§ House again in Committee.
The Lord Bishop of London moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Amendment of restrictions on Sunday trading.
.—(1) For section 47 of the Shops Act 1950 (closing of shops on Sunday) there shall be substituted the following section—
Closing of Shops on Sunday
47.—(1) Except as provided by subsections (2) and (3) of this section, every shop shall be closed for the serving of customers on Sunday.
(2) Where not more than five persons are employed (whether full-time or part-time) about the business of a shop, that shop may be open for the serving of customers between the hours of nine o'clock on Sunday morning and five o'clock on Sunday afternoon.
For the purposes of this subsection the spouse of the occupier of a shop shall not be treated as employed about the business of that shop.
(3) A shop may be opened for the serving of customers on Sunday for any transaction mentioned in the Fifth Schedule to this Act.
(4) The Secretary of State may amend Schedule 5 by regulation by way of statutory instrument.
(5) A regulation under this Act by way of statutory instrument may be annulled by resolution of either House of Parliament.
(2) For section 59 of that Act (offences) there shall be substituted the following section—
Offences connected with Sunday trading
59. In the case of any contravention of any of the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act, the occupier of the shop shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £10,000.
§ (3) For Schedule 5 to that Act (exempted transactions) there shall be substituted the following Schedule—
§ "FIFTH SCHEDULE
§ TRANSACTIONS FOR THE PURPOSES OF WHICH A SHOP MAY BE
OPEN ON SUNDAY UNDER SECTION 47 OF THIS ACT
§ The sale of—
- (a) newspapers and magazines;
- (b) meals or refreshments whether or not for consumption at the shop at which they are sold;
- (c) petrol, oil lubricants and spare parts for cars and motor cycles at petrol filling stations together with table water, sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery and ice-cream sold on those premises;
- (d) goods at any shop at such airports, main line railway or omnibus stations, passenger ferry seaports or motorway service stations as may be approved by the Secretary of State:
- (e) goods required for any game or sport at any premises or place where that game or sport is played or carried on;
- (f) goods at, or within the curtilage of, any place of religious worship, or any museum or gallery under the control of a public authority;
- (g) medicines and medical and surgical appliances and toiletries—
- (i) at any premises registered under section 75 of the Medicines Act 1968;
- (ii) by any person who has entered into a contract with an Area Health Authority for the supply of drugs and appliances:
- (h) goods at any premises or place used primarily for the sale of plants and requisites for gardening;
- (i) goods required for the purpose of enabling the occupier of any premises to maintain or improve those premises himself." ").
§ The right reverend Prelate said: In this amendment I aim at providing a workable compromise between those who are committed to total deregulation and those who oppose that and want some degree of reform. I go quite a long way, I believe, to meet those who are in favour of the Bill as it stands. The amendment provides, in effect, for total deregulation 604 for small shops and then goes on to extend the schedule. I should like briefly to sum up the amendment by saying, first, that it provides that small shops shall be allowed to open unrestrictedly and to sell what they like. It is for this reason that the Fifth Schedule as revised in the amendment is shorter than that of other amendments because anything can be sold in the small shop. Secondly, the amendment provides for a revision of the present schedule to the present Act to allow for certain additional sales that are suitable to the present day. Thirdly, it provides for the revision of the schedule by regulation. Lastly, it aims at helping in the matter of enforcement.
§ In effect the amendment has two legs. One is directed towards sales in small shops, unrestricted in both opening and what they can sell. Then, there is a revised schedule for the others. The vast majority of the Christian community and a great many other people, as we on these Benches have been made only too well aware, are opposed to the total deregulation by statute of trading on Sundays. But the schedule of exceptions to the 1950 Act has been found to give rise to difficulties. Any assistance that can be given in this respect to local authorities and their enforcement officers should be given. The rationale for the 1950 Schedule 5 was twofold. It incorporated some traditional exemptions, for example, for well-established markets and some exceptions justified on the basis of need, mostly for the travelling public and the sick. These exceptions cannot be regarded other than with complete understanding.
§ The amendment in my name seeks to meet the public's needs more simply than did the 1950 schedule and with more flexibility. As to the simplicity of the amendment, one of the problems of the 1950 schedule was the lack of logic behind the particular lines drawn in the schedule. The schedule was necessary because the Act, apart from the schedule, totally restricted trading on Sunday. This amendment takes some of the weight away from the schedule by proposing new Section 47 (1) and (2) in a retained Part IV of the 1950 Act. It does so in order to maintain a general restriction but also to give general exemption, namely, for the small shops.
§ If regard is to be had to the kind of need that the public encounters on Sunday, especially that for food and goods connected with travelling, most of the need can currently be supplied by small shops. If we are a nation of shopkeepers, we have, for most of our history, been one of small shopkeepers. The small shop is usually a neighbourhood shop, often selling a broad range of necessities and commonly within walking distance of the 40 per cent. of households without regular access to a car, people who are old and those tied by young families. The Auld Committee's report reminds us that such shops are under pressure from competition by larger shops in town centres. Their passing in towns or country villages, as I know only too well from my time in Cornwall, would be a considerable loss to just those most vulnerable sections of the population that I have mentioned.
§ When we consider questions of need, as I propose in the amendment, there is much to be said for discrimination, if discrimination is unavoidable, in favour of the smaller shop. Balancing a community's dual needs for rest, quiet and relaxation on one day in the week—I 605 shall not develop that point because I have spoken about it twice already—and for access seven days a week to the necessities of life (I refer to food and medicine in particular), it is possible to justify general relaxation in the way proposed, namely, an overall restriction on trading for six days only but a total relaxation for the small and usually local shop.
§ In my definition of small, I have adopted not the measure of floor space or turnover but the more accessible one of staff size. The returns of employment are already made for national insurance purposes. It would seem that the minimum fuss would be created by requiring shops wishing to trade on Sundays under the definition of smallness to forward copies of those returns to the trading laws enforcement authorities. I know that I have spoken about this previously. I believe that too much has been made of the complexity of any kind of restriction and of the difficulty of enforcement. As I said in the debate on the Queen's Speech, frankly, all the arguments that I have heard on that basis could equally well be applied to income tax. I have not heard a squeak from the Government suggesting that because it has to be highly complex and complicated, and because it cannot always be enforced, we should abolish it overnight.
§ Given the problems of regulating, in the interests of peace and quiet, such a common human activity as buying in order to eat or drink or obtain remedies for ailments, this proposal offers as simple a condition as possible and goes a long way to meet the kinds of needs that the public expresses so far as can be observed in present conditions. So much, then, for simplicity—a total deregulation of small shops: anything can be sold.
§ I also spoke of flexibility. It is a commonplace of social comment that yesterday's luxuries become today's necessities. The question of need is susceptible of much special pleading. But some things are surely quite clear. When working hours during the normal working week including overtime hours remain fairly high and to them increasingly there has to be added the necessary journey to work and travelling time, the weekend—Saturday and Sunday—becomes a precious time for active leisure pursuits and for a range of activities that are not quite necessary but are not by contrast sheer pleasure. I am thinking of the necessary maintenance or desirable improvement activities in homes and gardens. I should perhaps declare an interest and say that I regard these as sheer pleasure. I enjoy do-it-yourself immensely. It is my one great relaxation.
§ Nevertheless, my particular interest apart, many must have noticed the importance that the public now attaches to travelling on Sundays, to visiting leisure centres, stately homes, great castles, cathedrals, and to acquiring garden materials and do-it-yourself goods. Hence, the goods within paragraphs (h) and (i) of the revised fifth schedule that I propose in my new subsection (3) would be saleable on Sunday by any size of shop, not just a small shop
§ Taken together, the two proposals, to permit small shops to open to sell anything and to permit shops of any size trading in the range of scheduled goods to open, mean that a great deal of flexibility would be offered to the general public to purchase on Sunday 606 that which it needs without unduly cutting into the difference that makes Sunday special. They also preserve to a high degree the character of a social institution which most of the nation would wish to keep special.
§ May I interpose in respect of what the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said about the former debate? I did not say that the Bill as it stands would make Sunday a day in no way different from others. I said that the people at large would take the passing of the Bill in its present form as a signal that Sunday was no different from any other day. I said that in the context of my former remarks, that the effects of liberalising legislation are very seldom, if ever, what the sponsors intend them to be. It is in that context that I made those remarks.
§ One of the problems of the 1950 schedule was that however ingeniously it was drawn up in 1950, it rapidly became dated. Many of the Bills which have been before this House and the other House since 1950 have sought to vary the terms of that schedule. My proposal is that the statute is not the practical way in which to draw lines in a matter such as this but rather that use may be made of new powers given to the Minister in my new subsection (4) to make amendments for the said schedule subject only to annulment by either House. In that way law is made which can respond to the changing needs of the nation and can be capable of great flexibility.
§ Much has been said already in the public debates about this matter of the difficulties of enforcement. Much of what has been said has been, I fear, of a somewhat tendentious nature. It is known that where there has been a will to enforce the law local authorities have usually been able to find a way. But their will has been sapped by the activities of that difficult customer—or in this case the trader—about whom we read often in history, the over-mighty subject. If in the past monarchs quaked in the presence of powerful barons, bishops or cardinals, so perhaps today local authorities are loth to act against mighty traders with huge capital resources and employment opportunities who flout the laws which other traders dutifully observe and who challenge the enforcement authorities to act against them.
§ The penalties available for local authorities under the 1950 Act have been so puny that sometimes they have shrunk from their duty to enforce them, not perhaps always realising that in public opinion, and in the opinion of other traders, they might have had the more useful weapon of a small fine available under the Act. Procedure by way of injunction has been all too rare.
§ Therefore I propose in my Section (2) that the penalty for infringement of the quite flexible provisions in my amendment be made considerably more substantial than at present knowing that the disparity of size between the smallest and the largest traders is such that the penalty which might bankrupt the one might represent only a few moments' trading profit for the other. The power of public opinion and the penalties available under injunction must cause even the mightiest trading subject to pause.607
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ I therefore offer this amendment standing in my name. It has been drafted without full access to the expertise which we on these Benches would like to have, and which I am sure the Minister has at his disposal. If my amendment is accepted, I am sure that some improvement in the drafting can be made at a later stage. But I hope that I shall carry the Minister with me in this attempt to do more justice to at least some of the various parties who are interested in this matter of trading on Sundays and who have often been identified—not least by the Auld Committee itself—the traders, their employees, the customers, and residents of areas adjacent to high streets and main shopping roads. I hope that this amendment represents an honest and genuine attempt to provide that freedom—of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, spoke—which is both for those who wish to keep Sunday in the pattern of Sunday as today, and those who want to be free to shop on Sunday.
In this hope that the Bill can be improved, I beg to move this amendment standing in my name, and I would refer before I sit down to other amendments which are consequent upon this. I do not wish to comment upon them at the moment. They are Amendment Nos. 38, 39, 40 and 41.
Amendment No. 38: Schedule 3, page 8, line 40, column 3, leave out ("Part IV") and insert—
|"Sections 48, 49, 51 and 52. In section 58(a) the words "Section 52 and"."|
Amendment No. 39: Page 8, line 50, leave out from ("aforesaid") to end of line 52.
Amendment No. 40: Page 9, line 5, column 3, leave out ("Schedules 4 to 7") and insert ("Schedules 4, 6 and 7.").
Amendment No. 41: Page 9, leave out lines 21 to 23.Since they are clearly directly consequential I shall formally move them at the appropriate time. I beg to move.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I have great pleasure and satisfaction in following the moving of this amendment so cogently and effectively moved by the right reverend Prelate.
This amendment gives the Minister an opportunity to deal with a number of the variations which are being proposed by the opponents of the Bill. As the mover of the Motion so rightly says, all of the amendments are designed to be improvements, but we recognise that all of them will be shown to have some problem or deficiency. Those supporters of the case to which I speak believe that none of the difficulties would be as great as the passage of the Bill unamended.
This amendment seeks to try to deal with a number of the arguments. Although the Minister will say—as he has said in Second Reading—that careful consideration has been given, the fact is that there are groups of people outside this House who, whether they are right or wrong, believe that the Minister has not listened or that the Auld Committee has not listened. They have made their case; and they are looking to the Government not to accept the Auld Report in toto. To be fair to the Minister he has not accepted the Auld Report in tow. He has accepted that there should be a free-for-all, but he has not accepted the recommend 608 dations about protecting the shopworkers. To be fair the Minister cannot be accused of accepting the Auld Report completely. He has been very selective. We are saying to the Minister: why not be a little more selective and listen to the people outside the House?
One of the biggest lobbies outside the House is those who represent the small traders. The Minister and every Member of this House will know the case that has been advanced for the small shops. Whether or not it is a part of the Sunday social scene that we would want, it is a fact that throughout our communities, not just in the town centres but in the suburbs, there are small shops, very often opened by members of the ethnic community. Part of their means of earning a living—yes, they will be breaking the law at the moment—is to open their shops of convenience in order to satisfy. What the representatives of the small shopkeeper have been saying—and I shall not bore the Committee in this debate but I have copies of letters from small shopkeepers—is that they have voted Conservative all their lives and they are shattered and disillusioned that their Government are treating them in this way. The collective organisations have said that they have submitted the evidence and there is no evidence that the Auld Committee took any notice of it. However, it is a fact that the small shopkeeper is at greater risk than any other category of shopkeeper if this Bill becomes law because the market place is a fierce area for competition. The name of the game is to retain and maximise your market share. There will be debates where we can show quite conclusively that the small butcher, baker, grocery shop, statistically and inevitably over the past 20 years, is declining.
It might be argued that that is nothing to do with this Bill. They tell us that if this Bill is passed the acceleration will be faster. But if the Minister wants a stronger argument than that he can refer to the Auld Report. The report tells us that if there is complete deregulation, the acceleration of the decline of the small shop will be hastened. So you pay your money and you pick the part of the Auld Report that you want. I ask the Minister to listen very carefully to what the Auld Committee has to say; he should not say that if the Bill becomes law, it will not damage the small shopkeeper. The small shopkeeper says so, the Auld Report says so, and all the evidence says so.
Five employees may not be the right figure; it may not even be the right way to define a small shop; it might be better to do so on profit, turnover or size. The Minister has the opportunity to say "yes" or "no" to all those. I very much hope that we do not say "no" to every conceivable variation. Therefore, the validity of that part of this amendment which talks in terms of a small shopkeeper (who is defined as someone who employs five people) being allowed to open is apparent.
Secondly, that will keep the big shops closed. The Minister might say that that is not our purpose. It is our purpose. It is the purpose of those opposed to the Bill to try to make it impossible or not worthwhile for the large trader to say that he is now legally entitled to open. The legally-entitled shop should be the small shop. Many big shops recognise, and are not too disturbed by, the fact that the small shop will be retained. They do not shed crocodile tears. They do not speak with their tongues in their cheeks. They 609 genuinely recognise that there is a place for the small, convenient store or shop in many areas. Therefore the case for the small shop will be made in other places. I simply refer to it.
No doubt fun will be made about the schedule. We shall be told that as soon as the ink is dry on this revision there will be anomalies. That is the way of the world. After 30 years of legislation the 1950 Act was a consolidation Act. Now, 35 years later, of course there are aspects of the social scene which were not present then. It is certain that in five years' time there will be others. The right reverend Prelate has put forward a new device to bring the schedule up to date. Who says that the present law is being widely disregarded? There is no evidence as such for that; there are statements, phrases and general understandings. I have here a document from the Jubilee Centre and its evidence is as valid as that from elsewhere. It is capable of being criticised in the same way as the evidence of anyone else. It says that the only evidence available from 1,200 shops in 44 town centres in England and Wales—I stress town centres—shows that, far from being widely disregarded as the Auld Committee claims, the Shops Act 1950 is almost universally adhered to, with only 8 per cent. of shops open and 2.1 per cent. of shops flagrantly breaking the law. If 2 per cent. of the shops in town centres are held to be widely disregarding the law, that is fine; but most people are law-abiding. Certainly this Government are law-abiding and want their laws to be preserved. Only 2 per cent. of shops in town centres are disregarding the law.
There may certainly be pressure from those who tend to trade on the edge of towns, whether it be a do-it-yourself store, garden centre or, increasingly, the large hypermarket. There are other arguments in relation to edge-of-town trade and they will be put forward at a later stage.
We must bear in mind that the amendment attempts to bring the current law up to date. There will be those who talk about the schedule as though it is not only a bad part of the Bill, but also a part which it is impossible for the British to observe. My noble friend Lord Jacques, in a very telling intervention, pointed out that the Government choose to say that Sweden is marvellous, but they do not want to know about Germany, France, Belgium or Denmark. I believe that the Committee would be interested in knowing what happens in those countries, which have control by way of a schedule setting out what can be sold and what can be open on a Sunday. Generally many of the shops in these countries are closed, but there are exemptions which are categorised and listed in a way which may be irksome but which is part of their general law. From time to time their general law may be changed. I do not suggest that the Minister is saying this, but it is a nonsense to say that it is impossible to apply to people in this country that which has been applied successfully in other countries.
I also wish to raise the question of enforceability. I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is in his place, as he always is on these matters. He will speak with authority on behalf of the Association of District Councils. We know the extent to which over the years the members of that association have sought to maintain the law. On average they have spent £27 610 a week to enforce the Sunday trading laws. Arguments will be advanced about the difficulty of obtaining enforcement officers and the problems of restraints. The law has been brought into disrepute for other reasons. It is not that it is impossible to enforce the law; as the enforcement officers have said, whenever they have the support and resources, the law can be enforced.
I have here a document from the Institute of Shops, Health and Safety Acts Administration. These people comprise the enforcement officers, and they have produced a 1985 Bill to which they have attached a schedule. That schedule is not very different from the schedule in this amendment. If one wants to say that the Auld Report was right and the inspectors are wrong, one is entitled to do so; but one is not entitled to say that it is impossible to devise in 1985 a schedule which at least has the semblance of a prospect of being sensibly applied, provided that local authorities are given the resources to do so. I shall speak on the schedule when we come to a later amendment I hope the Minister will understand that this amendment is a genuine attempt to see whether or not there is any ground upon which the Government are prepared to say, "You may not have it right, but we will think again". No one wishes needlessly to press matters to a vote, but they will be pressed if the Minister persists in giving us no hope in relation to any of the amendments that we are moving tonight. We intend to provide the Minister with every opportunity to examine any variation in the general theme that the Bill as at present drafted is capable of being improved, provided he listens to those outside the House and, more importantly, provided he listens to what the Auld Report says.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
I take this clause as it stands and I have the gravest doubts about it. Throughout my attitude has been that of the Gowers Report of 1947, which was disregarded. They said that now it is the public's turn for consideration. That is borne out today by the Consumers' Association. Consumers had no organisation for years. One was brought into existence to speak for them, not by a front organisation of the Chicago School of Economics but organised by the wife of a Labour Cabinet Minister. Even today, when it is maintaining the same note, it is so little dominated by Right ideology that in its latest and valuable world survey of wine it significantly omits South Africa, which is a major producer of wine, and of quality wine. When the Consumers' Association tells me that there is a demand, I demur slightly when I hear it said (as I heard it said over and over again on Second Reading) that there is no demand for this Bill from any quarter, that there is no consumer demand for this Bill. That is my starting point.
We all, I think, favour the continuation of the small shop. I myself hope to see the churchgoers in my village shopping at the village shop after they leave church, as we heard on Second Reading is the habit in Scotland. But in my respectful submission it is wrong to try to influence the market artificially in favour of one size of shop or another, irrespective of the service it gives to the consumer. In my lifetime we have seen a revolution in retail trading, and I see no reason at all 611 why the consumer should be denied the opportunity of taking advantage of that.
I do not myself doubt for a moment that in many respects our street-corner shops, whether you measure them by the number of employees, by the space or by the turnover, will provide a service that these great retailers who are now opening their stores on the outskirts of cities and towns cannot provide. But in so far as they cannot, why should the consumer, the customer, the ordinary citizen, be denied the advantage of the superior shopping he can get in the large shops if he thinks it is superior, if he finds the service better?
Apart from that, of course subsection (2) runs utterly counter to practically the whole of the argument we heard against this Bill on Second Reading. How many times did we hear about the mother of the family and the Sunday dinner? Our withers were wrung almost to the point of dislocation. But here under subsection (2) the hours are eight hours precisely in the sort of shop where the married woman is employed part-time, and the hours are 9 o'clock in the morning to 5 o'clock in the afternoon.
I speak with all deference here because I know that the noble Lords, Lord Jacques and Lord Graham, know much more about this than I do, but my recollection is that it is in that type of shop that it is most difficult to give effective trade union protection to the employees. On the contrary, it is in the big shops, where they can employ a personnel manager and where USDAW is effectively organised, that there is the protection. It seems to me that subsection (2) of this new Section 47 is misconceived.
When one turns to the new Section 59 one finds that anybody breaking the law is regarded as a major criminal, and his offence is so heinous that the fine can go up to 10,000. But it is really when one comes to the schedule that one's misgivings are most borne out. The Auld Committee came to the conclusion—I must say that I came to the same conclusion—that it was virtually impossible to work out even today, even for this moment of time, an effective and workable schedule which was not anomalous.
There are some odd things about this schedule, considering that the draftsman had both the 1950 schedule and the Jubilee Trust attempt at improvement to go on. In the first place, intoxicating liquors are omitted. We have not been told why. Tobacco is omitted. I think it could justly be said that most tobacconists are small shopkeepers, but not all. Why should a large composite store be refused the right to sell tobacco? Both items are missing.
Then one comes to a matter which tries to meet a point that was put forward with considerable criticism, notably by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, in her most entertaining winding-up speech when she denounced the Bench of Bishops for illegally trading in their cathedral shops. What do we find in paragraph (f) of the new schedule?goods at, or within the curtilage of, any place or religious worship".The nearest place of that sort to your Lordships' Chamber is the Abbey Bookshop. I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate called in there on his way to the Chamber! Certainly it is a bookshop. It has an admirable selection of books, but not as good, not as 612 great, not as extensive, as the bookshop a little further down Victoria Street. Why should customers be limited to the limited stock in the Abbey Bookshop and denied the greater stock in the bookshop further down?
But it is not only books which are sold there. There are all sorts of souvenirs. Why should they be sold there and not in the souvenir shop a little further down? There is engraved glass, there are pottery figures—delightful goods. Do your Lordships not think that rival traders would intensely resent this sort of schedule? It is not good enough to say that it can be amended by regulation. It is what is devised to be right at this moment. It will go out from Parliament, if this amendment is carried, to the intense resentment of rival shopkeepers and of consumers.
There is only one other matter that I want to mention perhaps before I leave thegoods … within the curtilage of, any place of religious worship".I have not been home for some time but York Minster has a cathedral shop, a Minster shop, which leads right out of the fabric. It sells all sorts of souvenir goods of great delight. But just opposite the Minster in Petergate is another souvenir shop and the overlap of goods, as far as I remember, is almost complete. Why should the Minster shop be allowed to sell on a Sunday and not their rival just opposite?
Then one comes to (i), the do-it-yourself goods:goods required."—Required by whom?—for the purpose of enabling the occupier of any premises to maintain or improve those premises himself.".That would include, I take it, the entire stock of any ironmonger. Is no ironmonger going to complain of this provision? We have in the town nearest to us where we shop in Yorkshire a big do-it-yourself emporium. They sell not only a wide range of goods, including every type of gardening goods, but also such fitments as kitchen fitments and bedroom fitments. If the right reverend Prelate were a handyman, he could shop there and could equip his episcopal palace. Why should they be able to sell them?
§ The Lord Bishop of London
I cannot resist pointing out that not since 1973 has the Bishop of London been allowed to live in Fulham Palace. He lives in a modest house not far from here.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
I must apologise to the right reverend Prelate. I did not catch that; but I shall read tomorrow in Hansard what he said and I shall no doubt feel suitably rebuked. Again I come back to what I was saying. A modern do-it-yourself shop could virtually equip a house. Why should they be able to sell and not the builder's merchant who sells retail a little more centrally in the town?
I do not say this merely in a destructive spirit, as I hope I indicated on the first amendment. Those of us who support this Bill do it on profound ideological convictions and in a desire that the consumer, the customer, the ordinary citizen, should at last have a look in. But, surely, when one examines the schedule—and it can be much more closely and destructively examined—does it not show that the Auld Committee were absolutely right when they said 613 that it was impossible to proceed on these lines without anomalies and without inviting further derision and flouting of the law.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, spoke earlier on another amendment, he was kind enough to quote something that I said at Second Reading: that here is an evident case, which we on this Bench recognise, for the reform of the Act. I hope that, with amendments, this Bill will meet this need. I hope that your Lordships' House may think that this amendment is one way of meeting this need. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, asked whether this is the right way of defining small shops. At any rate, it is a fairly easily verifiable way.
The noble Lord, Lord Simon, has the gravest of reservations about this amendment. He thinks that it is the public's turn for consideration and he does not think that they will get it under this amendment. It might seem, however, that, unamended, it is the turn of big business for consideration rather than the public, because it is big business which will swallow up the small shops. While it is true that many in your Lordships' House mentioned opinion polls in the Second Reading debate to show that there was not a great consumer demand for Sunday trading, they did this, I would submit, on the basis of the evidence, of the evidence that Members in another place have found and which has been found in opinion polls.
Consumers may require consideration not merely as consumers but also as human beings who live in the local environment. I should perhaps point out that I am sure that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London when, as I hope he will, he comes to move his later amendment about the fine being increased to £10,000, will say that this is in order that the big shops can feel it, whereas the present fine is merely a pinprick; and that he does not mean that in every case this is regarded as a serious criminal offence.
What I think is interesting about this amendment is that it does not seem to me to come under criticism from the Auld Report. I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I read part of a paragraph, paragraph 204 from the Auld Report, dealing with the objections which that three-person committee saw to small shops and the small shop exemption. It reads:In particular, the restriction of Sunday opening to small shops would not begin to meet the demand for Sunday trading by the big DIY stores and garden centres. If, as we believe, these stores and centres have an established and useful trading role on Sunday, it would be wrong to prevent their opening on that day. If no special exemptions were made, at least for DIY stores and garden centres, there would be a public outcry and consequent pressure on them to trade illegally. Proper enforcement would be unpopular and the costs high.So your Lordships can see that the objection of the Auld Committee to the small shops is that it does not exempt the garden centres and it does not exempt the DIY centres. But in this amendment they are so exempted. The Auld Committee Report writes:Proper enforcement would be unpopular and the cost high".That is true at the moment. But if this amendment were to secure the approval of your Lordships' House, they would be exempted.
614 I think it is also interesting to examine this amendment against the factors which have been mentioned and which ought to be borne in mind in connection with Sunday trading. In the first place, if this amendment were to gain approval, the character of Sunday would remain pretty well unchanged. Now I know that there are those in your Lordships' House who think that it would be unchanged anyhow if the Bill were left unamended. But many of us do not agree with that. We think that gradually the character of Sunday as a day of rest and recreation would become greatly changed. Young people in great numbers would not be required to do Sunday jobs as well as Saturday jobs if this amendment were approved.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, mentioned mothers and Sunday lunch. He reminded us of how our withers were wrung. Indeed, my withers are wrung. I get quite a lot of letters from mothers who ask what is going to happen. I had one last week, one with a 13-year old son, asking what is going to happen to him if she has to go out. If this amendment were passed, mothers in large numbers would not be required to work on Sundays in retail shops; and they would be likely to come from the locality because that is the case with most small shops. Necessities could be bought and other things customarily bought. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, last time said some harsh words to the Bishops about cathedral shops and I note that these have been taken up again today. In fact, I am informed that because the workers in these shops are voluntary, this is a grey area.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
Would the right reverend Prelate allow me to intervene? When I went to examine the Abbey Bookshop last Thursday evening just as it was closing—in other words, at a time very close to today—I asked one of the assistants whether she was a volunteer or paid, and she told me that she was a paid assistant.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his remarks. I think it would be generally agreed that the bookshop outside Westminster Abbey is fairly unique. It is a different kind of shop, certainly, from the stall inside my own cathedral, which is certainly manned by volunteers. I think it is an exceptional case, though I am grateful that he raised it. As for shops which sell souvenirs, very few of them have more than five full-time or part-time employees. Under the amendment introduced by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, those souvenir shops could be open for the whole of Sunday. Most of such shops are small shops.
I have already mentioned that DIY centres and garden centres would be able to open under the exemption and, because the list can be changed by regulation, as the right reverend Prelate said, these arrangements are flexible and anomalies can be changed. That is the virtue of having regulations. Furthermore, if we had this regulation we would not need that large infrastructure which would otherwise be needed to support full-time shopping everywhere: lorries, cars, buses, police, cleaners and so on. They would be needed only if the large stores opened on Sunday and, as I see it, it is the virtue of this amendment that they would not open.
615 Furthermore, the noble Lord the Minister in his Second Reading speech said a very great deal about the need to enforce the law. I am sure your Lordships would agree with him here, but if this amendment were introduced the law could easily be enforced. After all, is it not true that apart from DIY shops it is the small shops today that open illegally, but under the right reverend Prelate's amendment they would be allowed to open? There would be no question of enforcing the law with them because they would be acting legally. There would be comparatively few big shops to be monitored—not many shops indeed for which the enforcement officers would have to look out especially. We have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord, Graham, that they think this is perfectly manageable if some new Schedule 5 were introduced.
Furthermore—no one has yet mentioned this but I feel that I should—the Institute of Fiscal Studies spoke of 20,000 jobs which might be lost eventually and of costs increasing by up to 10 per cent. But if only small shops were to be opened, together with the exemptions in Schedule 5, there would not be that kind of loss of employment or that kind of increase in costs.
I, too, would like to invite the noble Lord the Minister to respond. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested, I hope he might show willingness to respond favourably to this amendment. Indeed, I would like to ask him, if he will not respond: why not? It does not offend against the Auld Report and he himself said—I commented on it at Second Reading but he did not reply; indeed, he did not reply at Second Reading so he had no opportunity of doing so—at col. 1065 on 2nd December 1985:These things cannot be allowed to continue as they are. The choice is clear: there must be either substantial deregulation or much harder enforcement of the law.".I would not dissent from that statement. I cannot see that this amendment is in any way in contradiction to the statement made by the noble Lord the Minister. It does propose substantial deregulation and in such a way that the law can be easily enforced. It proposes it in a way which I should like to suggest does not harm the various categories of people about whom we in this Committee ought to be particularly concerned so as to ensure that their Sundays are not endangered.
Finally, in this connection I should like to comment about some wise words that were spoken by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in connection with the Shops Bill 1956. I quote from Hansard, and I hope those who have been Whipped might like to know it. He said:Sunday trading is not a matter upon which a government should hold strong dogmatic views in either direction".
§ Baroness Lockwood
I should like to support the amendment in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London. In doing so, I very much regret that I am in complete opposition to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, with whom I am usually in complete agreement. But this is how it goes on these occasions. He used the term "ideology". On this occasion I think we must be opposed "ideologically".
The right reverend Prelate said about his amendment that perhaps the drafting was not perfect. Not being a draftsman I will not comment on that, but 616 the concept of the amendment is admirable. It covers four of the major areas which I think are very important in the context of this Bill. First of all, it deals with the small shops and I think the small shops can be divided into two categories. There is the small shop on the street corner or in the village, which is a convenience to the inhabitants who want their Sunday newspapers or tobacco or who may have forgotten to buy a loaf of bread or half a pound of butter, or whatever it may be. I think it is essential that we should make provision for that kind of consideration.
In that context I would say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that we are not really intruding very much in this area on the rights of working women or of mothers, because very often these shops are family shops and the family take it in turn to serve behind the counter or else they bring in someone to help for a couple of hours. So it does not really interfere very much with the family Sunday dinner. In any case, certainly in the summer months, the family Sunday dinner does not often exist because the family want to go off on a picnic and they take their meal with them and come back and have supper after a day out in the country or by the sea.
The day out in the country might involve the other kind of small shop: for instance, small shops such as the ones which open in the small town of Ilkley, very close to me, which cater for people wanting small gifts, souvenirs and things of that kind. These are things, together with purchases from sweet shops, which the tourists want. That is the need for which we have to cater in relation to the small shopkeeper.
Again, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, referred to some of the souvenir shops and to two shops in particular, one in Victoria Street and one just across from the Minster of York. I cannot comment on the situation in Victoria Street, but the small shop opposite the Minster in York is likely to be a shop with fewer than five sales people. Therefore, it would be covered by this amendment and there would be no unequal competition between the Minster and the local souvenir shop.
Secondly, the amendment covers the essential area of making medicines and so on available; it covers the area of public transport, and it covers the area of leisure activities. In the sense that it covers the area of leisure activities, I find this amendment more appealing than some of the other amendments which are less wide. It may not cover tobacco. I certainly have not noticed that, but perhaps it is because I am a non-smoker. It may not cover liquor. I must say that there is an omission. I cannot claim to be a nondrinker. But I am sure that is something that could easily be put right at Report stage, if not by a further amendment.
So I support this amendment. In addition to the points I have already made, I concur completely with what my noble friend Lord Graham has said about the small shopkeeper. There was no dubiety in the Auld Report about the fact that if we had the opening of the larger shops on a Sunday, that would assist the demise of the small shopkeeper. For all sorts of reasons it would be tragic if this country were to lose the corner shop and the village shop. They are an integral part of 617 our community and we must do all we possibly can to protect them.
In saying that I would point out that in all other areas of employment we are not talking about complete deregulation. We are leaving protection of employees in the sense of the Factories Act, and if we were to pass this Bill as it stands at the present time, shopworkers would have less protection than those who work in a factory and who are covered by the Factories Act. In particular, that applies to women and to young people. We are not talking about removing all regulations from offices, from transport or from licensed premises, so why should we talk about removing all regulations from shopworkers? This is something which is completely unacceptable and is out of keeping with our concept of what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, although this amendment may need one or two little alterations to tidy it up, I hope that it will commend itself to your Lordships and gain support.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
I want to appeal to my friends on the Government Front Bench not only to listen, but to listen and hear. I want to remind them that there is a danger, which sometimes afflicts Conservative Governments, which is the idea: we are right and everybody else is wrong. As I remember, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur was not in this House when in 1972 the Conservative Government of that day drove through this House without one single amendment at any time—even an amendment to correct the English—a Bill to enable us to adhere to the Euopean Community in terms which have been a matter of controversy ever since and which were a disgrace to this House at that time. That was a classic and terrible example of absolutism which sometimes afflicts Conservative Governments. So I want first to ask them to listen very quietly and sympathetically to an appeal.
We have heard in the debate so far an immense amount of patter about deregulation as an end in itself. It reminds me of an African—I think he was in Tanganyika—who, when his country achieved independence, asked, "Does that mean we can now drive on both sides of the road at once?" That is the absolute nonsense of total deregulation.
I think it is worth reminding your Lordships of what was stated at Second Reading by the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher. He had acted as one of the assessors to this tiny, hand-picked committee to which some attention has been paid. He said: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 he spoke with knowledge—and what the Government are proposing in the Bill before us tonight."—[Official Report, 2/12/85; col. 1124].I am sure that my noble friends on the Front Bench would agree that their purpose is not to have all shops able to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but that is the position to which they are committed in this Bill, subject to amendment. I believe that they must listen to amendments and I am sure they will, not least because on Second Reading we were given the word "substantial" as a sort of qualification for accepting this Bill.
618 We have also been made to listen, not once but many times, to a great story about the impossibility of enforcement. I dare not weary your Lordships' Committee with points that I would have made on Second Reading had they not already been made by the 25 speakers before my name was reached. But the fact is that the people whose job it is to enforce have said, over and over again, that they could do so if they were properly supported by their local authorities.
We have also been told that the anomalies are so strange that they cannot be put right, but a number of noble Lords have reminded us that in most of the countries of Europe there is some control and some restriction—in some cases very stringent restriction—on Sunday opening. With regard to Sweden, which is so often quoted, there is a movement there to restore controls.
I say those things by way of generalities, hoping and praying that the Government will listen to the seriousness of the appeal behind the amendment. It may be faultily drafted—all right, but there will be plenty of time to look at it again. I want the Government to say that they will have a good look at it and not force us into a Division. The amendment has support in many quarters of the Committee. It is an amendment which I shall call an amendment on behalf of small shops, and small shops are really dear to the hearts of noble Lords in all quarters of the Committee. It is generally agreed that the small shop, the corner shop, has a sociological function in that it caters for felt needs, actual needs, and is used really for topping up. There are the DIY and garden centre extensions, which are slightly different. At any rate the small shop is dear to the hearts of your Lordships in all parts of the Committee, no matter what degree of fun the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, may make, and indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington earlier, may make about cathedral shops in particular places. The fact is that the big chains are in favour of this. Certainly they are against extensive Sunday opening. We know that the evidence of Lewis, Boots, Tesco and Marks and Spencer was in that direction when they gave evidence to the Auld Committee. This amendment makes an attempt to list reasonable articles for sale. One has to start somewhere. This is a reasonable attempt, but it can be changed and can be brought back at Report stage if necessary. Finally, the amendment includes proper provisions for the amendment of the schedule by parliamentary procedure.
This is a very reasonable amendment praying the Government not to be absolutist and not to be, if I may use an analogy about which I hope my Roman Catholic friends will not mind, too papal and pontifical about it—I offend the bishops, but never mind—not to be too papal, absolutist and infallible about it. A serious case has been made here from all quarters of the Committee and I appeal to my noble friend the Minister to give very sympathetic attention to it and at least to say that the Government will have a look at it.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
I should like to speak briefly to this amendment and to reiterate what are people's main interests in this Bill. Their four priorities are: that the interests of small shopkeepers should be 619 represented; that their own interests as consumers and shoppers should be reflected; that the interests of shopworkers should also be safeguarded; and that the character of Sunday should not be completely changed. My noble friend Lord Graham has put the interests of the small shopkeeper very clearly, and on that there is nothing else to say.
I should like to stress a little the interest of the consumer, the shopper, the person who does the shopping. This was put very clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Vestey, at Second Reading. I felt that he should know a great deal about the person who uses small shops in towns, villages and rural areas throughout the country. This is what the noble Lord said:Have the long-term effects on the consumer … 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".—[Official Report, 2/12/85; col. 1135.]I was very struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Vestey, said, because I felt he was in a strong position to know about the person who goes to small shops. Today is Monday and therefore yesterday, Sunday, is not long ago. I do not know whether the noble Lord the Minister is responsible in his family for doing the shopping, but I certainly am in my family. I wonder whether I ever would wish to shop for anything on a Sunday. Personally I do not particularly like shopping and therefore the thought of there being a day when I do not have to shop is one of pure delight for me. I would shop only for the items that are in the right reverend Prelate's schedule. I certainly would not be buying cigarettes. Many people have said that that omission is wrong. I believe that the omission of cigarettes from the right reverend Prelate's schedule is a very good thing.
Otherwise, I believe that most people think of Sunday shopping as being a matter of "topping up"; of buying a newspaper or buying aspirin. It is very much woven into the lives of people, to be able to make purchases on Sundays. That is an important aspect from the point of view of the person in the family who is responsible for shopping.
Much has been said and withers have been mentioned. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn asked me where the withers of a person were. He even looked it up in the dictionary and now he knows. We know that they have been very much affected in this debate. Nevertheless, there are 1 million married women working in the retail trade. There is no doubt that under the amendment of the right reverend Prelate fewer married women would be involved in working on a Sunday. In subsection (2) the right reverend Prelate is really considering small families, where the mother or wife would be involved in Sunday trading. However, that is quite different from the mother who is taken away from her home and her children and who is moved into a large shop to work on Sundays. One cannot really compare the two.
620 Much has been said also about the character of Sunday. Again, that is very much protected by the right reverend Prelate's amendment and I will not amplify that point any more. In my view, the right reverend Prelate covers the four areas that appear to be of most concern to all the people to whom I have spoken and who have written to me about the subject of deregulation. Those are the interests of the small shopkeeper, the interests of the consumer, the interests of the shopworker, and the character of Sundays. Those considerations are dealt with very seriously by the amendment. As the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, has just said, there is therefore a very serious point to consider here.
§ Lord Stallard
I can quite readily agree with much of what has been said—particularly the remarks made by the mover and by the supporters of the amendment so far. I have no difficulty at all in aligning myself with the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, in his remarks.
I was spurred into speaking again because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has once or twice referred to the fact that it is time for the demands of the people to be catered for. I feel that this is another example of where people who have not been consulted at all are being used to justify legislation that was not even in the Government's manifesto. There is no justification whatsoever for arguing that the public are demanding deregulation. There has been no test of the people's demands or opinions in the form of a referendum, vote, or election.
I am strengthened in that view by a reply that was given to a recent Written Question put by Mr. Dykes, who asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department,if he will set out the number of representations he has received from members of the public and interested parties for and against the shopping on Sundays proposals contained in the Shops Bill since the Bill was published".—[Official Report, Commons, 5/12/85; col. 309.]The Secretary of State replied:We have received 6,664 representations opposed to the Shops Bill since its publication, and 24 in favour".I would not say that such a response represents great public demand—and that was only a week or so ago. I fail to see from where the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, gets his facts so far as public opinion is concerned.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
If the noble Lord will permit me, I expressly quoted the Consumers' Association.
§ Lord Stallard
I am grateful for that intervention because, again, the demands of the consumers are more in line with the amendment than is the point of view expressed by the noble and learned Lord. Perhaps I may quote again from the small Jubilee Centre brief. It is an excellent brief which, to me, certainly puts the case very clearly. It said:Consumers have expressed a demand for Sunday shopping. But it is a qualified demand. A careful look at the opinion polls carried out for the IFS (Institute of Fiscal Studies) shows that there is only a relatively narrow range of commodities for which consumers have expressed significant demand. These can be made available without total deregulation. All that is needed is rationalisation of the law, and some relaxation.621 Again, I do not think that even that expression from the consumers points to a wholesale and widespread demand for total deregulation. I think that we should put people's minds at rest. I am not going to be too cynical and say what I think is the case, but we can all begin to see where the needs are coming from and the demand for this total deregulation.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, commented on the conditions of shopworkers. I think we can safely say that they will be catered for and taken up at a later stage on further amendments to the Bill. Many of us will certainly have the rights and conditions of shopworkers very close at hand, from first-hand experience, and I do not think we shall let much go by in that respect.
The noble and learned Lord made some humorous remarks about the abbey shops and do-it-yourself shops. Again, I think they were replied to by my noble friend Lady Lockwood. He attempted, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, to make fun of the church shops—the repository-type shops as opposed to the stores. I do not think they even made any distinction between them but lumped them together to have some fun at the Church's expense. The reply is that most of those shops of course will employ five people or less, and this is catered for in the amendment.
As regards the noble and learned Lord's remarks about do-it-yourself, I failed to understand fully his qualifications about the ironmongers because DIY is not mentioned as such in the amendment. The amendment states:goods required for the purpose of enabling the occupier of any premises to maintain or improve those premises himself".I take that to mean tools, drills, and all kinds of things that one can buy at an ironmonger's store. I could not see the noble and learned Lord objecting to that because he has not ruled out this amendment. Therefore, I do not find much substance in his contribution.
On the contrary, I feel that the amendment is a very attractive attempt to balance the whole situation and to tidy up the existing mess that everyone has criticised. Everyone agrees that it is a mess. The amendment is a genuine attempt to satisfy what demands there are for Sunday trading, to tidy up the existing rules and regulations applied to Sunday trading and to make it a more palatable option for the Government, if they are genuinely seeking a way to satisfy the needs as I have outlined them.
I should have thought that, as has been said, the Government would almost take this amendment as a special offer. It would give them the best of all worlds. The Government would be able to satisfy those to whom they pay lip service—the small shopkeepers. Certainly the amendment goes well out of its way to do justice to that section of the community which we should all like to see helped and maintained in the circumstances, as my noble friend Lady Lockwood rightly said. The small shopkeeper would benefit from this amendment.
Secondly, the Government would be able to allay some of the public fears on the social aspects, which we touched upon in an earlier amendment, and the local 622 authority difficulties that would emerge from total deregulation. To a large extent they are catered for in this amendment and I should have thought that that would also make it attractive to the Government.
Thirdly, I believe that it would please the big shops many of whom are being, it would seem, pushed into opening against their will. I well remember the previous debates in another place when this legislation was proposed many months ago, not years ago. The large shopkeepers and the big stores were not at all keen. We had briefs from many of the larger stores and retailers which were against this very Bill. I do not know what has happened in the meantime but their arguments are just as relevant now as they were then. Something else has happened to them. I am not going to suggest what that might be or give any hints. But having said that, I think that the Government should be quite happy to accept this amendment, and I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will be able to say that they have had second thoughts and will either bring forward an amendment of their own at Report stage or accept this one this evening.
§ Lord Denning
There is one lawyer, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who has spoken vigorously against the amendment. As another lawyer, I should like to say that I support it entirely and emphatically for all the reasons which have been given so well on both sides of the House.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, doubted whether there was any consumer demand for freedom of opening on Sundays. Obviously this demand can only be conclusively demonstrated when an opportunity is given. Plainly, if there is no consumer demand appearing, then very few shops will open. They will open to meet consumer demand only when they are free to do so. Therefore, I suggest to the noble Lord that it is quite wrong to say now, while present legal restrictions continue, that there is no consumer demand. Against that statement the Consumers' Association, which has already been quoted, speaks for consumers, in what I think is a very representative capacity. I have a letter from them, dated as recently as the 25th November, in which they emphatically state that they feel that the 1950 restrictions should be repealed. Until it has been demonstrated to the contrary that there is no consumer demand and that the Consumers' Association is wrong, I am inclined to suggest to your Lordships that we should take seriously what this responsible body says.
Does this present amendment, which we have been discussing for some time, seek to meet that demand? I am afraid the answer is that it does not. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Lauderdale regards the Government as absolutist, and indeed he even used the word "papal", in proceeding with this legislation. I realise that, more than anything, the last adjective particularly would have upset the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who sits in front of me. But, again, is it a fair coment? If the Government were legislating to compel shops to open on Sundays, then it would be 623 a fair comment; but they are not doing anything of the sort. They are simply proposing to remove a restriction and to make opening a shop on a Sunday cease to be a breach of the criminal law.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
In a moment, with the greatest of pleasure, if I might just finish a sentence, when perhaps it will be more convenient. If it were proposed to compel shops to open, then that would be a perfectly fair comment. It is not; it is simply proposed to allow them to do so and that it should cease to be a breach of the criminal law if shops do so open. Now I shall happily give way.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
I am much obliged to my noble friend. In rejecting the adjectives "absolutist" and "papal", which I used after some deliberation, perhaps the noble Lord will say that he will therefore join me in asking the Government to look very seriously at the amendments which have come up, be ready to study them and return on the Report stage if we do not press them now. I am sure that as much as anybody he is for liberty of conscience, freedom of discussion and freedom of thought. Perhaps, therefore, he will support my appeal to the Government to have a good look at this amendment.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
If it were necessary to support such an appeal I should be happy to do so, but in fact one knows, as my noble friend knows perfectly well, that our noble friends Lord Glenarthur and Lady Trumpington always look most carefully at amendments, and if they reject them it is because they think that, as in this particular case, the amendment is nonsense. And, with respect, this limitation to a shop manned or womaned by five people only is nonsense.
Why should there be that arbitrary limit? What about the small shop that is growing and developing? What about the one that is well run, successful and enterprising and therefore wants to take on more staff? The proprietor of that shop will know that if he takes on a sixth hand he will lose the right to open on Sundays. He may well be discouraged from so doing. But surely we want those shops to grow and develop, and above all we want them to offer more jobs in order to help the problem of unemployment.
To draw an arbitrary line calculated to discourage those who run shops from taking on additional labour seems not only unfair and arbitrary but to go right against those of us—and I think they are most of us on both sides of the House—who want to see more jobs provided and the total of unemployment reduced.
§ 9.30 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
Does the noble Lord agree that the whole point of this is to show that there is a difference in character between Sunday trading and that which goes on in the rest of the week? The point that he is making about the growth of small businesses and the need to encourage them is much more applicable to what goes on in the rest of the trading week than what is proposed for a Sunday, 624 when the Government themselves, one gathers, have said that they do not wish to change the character of Sunday.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
With great respect to the right reverend Prelate, I do not accept that argument at all. If a small shop is developing and expanding, when this Bill becomes law, as I hope that it will, it will seek to trade on Sunday and during the week. Is the right reverend Prelate suggesting that such a shop should restrict its employment to five people during the week in order not to forfeit the right to trade on Sundays? If he is, he is not only seeking to inhibit the growth of that enterprise; he is seeking to restrict the opportunities of giving employment. It is in the area of retail distribution and of the service industries generally that some of the best hopes of dealing with the problem of unemployment arise. I say to the right reverend Prelate, with enormous respect, that the suggestion that this is a way to make a distinction between Sunday and other trading is an extraordinarily dangerous and ill-considered argument to use.
I have only one other point and that is a rather light-hearted one about subsection (3)(f) of the amendment. Your Lordships will observe that the exceptions provided under the other letters of the alphabet are in respect of particular classes of goods, but in respect of goods sold in the curtilage of an establishment of religion there is no restriction at all. Under this amendment, provided that the shop or stall can be located on ecclesiastical premises, it is open to a person to sell anything in competition with other people who are restricted. I should never dream of accusing the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London of a vested interest, but he may perhaps recall the story of the money changers in the temple.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chichester
I had not intended to speak in the debate, but as, I think, the only member of these Benches who has been responsible for running a cathedral, I should like to say a word about the business of cathedral shops. I was not able to be at the Second Reading of the Bill but I have read the report of that debate and I noted the fun that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, was having with the bishops on that occasion. I am tempted to reply in the same vein that bishops have next to no control over their own cathedrals.
I am obliged by the statutes to be present in my cathedral four times a year. On any other occasion I have to give a month's notice. But, as I say, having had the responsibility of running a cathedral, there is a serious point that I should like to make that has not been made in this connection.
Some members of the Committee may remember a debate that we had six or seven years ago on the English Tourist Board's report on cathedrals, when attention was drawn to the way in which our cathedrals and greater churches have become an enormously important element in the whole tourist industry in this country. More important than that, I would say, is the extent to which they have become and are becoming again great missionary and spiritual centres in the religious life of this country. Very large numbers of people come to cathedrals as visitors and 625 then find that they receive some spiritual message and blessing through that.
The state contributes nothing to the maintenance of these buildings. I can say from experience that the responsihiliity of having to keep in order a great cathedral, running its services and maintaining its choral foundation—our choral foundations are of great importance in the whole musical tradition and life of this country—is a constant anxiety. Cathedral shops are a small but nevertheless significant element in enabling cathedrals to provide this otherwise completely free service to the general public. That seems to me to put them in quite a distinct category from other shops. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, compared the cathedral shop in York Minster with the souvenir shop in Petergate. I would submit that what I have said suggests a very significant difference between the two.
In relation to what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, perhaps I may point out that no shop can be set up, certainly within the curtilage of a Church of England building, without the authority of the chancellor of the diocese, and it would be very carefully and strictly controlled.
§ Lord Norrie
In the Second Reading debate the opponents of the Bill did not establish to my mind any justification for opposing the basic principle. Whatever may have happened in the past, the right to retail, the right to serve customers and the right to shop on Sundays should be rights that any civilised society adopts. I still consider that this amendment is a wrecking amendment and is designed to be so. It removes the freedom of everyone to trade and to shop on Sundays.
In the same debate I made the point, like many of your Lordships, that attempts to tinker with the schedules of the present Act would be unworkable. It seems to me totally unacceptable that retailers should be permitted to trade for the whole of Sundays while others are prohibited altogether or allowed in part, depending on whichever permutation of the restricting amendments you take. Either we should all be free to open, or everyone should be closed—not just the shops but everyone, except absolutely essential services. As was proved by the defeat two weeks ago of the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, this House voted to support freedom of choice.
Let us consider some of the general aspects of the amendment—first, the question of employees. The limitation on the number of employees is unclear in the sense that it is uncertain whether this depends on the numbers employed just on a Sunday or throughout the rest of the week. Let us also consider the type of shop employing these people. It is likely to be focused 626 on a town-centre location. Therefore, there will be a demand for buses and parking. It is the worst possible amendment for those concerned about traffic and noise. The result will be bad tempered shoppers, queues at tills and staff under pressure kept to a minimum of five.
Let us consider Schedule 5 itself. I can perhaps, too, be forgiven for making the observation that in all the restrictive amendments the right reverend Prelates have looked after their places of religious worship or seen to it that they are looked after. I ask myself the question, why?—so books bought from a church shop on a Sunday would be permitted. But pity my noble friend Lord Arran, the humble director of a chain of book shops, who will continue to suffer under this and other amendments unless, in the case of this particular amendment, he can scrape by with an establishment of five or possibly six should his noble Countess be willing to operate an electronic till.
Let me concentrate now on my particular interests; namely, garden centres. At least some attempt has been made by the supporters of this amendment to understand what a garden centre consists of. But how does one ascertain whether premises are used primarily for the sale of plants and requisites for gardening? Is it by reference to sale area, stock on display, or value of sales? I have noticed that at certain times of the year garages clear their showrooms of cars and pack them with garden furniture and allied items; and their forecourts are thick with cut flowers and plants. Are they "filling stations" under Schedule 5(c), or are they places,used primarily for the sale of plants",under paragraph (h)?
The opponents of this Bill do not seem to understand that retailing is a pliable function. It expands or contracts to meet market conditions. Similarly, it changes its composition and shape; and that is precisely why this attempt to curtail Sunday retailing will not succeed.
While I accept that some of the amendments contain provisions for amending the schedule by departmental decision, all require sanction of Parliament or can be annulled by Parliament. If we examine the history of the previous 30 years and the 19 attempts to reform the present law, it is not difficult to conclude that any ministerial attempt to widen the schedule will be fraught with political difficulties. It would be a brave Secretary of State who dared to alter it.
I have previously stated in the Second Reading debate that the present legislation in England and Wales is a compost heap of decomposing law. In my opinion not one of these tinkering amendments will arrest this process. I shall therefore vote against the amendment.
§ Lord Glenarthur
We have had a long and carefully argued debate on this particular amendment. I have listened with great care to all those who have supported it; I have listened to the right reverend Prelate, who proposed it; and I have listened to those who have spoken against it. The one clear thing that I am left with in my mind is a question mark. What is the basis for the reforms relating to this amendment and the revisions of the present law as suggested by the right reverend Prelate? Perhaps they are to allow some liberalisation of the present law.
The right reverend Prelate was concerned about the nature of Sunday, and whether it would be altered. We have already pointed to the position in Scotland; but then we are told that Scotland is different and that a different pattern will emerge in England and Wales.
§ Lord Ross of Marnock
I would not have ventured to intervene on this purely English matter but for the fact that the noble Lord has mentioned Scotland. Does he know what is happening to Sunday in Scotland now? As a result of the changes that are taking place, with multiples opening on Sundays, the smaller and more localised shops are being forced to open as well. There is not all that much more money to be spent in the week and if someone is grabbing it, someone is losing it. The small shopkeeper is going out; and the nature of the Scottish Sunday is rapidly changing.
§ Lord Glenarthur
That may be the experience of the noble Lord, but I have lived there as well and I have taken careful note, certainly in my own local area—
§ Lord Glenarthur
Last week—and I can assure the noble Lord that two weeks ago, when I went into Aberdeen on the Sunday morning, I counted the number of shops open, and there were very few indeed. There might be more at the moment because of Christmas; but if the noble Lord will allow me I should like to develop the argument which I was going to develop previously.
I was going to take an example in England and Wales. Shops in England and Wales are not prevented in law from opening on bank holidays, and, of course, some do. How many do now, I would ask? The answer is that it is very few indeed. It is clear that shopkeepers and shoppers wish to see bank holidays as special days, and special days indeed they are. Why, then, should not the judgment of the community be allowed to decide what the community wants on Sundays?
Is it for Parliament to say, "You may take your own decision in respect of a bank holiday but we shall decide for you in respect of Sundays"? That is very much the logic of what is being proposed when we talk about the nature of Sunday being altered. We are all agreed that Sunday is a special day, but what is so offensive about shopping as opposed, for example, to the many other activities that can be legally carried out on a Sunday and which are not subject to the criminal law, which is the case if one is talking about an offence under the Shops Act?
628 The other point I must raise is the question of the law falling into disrepute, which was the theme of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I hope that no one is under any illusions about just how far the law on shop opening hours has fallen into disrepute. I believe that many people in this country just do not know what is legal and what is not. They may not know that when they shop late at night, at 9 o'clock or so, on the way home from work, the shop is trading illegally. I certainly did not know that until I picked up this Bill.
Most Members of this Committee know that it is illegal to sell a Bible on a Sunday and I shall not go down that road again; the public probably know it as well by now. They may not know that the corner shop and garden centre open on Sundays sell a whole range of prohibited goods. If the shops in tourist centres and holiday resorts are open for more than 18 Sundays a year, they are open illegally. I could go on at length. The point I want to make absolutely clear to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is that the law as it stands is being broken on an enormous scale, and the noble Lord should be under no illusions about that.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
If the law is being broken on an enormous scale, the noble Lord must tackle the evidence from the Jubilee Centre, which said that in 44 town centres which they surveyed only 8 per cent. of the shops were open, and only 2 per cent. of those shops were trading illegally. If it is on an enormous scale, over the years what have the noble Lord and his colleagues done to enforce the law? Have they wished to reach the present position, or have they starved local authorities of resources and allowed them the excuse of the law being unenforceable?
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
The noble Lord knows that it is the local authorities which should enforce this law in their areas. The noble Lord might be able to tell me just how popular those local authorities would be if they stopped half the shops opening in some parts of London, which he and I know well, which are open on a Sunday because the public want them to be open. They are not open because the shopkeepers specifically want to be open with no one around to shop; they are open because of public demands that they should be open.
By this amendment some further goods are indeed added to the schedule of permitted Sunday transactions, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, also said, adding rather ominously I thought that anomalies are the way of the world. For example, do-it-yourself goods are allowed; goods from garden centres are allowed; toiletries are allowed when bought from pharmacists' premises; and any goods from places of worship are allowed.
Yet there is also a move in the opposite direction. As we have heard, sales of tobacco and cigarettes are not to be allowed; spare parts for lorries and cycles are not to be allowed; and sales of fresh milk and fresh fruit and vegetables are generally not to be allowed, even though they have been permitted for many years. According to this amendment, even undertakers cannot carry out their trade on a Sunday.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
The noble Lord the Minister says that tobacco or liquor could not be sold. Was he referring to small shops or was he simply referring to large shops which employ more than six people?
§ Lord Glenarthur
I am referring to the effect of the right reverend Prelate's amendment, and the amendment is quite clear—it relates to shops where five people are concerned. However, it is the case that these goods are available elsewhere at present.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
I thought I made it clear in my speech that the small shops are not restricted in any way and that the schedule in the amendment applies only to those which have more than five employees.
§ Lord Glenarthur
Absolutely. The fact is that at present in shops where more than five people are employed it is perfectly legal to buy fresh milk and fresh fruit and vegetables. That is as it may be. We may at last he able to buy fish and chips in a fish and chip shop, but at what price? When we buy our Sunday newspaper we are to be allowed to buy cigarettes, which the noble Baroness, Lady EwartBiggs, agrees would be a good thing, and of course sweets, unless those who want them wait until after 9 in the morning and buy them in the village shop, or buy them at a garage. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said, restrictions will not however apply to places of worship or areas within their curtilage, at which any item at all can be sold freely at any time.
I do not think it is fair to suggest that my noble friend Lady Trumpington, when she spoke at Second Reading, was just having fun at the Church's expense. She was simply pointing to some of the ridiculous anomalies which exist, and those anomalies hold good if we look at the amendment before us. It is difficult to see what principle is being applied here. This Bill is founded upon principle, and I can see no alternative but to meet it on principle, and that is not suitably dealt with by the right reverend Prelate's amendment.
Should we believe that sales of goods not in these revised schedules are somehow improper on a Sunday? Surely not, since we can buy any of them between nine in the morning and five in the evening in small shops. What then makes the sale of the same item at the same time at a larger shop so deeply offensive that a swingeing fine may be imposed? Indeed, a fine five times the maximum normally imposed on summary conviction. I cannot put that argument more forcefully than it was put by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.
Another aim seems to be, as I think the right reverend Prelate indicated, to assist the small shopkeeper. It is a point touched on by other noble Lords. The Government do not believe that it is right to intervene in the market place in this way. To do so would discriminate against certain retailers and possibly to the detriment of their enterprise. Many small retailers wish to become large retailers, a point admirably brought out by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Is it right to inhibit them? I can think of no 630 sensible reasons for its being so. Nor do I believe it to be necessary.
It is true that the number of small shopkeepers has declined in all western countries since the last war, but in those countries where deregulation has occurred the small retailer has benefited. The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, need look only as far as Sweden to realise that. On the question of Europe, perhaps I ought to say that Sweden is not the only country with no restrictions on Sunday trading. In the Republic of Ireland, Spain and Belgium shops are free to open on Sundays. Other countries are moving towards deregulation either by changes in their law or by traders and members of the public challenging the present regulations. Norway is an example of' the former and France of the latter. In other countries there are forms of regulation, but the move is very much away from it.
I have no doubt that our small shopkeepers too will seize the opportunity of deregulation and benefit from it. They do not need the protection that this amendment attempts to offer. I say "attempts" because I believe that the effect of the amendment would be to increase the burdens on the small shopkeeper, on his staff, and on local authorities. Many retail chains own large numbers of small shops which will be permitted to open.
Perhaps I may bring in a point here that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, raised when he spoke about keeping large shops closed. One thing he may not be aware of is that large stores such as Selfridge's may do overall what they already do in parts of their store, so that the whole store would become a series of boutiques. This situation exists in perfumery and fashion sections of various large stores. Each one of these boutiques certainly employs fewer than five people. But the large stores have to be open as a result and they seem to get round the very point that the right reverend Prelate is suggesting in this amendment.
The small trader who may only have one shop may have built that shop up until it is staffed by six, seven or eight people. His very success in building up his business will debar him from opening on a Sunday when the smaller branches of the chain stores may be open. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham quoted from paragraph 204 of the Auld Report. He quoted it correctly; but what he did not quote was the conclusion that they reached on the feasibility of exemption for small shops, in paragraph 207. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will read that because it says:We are therefore firmly of the view that positive discrimination in favour of small shops, either generally or solely in the food sector, would not work".They came to that conclusion because they did not believe that the small shop exemption would work. Retailing is a competitive industry.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
I apologise for intruding again on the noble Lord the Minister. I have read that last paragraph No. 207. It depends on the previous paragraph, No. 204, which I tried to explain is met by the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. I wonder whether the noble 631 Lord the Minister would comment on that conclusion in the light of the way this amendment falls outside the criticism of paragraph 204.
§ Lord Glenarthur
I thought that one of the aims of the right reverend Prelate's amendment was to discriminate in favour of small shopkeepers because that is where he feels that less damage will be done to Sunday and more good will be done for the shopkeepers. But the fact is that the Auld Report clearly says:We are therefore firmly of the view that positive discrimination in favour of small shops, either generally or solely in the food sector, would not work".That is the conclusion of the report. I cannot see that what I have said is in any sense at loggerheads with it.
Retailing is a competitive industry. Small retailers often cannot compete with the chains which have the advantages on pricing of bulk buying. Many have won a market share by providing better service—and better service means more staff. The small retailer with personal service will be debarred from opening by this amendment because he has more staff; but the chainstore of the same size and of the same range of goods, with self-service and with fewer staff, will be able to open.
What will the small retailer's solution be? To dismiss staff or not replace those leaving, thus increasing unemployment and making the work harder for those who remain? Or, since he and his spouse do not count as employees, should they work full-time every Sunday? This amendment adds to but also subtracts from what may be sold on Sundays, as I have said. It removes some anomalies and adds others which I have no doubt would occupy the courts for many years to come. It attempts to add one group of shopkeepers but fails to do so to the cost of other shopkeepers, shopworkers, local authorities and ratepayers. It allows all goods to be sold in some places which do not at present sell them but stops some of those shops at present selling them from continuing to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, referred to the demand for Sunday shopping. So did the noble Lord, Lord Stallard. It has been said by those who oppose this Bill that there is no real evidence of substantial demand for Sunday shopping. There is an implication in that that people who want to shop on Sundays are those who are too disorganised to fit in their shopping at other times. I shall not be drawn by the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, on the question of who does the shopping in my household.
Perhaps I may simply say this. Let us look at what people do and not just at what they say. The most recent survey that I have seen found that 61 per cent. of the general public do some shopping on Sunday. Some 26 per cent. reported that they went only to newsagents and off-licences, but 35 per cent. shopped in other shops. When nearly a third of the public are going into the shops on Sunday, many of which are illegally open, I really do not see how in any circumstances it can be seriously asserted that there is no demand. In the same survey it was found that in certain groups of people, notably married women and young people, nearly three-quarters are doing their 632 shopping on a Sunday. Surely the key to the whole issue here is that of consumer demand—again, a point made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter.
This amendment is one born of a feeling that some regulation of Sunday trading is necessary, but, as I said at the start, the system it creates is not based on any principle that the Government can accept. Why should it be permissible to sell magazines but not books, sweets at a garage but not food in a small shop only? There is a feeling that any regulation is better than no regulation, but it is based on no principle that stands up to the thorough scrutiny that not only the Auld Committee gave it; many times in your Lordships' Chamber and elsewhere this matter has been debated. I cannot agree that this question of principle that the right reverend Prelate seeks to introduce is a proper matter of principle. I believe this amendment would make the law on Sunday trading less logical. It would make it less fair, less acceptable and less understandable than it is now. On that basis I ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
I must confess that I stand here very deeply disappointed, having heard the speech of the noble Lord the Minister. At the same time I must confess that I have had an answer to the question I have been asking myself for a very long time: what in fact is moving the Government forward? What motive is directing them in this particular Bill? I find that the answer has been given to me twice tonight. It is wrong to influence the market artificially. Now we know exactly why—it is simply economic forces.
I do not believe—and I think I speak for all those who sit behind me on these Benches—that the way to deal with our society, particularly in its present form, is simply to say, "You must let the market run its own course without any attempt to influence it at all".
I have spoken on many occasions about the relationship between production and wealth. Not long ago I was speaking to the Institute of Bankers in the City of London on the need to work to produce wealth, and I said that resources did not simply become available. I am not one who believes that there are somewhere unlimited resources that you can simply distribute. But equally I am not one who thinks that it is a sound principle to allow market forces unrestricted, not influenced artificially, to determine the right policies for our country.
I believe this debate has indicated that this is an issue of principle. Those of us, if I may say so, who are unable to accept this Bill and its total deregulation have really tried to co-operate and come up with a workable solution. Of course it was very easy to make merry with the schedule. I may add that one reason for the schedule is that I have always been taught that in this country it was a natural process of growth that took place in the law. We tried to build on what was there; we did not have sudden revolutionary changes. That is the reason.
But of course you can make merry with any schedule. I could have made merry with it; I could 633 have sung it here in the Chamber to an Anglican chant, if I had wanted to. That would have made you all laugh. Of course you can make merry. It is a cheap way of trying to secure a point which lies behind it. On the question of growth, of course, there will be a problem if a shop grows, but that applies throughout the whole of life. Do I stop earning because my tax threshold is going up to a higher rate? One can take endless examples of where, if one does a certain thing, one is charged more. If you move into a bigger house, you have to pay more insurance, and so on. That argument does not wash. It does not apply because it applies right through the whole of our lives. There are artificial cut-off points of one sort or another and we cannot use that an adequate reason.
On the question of demand, I do not think that argument holds water at all. Perhaps nobody knows the answer. However, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, criticised the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, for saying that there was little demand and quoted evidence to that effect. But the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, had merely replied to repeated statements that there was great demand. Having criticised the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, for saying that there was no demand, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that the only way to discover the demand was by opening the shops. Evidently, he did not know what the demand was, so on what basis was he criticising the other noble Lord?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
Will the right reverend Prelate allow me to intervene? I think that he has slightly misunderstood my argument—I am sure genuinely. My argument was that there was a demand, but that a conclusive view of it, which would convince even the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, must await the actual experience.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
I am grateful to the noble Lord for that comment. But in that case why did he go on to say that one objection to my amendment was that it did not meet the demand, when he now admits that there is no conclusive evidence of what that demand is? I merely make these points to show that to talk about demand is irrelevant to this issue. It is fundamentally one of principle. I will not go on. There is a fundamental principle here which is simply, as has now been revealed: do we just let market forces have their say in this issue—we have tried to meet some of the needs—or are there more important considerations which must be taken into account, and of which we have tried to take account in this amendment? That, I believe, is the issue before us and I must leave it to the judgment of the Committee.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No.3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 51; Not-Contents, 82.634
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Ardwick, L.||Blease, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Brentford, V.|
|Birmingham, Bp. (Teller.]||Broadbridge, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Moyne, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Cathcart, E.||Oram, L.|
|Chichester, Bp.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Crawshaw of Aintree, L.||Renton, L.|
|Croft, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Denning, L.||Rochester, Bp.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Ryder of Warsaw, B.|
|Galpern, L.||St. Albans, Bp.|
|Gloucester, Bp.||Seear, B.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Grantchester, L.||Southwark, Bp.|
|Hampton, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Ingleby, V.||Stamp, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Tonypandy, V.|
|Lincoln, Bp.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Lockwood, B.||Underhill, L.|
|London, Bp. [Teller.]||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Long, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Arran, E.||Lyell, L.|
|Bauer, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Boardman, L.||Manton, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Marley, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Marshall of Leeds, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Butterworth, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Monson, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Cameron of Lochbroom, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Mountevans, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Norrie, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Northfield, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Rochdale, V.|
|De La Warr, E.||Romney, E.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Elton, L.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Glenarthur, L.||Taylor of Gryfe, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Harris of High Cross, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Harvington, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|Henley, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Wardington, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Westbury, L.|
|Kaberry of Adel, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Kimball, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|King of Wartnaby, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Lawrence, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Young of Dartington, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 10.15 p.m.
Viscount Brentford moved Amendment No. 4:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ "Amendment of Schedule 5 to Shops Act 1950635
§ 1. The sale of:
- (a) intoxicating liquors;
- (b) meals or refreshments whether or not for consumption at the shop at which they are sold;
- (c) timetables, stationery, greetings cards and postcards;
- (d) sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery and ice cream;
- (e) flowers, plants, shrubs (other than artificial) bulbs or seeds;
- (f) food, drink and ingredients required for their preparation, before one o'clock in the afternoon at a shop where not more than three shop workers (as defined in Schedule 1 to the Shops Act 1986) are employed and on the premises at the same time;
- (g) medical and surgical supplies;
- (h) aircraft, motor, or cycle supplies or accessories;
- (i) tobacco and smokers' requisites;
- (j) newspapers, periodicals and magazines;
- (k) books at railway stations, civil airports and church bookstalls;
- (l) guide books and souvenirs—
- (i) at any gallery, museum, garden, park or ancient monument under the control of a public authority or university; or
- (ii) at any other gallery or museum, or any place of natural beauty or historic interest, or any zoological, botanical or horticultural gardens, or aquarium, if and to the extent that the local authority certify that such sale is desirable in the interests of the public; or
- (iii) in any passenger vessel within the meaning of Part II of the Finance (1909–1910) Act 1910, while engaged in carrying passengers;
- (m) photographic film;
- (n) requisites for any game or sport at any premises or place where that game or sport is played or carried on.
§ (2) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument amend paragraphs (a) to (n) of the foregoing subsection and may add further paragraphs to that subsection.
§ (3) No order shall be made under this section until a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.")
§ The noble Viscount said: This seems a late hour to be starting another debate. First, I ought to thank my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross for his kind way out of our dilemma. Otherwise, there would have been no Amendment No. 4 to recommend to your Lordships.
§ This is a moderate amendment, and I should like to emphasise a point that has not been made so far today as to the reason why, while there should perhaps be some fairly substantial measure of restriction, such a restriction should not be total and complete. This point is made in the Auld Report where it deals with the effect that deregulation, if it is total and complete, will have on England and Wales.
§ At present, wages for working on Sunday are double the ordinary rate. On that basis, the Auld Report points out that there would not be an enormous amount of further Sunday opening. On the other hand, if wages are reduced from double to one and one-half times normal wage rates, then, because of the reduced extra cost, there will be very substantial Sunday opening. This is a point that your Lordships need to grasp.
§ There has already been a case in Scotland where it was held that one and one-third—or 130 per cent.—of the normal wage was perfectly adequate for working on Sunday. The increased wage for Sunday work may well be reduced as the years go by. The Auld Report 636 points out that if the rate is reduced to, say, 130 per cent., then 86.1 per cent. of food stores may well be open, and that 100 per cent. of some of the other types of stores may be.
§ That is a real danger, and it is why I personally am worried about total and complete deregulation. It is why I have proposed this amendment to tidy up the law. The amendment builds on history and does not sweep the history of Shops Acts away. It tidies up the present position, and it plans for the future. It makes two provisions for your Lordships' consideration. It provides for a new list of exempt goods. I am glad to be able to point out to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that intoxicating liquor and tobacco are included in that list—though I have no doubt that he will enjoy being able to pick holes in the list when his turn comes to speak, as he has done every time so far. Secondly, the amendment also enables the list to be kept up to date by an order without going to the enormous sweat of having a new Bill pass through both Houses of Parliament.
§ I believe that this amendment provides a moderate and sensible way forward. I say this for the following reasons. First, there are some items that must be able to be purchased on a Sunday and no one quarrels with that: petrol, milk, and so on, should continue to be able to be purchased on a Sunday. This amendment provides for that. Secondly, there are other items that cannot be purchased during the week. If one visits a stately home or a site where a guide book is necessary, or a local souvenir that is relevant to the place, the amendment provides for that. What is needed and cannot be purchased earlier must continue to be available for purchase on a Sunday. This amendment provides for that. Sunday newspapers clearly fall into that category because nobody can buy their Sunday newspaper on a Saturday. In fact, that is not totally true because I have bought Sunday newspapers on Saturday evening at an airport when leaving the country. As a general rule, however, it is not possible.
§ Thirdly, this amendment is enforceable. I will not read out yet again what the enforcement officers have said. There is no problem in enforcing this law provided that the local authorities agree to it. I should like to point out that at least two local authorities have endorsed this proposal, so it is not universal that local authorities are opposed to it. Certainly the costs which would be incurred by local authorities if this moderate amendment is accepted would be less than if widescale deregulation and widescale shop opening is permitted and local authorities have to provide the necessary subsidiary services.
§ Fourthly, I believe that the amendment marries up the interests of shopkeepers and shopworkers with those of residents in shopping areas. It ensures that peace and quiet can remain, as a whole, and that adequate goods are available for shoppers whatever the public demand may be; and there appear to be conflicting views on that. I personally have not found any great demand for this Sunday shopping but I am concerned for those who will be made to work on Sundays. One person who works in a chemist's shop said that if this Bill went through Parliament unamended, instead of working for an hour or two one 637 Sunday in three, she feared she would be made to work every Sunday and she was not at all looking forward to that. That is the view of the people who may be made to suffer.
§ I turn to the question of anomalies, which greatly worries my noble friend the Minister. I firmly believe—I said this on Second Reading and still maintain it—that if a balance is to be held between the conflicting interests of different parties there are bound to be anomalies. Our law as it stands in many spheres is full of anomalies. That does not worry me. I know that it worries my noble friend the Minister because he has said that to me time and again. I do not believe that that is a flaw in our law. I would dearly love to support this Bill, which is so tidy and so easy, because as a lawyer I like what is tidy and easy; but I cannot because of the way it will disastrously affect so many people. Therefore, I accept that there are anomalies. Those anomalies can be tidied up from time to time by order, but to be fair and just I believe we must have the amendment. Tidiness with injustice is not an acceptable combination.
§ I was then going on to refer to the practices of other countries. In his winding-up speech, after the debate on the previous occasion, the noble Lord the Minister referred to trends away from regulation. I am not aware of such trends. I have read that a majority report in Sweden recommended reintroducing regulation there because of some of the implications involved. I do not believe that Sweden, on which the Government have put so much emphasis, is all sweetness and light. Undoubtedly there are problems, but other countries have found it acceptable and beneficial to continue regulation, and I believe that this country should do so as well.
§ In conclusion, I would say that this is a moderate amendment. If it is acceptable, the schedule could be revised without too much of a problem now and at the next stage as well. I should like to point out that, if your Lordships felt it was right, the do-it-yourself chains, with their very powerful lobby, could be introduced to it. I consider that this is the best way of perpetuating the traditional liberties and distinctive way of life to which our Prime Minister and our party are dedicated, and I commend this amendment to your Lordships.
§ Lord Monson
This is really a somewhat extraordinary amendment. As I understand it, if it is agreed to it will be legal after 1 p.m. to sell gin but not the tonic to go with it, to sell rum but not the Coke, to sell the Famous Grouse, Bells or Teachers, but not the Highland Spring, Evian or Perrier. Under subsection 1(c) it will be permissible to sell timetables, stationery, greetings cards and postcoards—not postcards—which I take to be the string with which one ties up parcels.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
This is all good fun, but the noble Lord made reference to "after 1 o'clock". I wonder whether the noble Lord would point out where in the amendment 1 o'clock is referred to?
§ Lord Monson
Yes. I believe it is further down in paragraph 1(f). It would be permissible to sell sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery and ice cream—all the things which do harm to your teeth and your children's teeth; but to sell muesli, brown rice, cottage cheese, and all the things which it is alleged are good for you, would be a criminal offence if they were sold after 1 p.m. in a shop employing more than three shopworkers. The sale of Bibles would still constitute a criminal offence unless those Bibles were sold at railway stations, civil airports or church bookstalls; in contrast, pornographic magazines could be sold anywhere at any time. I really think that this amendment is crazy.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I am sure that the noble Lord will not expect me to follow him down his crazy pavement. In fact, we are being invited in this amendment to take on board the criticisms which were made when we attempted to find a better law than the one we have by virtue of amending the schedule, and, as the Order Paper very often provides, there is a progression. The previous itemised schedule was criticised for its exclusion of certain matters. It so happens that this revised schedule includes those items which were ridiculed on the last occasion.
As noble Lords have so rightly pointed out, if in fact we wish to retain the raison d'être of our Sunday, then noble Lords ought not to say that all we are doing is affecting shopping, because shopping affects the whole raison d'être of Sunday. If we change the shopping pattern, then we shall also change a great many other things as well. We shall certainly change the social life of the people who live around the shopping centres.
I live in Edmonton. I know Edmonton and Enfield well. Thousands of people find life intolerable on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. People who know their business say that if the Bill is passed Sunday will become the second busiest day in the week. It will be busier than Thursday or Friday, and almost as busy as Saturday. That is the forecast. We are talking not merely about extending shopping hours but about extending the misery in which people live. Their houses are in the middle of a large car park.
We want to bring sense to the nonsense of a schedule that has outlived its purpose. Time after time, day after day, we shall have to go back to the Auld Report. At paragraph 186 on page 42 it talks about revising the schedules. It begins:The most common suggestion for change in the machinery of regulation has been a revision of the Schedules of exempted transactions".We are not flying a kite. The option suggested most to that committee was along the lines of a revised schedule.
§ Lord Glenarthur
I hate to interrupt the noble Lord, but is he aware that paragraph 196 on the next page clearly says:In our view, therefore, revision of the Schedules would be, at best, tinkering with an unsatisfactory law"?
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I was coming to that after paragraphs 187, 188, 189, 190, 191 and 192. I 639 wanted to begin the argument about revising the schedules where the report began it, and that was at paragraph 186. I can understand the Minister's desire to short-circuit a discussion on the schedule or the report by pointing to the conclusions, but, as he will know, this and other debates are not about the conclusions that the Auld Committee reached. The Minister and his colleagues rejected one of its major conclusions about the protection of shopworkers.
If I may make my case, the committee said that the majority of the evidence that it received pointed to revising the schedule. Paragraph 187 states:On the face of it, the idea of getting rid of the anomalies that have bedevilled the present law by revising the list of exemptions is attractive. But it is only necessary to think briefly about the drawing up of a new list of exemptions to see some of the practical difficulties that would arise".Neither the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, nor I wish to mislead the Committee. There are difficulties in and problems about drawing up a revised list. We do not deny that.
I next draw the attention of your Lordships' Committee to paragraph 190:An alternative criterion would be 'demand'. Some, particularly USDAW and the TUC, have suggested that sales should be permitted only of those items for which there is an established public demand. Such a list might well include items of food, confectionery and alcohol, as well as items particularly related to weekend leisure pursuits. DIY, gardening goods and sports equipment".Those were the recommendations by USDAW and the TUC. The co-operative movement—and I have previously declared my interest—wants at least to start to examine how to change the present law by putting forward a revised schedule of goods. By and large, that is contained in the list here.
Paragraph 190 goes on:The IFS, in its Report, comments on the difficulties of assessing likely consumer behaviour on the basis of opinion polls, because people find it difficult to predict how their shopping habits might change on the basis of hypothetical questions. We believe that 'demand', until tested by actual opening, would always remain a matter of informed guesswork".I would not disagree. The opponents of the Bill have never said that there is no demand. The proponents of the Bill have argued that there is a powerful demand. All that we are asking for is the evidence. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that until all shops are entitled to be open legally, it will be very difficult to assess quantitatively the actual and precise demand.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
The noble Lord will recall that a few moments ago he himself said of Edmonton, an area of which he claimed considerable knowledge, that if deregulation took effect Sunday would be the second heaviest shopping day. Is not that an indication that he himself regards demand as likely to be heavy?
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
No. I am afraid that the noble Lord misheard what I said. I said that those who know the retailing business, actually the John Lewis Partnership, have said—and I said what they said—that if the Bill is passed Sunday will become the second biggest day of the week. If they are correct—I have already said that Auld has commented that it is all guesswork—I am then saying that we are not talking simply about shops and shop hours; we are talking 640 about the consequences of shops and shop hours. I am saying, knowing the area as I do, that there are two districts where the purgatory that exists on Fridays and Saturdays, in terms of the environment, will be extended to a third day—Sunday.
The case that has been made, largely by the proponents of the Bill, is that the schedule is a nonsense. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, I believe, that it was crazy—not only that the list was crazy but that the attempt to do what we wish by means of a schedule of exempted goods was crazy. In that case, there are a number of crazy countries in Europe. If we are to be described as crazy for trying to introduce an exempt list, what do the noble Lord and others say about the experience of Austria? There the normal weekday extends from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday, except for food shops where it is 6.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. On Saturday the hours are 6.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. A general restriction exists on Sunday trading with a list of exemptions—railway outlets, bus stations, airports; souvenirs, travel necessities, sweets, etc. It might not be the list that I would draw up. There may be grumbles and anomalies in Austria. But it is not regarded as crazy to regulate Sunday trading by way of an exemption schedule.
In Denmark normal weekday opening hours are 6 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and 6 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday. There is a general restriction on Sunday opening except on the Sunday before Christmas. A later amendment will deal with that. Again, there is a list of goods that can be sold outside those hours. As before, it might not be the list that I would choose, but that is the way it is done.
In France weekday opening hours are completely unrestricted. One can start as early and finish as late as one likes. The relevant legislation restricts the employment of labour on the normal rest day which is Sunday. The general rule is that no employee may be employed on a Sunday, but, then, their labour laws enable arrangements to be made with the agreement of the employer and the employee. That is apparently seen as sense in France. There is a list of exemptions. This is not only a matter of certain commodities but also relates to the type of shop.
In Luxembourg it is a similar pattern. In other words, there are weekday hour restrictions. On Saturday, opening is permitted up to 8 o'clock, while on Sunday all shops selling anything can open until one o'clock. Crazy? Anomalous? Un-British? They do it; they do it successfully and to the best of my knowledge acceptably by the people who live in that country. Then there is a list of exempted conditions.
In West Germany there are weekday opening hours, on a Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. one Saturday in a month, and the four Saturdays preceding Christmas. It is not Sundays but Saturdays which are restricted. On Sunday there is a general restriction on opening with a list of exemptions.
All I say to the noble Lord is that we are at the very beginning of a very long Committee stage of the Bill. The noble Lord has been courteous and always makes very fair speeches. What we on this side of the argument want to hear from the noble Lord at some stage is the possibility that some consideration will be 641 given to those of us who do not believe that complete—or, in the Minister's words, substantial—deregulation is the answer. It may not be on this amendment; it may not be tonight.
I wonder whether the noble Lord would deal with the point as to whether there is a difference between "total" and "substantial"? In his Second Reading speech, the noble Lord used the word "substantial". My understanding of the word "substantial" is not "total". If that is so, then I shall at least rest secure that somewhere along the line some amendment may be moved, or some thought may be raised, which may be helpful to us.
That is as much as I can helpfully say to the Committee at this stage on this amendment. I hope that the Minister will be kind and considerate with this matter.
§ Baroness Seear
I wish to follow the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I do not like total deregulation. Neither do I like this amendment which I do not think is a practical amendment. But could I pursue the point made by the noble Lord? Is the Minister determined that this Bill will go through—the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill? He must be aware from his postbag, and from what he has heard all around the House, that there is a great deal of very genuine disquiet about the idea of total deregulation. Is the noble Lord going to oppose all amendments that will be put forward? Or is it possible that on the basis of discussion with him, we could see in what ways something less than total deregulation could be devised between us? On this side of the Chamber both the Alliance and Labour Party do not have a Whip on this matter, because we regard this basically as a matter of conscience. But are the Government going to be absolutely intransigent; or can we not get together and see whether there is some way in which some reasonable degree of deregulation can take place, but not the whole, total deregulation?
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
I intervene only because the noble Viscount did me the honour of referring to me. Before I refer to his point perhaps I may take up what the noble Baroness has just said.
I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will deal with each of the amendments on its merits or—so far as I have been able to judge merely by reading the Marshalled List—its demerits. I am dealing with the early amendments. I think that later when it comes to protection of the shopworkers, I may find myself enlisted under the banner of the noble Lord, Lord Graham. But I hope that the noble Lord will resist this and all the other similar amendments.
The noble Viscount pointed out that there would be anomalies. Of course there will, and of course one can make fun of anomalies. However, with respect, he did not really grasp the evil of anomaly in this field. Anomalies which are felt to be unfair and which are difficult to observe and regulations which are felt to be unfair and which are difficult to observe invite an evasion of the law. That arises in two ways. First, it arises when goods can be sold at shop A but not at its rival, shop B. There is an example in the amendment: books at railway stations. There is an extensive W. H. 642 Smith at Victoria Station and another book shop not very far away. If you allow books to be sold out of the very good stock at Victoria Station, the shop in Victoria Street will feel intense resentment.
The other evil arises where you have, as you generally have these days, a shop with mixed stock. An example arises under paragraph (g) in the amendment: "medical and surgical supplies". Most pharmacies sell a very wide range of goods. I do not speak solely of those which are marginal, such as lipsalve, but pharmacies sell other goods. It simply invites the sort of evasion you get today if someone goes into a shop to buy an aspirin and then wants to buy a pair of sunglasses, which it is illegal to sell. There is every temptation to both the shopkeeper and the customer to break the law, and it is almost impossible to supervise.
It is for that reason as well as the other that the present law has been brought into widespread contempt and has been subject to widespread evasion, so tending to bring—as the passage which I quoted earlier from the Auld Report said—the whole of the criminal law into contempt in its train.
Of course there will be anomalies and some do not matter; but the kind of anomalies that I have mentioned, which are inherent in any sort of schedule such as this and which were rightly turned down by the Auld Committee, are, in my respectful submission, quite unacceptable. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will resist them.
§ The Earl of Arran
I have great confidence that noble Lords will deem this to be a really extraordinarily complicated and, I believe, confusing amendment for it abounds with anomalies similar to those which already exist under the present law. Once again we note with interest that it permits the deans and chapters to open their cathedral shops to sell books. Why, I pray, should books not be allowed to be sold in our group of book shops on Sundays? Why should the Church, the railway stations and civil airports have such a divine monopoly?
Furthermore, it seems to permit the sale of guide books and souvenirs in public museums, but not in historic houses or museums owned by private individuals, unless the local authority certifies it to be in the public interest. Again, the revised schedule does not, for instance, include furniture or electrical goods, goods which families would wish to choose together—the family unit going shopping. Recreational items such as video tapes are excluded from the schedule. Here I have pity on my noble friend Lord Norrie, who is allowed to sell only very restricted items in his garden centre. This is all mad and insane, and it is utterly contrary to the spirit of the proposed legislation.
Such an amendment would only succeed in bringing the law on Sunday shopping into even greater disrepute than it already is, and would serve one purpose only—that of bringing chaos and confusion into the shopping community. It is wholly unworkable and profoundly unwise.
§ Lord Glenarthur
This amendment reflects what I understand, and the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, understands, was the most common suggestion made to the Auld Committee when they considered whether any form of regulation could work. There were many proposals for reform by way of simply effecting a change in the machinery of regulation by revising the Fifth Schedule, which of course deals with exempted transactions, and this amendment seeks to revise the list of exemptions to bring the law into line with what no doubt are thought by my noble friend Lord Brentford and those who support him to be modern-day requirements.
I have to say that the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, embarked on some fairly amazing, selective quotations from the Auld Committee report when he referred to it. I do not think that he mentioned paragraph 193. I think just two or three sentences would serve to put this into context. Paragraph 193, on page 43, starts by saying:Even if there were a degree of consensus over the criteria, we can see no possibility of compiling a list that would not be just as plagued with anomalies as the present legislation".It goes on to say a little further down, in relation to the question of glasses:It is absurd that the law should be so unclear that retailers and local authorities should have to do battle in the courts to establish whether the sale of a pair of sunglasses is legal or not.That was very much the theme of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, in his comments as well. It goes on in paragraph 194, but I would weary your Lordships if I were to continue with all that this evening.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
If the noble Lord accepts in toto the conclusions of the Auld Report, which he has just read out, has he any comment to make on how other countries are able to operate an exemption list which it is apparently impossible for us to operate here?
§ Lord Glenarthur
There is a great danger in following the noble Lord's argument about other countries. Other countries vary enormously in so many different ways that one simply cannot apply the rule of what is good in one country to what may hold good in this country. What the noble Lord should understand is that we are simply suggesting in this Bill that shops may open and that shoppers may shop. What the noble Lord failed to point out is that at the end of the day demand will surely indicate whether or not what is being proposed is right. If the shops are opened and people do not shop, then it will be clear to us that we have got it wrong and the noble Lord need not have the worries which he has expressed so strongly this evening.
I can see that superficially the idea of getting rid of the anomalies created by the present law is not an unattractive one, but the drawing up of a new list of exemptions causes considerable practical difficulties, for what are the criteria which make the sale of some goods acceptable on Sundays, or late at night, but not others?
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, asked me whether or not we were going to be intransigent. It is not a question of intransigence. What I say to the noble Baroness is that each amendment will be considered 644 and deliberated upon, and perhaps even voted upon by your Lordships, as we proceed with the Bill. The noble Baroness—and she was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton—referred to my remarks about "substantial" versus "total" in my speech at Second Reading. In summary, what I was saying, if I recall it aright—and I have not had time to read through and find the exact passage—is that there were three essential issues in this debate: the threat to the traditional character of Sunday, the position of small shopkeepers, and whether alternative controls should be applied in preference to substantial deregulation. What I was doing was describing what the issues are. The Government have set out the extent to which they believe deregulation should be substantial in the terms of the Bill. We believe that the time is ripe to remove all statutory restrictions. I really cannot see how what I have said there does not accord with the view that it is substantial deregulation. It seems to me to be synonymous.
It has been traditionally assumed that there are three criteria which have been used to judge whether goods should be exempted—where an emergency occurs, where necessity can be demonstrated and, lastly, where there is demand. As I said just now to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, if there is no demand, as, indeed, my noble friend Lord Brentford said, I really cannot see what everybody is worrying about. I know that that is a point that my noble friend Lady Trumpington would dearly like to have made herself; but I do not think that any but the most ardent Sabbatarian would deny that goods should be sold in an emergency. Clearly medicines must be available and presumably motor spares and petrol to allow motorists to set about what they want to do. I am glad that under this proposal these items would still be available.
But what of the concept of necessity? The amendment proposes, for example, that intoxicating liquors, sweets, chocolates, sugar confectionery and ice cream can be sold. But why? I know that most children regard sweets and chocolates as necessities, but can such items really be so described? Who is to draw the line and say that you can buy sweets on a Sunday because generally the public appear to want it—and there would be an outcry if you refused to allow that—but not paint or other items one might buy from a DIY shop despite the fact that there is clearly a substantial demand for such items, which your Lordships will note are not acceptable under the terms of this amendment?
It will be noted that at item (f) in the new list of goods it is now proposed that food, drink and ingredients required for their preparation may now be sold before one o'clock in the afternoon at a shop where not more than three shopworkers are employed and on the premises at the same time. Surely, this is a good example of the difficulties one finds when trying to impose these types of restriction. There are many food shops, some of quite substantial size, now open illegally in London on Sundays. They appear to provide a considerable service, judging by the number of these shops springing up everywhere, and must be satisfying a need. They certainly fulfil a need of mine. I am quite sure that from time to time they fulfil a need of the noble Lord, Lord Graham. That they are springing up in itself indicates a need which exists.
645 Many have more than three staff and may well claim that the running of their shop would prove impossible were they to be restricted to three shopworkers on a Sunday. And who would enforce this particular requirement? Who would ensure that there were only three workers present at any one time? Is this a further burden to be placed on the shoulders of local authorities?—because I am certain that they will be very reluctant to accept it.
In an age of mixed retailing and of self-service, enforcement of the present law is difficult. For example, if a customer selects a non-exempt item along with many exempt items, is it reasonable to expect a shopkeeper, legally open, to refuse to sell goods which he wishes to sell to a customer who has selected them and wishes to buy them? That seems to me to be a nonsense. With the obvious public demand for certain goods on Sundays, and the difficulty in separating legal and illegal transactions, I believe this system would place an unreasonable burden on shopkeepers and the local authorities responsible for enforcement.
Any proposal that does not recognise the present demands—and DIY shops and the full range of products available in garden centres are perhaps the most obvious examples—can be regarded neither as feasible nor as one that will be readily acceptable to the majority of people in this country. Revision of the present schedules really cannot produce a workable solution. However much we would all perhaps like to see it, I can honestly say that in all the examinations that have been undertaken on this subject there seems no reasonable way that such a solution could be found.
Finally, I would turn to the Auld Report: I quoted paragraph 196 earlier. As that report concluded, when considering this kind of proposal, the suggestionwould be, at best, tinkering with an unsatisfactory law".I hope that I have said enough to convince my noble friend that, very much along the lines of the schedule as discussed in connection with the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, really we are getting nowhere on this basis. We have had a long and thorough discussion about it. I hope that my noble friend will see fit now to withdraw his amendment.
§ Viscount Brentford
I am encouraged by my noble friend saying that he would very much like to see a list along these lines if it could be produced, and I shall take some heart from that. I have not demurred over the difficulties of a list of this kind. My point is that the unfairness to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, referred, between one shop and another is far less than the unfairness of total and complete deregulation which is caused to those who would suffer from it.
It is that balance of unfairness which has led me to move this amendment. Nevertheless, at this late stage I will beg leave to withdraw it so as not to inconvenience your Lordships any further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House resumed.
§ House adjourned at two minutes past eleven o'clock.