HL Deb 06 February 1986 vol 470 cc1287-302

4 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Glenarthur.)

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, before we proceed I should like to ask whether page 8 of the Marshalled List is correct and, if it is not correct, how it should be dealt with. The reference to "After Clause 1" at the top of the page must be wrong because it is dealing with the continuation of a clause to be inserted after Clause 2. However, there then follows Amendment No. 13, which I read as being after Clause 2. I do not know whether any of the noble Lords who have put their names to the amendment are present. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, was here a moment ago. Amendment No. 14 reads as if it ought to come after Clause 1. Amendment No. 15 reads as if it ought to come after Clause 2. There must be something wrong on this page, and I should be grateful if I could be told how it can be most conveniently dealt with.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I can assure the noble and learned Lord that there is one mistake, and that occurs at the top of page 8, where it says, "After Clause 1". It certainly should read, "After Clause 2". As regards Amendment No. 14, which in the view of the noble and learned Lord should come after Clause 1, and Amendment No. 15, which in his view ought to come after Clause 2, I cannot give an answer immediately, but I shall endeavour to let the noble and learned Lord know shortly.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is entitled to express an opinion on that matter as he is one of the signatories to Amendment No. 14.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord seems to take great delight in putting me in a position of intense embarrassment. May I say that he has succeeded!

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I should like to raise a point on the order of the amendments. Surely there is a mistake. Amendment No. 2, according to the original list, was to appear before Clause 1. In the present Marshalled List it appears after Clause 1. It is inconsistent and lies in conflict with Clause 1, and, therefore, surely it should be taken before Clause 1, because otherwise it will not be possible to consider the matter logically.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his observations. Indeed, he was kind enough to give me an indication that he wished to raise the matter. I have looked into it, and I am assured by those who are responsible for marshalling the amendments that the matter has been investigated and the Marshalled List is in fact perfectly correct. I hope that that satisfies my noble friend. I could obtain more information on the matter if necessary, but I believe it to be in order.

On Question, Motion agreed to: Report received.

Clause 1 [Removal of restrictions on opening hours and Sunday trading]:

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 5, at beginning insert ("For an experimental period of three years")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the object of my Amendment No. 1 is to allow the Bill for deregulating trading on Sundays to go ahead as suggested in the Bill, but only for an initial period of three years. After that period the matter should be brought back to Parliament for Parliament to consider, in the light of the experimental period of three years of operation, whether or not there are any matters which in the public interest require some changes. There has been a recent precedent for such a course—

Lord Sandford

My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Would I be right in thinking that, in speaking to Amendment No. 1, he is also speaking to Amendment Nos. 9 and 16 as well? It would be helpful to know whether or not that is so.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, I am very grateful for the noble Lord's intervention, and, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 9 and 16, as they contain the same words. Amendment No. 9: Clause 2, page 1, line 9, at beginning insert ("For an experimental period of three years") Amendment No. 16: Clause 3, page 2, line 1, at beginning insert ("For an experimental period of three years") As I was saying, there is a recent precedent for this kind of procedure and that occurred in the Bill, which is now an Act, for the compulsory wearing of seat belts. Seven years ago there was great controversy as to whether or not the wearing of seat belts should be made compulsory. The Bill was brought in, and it was agreed that seat belts should be made compulsory for an experimental period of three years, after which time the matter would be brought back to Parliament. As your Lordships know, that happened a few weeks ago, when the Act was continued after a very interesting and helpful debate. Similarly, at present there is no doubt that there is a cleavage of opinion as to whether it is right to have total de-regulation of trading on Sundays.

I should like briefly to remind your Lordships of the apprehensions which were so cogently put to your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, with all their great experience in trade union and industrial relations matters. We have also heard splendid speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, based on his great experience in local government. Your Lordships may remember, too, the very moving speech of my noble friend Lady Seear about the dangers which she thought might arise in respect of women workers, whether part-time of full-time. As she pointed out, they could be exploited by some employers if total deregulation without some safeguards were introduced at the present time. All along the Government's answer to all the matters raised has been that times have changed; the regulations of the Shops Acts are not required; there is now a better approach to industrial relations and a better approach by employers to their employees, and therefore the difficulties which we on this side of the House envisage will not arise.

In spite of those assurances which have been given by the Government, it appears that they do not trust their followers because they have introduced a compulsory three-line whip in order to enforce these matters. It seems to me that a caring Government, in the light of the speeches which have been made in this House, would welcome at least the general theme basic to my amendments, that deregulation should be continued for an initial period of three years and that the matter should then be brought back to Parliament for reconsideration in the public interest. I hope that the Government will feel able to make this concession in the light of all the conflicting evidence before the House. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, this is a very important amendment which I believe the House should consider very seriously indeed. The Report stage provides all Members of your Lordships' House with the opportunity to reflect, and I very much hope that the Government are also in a reflective mood.

Together with other Members of this House, at the Committee stage I brought forward an amendment, the purpose of which was to let the Government have their Bill, amended or unamended, but that at the end of 12 months the Home Secretary should come to Parliament and report on the consequences of the Bill and the outcome of it in practice. One of the criticisms of that procedure was that one year was too short, and I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, spoke briefly on this matter. It was said that it would be difficult immediately the Bill became an Act for people to be faced with the prospect of not merely radical changes taking place on day one, but, after one or two years, in the light of procedure, perhaps even more radical alternatives.

Therefore, I am very pleased to see that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has brought forward the same principle but in another way. The Government and their supporters, who are faithful in their attendance and support, apparently have no shadow of doubt that every line of the Bill and its meaning will turn out all right. They are not even prepared to entertain the possibility of doubt. The Bill seeks wholly to deregulate the control of shopping on a Sunday. Up to this stage of the Bill the Government have refused to countenance any possibility not only that they are wrong but that there are no other ways of achieving substantially that which they say they want.

I have taken careful note of what Home Office Ministers have said in another place. Of course the Minister in this House, who will be in touch with them, is very well aware of what was said. In another place, in response to a question as to what kind of representations had been made on the purpose of the Bill, Mr. David Waddington said only last week that the Home Office had received 32 letters in support of the Bill and 20,763 against. I have checked the figures and found them to be correct. That is the situation. For every one letter in favour of the Bill, 650 are against.

On an earlier occasion, when the figures were not as drastic as that, I heard the Minister say that people who are in favour of something are very rarely moved to write, but that those who are opposed to it will write very strongly. The Government must be very confident indeed that a ratio of 650:1 does not represent at least a caveat, a voice, telling them to think very carefully.

Of course, there are those who have urged others outside to write letters. As politicians—and we are all politicians—we know that it is one thing for people to put their names to a petition and to attend meetings, but it is quite another for people to be moved to spend money and time in writing letters. Around the House at different times Members have quoted this or that survey; we are all in the business of selectively quoting the statistics that suit us. I should like the Minister to explain how he intends to get round the sincerity of the 32 and the sincerity of the 20,000. I am not prepared to say that one group is less sincere than the other. They have all been moved to write to the Minister—and I do not know who they are—stating their views.

4.15 p.m.

It is against that background and also against the background of the Synod, which met this week, that we are considering this matter. The Synod has almost by as large a majority said that it does not like the Bill in its present form. The Minister cannot leave this debate without tackling head-on why the Government persist in believing that what they are doing has somehow been endorsed. Certainly it has not been endorsed by an election, a manifesto or by overwhelming votes of one kind or another.

What are we inviting the House to do? We are inviting the House to accept the Bill, amend or unamended. I suspect, that, in the light of discussion, it will be amended only in so far as the Minister wants it amended. We are saying that, against a background of passionate opposition, after three years we should examine how it has worked in practice.

At the earlier stage I suggested that we should look at the Bill after 12 months' operation. When speaking to that particular amendment I said that a number of groups ought to be canvassed during and certainly at the end of the experimental period, and they were listed. We should bear in mind the impact on the exercise of the right to worship, the impact on employment, wages, costs, the interests of the consumer, crime, transport and the effect on the environment.

More than once it has been said that once a law is passed, we cannot go back on it—that it is all or nothing. In this context I cannot believe that we are talking simply of another piece of legislation. I believe that we are talking about something which when carried into effect, either wholly or partially, will have a major impact not just on the nature of Sunday but on the character of British life. Unless we are prepared to look again at how the Act is working, that could be the case.

In his amendment the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has introduced a device whereby, at the end of a three-year period, we look at the experiment. In spite of all my preconceived prejudices and bias that this Bill will be a disaster, I am prepared to accept the Minister's view that it will provide employment, that it will stimulate industry, that neighbourhoods will not be disturbed, that trade will flourish and that the consumer will have a better choice. At the end of three years I am prepared to look at the evidence, and if the evidence cannot be denied, I am prepared to say that I was wrong. Is the Minister not prepared to provide a device which will allow Parliament to look at the impact of what I believe is a major social revolution contained in this Bill? Is he not prepared to give the people of this country an opportunity so to do?

I very much hope that the Minister will not regard this as a wrecking amendment but rather as an amendment designed ever so modestly to hold out the prospect that, if the House and the Minister are wrong, the Minister will have the opportunity to think again, without being embarrassed and without having to go through the procedures of enabling, amending and piecemeal legislation. We must look at everything and not have preconceived ideas as to whether we are right or wrong. We are simply saying that if this is what the House wants, let us have it, but at the end of three years let us look at how it has worked in practice. I very much hope that the Minister will be conciliatory in his remarks.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, subject to anything he may say by way of correction, would have the effect that on the expiry of three years from Royal Assent of the Bill it would lapse. There would be no provision, as I understand it, for continuation by statutory order. It would simply lapse, and the Government of the day would at that time have either to let it lapse and revert to the present position or alternatively to introduce a completely new Bill. For that reason, if I am right about that—and the noble Lord is always most willing to be helpful in correcting one if one gets something wrong—the comparison with the seatbelts Act is misleading because that had provision for its continuance if Parliament so approved. This has none.

There is also a difference of principle. The seatbelts Bill imposed a compulsion; this Bill removes restrictions and rather different factors apply. The noble Lord who has just spoken said that those of us on this side of the House who support the Bill believed, as I do, that its coming into force would help employment and help investment. What is going to be the effect if it is, on the face if it, solely a temporary measure expiring at the end of three years with no guarantee of continuance, or even a legislative facility for continuance? Very few people, are going to make investment over a short period like that.

Equally employers would hesitate to take on extra staff over so short a period as that, particularly bearing in mind the effects today of employment protection legislation. If one were to take on additional employees for Sunday work, after two years, and within the three-year period, one could not dismiss them without incurring heavy expenditure on redundancy.

It seems to me that the adoption of this proposal would not produce the kind of experiment that the noble Lord opposite has referred to, but would in some considerable measure frustrate the whole purpose of the Bill. It would not be a fair demonstration of what the effect of the Bill will be for those two vital reasons: the restriction, the discouragement, of investment, and the discouragement of taking on employees. This amendment would blur the whole issue. When the Bill came into force we should not get a clear demonstration of its effect; we should have only a rather uncertain and hesitating reaction, while those concerned awaited the outcome of the three years.

The noble Lord said that Parliament should have the opportunity to review the working of the Act. I wholly agree. There is nothing whatever in the Bill to prevent Parliament keeping the closest possible eye on the Bill. Ministers would have to answer questions as to its effect, and it would be open to Parliament to introduce legislation to repeal it if it seemed to be a disaster.

There really does not seem to be anything in this amendment except the inherent disadvantage of seeing to it that the Bill comes into effect in the worst possible circumstances, and without the possibility of its demonstrating its clear value and clear benefit as some of us see it. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will reject it.

Baroness Ryder of Warsaw

My Lords, I rise to support this amendment in the hope that if Parliament passes this measure there is at least an opportunity to stop its evil in three years' time. There are, alas, many people in Britain now who no longer attend any form of worship in churches or chapels on Sunday, or have no form of belief whatever. But I maintain that they still need a quiet day in the week which is different from their working days, when they can have the opportunity to relax, reflect, enjoy peace, and spend the day with their family

Having worked in Marxist states where attempts are still made to obliterate the traditional Sunday and force people, including women and children, to attend political rallies, I realise more and more that we in Britain either by accident or by legislation, throw away our liberty, and forget God.

There are in Poland and Ethiopia especially people who refuse to be bullied. They continue to worship God on Sunday and their churches are overflowing. Many have indeed died for their faith. Moreover, they would be horrified to see shops doing business on Sundays here. But as everyone knows, those countries are so short of food that this matter does not apply to them.

It is a real pity that some noble Lords and noble and learned Lords can never witness those scenes of stoic courage and incredible faith, and that instead they choose, for reasons which they think are right, to allow Sunday to go by the board in Britain. If we delude ourselves into believing that some of the big stores are not interested in opening, well, we are being extremely naive. The greed for money and power changes minds so easily. I have a vested interest in remembering Sunday because the foundation that I represent has some 200 charity gift shops, but only seven or eight open on Sunday to offer coffee and refreshment, and this is after the times of Sunday services

What example do we give young people, especially those who are disillusioned, indisciplined and unemployed, if they see materialism grow stronger and Sunday no different from any other day? I stand here simply and humbly to plead that Sunday itself should be observed as it is in the majority of other countries on the Continent. Why should Britain be so different? I plead at least for an opportunity to think again after three years if this Bill is passed—as I hope it will not be.

Clearly the Government are determined to have their own way on this matter, but as a committed Christian I deplore their action, and, equally as bad, the indifference which many, alas, express towards God and all that Sunday stands for. I remember with sadness that this was originally a Christian country, but I rejoice to see our Jewish friends continue to observe their Sabbath and day of rest.

May I now read to your Lordships from the Ten Commandments: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God".

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton—and I respect his views about deregulation, and I know he respects mine—referred to this amendment as a "device", and that is exactly what it is. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter made some interesting and, I would suggest, most telling points concerned with the lapse, and the need for continuance, which require no repetition. But so far as I am aware—and I ask my noble friend the Minister and any of your Lordships whether they are aware of any—there is no precedent for this type of legislation by experiment: an experiment with automatic lapse at the end of a certain period of time. I know of no such precedent.

4.30 p.m.

The Bill is concerned with the principle of deregulation not with an experiment in the principle of deregulation. The case for and against deregulation has been argued already at various stages and various Divisions and the House has taken a view. There is no point, certainly for me from these Back Benches, in seeking to enter into the pros and cons of a decision which has been taken, although, as your Lordships know, I agree with it.

Finally, I should like to say that if I believed that this Bill truly prevented anyone from worshipping God I should not for one moment support it because I also, curiously enough, am a committed Christian. If I truly believed that was so I would not support the Bill, but I do not believe it for one moment.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I wonder if I may put a point of view to your Lordships and a plea that there should be an objective look at the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, and supported in various parts of the House. I believe that the House will have been touched by the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder, whom we hear all too infrequently, but whose life for the benefit of this nation—in that way I should also associate her gallant husband—has been of terrific worth to all of us. When she speaks, we listen to her with great respect.

There is an opinion in this country which is very similar to that of the noble Baroness. We know that as it is reflected in 20,000 letters to the Home Office. Quite rightly, people who object are more likely to write than people who support, but there cannot be many fervent supporters if all that was in the Home Secretary's postbag was 20 or 30 letters against the 20,000. But there is a great body of opinion that feels as she does.

There is also a great body of opinion which is anxious about another tradition which is being broken and one that I have a little more authority to speak on: a great family tradition which will be affected by more work on Sundays. There is a body of opinion which, untested, says that a great number of sections of employment, other than shopworkers, will be brought into Sunday trading: there will be a need for more police, more inspectors, more people dealing with rubbish disposal and so on. There is a great body of opinion that thinks that their districts will be adversely affected on a Sunday by its being turned into a repetition of a Saturday, that their quiet and their tranquillity will be interfered with.

There has been no testing of that opinion by any vote at all. Only an opinion poll has been taken. I am sure that of all people the Government would not wish to be persuaded at this time that opinion polls ought to be considered with respect. If they take that view concerning themselves, will they please be as charitable in their view of my condemnation in this instance of an opinion poll being a satisfactory test of public opinion?

We are an objective Chamber. I do not suppose that any of us has any sort of vested interest in the passing or the non-passing of the Bill.

The Earl of Onslow

I have, my Lords.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl on being so gainfully and usefully employed. Without any doubt, without the opinion of the nation being known but with all of us realising that there are these apprehensions and different points of view, we are trying to do what is right. Nobody in this Chamber, and I include the noble Lord the Minister, can say anything more than, "I do not think family life will be interfered with; I do not think people will be prevented from going to church if they want to; I do not think that neighbourhoods will be interfered with; I do not think people will be thrust into employment on Sunday who would not want to be; and I do not think this change will have an adverse effect on youth".

The answer of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to this amendment was extremely forceful. One usually finds that in debate he is a very forceful speaker, but I thought that his logic on this occasion was quite apparent to me as it obviously was to him. The noble Lord said that this amendment means that the Act comes to an end, if it is enacted, at the end of three years. He says that if one finds that things do not turn out as well as anticipated Parliament could repeal this Act. Did he pause to consider what that would mean? It would mean that with the Shops Act provisions having been repealed by this Act the repeal of this Act woud leave a complete and absolute void. One would then have to pass, with all the rigours of the types of debates that we have had, an entirely new Bill. That may be a fearsome speculation that the noble Lord is prepared to envisage, but why in those circumstances should he not be absolutely prepared to envisage that at the end of three years this matter should be considered anew in exactly the same way because the result would be the same?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the noble Lord turns his back to me while he addresses a question to me. Will he deal with this point? He is perfectly right so far as he has gone, but if the amendment were carried those of us who believe that these restrictions are out of date and should go would have to go through a completely new Bill on the lines of the present one. Although that would involve the pleasurable experience of hearing a great deal from the noble Lord himself it might involve other factors which would seem unnecessary. Parliament is taking a great deal of trouble over this measure. It seems rather otiose to seek to go though the whole process again after so short a time as three years.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I wonder whether the House would permit me, without thinking me discourteous, to pose a question to the noble Lord. If the noble Lord found in this amendment not the end of an Act at the end of three years, but the words that Parliament could by affirmative order renew the provisions of the Act, if Parliament so desired, would he then be in favour of such a provision? Because if he was, and told us so, I am sure that it would strengthen us in having a certain amendment at Third Reading.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I do not know what authority the noble Lord has for saying that I told him that I would be happy with a provision of that sort.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I am asking the noble Lord.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I certainly would not because I think it is wholly unnecessary. I will give the noble Lord this point. I think that it would be less damaging than this amendment, which I am glad to see he shows signs of withdrawing. But I would still feel that it was wrong.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, with respect to both noble Lords, I should remind the House that we are at Report stage. I do not like to interrupt a private debate but I think I should do so on this occasion.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, would my noble friend allow me to remind him, if it be necessary, that on Report stage if the noble Lord addressing the House is good enough to give way to another noble Lord to whom he has referred, that noble Lord, by long custom of the House, is entitled to take advantage of that courtesy?

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I rise feeling almost a peace-giver to the House. I continue, I promise your Lordships, not at any greater length than I have spoken already, to add to the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has been kind enough to discuss with me and with the House. Your Lordships heard from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that he was apparently so positively certain of the advantages and the outcomes of this Bill that he would not even want to have an order at the end of three years to continue its provision. It does not show to me very much faith that his views would equally be the views of Parliament, because if he had that confidence he would have said something rather different from what he did say.

I am merely going to say this. There is doubt in your Lordships' minds and there is doubt in the country. All that this amendment asks for is that we look at this matter again as Parliament at the end of three years knowing then what the conditions are, rather than dealing with definite, final legislation at this point when we just do not know what the effects will be.

Lord Fraser of Kilmorack

My Lords, I had no intention of intervening in this debate but I must say a few words; I shall not detain your Lordships for long. I have the greatest respect for the noble Lords, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran and Lord Graham of Edmonton, both of whom are good parliamentarians and always worth listening to. I must admit that I have listened with interest to everything that has been said by the noble Baroness and others. However, I think we take it a bit narrow. This is, after all, a liberating rather than a restrictive measure; and if we in this country are going to continue to pass, or to fail to pass, Bills of a liberating and not restricting character on the basis that they must be for nothing more than an experimental period of three years, then we shall sink beneath the waves and we shall deserve to do so.

Lord Vaux of Harrowden

My Lords, I am not going to detain your Lordships for a long time, either. May I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw, on what I thought was an absolutely excellent speech. I agreed with every word she said. Who are we to disregard the third Commandment? Look in the Book of Exodus: it says that should go on for ever.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, we are not asking people not to do anything; we are telling them that they may do something if they want to. That is the difference. We are not asking the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder, not to go to church; we are not asking any Muslim not to go to the mosque; we are not asking any Jew not to go to the synagogue; we are not asking anybody not to keep the sabbath holy. What we are saying is that those who want to get on trading may do so if they want to. We are also introducing and keeping protections for those who work in it. That is the difference.

We are not bossing people about, We should not boss people about. They are old enough and clever enough to look after their own interests. That is what modern society and modern education is about. It is about people being adult and sufficiently capable of doing the things that they want to do. It is not for us to tell them. Nanny says, "You may not go to the garden centre, which is owned by me, at Guildford outside on a Sunday. But you may go and buy a pornographic book in a bookshop; but you may not buy a Bible". That is the muddle into which we have got. What we are saying is that we should allow people to be grown up and adult. That is what this Bill is all about.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the Bill before us, as my noble friend Lord Onslow has reminded us, removes the statutory restrictions from retail trading hours. It does so in recognition of the strong demand that exists—and I shall return to Lord Graham's points and those of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, about representations in a moment—and which has consistently been revealed in surveys of public opinion and is regularly exhibited today, now, in people's shopping habits. The Bill recognises the fact that trading outside the hours currently permitted in the legislation is already happening. Shopkeepers want to open their shops, shoppers want to shop and the Government do not believe that they should prevent these activities which after all are perfectly harmless activities.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, raised the point quite fairly about the numbers of letters that the Home Office had received on the subject. But, as the noble Lord recognises, lobbies may be formed (as, I am certain, they have been in this case) to persuade persons to petition and to make representations to the Government. One certainly does not doubt the sincerity of the organisers of these petitions, or indeed those who respond to them. But it is certainly not an indication of the wishes of society to compare the number of those making representations against a particular proposal with those who are content with it and see no need to write. I should have thought that that was perfectly clear to anybody who had any experience of receiving letters on issues which arouse the emotions which are touched by this Bill. If we wish to gauge the views of society on this Bill, we have only to look at the results of the various opinion polls, despite the view of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that perhaps we ought not to put much weight upon opinion polls—but there, again, perhaps he may not do so upon certain opinion polls when they do not seem to be helpful to him. The opinion polls that we have had on this Bill show quite clearly and quite consistently that over two-thirds of the people in this country support the Government's proposals for deregulation and that nearly 70 per cent. use shops on Sunday, anyway.

As well as responding to demand, we also believe that the criminal law has no place in regulating behaviour such as shopping. I listened with great care to the moving speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw. But shopping is not harmful, it is not wicked. The noble Baroness referred to the evil in this Bill. With the greatest respect to her, I really think that is going a little bit over the top. Shopping is not wicked, it is not a behaviour that needs to be prevented. Even were it to be felt necessary to regulate shopping hours, the present law is not satisfactory. It has been roundly condemned on all sides in your Lordships' House by the Judiciary, by local authorities and by the general public variously as unworkable, unnecessary, unenforceable, unwanted, anomalous and obscure.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, prayed in aid the case of seat belt legislation. In the case of seat belt legislation, it was possible and sensible to have an experimental period. I understand the force of that argument. We were talking about safety of life. There were those who were concerned that people who were compelled to wear seat belts in cars may be injured because of that. The effect of that legislation on injuries to motorists and passengers could be measured and, if necessary, the status quo could be restored if the experiment was found not to work. That is not so with this Bill, and I honestly do not believe that the noble Lord is comparing like with like.

This amendment will create uncertainty in the retail trade. After the passage of this Bill, retailers will begin to plan for their new freedoms. They will be able to decide their opening hours without legal restriction and without fear of prosecution, in order best to meet the needs of their customers. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said words to the effect that change is unsettling. I understand that point of view. I can therefore appreciate the anxiety, which he clearly does, felt by many about what they see as a great change in our shopping lives. But that change is already under way, and I cannot believe for a moment that we can stop that change by providing for a temporary removal of restrictions for only three years. What on earth are we going to do then? We would return to the present law.

We have had many long hours of debate in your Lordships' House in favour of this Bill and against it, in favour of amendments and against them, and yet to the best of my recollection I have heard no-one argue for the status quo, for the advantages of the present law. Why, my Lords? It is because the present law is indefensible, and it would seem doubly or perhaps triply so in three years' time if retailers and consumers were to be forced back into the straitjacket of the present law after a period of more sensible and suitable retail trading patterns. And what then, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked? Are we to begin this procedure all over again, with another committee of inquiry and another Shops Bill? The proposition is unrealistic, and I cannot think of anything more exhausting.

The effect of this amendment could be disastrous. We would be forced back to the present law with no alternative available. It also assumes that the machinery of government is not working. The Government constantly monitor social trends, as I said in answer to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, in Committee. Social trends, social patterns and social changes are monitored, and on the basis of such monitoring the Government decide on the need for legislation. It may be that in three years', five years' or 20 years' time, even, the Government of the day will decide that legislation in the area of retailing is necessary. If they so decide, I cannot predict what form that legislation may take, because I cannot with certainty foresee the social changes and social needs of a future time. I can, however, predict one thing with as much certainty as I can muster: that is, that whatever legislation may be introduced it will not be the same as or even similar to the Shops Act 1950.

This amendment seeks to create uncertainty for retailers and consumers alike. It will return us to the present unsatisfactory situation in three years' time, with no option but to start the process of legislative reform anew. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, also spoke to the other amendments in his name. Again, these amendments seek to undo this Bill and to return to the present state of affairs. They will also leave shopworkers less protected than this Bill proposes. A shop which opens on a Sunday after this change in the law may decide to continue opening in three years' time, although by the first of the noble Lord's amendments it might be permitted to sell only some of its range of goods. At that time, all protection for employees against Sunday working would be lost and a refusal to work on a Sunday might result in dismissal. I cannot believe that this is the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran.

I return to the theme which my noble friend Lord Onslow addressed when he spoke just now, which I think, too, meets the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw, when she compared this Bill with the sort of compulsion of which she has evidence on other matters in other countries. There is no sense at all in which this Bill seeks to compel anybody to do anything. All this Bill is trying to do is to sweep away the unnecessary and outdated legislation, to allow people to open their shops on a Sunday if they wish, and to allow those who wish to shop to do so. I cannot see in any sense that the amendment which the noble Lord proposes to look at this matter again after three years can in any way assist the purposes of this Bill, and I hope that the noble Lord will see the force of reason and will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, I never anticipated in what kind of moment I should be praying in aid the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the speech of the Minister in support of the basic, fundamental aspect of the theme of my amendment; and I am very grateful indeed to those noble Lords who have spoken on this matter. I was very careful in putting forward this amendment to point out that it had an objective. I asked the Government, if they were a caring Government, at least to welcome the general theme which is basic to my amendment. Why did I do that? I also said that I hoped the Government might feel able to give some concession in this matter. Why?

It was because one of the two pillars on which I was basing my speech was that this matter that is before the House is a community matter. It affects large numbers of the public, employers and hundreds of thousands of employees. The second pillar upon which I put forward this amendment was that there is unquestionably a cleavage of opinion in the country, in this House, all over; that people are not entirely happy with what the Government are proposing. I do not want to enter into any question of statistics, but even the noble Lord the Minister talked about two-thirds of the country being in favour of the Bill. What about the other one-third? It is implied that the other one-third might be not so much in favour. Therefore, you have this great cleavage of opinion.

When I put down this amendment I anticipated that the Government would make some concession and would attack it in the same way as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, did so well. He was very kind to me and said that I would correct him if I felt he was wrong. The noble Lord was right, but the subject of his first speech this afternoon was based entirely on a technical matter, which was that I had not produced an amendment to say what should happen at the end of three years. That is a technical attack which, with great respect to the noble Lord, I anticipated. I thought that the noble Lord having made only that kind of attack upon the Bill, with his great experience of local and national Government, he would accept that there is a cleavage of opinion throughout the country on this matter and that this is clearly a case where some kind of experimental period of use could be introduced, coming back to Parliament by some simple procedure. It would have meant only a slight amendment to Schedule 1.

But, no doubt unhappily, the noble Lord the Minister felt bound to keep to his brief—and I can understand that—though the two pillars upon which I based my arguments and the attitude that I have adopted in presenting this to your Lordships is that here is an opportunity for the Government to make some concession. Even at this late stage perhaps I may make an appeal to your Lordships to support that objective theme as embodied in my amendment and to ask the Minister once again whether he can make some concession in this matter by introducing some kind of amendments to deal with the obvious technical difficulites which have been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, dealt extremely well with the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in his first speech this afternoon and said that really it was not a fundamental objection to my amendment. I ask the Minister to consider whether even at this late hour, in the circumstances of this being a matter involving so many hundreds of thousands of people in the community outside this House, this is an occasion when the Government could make a concession without loss of face and without the loss of any kind of prestige. The Government could only gain at this moment from saying, "There is a cleavage of opinion in the country; we do not know whether we are right about all that we say on the position of employers and employees but this is a clear case on matters involving so many thouands and thousands of people that some kind of concession can be made at this stage". Unless the noble Lord the Minister can make some kind of concession—I ask him to consider whether some kind of concession could be made—I shall have to test the opinion of the House.

5.1 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 118.

Airedale, L. Lincoln, Bp.
Amherst, E. Liverpool, Bp.
Ardwick, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. [Teller.]
Bath and Wells, Bp.
Birk, B. Lockwood, B.
Birmingham, Bp. London, Bp.
Boston of Faversham, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
Bottomley, L. Mishcon, L.
Brentford, V. Molloy, L.
Brockway, L. Newcastle, Bp.
Buckmaster, V. Nicol, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Oram, L.
Chichester, Bp. Oxford, Bp.
Coleraine, L. Phillips, B.
Collison, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
David, B. Ripon, Bp.
Denning, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Derby, Bp. Rochester, Bp.
Durham, Bp. Rochester, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Ennals, L. Ryder of Warsaw, B.
Evans of Claughton, L. St. Albans, Bp.
Ewart-Biggs, B. St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Bp.
Falkland, V.
Foot, L. Shackleton, L.
Gallacher, L. Southwark, Bp.
Galpern, L. Stallard L. [Teller.]
Gladwyn, L. Stamp, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Grantchester, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hampden, V. Strabolgi, L.
Hampton, L. Tordoff, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Underhill, L.
Hereford, Bp. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Hunt, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Wheatley, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Wigoder, L.
Jeger, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
John-Mackie, L. Winchester, Bp.
Kilbracken, L. York, Abp.
Leicester, Bp.
Abercorn, D. Brookes, L.
Abinger, L. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Ailesbury, M. Broxbourne, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Bruce-Gardyne, L.
Aldington, L. Butterworth, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Caccia, L.
Ampthill, L. Caithness, E.
Arran, E. Cameron of Lockbroom, L.
Auckland, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Campbell of Cray, L.
Beloff, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Belstead, L. Cathcart, E.
Bessborough, E. Chelwood, L.
Bolton, L. Cholmondeley, M.
Boothby, L. Clinton, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Cottesloe, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Cox, B.
Brain, L. Craigavon, V.
Cranbrook, E. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Davidson, V. Merrivale, L.
De La Warr, E. Mersey, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mottistone, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Eccles, V. Munster, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Elton, L. Norrie, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Onslow, E.
Ferrers, E. Orkney, E.
Forester, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Pender, L.
Gainford, L. Penrhyn, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Porritt, L.
Glenarthur, L. Portland, D.
Gray of Contin, L. Rankeillour, L.
Grimond, L. Renton, L.
Haig, E. Rodney, L.
Halsbury, E. St. Davids, V.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Sandford, L.
Harris of High Cross, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Henley, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Stockton, E.
Hooper, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ingrow, L. Sudeley, L.
Killearn, L. Suffield, L.
Kimball, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Kissin, L. Terrington, L.
Kitchener, E. Teynham, L.
Lawrence, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E. Trumpington, B.
Long, V. Tryon, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Vickers, B.
Mancroft, L. Vivian, L.
Manton, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Margadale, L. Westbury, L.
Marley, L. Whitelaw, V.
Marsh, L. Wolfson, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.