HC Deb 17 July 1995 vol 263 cc1340-1

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, leave out lines 15 to 17 and insert—

("(3) In subsection (6) (off-licences), the words "or Good Friday" shall be omitted and at the end of that subsection there shall be added the words "and the permitted hours on Sundays, other than Christmas Day, shall begin at ten in the morning".") 5.15 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Nicholas Baker)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendment No. 2.

Mr. Baker

The amendment to clause 1, and the consequential amendment to schedule 2, will make the hours that off-licence shops may sell alcohol on Good Friday 8 am until 10.30 pm, rather than 10 am to 10.30 pm as the Bill provided when it passed from the House to another place. There are no restrictions on the hours when shops such as supermarkets may open on Good Friday, and many supermarkets open quite early on Good Friday morning. A starting time for off-licence hours of 10 am would therefore mean that between, say, 8 o'clock or 8.30 am and 10 am, supermarkets would have to cordon off their stocks of alcohol to prevent sales taking place. That is precisely the kind of practice that the Bill is intended to do away with and is a source of understandable annoyance to shops and shoppers.

The Government propose that the amendments should be accepted. As Good Friday is a religious festival, we accept that there may be issues of conscience. We therefore envisage a free vote, in the event of the amendment being pressed to a Division.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

The issue is not, contrary to the Minister's remarks, enormously important or controversial. The Sunday question was settled in November 1993, with the introduction of the Sunday Trading Bill, when hon. Members who wanted Sunday kept a special day effectively lost the argument.

Speaking in favour of the amendment for the Opposition in another place, Lord McIntosh said that it was a tidying-up measure—and the Minister accepted that argument. Amendment No. 1 will allow supermarkets with off-licences to start selling alcohol on Good Friday between 8 am and 10 am—a provision that the original Bill excluded. Consequently, alcohol will be treated in the same way as other products. For the Government, Lady Blatch drew a distinction between licensing law and ordinary Sunday trading law, emphasising that Good Friday is an important day in the Christian calendar. There has since been a change of heart by the Government, but both Lord McIntosh and the Minister in the other place made it plain that the issue was best left to individual conscience and to a free vote. On balance, I am inclined to support the amendment if the House divides. However, my hon. Friends are perfectly free to follow their own consciences.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

I am not inclined to oppose the amendments, but I hope that the Government will bear it in mind that some people live in tenemental property above shops. Often, they do not enjoy the rest to which they are entitled. The situation is different for people living in a semi-detached property or in a four-in-a-block house with no shops underneath. Residents living in tenemental property over shops in which alcohol is sold find that buyers often drink their purchases on the premises.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

The complaint that my hon. Friend has outlined has been brought to me by many of my constituents. Traditionally, the only day of freedom from the public drinking that my hon. Friend has described, from the entering and leaving of shops, has been Sunday. That freedom is disappearing and many of my constituents will not get a day of rest from public drinking.

Mr. Martin

I agree with my hon. Friend and take his point.

Where alcohol is being purchased, especially from shops above which people are living in tenemental properties, there should be more policing to ensure that those who purchase it move on to their homes or to other places so as to give peace and quiet to those living above liquor shops.

Young people sometimes congregate in what we in Glasgow call the close mouth of a tenement. Sometimes they consume alcohol and urinate in the closes. Even on a Sunday, residents of some tenements do not get any rest. In some instances, they are embarrassed to bring their friends and relatives to their homes. They are often well-kept homes—indeed, palaces. If there are people loitering in the close mouth, residents do not want their friends and relatives to visit. In the old days they used to get a good Sunday. Now they will not get a Good Friday. I ask only that some consideration be given to residents of tenements.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 2 agreed to.

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