HL Deb 21 January 1986 vol 470 cc185-205

House again in Committee.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness White)

In accordance with the decision of the Committee on 16th December last, the Question that I must now put is, That Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I had given notice of my intention to oppose, at the appropriate time, that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill. However, much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Just as I have earlier this evening withdrawn my opposition to Clause 2 in order to allow for a period of reflection, I am equally satisfied that I should not move that Clause 1 shall not stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I must still put the Question, That Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Clause 1 agreed to.

Lord Stallard moved Amendment No. 20: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of s. 22 of Shops Act 1950.

.—(1) The Shops Act 1950 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 22(1)(a), after "more than four hours on any Sunday" there shall be inserted the words "who has, in the preceding six days, worked a total of thirty nine hours or more".

(3) Section 22(1)(a)(ii) shall be omitted.

(4) In section 22(1)(b), after "more than four hours on a Sunday in any month" there shall be inserted the words "but who has, in the preceding six days, worked a total of thirty nine hours or more".

(5) After section 22(1)(d) there shall be inserted the following new paragraph: (c) in the case of a person so employed on a Sunday that person shall receive pay for the time worked on that Sunday at double the rate that would be paid for that work if performed on a weekday, and for the purposes of this paragraph rate shall be determined by reference to the contract of employment or Wages Council order, whatever is higher; and the scope of the retail wages council orders will be deemed to apply to all workers in shops, without regard to the type of goods being sold, except for any distinction between food and non-food shops.".").

The noble Lord said: Noble Lords may remember that in our previous session just before the Christmas Recess my noble friend Lord Shinwell, in a very wise speech, advised your Lordships to read all the speeches and the Bill during the Recess and to return refreshed, and perhaps with something constructive to say.

Lord Glenarthur

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord: I wish merely to raise a procedural point. Does the noble Lord intend to group Amendment No. 20 with Amendment No. 37? It would be very helpful to the Committee if the noble Lord will indicate if that is so, as I imagine it will be.

Lord Stallard

I am pleased to give the Minister that assurance. I shall happily group Amendments Nos. 20 and 37 together. Amendment No. 37: Schedule 2, page 7, line 15, leave out paragraph 7. Those were very wise words of my noble friend Lord Shinwell. I took his advice. I read through the reports and the Committee proceedings. I hoped that following the goodwill of the Christmas season and New Year resolutions the Minister would return with at least some new approaches. However, I am afraid that the responses and discussions involving the Minister so far today have dashed those hopes.

If I may share another secret with your Lordships, I resolved at Christmas that I would not be provoked by some Members on the Government Benches in the way that I have been provoked in the last few months. This afternoon I have found it very difficult but I have resisted enough temptation to last me for the next 12 months on that score. I shall try to keep to my resolution this year and not be unduly provoked into making long, rambling and boring speeches.

With this amendment, as with many others, we are seeking, in the words of the old engineer's initiation address, merely to retain—not to improve—the conditions already obtained. We may then seek to improve them. That is really what we are trying to do with Amendment No. 20. The argument so far in response to all the other amendments and discussions has been centred on strong resistance to any attempt to reduce or minimise in any objective sense the vote taken on Second Reading about deregulation—and that aspect has been mentioned again this afternoon.

None of the proposed amendments to Clause 2 so far discussed have interfered with the general objective of the Bill; that is, the objective of total deregulation. The noble and learned Lords, Lord Denning and Lord Simon of Glaisdale, have both made that point, as has the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. The amendments in Clause 2 sought to change the main purpose of the Bill, which is deregulation of Sunday trading. The amendments were all concerned with the working and employment conditions of the shopworkers themselves.

On Clause 1, I was more than happy to support the Bishops' Bench because I share their religious concerns and their concerns about the social problems that I could see flowing from this Bill if Clause 1 were retained. However, my other instinct as a lifelong trade unionist—as a negotiator, a shop steward, and an official for many years—means that I am bound to support amendments that seek to retain the protection for shopworkers that is contained in Clause 2.

Most noble Lords on this side of the Committee will recall the long-drawn-out struggle—mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, in an excellent speech—to achieve improvements in conditions. He made mention of the long battle to bring shopworkers out of the old Victorian sweatshop era and into modern conditions of employment, to enjoy modern improvements. I fear that Clause 2 will take us right back to the old position.

As the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, was speaking, I could not help but think how far the Government party have moved in just a few years. The gap between what was being said by the noble Earl and what the noble Lord the Minister was saying on behalf of the Government was so wide that it was incredible. It was astounding to think how much the Government have moved backwards in just a few short years. That is something that distressed many of us as we listened to the noble Lord.

The proposals in Clause 2 remove the protection of sections of the Shops Act. They also remove many aspects of the wages councils' provisions. Clause 2 is bound to leave shopworkers wholly unprotected against further exploitation. There can be no doubt about that position in anybody's mind. Many full-time shopworkers already work six days a week. My noble friend Lady Turner drew attention to the fact that shopworkers are a special case. Of course, they are a special case because of the conditions under which they work at present. If the proposals for the wages councils are carried out the situation will be much worse.

I was pleased to hear the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I have crossed swords with him in previous debates and I was prepared to do so again today until the noble and learned Lord redeemed himself by distancing himself from those who were, on the one hand, supporting the Auld Committee report as the whole basis of this Bill and, on the other hand, taking away the protections for shopworkers, even though the Auld Committee itself had stated in very strong terms that those protections ought to remain. I am sure that I do not need to give the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, the reference, but I will refer the Committee to paragraphs 278 and 288. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will have seen all those references by now.

The Auld Committee felt it necessary to go beyond its terms of reference and state its concern about the possible effects of removing the protections of the Shops Act 1950. The committee recommended that the wages councils be retained for shopworkers. I should have thought that that would carry much more weight with the Minister and the Government, particularly since they have based their whole case on the Auld Committee. The Minister himself has said a number of times that the basis of this legislation is the Auld Committee report. If he had maintained that stance he could have done nothing else but accept the arguments put forward by the Auld Committee for the retention of these provisions to protect the shopworkers.

The other main point drawn out is that there is nothing in the original shop legislation to prevent Sunday employment in England and Wales. That is not prohibited by the 1950 Shops Act. The restrictions on shop opening stem from sections in the legislation concerning trading hours, not employment protection. Therefore, if the aim of the Bill, as we have been constantly told in previous debates, is simply to pave the way for freedom of trade on Sunday, the Bill could simly repeal those sections of the Shops Act and the remainder be left standing. If the main function is simply to deregulate hours the Bill could do that without touching the conditions of employment. Certainly there is nothing in the legislation about employment protection. Nothing in the 1950 Shops Act prevents the Government from repealing the first part and leaving the protection standing.

Instead, the present Bill proposes to repeal restrictions on trading hours and most of the employment safeguards contained in the 1950 Shops Act. These safeguards do not prohibit Sunday working. They only ensure, as the Auld Committee recognised, that workers who have to work on Sunday are adequately compensated for the loss of their normal rest day. That was accepted by everyone. All the conditions related to that. That is the purpose of my amendment because, in the main, I am dealing with Section 22 of the Shops Act. That gives shopworkers the right to equivalent time off in the following week and limits the number of successive Sundays that an employee has to work by restricting Sunday working to two Sundays a month.

I do not consider that to be unreasonable in the context of the discussions we have had. The proposals do not interfere with the main intention of the Bill, which is total deregulation. The proposals can be accepted without interfering with that. I should like to have the Minister's comments on that. The Bill removes all safeguards from everyone except 16 and 17 year-olds. Some employers will be tempted to force workers to work a much longer week. We are already beginning to hear of examples where that is more than a possibility. The removal of overtime and premium rates set out by the wages council will assist in that exploitation. We fear that that will spread beyond the shopworkers to other workers

My noble friend Lord Graham pointed to a headline in the Standard today stating that more trade union curbs are on the way. It seems that is perhaps part of the reason for this attack on the wages council and on shopworkers' conditions of employment. It is to set yet another scene and to attack many others in the circumstances. As we have heard again this afternoon, shopworkers are not particularly well organised, for a number of reasons which are well understood. There are other industries in similar circumstances where workers are not well organised because of the difficulties involved. It may be possible for the Government to pick them off and exploit them in the way that this Bill seeks to exploit the shopworkers.

8.45 p.m.

The effect of my amendment is that Section 22 of the 1950 Act will be retained but modernised. The noble Minister himself said that that section is out of date. My amendment brings it up to date and puts it into a more modern trade union context. Bearing in mind the Auld Committee recommendation, minimum premiums will be provided for Sunday work so that shopworkers will receive compensation for Sunday work which is comparable to that received by workers in other industries. It is feared that the proposals contained in the Shops Bill will be used to put on pressure for similar changes in other industries, as I have said.

Therefore, I share the Auld Committee's concern about the need for protection. I share the concern about the need to protect workers against excessively long working weeks. The hours to be worked are getting longer and the weeks are getting longer. If the Bill goes through there will be a seven-day week of heaven knows how many hours, because the early closing (or half-shut day, as we used to know it) will have gone, too. Therefore, I share the Auld Committee's concern about those aspects.

The amendment provides for time off in lieu; but unlike the 1950 Act we say in the amendment that it is only for those workers who have worked a full working week in the week preceding the Sunday. That is, as it were, a concession to circumstances because we are allowing employers to have flexibility to continue to use part-time workers. So I hope that the Minister, although he has rejected all the amendments to Clause 2, will see that this new clause is an attempt to bring up to date those parts of the 1950 Act that he himself said are out of date and which were not dealt with in previous amendments. I hope, therefore, taking what I have said together with the recommendations of the Auld Committee, he will accept this new clause. I beg to move.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I am sure it is my fault because I have only one effective eye and I am inclined to keep that simultaneously on the amendment, the Bill and the Shops Act. However, I do not follow the noble Lord as to why he wants to omit Section 22(1)(a)(ii). I do not think he dealt with that.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

While the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, is considering that point, may I raise another query? I am bound to say that I do not understand the amendment, technically. It seeks to amend Section 22 of the Shops Act and to add various bits to it. However, the Committee has already agreed that Section 22 of the Shops Act shall not apply to anybody over the age of 18. That is now excluded. Is the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, arguing that he can go on amending those provisions and that they will have any effect on anybody over the age of 18?

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I think I indicated earlier that what many of us want to hear is that there is to be sufficient protection for shopworkers in the future without necessarily clinging to the provisions of the Shops Act 1950. As the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, pointed out, Section 22 now applies only to 16 to 18 year-olds. I wish only to say that while I have sympathy with the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, we shall be making a great mistake if, by amendment, we complicate more an extremely complicated Act of Parliament. If we are to make progress in the direction that the noble Lord would wish, I hope that it will be by simplification rather than by complication.

Lord McCarthy

I find it difficult to follow the arguments of the last two speakers. The position is simple. The Minister told us before dinner that the trouble with this part of the 1950 Act is that it is out of date; we have not been told precisely how. We have been told that time has marched on and left it behind. We tried to say before dinner, "Hang about! That is not an argument because there are amendments on the Marshalled List which in a sense help to bring it up to date". That is what the amendments try to do. To some extent they try to meet the point that times have changed in ways that were not specified by the Government, and there are things which can be done to improve Part II of the Act.

If I understand the argument, what they are now saying is that we cannot do that. Although the Government say that the Act is out of date—it may be out of date and we can bring it up to date—we cannot do that because the provisions do not apply over the area which they would have applied had it not been for the Bill. Because we cannot improve and bring up to date the provisions for people over 18, it becomes impermissible to improve and bring up to date that which remains; namely, the provisions for people under 18.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

With great respect—

Lord McCarthy

May I finish what I am saying? It does not seem to me that that follows. What we are saying is that the scope of over two-thirds of the 1950 Act has been taken away, but that does not seem to us to be a reason why we should not improve the part which remains.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The point that I was trying to make was not the point that the noble Lord has just summarised; namely, now that the impact of Section 22 of the Act is limited to 16 to 18 year-olds that is a reason not to try to improve that part which is left. My objection is that the amendment is not an improvement. It is simply an over-complication.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

May I also comment? The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, appears to accept my proposition that the only effect of the amendment will be on the provisions in respect of those under 18, in which case I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, did not make that clear. On the contrary, his whole speech was directed to the general question of protection for workers in this industry. If the effect of the amendment is, as it seems to me—and I think that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, accepts that—only on those aged 16 to 18, that is not to say that that is not important, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, might have told the Committee that to begin with.

Lord Stallard

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord McCarthy for dealing with that point. On the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, I maintain that the new clause will simply bring the Bill up to date. It would insert minimum premia for Sunday working. We have introduced the 39-hour concept. That is the reason for deleting subsection (1)(a), I think it is. But we have certainly introduced the provision for 39 hours or more. That brings the situation up to date. It simply modernises the legislation, as do the other parts of the new clause. They bring the existing legislation up to date by introducing minimum premia for Sunday working which would be entirely abolished by the Bill and which are already out of date in the 1950 Act.

I know that the Minister will accept the amendment. He has said that that part of the legislation is out of date. The way to deal with that is not to demolish or repeal the legislation but simply to bring it up to date by bringing the overtime premia, the days off in lieu and those other aspects of Sunday working more up to date with modern trade union rules and legislation. That is the purport of the new clause.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Does the noble Lord accept—because he has not indicated one way or the other whether he does or does not—that the effect of the amendment, if accepted, would be to bring up to date only those provisions that relate to persons under 18 because of the Committee's decision on Clause 2?

Lord Stallard

Until such time as we further discuss Clause 2 at a later stage in the Bill, I have to accept that.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The Bill is not complicated but our procedures are. Those who followed the debate closely will know that there was an amendment down to delete the mention of Section 22 of the Shops Act in Clause 2 which would have been a paving amendment to the general approach here. Because of the time-scale and tactics, in order to get the maximum time to debate general principles, that omission has weakened the general strength of the argument that would have been made. But the argument is still valid. Does the Minister want to help me?

Lord Glenarthur

If I were to help the Committee I should only reinforce precisely what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said. Amendment No. 18, which I think is what the noble Lord is referring to, was not moved. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, can now apply only to young shopworkers over compulsory school-leaving age but below the age of 18. My noble friend is correct, and that puts us in a dilemma when we are considering the practicability of the amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

There is no dispute, but we have taken up 10 minutes on this matter and I am happy about that! The intention is at all times to be consistent. We need to bear in mind the difficulty of the Committee, as we have yet to see the colour of the wages council Bill. We know the intention of the Minister, which is also seen in the Bill, that there will be two rates of pay. One will be a statutory minimum and the other will be one overtime rate. Depending on circumstances and the number of hours, under the wages council provisions there are a range of overtime rates—time and a quarter, time and a third, time and a half, time and three-quarters, double time. We do not argue that if there are to be two rates the second should be double time, but people who statutorily will be forced to work on a Sunday, whether or not they are only 16 or 17, are entitled to be paid double because in our view they are being forced to give up the precious value and benefit of a Sunday.

One of the arguments of those who wish to see Sunday trading is that a decision has been laid down. A large retail company in Scotland paid time and a third. Before the court it argued that it did not wish to pay double time, and the court held that the employee was entitled only to time and a third because he was a part-time and not a full-time worker. We are experiencing a serious attempt to dilute the strength of the case and the commitment of Sunday workers. If it becomes cheaper and easier for employers to employ people on a Sunday—one means of achieving this will be to remove the present protections of the wages council order, which, in certain circumstances, provides for double-time and sometimes double-time and a day off in lieu—anything that we on this side of the Committee see as diminishing existing rights we shall have an argument about.

We are not likely to win the argument in the circumstances prevailing at this moment, and it is not being pressed. But the reason for engaging the Minister in this debate and requiring him to put on the record his arguments, which are always fair, is to ensure that these arguments can be studied by people not least in another place and certainly in advance of our seeing the wages council Bill. We want from the Minister greater clarification of how he sees the wages element of working on a Sunday panning out. One argument for abolishing wages councils as they affect 16 and 17-year-olds is the belief that the cost of employing young people is deleterious to the running of a business. The evidence for that belief is not clear. Nor is it understood. We believe that people who have to work on a Sunday are entitled to double-time.

9 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

Once again, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has invited me to say so, I have to say that the amendment tackles the Sunday working provisions of Section 22 of the 1950 Act. Having sought to keep the provisions giving time off in lieu of Sunday working—that is the theme of his argument, although, as he says himself, he did not move that amendment—the noble Lord now seeks to amend the detailed application of those provisions. It appears to be the intention to limit the time off provision to those shopworkers who have already worked at least 39 hours during the six days before the Sunday. The amendment also removes the limit on the number of days that can be worked each month.

I repeat what I said earlier in support of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for whose comments I am extremely grateful. Because that amendment was not moved, restrictions, naturally, apply to the amendment now being moved. I understand that it can be argued that these are perfectly reasonable amendments in that they update Section 22 and limit its application to those shopworkers who have already worked a full week before they come to work on Sunday. But we must not be misled into forgetting the fundamental aims of the Bill, which are to remove shop trading hours restrictions and restrictions on the hours of adult shopworkers. We simply do not believe that adult shopworkers want or need inflexible statutory restrictions on their working conditions. We aim to remove those restrictions completely, not to put an albeit updated package in their place.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The noble Lord says that he cannot believe that adult shopworkers would wish the restrictions on their shop hours to remain and that they would be in favour of their removal. Would the Minister care to say what consultations have taken place, and with whom they were undertaken by the Government, which have brought him to that conclusion?

Lord Glenarthur

I am just starting to develop the argument on which the noble Lord has intervened. Perhaps, by the time I have reached the end of it, he may be a little more convinced that what we propose is not out of keeping with the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I hope so.

Lord Glenarthur

The method by which a shopworker is compensated for working on a Sunday is, I suggest, best left to that shopworker and his employer to sort out. I cannot believe that this is an unreasonable suggestion. It is precisely how millions of other people settle their affairs. Why should shopworkers—I have said this on several occasions today—be dealt with differently? Why should they and their employers be forced into a rigid framework that takes no account of individual circumstances? Surely, individual circumstances are just as important to the noble Lord and his supporters as the collective provisions that would apply if the restrictions contained in these parts of the 1950 Act were to be maintained. Everywhere around us shops stay open longer than they used to do. Shopkeepers have worked out, quite reasonably, with the agreement of their staff, how those longer hours are to be staffed. They use shifts and rotas modelled to the flow and the volume of the trade that shop employers wish to see. Why on earth should they not be similarly inventive when it comes to Sunday working? I am convinced that there is absolutely no advantage in the law being involved in this area.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, went on to refer to matters in the forthcoming legislation on wages councils. Leading on from what the noble Lord, Lord Oram, said earlier, it may be best not to develop that theme further. But what the noble Lord seeks is to retain for adult shopworkers the provisions relating to time off in lieu of Sunday working. As I have said, we are not prepared to accept this. The sort of provision that it entails is outdated and unnecessary. We know that eight million people now work on Sundays either regularly or occasionally. Those not working in shops do not have this sort of statutory provision for time off in lieu which the noble Lord recommends should be retained for adult shopworkers. There is no logical reason whatever why shopworkers should be treated differently. They are surely just as capable as others of sorting out their conditions of employment. That is, I believe, the fundamental answer to the point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. Why should they be constrained by this sort of legal straitjacket? Some may welcome time off in lieu of Sunday employment, and others, quite understandably and reasonably, might prefer extra payment. Shopworkers should have the same freedom of choice granted to other employees who work on a Sunday to arrange these things for themselves.

The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, if I may say so, was perhaps a little over-emotional when he described what this measure seeks to do in three ways. The noble Lord used the word "attack"; he used the words "pick them off' in relation to the present shopworkers; he then used the word "exploit" them. That is far from the intention that lies behind this measure. As I have said—and as has been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, just now—this measure is designed to bring matters up to date and to make the same arrangements for shopworkers as so many other people in different walks of life have.

Although I have already said this once—if not more—I believe it merits repetition. Do we really want to continue asking an army of officials to enforce the provisions of Section 22 for all shopworkers? Do we believe that shopworkers want or need this degree of control and enforcement over their working conditions? We do not. Neither do we want to impose on employers the enormous burden of recording all the time off in lieu taken by their employees.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, raised the point about consultation. Perhaps I may say to him that the Auld Committee considered all the interests and the views and they consulted widely. The committee recommended the removal of all shopworkers. The Government are retaining the restriction for young people at least until a review can be carried out. I set out earlier my arguments in support of that.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary invited the TUC, when he met them, to comment on the employment provisions in the Bill; and to date they have not commented.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The noble Lord the Minister graciously gives way. Will the Minister understand that all the unions who have submitted evidence, and all the assessors who had a responsibility to the committee, have said, since the production of the report, that the findings and conclusions of the report are far removed from the evidence upon which they are alleged to have been based. In other words, the report sets out a body of opinion from which the conclusions that have been drawn are very far removed. The Minister therefore will get little comfort from pointing out that the Auld Report listened very carefully to a wide range of people. Those people to whom they listened, including the shops inspectorates, have said that the conclusions are divorced from the evidence which they gave.

Lord Glenarthur

The noble Lord asked me particularly what consultations had taken place. I have given him the answer to that. We have not had a reply from the TUC yet. If the noble Lord insists upon saying that the fact that we have spoken to them and asked for their views is not consultation, then I honestly do not know what is.

Despite the technical sides of the amendment which have been described earlier, there are great issues of principle here. We debated them earlier today, we have debated them again now. I hope that the noble Lord will see the force of those arguments and will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Nicol

I hope that the Minister will forgive me—I am trying to understand his point of view. The Minister refers to millions of workers who already work on Sunday. I should like to know who are these millions of workers to whom he refers. I know about the power workers, the local authority workers, and all these other workers, all of whom have strong unions who can represent their points of view. We are talking about shopworkers, who, for a variety of traditional and historic reasons do not have strong union representation. Will the Minister please tell me who these millions are? Will the noble Lord also tell me if he can understand the difficulty which shopworkers are in because they are so fragmented? I do not think that this point has been spelt out often enough. They work in small units. There is a difficulty in organising them. Who are these other millions who are comparable with the shopworkers?

The noble Lord the Minister also said that shopworkers at the moment could negotiate rotas and shifts, and so on in order to overcome the difficulties of Sunday working. Yes, they can; but they are doing it against a background of existing legislation which is to be taken from them. What power will they then have to negotiate when this has gone? That is the point which is worrying us.

Lord Glenarthur

If I may answer the second point that the noble Baroness made, yes, I understand the whole point about fragmentation. I said in answer to an earlier amendment that it was perfectly understandable—because the unionisation of shopworkers was fragmented—that that led to the kinds of difficulties which have been described from the other side of the Committee this afternoon. However, the noble Baroness asked, who works on a Sunday? I quoted a figure of eight million, of which about half worked regularly, and the other half not so regularly. There are dozens of examples. The first and most obvious place to start is shopworkers who work illegally—which this Bill will put right. But then there are service industries, agriculture, health workers, transport, manufacturers, police, helicopter pilots—I have done it myself—and all kinds of others.

To take the noble Baroness's analogy further, I honestly cannot believe that it is right for her to suggest that although these particular roles are different, the comparability we are talking about here amounts to the sort of comparability that people have when they arrange their contracts of employment. I said earlier in answer to another amendment that it was not beyond the wit of man in any walk of life to arrange a contract of employment, because that is precisely what so many other people of similar capacity do in so many other walks of life.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Rochester

From the noble Lord's response to earlier amendments, and he has said so again on this occasion, I understood that he believes it is perfectly feasible for adult shopworkers to achieve what they wish to achieve by negotiation through their unions and that, to that end, they are not in need of legislation. However, the noble Lord has also said on a number of occasions that he will study most carefully what has been said, more particularly by the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, but also by others, to see whether it is possible, without necessarily reinstating those parts of the Shops Act which are now to be removed, to give more adequate protection to shopworkers than is proposed in this Bill. My question is simply: will the noble Lord confirm that that is still his position?

Lord Glenarthur

In answer to the earlier amendments when my noble friend Lord Stockton intervened with his very excellent speech, I said that I would consider, as I certainly shall, precisely what is said in favour of the various amendments that are being put forward as this Bill progresses. We are not just dealing with Part II of the Shops Act 1950; there are other amendments on the Marshalled List which go rather further. I did say—and I stressed it again before we broke for dinner—that that did not represent a copper-bottomed guarantee to come back with something different but that every case would be considered on its merits. That is what I emphasised to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—I see that he agrees with me—and I hope that that is now clear to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester.

For the benefit of the Committee and perhaps particularly for the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, perhaps I may develop further one point on the question of Sunday working. I should point out that where shops open on Sundays—and we are really talking about Sundays here because we are talking about time off in lieu—the experience has been that Sunday working has proved very popular among full-time shopworkers and among part-time workers. That is the experience in Scotland and it is also the experience in England and Wales. Clearly staff have a variety of reasons for wanting or being willing to work on Sundays. However, there is little doubt that the large stores have little or no trouble in getting sufficient volunteers.

For some, such as students, the incentive to do so is mainly financial. For others Sunday is regarded as a good day to be at work because the shops are not as crowded as they are on Saturdays, and for others, particularly housewives, week-end working provides an opportunity to get out of the house and get back to a conventional working environment at a time when their husbands are available to look after the children; and that does not seem to me to be a totally invalid point. However, for many and for most of those involved there is a combination of reasons for wanting to work on a Sunday.

I have to say to the noble Baroness that in some cases shop working is so popular on Sunday that it has to be rationed. Research has been carried out into this. The noble Baroness may dispute that and shake her head, but it is a fact that that is precisely the position. I point out to the noble Lord that I have proceeded in the way I have in order to stress that there is no good reason to suppose that people do not want the work which is offered on Sundays, or that the arrangements for coming to agreements with employers which I have suggested are in any way out of keeping with other areas of life.

Baroness Nicol

I have the best possible reason for saying that people do not want to work on Sundays. Up to last year I spent eight years on the board of a large co-operative society and for the last four years I was its president. We had the greatest difficulty in recruiting what I might call career staff—people who want to make a career in retailing. Let us face it, these are the people on whom we all rely if the quality of our retailing is to be what people expect it to be. We all say how much shopping is an experience to be enjoyed by the family. Believe me, it is not an experience to be enjoyed unless the quality of people running and working in the shops is up to standard.

We have had the greatest difficulty in recruiting the right people because they do not even want to work on Saturday never mind working on a Sunday. I do not know from where the noble Lord gets his experience, but I can assure him that we have had the greatest difficulty in filling vacancies, and the reason that has been given for that difficulty is that people do not want to work unsocial hours. There is practical experience on the other side. Please accept it.

Lord Glenarthur

I of course shall accept that the noble Baroness has a great deal of experience in her particular field. But I ask her to also accept from research in the other direction—and I gave the example of Scotland and those parts of England and Wales where shops are already open on Sunday—that shops do not seem to suffer from people not going to them because the staff are not career staff and are unable to make places work properly. I do not believe that that is the case at all.

Lord McCarthy

I have found difficulty in understanding what the Minister has said for the last five minutes has to do with the case against the amendment. He has been saying that many people want to work on Sunday. But surely these people who want to work on Sunday so much would not object to getting double time? They would not object to having a 39 hour week. That is all the amendment says.

Lord Glenarthur

Precisely, and that is why I say that it is for them to negotiate with their employers and not for this to be arranged through the statutory provisions that we are discussing.

Lord Stallard

I am grateful to the Minister for the courteous way in which he has dealt with this difficult amendment. I concede that it was made more difficult because we did not move the previous amendments. That perhaps made it more difficult to understand this amendment, let alone move it. I concede that that was one of the difficulties.

The noble Lord mentioned the aims of the Bill. I said in my opening remarks that this amendment, and these amendments we have in the main been discussing on Clause 2, do not interfere with the main aim of the Bill, which is to deregulate Sunday trading. It is not necessarily about hours and employment. I do not think that my amendment interferes with the main aim of the Bill.

The Minister then went on to ask why would the workers need statutory protection. I said in my remarks that the Auld Committee—and I share their concern—said at paragraph 288: we strongly urge the retention for retail workers of the machinery of the Wages Councils for the fixing of satisfactory wages and premium rates". That is what this amendment is about: the fixing of premium rates and satisfactory conditions.

They also said in paragraph 278: for all those who do work on Sundays or late at night, there should be adequate recompense". They recognised too the difficulties for these workers because of the lack of organisation in many outlets. They recognised that because of those difficulties they needed this statutory protection, and they wanted it retained. I and my noble friend share these aspects of the Auld Report.

The point about why it is so popular has been dealt with by my noble friend Lord McCarthy. Of course it is popular and necessary for many workers because they are on such low pay. I could give statistics; and my noble friend Lord Graham gave statistics of women working full-time who took home round about £57 a week after working a six day week. Because they are so lowly paid of course it is popular if they can work on a Sunday or at the weekend at double time, and a day off in lieu, and so on. That is bound to be popular.

However, it needs this statutory back-up in this Bill. I respect the Minister and his credibility when he said that it is not the intention of either him or the Government to exploit. He chided me about my use of the word "exploitation". But from my experience of negotiating and sitting for hours and hours, month in and month out, opposite employers, there are some employers who will take advantage of any piece of legislation which will give them the chance to exploit still further the conditions of their workers. That is a sad fact of industrial life and it exists in the retail trade as well. While I accept that it is not the Minister's intention, that will be the outcome of this legislation if we remove the statutory protection from the shopworkers. I am disappointed that although the Minister was kind in some of his remarks, he has not found it apposite to accept this new clause. I therefore withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 21: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of s. 71 of Shops Act 1950.

.—(1) The Shops Act 1950 shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 71(1) for the words "every local authority" there shall be substituted the words "Wages Inspectorate", and the words "within their district" shall be omitted.

(3) In section 71(2) for the words "every local authority" there shall be substituted the words "Wages Inspectorate", and the words "by the local authority" shall be omitted.

(4) Section 71(4) shall cease to have effect from the date of the passing of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment is to amend Section 71 of Part V of the Shops Act 1950 which the Government propose shall remain. This part of the 1950 Act deals with enforcement. In other words, in this respect it deals with the enforcement of those parts of Part II of the Act which the Government are allowing us to keep: the regulation of holiday rights, meal times, hours of employment and so on for young persons. We are proposing that the method of enforcement for those people still covered by that part of the Act shall be changed.

At the moment the enforcement mechanism for the Shops Act 1950 is the local authorities' trading standards department. The effect of the amendment is to transfer those responsibilities to the Wages Inspectorate. I hope that the noble Lord will find that this is one of those amendments where he will not merely study and listen to everything which we say, as he said he would, not only consider the amendment with the greatest possible care, as he said he would, but perhaps go a little further, somewhere in the direction of what the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said before dinner—I am sorry he is not at the moment in his place—when he suggested that something might be forthcoming. Perhaps the something that might be forthcoming is in this amendment.

We can put forward several arguments for this amendment. The main job of the trading standard departments of local authorities under the old Shops Act 1950 was the prevention of Sunday trading. That is no longer their function. That is being done away with. Indeed, a considerable part of their functions, even under Part II of the Act, is now being done away with. We are saying that in one respect there is no sense in giving them a small part of what is left of the enforcement provisions of the Shops Act if what is left is an employment Act. It is an employment Act which is a form of employment protection. The best people to carry out that form of employment protection are the people who perform that function in the wages field, namely the Wages Inspectorate of the wages councils. Our first argument is that it is logical and sensible to do it that way.

Secondly, and we make no apology for this, we say that it will be easier for the young persons who are covered by the legislation. It will facilitate effective enforcement from their point of view. We do not agree with the Minister who has said in the past that all kinds of problems of enforcement and anomalies have arisen. Nevertheless, there has been a shortage of enforcement officials and we believe that there would be an additional complication for those workers who were left covered by this part of the Act if they had to go to one authority for under-payment (that is to say the Wages Inspectorate) and another authority to enforce, for example, the rights on meal breaks, lunch breaks or matters of that kind. We are saying it would be better if the same authority were responsible for these two aspects.

9.30 p.m.

Thirdly, and I should say this while I am on this point, this idea once again was an idea of the Auld Committee. They looked at the position of shopworkers; they looked at the position of young shopworkers and they thought that, if we were to remove some of the protections in the 1950 Act, a good place to put them—and we have made this point already tonight—would be with the Wages Inspectorate. Therefore, we would say that our amendment is not only more effective and better from the point of view of the workers but also in line with the proposals of the Auld Committee.

Finally—an argument which I should have thought might commend itself to this Government in particular—we consider that this would save money. We consider that this saving of duplication might be a cost saving as well because the chances are that the Wages Inspectorate will be losing quite a large volume of their work in view of what will happen, we believe, as a result of wages council legislation. It might be possible for them to take up this additional work for young workers under the 1950 Act rather more efficiently and with rather more cost-effectiveness than would be the case if we had two different systems of enforcing two different aspects of what is really just employment protection. I beg to move.

Lord Glenarthur

I think I can be short with this amendment. We have here a proposal radically to alter the way in which the remaining provisions of the Shops Act are enforced and there lies with the amendment an implied criticism of the way in which local authorities have carried out their long-standing functions in this area. The noble Lord spoke about logicality, about enforcement and the question of the Auld proposals and then spoke about cost. But the reasons for keeping the status quo on enforcement are, first of all, that the local authorities have expertise and experience on the implementation of the Shops Act, whereas the Wages Inspectorate enforce, and are equally experienced in, completely different provisions which of course are those of the wages council. I believe it is sensible and logical to leave things as they stand. Secondly, it is premature to make any changes to the enforcement of the Shops Act provisions for young peole until the review on young people is carried out.

The noble Lord suggested that the idea of securing economies might be an argument which would find favour with me, but I have to say that that is not the case. The task of policing the employment provisions of the Shops Act really does lie better with the inspectorate, I suggest, in the way that the noble Lord understands and I cannot really see how any saving would materialise nor can I accept that the wages inspectors would do the job any better. I am afraid that this is not the thing which my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls thought might come. I hope the noble Lord will see the force of the arguments and withdraw his amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The Minister lays great faith and confidence in the ability of local authorities the better to fulfil their obligations under law and statutes in the future than they have in the past; because there is no shadow of doubt that the prime culprit for the law being brought into disrepute has been the unwillingness of council after council to enforce the law.

Lord Glenarthur

Surely, the point there—and the noble Lord is absolutely right—is that they have not enforced the law because there is no logic whatever in the law.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

If it is to be left to each council or to anyone in the land to come to their own conclusion as to what is logical or not, and therefore to enforce or not, when they are enforcement authorities then the Minister has opened up an enormous problem. The inspectorate who have had the responsibility of enforcing the shops legislation up till now have said to the House, and have said to the Auld Committee and to everyone else, "Wherever a council has provided the resources and the support we have found no difficulty whatsoever in enforcing the law". That has been a fact. Now we are going to find in the future that all sorts of laws are needing to be enforced, but at the same time we have a Government which in their finance policy towards local authorities are making it increasingly difficult for councils who wish to enforce the law and to carry out their obligations to do so because of the restrictions which are placed upon their ability either to engage properly-qualified people or to do so in the required number.

The Minister may believe that, with a change in this law, it will be different. If this Bill finally gets to the statute book the question of shopping hours will be a thing of the past from the point of view of policing or inspectorates. It is the intention of Clause 1 to abolish all the restrictions on shopping hours, and what one will be left with is an employment Bill, not a Sundayhours-regulating Bill.

The logic of what my noble friend Lord McCarthy has said is perfectly obvious. There may well need to be a beefing-up or a strengthening of the Wages Inspectorate in order to carry out these additional functions, but one of the myths that has been perpetuated in some quarters in local government is that in some way or another, with the passage of Clause 1 of this Bill, their responsibilities will diminish. I have news for them: if in fact shops are to be open on seven days instead of six, although they may not have to police the hours of opening on the seventh day they will have to make sure on the seventh day that all the other protections which Parliament has given are carried out.

Whereas at the moment they can say, "We do not need to go there on a Sunday because the shops are supposed to be closed", come next year the shops will be open and they will have to investigate and enforce all sorts of regulations. Or are we to have it that the shopkeeper can say, "We need not worry on a Sunday because although we can be policed on six days they are not really going to make sure that we comply with the law on the seventh day"? There is going to be a greater need for more people to enforce the law. The existing laws in respect of consumer protection, in respect of the Offices and Shops Act, in respect of health and hygiene and in respect of safety will all need to be supervised on a Sunday: otherwise, some laws will be known as "six-day laws" and some as "seven-day laws".

The case that I make—and of course I let the Minister intervene—is that this amendment seeks to strengthen provisions and to ensure that the workers, bereft of so many other things, have the possibility of a visitation while they are working on Sunday to ensure that their rights are being complied with.

Lord Glenarthur

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but can he explain to me why it will be so necessary particularly to inspect these shops on Sundays if shopping on all days of the week is totally deregulated? Can the noble Lord tell me what is going to be so particularly special, in this narrow sense which involves the Health and Safety Executive, as to mean that shops will have to be regularly inspected on Sundays in the way he suggests?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

The Minister is naive if he does not believe that there is a category of shopkeeper or establishment keeper who, if it is possible for his premises to be inspected for a range of things on six days more rigorously than on the seventh, will not relax the provisions of the law on the seventh. It is a fact of life. I am not talking about the large, reputable storekeepers, the chains or the big businesses: I am talking, in a nation of shopkeepers—the Minister and his noble friend sitting beside him are shaking their heads. Whether they do not believe it is possible for shopkeepers to be other than absolutely law-abiding, I do not know.

For instance, we are talking in terms of wages and the present responsibility of the wages inspectorate to make sure that minimum wages are paid. There will be people on a Sunday who are one-day workers, there will be people who are casuals or part-timers and there will be regulations to be policed. So we are simply saying that once Clause 1 of this Bill is enacted a great deal will be removed, but the nature of the Bill will be changed. It will cease to become a Bill concerned primarily with hours and it will become a Bill concerned primarily with conditions of work.

Lord Glenarthur

I am afraid that I find the noble Lord's arguments most unpersuasive. This discussion started from the whole question of the load that will be placed upon wages inspectors and centralisation of costs and administration, as propounded by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. On that I have to say that it is extremely unlikely that any savings would result, because wages inspectors would have to be trained in the new provisions and that would have a cost.

But, without pursuing the noble Lord down the avenue of inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive and others inspecting shops onSunday—and I do not believe that it will be quite the difficulty which the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggests—they can be inspected at other times of the week and, no doubt, occasionally on Sundays as well, without adding enormously to the costs.

I have to say that to increase the functions of the Wages Inspectorate surely runs counter to the widely accepted philosophy that regulation in so many fields should be removed and deregulation should be the order of the day. It also runs counter to the policy on wages councils which it is agreed is a matter to which we shall return at a later date.

Lord McCarthy

The noble Lord tells us that this is not the something to come. He has not yet shown his copper bottom. We only hope that it comes before the night is out. He does not deal with two of my arguments and he puts forward three of his own. I think that one of them is an own goal, and I will come to that.

First, if I may say so—and I say this with sincerity and regret—it seems to me a criticism of a fine body of men to say that the Wages Inspectorate could not do this little job. It is a very simple job. The Wages Inspectorate works partly on complaints. People complain that they are not getting the rate and, in this respect, they would complain that they were not getting the breaks. To say that the Wages Inspectorate could not go in and find out whether or not people had breaks, and that they would have to be specially trained to do so, is an insult to a fine body of men. I think that the noble Lord just thought it up. I do not think he got it from the Box. I do not think it stands up, and he knows it.

I come to the second of the noble Lord's arguments. He said that maybe there is a case, but we cannot discuss it and do it, because the Government are reviewing the position in relation to young people. This has been said many times today and it is getting very worrying. I should like to ask—and perhaps the noble Lord will intervene and tell me—what is the relationship between this review of conditions of young people and the Government's proposals for wages councils? Will the Government's proposals for wages councils, which will change the position of young people and other people as well, have to await the result of this review? Does the noble Lord want to tell me?

Lord Glenarthur

I cannot at this very moment give a precise date as to when the review will be complete. I said earlier that the review is under way at the moment. I will certainly try to find out and perhaps at a convenient moment later in the proceedings, or in a minute or two, will let the noble Lord know. But I cannot say precisely whether or not the review will be completed at the time when the wages council legislation comes forward.

Lord McCarthy

I thank the noble Lord for telling me that but I hope he sees the implications of what he is saying. If it be the case—and I should be very surprised if it were the case—that the Government are not going to introduce a Bill dealing with wages councils into this place or the other place before they get the review of young people through, published and considered by the Equal Opportunities Commission and whoever else does it, and if they are going to wait, that is fine and the noble Lord has an argument. But if they are not going to wait, if they are going to introduce a Bill in another place before this review comes in, the noble Lord cannot use as an argument to me that nothing can be done until the review comes in. It does not affect the wages councils, so why should it affect the 1950 Shops Act?

Lord Glenarthur

The review is concerned with hours of work and not with wages as such. The wages council legislation and the matter of hours of work for young people have some points in common in a general sense. That review is being conducted at the moment but it deals with hours, not specifically with the items to which the noble Lord is referring.

Lord McCarthy

That does not convince me. What I am saying is that the Government are quite happy to go on making changes in the conditions of protection of young people. They do not use that as an argument except when we put down amendments. Then they use it as an argument and say changes cannot be made because they are undertaking a review.

Finally, the noble Lord says that there is something wrong with the way the matter is dealt with at the moment. The noble Lord is the one who says this—we do not say it. The noble Lord claims that the poor old local authorities cannot enforce this part of the Act because, he says, it is all nonsense. If the noble Lord is going to retain this part of the Act, surely he ought to let someone else have a go at trying to enforce it. If the noble Lord says it is being so badly enforced, why not let the Wages Inspectorate have a go? But I shall not push this to a vote. I am still hoping that there is something to come and so I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.

Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 22: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

("Schedule 3 to Shops Act 1950.

. For the Third Schedule to the Shops Act 1950 there shall be substituted the following: