§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien)
We are seeking to resolve an issue with a House of Lords Committee in order to make progress.
§ Mr. Grogan
Given that, this year, new year's eve falls on a Sunday and that Sunday dancing has long since been deregulated in Scotland, does my hon. Friend agree that it is a matter of frustration that the Deregulation Committee in another place, many of whose members' dancing days have probably long since gone, has declined to give an expeditious passage to this modest but necessary deregulation?
§ Mr. O'Brien
I agree with hon. Friend. The ban on Sunday dancing is antiquated and should have gone years ago. We certainly do not want it to interfere with people celebrating new year. The ban was introduced in the Sunday Observance Act 1780 by probably the worst Tory Prime Minister, Lord North. Our proposals will give freedom of choice to people as well as remove unnecessary regulation on business. The hospitality and leisure industry estimates that the changes could generate up to 3, 000 new jobs. I am saddened that Conservative Lords are preventing progress at the moment. I hope that they will change their minds, because this is another example of the forces of conservatism opposing deregulation for business and freedom of choice for ordinary people.
§ Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)
Does the Minister not share my concern that it is the speed at which people might drive to dances on Sunday that is the principal concern? If we could be assured of a policy of zero tolerance in that respect, the proposition might be more acceptable.
§ Mr. O'Brien
I am afraid that, in my current state, I will not be driving or hobbling to dances—and I certainly will not be dancing.
§ Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
Is not the law on this issue a complete shambles? It does not just affect dancing on Sunday. Is my hon. Friend the Minister aware that the Barrowford agricultural show in Pendle next month will, for the first time in about 100 years, take place on a Sunday? It will use only part of the local park, because if it used the entire park it would run counter to the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890 and the organisers would not be able to run their show. The issue is not just 746 about Sunday dancing and what happens in another place, but about a whole raft of antiquated laws and anomalies that need to be addressed quickly.
§ Mr. O'Brien
We certainly want to make sure that we address a range of deregulation matters. It is regrettable that, at the moment, the Lords Deregulation Committee has proved somewhat obstructive on some issues, but we hope that it will change its mind. The archaic 18th century legislation prohibits discos and charity dances on Sundays. If such events were open to the public and run on a commercial basis, the position would be far better. All these Lords a' leaping could then begin to leap.