§ 2.58 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Glenarthur.)
§ On Question, Bill read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Glenarthur.)
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I have an idea that I shall not be the only person who wishes to address the House on the Motion, That this Bill do now pass. It is the last opportunity in this distinguished House for those of us who have very deep feelings about this Bill to express them. It is also our last opportunity to make a plea to Her Majesty's Government to think again when this Bill reaches another place.
There are three things wrong with this Bill. The first is that it seeks, quite unnecessarily, to bring forward in a legislative programme, which should consist of Bills that are vital to the nation, to its economy, to its health and to its traditions, a Bill for which nobody is calling 943 in any emphatic way and which has aroused so much bitter feeling throughout the nation. That was the first mistake.
The second mistake was to choose for it the year the Government have done, when most of us feel so sensitively about the decline in family life and when some of us lament that some of the traditions of which we were so proud seem to be disappearing in our nation. For the Government to choose this time of all times to try to put through Parliament a Bill which has only a destructive effect upon the matters that I have just mentioned was such a mistake.
The third mistake in my judgment, if I may humbly say this—and it was a grave political mistake—was to see that the Whips were put on in regard to this Bill. I am glad that these Benches sought to do no such thing. I believe that our pride is shared by the other party in opposition. Those are the three grave errors.
Of late—and I shall not make a long speech to your Lordships—the Government will have seen their own supporters coming out very prominently in the press and saying how much they lament the Government's decision to put through this Bill and possibly, again, to administer a three-line Whip in another place. Your Lordships will have seen the correspondence and the articles that have appeared in The Times; one by Mr. Teddy Taylor, "Stop this Sunday steamroller", a letter from the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, and a letter from Mr. Crouch, a Conservative Member of Parliament, who said that he went down to a meeting in Canterbury to defend this Bill. There were 200 people present in the audience—
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to intervene to ask for your Lordships' guidance. It is, I understand, a rule of order in your Lordships' House that we do not refer to or identify Members of another place. It is perfectly true that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has referred in an approving way to what has been said and written by Members of another place, but that merely invites debate on the subject. I ask your Lordships to say that it is undesirable that we should start to canvas the views of Members of another place.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, the reference by my noble friend was to letters written by the Members concerned. It had no relation to the business or the proceedings of either House.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, in answer to my noble and learned friend, the rule, as I recollect it, is not limited to proceedings in the other place. That is a different rule. That relates to what is said by Ministers and to private Members, Back-Benchers, in the current Session. I am referring to the rule, as I understand it—I see that the Minister has a Companion to the Standing Orders—that we should not at all refer to or identify, certainly in any adverse way, a Member of another place. As I said, the noble Lord did so in an approving way but it invites immediate debate on the subject.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I thought it might be useful if I intervened briefly. I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is not 944 absolutely correct in this matter. I think that what has been said by the noble Lord opposite is, in fact, within the rules of order. If the noble and learned Lord looks at the Companion to the Standing Orders he will find that, since the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred to a written article and not to anything said in debate, that is perfectly all right—
§ Lord Glenarthur
I am not sure whether I hold the same edition in my hand as the noble and learned Lord has, but in my hook it is on page 40.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for his courtesy in rescuing me from a technical point. Possibly technical points are raised only when there is a fear of the argument which is being pursued. I was going to say—and I now know that I was saying it correctly—that a Conservative Member of Parliament, Mr. Crouch, has told the press, and has written a letter to the effect, that he went down to a meeting in Canterbury attended by 200 people in the audience in order to defend the Bill and its provisions. He wrote to the press, with a frankness that one would expect of him, to say that there was not one single member of that audience who supported him—
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene again. I have found the passage to which the noble Lord referred and it reads:It is undesirable that any Member of the House of Commons should be mentioned by name, or otherwise identified, for the purpose of criticism of a personal nature".I hope that that is the same edition as the noble Lord's. As I pointed out, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was not inviting criticism, was not voicing criticism, but he immediately invites debate in which there might be criticism. I should have thought the matter was perfectly plain, but I am in your Lordships' hands.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I have too much of a regard for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, and his distinguished past to carry on any debate with him upon this matter and I believe that your Lordships may feel the same. Far from indulging in any criticism of the honourable Member, I was praising his frankness and merely bringing to your Lordships' attention what he had said.
From this side of the House we have had varied points of view expressed. When it came to defending the rights of employees, your Lordships registered a vote which, in my judgment, has improved this Bill and I pay tribute again to the noble Lord the Minister, who wrote to me and said that it was not the Government's intention to interfere with that amendment by any move of their own in this House. That is a matter for which we at leas should be grateful.
This is a bad Bill; it is a sorry Bill; it is a Bill which the Government will regret if they pursue their present course, and it is a Bill which has divided the nation in a manner which was so unnecessary. My last words are a plea again to the Government to have second thoughts.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I, and I think most of your Lordships, should like first of all to congratulate my noble friend the Minister on his conduct of this Bill, and one might say on having survived the debates on it. There must have been moments during its passage when he would have wished to be back in his earlier avocation of flying a helicopter on to an oil rig in had weather. Indeed his performance a moment or two ago showed that he has not lost the rescue technique of a helicopter pilot.
I want very briefly to express my profound disagreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said. I think it is evidence of the radical courage of the present Government that they have introduced this Bill. Indeed it is their radicalism for which they are very often now criticised. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is quite right; there was no absolute, immediate, practical necessity for introducing this Bill. A weaker government, a government more attached to the faded doctrine of consensus, would no doubt have let that—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, your Lordships will recall what consensus under governments of a little time ago did to the economy of this country. Some of them have reasons I think to be unhappy in that recollection. I was not a member of a consensus Government.
The Government faced this, as I understand it, because they thought that a situation in which the law was being flagrantly broken and was not being enforced, and in which shops were opening contrary to the law with nothing being done about it, reflected no credit on our society; that it was right to recognise that a very large number of our people do in fact wish to shop on Sundays; and that there are enough people in the shop trade who wish to serve them. Therefore it was right and indeed it was courageous—I think the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, does not dispute this—to regularise the position by introducing a Bill whose main proposal is to make it cease to be a criminal offence for someone who wants to open a shop on Sunday to sell something in that shop to someone who wants to buy it. Those of your Lordships who have been brought up in the law, as in a modest way I was, will I am sure feel that it is bad for the law to have a law which is flagrantly and openly broken and that it is right in that situation to tackle it by bringing the law into line with what is the general wish of quite a large number of our people.
The Bill has been opposed, on the one hand, by a curious mixture of sabbatarians whose sincerity I deeply respect, and, on the other, to some extent by trade and trade union interests. But the Bill stands or falls not by what is now said at this stage but by how the British public reacts to it. The British public will be given an opportunity if it wishes to open shops on a Sunday. The British public will be given a chance to come to those shops and buy from them. It is for the British public so to decide. I would not venture, particularly with the very considerable display of lawn sleeves that I see to my left, to enter into the theology of the matter, although I do recall that the founder of our religion after he had healed a sick man on the 946 sabbath day did make the penetrating comment that the sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath.
For my part, as a serving Anglican, I am a little sorry that the Church of which I am a devoted member (or the heads of that Church, because I am not so sure that they are wholly representative in this respect) should have taken a sabbatarian line which one used to associate more with the more extreme forms of Non-conformism. That is now past. I say with the deepest respect to the right reverend Prelates that it is possible to be a practising and happy Anglican and yet to feel that it is wrong to make Sunday shopping a criminal offence.
I was amused in this context to see in the press yesterday that the shop at Canterbury Cathedral, which has happily but I believe quite unlawfully been selling books for some years, has now felt it wise to close lest the excitement generated by discussions on this Bill should lead somebody to prosecute it, though it is naturally sad that a bookshop which has provided good and wholesome literature for a great many people in the wonderful surroundings of that great cathedral should as a result of our controversies have to cease its operations. As soon as the Bill is law it will be able to reopen. I hope that that will be a consolation to the right reverend Prelates concerned.
I want to add only one thing. I realise, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, very fairly said, that this is a matter on which opinions differ. But when you are dealing with a prohibition, a prohibition backed by criminal penalties, which some people believe in and some people do not, surely you should give the benefit of the doubt to those who without wishing to make anybody else work on Sundays want to do things themselves on Sunday. The logic of the opposition to this Bill goes a good deal further than noble Lords opposite have perhaps thought it prudent to say. If you really believe that opening a shop on Sunday should be a criminal offence, why logically do you not similarly proceed in respect of transport, restaurants and public services generally, in respect of which millions of people already work on Sunday? If there is something wrong about working on Sunday, surely those who believe that are perhaps a little lacking in their duty if they do not proceed to go forward and say that all the mass of useful Sunday work which goes on today should be stopped, and stopped by criminal penalties. Therefore I, who began with some hesitations on this Bill, who have for better or worse—and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, laughs; but he is not entitled to laugh. He does not know—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, if the noble Lord will sit down I shall give way to him at an appropriate moment.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for sitting down.
I, who began with a doubt about this Bill, have been convinced by listening to the argument all thrugh—I 947 am sure the noble Lord opposite has heard it—that in the difficult situation with which the Government were faced, with a real division in public opinion and an unenforced law, the Government not only have been right and courageous but have followed the good tradition of government in this country in bringing forward this Bill. I look forward to seeing it come into operation to ease what has been for many people and many consciences a difficult situation. I should like once again to thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for the skill with which he has brought forward this Bill.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, does his usual magnificent defence of the Government. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, really needs to call in aid his support—however, he certainly had it—but we can always rely regularly on the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to come in to do his well-understood act of support for the Government. When he says, however, that it is radical and courageous of the Government to have proceeded with this Bill, I should like to suggest that there is no particular virtue in being radical—a point I have sometimes made to some of the more muddle-headed members of my own party. There is no particular virtue in being radical in itself: it is what one is being radical about that is important. The same can be said of being courageous. Being courageous in a wrong cause is an unfortunate misuse of a virtue. So if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, his was a somewhat irrelevant dissertation in our discussion of this Bill.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said, we on these Benches have not had a Whip on this Bill because we believe that the question of how Sunday is to be treated is a matter for conscience. It is a long-established tradition in both your Lordships' House and another place that matters of conscience should not be subject to the party Whip. In fact, we on these Benches hold divided views about the treatment of Sunday, and we have allowed those views to go forward. I must say that attempting to stop the Alliance Benches from voting the way they want would, I think, be rather beyond my powers—but that is another matter.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that he is not arguing to the main issue of this Bill. Nobody has said that there should be no trading on Sunday at all. That is not what the argument has been about. I believe that nearly everybody has agreed that there should be some change and reorganisation of the way in which Sunday trading is regulated. We all know from the Bill that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, introduced a year or two ago, if we did not know before, how perfectly ridiculous are the present regulations, and that they need changing. However, that is not what the argument has been about.
The argument has been about whether we want Sunday to be like any other day; whether we want to maintain a rhythm in our lives. We are creatures of rhythm whether or not we like it, and we need a day that is different. One can agree with that whether or not one supports the religious arguments. I personally support the need for Sunday to be kept as it is so that 948 it may be easy for as many people as possible to treat it as a day of worship. But even if I were not a member of the Churches I would still support the argument that one needs a day that is different, on which one can lead a different kind of life, to return to work on Monday refreshed as a result. So much for the question of the observance of Sunday and the kind of Sunday that we want to have. That is the reason why many of us oppose this Bill.
Even more, and as we all know, there is a second part to this Bill, which concerns the protection of the rights of people to work or not to work on Sunday. While we on these Benches have been divided on the question of whether or not there should be deregularisation of Sunday trading from the point of view of Sunday observance, we have not been divided on the question of employees' rights. It is in my view a scandal that the Government will not allow people who are employed after the date that the Bill comes into force to have the option of refusing to work on Sunday.
Fortunately, in your Lordships' House we have been able to retain, against the Government's will, some protection for shopworkers so far as their hours of work are concerned. However, I do not believe that that entirely covers the right not to work on Sunday. Indeed, I should like to have that aspect commented upon by the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur.
I refer once more to a point that I have tried repeatedly to have recognised during the course of this Bill. If we are to have Sunday working—and of course there will be some increase in it however matters are arranged—then it will provide a first-class opportunity to develop job sharing. There are ways in which job sharing can be encouraged, and it should be encouraged in every possible way. I have attempted to introduce some ways of encouraging job sharing, unsuccessfully, during the course of this Bill. I think that the Government believe in job sharing, and I beg the Government—who know that there are a great number of long-term unemployed people who may not otherwise return to employment but who are perfectly capable of being trained for sales work—to encourage the employment of such people as a regular weekend shift. That would at least get some good out of the evil of the changes in this Bill.
Will the Government please think again about positive ways of encouraging job sharing and the use of people unemployed during the week to work in shops on Saturdays and Sundays, so giving them some opportunity to earn additional money, to have contact, to have work, and to relieve those people who have been working during the week so that they may continue to share in the enjoyment of the weekend all of us have?
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, I should first like to say how grateful we are on these Benches for the leadership that has been given from all the Front Benches of this House, including that of the Cross-Benches, in the protracted debates that we have had during this deeply divisive Bill. We have all admired the steady bat that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, has played day after day. If we have regretted his consistent unwillingness to compromise, 949 then we have all appreciated his courtesy and his competence.
As for the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, we shall long remember how, in the presence of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, she reported on her Sunday afternoon's shopping in Canterbury. I am only sorry that she did not venture into West Kent, the home of Charles Dickens and the Thameside marshes, for at certain times in Rochester she could have purchased A Tale of Two Cities and A Child's Guide to Birdwatching.
We on these Benches share the deep anxiety about this Bill that has been expressed in all parts of your Lordships' House. There was even one occasion on the second day of Report stage when there appeared to be a moment of anxiety revealed on the Government Front Bench itself. For surely the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, exposed a tiny chink in his armour when he admitted in a debate on shopworkers' hours that he had taken account of the strength of feeling among your Lordships; had accepted that change can be unsettling; and recognised that at such times everyone tends to feel vulnerable. He went on to say:We accept that derestricting shop trading hours has at least the potential to alter significantly the fundamental nature of the retail trade".—[Official Report, 11/2/86; col. 114.]Here—albeit in a qualified way—is a Minister saying just what we on these Benches, along with others in this House, have been trying to say repeatedly: that Sunday trading hours have the potential to alter significantly the fundamental nature of the retail trade. Put in other words, that Sunday as a day special in itself will go. Here was an admission that the Bill does have the potential to change something that is generally valued in this country. In the light of that, it has been very disappointing that the Government have been quite unwilling to accept any of the amendments that, while recognising the need for reform, would have provided a different solution from that of complete deregulation.
My colleagues on these Benches would I know want me to say that we regret that our attendances during the many debates on this Bill have been (shall I say?) variable. They have ranged from an unprecedented vote on one occasion of 19 out of 24 Bishops available in England to no episcopal votes on some other occasions. I ask your Lordships to understand that such inconsistency should in no way be taken as meaning any disrespect to this House—least of all, to the Ministers in charge of the Bill. Perhaps it only serves to underline that we are a group of independents who live and work all over the country, from the Tweed to the Tamar, and that our commitment to our parishes and our people must always have our first loyalties. Perhaps our somewhat erratic behaviour may show once and for all the complete ineffectiveness of any imaginary episcopal Whip.
However, our contact at first hand with ordinary people in our dioceses enables us to say, as all Members in another place know from their postbags and some from meetings in their constituencies, that there is widespread unhappiness about this Bill in all parts of the land and that very little of that unhappiness has anything to do with the possible effects on church attendance. It really is not good enough for a Cabinet Minister to try yet again to 950 rubbish the Church by calling us "inconsistent sabbatarians." We are concerned primarily with the quality of life in our communities and, above all else, with the cherishing of family life—both of which are aspects we have always thought this Government were also concerned about.
What many people say in the outer suburbs of South London is that they do not want two Saturdays every weekend. We admit that the pattern of life varies in different parts of the country, and it is for that reason that we greatly regret the rejection of the amendment that would have given local authorities a local option about the extent of Sunday trading. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has already referred to the great deal of evidence from letters and articles that there will be further protracted debates in another place. I dare to hope that the Government will listen to any constructive alternatives to complete deregulation that may be made there. I hope the Government will consider carefully the suggestion from someone whom I had better call the second church estates commissioner that the time has come when this divisive measure should be removed from the political calendar and a fresh group of persons asked to examine the ways and means of partial deregulation of Sunday trading, rather than that the present Bill should be pushed through with the aid of a three-line Whip.
On a matter which affects people of all ages, of all political parties, the members of all Churches and of none, a matter which touches on the retention of Sunday as a day which is special in itself, I cannot believe that there is not a middle way. We on these Benches devoutly hope that even at the eleventh hour the Government will be ready to listen, to think again, and to find a middle way that will unite and not divide.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, may I join in the tributes to my noble friend Lord Glenarthur for the courage and courtesy with which he has conducted this unfortunate Bill through the House. It has been unfortunate from its very inception, its continuance and its passage through the House. I say that it has been unfortunate from its inception because it was the recent unfortunate Home Secretary, Mr. Leon Brittan, who in August 1973 appointed a committee to inquire into the position. He appointed that committee when there was no clamour at all for change and when the country was going along quite happily as it was.
In the course of that committee's report Mr. Auld recorded these words:We know from the evidence submitted to us that, while the pressure for Sunday and late-night opening has grown, there remain large sections of the population who, for social, economic or religious reasons, believe that it should be resisted, or at least that some restrictions should be maintained".There it is. The Auld Committee had evidence of the large and growing opposition to this Bill, but still it was pressed forward. As it has proceeded through this House opposition throughout the country has grown into almost a roar against the complete deregulation of trading on Sunday.
In the Bill's passage through this House we have tried to do away with the mistakes of the past and to do away with making it a criminal offence. We have 951 proposed sensible amendments. The particular amendment which I mention is where the existing position would in substance remain but where for new Sunday openings application should be made to the local authority. Surely that is the best way of regulating trading. Why should the Bill be steamrollered on? The amendment was a perfectly workable proposal to maintain our Sundays, yet it was said to be unworkable. It should have been tried out, because I am sure it would have worked.
The fundamental point that we should consider is what my noble friend Lord Stockton said. Sunday has come down the centuries as a day of rest on which people should not work unless the contingencies of life so demand it, on which people should be able to maintain their family life and continue away from their ordinary avocations. It is that which is imperilled today. It is that which is imperilled by the complete deregulation of Sunday trading. As the Crathorne Committee said in 1964:This special character of Sunday would be seriously impaired if the majority of shops were open as on weekdays and most shop assistants were required to work on that day".It is, however, generally recognised that some goods and services are required on Sundays.
Our proposals, with one amendment after another, were trying to preserve the character of Sunday, but I am afraid that our proposals were treated with scorn and ridicule, and were not met by reasoned argument. The Bill will go forward, but let me tell your Lordships that from my knowledge—and I am a great deal in touch—the great mass of our ordinary people is against complete deregulation. People want the character of Sundays preserved as far as is possible. In one of our growing towns, Basingstoke, the local authority unanimously voted its opposition to the Bill. I am sure that many others would have done the same. I am afraid that many Members of Parliament in another place could be risking their seats if they do away with our Sundays because the feeling against this Bill is so strong. All I say today is that I very much regret the passage of the Bill in its present form.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I really wish the Government well on this Bill. It is the most sensible Bill we have had for a very long time. The Government are not saying, "You will open on Sundays", and they are not saying that one must do something immoral. The Government are saying, "We are not going to boss you about any more."
I have just been reading Edward Gibbon, and as your Lordships know he is the most ironic of English historians. When he gets on the subject of the gymnastics of the early Church, with the Manicheans, the Arians, the Gnostics, the Monothelites, the Monophysites, the Nestorians, et alii, it is as of nothing compared to the gymnastics of the Bench of Bishops on the subject of whether or not it is immoral to open a garden centre on Sunday. One may sell a leaf to decorate the middle of your dining table but not a leaf of lettuce without eternal damnation because the lettuce is to eat and the other leaf is to decorate.
It is perfectly all right for the do-it-yourself shop to open but, oh no, it is not all right to buy something to put on the table made from the wood purchased from 952 the DIY shop. It is all right to open on one side of the street because the local authority says so, but because the border goes down the middle of the street it is not all right to open on the other side of the street. The greengrocer, the shop assistant or the shopkeeper will be fined or sent to prison because he lives on the other side of the street.
They are not basing this on some great theological or divine instruction. They are basing it on a sort of muddled do-goodism, which I suppose has been the hallmark of the Church of England for quite a long time. They are basing it on an illogical and unfortunate opposition. What my noble friends are suggesting is that people should do what they like without interference, and I sincerely hope that my noble friends, the Prime Minister and everybody else will make sure that this Bill not to stop people who are doing nothing wrong should go on to the statute book.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, in view of what is generally said about prelates at the present time, I was surprised to hear the noble Earl suggesting that we had actually talked about the threat of eternal damnation, because that is not what bishops talk about in these days. Would the noble Earl kindly give the reference to the point at which any right reverend prelate in this House has actually threatened eternal damnation for doing the things which the noble Lord has suggested?
§ The Earl of Onslow
Perhaps, my Lords, it would have been better if they had. They might have been kept from eternal damnation in the life hereafter by doing that, rather than by regulating the retail trade.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I dare say that the last speaker would include in his indictment of the bishops also members of the free churches, which gives me the opportunity of saving that there has been a burgeoning opposition to this Bill over the past few weeks which I take to be significant and for which in one sense I am rather grateful because it has brought the free churches together in what is an unexampled and unprecedented way in recent times.
The evidence is that ordinary people are now endeavouring to understand what in fact will happen, and it seems to me that this increasing opposition is not only well founded but justified. I shall take very little of your Lordships' time, but I should briefly like to say that the question of the rhythm of life, which I believe has been underrated and misunderstood, is now being sincerely appreciated by a great many people. They understand that whatever the opportunities which may be offered for having two Saturdays in a week, in fact there will be little difference between the days and they regard that as a danger.
I share their disquiet at any attempt to make Sunday a day of opportunity to do exactly as one likes, particularly in a community where, though the people are not prepared to put their names to any theological document, there is nevertheless a widespread recognition that something better than the present situation ought to prevail. So far as it is possible preservation of family life and the distinction between Sunday and Saturday is an important matter. This Bill 953 entirely fails to represent an increasing and, in my judgment, very important element in the reaction of ordinary people to the prospects contained in this Bill.
It is a bad Bill. I think that no one would claim that we have a correct and final answer—probably we shall never have one—to the way in which we can order our lives by legislation. I would cordially suggest to your Lordships' House that the increasing opposition to this Bill is not wilful, but is an increasing appreciation of the damage that will be done. I hope therefore that even at this last moment there will be those in your Lordships' House who will press sufficiently hard to see that this Bill goes no further.
Baroness Ryder of Warsaw
My Lords, some of us, including the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who wrote such an excellent letter in The Times last Thursday, never imagined that any government in Britain would have the arrogance to dismiss the sabbath. Just think, my Lords, what this day has meant (and still means) to millions of people over centuries in time! I happen to be a Catholic and a fighting Pole and in the name of believers and all who want to retain Sunday as a special day I say to noble and learned Lords, "Woe to you or to any government who dwells only on the materialistic elements or on the side of convenience!"
As mere mortals we have no right to behave like this, whatever the reasons or the arguments. Whether or not we believe in God, one thing is absolutely certain, which is that at the end of our lives we shall come face to face with our creator, and then each of us must atone for all our earthly actions.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I begin by saying that I share the views of many noble Lords who want to pay tribute to the manner in which the noble Lord the Minister has steered this Bill through the House. He deserves a far better Bill.
In my view the Bill is not only unwanted; it is also unloved. Hitherto, this Government and others have argued for change in this particularly sensitive area by the route of private legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has told us that the reason why we have the Bill in this legislative programme is because we have a government which spurns the fading doctrine of consensus. They will reap the reward of spurning consensus, both in another place and outside, in the time shortly to come.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, quite rightly pointed out that the authority upon which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and the Minister have relied so often, which is the Auld Report, stated that there was no wide clamour for total deregulation. Yet there is some peculiar chemistry that has worked upon the Government over the last period which makes them say that now, in 1986 or 1987, is the time when they need to go through what I have termed this social and commercial revolution. I believe that in so doing the Government have wholly misconceived the damage that they are inflicting on family life, the rights of employees and also the Church. They have wholly misconceived the feelings of people who hitherto have 954 looked upon this Government and their party as the natural protector of their rights.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, so rightly said during the passage of this Bill, many of your Lordships have received several communications—in fact all of us have received quite a number of communications—but, perhaps because I have been more prominent in this matter than some of your Lordships, I have received some particularly direct communications. The groups of people upon whom this Government have naturally relied certainly include the small trader. I have with me a letter which I should like to read. I shall not give the name and address but the House can accept the authority. The letter concludes:I would think that the greater majority of independent shopkeepers are at present still Conservative. Should Sunday become just another day of the week, my wife and myself will assuredly vote differently at the next opportunity after 30 years of loyalty to the Conservatives".Noble Lords opposite will know that that is not an isolated letter. However, in case they believe that it is an isolated letter then, if I may, I shall quote this one:I was brought up by a self-employed mother and father and also brought up to vote Conservative and always have, but if the Sunday-trading Bill goes through, my vote will never again be given to them because I will never again be able to trust them".I noticed the interesting exchange between the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, on the sensitivities of introducing into an item the presence of a Member in another place.
A newspaper cutting has been sent to me. The headline is:Onslow lashed over Sunday trading".That refers to the chairman of the 1922 Committee. I shall simply read a short extract:Five hundred Woking Christians gave local Tory MP, Cranley Onslow, a resounding 'Nor to Sunday trading at a mass meeting at St. John's Church on Monday night. The crowd was so big that it had to be moved from the church hall into the church to accommodate it".A lady is quoted as saying:Many people who have supported your party in the past will be disappointed and will not vote for you at the next election. It will be sad if a government that started with such high ideals falls on such an issue as this".Another member of the audience drew loud applause with the comment:The Government pays lip service to God but its real god is money".Those comments have been sent to me gratuitously.
The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, appears to be enjoying my repetition of what she must have heard and read many times before. The silent majority who have exercised their right in supporting the party opposite in scores of ways now feel they have been abandoned, betrayed and deceived. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder, said, no one would have believed that any government, and certainly not this one, could have been so incapable of sensing the mood of the people.
As the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, during the passage of the Bill there has been a mounting awareness of what is at stake. It is not merely a question, as some noble Lords have said, of the right to shop, to work, to open a shop or to do anything else. There are detractions from liberty. It is a myth that the 955 shopworker will be entitled to work or not to work on a Sunday. In practice that right will be denied to millions of future shopworkers, and people will not be able to keep their jobs and say to their employer that they do not wish to work on a Sunday. As noble Lords opposite know, they will put themselves in a different category. Whether those workers are dismissed, discriminated against or in another way put into a different category, their rights will be taken away from them.
Under the present law an adult shopworker may receive under £80 a week. He may be offered overtime to work on a Sunday at a certain rate. It is the intention of the wages legislation further to reduce that rate. How can a person who has a conscience and principles but who also has a family to feed say no to the prospect of an extra £25 or £30 a week? The House should clearly understand that it is not a liberalising or liberating measure. It is full of anomalies.
Over the past two weeks more than 100 meetings have taken place throughout the country. Noble Lords may ask about the other 500 constituencies in which there were no meetings. Those meetings were organised by a co-ordinating body, the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, which has done a marvellous job. It has co-ordinated the disparate forces. The Government have chosen to listen to the powerful voices of, in the main, the large do-it-yourself retailers and the Consumers' Association and have been persuaded. It was not necessary to put the intention in the manifesto, but they thought that they had the public on their side. That is not so.
Sadly the Government have failed to listen to sensible amendments. Sensible amendments were proposed to revise the schedules to give local authorities various options, to provide for small shops to be open and to provide for the opening of specialist shops at various times on a Sunday. Those who oppose complete de-regulation cannot be faulted for attempting to give the Government some opportunity to improve the situation.
I want to say a word about the effect of the Bill on shopworkers. The Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers, with whom I have declared an interest, is bitterly opposed to the Bill in total. It particularly resents the charge that it has not been prepared to come forward with positive ideas. It will continue to oppose the Bill in another place.
When the Bill goes to another place I hope that it will be improved. When we say farewell to it I look forward very much to the time when it comes back. I hope that it will come back to this House with improvements made through all-party pressure in another place. I do not look forward to it coming back with the amendments carried in this place having been taken out by the Government. It is a bad Bill. I believe that it will get the treatment that it deserves in another place.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, when I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, repeat a powerful speech that she had made at the Report stage, when I heard the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester make a plea for partial de-regulation which had been the subject of the amendment moved at 956 Second Reading by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, when I heard him again plead for a local option and my noble and learned friend take that up, and when I heard the theme of partial deregulation taken up again by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, I had to remind myself before I rose to address your Lordships of another Standing Order:It is considered undesirable"—that means out of order in the terms of your Lordships' House—that an issue which has been fully debated and decided upon a previous stage of a Bill should be re-opened on Third Reading".
§ Lord Jacques
My Lords, that is a mistaken quotation. It means, and everybody recognises this except the noble and learned Lord, that amendments that have been before the House or a Committee of the House at a previous stage should not come back at Third Reading. That is the limit of what it means, and that is not what has happened. The noble and learned Lord is stretching the Standing Order to further his argument.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I am so sorry to disagree with the noble Lord. The terms are perfectly clear. Each one of the matters that I have referred to was the subject of extensive debate and of vote, and therefore cannot be re-opened as an issue.
§ Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
My Lords, may I remind the noble and learned Lord that we are on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and not on Third Reading?
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I am so sorry; I did not entirely catch that. I merely repeat that it is considered that it is undesirable that an issue should be re-opened, and that is what has happened.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, there are two great themes in favour of the Bill. One is the theme of liberty, and that has been dealt with splendidly by the noble—
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, if I may just mention the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, he pointed out that we are now on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and not on Third Reading. I think that I must point that out to the noble and learned Lord before he pursues his argument.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, that is, of course, quite true. We took Third Reading formally because there was a privilege amendment. The general debate is taking place on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, instead of on Third Reading. I was saying that, speaking for the Bill, there are two great themes—the theme of liberty and the theme of legality. Both have been dealt with splendidly by the 957 noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. I only desire, as a lawyer, to say, on the theme of legality, that as long ago as 1947 the Gowers Committee said that the state of the shopping laws was bringing the law into contempt. That was repeated by the Auld Committee when it said that it was bringing the law—and the criminal law, at that—into disrepute. I repeat the description of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that it is completely indefensible. That is all that I desire to add on the theme of legality.
On the other side, there is the slogan that has been run, "Keep Sunday special". Again, sufficient has been said about that by other noble Lords. I wish, however, to say something on the other principal matter that was urged particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—the effect of the Bill on the family. When I gave evidence to the Morton Royal Commission, Professor McGregor, now the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, said that I was expressing an extreme institutional view of the family and marriage. I do not know whether that is true. Certainly, if I believed for a moment that this Bill would be harmful, on balance, to the family, I would be on the other side. When I hear noble Lords beating their breasts and lamenting—what is truly lamentable—the startling rise in divorce in the last 15 years I ask myself where they stood at the beginning of the process on the Divorce Reform Act 1969. I do not exclude from that question the Church leaders, as I ventured to say last night when I supported them on the Marriage Bill, which I truly believe would be destructive of family life if opened up as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, wishes.
The family is not a real issue on this Bill. But there is an issue outstanding where the family could well do with the support of those who have opposed the Bill. That is to see that the married woman is no worse off than the divorced woman so far as property rights are concerned. The issue is outstanding that the married woman should be restored to a partnership of property which reflects the partnership of hearts in marriage. I say that not by way of criticism and not by way of indicating inconsistency. I have not the slightest doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and others who have taken this line are sincerely devoted to the welfare of the family and its integrity as an institution of society. I would, however, say that this is a real issue on which we could well do with support. On one of the occasions that I brought this matter before your Lordships, the only support that I had from those who have opposed this Bill came from the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. For that reason, I am anxious to get back into her good books. But that is a real issue.
I should like now to deal shortly with two longstanding subjects in the opposition to this Bill. The second I shall only mention in passing as I have raised it without effective answer at several stages of the Bill. The first is a momentous one. It is Scotland. There has been absolute silence on that matter since Second Reading, when a rather specious argument was put forward to try to differentiate the Scottish experience. I would, however, venture to ask your Lordships why liberty in England should work out any worse than liberty in Scotland. That question really has to be faced.
958 The other subject into which I shall not go again is the position of religious minorities, for proper tolerance of the religious minorities would have invalidated and did invalidate many of the amendments put forward. I desire, in conclusion, only to express thanks to those of your Lordships who have made my participation in the proceedings on this Bill so agreeable. I cannot, without invidiousness, mention all of them. I paid tribute at the end of the Committee stage to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. I merely venture to repeat it.
But there are two other noble Lords whom I should like particularly to mention. One is the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, whose formidable debating powers have been brought to bear on the issues. The other is the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, who has acted as the unofficial opposition leader and the unofficial opposition Whip. One would have thought that it would have been quite impossible to combine those two roles with satisfaction to your Lordships. But, somehow, the noble Lord has managed to do so. I shall never forget, at the end of the first day of the Report stage, when the noble Lord took off his toga and put on his velvet cap and pink coat and allowed us to go home early because the weather outside was so disagreeable. Those experiences have made my participation in the Bill very pleasant. I have no hesitation in supporting its principle.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, may I make one point? The crucial issue for me in the Bill is whether or not it is right to have total deregulation. This is the vital issue. There is probably one person in four, or one in six, according to whichever poll you take, throughout the country, who really wants the Bill. As already stressed, many letters have been written to Members of another place on the issue. It worries me that a lot of Conservative votes are being lost by reason of the Bill being pushed through.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has commented on the question of Scotland. According to my understanding, a few years ago about one shop in ten was open in Scotland: now about one in six is open. It is anticipated that this will come down to about one in three. I understand that there have been requests from Scotland to Members of another place and to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for the reintroduction of regulations north of the Border. It is therefore by no means right to say that people in Scotland are satisfied with the present position.
It is only when the issue of total deregulation has been answered that one comes to the question of which option one should then choose. I believe that these two questions should not be muddled up. Most countries of Europe have some form of restriction on Sunday trading, and any of those forms works perfectly satisfactorily. Some form of regulation may not be as effective or as clean and tidy as total deregulation, but your Lordships know far better than I do that there are many aspects of our law in this country which are not as neat and tidy as everybody would like.
In conclusion, I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend the Minister for the way in which he has conducted the proceedings on this Bill. I hope, however, that he and his right honourable friend 959 will listen to what is being said all over the country—not only in your Lordships' House, not only in another place, but from their constituents and the people who will put them back into the other place next time around. It was last week that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State himself pleaded for the Government "not to heighten the political conflict". I hope that he will himself agree to do that by substantial amendments to this Bill in another place.
§ Lord Norrie
My Lords, I welcome this Bill on two counts. First, because I am a garden centre operator and have striven throughout these debates to represent the views of my own industry together with those of the allied trade of DIY operators. Secondly, because I believe that complete deregulation of shop hours is the only practical solution.
My concern for the passing of this Bill is as a retailer who employs 50 people, both full time and part time, drawn from all age groups including school-leavers. Thus my interest is that of a relatively small trader with an organisation sufficiently intimate for me to know all my employees personally. I should like to think that I have their welfare at heart. It is from this standpoint that I should like to remind your Lordships how the Opposition has attempted to amend the Bill in the following three ways; first, by a restriction of opening hours; secondly, by the continued restriction on working hours for shopworkers; and thirdly, by the protection against Sunday working for all shopworkers both present and future for all time.
At this juncture I shall leave the matter of continued restriction on working hours and protection against Sunday working to other noble Lords for comment. But I shall certainly comment on restriction on opening hours. None of the amendments covering this choice have been demonstrated to be of practical value. Most of them, if substituted for the existing law, would result in even more anomalies and chaos than we experience at present.
I am deeply conscious of the debt which those of us in this House who support the principle of deregulation owe to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, who has so ably represented the attitude of the substantial body of local authorities; and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, whose logic and very incisive arguments have always seemed to me to defeat the opponents on every issue.
I should also like to remind your Lordships of a challenge which I gave during the first day of the Committee stage in your Lordships' House. I refer to column 625 of Hansard, and I quote:Either we should all be free to open, or everyone should be closed—not just the shops but everyone, except absolutely essential services".—[Official Report, 16/12/85.]Perhaps I can best illustrate my understanding of Sunday "essential services" by referring to the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 14, verse 5 when our Lord asked of his onlookers—which included the ubiquitous Pharisees—Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightaway pull him out on the sabbath day?If a Member of your Lordships' House had placed an amendment attempting to restrict Sunday activities to 960 essential services—meaning no shops, no pubs, no restaurants, no cinemas, no garages, no television or radio: in an emergency the tocsin or church bell will suffice—then, although I might not have been able to support such an amendment, at least I could have respected it.
When this Bill passes to another place the debate will continue its course through turbulent waters but as it finishes at this stage in your Lordships' House I too, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, would like to comment on some aspect of recent correspondence in The Times by two honourable Members in another place and one of your Lordships' House. I do not believe that orchestrated correspondence and packed meetings necessarily represent the views of millions. But the millions do who walk regularly past checkouts of garden centres, DIY stores, and other shops which trade legally or illegally on Sundays.
There have been 19 attempts to change the law since 1950. The Auld Report, a carefully collated and responsible document, considered every possibility including partial deregulation. Yet it was suggested by one honourable Member that there should be further inquiry into this very aspect. I am tempted to ask, "How long, Oh Lord, how long?"
Finally, I should like to express my appreciation to both the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, and the noble Baroness Lady Trumpington, for the patience, courtesy and skill that they have shown during the long hours dedicated to the passage of this Bill through your Lordships' House and I join both of them in the hope that this Bill will ride the inevitable storm and come to anchor in calm waters.
§ Viscount Ingleby
My Lords, the Government, rightly, have made much talk and, in my view, absolutely rightly, of the freedom of choice. Do they too value the freedom of choice to spend Sundays as they choose? How much real freedom of choice will the established shopworker have if his store decides to open on Sundays? If he says, "I shall not work on Sunday" what will his promotion prospects be? How much real freedom of choice will there be for an unemployed man or woman if offered a job in a store which involves Sunday working? Are not a high proportion of shopworkers married women who, if given an entirely free choice, would much prefer to spend the day with their families but may well be forced by economic pressures to work on Sunday?
Turning for a moment to the Auld Committee, do the Government feel that a committee of only three people was sufficient in number to consider this very important subject? Why was there no churchman or retailer appointed to this committee? Why was the age spread on the committee so small? Are there not Christians in the Cabinet who will stand up for Sunday?
In conclusion may I ask this: is it wise to deny the validity of the Fourth Commandment? Is not a Sunday which as many people as possible are free to spend as they decide part of our Christian heritage and worth fighting for?
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, I hope that I can be forgiven for my observation that at times during the various stages of this Bill it has seemed as if St. Paul himself had ridden on a white charger through your Lordships' Chamber, causing in his wake the cupboard doors to fly open and to fall out what might only be described as a host of dormant devouts or sudden Sabbatarians, for such has been the newly awakened passion and fervour for the sanctity of Sunday. It has at times been, I feel, just a little overdone.
In happily—and hereby I must declare an interest—committing this Bill to another place, I must draw your Lordships' attention to that not often mentioned species during the long passage of this Bill: that species called the shop proprietor, the shopowner—that man or woman who owns the shop—that person who may or may not choose to open his shop on a Sunday. Regardless of that option, I am speaking of that person who nevertheless has the daily responsibility, the daily anxiety, and, above all, upon whose shoulders lie the day-to-day trading worries, the never-ending financial risk, and, in the event of trade slumping; that person who at the end of the day may lose all he has—yes, besides having to make his shopworkers redundant, but for whom there may well be another job around the corner.
Again, any observer in your Lordships' Chamber during the many stages of the Bill could be forgiven for believing that in this country the shopworker is the continual victim of a ferocious shopowner; that a worker, as soon as he has crossed the threshold of a shop premise, is there to be abused, exploited and manipulated; and that on Sundays he should be given a double dose of all that just in case he has not had enough during the week, because clause after clause, amendment upon amendment, has dealt at length, again and again, with the protection of the shopworker.
I believe it to be commonly accepted that the shopworker in this country is given a pretty good deal, although of course there may at times be exceptions. I suggest that if there is any abuse of shopworkers it is much more likely to come from those whom they serve across the counter, from the general public, for whom a shop assistant is the perfect victim upon whom to vent irritation, lying behind the cover that "the customer is always right". That is where the abuse can lie and it does not come so much from the shopowner.
Furthermore, one really ought not to overlook one very simple fact: that if it were not for the shopowners there would be no shopworkers. I really believe that all sides of your Lordships' House have bent over backwards during the many stages of this very sensitive Bill to safeguard the rights of shopworkers on Sundays. However, I must confess to a little wonder and surprise that there were not more right reverend Prelates present during those stages of the Bill to ensure their flock were given due Christian consideration and treatment.
So the Bill now passes to another place, where without doubt the debate will be very much fiercer and the nation will become even more aware of the arguments about whether or not to trade on a Sunday. It is my humble opinion that you either allow all shops 962 to open on a Sunday or none at all, for to fall between the two will only succeed in allowing the law as it stands at present to continue to remain in disrepute and tatters. In conclusion, I earnestly and honestly believe that it is perfectly possible for the sound of the distant bell to harmonise perfectly happily with the ringing of the cash register.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, this is the eighth day upon which we have debated a Bill which affects an activity undertaken by virtually every member of society. It is hardly surprising that so much interest has been and is being shown in it. Nor is it surprising that there have been so many lobbies representing various interest groups. We must remember, however, that this Bill is of direct interest to all members of society, so we must look beyond those lobbies to the views of society as a whole and not be unduly influenced by any one minority interest of society.
In putting forward this Bill, the Government have not set out to devise a policy and promoted it, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, seemed to indicate and as we have been reminded several times. The Government have not set out to fulfil an election promise. This issue was not in the manifesto because the Government had an open mind. However, because there was widespread concern about widespread disregard of a manifestly unsound law by otherwise law-abiding citizens—and who in your Lordships' House has not purchased goods which are unlawfully for sale on Sundays?—the Government agreed to set up an independent inquiry to find means of reforming the law. It is generally accepted, and it is certainly a fact, that the Auld Committee was independent and not influenced by Government. It concluded that there was only one viable solution. The Government accepted the committee's recommendation and this Bill gives effect to it. Moreover, repeated opinion polls commissioned on all sides have shown that this is what society wants.
As for whipping, I really do not think that Members of either House will be readily whipped against their deeply held consciences. The Bill has been represented as a radical move, particularly in regard to Sunday trading. I do not believe that that point of view can possibly be sustained. Prior to 1936 there had been no effective controls on Sunday trading since the 18th century and, as we have heard many times, one part of the United Kingdom has managed perfectly well without regulation for hundreds of years. Moreover, this Bill will only make lawful what is now happening. I have yet to hear that by opening a busy garden centre on a Sunday my noble friend Lord Norrie represents a radical and threatening shift in society's values.
In responding to the need to reform the law and respect the wishes and actions of the majority, the Government have been criticised on a number of fronts. But the Government certainly need not feel defensive. However, it is only right and proper that these objections be respected if they are genuine beliefs and that the Government should answer them. That is what I and my noble friend Lady Trumpington have attempted to do during the passage of the Bill.
It has been suggested that the Bill has been unduly influenced by large retailers. Such arguments really are without foundation. One has only to read the Auld 963 Report to dismiss the idea. On the other hand, it has been said—and I think that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London mentioned it at an earlier stage—that the Government do not believe it right to influence the market artificially. Indeed. However, that is not something I feel a need to defend either. Rather, there is a need for those who think the market should be influenced artificially to prove their case. What I shall say—and it follows from my earlier remarks—is that this was not a significant factor influencing the Bill.
A far more significant point is the view of those who fear that the nature of Sunday will be changed. I certainly recognise that some people feel very sincerely, even passionately (as does the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw) that any Government support for the existing trend would be detrimental. I also recognise that this is not a view held solely, or perhaps even primarily, on theological grounds. Moreover, it is not the Government's policy nor the wish of myself or other Ministers that Sunday should become like any other day. There is force in the argument that many people, perhaps the majority, like to have a marker in the rhythm of everyday life, as it has been aptly described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham.
However, against that, who has the right to determine how people shall observe such a marker or whether they should observe it at all? Neither the Government nor the Church would consider today that either had a right to compel people to go to church on Sundays. Do they then have a right to say that they should not shop? Of course, if everyone shopped, there would be no marker. However, if everyone shopped, it would mean that they did not want a marker, and who are we to say that they are wrong?
In practice, I firmly believe that people will wish to retain Sunday as a special day, in which case they will do so. But I cannot see that it would be right for a minority to force their view on the majority. If we accept that we should abide by the wishes of the majority, there can be no objection to allowing freedom of choice. This will allow those who wish to worship and those who wish to stay at home to do so, and those who wish to shop or to enjoy family outings to do so. As my noble friend Lord Onslow said, what the Bill will not do is compel shops to open or shoppers to shop, as sometimes seemed to be implied. It is a Bill for freedom of choice and not of evil, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, suggested. To those who claim that opening of shops on Sundays will cause harmful effects, I must say this: while respecting their right to make that claim, the onus really is on them to show what the evidence is that the effect is harmful, either in places where the law is relaxed or widely disregarded. This they have not done, and we are merely asked to believe that the effect is detrimental with no evidence to support the claim.
I share the concern that has been expressed by many of your Lordships about family life. Successful family life comes in all kinds of shapes and patterns. I do not believe that the quality of family life would be enhanced by legislation decreeing that families may not go shopping on Sundays, particularly if by doing so we sentence them to a lifetime of shopping on 964 Saturdays. I recognise the sincere feelings which your Lordships have expressed—and they have been expressed again today by the noble Baroness. Lady Seear; the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and my noble friend Lord Brentford—that it should be possible to find a half-way house. That is a position which, even if it did not please everyone, would satisfy enough people to be a solution. I think our detailed consideration of numerous different ways for semi-regulation have demonstrated, as the Auld Committee indeed concluded, that this is an area in which the British love of compromise simply will not work, and I believe that the opponents of this Bill, if they are honest with themselves, will accept that.
When the Auld Report was discussed in another place, fears were expressed that shopworkers might lose their jobs were they to refuse to work on Sundays. It was for this reason that Clause 3 and a now redrafted Schedule 1 were included in this Bill to ensure that the dismissal of any existing shopworker who refuses to work on Sundays will automatically be unfair. It will also be unlawful to take other action short of dismissal against existing employees for refusing to work on Sundays.
I hope that your Lordships will feel now that these rights are communicated in a way that is more readily understandable to those affected by them. Certainly none of your Lordships has spoken against the desirability or against the principle of introducing these rights, which will provide comprehensive and effective safeguards for all existing employees who do not wish to work on a Sunday.
I turn now to the employment provisions contained in Part II of the Shops Act. Before I do so perhaps I may answer two points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, which are important ones. The first one had to do with the question of altering the position of existing shopworkers. The Government recognise that the repeal of the restrictions on Sunday trading will alter the position of existing shopworkers. Many of these may have joined the industry in the first place just because they would not have to work on a Sunday. For these reasons we have introduced protection for existing workers.
However, as I said during earlier debates, the position of new recruits is different. They will enter the industry with their eyes open to the prospect of Sunday work. They will be in no different position from workers in other industries who are expected to work on Sunday. As I said on numerous occasions during the passage of this Bill, about 9 million people work regularly or occasionally on Sunday, and they come from all sorts of different walks of life. There really is no reason why new recruits into the retailing industry should be given special privileges which others do not enjoy.
The noble Baroness also raised the important matter of job sharing. Of course the Government appreciate the wish of the noble Baroness to promote part-time employment. The Government support measures which promote employment, and we have a variety of schemes in operation aimed at precisely that—for instance, the job-splitting scheme, to mention just one. 965 However we do not believe that this is best pursued by the intervention of the law. It is much better left to employers and employees.
The Bill as introduced reflected our intention to remove the existing restrictions affecting adult shopworkers while leaving in place the provisions for young people. I argued—and, among others, my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter supported me, and I am grateful for all his support despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, seemed to think about my needing his help—that the current provisions for adults are no longer appropriate to today's circumstances: that they are outmoded and obsolete; and that the vast majority of employees determine these aspects of their working conditions without statutory intervention, and I maintained that adult shopworkers are just as capable of this.
I need not go over old ground again. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and his amendment carried the day. It would retain in full the employment provisions of the 1950 Act, though I have to say that it would leave in place a significant bureaucratic burden on employers in terms of record keeping, displaying notices, and the like. But, my Lords, that is where we stand.
It is because we wish there to be the fullest opportunity in another place to debate all aspects of the matter that we propose that the Bill should leave your Lordships in its current form without further amendment. We want—as I think the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester would want us to do—to listen to opinion in another place. I cannot say more than that now.
The Bill has reached a milestone in its progress through Parliament in having almost completed all its stages in this House. The Bill, although short, is of unusually wide interest and concern and it touches, as I am bound to recognise, powerful convictions and emotions. I am therefore particularly grateful to all those who have taken part for the care and concern they have shown towards the Bill.
There have been raised many difficult points both of substance and of style which it has been possible to clarify, and I believe that the Bill has been improved in response to your Lordships' concerns. Some of your Lordships, such as my noble friends Lord Norrie and Lord Arran, have brought practical experience of the other side of the counter, so to speak, to our debates. I am grateful for their helpful contributions based on practical experience as shop proprietors.
I believe that I speak for the whole House in expressing gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for his painstaking and erudite approach to this subject. We all also recognise the sincere contributions made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I do not believe that the interests of shopworkers could have had a more persistent and good-humoured advocate. Indeed, while we have had keen debates on many deeply-held convictions and issues, the style of all the debates that we have had has been one of good humour.
Your Lordships have been kind enough to make some remarks about my part in the Bill, and I am of course most grateful to my noble friend Lady 966 Trumpington for her help at this Box. Her enthusiasm has certainly lightened my load, even if 'flu temporarily added to it.
The Bill has some way to go before it reaches the statute book, and of course it will need some tidying up before it can do so. However, its passage through your Lordships' House has helped us not only to clarify the Bill but to see more clearly that it is the right way forward.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.