety of products to attract sufficient custom to remain profitable.

While the amendment requires farm shops to sell at least 51 per cent. of goods produced on the farm in question, it further permits the shop to sell up to 49 per cent. of other goods, such as other foodstuffs, tourist souvenirs, gardening equipment and garden furniture. As a consequence, the amendment would create further unfair competition and anomalies within the Bill, giving preferential treatment and trading advantage to one type of retailer over another.

Could not the type of store envisaged as opening under this provision more accurately be described as a garden centre, grocery store, supermarket, or even tourist shop, rather than a traditional farm shop? It is unfair to permit large farm shops to open beyond the six-hour limit, when supermarkets, tourist shops—and, depending on the outcome of a later amendment, garden centres—will be required to close after six hours.

Amendment No. 7 also represents the liberalising of the existing law, so it also jeopardises the carefully crafted agreements previously worked out in this House. Under section 58 of the Shops Act 1950, farm shops, regardless of size, are permitted to open all day on Sundays, but only to sell produce produced thereon. Under this amendment, while farm shops will be allowed to sell 51 per cent. of their own-grown produce, they will also be free to sell up to 49 per cent. of goods brought in from outside.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the marvellous garden show in London. Only recently, it disclosed that exhibitors buy most of the flowers on their stalls elsewhere. Would not even the large farm shops import goods that were not produced on their farm if they were allowed an opportunity to trade for more than six hours? Would not that be unfair?

Mr. Alton

It would indeed. As the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) rightly described, it would be another element of unfair competition, which is at the heart of the arguments that he, I and other hon. Members in all parts of the House have advanced against the Bill throughout. It will inevitably destroy smaller businesses, it will inevitably build in unfair competition and it will greatly damage the traditional tranquillity that families and communities have enjoyed on a Sunday when it has been a special day.

Amendment No. 8 deals with motor and cycle supply outlets. The Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association have widely distributed briefings to Members which argue in favour of amendment No. 6, in permitting large motor and cycle supply outlets—those of more than 280 sq m—to open for unlimited, as opposed to six-hour, Sunday trading. The main thrust of the RAC and AA argument is: The House of Lords amendment is a technical amendment to the Bill. It does NOT seek a new concession for motorists but merely seeks to maintain the current legal position for motoring supply outlets". They say that large motor supply outlets provide an emergency service on Sunday, and that if those large centres were restricted to six hours' opening on Sunday, lives—the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) intimated that too—would be put at risk and significant inconvenience would be caused to motorists.

That is misleading in several respects. Amendment No. 6 represents a significant liberalisation of the law. To argue that the Lords—

Mr. Luff


Mr. Alton

If I may advance for a moment, I shall happily give way.

Mr. Luff

It is a short point. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is speaking to amendment No. 8, not amendment No. 6. I wish to clarify that.

Mr. Alton

I am speaking about amendment No. 8, but it also involves amendment No. 6. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the list of amendments, he will see that that is the case.

To argue that Lords amendment No. 6 is a technical amendment which merely retains an existing exemption already granted to motor and cycle supply outlets is inaccurate and highly misleading. The House of Lords amendment is far broader in scope than the existing law governing motor or cycle supply outlets on Sunday.

The Shops Act 1950 exempts motor and cycle supply outlets to open on Sundays regardless of size, but only to sell a narrow range of products. Schedule 5 to the Shops Act 1950 states that a shop may open for the serving of customers on Sundays for the sale of aircraft, motor, or cycle supplies or accessories". The courts have always interpreted that provision narrowly, ruling that neither a pair of tights converted for use as a fan belt nor a fridge to be installed in a caravan were motor supplies or accessories. Rather, the term motor, or cycle supplies or accessories has been interpreted to include only items that are directly usable for mechanical purposes, to service a motor vehicle or bicycle or, in, certain circumstances, to decorate a vehicle, for example, furry dice. It is worth noting that that definition would not include new or second-hand cars or bicycles, but rather only parts for them.

In contrast, the proposed amendment exempts large motor or cycle outlets to open to sell their full range of products for unlimited hours on Sundays, provided that the trade or business carried on in the shop consists wholly or mainly of the sale of any one or more of the following—

  1. (i) motor supplies and accessories, and
  2. (ii) cycle supplies and accessories".
The key term used in the amendment is "wholly or mainly". Although that term will be the subject of judicial interpretation, it is expected that, for the purposes of the Bill, it will mean 51 per cent. turnover.

Consequently, if the amendment were accepted today, motor or cycle supply outlets such as Halfords would be able to open for unlimited hours on Sundays, with up to 49 per cent. of their sales coming from goods that may not lawfully be sold under the existing law.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)


Mr. Alton

I wish to make a little progress.

Stores such as Halfords would be free to extend their business activities significantly—for example, to sell equipment for use in caravans, for tourists, maps, camping equipment, picnic ware and so on, and continue to open for unlimited hours on Sundays, whereas their competitors are required to close after six hours.

The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) and the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) are probably anxious that I discuss emergency services, so I shall discuss that now. I ask the Minister to clarify whether the emergency services such as the RAC and AA rely on outlets such as Halfords for the supply of repair parts on Sundays. I believe that the AA and the RAC carry most general spare parts with them in their vans. The need to have access to stores such as Halfords on Sundays is minimal.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)


5.45 pm
Mr. Alton

Please would the hon. Gentleman wait?

Most RAC and AA vans do not carry a wide range of specialised parts designed for specific markets or cars. However, I believe that the emergency services tend to rely on specialist traders, which mainly operate out of garage sites, to supply those parts, as opposed to the general high street traders.

The RAC and AA, in their briefings, have said that 30 per cent. that is 330,000—of breakdowns take place after 6 pm on Sundays. It must be asked, however, how many of those breakdowns involve the use of spare parts that are not usually carried in AA or RAC vans, and which are supplied in stores such as Halfords. In addition, I hope that the Minister will say how many of those cases would involve the car being repaired on Sundays, as opposed to being towed away and repaired on Monday morning.

It should further be noted that small motor supply outlets are exempted under the Bill to open for unlimited hours on Sundays. If there is significant and sufficient demand for spare parts before 10 pm and after 6 pm on Sundays, those smaller outlets will undoubtedly remain open, adding to the number of shops and premises that trade on Sunday.

Mr. Fabricant


Mr. Alton

I shall finish the argument, and then I shall give way.

I do not believe that adequate evidence is available to establish that large motor and cycle supply shops provide an emergency service on Sundays during the early mornings or evening hours which neither can be nor is being met by small motor outlets or specialist dealers who supply the RAC and AA direct. The acceptance of amendment No. 6 will only increase the anomalies—[HON. MEMBERS: "Amendment No. 8."]—amendment No. 8, and I think as it affects amendment No. 6 earlier. It will only increase the unfair competition and difficulties of enforcement already created in the Bill.

I happily give way to the hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire.

Mr. Fabricant

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. We have worked on several Committees, including the Committee that considered the Shops (Amendment) Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), and the Committee on the Bill that we are debating.

Does he accept that, if he were to remove the "wholly or mainly" from the definition of the supply of goods in stores such as Halfords, which was one of his arguments, people—not the RAC or the AA, but people who do their own car maintenance—might buy spark plugs but be unable to buy a spark plug spanner or, perhaps more worryingly, be able to buy brake pads but not the right tool kit to put the brake pads in? Although he may be of sufficient wealth to have his car serviced by professional organisations, does he accept that many people in this country do their own servicing?

Mr. Alton

Of course I accept that, and I do not think that it will impinge on them, as the present law has failed to do in the past. There is no reason why people should be inconvenienced. It is simply that, if we do not want, as I do not—the hon. Gentleman and I entirely disagree about that—large numbers of extra retail outlets to open throughout the country, we must be careful not to provide, as we have in this legislation, so much coach-and-horses provision that anyone and everyone will be able to open at every hour of the day and the night.

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)

I accept the anxieties that the hon. Gentleman expresses about the notion of large stores being added to the ones that already open. However, does he accept that the number of makes of motor cars nowadays is so great that it is possible that only large stores will have the correct, and sufficient numbers of, spare parts to suit any one of any range of cars? That argument is the most powerful, I think, and it is for that reason—and the fact that, under the old law, Halfords and other large motor spare stores have been allowed to build—that they have extended and expanded their services.

Mr. Alton

I should have thought that it was the other way round—that cars of a more marginal nature, which are not supplied by one of the big car manufacturers, would be most likely to be affected in the way that the right hon. Lady describes. I should have thought that every other trading day, when those outlets are open and people can provide themselves with the spare parts and pieces they need, would provide them with sufficient opportunity to do so without having to extend that time as the amendments seek to do.

I think that the Minister will agree that we attempted, during long, laborious hours in Committee, on Report and during the various debates on the Shops (Amendment) Bill, to reach a sensible agreement. We all accepted that there would be some anomaly. We all admitted that there were massive anomalies in the Shops Act 1950. There are bound to be anomalies in any legislation that the House passes, but we do not need to add to them. Some of the Lords amendments seem to do that and, worse, they seem to undermine the law by trying to push still further the case for wholesale liberalisation. That was what the noble Earl Ferrers argued when the Bill was in the other place. That carefully crafted, constructive compromise is at stake today.

We will not be able radically to change the nature of the Bill at this late stage. The message that will be sent out to people who have observed the proceedings governing the Bill and who have followed the arguments throughout will be that yet another aspect of the debate has gone by default. They will receive the message that yet another loss has been occasioned because of the legislators' failure to safeguard what has traditionally been the one special day enjoyed by families and communities the length and breadth of the land. It is for those reasons that I have raised my opposition and questions to the Lords amendments.

Dame Angela Rumbold

I wish to make a few simple arguments in support of Lords amendment No. 8. The most telling point in the amendment is that it simply restores the legislation that existed before we entered on the laborious and lengthy exercise of trying to modernise the Shops Act 1950.

The subject of amendment No. 8 is the one sphere in which the 1950 Act made an exception. The number of people who now own cars has risen substantially since 1950, when there were 2.3 million. There are now, in 1994, perhaps regrettably, 22 million car owners. In 2000, there are likely to be 25 million car owners.

We must not assume that every one of those car owners will be able to enjoy the pleasures of membership of one of the motoring organisations. There are currently 10 million people who are not members of a motoring organisation and depend entirely on their own resources and access to spares to make their cars roadworthy. Until now, they have been able to go to Halfords or a large store with a wide range of spare parts for cars and motor cycles on a Sunday if their vehicle was not functioning in order to repair it so that it would function on Monday through to Saturday.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who oppose the amendment could do so logically if the law also said that breakdowns could not occur on Sundays?

Dame Angela Rumbold

I am not entirely sure whether I agree with my hon. Friend, but hon. Members can make up their own minds.

I sincerely believe that we should not attempt to make the Bill more restrictive than necessary. I have no problems with my position; I have never been anything other than a total deregulator on the issue. I am sad that we have had to impose restrictions, but I am glad that we have at least some agreement in the House on the sort of restrictions that we have agreed to accept. I am concerned that we should not now renege on those agreements by saying that we want to impose a greater restriction on the sale of motor spares than existed in the 1950 Act. I ask my colleagues to consider the subject carefully and to support the Lords amendment No. 8.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

I shall not delay the House long. I shall not reiterate the detailed points made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), as he made them extremely well.

I shall deal with the principle of whether or not the regulations are tightly in place. I see that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has just entered the Chamber, so I shall use the words of his national poet, Dylan Thomas: Time let me play and be Golden in the mercy of his means …and the sabbath rang slowly In the pebbles of the holy streams. The sabbath rang slowly, but the sabbath will never ring slowly again as a result of the decision that we have made. I believe that we shall come to rue the day that we passed the Sunday Trading Bill. In principle, we should seek to keep Sunday as a special day, and resist the amendments before us.

Mr. Luff

I had not intended to intervene in the debate on this group of amendments, but in view of the confusion over amendment numbers in the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), I think that it is important to clarify the issue.

The hon. Gentleman repeatedly referred to amendment No. 6 in relation to motor supplies and cycle supplies, but amendment No. 6 relates to exemptions for stands at exhibitions, as does amendment No. 11. I hope that amendments Nos. 6 and 11 will not attract any controversy in the House. The amendments to exempt exhibition stands from the provisions of the Sunday Trading Bill are genuinely technical. Exhibitions are not generally affected by the Bill, and the amendments are simply to ensure that individual stands in exhibitions, which might otherwise fall within the definition of a shop, are not affected either.

The amendments are minor, but they are important to the exhibition industry of the United Kingdom if our venues are to be able to compete on an equal basis with exhibition venues overseas, particularly in the European single market. The amendments do not undermine the Bill's principle or provide a loophole in the law. The term "exhibition" has already been defined, so it remains a question of fact. For this purpose, in any dispute about whether something constitutes an exhibition, the courts can decide on the facts on the basis "you know an exhibition when you see one".

The Sunday Trading Bill provides the Secretary of State with the power simply to continue with existing exemptions in local legislation for some venues such as Earls Court, Olympia and the National Exhibition Centre outside Birmingham. Amendments Nos. 6 and 11 ensure that exhibition venues throughout the countries of England and Wales are treated on an equal footing with other venues, with one rule being applied to all. I hope that they will command universal support in the House.

Mrs. Peacock

I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) with a word on amendments Nos. 6 and 11, which are important, not only to the exhibition industry, but to manufacturing industry, many of whose members exhibit at exhibitions that commence on Sundays. Sunday is the very day that retailers are able to visit exhibitions to order and buy goods for sale in their shops. It is most important that we do not impose any restrictions that could affect our manufacturing industry.

As chairman of the House of Commons motor club, I wrote to my hon. Friend the Minister about amendment No. 8, which has been sensibly placed in the Bill by their Lordships. Perhaps the original legislation should have contained the provision—I certainly want to see it continued.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) said, more than 10 million car owners in this country do not belong to the AA or the RAC. None of us wants to see young families or anyone else stranded and having to wait until the shops open the next morning to buy the necessary parts to repair their car if it breaks down after hours. I hope that the House will recognise that.

Mr. Fabricant

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I think that the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) has completed her speech.

6 pm

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

I have circulated amendment No. 10 to most hon. Members, as it principally affects a constituency company, Boots. It reinstates in the Bill provisions that originally existed in relation to pharmacists. The pharmacists do not seek additional hours or changes in the hours, but want to be allowed to sell products that are essential for people's health. Pharmacists have been able to sell those products until now, and the amendment restores the original position without affecting the opening hours.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No 6 agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 7, in page 4, line 44, at end insert— ("(za) any shop which is at a farm and where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of produce from that farm,")

Motion made, and Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

The House divided: Ayes 246, Noes 191.

Division No. 269] [6.00 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Burns, Simon
Aitken, Jonathan Butcher, John
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Butler, Peter
Arbuthnot, James Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cann, Jamie
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aspinwall, Jack Carrington, Matthew
Atkins, Robert Carttiss, Michael
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cash, William
Austin-Walker, John Chapman, Sydney
Baldry, Tony Clappison, James
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Barron, Kevin Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Batiste, Spencer Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Bellingham, Henry Coe, Sebastian
Bendall, Vivian Colvin, Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Congdon, David
Betts, Clive Conway, Derek
Biffen, Rt Hon John Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Boswell, Tim Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boyes, Roland Couchman, James
Brandreth, Gyles Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bright, Graham Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Darling, Alistair
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Budgen, Nicholas Deva, Nirj Joseph
Dorrell, Stephen MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James MacKay, Andrew
Dover, Den Maclean, David
Dowd, Jim McLoughlin, Patrick
Duncan, Alan McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Duncan-Smith, Iain Madel, Sir David
Durant, Sir Anthony Maitland, Lady Olga
Dykes, Hugh Malone, Gerald
Eggar, Tim Mandelson, Peter
Elletson, Harold Marland, Paul
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Evennett, David Mates, Michael
Faber, David Miller, Andrew
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Fishburn, Dudley Moate, Sir Roger
Flynn, Paul Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Morley, Elliot
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
French, Douglas Moss, Malcolm
Fry, Sir Peter Mowlam, Marjorie
Gale, Roger Mullin, Chris
Gallie, Phil Nelson, Anthony
Garnier, Edward Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Gillan, Cheryl Nicholls, Patrick
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Norris, Steve
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Gorst, Sir John O'Neill, Martin
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Oppenheim, Phillip
Gunnell, John Ottaway, Richard
Hague, William Page, Richard
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Paice, James
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Patnick, Irvine
Hargreaves, Andrew Patten, Rt Hon John
Harris, David Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Harvey, Nick Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Haselhurst, Alan Pickles, Eric
Hawkins, Nick Pope, Greg
Hawksley, Warren Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hayes, Jerry Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hicks, Robert Rendel, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hoon, Geoffrey Richards, Rod
Horam, John Riddick, Graham
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Rooker, Jeff
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jack, Michael Sackville, Tom
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jenkin, Bernard Shaw, David (Dover)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Johnston, Sir Russell Sims, Roger
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Soames, Nicholas
Key, Robert Speed, Sir Keith
King, Rt Hon Tom Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Kirkhope, Timothy Sproat, Iain
Kirkwood, Archy Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Knox, Sir David Steen, Anthony
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Stern, Michael
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Strang, Dr. Gavin
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sweeney, Walter
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Sykes, John
Leigh, Edward Tapsell, Sir Peter
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Lidington, David Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Lightbown, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Luff, Peter Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Thurnham, Peter
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Watts, John
Tracey, Richard Wells, Bowen
Tredinnick, David Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Trend, Michael Whitney, Ray
Trotter, Neville Whittingdale, John
Twinn, Dr Ian Widdecombe, Ann
Tyler, Paul Willetts, David
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wood, Timothy
Viggers, Peter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Walden, George Tellers for the Ayes:
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Sir George Gardiner and>
Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold Mr. Michael Fabricant.
Ward, John
Abbott, Ms Diane Gapes, Mike
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Garrett, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) George, Bruce
Allen, Graham Godman, Dr Norman A.
Alton, David Godsiff, Roger
Amess, David Gordon, Mildred
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Graham, Thomas
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Ashton, Joe Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Grocott, Bruce
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Grylls, Sir Michael
Barnes, Harry Hain, Peter
Bates, Michael Hall, Mike
Bayley, Hugh Hannam, Sir John
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Hanson, David
Bell, Stuart Hardy, Peter
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bennett, Andrew F. Heppell, John
Benton, Joe Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Blackburn, Dr John G. Home Robertson, John
Blunkett, David Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Body, Sir Richard Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Hutton, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Illsley, Eric
Byers, Stephen Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Callaghan, Jim Jamieson, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Jessel, Toby
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Chisholm, Malcolm Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jowell, Tessa
Clelland, David Keen, Alan
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Corbett, Robin Khabra, Piara S.
Corbyn, Jeremy Kilfoyle, Peter
Cormack, Patrick Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Cousins, Jim Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Cummings, John Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Lewis, Terry
Dalyell, Tam Litherland, Robert
Davidson, Ian Livingstone, Ken
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Llwyd, Elfyn
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Lord, Michael
Day, Stephen Loyden, Eddie
Devlin, Tim Lynne, Ms Liz
Dixon, Don McAvoy, Thomas
Dobson, Frank McFall, John
Dover, Den Mackinlay, Andrew
Enright, Derek Maclennan, Robert
Etherington, Bill McNamara, Kevin
Evans, John (St Helens N) MacShane, Denis
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) McWilliam, John
Fatchett, Derek Madden, Max
Faulds, Andrew Mahon, Alice
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mans, Keith
Foster, Don (Bath) Marek, Dr John
Foulkes, George Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fraser, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Galbraith, Sam Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Martlew, Eric Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Meacher, Michael Snape, Peter
Merchant, Piers Spearing, Nigel
Michael, Alun Spellar, John
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Spencer, Sir Derek
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Milburn, Alan Spink, Dr Robert
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Steinberg, Gerry
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Sumberg, David
Mudie, George Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Paul Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thomason, Roy
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
O'Hara, Edward Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Olner, William Timms, Stephen
Parry, Robert Tipping, Paddy
Patchett, Terry Turner, Dennis
Pawsey, James Walley, Joan
Pickthall, Colin Wareing, Robert N
Pike, Peter L. Waterson, Nigel
Porter, David (Waveney) Wicks, Malcolm
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wigley, Dafydd
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Wilkinson, John
Prescott, John Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Quin, Ms Joyce Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Raynsford, Nick Winnick, David
Redmond, Martin Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Rogers, Allan Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Sheerman, Barry Wright, Dr Tony
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan Tellers for the Noes:
Skinner, Dennis Mrs. Llin Golding and
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Mr. William O'Brien.
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 8 agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 9, in page 4, line 46, at end insert— ("(bb ) any shop which is a nursery, garden centre or do-it-yourself home improvement shop, or a combination of these, and where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of any one or more of the following—

  1. (i) plants,
  2. (ii) garden supplies and accessories, and
  3. (iii) materials and tools suitable for use in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration of buildings,")

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 12.

Mr. Lloyd

We have just debated a group of amendments that made some limited exemptions from the six-hour restrictions on Sunday trading by outlets measuring more than 3,000 sq ft. Lords amendment No. 9, however, would liberate many more outlets from that rule by adding the larger nurseries, garden centres and DIY shops to the exempt category. Again, it is for the House to judge the extent to which it wishes to dilute the large shop-small shop compromise that it reached some months ago; but I draw hon. Members' attention to the questions of definition and enforcement that are involved, as I believe that the answers that they give to those questions should be taken into account in the decision that the House reaches.

I understand that garden centres and DIY shops were linked in the same amendment in another place because its sponsors felt that it was extremely difficult to draw a clear distinction between garden centres—which sell garden furniture, as do many DIY shops—and DIY shops, which sell paving slabs and gravel like many garden centres. Both often sell lawn mowers, power tools, barbecue equipment and Christmas decorations; indeed, many DIY shops sell plants and shrubs. It would certainly be very hard to distinguish their product ranges at law.

There is also a problem in distinguishing DIY and garden centres clearly from other shops. Many department stores sell garden furniture, power tools and lawn mowers. Many self-styled DIY shops sell flat-pack furniture, kitchen units, carpets, toys, curtains and a range of other products that are commonly found in a large number of shops that do not currently claim to be DIYs. If the amendments were carried, it would not be surprising if some of those other shops claimed quite convincingly that they were DIY shops as well—or hastened to adjust their range of goods to qualify under any definition that might be constructed to distinguish them. I hope, therefore, that the House will consider with care the law enforcement task that they will be placing on local authorities. To work effectively, the law must have sufficient clarity. We all know that the anomalies in the Shops Act 1950 made it difficult for local authorities to apply the law in practice, which led to the law being increasingly flouted. We should take care to ensure that that does not happen again.

Another reason why local authorities became reluctant to try to enforce the Act was that the public increasingly began to feel that it was unfair. The House will thus want to consider whether a DIY shop selling power tools when a department store cannot, or a large garden centre selling pet food, as many do, while a large pet shop must stay shut will be felt to be fair by the public. It is for the House freely to decide who may open and when, but all hon. Members, whatever our views on Sunday shopping and wherever we stand in the spectrum—whether we believe in greater restriction than the Bill would provide or whether we would deregulate entirely—want the law that we finally put on the statute book to be readily enforceable by the local authorities and the courts and to be regarded by the public and the retail trade as reasonable and fair.

Mr. Alton

The Minister's warning is well timed and well made. I hope that hon. Members will recall what he said when they vote. Will he confirm that we are not dealing with small enterprises and businesses, because about a third of DIY shops' output—about £1 billion—is of non-DIY merchandiser? We are not talking about small beer by any means.

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot confirm the figure, but it is substantial. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

If the House does not agree Lords amendment No. 9, with your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall move a manuscript amendment to Lords amendment No. 12 to remove the reference to Lords amendment No. 9.

Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

The Minister has been helpful. Despite being a self-confessed deregulator, he has—perhaps in slightly veiled language, but probably clearly—drawn the House's attention to the dangers of accepting the amendments.

I carefully read the debates in the other place. The amendments were part of a wide group of amendments, of which Lords amendment No. 9 was successful. The debate focused almost entirely on the desirability of activities such as going to garden centres and DIY shops and on leisure activities and how enjoyable they were. There was talk of there being more browsing than buying on such occasions, which was coupled with dire warnings of loss of trade if restrictions were placed on hours. In that debate, it seemed that, because customers' activities were associated with leisure, all other considerations that had previously applied in debates on the Bill were forgotten.

The proposal appears to have been made without any reference to the way in which the consensus grew in the House in favour of extending Sunday trading. Indeed, a similar consensus had initially been reached in the other place—that the opening hours of large enterprises should be restricted.

As we have heard, those enterprises have the greatest impact on our way of life on a Sunday. They have the greatest impact on staff conditions and terms of employment, on vehicle movements as people shop in them and on the environment because of deliveries and other such factors and because of the noise pollution that is associated with shoppers arriving and leaving in their cars. Both Houses rightly felt that restricting those enterprises to six hours of trading between 10 am and 6 pm on a Sunday was sufficient and that, if any compromise were to be consistent with preserving the special nature of Sunday, there should be only limited exemptions to the provision. I believe that those exemptions are substantial.

I have considerable sympathy with genuine horticulturists. Many small family firms have been in business for a long time and have traded without restrictions on a Sunday. We can well understand how they feel and we question the proposal in the Lords amendments, which did not give exemptions to small family firms of nursery men and women and did not properly explore the question of employee exemptions.

The horticulturists' association has advanced powerful arguments about the seasonal nature of their work, the rural location of businesses and the family interests involved. We cannot, however, properly consider them and weigh the evidence before we vote tonight because the amendments do not offer us a choice. They couple nurseries with garden centres and DIY shops. Many of the enterprises to which the amendments refer are large, are owned by large companies with multiple interests and, in urban areas, are located on sites where there is a combination of a garden centre and a DIY shop.

I vouch for the fact that there is interest in gardening in urban regions. I know how popular garden centres are. Even in urban areas, particularly those in my constituency, many small garden centres are essentially large houses with their own private grounds from which plants are grown and supplied. I remind hon. Members that centres that fall under the 3,000 sq ft restriction will not be caught and that the amendments are not relevant to them. The large centres, which hon. Members will know many examples of and which combine DIY shops with garden centres, posed problems, as the Minister suggested, when drafting the amendments and led to the coupling of the two types of enterprise. That is the weakness of the amendments. Lord Norrie said: We all know a garden centre and a home improvement store when we see one."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 April 1994; Vol. 553, c. 1670.] We probably do today, but in past decades, the types of stores, the produce that they offer and their selling techniques have changed enormously. We were conscious of that when we looked back to the 1950 Act. We must recognise that there will be changes and diversification and that it will be extremely difficult to distinguish, as it is already in some cases, DIY shops from other stores or a garden centre that sells many products other than plants and immediately associated goods.

Courts, a high street stores group, sent out a letter, which I am sure all hon. Members received. It talks about DIY stores offering for sale not those items that we use for home improvements, but kitchen items, tables, bunk beds, mattresses, pillows, duvets, cutlery and glassware. That is a huge list, backed up with photographs, so that we can all see how impossible it is to find a definition—or at least, a definition that would stand any reasonable test—of the difference between centres that have primarily DIY goods and those that have a range of very similar products, or the same products, and a lesser range of DIY tools and equipment.

If the amendments were agreed to, they would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. They would totally undermine the regulation, and the policing of that regulation, that the House set in train. Simplicity is at the heart of the Bill, as it was at its heart when it left the House—simplicity based on a size definition, which for all goods and services that are not urgent necessities made a distinction between premises larger than 3,000 sq ft and smaller premises. If we passed the amendment, it would signal a step-by-step move towards total deregulation.

6.30 pm

Let me remind hon. Members that both Houses overwhelmingly rejected total deregulation of Sunday trading. Both Houses also fundamentally endorsed a compromise, in which there would be no restriction on opening for small shops, thus giving them a competitive edge in trading opportunities, but a six-hour limit for larger enterprises. That fundamental compromise not only gained the consent of both Houses, but, as is equally important, was supported by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and by the group of major retailers organised into the Shopping Hours Reform Council.

The Lords amendments would fatally undermine the basic premise on which the Bill was constructed—a regulated extension of Sunday trading. For those reasons I shall vote against them, and although I acknowledge that there will be a free vote, I hope that many or all of my colleagues will follow me in opposing amendments that effectively wreck a Bill for which consent in the House was so hard won.

Mrs. Marion Roe (Broxbourne)

I disagree with the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), and I intend to put the opposite case. Not only am I chairman of the Conservative parliamentary horticulture committee, but for a number of years I have been parliamentary consultant to the Horticultural Trades Association, which represents virtually all the garden centres in the country.

During that time I have come to know the way in which the industry operates. I know the people who work in it and the people who use it. It is a diverse industry : at one end there are the large chains of garden centres, many attached to DIY stores, all of which employ a substantial number of people; at the other end are the small family businesses in which a few people work all the hours that God gives them to make a living out of something that they love, and about which they are passionate.

Another thing that I have learnt is how important garden centres are to the British people. Gardening is the most popular pastime in this country. It knows no social bounds; it is a great leveller; it captivates the wealthy man with his rolling acres and the poor man with his allotment. Every hon. Member has thousands of constituents who earn their living from garden centres, or much of whose leisure time revolves around them.

The Lords amendments, which are designed to exempt garden centres and DIY stores from the six-hour restriction on Sunday opening, are eminently sensible. Let us consider what difference it would make to our Sundays if we agreed to them.

Mr. Alton

The hon. Lady makes a compelling case for garden centres, which would attract huge sympathy and agreement in the House, but in view of the failure to table any other amendments to the Lords amendments, would we not face a problem with the entanglement between the concept of DIY stores, which the hon. Lady mentioned only cursorily, and that of garden centres? Does the hon. Lady agree that as we are not to be given the chance to vote in a way that would distinguish between the two but have to vote for or against both, we are faced with "like it or lump it" amendments?

Mrs. Roe

The hon. Gentleman may have some problems in that connection, and I sympathise with him, but there may be hon. Members on both sides of the House who would be happy for the amendments made by the House of Lords to be agreed to. It is for hon. Members to make their own decisions on the Lords amendments before us.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton)

It has already been said that DIY shops tend to sell flat-pack furniture. Anyone who has ever bought any of that, whether a full kitchen or simply a chest of drawers, cannot but be aware how much DIY that involves—too much, as far as I am concerned. I know that it is not popular in the House to admit that one buys one's own furniture, let alone has to put it together when one gets home, but there is definitely a large element of DIY involved in purchasing the sort of furniture sold in such shops.

Mrs. Roe

I fully agree with my hon. Friend, who has made a valid point.

Let us consider what difference the passing of the amendments would make to our Sundays. I believe that no change whatever would result, and I shall explain why. There would certainly be no need for any more policing; more people would not need to work longer hours, and we would not need to allow any new activities that we have not happily allowed to take place for years. The truth is that the amendments would simply maintain the status quo, and would allow millions of people—our constituents—to carry on doing what they already do on Sundays.

The big question is why on earth the provision was not included in the original compromise option? If the deregulation option had been chosen, garden centres would have been allowed to open, and if the Keep Sunday Special option had won, garden centres would have been exempted, so why did not the compromise between those two extremes include that element, which was acceptable to both? I do not think that anyone knows. It seems to many people that it was a mistake. It is now up to both Houses to consider and refine the legislation and to correct such mistakes, and that is just what amendment No. 9 would do.

I cannot accept the argument that we should oppose the amendment, not because it is not sensible—obviously it is sensible—but because it goes against some ill-defined principle. I have said what would happen if we agreed to the amendment. Now let us consider what would happen if we opposed it. Who would gain? I cannot think of anyone who would benefit from new restrictions being imposed on garden centres and DIY stores. Not those who work in them—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Roe

May I move on? Then I shall give way.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

It will be too late then.

Mrs. Roe

Who would gain? Not those who work in them—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman


Mrs. Roe

I am sure that the hon. Lady's -point will be well made, and she will be able to make it in a few moments.

No one would benefit—certainly not those who work or shop in the businesses concerned. So who would lose? That is far more apparent. Many of our constituents would lose—people who own such stores, people who work in them and people who visit them.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend give way now?

Mrs. Roe

If the hon. Lady will give me a few more moments I will give way to her. All of us have thousands of constituents who will suffer if we oppose the amendment just because of some ill-defined principle.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Lady said that she could not think of anyone who would lose by the amendment. She obviously does not live near a do-it-yourself shop.

Mrs. Roe

I do.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Lady will lose, then. She also knows who will gain if the amendment is defeated—those who live near do-it-yourself shops and who rely on a little peace on Sunday. They will not get it if the amendment is passed.

Mrs. Roe

I actually said that I believed that the status quo was what we wished to achieve. Many people use the garden centres and the DIY stores. If the hon. Lady will give me time, I will show in a moment exactly what happens when the hours are restricted and the sort of reaction that we are likely to find among our constituents.

Sir Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln)

As my hon. Friend knows, I am on the council of the Garden Industries Federation. She was talking about losers. It is clear to me that a group of people who would also lose are those who work in companies, often small companies, manufacturing garden equipment for sale. They would lose because the majority of their sales are made on a Sunday. The biggest day in the year is Easter Sunday. If we want to maintain employment, we should give a proper outlet to the good products that are made in this country.

Mrs. Roe

My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Sir K. Carlisle) makes a good point and I am grateful for his support. He is extremely knowledgeable in this matter, and I assure the House that he knows what he is talking about.

It is difficult to judge what the customers will think. Most do not yet realise what is going on in Westminster. In Northampton during March this year all the DIY shops and garden centres opened on Sunday only for the hours that would be available to them if we reject the amendment—that is, from 10 am to 4 pm. On those four Sundays, literally thousands of people turned up before 10 am and after 4 pm. They were working in their homes and gardens and they needed equipment and supplies. We must realise that for most working people Sunday is the only day on which they can buy those supplies. More than 6 million people visit garden centres every Sunday. The people in Northampton were amazed and angered at what they found and could not believe that Members of Parliament were considering restricting garden centres and DIY stores. When they were told that restrictions were indeed being considered, many questioned whether Members of Parliament lived in the real world.

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

Will my hon. Friend again acknowledge that many hon. Members have no desire to restrict the Sunday trading of small garden centres? Because of the size limit, many will not be affected. We are talking only about the larger garden centres, which many of us would not want to restrict if they were not linked to DIY centres. As the Lords amendment links the two, however, those of us who are fond of garden centres of all sizes but wish to block the DIY side have no choice but to vote against the amendment.

Mrs. Roe

It is up to my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) to make up his own mind on the amendment. I shall support it, and I am explaining to the House why.

The House may think that I exaggerate the effect of imposing new restrictions on garden centres and DIY shops on Sundays. Most garden centres do up to 40 per cent. of their weekly trade on Sunday alone; for DIY stores, the figure is around 30 per cent. Sunday is the most important trading day for them. If we reject the amendment, we shall artificially restrict the busiest day of our constituents' week. Let there be no doubt that if we reject the amendment we shall seriously damage the economic well-being of many of our constituents.

People I have met in the stores ask me what is going on. When I tell them that it is possible that their Sunday hours will be restricted, they cannot believe it. They want to know why we would cut their wages or even put their jobs at risk. To be honest, I do not know what the answer is.

Opposition Front-Bench Members—some of whom, I believe, are sponsored by the Co-operative movement—have persuaded their colleagues to vote against the amendment as a matter of principle. I in no way seek to make a party political point, but I cannot believe that any union really wants to inflict unemployment and reduced wages on workers, many of whom are union members, for absolutely no practical point.

6.45 pm

I have heard three arguments against the amendment. First, it is said that as a matter of principle we should not amend the agreed compromise. I have already shown that that argument is not valid. The chosen option is a compromise between two other options, both of which exempted garden centres. The omission of such stores from the option is a mistake. Without the amendment, the Bill will be a bad piece of legislation. It is our role and our duty to correct that mistake.

Secondly, I have heard it said that it will be difficult to police the exemption. But the exemption maintains the status quo, so the amendment will impose no greater burden on authorities than already exists. Thirdly, I hear it said that the amendment will allow unscrupulous retailers to get around the general six-hour rule by pretending to be a garden centre or DIY store. At a considerable stretch of the imagination, one might suppose that that could happen, but any sensible person looking at the matter objectively would soon realise that it simply would not happen. The amendment is so drafted that in the event of any dispute the onus is on the retailer to prove to a magistrate, first, that the store is a garden centre or DIY store and, secondly, that it sells wholly or mainly the prescribed goods. That double hurdle is a staunch test. Moreover, as all stores will be able to open for up to six hours on Sunday anyway, such a retailer is unlikely to risk a £50 fine just to open for an extra hour or two on a Sunday. In practice it will never happen, just as it has not happened under the current system.

I have been asked why DIY stores and garden centres are linked in the amendment. The answer is simple: in practice, there are inextricable links between the two types of store. Improving one's home is exactly the same sort of activity as improving one's garden. Many garden centres sell DIY items and most DIY stores have garden centres. The two types of store are a distinct sector of retailing and they cannot and should not be separated.

I understand that no party has whipped against the amendment tonight, so it is up to us to make up our own minds. That is how it was in the Lords. Indeed, the Labour peer Baroness Nicol, a staunch supporter of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, actually spoke in favour of the amendment. The choice is between some unfounded fears and an ill-defined principle on the one hand and the well-being of our constituents on the other. If hon. Members vote against the amendment, people will lose their jobs and their established leisure activities. Every hon. Member who votes against the amendment will be directly blamed by his or her constituents. I cannot believe that we can seriously consider forcing our garden centres and DIY stores to close on the very day when they are most active. As we already know, most people find it difficult to understand much of what we do in this remote Chamber; they will be totally incredulous if we vote today to close their garden centres and DIY stores.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) is plain wrong about the Lords amendment that she supports. It is simply not the case that passing the amendment would preserve the status quo in DIY stores. The status quo in DIY stores is that a large proportion of the trading that goes on is illegal. The Bill will make it legal to trade for a set number of hours on a Sunday. The status quo does not enable do-it-yourself stores to trade for unlimited hours on a Sunday. Those which do so are breaking the law and some of them are now facing quite large fines, which do not bother them very much because large fines to them were an engine for achieving a change in the law. Now, they ride on the backs of garden centres and hope to obtain unlimited trading on Sundays in stores in which a large part of the trade is not in DIY goods at all. They rely on the hon. Lady's genuine arguments on behalf of garden centres to obtain for them what they have been seeking all the time. They first tried the bully-boy tactics of hoping that, by simply breaking the law, they could get their way. They then appeared to support compromise measures, which have been carried through the House, and, finally, they overturned those compromises in favour of complete deregulation on Sundays. We in this House would be behaving quite unreasonably if we allowed anybody to get away with such tactics.

I have great sympathy with those garden centres which want to continue their present activities, but the proper course for those who feel that it requires amendment of the Bill as it originally left the House would be to seek amendment to the Lords amendments so as to narrow down the Bill and achieve that effect. Even then, we are talking only about larger garden centres and larger numbers of hours than the six hours which will be allowed in any event. The House must decide whether it is prepared to bring the issue of unlimited trading back into the high street. We are talking not only about the garden centre which is outside the main centre of population, but the DIY store in the high street and, even more, the DIY store in the shopping complex, which is putting the high street out of business. We are talking about the ability of those who have already posed a threat to the traditional high street to have unlimited trading on Sundays.

I urge hon. Members to heed the warnings from both Front Benches. It must be the first time that, during the proceedings of this Bill, I find myself in such substantial agreement with the Minister and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman and spokeswoman. On different points, they referred to the dangers which will arise if we allow the Lords amendment to stand.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Is not it a fact that, in a year's time, if the amendment is allowed to stand as the Lords have agreed, we shall almost certainly hear electrical stores complaining that it is quite wrong that a DIY store may sell exactly what they are not allowed to sell in those extended hours? We shall therefore be asked, almost straightaway, to move further away and add further exclusions to the restrictions in the Bill.

Mr. Beith

That is absolutely right. One may almost say that anomalies are being prepared for the next stage of argument about anomalies. We have all seen the way in which the anomalies argument has been used in the Sunday trading issue to cast doubt on the propriety of obeying the law as it stands and to argue for changes in the law. Now, we shall see new anomalies built in to pave the way for further changes to the law beyond the compromise for which the House voted. It was not the compromise that I wanted. I wanted a more restrictive approach to Sunday trading, for reasons which other hon. Members have cited. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and the hon. Member for Broxbourne said, it drives a coach and horses through that compromise and brings back the whole issue of unregulated trading. Anyone who walks into Texas, or B and Q or any of the large DIY stores can see that they are general stores, selling a wide range of merchandise—£1 billion of merchandise other than DIY goods. They shall be putting themselves in the unfair trading position that they have wanted all along if they secure the benefit of the amendment.

Therefore, I urge all hon. Members, especially those who have supported the Shopping Hours Reform Council and its proposals, to resist the amendment, which makes nonsense of everything that has been done up to now.

Mrs. Browning

I am pleased to have an opportunity to support the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe). Like her, I, too, support the Lords amendments. I have a particular interest in garden centres since, in my constituency, a large garden centre is a major employer in east Devon—Otter Nurseries, which is known throughout the county of Devon. It started off as, arid still is, a family business run by Mr. and Mrs. White. Over the years, they have developed their business and their reputation and now employ some 160 people, including 65 people who are employed on a Sunday. Such is the nature of their business that people arrange coach trips to visit the garden centre. I visited it myself on a Sunday. I am aware how popular it is, early in the morning as well as late on a Sunday afternoon.

The economy of my constituency, especially the east Devon part, will be severely affected if the trading hours of that garden centre were to be restricted. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne pointed out, the Shops Act 1950 permitted garden centres to sell produce—as they did—to motor accessory stores and farm shops. Therefore, restrictions on large garden centres such as Otter Nurseries would not enhance its ability to provide jobs or to provide a service to the public. It would detract from what it is already able to do under the law. It would be most unfortunate if the Bill, which is looking to free the market place more on a Sunday, adversely affected something such as a large garden centre. By garden centres and home improvement stores opening on a Sunday, their popularity with the public has become apparent.

Listening to some of the speeches from both sides of the House, I wonder about the argument that, if a DIY store were to open, it would be unfair competition to the regular furniture stores. DIY stores are not Harrods, delivering its cabinet furniture, delivered by two gentlemen wearing gloves. DIY stores sell a totally different range of furniture, as I pointed out in an intervention. Also, garden centres—

Mrs. Peacock

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Browning

May I finish this point and then I shall give way? Garden furniture or patio furniture is becoming increasingly popular. I recently had great difficulty in finding a couple of chairs with cushions on them in furniture stores in my constituency. The only place that I could buy them and be offered a choice was at Otter Nurseries in my constituency. Therefore, the idea that garden centres are selling Chippendale cabinets and putting Courts and other furniture companies out of business is somewhat unfounded. I wonder how many hon. Members put their own furniture together or do their own decorating, rather than have a little man come in to do it. I suspect that it is not that many.

Mrs. Peacock

My hon. Friend mentioned furniture. I have here four photographs. Three are of DIY stores, all selling pine furniture, and the fourth is of a furniture store selling pine furniture. Three stores would be allowed to open and one would not. What is her answer to that?

Mrs. Browning

Like my hon. Friend, I have also received those photographs. However, she will be aware that DIY stores require people to move their furniture home. There is a great difference between furniture shops, which offer a delivery service to their customers, and shops from where customers are prepared to struggle, with roof racks or rented vans, to take their furniture home themselves. I have studied those photographs very carefully and I have been round DIY stores, garden centres and furniture stores to see the way in which they market merchandise and there is a distinct difference between what happens to one as a customer when a purchase of furniture is made from a DIY store and what happens when one goes into a regular furniture retail outlet.

Sir Harold Walker (Doncaster, Central)

Characteristically, a large trading estate sites Do It All, Allied Carpets, MFI and B and Q cheek by jowl. The hon. Lady is proposing that Do It All and B and Q should be allowed to open when we are telling Allied Carpets and MFI to shut shop. Allied Carpets sells carpets identical with those on sale at B and Q, which can be delivered. Doubtless, those carpets will be sold after 4 o'clock, when we will have told Allied to stop trading. Can she defend that?

Mrs. Browning

Yes, I can, because the right hon. Gentleman is referring to a very small number of ranges in which there is an overlap of interest. If one goes into a DIY store, one can see immediately whether it is a DIY store or a furniture store. There is certainly an overlap in certain ranges, but in the sort of DIY stores that have been mentioned tonight, such as Texas, one can see that it is a DIY store. The floor area is predominantly devoted to a whole range of things, from plumbing materials to decorating materials to paints and so on. The other lines that such stores carry are subsidiary lines. If we were to start precluding shops from opening simply because of an overlap of a small number of lines, it would be a great pity. In a way, it is a pity that we have not been able to separate the DIY interest from garden centres as I have a constituency interest with regard to garden centres. I would hate garden centres to be penalised simply because of the arguments against DIY stores trading.

Garden centres offer a much wider range of choice of services. In addition to plants, garden centres offer facilities for garden design. People enjoy going to Otter Nurseries for lunch or for tea in the afternoon. It is a whole-person experience. I would hate that whole-person experience to be restricted from 10 am to 4 pm. More seriously, there would be a grave effect on east Devon in my constituency. Many of my constituents would be disappointed about that, and I trust that the House will accept the Lords amendment and reject the opposition to it that has been voiced tonight.

7 pm

Mr. Ray Powell

I have listened to some of the arguments about garden centres and DIY stores and have tried to separate them. The difficulty when I presented my private Member's Bill was whether we should include garden centres or DIY stores. We listened to the arguments and agreed in Committee that we would accept the argument for garden centres to open, but on a restricted timetable.

Garden centres are ideal in April when we want to buy our plants to plant out. They are ideal in May, June, July and August when we see the lovely shrubs and flowers and when we can make a special garden from the flowers and plants that we can buy from garden centres. However, have you visited a garden centre in October, November or December, Mr. Deputy Speaker? If you visit one in December, you will find that it sells all sorts of Christmas decorations, toys and, as one would expect, Christmas trees. It will also sell deck chairs which can be bought as presents for the summer.

There is a garden centre in Pyle in a constituency near mine which sells all the types of furniture that one can buy in a DIY store. It would also be possible to buy a swimming pool on a Sunday from that garden centre, at whatever time one cared to visit it.

Arguments were raised in the Committee that examined my private Member's Bill to such an extent that the Committee agreed to include garden centres in my Bill. Before agreement was reached in that Committee, there was pressure from the DIY stores. It was argued then that if we allowed garden centres to open because gardening is a very popular hobby, we should not deny people who want to visit DIY stores to buy shelving or to buy goods to repair or decorate their homes. The arguments were such that we agreed to include DIY stores.

Of course, since 1986, the Government have been dragging their feet in respect of Sunday trading and the Shops Act 1950 despite the fact that DIY retailers were making millions of pounds at the expense of other retailers because the 1950 Act was not imposed on those who were breaking the law.

Nevertheless, we decided to include DIY stores in my Bill. However, because of the lack of time and the lack of Government and some Opposition support, my Bill fell. I had been lucky—if one can call it that—to come third in the ballot and seemed to have plenty of time for my legislation. Indeed, it had received plenty of support.

At that time, the Government were prepared to allow my Committee to do the spadework and to prepare a Bill so that, after stopping my Bill, they could step in and have a ready-prepared Bill themselves. When the Government introduced their Bill, they made many promises about partial deregulation.

We all accept that the debate about the future of Sunday trading has produced sharp divisions between retailers and consumers and within the general community. However, all have been united on one principle—the new law must be effective. As the Home Secretary said on Second Reading when he introduced the Bill: We want the option to work in practice and to command the respect throughout the country which the current regime sadly lacks."—[Official Report, 29 November 1993; Vol. 233, c. 818.] Much was made of the claim for the option chosen, although it was not my choice. It was said that it was relatively simple and straightforward. Large shops of more than 280 sq m were permitted to trade for up to six hours, with unrestricted trading for small shops plus a limited number of special categories. Left alone, that at least offered the prospect of an end to the anarchy in the high street which has offended so many people in recent years.

However, there was always a fear that certain retailers, indeed the very ones who had broken the existing law for longest and gained most from doing so, would continue to put self-interest before principle. Therefore, it is not particularly surprising, although it is regrettable, that the moment the ink was dry on the six-hour option formula which they had supported so vocally as the compromise option, the DIY and garden centre retailers were lobbying to gain exemption from that formula.

The DIY chains were a major force in the Shopping Hours Reform Council which lobbied for the six-hour option. A director of B and Q was seconded from that business to be deputy director of the SHRC.

In seeking exemption from the formula which they had designed, the DIY and garden centre lobbies have had a problem. It is not enough for them that they should be allowed to sell just goods for decorating the home and for gardening. That is no longer the nature of their business. Major DIY chains sell furniture, kitchens, lighting, telephones, small electrical items, blinds and carpets. Some of the most recent businesses to open have extended the list to furnishing fabrics, linens, large electrical goods, gifts, pictures and mirrors, china, glassware and cutlery. Between a quarter and a third of their sales may be in non-DIY goods.

In 1993, the Central Statistical Office published an analysis of sales by DIY shops in 1990 which showed that non-DIY merchandise then accounted for more than £1 billion—nearly 28 per cent.—of the retail sales of all DIY businesses. The source for that is Business Monitor SDA 25 Retailing 1990. That is broadly comparable in size to the total—all merchandise—of national sales for that year of John Lewis department stores, House of Fraser including Harrods, Debenhams, Dixons UK, Storehouse including British Home Stores, Habitat and Mothercare, and Argos.

In short, large DIY shops, and to a lesser extent garden centres, have become general traders in a wide range of goods. Therefore, they made representations to hon. Members that they should be allowed to trade without restriction if they are open wholly or mainly for the sale of DIY or gardening merchandise.

What does "wholly or mainly" mean? Much was made in the debate in another place of the view that Parliament should have confidence in the good sense of the courts. One of their Lordships indicated that the words "wholly or mainly" had been considered in revenue law where it means 90 per cent. But none of those who wish to permit unrestricted opening of DIY shops and garden centres can believe that that interpretation would apply here because few, if any, would qualify on that basis.

Moreover, the courts may be expected to show good sense that they, can only implement the law passed by Parliament. Mr. Charles Flint, the Treasury counsel, said in an opinion that the effect of the current draft is that a DIY shop could lawfully sell a wide range of supplies, going beyond those to be used in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration of the structure of dwellings, and the amount of such non-DIY supplies could amount to a substantial proportion of the sales made by the shop. Furthermore, he says that as this is a criminal statute any ambiguity in interpretation will lead to it being considered in favour of a defendant who is prosecuted…the test of wholly or mainly must permit the shopkeeper to open the shop for a subsidiary purpose such as the sale of non-qualifying goods, even if that subsidiary purpose is not ancillary to the principal purpose of selling qualified goods; thus the shopkeeper who opens a shop for the principal purpose of selling DIY goods could lawfully sell any other type of goods. That is the legal interpretation. We are all interested in the law, so we all understand that.

That raises again the question asked in another place but not answered by anyone. A large modern DIY store has anything up to 90,000 sq ft of selling space. What is to stop B and Q from diverting 40 per cent. or more of its space to merchandise from its sister business, Comet? By the same score, it would be technically possible for a Sainsbury-owned Homebase to incorporate a food supermarket within its perimeter. If branches of Comet traded for more than six hours because they were sited within the perimeter of B and Q shops, how would their Lordships expect the chairman of Dixons—and the owners of Dixons and Currys—to react? What would they expect local authorities to do to restrain Currys, which had opened illegally for more than six hours?

That is the argument. How will we enforce a restriction of six hours on DIY stores and garden centres which are blatantly trading, despite the Shops Act 1950 and despite breaking the law of Parliament? They are exploiting their position. How will we control them, and how will we ensure that the law that is passed is enforced?

These are not fancifully speculative considerations. Anyone who has observed the length to which some DIY traders have gone recently to exploit the loopholes in the current law cannot be sanguine about the use to which new loopholes may be put if they are allowed to remain in the Bill. Unless the amendment is rejected, the Bill will remain fatally flawed.

Since 1986, some of us, including the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), have spent a lot of time discussing the Bill and the anomalies. I am sure that we do not want to see a flawed Bill being accepted tonight. I hope that many hon. Members will join me in the Lobby to vote against it.

I am sponsored by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. I am not a consultant for any other union—as a matter of fact, I am not really a consultant for USDAW—[Interruption.] At least I still have my membership, unlike one of my colleagues on the Labour Front Bench—I shall not mention names. I received a letter dated 13 June from the deputy general secretary of USDAW. I shall read the final paragraph so that hon. Members clearly understand that I am on the union's side and I shall be going into whichever Lobby the union wants me to. USDAW is interested in ensuring that there is work for its employees, whether it be during the week or on a Sunday, but it still wants a restriction of six hours for its members who work in DIY stores and garden centres.

7.15 pm

The letter states: USDAW, therefore, calls upon"— all Members of Parliament— to oppose the amendments in respect of Do-It-Yourself Stores and large Garden Centres, to ensure that the six hour compromise which has been accepted by both Houses is not undermined by belated opportunism. We all accept that. I cannot understand where the deputy general secretary got the phrase "belated opportunism", because USDAW was a party to destroying the whole idea that we should reject the Bill as it presently stands.

I am pleased to hear the Minister say that at last he supports a Lords amendment which will totally destroy all the promises that he and the Government made about the six-hour compromise. Many Opposition Members fell into the trap of thinking that the six-hour compromise was the solution to the problem. After arguing the matter in 1986, we defeated the Thatcher Government and their proposals for total deregulation by a mere 14 votes. When they had a majority of 140, it was quite an achievement to defeat them by 14 votes.

I am sure that many people will complain about the fact that Sunday has become an ordinary day of the week. There is an opportunity for the House to limit at least some part of Sunday trading by restricting garden centres and DIY stores. I hope that those who are responsible for DIY stores will ensure that the six-hour restriction is maintained. If not, I hope that the Government and local authorities will ensure that heavy fines are imposed. I hope that all hon. Members will join me and my colleagues in voting down these Lords amendments.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

My contribution will be brief. Before their Lordships got their hands on the Bill, it had three main advantages which I would commend to the Government for inclusion in all future legislation: it was fair, simple and enforceable. It was easy for people to understand, it was fair to everyone and it was simple and enforceable for local authorities.

The position which their Lordships want to push forward in the amendment is to enable two groups of shops—garden centres and DIY stores, and in some cases shops which are both—to have extra hours on a Sunday because some of their customers cannot be bothered to get up early in the morning, or perhaps they want to continue gardening or DIY-ing late into the night.

If one goes round the DIY stores and garden centres on a Sunday, as I have done recently in my area, one will find that they sell such diverse things as furniture, carpets, sweets, food, newspapers, pets, pet food, car parts, bicycles, sports goods, sports shoes, video and music cassettes, crockery, electrical goods and a variety of other items. We are effectively saying that a DIY store or garden centre can sell those goods on Sundays when other shops will not be allowed to sell them and that cannot be fair.

Secondly, we are being asked to support an amendment that states: any shop which is a nursery, garden centre or do-it-yourself home improvement shop, or a combination of these, and where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of any one or more of the following". I must declare an interest as I am a barrister and if this amendment is agreed it will create much work for me and my colleagues. Major DIY stores will spend a great deal of money on my colleagues sorting out in court what the phrase "consists wholly or mainly" means. So, in five years' time we will be back in the House reconsidering the Sunday trading legislation in the light of a host of anomalies. I remind the House that that is why we legislated on the matter in the first place.

The third question is that of enforceability. What will happen when local authorities check on DIY stores, such as Dixons, Currys or anyone who decides to start selling DIY or garden materials? What about a furniture store that starts to sell deck chairs? Is it "wholly or mainly" involved in plants, garden supplies and accessories, or is it a furniture store that has a subsidiary interest? Enforcement will become a minefield.

I strongly recommend that hon. Members stick with what the House decided, which was that we wanted a simple, enforceable and easily comprehensible solution.

Mr. Pike

It is very rare that I agree with the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), but I certainly do tonight and I strongly underline his comments.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), I have taken a different line from that in the Bill and from the compromise agreed during our earlier debates in the House. I did not believe that we should support the Shopping Hours Reform Council compromise, but ultimately it was carried. It got a majority in the House and, eventually, in the other place, but almost immediately an attempt was made to make a major breach in that compromise. Although I did not support it, one has to accept that the people who advocated it outlined certain principles—it could be easily understood and enforced and would not create fortunes for barristers interpreting exactly what it meant.

The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) got it completely wrong when she spoke of the status quo. Why should we talk about the status quo for certain people—people who in some cases have chosen to break the law for some considerable time? The House will know that I have said on many occasions that in this country we do not break the law if we want to change it. We believe in doing so through democratic means.

Mrs. Roe

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that garden centres were legally selling the items covered by the Shops Act 1950. I was referring to that fact when I mentioned the status quo.

Mr. Pike

I accept the hon. Lady's point, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore said, DIY stores were the first deliberately to challenge existing legislation by breaking it and they have been doing so for a long time. Then other stores, such as Sainsbury and Tesco, thought that if the DIY stores were getting away with it, why should they not challenge the law? Now this Bill is going through Parliament.

I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members hope that, whatever side we were on at an earlier stage, we will not have to debate the issue again next year or the year after. One would hope that the Bill will at least stand, be enforceable and be observed, despite my reservations.

I have strong reservations about whether some people will observe the six-hour limit. I have grave doubts whether Sainsbury or other stores will abide by that rule. Initially, they will do so, but I fear that in a few years' time they will break it. If we allow Lords amendment No. 9 to stand, we are asking for such stores to challenge and break the law because they will rightly be able to ask, "Why should others be able to get away with it, if we are not allowed to do so? Why should there be a difference and why are they put in an exclusive bracket?"

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore spoke ably on the DIY aspect. DIY shops will look closely at what they are selling and may well choose to include even more excluded products, as long as they still meet the criteria of "mainly". For the Bill to state "wholly or mainly" leaves the outcome wide open. Stores might well decide to sell other goods because the profit margins are better. They could change their stock to get around the law, if they are put in the privileged position that would result if we agreed to Lords amendment No. 9.

We accepted a compromise and it would be wrong for the House to accept the Lords amendment. We should reject it, because it is a serious breach of the principle that we agreed a few months ago and it would be wrong to breach that principle.

I genuinely believe that if we pass the amendment we will be asked in 12 months' time to put superstores such as Sainsbury and Tesco in the same bracket, and then some other store a year later. The result will be total deregulation and all that that means, which is what I feared was many people's ultimate objective.

People will be able to do the shopping that they want to do during the six-hour period on a Sunday between 10 am and 4 pm. If they want to go to Sainsbury, Tesco or whatever the store happens to be—perhaps Pioneer, the Co-op superstore in my constituency, which opens on a Sunday—or to do some gardening or DIY, most people will be able to ensure that they go to the garden centre or DIY store between 10 am and 4 pm. Those stores will not lose any money if the amendment is rejected. If the trade is there, they will get it. It will merely mean that people have to shop between 10 am and 6 pm. [HON. MEMBERS: "Four!"] I am sorry and thank my hon. Friends for correcting me; it was a slip of the tongue. People will be able to organise their day and ensure that they get the plants that they want to plant or the piece of furniture that they want to put together. That is perfectly reasonable and, therefore, we should reject the Lords amendment.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), who spoke for the Opposition, ended her speech with a reference to a letter that she had received from a group of stores or shops. In my brief contribution, I shall echo that precedent by referring to a letter that I received from my friend Stephen May, who is one of the directors of the John Lewis Partnership.

I have no interest to declare in that partnership, other than that of being a fairly regular customer, but my friend makes an important point in recording that the John Lewis Partnership was certainly not an advocate of the six-hour option, but heard the House's judgment that it wanted something clear and simple. Lords amendment No. 9 would wreck that clarity and simplicity. It abandons the simple distinction between deregulation for small shops and six hours' trading for large shops by allowing large DIY stores and large garden centres to trade when they like. It introduces what I feel is grossly unfair competition in respect of the huge volume of non-DIY or gardening goods which those types of outlets can sell.

7.30 pm

The simple point which I want to leave with my colleagues is the extent to which the competition is unfair, and this is not a trivial matter. The sales of non-DIY goods in DIY businesses are more than the sales of all merchandise sold in John Lewis department stores, Debenhams or Argos. It would mean that a washing machine could be sold by a Comet section within a B and Q, but not in a Currys, and a carpet could be sold in Texas, but not in a carpet store.

If amendment No. 9 stands, we shall be plunged back into anomalies, with shops pretending to be one thing when they are actually another and loopholes being exploited for commercial advantage. The law would be unclear as well as unfair, and clarity and fairness were certainly two of the major objectives which were secured and aimed at by the six-hour option that the House has adopted. I hope very much that the attempt to moderate, modify or change the system with the clear and reasonably fair principle with which the Bill left the House will not now be undermined by the acceptance of the Lords amendment No. 9.

Mr. Couchman

I have listened carefully to the arguments from the hon. Members for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike), and for once I find myself in agreement with them.

It is worth offering to the House the view of the chairman of the Shopping Hours Reform Council, Baroness Jay. She believes that, as the proposers of the six-hour option, the council does not support any changes which threaten that compromise. The Bill as drafted achieved a successful and careful balance between the concerns of consumers, citizens and employees, and she states that that balance was difficult to construct.

While Baroness Jay believes that there may be room for some adjustments—I think she probably means the issues that were settled in the previous group of amendments—she states that the council cannot support exemptions that may damage its integrity and standing.

The six-hour option first saw the light of day in my name in a private Member's Bill which was introduced on the Order Paper on the same day as the Bill of the hon. Member for Ogmore. It is impossible for me to support amendment No. 9. I regret very much the fact that small garden centres in particular have found themselves tangled up in the amendment with the big do-it-yourself shops. I was under absolutely no doubt that the owners of the big do-it-yourself stores, recognising that total deregulation would not find favour with the House, were content to accept the six-hour option. I regret that we have been faced with this amendment at all, and I for one will seek to disagree with the Lords.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 160, Noes 293.

Division No. 270] [7.33 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Coe, Sebastian
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Colvin, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Conway, Derek
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Ashby, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Aspinwall, Jack Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Atkins, Robert Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Austin-Walker, John Deva, Nirj Joseph
Baldry, Tony Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Beresford, Sir Paul Duncan, Alan
Betts, Clive Duncan-Smith, Iain
Biffen, Rt Hon John Eggar, Tim
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Elletson, Harold
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Boyes, Roland Faber, David
Brandreth, Gyles Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bright, Graham Flynn, Paul
Browning, Mrs. Angela Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fraser, John
Budgen, Nicholas French, Douglas
Butler, Peter Gardiner, Sir George
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garnier, Edward
Cann, Jamie Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Gillan, Cheryl
Carttiss, Michael Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Cash, William Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Chidgey, David Gorst, Sir John
Clappison, James Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hargreaves, Andrew Oppenheim, Phillip
Haselhurst, Alan Ottaway, Richard
Hawkins, Nick Page, Richard
Hawksley, Warren Pickles, Eric
Hayes, Jerry Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, David Redwood, Rt Hon John
Henderson, Doug Rendel, David
Hicks, Robert Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Hodge, Margaret Richards, Rod
Horam, John Riddick, Graham
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Jack, Michael Rooker, Jeff
Jenkin, Bernard Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Sackville, Tom
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Key, Robert Shaw, David (Dover)
Kirkwood, Archy Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knox, Sir David Sims, Roger
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Soames, Nicholas
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sproat, Iain
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Stern, Michael
Legg, Barry Stewart, Allan
Leigh, Edward Strang, Dr. Gavin
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Sykes, John
Lidington, David Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Luff, Peter Temple-Morris, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
MacKay, Andrew Thurnham, Peter
McLoughlin, Patrick Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Trend, Michael
Madel, Sir David Twinn, Dr Ian
Malone, Gerald Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Marland, Paul Viggers, Peter
Maxton, John Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Moate, Sir Roger Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Monro, Sir Hector Ward, John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Waterson, Nigel
Moonie, Dr Lewis Watts, John
Morley, Elliot Wells, Bowen
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Moss, Malcolm Whitney, Ray
Mowlam, Marjorie Willetts, David
Nelson, Anthony
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tellers for the Ayes:
Nicholls, Patrick Mr. Michael Fabricant and
O'Neill, Martin Mr. Michael Brown.
Abbott, Ms Diane Boateng, Paul
Adams, Mrs Irene Body, Sir Richard
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Booth, Hartley
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Boswell, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Allen, Graham Bradley, Keith
Amess, David Bray, Dr Jeremy
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Brazier, Julian
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Arbuthnot, James Burns, Simon
Ashton, Joe Byers, Stephen
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Callaghan, Jim
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Barnes, Harry Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Barron, Kevin Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Bates, Michael Carrington, Matthew
Battle, John Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Bayley, Hugh Chapman, Sydney
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Chisholm, Malcolm
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Church, Judith
Bendall, Vivian Churchill, Mr
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bennett, Andrew F. Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Benton, Joe Clelland, David
Bermingham, Gerald Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Blair, Tony Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Blunkett, David Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Couchman, James Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cousins, Jim Illsley, Eric
Cummings, John Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dalyell, Tam Jamieson, David
Darling, Alistair Jessel, Toby
Davidson, Ian Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jowell, Tessa
Day, Stephen Keen, Alan
Denham, John Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Devlin, Tim Khabra, Piara S.
Dewar, Donald Kilfoyle, Peter
Dicks, Terry King, Rt Hon Tom
Dixon, Don Kirkhope, Timothy
Dover, Den Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dowd, Jim Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dunn, Bob Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Durant, Sir Anthony Lewis, Terry
Enright, Derek Lightbown, David
Etherington, Bill Litherland, Robert
Evans, John (St Helens N) Livingstone, Ken
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Fatchett, Derek Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Faulds, Andrew Llwyd, Elfyn
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lord, Michael
Fisher, Mark Loyden, Eddie
Forman, Nigel Lynne, Ms Liz
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Foster, Don (Bath) Macdonald, Calum
Foulkes, George McFall, John
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Mackinlay, Andrew
Fry, Sir Peter Maclean, David
Galbraith, Sam Maclennan, Robert
Gale, Roger McNamara, Kevin
Gapes, Mike MacShane, Denis
Garrett, John McWilliam, John
George, Bruce Madden, Max
Godman, Dr Norman A. Mahon, Alice
Godsiff, Roger Maitland, Lady Olga
Golding, Mrs Llin Mandelson, Peter
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marek, Dr John
Gordon, Mildred Marlow, Tony
Graham, Thomas Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW) Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Martlew, Eric
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Mates, Michael
Grocott, Bruce Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gunnell, John Meacher, Michael
Hague, William Meale, Alan
Hain, Peter Merchant, Piers
Hall, Mike Michael, Alun
Hannam, Sir John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hanson, David Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Hardy, Peter Milburn, Alan
Harris, David Miller, Andrew
Harvey, Nick Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Heppell, John Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Mowlam, Marjorie
Hinchliffe, David Mudie, George
Hoey, Kate Mullin, Chris
Home Robertson, John Murphy, Paul
Hood, Jimmy Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Neubert, Sir Michael
Howard, Rt Hon Michael O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Olner, William
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hoyle, Doug Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Parry, Robert
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Patchett, Terry
Patnick, Irvine Stephen, Michael
Pawsey, James Stott, Roger
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Tapsell, Sir Peter
Pickthall, Colin Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pike, Peter L. Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Pope, Greg Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Porter, David (Waveney) Thomason, Roy
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Quin, Ms Joyce Timms, Stephen
Radice, Giles Tipping, Paddy
Raynsford, Nick Tracey, Richard
Redmond, Martin Trimble, David
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Trotter, Neville
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Turner, Dennis
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Tyler, Paul
Rowlands, Ted Vaz, Keith
Ruddock, Joan Walden, George
Sedgemore, Brian Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Sheerman, Barry Walley, Joan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Short, Clare Wareing, Robert N
Simpson, Alan Wicks, Malcolm
Skinner, Dennis Widdecombe, Ann
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wilkinson, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Spearing, Nigel Winnick, David
Spellar, John Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Spencer, Sir Derek Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Worthington, Tony
Spink, Dr Robert Wright, Dr Tony
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Tellers for the Noes:
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Mr. David Alton and
Steinberg, Gerry Mr. Stuart Bell.

Question accordingly negatived.

Lords amendments Nos. 10 and 11 agreed to.

Amendment made to Lords amendment No. 12, to leave out '(ba) or (bb)' and insert 'or (ba)'—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

Lords amendment No. 12, as amended, agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 13 to 24 agreed to.

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