§ 3.13 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Glenarthur.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD HAYTER in the Chair.]
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 5:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Consent by local authorities
§ .—(1) A local authority may by order (in this section referred to as a "consent order") made in accordance with the provisions of this section provide that shops situated in their area or in such part thereof as is specified in the order may for the purposes of such transactions as may be specified in the order be open for the serving of customers on Sunday, and in such cases and to such extent as is specified in the order Part IV of the Shops Act 1950 shall not apply.
§ (2) A consent order may contain such incidental, supplemental or consequential provisions as may appear to the local authority necessary or proper.
§ (3) A local authority shall not make a consent order except—
- (a) on the request of the owner of the shop, and
- (b) after consultation with any body appearing to them to represent relevant interests.
§ (4) In this section, "relevant interests" means the interests of employers in the locality, the interests of employees in the locality and the interests of the shopping public in the locality.")
§ The noble Lord said: We return to the general area of an amendment that was moved so ably by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, yesterday. In essence this amendment is seeking to provide local authorities with some discretion over what happens in their areas in respect of the pattern of trade and the pattern of trading hours. It is as simple as that.
The amendment seeks to provide local councils and local councillors with an opportunity of exercising some discretion over the very broad and very vital area that is contained in the Bill. I draw the attention of the Committee to what I think are significant words in the amendment. In the amendment I refer to,
shops situated in their area or in such part thereof".
I talk in terms of the consent order containing,
incidental, supplemental or consequential provisions".
I use the words "necessary or proper". I refer to,
consultation with any body appearing to them to represent relevant interests".
I then make an attempt to define the "relevant interests". I specify three which are not exclusive. The three are the employers, employees, and the shopping public.
§ There is nothing wrong with the concept of providing national legislation in the pursuance of which powers can be exercised by local councils. I have served on a local council for a number of years—as have many Members on both sides of your Lordships' Committee—and I believe that local councillors are better able than others to act in what they believe are the best interests of their constituents and their localities. That is not an offensive phrase. I happen to 665 believe that local councillors are more in touch with local people that are Members of your Lordships' Committee. I happen to believe that they are more sensitive to the needs, to the aggravations, to the fears and the worries of local people than, collectively, are Members of your Lordships' Committee. I happen to believe that they are more in touch with, and more anxious to be in touch with, and to reflect the view of local people than are Members of your Lordships' Committee.
§ I am inviting your Lordships to take a very cool and, I hope, sympathetic look at what it is I am asking the Committee to do. Before noble Lords, who I will listen to with respect, tell me that it is a nonsense or that it is not possible to delegate to local councils some powers—and particularly powers in respect of shops legislation—I simply remind the Committee that the present Act which governs these matters already provides for some aspects of control to be in the hands of local councils.
§ In Section 1 there is the question of the weekly half day. This decision is delegated by national legislation to the local legislators. They exercise that power after they have consulted the local traders. In Sections 8 and 9 of the present Act there is scope for making closing orders to impose tighter restrictions on closing hours during weekdays. No noble Lord opposite has argued against the principle that local councils and councillors are able to make judgments in that respect. I invite the Committee to say that they are able to make judgments in respect of consent orders, which I shall talk about in a moment.
§ Incidentally, I mentioned the present provisions in respect of closing hours during the week. Those who follow these matters closely—and it is a considerable number of your Lordships, and I am grateful for that—will know that the present law lays down that the closing time for shops should be 8 o'clock with one late night of 9 o'clock. I heard only today of a very large retailer with an impeccable reputation which employs in a very large store nearly 400 workers, part-time and full-time. For the last period of this year, instead of closing at eight it has closed at nine, and instead of one late night of 9 o'clock it has had two late nights of 10 o'clock.
§ Here we have a situation where the local authority has the opportunity of exercising its powers and in this instance it has decided not to do so. Your Lordships may very well say, "Why in fact should we impose on local authorities the undoubted responsibility of making decisions in this way?" So far as I am concerned, in the hope of not being tedious, I shall repeat that I am opposed to the general relaxation of Sunday trading. I am envisaging a situation in which the law concerning Sunday remains broadly as it is and that the prohibitions which exist at the moment will continue.
§ Nevertheless, we are told by a number of your Lordshps that there is a demand—not in general but in certain areas—for change. We shall be told, for instance, that there are areas, perhaps such as the one near where I live in Enfield which is called Crews Hill, where there are many garden centres and that people say that there is a demand for garden centres to open on Sunday. This amendment will enable a local 666 authority, in pursuance of its sensitivity to local needs, to issue a consent order which will enable such an area to open. For instance, it may be Crews Hill, or, moving out of my area into Cheshunt, an area where there is a very large hypermarket—and a hypermarket in contrast to a supermarket or superstore is a massive trading operation. Where people say that there is a demand that shops should be allowed to open the local authority ought to have a right to authorise it.
§ I introduced the question of other people's experience. The noble Lord the Minister, who has been very fair in these debates, will not hesitate to introduce the Scottish experience whenever it suits his case—and that will be more than once. I want to reintroduce the foreign experience. In other countries they are able to manage their law in such a way that they have general proscriptions, but they nevertheless allow local councils to exercise discretion. In many states in America there are different sets of regulations. In many counties within states there are variations on those regulations. Looking at the experience of Switzerland, we see that there is national labour legislation but nevertheless cantons are able to operate independently. In France no one may employ a person in a shop on a Sunday unless an order authorising it has been issued by the mayor, after consultation with employees and employers.
§ It may very well be that noble Lords will say, "We don't want to know that. It has nothing to do with us." In that case they will never plead in aid experience other than from the apparently unique situation here. I am arguing the case that local councils both in other countries and in this country are perfectly competent under the existing legislation to act with discretion. One of the arguments that is put forward by the deregulators is: let the people choose, have no regulations, let the people decide. The opponents of that point of view argue that if that happens, it will be the market forces which will prevail—the big boys, whether they are do-it-yourself stores, garden centres or hypermarkets. This amendment ensures that the big forces, which I believe will be unleashed if this Bill, unamended, becomes law, can certainly be held in check.
§ If we want a shopping scene which reflects the desires of the local people—and, after all, that has been said more than once—then local people are better able to decide what they want than is your Lordships' House. There are some interesting situations. In my own locality, between Enfield and Edmonton, there is an area called Ponders End. Ponders End is part of the A.1000 which runs from the city out through Edmonton into Hertfordshire. Ponders End is literally an area on a highway between Edmonton and Enfield. Some months ago enormous local interest was aroused when a large do-it-yourself firm, whose name I shall not mention, made an application to transform part of the site into a mammoth do-it-yourself store. There were fierce arguments, which were of a kind which your Lordships will fully understand if not accept in total, that there would be increased traffic and disruption and that the locality would be transformed. Nevertheless, the local planning authority gave permission for a change of use and for this operation. It also wrote into the permission, in order to protect the amenities of the locality, that no trading was to 667 take place on a Sunday. The store advertised that it was going to operate from 9 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock every night six days a week, but on the very first day of trading up went a poster declaring, "We open on Sunday from 9 until 6".
§ That was a gratuitous infringement, not merely of the Shops Act but also of the planning permission. The local authority concerned will be considering at a meeting this week what action to take against that infringement of the planning permission, and I hope the matter will be dealt with severely.
§ But at the same time in this small community of Ponders End a very large trader with an impeccable reputation is also seeking to establish a large superstore. It will be a big store with 30,000 square feet of selling space. There has been agitation not that it should be refused, but that it should be given planning permission.
§ Those are the kinds of decisions which already under present legislation a local authority is apparently considered competent to make; and quite rightly so. Local councillors, who want to be re-elected and who want to be popular and seen to be listening to the people in whose midst they live, are perfectly competent to deal with situations of that kind. I envisage that the consent order procedure, the drafting of which may not be technically correct—and I shall take advice on that—provides the Minister with his best opportunity so far in the first five amendments. There are many more amendments to come, as the noble Lord the Minister is well aware, but it may be that he wants to break his duck on this particular amendment. (I should be so lucky, so early in the day and so early in the Bill.) If the Minister genuinely wants to listen to the voices which have come to him—I shall not say that he has ignored them, because I would not be so disrespectful, but perhaps he has not yet taken their views on board—and if he wishes to reply to them, he ought to say to the Committee that this is the kind of amendment which he is prepared to look at. This kind of amendment will provide local people with an opportunity of exercising their power and their authority.
§ The Minister may very well say that he will trust to the good sense and good will of the large retailers. He may trot forward the arguments as to how many traders will open and how many will close. As the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, so rightly said last night, until there is a general relaxation no one will know who is going to open.
§ 3.30 p.m.
I should like to tell the Committee what one of my former constitutents told me. He lives in the middle of an area which I believe will be detrimentally affected. His name is Mr. Driver, and he lives at 53 Glanville Avenue, Edmonton. He said:
On Tuesday last I had an advertising booklet pushed through my letterbox promoting the do-it-yourself company.
I will not mention the name.
On page 82 I was urged to write to you if I agreed to a change in the Sunday trading laws.
Page 82 of the booklet contains five plausible reasons but I fear No. 6 has been omitted, i.e. the greed of the company to increase their profits at the expense of the English Sunday. I like Sunday as
it is. I do not want my Sunday put at risk or turned into just another day. I draw the line at the thought of Tesco, Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer's, 'Woolies' and Edmonton market opening on Sundays, because sooner or later that is what will happen.
§ There is no point in wringing our hands after the event. I accept that noble Lords believe that there will be benefits such as increased employment, expansion for the small shopkeeper and so on. They may or may not occur, but if the change also brings about the conditions that I have mentioned, can we still say that we do not care? We may not believe that they will happen, but Mr. Driver and others do.
§ Before trading is allowed in the area around Edmonton Green market the local authority will have to take on board the consequences. The noble Lord the Minister more than once yesterday said that we should not pass the buck to local councils because they have a lot on their plate and we do not want to burden them further. I have served as a councillor and I am in touch with my local council. I know that this Government do not hesitate to place on their shoulders of local councils a great deal of additional legislation. Some councillors may not like to become unpopular as hard decisions and judgments will have to be made. They cannot please everyone. If permission is not granted to a shop in a small suburb, they will have to justify it. I believe that the local authority is better able than your Lordships' Committee to take that decision. I hope that the Minister can say something helpful. I beg to move.
§ Lord Denning
Yesterday I withdrew my first amendment in the expectation that this amendment would be put before the Committee. I ask your Lordships to support the principle of it. In a way it has been endorsed in very many respects. The principle is this. There should not be unrestricted trading on Sundays in our towns, cities or counties. There should be some brake and restraint on it. That control should be in the hands of local authorities.
The Auld Report—and my noble friend Lord Vestey quoted this on Second Reading—at paragraph 219 said:In fact, shopping seems to us to be the one area where a reasonable case might be made for local discretion. Shopping is primarily a local activity, employing local people, and it would be local residents who would be disturbed by any untoward noise or traffic congestion".My noble friend pointed out what had happened in his lovely little village of Dedham. A covered market was brought in and the traffic and the noise ruined the peace and quiet of that village. The people could not go to church as they once did and leave their cars outside. The way was blocked by cars coming to the covered market.
My noble friend Lord Graham has just told us what is happening in the north of London with a superstore. The local residents should have a great say in such matters and their say should govern the decision. The representatives on the local authorities are the best people to decide. That is the principle which underlay even the 1950 Act. Local authorities were given the duty to enforce it. Unfortunately they did not do so as they might have done; they gave way to some opinions. But they are the people to put the brake on undue Sunday trading.
669 That is what I sought to achieve in my first amendment. I hoped that it was simple. We should let the local authorities consider the applications and the objections and let them decide. As I understood many noble Lords, whether they were the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, or the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, in particular, the principle was accepted. But then I was shot down by Exocets from the lawyers—from my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale and others of my friends. I have often been shot down by the lawyers when I have had a good idea; and this is a good idea.
I should not go the whole way. I go along entirely with what my noble friend Lord Vestey said in his magnificent speech on Second Reading. He said that there ought to be a framework for activities in local authority areas and that they should set the framework. He said, for instance (at col. 1135):Seaside and holiday resorts, entertainment centres, ethnic requirement, etc., would all lead to different but acceptable patterns in various neighbourhoods …Within a local authority area there may well be some localities trading on a Sunday and some not. There would be a conventional quiet Sunday in the majority of towns and villages, but busy shopping in entertainment centres, resorts and locations where there is a genuine need and desire".Is that not good reasoning?
The only objection to that which I could see in the Auld Report was the difficulty of getting consistency between one area and another. Each area is quite large now. As I said yesterday, Winchester is 12 miles round. All these district councils are self-contained. They know what is best for their locality and what should be allowed.
As to the want of consistency, I have a small suggestion. If there is any difference in the discretion exercised by local authorities, let there be introduced, as in the planning Acts, an appeal to the Secretary of State. There could be an inquiry; but an appeal would preserve consistency, if that is necessary, throughout the country and the principle would be intact. Let the local authority decide what is best for its own locality.
I would mention one other point. One objection is that a breach of the legislation would be a crime and a person could be taken before the magistrates. That would be implicit in the last line or two of this amendment. I would suggest a different remedy altogether. We need not make such activities a crime; there could be a simple application to the High Court for an injunction. It could lay down the considerations that should apply. It would take no notice of trivial incidents, but for a flagrant breach in defiance of the legislation it could grant an injunction and that would stop the trouble. If need be, that could be followed up. I would not have fines by magistrates. I would have simply an application to the High Court to stop any untoward trading.
Those are little amendments that I would have, together, if necessary, with an appeal to the Secretary of State. I would have an injunction to restrain this undue trading. Otherwise, I would maintain the principle of local authorities exercising a restraint on undue Sunday trading in their areas. I support the amendment.
§ Lord Broxbourne
I rise only briefly to express reluctant disappointment at the speech of the noble Lord who moved the amendment. I hasten to add that I feel no disappointment about the quality and style and delivery of his speech. As usual, it was felicitous and acceptable to your Lordships. My disappointment was with the content. The noble Lord spoke for nearly 20 minutes. He expressed the good intentions that lay behind the amendment. No one doubts his good intentions. Equally, he will be aware of the dangers and proverbial destination of good intentions. What he did not tell your Lordships was how the machinery proposed in the amendment was to be given effect to.
Subsection (3), dealing with consent orders, states:except—(a) on the request of the owner of the shop".That is the only clear part of this subsection. It goes on to say:("b) after consultation with any body appearing to them to represent relevant interests".I have been seeking to construe and, at times, argue about provisions in statutes for far longer than I care to recall. I cannot readily recollect any provision so indefinite and so clearly clamouring for more precise expression than that in this subsection. There is no definition of the form the consultation should take. As to the machinery, the subsection stateswith any body appearing to them to represent relevant interests".No criteria are to be taken into account by the local authority in coming to the conclusion that the body in question is representing the relevant interests.
Subsection (4) seeks to define the relevant interests. It mentions the interests of employers in the locality. The noble Lord did not identify them. Perhaps it would be the local branch of the chamber of commerce or something of that sort. That may not present any insuperable difficulty. The subsection then refers to the interests of employees in the locality. Again, possibly, no great difficulty arises because of the trade union representation.
Then, however, we come to this:the interests of the shopping public in the locality".Who represents the interests of the shopping public? Who is identifying the shopping public? Surely, the shopping public are everybody. The noble Lord, like myself, used to be on the receiving end of a considerable volume of constituency correspondence from which one could form some impression of the opinion of one's constituents. But that did not constitute a formal consultation that could be interpreted and applied in a statute. The noble Lord spoke, as I say, at some length and most agreeably. But he did not condescend to particulars, as the Scots say, in any of these important matters.
Yesterday your Lordships in effect rejected a proposal of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. I say that your Lordships rejected it; he rejected it himself. As he knows, I do not always agree with my old and distinguished friend, more particularly on what he thinks about my Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Bill. But we can come to that on another occasion. At least, however, the noble and learned Lord had some machinery by which this question could be adjudged—the machinery of the Town and Country Planning Acts.
671 3.45 p.m.
My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross challenged the applicability of the town and country planning law in this context. My noble friend is nearly always right. I am not 100 per cent. certain that he is right on this. He took the view that planning jurisdiction would not cover this question. He thought that it would not come within the ambit of the material considerations expressed as a criterion in Section 17(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act. I wonder, when he made that judgment, whether he had in mind the judgment in Stringer's case, which I am sure he will recall. In that case it was said that any consideration which relates to the use and development of land is capable of being a planning consideration. You could hardly have language wider than that. As my noble friend knows, it is no mere facon de parler when I speak in his case. But, with great respect, he may have construed the phase too narrowly. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, may have accepted his rejection a little prematurely. I see that the noble and learned Lord nods assent. I am put in mind of—
Viscount Colville of Culross
I did have that case in mind. What I think I said was that whatever anyone thought about the consideration, as a matter of principle, of whether shops should be open on Sunday at all being foremost in the minds of the local council, it would certainly he outside the planning Acts. This was one of the criteria that emerged, I think, in the course of the debate.
§ Lord Broxbourne
If my noble friend puts it as widely as that, there may be substance in it. But the ipsissima verba of what he said, with great respect—we can check it out—was on a narrower construction. I was saying that the noble and learned Lord, with all his great distinction, accepted the rejection of his proposal a little prematurely. It reminds me of the question put by the then Morning Herald to Sir Robert Peel on his abandonment of the principle of protection:He has convinced others; how come it that he has not convinced himself?I would certainly have preferred the noble and learned Lord's amendment to that of the noble Lord. In planning jurisdiction, there is a machinery and there are well established procedures in which questions like this could be much better dealt with than in the loose—I use the term in no pejorative sense—or imprecise language of the noble Lord's amendment. Therefore, with great regret, because the noble Lord and I were constituency neighbours and friends over many years. I could not recommend my noble friend the Minister to hearken to the siren voice of the noble Lord and give favourable consideration to this amendment.
§ Lord Mishcon
It is a happy custom of this House that Members treat each other with courtesy and refer in very respectful terms to the nature of speeches which have been made. It is not in that spirit alone but in one of sincerity, too, that I follow the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, and admire him as usual for the clarity of his thoughts and the way in which he expresses them.
672 If I may say so, I think that he made one mistake, which was that he forgot at what stage we are with this Bill. It is not Report stage; it is not Third Reading; we are at Committee stage. I am therefore going to interpret his speech as being in favour of the spirit of this amendment. What we do at Committee stage is to consider the kind of amendments that we might want to make to a Bill, and to hear the Minister's views on these. If, as is very common, there are faults due to omissions from the amendment, or there are words which are surplus to the needs of the amendment, we put these right at Report stage.
What is the issue of principle here? I believe that the stage has been reached when all of us ought to be frank with each other. There are some of us in this Committee who would have loved this Bill to be defeated because we thought its principle was wrong. We had the Second Reading. The principle was passed that there has to be some deregulation. We therefore do not go forward with amendments which try to kill the whole principle of the Bill.
But there are a great number of us who are very unhappy at the fact that Sunday is being turned into an ordinary day of the week, whatever language one cares to employ. We are unhappy that there will be workers who will break up the family Sunday—as I tried to say most respectfully from my point of view, and your Lordships will know exactly what I mean when I say that—and destroy the family life of Sunday. We are unhappy at the fact that people other than shopworkers will be forced to go to work—more transport people, more people clearing away rubbish, more police officers, and more inspectors.
Obviously I am not speaking for all your Lordships—I have no such authority—but those of us who feel that way are trying to see what we can do before we let this Bill loose upon the country without any controls at all. We shall never be able to put back any controls. If we keep some controls, we might, in the light of experience want an amending Act; perhaps we have decontrolled too much; perhaps we have decontrolled too little; and so we are looking at alternatives.
What alternative in principle can be better than to say, as the Minister has been trying to say, again with his usual eloquence and ability, "Look, this is what people want. We the Government intend to give them what they want, and those who do not want it need not do it." If I carry that principle to a logical conclusion, I say, "Well, what you think the people want nationally is not necessarily what the people want in the country village, and what the people want in Brighton is not necessarily what the people want in the part of London in which I live".
If one wants to know what the people want, one goes to the localities where their elected representatives are and one says, let them decide. Let the people who want to make representations make the representations locally. Let the Churches have their say locally. Let the people who do not want to follow the Churches have their say locally. Let them dislike the member who voted one way or the other, if they wish. That is democracy, and the answer is that they try to get a different council.
673 I hope that I am correct in saying this; the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, with all the authority he had in local government, said that some local authorities do not want it. I know, and so does the Minister, of many things that national government do not want to have to do. I am perfectly sure that there are many responsibilities within the Home Office that the noble Lord. Lord Glenarthur, wishes were given to another department. Responsibility for magistrates may be one of them; I do not know. But local authorities are there to carry out local duties, not to do what they would like to do. National government are in the habit of imposing duties upon local authorities, sometimes with the courtesy of so-called consultation, and sometimes without; or sometimes the consultation is rather perfunctory.
We therefore get back to the principle of this amendment. Of course it was the same as the principle behind the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. The noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, was absolutely right. I gather that he liked the idea of local authorities and he liked the idea of the matter being on a planning basis—the noble Lord is kind enough to nod his head. At Committee stage it does not matter whether it is the planning jurisdiction, whether it is the overall jurisdiction, whether somebody has left out an interest, or whether it may be difficult to ascertain from the present wording who would represent the various people who are mentioned, be they the consumers or whoever. I could say to the noble Lord—and I thought that he was going to mention this—what about the local residents? They are omitted from this amendment; I acknowledge that.
Before we get lost, and with independence of view, we must say to ourselves that there must be some brake on this; make it the local brake, and all that we shall be voting for on this amendment is that it should be a local issue decided locally by local authority. At Report stage, having heard the Minister, we shall try to get the amendment right to suit the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and all those who feel, as I humbly do in addressing your Lordships, that they are in favour of this amendment.
§ Lord Sandford
I believe that I can demonstrate to your Lordships' Committee why this amendment would be thought by the great majority of local authorities to be the second worst that we have considered—the very worst being the form of local option which we were considering yesterday in which the local option was exercised through the town and country planning legislation.
There is one preliminary point which I think we want to clear away. We have not yet decided whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill. Therefore it is not clear to me, though perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Graham, can make it clear when he winds up the debate, whether he sees this amendment acting on its own or whether it is added on top of everything else that is currently in Part IV of the Shops Act and Schedule 5 thereof. I hope to goodness that it is not added on top of all those.
674 In any scheme of this kind there are the preliminaries; those are covered by subsections (3) and (4) of the amendment. There is the consent and the ancillaries to it; those are covered by subsections (1) and (2). There is the enforcement of it all which is not covered there at all.
Yesterday when we were discussing the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, I mentioned the scale of this kind of operation in a number of places. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, clearly referred to the small shops which could afford to open for only a few hours. The figures I gave related to those kinds of shops; namely, those where the business and residential premises are rated together and the shopkeeper lives over the shop. However, here we are dealing with all the shops.
I should like to give your Lordships an idea of how this exercise would work in practice. In fact, I am referring only to the preliminaries and not to the exercise of the consent or its enforcement. Let us consider the preliminaries in the case of the district council of a city such as Leicester. Leicester has 3,900 shops in all. All those shops will have to be consulted. The amendment refers to the "interests of employers", and I assume that it just means the interests of retail employers. If so, that will obviously have to he put right. However, even if it concerns just the retail employers there will be 3,900 people to be consulted. The consultation would have to be of some substance because the matter under consideration would be the opening or the shutting of their shops.
The next matter would be consultation with the employees. I am assuming again that the amendment is referring to retail employees and not all employees in the whole of Leicester. The retail employees alone number 10,000 or 20,000. It really would not be good enough just to rely on the trade unions, because within the retail industry they are not all that well represented and in the small shops they are scarcely represented at all. Therefore, we shall have to devise a mechanism for consulting between 10,000 and 20,000 people about the operation of this exercise.
Next, we have the shopping public, who have already been mentioned. The population of Leicester is 280,000. We can probably omit the children. However, children have pocket money and are, therefore, members of the shopping public, and so the number to be consulted would not be far short of the whole population. We could perhaps subtract the children below school age or perhaps the children below primary school age. Even so, there will be a very considerable number of people who, according to this amendment, will all have to be consulted properly.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt at this point. I am sorry to interrupt him, but while he is proceeding down this track—and I defer to his greater knowledge in this field—is it not the case that local newspapers are in business precisely for this type of purpose; that is, inserting notices which people can read if they are concerned? Surely that is a way of consulting local interests.
§ Lord Sandford
I am not prescribing how it can be done; I am just saying that it has to be done by some means, and I am giving an indication of the scale of the exercise. Whether people would be satisfied that they had been properly consulted if an advertisement or notice were put in a newspaper is another matter. However, certainly if we could subtract some of the children because they do not have any purchasing power we would have to add on a considerable number of people from outside the City of Leicester because they go into Leicester to shop. Again, that is a matter of judgment. All that will have to be done on that scale by way of a preliminary exercise.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
Where in the amendment does it say that any of these people will have to be consulted? The bodies appearing to represent "relevant interests" have to be consulted. Where is all the rigmarole about 20,000 people all having to be consulted? Where is that stated in the amendment?
§ Lord Sandford
It is as plain as a pikestaff in the amendment. There are various bodies which would be representative of some of the people concerned, but by no means all of them, and I have mentioned some of them. Certainly there is the Chamber of Trade and perhaps the Rotary. If this amendment is to operate at all effectively it will involve consultation with all those interests. It says so specifically. It refers to the retail employers in the locality, to the retail employees in the locality, and tothe interests of the shopping public".I do not think I need go on any longer. I have given the Committee the flavour of the exercise that would be involved merely as a preliminary before we start to work out what form of consent we shall give and what we are to attach to the consent by way of incidental, supplemental or consequential provisions. All that will have to be repeated throughout the entire country. I submit to the Committee that that is a burden which local authorities ought not to be asked to bear.
§ Baroness Seear
After the brilliant line of lawyers who have spoken in their legal way about the amendment, I hesitate to come in on the debate. However, it seems to me that they have been concentrating on the inadequacies of the machinery for getting us to the place where we want to be. This is a Committee stage. I cannot believe that the advisers behind the Government—indeed, the Government themselves—with all the skill which they possess are incapable of devising the appropriate machinery for getting us to the goal of local option, if it is local option that we want.
I suggest that at this stage we should be arguing not about machinery but about where we want to go. I must say in passing to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that how he has managed to make such a meal of this amendment I really do not know. The description "any body" is two words and not one. We have not been told to consult anybody: we have been told to consult any body which represents relevant interests. Anybody would think we had never heard of represen-tative government in this country, and yet I thought that, outside your Lordships' House, that was what it 676 was all about. There are elected bodies which are representative in one way or another. If it comes to that, who has consulted all the people in the country about the Bill which is in front of us? If we are talking about consultation, it is much more difficult to consult all 55 million people than it is to consult all the people of Leicester. Surely what we have to decide is: do we or do we not think that local option is a good way to go? If we think that it is a good way to go, then I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, will not go to the stake for the particular method of getting there. That is what we are arguing about this afternoon.
It has been said, "the people want", and we have been told again and again that they want to have freedom to shop. However, we do not have a clue what the people want. We do not know which people want what and where, and we shall not find out because we cannot find out at national level. We have a much better chance of finding out which people want what, and where, at local level, and that is what is being suggested. If it is pleasing the people that we want—and we have been told again and again that that is what the Bill is all about—then the best way in which to please them is by finding out where they are and what it is they want. Of one matter we can be absolutely certain: they most emphatically do not want the same thing in all different places between Land's End and John O'Groats. Therefore, if you are after pleasing the people, then do it at local level.
§ Lord Stallard
I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, because as usual she has encapsulated all or most of the arguments which have been put forward by the opponents of the amendment. I share her concern about the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I am well aware of his experience and that he speaks for the ADC. However, I do not think that that body could be considered to be representative of every type of local authority in the country. Therefore, the authority with which and from which he speaks is not nearly as widespread as he tended to lead us to believe.
I have had correspondence from local authorities, particularly in London, and from the Association of Municipal Authorities. I have seen a letter from the Association of County Councils. While they have not read the amendment, and nor are they commenting on the amendment specifically, their comments are obviously designed along the lines of trying to retain some kind of local authority input and local authority option. It may well be that the ADC has a different standpoint, although the noble Lord was careful not to put up an alternative from the ADC. It is rather like the skittle players who knock everything down but do not put anything back up.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, is not in his place. In fact, I apologise because I see that he has now returned. He was absent when I stood up to make my remarks but he is now in his place and I am delighted to see him.
§ Lord Broxbourne
It is I who should apologise. I went out for a couple of minutes to convey my apologies to a committee which I should otherwise have been attending. I am so sorry.
§ Lord Stallard
There is no need to apologise; I entirely understand. We all have various commitments and we all have to leave from time to time. None of us should object to that at all. I certainly do not do so. However, the noble Lord chided my noble friend Lord Graham for taking (I think he said) 20 minutes to put his case, and obviously he did not satisfy the noble Lord in those 20 minutes. The noble Lord then spoke for 10 or 12 minutes himself and did not say anywhere near as much as my noble friend had said in his constructive speech. I venture to suggest that the noble Lord repeated the arguments which he has made on hundreds of occasions—and he said as much himself—in various places. I have certainly listened to those arguments in other places, put forward by other authorities and bodies, for almost 40 years.
I wish I had time to illustrate how many times these lawyers have had their way with their fine words, rhetoric, and all the rest. The result has been absolute chaos and disaster for most of the ordinary folk involved, but it has been fairly good for the legal profession, and many of them have done very nicely, thank you. The industrial relations legislation is an example that springs immediately to mind; the accepted chaotic state of the planning regulations, which the noble Lord mentioned—and I accept that he is an expert in this area—is another minefield which has been laid by the legal profession to trap the citizen. I do not object to the noble Lord voicing his opinion, or taking the time he took, but I do object to him chiding my noble friend for doing almost exactly the same, although my noble friend was right as opposed to the noble Lord.
I, too, supported the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in principle yesterday when he moved his original amendment. I am delighted that this amendment is being taken today because it enables us to go further than the principle; we can now support some of the details mentioned by the noble and learned Lord.
I am a very simple fellow. I usually read words and am able to interpret most of them as can ordinary people. We may make mistakes, but we are usually not very far out. As I read this amendment, it allows local authorities to restrict the opening of shops within the areas over which a local authority has jurisdiction in the interests of the local population when this is desirable. As a basic principle, I should like to hear someone object to it. I should not have thought that it would be necessary to go much further than that in a place where everybody understands what we say, unless one has a vested interest in making a case to the contrary whatever it may be and throwing all principles to one side. I should have thought that we could have accepted that principle.
However, we have to argue the case. From what we have said so far, from the letters that we have received, from the examples that I gave yesterday and from the replies given to Questions in another place, it is perfectly obvious that there is a great deal of public concern about this Bill. There is also a great deal of concern among us about public opinion and about the needs of consumers. I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, was very concerned about public opinion, and in particular 678 consumers. This amendment will give the noble and learned Lord and those who are concerned about consumers and the public the opportunity to support giving the public and consumers the right to express their concern over particular areas. I hope that later when the noble and learned Lord speaks on this amendment he will support that view.
The amendment gives people a chance positively to support the principle that public opinion should be consulted. I must remind noble Lords that the public have not been consulted in any shape or form about this Bill. In relation to previous legislation it has been said that it was a manifesto commitment, and it has been crashed through—all the papers and amendments and resolutions. That is not the case with this Bill. Therefore, what is the excuse for it? We still have not heard. We are told that it is that there is public demand for such a Bill. How do we know that? This was not a manifesto commitment; we have not voted on it. I know of no consultations on it, and I am fairly in touch on most issues. Therefore, there are many questions to be answered.
In this amendment we are giving the local people the chance to be consulted so that the authorities are aware of their views. So far as I am concerned, that would include not only the local authority but the many voluntary organisations which are involved in every locality and which are far closer to many the problems than, with all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, the ADC might be. They would be able to contact all those problem areas which some noble Lords opposite have mentioned.
Subsection (4) deals with a definition of "relevant interests", and has already been mentioned. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, was unfair to my noble friend Lord Graham when he said that he had not spelt it out. I thought that he had spelt out the definition of "relevant interest". I believe that my noble friend spells out the relevant interests which are to be included and what they mean. If we had the goodwill and the constructive assistance of the legal profession, we could probably use a better form of words, but it is quite clear what is meant by "relevant interest" of the people in the area.
The subsection mentions the employers, and would therefore include their organisations, together with chambers of commerce and other organisations that exist for consultation with employers. That happens now; it is not something that has been introduced for the first time. Certainly in my local area employers are consulted because they have interest in transport facilities, car-parking and other matters, and because they are ratepayers and sometimes residents. Therefore, there is the facility for that.
Subsection (4) also mentions the interest of employees. Employees are not difficult to contact in any local area; they can be contacted through their organisations. I think that it has been generally accepted that that is not a difficulty. They would have an interest in how to get to the place of work on a Sunday, where they could park their cars, and whether the attendant-manned car parks would be open on a Sunday; in other words, they would want to know 679 whether all the normal facilities would be provided, including the catering facilities—where they would go for lunch or dinner and whether the cafes etc. would be open. They would have obvious problems, difficulties and interests about which they would want to be consulted. This amendment would give them that opportunity.
The subsection also refers to the shopping public, who are seriously concerned. We have mentioned the social consequences. As the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said, the shopping public includes everyone. Everyone I know is very concerned about the social problems that will emerge if this legislation is passed, and we have spelt out some of the details.
The environmental difficulties are considerably greater in areas of inner London than they are in some rural areas and some outer London areas, about which we have heard. It is true that the only time the residents in inner London can park their cars, if they have cars, anywhere near the vicinity of their addresses is on a Sunday. During the rest of the week it is a waste of time trying because of the number of cars that come into the area from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is a day off.
The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, can laugh; every Bill is a joke to the noble Lord. This matter is not a joke to local people who know these difficulties.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
If the noble Lord will give way, admirer though I am of the noble Lord's sense of humour, may I reassure him that it was not his display of humour which aroused my merriment, but a totally different matter.
§ Lord Stallard
I apologise to the noble Lord, but yesterday I mentioned the difference between his sense of humour and mine, and I maintain that there is a difference. This Bill is no joke to those who are involved with the environmental and social problems which will be imposed if the Bill becomes law. Local shoppers are worried about the extension of the everyday into Sunday which will give rise to problems of pollution and noise, which have already been mentioned; there is the possibility that they will incur penalties for parking on a Sunday, which would not have been the case prior to the Bill becoming law. There will be more traffic wardens, and more expense.
At the moment the streets are so congested that cars are not just double, treble or quadruple parked, but are parked on pavements and in culs-de-sac. Any visitor to London knows that, and this problem will now extend into Sunday. It is no good saying that it will not and cannot happen or that it does not exist. I invite anyone to visit Camden Town or Camden Lock on a Sunday to get a measure of the immense problems in terms of traffic alone with which the police are trying to cope. That is something that cannot be controlled, and will worsen. The proliferation of that market type situation will get worse the minute this Bill goes through.
My noble friend mentioned some supermarkets in his area. My local authority, too, are at this moment agonising over three or four planning applications for huge hypermarkets as the trend to move back into inner London with these great stores takes off. There was a trend a few years ago when they went outside the 680 inner cities and people travelled by car. They are now beginning to find out that that was not the answer and they have to get back into the inner cities and take over great chunks of them.
This Bill will mean that they are in, and the planning regulations which are inadequate at the moment will be even less adequate in this context. The only people who can bring together all these problems, all these opinions, all this consultation are the local authorities. Consultation now takes place on all the planning procedures I have mentioned. My local authority consult the local people. This takes time and trouble, but they do it—and it can be done. This amendment gives the local authorities that right, and I hope therefore that the Minister will be able to support it.
§ Lord Shinwell
Please excuse a few observations; I assure your Lordships they will be few. They will be confined so far as possible to the amendment before the Committee from someone who has not taken any part in the debate at all. So far as the amendment is concerned, valuable as it is either in principle or as an expedient, or perhaps I may use rather different language and say, as an escape from some further trouble and dispute among your Lordships, one thing is certain. It is that there will be no unanimity of agreement among your Lordships in this Committee either on this aspect of the problem or any other.
There are too many side issues. It is very natural. They are issues based mainly on principle of one kind or another. Some are theological, some are political, and some are concerned with the possibility of extending trade or with the effects on the working classes involved or likely to be involved. There are many aspects. My advice—if I may venture to indulge in a word of advice—follows the excellent speech of my noble friend Lord Mishcon. He seemed to suggest that it was an excellent idea to go on talking about this subject in the Committee stage, because during the Committee stage ideas develop. For example, we have just heard from my noble friend behind me who has just sat down, and from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in a speech of remarkable clarity earlier this afternoon.
The more we debate it, the more we hear what views Members of your Lordships' Committee have to express, and the more we hear from people outside your Lordships' House, the better it will be. It would be an excellent subject to debate at the next General Election. You can imagine how it would be presented then: the unanimity when members of the Labour Party come along and discuss the effects on the workers likely to be involved by what are called the "shopping interests of the public", whatever that may mean. It was used as a phrase, but no more than that.
Last but not least we should then be able to say to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that it is all very well to come along and say, "The Government have come to a decision, and we expect you to accept it." The Government can come to any decision they like, but they will never get the country to accept this as presented by them. You can take that as pretty certain. I speak from experience. That is most unlikely to happen.
681 Therefore, what do we do in the circumstances? The best thing to do is to go on discussing the matter in Committee as long as you possibly can. I could not understand the reference to an alleged sense of humour, but a sense of humour would be useful on this particular occasion. I say this without an ounce of malice or prejudice in my mind. I want to be excused from any allegation of that kind that may be directed against me from the venerable bishops I see over there, all determined that Sunday must be a day of rest. What is wrong with that? I have always believed that that was right, though not on theological grounds. Frankly, I never studied it from that aspect because my knowledge of theology is most imperfect. It is derived from the English version of the Old Testament. If anybody can read that and believe every word of it, they can believe anything. I hope that even my noble friend Lord Mishcon would not object to that. He may have read it himself. I spend most of my time reading things through the night. I have nothing else available. I find that all sorts of things have happened in the past, and because they have happened they are bound to happen again.
Let us suppose that somebody came along this afternoon and said, "I suggest a referendum on this subject". What questions are going to be asked? How many questions? The noble Lord who just sat down had many questions to ask. The noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, one of the great orators who came from the other place, had a lot to say, and of course we had the remarkable oration from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. We have heard all that. But there is no unanimity, and there is not likely to be any before the election, during the election, or for many years after the election on a subject of this kind. It has a theological basis which cannot be set aside just by a Government decision. Make up your minds about that. The bishops know that by this time. They have had the experience.
Therefore, my suggestion is to go on talking. Talk as much as you like. It is nice to listen to you. Take it away and discuss it with your local authority people. During the Christmas Recess what could be more elevating, more enjoyable, more entertaining? You might provide some entertainment for the members of the local authority. I do not suppose you think of doing that at any other time, but you might do it on this occasion and ask them about the shopping interests of the people you are associated with? I think that the entertainment would come to a close very rapidly.
You have a great chance to do that before the election. What a subject! It is full of holes. I remember the speeches that used to be made by my noble friend Lord Jacques. He had one thing to say:" Don't ask the workers to work on a Sunday", as though he did not know that thousands were already working on a Sunday. Of course they will work if they are paid for it. What they complain about is that they are not properly paid for it. If you give them the right money, they will work any day of the week. They will even work double time on Sunday if necessary.
My advice is leave it where it is. It would be excellent if the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who speaks for the Government, would now rise and say, "In the circumstances, having heard a great deal that has been 682 said about the subject—and there is a great deal that has been left unsaid—I move that the Committee adjourn until we come back on 14th January and we can have a shot at it again and perhaps be better advised".
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
It takes considerable courage to intervene after the vigourous denunciation of lawyers by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and after the buoyant vigour of the speech with which your Lordships have just been favoured by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I do not want to go over much of the ground that has been so well covered. I should like to come straight to the point of what your Lordships have been asked to do; that is, to write these words which are on the Marshalled List into a Bill which will become a statute—that is, subject to the sort of correction that can be made on Report and on Third Reading. We have got into a mess procedurally in that this amendment proceeds on the basis that Part IV of the Shops Act and its Fifth Schedule will subsist, which, in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is indefensible. I say nothing about that.
I am extremely doubtful whether the sort of amendment to which my noble and learned friend Lord Denning adverted would be proper and suitable at Report stage; that is, to add an appeal to the Secretary of State. That is in the Town and Country Planning Act, and it goes on for pages. This amendment would look very different with that safeguard.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said that the principle that was decided on Second Reading was that there should be some derogation in respect of the present regulations. With every respect to him, that was not what was decided because the right reverend Prelate posed his amendment and one had a choice: should there be some deregulation or should there be total deregulation? Among the choices for some regulation were the various expedients that were examined and turned down by the Auld Committee. Among them was local option. My noble and learned friend quoted paragraph 219, but a few paragraphs on from that one finds the Auld Committee saying that they cannot accept the principle of local option, having given reasons why they should not. So it is not just a general principle that your Lordships are asked to consider at this stage: it is a specific provision to be added to the Bill, a new clause.
I adverted to the difficulty that its foundation is the subsistence of a law agreed by all speakers to be unacceptable and stigmatised by the noble Baroness as "indefensible". I say nothing of that. But an integral part of this new clause is the phrase:for the purposes of such transactions as may be specified in the order".In other words, we have failed to find any way of revising the schedule. We have had the Jubilee Trust's attempt; we had the attempt of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham in his amendment, which was withdrawn, we had two attempts yesterday, both of which were found unacceptable; and your Lordships, with all your experience and wisdom, have found the job impossible. It is now proposed that it 683 should be given to every local authority to come to such decision as they wish, revising the schedule, adding to it, derogating from it.
There is another matter which seems to me to be very unsuitable for local authority choice, though it was not discussed by the Auld Committee. It is a matter that was raised on Second Reading, and that is the position of the religious and ethnic minorities. Under the 1950 Act, Part IV, those professing Jews who close for the Sabbath on Saturday may open for a half day on Sunday. According to this amendment that is to be open to discussion in every local authority. Can your Lordships imagine anything more unsatisfactory? But it does not rest there, because the Moslem religous minority would like to open on a Sunday. They told the Auld Committee so. That problem was faced by the Jubilee Trust in its pamphlet, but by virtually nobody else. Although the Jubilee Trust equivocated they seemed to accept that what was conceded to the Jewish religious observancy could not be withheld from the Moslem. So under this amendment there will be discussion in every local authority whether or not the skilled Asian shopkeepers to whom we have given refuge in this country shall be able to open their shops on Sunday. This is one of the matters by which local authorites can derogate from Part IV of the Act. Apart from the Auld Report and from all that I am sure the noble Lord the Minister will say, those objections seem to me to be quite insuperable.
§ Lord Somers
I am merely asking for information. Would it not be possible to accept the amendment as it stands and then to provide for the situation which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has mentioned (which I agree is very important) in another clause later in the Bill?
§ Lord Harvington
I shall intervene for just a few moments. I have listened carefully to all the speeches that have been made this afternoon. I have had a great deal of experience in another place with procedural matters, and I was very impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, when he said that whatever we did this afternoon could only be the last word in one way; that is, if we vote against it. If we vote for it, the whole position is as open as it can possibly be. I believe I am right in that, but if not some authority on the procedure in this noble Chamber will no doubt put me right.
I should have thought that the Committee could accept, if it believes that there should be some element of control in opening shops on Sundays, the principle which underlies the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, without in any way agreeing with the contents or wording of that amendment. Having listened to my old friend of 50 or 60 years, my noble friend Lord Broxbourne, at the beginning of our debate, I can only say that I agree with him. The amendment as it stands is not really a suitable amendment at all, if I may say so with great respect to the noble Lord opposite. But there are people who feel that something should be done in some small way, and in voting for this amendment they do not—and I include myself in this—in any way preclude the possibility of voting against any clause at 684 Report stage. Meanwhile, there is enough time for people who want to see something like this which is workable to get together with my noble friend and produce a substitute new clause at the Report stage to take the place of this.
It seems to me that the whole matter is of such a degree of importance that it should not be abandoned finally, which a negative vote this evening would bring about. I should like my noble friend to understand clearly that I am not in any way asking him to accept what I say this afternoon. He has got to get this Bill through for the Government; that is his duty and he does not have to accept suggestions coming from people like myself. I would just say that, so that people who may believe they would be doing irreparable harm to the Government by supporting this amendment will realise that they would in fact be doing no such thing.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
I should like briefly to support my noble friend Lord Harvington. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, made the best speech at Committee stage, because it was the shortest. The next one in merit was made by my noble friend Lord Harvington. The issue is there. The question is whether some restraint on total deregulation can be achieved through the local authority operations. As the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, surely there is some way of getting this into proper shape without saying that these are the final words, or indeed by bring down a "chop" through voting against this amendment.
I only want to say, more in sorrow than in anger, that I and others were bitterly disappointed with the performance of the Government last night on the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. I still hope that the Government will learn to listen. I do not like the mood that we have had so far—a reluctance to listen—which seems to involve the sort of bland repetition of traditional arguments, all of them really Second Reading arguments, which we heard last night. If that continues then I am afraid it will be easy to blame the Government for having mastered the oily art of "speaking without any purpose".
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
May I say a few words on this matter? I had hoped that, after the clarity with which my noble friend Lord Mishcon had put his case and also following the commonsense approach of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, we might have dealt with this amendment fairly speedily—but that would have prevented our having heard common sense also from my noble friend Lord Shinwell, who said there will be no unanimity; there is no general agreement. We have also heard the last two noble Lords who have spoken tell us in simple words, "Let's get ahead with this amendment and then clarify the position when we come to the next stage".
I am sorry that on this issue I must disagree with my fellow local association president. I know that the Association of Metropolitan Authorities of which I am president, are concerned about several aspects of this Bill and I should be most surprised if they did not agree with the idea of this matter being left to the local 685 authorities. First, it would meet the view of my noble friend Lord Shinwell that there is no unanimity or general agreement; therefore let us leave it to the locality to make the decision. One thing that will worry local authorities is the question of resource implications, whatever is decided on this matter.
Perhaps I might refer to two local areas. Strangely enough, since I have retired I have done more shopping with my wife than ever before in my life. I go down High Street, Walthamstow—the longest street market in Britain, I think I can claim. I do not know what the residents around there feel but I should be very surprised if they want the hurly-burly of six days a week repeated on the seventh day. That is a Labour controlled authority. I also go shopping in the more respectable area of Ilford, where about 30 roads are metered during the week. I wonder what the residents there would feel. Let those peple decide through their elected authorities. And when the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, criticises my noble friend's amendment, suggesting that we have to consult with thousands of people, I would just remind him of what subsection 3(b) of the amendment says:after consultation with any body appearing to them"—that is the local authority—to represent relevant interests".I do not know what the Minister's view on this will be, but in Bill after Bill after Bill there is reference to consultation with "bodies which appear to them relevant". Ministers have defended those words and I am certain the Minister will do so this afternoon. This seems to be one matter where, if there is not unanimity, we should let the people in the local authority area decide through their elected representatives.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
Will the noble Lord explain? Is the proposal that we should vote for an amendment with which we disagree in principle for some ulterior purpose? Because if that is the suggestion, surely we have arrived in a sort of Cloud Cuckooland.
§ Lord Underhill
Surely the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, realises what I am saying. If there is agreement on the principle that this should be a local decision then we say we support the amendment and, with the Government's guidance, we can deal with some of the machinery at the Report stage. The essential principle is: should this be a national decision applicable whether local people like it or not, or should it be a local decision? That is all I am asking for, and I am certain that is what many other noble Lords require.
§ Viscount Brentford
Very briefly, I should like to make one point. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, said in his opening remarks that he accepted that modifications should be made to the wording of the amendment if the principle was accepted; and I am sure that is what we are talking about. There is one difficulty about this Bill which was touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, but which has not really come out in the debate this afternoon. That 686 is that if this amendment is passed there would be a very wide variation of practice between one area and another.
I know that this is one aspect which has troubled the Government. However, if this principle is acceptable, the difficulty is not insuperable. It happens in America where there is this diversification from state to state, and people quite happily travel across a state boundary if they so wish. It does not seem to me that this amendment, which would meet the demands of the local areas, would make the difficulty insuperable.
§ Lord Glenarthur
After such a lengthy debate I think I have to start from the basis that we do not believe that there is reason to restrict shop opening hours, but that is a matter which we have discussed at length now on several occasions and so I will confine myself strictly to the difficulties that I foresee will be caused by this amendment.
Before going any further, however, I think I ought to pick up a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. She was helped by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, on the question of demand. That is something which I covered yesterday, but I am really surprised to hear the noble Baroness and also the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, speaking still as though there was no general demand for Sunday opening, or anything of that sort. Perhaps I might remind the Committee that I said last night that the most recent survey showed that 61 per cent. of the general public already do some shopping on Sunday, and if anybody can possibly say that 61 per cent. does not represent a demand I do not know what else does represent a demand.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? Surely he knows the Auld Report backwards. Paragraph 66 states:It would … be misleading to leave the impression that there is an incessant general clamour for Sunday shopping.
§ Lord Glenarthur
The fact is that since Auld the demand has increased. I think that paragraph 66 is at the end of that chapter, and I shall certainly study it. But the point that is valid is that the increase has been maintained. We are now at 61 per cent., and what I have just suggested to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, is that 61 per cent. of people shopping cannot represent lack of demand. I shall now give way to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.
§ Lord Mishcon
The noble Lord has allowed me to intervene, as he always does, with great courtesy and charm and I appreciate it. But are we really to listen to an argument that 61 per cent. of people who do something are 61 per cent. of people who want to do something? Of course if there is a shop open and you happen to pass it, you may go in. But if you are asked the question, "Would you object very strongly if you could not go in because the shop was not there?" you might get a very different answer. If the noble Lord the Minister could come before the Committee and say, "We have had a survey taken of people who are demanding that shops open on Sunday", I would listen to his 61 per cent. with respect. But to argue as he has done is not worthy of him.
§ Lord Glenarthur
I am sorry that the noble Lord feels like that, but what we have to work on is the basis of actual experience. It is no good delving into the realms of hypothesis to suggest what people may or may not do when they walk past a shop. The fact of the matter is that the surveys have produced the figure which I have quoted—
§ Baroness Lane-Fox
Perhaps I may for one moment support my noble friend the Minister by saying that, surely, the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and even the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, have taken some notice of the Consumers' Association and what it has to say. It is most anxious that there should be Sunday trading.
§ Lord Glenarthur
I am very grateful to my noble friend. She makes the point about the Consumers' Association, and a very valid point that is. Before I come on to some other—
§ Lord Coleraine
Before the noble Lord leaves the point of the 61 per cent. who shop on Sundays, if it is correct that only about 2 per cent. of the shops that are open are trading illegally—perhaps I am wrong there—and 61 per cent. of people are shopping on Sunday, surely that means that 61 per cent. are basically satisfied to shop on Sundays under the conditions that exist at the moment.
§ Lord Glenarthur
The point is that many of the shops which are now open and which these people visit are open illegally. Those shopkeepers can be punished by the criminal law for being open. If that is what the noble Lord really wants to continue to be the case—that people may visit shops and then the shopkeepers stand the risk of being punished by the whole weight of the criminal law—I suggest that he has got it fundamentally wrong.
May I refer to one point which the noble Lord, Lord Graham, raised about existing local authority powers. He said that local authorities already have powers to regulate closing hours. I fully accept that they do, though they are more limited than the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggests. For example, in respect of weekday opening under Section 1 of the 1950 Act they may make an order exempting shops from the require-ment to close for one halfday. Their powers under the 1950 Act are set within the rigid framework of fixed opening hours during the week and at week-ends, and the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is proposing an entirely different framework for local authorities—at least, he claims it is a framework. I think I shall show later on as I develop my speech that it really is no framework at all.
I shall turn straight away to the meat of this amendment. It is tempting to think that a solution to the difficulties we have been facing is to look to local authorities, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, suggested, to regulate the opening of shop hours to take account of local circumstances. But is it really acceptable for us to delegate responsibility in this way? Before we decide to do that we have to ask ourselves two questions: first, is this a local issue that can be satisfactorily resolved by local solutions; and, secondly, would local solutions lead to anomalies that offer no improvement over the present situation?
688 I suggest that the answer to the first question is that, while there may be local circumstances that have particular relevance—for example, a tourist resort—to leave the regulation of shop opening hours to local authorities will be to bequeath each of them the problem with which we have been grappling this evening, last night and indeed a couple of weeks ago. Each community will have those who feel strongly about the issue—and it is clear from the remarks that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that those feelings will remain—and we shall not only move our debate to each local authority, but we shall do so in the recognition that, as soon as some of them reach a decision, that decision will be open to further challenge as other local authorities reach different solutions.
Furthermore, this will be compounded by the inevitable change of political complexion which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, also foresaw. I am sitting next to my noble friend Lady Trumpington who, I am sure, as an ex-county councillor and an ex-city councillor, never failed to take decisions which would benefit the community, and there are others who do the same. But, inevitably, the chopping and changing, to which political changes in local authorities will lead, cannot help and cannot please the people, which I think is the form of words which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, wanted.
§ Lord Mishcon
The noble Lord is again gracious for allowing me to intervene. But if ever there was a matter brought before Parliament which had no politics at all in it, I should have thought this was the one. It is the Government who have brought politics into this matter. There are no politics in it for the Opposition. The Committee has heard my noble friend Lady Phillips and my other noble friend, who are absolutely in favour of this Bill, and there are also others on these Benches who are in favour of it. The fact that we are speaking out individually means that we are speaking from conscience. We do not have politics in the forefront of our minds. I cannot imagine any local government member finding that he was dealing with this situation politically. He would be dealing with it in regard to the needs of the neighbourhood.
§ Lord Glenarthur
I have often heard from the Benches opposite the beguiling words, "There is no politics in this", whatever subject it might be. The noble Lord may feel that there is no politics in it, but I can tell him that there are certainly some enormous practical problems, as well as the very real practical difficulty of local authorities changing their minds from time to time and compounding the problem. I shall develop that in a moment—
§ Baroness Seear
Is the noble Lord afraid that a change of government might lead to a change on a much larger scale than would a change of local government?
§ Lord Glenarthur
I was challenged on the point that there was no manifesto commitment. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, who challenged me on that. What I have to ask the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and 689 perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is: are they saying that they will enforce the existing Act? Will they try to prevent late-night shopping? Will they try to prevent so many shops being open on Sundays by bringing the full panoply of the criminal law down upon those shopowners, should they at some future date be in a position to do so? Is that the sort of change for Which they really look?
We have heard the views of the Institute of Shops, Health and Safety Acts Administration mentioned many times during the course of this Committee stage. In its evidence to the Auld Committee it did indeed say that, given full support and adequate resources by local authorities, its members had found no difficulty in enforcing the Shops Act. I agree with the views of the institute. If we are prepared to accept that local authorities should spend limitless amounts of money and employ many more inspectors, I am sure that the number of offences against the Shops Act would be reduced. I do not believe that suppression at great expense by a local authority of a popular—indeed, an utterly harmless—activity is a course that would find favour with the authorities or, for that matter, with the ratepayers, either.
And at what expense? By the terms of this amendment each local authority will have to struggle with its own system of restriction and face anomalies and unfairnesses such as those under the present law. It will have the expense of enforcement and the added expense of receiving, processing and granting or refusing of orders. What guidance does this amendment give to the local authorities, which are supposed to be so much in touch with the needs of their local people, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested, on whether or not to make a consent order? I submit that the answer is, none whatsoever, and this is not the end of the matter. If a shopkeeper is refused a consent order, surely by natural justice he must be granted the right to appeal against that ruling. That rather reverses the suggestion made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, about seeking an injunction.
This amendment would create a burgeoning bureaucracy to deal with the problems and procedures that I have just mentioned, though, were I to feel that it would solve problems rather than create them, I might accept the enormous imposition on the ratepayer that it would inevitably cause.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord the Minister in full flow, but, as he is arguing so eloquently against the local authority option and in favour of this being a national responsibility, can he explain to the Committee very clearly why it is that Members of Parliament and Peers are not being allowed to make a decision on these fundamental matters at national level in response to the feelings of their constituents and of those with whom they are in touch? Does the noble Lord recognise that it simply is not adequate to show the difficulties of the local authority option without answering that question? May I further ask him to comment on whether he is aware that some of us who 690 are not particularly keen on a local authority option are driven to this by the complete intransigence of the Government over amendments which have been put forward in the past day or two?
§ Lord Glenarthur
I cannot speak for another place but I think that the tenor of the view of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester leads us all on to the question of whipping. That is basically the tone of his suggestion. If ever a Whip has been imposed in this House I would suggest that it has been imposed by the Bishops' Benches.
§ Lord Mishcon
I ask the noble Lord to sit down and this time I do not thank him for his graciousness. If there is a body of people bound in conscience—and I say this very seriously from the Dispatch Box—you do not talk about them being whipped. The idea of whipping is, "whatever your conscience says, we, the Government order you to vote". The Bishops are not in that position.
§ Lord Glenarthur
I am not able to answer for the Bishops. I am sure that my noble friends behind me would support me in saying that there are all kinds of difficulties in whipping in your Lordships' House which apply no doubt both to the noble Lord's Benches and to mine. I do not think there is any use in following that route just now.
§ Lord Broxbourne
Before my noble friend leaves that point, will he accept that, certainly in another place, whatever the strength of the whipping it is always understood that on matters of conscience Members follow their view?
§ Lord Glenarthur
That may well be the case. The noble Lord speaks with the experience of the other place which of course I do not have.
Perhaps I may return to the substance of the amendment and leave other issues aside. The present law creates geographical disparities between neighbouring local authorities with different views as to how the Shops Act should be enforced. Perhaps I may quote another example of the local area of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, which I am sure is familiar to him. In Edmonton one builders' merchant does a roaring trade on a Sunday. The noble Lord may know which it is. Sunday is his second busiest day of the week. A rival firm less than half a mile away on the same road and selling a similar range of goods—but in Waltham Forest, a different local authority area—can only observe this. That firm, required to close on Sunday, loses business to its rival every week as a result of this local authority decision. That kind of disparity will be enshrined in law by this amendment. I am not sure that the builders' merchants in this particular area will be exactly pleased by the noble Lord's amendment, as keen as he is to see local needs met, let alone what it may do to the question of the election of local councillors.
The amendment requires consultations to he undertaken with local traders, shopworkers and shoppers before reaching a decision. But if the majority of traders or of a class of traders do not wish 691 to open on a Sunday, should that view be used by the local authority to veto Sunday opening? Should a trader who wishes to open on a Sunday and who believes that such a course will be profitable be prevented from doing so by the views of his competitors? They probably have very good reasons for not wanting to open but they should not be able to prevent others from doing so. That really does smack of unfair restraint on trade.
By this amendment, the local authority must consult,with any body appearing to them to represent relevant interests".It is not required to accept their views. A similar proposal was made in another place some years ago when consultation was required to take place,as may be reasonably practicable".The noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, who has not spoken on this amendment, referred to an aspect of it which was raised today when he raised the question of markets. The noble Lord also went on to talk about traffic, which was mentioned also by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. Where a new market is opened and operates for more than 14 days a year, a change of land use has occured, and for such a change planning permission is required under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. It can be refused if the market is on an unsuitable day. This is not a matter for shops legislation but is adequately covered by planning regulations. My noble friend Lord Broxbourne referred in particular to the Town and Country Planning Act when he referred to Amendment No. A1, which we dealt with yesterday afternoon.
I turn to the question of traffic in places where trading is heavy. It has long been the case that the regulation of traffic and parking in local shopping areas is for local authorities to decide. They have general duties to consider the need for on and off-street parking and have wide powers to deal with any problems that may arise. Their powers are flexible. Parking restrictions can be made to apply at different times of the day, on different days of the week or at weekends, all depending upon local conditions and circumstances. Parking can alternate between one side of the road and another, and in all cases proper signing is required so that everyone concerned knows what the requirements are. Local authorities are in the best position to determine what is needed for particular localities. They are in the best position to judge at what time of day or on what day of the week problems may arise. The statutory framework they work within provides for all their proposals to be advertised locally. This enables individuals and other interested parties to make their views known.
I am drawing to a close, but I should like just to say one thing. It hinges upon a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. At present a shopkeeper may not trade on Sundays (with some exceptions) because in the past Parliament has not consented to his doing so. This amendment requires that a shopkeeper may not trade on Sundays unless the local authority consents to it. If local authorities cannot put a brake on Sunday trading to enforce Parliament's existing decision then I have to ask the Committee this question: is it likely that local authorities will resist public demand if the 692 decision is vested in them? I believe that the answer is that it is not.
We are debating a Bill to abolish all statutory controls on the hours for which shops may open. Abdicating our responsibility to local authorities will not help—particularly if, as the amendment indicates, they are given no guiding principles on which to base their decisions. My noble friends Lord Lauderdale and Lord Harvington were both concerned about principles. If there is a lack of principle then it is firmly demonstrated in this amendment because it offers none to local authorities. That is why I urge your Lordships to reject the amendment.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I intend to be as brief as possible because the debate has exceeded the time I assumed it would take, and there are other matters to consider. Noble Lords who, knowing me, would normally expect me to deal head-on with the points they have raised will therefore excuse me for not doing so on this occasion.
I am saddened by the bleakness of the response made by the Minister. I do not say that he has not listened: he has listened with great care. But despite all that has been said the Minister has not budged one inch. He has not held out a single hope or crumb of comfort to those who are looking for some easement from complete deregulation. The Minister has said that Parliament has to accept the responsibility in these matters, despite the fact that it can be amply demonstrated that there are areas, groups and regions of interests that will be affected and that do not wish to see the will of Parliament exercised in this regard.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, reminded the Committee that I stated in my opening remarks that I recognise there are blemishes in the wording of the amendment. Indeed, omissions have been pointed out. However, I stick to the central point. This is known as the local option. The more that is put down the more that can be criticised. I was criticised at once by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for having said nothing about what are "relevant interests", and yet subsection (4) tries to spell out what they are. I went on to comment that that definition need not be exclusive.
There are those who are wedded to the idea of not altering the Bill one whit despite the evidence, and I accept that situation; but I hope that there are some Members of this Committee—and perhaps I am looking at them now—who will take this opportunity to do so. I say to the Minister, who himself has not been able to offer any hope, that in asking for this amendment to be passed (and I intend to press it to a vote) all I am asking is that the Committee accept in principle the delegation in some form of an exercise of power by local authorities in respect of these matters in their own areas as defined in this clause and as subsequently amended at other stages.
We have Committee, Report and Third Reading stages of this Bill in your Lordships' House, and we have Committee and Report stages in another place. It is possible to deal with this matter at all those stages. But unless we say to the Government—not only here but in a wider context—that this Committee believes that there needs to be some easement from complete deregulation, and that this is the way to do it, then we 693 shall be failing in our duty. I invite the Committee, on the simple principle of a local option exercised by local councillors, to follow me into the Lobby tonight.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 93; Not-Contents, 144.694
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Airedale, L.||Manchester, Bp.|
|Ardwick, L.||Mar, C.|
|Banks, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Birmingham, Bp.||Molloy, L.|
|Blease, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Mulley, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Caradon, L.||Newcastle, Bp.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Chitnis, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Oram, L.|
|Coleraine, L.||Porritt, L.|
|David, B.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Denning, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Rochester, Bp.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Ennals, L.||Ryder of Warsaw, B.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||St. Albans, Bp.|
|Ezra, L.||Seear, B.|
|Gallacher, L.||Seebohm, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Serota, B.|
|Graham of Edmonton. L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Grantchester, L.||Soper, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Stallard, L. [Teller.]|
|Hampton, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Harvington, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Heycock, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Tonypandy, V.|
|Ingleby, V.||Tranmire, L.|
|Irving of Dartford, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Jacques, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Whaddon, L.|
|Leicester, Bp.||White, B.|
|Liverpool, Bp.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Willis, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Winchester, Bp.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Wrenbury, L.|
|McNair, L.||Ypres, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Butterworth, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Caccia, L.|
|Alport, L.||Caithness, E.|
|Arran, E.||Cameron of Lochbroom, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Campbell of Alloway, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Barnett, L.||Cathcart, E.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Colville of Culross, V.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Cox, B.|
|Beloff, L.||Cranbrook, E.|
|Belstead, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Blake, L.||Davidson, V. [Teller.]|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||De La Warr, E.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Denham, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Drumalbyn, L.|
|Broxbourne, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, L.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Elton, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Fanshawe of Richmond, L.||Northfield, L.|
|Forester, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||O'Brien of Lothbury, L.|
|Gibson-Watt, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Glanusk, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Parry, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Portland, D.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Henderson of Brompton, L.||Renton, L.|
|Henley, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Hives, L.||Rodney, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Romney, E.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Rugby, L.|
|Hood, V.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Hooper, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Hughes, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly|
|Hunter of Newington, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Sandford, L.|
|Ironside, L.||Selborne, E.|
|Kaberry of Adel, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Kimball, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Kimberley, E.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Slim, V.|
|Long, V.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|McAlpine of Moffat, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|MacLehose of Beoch, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Suffield, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Manton, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Margadale, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Marley, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Marshall of Leeds, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Masham of Ilton, B.||Todd, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Melville, V.||Vickers, B.|
|Merrivale, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Wardington, L.|
|Middleton, L.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Molson, L.||Winstanley, L.|
|Monson, L.||Wise, L.|
|Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Wolfson, L.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Wynford, L.|
|Morris, L.||Young, B.|
|Mottistone, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Munster, E.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.