HL Deb 10 December 1970 vol 313 cc1095-137

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I hope, now that the lights have gone on, that I shall be less obscure than I might otherwise have been. Your Lordships may remember that some two years ago a Sunday Trading Bill was passed through this House, but it fell by the wayside because it was the end of the Session when it went to the other place. That Bill was based on the Crathorne Report, as is this Bill. I think it is just as well that the other Bill did fall, because although it would have cleared up many of the anomalies which exist to-day under the Shops Act 1950, on looking back I think it would have created some new ones.

This is a much simpler Bill, and by and large it just tries to do away with anomalies, nearly all on the sale of food. I ask your Lordships to bear in mind—I have you will agree with me, but you may not—that I do not believe that this Bill will lead to any increase of Sunday trading in so far as shops that are not now open on Sundays will, as a result of the Bill, open. As I say, it is intended mostly to deal with the sale of food. To hear some people talk one would think that you could not sell food on Sunday now. You can sell food now, and it is sold all over the country. The difficulty arises on the extraordinary anomalies that have arisen under the 1950 Act as to what food you can sell, when you can sell it, and whether you are or are not obeying the law.

In case any of your Lordships should think that I am exaggerating the anomalies, I should like to read what is pointed out in the Crathorne Report; namely, what some of the judges who have had to try cases under this Act think about it. The principal trouble in the Act is Schedule 5, paragraph 1 (b). This is what the judges have had to say about the extraordinary nonsense that goes on now. Mr. Justice Humphreys in the case of the L.C.C. v. Linda Davies said: There is almost no nonsensical proposition which may not seriously be put forward as a result of looking at these innumerable exceptions". They were the exceptions in the Schedules. Lord Hewitt in the case of L.C.C. v. Lees said: … not often in the course of half a century of experience of the law, have I had the opportunity of endeavouring to come to close quarters with such a piece of legislation". In the same case, Sir William Jowitt (as he then was), who appeared for the respondents, said: … the provisions of Schedules 5 and 6 taken together, and compared and contrasted with each other … were, to his mind, unintelligible. I say that there are anomalies—that is what the judges think about it.

The principal trouble is in the fifth and sixth Schedules to the Act, and it is that which this Bill is trying to rectify. Particular trouble arises in paragraph 1 of Schedule 5, sub-paragraph (b). First of all it says that you may sell intoxicating liquor on a Sunday. Then it goes on to say that you may sell meals of refreshments, whether or not for consumption at the shop at which they are sold, but not including the sale of fried fish and chips at a fried fish and chip shop. That is a small point. May I just deal with fried fish and chips briefly? You can buy fried fish and chips at a restaurant; you can buy fried fish and chips at a shop that is not a fried fish and chip shop. If you like to have the same shop, with two doors and a partition so that you can go into one half of the shop and buy your chips, and then run into the other half and buy your fish, you can do so. But, my Lords, is that sensible? If this Bill becomes law you will be able to sell fish and chips on a Sunday from a fish and chip shop.

The real trouble has arisen over the question of meals or refreshments. Of course it will be legal to buy food for consumption on the premises. This is the question of a meal or refreshment which you buy to take way. What is a meal or refreshment? The definition of a meal or refreshment has never been satisfactorily decided. The courts (poor devils!) have had to try to operate this law, and, as a result of various judgments, the present situation is really this. As a result of various judgments, whatever the Act meant, the way it operates is this. You can buy food or refreshment in a shop provided you can consume it without further processing. So you can buy a tin of fruit, open it in the shop and eat it. And you are entitled to buy it and take it away, because it is a meal or refreshment.

That sounds fairly simple, but is it? It stops your going into a shop on a Sunday to buy a packet of flour and a packet of sugar. The question is what you can eat in the shop. There is the famous case, which is always quoted, of the uncooked kipper. A shop was prosecuted for selling an uncooked kipper, and when the matter came into court there was an abundance of evidence to prove that some people liked their kippers uncooked. So it was said that this was a meal or refreshment, and the court agreed. There is an even odder case, the case of the inspector, Sidney Smolar v. Eric George Pritchard. This was a case of a man who bought a packet of caster sugar. The case about coffee sugar has never been settled, because if some people are anything like my grandchildren they eat coffee sugar as a meal or refreshment. But this was caster sugar, and the magistrate found that it was silly to suppose that anyone would go in and buy a packet of caster sugar and eat it in the shop; therefore it was not a meal or refreshment.

There was an appeal and the recorder found in this particular case that it was a meal or refreshment, because the purchaser had also bought bread, butter and something else. Together they formed a meal or refreshment. The inspector then appealed to the Divisional Court, and the noble and learned Lord the present Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Ashworth and Mr. Justice Hinchcliffe all agreed in their judgments that no evidence had been produced before the recorder whether those other substances were bought at the same time as the packet of sugar in the same shop. If so, it could reasonably be argued that they were refreshments or a meal, but unless there was that evidence it was not refreshment or a meal. So the case was sent back to the recorder, and presumably he took further evidence, but I do not know. That is the position of the law at the moment. It really is idiocy.

This Bill says that if you are entitled to sell food on a Sunday—and I come to that point in a moment—then you may sell on a Sunday any food for consumption, on or off the premises. I does not sound very difficult. Some people think that all the supermarkets will open on a Sunday. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, is going to speak later. There is nothing to stop their opening on a Sunday now, and if they do not open now it is because, with the high cost of staff working on Sundays and so on, it does not pay them to do so. There is also great difficulty in knowing exactly what can and what cannot be sold. Provided the goods are part of a meal or refreshment, and they are bought altogether as such, you can sell any food you like now, except butcher's meat—a point to which I will come in a minute. If you want to buy things which have to be processed, such as a packet of tea, which has to be processed for it must have boiling water poured on it and you cannot open it and consume it in tile shop, then you cannot buy it. That is the situation at the moment.

May I now come to the Bill I will go quickly through it, because the whole meat of the alterations is in the Schedules. Clause 1 puts a new Schedule into the Act, instead of Schedule 5, and I hope it puts it in simpler language. I will deal with the details of that when we come to the Schedule, but, roughly speaking, it enables a shopkeeper to sell all kinds of food on a Sunday if he is open for the selling of food. In order to see that food shops may be inspected to make sure that they are not selling things they are not allowed to sell, Clause 2 provides that a food shop must be registered with the local authority as such, and, if it is, then the Inspectorate knows that although the food shop may be selling other things, they will not be allowed to sell them on a Sunday. So it enables the Inspectorate to see that the shop sells only food or drink; and that puts some teeth into the Bill. At the present time, the fines are ludicrous: I think it is £5 for the first offence and £20 for the second offence. This clause enables the local authority to close the food shop, to refuse to give it a licence to open on a Sunday, and thereby gives the Bill some teeth.

Clause 3 enables any local authority to allow shops within their area to open on Sunday for the sale of the articles listed in Schedule 2. I will deal with this point in more detail when I come to the schedules. Schedule 2 deals with: Articles which may be sold on Sunday pursuant to orders of local authorities. This is the law at the moment for holiday resorts. Nobody has ever been able to describe what a "holiday resort" is. This Schedule gives local authorities power to grant permission to open on a Sunday, not for necessarily the whole town, but in certain areas which have a lot of visitors. There has been great ill feeling between different local authorities. Sometimes places which perhaps are not technically holiday resorts in fact have more visitors than places which are. This provision tries to bring them all into line.

Clause 4 modifies the existing arrangements for compensatory time off for Sunday working. Without going into detail at this stage—there may be matters to be raised at the Committee stage—the two principal considerations are these. At the moment Sunday time off is given by Statute to an employee only if the shop is open for the serving of customers. That seems to be entirely wrong. Nowadays work is very often done in a shop on a Sunday behind the scenes: there is labelling of goods for sale the next day, and so on. Under this new clause it will count as Sunday working although the shop is not open for the serving of customers. This is fair.

The other main alteration here concerns the fact that at present Sunday workers must work only two Sundays in every month. The new provision allows them, if they so wish, to work every Sunday. The reason for bringing in this change is this. There are quite a lot of workers, mostly women, who virtually work only on a Sunday because they have to look after other members of the family at home during the week. If they want to, I cannot see any reason why they should not work every Sunday. In the old days that would possibly have been dangerous, because an employer could put pressure on a staff, when it was easy to get staff, to work every Sunday whether they wanted to or not. Now an employer goes down on bended knees to get Sunday workers, and there is no danger of forcing any employee to work on a Sunday if he or she does not want to. This provision merely says: if a person wants to, he or she can.

Clause 5 amends the Shops (Airports) Act 1962. Under that Act, the Secretary of State can, within certain geographically restricted limits, allow shops in an airport to open out of hours. This clause gives the Secretary of State power to make an Order at any particular airport so that airport shops may open on a Sunday. In these days when tourist traffic is so important, and Sunday is very often the busiest day, and the day on which travellers most want to buy things, this provision is desirable. In most airports abroad one can buy goods on a Sunday now, but not here, and this has been adversely criticised by our tourist trade. But it will be possible to do so under this Bill only if the Secretary of State orders it. In other words, in the case of a small, twopenny-halfpenny airport he will not order it; but in the case of an airport such as Heathrow he probably will within a certain area give permission.

I shall be as quick as I can, but I must go into the Schedules. They have been reworded and I shall point out where there is an alteration in the law. Although it is differently worded, the first paragraph deals with sale of food for consumption on the premises. This is legal now, and with slightly clearer wording it will remain legal if this Bill becomes an Act. Then we come to the important part dealing with the sale for human consumption of food at shops registered with the local authority. This registration is something new and it gives the administration of this matter some "teeth". Your Lordships will see the things that can be bought for consumption off the premises.

There is no variation from the existing law (although the wording may be different to some extent) until we come down to paragraph 3(iv). This paragraph deals with: Toilet requisites including perfume, cosmetics, and dentifrices, for external use and so on. At the moment there are considerable difficulties in respect of chemists' shops which are open on a Sunday. One can buy razor blades if one tells the chemist they are to cut corns, but if they are wanted for shaving they cannot be bought on a Sunday. Similarly, one cannot buy lipstick or a suitable preparation if one is blistered by the sun. What this paragraph says, in effect, is that a chemist may sell make-up and items such as suntan oil, as well as medicines, on a Sunday if he is open, but he may not sell goods such as cameras. That would create very unfair competition. This paragraph deals merely with preparations which are applied to the body externally; a chemist may sell all those. Your Lordships can read the items for yourselves.

There is a slight alteration in paragraph 3(v). The present Act allows certain supplies for cars and cycles and so on to be bought on a Sunday. But there has been some doubt, apparently, as to whether, for instance, a windscreen wiper is a "part" or an "accessory." The paragraph in this Bill says: Parts of, accessories to, or fuel or lubricants for". One additional item concerns aircraft—this is for local flying clubs. Parts can be sold under the Bill. Caravans or trailers are also covered. The latter have been covered by the Bill because at present if you are motoring along with a caravan and something goes wrong with the car you can buy accessories; but if anything goes wrong with the caravan then technically you cannot. I suppose one has to leave the caravan where it is and motor on. This seems silly, and so caravans have been included in this paragraph.

The next alteration concerns item (x), domestic fuels. Coal merchants do not normally deliver fuel on a Sunday now. It is too expensive; one has to pay the men too much. But there are circumstances in prolonged cold weather when somebody such as a coal merchant, if he has any coal to sell, cannot deliver to all his customers in the week owing to bad weather, snow and so on. This provision enables him, if necessary, to deliver the odd sack of coal on Sunday quite legally. I do not think it will be of much use, but until now some merchants have disobeyed the law in order to deliver coal to old people, and this provision will enable Sunday deliveries to be made legally. The other alteration in paragraph 3 concerns food for animals. The present legislation specifies which animals food may be bought for; it does not specify the food one may buy. It is illegal to buy food for your dog, but if you go into a shop and say "I want some biscuits for my pony" the shopkeeper can sell them to you. The new provision says that food for animals may be bought on a Sunday. Most animal foods can be bought now on a Sunday, but for some reason dogs and cows were left out, while donkeys and ponies were included. The present legislation is just a mess. It is much easier, and more certain, to allow food for all animals to be bought.

Paragraph 5 covers: The sale by fishermen of freshly caught fish (including shell fish) at or adjacent to the point where it is landed". At the moment fishermen can legally sell fish at the landing place; but they very often have a small kiosk down the quay. This provision enables them legally to open and sell fish at such a kiosk. The fish can be taken to the kiosk and sold from there. There is some doubt as to whether that is legal now, hence the introduction of the word "adjacent".

Paragraph 8 is an important one. This enables launderettes to be open on a Sunday. The Crathorne Committee had much to say about this. They are very necessary. To begin with, they employ the minimum of labour, and sometimes virtually no labour. They are particularly necessary in poorer areas where mothers work during the week. This provision enables launderettes to open on a Sunday. The Crathorne Report pointed out, when there were not as many launderettes as there are now, that they were very much wanted by the public and served a most useful purpose. So much for Schedule 1. The rest of the law remains virtually the same.

Schedule 2 deals with articles relating to places which used to be called "holiday resorts" but which now one might term as "places which crowds frequent on certain occasions". The Schedule includes the list of articles which a local authority may authorise to be sold, if they wish, in certain areas of a town—what is in effect a holiday resort—but it will be easier to administer if it is left to the local authority in this case. In Schedule 7 the Act at present refers to: articles required for the purpose of bathing or fishing". We have added "sunbathing" here, because people break their sunglasses, for instance; and we have included sunbathing in order to cover that sort of thing.

I do not think there is any other alteration. I hope that I have not rushed the Bill too much for your Lordships, but there may be points in Committee which we can deal with then. May I repeat that I do not think this will lead to virtually any extension of Sunday trading? I believe that it is necessary, in the interests of administering the law, that people should know what they can buy and what they cannot buy. The present law is something of a nonsense in this respect, and therefore I hope that in due course your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Derwent.)

6.31 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be brief, but I should like to thank the noble Lord for his clear explanation of the Bill and, if I may say so, his amusing side comments which enlivened his dissertation on the Schedule. The noble Lord will be glad to know that on behalf of the Opposition I am not directed to give any particular suggestions to the noble Lords who are seated behind me.

As a shopper, I would say to the noble Lord that one is always aware of the curious anomalies of the present situation. One finds it amusing in the newsagents, for instance, to see the unfortunate shopkeeper having to refuse the sale of a ballpoint pen and a postcard while being able to sell a Sunday newspaper. I sometimes think that we are at our most hypocritical when dealing with the question of Sunday. Those of us who have the misfortune to travel on a Sunday, as I often have to do, get the feeling that this is where we see the puritanical side; that we should not really be travelling on a Sunday but should be at home or on our knees, praying, and therefore everything is made as difficult and as uncomfortable as possible—though other reasons are advanced.

My Lords, naturally one would immediately take the point about the airports. On many occasions I have had foreign visitors complain bitterly, not only about our curious shop laws but also about our curious licensing laws, which I believe we are also now to tackle. Thus I speak as a shopper. Shops do open on Sundays—in fact, I am amazed to see that some of the shops I frequent on my way home from church have apparently been breaking the law. I had no idea that some of them should not have been selling articles which they were selling quite freely. As more women work full-time, undoubtedly more shops will need to open on Sunday, and I think the noble Lord was quite correct in saying that since staff are at a premium there is little likelihood of pressure being brought to bear on them, though no doubt some of the noble Lords who follow me will put a different point of view.

There is no doubt that the workers must be protected, though in the main it will be the small shopkeepers who will probably be the most interested in this Bill. I imagine that the multiples and the chain stores will have their own special attractions to the shopper and will not need to consider Sunday opening as an additional one. This is something on which we should like to hear both points of view—perhaps it would be relevant to say "all the arguments on both sides of the counter"—and I hope that, having listened to all the noble Lords who are to take part in this debate, the evidence will be fully weighed up and the Bill will be given a Second Reading by your Lordships.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I certainly hope that this Bill will get a Second Reading, based as it is on the recommendations of a Departmental Committee which spent three years studying the subject. And if I spend the rest of what I hope will be a brief speech making some criticisms which I hope will be constructive, I promise to end by saying that I nevertheless hope the Bill will receive a Second Reading.

My Lords, what I want to criticise are the provisions in Clause 4 which deal with Sunday employment in shops. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has said and what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has endorsed: that if we are simply considering the present time there is no question of any shop assistant being exploited in the matter of Sunday working. The noble Lord said that one has to go down on one's knees to get staff to man shops in these days. All I would say is that on past form we are not legislating just for the present time; we are probably legislating for a very long time to come. When I refer to "past form" I am not thinking of the 1968 Bill, which fell by the wayside after passing through this House; I am thinking of the fact that this Bill amends the Shops Act 1950, which was itself a consolidating measure of consolidated shops Acts going back to 1912. On that basis we are, as I say, probably legislating for a very long time, which may be much longer than the time within which employers will be going down on their knees to get staffs to man their shops.

My Lords, Clause 4 is a piece of legislation by reference. Legislation by reference is all right in its way, but it has this disadvantage: that when one reads such a piece of legislation it is not readily apparent on the face of it to the ordinary reader what it means; and I suggest to your Lordships that Clause 4 is a pretty fair example of this. Unless one has the Act of 1950 beside one it is not much good reading Clause 4, because it does not tell one very much. In my submission, this is where the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill ought to come into its own. I should have thought that here was a chance for the Explanatory Memorandum to make itself useful merely by explaining what Clause 4 does. However, if we look at the Explanatory Memorandum on this Bill we do not get very much further, because all it says on this point is that: Clause 4 modifies the existing arrangements for compensatory time off for shop assistants …. employed on Sunday. Let us be clear as to the main purpose of Clause 4. I do not, of course, seek to blame the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, for not having pointed this out—he could not bring out every point—but I do not think he brought out the main point and purpose of Clause 4. What it seeks to do is to repeal the provision in the 1950 Act which provides 26 whole holidays on Sunday in every year so distributed that at least one out of every three consecutive Sundays shall be a whole holiday. In place of that the Bill provides 26 whole holidays on Sundays or a weekday. Whatever one may say, that is removing a considerable amount of protection for shop assistants against having to work on a Sunday.

I have to admit that the Crathorne Committee agreed with this change. Paragraph 27 of their summary of recommendations says: The restriction on the number of Sundays on which certain shop workers may be employed should be abolished". They refer to paragraph 223 in the main body of their Report, but the position is rather curious, because in paragraph 223 the Committee seem to be arguing exactly in the opposite direction. This is how they begin: We have recognised in Part 1 of our Report that Sunday has a special character and is not an interchangeable day. A condition that ensures that employees have at least some Sundays free to spend as they choose "— and here I would have inserted "with their families"— is consistent with this principle. To this extent, therefore, a condition which limits the number of Sundays on which a person may be employed has obvious merit. Our evidence shows, however, that this type of condition is too inflexible and imposes unreasonable restraints. We came to the conclusion that it should be abolished. I admit this criticism about inflexibility. I quite accept that there are a number of lonely people who are not blessed with a happy family circle in which to spend their Sundays who probably regard Sunday as the dullest day of the week, and who probably consider themselves just as good Christians as anybody else if they spend their Sundays contributing to the enjoyment of other people who are having Sunday outings by providing refreshments for those people. The problem here is really how are we to legislate to give this freedom to these (as I call them) lonely people, without opening the floodgates in a way that will enable an unscrupulous employer to bring pressure to bear on other shop assistants—people who ought certainly not to be working on Sunday, but ought to be spending Sunday with their families—by saying: "Come along; here are these statutory provisions. You ought therefore to be working on a Sunday".

I find this a perplexing problem, my Lords, and I was wondering how one could possibly try to legislate to deal with it. Then I chanced, fortunately, upon the last report published last June by the Consumer Council and called, The First Seven Years. I suppose this is the swan song of the Consumer Council; I suppose it could equally well have been called The Last Seven Years. At page 14, tinder the heading "Shopping hours", the report says this: The Council emphasises that the hours of work of shop assistants can be protected by statutory regulations and need not be related to the opening hours of shops. Lower down in the paragraph it says: The Council, with two dissentients, has also taken the view that the anachronisms in the Sunday trading laws are so ludicrous that they should be swept away, allowing all shops that want to do so to trade on Sundays"— thereby, of course, going much further than the Crathorne Committee. Finally the Council says: Once again the hours shop assistants work should be protected by regulations. My Lords, with some Bills on Second Reading we know fairly early on what the Government line is, but this evening we do not know; we shall not hear until the end. I do not know what it is going to be. It may be that the Government are going to keep their options open and see what are the views of the House. If that is so, the suggestion that I put forward is this. Will the Government quickly consult the Consumer Council, before it is too late—because there is not much time left—about the details they had in mind as to the form these proposed statutory regulations might take in order to protect both the rights of shop assistants who ought to have freedom to work on Sundays and also the rights of the other sort of shop assistants who ought not to be encouraged to work on Sundays? If there is this consultation with the Consumer Council, who have given this matter a good deal of study, then if, eventually, the Government decide to support this Bill they will be in a stronger position to draft their regulations. That was all I intended to say, but I will give way to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent.


My Lords, the noble Lord appreciates, I hope, that he was talking about Section 21. That deals with the catering trade, cafés and so on, and the occupier can elect, if he likes, to come under Section 22, which relates to shops. The section the noble Lord was quoting deals with the catering trade.


My Lords, I do know that. I ought to have said, "where the section applies". That would have made it clear beyond a peradventure. But, as I said at the beginning, I certainly hope that this Bill will receive a Second Reading.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, referring to the noble Lord's last sentence, I hope that the Bill will not get a Second Reading, for a wide range of reasons that I hope to give to the House. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, dealt, as one can so easily, with anomalies and contradictions, sometimes very humorous ones. One can deal with these in any particular Act of Parliament, the Shops Act in particular. But the Bill itself, as projected, would provide equally great anomalies in other directions. Perhaps I may cite one or two, although it is not my purpose to deal with this aspect at any length. Let us take the case of the registration of a shop. After the first offence a shop can, or may, be removed from the schedule. On the second offence it shall be removed. In neither case is there any suggestion of the time limits that may be imposed, so that you can have the legal anomaly of a shop that for the first offence may be removed—if the local authority does not particularly like the shop—and for a second offence they can remove a shop for 12 months, two months or three weeks. These anomalies will still exist under the Bill.

To deal with one or two of the points that have been raised, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, who recognised the fact that this Bill is not for this week; it is for the coming months and years. In such circumstances, may I remind the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who says that there will be no force on employees to work on Sundays, that this is the range of trades which has been subject to the most unregulated exploitation so far. That is why the Wages Councils Act 1944 was extended to a wide range of these trades, because it was not expected that they would be organisable in relation to trade union agreements. At this moment only about 10 per cent. are organised.

It is said, of course, that the Bill removes the anomalies of the shops that are open now, and it is not expected that other shops will be open. That is an assumption with which I could not agree. You substitute for Schedule 5 of the Shops Act a list which includes all kinds of food in this highly competitive industry, and in which part of the claim in support of this Bill is that there is a great desire on the part of people to go shopping on a Sunday.

In such circumstances I want to deal largely and mainly with the economic, industrial and the social aspects of the Bill. First, the economic side. In the larger supermarkets which, under the Bill, will be permitted to, and undoubtedly will, open once they get permission it means that in order to ensure a day off you must adopt a rota system of some kind, particularly to deal with the provisions of the Wages Council Order which already limit hours to 44 and restrict Sunday working in certain respects. In such circumstances you must increase the working force in the supermarkets and in large or any other shops. You must increase the labour force by roughly one-seventh, which means that you increase labour costs by one-seventh. It is now an arguable point as to whether, having increased the labour costs by one-seventh you can so increase the sales that you reduce the wages costs by that figure.

If you increase the costs by one-seventh you have one other factor. It is historically true, particularly among those who are organising the trade unions, that there will be a demand, as there is under the provisions of the Wages Councils Orders as they at present exist, for double or even treble time on Sunday. This problem has been raised with regard to the milkman on his rota-day off. In such circumstances, again you raise the wages costs of the shop. Wages costs can only be covered in the one way in which they ought not to be covered at this present time; that is, by increasing prices to the consumer. But the prices will be increased not to those consumers who consume on Sunday. The prices will be increased throughout the shop, to all the consumers, because of the extra wages costs bill.

It is true that 10 per cent. of the shops in this country do 90 per cent. of the trade. But 75 per cent. of the shops have staffs of four or less, including the proprietor or manager. In such circumstances, again, because it will be impossible to find a suitable rota system, and because in their own protection, forced by competition, they will open on Sundays, the wages costs must increase. I speak here purely in relation to the economic and industrial aspects.

There is a further point. I assume that the supermarkets will open on Sundays if this Bill is carried into law. At the present time supermarkets are staffed largely by women employees, with one man who is usually the manager of the shop. He is heavily responsible for stock, for purchases, for sales, for linkage, for profit and loss on the shop. It is a very heavy responsibility. He is paid more for that responsibility, and he accepts it quite seriously. If, as you must, you adopt a rota system for a day off, what happens to the manager. How do you find an extra one-seventh in managerial staff to work a rota system in an occupation in regard to which we have already been told by my noble friend Baroness Phillips that it is difficult to recruit staff at all, particularly male staff, for a wide variety of other reasons? If you do not do that, you cannot expect the manager of a supermarket to leave the control of the shop for which he is responsible in the hands of junior staff or of an inexperienced manager of the staff. So he is faced with the prospect of either appealing to his employer for an extra man for the shop or he will have to work seven days a week. This problem will also apply to the self-owned shops.

If I may put this point, I would rather deal with the social aspects to which my noble friend Lord Airedale referred. He reminded me of those remarkable words of Browning in this connotation: Because a man has shop to mind, In time and place since flesh must live Needs spirit lack all life behind, … All loves except what trade can give. And shop assistants in that sense are human beings, strange as it may seem. They have only one common day of leisure.

In most other occupations there is an alternative of two common days of leisure, Saturday and Sunday. This is true even of wide-ranging rota and shift work occupations. Even journalists working on a Sunday for a Monday morning newspaper usually have the Saturday as well as one other day of leisure. This is very common. In other words, you get one day of leisure, when everybody else is at home. It is the fact that 75 per cent. of the labour in food shops is female labour. The vast bulk of that female labour is married. In such circumstances they are deprived of the common day of leisure with their family, the common day of leisure with their people around them. In those circumstances, with a lack of protection, with the possible further exploitation of workers in a fiercely competitive industry, I would ask noble Lords to reject the Second Reading of this Bill.

6.56 p.m.


My Lords, I should like in general to welcome this second attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to give effect to some of the proposals of the Crathorne Report. Altogether, that Report has not been particularly fortunate. I do not think that any of its proposals, either on the entertainments side or on the trading side, have yet been passed into law, unless there is any point that I have omitted to notice. One certainly gets the feeling in this debate that we have been here before—that we have been all through this in many of its details already.

On the whole, I think that this Bill is an improvement on the previous one. If I may venture my own opinion, it is simpler and clearer. I do not think we should underrate the effect that it is likely to have. There is, for instance, the withdrawal of the phrase that we previously had in legislation about shops carried on principally for the sale of food. We now have in Clause 2 the phrase: Shops in which is carried on the sale for human consumption of food". —in other words under this Bill any shop that has any food can aspire to open on Sunday. In my own estimation we shall have the large stores and supermarkets opened before very long, and in course of time Schedule I is more likely to be extended than reduced. In spite of that, I think we must make our Sunday legislation more or less harmonious with the spirit of the times, and once the mobility of large sections of the population on Sunday is accepted, the necessity for a good deal of trading has to be admitted.

When I looked down paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 I had to ask myself, in honesty, whether there were not times when I had either purchased or wanted to purchase some of those objects on a Sunday, and I found myself guilty under most of the items. But, if anything, I would have avoided some of the restrictions that are here put in. There is a prohibition on the sale of artificial flowers. I have no desire to buy artificial flowers, either on a Sunday or on any other day of the week, but if people want to do so I really do not see why they should be prohibited from buying them as opposed to real flowers.

There are other items upon which one could comment if one wanted to, hut, for the most part, they are what one might call personal accessories—things you want either for yourself or for your car or your friends. One must face the fact that once people are moving about on Sunday it must be possible for them to meet their fundamental needs. I think the allowance of the so-called "holiday goods" under Schedule 2 is easily justifiable. We have now ceased to attempt to define "holiday areas" in this Bill, but we still have a kind of holiday atmosphere, particularly in Schedule 2, with articles for bathing, sunbathing or fishing, and souvenirs. Then there is something slightly more exalted: Works of art or reproductions of works of art." They are all the sort of things that people who go out to the seaside, or to London, or somewhere else, on a Sunday may want to buy, and I certainly should not wish to put many obstacles in their way.

Having said that, I want to follow, if I may, only too closely, the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and say that I still hold, as I held during the last debate, that the failure to provide proper protection for shop assistants on Sundays is a backward step from the point of view of the social effects of our legislation. The particular provisions that I object to are Clause 4(1)(b) and Clause 4(2)(b). I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that the Explanatory Memorandum might certainly have been more frank and open. It says on the front page: Clause 4 modifies the existing arrangements for compensatory time off for shop assistants and certain catering workers employed on Sunday …". It certainly does; and in a very serious way. What it really does is to remove from shop assistants any right to compensatory time off on Sundays. I think that a little more frankness would have been desirable. But those of us who have done the necessary research on the Shops Act 1950 have no doubt as to what is intended, Clause 4(1)(b) of the new Bill modifies the Shops Act 1950, Section 21(3)(b)(ii), which, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has said, gives employees in refreshment shops 26 guaranteed Sundays, and a maximum of two consecutive Sundays at work, throughout the whole year. The whole of that is wiped away at a stroke in the new Bill by the insertion of the words "Sunday or a week day", instead of "Sunday".

In the new Bill, Clause 4(2)(b) modifies Section 22(1) of the Shops Act by omitting paragraph (a)(ii) of that subsection. This gave all Sunday shop workers—it was no longer confined to refreshment workers—a guaranteed top limit of three Sunday's work in any one month. The actual section says that if the worker worked for one Sunday, he must not work for mole than two other Sundays in that month. That meant that even in the most busy period he could not be expected to work more than three Sundays in the month. He always had one off; and he might occasionally have two off when there were five Sundays in the month. It is almost like the Church arranging the services for the month. I think that the omission of that sub-paragraph is a very objectionable element in this Bill. Sunday has its special claims. We have already heard examples, and we can all imagine the sort of thing that arises. Families want to go out together, and some of these shop assistants will be young enough still to want to go out with their own families. If not, they will probably want to go out with their boy friends, who will want to go out on Sunday, and not on Thursday or some totally different day of the week which is probably quite inconvenient for courting purposes.

Then there is the claim of religious observance. I put this forward only with great trepidation, because one fully realises that the number of people involved in this kind of commitment is limited. However, I would remind the House that even these days 50 per cent. of the babies born in England are baptised. They are baptised on Sundays, and their sisters, aunts and uncles, and other people, will often be required to join in, and will wish to join in, those little domestic ceremonies. Are we not going to give any kind of guarantee that there is a single Sunday on which these people can actually rely, and claim as of right, for the exercise of any of these duties?

I put all these points, equally strongly, when I moved an Amendment to the last Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, on this matter, and I was defeated by the joint efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, himself, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who at that time was speaking for the Government. Of course I was crushed beneath the upper and nether millstones, and one accepted that. I do not think I want to fight that particular battle all over again, probably for the same result. I have reflected upon the arguments that were adduced by the noble Lords against my Amendment, and they were two.

The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, took the point that we were not removing the total number of holidays, and that as the total number of holidays was bound to include a certain number of Sundays we were not really doing anything very serious. That argument did not stand up to a careful examination. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, made the point that he has made to-day—and I see the force of it: that there are quite a number of people who positively want to work on Sundays. If they want to work on Sundays, of course it does seem rather stupid that Parliament should go to enormous lengths to prevent them from doing so. I tried hard to find a way round that difficulty.

If it were a perfect world, I think that what I should want to say is that all have the right to some freedom from work on Sunday and that any legislation should say that no person should be forced to work for more than three Sundays in any one month, or something of that kind. But if they were willing, so to speak, to sign a statutory declaration that, in spite of having that right, they still wanted to work, then I would let them sign and let them work. But this is not the situation. The kind of mature person who wants to work, who has thought it all out and is ready to work, is only one class. There are also all the young and the weak, the rather naïve and simple people who get caught up into this work of assisting in shops on Sundays; and one knows that many of them would be quite incapable of standing up to any strong pressure from the owner, or manager, if he had the full right to make them work as much as possible.

The Crathorne Committee said that the present sections were too restricting. Well, my Lords, if they are too restricting, let us make them less restrictive, but without necessarily going as far as the Crathorne Committee did—rather against their own evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has pointed out—by abolishing the rights altogether. My experience last time and the very great difficulty that a Bishop has in getting drawn fully into the legislative work of this House make me hesitate to propose another Amendment myself, but I will conclude by saying that if someone is cleverer or more energetic than I am, and is able to move an Amendment on this one point of giving some protection for Sunday working shop assistants, I shall be very pleased.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Hamnett, I wish to say something about the people on the service side of the counter, although I must admit that my personal experience of shop-keeping is limited and peculiar. I was conscripted into the grocery trade, and during my school holidays went into the Co-operative store which my father managed. There was a unanimous view in the family that my juvenile delinquencies could better be kept under restraint if I remained within sight of the stern paternal eye and, I may add, within range of the strong paternal hand.

At this time I gained a very good idea of the vicissitudes of retailing. The store had acquired a sack of black peas which proved to be totally unsaleable. Somebody had the bright idea of mixing them with a sack of green peas, and the black and green peas made a wonderful display—with a farthing off. But there was no sale for the black and green peas, so they set me to work to sort out the black from the green. At that point I struck, and there was a court of inquiry or an arbitration of some kind at home, when it was decided that I had been visited with a cruel and unusual punishment and that I need not go back to the grocery trade. So, like many people here and in the other place, my knowledge of harsh, social conditions is derived less from personal experience than from a strong family tradition. My father was one of the founders of the Shop Assistants' Union—which the noble Lord, Lord Hamnett, graced for so many years—and served it for 50 years, while my people in two large families, on both paternal and maternal sides, were all engaged in retail trade in their own little businesses. The whole family lived and breathed the retail trade.

I think that to-day we are in danger of forgetting an important chapter in our social history. We are only a generation away from the time when shop assistants and the family shopkeeper worked under the most appalling conditions. It is true that they kept the Sabbath holy and that the shops closed promptly at midnight on Saturday. Not only were the hours long, but in their younger days a lot of people were victims of the living-in system. That time is not very far away to-day, but it seems so remote that a book like Kipps, which was a book of social protest, has now become a jolly musical.

What brought relief to the shop workers and shopkeepers was not trade union organisation so much as the legislation passed in World War I. As the noble Lord, Lord Hamnett, has pointed out, in this largely unorganised trade it is on Government and Parliament that shop workers and shopkeepers must depend if the decencies of life are to be preserved. Left free, they become the victims of their own inescapable competition. I cannot go along with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in his belief that there will be no increase in Sunday trading. I think there will be a vast increase if this Bill goes through.

We live in an age when the consumer is flexing his muscles. He asks, "Why should the hours when the customer wishes to do his buying or his drinking be limited by law?" He regards current restrictions as one more bureaucratic interference with his liberties. It would be nice for him and for us all if the shops were always open, day and night, weekdays and Sundays, so that we could all shop when the mood drove us; but that is a quite impossible proposition. As citizens, as distinct from consumers, we must accept that there must be a limitation and a balance of interest between shop workers or shopkeepers and the customers.

It is wrong to believe that the shopkeeper has a choice of when he should stay open. His hours are usually governed by those of his nearest competitor. The basic problem of the small shopkeeper is not whether he is going to make more or less profit, but whether he can stay in business. If there is one supermarket in a district open all day on Sunday, every small shopkeeper will be compelled to follow its example. If this Bill is passed it will create a revolution in shopping habits and make the small man's shop into a prison. I want the small shopkeeper to be able to continue to live.

It is very easy to argue, as many argue nowadays, that he is an uneconomic factor in our society, that the economy would be richer if he disappeared and we had nothing but very large units in which we all served ourselves. But I think it is a mark of a good civilisation if, in these days of giant organisations, we deliberately leave—and indeed create—outlets for people who want to earn their living in small enterprises. I am a lifelong organisation man and I should feel naked and bereft if I were to venture out on my own, but there are many people who find the embrace of the modern corporation, benevolent though it usually is to-day, stifling and confining. They feel that the best way of expressing their skill in organisation and their gift for personal relations is in a business which they themselves own, and shop-keeping, especially food shop-keeping, is one of the few outlets left for the energetic person who has managed to save a little money.

The small shopkeeper is one of the people who today wish to stand on their own feet—but not for seven days a week. Even now, life is pretty restrictive. It is not often that a husband and wife can go on holiday together. The Sunday outing is the only real holiday that they can enjoy together, and even then not every Sunday can be free: it is the one day when the husband can look over the stocks and do the books. The small man has been battered, and not only by the supermarkets. A Conservative Government clipped his margins by the abolition of resale price maintenance, and by S.E.T. the Labour Government made it less economic for him to employ help. I should like him to be left alone. I admit that the customer has his needs and that they are changing needs, but I see no reason why in every district one or two shops should not be licensed to open at irregular hours, including Sundays. To make Sunday trading general, however, is both unnecessary and socially retrograde, and I hope that we shall hear nothing more about this well-intentioned but unfortunate Bill after to-day.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, I rise briefly to give wholehearted support to this Bill. It is generally recognised that the patterns of leisure and internal tourism are rapidly changing. Unlike a hundred years ago, Sunday is now not only a day of leisure but also a day of travel, and a day out sometimes involves people in going a long way from where they normally live. Part of the day out is the joy of bringing something back in the form of a souvenir or gift, or buying necessities when people are a long way from home.

I want to refer very briefly to Schedule 1. I welcome the fact that sales at museums and art galleries of reproductions of works of art are going to be allowed. However, I suggest that a very important group has been left out of this Schedule; and here I should declare my interest. I refer to the 800 historic houses and castles which are open to the public in this country. They attract some 23 million visitors a year and have a tremendous effect in drawing overseas visitors. I hope that an Amendment will be accepted during the Committee stage to add to paragraph 4 of Schedule 1, after the words, "museum or art gallery", something like, and also at historic houses or places normally open to the public. We owners of stately homes do not like our residences to be called "museum pieces". In fact, one of the great attractions is the fact that they are lived in. Nor are we art galleries. When you think of other places, like Stonehenge or perhaps a beautiful garden, which would also require to sell postcards and other such objects, I feel that they ought perhaps to be covered in this clause.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to say just one word to the right reverend Prelate. I employ a great many people on Sundays, and we always adopt the practice of giving them off other days in the week. I have not noticed that courting has decreased—in fact, it has, if anything, increased. I also find that many of my staff prefer to go off on days other than Sundays, because they find that the places they want to go to are less crowded. In fact, it is a very common practice, where Sunday is the big day in a resort, for people to close on either Saturday or Monday, which are less important days. Having made those very brief remarks, and having given warning that I should like to put this Amendment down on Committee stage, I should like to say once again how very much I support this Bill.

7.21 p.m.


My Lords, as one who has spent all his working life in the retail trade, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words, even at this late hour, about the Bill which is before your Lordships' House. Before doing so, I should like to make it clear that I am speaking in a personal capacity and that my views do not necessarily reflect those of any trade association or of the firm with which I am associated. Let me say at the outset that I am in full agreement with those who criticise our present regulations relating to Sunday trading. As the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Law of Sunday Observance has pointed out, they are antiquated, complicated and full of anomalies. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has listed, amusingly, some of those anomalies. May I add one that he did not mention? While it is perfectly legal to sell frozen vegetables on a Sunday, it is illegal to sell the same vegetables in a tin.

Not only do these requirements attempt to draw an illogical and arbitrary distinction between the foods that can and cannot be sold on a Sunday: they are extremely vague and subject to various interpretations. The result of this is that not infrequently the only way to discover what the law means is to go to court and obtain a ruling. Another serious drawback of the present regulations is that they are impossible to enforce. Anybody with even a superficial knowledge of the situation knows that shopkeepers frequently sell articles which are not covered by the current exemptions. Local authorities simply have not the staff or the enthusiasm to prosecute them. Set against these considerations, and ignoring all the others, the Bill before your Lordships' House could be regarded as a long-overdue, common-sense measure. However, it is also necessary to consider its likely effects on the volume of Sunday trading.

Opponents of the Bill seem to be firmly convinced that if the proposed measure is passed into law the result will be widespread Sunday opening by food shops and supermarkets. In my opinion, the situation is not quite as clear-cut. On the one hand, it can be argued that there is no real need for widespread Sunday opening and that many supermarkets will find that demand will be too small to make full or even partial Sunday opening economic. Secondly—and this is a very important point—I believe that they will find it extremely difficult to obtain staff except at very high rates. On the other hand, there is a real possibility that some food stores will take advantage of the proposed alterations in the regulations and open on Sunday with a view to increasing their business at the expense of their competitors.


What is wrong with that?


If that happens, it will not stop there. Other retailers, no matter how reluctant, will find it necessary to counter this by opening their stores; and we may in time arrive at a situation in which Sunday opening by food shops will be the rule rather than the exception. This I would regard as wholly and highly undesirable. It is undesirable, first, because no matter what arrangements are made with regard to shift working, it will have the effect of increasing the number of people in food retailing who will work on Sunday. A large number of shop workers are married women with children, and such a development would have a particularly adverse effect on their social and family life.

We must also think of the small, family-owned shops, to which my noble friend has already referred. Many of those would lose trade unless their owners sacrificed part of their Sunday. Quite frankly, my Lords, I do not believe that the community has the right to expect more shop workers and more shop owners to forgo their Sunday rest. Secondly, it is undesirable because it is bound to put up the cost of distribution. Experience has shown that widespread Sunday trading does not increase turnover; it merely spreads it over seven days instead of six. This has been shown in North America, where some shops are open seven days a week from early morning until late at night. As a result, the trade is spread so thinly that it is quite possible to go into a large supermarket early in the week and see no customers at all.

So, my Lords, although there are arguments for and against the Bill, since there is a fair chance that its acceptance would lead to a significant extension of Sunday trading I hope that it will be withdrawn; but if the House is divided I shall vote against the Second Reading. I believe that the present regulations provide adequate exemptions to ensure that most consumers do not suffer serious inconvenience. In view of this, widespread Sunday opening by food shops and supermarkets is too high a price to pay for doing away with the undoubted anomalies and confusions in the law relating to Sunday trading.

7.30 p.m.


My Lords, I must start by apologising to my noble friend Lord Derwent, for I am afraid that I must disagree with him on this point. I hope he will not take it personally but I look forward to co-operating with him on other occasions. I should like to start by asking your Lordships to remember the sign that one used to see in the war-time railway carriages: "Is your journey really necessary?" I should like to ask the question: Is this Bill really necessary? I ask it seriously, because I have never found any evidence of any hardship resulting from the present Sunday trading laws. I should like to ask, "Who really wants this Bill? What organisations are supporting it?", so that we can weigh them in the balance with those organisations who are opposed to it.

I am sure we shall all agree that as few people as possible should be forced to work on Sundays. If supermarkets open on that day then, as other noble Lords have said, the small shopkeepers will be forced to do so in order that they do not lose their trade. This Bill is being strongly opposed by the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations and the Grocers' Federation. As has been said, many of the people who will have to work on Sunday will be women, many of them married women, so that there will be an interference with family life. Surely in this permissive age, this is not something that we want to encourage. Furthermore, people will be hindered from worshipping if they wish to do so.

Other noble Lords have said that under the present economic conditions it will not be easy to get people to work on Sundays if they do not wish to do so. But there is no guarantee that these conditions will continue, and I feel it wrong that people should have to choose between continuing in their job, and working on Sundays, or not. It is true that alternative time off will be given, but, as other speakers have pointed out, this is not entirely satisfactory because a shop assistant may not be off work at the same time as members of his or her family—his girl friend or her boy friend.

My Lords, I wonder whether there is a public demand for this opening. Even supposing that there is, is this something that ought to be satisfied? For example, if our debates in this House were televised, it might be said that Sunday would be much the best viewing day. But how would your Lordships feel at having to turn up here every Sunday? The noble Lord made much of the present anomalies; but it is a question of where the anomalies are. It may be said that when the Government are trying to discourage smoking, it is an anomaly that cigarettes should be able to be sold on Sundays. I feel that on this general question of anomalies we must be rather careful. There may be some who would suggest that this House, or some parts of it, is an anomaly. I hope that the noble Lord is not thinking of abolishing himself; for in that event we should then not have the pleasure of hearing him. My fear about this Bill is that if we abolish some anomalies we may find that others are created. For the reasons I have given, and particularly because of the Bill's effect on family life, I must oppose the Motion for Second Reading.

7.36 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to oppose this Bill in its present form. May I first try to identify the principal areas of disagreement? When people are enjoying their leisure on Sundays they take meals and refreshments on premises and they buy chocolate, ice cream, petrol and other things. They can do that under the present law and will be able to do so under this Bill. There is no disagreement there. Similarly our chemists' shops are open, on a rota system, for two hours on a Sunday. The customers who are handed urgent prescriptions often want to buy toilet goods and it is right that they should be able to buy them. There is no disagreement there. But at the present time we have very severe restrictions on the range of food which may be sold on a Sunday. Those severe restrictions are effective in allowing the small, convenient shop to remain open but to discourage the supermarket. I strongly believe that either these limitations should remain or that other limitations should be put in their place; otherwise there will be a decisive change of policy.

I have read with interest the Crathorne Report, and I suggest that there is not popular consumer demand for this Bill; that the workers are opposed to it and that the vast majority of employers do not want it. In support of that I will indicate the paragraphs concerned. May I first refer your Lordships to page 37. Here, under the heading, "Evidence given on behalf of consumers" we read: We received little evidence from individual members of the public or from bodies representing consumers. The Committee then goes on to deal with two minor surveys. One of these surveys was by the Federation of Consumer Groups. They issued, before giving their evidence, 3,000 questionnaires—not to the public in general or to consumers in general, but to members of consumer groups; that is to say, to people who were sufficiently aware in consumer affairs to take an interest in this kind of thing. Of the 3,000 questionnaires circulated, only 1,338 were returned—less than one-half of those interested consumers took the trouble to send back the questionnaires. That is the measure of the public demand. The other survey was made by the Institute of Shops Act Administration. They issued a questionnaire to 37 of their members in local authorities.

In the same paragraph the Crathorne Committee sum up these surveys very neatly. They say: Both surveys indicated that the chief demand was for the sale of groceries for the part of Sunday. This Bill is not dealing with groceries only: it deals with the whole range of foodstuffs. It does not deal with part of Sunday: it authorises trading during the whole of Sunday. So it is not supported by the consumers' evidence given to the Crathorne Committee.

My Lords, may I turn to page 38, where is given the evidence of the trade unions? Here you have the interesting fact that the evidence given by the trade unions was supported by a number of employer federations. I think it would be worthwhile to read the whole paragraph. It says: … we found no general support among our witnesses for the abolition of all Sunday trading restrictions. The Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers and the Co-operative Union were strongly opposed to the suggestion and did not agree that Sunday rates of pay would, in themselves, prevent unnecessary Sunday employment. They said that the highly competitive conditions in the retail trade would force many shops to open and working proprietors of small businesses would be obliged to work seven days a week. Similar views were expressed in the evidence submitted by the National Federation of Grocers' and Provision Dealers' Association, which represents many small businesses, and also by other organisations of traders. They emphasised that most shop workers worked on Saturday and that Sunday provided the only opportunity for a day of rest and recreation with their families and with friends in other occupations. The workers in the service industries recognise that they cannot have hours which coincide with the workers in offices and factories and they are prepared, within reason, to be available to give their services on occasions when factories and offices are closed. Had this Bill been introduced when the staffs of factories and offices were working a six day week, or a five and a half day week, there would have been a much stronger case for it than there is to-day. Most people who work in offices and factories work a five day week and there is ample opportunity for management and workers to do their shopping on a Saturday, which is the sixth day. The shop worker accepts that he should go to work on a Saturday to meet that need, but he regards working on a Sunday as completely unnecessary.

This Bill, as has been said, considerably weakens the position of the workers. Those who do not like working on Sunday can at present be forced to work only two Sundays out of four. If this Bill becomes law, it could be insisted that they work every Sunday. It is suggested that they would get a day off. The implication is that time during the week is of equal value to time on Sunday, but everybody knows that it is the practice to pay double for Sunday work. One hour on a Sunday is equal to two hours worked during the week.

I turn now, my Lords, to the evidence of the employers, which may be referred to quite briefly. On page 44 of the Report, paragraph 158, it states that the grocers did not want the law extended as is proposed by this Bill; they merely wanted it clarified. It goes on: … the Federation of Grocers said that the exemptions for the sale of 'meals and refreshments' and 'newly cooked provisions' should be restated in clear terms to give effect to the original intention of the statute. They wanted the law clarified; they did not want it extended. On the same page the meat traders said: … the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations did not consider that there was any demand for this or that it was desirable. Let us see what the fishmongers had to say. On page 43, paragraph 155 it states: The National Federation of Fish Fryers Limited told us that 'they had no desire to see fish and chips carried through the streets on Sunday'. That is just what this Bill would allow. The consumers have not made any demand for this; the workers are opposed to it, and the vast majority of employers are opposed to it. I came to the conclusion that the only body that wanted it was the Institute of Shops Act Administration, the local government officers. Indeed, they have left a strong fingerprint on Clause 2 of the Bill where you have an extraordinary position. Normally it is a local authority which takes to court any alleged offenders under the Shops Acts. Under Clause 2 of this Bill it is laid down that if a trader is tried by a magistrates' court and is convicted by that court, the court shall not proceed to decide the sentence; the trader shall be referred to the local authority who brought the prosecution and they shall decide the sentence. I hope that that kind of law will never reach our Statute Book.

This Bill makes a decisive change in policy. It is clear beyond all doubt that if we remove all limitations on the sale of food for the whole of Sunday we shall encourage supermarkets to open rather than discourage them; and once the supermarkets have opened there will be a clamour for the sale of other commodities than foods to be permitted. We shall end up with the High Street being exactly the same on a Sunday afternoon as it is on a Saturday afternoon. We live in a fast-moving society in which there are great frustrations. It is a society in which there are tensions and where there is a high degree of mental illness. There is more drug-taking now than we have ever known before in our history. This is not a time when we can afford to sacrifice our day of rest; we need to keep it. If we lose that day of rest we shall make these problems all the more difficult.

Up to the present, my Lords, we have steered a middle course on the question of shop closing. We have avoided the extremes; on the one hand, the extreme to be found in Australia where in the majority of towns shops in the High Street close at 11 o'clock on Saturday morning and the High Street is dead until the following Monday morning, and on the other hand in many States in America the Sunday afternoon trading in the shopping centres is equal to that on Saturday afternoon. I have seen this at first-hand. Earlier this year I spent four successive Sundays in American shopping centres. Some of them were busier on Sunday afternoon than on Saturday afternoon because the shopkeepers had put out special offers in order to attract the customers. We have avoided those two extremes up to now; let us continue to do so.

My Lords, this Bill is only part of the story. There is also before Parliament a companion Bill, the Shops (Weekday Trading) Bill which is being debated in the other place to-morrow. That Bill seeks to remove all restrictions on closing so that anybody and everybody can open 24 hours a day if they wish. Such extreme measures as that invite extreme reactions. I believe it would be possible to alter our Shops Acts by a large measure of agreement. I am not against change. I believe that two changes are needed. First, the majority of the food shops dealt with in this Bill cannot open for all the six working days. Does it make sense to allow them to open on Sunday when they cannot open for all the six working days? I believe that any trader who sends a written declaration to the local authority saying that his workers have a five-day week but that he wishes to open for six days should immediately receive back from the local authority a notice acknowledging receipt of his declaration and authorising him to open for six days a week, so long as that notice is kept hung in his staff room. That is one change we could make which I think would be a substantial improvement.

The other change which we could make is one relating to Sunday. It is true, as the noble Lord who introduced this Bill said, that the courts have thrown great doubt on the present limitations. There is a choice of the kind of limitations that can be made. One can try, as was tried in 1950, to have limitations on the commodities that can be sold. The alternative is to have a limitation on time. I suggest that a big improvement could be made so far as Sunday is concerned if the whole range of food for consumption off the premises—and we must remember that food that is bought for consumption off the premises is largely bought for consumption in the home and not by people out enjoying themselves—were allowed to be sold up to 12 noon. That would be fair to the consumer. People would be able to buy anything they had forgotten up to 12 noon. It would be fair to the small trader, who could open until 12 o'clock and could happily close then, knowing that everybody else was closed and he would not be forced to stay open. But I suggest that the worker should have the same protection as he has now and should not be forced to work more than two Sundays in a month. Those are two changes which would be a vast improvement on our Shops' Acts. But that is not, of course, the purpose of the present Bill.

Only a week ago this House was considering the Courts Bill, in particular the responsibility of the City of London for some of our courts. Nobody denied that the law was outdated; nobody denied that it was illogical; but your Lordships decided to keep the law because it maintained tradition and did no harm. I am asking your Lordships to maintain the tradition of limited trading on a Sunday, not because it does no harm but because it does a great deal of good.

7.53 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I will be very brief. I am afraid that I feel isolated from my noble friends on my side of the House. I feel sympathy only with one noble Lord—she is a Lady—and I cannot join in the refrain from the male noble Lords on this side, "Never on Sunday!" I welcome this Bill. I welcome it because it introduces greater flexibility into shopping hours, which I think is the way the world is going to-day. I do not share all the gloomy predictions about having High Street department stores open every Sunday. I do not know where my noble friends have seen this. There are no High Streets in New York, where I was for four years, which had most department stores oven on Sundays.

I believe that this Bill helps the consumer, the housewife, and women who work. I do not think that it will necessarily open the floodgates to the exploitation of the workers in food shops; nor do I see why it should necessarily lead to high prices. After all, shops are not compelled to stay open on a Sunday. I notice that my noble friend Lord Sainsbury seems to be slightly abashed by a little competition from the big supermarkets. I do not think he need be. After all, his stores decide when they are going to close. They close fairly early on Saturday and do not open again until Tuesday. This happens to be a hardship for many poorer people. If stores like these have the freedom to close when they like, I do not see why other shops should not have this freedom to stay open on a Sunday.

I think that things have a way of levelling themselves out. If Sunday opening really becomes a problem for shopworkers—and here I may say that I learned a great deal from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale—I do not see why they should not be organised. Surely it is not beyond the wit of trade union leaders to organise them. Already in Britain there are many large department stores which open all day on Saturday. No one would have believed a year or so ago that this was possible. I think that it would be a valuable piece of research by the Consumer Council to find out whether those department stores which remain closed do in fact lose custom. I am not sure that they do. The question of consumer choice is a very peculiar thing.


My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment? I do know something about retail trade. I think that we cannot convert the position in Oxford Street into the position in country towns. If you go to any country town big enough to have a department store, you will see that it opens all day on Saturday.


My Lords, I was talking about department stores in London that are open on Saturdays. A year ago stores like Liberty's, Harrod's or Marshall and Snelgrove were not open on Saturday: to-day they are. I do not see why they should not open on a Saturday, if people want to shop on that day. In modern society more and more women work either whole-time or part-time. They amount to one-third of the working population in the country. My Lords, I have little more to say. I still think that Sunday opening of food shops is a boon to housewives and women who work. But I should like to underline what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, said about conditions for the people who do work, and also what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, who emphasised that workers have to be protected.

7.59 p.m.


My Lords, I will not detain the House for very long. This is a complicated Bill and it would not be constructive at this stage to go in detail into the considerable changes which the Bill recommends. I thought that the debate we have listened to successfully disentangled the issues of principle which lie behind the proposal from the detailed changes which are contained in the Bill. I intervene at this stage simply to give some idea of the Government's attitude towards the Bill which my noble friend Lord Derwent has introduced. I am sure that we should all like to thank my noble friend for giving the House another opportunity to debate the subject. It has come before the House on a number of previous occasions, and most recently in 1968 when the noble Lord introduced a Bill fairly similar to the one which is before us this evening.

Sunday trading is a subject which naturally arouses some controversy, although, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, has just said, not of a Party political kind. Opinions that are provoked run across the Parties, and a number of opposing views and interests are involved. So, in short, this is very much the sort of subject on which attitudes are likely to vary and change with the times. Therefore the noble Lord's Bill is welcome in that it represents a useful opportunity to gauge to what extent opinion may have changed on this matter.

My noble friend reminded us, in introducing the Bill, of the background to his proposals. He explained that the present law on Sunday trading is set out in Part IV of the Shops Act 1950. But it is the case, as he remarked, that the Shops Act 1950 reflects the wording of Statutes going back to 1936, and embodies a number of assumptions—social assumptions and religious assumptions—about the nature of Sunday which go back a great deal beyond that: indeed, I believe that the general law restricting trading on Sundays can be traced back as far as 1448. More recently, the noble Lord who was present in the chamber a little earlier, Lord Crathorne, presided over a Committee of Inquiry on the Law of Sunday Observance, which reported in 1964. The Committee examined the existing law on Sunday trading in great detail and endorsed many of the criticisms that have been made of it. These included the opinion that the law is out of date, unduly restrictive, confusing in its effect and impossible to enforce. The present law, as my noble friend Lord Derwent explained, has also been criticised in the courts.

I think it is right to say that the criticisms have been directed mainly at the provisions dealing with the sale of food and drink, and also medicines or medical or surgical appliances. Each of these has given rise to difficulties of definition and to resultant anomalies. There is no need for me at this stage to add anything to what my noble friend Lord Derwent said on this point. It is Schedule 5, paragraph 1(b) of the Shops Act 1950, dealing with the complicated question of what constitutes meals or refreshments which can be sold for consumption on or off the premises, which has given rise to most of the difficulties of interpretation.

The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, from his considerable experience, criticised the present position before going on to explain the reasons why he did not feel able to support the Bill. I hope I shall not be going too far from the subject of to-day's debate if I take this opportunity to say what an enormous debt thousands of shoppers up and down the country owe to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and to his family and his former associates. The retail food shops that carry his name have always set a standard of cleanliness, quality and courtesy that has been in advance of what public taste has demanded that the shopkeeper shall provide, and society has greatly benefited. I speak, I hasten to add, in an entirely personal capacity, but I did not think that a contribution to a debate of this sort by somebody who has a fair claim to be Britain's greatest grocer should go entirely unmarked.

What the Crathorne Committee recommended went rather beyond a relaxation and a clarification of the existing position set out in the Shops Act 1950. While proposing that shops generally should still be closed on Sundays, the Committee recommended also that the law should be clarified and that its exemptions should be extended. Thus, recommendations Nos. 10 to 30 of the Committee's Report represented an attempt not only to provide a clearer basis for the law on Sunday trading, but also to bring it into line with modern trading practice and to allow transactions on Sundays which are not permitted at the moment. But probably the most important of the Committee's recommendations was that the sale of all food and drink for consumption on the premises should be permitted on Sundays. The Committee also proposed that any shop dealing mainly with food and drink, if it was registered with a local authority, should be able to sell all the articles in its stock; and this recommendation was to take account of the increase in mixed businesses in different types of commodities and the emergence of food shops dealing with different types of food.

The Crathorne Committee's other recommendations would have removed a good number of other anomalies, including many of the difficulties referred to by my noble friend Lord Derwent. At the same time, the Committee recommended that the existing safeguards for shop workers should be retained. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, with some support from the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Leicester, spoke about the importance of maintaining safeguards for people who work in shops, and was arguing that the days off which the shop-worker took should include a large number of Sundays or be entirely Sundays.

I do not want at this stage to be drawn into a discussion on the Consumer Council's recommendations. If the Council wish to let the Government know what they have in mind, we shall of course welcome any information that they care to put to us, but I should point out that the context in which the Consumer Council made their proposals was a different one from that contained in the present Bill. It was in the context of proposals which would remove completely all controls on Sunday trading, whereas Lord Derwent's Bill maintains a number of controls on Sunday trading. The most important of these controls is that food and drink shops would not be permitted to sell other articles in their stock. The Bill also departs from Crathorne in the sense that it would retain some control over what can be sold in chemists' shops. Your Lordships will forgive me if I do not deal with all the items which, under the Bill, shopkeepers will be permitted to sell on Sundays. A lot can be said for and against the inclusion of any particular items, and the method that my noble friend has proposed of setting out in a Schedule the permitted transactions seems to us necessarily to be the best way of proceeding.

The opposition to the Bill has been mainly on the lines that an extension of the type envisaged by the Report would lead to a substantial increase in Sunday trading. This was argued by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and by other speakers. Another line of criticism which developed in the debate was about the position of the people who work in the shops, both from the point of view of the hours worked and time off. The right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Leicester referred to the fact that some rather young, impressionable people might drift along into something without particularly wanting to work on Sundays. They might find themselves in that situation without having the ability to resist it. We have heard those arguments developed very strongly this afternoon.

It will not surprise any noble Lord to learn that the Government are in principle in favour of a clearer and more rational system of law, or that they are in favour of wider consumer choice. We are not at present convinced in the particular case of Sundays that these considerations should outweigh all others. The Bill raises a number of conflicting issues, and the Government are not yet ready to take a view on their relative importance. Thus, while welcoming Lord Derwent's initiative in introducing this Bill, the position of the Government at this stage must be one of neutrality.

If the Bill obtains a Second Reading, we shall follow with considerable interest its progress, and pay close attention to the reactions to the Bill, both inside and outside Parliament. So it follows from what I have said that the Government certainly would not wish to obstruct this Bill in any way whatever, but nor can I offer anything in the way of drafting assistance, or Government Amendments, if the Bill receives a Second Reading. We are aware of the noble Lord's interest in this matter; we are grateful to him for bringing this Bill before Parliament again, and we believe this to be a most useful way of providing an opportunity to test opinion once more, both in this House and outside.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, as this Bill is based on three years' study by a Departmental Committee set up by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and largely follows a Bill of 1968 which was passed by this House, are not Her Majesty's Government now urging this House at least to give this Bill a Second Reading?


My Lords, I do not think it would be for me to do that.

The other day the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, made some very interesting and profound remarks about the position that the Government should take on Private Members' Bills. He urged the Government not to leap in at the beginning of debates; not to say, "We must take this position" or, "We must take that position". He reminded us once again that the essence of a Private Member's Bill is that the Private Member should be able to deploy his argument; that other noble Lords should be enabled to say what they wished to say, and that it would probably be helpful for the Government to say how they saw things at some stage in the debate. That is exactly what we are doing to-day. I think it is the position adopted by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, in her remarks from the Opposition Front Bench. That seems to me an admirable position: the Government situation is one of neutrality, and I think that is the position of the official Opposition spokesman as well.


My Lords, was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, speaking about Bills on which the Government had themselves called for advice from their own Departmental Committee?


My Lords, I do not think that alters the situation. I have been thinking about this in the past few weeks and the important point is that it is a subject on which public opinion is extremely relevant. It is necessary to gauge public opinion, which shifts. There are various interests; the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, referred to some, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, who referred to trade union interests. At the same time, there is a consumer interest; there are various other bodies which are in favour of greater relaxation. These are all legitimate. It was 2½ years ago that the previous Bill was introduced, and it was a good long time before that that the Crathorne Committee reported. It was six years ago. Opinion changes and it is useful to gauge it from time to time.

8.15 p.m.


My Lords, I will not keep your Lordships more than a few minutes, but I must answer some questions. May I thank those who have, in principle, supported the Bill, particularly the noble Baronesses? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that we might have had a little more help from the Government. I quite see why the Government are neutral. I agree that that should be so on a Private Member's Bill, but we might have had more help as regards their thinking. In 1968, when noble Lords now sitting opposite were over here, the then Government were also neutral, but they gave the House their views. That was of considerable help in the first stages of that Bill—and it was not such a good Bill as this one. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, to the noble Lord, Lord Hamnett, and the right reverend Prelate, that I listened to what they said about Clause 4. I will have another look at it, if the Bill gets a Second Reading (as I hope it will), and perhaps they will have a shot at drafting some Amendments. I thought that the arguments they put forward were sound ones.

I cannot answer every question because the hour is getting late, but may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hamnett, I did not understand his argument at all about the increase of prices. He said that shops would be forced to be open on Sundays; that it would be very expensive and they would not make a profit unless they put up their prices. That may be true, but surely the contrary argument also applies. The shop that does not open on Sundays need not charge as much in the rest of the week, and in that way it will get more business. One would think one was forcing shops to be open when they were not going to make a profit. But of course no one is going to be forced to be open. So I do not think that is a valid argument.

The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and my noble friend Lord Ingleby asked, in different terms, why there was a demand for additional shopping. There was as far back as 1964 a demand, and the Committee definitely found that point. People move about more; they are apt to need food for moving about; or they diet. More women work full-time, and therefore they like to do some of their shopping on a Sunday. There is a public demand, and although we have heard a great deal about the shop-worker I agree with what has been said about the public demand. So far as I know, the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, was the only person who mentioned the consumer. And the public are to be considered in this matter: there is a demand. Where there is not a demand, these shops will not open. In those circumstances, a shopkeeper would be mad to open.

Various noble Lords who were opposed to the Bill, including the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, stated categorically, and in strong terms, that this would cause all the supermarkets to open all over the place and thereby force the other smaller shops to open. My Lords, it is the smaller shops that open now, and not the bigger ones. What happens in France and on the Continent of Europe? The small shops open when they want to, and when there is enough business, but the big shops do not. Why should it be different here? The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, more or less killed his own argument because he said that it was very expensive to open on a Sunday. In that case, he would not open, so do not let us pretend that he would. These arguments do not seem to me to be very satisfactory.

If my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu puts down an Amendment, I shall be most interested to look at it. It seems to me that it might well be sensible. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, made a great many points, but I do not think I can answer them all now. He kept on quoting the Grocers' Federation, the Butchers' Federation, and so on. I quite understand that. But, of course, they do not represent the whole of the trade that sells their products. Before the Second World War a grocer was a grocer, a butcher was a butcher and a fishmonger was a fishmonger. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that nowadays a fishmonger often sells vegetables; a butcher very often sells groceries of various kinds; grocers sell tinned meat and frozen meat. Except as regards membership of a federation, the actual separation as between different kinds of shops is not clear nowadays.


My Lords, the butcher who sells vegetables and other goods is still a member of the Meat Traders' Association.


My Lords, some butchers are; some are not. But a grocer who sells meat is not a member of that Association.

There is one point that I would bring to the notice of your Lordships. Many Sunday shopworkers work at other jobs during the week, and they work on Sunday in a shop because the pay is good, they like the company concerned, and for a variety of reasons. Some Sunday workers work only on Sundays. But I really do not believe that, with things as they are, it will be possible, now or in the future, to coerce people to work on Sundays if they do not want to do so, or that they will be sent away from their weekday job because they will not work on Sunday. I just do not believe a word of it.

I quite appreciate that if your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading, as I hope you will, there may be a good many points that you will wish to alter on Committee. I think that the clause which probably needs altering is Clause 4. But, having said that, I close by expressing the hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.

8.22 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?


My Lords, Tellers for the Not-Contents have not been appointed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 48. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare that the Contents have it.

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.