HL Deb 21 January 1986 vol 470 cc116-31

3.6 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Glenarthur.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 15 not moved.]

Lord Jacques moved Amendment No. 16: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:—

("Special provisions

.—(1) Every shop may, save as otherwise provided by this section, be open for the serving of customers before 1 p.m. on Sunday.

(2) After consultation with representatives of employers and employees in the retail trade, consumers, the churches and the enforcing authorities the Secretary of State shall make an order specifying the essential goods and services for the provision of which shops may be open after 1 p.m. on Sunday.

(3) An order under subsection (2) above shall not have effect until a draft has been laid before Parliament and approved by affirmative resolution by each House of Parliament. Variations to an order under that subsection may be made by an order approved in like manner.

(4) Where the area or any part of the area of a local authority is a district which is frequented as a holiday resort during certain seasons of the year, the local authority may by order provide that on such Sundays as may be specified in the order shops or any class of shops, being shops situated in the district or in such part thereof as may be so specified, may, subject to such conditions and during such hours as may be so specified, be open for the serving of customers, provided that the Sundays specified in any such order shall not be more than eighteen in any year.

(5) Goods sold retail to a customer shall not be delivered or dispatched for delivery from a shop at any time when under the provisions of this section a customer could not be served with those goods in that shop:

Provided that this subsection shall not apply—

  1. (a) on any Sunday being also Christmas Day; or
  2. (b) on any Sunday when the succeeding Monday is Christmas Day.

(6) Nothing in this section shall prevent the sale, dispatch or delivery of victuals, stores or other necessaries required by any person for a ship or aircraft on her arrival at, or immediately before her departure from, a port or aerodrome.

(7) The foregoing provisions of this section shall extend to any place where any retail trade or business is carried on as if that place were a shop, and as if in relation to any such place the person by whom the retail trade or business is carried on were the occupier of a shop.

(8) In the case of any contravention of any of the foregoing provisions of this section, the occupier of the shop shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding—

  1. (a) in the case of a first offence, one hundred pounds;
  2. (b) in the case of a second offence, five hundred pounds;
  3. (c) in the case of a third or subsequent offence, one thousand pounds.

(9) A person who carries on the business of a shop, or carries on retail trade or business at any place not being a shop, on Sunday in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section, shall not be deemed to commit an offence against any of the following enactments, namely—

  1. (a) the Sunday Fairs Act 1448; or
  2. (b) the Act of the third year of His late Majesty King Charles the First, chapter three, for the further reformation of sundry abuses committed on the Lord's Day commonly called Sunday; or
  3. (c) the Sunday Observance Act 1677.

(10) This section shall not extend to Scotland.")

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 16. This amendment is a compromise. It has three main features. First, it proposes that there should be deregulation—that is to say, complete freedom in the retail trade—until 1 p.m. Therefore, there would be no restrictions and there could be no anomalies up to 1 p.m. It would be possible for the housewife who has run short of some foodstuff to get it from the local trader; it would be possible for her husband who is collecting the newspaper to buy anything else which the newsagent wishes to sell him and which he wishes to buy; and it would be possible for the man who is carrying out repairs to his house to go to a do-it-yourself shop and buy the necessary items.

The second element is that the amendment provides that the essential goods and services which can be sold after 1 p.m. shall be determined, not by schedule but by secondary legislation. It requires the Secretary of State to consult with the interested parties. The interested parties are the retailers, the retail employees, the consumers, the Churches and the bodies which have to enforce the legislation—that is to say, the local authorities. After consulting with them, the Secretary of State will make an order indicating what goods and services can be sold after 1 p.m. That order would require an affirmative resolution of both Houses. Any amendment to the order would be made in exactly the same way.

We believe that that is an improvement on anything which we have had in the past as regards restrictions on Sunday trading. I hope that no one will tell me that the task of making such an order is far too difficult. I point out that almost every country in Europe restricts Sunday trade and is able to make the kind of order for which I am asking.

The third element in this amendment is that it expands trading on a Sunday in the holiday resorts. At present a local authority in a holiday resort may make an order authorising traders within its borders to sell a restricted variety of goods during 18 Sundays in the year. They are specified as goods suitable for bathing, photography, and so on. In this amendment we say that the order may provide that any goods may be sold by traders in the resort.

They are the three main elements in this amendment. I moved a similar amendment on 29th March 1982 to the Trumpington Bill. In reply to my moving of the amendment the noble Baroness said, at col. 1177: I am tempted to accept the compromise which is offered in the form of this amendment. It would certainly be a great improvement on the present position". Therefore, let nobody tell me from the Front Bench opposite that this is just the old thing over and over again and that it is no different from the position at the moment, as has been said in regard to some previous amendments.

Of course, the noble Baroness went on to say that she could not accept the amendment. She gave only one reason, and that was that this was a free country, and because it was a free country people ought to be able to do what they like on a Sunday. If they wanted to trade, they should trade. She said nothing about the freedom of the people who live near the shops, and who have only one quiet day during the whole week. She said nothing of the retailer who did not want to trade on Sunday but would be forced to do so in order to keep his market share. She said nothing of the retail employee who did not want to work on Sunday but, in order to make sure that he kept his job, did so to please his employer. These are real fears. They exist, and will clearly exist if this Bill goes through in its present form. I believe that this amendment would retain the special character of Sunday, and that is my purpose in moving it.

As I have on previous occasions told the House, I spent some time in California studying the shape of Sunday trading there, where there is a free-for-all, as this Bill proposes. I found on a Sunday morning that it was no different from here. The only shops open were the small convenience shops. It looked the same as a Sunday morning here. But at 2 o'clock in the afternoon the big shops opened in the shopping centres and were open from two until six. Some of them were commencing sales they had advertised the previous night in the newspapers.

It was the busiest shopping day of the week. Consequently Sunday was completely destroyed by the afternoon trading. In my opinion that is what would happen if this Bill were carried in its unamended form. I believe that Sunday afternoon will become one of our busiest shopping days of the week, and the purpose of this amendment is to prevent that. I believe, after a lifetime of working in retailing, that if freedom to open until one o'clock is given the small shops would open but the large shops would not be interested; they are interested only in the afternoon trade. Because I believe that this would preserve the special character of Sunday, I commend this amendment to the Committee.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Denning

I have added my name to this amendment because it seems to me to be the nearest approach we can get to a reasonable compromise. Your Lordships' House and others are divided on this controversy. Is Sunday trading to be free for all, or are there to be restrictions so as to keep the character of our Sunday, if we can? This compromise comes the nearest to a sensible arrangement.

My noble friend Lord Jacques has explained the amendment, but let all shops open, if you please, until one o'clock. That deals with the great majority of shoppers who want to do their shopping on a Sunday morning for things they have forgotten, and the like. Let them be open unrestrictedly until one o'clock.

Then there are some needs, or demands, which ought to be supplied in the afternoon, whether it is for food, refreshment, drinks, or medical supplies and the like. This amendment suggests that there should be a list not put in the statute but in a statutory order which can be amended if need be. The Auld Report, considering suggestions such as this, said at paragraph 234: All the problems of anomalies and discrimination that currently plague the Sunday trading law would continue". That is their principal objection to this limited suggestion here. There is an answer to this. It can be found in our VAT Act, the Finance Act 1972, which has to have a list of those goods which are zero rated and those which are exempted from zero rating. There are eight pages of them, and you can sort out, if you like, anomalies among them. It can be said, "You have to pay VAT if you go and get hot coffee from a takeaway shop but you do not have to pay VAT if you buy iced coffee". Those are the kind of anomalies which you can suggest in any system of this kind.

It works well in the VAT field, and indeed there is provision for easy amendment in that connection. The Treasury can, by order later, raise or exempt any of those lists. My noble friend Lord Jacques's proposal does not give a list at the moment. Let it be prepared by the Secretary of State. Let it be easily amendable, if need be, by statutory instrument. That is a remedy by which anomalies could easily be removed and which meets this argument about anomalies. The Jubilee Trust have put in a pamphlet they have issued a sensible, good list of exemptions suitable for the present day. That is the second suggestion: let there be other shops open after one o'clock which can deal with exempted articles.

That is the main burden of this amendment. Of course, holiday resorts can be dealt with as they were before, and all the incidentals taken care of. I would suggest, as between the two great camps of controversy in our land at the moment, that this is the nearest approach we can get to preserving the character of our Sunday as it ought to be preserved. Therefore, I support the amendment.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

On Second Reading a choice was admirably and clearly posed for your Lordships. One course was a Bill based on the Auld Report which had been endorsed by an overwhelming vote in another place; that was total deregulation. The alternative, clearly and admirably explained by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, was that there should be partial deregulation. That amendment was rejected by a substantial majority. The choice made was total deregulation. Since then we have had amendment after amendment attempting to go back on that vote and to have a partial deregulation. This is the latest one of them.

There is a great deal wrong with this proposed new clause but, in fact, the conclusive answer is given in the clause itself in a subsection to which the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, did not refer. That is the last subsection, subsection (10), which reads: This section shall not extend to Scotland". Why not?—because they do not want it, they do not need it. In Scotland, Sunday trading was once regulated. It was regulated by the two Scottish Acts referred to in Clause 1. It is now deregulated and has been deregulated because those restrictive Acts have been abrogated by referendum.

The people of Scotland have voted with their hands and their feet against that regulation. Under Scottish law, as against English law, such amounts to an abrogation of a statute by the doctrine that goes by the name of desuetude. So at present we have unregulated Sunday shopping in Scotland and, although this Bill extends to Scotland, this new clause shall not extend to Scotland. Again I ask why not? Because they do not need it and they do not want it. If they do not want it, why should we want it? If they do not need it, why should we need it?

There is a great deal to be said against the clause but I wish to advert only to subsection (2). We have had now a number of schedules of exemptions. There is the one in the 1950 Act itself; there was the one put forward by the Jubilee Trust; there was one put forward by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, which he withdrew; there was one put forward by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and there was another put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford. None of them stood up to examination; so that it is not surprising that now no attempt is to be made to draw up a list of exempt goods which may be sold freely on a Sunday afternoon.

The whole problem is passed without guidance to the Secretary of State to make regulations, secondary legislation, on a matter of vital importance as we have been told, and the regulations cannot be amended by Parliament; they can be amended only subsequently by new regulations, new secondary legislation, tabled by the Secretary of State. What are these essential services and goods? At present petrol may be sold on Sunday afternoon under the Fifth Schedule to the 1950 Act. Is that essential? Perhaps. It was not so to our grandparents; but that is perhaps an arguable case. But also under the existing law intoxicating liquor can be sold on a Sunday afternoon, can be sold after one o'clock. Is that an essential good? Supposing that a Secretary of State puts that into his list. Will he not be made the subject of mockery that he says that alcoholic liquors are essential? Also under the existing schedule—

Lord Jacques

I wonder if the noble and learned Lord will give way. He is surely aware that liquor is governed by the Acts relating to the licensing laws. That has nothing whatever to do with the Shops Act.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The noble Lord is perfectly right when he says that I am aware of the position. The licensing laws restrict the hours of opening. This restricts them further. They have something to do with the Shops Act because, under the Fifth Schedule to the 1950 Act, you will find in paragraph 1(a) "intoxicating liquor". There can be no question, in my respectful submission, that if this new clause were passed intoxicating liquor could not be sold on a Sunday after one o'clock. Notwithstanding that the licensing justices might wish it to be sold, it would be precluded by this measure.

Then, the next matter that catches my eye is tobacco and cigarettes and so on. Are cigarettes not to be sold on a Sunday afternoon? As a member of a Government who put out on every packet of cigarettes, on every advertisement, a Government health warning, is the Secretary of State expected to say that cigarettes are essential goods within the meaning of subsection (2) of the new clause? Of course not! So no cigarettes can be sold on a Sunday afternoon, can be sold after one o'clock. It is restrictive. I could go on. There are ice cream, confectionery and so on. They can be sold throughout Sunday at the moment. But under this new clause they will be able to be sold only if the Secretary of State puts his tongue in his cheek and certifies that sweets, ice cream and confectionery are essential.

There is a great deal more to be said against this new clause. The holiday resorts throw up a host of anomalies. Indeed, the Auld Report reported that the local shopkeepers in holiday resorts found the present law far too restrictive. This merely repeats the present law as to holiday resorts. But, in the end, we come back to that final subsection that the Act shall not apply to Scotland because they do not need it; they get on perfectly well with the total deregulation for which your Lordships voted on Second Reading. So I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will not accept this amendment.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Sainsbury

I shall detain members of the Committee very briefly. This amendment is a variant of Amendment No. 8, which has been withdrawn, with the addition, as has already been said, that essential goods and services can be provided later than 1 p.m. on Sundays as determined by Government order. The difficulty is fundamentally defining what are essential goods and services. As the Auld Committee put it, this would be at best tinkering with an unsatisfactory law and substituting one set of anomalies for another. There will always be the difficulty of enforcement, particularly when shops sell a wide range of goods. I personally cannot support this amendment.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, speaks, as the Committee know, with considerable authority on the subject. I follow him very much encouraged by what he has said and encouraged also by the fact that this helps me to overcome the diffidence which I always feel in disagreeing with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, for whom, like all your Lordships, I have the most profound respect.

In moving this amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, referred to it as a compromise. On matters on which opinions widely vary this Chamber is very often inclined to accept a compromise. But is it a compromise? The Bill is perfectly clear. It seeks to remove the restrictions on Sunday opening of shops, to clear away the elaborate series of restrictions which exist, and to make it cease to be a criminal offence to open a shop and to sell something to someone on a Sunday. The amendment proposes to continue that for a good deal of Sunday and then, subject to all sorts of qualifications, in the other parts of the day, goes against the whole principle and purpose of the Bill—that is, to clear up a matter which is becoming increasingly a scandal.

Your Lordships know that a great many shops open on a Sunday morning and afternoon, contrary to the law. More and more of them are doing so. The various authorities concerned, probably with a certain good sense, are not setting the law in motion against them; but I hope I am not old-fashioned in taking the view that it is a very unhappy thing to have a law which is not enforced. Your Lordships are now faced with the dilemma of either seeking to enforce a law which the great body of public opinion does not accept, or of clearing up the restrictions in toto. The amendment would prevent that happening.

I was particularly surprised at this choice of authorising shop opening before one o'clock and imposing the restrictions afterwards. In our earlier debates a number of your Lordships took the view, with which I had some sympathy, that one wished to make sure that those of one's fellow citizens—now alas! a diminishing section—who desire to attend church on Sunday morning should be free to do so. However, this amendment flies full in the face of that. If there is any force in the argument that employees in shops will be inhibited from attending church because the shop is open, they will find that this amendment does nothing to help them. If this becomes the law of the land then under it the shops will be open on Sunday morning, which is precisely the time that the great majority of those of us who do still attend church go to church. I should have been more impressed, though I am bound to say I should not have supported it, if the noble Lord had proposed an amendment in the contrary sense of closing the shops on Sunday morning and opening them after 1 p.m.

The objections to this go further. The proposal that a statutory instrument should authorise on Sunday afternoons the sale of such articles as the Secretary of State may specify must lead to endless confusion. Shops will open lawfully entitled to sell some of the things on their counters, but subject to the fact that they commit a criminal offence if they sell others. Who on earth will enforce that? Who on earth will go round to the shops and say, "Yes, you could have sold that; but you sold this and therefore you are a criminal, guilty of a criminal offence"? Surely the time has come to take the criminal law out of this matter altogether and to say that if someone opens a shop and somebody comes in to buy something that is a matter between them and not a matter with which the law and the state need concern themselves. Surely in this day and age the example of Scotland, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, referred, is conclusive. If people want to shop and if shops are open to serve them why bring in the criminal law?

It is even more complicated than that. As I understand it, there is nothing in this amendment to prevent someone opening a shop, bringing in his employees, and carrying out stocktaking, so long as he does not actually sell one of the goods that the Secretary of State has not specified in a statutory instrument. That is quite plainly a recipe for further breaches of the law and for making it even more difficult than at present.

I was thinking over the weekend of the criminal law being brought into these matters. One cannot help speculating on a conversation in one of Her Majesty's prisons. One chap says to another, "What are you in for?" The reply is, "I'm in for rape. What are you in for?" The chap says, "I'm in for burglary". He says to a third, "What are you in for?" and receives the reply, "I did a very terrible thing. I opened a shop on a Sunday afternoon and sold goods to someone who wanted to buy".

Lord Mishcon

As has been said before, the position of those who have the privilege of sitting on the Benches behind me is that on the matter of policy as to whether or not there should be deregulated Sunday trading, from our point of view there is a free vote. What happens to shopworkers and their terms and conditions (I equally made it clear) is a matter of such concern to us that I freely and frankly say to the Committee that there we take a disciplined view.

What a complex web we weave! Arguments about Scotland; arguments about all sorts of matters affecting this amendment that we seem to miss the heart of the whole problem before us. This is a Bill which seeks to alter something—and nobody argues against this—which has been a tradition of this country for many, many centuries. There is no doubt about that, and there is no doubt that in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said with his usual clarity, eloquence and persuasiveness, there is no clamour for any alteration, although the noble Lord talks in terms of a scandal. I have not heard local authorities complaining in loud language—they have much to complain about these days—about Sunday trading or their difficulties in enforcing the law. Nor has the public whipped up any enthusiasm about trying to deregulate Sunday trading in spite of what has been said.

What we have achieved by this Bill—I make it clear that I am speaking personally—is a cleavage of opinion in our land which is extremely serious. Sincere views are held on both sides—I admit that at once—and I am in the position, as I have frankly said, of not thinking it very proper that I should advance any religious arguments. But one knows where the Bishops' Benches stand and the opinions expressed from those Benches deserve respect in this Chamber and in this land.

I have referred before to the need for care in dealing with the complete deregulation of Sunday trading. I have put the matter in a way which I believe is very near to your Lordships' hearts. There are the questions whether or not it is desirable in our society to have one day which is different from the rest of the week; whether it is important, too, that people who want to have quiet and tranquillity on that day which we have called the day of rest nationally are entitled to have it; whether those who wish to attend church and also to buy goods on Sunday can have some convenient arrangement made for them.

We have a complete cleavage in opinion in this country. Somebody of the eminence of Sir William Van Straubenzee said yesterday what a dreadful blunder the Government had made in putting this proposal forward. But have we not a genius—possibly to be exercised at a late hour in our deliberations, whatever the speeches might have been on Second Reading—for compromise? Is not this amendment the ideal opportunity for taking advantage of it? I would describe it as a lifeline thrown to the Government to avoid further bitter controversy, and if they throw away that lifeline they have only themselves to blame.

What is wrong with saying, "Yes, unless employers have the decency to respect a conscientious objection, shopworkers may have to work on Sundays"? So many employees unfortunately do have to work on Sundays in the public services. That has been mentioned before and one knows it; but there are people who want to do other things on Sunday and keep it as a day of rest, or those who want to have a family day on Sunday. May I say in parenthesis that we have discussed in this Chamber so seriously the way in which much of our youth is behaving—a way that we find absolutely dreadful because a third of our youth by the age of 28 have found themselves in some sort of trouble with the courts: that is a Home Office figure. We have said deliberately that family life has possibly gone out of fashion and that is really one of the responsible factors out of many. Yet at this stage what we are going to do is to ruin the day which is the family day in so many homes—or, if it is not, it should be.

Those of us who do not want to see complete deregulation have made a concession for the reasons we have given. We can say, "All right; let all the shops open until Sunday". But then come the problems which people put forward as well as the great problem that we are faced with of a divided country on this issue, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, so rightly said.

One question asked was: Why do we not apply it to Scotland? Scotland is used to living its own life and we are told that it is not going to have its life interfered with at the present moment in regard to shopping conditions. If it finds that it wants this—and it may well do if we deregulate completely—then it will have its own chance of bringing forward legislation or regulations.

There are problems of drawing up a list and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, dealt with that effectively. If I may answer the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, this amendment provides for consultation with church, with employers, with people in industry and with trade unions. I am absolutely sure that their cleverness, associated with the great wisdom of the Secretary of State, will be able to get over that. If there are inaccuracies or illogicalities, I will bear with them, as will many other people in this land, rather than see the complete deregulation that is proposed at the present moment. I hope this amendment will be supported.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I wish to make only a very brief speech directed to the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has really, intentionally as I understand it, made a Second Reading speech in which he quite frankly—and he is always frank with your Lordships—said that he is using the amendment as a lifeline (if I have it right) to the Government to enable them to reconsider the effect of the vote taken at Second Reading.

I cannot follow the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, along those lines and none of your Lordships would wish me to do so, because there does not seem much object in having a Second Reading if one has to reopen the whole process on an early amendment in Committee. All I wished to direct my speech to was the amendment itself and to say to your Lordships that its object is clearly inconsistent with the principle of deregulation of Sunday trading as established at Second Reading.

It was said—I think it was said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and not the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, but it matters not which—that this amendment was a compromise. Well, between what? It is certainly a compromise between the opposing views expressed on Second Reading which were put to the vote. Is it really the function of your Lordships' Committee to reopen a Second Reading principle point by a compromise which defeats the sense of the vote which was taken on Second Reading? Surely a much more profitable—

Lord Mishcon

I am sure the noble Lord, with his customary courtesy, will give way. He has done so and I am much obliged to him. So that we really knock this point on the head once and for all, when we have a general amendment at Second Reading it in no way rules out a particular amendment later. We voted on a principle of general amendment at Second Reading, without any opportunity of considering in detail an amendment such as this one which is now before us. It is perfectly proper for us to consider this at Committee stage.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I hear what the noble Lord says and so does the Committee. I was not saying that it was improper. What I was asking was: what is the object of it? It is a total waste of the time of your Lordships' Committee. Surely it is more profitable to pursue the sort of line—here I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, about the shopworkers—of, say, Amendment No. 11, which in no way conflicts with the principle of the Bill and which would or could largely go to meet the traditions of the country established over the centuries, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred and to which I understand his party is committed in a more formal way than to other aspects of the Bill. Certainly, it is an amendment which I state quite freely attracts me. But this amendment, Amendment No. 16, is contrary to the principle of the Bill and does not.

Lord Rochester

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, I do not take the view that this amendment is a waste of time and I find myself in sympathy with the general argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. At the Second Reading of the Bill, I said that, in my view, this matter of Sunday trading was one which called for as much consensus as could be found in this House. I do not doubt that with the aid of the Whips the Government could get this Bill through both Houses of Parliament substantially without amendment, but, in my opinion, they would be very unwise to do so in circumstances where there is so small a degree of consent within the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said, as I understood him, that the majority opinion within the country is in favour of deregulation. I do not doubt from recent polls that six out of 10 people, when asked whether or not they wanted complete deregulation, answered "Yes". But the substantial and growing minority of people within the country who, as I understand it, are opposed to this Bill feel very much more strongly in their view than do the others.

As I see it, it is desirable that in this House we should seek to strike a balance between the claims of various social groups—churchgoers, customers, large employers, small traders, the general body of shopworkers in particular, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, those living near busy shopping centres, and so on. I believe that this amendment provides perhaps the last opportunity that we have in Committee to do just that. It seems to me to be more practicable than some other amendments that have been proposed. It would help small shopkeepers and, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, has already indicated, the effect of passing this amendment would be to limit the extent to which big stores would find it economically worthwhile to open. It would call for concessions from everybody, not excluding—to return to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—those churchgoers who prefer to go to morning rather than to evening services. One argument which has been used—

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene, because he referred to me? Surely the proposal in this amendment is that shops should open up to 1 p.m. Does that not exclude church attendance at the time that most people go to church on Sunday mornings for those called upon to work during those hours?

Lord Rochester

That is so. That is precisely why I said that it would call for some concession on the part of churchgoers, among others, who might feel obliged to attend evening services rather than morning services.

One argument used to support the removal of all restrictions on the employment of shopworkers has been that already lots of other people have to work on Sundays. But many of them do so in essential services or in industry where there is need for uninterrupted production. I can speak from experience here, because I worked for a long time in the chemical industry, where there was need for continuous process work. But there were elaborate shift rotas to ensure that people were not obliged to work for more than one Sunday in three or four. They were protected by strong unions, as I know very well from experience in negotiating with them in this area, and invariably they were paid at double-time rate.

The position of shop assistants is quite different. They are largely unorganised, they are dependent for protection on the Shops Act, which is in the process of being dismantled under this Bill, and on wages council orders. We are to have a wages council Bill, but we have little idea as to what is to be in that Bill. What we can be reasonably sure of, I suggest, is that the single overtime rate that is proposed will give shop assistants far less compensation for working on Sundays than is available to people doing that in industry. In any case, the fact that a good many people already have to work on Sunday seems to me to be no very good reason why more should, particularly when, as in this case, so many of them are women working part-time and with family responsibilities.

If I may, I should like to make just two more points. In the interval between the time when we last discussed this matter and now, two things have happened to me which seem to me of significance. One is the degree of opposition to this Bill, which I found in my own home town of Northwich in Cheshire on the part of shopworkers working in both large stores and small shops. The other is the experience of attending a carol service in Chester Cathedral on the afternoon of the Sunday immediately before Christmas. I realised with a pang that it might be the last time that it would be possible for me to view that lovely city with its Rows, with the city walls, with the river and the cathedral precincts and so on in peace and quiet, rather than with the noise which, if this Bill is passed, will presumably be there on Sunday like any other day of the week. For those reasons, but particularly in order to achieve the consensus about which I took the liberty of speaking when I first rose, I very much hope that this amendment will be supported by a majority of the Committee.

Lord Sandford

I wonder whether I may just add somewhat to what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said about the attitudes of local authorities in these matters. The enforcement of this legislation is in the hands of 400 authorities. Sixty-seven of them are metropolitan district councils and 333 of them are district councils, and I am the president of the latter group. This is what the Auld Report said about the Association of District Councils: The ADC, which represents 333 district councils, all of which are responsible for enforcing the shops legislation, urged upon us that the whole of the Shops Act 1950 should be repealed, subject to new provision being made to protect the conditions of service of shopworkers. However, in doing so [the ADC] does not claim to reflect the views of all its members. We noted that on the question of unrestricted Sunday opening the district councils were almost evenly divided. I do not quarrel with that. That is an accurate statement of the state of opinion in that association when this committee was gleaning its evidence. The councils were almost all totally agreed on the difficulties of enforcing this legislation and were evenly divided about their views on unrestricted Sunday opening.

When this report was published, the matter immediately came before the general service committee of the Association of District Councils who, having studied this, came to the unanimous view among themselves that this was legislation which should be supported. They remitted the matter to the policy committee of the Association of District Councils, which took a similar view. They remitted it to the council of the whole association, and at their meeting, which I personally attended, that view was adopted without a dissenting voice.

4 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Baroness Trumpington)

This amendment would create so many problems that it is difficult to know where to start. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, gave us some examples in his sparkling speech. I suppose the first question that needs to be asked is why Sunday mornings are seen as acceptable for shopping but not Sunday afternoons. As my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter pointed out, it can hardly be to allow people to worship. It seems to be, on the face of it, to prevent family outings to garden centres, and so on, which is the most popular form of shopping on Sunday afternoons.

If we read on, however, we see that essential goods and services may be sold on Sunday afternoons if designated as such by the Secretary of State and approved by both Houses of Parliament. Is it really suggested that if you have a puncture at 12.30 on a Sunday it is acceptable for you to buy a spanner, but if you have a puncture at 1.30 it is only acceptable to buy one if the Secretary of State and Parliament decide that it is an essential item? Of course, if it is your son who has a puncture with his tricycle, presumably we shall need to debate whether tricycle tools are essential. The debates as to what are essentials promise to keep us very busy.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has made the feelings of local authorities very clear, not only today but on previous amendments. Yet the amendment provides that local authorities may allow any shops to open on Sunday afternoons, whether or not they are providing essential goods or services, as long as the local authority area includes a district which is frequented as a holiday resort during certain times of the year. What areas. I wonder, do not have such a resort? It seems then that the Secretary of State and Parliament may not decide by order that ice-cream may be sold on Sunday afternoons but that local authorities may allow anything to be sold. It will be hard luck on retailers in an area which cannot claim to have a holiday resort. Of course, local authorities will have to keep records to ensure that if they allow shops to open on Sunday afternoons no one shop may open on more than 18 Sundays in the year; but it is not entirely clear why, on the other Sundays, to open shall be a criminal offence. I should have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, as a very distinguished lawyer, would have realised the difficulty in keeping this kind of thing under review.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in a speech of purple prose, disputed that the public were in favour of the Bill. I dispute his conclusion. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said that on the matter of Sunday trading there is a cleavage in our land: yet polls have regularly shown that people want to go shopping on a Sunday and that they do go shopping on a Sunday whether or not it is legal so to do. The latest poll, published yesterday by the Co-operative Union, showed that 69 per cent. of people already shop on a Sunday, although this does not appear in the report which was published in The Times

Lord Mishcon

I am going to give the noble Baroness the Minister the rest she deserves in order that she can stop that cough, which worries all of us. Perhaps I may merely say to her that what I was talking about was a cleavage in the land about total deregulation or partial deregulation or no deregulation. There are three sections of opinion. At least we might be able to satisfy a couple of them, even if we cannot satisfy the third.

Baroness Trumpington

I hear what the noble Lord says. I still say that there is a clear majority in favour of total deregulation. More than one-third of us shop illegally already on a Sunday. There really is proof that overwhelming demand exists.

The amendment now before us is very familiar, at least to me. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, as he said, proposed an almost identical amendment to my Private Member's Bill in 1982. That amendment was, as I recall, resoundingly defeated by 118 to 46. The only difference between that amendment and this one is that the one before us is more restrictive and thus less realistic than the one proposed four years ago. That one allowed local authorities to permit the sale of any goods after one o'clock. This one allows only essential goods and services to be sold after one o'clock, and only if the Secretary of State makes an order and only if that order is supported by affirmative resolutions in both Houses of Parliament. Noble Lords made the correct decision four years ago. I ask them not to hesitate in reaffirming that decision. I ask the Committee to reject this amendment.

Lord Jacques

I shall reply only on the issue of polls. The Co-operative Union did not take its own poll; it engaged a research company to do it. Among the many figures which have been revealed by the research company we have these few which I shall give to the Committee. First, only 15 per cent. wanted full deregulation on Sunday. Secondly, 39 per cent. were against any change whatever in the law relating to Sunday trading. Thirdly, 29 per cent. were in favour of Sunday morning only. They felt there should be change, but on Sunday morning only.

There are many things I could reply to but I believe that Members of the Committee have made up their minds on how they are going to vote. I shall be happy to test the feeling of the Committee.

4.7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 16) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 94; Not-Contents, 153.

Airedale, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Amherst, E. Denington, B.
Ardwick, L. Denning, L.
Banks, L. Derby, Bp.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Diamond, L.
Birmingham, Bp. Durham, Bp.
Blease, L. Elwyn-Jones, L.
Bylton, L. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Bottomley, L. Falkland, V.
Brentford, V. Gallacher, L.
Brockway, L. Galpern, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Gladwyn, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Glenamara, L.
Carlisle, Bp. Gloucester, Bp.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Chichester, Bp. Greenway, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hampton, L.
Coleraine, L. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Collison, L. Hereford, Bp.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Heycock, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Hunt, L.
David, B. Ingleby, V.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Jacques, L. [Teller.] St. Albans, Bp.
Jenkins of Putney, L. St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Bp.
John-Mackie, L.
Kagan, L. Seear, B.
Kilbracken, L. Serota, B.
Kirkhill, L. Stallard, L. [Teller.]
Leatherland, L. Stamp, L.
Leicester, Bp. Stedman, B.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Lockwood, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
London, Bp. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
McCarthy, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
McNair, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Mishcon, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Molloy, L. Underhill, L.
Mulley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Nicol, B. Wells-Pestell, L.
Oram, L. Whaddon, L.
Porritt, L. White, B.
Prys-Davies, L. Wigoder, L.
Rhodes, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. Winchester, Bp.
Rochester, Bp. York, Abp.
Rochester, L.
Ailesbury, M. Gray of Contin, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Grey, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gridley, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Allerton, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Ampthill, L.
Annan, L. Halsbury, E.
Auckland, L. Hanworth, V.
Aylestone, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Bauer, L. Harris of High Cross, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hayter, L.
Beloff, L. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Belstead, L. Henley, L.
Bessborough, E. Hives, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hood, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hooper, B.
Brookeborough, V. Hunter of Newington, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Broxbourne, L. Inglewood, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Killearn, L.
Butterworth, L. Kimball, L.
Caccia, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Caithness, E. Lawrence, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Long, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Luke, L.
Chelwood, L. Lyell, L.
Chitnis, L. McFadzean, L.
Colville of Culross, V. McGregor of Durris, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Cottesloe, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cox, B. Mancroft, L.
Davidson, V. Manton, L.
De Freyne, L. Mar, C.
De La Warr, E. Margadale, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Marshall of Leeds, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Dowding, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Merrivale, L.
Duncan-Sandys, L. Mersey, V.
Effingham, E. Molson, L.
Ellenborough, L. Montgomery of Alamem, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Morris, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Mottistone, L.
Elton, L. Mountgarret, V.
Erroll of Hale, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Ezra, L. Munster, E.
Fortescue, E. Norrie, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Gainford, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Geddes, L. Orkney, E.
Gibson-Watt, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Glanusk, L. Pender, L.
Glenarthur, L. Portland, D.
Rankeillour, L. Sudeley, L.
Renton, L. Swansea, L.
Ridley, V. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Rochdale, V. Terrington, L.
Romney, E. Teviot, L.
Rugby, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Sainsbury, L. Thorneycroft, L.
St. Davids, V. Todd, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Tordoff, L.
Sanderson of Bowden, L. Trefgarne, L.
Sandford, L. Trenchard, V.
Sandys, L. Trumpington, B.
Selkirk, E. Tryon, L.
Sharpies, B. Vivian, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Skelmersdale, L. Westbury, L.
Somers, L. Whitelaw, V.
Stanley of Alderley, L. Windlesham, L.
Stockton, E. Winstanley, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L. Wise, L.
Strabolgi, L. Wolfson, L.
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Wynford, L.
Yarborough, E.
Strathspey, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.17 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.