§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Second reading debate resumed.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, if I may commence my, I hope appropriate, remarks following upon, as is my privilege, the notable speech of the right reverend Prelate, loving they neighbour as thyself dictates that with 42 speakers on the list we should keep to brief and concise speeches. I shall endeavour to do so. And may I make it clear immediately that I speak for myself from this Dispatch Box, and for myself alone.
On the religious issue, being a proud member of the faith that first gave the world the idea and the ideal of the sabbath, I propose to be respectfully silent; but I merely wish to point out to the noble Lord the Minister that really Moses did precede the Puritans and that he did in fact have his Sunday (or sabbath) 1080 Observance Act enshrined in the Ten Commandments and dictated, in fact, by the "Upper House".
This is a Bill with no politics in it. As I understand it, we in this House have to decide what is good for the nation—and the important element in that is what is good for our national life. I said that there were no politics in it, and I am proud to be a member of a party which has decided that there shall be a completely free vote on this amendment and, indeed, on this Bill, to say when it affects, as we understand it, the vital interests of employees in the shopping industry.
I wonder whether I may ask a question which is rhetorical. Is it a fact that the Government (who cannot have a great respect for their adherents if this is what they have done) have imposed a Whip on this debate? If I am wrong—and I ask immediately to be corrected if I am—I shall sit down and I shall purchase sackcloth and ashes, which I understand are procurable from Monday until Saturday. I observe that I have not got to sit down, nor have I to put myself in mourning.
I must say at once that I am not impressed by the argument advanced by the Government that because the Auld Committee came to certain conclusions about total deregularisation we ought necessarily (although we obviously would have respect for their recommendations) to follow them. My reasoning is two-fold. First of all, the Auld Committee, consisting (as has been pointed out) of three members, was assisted on purpose by six assessors. My information is that four out of the six assessors were against total deregularisation; so that I am not impressed by the argument that we have to follow necessarily the findings of the Auld Committee.
My second reason is that I have been taught by the Government that one need not necessarily follow the recommendations of committees, however eminent their members may be and however detailed their consideration of the matters before them. I was taught that lesson on the Insolvency Bill, where the major recommendations of the Cork Committee were not accepted by the Government. And I suppose I am going to be taught another lesson on Thursday of this week, when, in spite of the fact that a joint committee of your Lordships' House and another place, a Select Committee, recommended something after very specific inquiries and after hearing a lot of evidence, we are going to hear that their recommendations are not necessarily to be followed. Indeed, we are going to be told not to follow them.
My Lords, is there an overwhelming demand for deregularisation? The retailers by and large do not want it. Large ones do not want it; small ones do not want it. The small shopkeepers, as I have said, certainly do not want it; the shopworkers undoubtedly do not want it; and churchgoers do not want it. We are left with what we are told is to be the commanding factor: that is, that the customers—the public—want it.
I read my copy of the Sunday Times yesterday with the greatest care because it quotes the poll right up to date, taken in November. It is to be published by the National Consumer Council, who are in favour of this Bill. Let us look to see what this overwhelming demand is. The poll shows that 60 per cent. of people 1081 in England and Wales are in favour of Sunday shopping. It goes on to say:This is 9 per cent. fewer than were in favour last year"—so it is not an overwhelming tide with which we are greeted, and I want to go on quoting accurately even when it is against my own argument—but it is still viewed by the pro-trading lobby as a firm endorsement of change.I would have thought it was an endorsement of change the other way because,Of the 1,800 people questioned during November, 69 per cent. of men and 51 per cent. of women were in favour of lifting restrictions.I would have thought that if anybody would be overwhelmingly in favour of the Government's case it would be the women and not the men. The article goes on:Of full-time workers questioned, 71 per cent. were in favour, but only 57 per cent. of working married women supported the change.So your Lordships are not troubled when thinking about this amendment, as I personally see it, by an overwhelming demand from the public, certainly not from the women of our nation; and we know perfectly well that retailers do not want it and shopworkers do not want it. So what are we left with?
§ Lord Sainsbury
My Lords, I am very reluctant to interrupt the speaker, but I should like to correct a fact. The Retail Consortium, which is the biggest association of all types of retailers in the country, could not come to a unanimous decision and has no representative view on changes in the Shops Act.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, as always, I am most indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, who speaks with such authority on these matters. I alter my sentence; and in fact I make it stronger, if I may say so. We certainly are not faced by any overwhelming demand from the retailers. We are not even faced by a demand at all because they have decided that they cannot make up their minds on the issue.
Certainly we are not going to be bemused by the argument about Scotland. I thought that was dealt with so effectively by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham that I shall say no more than to repeat the fact that Scotland is known to have many more churchgoers than exist south of the Border. I remember my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock saying to the House on a previous occasion—and I quote this in his presence—that it would have been an insult to Scotland to have put the restriction there in view of the way in which they behave in that country, and still keep their Sunday as the old traditional Sunday.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
My Lords, can I explain to my noble friend that, having looked at this after church yesterday, I did not see many Scottish firms open: they were all firms based in this pagan land.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I do not follow my noble friend in the last remarks that he made; but to return to this point—and I shall conclude very shortly—what is the matter then that the House has to decide? This is a better House than any, I would submit, for a 1082 consideration of this kind. I say this quite respectfully, not worried by marginal constituencies or by reports in the press but looking objectively at the interests of the nation. If ever there was something at this moment in time in our history that we ought to be regarding as of the utmost importance, it is family life. This House has debated time and time again, has asked questions and received replies on the subject of what do we do about mounting juvenile deliquency? What do we do about the break-up of family life?
Are we consciously going to vote for a Bill—and this is my individual opinion—which can only have the effect of stopping that Sunday lunch being what it has been: the grouping round a table of members of the family, father working during the week and mother most likely working during the week? It is the only time when the family gets together. If there is doubt in our minds, ought we to hesitate before doing anything in the world which even might, directly or indirectly, interfere with that family life?
I do not know whether I should, having regard as I have said to the faith to which I proudly belong, follow necessarily in the path of the Bishop; but I will be following him in a path this evening in the Division Lobby.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord Sainsbury
My Lords, I, too, should like to make it clear that I am speaking in an individual capacity and not on behalf either of the SDP or the Alliance. We too, have a free vote. I should also like to make it clear, as I have done on previous occasions, that I am speaking in a personal capacity. My views do not necessarily reflect those of the firm with which my name is associated.
As has already been said, there have been a great many attempts over the years to change the Shops Act by Private Members' Bills debated both in this House and in the other place. They all, for one reason or another, failed to reach the statute book.
There is widespread agreement that the Shops Act is full of anomalies. The present level of compliance and the differences of enforcement in various parts of the country have brought the law into disrepute. The difficulty so far is that there has been no consensus on how the law should be reformed. When this House last debated this subject I, with others, called on the Government to set up a committee of inquiry where evidence could be taken from all the many interested and affected parties. After the report of the Auld Committee had been published, I felt that the Government should cease their benevolent neutrality and introduce the necessary Bill to carry the recommendations into effect.
The Auld Committee considered in depth the great many ways in which the law might be changed. Among the rejected suggestions were: revision of the schedules setting out those goods which it is lawful to sell on a Sunday; exemption by type or size of shop; exemption for self-employed retailers; exemption by area or by periods of the year; restrictions on the maximum number of hours or days per week; local restrictions based on local authority decisions; and extension of the present trading hours.
1083 Whatever the superficial attractions for one sector of the public or of the trade, each of these proposals had weaknesses of practicality or logic which the Auld Committee felt unable to support. I have to say, with some reluctance and regret, that I find it hard to disagree with the committee's conclusions. In saying this, I am particularly influenced by the belief that the law in this matter should be both practical and easily enforceable.
Retailing is a service industry which must take account of social changes. Since the Shops Act was introduced there have been a great many changes. To quote only a few examples, there has been a general rise in the standard of living of those in employment; the advent of shorter working hours and the five-day working week; and an increase in mobility through car ownership. Most importantly, there has been a change in emphasis from full-time to part-time employment in the retail trade. When I first started in business 64 years ago, nearly all Sainsbury's shop staff were male full-time employees. Today, in a very different environment, a great proportion of staff are part-time employees, mainly women, working flexible hours which suit both them and their employers.
The longer opening hours which may result if this measure is enacted will not, and should not, necessarily mean longer working hours for those employed. Nevertheless, I welcome the fact that the protection in Part II of the Act will be retained for young people. I also welcome, most emphatically, the provision that no present shop workers may be dismissed for refusing to do uncontractual work on a Sunday or have any other action, short of dismissal, taken against them for the same reason.
Much of the discussion is about trading on a Sunday, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the restrictions on weekday opening are also anomalous. Their removal will be greatly welcomed, especially by the food trade and many of its customers. There are a large number of wives who work, for whom shopping on a weekday is difficult or impossible. They would take advantage of opportunities offered by extended trading during the evening.
The demand for food shopping on a Sunday would, I feel, be much less. There is a distinction between food shopping and what I call leisure shopping. I have little doubt that there is a strong demand from customers to be able to shop on Sundays with their families in do-it-yourself shops, garden centres and carpet and furniture stores. One of the main questions where there are differences of opinion is: how many shops will avail themselves of the right to open on Sundays? In my view, nobody knows, because it will depend on so many factors. It will undoubtedly vary in different parts of the country and in town and rural areas. What is certain is that shops will open only to meet the needs of their customers.
In my written evidence to the committee, I said that the subject is particularly controversial, not only because of the number of parties concerned and affected by the Shops Act, but also because of the difficulties in substantiating so many of the arguments with convincing evidence. As in so many matters, there is no perfect solution. But, if there is a Division 1084 on the amendment, I could not support it, because it is more appropriate, in my opinion, for any changes in the Bill to be considered at the Committee stage.
§ 4.27 p.m.
My Lords, it is a very great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, who speaks with great authority on the retail industry. I noticed that in his concern for the employment protection of people he passed by the fact that, immediately the Act becomes law, anyone employed afterwards has no protection. People have to agree to work on Sunday or the chances are that they will not be employed.
On the day when I was introduced into your Lordships' House no one had cause to wonder where I would physically sit in this House. Tradition had decided that for me. By long tradition, those who have served as Speakers in another place avoid party controversy for the sake of their successor, the current Speaker of that place, so that he is seen as completely objective. When Speakers have come to this House they have always stayed outside the party battle. But I feel that I am entitled to speak today, because I do not regard Sunday as a party matter.
I am appalled that Her Majesty's Government should have thought fit to seek to change our Sunday and to issue a Whip upon their Members in another place for the White Paper, as well as to issue a Whip in order to change fundamentally an institution which has played an enormous part in the shaping of our national character. The protection of Sunday was certainly not mentioned at the last election; and, with respect, I say to those who sit on the Government Front Bench that if they had campaigned on the promise that they would make Sunday like Saturday, they would not be on that Bench at all. I believe that Her Majesty's Government, far from having a mandate, are indifferent to the reaction and feeling of their own natural supporters in the country as well as of those on the opposite side. They are indifferent to millions of people to whom Sunday is something very precious indeed. It is a reminder that our heritage in this land is a Christian heritage. That is its main symbolism. It is a reminder that we are a people who owe our heritage to our Christian fathers.
I was deeply moved by the sparkling speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, because I believe humanity is in debt to the Jewish people. I believe, as it happens, that God spoke to the world through the Jewish people. I believe it, and I would be a coward if I did not say it here. But, my Lords, the proposal to end all trading restrictions removes any distinction between Saturday and Sunday. Who would have believed that this Government would put as their top priority for legislation in this parliamentary Session in this House their idea to end all the distinctions that separate Sunday, which I grew up to call the Lord's Day, from Saturday, as though it does not matter any longer? Those who are seeking to maintain the old values that guided our fathers in these islands are facing great difficulties. The removal of Sunday, the end of a special day which is a reminder of our heritage, is bound to undermine those who are seeking, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, to maintain the best values in this land.
1085 Why is Sunday so important to us? Why should we feel so deeply, as I certainly do, about finding a Government bringing a Whip, a Government from whom I never expected it? I know it will not come from the opposite side—there are too many chapel people over there. Dare I say that this is much more than a legalistic matter. I do not want to spend any time discussing how we catch people who break the law on Sunday: I am talking of that day being different from every other day—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Is Sunday to be the same? Is this the generation that will bring it to an end?
In introducing the Bill this afternoon, the Minister, for whom I have a very high regard, reminded us that for 500 years Sunday has survived in this land. Is this to be the generation that will end Sunday, that will take all restrictions away and let it be like any other day of the week? Sunday has been and still is an overriding reminder that we are a people with a Christian heritage. It has a symbolism which cannot easily be defined. Even people who have no link with the Church value Sunday as a day of rest. It is a day for the family. People can laugh as much as they like, but it is the day when the family can get together. A million married women are engaged in the retail industry. I do not know how many of them are mothers because I do not have the statistics, but two out of every three of the shop assistants in the retail industry are married women. Are they to be told, '"Never mind the family, work on Sunday"?
No: of course, there is protection. I am glad I am touching a nerve. Because once this Bill is through they will be told that. Once this Bill is through the protection has gone. It applies only to those who are in the industry now.
No formula can measure the intangible, unseen but very real blessings that our quiet Sunday has brought for us. In every town and village of this land today Sunday is different. This Bill will change everything. It will open the floodgates and will sweep away that to which we are accustomed. The right reverend Prelate reminded us that we are not alone in legislating in a special way as far as Sunday is concerned: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, West Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland all prohibit or carefully regulate Sunday trading. We are invited, with no substantial reason given, to throw away this priceless heritage.
During this past decade, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, reminded us, we have experienced a serious weakening in family ties. There are many diverse reasons and pressures that have caused this, but this Bill will accelerate the pace of breakdown. Many important signposts which guided us and those who went before us in this land have been demolished in recent years. In my judgment, to remove this symbol from our national life will still further deteriorate family life. We cannot afford to do that. This seems to be the age of the iconoclast, of the tearer down, of the destroyer of what other people build and what has endured for 500 years, according to the Minister. The time has come for us to call a halt to the wanton 1086 destruction of the things that are best in our heritage. This House can begin that process today, I believe, by giving a substantial vote, an overwhelming vote, to the amendment of the right reverend Prelate. To destroy our traditional Sunday merely because there are anomalies would be a criminal betrayal of the heritage we received from our fathers.
There is no public clamour for it. The first indication of a great movement of public opinion in this land is in the postbag of Members of the House of Commons. They have not been receiving letters. I have been making inquiries. The letters only started when the Government's proposals were known. There was no public demand. People were not saying, "Whatever happens, we must change our Sunday."
In recent years your Lordships' House has assumed a new significance in the estimation of the people of these islands. Time and again this House has voted to guard liberties and traditions. Regardless of the pressures put on by the party Whips on this occasion, I hope and I believe that we shall give a message to the people of these islands: Sunday is not for sale; Sunday is too precious a part of our way of life. I trust that this House will prove so today.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, as is usual when we are debating the sort of issues behind this Bill, this topic brings out the best in either House. However, I should like to warn many of my noble friends and others not to be easily led astray by what I call the great persuaders. We have had four anti-Government speeches at this stage and the speakers certainly are great persuaders. The right reverend Prelate looks surprised. I can think of no one who has more natural ability to persuade by his manner, his looks and the way he presents his arguments than the right reverend Prelate. But I want to look beyond their powers to persuade and their natural charm to the facts of the case.
Similarly, I am rather surprised—and I must get this out of the way before I produce my own arguments—that the Front Bench opposite, from the Dispatch Box, and an ex-Speaker of the House of Commons should, I know inadvertently, have misled the House on one issue. I refer to this business of issuing a Whip. We are part of Parliament and I ask either the noble Lord on the Front Bench or my noble friend on the Cross-Benches, an ex-Speaker, whether he can point to a Government Bill, presented seriously and intended as a Government measure, when the Government did not use, as it is their duty to use. the procedures of Parliament in the form of a Whip to let their supporters and adherents know exactly where they stand. To suggest that there is something ominous and anti-social about that is to pretend that parliamentary procedures and manners are not what they truly are and ought to go on being.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord is very gracious to give way, but he issued a challenge. It is no fundamental part of the constitution of your Lordships' House, or of another place, that Whips are issued. They are issued usually as matter of tradition, as I undersand it, when matters which are political 1087 arise. When it came to a matter of this kind I should have hoped that it was the tradition of all the great parties to have enough faith in their adherents to come to their own judgments on a national issue of this nature.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, the noble Lord intervened on a suggestion that he would put me right on a matter of fact, but he has merely expressed a hope that certain things would not happen. The noble Lord is aware of parliamentary procedures and he is aware of the duties of all Governments. If they produce a Bill which they want to make a statute to which the whole of the nation will have to adhere, the issue of a Whip is almost automatically part of the duties of Government. The noble Lord knows that and the noble Viscount, the ex-Speaker, knows that. To produce that particular argument on the basis that there is something ominous and that the Government are doing things outside their mandate is not fair. That is why I picked out that particular point.
I come back to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I am fairly certain that Moses would have been on my side. Moses was essentially a practical man who had a job to do and he did it with all the qualities of leadership that——
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, having a nearer family relationship with Moses, I must tell the noble Lord that his forecast, in my view, is quite inaccurate.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I think it was the right reverend Prelate who said that we did not want rhetorical contributions and that we need to be realistic. I am afraid that the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has been almost 100 per cent. rhetorical, but excellent for all that. I merely do not want his rhetoric to lead people astray on the practicalities, and that is all.
Indeed, I accept nine-tenths of the speech from the right reverend Prelate, as do the majority who I hope will go into the Lobby where I shall go tonight. That also applies to the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. There is no difference of view at all about the essential need to preserve the true meaning of the Sabbath. There is no difference on that. That is accepted. That is what we want. We recognise the great part it has played in the past in building up the British Christian character. Those of us who think differently to the noble Lords who have spoken so far do not differ on this question of wanting to preserve all that is good. The rhetorical part of their speeches I accept and would be prepared to repeat them as part of my own argument.
But I am impressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. There was nothing rhetorical about the noble Lord. The noble Lord is a practical expert on the matter that we are now discussing. As he said, he has lived in the middle of it since he went into business 64 years ago. Nobody in this House who has known the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, as a great public figure in this country would deny his feelings towards the Sabbath, the character of our people and the desirability of maintaining our Churches with all their essential influence in the way we behave in this 1088 country, or would say that he is anything other than one of the leaders in that particular form of thinking. However, his practical contact with this problem caused him to tell your Lordships' House today that, taking everything into account, the Bill is sensible and, under all the circumstances, the right thing to do.
So the first thing we must do is to take into account the most impressive rhetorical persuaders and set that alongside the one practical contribution that we have had—that from the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. We want to preserve the Sabbath. We want to preserve all the good things that flow from it. I believe that we are more likely to do that if we remove a restriction on people which the people themselves think is unnecessary and, in many cases, stupid.
I believe it was the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who said that this is not a legalistic matter. He went on with his speech and the message he tried to give, which I accepted. But your Lordships must not be led astray. The whole purpose behind this debate, and what flows from it, is a purely legalistic matter. It has nothing whatever to do with the emotional appeals that have been made by noble Lords, appeals with which I agree and which I accept. This is a matter of whether the Government should alter the law. It is a question of whether we are to put upon people legal restraints which have proved not to work, or are to remove those legal restraints.
With respect to the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, I have to tell him that this is very much a legalistic matter. When we go into the Lobby at the end of this debate the issue before us will have nothing to do with preserving Sunday or preserving all those great attributes which have helped to build up our Christian culture. The only question that should be in our minds is: shall we follow the amendment? And all that the amendment can mean is: "Shall we try to patch this up again? Shall we try to add to the legalistic base that is already there? Shall we try to revamp the basic legislation as it now stands in a way that means we can totter on for a few more years being a bit stupid but not so completely stupid that the edifice collapses?" That is what the one issue is. Shall we do that? Or, on the other hand, shall we face up to the fact that revamping and patching up and making marginal alterations based on this long-serving piece of legislation has not worked and that we ought to try to do something different?
I believe that we ought to face up to the fact that all the evidence—and I shall try to produce some of it—points to the argument that we should wipe the slate clean of the restrictions that have built up since 1448, 1677 and the consolidation in 1950, all of which were tied to the inconsistencies and outmoded practices which constituted the first base. Are we to wipe that away and start again or ought we to go on trying to patch up?
We have tried to patch up on 23 occasions since 1950, and even before 1950. People have used the argument of the right reverend Prelate; they have followed the emotions so ably revealed, as they always are, by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon; and they have felt the emotions that the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy has portrayed with such great effect today. The 23 occasions since 1950 have produced 1089 alterations and patches, but as one hole has been closed a bigger one has been disclosed and at the end the situation has been left in a bigger mess than before. Are we to continue to do that or are we to wipe the slate clean and start again?
At this point, if the right reverend Prelate will give me his attention, I should like to deal with a statement which he repeated today, and which I also heard him make on television, to the effect that if we pass this Bill as now drafted it will be irrevocable as regards any future statutory control over the use of the Sabbath day. That is not the case. The fact is that if we pass this Bill today, as I hope we shall, in no way will it preclude future Parliaments from using their parliamentary rights to reintroduce anything which is thought desirable to preserve the Sabbath and the great standards which we have built up and wish to preserve. Indeed, I forecast that this will happen. The only difference is that instead of now trying to patch up the legislation from the outmoded bases which, as I have said, were laid down 500 years ago, we should—if we felt that was right from up to date evidence that we would then have in front of us from the modern world, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—act upon the basis that people are better educated. It is a different world from the one in which the base was first settled. I strongly recommend to my noble friends and to noble Lords who sit in other parts of the House that if we truly want to get this matter on a basis where it will be good for the country and good for the general Christian standards of our people, we should wipe the slate clean of misconceptions and outmoded situations. If in future we find that things have gone terribly awry in certain aspects, we can and should do something about it. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will allow me to tell him that there is nothing which is irrevocable in this. Parliament can bring back whatever it likes. To try to frighten people by suggesting that what is done now is so fixed that nothing else can ever be done about it is not, I think, quite right. In that sense I hope that noble Lords will bear this in mind when they come to vote.
Has the legislation on the statute book so far brought the law into contempt and ridicule? The Auld Report says that it has. The Auld Report says that the law is neither observed nor enforceable and has been brought into contempt. Do we want to use our parliamentary powers to continue bringing the law into contempt? That is what the Auld Report says will happen.
Again, that very able persuader the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, tried to suggest that we ought not to pay attention to the Auld Report to the extent of letting it weigh with us. I hope that my noble friends will pay a lot of attention to the Auld Report, because at the end of the day the speeches that we are making are based on a couple of hours of preparation and our concern as well as our natural feelings, but the Auld Committee sat for a year and received more than 7,000 representations from both individuals and organisations. There was the committee itself and, as the noble Lord has said, the assessors were all there to share their thoughts on this. The Auld Report left us in no doubt that the situation as it stands will bring the law into contempt.
1090 While there are a lot of other arguments that I should have liked to pursue, I look at the clock and find that I ought not to speak any longer except just to say that the Auld Report—and I hope that noble Lords who intend to vote will take the trouble to read it—has gone into all the arguments that have so far been produced, and many more. It has taken into account all the detailed evidence and the knowledge of people like the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, and at the end of the day has said that the situation as it stands at the moment is a disgrace to the law and we ought to wipe it out and start again. The advice that the committee has given to us after all their research and investigation is clear and should not really be misrepresented.
The only thing which divides us is a legalistic matter. We all share the same emotions as regards preserving our sabbath. The noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, is the son of a miner from Wales. I am the son of a miner from Staffordshire. My environment, my chance of education—indeed, my whole life—has been similar to his. The conclusions on how we ought to try and preserve all the good that is in Sunday I share with him, to exactly the same extent. If that were the only issue about which we had to bother, we should be in the same Lobby. But it is a legalistic matter. It is a matter of preserving our law and order on a basis that does not bring it into contempt. It is a matter of facing up to the fact that what was right in 1950 may not be right in the new world of 1985. It is because I think that there have been great changes which have justified this Bill that I hope that the Lobby which will be supporting the Government will be the one that carries the majority when we come to a vote at the end.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Jacques
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by the right reverend Prelate; and I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, that I speak as a practical man who has served retail management for practically the whole of this working life. I support the amendment, first, because I think that it is more in keeping with the evidence received by the Auld Committee than its report. No one can say that its findings correspond with the evidence that it received.
I also support the amendment because I do not wish to see Sunday trading inflicted upon retailers and their employees against the overwhelming wish of the majority. The people in retailing who want Sunday trading are a tiny minority, and no one can claim otherwise. My thoughts are along the lines of those of the Crathorne Committee. I believe that that committee, which reported in 1964 after studying the question for three years, was right in its conclusions. As the right reverend Prelate said, it concluded that Sunday was a special day, and regarded by all as special. It was a day on which we were not required to go out and carry out our normal employment; it was a day on which we had freedom to do what we wanted. The committee said that so far as practicable that should continue. It added that, if the majority of shops were open on a Sunday, Sunday would cease to have that special character. I believe that that is as right now as it was in 1964.
1091 The public debate in the past few years has centred mainly on three questions. The first is the question of freedom. It has been asserted that in a free country people should be able to buy and sell on any day they want and that there is a lack of freedom if they cannot. That depends on how one interprets freedom. Freedom may be given to some that inflicts the opposite on others. For example, where is the freedom for the retailer who does not want to trade on a Sunday but finds that his share of the market is being absorbed by those who do and feels compelled by fear to open rather than let his business slip away? What about the employee in the retail trade who does not want to work on a Sunday but in these days is afraid not merely of losing his job but of not getting promotion and all the other things associated with the job? Where is his freedom? Where is the freedom of the people who live in the shopping area who get one day of respite? It is a peculiar kind of freedom to allow a minor section of the public to change things in such a way that a loss of freedom is inflicted on many sections of the community.
It is pleaded that with Sunday trading we shall have a reduction of costs. That is nonsense. It is certain that there will be an increase. To open on an additional day will require more lighting and heating and there will be premium payments for Sunday working. It is certain that there will be additional costs, but it is not certain that there will be additional trade to compensate, for the simple reason that the public purse is limited. What people spend on Sunday they cannot spend on some other day. There is a great possibility that we shall eventually reach the position when shops are open on Sunday and closed on Monday because of the difficulty of operating rota systems in shops. That would be a sad thing for the shopkeeper, his staff and the customer.
It is also pleaded that there are anomalies. Of course there are. A schedule of that kind which has been in being for 35 years is bound to have anomalies. We made one simple mistake. In 1950 we should have had the modern method of changing legislation. There should have been a provision that Schedule 5 could be changed by order; it would then have been kept up to date. For example, we are told that it is an anomaly that we can buy a Chinese take-away but not fish and chips.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, does the noble Lord claim that there are no anomalies in the schedule to the pamphlet put out by the Jubilee Trust?
§ Lord Jacques
My Lords, I am not speaking for anybody other than myself and certainly not for whoever wrote the pamphlet. And I cannot see the justification for that interruption.
It is claimed that there is an anomaly because we can buy a Chinese take-away but not fish and chips; but in 1950 the fish and chip traders' federation requested that they should not be allowed to sell fish and chips on a Sunday. They did not want to, and they wanted to be consistent. They asked for the provision to be put in the legislation; and at that time there were no Chinese take-aways. They came afterwards. Had we been able to change the schedule by order, such matters would have been dealt with long ago.
1092 We are also told that we can buy gin but not baby food. But gin is not governed by that Act; it is governed by the licensing laws—a different matter altogether. It has nothing to do with the question that we are discussing. In any case, apart from wishing to buy fresh milk, which is a perishable, if a mother nowadays wishes to buy tinned milk, which is not a perishable, had we been able to do so by order we could easily have made a change in the schedule to allow that.
A great deal of unnecessary fuss has been made about the anomalies. They can easily be put right in a sensible way. Let nobody tell us that it is not practical to have a decent schedule. Good heavens, all the countries of Europe except Sweden have such schedules that they can abide by! Are they more inventive than we are? If we legislate properly and allow for amendment by order we can not only have a satisfactory schedule but we can have one which can be kept up to date.
In conclusion I say this. I am in favour of a compromise. I am prepared to compromise because I do not want to lose our Sunday. I believe that it is possible to have a compromise that does not conflict with Sunday being a special day. For example, if the regulations came into force at 1 p.m. on a Sunday, that would allow the small trader to sell anything that he wanted. If we went to the newsagent to buy a paper, we could buy anything else that the shop was selling. That would be of greatest assistance to the majority of consumers and would help the small retailer, unlike the Bill. The large shops would not be interested in opening only until 1 p.m. That is out; it does not allow them enough time.
The real damage to Sunday is done by trading on a Sunday afternoon. A short while ago I spent some time in California and for four weekends I watched Sunday trading. Until about 1 p.m. only the small corner shops selling perishables were open. After one o'clock the main shopping centres were busier than on any other day of the week. The department stores commenced their sales at one o'clock on a Sunday. I support the amendment because I do not wish that kind of thing to happen in this country. I believe that our Sundays are worth preserving and I hope that your Lordships will attempt to preserve them by supporting the amendment.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lady Saltoun of Abernethy
My Lords, I should very much like to say a few words about Sunday trading in Scotland because I, too, live there. I am not quite sure that the right reverend Prelate's informant is altogether correct about what happens. As we have been told, the Shops Act 1950 never applied to Scotland. The opponents of this Bill say that at the time it was not thought necessary for the Act to do so because, to quote one of them, the Scots had a greater built-in resistance to Sunday trading on religious and cultural grounds than the English. I cannot imagine what the cultural grounds can have been. As regards religious grounds, that may have been the case in 1950. I do not believe that it is true any longer, except possibly in one or two very isolated places.
I should like to describe the pattern as it is now, 35 years on. You find certain, but by no means all, 1093 newsagents open until one'clock. In the bigger towns, you find the odd neighbourhood shop selling a bit of everything. A chemist is usually open on Sunday morning for a limited time. In the most popular tourist centres during the season you will find souvenir shops open on Sunday afternoons and also provision shops, and, of course, restaurants. Certain multiples, like MFI, Queensway, and Asda, situated on the outskirts of cities, are also open, as, of course, are garden centres. In general, the high street shops do not open at all on Sundays except, very possibly, on one or two Sundays before Christmas, when it pays them to do so. That is why they do it. For the rest of the year, it does not pay them to do so. This has nothing to do with Sabbatarianism; it is purely and simply self-interest and common sense. You are not going to open if you are not going to cover your extra overheads. The shops know they are not going to do so, and that is why they do not open.
If this is the case in Scotland, I cannot see why it should be any different in England. Or are we to believe that English shopkeepers have no sense? It is unlikely, I believe, that if this Bill becomes law every shop in England will be open on Sunday, any more than they are in Scotland. I do not believe that the character of Sunday will change as much as some people fear.
I cannot see that the experience of other countries is irrelevant when one is considering a change in the law. The closer and more similar the country, the more relevant it is. I might mention to the right reverend Prelate that his fears over the effects on churchgoing of Sunday opening are belied by experience, as anyone will know who has been to Paris for the weekend. There, people are no less good churchgoers because the shops are open on Sundays. The shops shut on Mondays. Much the same is the case in Spain, but, then, the Roman Catholic Church co-operates by having services frequently throughout the day.
I have grave doubts about the historic basis of the Christian Sunday being a sabbath on which no work should be done. This, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has said, is a Puritan concept given added impetus in 1831 by the Lord's Day Observance Society and founded upon the Jewish sabbath, which was devised for a primitive agricultural community depending on slave labour so as to ensure one day of rest a week for the slaves. According to the Gospels, Christ tried to liberalise the sabbath. He himself certainly worked on the sabbath, as, I may say, does practically every mother and housewife in the country. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has already quoted from Saint Mark's Gospel. Not much later Saint Ignatius, in a letter to the Magnesians (whoever they may have been) referred to good Christians asin no wise living for the Sabbath".At last the sabbath was freed to be enjoyed.
But the enjoyment of some involves the hard work of others, as various noble Lords have said, in providing services. If it is all right for people in service industries to work on Sundays, why is it not all right for people in shops to work on Sundays? For some people (although not for me: I loathe shopping any day of the week) shopping is as great a pleasure as any other activity. For some, Sunday shopping is a necessity nowadays.
1094 Have your Lordships ever wondered, as I have done, when, if the present law were thoroughly enforced, full-time shop assistants would do their shopping? The right reverend Prelate said, if I am not mistaken, that he thought this House existed to restrain the excesses of those who wished to curb the liberties of Her Majesty's subjects. I hope that the House will support the liberty of Her Majesty's subjects to open their shops on Sunday if they wish to do so. For this reason, I am afraid that I cannot support the amendment.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I welcome the Government's initiative in bringing forward the Bill. I am sure that the law on this issue needs to be tidied up. The only way to do it—whatever system is being introduced—is by a Government Bill and not any longer by a Private Member's Bill. I find the Government's solution very attractive; I might also say, very seductive. It is tidy and it is easy. I personally love things to be tidy and to be easy. Unfortunately, as your Lordships know as well as I do, the easy course is very often not the right one.
I have been privileged to be asked to be chairman of a coalition of retailers, churchmen and enforcement officers who have considered the Auld report at great length and have found themselves unable to support complete deregulation as a result. We have produced a scheme to tidy up the law which is considered acceptable, enforceable and preferable, certainly to the existing law and certainly to complete deregulation. I feel that the law in this situation needs to be a balance. It should be a balance between those who want to buy and sell anything on a Sunday and those who want the day to be different, a special day, a day for rest and recreation as a family. The proposals that we produced seem to me to be reasonable and along these lines.
There are anomalies. I believe that there are anomalies in many branches of the law where we aim to strike a balance between conflicting interests. This is certainly the case in the VAT legislation which strikes a balance between the Inland Revenue and the rest of us. Whether you buy a hot cup of coffee or a cold cup of coffee, the anomalies go on and on. If the anomalies are reasonable, they are not in my view a big stumbling block. There must be anomalies if one gets the balance right. But they must be reasonable, and they must be acceptable.
A great deal has been said about whether few or many shops will open on Sundays in England. Let us be clear what the Institute of Fiscal Studies, to which my noble friend the Minister referred several times, has said in estimating the number of shops that would open on Sundays. If wages of only 50 per cent, more than normal were paid, the IFS estimated that 86 per cent. of retail food capacity would open and 94 per cent. of clothing capacity.
A recent Scottish case held that in view of the lack of restriction in Scotland it was perfectly acceptable to pay only 30 per cent. above the normal wage for working on a Sunday. The IFS is therefore saying that if 50 per cent. more is paid (whereas Sunday trading now demands double wages) then something over 80 per cent. of all shopping space is likely to be opened. This is not a question of degree. It is, as I see it. a question of principle. It is a major question.
1095 I am very attracted to the idea that my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls suggested, that we wipe the slates clean. The noble Lord goes on to suggest that we should then add to it, and that may be what should be done at Committee stage. But let us make sure that we have the additions before this Bill leaves this place to go to another place.
I certainly have no gifts of great oratory but I should like to put some facts before your Lordships. First, with regard to the question of shopkeepers, it has been said that only very few extra people, less than a million, will have to work on Sundays, therefore why does it matter? I believe that the answer is, because so many of them are mothers and wives in a family situation. If Mum has to work on a Sunday when Dad and the children are around, the family is being broken up; and I believe that that is very serious.
I am also very concerned about the protection of shopworkers who start jobs after the commencement day. Nowadays there are many people who move around the country, and they have had a life experience of retailers and do not want to work on Sundays. Very often they would not be able to get the job they want.
Another question which has been mentioned is that of enforcement. May I remind your Lordships of what those who are responsible for enforcement said to the Auld Committee? The Institute of Shops, Health and Safety Acts Administration said that, when given full support and adequate resources by their local authorities, their members have found no real difficulty in enforcing the Acts. There is no problem with enforcement. The problem is perhaps that very little money has been spent by local authorities on that; it has been a ludicrously small amount. Local authorities will have to spend much more money in providing the additional support services if, as I and many others of us fear, over the coming years, a great many shops open on Sundays.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has referred to Scotland. I do not have her experience there but I should like to make three points about Scotland. First, it was the Auld Committee, not your Lordships, who said that what was proposed was not a reliable guide as to what would happen in Scotland. Secondly, our coalition was informed by some of the multiples that if through competitive pressures they opened in England then they would also open in Scotland, so there may be more Sunday trading coming to Scotland as well. Thirdly, one young lady who is a Scot but has emigrated south of the border said to me after a weekend in Edinburgh that she found walking down Princes Street on Sunday a thoroughly depressing experience.
I have a few comments to make on Europe. It has already been said that all Common Market countries have some form of restriction. West Germany has its Shop Closing Hours Act. Other countries, such as France, restrict Sunday opening through labour legislation. I believe that the next sentence in my notes conflicts with what the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said, but I have been told that Paris on a Sunday is almost as quiet as London and that no big stores or shops of any kind open in the central districts. That is how I personally would like to keep London.
1096 I am not at all sure why the Auld Committee appeared never to have investigated Common Market countries. They referred to Sweden certainly, which has no restrictions. But your Lordships may be aware that some five years after Sweden abolished restrictions a Government commission met to consider the matter and the majority recommended that Sunday restrictions should be reintroduced. This was never done but that was the view of a majority on a Government commission. I think that that probably supports what the right reverend Prelate said: if this decision is made now in practice it is irrevocable.
In conclusion, because other countries have restrictions, and I believe that there can be a reasonable and acceptable, moderate system of restriction, I personally support this amendment; and I hope that many others of your Lordships will do so as well.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of High Cross
My Lords, I should like to begin with perhaps the only amiable words I shall utter in this debate by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, for his weighty support for the Government's Bill and against the amendment. If I may say so, I thought that his was a particularly courageous and objective contribution because it came from great, unrivalled experience and the noble Lord spoke personally against the view which I believe has been, at any rate until recently, the corporate view of the company that bears his name.
Since my chief target in my brief contribution will be the amendment in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, I thought it appropriate to start with a confession. As what I might call a dissenting Anglican and a professional economist, I have become accustomed to disagreeing with pretty well all episcopal doctrines and panaceas on political economy. Yet I am still capable of being shocked; and a month ago in my local church, St. Paul's, in Hadley Wood, we had the family service interrupted by a partisan tirade delivered by two sweet ladies from the congregation against the evils of Sunday trading, concluding with an earnest injunction that we should all write to our Members of Parliament and add to the post-bag about which the right reverend Prelate has spoken as a spontaneous manifestation of support for his position.
Among other stories, on this occasion we were told that Sunday would become the biggest shopping day of the week; that all shops would be compelled to open; that there would be no economic advantages because a fixed retail expenditure would be spread more thinly over longer opening; that prices would therefore rise; and that there would be no more employment—indeed there would be more unemployment because it was said small shops would be forced out of business. As an economist, I believe all these claims to be very approximately the opposite of what is most likely to happen. I have applied myself to studying the evidence from Scotland, Sweden and the United States. I have weighed the arguments of the Auld Committee and of its critics. Like the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, I do not dare to claim that I can foretell the future, as many speakers on the amendment side have said. My best, conscientious 1097 judgment is that there will be significant benefits in both efficiency and employment from allowing shops the freedom to open, or not to open, at such times as suits a sufficient number of their customers. All the evidence confutes the claim of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, that costs and prices will be increased by Sunday opening.
I must say that my support for this Bill goes rather deeper than my judgment as an economist that competition generally enables suppliers to serve their customers better than under arbitrary control or collusion. My fundamental belief is in the moral imperative of individual freedom and personal responsibility save when the coercive power of government is unavoidable to prevent a proven, major, public evil. If we turn to the Jubilee Centre's pamphlet "Why keep Sunday Special" we find nothing there to overthrow that principle. At the outset, as has been said, the authors agree that there is no sin involved in working or shopping on a Sunday. On page 6, they say:Freedom of choice is good for man, but it is better for him to love God and to love his neighbour".I want to say emphatically that with that simple statement I find myself in unqualified agreement. Indeed, I believe that a free economy would work even less imperfectly than it does if more of us could get perhaps a little closer to that blessed state and act more consistently upon it.
However, I deeply disagree with the right reverend Prelate's position, and I find myself wholly in agreement with the noble Lord the Minister that any advance in that direction must depend upon persuasion and choice and not on criminal law and punishment. My simple, ordinary, understandable reason is that I believe there is no moral virtue in what I may regard as good behaviour if it is brought about by compulsion.
The innocent reader of the Jubilee tract would remain wholly unaware that, when the admitted absurdities of the present Shops Act are swept away, no shop will be compelled to open on Sunday, no customer will be required to shop on Sunday, and no worker will be made to work. Indeed, many shops that now open on Sunday are entirely staffed by willing volunteers who work only on that day, and many shops which hope to open already have extensive lists of people asking to be considered for employment when the time comes.
The authors of this tract confuse counsels by saying on page 34:Sundays help us preserve family, community and Church life as they ensure everybody is off work at the same time".Throughout the whole of this one-sided text there is what I can only say is a naïve assumption that Sunday is the only day for cultivating family life and friends. The latest research suggests that 4 million men and women work regularly on Sundays—that does not mean that they work every Sunday, but that throughout the year they regularly work on some Sundays—and almost 5 million more work occasionally on Sundays. I cannot understand the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who seems to think that we should all wish to live our lives and if I may say so, eat our meals along with him. It is the very fact of 1098 the wide diversity in working patterns, no less than in family structures and circumstances, which has now put an increasing premium on variety rather than conformity in shopping, travelling, entertainment, sports, eating out and other harmless family amenities.
With the same tendency for selective sociology, the Jubilee vigilantes fuss about the quality of life for people living near shops; yet they acknowledge that more of those living alone now find Sundays boring and lonely. They do not refer to an opinion poll which shows that when people were asked whether they would be inconvenienced by Sunday shopping, only 3 per cent. said, "Yes", and no more than 2 per cent. said so in Scotland, where they were able to judge from their own experience. It is no wonder that the Jubilee pundits are somewhat equivocal on opinion polls. They cheerfully quote a poll showing 83 per cent. of small retailers against the Bill. However, faced with consumer surveys showing up to 73 per cent. in favour of Sunday opening, they pontificate:It is often inappropriate to attach too much weight to the results of opinion polls".Instead, our nimble authors say that there is no "widespread clamour" for change, and they imply that it is all got up by the retailers who are duly denounced as "highly motivated interest groups"—apparently quite different from the Luddites of USDAW (the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers), who are quoted in the text with a reverence normally reserved for the scriptures.
However, if there is no "clamour" to shop on Sundays, why all this wild Welsh rhetoric from my noble friend Lord Tonypandy about Sunday becoming another Saturday? All the evidence from Scotland, Sweden, America, Spain and Italy is that freedom to open will not prevent people going to church. In many areas it will make no difference. However, in some areas, at some times of the year, some shops will open to serve some customers with some goods and services.
The case for this Bill rests on three legs. The first is the commanding moral presumption in favour of freedom of choice for consenting adults. Secondly, there are large gains in convenience for at least some shoppers and good prospects of employment opportunities, especially for young people, in expanding retail services. Finally, I urge the right reverend Prelate to ponder the lesson from Martin Wiener's wellknown study, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850 to 1980. He argues, in brief, that it is aristocratic and ecclesiastical contempt for trade that has helped to shape our anti-enterprise culture and contributed to Britains' relative decline. This Government are painfully struggling against our innate conservatism and nostalgia to stimulate the economic and social processes of wealth creation, distribution and exchange. This Bill merits our support as a useful step in the right direction.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I want to support the amendment and, in the first instance, I am concerned to say a few words about the representative nature of the amendment as proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. He spoke 1099 eloquently and movingly of his own personal conviction, but he spoke on behalf of the Church. I hope to speak with conviction, but I can speak with equal authority about the Church to which I belong.
It is not insignificant that there is unanimity in all the, if I may use the phrase, main line Churches that this Bill as it now stands should not be passed. The Roman Catholic Council of Bishops has made it quite clear that this is an unacceptable Bill, as have the Salvation Army, the Society of Friends, the Council of Churches, and of course the Free Church Council, to say nothing of the burgeoning number of Caribbean Churches which have a particular interest in the preservation of the kind of fellowship that they enjoy on Sunday.
I profess a difficulty in understanding the position of a government which, if I may say so without impudence, presume to think that they are a better defender of the faith than the organised phalanx of spiritual unity as presented by the Christian Church on this particular measure. I do not know upon what basis they would think themselves better able to defend the faith in the face of the kind of opposition which has not in the first place been counselled and connived, but is a spontaneous recognition of certain values that belong to Sunday which are in peril.
As there are many speakers in this debate, I shall not continue the arguments with regard to some of the more obvious problems, such as Sunday being a time when people who want to do other things will be prevented from so doing because of the increase of trade or the distribution of labour. I believe that there is a religious basis to this which is independent of the precise Christology which I accept. In that regard, how much I appreciated the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. He and I share the principle that there is a peculiar value in one day which is separated from every other day and becomes rhythmic in the sense that it encourages people to the appreciation that life cannot be a continuum without its being degraded thereby, and that the opportunity, let alone the practice, of a retirement from, so to speak, the ordinary avocations of the week is a necessary part of the civilising process in which man at least would attempt to equip himself. I believe that this is unanswerable as a case.
This afternoon I have heard a good deal about the preservation of family life and I give my hearty support to that principle. However, I am afraid that in many cases family life is nostalgic in the kind of civilisation, so-called, in which we live. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to recollect something which my noble friend Lord Tonypandy will know as well as I do: the kind of Sunday I had after many occasions of going to church, with the rather dubious assertion that we ought to go to bed early on Sunday because by that time we had sung hymns all the time or had gone to church and were about played out. I remember the value of the Sunday afternoon gathered around the piano. There was no wireless in those days. There was no television. It was a family occasion. You may think it sentimental, and sometimes my grandchildren think it a bit naive, but that is the kind of family life which I cherish and which so largely seems to me to have disappeared. If I speak with melancholy it is out of a long, if not profound, experience of social work.
1100 For many people home is the place where you hang around when somebody else has the car. That is a cynicism, but my word it is true of much of the urban areas with which I have had to do, and a great deal of the society in which I try to live. I am quite sure that this Bill will help to preserve and continue a process in which family life will be a third-rate option, if indeed an option at all. I speak in that concern for family life, which I do not so much regard as something to be preserved as something which we shall have the opportunity of recovering if we refuse to accept this kind of permissive society in which so many people who claim freedom will be the objective of operations by their fellows which will deny that very freedom to them.
This Bill is an attempt, to use the classical expression, to burn down the house in order to cook a pork chop. Let me say that in other words, because there are ways in which Lamb would object to that. I believe that this Bill proposes a process of action which in many respects is against a backcloth of abuses and stupidities. I agree with the need for a reconsideration of the proper use of Sunday, not in objective ways of preventing people from doing what they want to do, but in one respect for remembering that it was organised games which, first of all, were the appropriation of Sunday rather than the occupation on Saturday. The cultivation of the maypole has more to do with the Christian faith than it has to do with secular observations which now are regarded as having a secular basis anyhow.
However, I shall not delay your Lordships. Here is a measure in which the cure, as I see it in this Bill, will be infinitely worse than the disease. I ask your Lordships to believe that the combined conviction of the Christian churches is a serious matter. It does not become infallibility, but it is not far short of it. In that regard I hope that this amendment will be carried, recognising that there is much to do in improving the opportunities for people to think and to make a difference on Sunday; not equating Sunday with the sabbatical principals so long ago recorded in the Ten Commandments, but recognising that one day in the week will only be of value to those who live if it is dedicated to higher intentions and becomes the opportunity, if not the occasion, of a deeper religious faith.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Soper, whom I have heard many a time in my lunch hour at Tower Hill. Obviously I shall not follow his example; however, perhaps when I have finished speaking he may follow me into the Division Lobby, but we shall see.
My Lords, it strikes me that Sunday trading is another of those issues where not entirely, but by and large, the forces of passion are ranged against those of reason. This is no doubt why, although a clear majority of people in the country are reasonably in favour of Sunday shopping, it is the minority which is passionately against it which makes the louder noise.
I would not, however, make the assertion that reason is automatically more worthy than passion. 1101 Indeed, I have taken care to approach this issue myself with a determination to remain, at all times, both passionately reasonable and reasonably passionate! In doing so, I have studied a mountain of statistics and a sea of claims and counter-claims from both camps. Before these studies I freely admit that I simply had no idea that allowing Mrs. Smith to pop round the corner to buy a tin of paint from B & Q on a Sunday afternoon could be quite such a complex, weighty and controversial issue. If we allow her to do so there are those who foretell continuing moral and social decline towards the doom of Armageddon! But if we do not allow her to do so there are those who foretell that continuing and remorseless decline of the economy. It is the kind of heavy responsibility that voting on this issue appears to place on our shoulders.
So how do I come to a decision in which I am sufficiently confident that it will allow me to sleep at nights? Well, my Lords, after long, agonising and ultimately unsatisfactory analysis of the data, a beautifully clear solution emerged: let Mrs. Smith decide. If she doesn't make it a crime for me to go to church on a Sunday, why should I make it a crime for her to buy a pot of paint? After all, Mr. Smith can already legally buy a pot of paint to do up the car. It is just a crime for Mrs. Smith to buy a pot of paint to do up the kitchen. Mr. Smith can already legally buy a girlie magazine. It is just a crime for Mrs. Smith to buy a Bible.
But can I really trust Mrs. Smith with such sweeping freedom? Can she really handle the responsibility that must always go hand-in-hand with liberty? Will her moral fibre and that of her family be eroded away? Will her children be left behind the latch as Mr. and Mrs. Smith leave home for an orgy of shopping amid streets crammed with other bustling noisy shoppers, placing intolerable pressure on civic services and encouraging ever more crime and vandalism on our streets? My Lords, of course I could handle the responsibility. Of course, all of you could handle it. And indeed it seems that Mrs. McPherson in Scotland can handle it—and has done so very nicely since 1947. Even Mrs. Ullman in Sweden has handled it for ten years, not to mention Mrs. Groppelli in Massachusetts.
But oh dear! What about Mrs. Smith in Wapping, Workington, Wallasey, Worthing and Wimbledon. Can she handle it, without ruining her family life and that of those around her? Well there is of course fortunately an issue which really should override my judgment, our judgment, about whether or not she can. That issue is her right to the simple freedom to choose for herself. No one is disputing her right to choose not to go shopping on a Sunday. No one is disputing the right of the shopkeeper not to open on a Sunday, any more than we would dispute, in this day and age, the right of anyone not to go to church.
Around 10 per cent. of people in fact attend church regularly. And if we ever attempted to legislate against their right to do so then of course general outrage would ensue. But what of the 60 per cent. or so people who say they would like the right to go shopping on a Sunday, many of them no doubt churchgoers too? I am not suggesting for a moment that it is a right that we should if necessary be prepared to die for. But neither is it one that we should legislate against.
1102 I can understand and respect the Christian who believes, in faith, that he has a mission to protect the sabbath. and thus to preach in an attempt to instil that faith in others. But should that faith have the backing of the criminal law? Is the conscript really a convert? I can understand and respect the leaders of the trade union who believe they will lose membership as a result of an increase in part-time working that may accompany Sunday shopping. But should that union have the backing of the criminal law when many others welcome the work, and 71 per cent. of trade unionists as a whole favour abolition?
I can understand also the motivation of those shopkeepers who believe that they will suffer at the hands of competitors if Sunday shopping is allowed. But should those shopkeepers have the backing of the criminal law too to protect them from their competitors? I think not, and I cannot for the life of me see why simple freedom of choice, which is so responsibly and successfully enjoyed in Scotland, should be denied to the people of England and Wales.
In a mature democracy such as this it is absurd for us to sit here and regulate the lives of people on matters so basic as when they can and cannot go out and buy the everyday things that they need for ordinary living. Has not the age long since passed when shopping can be a criminal activity? It has been said that freedom is indivisible and if we wish to enjoy it we must always be prepared to extend it. It has also been said that freedom is indeed so precious that it must be rationed. But the latter quotation is from no less a practical and proven democrat than Lenin!
I know which view I prefer to hang my hat on. The greatest danger to freedom often seems to lurk in its encroachment by men of zeal, however well-meaning. No, my Lords! I am happy to place the question of Mrs. Smith's shopping in the safe custody of the good common sense of Mrs. Smith. I am happy to place the question of the shopkeeper's opening hours with the shopkeeper; after all who will ultimately decide when he will, or will not, have any customers? You have it, my Lords, it is—Mrs. Smith again! Quite simply, it is none of my business—and it is certainly not the business of the criminal law. So let us abolish this silly outdated, unenforceable, unpopular and indefensible legislation once and for all. Let us for once subtract from the great weight of the statute book rather than add to it. The trading laws have centuries of dust on them. Let us blow the lot away with the good strong breath of freedom!
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Winchester
My Lords, I want to support the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. As he indicated in his speech, it is common ground that there are outdated and inappropriate anomalies in the Shops Act 1950. There are real problems to be tackled. I am sure the Government were right to commission a committee of inquiry, and in the Auld Report there was a long and careful study of the points at issue. Yet my misgivings about the report and the Bill we now have before us, which stems from that report, lie in the basic premise of its argument. The noble Lord the Minister said earlier that it was an unchallengeable premise, but I found it a doubtful one.
1103 We start from the premise that the law should not interfere in the conduct of human affairs unless it serves a justifiable purpose in doing do. Surely that premise is too narrow. It is an inadequate base on which to consider major social issues such as the traditional character of Sunday and the need for families to have shared rest and relaxation. We are dealing here with subtle, sensitive, intangible issues bound up with our particular history and culture and our religious tradition, where changes could have far-reaching implications for the character of our community life, for those who work in the retail trade and for the future pattern of the retail trade itself.
Yet by working from this narrow premise that the law should not normally interfere, it is hardly surprising that the report comes to the simplistic conclusion which the Bill enshrines: that all legal restrictions on the hours for which shops may be open should now be abolished. This conclusion is virtually predetermined by that narrow premise. The trouble with total deregulation is that it isolates the freedom of the consumer; it isolates the freedom of big business as being the supreme good, as being the determining factor of what should happen in society and how the law should be reformed. I should want to hold these freedoms of the consumer and the freedoms of the retailer in a wider and more generous framework of what makes for the good of the family and the common good of the community. As has been said often this afternoon, many of us see Sunday as a corporate rest day; one of the elements that helps to give our society its particular identity and character. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham has observed, the rhythm of one day in seven that is qualitatively different from the other six days is a divine ordinance. It is one of the blessings of our community life, and I think it helps to bind the family together in sharing rest and recreation.
I believe the key question is how far one allows exceptions for work and trading to go on before one begins to destroy or fatally undermine the central core. The Government are saying that because the restraints in the Shops Act 1950 are no longer satisfactory, in future there shall be no restraints at all. They are saying "Let Sunday float". But those who support this amendment are saying, "Not so fast". We acknowledge that already many people work on Sundays. We have been given examples this afternoon, not least in the public utilities, in transport and so on. But because some have to work on that day it does not necessarily follow that more should be compelled to do so. We therefore think that total deregulation is a too-drastic solution because it could well lead to the erosion of something we greatly value—a corporate rest day which gives identity to our community. We need these opportunities of rest and recreation for families, and recreation includes (indeed, it describes for Christians) the experience of Sunday worship not simply as individuals who like to go to church but as the people of God experiencing a corporate renewal. We do not want the cohesive character of our institutions or the cohesive character of society to be sacrificed for the sake of greater commercial gain on Sundays.
Fears about Sunday trading are fairly widespread. In my own diocese in Hampshire I have had many 1104 representations directly, and I know through the clergy that there are many more instances where there is considerable unease about deregulation. Already we are experiencing pressures—some subtle, some much less so—on employees who do not want to work on Sunday. Take, for example, a young woman in a multiple store in Southampton. Asked to come in one Sunday morning before Christmas last year she declined. She was then told by her superior that she was jeopardising her career, that there were plenty of others who could do her job, and that her refusal would be remembered. There was another instance of a manager of a chain store who said, "My firm makes it quite clear to me that if the shop is open I am responsible for what happens. But Sunday is my own only real time off. On my weekday off I am worrying about what may be going on here". There is another example. One multiple retailer has an application for employment form which includes, in the declaration that the applicant has to sign, these words:I agree to work on bank holidays, Sunday and overtime as required".The freedom of the consumer and the freedom of the retailer are not the only freedoms which the law should recognise. There is the good of society, the good of the family and the good of the employee to be recognised as well. We need to balance the needs of those who wish to shop with the needs of those who desire a weekly respite on a corporate day of rest. I believe there is an alternative to total deregulation, and many of us would like to help the Government in seeking to find it. That really is the purpose underlying the amendment which the right reverend Prelate has moved.
We seek a wider and more generous solution to what is admittedly a difficult problem for, as the Auld Report indicates, there are those who wish to press for wider and more extensive opportunities for shopping—though there is not a great clamour; in fact, only 10 per cent. have asked for it. Yet, granted that there is more scope for shopping in the evenings (which is something I should welcome), and granted that the majority of retailers are not seeking deregulation and that the shopworkers are among the most vulnerable parts of our workforce, and granted that Sunday trading, the Auld Report says, seems likely to result in the loss of up to 20,000 full-time jobs and that the effect of Sunday trading may well be to the detriment of independent shopkeepers, can we not find a more generally acceptable way forward?
Starting from the premise of the general good of society, we can surely look first at the European experience. As has been pointed out, in all the countries in Europe save Sweden there are some restrictions on Sunday trading. The Auld Report does not mention them, but let us see what alternative models there are available to us in Europe.
As has often been mentioned this afternoon, I think most people want to see retained the small independent traders, so that they can stay in business. The village shop, the shop on the corner, the little establishment in the precinct, are all social amenities. They are already far fewer in number than they were a generation ago but they are valued, especially by the elderly and the less mobile. It seems likely that it will be to their detriment if Sunday general trading takes 1105 place. Can we not do something to help them by easing the restrictions on Sundays, perhaps for a stated number of hours?
I recognise that there are difficulties. I have read and re-read Chapter 5 of the Auld Report. However, I believe that the Auld Report maximises the difficulties because it has predetermined the conclusion to which it is going to come. However, we could see how our European partners overcome them and we could use our native wits to seek a way forward.
There is a real fear that if the high street opens on Sundays this will mean more disturbance, noise and disquiet for those who live in the neighbourhood. Let there be either a refusal to let that happen or, failing that, a very strict limitation of the number of hours. An argument is being made for the out-of-town shopping centres to be opened on Sundays. Providing there is a limitation of hours, so that those who are employed there do not lose the whole of their corporate day of rest, and providing the amenities for those who live nearby are not adversely affected, then let that case be examined.
I believe we need to strike a balance between the needs of society for a corporate day of rest, the needs of individuals to shop, the needs of shopworkers and the needs of those who live near shopping centres. Total deregulation does not allow for that balance: it distorts it, it damages it. By passing the amendment which the right reverend Prelate has moved we can surely try to create a framework which will be for the general good of society and which does not isolate or absolutise the particular goods of freedom at the expense of many other, more vulnerable people in our community.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, though at times I thought we were debating a Bill called the "Abolition of Sunday Bill", rather than the Shops Bill. Since this seems to be an afternoon for declaring one's family ties, one's conscience and one's religion, I should like to say at once that I am a Catholic, that I go to church, but that I call in shops, mainly Jewish or Asian ones, on the way home. I am not sure whether the Almighty will declare this against me when I come to the final reckoning, but I think there is a certain element of hypocrisy in some of the arguments that have been advanced.
Already a number of people have to work on Sunday. I am the grandmother of an ambulance driver: he has to work on Sunday. I am the grandmother of a doctor: he has to work on Sunday. Would the right reverend Prelate and the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, really not want to have electricity, gas, transport or health services on Sundays? Why is it that we segregate certain sections of the population and say that they must work because it is for our convenience but tell other sections of the community that they must not work? I have always found this a peculiar argument. I say quite seriously that if one intends to go to church, one will go to church, whether or not the shops are open on Sunday. What is being contended is a totally false argument.
I enjoyed the quotation of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. I shall give another quotation to the noble 1106 Lady, to the right reverend Prelates and to my noble friend. Our Lord said:By their deeds ye shall know them"—not by what they do on Sunday but what they do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That is how one determines whether one is really living one's life as a Christian and, if I may say so, as a socialist.
I did not find it very easy to intervene in this debate because I am employed by the retailers; I am the vice-president of the National Chamber of Trade, and I am the president of the shops inspectorate institute. It is one of those occasions when one wears too many hats because they all want something different. I could have had a diplomatic illness and not taken part in the debate at all. However, I reject that. I must speak according to my conscience. This is what having the privilege of sitting in the Upper Chamber of Parliament is all about. If we are legislating, we do not legislate on the considerations of other people and other lobbies that may weigh upon us.
I have in the past introduced two Bills to try to clear up these anomalies which everybody is now saying should have been cleared up. I ask, certainly, the right reverend Prelates on the Bishops' Bench why they did not come and support me when I tried to put through those two Bills. One was to enable the shops that were open on Sundays, of which there are already a number permitted under the Act, to sell anything they had in their shops. That was a very simple Bill, but it was rejected. The second Bill was also a very simple one. It was to allow the number of places that were designated as holiday resorts to be widened; in other words, not only Eastbourne and Bournemouth but Broadway and somewhere in the Pennines. That also was rejected.
So I would say in all seriousness to those who say that now we should start doing this quietly and carefully, that they have already had the opportunity of doing it carefully, quietly and cautiously and it has been rejected. Thus, there is no question of this being something that has suddenly been sprung on an unsuspecting Parliament.
The present position is absolutely unfair and brings the law into disrepute. If one lives in an area such as mine, which is a typical London borough, one can buy anything one likes on a Sunday because the Asian shopkeepers open their shops and hang out little painted signs saying that they are open seven days a week, from nine in the morning until eleven at night. They are patently breaking the law but there are not enough enforcement officers to enforce the law. On the other hand, certain large stores, notably Whiteley's, have been very heavily fined for opening on Sundays. Thus, the law is unfair in that it depends heavily on where one lives. It is determined by geography and it depends on whether one has many enforcement officers or not very many and whether or not they are prepared to turn a blind eye to it.
I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that I worked in the East End before the war when the Jewish traders had an exemption. However, they kept the law in that they closed from sunset on Fridays until sunset on Saturdays. That was why they were permitted to open on Sundays. I do not know what is the religion of some of the traders who are now 1107 operating but they do not appear to have a day of rest. Thus, the law is unfair and it is brought into disrepute.
It is not true to say that all the retailers want a change. They do not. Like most people, they are ambivalent, so they say they are neutral. One group want a change in the law, another do not, and a third are waiting to see what happens. Again, I cite the Bible: some wash their hands of the affair and some say they have never seen Him before. Thus we have the same situation; we have the law of threes: some do not want it, some want it, and some are sitting back waiting to see what happens.
The small chain shops which trade, for which I have a great admiration and affection, are worried because they say that if all these shops open, they will have to open. I do not think that that is entirely true because many small shops already open. Do not let anybody tell me that they are operated by familes because that just is not true. There is a chain, there are several chains, manned by people from overseas; but they are not all of the same family—unless it is a particularly large family—since the branches run into several hundreds. So I think that we have to decide that there is a lot of hypocrisy and nonsense about this law already.
I had the extraordinary experience, as many of your Lordships will have had, of visiting a lovely little town one day in the summer, Broadway. Every shop was shut. It was full of people walking around and of visitors. Remember, after all, the tourist boards want this. Make no mistake about that. I say to the traders who tell me that there is not any more trade that I think there is more trade. If shops are open and visitors are here, they will get more trade.
I think that many fallacious arguments are raised against this, and they have been raised time and time again. If you have been here long enough you will have heard them all. I would only say that I feel that none of them stands up to the real argument. This is not a question of affronting the Almighty; this is not a question of making Sunday the day when the Devil will have full rein. I loved the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. I think that in the pulpit he would be tremendous. I always remember him telling me that he did not mind going to heaven now that he knew they had harps. He did not want to go if they had bagpipes.
However, there is no doubt that we are talking about one small group and about the people who live near shops. I live near a football ground, I might just as well object to the people coming there on a Saturday. I do not do so; they come and they go. I do not know which shopping centres your Lordships visit. I went to my local one on Saturday. It was a lovely scene. There were the children lining up to go to see Santa Claus and there were the older people sitting around in the seats having a chat. It certainly was not a scene of mayhem, destruction and vandalism. So our communities do change; and I can only say to those who are concerned just to reassure them, that the family is alive and well and living in Fulham. I see my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren every Sunday on their way back from church when they have nipped in first to a shop, perhaps an Asian shop or a Jewish shop, to buy something.
1108 Let us cease to be hypocritical; let us tidy up this nonsensical law. There are some points that we can deal with during the passage of the Bill. There are one or two anomalies in relation to employment and to the wages councils. These can be dealt with. Let us not parade our consciences but say that this is merely a question of dealing with legislation long overdue.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, I can be very brief for I have little new to say. If I may say so, I much enjoyed the sense of humour and of proportion that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has brought to this debate. Like others of your Lordships, I view this Bill in the light of my own background and experience. It is true that in the 30 years that I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I think that this is perhaps the first time that I have spoken on a matter having what might be called an ethical dimension to the extent that this subject has in my view. That is because I am well aware of my own very poor qualifications for speaking in that particular area.
But now and again a situation arises where one feels impelled, first, to make up one's mind to take a decision, even if it is only as to how one would vote in the Division Lobby at the end of the day, and in my case to say, however briefly, why it is that one has reached the decision that one has. I agree with other noble Lords who feel that the law as it is at present is in a mess. I do not think that it should remain as it is but I cannot bring myself to accept the degree of deregulation which is inherent in this Bill.
We hear much about the convenience of customers but I am not at all clear where, from that quarter, the pressure is actually coming for the introduction of a Bill such as this. Of course, I can only speak first hand for the area in which I live—and that is in the middle of the Cheshire plain. There, to judge from the local paper, the pressure is coming from a few local traders some of whom have already been prosecuted and fined for flouting the existing law. It may be significant that, following one such case, the chamber of trade in Northwich (for that is the particular town in which I live) reached the conclusion that there was no justification for making a change in the law of a kind like this.
My concern is primarily with those who will be employed in shops if this Bill is passed and with the effect on their families and their children. In the first place I am inclined to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, that there will be many stores which, left to themselves, would prefer not to trade but which will feel obliged to do so in order to retain their market share. As to the employees themselves, as has been said many are married women with families. I realise that as existing employees they will have a right under this Bill not to be dismissed. But their remedy, as I see it, under the 1978 Act is disproportionately small compared with the loss that they will suffer if they lose their jobs.
I fear too that in practice they will come under pressure from employers to work on a Sunday in a way which may conflict with their personal principles or their perception of their family responsibilities. More than that, in so far as they decide not to work I think 1109 they may be unhappy at the prospect of other people having to assume additional burdens in their place. In the case of employees in future, as we know, they will have no protection at all of this kind and that seems to me to be a serious defect in this Bill. If the Bill is passed, it seems to me that shopworkers will need more protection, not less, than they now have. Their main protection at the moment lies in the wages council scheme.
In your Lordships' House on 17th July there was repeated a Government Satement to which the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has referred, accurately I know, this afternoon. It was made plain that in general the Government's intention was to reform rather than to abolish wages councils. There would be a single minimum hourly rate and a single overtime rate; but the Secretary of State was to reserve to himself very considerable powers to modify—and in some cases it might be to abolish altogether—wages councils. It seems to me that legislation in that field is very closely linked with the Bill we are now discussing and I think it is a pity that we are obliged to discuss the present Bill without knowledge of precisely what will appear in the Bill which is to come before us concerning wages councils. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness, when she replies to the debate, would give us such reassurance as she can in that field. May we take it that under a reformed system shopworkers in particular will continue to have protection?
The matter does not end with shopworkers of course, because, as has already been said, if they go to work on Sundays more people will have to be employed in public and other services. I also have some concern as to the effect of the Bill on costs and on employment generally; but perhaps those are matters rather more for a Committee stage than now.
In sum, I cannot find it within myself to be party to eroding—to the extent that it seems to me this Bill, if it is passed, will erode—the special nature of the traditional English Sunday. I do not speak for other parts of the United Kingdom. I shall therefore vote for the amendment which has been moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, and in Committee I shall be inclined to support with my vote (and possibly even on occasion with my voice) amendments that are aimed in practicable ways—and I so agree with those who see the necessity for practicability in this—at rendering the law in this field more credible and therefore more operable. Then, with adequate facilities for inspection, it seems to me the law can be enforced in a more generally acceptable way.
Finally, it seems to me that this is a subject which calls for as much consensus as possible. I had always understood until now that that was the Government's view also and it was for that reason that legislation had not been brought before us. I think it regrettable that it is not possible for people to vote upon this issue altogether without party pressure. Perhaps that has even more importance in the other place than in this House for it seems to me, if I may say so, that it would be shameful if a matter of this kind were to be decided in any way other than according to the directions of the consciences of individual people.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, your Lordships have been favoured with notable speeches by senior churchmen of great eloquence, by representatives who have had experience of the retail trade on every side and, in addition, have had as usual a stringent dose of common sense and factual information from the two noble Baronesses who addressed your Lordships.
I can claim only this in a humble way, in intruding upon your Lordships' deliberations; that it fell to me as my first ministerial task to take over, when it went to the other place, the Shops Bill of 1956. That had been handled in your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. With his parliamentary skill, he managed to steer it through—it is true with some amendment and amid universal derision—and it did go to the other place, where it was subject to such criticism that it did not even obtain a second reading.
My Lords, I venture on that experience because what that Bill tried to, with all the resources of the Home Office and with a notable Secretary of State in Mr. R. A. Butler, was precisely what the right reverend Prelate is urging on your Lordships: in other words, to rationalise restriction without such extensive deregulation as this Bill proposes.
As I say, that objective, backed by all the expertise of a powerful department of state, with the guidance of a Secretary of State who had managed to reconcile Church and lay opinion in the Education Act of 1944—even with his skill, what the right reverend Prelate proposes was found to be quite impossible of achievement. It is only fair to say that we had no support at all from the interests who have addressed your Lordships today in support of this amendment: nor indeed on the numerous occasions which have been open since then has any measure been put forward which would carry into effect what the right reverend Prelate has been urging.
There was a notable Member of the old Irish Parliament, many of whose phrases have come down the years. One of the most extraordinary was:I can't be in two places at once: I am not a bird.".It seems to me, with respect, that the proponents of this amendment have managed to be better than any bird: they have managed to be in three places at once. The first is to keep Sunday special. That needs no expiation, because it was so notably propounded in so many of the speeches your Lordships have heard. The second is more difficult, because so long as generalities are accepted what is proposed in the amendment is no doubt unexceptionable, but it was evidently felt that at least something had to be said, however much it was muffled. Indeed it was said in this pamphlet, How to Tidy up the Law, issued by the Jubilee Trust, which had the backing of the main organisations listed on the outside, including the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England. They proposed three measures of which the first was a revised list—
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for allowing me to interrupt. It is true that the Jubilee Trust has the backing of the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England, but not that pamphlet; and I think 1111 that noble Lords will nowhere find that stated in that pamphlet.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, if I have done the right reverend Prelate an injustice I need hardly say that I regret it. But it is the only spelling out, however uncertainly, of what is proposed in this amendment. When we look at the revised list of exempt goods, we find that they are in two parts. One is general and the other is exemption at certain times and places. Among the general list—and it should be remembered that these are exempt from a general prohibition against retail trade—what does one find under paragraph 4, but cigarettes,Tobacco and smokers' requisites.Your Lordships have recently been reading some horrifying information put out by the medical profession and health education authorities. Are we really to say that while, generally, things cannot be sold, cigarettes shall be sold?
Then in paragraph 5 there are magazines. Those include, of course, pornographic magazines, girlie magazines. They can be freely sold. Under paragraph 7 there is a very curiously worded list:Fuels, lubricants and other supplies and accessories for aircrafts, motor cycles, agricultural machinery, vessels, mechanically propelled vehicles, trailers or tents.In the middle of that you find the mechanically propelled vehicles—the motor car—and the motor car can be sold petrol on a Sunday. What is more, among other things that can be sold on a Sunday, in addition to cigarettes and girlie magazines, is alcoholic drink, together with petrol for motor vehicles.
I find the reference to aircraft very curious indeed. I can understand that anybody who has had experience of having to have a helicopter or an aircraft filled up with petrol at a petrol filling station can well think that the rowdiness, noise and hubbub of which we have been warned is justified. But the important thing is the mechanically propelled vehicle getting petrol from a filling station, over 100 of which have special licences for selling alcohol off-licence. Indeed, you do not need to go to a petrol filling station for that. There will probably be an off-licence within a stone's throw.
But perhaps the most curious lacuna that has not been mentioned at all, except by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, is the ethnic minorities. There is a very curious difference in the wording. On page 7, I read that one of the main proposals is an extension of the provisions for ethnic minorities. But when one looks at page 13, one finds that that is only for consideration and I think your Lordships are bound to demand: is it really the proposal that every Asian, every Moslem, shopkeeper who closes on a Friday can open on a Sunday, at any rate until one or two o'clock? Is that really the way to keep Sunday special? One is bound to ask further: is it until only one or two o'clock and why is that not discrimination, when the Moslem shopkeeper has to close for the whole of a Friday to make that good?
So, as I said, your Lordships are entitled, in my respectful submission, to know where the proponents of this amendment stand on such a vital matter. By anomalies, by exemptions of that sort, which immediately raise new anomalies and which 1112 immediately raise questions, are you really honouring the Sunday; are you really honouring that as the day for the family, as a day of rest, as a special day? That is the second position.
The third position that is taken up is, of course, an attempt to reconcile what are at first sight two quite irreconcilable positions. That can only be done by omitting any mention of the last group I mentioned, the ethnic minorities, and by dealing in terms of the utmost generality with the new list of exempt terms. We heard nothing of that in the noble and eloquent speeches in support of the amendment.
So those are the three positions, and your Lordships will be waiting to hear how far the proposal in the propaganda with which your Lordships have been favoured is really the answer for which all your Lordships have been looking. So far as I am concerned, quite apart from the history, now long past, which I mentioned, it seems to me a very serious matter that the law is brought into derision and into contempt. You cannot do that to one bit of the law without affecting the rest of the law.
The answer given in this pamphlet is not only a list of exempt goods, which, as I have submitted, do not stand up to examination, but rigid enforcement, with more money being spent on enforcement officers. Your Lordships will be bound to ask: are the police better employed on that or on general duties of preventing what the community regards as real crime? Why is it wrong to employ a shop worker to fulfil the requirements of a consumer, but right to employ a police officer to prevent those requirements being satisfied?
The last matter that I venture to mention is a purely parliamentary one. When your Lordships give the Second Reading to a Bill, it is, I have always understood, an approval of the principles of the Bill. That does not prevent amendment in Committee. On the contrary, it lays the way open to it. But what is impossible is to have an amendment to a Second Reading which says in effect, "We approve the principle of the Bill but we think it ought to be some quite different Bill"; and that is what the amendment does.
In the end, those who hold the view that the task of your Lordships' Chamber is only as a revising Chamber—a view which I myself do not share—cannot possibly vote for this amendment; on the contrary, anybody who votes for this amendment is declaring at once that the task of your Lordships' Chamber goes far beyond revision and goes to declaration of principle, if indeed this is not intended as a vote of censure. So, my Lords, even if I myself presumed to think that your Lordships are limited to a revising function I could not possibly vote for this amendment, lying, as it does, in complete contradiction and incompatability with the vote at Second Reading.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, as a large number of your Lordships are speaking today I shall be as brief as possible, but I am deeply concerned by the likely social consequences of this Bill. The widespread opening of shops on Sundays will affect the overall character of 1113 the day. The pace of life, the level of activity and the general noise and bustle at what are now relatively quiet times will all increase, and along with them the stress associated with so many aspects of modern life. Furthermore, some two-thirds of retail workers are women, many of them married, and if asked to work on Sundays will they not be under considerable pressure to work on the one day when their husbands are likely to be at home and their children off school?
In a climate of high unemployment this pressure will often amount to a choice between their families and their jobs. But in many cases household financial commitments will have been made on the assumption of two incomes, and so many women will be all but forced to choose, not their families but their jobs. Is this not bound to have an adverse effect on both marital relationships and children's welfare? It is true that the Bill gives limited protection to established shopworkers for refusing to work on Sunday, but this apparently applies only to persons employed as shopworkers at the commencement of this Act. No protection is offered thereafter.
In the end, the real thrust of the family argument is this. I was glad to hear that both the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, one noble Lord on the Benches opposite and one on the Cross-Benches, were concerned about the effects on the family, and so your Lordships will see that there is a great deal of concern in your Lordships' House about the effects of this Bill upon the family. We live in a society where the pressures on family life are greater than they have ever been before. One statistic after another documents the results of those pressures. In the 20 years from 1961 to 1980, the divorce rate rose by 500 per cent., so that one in three marriages now ends in divorce. Divorce produces one-parent families. Nearly 900,000 one-parent families existed in 1980, and 1½ million children lived in such families. As for children born today, as many as one in five will have parents who divorce before they are 16 years old. The psychological harm on children affected by lack of parental attention and the emotional pain imposed on rejected spouses is often deep and enduring. Whatever else we do with our law, the last thing we should do is to allow it to impose yet another pressure on family life.
For many people, the most important feature of Sunday is that it is different. This difference is widely appreciated. With or without religious convictions, many people are grateful for a decisive break each week in the routine of life. It affords relief from the pressure of the other six days, and it also provides opportunities for recreation and family life. Seven-day trading would put this special character of Sunday in jeopardy. As the Auld Report says,widespread opening of shops on Sunday would affect the traditional character of the day very much more profoundly than the opening of cinemas, concert halls and theatres, or the holding of sporting events. The change … would have a significant effect on the feel of the day".What at present is a different, more leisurely, day would steadily become much the same as all the others. The rhythm of life, the built-in balance of work and rest, will give way to a random lack of pattern in the week. One person will have Tuesday and Wednesday off, another will have Monday and Friday 1114 off, and so on. There will be no single day in the week without work, without commerce, without hectic activity. The decision to allow unrestricted Sunday trading will not be an experiment. Once Sunday is lost, It will be almost impossible to recover.
There are viable alternatives to complete deregulation. In Europe alone, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, West Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland all prohibit or regulate Sunday trading by law. Is this not ample demonstration that it is perfectly possible to enact and enforce a law against Sunday trading? The issue is not of legal feasibility but one of political will, and I therefore hope very much that your Lordships will see fit to support the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham.
Before I sit down I should like to say that if I have to leave before the end of the debate, which I certainly hope will not be the case, I must ask your Lordships to excuse me, I have to take off from Southampton airport very early tomorrow morning and I have to get home tonight by public transport or I shall certainly miss that flight. I hope your Lordships will not treat it as any discourtesy.
§ 6.48 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, we have reached that point in the debate where I think it becomes more difficult not to keep repeating things that other people have said. On the other hand, it is a debate and there is a way in which one wants to pick up points that have been made, respond to them and perhaps make certain key points, which are important to oneself, in a way which may be heard differently.
Let me begin then by returning to this question of principle which has been mentioned by many of your Lordships, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, where it seemed in a way to be contrasted with practice. The noble Lord emphasised the extent to which this legislation must be seen as entirely a practical matter, a matter of changing the law, as if of course practice could be separated entirely from principle. There has been a slight tendency to contrast passion, which has been associated not perhaps very much with this Bench but with some other parts of the House, with reason, which is not a distinction with which I would want to agree. I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Harmer-Nicholls, may have been arguing that the principle is there to be assumed, that the principle is not in dispute and that there is really no need to discuss it. But I must say that that is not the case. It was a somewhat provocative observation to address to a Christian pastor. We want to look at the principles because we see the practice as stemming from the principle. It is clear to us that here today we are dealing with an inevitable clash of principles. This is the key point to which inevitably we shall return and which is always in danger of being overlooked. There is a principle of freedom—freedom for the individual to be free of unnecessary control, whether from the Government or other people. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester laid considerable stress on precisely this point.
But if there is a clash with that principle and the principle with which we are concerned—that of 1115 preserving the special character of Sunday as a day when most people do not have to work and they are free to relax or worship in countless different ways—then one must seek a compromise. The Auld Report describes some of the present restrictions as arbitrary. That word is used a number of times. So they are, and some of them are now increasingly out of date. But one cannot then, as it were, move on from that to imply that any kind of compromise is arbitrary. "Arbitrary" is a pejorative word. It implies that it is something which ought to be done away with. But, in the end, my Lords, if it is my freedom and your freedom which to some extent are in opposition, we have to try to find a middle ground, and in some respects the decisions we make about that middle ground will inevitably seem in some measure arbitrary to one or other of us, depending on our viewpoint. I ask your Lordships to please forgive me if I am being a little obvious but it is a matter that comes near the heart of this debate.
I stress that we on these Benches are not opposed to reform; not even to substantial deregulation—the phrase used by the noble Lord the Minister in his opening speech. The Bill is about deregulation as it affects weekdays as well as Sunday. It is not simply a debate about Sunday and there is a great deal to be done in that area, too. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, complained that she had not had much support some years ago. I dare say that what happened is that her arguments, together with those of many others, changed attitudes more than she perhaps realised at the time. Certainly we are not standing in a position of trying to defend either the more old-fashioned Sabbatarianism and nor is it a question of standing on some vague opposition to too much pleasure on Sundays; but I shall return to that point in a moment.
May I say a few words, secondly, about the long-term effects? There is a very real danger—is there not?—of making a sweeping change which cannot easily be reversed. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, poured scorn on my colleague for suggesting that there was any difficulty about this. Look, for instance, at what happened over abortion. Can anyone deny that since that piece of legislation was passed it has proved extremely difficult to reverse? Perhaps that is because many people do not wish to reverse it; but certainly it is not now, in practice, what it was intended to be when it was passed.
I find encouragement in the remark of Dr. Johnson. He said:Sir, I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding".I think the Auld Report is certainly full of argument but it is also, on its own admission, full of uncertainties. If that is the case, we do well not to proceed too fast.
The amendments which will be suggested in Committee will certainly take us significantly along the road of substantial deregulation. Why not be content with taking those considerable steps of dealing with many of the anomalies which presently face us and seeing how it goes? We have a principle to defend alongside the principle of trying to give people more freedom and releasing them from restrictive and anomalous laws.
1116 I now say a few words about the Churches and the kind of evidence which we have been receiving from the Christian Churches. As I said earlier, this is not an argument about church going. I must make that clear. We on these Benches are clear that we are not in the business of forcing people to worship. There has been a hint of this here and there in the debate and I should like to refute it once and for all. I suppose we are still paying a price for some of the laws of the past in this respect. We know that we churchgoers are in a minority. But it is not a tiny minority, nor a trifling one. It is a minority which is deeply concerned about the kind of society we have and we are conscious of our debt to the past, of the force of tradition in the life of any community and any nation, and of the need to reform in a truly radical way, which means attending to our roots.
Nor of course is it an issue simply about recreation. Dickens was quoted, and I believe that until recently the Russians were fond of quoting Dickens as an example of contemporary life in this country. Dickens indeed had an enemy to attack—Sabbatarianism—and you can read it in all the Victorian novels. That is not the enemy that is under attack today.
In the Southwark diocese many church councils from over the diocese, representing very different kinds of community and culture, responded to my request last summer simply to know what view they took. Not one came out in favour of total deregulation on Sundays. Some have clearly struggled very hard with this issue, being sympathetic to the current determination to reduce central control in Government. But after reflection they have rejected this extreme solution. As one vicar put it in the accompanying letter sent to his Member of Parliament, a Minister: "You are sending out the wrong signal".
Where I live, which is a typical London suburb, there is no question that if that high street becomes open to shopping on the same scale as on Saturdays, we shall be subjected to an enormous amount of traffic, fumes, interference with movement and we shall be faced with difficulty, even in worshipping, on a scale which I do not think most of us actually want, and we shall be alarmed when it comes.
In conclusion, on this Bench we are not in favour either of the sort of detailed changes in exempt goods mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon; but we are in favour of some kind of amendment in relation to small shops. Possibly my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham will say more of this later. If the Government are in favour of substantial deregulation—not total dergulation—I should like to ask why they feel it necessary to resist this amendment because I do not believe that it is a wrecking amendment. Nor is it a negative amendment. We are in agreement with much of the Bill. We are simply trying to deal with one small but very important part of it.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down may I ask him this question? In his diocese there are large ethnic minorities. Would he care to give us his view on the passages from the pamphlet that was put out by the Jubilee Trust on that subject?
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, I do not think I should answer that immediately because I do not have the passage in front of me and I ought to read it first before responding. I believe my colleague may say something about it later.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, may I ask a question, too? The right reverend Prelate was good enough to say that he agreed with certain parts of the Bill. Would he be so kind as to give your Lordships an indication of which parts he agrees with?
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
In short, my Lords, the deregulation on weekdays and substantial tidying up on Sundays.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Lord Sandford
My Lords, I rise to find myself in an awkward and unusual situation. I am an inferior clergyman of the Church of England, but certainly I shall not be able to follow my right reverend leaders into the Division Lobby in support of their amendment. Ever since I became President of the Association of District Councils I have been a persistent critic of almost all the legislation affecting local government which the Government have introduced, but in this case I want to give them my wholehearted support. That is a situation which perhaps calls for a word or two of explanation, which I shall endeavour to give the House as briefly as I can.
I cast my mind back to the length of time that I have been in this House—the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, cast her mind back 20 years, and I cast mine back 26 years—and I should like to suggest to other Members of the House who are of that sort of vintage that it feels to us (does it not?) as though the attempt to amend the Sunday trading laws has been an annual event throughout those years. In fact, that is an exaggeration. But in those 25 years there have been no less than 18 attempts to amend this legislation and in every case we were trying to do what the right reverend Prelates are in this amendment suggesting that we should try to do yet again.
Every time we were looking for a compromise—a measure of rationalisation, a measure of change. We were looking for a consensus, and were trying to do it without having the Whips on. Every time it failed. It failed on the couple of occasions on which I took part, on the fourth and fifth of those 18 occasions; it failed after we received the benefit of the Crathorne Report; and it failed on the last occasion, when the issue was, shall we say, taken into the firm embrace of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. If an issue cannot be tackled by those means, then indeed something drastic has to be done. Something more drastic is being done now, and we ought to support it.
The acid test of these proposals, whether or not they will work, is in my view—and your Lordships would expect me to say this as President of the Association of District Councils—whether or not they can be enforced. I have to say that there is no indication so far in this debate that anything has been or will be put before us which differs in any material degree from any of those previous 18 failed efforts that were made and all the various forms of compromise which were so carefully studied by the Auld Report. I give your 1118 Lordships an example of the sort of problem that we have. In today's Law Report there is the report of a case brought by the City of York, which is one of the small minority of district councils which are still conscientiously trying to enforce this legislation. They took a case to the High Court where the judge gave a ruling which hinges on the definition of "a souvenir". On one side there are jerseys, cut glass and pendants, and on the other side of the margin a box of pomanders. That is the sort of mess that occurs when trying to enforce legislation based on a compromise. In the case in point the judge made it clear that this was not case law but his ruling in this particular case—in this shop, in one situation and in this particular place. The acid test is clear enforceability.
I beg your Lordships that if, between now and the Committee stage, you have a thought about some measure of compromise and less than radical adjustment which suddenly comes to you in your bath, you test it on your local authority, in discussion with the chairman of the local authority and its chief executive, and see how it stands up to their experienced judgment and scrutiny. Then, if in your view it does, we shall have a debate in Committee stage based on the realities of the situation.
I wish to make one final point. My eldest son is a Canadian, and I spent some time in Canada this year. In the course of visiting him I went to a number of towns in Canada, where they have reached a stage of deregulation which is a great deal more extensive than ours. They are much more liberal about this. At this stage I do not want to go into the elaborate legislative processes which have led them to the position in which they are now, though I shall do so at Committee if it is relevant. I only want to say that the Sunday opening of shops in Canada is a good deal more liberal than it is here. Lots of shops are open—at least one supermarket in every neighbourhood, bakers, chemists, and so on.
I shall say only one thing about the opening of supermarkets. There is no semblance on Sunday of the kind of shopping that usually takes place in a supermarket on Saturday. In a supermarket which has, say, 20 tills, only two or three are operating. Where, on Saturday, you see busy housewives trundling round with fully-laden trolleys, on Sunday in Canada you see the occasional shopper going in and buying one or two items which he needs for a picnic or for a party for which his wife is preparing in the evening, or something which he or she forgot to buy during the week. It is quite a different sort of retailing, and it does not require anything like the same sort of staff. No deliveries are made to the supermarket. There are no huge, great lorries driving about such as you see on weekdays; and the car parks are largely unoccupied, with about one-tenth of their capacity being used.
The point I want to make is that such a degree of relaxation could certainly be extended three or four times and probably indefinitely without it having the slightest effect on the character of Sunday. I was in Canada for several Sundays and in several different places. That degree of shopping (and probably much more than that) does not have the slightest effect on the character of the day. The character of the day is quite obvious from the moment that it gets light. There is no 1119 rush-hour; nobody is dashing off to work, or hardly anybody—certainly it is not noticeable—the children are off school; when people do get up they put on casual clothes and they start to wash and service their cars or busy themselves in their gardens or with DIY. Quite definitely and clearly the day is entirely different from Saturday, Monday, Tuesday or any other day of the week. When activity begins to develop in the middle of the morning, it is in the nature of families going off to visit other families, people coming in to see their friends, people getting ready to go off and play tennis, preparing picnics, et cetera. There is no question of the character of Sunday being at risk as a result of the extra retail activity.
I beg your Lordships to take to heart what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was saying. It is not at all a question of preserving the character of Sunday but of coming to a sensible decision about Sunday trading.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Lord Denning
My Lord, most of your Lordships have enlightened this House with their own expertise and knowledge. I think I am the first to speak who has had actual experience of deciding cases under the Shops Act 1950. That Act has been held up in your Lordships' House to scorn and abuse. Let me tell your Lordships that on the times that I have had to consider it I have found it to be exceedingly well drafted for the conditions as they were at that time, in 1950. There was a departmental committee presided over by Sir Ernest Gowers, who is one of the wisest and ablest men I have ever met—he wrote that excellent pamphlet Plain Words. As a result of his report this very important statute was passed by both Houses of Parliament, everyone having a chance to amend or improve the exemptions if they so wanted, and they did as much as they could. That Act passed through your Lordships' House and to my mind it is a shame that some of your Lordships should now pour scorn and derision upon it.
I know of course that times have changed; I know of course that the list of exemptions is out of date; I know that the legislation ought to be revised. But that is no reason for pouring scorn and derision on those men of 1950. Furthermore, in 1964 the principles which underlie that legislation were reinforced by another committee under Lord Crathorne—and how good those principles are! The right reverend Prelate quoted the first one:The special character of Sunday ought to be preserved so far as practicable as a day of leisure in which a person is not required to pursue his weekday work and is free to do as he pleases.".That feature of Sunday has run through the custom and practice of England as a Christian country for a thousand years.
Everything closes. The courts of law close, reinforced by law the banks close, as do the financial houses of the City of London. Building work stops, or there is double pay for Sunday overtime. Sunday is recognised by the law and habits of the English people as a special day to be kept special. It is not a working day but a day of leisure for the people. That was subject, of course, to exceptions. In the old days people had to feed their animals. In modern days people travel to and fro to see their families, or whatever it may be. But that is the special character of Sunday.
1120 This is the other important statement of principle in Lord Crathorne's report of 1964:This special character of Sunday would be seriously impaired if the majority of shops were open as on weekdays and most shop assistants were required to work on that day".There it is. That special character would be seriously impaired if there was free-for-all opening and Sunday trading. That is the principle. I do not care about all these exemptions and to-ing and fro-ing. Those are the principles that underlay that legislation.
I come to the cases which we have had in the courts. In 1970 and 1972 we had a spate of what were called Sunday markets being opened. In the city of Warwick there was the cattle market which was used on a weekday for the sale of cattle, and some enterprising people thought that it was a splendid place for a Sunday market. They brought in their poles and so forth. Any trader could come and sell whatever he liked in that market in the centre of Warwick, if you please. Of course, the corporation of Warwick wanted to preserve its Sunday and brought a case against those Sunday marketeers. What was their defence? It was, "We aren't a shop. In the old days we should have been prevented by the Sunday marketing laws but now we are not a shop or other place within the shops legislation". The courts of course had no truck with that. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, so ruled.
In the Court of Appeal we had later the little matter of Sunday markets. One was opened in Derbyshire and another in Staffordshire. These people would take a delightful piece of countryside and fill it with a market. They would say that they were members of a club. The traders would swarm out in their hundreds, put up their stalls and sell anything every Sunday. They did well. The report tells us that people from Manchester and so forth swarmed out—25,000 of them—to these Sunday markets. Naturally enough, the county councils took steps to preserve those predominantly rural areas. How could the people in those areas welcome Sunday markets on their doorstep, ruining the peace of their Sunday?
When I was presiding over the court such people said, "Oh, we don't mind about these little fines. That's merely the fee that we have to pay", because the fines were only small. I said, "We won't have that. We shall grant an injunction against you to stop you doing it"; and we did. Those were the Sunday marketeers, and we stopped them. I should not mind if under a new system, after a proper planning inquiry and proper objections being heard, there were weekday or Sunday markets. I should not mind if that was regulated as our planning control is. That is perfectly good. But we were dealing with Sunday marketeers operating without any planning control.
That was the 1970s. I come to 1983 and 1984. I had retired by that time, but the courts were following the same principles. When cases came to the House of Lords what we had been doing was affirmed for once. These were not the Sunday marketeers but the do-it-yourself people; DIY as I think they are called. I have a list of the towns. One of these great chain stores, which was a huge concern, had three or four shops in Wolverhampton, shops in Stoke-on-Trent, Barking, Dagenham, my own Basingstoke and York. These do-it-yourself stores were doing exceedingly well. The 1121 other traders complained to the local council and said, "If they do that, we must do it as well".
Naturally the council took up the case for the local traders. If it was not the local traders who complained, it was the local residents. They said, "We don't want these people coming in with all their cars piling up outside the do-it-yourself centre". A lot of these shops were in the town itself. When the cases came to court, they said, "We admit that we are breaking the law but you can fine us only a few pounds and we shall pay that all right". This House in its judicial capacity upheld the granting of injunctions against those people who broke the law. I should like. to stress that this is to help local residents. The Auld Report said that the local residents ought to be protected but added that, with reluctance, it did not think that anything could be done to help them. As long as the principles of the Act remain, the courts will. The local residents ought to be considered.
I mentioned York. I expect your Lordships read in The Times that the chairman of the civic trust said how good it was on a Sunday to walk through that lovely city and enjoy the buildings in quiet. May I say the same about the high street and the corn market in Oxford? Sunday is the only day that one can pass in peace, without disturbance, and enjoy the beauty not only of Oxford but of my own Winchester. In our City of London we are all right, I hope. I think that the shops there will always stay closed.
One point that has not been dealt with is concern for local residents. Our shopping centre in Basingstoke does not open on Sunday now, but it does a marvellous trade on Saturday. If this legislation goes through, Sunday will be like Saturday, and what about the old residents? They were in Basingstoke long before all the newcomers—the new shop traders. Will their Sunday be disturbed by the great shopping centres on their doorstep? The Auld Committee recommended that there should be protection for the local residents but did not see any way of ensuring that.
In addition, that committee also expressed concern for the shopworkers. That matter concerned it more than anything else, and so it does all of us, especially in regard to the family. It may be the case that existing workers are protected in regard to having to work. But what about all those coming newly into the trade? If shops are kept open, you will see all the pressures exerted so that those shopworkers will have to work. Many of them will be married women who may like to do it for the extra money. But is this right, at the expense of our family life? As the most important feature of our society today, we should support our family life as much as possible. It would, however, be imperilled if we altered the whole of our law as it has existed in the past by allowing Sunday trading without any restriction whatever on all the people who want to make money out of it. I would not mind the little shop opening. I rather like the small man, the one-man little shop, as exists in our village. Let him go ahead with it.
I believe that the one o'clock suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, was jolly good. There could perhaps be a schedule amended by order. But the simplest solution would be an application, similar to that in planning inquiry procedure, for permission to change the use of a shop. Why should one not apply 1122 for permission to keep open on Sundays? The local authority would look into the matter and consider interests from both sides. That would be a simple method of regulation without abolishing our Sunday altogether. However, these are matters to be considered later if necessary. All that I am saying now—I support the right reverend Prelate's amendment—is, "Please don't abolish altogether our Sunday trading laws". These have existed for 500 years. It is now proposed to abolish them altogether. The real test is whether they should be abolished or amended. That is the question that your Lordships have to consider. I would support the amendment of the right reverend Prelate.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Norrie
My Lords, rather than speaking in general terms, it would be more informative, I believe, to draw on my experience of Sunday trading. When not in your Lordships' House, I work as a full-time director of a nursery and garden centre. In this context, I am among the 29 per cent. of the working population in England and Wales who, according to the recent MORI poll, work frequently on Sundays. I must therefore declare a personal interest in the new Bill, introduced by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur. Should it be approved, garden centres would be able to sell their complete range of goods on Sundays without fear of breaking the law. The 1950 Shops Act could never be expected to keep up with the continually changing shopping habits of the general public. As a specific example, yacht marinas may sell a complete range of goods which may be interpreted as lawfully saleable on Sundays while nurseries and garden centres, which cater for a much larger cross-section of the general public, may not do so.
Sixty-one per cent. of households have the use of a car. Is it not important that, for a traditional Sunday outing, filling-stations should open to receive their custom? Sixty-one per cent. in terms of people is a massive number. But even this pales into insignificance when compared with the number of households in Britain with private gardens lovingly tended by their owners. As a demonstration of commitment, in 1984 they spent no less than £989 million on their hobby. Enthusiasts can only pursue their gardening at week-ends. That is when their immediate requirements become apparent. Consequently, a visit to a garden centre often becomes a family outing where the gardening and leisure requirements may be satisfied on that day. This fact was proved when a survey of 386 garden centres, conducted as evidence for the Auld Report, showed almost without exception that Sunday sales accounted for not less than 25 per cent. of the weekly turnover, with many centres registering sales even in excess of this.
For my trade, the Shops Act, as I understand it, allows only perishable goods such as cut flowers to be sold on Sundays. The Sunday sale of plants has always been a grey area and, even if these are given the benefit of the doubt, as I believe they are by the enforcing authorities, then bedding plants may be sold but not the seeds from which you grow your own; tomato plants may be sold but not the liquid fertiliser; roses may be sold but not pesticides or insecticides; and 1123 flowering shrubs may be sold but not the spade with which to plant them.
I stand before you as a self-confessed criminal. But my plea of mitigation is that I keep good company with those right reverend Prelates whose cathedral shops retail on Sundays and contravene the Shops Act. If Guildford Cathedral can sell books on flower-arranging on a Sunday, which it does, then surely it is reasonable that at my garden centre I should be able to sell candles to clerics. I well remember an occasion when such a cleric having consumed his supply of candles was totally frustrated in his search for a local supplier open on a Sunday. I am happy to report that my establishment was soundly blessed when he discovered that I could supply that for which he was searching.
These totally innocent activities, lawful in themselves from Monday to Saturday, demonstrate the absurdity of the situation. That is why shopping on a Sunday should be removed from the scope of the criminal law. The general public cannot wish garden centres, or cathedral shops for that matter, to be prevented from selling any goods which they, the public, wish to purchase on Sunday. We need a clean sweep in the form of this new Shops Bill to allow the individual to be free, but not forced, to trade on Sundays without restriction. After all, if a buyer is prohibited from getting what he wants at one garden centre he will proceed a short distance to the next, where the Shops Act may be disregarded.
Happily, most local authorities and magistrates have held back from a strict application of the law. But if, resulting from a new Bill, there should emerge new regulations forcing garden centres throughout England and Wales to close, or partly close, for the first time ever, the public will become very concerned indeed. And we can be sure that they will be on the side of the retailer and against the legislators. We must also consider the effect on growers, wholesalers, manufacturers and other suppliers to the nursery trade. Experience over many years has shown that business lost on Sunday is not recouped on other days and the consequent reduction of business must eventually result in loss of jobs. Can we countenance such destructive action?
Let me assure your Lordships that the weekend service offered to the family is fully appreciated by the staff working in this type of business. They recognise that maintenance and daily care in horticulture, as with the care of livestock by farmers, must continue at weekends. Therefore, in their contract of work, they accept the regular staggered five day week with an option to earn overtime according to their circumstances. Nowadays, employment in a garden centre is much more than just another job. The career prospects are bright. Substantial numbers are taken on each year and full use is made of the excellent block and day release courses at colleges throughout the country. There is no lack of applicants, including school-leavers, wanting to work for garden centres. The need to work some Sundays has been no bar to recruiting good staff.
Running a garden centre is retailing. Retailing is an activity lawful, and even encouraged, from Monday to Saturday. But on Sundays the situation south of 1124 Scotland, in England and Wales, is a compost heap of decomposing law. The problem will never be solved by tinkering with the schedules to the present Act. We shall merely end up with another set of anomalies in a very short time. I would therefore urge your Lordships not to support the amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. Partial deregulation could never produce a satisfactory result.
In whatever way this Bill progresses, I seek your Lordships' support in ensuring that the horticultural industry and nurseries and garden centres can trade without restriction. Without that, I fear that the disappointment of 30 million gardeners might inflict a plague of greenfly and blackspot upon your Lordships' gardens. In some cases, I doubt whether even divine providence will be enough to protect them.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Gallacher
My Lords, I should begin by declaring an interest. I acted as an assessor to the Shops Inquiry Committee and as such I read carefully the main volume of evidence submitted to the committee. I read a summary of all the evidence; I made an assessment of it for the benefit of the committee, of which the chairman expressed appreciation; and I read the oral transcripts in respect of those witnesses who were invited by the inquiry committee to give oral evidence. At the end of that labour of love the only thing I found out about the Shops Act 1950 which I did not know when I started was that if a funeral undertaker takes an order on the afternoon of early closing day then he is very probably breaking the law.
I pay tribute to the assiduity with which the committee tackled the enormous task within the timescale they set themselves in reviewing the 1950 Act. Having said that, I also say unequivocally that I believe their findings were completely contrary to the evidence they took. It is my opinion that, on fine balance, there is a majority in this country in favour of Sunday opening. There is no majority, in my opinion, in favour of opening shops 24 hours a day seven days a week, which is what the Auld Committee are recommending and what the Government are proposing in the Bill before us tonight. Even those who spoke in favour of the Bill have not faced up to the fact that that is the reality of the Shops Bill to which your Lordships are being asked to give a Second Reading this evening.
Furthermore, the opening of shops 24 hours a day seven days a week was never tested on the witnesses who gave oral evidence. In the case of the Association of District Councils, a major body concerned with the enforcement of the Act—and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has left us for the moment—their conclusion was that they wanted Sunday opening, not as a matter of principle but largely because of the impossibility of enforcing the law as it stands. Furthermore, they made it clear that the most they wanted to see as regards Sunday opening was opening until 7 p.m. That is the fact.
Furthermore, although the evidence given by other individuals was fully and adequately summarised in The Times in an article of April last, nothing appeared about the evidence given by government departments. I can tell your Lordships that the conflict of view which 1125 reared its head again and again in the evidence to the Auld Committee was fully expressed and maintained in the evidence given by government departments. It ranged from the gay abandon of the Treasury, to the measured warnings of those who saw the effect on small food shops, to the concern of those who were already looking at the increased possibility of the employment of schoolchildren out of hours and on Sunday, and, finally, to the Home Office itself—and I quote, because although they were in favour of deregulation, their evidence said that they wished to see,a tempering of the effect of total repeal by encouraging or facilitating voluntary agreement on opening hours between traders".I advised the Auld Committee to refer that to the Director-General of Fair Trading. He responded, as I expected he would, by saying that if statutory limits were removed he would ensure that they were not replaced by collusive arrangements between retailers. Therefore, there is no possibility of any approach between retailers among themselves if 24 hours a day trading is permitted whereby they will in particular towns or shopping areas agree not to open, because if they do so the Director-General of Fair Trading will quite properly raise this matter under the powers and the duty he has.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, before the noble Lord continues, is he aware that under the present law shops are legally permitted to reopen at midnight?
§ Lord Gallacher
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that observation. It is a fact and it has not been brought out in the debate so far; I am glad that the noble Baroness has done so. Shops are already entitled to open at a minute past midnight. There is no opening time for shops so that much of what we have heard tonight about the difficulties of extending shopping hours applies to only one end of the day. Quite properly the law allows newsagents and people like that to open at five o'clock in the morning if they so wish because the public convenience is well served by it. Therefore, in any consideration of this proposition it is true that the Bill before us recommends opening 168 hours a week, 52 weeks in the year.
Much has been made of the position in Scotland. As a Scot I am very familiar with the situation there as it has developed. I can remember that I never hit a golf ball on a Sunday until I became an Anglo Scot, such was the severity of the restrictions which applied prior to World War II. The significant thing about the silence of the 1950 Act about the Scottish position—and it is entirely due to the previous legislation, which was consolidated in 1950, assuming quite properly that Presbyterianism would stand the test in Scotland—and the reason why it broke down, was that in 1976 the licensing law of Scotland was changed and for the first time public houses in Scotland were open on Sunday. It was the impetus which that gave to the Scottish Sabbath—or the destruction of it, if you wish—which encouraged major retailers, particularly English retailers, to begin opening their shops on Sunday, as my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock has already observed. But the Sabbath still holds in Scotland and it would be utterly 1126 wrong to draw any conclusions about the likey effect of what is now before us in England and Wales on the basis of Scottish experience.
Your Lordships may ask yourselves why a committee composed of such wise and intelligent people as the Shops Inquiry Committee came out in favour of the 24 hours a day proposition. I think it was for two reasons. First, they were obsessed with the notion that it was wrong in principle to use the criminal law to prosecute someone for doing something as innocuous as opening a shop. Secondly, they were terribly concerned about the problem of enforcing any law which required a statutory closing time.
Society restrains on a very wide front in the interests of the people as a whole. The Home Office department will not need reminding by me that the Erroll Committee reported as far back as 1972 recommending a major easement of the licensing laws of this country and no Home Secretary then or since, of any Government, has dared to tackle this problem because it is considered that the social question is so complex and involved that any major granting of freedom to public houses to open considerably greater hours than they currently do would not be socially acceptable and indeed might be considered socially injurious. However, I would submit that if this Bill is enacted in its present form there is very little difference between a shop and a public house and indeed many public houses are now quite significant retailers, quite apart from their normal business of offering alcoholic beverages to customers.
Road transport is another case where the law is extensively used. Indeed, only a few days ago the Government announced that following the easement of the restrictions on coach operators and a consequential slight problem with coaches exceeding 70 miles an hour on the motorway—I believe the figure quoted in the House by the Minister when she made the announcement was that some 3 per cent of coaches were exceeding the speed limit—they have decided to introduce legislation to oblige all coaches to fit governors to the engines so that none of them can in any circumstances exceed 70 miles per hour. There is therefore ample evidence of society taking steps to protect itself even from minor infringements of the law in the interests of the many.
So far as the committee's concern about enforcement goes, I was quite astonished because it has already been pointed out that the Institute of Shops Inspectors have said that there were no problems in enforcement; there were problems of staffing—which is a common complaint by all local government departments these days. But if we are concerned about enforcement, I hope that those who are to speak later and wish to raise the consumer interest in all this will address themselves to the considerable corpus of law which will have to be in force to protect consumers in many ways which are quite important to the consumer over an extended trading period.
Noble Lords may already have received a communication from the Association of County Councils questioning very strongly the proposition in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum on the face of the Bill that the other problems on enforcement can be contained as an offset against savings made as 1127 a result of not having to enforce closing hours. That is a nonsense and in my opinion anyone who is seriously concerned about the consumer will certainly want to see that he or she is protected, particularly in the late evening, from practices from which previous governments have found it necessary to give protection by placing legislation on the statute book.
I acted as an assessor in respect of large stores and multiples, and therefore I paid particular attention to the "fors" and "againsts" among multiple traders. The British Retailers' Association, to which multiple traders and departmental stores in this country belong, speaks for over 60 per cent. of the food and non-food trade in this country. On looking at the "fors" and "againsts", I found that as an organisation it was evenly divided. For this reason the British Retailers' Association did not give evidence on Sunday trading to the committee; it gave valuable evidence on other aspects, but not on Sunday trading.
When I looked in detail at who were "for" and who were "against", I found that food and non-food retailers were evenly divided; high street traders and edge-of-town traders were equally evenly divided; supermarket traders were also divided. I have taken into account changes in the ownership of retail companies which have taken place since the Auld Committee reported, including those which were pending. There is no doubt in my mind that more than half of the large retailers in this country are not merely ready and willing but anxious to take full advantage of any easements which may result in a change of law at this particular time.
Much has been made of the defence of market share, and any retailer will tell you that to defend market share is important, but that even more important is the need to recover market share which may be lost to other traders, because the process of recovery involves risks with your gross profit which I doubt very many multiple retailers would wish to take in the first place. In spite of what the Institute of Fiscal Studies or anyone else may say, I think we can assume that in point of fact more than half the retail trade of this country will be immediately available on Sundays if the law allows that to happen. Would the advocates of Sunday trading wish to see otherwise? Have we been labouring all these years on this issue simply in order to enact a dead letter? If I were an advocate of Sunday trading, I would say, "No", and I would welcome the fact that we are about to see the total demolition of the English Sunday as we know it. Therefore, that aspect of the Bill has to be faced, and I think it is a major consequence in any consideration of this matter.
I take the view that exemptions are difficult to come by. My noble friend Lord Jacques has already cleared the way in one sense by saying that schedules can be decided by statutory instrument. He has already suggested that 1 p.m. on Sundays might be a reasonable compromise. I would further suggest that 9 p.m. on week nights might be a reasonable compromise. At the present time retailers can open until 8 p.m. on five nights and 9 p.m. on the sixth night, the so-called late night. The trouble about that is that most retailers who wish to open to 9 p.m. six nights a week will say, when the shops' inspector calls, that that is the late night. Therefore, in the interests of 1128 uniformity of enforcement there might be some merit in making 9 p.m. the universal late night so far as the six week days are concerned. On Sundays 1 p.m. is reasonable.
Nevertheless, it is only fair to point out to the right reverend Prelate that one of the major difficulties which the Auld Committee found in looking sympathetically at those who are against total abolition was the diversity of solutions which they proffered to the committee. I think that if you wish to do anything about this you must clear your mind at the outset and come forward to this House with one specific recommendation. I personally favour that offered by my noble friend Lord Jacques. However, if there is to be Sunday trading and if the Government are determined to have it, I would implore them not to enforce trading on this country 24 hours a day and until midnight on Sunday, and to accept something along the lines suggested to them by the Association of District Councils.
I believe that 6 p.m. on Sundays would be fair and reasonable. It would take care of the holiday resorts because, as I understand it, coaches and visitors to holiday resorts used to have to be out by 6 p.m. I think that if you lay down a later time than that, you would be imposing something which is totally unwanted, unasked for and untested, and I sincerely hope that on that basis your Lordships will find it in your hearts this evening to support the amendment, as I certainly shall support it.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Norrie has stolen some of my thunder this evening. Nevertheless, I hope to have a few claps left in my quiver. In the eyes of the law I too have transgressed and in the eyes of the Church I have sinned, for I have done that which I ought not to have done: I have traded on a Sunday. Although I may be a miserable offender and although there may be no health in me, I fear that I must ask fellow miserable offenders to link arms and accompany me along the paths of the unrighteous.
I am most deeply obliged that there may be many such offenders close at hand. Yes, and, although I quake to say it, Members of your Lordships' House: for example, those who own large garden centres selling garden equipment and liquid fertilisers; those who own great stately homes, selling pots of jam and biscuits; and that humble part-owner of a chain of bookshops selling books—thereby must I declare an interest—and, may I be struck by lightning for stooping so low, the very leaders of the Church itself, who on Sundays not only impart ecclesiastical wisdom to their flock, but up and down the country in the shops alongside the great cathedrals impart, for a price, such worldly goods as gift boxes, wrapping paper, soap and tea towels—all on sale on Sunday, albeit to help maintain these magnificent houses of worship, but all nevertheless illegal. Last but not least among the list of the wicked are the great leaders of the secular world, the very Government themselves in their sales of certain harmless trinkets at the Tower of London.
I have named but a few of the items which some of us are guilty of selling on Sundays in our different types 1129 of trading outlets, for it has been my wish to show very simply and clearly with a few brief strokes of the brush just how sadly farcical, just how blatantly asinine is this law as it stands at the moment. Such a clearly unworkable law does no service to the value and reputation of good law and order. The law is not optional.
By now, through declaring an interest in busy bookshops, there must be a hint in the air that I have more than just a passing interest in this affair. That is indeed the case as, for the last three years, most of our shops have been open on Sunday afternoons, during which time even the odd Bible has been known to pass over the counter—illegal, unlawful. During these years, rather than employees preferring not to work on Sundays, in many cases precisely the opposite has happened and the chance to work on a Sunday has been eagerly grasped. The reason is, I think, quite simple, besides which we have gleaned these facts from potential employees when being interviewed. Many of us in this House are probably fortunate enough to have a fair few friends in our lives, but for many people in this country their only friends and acquaintances are those with whom they work. For many people in this country, Sunday is a dull and drab day, particularly so in the large towns and cities where loneliness for single people is a constant shadow forever stalking their non-working hours. Their home, their sanctuary, is their office or the shop in which they work.
One ought never to underestimate the loneliness and friendlessness that exist in urban life. I do not cite this as a major argument for legislating shop opening on Sunday, but anything to improve upon that sorry state must surely be good and Christian.
Another point, which is not entirely irrelevant, is that through trading on a Sunday we in fact employ some 10 per cent. more people. Is that not good for employment? Also, as a result of trading on a Sunday, we sell more books. It would be nonsense to say that, if we closed on Sundays, our existing volumes of sales would be condensed into six days. Other types of outlet also have found that Sunday opening produces an undoubted increase in sales. Is that not a good thing for manufacturing output?
Yet a further point of interest is the very noticeable number of families who come into our shops on Sundays: this is the family unit which some here say would be in danger of disintegrating altogether if people were allowed to shop on a Sunday, and as a result the quality of life impaired. Do we regard the lives of those who live in Scotland as impaired or in any way suffering? I am half Scottish, and I apologise if you find me half impaired. Really, my Lords, why should this so tenderly cherished Sunday of ours—and rightly so—be harmed or spoilt when the freedom to trade on Sunday is one of the few remaining activities in England and Wales still so tightly shackled?
Shopping is fast becoming a recreation, not just a chore, and as such ought to be allowed to take its place among the other multitudinous sporting and recreational activities on offer on Sundays. There is no evidence to suggest that repealing the Shops Act will make Sunday the same as every other day. Sunday will still have its own character, its own flavour.
1130 To return to that apparently endangered species, the family unit, it is not surprising that we have found that groups consisting of father and mother, son and daughter, shop on Sundays as a unit more than on any other day of the week, for the man of the house is at home; the decision-maker and breadwinner is in. command. Consider also the relief of the wife, in the event of Sunday trading, if she did not have to queue at the cash tills in those appalling human chains that inevitably build up in grocery multiples on Friday and Saturday purely because most shops are shut on Sundays.
In such a debate as this, in which strong feelings and passionate convictions are aroused, part of the case for legalising Sunday trading or otherwise will be argued and counter-argued by statisticians with their persuasive figures. I must confess that I find statistics a dull and somewhat cheap argument at times: nevertheless, the argument does, I believe, become compelling when you consider that some 9 million people, 42 per cent. of the working population, already work on Sunday; that, if you believe in opinion polls, some 68 per cent. of the nation are in favour of Sunday trading, while 31 per cent. are not, that 72 per cent. of all Members from another place are in favour of such legislation. Evidence from Scotland, where Sunday shopping has been going on for the last 40 years, shows that the Scots have not become a nation of seven-day shopkeepers.
All these are powerful arguments and cannot be ignored. In the last 35 years since the passing of the Shops Act innumerable attempts have been made to reform the law. All have failed. To try to compromise along the lines that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham suggests is, I believe, neither sensible nor practicable. Whether it be compromise of exemption by type of shop, by size of shop, by area, by periods of the year, by a maximum number of hours or days per week, by local decisions or by the extension of the present trading hours, all these can only be regarded as tinkering with the problem and would be unworkable and altogether confusing to shopkeeper and customer alike. And is there not enough confusion already?
Furthermore, by legislating in favour of Sunday trading without restriction it seems to be automatically assumed, and quite wrongly so, that the country will go crazy and that every street in every town will be like Regent Street before Christmas. It is perhaps understandable to think that, having passed this Bill, shops will be compelled to open, and shoppers compelled to shop. That is because we all know that the very nature of the present law is to prohibit and to restrict. Why should it be assumed that the intention will be to compel, or to force, people to shop? The point of this Bill is to give the option, the choice of whether to open your shop or not.
Inevitably, there comes a stage in the history of any law when the time is ripe to amend that law, to change that law; for new ideas, new trends, begin to emerge which will make the law out of date and hence unworkable. In this instance, I believe that a new dawn arose some years ago, and that it is now our overwhelming duty to see that legislation is introduced to meet the new climate of thinking in this country.
1131 Moreover, my Lords, I regard it as very appropriate indeed that this Bill has come to your Lordships' House before passing to another place, for is it not in keeping with the great tradition and renown of this House that the cause of good sense, of tolerance and of liberation forwarded by such a Bill should receive the initial seal of approval, the first blessing, in your Lordships' Chamber? It is thus with these strong beliefs and in this spirit that I urge this House to vote against the amendment and instead to set Sunday free and let the people shop.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I am happy to join the Members of this House who have supported this Bill this afternoon and this evening. I am especially glad to join my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, on this Bench because his word on this should carry more weight than mine. That is because he has changed his mind after considering the evidence and considering the changes in the situation in the country, whereas I have not changed my mind I think at any point in the past 20 years on the principle behind this Bill.
It was just over 10 years ago in 1974 that the Consumers' Association, of which I have the honour to be the president, published its first report on this question. It then appealed for the scrapping of what was called outdated legislation, even then, which controlled shop hours. The main grounds were that the traditional family, as it had been understood, had already changed to a considerable extent even since 1950 when the Shops Act was first passed. Shopping habits had changed as a consequence. More married women, and women from single-parent families, were at work, and they could not shop at the ordinary hours so they needed to be able to shop on Sundays.
The grounds are stronger now, as the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said, and there has certainly been a big shift in public opinion. I do not think anyone who has spoken has denied that. It seems from a whole run of surveys that something like two-thirds of shoppers are now in favour of late night and Sunday opening.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, in his opening speech, made great play with the traditional Sunday, and other speakers have followed him in this. But I wonder, if he was here, whether he would accept that traditions are made up of social habits, and that habits have changed, and are changing. The right reverend Prelate mentioned Edinburgh and I thought spoke with distaste of the bustle in the middle of Edinburgh on Sundays, presumably because there are no restrictions in Scotland on shops opening on that day.
But what is wrong with a little bustle, even in Edinburgh or anywhere else, on a Sunday? What should be done to people who create that bustle and who shop? The answer we have had all the time is stop them. Is the traditional Sunday really in such great disrepair that it has to be enforced by the police, if they can? Surely, to vary Dickens—and we have heard this phrase several times today—you should not force shops to close by constable.
Much has also been said about the rhythm of the week, and I guess that we would all support that. But 1132 why should the rhythm be destroyed if people do their shopping on Sunday? That is the mysterious thing. That may be partly what gives rhythm to the week, if people are at work on other days of the week. Morever, how is family life to be preserved by mothers who are at work, unless they can shop outside the hours when they are in paid jobs?
However, I now come to my main point. The amendment that we are asked to consider and vote on tonight begins by saying that the law should be amended. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said in his opening speech this afternoon that some of the supporters of the amendment would be saying later on in the debate more about the detail of the amendments that were being proposed; but we have heard practically nothing. The amendment asks for amendments in the law then does not specify what those amendments should be.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, said that he was associated with the Keep Sunday Special Coalition which has sent me, and I expect other noble Lords, an orange pamphlet. He was not reassuring when he said that there must be anomalies. He was not reassuring because it is the anomalies of the kind that we have had to live with so far and the kind we have to go on living with if this Bill is not passed that are just what has brought the law into disrepute at the very time when it is most vital to uphold the respect for the law.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester said, if I understood him correctly, that small shops would be entitled to open for part of Sunday. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, said that he was in favour of shops opening until 1 p.m. But if that is the extent of the amendment proposed, what can be the high principle which is put forward about the traditional Sunday; the traditional Sunday which is only in the afternoon or perhaps the evening!
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said that he was in favour of substantial deregulation on Sundays; but what sort, my Lords? We have not been told. As we have not been told, I think it is right, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said, to look at the orange pamphlet which comes with the backing of the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England. It contains a revised list of exempt goods which it would be permitted to sell on a Sunday. But if one looks closely at them one can see straight away that there would be the same old anomalies that there have always been, perhaps not quite as bad but bad enough. We have already heard about some of them; the exempt list would include flowers, plants, shrubs, bulbs and seeds, but not garden equipment, fertilisers or pets. There is no mention of DIY shops which are the fastest expanding sector of retail trade and are especially noticeable on Sunday.
There is one proposal in this list which strikes a discord. In the past it has been permitted to sell books at railway stations and airports. What this Keep Sunday Special Coalition is proposing is that to railway stations and airports should now be added church bookstalls.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester made an appeal for the little establishment in the 1133 precinct. I am not sure whether he was thinking of church bookstalls when he said that, but it seems extraordinary that a report which comes with the backing of the Board for Social Responsibility in the Church of England should suggest that church bookstalls——
The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, I should like to repeat what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said earlier; I do not know whether the noble Lord was in the House then. Although the Board of Social Responsibility gave its general support to the work of the Jubilee Trust, it is not personally backing these proposals. This pamphlet is a product of the trust. It is not fair to make us responsible for these proposals and this is not the road down which we particularly want to go.
§ Lord Young of Dartington
My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for that. I accept fully what he says; but even so for this coalition to suggest that church bookstalls should now be included in its list of exemptions strikes me as extraordinary. Why should church bookstalls be preferred in this way when, if this proposal were followed, small shopkeepers round the corner would be subject to the full weight of the law?
The fact is that the Auld Report has changed the situation. It has been over all the halfway houses, and in detail, and found them all wanting. I do not see how any supporter of this amendment can stand up and say he is in favour without being much more specific about what amendments have been and are being proposed. If it is a question of detailed amendment it would have been far better to have put down the amendments at the Committee stage and not at this stage. I hope that when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham has heard all the arguments and heard the spokesman for the Government at the end of the debate, he will decide not to press the amendment because I do not think it would be in the best interests of this House and the country to do so.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Lord Vestey
My Lords, I start by apologising that I have not been able to listen to as many of the speakers in this debate as I should have wished, but only two days ago I came out of hospital where I had a lump cut out of a certain part of my anatomy which makes it particularly difficult for me to sit down for any length of time. I shall not bore your Lordships with the medical reasons for this, but I am afraid I shall not be able to stay for the entire length of the debate, for which I apologise.
I must also declare an interest in that my family business, of which I am the joint managing director, has as one of its companies Dewhurst's with over 1,400 butchers' shops throughout the United Kingdom in every sort of location, from villages and high streets to out-of-town modern shopping complexes. Although we are next in number to the Post Office in retail outlets in the United Kingdom, they are relatively small. Although we are a specialist meat retailer and are ourselves big enough to meet whatever situation may arise as the outcome of this Bill, we share and understand the problems of small and 1134 specialist retailers. We know the problems of distribution, power of purchase, enforcement, refuse clearing and policing, et cetera.
There are some facts which I believe should be universally accepted, but I am afraid that outside this House exaggerated claims from many sides have been made about the likely effects of this Bill. First, I believe that the volume of sales of essentials will be unchanged, although I agree that market shares and product mix will most likely be changed. There may be extra spending on consumer durables and luxury items. If your Lordships wish to go further into these details, page 139 of the Auld Report shows in fable 3.11 the break-even points for Sunday trading. It shows an estimate that an increase of at least 10 per cent. is needed for break-even trading, and this supports my contention. Therefore, I believe credit spending will be further increased, and with interest at 26 per cent. annual percentage rate this must reduce disposable income in the shops. This may benefit banks, but it will increase the burden on social security and could worsen the situation of the less well-off in the community.
The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, mentioned the report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies which estimates—I know many of your Lordships have read this—that Sunday trading will cost 5,000 full-lime jobs, not create 200,000, as some claim, or cost £200,000, as some also claim. Already, as has been mentioned, many employees of large stores are part-timers. I have a figure of 68 per cent. This means that for every claim of a new store providing 200 jobs on an edge of town site, only 64 full-time jobs are created, but double that number are lost in the existing high street. Sunday trading will increase this trend, with retailing becoming increasingly a part-time occupation, lowering standards and providing fewer long-term career opportunities.
As with retailing, so with services. Costs will have to be spread over longer hours. At least retailers do not have to open, but if some of them do local authorities will have to provide refuse clearance, trading standards and environmental health officers at overtime rates, plus the fact that there will be the need for traffic wardens and policing.
Here I must be careful. I am glad to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, is not here in her place, she being the president of the Institute of Shop Inspectors. However, one of the main attractions of trading on a Sunday at the moment is that virtually no local authorities send out enforcement officers, so that in effect the public is at a greater risk on Sundays than it is on weekdays.
When the statutory half-day legislation ended, the general public were confused for years. Some shops stayed open and others did not. It was a very long time before the pattern became established. Apart from the financial effects, letting economics dictate the pattern will result in uneven service and uncertainty for the customer, with, I believe, only the edge-of-town superstore really benefiting.
My noble friend Lord Glenarthur has mentioned trading in Scotland, which obviously he knows well, and I have also heard mention of other countries, particularly Sweden. However, I wonder whether too much use of overseas parallel has been made. For 1135 example, take Scotland. So few stores open on Sundays in Scotland that to suggest the same will happen in England and Wales is, I believe, a false premise. I am fortified in this view by the Auld Report. Paragraph 248 on page 56 of that report states:Our over-riding conclusion from our review of the experience of other countries is that their economic, social and historical traditions vary so much that none could provide a reliable guide for us. Comparisons with practice elsewhere are of only limited value in assessing what is likely to happen here".No doubt, if your Lordships are free marketeers you may consider that it is fair enough to allow commercial strength to win through and that there will be a shift in the balance of trade from specialists to multi-commodity traders, who have more items over which to spread overheads, and no need for others than shelf-fillers and checkout operators during extended hours; in other words, less need for skilled people. However, have the long-term effects on the customer, the manufacturer and the economy been thought through?
All this is fine for the mobile and the affluent, but what about the old, the poor, those with small children, no car or even no family car, who see their local shops permanently closing and the few which remain carrying fewer and fewer stock lines at higher and higher prices in order to survive? On balance, I believe that total deregulation is the easy route, but it is not the responsible route.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham wishes by his amendment to rationalise, as I understand it, deregulation, and with this I would agree. I feel that we should deregulate but put the onus on local authorities to specify the earliest and latest opening times over the seven days in a week in relation to the profile of the neighbourhood. This would create a framework of days and hours permitted within which the shopkeeper could then choose when to trade, and employees would not be in a position of embarrassment or blackmail over their hours of work.
Seaside and holiday resorts, entertainment centres, ethnic requirements, etc., would all lead to different but acceptable patterns in various neighbourhoods. This attitude would preserve the atmosphere suitable to each locality. Within a local authority area there may well be some localities trading on a Sunday and some not. There would be a conventional quiet Sunday in the majority of towns and villages, but busy shopping in entertainment centres, resorts and locations where there is a genuine need and desire. The local authority framework rules would be required to be displayed in every retail shop, so enforcement would be quite simple. I feel that this would give maximum framework with minimum enforcement, as well as preserving the atmosphere favoured by the majority in each locality.
A new Shops Act on these lines could pick up those aspects of the old Act which we all agree should be retained, as well as providing the flexibility required by current social and economic circumstances. It would prevent a counter-productive exploitation of employees and shop employers, but also allow the general public to enjoy the benefits of a retail service at times appropriate to the neighbourhood.
1136 I quite understand the objection to this idea which is receiving support from many quarters. It is that some local authorities would immediately pass total deregulation, which would have a spill-over effect because vocal minorities would press other local authorities to do the same. This appeared to make the Auld Committee have second thoughts, but I would not share them. I prefer their view in paragraph 219 of their report. I quote from the last two sentences:In fact, shopping seems to us to be the one area where a reasonable case might be made for local discretion. Shopping is primarily a local activity, employing local people, and it would be local residents who would be disturbed by any untoward noise or traffic congestion".A solution on these lines would serve everyone. DIY stores and edge-of-town stores would get what they want, but town centres and high streets would be closed in most places but free to open where appropriate. Customers and trade unions would get what they want and retailers would be able to trade in those areas where it was justified without going through years of painful and costly trial and error, which would not only create uncertainty and price confusion but in some cases bankruptcy. Above all, the pressures on the family, which are so great today, would not be increased by the numbers of mothers and teenagers, tempted by pin money, who would give up that one day each week to do part-time work when there is a chance for the whole family to be together.
My proposal may appeal as being a sensible and practical compromise between the present Act, which I hope your Lordships will agree is outdated, and complete change. And I hope that totally free traders will realise there is more to this than resistance to change. It will bring local authorities back into the act ("act" with a small "a"), where Parliament has always thought the power should lie. I shall not vote for the amendment, but I very much hope that my noble friend Lady Trumpington will give consideration to this compromise that I am offering at this stage.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, what a pleasure it is to be able to welcome Government legislation wholeheartedly for a change; and how fitting that it should be the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who is to wind up for the Government tonight and who is to help pilot this Bill through the House! After all, it is to a considerable extent her brainchild—which is not to detract for a moment from the excellent opening speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur.
It is not for us who seek to remove an anomaly to prove our case: it is for those who wish to retain oppressive restrictions to prove theirs. Trading, initially in the form of barter, was one of the first acts of civilised man. Indeed, it could be said that man did not become civilised until the voluntary exchange of goods and services superseded the theft and plunder that had prevailed previous to that time. How inappropriate that such an innocent and, indeed, beneficial activity should be classified as a crime, unless carried on within certain tightly defined and restricted hours! It is particularly inappropriate at a time when the enormous increase in such genuine and serious crime as murder, wounding, rape, burglary, the causing of death by dangerous driving and white-collar 1137 fraud on a massive scale, should, above all, be concerning the law enforcement agencies and the courts.
The welcome measure we are examining today is likely to have many beneficial spin-offs: a widening of the area of consumer choice, a widening of employment opportunities for young people and for ethnic minorities, and a life-line for many small shopkeepers. Contrary to what some noble Lords have alleged, the Director General of the Swedish Food Retailers' Association tells us that without the freedom of night and Sunday opening many of the shopkeepers in Sweden would be out of business. But the Bill's overriding merit is that it starts to get the state off people's backs.
Some have argued that, contrary to what the Government claim, de-restriction will not benefit traders economically. There is no overwhelming demand, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. That is for traders themselves to ascertain. The law of supply and demand will sort things out, as it invariably does. Probably no more than 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. of shops will eventually decide to open on Sundays, as in Scotland and in Sweden, so that our Sundays are most unlikely to be radically altered in character.
Some opponents of the Bill have claimed that Scottish experience is no guide because Scotland is culturally totally different from England. Like most Englishmen, I am not averse to gently knocking the Scots on occasion when they become above themselves, as sometimes happens; but to imply that the Scots are a bunch of wild tribesmen with no cultural affinity to ourselves is frankly ridiculous. I do not believe that the habits of the people of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee are so very different from those of the people of Newcastle, York, Liverpool and Bristol, to select four English cities at random.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham remarked that one person's freedom is another person's loss of freedom. He also seemed to suggest that only those engaged in essential services should be required to work on Sunday—people such as doctors, nurses, ambulancemen, policemen, firemen, power-station workers, and so on. If taken literally, this would seem to imply that all restaurants, cafes, pubs, cinemas, parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, amusement parks and garages should close on Sundays; that all bus, railway and air services should be suspended, as has happened in Israel; and that Sunday radio and television and Monday newspapers should disappear. None of these is strictly essential after all.
The right reverend Prelate also deplored the passing of what he called the quiet Sunday. We should all love a quiet Sunday, but I suspect that the noise of a motorist setting out with his family on a Sunday to choose a new carpet will be as nothing compared to the noises of lawn-mowers, power-drills and chain-saws which already assault our ear-drums on most Sundays throughout the greater part of the year. The right reverend Prelate also claimed, correctly, that this Bill was introduced without an electoral mandate, and, 1138 incorrectly, that it was not supported by the majority of the public. It has to be said that there is a precedent for this. The legislation which made the wearing of seat-belts compulsory and the recent fluoridation legislation were both introduced and enacted without any electoral mandate and without any evidence of majority public support. At least this Bill appears to have the support of a majority, even if not perhaps an overwhelming majority.
There are more than two million criminal prosecutions every year in England and Wales. Of these two million prosecutions, no more than a quarter relate to what the average person would consider to be a crime and no more than 4 per cent. relate to serious crimes. As my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale has declared, it is these serious crimes that worry the public and it is these upon which the police and the courts should be concentrating. It should be no business of the criminal law to embark upon social engineering by trying artificially to preserve almost unaltered that which is naturally in the process of change, or to enforce the well-meaning but paternalistic attitudes of a few. For that reason, I hope that your Lordships will support the Government and reject the amendment.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Vestey on his most eloquent and very interesting speech. Would that I could support him in one way, but I am afraid that I shall not be able to do so. There can be very few people who at some time have not been thankful to find a shop open on a Sunday. Indeed, whether or not it is open can make or mar the whole day. And the pressures of life for mothers who have families and careers are relentless and they have the minimum time for shopping. And if they have someone ill, old or disabled, in the household who cannot be left, their chance of skipping out to a shop is even less. I have spoken with nurses, home helps, office workers—all with families—who tell me that they resent having to plunge out on dark, cold evenings to shop. When you feel tired and frail at the end of the day, shopping is, to put it mildly, no fun. Where a shop is open in daylight on a Sunday some go straight to it; others go first to church and then to shop.
These friends of mine whose reactions I quote tell me they like to have their husbands and children with them for much of the shopping, especially when there are household purchases to make, even just pots and pans and kitchenware, the belief being that if it is a family choice the purchases are better looked after once they get into the home. The week-end is the only time when they can all be together and Saturdays, as we know, are taken up by football, cricket, tennis and the rest.
They tell me that it would be such a help if proper shops were open in the way they find when they go on holidays to Scotland. They have stories of admirable husbands who get involved with do-it-yourself ploys about the house and then run short of vital materials on a Sunday morning. To be left for a whole day unable to finish a stint of decorating, carpentry or building work is hardly the way to develop a cooperative attitude of mind. Single people too, careerist 1139 men and women, and especially single parents, have all these shopping problems and perhaps still more. Some perhaps just want more time to search carefully before they purchase, especially the buyers in book shops.
The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, spoke so movingly and realistically with his first-hand knowledge based on experience. Whether we like it or not, recent years have brought big changes in the mainstream pattern of life, particularly in regard to women. For instance, in 1971–72 the number of women at universities, full-time graduates and under-graduates, was 65,000, 29 per cent. of the total university population. By 1982–83 those figures had risen to 110,900 and to 40.7 per cent. of the total university population, excluding foreign students. Growing numbers of women are going for advanced education through educational programmes beyond A-levels and there is clear evidence from schools of a firm trend among girls towards advanced education.
The result of this surging tide emerges in the increase in the civilian labour force between 1971 and 1983 which is accounted for entirely by the 1.3 million extra women who entered in that period. Working women between the ages of 25 and 44, potential parents, in 1971 constituted just 52.4 per cent. of all British women; whereas in 1983 the figure had risen to 62.5 per cent. To look at the number of married couples where both husbands and wives are working, the 1983 figure shows the number to be no less than 53 per cent. of all married couples. If these statistics do anything—and I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Cowley for researching them—they point strongly to the relentless shift towards extremely busy, demanding lives deserving of any practical help to make more time for day-to-day living.
Those of your Lordships who are of my era may have nostalgic memories of peaceful Sundays when we went to church in the morning and perhaps to Sunday school in the afternoon, dividing them by eating the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding which automatically appeared on the table. We then took a good sharp walk to work it off. But life really has changed so dramatically since the war, especially in recent years. Today my family are regular church attenders but after that it is time to finish off the weekday jobs.
Opposition to this measure today in the new circumstances will be unwelcome to busy mothers trying to do a job and to run the home. With their higher educational attainments, women not only earn at the very least much-needed funds to keep up with higher family expectations—for example, family holidays—but also are substantial taxpayers, and we who want social improvement in our inner cities and elsewhere are hardly consistent if we forget about the convenience of those customers. Rules about what you can and cannot buy are flouted by vendors who are either ignorant of the complex rules or have very strong nerves. Even if the law was amended to include more goods for sale it would still be flouted. It would still be a bad law. For these reasons, and because I believe it to be the realistic and positive way forward, I support this Bill and I cannot support the amendment.
§ 8.32 p.m.
My Lords, I wish to support the amendment which was moved by the right reverend Prelate, and indeed to congratulate him on the wise and moderate formulation of his amendment. As we have seen in this debate, this issue of shopping hours produces a vast complexity of opinions and interests; and it seemed to me when I saw the right reverend Prelate's amendment on the Order Paper that he had produced a wording which can unite the maximum of your Lordships who, perhaps for quite different reasons, can all agree that this Bill goes too far.
In my view, the Bill does indeed go much too far when it accepts the Auld Committee's recommendations in respect of the deregulation of shopping hours but at the same time almost completely ignores what that committee said about the position of shopworkers, and especially its strong recommendation about the need for the retention of the wages councils orders and their proper enforcement by an adequate inspectorate. There is nothing that I have seen so far in the Government's case which adequately meets that recommendation of the Auld Committee.
Like the amendment, I accept a great deal of the case for more freedom for shoppers. There have been many bizarre examples of the oddities of the 1950 Act, and very few I think would attempt to support the continuation of that schedule. However, I do think we can dismiss those speeches which have based their argument to a large extent on the anomalies in that schedule. I agree also, as the Auld Committee report clearly establishes, that there have been significant changes since the 1950 Act was passed—changes in the nature of the retail trade. I, in some capacity or another, have been engaged in a voluntary capacity in a co-operative movement in retail trade for that whole period and I appreciated the description in the Auld Committee's report of those changes.
Of course there have also been changes in the attitude towards Sunday. There has been an increased demand, though how much of an increase it is difficult to assess, for more liberal shopping hours. I accept all that; but what puzzles me is why the Auld Committee, having analysed those changes and having set them out very clearly, jumped to the conclusion that those changes justified the complete deregulation of shopping hours. And of course that recommendation is being followed by the Government in the present Bill.
However, like my noble friend Lord Jacques, I am by no means convinced that the committee, in reaching that conclusion, was responding fairly to the evidence that was submitted to it. If I had had any doubts about that before coming into the Chamber this afternoon, those doubts were completely removed when I heard the speech of my noble friend Lord Gallacher, who, as he told the House, was speaking as one of the six assessors of the Auld Committee. He was obviously speaking with the greatest of authority on this question of what the evidence was and what relationship there was between the committee's conclusion and the evidence that they received. On the basis of what my noble friend said, I find it indeed difficult to understand why the committee reached its conclusion about shopping hours in the face of a great deal of the evidence that was received.
1141 However, it is even more difficult for me to understand why the Government, in producing their Bill, as I have said, see fit to accept one of the main recommendations of the committee but not the other. They accept the recommendation about the complete deregulation of shopping hours—the Government eagerly seized on the Auld Committee's report in that respect—but the second recommendation from the committee was of equal importance:The retention for retail workers of the machinery of the wages councils for the fixing and proper enforcement of satisfactory wages and premium rates".I may have misheard him; but, if I heard aright, the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Birmingham seemed to me to be expressing some acceptance of the Government's proposals about wages councils. I urge him not to be hoodwinked in this matter because I believe that the position created by the Bill, combined with the Government's announced intentions with regard to wages councils, to be completely intolerable so far as shopworkers are concerned.
The Bill itself maintains protection against sweated labour in respect of 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds only. As I have said, this Bill needs to be judged not only in respect of that provision but in conjunction with the Government's intentions about wages councils. In July Mr. Tom King, who was then Secretary of State for Employment in another place, announced what the Government's attitude to wages councils was to be. He announced that the Government were proposing drastically to curtail the powers of wages councils. They will not be able to protect young people under 21, and even for those over 21 the wages councils' powers will be confined to fixing a single minimum hourly rate and a single overtime rate. At present, they are able to fix special rates for Sunday working and to determine other conditions of employment, and that power will go.
It seems to me therefore that the effect on shopworkers of this Bill, which stops its protection at the 18th birthday, combined with what I have just described as the Government's intention with respect to wages councils, gives us a particularly ominous situation for the 18 to 21 age group. There is a gap there. If you are 16 or 17, you will continue to have the protection as laid down in the 1950 Act, and if you are over 21 you will, at least, have some miserly protection of a wages council with diminished powers. But if you are 18, 19 or 20 years old, then your wages and conditions will have no protection at all either under this Bill or under a wages council. Therefore, I believe that this Bill is opening up a high road of exploitation of thousands of young retail workers, who after all are among the most vulnerable sections of our society.
It is for this reason, among others, that I support the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate. If we carry it, as I certainly hope we shall, we shall be warning the Government that their Bill goes too far and that it ought to reach the statute book only in an amended form. No doubt some of the amendments that will be moved at later stages will seek to put some limitation on opening hours, perhaps along the lines that my noble friend Lord Jacques suggested. I personally shall wait to see them before committing 1142 myself, but I anticipate that some formula will be forthcoming with which I agree.
But whatever the position may be about opening hours, I certainly hope that amendments will be proposed and accepted of such a character that shop workers will be protected from the dangers of exploitation. As I see it, those dangers are very real and will face the shop workers, unless this Bill is radically changed before it reaches the statute book.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, I rise to support the Bill and to oppose the amendment. This is not the first time that I have spoken on this matter of shop opening, as we had a great deal of debate in this House in 1981. I remember speaking at that time and, in particular, mentioning Queensway, which is London W.2., just north of the park. Most people in this Chamber will know it well. At that time, I mentioned how Whiteley's had applied for permission to open on Sundays, but had been refused and forced to close and, therefore, all those jobs and that business was lost. Since then, Woolworth's, the only other large store in that street, have also applied for permission to open on Sundays, have been refused and have gone the same way. That end of the street is now totally dead and has been so for the last two or more years.
The rest of the street is open all Sundays. Every shop, every restaurant, everything is open on Sundays. So the situation is that those large enterprises, which attempted to abide by the law, lost out and have had to close up. Many people here have mentioned the smaller businesses and have said that they have no objection to smaller ones being open. The smaller ones carry on, but I do not believe that they are guaranteed to be operating under ideal conditions for the staff. Very frequently, they are family businesses. Some are people selling carpets out in the street, with a little wooden pole, on a Sunday. So it seems to me that any old law applies in Queensway, except for the large, reputable and legal traders who are trying to abide by the law.
People who think that these rules about shopping on a Sunday make life difficult fail to appreciate that in London you can now buy pretty well everything on a Sunday. It would be a challenge for anybody to tell me of something that I could not buy on a Sunday. Everywhere, in various parts of London, different shops are open and pretty well all goods are available, and I believe that in most cases they are available illegally. I think that this Bill will mean that, instead of the present illegal situation, the good and large traders will have the same opportunities as those who are just playing with the law at the present time.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, mentioned the market outside town and he went on to say how undesirable it was that 25,000 people flocked there every Sunday. If 25,000 people rushed there every Sunday, they certainly wanted to have those additional facilities. It was attractive and it appealed to people. In places like London, supermarkets are open late at night and I find it a great convenience to be able to go shopping at nine o'clock at night in a reputable supermarket. But compare that, my Lords, to somewhere in the country. For many years I had a home in Cornwall. If you had not bought your food by 1143 five o'clock, your family could just stay hungry until the next day, because there was no hope of getting anything after that. I think that many people want these more flexible hours and it is in their interest to have them.
The argument that the same money will be spent in seven days as is presently spent in six days is a very interesting one and I think that there is a lot in it. But it will be up to the shops to decide whether or not it pays them to open on Sundays. As I see it, the only additional money that would come in is from people who are in England only on a Sunday, such as tourists, who frequently come at weekends. This is usual and I am sure that many of us have been to other countries in the same way for a two- or three-day weekend. Thousands of tourists come to this country for the weekend and they produce extra spending power on Sundays when they are here.
When I have been in New York, I have found it very pleasant to be able to go into a shop on a Sunday, but it does not stop me from going to church. I am a regular churchgoer and I first go to church and then afterwards to a shop when I am abroad like that. I was also impressed with some of the very fine larger stores, which had special little concerts and entertainments for the family. One saw family groups there. This is an attractive proposition and I hope that it happens here.
But, in studying the Auld Report, I was very interested in paragaraphs 269 and 271 on the social effects. There are points to be made there. The report states that the change in ways of life could be substantial and that the effects would vary from place to place. I was sorry that in paragraph 273, the committee stated that they could see how residents might be adversely affected but had no satisfactory answers to that. I think that there are answers and that residents should be borne in mind, particularly in terms of parking and traffic control within residential areas.
At the present time many residential areas in London have full parking control throughout Saturday. That would have to happen on Sunday if people were to have any hope of getting near their own homes. Areas that operate residents' parking schemes would need the same controls on Sundays. I speak now as someone who has for the last year lived very near one of the major stores in London, and there would be no way of my getting within parking distance on any day of the week. Not only would I not be able to get near my own home: I would not be able to get within blocks of it, unless I had that resident's parking permit and the use of a resident's parking space. So I believe that to protect local residents in areas very near to shops it will be necessary to provide that type of control. Areas such as the West End, Oxford Street and so on, have no parking controls on Saturday afternoons, unlike Kensington and other places. In Oxford Street, traders find that it is an advantage for people to be able to drive in on a Saturday afternoon, but there is a smaller residential population around Oxford Street. The other areas have obviously found it necessary to have restrictions throughout Saturday and should consider them again on a Sunday.
Mention has been made by other speakers of the need for public transport on Sunday, and I am sure that this is true. All local authority services would have 1144 to be provided. These are the details which I hope we shall go into in Committee because I think there are many points to be ironed out and protections to be written in. But I do not for a moment support the view that local authorities should be the people to decide where shops should and should not be. My own experience of that Queensway experiment about which I told the House, where local authorities had it within their right to offer those working hours, particularly for the limited number of Sundays a year, and failed to do so, has shown me that local authorities are not really equipped to do this job. There are too many conflicting pressures on local authorities from people who want and people who do not want these alterations made. The Chamber today makes it quite clear how strongly views are held on both sides of the argument. For local authorities to find themselves in the position of having to make decisions on that would not be satisfactory. I hope that the Government will not consider going away from the Bill as it is—which I support absolutely—for the complete deregulation of Sunday trading. I shall not support the amendment.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, you are in for a bonus. I have allowed myself two minutes. In this debate, on the one hand, there are the acknowledged imperfections of the present law, which I understand nevertheless is obeyed by some 98 per cent. of shopkeepers. On the other hand, there is the traditional character of Sunday which provides for a day of rest with their families for the great majority of people. The Government say that there is no practical way to overcome these imperfections and that therefore all restrictions on Sunday trading must go.
My Lords, is this not a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater? There must be a way to make sensible changes in the law while maintaining the traditional character of Sundays. I shall vote for the amendment and very much hope that a majority of noble Lords also will do so.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I have enjoyed this debate. It has been good humoured and serious. If this Bill, unamended, reaches the statute book it will be a charter for nothing less than a social revolution. The Government have chosen to put it before us at this time, without a mandate, without a manifesto commitment, using a flawed document—the Auld Report—to propose the complete deregulation of the framework of protections and controls over shopping hours, especially on Sundays. I am against this simplistic, easy, freebooting solution to the present unsatisfactory situation, and I shall tell the House why.
But first I declare, as is proper, an interest, which I have declared before, regarding the passage of this Bill: that of an association with the co-operative movement and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. I also serve as a director of the Enfield and St. Albans Co-operative Society.
The Financial Memorandum tells us that any increased demand for local authority services following increased trading hours should be offset in whole or in part by savings on the enforcement of the 1145 Shops Act 1950. When the Association of District Councils asked its member councils to specify expenditure incurred on the enforcement of the Shops Act, the reply from 122 councils was £27 a week. If that is saved, where is the calculation of the costs to be borne for enforcing existing laws on seven days—not as at present on five or six but seven?
The noble Lord, Lord Vestey, made a powerful, practical and pertinent observation on the laws that will need to be observed not on five days or six days but on seven days if shops are to be open. There is the weights and measures legislation; the health and hygiene legislation; the Sale of Goods Act; the Fair Trading Act; the Trade Descriptions Act; the Prices Act; provisions on bargain offers; wages councils orders; the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. It is nonsense to pretend that there will be savings for councils if this Bill proceeds. It will cost more—or are the Government relying on the lethargy of councils in enforcement yet again, or on denying them the resources?
The Association of County Councils has told your Lordships that this talk of savings is a nonsense. Ministers just do not know if there were any savings—and there will not be—that they would accrue to district councils, but county councils will pick up an extra bill of at least £3½ million for trading standards enforcement in providing merely a skeleton service on a Sunday. The professional enforcement officers are the members of the Institute of Shops, Health and Safety Acts Administration. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, is the highly respected president of the institute. I happen to be a vice-president. This is what the association has told me. It gave evidence at the Auld Committee and said:The Institute welcomed the review of the Shops Acts, but our members, when given full support and adequate resources by their local authorities, have found no real difficulty in enforcing the Acts".What this amounts to is a sad reflection on the law keeping intentions of many councils. The professionals impress upon us the two missing ingredients in many areas—"full support and adequate resources". Surely those are essential prerequisites for any law to be enforced. Yet what did the inspectorate have to say when the Auld Report was published? It said:In our opinion the Report ignores the advice of the field experts and gave prominence to points that did not warrant such attention".It reached the following conclusion:We fully support a reform of the Shops Acts but cannot honourably support total abolition unless specific, irrefutable evidence is forthcoming that this is in the interest of all parties concerned. The Auld Report, in our submission, does not remotely substantiate this interest and is full of inconsistencies and subjection".The authority and standing of the Auld Report is flawed. Its conclusions rest, as more than one Member of your Lordships' House has said, on contrary premises and evidence. They are at variance with the advice of at least four of their six assessors. We have the extraordinary decision of the Government to accept one recommendation but to ignore the other. That independent committee recommended that in a deregulated environment wages councils should be strengthened. Yet far from strengthening them, the Government are intent on abolishing them. Workers' 1146 rights will be savagely eroded. That is why Francis Cairncross, a member of the Auld Committee, told an audience last week that the Government are acting contrary to the recommendations of their own committee. She said to the conference organised by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that there was no logic in the selectivity of the Government. My Lords, she can say that again.
Let me reinforce the powerful arguments that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, when he spoke earlier, and the very serious implications for the entire raison d'être of our traditional Sunday if the Government proceed to deregulate not only shopping hours but licensing hours as well. If such as supermarkets are given the legal right to open for a full trading day on Sundays, where stand the recommendations of the Erroll Report? I remind the House that its two main recommendations are, first, that intoxicating liquor could be retailed at any time between 10 a.m. and midnight; and secondly, that off-sales be allowed between 8.30 a.m. and midnight. What has the Minister to say on the implications of the Erroll Report in respect of the present legislation?
What does the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers think of this Bill in relation to its professing to protect shopworkers, especially young shopworkers? I will tell your Lordships. It says:It is a political whitewash designed to paper over the injustices which will be inflicted on a labour force of 2.2 million workers as a result of deregulation.USDAW requests that I ask the Minister this simple question: how can Ministers justify claims that they are desirous of protecting young people working in shops after deregulation while other Ministers propose removing the basic legislative protection afforded those same young workers by wages councils covering holidays, overtime, premium payments, customary holidays, unsocial hours payments, job grading structures and others? All these will go, as far as young people are concerned, once wages councils are reformed. I have the authority of USDAW to ask the Minister to address herself to that question when winding up.
The noble Lords, Lord Jacques and Lord Oram, and particularly a very powerful and cogent argument from the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, all demonstrated the unease in this House, as well as outside, as to the effects of this Bill on workers who will be left unprotected. Longer hours and Sunday trading will stimulate competition. The fight to retain market share will intensify. What does the Institute of Fiscal Studies have to say about this? I will tell the House. It says:We find that longer opening hours would be likely to lead to some acceleration of the trend towards the disappearance of the independent trader.The right to say "No" to working on Sundays sounds fine, but what will happen in practice? In time, there will emerge two classes of employee—the protected and the unprotected; those who will work on Sundays and those who will not. There will also be two lists in every manager's office when he considers contenders for promotion—those who will work on Sundays and those who will not. Do your Lordships not think that that is an unwarranted pressure on 1147 decent, hard-working men and women, brought about by this obnoxious and unwanted legislation?
It is plain that unless traders open their stores on Sundays they will go to the wall. Of course, noble Lords will say that they will be free to remain closed and watch their trade walk into a competitor's shop. What kind of a shopping nightmare is this Government foisting on our nation? Shops like the co-operatives who do not wish to open will be forced to do so, and shopworkers who do not wish to work on Sundays will be forced to do so if they want to keep their jobs. It is a fraud to talk of freedoms in this deliberately and artificially inspired abandonment of shopping laws and order.
Where stands the caring, listening Government when the voice is that of the small shopkeeper—the independent grocer? This is what their trade journal said last week:Thousands of readers of this journal helped to put Margaret Thatcher into power. She is now cynically turning her back on them with her seven-day free for all. Thatcherism, and its obsession with free market forces, defies logic on the Sunday trading issue.Not only the independents (many of whom will be driven out of business) but larger traders will be forced to examine the viability of their small shops currently operating on the edge of viability. The co-operative movement keeps open hundreds of small shops in rural, remote or decaying inner city areas. As they lose their trade to the seven-day traders they will inevitably become casualties in the new, deregulated, control-free shopping bonanza which nobody wants.
Our case, the case of we who oppose complete deregulation—allowing 24-hour trading on Sundays—was eloquently put by a Member of your Lordships' House when he acted in a ministerial capacity and replied to a debate on Sunday trading at his party's conference not many years ago. He said:The public has not yet made up its mind. Very many people think, as indeed I do, that Sunday should be different. It should be kept aside for rest, for worship and the family.Those are the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. They are as sound and sincere an expression of view on this issue now as they were when they were made in 1982.
In conclusion, there will be those who will join together at the Committee stage who will seek to convince your Lordships that the present law can be reformed to make it a better law—one that will retain the framework of our Sunday as a day which is special. That is why there is but one choice for those in your Lordships' House tonight. The reasoned amendment so convincingly moved by the right reverend Prelate gives us the legislative opportunity to do what this House is for—not to opt out of our responsibilities but to do our duty to improve and not destroy. I will have no hesitation in supporting the amendment in the Lobby tonight.
§ 9.5 p.m.
My Lords, this is the most important debate I have spoken in, having been in both Houses now for 30 years. It is a great responsibility to discuss it.
I have had a tremendous amount of documents, as have other noble Lords, which I was very pleased to 1148 receive giving the various ideas of different people. Unfortunately, some were dated 28th November which gave me a very busy Sunday trying to work out what to say. The Consumers' Association which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, gave a complete view of my opinion. I congratulate the noble Baroness, if I may do so in her absence, on her speech. It was interesting and very well put over.
In all my 30 years there have been, I believe, 19 Bills dealing with this subject and I hope that this Bill will now come to some conclusion so that we can get going in whatever direction is decided. The Association of District Councils also contacted me. I gather it has 333 members who were asked for their views. There were 201 replies of which 177 said, "yes" and 24 said, "no".
There were suggestions about the local boroughs or councils taking over some of these regulations and dealing with them separately. I suggest that that would not be at all advantageous. For instance, if one lives near Marble Arch one can go to a public house on one side of the street and must leave at 10 p.m. It is possible then to cross over to the other side of the street and continue until 10.30 p.m. That would happen between different boroughs and I think it would not be at all advantageous.
We have been discussing mostly the town areas. I should like to speak about the rural areas. Rural areas have very little transport and one must remember that there are very few families who have two cars. Therefore, on a Sunday the family like to go out together to the shops in the neighbouring towns. Whatever may be said, Sunday is always a busy day for a woman. She has to do the catering and the cooking. She does not have a day of rest wherever she is. I suggest that although there are some very excellent village shops, they do not have all the goods needed, especially household goods. Therefore I think that there is a need for these people to go to these other shops. Where I live the nearest towns are 10 miles distant one way and 10 miles the other, and the nearest big town, Salisbury, is 20 miles away, and people like to go as a family to these different shops.
I gather that the right reverend Prelates are undertaking a lot of commercial re-building, and that they are doubling their investment for building shops from £ 117 million to £240 million. There will be three large shopping centres under construction—the Metro Centre at Gateshead, the Town Ramparts at Ipswich and St. Enoch's at Glasgow. They are also opening shops in 10 other towns. In London I live near Marble Arch where the Prelates are my landlords and the landlords of most of the shops in the vicinity. What will their policy be in regard to Sunday opening with these new buildings? Perhaps they can let me have some information. When the right reverend Prelate comes to wind up, perhaps he can let me know this information.
There is also the question of the shopworkers. I hope that I am correct in saying that shopworkers enjoy more statutory protection than any other British worker. No shopworker is permitted to work more than 5½ days a week. Any shopworker who works on Sunday must be given a day off in lieu, and no shopworker is permitted to work more than three Sundays in one month. I hope that that information also will be confirmed.
1149 I regret to have to mention to the noble Prelates that they are not obeying the law at the present time because they have shops near some cathedrals which sell all sorts of goods including soap, teacloths, and so on, which under the regulations are not allowed to be sold. I should like them to give me an answer as to what they will do in the future about that.
I am delighted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, raised the question of mobile traders and Sunday markets. At the present time I quite agree with him that it constitutes unfair competition to distinguish between the permanent shop and the mobile trader. I hope that licences will be given to these mobile traders in Sunday markets and the local authority will then stipulate the location at which the trader may still sell his wares. This could also be done in holiday resorts which have shops. I gather that they require a two-thirds majority of local traders under Section 52 of the 1950 Act in order to run these shops.
I have lived much overseas and I should like to tell you about Malaysia where I worked in three different states. One was a Crown colony, one was a federal state and the third was a Moslem state. I therefore often had to work seven days a week—I am not complaining about that. I managed, and so did the people who were working with me, to attend a local Christian church with other local people. One could also do one's shopping in the Moslem shops on Sundays—they were shut Fridays in the Federated State. All the workers were allowed off for the requisite time. I had an hour off to go to church and Moslems were allowed two hours for their religious ceremonies.
So why, in this country, do we have trouble in regard to ethnic minorities? As was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, if a member of the Jewish faith has a shop which is closed on Saturday, he may open on Sunday until 2 p.m. Why should they be relegated to 2 p.m. when they have already had "their" Sunday? Why should they have to shut at 2 p.m.? It is the same situation with Moslems. They must have time off at noon and they have to close their shops for the rest of the time. I should like to see these points straightened out. My final point is that I should like to see the saying "Set the people free" implemented in the near future.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Lord Hampton
My Lords, I must apologise for the fact that I was not able to be present at the beginning of this debate. I have already apologised to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, and I do so now in particular to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham.
Several years ago I was in an aeroplane with the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who was the co-pilot. He was very skilful. I fear that I have less confidence in him as co-pilot of this Bill. Quite frankly, I shall not be sorry if it never gets off the ground, at least in its present form.
I seek to be brief not because I do not feel strongly but because there have been many speakers. I live in 1150 the diocese of Worcester and should like to draw the attention of the House to a resolution that was recently passed by the synod there with which I wholeheartedly agree. I think that your Lordships will find the subsequent voting figures highly significant. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred to the general reaction of the Churches, and I am sorry that the noble and reverend Lord, Lord Sandford, seems to be the one exception. The resolution ran as follows:That this Synod, believing that every society needs a publicly expressed day of rest and recreation, such as the Christian Sunday has provided, and that society also needs symbols which point beyond market forces as a determining aspect of our life in community: notes with concern the recommendation by the Auld Committee of Inquiry into the 1950 Shops Act that shop hours should be deregulated; whilst recognising that there are anomalies in the present Act that require reform would strongly deprecate any move to increase the commercialisation of Sunday by legislation; calls upon Christian individuals, Parochial Church Councils and Synods of our Church to resist deregulation on both social and spiritual grounds".I now give the voting figures. There were present 42 clergy and 57 laity, making a total of 99. Three members voted against the resolution and four abstained; that left 92 who voted for the resolution. It may be argued that these were all Church people, but I think that the Government should note that I am sure that in Worcestershire the majority of those present would have been Conservatives and, normally, Government supporters. I can only say that at least away from Westminster, of those to whom I have talked about the Bill and primarily about Sunday trading, almost all have been critical of the Bill.
That leads me to ask the noble Baroness—at least I should if she were here—whether she can reply to three questions. First, what mandate do the Government have for the legislation? I submit that they have none. Secondly, would it not be better to take the Bill away and redraft it? Practically everyone, I believe, will admit that some adjustment to the law is necessary, as is stated in the amendment. Lastly—and colleagues tell me that I am crying for the moon!—if the Government are determined willy-nilly to press on with the Bill, will they not at least allow it on a free vote? I know several Members in another place who will be much relieved by that procedure.
I apologise to the House; I came in late, but I heard the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, berating the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, because he suggested that. My noble friend Lord Rochester also raised the point. I cannot see that it is such an outrageous suggestion. The Government may turn it down, but there we are.
I am not a strict Sabbatarian, but I think that Sunday is a day to be enjoyed as something different. As the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and other noble Lords have said—and the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said this movingly in an earlier debate on the Queen's Speech—Sunday should be different. I am convinced that total deregulation of trading would be a mistake and I shall support the amendment.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Lord Manton
My Lords, I welcome the Government's initiative to change the laws on Sunday trading for I believe that they are out of date with our way of life in 1985. It is undoubtedly a subject about which your Lordships feel strongly, and I have this evening listened to many arguments from both points of view, setting out both cases.
Here I would refer to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, who particularly mentioned and recommended the word "leisure", and also my noble friend Lord Brentford, who highlighted the word "recreation". It is about leisure and recreation that I particularly want to talk. However, in my opinion the Bill does not go far enough as it deals solely with shop trading hours and leaves out other important aspects of Sunday activities. I am referring in particular to sporting activities which are to do with recreation and leisure, as has already been mentioned. Many of those sporting activities are commercially run.
I do not know how many of your Lordships, a couple of Sundays ago, watched the finals at Wembley of the four-hour tennis match between Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker, but Wembley Stadium was packed. The match took four hours, and BBC2 extended its coverage to the whole match. Some noble Lords may ask what that has to do with Sunday trading. Under the Sunday Observance Act 1780, sporting events held on a Sunday with spectators who pay to watch may well be, in strict terms, illegal.
I am not seeking to single out the recent tennis match at Wembley: many other sporting events are held on a Sunday. For instance, the Wimbledon finals are now held on a Sunday, as are the final round of the British Open golf and the final round of the Ryder Cup. The Football League Milk Cup final, the one-day Sunday Cricket League, Rugby League matches, snooker championships and, in motor racing, the British Grand Prix and the European Grand Prix are held on Sundays. Some of these sports circumvent the Act by selling tickets in advance. Others allow admission by programme or by making spectators benefactory members of the clubs staging the tournaments. Several, however, no longer bother to get round the Act. They simply ignore it and just charge on the gate in the normal way.
Some of these events are being held in open defiance of the spirit of the law, if not in breach of it. What is more, the BBC and ITV are regularly televising events that may well, in themselves, be illegal. The Bill before your Lordships' House today was introduced because in the case of shops the Home Secretary argued thatthere was deep anxiety about the continued existence on the statute book of a law that was being increasingly flouted".In case any of your Lordships should be under a misapprehension, I am not against sporting events being held on a Sunday; I am thoroughly in favour of it. Apart from anything else, sporting events on Sundays have become part of the British way of life. However, I must now declare an interest. Up until July this year I spent three years as a senior steward of the Jockey Club. It seems to me quite unfair that horse 1152 racing should find itself at a disadvantage with these other spectator sports. Not only is racing constrained by the Sunday Observance Act but also by the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, which prevents cash betting on Sundays. It may surprise your Lordships to know that although you cannot have a bet on a racecourse or in a betting shop on a Sunday, you can go to a casino or an amusement arcade, or have a telephone bet on credit.
A race meeting without betting is, frankly, not a starter. Here is one of this country's traditional spectator sports, which in common with many other sports is finding it difficult to make ends meet, unable to stage racing on the afternoon (I use the word "afternoon" advisedly) when it might expect to attract its biggest crowds. Our European competitors—France, Germany, Italy, and now Ireland—all stage their most important race meetings on a Sunday and attract their best crowds.
I wish the Shops Bill unamended well in its passage through the House and the other place, and hope that in view of these other Sunday anomalies the Government will then take the logical and consistent step of legalising sporting events on Sundays.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I wish to support the amendment. It would be inappropriate for me, being something of an agnostic, to advance the argument on religious grounds for opposing the deregulation of Sunday trading. I am very conscious, however, of the fact that much of our heritage, including the traditional Sunday, was established in days when religion had a much stronger following than it has today and that we are the beneficiaries. I myself find that the peace and tranquillity of our traditional Sunday is part of a refreshing and renewing experience which I appreciate more and more as time goes by. It should be available to as many as possible of the people who would like to enjoy it. But this Bill will deprive many of that opportunity.
I find it odd that those who talk about returning to Victorian values—I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, that this means recreation as well—should find this measure an important priority, so important as to carry it on a three-line Whip in another place. The Government say that the Bill will not change Sunday very much. If this is so, why do they not merely tidy up the law and allow it to be enforced? "Ah", the Government says, "that is not possible; the Auld Committee says that it is not possible".
I do not believe that we should be looking for a perfect solution. Indeed, when was there a perfect law? I believe that the right reverend Prelate had a point when he said that we do not refuse to operate 30-mile an hour restrictions because they cannot always be enforced. However, in its evidence to the Auld Committee the Institute of Shops, Health and Safety Acts Administration, whose members are responsible for enforcing the Shops Acts 1950–1955, said,Our members, when given full support and adequate resources by their local authorities have found no real difficulty in enforcing these Acts".1153 We were told that consumers deserve a choice. This is indeed what the free market philosophy is about. However, my answer to that, apart from the inappropriateness, even the immorality, of abandoning ourselves totally to the vagaries of a free market, is that there is no great demand for a dramatic change, let alone for the removal of all restrictions on Sunday trading. Certainly, although it might be said that the organisations giving evidence to the Auld Committee wanted a change, there was little or no evidence that there was a demand for all restrictions to be removed and particularly those on Sunday evenings. The committee noted that the great majority, even of those in full-time work, are able to buy what they need in the shop hours available at the moment. Nine out of ten have even stated that they do not find existing hours inconvenient and under the existing law there is scope for considerably more evening shopping than actually takes place. Only a minority of retailers wanted deregulation. For the majority this will mean more costs but no more revenue.
The Government have said that the number of shops opening will be small, and anyway the deregulation has made little difference in Scotland. I do not want to go over the arguments which the right reverend Prelate adduced about Scotland, but I think the fact about Scotland is that many of the multiples do not want at this point in time to open up and have a different system between Scotland and the rest of England and Wales. I think the case might be different when England has a deregulated system.
Thirty years in Parliament have shown me how difficult it is to predict the consequences of any piece of legislation in the field of human behaviour. I supported all the major reforms of the 1960s and I have no regrets. However, those who supported the reform of our divorce laws to put an end to the misery of many marriages could hardly have predicted the enormous increase in divorce or the tendency of some not to work as hard at keeping a marriage going as they might do. Those who supported homosexual law reform—and that was to get rid of the vicious blackmail that was being experienced by many homosexuals—could not have foreseen the development of separate communities which border on advocating homosexuality as a way of life. Those who supported the relaxation of the abortion laws could not have envisaged that there would be clinics that are bordering on abortion factories.
I am not saying that if these facts had been known there would have been a difference in the decisions taken. What I am saying is that it is very difficult indeed to predict the future consequences of any piece of legislation. I believe that that is true of the piece of legislation which we are discussing tonight.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that, if the present pay rate of double time on Sunday was retained over a period of 15 years, shops representing something like 50 per cent. of turnover would open. But we all know the wages councils are to be weakened, and the protection for that double pay will disappear. The institute said that, if that happened, then it could be as many as 80 per cent. of the shops in the country which would want to remain open. 1154 Many workers will have little choice, as their promotion prospects and the possibility of a much-needed rise will be at stake. I believe that the Bill would have a major and damaging effect on the conditions for many shopworkers. For that reason, and that reason alone, I would think it was worth having it properly looked at and deregulation opposed.
The Auld Committee accepted that this would be bound to affect the pace of life, the level of activity, and the general noise and bustle in what are now relatively quiet times. The consequence of this would affect family life, already under strain, as it would be impossible for all the family to meet together. I have said that there is no great demand from retailers for Sunday opening. However, one thing can be said for certain: with deregulation and unrestricted shop opening there would be no more money available in seven days than there would be in six, but there would be the additional cost of the seventh day, which could mean an increase in prices.
If shop opening reached the proportions predicted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the small corner shop would suffer, probably going out of business, with hardship for the elderly or disabled who rely on it. Even those shops which have said that they do not want to open on Sunday would be bound to do so in the long run if their market share fell because their competitors were trading on Sundays.
It is said that there are plenty of volunteers available at the moment. Perhaps that is not surprising with 4 million people unemployed. However, the real objection to deregulation is that a Government, which pledged in its 1983 manifesto,to defend Britain's traditional liberty and distinctive way of life",are introducing a measure which in the name of market forces is about to destroy a part of our most precious heritage. Sunday is a special day and I hope that all noble Lords will resist this infringement of our liberties by voting for the amendment. After all, many European countries maintain regulated Sunday shopping. Why not us?
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Lord Bruce-Gardyne
My Lords, I shall aim to be brief because I suspect that your Lordships have already had a rich diet of most effective oratory on both sides of the argument and presumably almost everything has been said, except possibly one point. I am perhaps the first layman to address your Lordships this evening who regularly works on a Sunday. Right reverend Prelates obviously work on a Sunday: the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, told us of her grandchildren who work on a Sunday; and I regularly work on a Sunday.
I was a little pained to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that if one worked on a Sunday, one was denied the sacred feast of the Sunday lunch. I find that I am denied the sacred feast of a Sunday lunch for a different reason, which is that these days my appetite simply does not run to it. Occasionally, although not as often as I should, I even contrive to attend church on a Sunday. Therefore, I do not think that there is necessarily a contradiction there.
1155 I want to say a few brief words about the Scottish evidence because, like some other noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships, this seems to be remarkably impressive. I was brought up in Scotland and for 10 years I represented a Scottish constituency in another place. I remember being told by my parents that in our local village on the east coast of Scotland in the 1920s and early 1930s every blind was drawn on the sabbath. I am bound to say that I do not recall that every blind was drawn on the sabbath when I was growing up; in fact, I do not recall any blinds being drawn on the sabbath.
Undoubtedly the Scottish sabbath has changed, but I do not believe that you can demonstrate in any way that the change which has occurred is attributable to the absence of legislation controlling Sunday trading north of the Border. All I can say is that in the 10 years that I represented a constituency in Scotland I never remember hearing or receiving one single complaint or objection from anyone who felt that they were constrained to neglect their duties to family or religion in order to participate in one of the local shops on the sabbath.
As several of your Lordships have already pointed out, the experience north of the Border does not bear out the supposition that the passage of legislation, such as we have before us tonight, would lead to a dramatic change in our Sunday conditions. Briefly, I should like to read out the much more recent experience north of the Border of a visit to Stirling by the directors of the Scottish Consumer Council on a Sunday morning this November to observe the conditions of shop-opening at that time. They found, for instance, a family-run grocer's shop which was open from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Sunday next door to a hairdresser's shop which was closed, as required by the law. They found a small DIY shop which was open next door to a local cycle shop which was closed. They visited the Stirling Arcade, which is a large shopping precinct, which was closed, although they were told by the caretaker that it would be open for business during the three weeks before Christmas.
When they came to the major shopping centre adjacent to the town centre, the Thistle Centre, they found that all the multiples there were closed, but beyond the Thistle Centre Halfords and Pound Stretcher were both open diagonally opposite each other with closed shops all around them. On the edge of the town centre Tesco was active, and B & Q DIY store and Comet very much more active. In other words, there was a pattern of some activity and some closure.
I suspect that on balance both the protagonists and the opponents of this measure probably overestimate the likely effect that it would have. However, I must say that I can see no evidence whatsoever from the experience north of the Border to suggest that the sort of dramatic consequences which opponents of this legislation tell us would flow from it are threatened, or have even happened, in Scotland. I fail to see why our experience in England should be notably different.
I would conclude on one point which, rather surprisingly, has not been mentioned very much this evening. It is the estimate of those sections of the retail trade who support this legislation that it could lead to 1156 up to an additional 100,000 jobs south of the Border; admittedly part-time jobs, but 100,000 additional jobs. That may well be an exaggeration—I think it probably is—but even if it was half that number—and bearing in mind that many of those part-time jobs would arise in the city centres precisely where, as I understand it, the right reverend Prelates are most concerned about the problems of unemployment and urban deprivation—it seems to me extraordinary that we should seek to resist what is, after all, a modest measure which could in the future have some modest impact on employment on those areas.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Lord Grantchester
My Lords, having regard to the fact that a large number of views have been expressed and time is getting late, I shall be very brief. Before I start I should like to disclose a minor interest. I am a small shareholder, and a member of the controlling family, in the Littlewoods organisation, which has a large number of chain stores and operates mail order and other matters within England, Wales, and Scotland.
By virtue of those connections I have been able to visit a town in Scotland in which all the retailers were opening this summer as an experiment to see what Sunday opening entailed, and I have had the benefit of various comments made on Sunday opening by employees, by supervisors, by managers and by directors of the concerns. Though I am going to state briefly some of their comments, the end result is that the views which I come to at the end of the day are entirely my own and not to be attributed to them.
By way of comment they listed four main advantages of the present Bill. First of all, they point out that it is one way of ending the present anomalies and unsatisfactory position. That aspect has been alluded to this afternoon on a number of occasions. Secondly, they say that it will provide additional opportunities for working housewives and their families to shop together, thereby, they say, improving consumer choice. Thirdly, they comment that it will create more employment, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce-Gardyne, suggested, but the end result may well be that there will be less full-time workers in the retail industry and many more part-time workers.
Fourthly, they say that the proposed deregulation of Sunday trading will especially benefit certain types of retailers. They give the following examples: first, those in summer holiday areas, such as Blackpool, who will wish to open during the holiday season; secondly—and this is nearer home—those in tourist areas, and they quote Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly, where shops will wish to open every Sunday for the benefit of foreign visitors. On the deregulation proposed we can envisage those shops being open seven days a week.
The third example of those who will benefit is big busy shopping areas on the edge of towns such as, for example, the Brent Cross complex where those who run the complex and large numbers of shops will tend sooner or later to put on entertainments in the form of band concerts and others nearby to draw the family into the complex to get the benefit of their attendance for shopping as well. Thus there will be that sort of 1157 combined entertainment and shopping complex on the edges of the big cities. Fourthly, they say it will benefit special trades such as garden centres, do-it-yourself suppliers and other leisure-related industries. Those items summarise the comments which are given in support of the present measure.
But there are four other comments given on the disadvantages. First, they say that in their view it is quite certain that they will suffer higher staff costs. The members of the staff who work on Sundays will expect a higher rate of pay and recompense. One suggestion they make is that if they go over to Sunday shopping those shops which are open on Sundays will tend to shut on another day in the week such as Monday. But opening seven days a week will increase not only direct labour costs but indirect costs such as staff canteen subsidies and other staff benefits. Sunday opening will also increase distribution costs to take account of sales on Sundays.
Secondly, they say it will involve higher operating costs if shops open seven days a week. There is additional heating, lighting, waste disposal, security work and matters of that kind. Additional burdens will then fall on the local authorities who will have to provide transport, parking, policing and cleansing. Rents and rates and operating costs will therefore all rise.
Thirdly, they say that they consider the proposals of Sunday opening, if shops open seven days a week, will necessarily entail higher prices as the end result. Most retailers in this country today work on slender margins and those who make large profits do so, not on the extent of their mark-up but by reason of large volumes of sales. Thus, one is looking at the big shops working on slender margins over large volumes of sales. If staff costs and distribution costs are increased, the rises will probably have to be met by raising prices. If they are not, then those with small volumes of sale, the small retailers, will go out of business. It is here that the local shops will suffer, as will the consumer, in the end.
Fourthly, they mention that disruption of the lives of many will be entailed. Sunday opening disrupts the lives of those employed in the retail industry. Managers and supervisors at the top will be most affected as they will wish to be present whenever their stores are open, imposing on them a hard task. Mothers who work in the industry will feel obliged to attend, leaving their families on the one day when the father is probably at home and the children are not at school. Then, USDAW regards Sunday trading as a threat to the livelihood and way of life of its members.
Finally, Sunday opening will disrupt the lives of many who will become involved, such as the additional police, transport workers, and ancillary services. Also, of course, I must mention that Sunday opening will antagonise the churches, the members of which appreciate Sunday as a day for reflection and renewal, whether or not they attend the local services.
There are advantages and disadvantages involved in permitting Sunday retail trading. What test do I suggest should be applied in considering whether or not we vote for this Bill or the amendment? I suggest that one should look at the basic philosophy behind the Bill; that is to say, the deregulation of Sunday trading wherever possible. If one is not satisfied that 1158 such basic philosophy will improve the quality of life in this country today, one should vote for the amendment. To my mind, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and I intend to vote for the amendment.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, every year at the Anglo-Swiss parliamentary ski meeting I have the pleasure of following the noble Lord. Lord Grantchester, down the ski slopes. He always wins. However, I must say to him this evening that I cannot follow him, do not agree with his argument and hope that he does not win.
As the last speaker from these Back-Benches this evening, it obviously behoves me to be very brief. In fact, there is not much more that can be said or possibly has been left out of this debate. However, listening to it, one might reasonably think that it has appeared to have been an attack on Sunday. Surely, the Bill is not about that. I listened with particular interest to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who in a very robust speech I thought put that argument very clearly. However, it would be understandable if people in this debate and elsewhere were under some misunderstanding, since the volume of paper from special interest groups has been very considerable and it has had a lot to do with the Church viewpoint.
I have no connection with any special interest group. I speak as a regular, practising Anglican, and in fact as part of the flock of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. I liked his speech very much indeed and I thought it was more balanced than that of his colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. However, I have to say that I still disagree with him and I hope that I may receive his forgiveness in due course through the usual channels.
There has been in this debate reference to overseas, where Sunday shop opening is I think much more widely practised than has been mentioned. In this debate there has been reference to France, and in fact the evidence has been somewhat contradictory. I am not clear for what reasons the stores in central Paris are not open; but I can assure your Lordships that in South-West France where I spend quite a lot of time shops are open on Sundays in a very wide variety of fields. I have the impression from that country, which is certainly not an irreligious or heathen country, that the Church, family life, sport and shopping all live in harmony together without any problems. Surely, the same should be the case here in England.
Surely, this Bill, above all else, is about the creation of employment and freedom of choice; freedom of choice for shops to choose when they open and for how long and on what days. The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, from the Front Bench put this case brilliantly. The Bill is short and to the point. The Bill repeals unnecessary legislation; it is, in fact, largely a repeal measure. For that reason, I hope that it receives an overwhelming majority.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, as the 40th speaker in this debate your Lordships will not wish me to be lengthy and I have not the slightest desire myself to be 1159 lengthy. May I say, first, that I am speaking this evening entirely in a personal capacity. We on these Benches, as your Lordships would expect, are having a completely free vote and I have no doubt that my colleagues on these Benches will find their way into different Lobbies. However, if noble Lords look at the record they will find that both parts of the Alliance have been extremely consistent in voting in the same Lobby for a very great many months; but that is a matter for another debate.
I support the amendment. At the same time, like the right reverend Prelate who moved the amendment, I am of the opinion that the present legislation is completely indefensible and that it is high time that it was revised, and drastically revised. I should like to see a very considerable extension of opening on Sundays but I do not think that this means that we need go the whole way that the Government are proposing. I support the amendment for the reasons that have been given over and over again during this debate, partly on religious grounds and very much on psychological grounds, as I believe very strongly that there is a rhythm and that if that rhythm is interrupted and cannot be maintained it is very bad for the country and very bad for the mental health of individuals. The one day that is different is an important part of that rhythm.
But I also support the amendment on social grounds—and this has been touched on—and particularly on the grounds of the opportunity for the family to get together and to have at least one meal in the week together. I think that eating together is very important for people who want to feel themselves to be a group. After all, a company is a people who eat bread together; and that is a very old profound tradition in a great many societies. As I understand it, a great many families nowadays very rarely eat together; and, if the mother is out working on Sunday, what sort of a Sunday dinner are they going to have? That may seem a rather trivial matter, but I do not think that it is. I think it symbolises something which is of very considerable importance.
The objections the Government have raised to some deregulation but not total deregulation seem to turn almost entirely on the argument that nothing short of total deregulation will do because no modified deregulation can be adequately enforced. But if the Government are really going to pursue that argument they will have to get rid of a very great deal of the legislation which is on the statute book at the present time. As the right reverend Prelate said, it is on the statute book that you must not exceed 70 miles an hour on the motorway. I would guess that if that were rigorously enforced a great many Members of your Lordships' House would be "inside". Then, again, we have on the statute book very useful antidiscrimination legislation. Nobody really believes that the law has been fully enforced with regard to antidiscrimination, but at the same time it is very useful and valuable as a mark of what society thinks to be proper behaviour that that legislation is there.
I would also remind your Lordships that for over a hundred years we have had factory legislation which, as anybody who has had anything to do with it knows, is by no means entirely enforced. But that does not 1160 mean it is not very valuable. And there is provision by which individuals who feel themselves offended or damaged by a breach of that legislation can get in touch with enforcers and bring the law to bear sufficiently to make it very worthwhile. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, will say in reply that I am suggesting it does not matter whether or not the law is enforced, and that having a law which is not enforced brings the law into contempt but I can only say that the Government must then go through the legislation and get rid of a very great deal of it if they are going to be consistent.
Nor do I find it at all easy to believe that it is so impossible to devise some kind of modified deregulation. The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, spoke of what goes on in France, and in the south-west of France, to which I also retreat as often as I possibly can. I find that they have there a very convenient arrangement whereby an extremely good super-store opens as people come out from mass. I suspect that it attracts people to mass because, if it is not irreverent to say so, they can kill two birds with one stone—acquiring nourishment for the body and nourishment for the spirit on one journey to one place at the same time. But for the rest of the day a great many of the shops are shut. In fact, local shops open to meet local needs and it suits everybody extremely well. You do not have the whole of the shopping available that is available during the week, but you do get shops opening as and where required. I am sure legislation could be devised which would do just that.
However, a major reason why I want some modification of the Bill as it stands is the way in which it is treating employees. As noble Lords have pointed out, a very high percentage of the employees in the retail trade are women, and married women. The Bill only allows people to refuse to work on Sunday if they are already in employment. It makes it quite clear that all future employees will not have the right to refuse. The retail trade is notoriously difficult to organise from a trade union point of view, especially in the smaller shops, and there is no doubt that there will be very considerable abuse of employees if total deregulation comes. I ask the Government to think again about this. It is a major reason why I myself will be supporting the amendment of the right reverend Prelate.
Also, I think, too—this is a point which has not been made very much, if at all, during the debate—that if the Government wish they have here a great opportunity for providing jobs for people who are unemployed, as other noble Lords have said. The retail trade lends itself very well to part-time employment, and I should have thought it highly desirable to build into legislation encouragements for employers not to employ at weekends people who are in full-time employment, but to use more part-time employees. For example, instead of double time on Sundays, which is traditional, it might be useful to suggest that people who worked on Sundays had two days and not one day off in lieu. I think we would then find that a very considerable number of full-time employees would not be employed on Sundays, and that more part-time people would be employed.
I very much hope that more part-time people, both men and women, will be employed, because the 1161 people who could be used in this way are unskilled and semi-skilled but they could, in a very short time, be trained into many jobs in the retail trade. Furthermore, these are the people for whom it will be extraordinarily difficult to find employment in the future. So an extension of part-time employment with an extension of shopping hours, together with a discouragement of the employment of people who are working full-time to work at weekends, would add considerably to the opportunities of people to get part-time jobs.
There might be positive inducements given, such as national insurance concessions, which would encourage them and, in this way, the Government could do something with the extension of hours—without abusing the time of people who are working full-time—to increase job opportunities. But all this requires a further look at the legislation and the possibility of amendments which could turn the proposals, which at present have many disadvantages, into an Act which could bring with it considerable advantages.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I think I can say one thing with complete safety; that is, that every relevant point, both supporting and opposing the Bill and supporting and opposing the amendment, has been well and truly made. I think I can also say with complete certitude that the noble Lords who have spoken have spoken with authority, in many cases with very many years of experience, and all of them with a sincere belief. They have shown that this is a question which in good faith can be viewed in entirely different ways. It is for that reason that it is of very great importance that we on this side of the House have stressed that we have a free vote, as have the Alliance parties. That is because, as I say, it is with good faith that one takes one view or the opposite one.
I have found it also true that members of the public have very great and very definite feelings on this subject. From letters that I have received, and indeed from the many people for whose views I have asked, about Sunday trading I have found that all have a definite view and that in many ways they found it a very emotive question. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said that there is no emotion involved in this question of Sunday trading, but I have found from my experience of talking with other people about it that it is an emotive question, and that people take both their Sundays and their shopping rights very seriously indeed.
I know that the polls have shown a breakdown of how different sections of the community are divided in their feelings about Sunday trading, but I have found that in many cases views are really not determined by party political affiliations, by social classes or indeed by age. Your Lordships may well have thought that young people would like to see a total change and all restrictions swept away, but I have found that in many cases they show a very great concern for maintaining Sunday as a different day. As I say, that is even among the young age group.
Because people feel so strongly about the whole issue it is important to try to assess rationally just how wide-ranging the effect unlimited Sunday trading 1162 would have on life for the community. There is no doubt that with deregulation, on the one hand, a greater number of people would be required to work on Sundays. On the other hand, there would be the loss of one day's peace for people living in commercial centres.
I should like briefly to draw to the attention of your Lordships some of the points which have been made repeatedly by various noble Lords. Then I should like to stress only two areas of concern in the Bill about which I personally feel most alarmed. Many noble Lords have spoken of the need for changing the law. The noble Lord the Minister spoke about rescuing the law, and he spoke of it as a decaying law. AH noble Lords who spoke today agreed that there are anomalies in the present law and that the present law is frequently broken. My noble friend Lord Jacques gave a very impressive account of the origins of the present schedule and showed reasons why it has now become quite out of date. The noble Lord. Lord Manton, made an interesting and indeed different suggestion about changing the present law. The noble Lord pointed out that if the Government want to improve Sundays for families the Bill does not go far enough and should be extended to cover sport and other activities on Sunday. I must confess that I saw a kind of logic in his argument.
Of course, there was a great deal of talk about compromise as this is what the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham is all about. My noble friend Lord Jacques made an interesting suggestion that shops could stay open in the mornings on a Sunday and that this would both provide the consumer with an opportunity to shop and would protect those small retail shops which most speakers have made a point of wishing to protect. It would protect them against the chain stores which would not open only for a Sunday morning. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, in a remarkable speech based on all those years of experience, made a very good point. He said that the change in working patterns of the general public requires a change in shopping facilities. Surely the answer is for shops to stay open longer in the evening, which would accommodate that need. My noble friend Lord Gallacher supported this in his speech. There was general agreement on some change among many other noble Lords.
My noble friend Lady Phillips completely supported deregulation—she has now gone; she told me she was going to conduct choir practice this evening, perhaps to get herself into the good books of the right reverend Prelates again; I do not know. What I found perhaps wrong in the approach of my noble friend is that she treated those of us who support the amendment of the right reverend Prelate as though we did not want any change at all, as though we were a bunch of old reactionaries and as though we were against any movement from the present situation. I thought it was very clear from the amendment of the right reverend Prelate that he, too, wanted a change, but a change that was rationalised and on a very much more limited and protected basis.
The noble Earl, Lord Arran, spoke of Sunday being at present shackled. The noble Earl implied that the amendment would do little to prevent Sunday being shackled. I feel that what the noble Earl said is 1163 opposite to the case. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, was a little unfair when he said that no suggestions had been made to improve on the Bill before us. Many suggestions were made about a change in the principle of the Bill, but any specific changes would presumably come during the Committee stage.
There was much talk about the Auld Committee and its findings. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham made the point that the committee's conclusions were not very well supported by its arguments. This was confirmed by other speakers. My noble friend Lord Mishcon pointed out that, out of the six assessors working with the three-person committee, as many as four of the assessors were entirely against complete deregulation. As my noble friend said, the findings of that committee certainly were in no way unanimous.
As the right reverend Prelate pointed out, the report referred in a rather romantic way to happy families shopping. It must have discovered children rather different from the kind I know, who would rather do anything than trail round with their mother or father buying boring things that are not of interest to themselves; although if it were to buy sweets or ice creams they would do so willingly. Otherwise, shopping in supermarkets is not what children consider a Sunday treat.
Finally, it was pointed out that, although the Auld Committee availed itself of examples of how Sunday trading operated in countries in the rest of Western Europe, where they have some restrictions, its conclusions were in contradiction to its findings.
There was a great deal of comment on the question of freedom, but one must remember that one man's freedom creates another man's lack of it. In today's employment situation there is a deficiency in logic where, on one hand, some people would be forced to work less while, under this Bill, others would be forced to work longer.
The point has been made, and reiterated, that, if shops take advantage of deregulation, many other businesses and workers will be drawn in. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, made the point that other industries supplying the shops—transport workers, local authority workers, police, refuse collectors—would all be brought in as a support mechanism for shops that were open: he could not see any way in which the rates would not be increased in this way.
I completely agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who spoke about needing a wider framework in which to judge the freedom of the consumer and also that of the retailer. He felt that we had too narrow a context in which to judge these freedoms and that that framework should be a large one and, therefore, a view of how our nationalised and other institutions are, as a whole, affected by deregulation.
The noble Lord, Lord Vestey, made an interesting speech and I think he was the only one who focused on how the small shops would be affected and how in his view it would be a great deal better for it to be a local matter. He said that the opening of local shops should be decided by local authorities and by the local people 1164 affected or who would suffer from the nuisance of them being open. As I said, his speech, coming from someone with all the authority and experience that he has, was of great interest indeed.
The example of Scotland was discarded by many speakers as being irrelevant to this issue.
The points I wish to make concern the interests of the family and of shopworkers and the social effects of such a Bill. First, I refer to the working mother, because, after all, in one way or another I have such experience. I have worked in a shop and I have worked in other ways for the past nine years. I should like to put the working mother's point of view of having complete relief and the sure knowledge that nothing will come, at least on Sundays, between her and her children and that there will be no fear of failing to be what I remember my own younger daughter used to call "a proper mother". By this she meant a mother for whom she or the children generally were the major focus. Sunday was a day which brought a feeling of security to the children, in that there was nothing else around but their mother and themselves. The point has been made that for single parents wider shopping opportunities would be useful, but I would say that for the single mother it is extremely important that she should stay at home with her children on Sundays in order to fulfil that vital role of parent.
Finally, a great deal has been said regarding the character of Sunday. While, of course, respecting the arguments put forwad by Church leaders and churchgoers, I think I would rather focus on how important it is that one day a week should remain different. This point has been made by many noble Lords from all sides of the House. At present, Sunday provides a lull and a relief from the growing noise and bustle of activity which modern life entails. It is a day which some people might find boring or empty but which nevertheless provides a moment for them to pull back, rest and draw breath. There is no doubt that the activity engendered not only by shop-trading but also by everything that goes with it would cause considerable annoyance to all people who live close by. As someone who lives just off the King's Road, I—and no doubt all noble Lords—know what happens in the King's Road on Saturday. If that situation were to be repeated on Sunday, it would mean, I think, that all residents would suffer severely from mental distress. This was a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, brought up with very great effect.
I should like to end by saying that there is no doubt that the Government would like to roll back yet another bit of the state, which this represents, but will it really be worth it? What is the point of antagonising and upsetting a large section of society in the name of liberty when a compromise position such as that proposed by the right reverend Prelate is probably more or less what most people want? It is for that reason that I urge your Lordships to vote this evening for the right reverend Prelate's reasoned amendment.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Baroness Trumpington)
My Lords, after a debate of this length it will not be surprising if I do not answer all the points raised by your Lordships. If any noble Lord wishes me 1165 to write to him, I shall of course do so. However, I cannot resist saying that the next time I meet the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, mother of the free vote, at Vinegar Joe's at 9.45 p.m., I shall remind her of her speech tonight.
I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for allowing me to take part in this debate because it takes me back full circle to 1982, when I introduced my Shops Bill to abolish restrictions on shop opening hours. In this House I had some pretty distinguished predecessors in the form of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and my noble friend Lord Maude, each of whom had tried to introduce Bills to modify parts of the existing legislation, while my noble friend Lord Derwent had persevered with it on three separate occasions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, I remember well, was most helpful to me on my debut, and was helpful again to me today, as was my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes.
In 1982, despite these previous attempts and several others in another place, not everyone was conversant with the more farcical aspects of the present legislation. I remember being amazed—I put it more succinctly, perhaps, than the noble Lord, Lord Jacques—to discover that it was actually a criminal offence to sell fish and chips on a Sunday but that prawn balls were okay.
I think we are making a fearful mountain out of a molehill with all this. I too speak—and perhaps my noble friend Lord Bruce-Gardyne may care to take note—as one who works every Sunday making beds, cooking, washing up and so on, and even dealing with Ministerial boxes. I have also worked in a shop, so I have been on both sides of the fence. Listening to the dire predictions darkly threatened by opponents of reform, anyone would think that this Government were about to unleash the floodgates to a latterday Sodom and Gomorrah! One would think that we were talking about some terrible, sinful activity, when all that we are talking about is the innocent pursuit of shopping; and we all know that every Sunday thousands of shops are generally open, often illegally, and thousands of shoppers are glad that they are. They vote with their feet in support of the reform that we are discussing.
As the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, said, anyone who lives in Scotland must view with amazement the hullabaloo and hysteria in the rest of the United Kingdom, especially as the dreadful so-called consequences of change have absolutely no basis in reality, despite what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said. Let us think of all the things that we can do on a Sunday now. We can go to a theatre, a cinema, a restaurant, a pub, an ice rink and a swimming pool. We can, if they choose to open, go to a bank, a post office, an estate agent or the Stock Exchange. If there is any force in the argument that shops should be statutorily closed, why not pubs and cinemas; indeed, why not Sunday football, I heard somebody say, which has happened?
I have to say too that I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that there has been a tremendous amount of humbug and hypocrisy over this Bill. We have heard outside this House many retailers, keen to protect their commercial vested 1166 interests, calling for the criminal law to be applied to protect them against their competitors, and large retailers waging a campaign of fear aimed at small shopkeepers, while dressing all that up with rather unconvincing claims about having their customers' interests at heart. That is why I was particularly delighted to hear the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Sainsbury. And we have heard too many arguments about the need to protect shopworkers, arguments which actively oppose the possible opportunity for new part-time jobs.
Then I come to the Church, whose representatives, even on "Thought for Today", twice have tried to make us feel morally guilty about wanting to ha\e the choice of shopping on a Sunday. One might rather meanly remind the right reverend Prelates that people in glass houses should not throw stones. My noble friend Lord Norrie has enlightened us concerning the situation of Guildford Cathedral. I think that I could outnumber the list of my noble friend Lord Arran of Sunday goodies to be purchased at cathedral shops. I do not know about Winchester Cathedral, but if any of your Lordships should happen to visit Birmingham Cathedral on a Sunday you would find its excellent church shop open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. selling church literature and various souvenirs, including key rings, pens, cards, books, diaries, and so on.
We come to Canterbury Cathedral where goods presently on offer include the Bible, two other books, colour slides, ties, gramophone records, and strangest of all a book entitled Pubs in Kent, a comprehensive guide compiled by the Kent branch of the Campaign for Real Ale. Perhaps here lies the clue to the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, about reforming the licensing laws. Canterbury takes the lead!
How many of those items fall within the exemptions listed in the Fifth Schedule to the Shops Act 1950? Apart from Southwark Cathedral, which has no Sunday shop, it appears that the majority of the large, well-known cathedrals in the United Kingdom are open on a Sunday and have no hesitation in selling all types of goods. I hope that I shall not be struck by a fiery bolt if I say that as the law stands the deans and chapters of those cathedrals are guilty of criminal offences in being open for the sale of those objects, and it is at least arguable that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury himself is guilty of at least aiding and abetting in the commission of those offences. The most reverend Primate would of course be joined in the dock by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, responsible for illegal trading on Sunday by the Tower of London—mentioned by my noble friend Lord Arran—all of which goes to show how crazy the present situation is.
It must be very obvious that if we were starting now from scratch, there could be no question of our attempting to enact a law as confused, as contradictory and as unworkable as that which we now have. We would most emphatically not criminalise that most basic and legitimate human activity—that of engaging in the ordinary process of buying and selling. One of the consequences of including within the ambit of the criminal law behaviour, which most people regard as non-criminal is that the law falls into complete 1167 disrepute. Another indirect consequence may be that it is not enforced. My noble friend Lord Glenarthur said that in 1984 there were 720 findings of guilt recorded for trading illegally on a Sunday. It would seem more probable that this represented a fraction of the openings for one Sunday. But it is absurd to believe that this in any way reflects the scale of illegal opening on a Sunday.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and my noble friend Lord Sandford may be interested to know that I have been told that on 24th April 1985 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal Lord's Day Act 1906 used by many provinces to control Sunday shopping was unconstitutional. The High Court ruled that the law violated the guarantee of freedom and conscience and religion in the charter of rights and freedoms of the new Canadian constitution. It said:The Lord's Day Act to the extent that it binds all to a sectarian Christian ideal, works a form of coercion inimical to the spirit of the Charter. The Act gives the appearance of discrimination against non-Christian Canadians. Religious values rooted in Christian morality are translated into a positive law binding on believers and non-believers alike. Non-Christians are prohibited for religious reasons from carrying out otherwise lawful, moral and normal activities. Any law, purely religious in purpose, which denies non-Christians the right to work on Sunday denies them the right to practise their religion and infringes their religious freedom".The court rejected provincial arguments in the Alberta case that the Lord's Day Act really was a labour law aimed at ensuring a day of rest for workers. The Supreme Court's decision left open to challenge a variety of provincial statutes across Canada that has been used to make Sunday a uniform closing day for businesses.
The employment consequences of our Bill are somewhat speculative because nobody knows how many shops will actually open on Sundays. Concern has been expressed about the effect of deregulaton on jobs. I should like to reassure noble Lords that we do not think Sunday trading will have significant implications for employment. This was also the conclusion of the Institute of Fiscal Studies who undertook an authoritative study for the Auld Committee. I am well aware that IFS suggested that over a 15-year period up to 20,000 jobs may be lost, but I believe the IFS estimate may be too pessimistic. I suggest just that to my noble friend Lord Vestey. The IFS study compared a situation of no Sunday trading with Sunday trading. But some Sunday trading already exists, so that some of the predicted job losses will have already happened. IFS also assumed no consequential increase in sales, but I know that many retailers are more optimistic and expect an increase. Some noble Lords may be aware of a further study by IFS which indicated that a 2 per cent. increase in sales would lead to 22,000 additional jobs in retailing. The tourist industry also expects increased sales to both overseas visitors and British tourists. In 1983 the British Tourist Industry Authority found that over half of our overseas visitors favoured the removal of restrictions on Sunday trading. Tourism is one of the country's largest industries. Liberalisation of trading hours would be a small but significant improvement we offer to tourists, and because of the size of the industry a significant benefit to the places tourists visit. There will also be increased jobs in activities associated with shops such as cafes and restaurants.
1168 The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester was concerned that existing shop workers who do not want to work on a Sunday for religious, family or other reasons will be forced to work. Because we share this concern the Shops Bill includes important safeguards to protect established shop workers. My noble friend Lord Glenarthur outlined the extent and scope of these safeguards in his opening speech. I think that there is general agreement that the two new rights will go a long way to meet the justified concern of existing shop workers. They mean that all shopworkers in employment on the day before the commencement date of this new Act, provided that they have not agreed to work on a Sunday, will be able to refuse to work on a Sunday. If they are subsequently sacked this will be regarded as automatically unfair and they will be able to appeal to an industrial tribunal to be reinstated and receive financial compensation.
They will also be able to appeal to an industrial tribunal if an employer attempts to pressurise them to work on Sundays through refusing promotion or training opportunities. Our proposals will cover shop assistants and other employees engaged in the operation of a shop; for example, managers, lift attendants, delivery drivers and cleaners. We are also aware that a relatively high proportion of shopworkers are part-timers, and to ensure that they have the same protection as full-time employees all existing employees, irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer, or how few hours they work in a week, will be able to claim these rights. These are important and effective safeguards for existing shopworkers, and existing employees need no longer be worried that they may be forced to work on Sundays.
During the debate the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy—and I would agree with him that Sundays in Wales are certainly different—raised the position of new recruits into the industry after commencement, and why they should not also be able to claim these rights. The reason for distinguishing between existing and future shopworkers is quite clear and straightforward. This Bill will radically alter the position of existing shopworkers, many of whom may have been attracted to shop work in the first instance because they would not have to work on a Sunday. I can well understand the concern of existing workers, and our proposal on safeguards recognises their special position.
However, I do not believe that similar considerations apply to new recruits. In what ways are they different from other employees who join industries where Sunday working is expected? On Sunday. 24th November, I watched the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham on television. If he had not driven himself to the studio he would have taken a bus or a taxi. On arrival he would have been greeted by someone from the television studio team, with electricians and cameramen standing by. After he had finished his work there he would have presumably returned home to where his wife had been cooking on either gas or electricity to provide him with a nice lunch; or may be, if he was feeling generous, he would have taken her out to lunch at a restaurant.
There are people out there providing all these services. It is a fact today that people in many walks of 1169 life have to work, at least occasionally, on a Sunday. It is not only people in public service—police, hospitals, transport—but also people in manufacturing, agriculture and leisure industries. The recent study we have seen suggests that as many as four million people have to work regularly on a Sunday; and almost another five million work occasionally on a Sunday. I have not seen a great outcry that people are working on Sundays at swimming pools or restaurants or estate agents. I think we must recognise that the pattern of working lives for many people includes an element of Sunday working. We should all remember that full-time employees who work on a Sunday will usually be entitled to a day off in lieu during the week. For these reasons I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that I do not believe it would be right, nor could we defend a decision, to give special privileges to new recruits after commencement date.
Turning to the Bill's provision on young people, I should make it clear that all the Shops Act provisions are being retained for 16 and 17 year-olds, at least for the time being. These provisions include setting their maximum hours and overtime and controlling night employment as well as the weekly halfday holiday, meal breaks and Sunday employment rules. We cannot pretend that these restrictions are anything other than outdated, but there are different considerations with young people. It can still be argued that some form of protection for young people may be needed to safeguard their interests. The Shops Act is just part of the legislation governing young people's hours of work.
The Factories Act 1961 and related legislation contain very similar rules. A detailed review of all the legislation is necessary to assess its relevance today and to decide whether it could and should be updated. The review is in hand. The Health and Safety and the Equal Opportunities Commissions have been asked for their views. They will report back next summer. It would be premature and inappropriate to tackle the Shops Act provisions in isolation from the rest and in advance of the review's findings. Until they are known, the best way forward is to keep the Shops Act provisions exactly as they are.
The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, made much play with the proposition of a 24-hour day. Here we are back again in the realm of speculation as to how many additional shops will open. I pointed out to the noble Lord that shops could open legally now at midnight. He agreed with me. However, how many shops actually stay open until midnight? I know of none.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham mentioned traffic. I would point out to him that with regard to that subject we just do not know how much traffic there might be, but with regard to the management of traffic and parking local authorities have flexible powers. They are, of course, in the best position to determine what is needed for particular localities. They are in the best position to judge what time of day or day of the week problems may arise. The statutory framework within which they work provides for all their proposals to be advertised locally. This enables individuals and other interested parties to make their views known.
1170 To return to the interesting remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, he was of course a distinguished assessor to the Auld Committee. I have to tell the noble Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Oram, that the Government are not sufficiently aware of the opinion of all the assessors to the Auld Committee on the subject of the Committee's report so that I can comment freely on their views. However, noble Lords should be aware of the task of the assessors. It was to assist the committee to identify and to obtain information from all relevant sources and to advise the committee on information and submissions that it received. It was the committee that the Government appointed to consider the problem and to make proposals, and not the assessors.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, asked me about the wages council and their protection of shopworkers. We took account of all points of view expressed during the extensive consultations with wages councils, including that of the Auld Committee. We decided to retain the wages councils but to reform them. As the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said, they will continue to set a minimum rate and overtime rate for those aged 21 and over. I should like to reassure the noble Lord that the proposed legislation will cover shopworkers.
These reforms are necessary because we believe that wages councils are pricing people out of work, especially young people. The reform should encourage employees to take on more workers, especially young people. Regarding the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oram, young people between 18 and 21 who are established when the Act comes into force will not have to work on Sundays unless they wish to do so. They will no longer be covered by wages councils' orders because, as matters now stand, the rates of pay ordered by the councils tend to reduce employment opportunities for some youngsters. Some of them may think it is better to have a job even at a slightly reduced rate of pay, and many 18 to 21 year-olds will be covered by collective agreements. That last sentence is my answer to Lord Graham's specific question
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, asked how local authorities would decide which shops should be allowed to open on Sundays on grounds of necessity. We all have different views of what is necessary. I cannot see agreement being reached on that. Noble Lords must recognise that many residents of shopping areas want the shops to open, and will tell local authorities so if they try to shut the shops. The possibility of nuisance occurring is taken into account by local planning authorities when considering planning applications. They may impose specific conditions designed to avoid nuisance when they grant planning permission. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Sandford for summarising so succinctly the difficulties that would arise from any system of local regulation. I endorse his view that we would be replacing one unworkable system with another, and that this would be an unfair burden on local authorities. This point was also effectively stressed by my noble friend Lady Vickers.
Some concern has been expressed about the cost of providing seven-day trading standards inspection by local authorities. The Association of County Councils made the point to the Auld Committee, however, that 1171 most retail traders deal in pre-packed goods, and that a packet of peas or a 13 amp plug is no more likely to be misdescribed, to be incorrectly weighed, or to be dangerous on Sunday than on any other day.
This amendment presupposes the need for amendments to this Bill. It is important to remember that the Auld Committee looked into every permutation and concluded that none of them was fair or workable. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that it is not fair to imply that the Auld Committee was in some way biased or that it ignored the evidence. The committee demonstrated that the present law was an ass. The committee examined carefully all the compromises suggested and concluded with reasons why they would not work. Hence the committee came to the conclusion that deregulation was the only solution.
When proposing to repeal legislation I think it is always healthy to ask oneself acid test questions. If we were proposing today to introduce legislation to make it a criminal offence for shopkeepers to open their shops at hours that best suit them and their customers, would any of your Lordships vote for it? Of course not. If we were proposing to introduce legislation that it would be illegal to work at all on Sundays, would your Lordships vote for it? Of course not.
I thought that my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox made a good point about how tiring it was to have to shop at the end of a working day. Those of us who actually have to do the shopping and fit it round a busy working day—and I imagine that this is a point particularly close to the hearts of all my fellow women Peers; I know I share the views of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, expressed in her excellent speech—will know how irritating it is to be told that only the inefficient need to shop in the evenings or on Sundays.
The point is that people on both sides of the shop counter want to see the law changed in the way that the Bill proposes, to allow for more flexible shopping hours for both men and women, so that shops can open at times that reflect the fact that millions of women—and your Lordships have to face it—nowadays have to combine their job with running the household and doing the shopping. For millions of people, weekends are the only times available for them to cosset their special loves—cars, gardens and homes.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark made much about keeping Sunday a special day. I know that many of us—in fact I should think all of us—would agree with that. But I do not see that this Bill would prevent that being the case. All we are saying is "you may"—not "you shall". I genuinely respect the views of those who do not think it is right to go shopping on Sunday or to open their shops. They do not have to go shopping now; nor will they in the future have to go shopping or open their shops. I submit to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that families and single people should be responsible for deciding for themselves what sort of Sunday they want, rather than have the Government forbidding them, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, has said, the privilege of making up their own minds and consciences.
1172 If the character of the English Sunday is worth preserving, it must be worth preserving not by the force of law, but by the choice of the British people. I ask your Lordships to support the Government and to reject the right reverend Prelate's amendment.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I understand that it is my privilege to respond at the end of the debate and I should like to thank the many contributors for the excellent speeches they have made and the good points we have heard. One of the great attributes of this House is that we can listen and weigh one another's arguments coolly and calmly in an atmosphere which is conducive to such a proceeding. But at the same time I am aware, with the number of speakers that there have been—I think I have heard more words in the last nine and a half hours than ever I have before in my life——
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, if I am to keep the goodwill of the House I must be brief. I must begin by grasping the nettle by speaking about cathedral shops. The noble Baroness the Minister said that the right reverend Prelates were trying to make the House feel guilty. I thought she was trying to make the Prelates feel guilty.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, the noble Baroness seemed to have done a remarkable amount of research into my own private life. I should like to tell her that she has not done enough, because I am in the habit of driving myself on a Sunday and my cathedral is shut at one o'clock, not at three o'clock, as I found to my cost when I once left my mackintosh there.
If cathedral shops are open they are staffed by voluntary workers and not for profit. But on the other hand——
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I remind the Members of your Lordships' House that benefit of clergy ended finally in 1827, and if clergy are guilty of secular offences under the secular law, then they should be charged. I have already spoken of my own charge for speeding. They should be charged, and that is the end of the matter. It is no argument for this Bill, as I see it, that some cathedral shops might open illegally.
1173 I was asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, about the Church Commissioners. The Church Commissioners own freeholds of premises on which shops are being built. They will retain the freeholds of those premises. The commissioners will determine the conditions in which the leaseholders may trade. The commission will doubtless have in mind the views of the General Synod as expressed in its recent vote; and if it does not, I shall guarantee that it knows about them.
The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, spoke of the situation in Canada, as he had experienced it. I have experienced something very different in California. I think that we must accept what the Auld Committee said, that what happens in other countries is really not a guide to what should happen in this country. Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, said that everything is much better in France so far as Sunday trading is concerned. But France has some regulations; it is not totally deregulated.
The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said that this would not be irrevocable. Well, I can concede that in principle it may not be irrevocable, but in practice it would be. Many things—for instance, the beginning of proceedings for divorce one year after marriage, which was recently passed by this House—it seems to me most improbable will ever be revoked. Also, in Sweden, attempts to rescind deregulation have failed.
I do not want to say much on the question of individual freedom because the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, has spoken about this. However, I should have thought that we in this House are really concerned with the welfare of society as a whole, the structure of society. The law is there to protect people, and shopkeepers and others need to be protected.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, spoke of what has happened in Scotland and what she has seen there. There are very different views about this, as I expressed in my earlier speech, and I have been assured that matters are changing very rapidly in the centres of population there.
It is clear that there is great disagreement among Members of your Lordships' House on the economic effects of Sunday trading. There is usually a great disagreement among people on economics and I do not really think that there is an argument there either way that we can safely use, or about whether jobs would be lost or gained.
I must say a word about the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, who mentioned the word "hypocritical". That is a difficult word to mention, even in such a robust speech as hers, because it can boomerang. Those who uphold the law of speeding but actually break the speed limit may be accused of the same thing. She asked why bishops did not support her some years ago and I fear I cannot answer her because I was not a bishop then.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, waved a red pamphlet and read a lot out of it, as though we were concerned not with a Government Bill but with a red pamphlet. It seems to me that we are not at all concerned with a red pamphlet. As I said, the board for social responsibility of the Church of England in no way sponsored the arguments in that pamphlet, especially the suggestions for the alteration of the law.
1174 I was particularly asked to speak on the subject of the ethnic minorities. I actually said something about them in my opening speech. I said that if this was a predominantly Moslem country, then presumably we should have Friday as the day of rest, rather than Sunday, and if it was a predominantly Jewish country, we should have Saturday. It does not seem to me that ethnic minorities can really have special exemptions from the law of the country in this respect, am more than they can have it in education. The law which permitted Jews who kept the Jewish sabbath to open on Sunday is another matter; but we have had no representations from ethnic minorities, because they wish to keep their own holy day, that they then can open on another. The law, we are told, is brought into contempt; but I must repeat that we have had no hard evidence about the proportion of shops that are in breach of the law, and I do not believe that there are all that number.
I have been challenged again by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, to say what kind of amendment could be put to the House. I would be foolish to say what amendments will be put to the House when we meet in Committee, but the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, mentioned that on Sundays shops could open till 9 p.m., and the noble Lord. Lord Jacques, said that shops could open on Sundays after 1 p.m. and there could be an exemption for small shops and even for large shops in non-built-up areas. I mention this to show that the suggestions which will be put forward in Committee are very practical ones, and I cannot myself see that there is any disloyalty, as has been suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, in voting for my amendment.
This is not a wrecking amendment: it is a reasoned amendment. This amendment seems to me not inconsistent with what the noble Lord the Minister said about agreeing to substantial deregulation, because substantial deregulation would go along with some of the amendments which will be before the House.
I should like to thank those who spoke in favour of my amendment, especially the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in his rather moving speech, who pointed out in particular that there was no real evidence that people wanted this; the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, with his passionate Christian convictions; and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who was the only one in the House, I think, who spoke about the local inhabitants and what they would suffer with Sunday trading.
Many speakers mentioned the situation of family life, retail workers and small shopkeepers. I think that perhaps the most interesting of all these speeches was that of the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, because he drew back the curtain around the Auld Committee—and it is the report of the Auld Committee which the Government have accepted in asking for total deregulation. He showed us—and I could only wish there had been more in the House when he spoke—that Government departments were divided in the evidence they gave. He showed us that even the Home Office said that the effects of total deregulation needed to be (to quote their word) "tempered". It seems to me very important that we should realise that the Government, in accepting the report of a committee of 1175 three persons, are in fact accepting a report of people who received very divided evidence and had divided assessments.
I have really tried to listen with an open mind to the objectors to my amendment, but I find their arguments lacking in cogency. This amendment is not about going to church on Sundays, as so many speakers seem to have thought. It is not about all shops being shut throughout Sunday. It is about a compromise between the different interests concerned: those who want to shop, those who have to be there to help them, those who work in all the infrastructure which supports them. There are many interests at stake and my amendment is to produce a compromise which I believe would be practical this time because the amendments would be different from what had been considered before.
I realise that what we do now does not affect amendments moved in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said that he would wait to vote until amendments were put forward in Committee. I feel, and I hope the majority of this House feels, that we should put down a marker now. The noble Baroness the Minister said that we are making a mountain out of a molehill. I do not think so. We are concerned with a principle. The principle is this: do we want now irrevocable, fundamental, far-ranging changes in the structure of English society or are we prepared rather to have a rationalisation of the present laws, and to rationalise the restrictions on trading hours without such extensive deregulation as the Bill proposes? I hope that we want the latter.
§ The Lord Chancellor
The original Question was that the Bill be now read a second time, since when an amendment has been proposed in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham. The Question, therefore, that I have to put is that the said amendment be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content": to the contrary, "Not-Content".
§ 11 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 141.1177
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Ardwick, L.||Dean of Beswick, L.|
|Banks, L.||Denning, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.]||Derby, Bp.|
|Birmingham, Bp. [Teller.]||Eldon, E.|
|Brentford, V.||Elwyn-Jones, L.|
|Briggs, L.||Ewart-Biggs, B.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Foot, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Gallacher, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Galpern, L.|
|Canterbury, Abp.||Gibson-Watt, L.|
|Caradon, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Grantchester, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Greenhill of Harrow, L.|
|Crawshaw of Aintree, L.||Hampden, V.|
|Croft, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Cross, V.||Hereford, Bp.|
|Hooson, L.||St. Albans, Bp.|
|Ingleby, V.||Seear, B.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|John Mackie, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Soper, L.|
|Kirkhill. L.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Stallard, L.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|McNair, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Meston, L.||Tonypandy, V.|
|Mishcon, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Murray of Epping Forest, L.||Turner of Camden. B.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Nicol, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Oram, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Prys-Davies, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Rea, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Renton, L.||White, B.|
|Robertson of Oakridge, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Rochester, Bp.||Winchester, Bp.|
|Rochester, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.|
|Ross of Mamock, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Halsbury, E.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Hanson, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Harmar Nicholls, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Harris of High Cross, L.|
|Arran, E.||Henderson of Brompton, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Henley, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Beloff, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hood, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Hooper, B.|
|Boardman, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Inchcape, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Jessel. L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Kaberry of Adel, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Kimball. L.|
|Caithness, E.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Layton, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Chelwood, L.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Clinton, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||McAlpine of Moffat. L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Cowley, E.||McFadzean, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Mackintosh of Halifax, V.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||MacLehose of Beoch, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Manton, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mar, C.|
|Dulverton, L.||Marchwood, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Marley, L.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Elton, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Erroll of Hale, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Forester, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Monson, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Gainford, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Mountevans, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Munster, E.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Pender, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Peyton of Yeovil, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Portland, D.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Trumpington, B.|
|Raglan. L.||Tryon, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Reigate, L.||Vinson, L.|
|Renwick, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Romney, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Russell of Liverpool, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Sainsbury, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.||Windlesham, L.|
|Sanderson of Bowden, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Sandford, L.||Wolfson, L.|
|Shaughnessy, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Silkin of Dulwich, L.||Young, B.|
|Simon of Glaisdale, L.||Young of Darlington, L.|
|Skelmersdale, L.||Young of Graffham, L.|
|Swansea, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth. L.|
|Swinton. E. [Teller.]|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at eleven minutes past eleven o'clock.