HL Deb 14 April 1994 vol 553 cc1623-706

3.40 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

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.—(Earl Ferrers)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Reform of law relating to Sunday trading]:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Restrictions on Sunday opening of large shops]:

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 1: Page 4, line 7, leave out ("280") and insert ("500").

The noble Earl said: I should first declare an interest in that I am the freehold owner of a garden centre and a shareholder in the company that runs it. I hope that it goes on to prosper.

Amendment No. 1 asks about the authority for some of the limitations that have been put in the Bill. I have searched through Eusebius's records of the Council of Nicaea. Nothing is mentioned in the Council of Chalcedon. There is nothing in the Talmud. There is nothing in the Old Testament and there is nothing in the earlier records of the discussions of the Protestant Fathers on how large a shop should be that is allowed to open on a Sunday or where the idea of 280 square metres comes from.

My noble friend Lord Beloff suggested that perhaps I should move the amendment in cubit form. As a tribute to him, I worked out that as a cubit, according to Edward Gibbon, is 22 inches long, the amendment should read that "809 square cubits should be increased to 1,620 square cubits".

The point that I am making is where does the authority come from to determine the size of the shops which should be allowed to open on Sunday. If we go back to Genesis, we have Abraham arguing with God over Sodom and Gomorrah—and they are prepared to go all the way from 100 just men down to five or one, I am not exactly sure. There is a liability for bargaining on the subject of sodomy. It seems to me that we therefore need a proper and authoritative source for the reason the Government have chosen the figure of 280 square metres or, as I say again, 809 square cubits. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

I understand that this is a probing amendment and need not therefore be dealt with in too much application. I understand that the authority for the figure is simply an effort to identify the difference between a "small" and a "large" shop in the market place. During an earlier stage of our Committee deliberations some of us pointed out the very serious threat to small shops and small traders that the Bill would provide if large shops were allowed to open, using the definition in the Bill. If the prohibition is going to be reduced by increasing the qualifying size, "small shop" will be an irrelevant qualification.

I have figures from the Parliamentary Works Directorate and understand that your Lordships' Chamber, in which we are now sitting, has a floor area of 334.5 square metres, which is bigger than the size provided in the Bill. The Royal Gallery has a floor area of 459.9 square metres. My noble friend Lord Onslow wants a figure of 500 square metres, which is 41 square metres bigger, so we are into supermarkets in a big way. I thought that this debate was about whether or not supermarkets should be allowed to open during particular times on Sundays. I hope that the Committee will not screw up everything that we have done so far by taking the lid off it to that extent. It is not a religious question at all.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Jacques

Both this House and the House of Commons agreed a solution to this problem by substantial majorities. The ink has hardly dried before vested interests are trying to alter the solution to suit themselves. I suggest to the Committee that we should defeat all the amendments and stick to the solution that has been agreed by both Houses.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The Committee is entitled to some clarification from Her Majesty's Government of the choice of this particular measurement as being the definition of a large shop. I personally take the view that we should not discriminate against any form of shop and that total deregulation is the proper and sensible device. However, your Lordships having decided the other day in favour of this complex and complicated partial scheme of deregulation (which I tell the Committee will cause infinite trouble, particularly to local authorities) it becomes all the more important to get quite clear what is intended and meant by the definition.

So far I have not heard any justification whatever for the figure of 280 square metres or, indeed, for any particular figure. Before we pass from this matter—and I think it useful that the amendment has been moved —we should have an authoritative government statement as to why 280 square metres is to be the sacred figure above which restriction will operate and below which it will be escaped.

Lord McCarthy

I do not normally want to come to the defence of the Government, but surely it is not the Government who should explain this; it is those who produced this option. We had three options. This is what I insist on calling the "Sainsbury option". This is the option that Sainsbury favours and I think that it is for Sainsbury to say why this size has been chosen.

My own attempt to explain it is that we have always been told that 280 square metres is the size of a tennis court. So, one has to think in terms of a tennis court and then double it because the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, wants to almost double the size provided. I ask Members of the Committee: have you ever seen a small shop twice the size of a tennis court?

Viscount Brentford

Perhaps I may endorse what my noble friend Lord Elton said. I should like to throw in yet another measurement—perhaps because my noble friend Lord Onslow has a stronger Biblical basis to his life than me—and to suggest that another equivalent is 3,000 square feet. I hope that the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, about a tennis court will also be a matter of a level playing field, upon which your Lordships often like to play.

The figure of 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet is a compromise measurement which has grown up between a lot of conflicting views on the subject and has been generally accepted as the spit or point by the different views expressed by different Members of your Lordships' House. This has gone on for some time and I strongly endorse the suggestion that we should leave the matter as it is in the Bill.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, said that he did not often agree with the Government. I was delighted that he gave us some sympathy today. If I might say so, he was not unusually full of wisdom. This is not the Government's policy. It was a choice made by the other place and this place between three different systems. The system which was chosen was that proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council. That is the reason it is in the Bill.

The Government commissioned London Economics to examine the economic effects of Sunday trading. Its report found that 90 per cent. of shops were below 3,000 square feet or 280 square metres, as your Lordships may prefer to refer to it. Most of the remaining 10 per cent. of shops are considerably larger than 280 square metres, and considerably larger than the 500 square metres in my noble friend's amendment. They are, for instance, supermarkets, department stores, hypermarkets, DIY superstores and so on. So, changing the size criterion to 500 square metres will allow only a very few more shops to open freely on Sunday.

This may be a probing or a baiting amendment, which is another matter, but Members of the Committee will need to decide whether what is proposed in the Bill should be widened by changing the size criterion in this way. It appears to make little difference in practice. But one point which Members may wish to consider with regard to this amendment is that 280 square metres was also used by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and Retailers for Shops Act Reform as their size criterion. Clearly, then, this is a criterion which both regulators. and partial deregulators are content is the one that should apply. I understand too that local authorities, through their associations, are content with a 280 square metres cut-off point.

For all those reasons, it is reasonable that the 280 square metres should remain. However, that is a matter for the Committee and not for the Government.

The Earl of Onslow

The weakness of the approach was given away by my noble friend on the Front Bench, who is in a difficult position. The Government want total deregulation but they get it in the neck from all their supporters, who in turn get it in the neck from the Sabbatarians. We know that that is the situation and there is no need for anybody to deny it.

My noble friend said that if the limit were raised to 500 square metres, only a few extra shops would be allowed to open. What is the harm in only a few extra shops opening on Sunday? Before I withdraw my amendment, will my noble friend tell me what is the harm in that?

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend has the capacity to ask the most obscure questions. He knows perfectly well that wherever one puts down a line, some "intelligent" person will say that the line should be drawn in some other place. It may have escaped my noble friend 's notice that it has taken 29 Bills to reach agreement in another place on a certain model. That was agreed by another place and by this Chamber.

Now my noble friend comes with his usual intellectual alacrity and suggests that we alter it. That is the reason that I suggest we should not alter it.

The Earl of Onslow

With my usual intellectual alacrity, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 2: Page 4, line 36, at end insert ("or— ( ) any shop occupied by persons observing Yawm as-sabt (the Muslim Holy Day).").

The noble Earl said: I sincerely hope that Members of the Committee are impressed with my Arabic. However, it is nothing to do with me because it was found by the clerks in the Public Bill Office. I believe that it is correct, although I hear my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham muttering that I am not accurate. However, I shall leave it for him to criticise or correct later.

The Bill allows Jewish shopkeepers to open their shops on Sundays if they close on Saturdays. That is perfectly right and fair; we are a multiracial and multicultural society. As Members of the Committee will know, we have a different Sabbath from the Jews because of Constantine's anti-Semitism at my old friend, the Council of Nicaea. Be that as it may, we have a different day and that is why such complications arise.

The Moslems have a different Sabbath—that is Yawm-as-sabt —which is Friday. Therefore, if we are to be fair and reasonable, other religions which have taken the Babylonian seven as the holy seven and the Sabbath day should be allowed the same privileges as the Christians and the Jews. If we do not allow the Moslems to have the same privileges as the Jews we shall be accused of being racist. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend Lord Onslow has drawn the attention of the Committee to the question of shops owned by Moslems or Hindus. The fact of the matter is that the Jewish religion requires that its members should not work on the Sabbath; that is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This means that shopkeepers who observe the Jewish faith do not trade at all during that period. The 1950 Shops Act recognised that a provision was necessary so as to enable Jewish shops to open on a Sunday. The Government felt it was important to make a similar provision to that included in the 1950 Act in respect of large Jewish shops. All small shops can open all day Sunday under the Bill as it stands.

The provisions which are included in the Bill in this regard were drawn up in association with the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In effect, it provides that in return for closing on the Sabbath Jewish shopkeepers occupying large shops can open all day on Sunday and not for just six hours. But we have had no representations from other religious groups seeking an equivalent provision. I understand that, unlike Judaism, neither Islam nor the Hindu religion makes a requirement on its members not to work on a certain day. Indeed, I am advised that shops owned by Moslems are normally open on a Friday, their holy day.

Therefore, as they are not obliged to shut on any particular day, there is no need for an exception for large shops occupied by members of these religions from the six-hour restriction imposed by the Bill. I recognise that the amendment has been tabled by the noble Lord for the best of intentions. But I hope that he will agree it is unnecessary because members of those particular faiths do not wish to close on any particular day of the week.

That being said, I would just like to draw the Committee's attention to an aspect of the amendment which I suspect that my noble friend may have overlooked. As drafted, the amendment would not place any requirement on shops owned either by Moslems or Hindus to close on any particular day of the week. The amendment in respect of Moslems simply exempts shops which are occupied by persons who are observing the Moslem Holy Day. The amendment in respect of members of the Hindu religion does not specify any religious observance at all.

I am sure that my noble friend did not intend that members of these religions, if they occupied a large shop, would be free to open for seven days a week whereas other large shops would be restricted to trade for just six hours on a Sunday. But this would be the effect of the amendment. It would create the bizarre loophole that the owner of a large shop would be able to open at any time on a Sunday if he converted to Hinduism. I know that this was not the effect that was intended. I hope that that explanation is sufficient to convince the noble Lord that his amendment would be unsuitable.

The Earl of Onslow

I had realised both those points and had not tabled the consequential amendment relating to Moslem shops opening on Friday. However, I had intended to move the amendment relating to Hindus and to raise the point that my noble friend raised. We are imposing on Moslems and Hindus, Christian or Jewish values relating to when they should open and close their shops. Is that right in a multicultural society? I suggest that it is not but that is what we are doing.

Obviously I shall not press the amendment to a vote: nor shall I move the amendment relating to Hindus. My noble friend has reasonably pre-empted what I was going to say. However, I believe that those points demonstrate the fact that the Bill, by its new status, is flawed. That is established by the first two amendments. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3. not moved.]

4 p.m.

Viscount Brentford moved Amendment No. 4: Page 4, line 37, leave out from beginning to ("but") in line 39 and insert: ("Sub-paragraph (1) above does not apply in relation to a large shop on a Sunday between the hours of 12 noon and 6 pm,").

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 4 in the name of myself, my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart of Swindon and Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 14, 20 and 22, again standing in those names, and Amendments Nos. 15 and 21, which stand in the name of my noble friend Lord Onslow.

The main amendment in the group is Amendment No. 4 which substitutes the existing flexible six-hour exemption granted to large shops which have notified the local authority of their intention to open with an exemption permitting all large shops to open on Sundays should they choose to do so between the fixed hours of 12 noon and 6 p.m.

I speak in my capacity as chairman of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign. One of the main arguments against our proposal was the complexity created by the necessity to register with local authorities. Having accepted the view of Parliament, we do not continue to press our views. However, it seems to me wrong that we should continue with a proposal which involves registration.

As drafted, paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 lays down a general prohibition of the opening of large shops on Sundays and then sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) list exemptions. It is the last exemption, which relates to all large shops, with which the amendment deals. Quite simply, the amendment removes the provision in sub-paragraph (3) of paragraph 1 which refers to the right of a large shop to open for six hours once notice has taken effect and replaces it with an exemption permitting all large shops to open at any time between the hours of 12 noon and 6 p.m.

The amendment does not state that large shops must open between those hours and they do not have to open for the full six-hour period. But any such shop has the freedom, if it so chooses, to open at any time between those two fixed periods. Obviously, if a large shop opens before 12 noon or after 6 p.m., the owner will have violated the general prohibition laid down in paragraph 2(1) and will be liable to prosecution by the local authority.

I turn now to the other three amendments which stand in my name. Amendment No. 14 removes paragraph 4 of Schedule 1. That paragraph outlines how the flexible six-hour opening for large shops within the eight-hour period is to operate. The provisions are convoluted. They require shops to notify a local authority of precisely which continuous six hours within the eight-hour period they intend to open. Subsequently, they are also permitted to cancel their notice and change their opening times on a fortnightly basis. If the Committee is willing to accept our fixed six-hour option, those notification provisions will become redundant and unnecessary.

Amendment No. 20 has a dual effect. First, it removes paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 which imposes a duty on local authorities to keep a register of the names and addresses of every large shop which chooses to open and the hours it is permitted to open. That is a burdensome and expensive duty for local authorities and places unnecessary strains on already scarce local authority finances. Again, having rejected our option, it seems to me that it is burdensome to continue with a system of registration.

Secondly, the amendment removes paragraph 6 which requires large shops to display a notice of their opening times in a conspicuous position. If the opening hours are fixed, as my earlier amendment proposes, that duty will also become unnecessary and will again make life easier for large shops. Amendment No. 22 is a drafting amendment and is consequential.

I turn to the amendments standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Onslow. Amendment No. 21 is picked up by my Amendment No. 20 in any event. As regards Amendment No. 15, from what I have said Members of the Committee will be well aware—

The Earl of Onslow

I should like to move my own amendments and not have my noble friend Lord Brentford do it for me. It is not for him to move my amendments. Will he please not do so?

Viscount Brentford

I am moving only Amendment No. 4 but this is my sole opportunity to speak to the group of amendments. I said when I began my remarks that I was speaking to the amendments. I did not say that I was moving them all. I move only Amendment No. 4.

I totally oppose Amendment No. 15 because I do not favour the proposal to allow shops to open For eight hours. I believe that we should stick to the six hours provided in the Bill as drafted. I merely propose to simplify the law by fixing the six-hour period. That will make it easy to operate both for district councils and large shops. I beg to move Amendment No. 4.

Baroness O'Cathain

If we accept the amendment, we shall allow local authorities an easier ride in terms of registration and the onus to register will be taken away from large shops. The whole point of the Sunday Trading Bill is to benefit consumers. The legislation has been introduced as a result of consumer and customer demand. I have received no representations whatever from local authorities, district councils or large shops complaining that the registration system would create difficulties.

However, if the amendment were carried it would create a difficulty because large supermarkets and shops would not be allowed to open before midday. I suggest to the Keep Sunday Special group, which is apparently so worried about keeping Sunday special, that this proposal is one way of not keeping Sunday special and is much worse than the option already approved. If shops are not allowed to open until midday, families who would prefer to do their shopping in the morning, in order to cater for a large social gathering in the afternoon, would be constrained from doing so until 12 noon. That would affect the Sunday lunch. Frankly, I do not much care for that, but much was made of the point when the options were being considered.

Secondly, the amendment contains a direct threat to the normal pattern of Sunday shopping which has evolved over the past few years. Some 40 per cent. of all shopping is done before 2 o'clock—between 10 and 2. Of that, the larger part is done between the hours of 10 and midday.

If the hours were fixed between 12 noon and 6 p.m., no account seems to have been taken of the fact that we do not operate on a daylight saving basis the whole time in this country. After 4 o'clock on a Sunday, staff will not much care for having to go home in the dark and I do not believe that families will care to do their shopping at that time.

There is an additional point. The staff employed in the large shops do not want the provision contained in Amendment No. 4. If they are working on a Sunday, for which they are paid premium wages, they have opted to work from between 10 and 4. That means that their Sunday is not completely curtailed and they have—some might say—the best of both worlds. So the people who wish to shop probably want to do their shopping early and the staff who work want to go home early.

The noble Viscount did not mention any problem about deliveries. If there is thought to be a problem, I should point out that most large shops—in fact, all of them to my knowledge, but I would not swear to it—operate a "good neighbour" policy in terms of delivery. Methods of delivery to supermarkets on a Sunday are different from those used on other days of the week. For example, drivers turn off their reverse bleepers when coming out of side roads, and so on, so as not to cause additional noise.

It has been suggested that the option is total deregulation by another name. I should like to draw the attention of Members of the Committee to the fact that the normal supermarket operating hours are 12—that is, 11½ to be precise, from 8.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Therefore, allowing them to open for six hours on a Sunday would mean opening for only half that time. I believe that there should be no further restrictions.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I attached my name to the amendment because I believe that, having taken 29 Bills to get to this point, we now need to produce not only an agreed Bill but also one which is simple to administer and which meets as much of people's desires as possible. It seems to me that that would be very simple to administer and that local authorities—whether or not they have been lobbyers on the matter—will very much welcome such a simple Bill as the one before us. It also has the advantage of at least keeping half of Sunday relatively quiet.

I do not think that some of the arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, were entirely convincing. If I took down the figures that she gave correctly, she seemed to be suggesting that 20 per cent of Sunday shoppers shop between the hours of 10 and midday.

Baroness O'Cathain

I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I am afraid that I made a mistake in that respect. In actual fact, 40 per cent. of all trading is done before noon; that is, between 10 and 12 noon. I apologise for the error.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

In that case, I have helped the noble Baroness make her point. However, I am not sure that it is a good thing to encourage delivery vans to back out of side roads without sounding their bleepers, thus running the risk of running over more people. As we have now reached this stage, I believe that the basic idea of making a really simple administrative arrangement is well worth supporting.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Monson

In his intervention on the first amendment the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, seemed to suggest that the Bill is perfect and should not be amended in any way on the grounds that it has been examined in detail both in another place and in this Chamber. With the greatest respect, I must tell the noble Lord that he is wrong.

Lord Jacques

I never mentioned the word perfect; indeed, that word could not be read into what I said. I said that both places had, by a substantial majority, made a decision and that, before the ink is dry, vested interests are trying to change that decision.

Lord Monson

I understand what the noble Lord says. Nevertheless, the Bill has not been examined in detail by this Chamber. That is what we are in the process of doing at present. Moreover, it was not examined in detail by another place because honourable Members had to spend most of their time deciding between the three main options. That is quite understandable because they are very important. The legislation has not been fine tuned. As I suggested at an earlier stage, the Bill needs some fine tuning. It needs to be made a little more liberal in some respects and slightly more restrictive in others, with the one balancing the other so that neither the Keep Sunday Special protagonists nor the reformers, if I may so describe them, feel cheated or done down.

Provided that we can achieve exemption for garden centres, bookshops and possibly one or two other categories, there is absolutely no need for an eight-hour time frame within which other large stores can be allowed to open. Such a time frame means traffic congestion, the slamming of car doors, the honking of car horns which will go on from 9 o'clock in the morning (allowing for deliveries) until 6 o'clock in the evening. That is almost as long as is the case on an ordinary weekday. One of the main reasons for agreeing to any Sunday restrictions in the first place was to protect those who have the misfortune to live in or near shopping districts from having their peace and quiet disturbed throughout the whole of Sunday.

Moreover, an eight-hour time frame within which the large stores could open for six hours would be incredibly bureaucratic and costly to monitor. I believe that the noble Viscount and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, both made that point. That would also be much to the disadvantage of the council taxpayer. At this time, I should have thought that the Government would be only too anxious to ensure that no further burdens are heaped upon the latter.

I spoke recently to an organisation with the acronym CLIFSS (Council Leaders in Favour of Sunday Shopping) which I understand represents no fewer than 70 local authorities. The organisation would greatly welcome a fixed six-hour period when large stores could open. That would make its task a great deal easier and would save a considerable sum of money. The organisation also made the point—although it is not a very important one—that it would help the consumer living in London to know that stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Tesco, Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer, and so on, would be open for the same six hours on a Sunday. As I said, it is not an important point compared with others, but it is relevant.

In addition, many of the organisations representing the larger stores have told me that they would not really object to such a limitation. They would not welcome it with open arms, but they would not find it too onerous. I say that on the assumption that we agree exemption for one or two categories such as garden centres, and so on. However, virtually all of them—I believe that the point was made by my noble friend Lady O'Cathain—would find the period of 12 noon to 6 p.m. suggested by the amendment much too late in the day. They would prefer the opening hours to be, say, 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or whatever, as would their employees. The latter is a most important point. Indeed, my noble friend talked about female employees having to walk home after dark in the winter. I believe that that point must be taken into consideration.

Although I believe that the amendment is, essentially, on the right lines, the hours 12 noon to 6 p.m. are too late. Perhaps the noble Viscount will consider withdrawing the amendment and returning at a later stage with the same six-hour period but fixed rather earlier in the day.

Lord Elton

As my name is attached to the amendment, I should like to say a few words. I see that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter wishes to speak. I give way.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

As my noble friend has put his name to the amendment, he should certainly take priority and speak now. That will, perhaps, give me the opportunity to answer him.

Lord Elton

I was seeking an opportunity to answer my noble friend. However, I comfort myself by the fact that we are in Committee and that we shall both be able to speak as often as Members of the Committee will stand it.

After a delicate operation of balancing between alternatives, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, came down in favour of the earlier hours against the later on the grounds of the convenience and preferences of the people who work in the shops and those who own them. I have great sympathy for the people who work in the shops, who, I fear, will still find themselves in the position of Esau, having sold their heritage for a mess of pottage. I say that to satisfy the intellectual ability of my noble friend Lord Onslow. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, said, they are receiving a premium payment for working on Sunday. They are not under compulsion to do so. Therefore, given the fact that they also receive extra money for such work, I do not believe that that should be the preponderant consideration.

Similarly, I do not think that the wishes of the large business organisations which have stood on one side of the divide, where the compromise is in the middle, should be given further advantage because they have already exerted an enormous influence on the course of events during this debate and the progress of the Bill through Parliament.

If we look back to where we have come from, it will be seen that we have come from a very protracted debate—a debate protracted over generations—as to the nature of what Sunday should be and a rather shorter debate about the economic efficiency of the market and the liberty of the subject. Those two camps found themselves so equally balanced that it was impossible to find an agreement in another place until this final, or semi-final, compromise was reached. That compromise is between those who want to keep Sunday special and who wish to protect small traders and elderly, isolated and immobile people who are dependent on small traders and those communities to whom small traders give a great deal of their individual complexion, reality and sustainability on the one hand, and those who wish to open the till and the shop door to everyone, every day of the week, on the other. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, referred to some of the objections which many of us have to that on purely secular grounds as regards noise, traffic pollution and the employment of a great many other people other than shop workers who will not have the choice as regards working on Sundays once the shop workers start working on Sundays.

It seems to me that the fair decision therefore is to give half the cake to one side and half to the other, and that the compromise does not do. It spreads the possibility of competition with the small shops and the full trading of large shops over a period of eight hours not six. Individual shops can choose a block of six hours but they can move it about and different shops can open at different times. That means that the small trader is in full competition virtually throughout the, whole trading day. It also has the consequence that someone must check whether traders are cheating and must check to see whether they are taking six and a half, seven or eight hours out of the permitted eight. They must all be registered and visited to check whether or not they are breaking the law and, if they are, they must he fined. This becomes a large and complicated job for local authorities and, as the noble Lord has pointed out, a costly one for the community taxpayer.

My noble friend's proposal is simple. He is saying, "Have six hours by all means". We did not want that and we think it is a tragic pity. We think it will change the nature of Sunday and of family life in many areas, certainly in many rural communities, irreversibly in years to come, but so be it. But let us preserve what we can. Let us have half the day. If we permit trading from 10 until six we spoil the morning and the afternoon. If we permit trading from 12 until six we spoil the afternoon. That gives the preachers—I was going to say the churches—a free run in the morning, but it also gives those who want half the day to be different a chance to make it different. All the consequential amendments are genuinely consequential. They flow from this one provision which seems to me to be absolutely fair and square with the compromise. It merely moves the two-hour option of change out of the Bill. It has the advantage of enormously simplifying the situation and it will result in a great saving of cost. I believe that there would be a sigh of relief from around half the nation at the thought that we would still have peace and quiet before Sunday lunch.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, and my noble friend Lord Brentford are both quite right in saying that the Bill as it stands will impose a considerable amount of work on and problems for local authorities. They will have all the complex duties of enforcing what many of us regard as an extremely ill-drafted and ill-considered measure. Because of that, I believe the Committee will want to ensure that the Bill does not go further against the interests of those who want to trade on Sundays. If the Committee is to accept—as the Chamber did by its previous vote—that total deregulation (which is the real answer) is not on, it is all the more important to have in mind the interests not only of those who open shops but also of those who want to go shopping. That is the difficulty which is posed by this amendment.

People's hours and habits on Sundays vary. It is probably a good thing that those who open shops should have the opportunity to study the convenience, or likely convenience, of their customers and adjust their hours of opening, so far as they legally can, to meet those needs. However, this amendment just pegs the whole opening possibility for the larger shops on the midday to 6 p.m. period. At certain times of the year and for those in certain occupations and certain trades that may be perfectly satisfactory, but I do not think there is anyone in this Chamber who will not believe that that is going to add considerably to the inconvenience of those who want to go shopping. Sunday shopping is here to stay. In these days, particularly when working wives have their own employment, Sunday shopping is extremely important and increasingly important for couples. People in many occupations consider it sensible to do a little shopping on Sunday morning. If those who operate the shops take that view, they will take advantage of the Bill as it stands to ensure that their shops open at 10 o'clock in the morning to allow for a morning opening period. That, surely, is of considerable convenience to a considerable number of our fellow countrymen.

I very much agree with what the noble Baroness opposite said. She talked extremely good sense, if she will allow me to say so. Accepting, as we have to now, that Sunday trading will be limited, particularly for the large shops, it seems a great mistake to make it even more restrictive as this amendment would do. I hope therefore that the Committee will pay full attention to the wishes and needs of the customer. The Committee should bear in mind the fact that it is only if the customer indicates that it is important for him or her to be able to shop after 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning, that the shops, which have to respond to the demands of their customers, will open during that period. This amendment would inhibit them from doing that and I hope for that reason we shall reject it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I shall speak as briefly as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that there were mainly two interests here: one is the trader and the other is the customer. However, that is not true. There are many other interests involved and we should not be trapped into believing that this matter is just about the right of shops to open and the right of people to go into shops. This Bill involves other people's rights and convenience too. It also involves other people's environment because other people will be forced to work on Sundays who may not wish to work on Sundays or to shop on Sundays. However, they will have to do so as a result of this Bill.

Although partial deregulation has been agreed, we should seek to address the needs of other people besides traders and people who wish to shop on Sundays. After all, the interests of traders and indeed of shoppers are being addressed thoroughly and as we know, under the terms of the deregulation Bill, it will soon be possible for people to shop 24 hours a day, six days a week—and now six hours on a Sunday as well.

Under those circumstances the amendment we seek to make is very small. It seeks to give a little consideration to people other than those who trade and those who shop. The beauty of the amendment is that it will help both shoppers and traders. Shoppers will know that wherever they are in the country they will be able to shop in supermarkets between 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. They will not have to worry about whether they are open at 10 o'clock in the morning or closing at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. They will know that all over the country they can shop between 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. That in itself is a convenience to shoppers and traders.

We are told by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, that there has been an established pattern and that 40 per cent. of people wish to shop in the morning. However, that is a pattern which has been established by firms breaking the law over a long period of time. We should not take too much notice of it.

I want to return to the question of other people who are involved. The local authorities will have to police the Bill when it becomes an Act. We have already heard of the difficulties that that will cause to local authorities and their employees, who will need to be out and about enforcing the Act. It will be much more easily enforced if the trading hours are fixed all over the country between 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock rather than differing between 10 o'clock and 4 o'clock or 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock in various parts of the country. Therefore, local authority employees will know where they stand and will be able to make their arrangements in a better way.

There are council tax payers to be considered as well. We are going to have to pay for the enforcement. It is not the big stores which will have to pay for enforcement. All council tax payers will have to foot the bill, whether or not they shop on Sunday. Therefore, we should have some consideration for council tax payers.

We should look further ahead. Once the Bill becomes an Act it will not be only large stores which are compelled to open on Sunday. As I said at Second Reading, all kinds of other businesses will have to open. Local authority offices will be expected to be open. The banks will probably be expected to be open, as will building societies. A whole range of other people in addition to shopworkers will be involved as a result of the Act. Therefore, we should get it as right as we possibly can and ensure that the arrangements are as convenient as possible.

Finally, a great many people live near shops. They are entitled to have at least their Sunday morning free from the dirty environment that can be created by deliveries and by people bringing cars to shopping areas. They too are entitled to be considered. When noble Lords vote on the amendment I hope that they will consider all those aspects. I support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

A number of rather sophisticated arguments have been put forward in support of the amendment. I hope that they will deceive nobody. For example, the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches spoke of fine tuning. The truth is that this amendment is a Trojan horse. One can tell that from the names attached to it. It is a Trojan horse occupied by the crypto-Keep Sunday Specialists. My noble friend Lord Elton let that cat out of the bag.

Lord Elton

There is nothing crypto about my keeping Sunday special.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

To use a cant phrase of the present day, I am glad that my noble friend has come out into the open.

For reasons which have been canvassed widely, the other place has decided that large shops should be able to open on Sundays for a given number of hours. At present they are allowed to choose which hours. They are given that right because they know best what their customers want. The arguments to the contrary are only concealed arguments in favour of keeping Sunday special, a battle which has been fought and, I hope, thoroughly lost by the Keep Sunday Specialists.

Baroness Young

I have not put my name to the amendment, but I should like to speak strongly in support of it. I am very glad to accept the challenge of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. If one looks at the facts of the case, both of them are supporters of total deregulation and have never pretended otherwise, as I believe is the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. That is an option which was overwhelmingly defeated in another place and by your Lordships when we debated the matter some two weeks ago. Naturally, they do not want anything which will upset total deregulation, which may be what they want but certainly is not what Parliament wants. The six-hour option was sold both to another place and to your Lordships as a compromise.

I said both at Second Reading and when we debated the matter just before Easter that I saw this measure as a step towards total deregulation and there was no difference between what is proposed and total deregulation. Having listened to the speeches, particularly that of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, it is perfectly clear that that is what will happen. In practice, of the eight hours specified the large shops can choose to open for any six. As my noble friend Lord Elton made clear, once shops can choose a different six hours there is in effect eight hours' trading. That would be very damaging to small shops, as has been made very clear. The statistics concerning the number of small shops which will close are unanswerable. No one has denied them. No one will buy more food because shops are open on Sundays. The only way the large supermarkets will make their profits is by squeezing out the small shops. That is what will happen and that is what we will vote for That is what Parliament has now decided.

There is a way we could help small shops for which I have heard a great deal of sympathy from all parts of your Lordships' House. Statistics indicate that when consumers are asked whether they want Sunday shopping if it means small shops closing they have usually said "No". They have never been asked a question on the basis of what will really happen.

The amendment is a fair and reasonable compromise. I accept, because Parliament has decided, that we shall have six hours' trading on Sunday, but it is much fairer to all to have a fixed six hours. I support the proposal.

As regards the convenience of customers, the point is that what is convenient for one customer is inconvenient for another. The convenience of the shopper who can go to the out-of-town supermarket—Sainsbury's, Tesco, or whichever it may be—by car on a Sunday has to be balanced against the convenience of the other customer who is elderly, does not drive a car and is dependent on the small village shop. One will gain and one will lose It is a compromise. It is not something that I would particularly have chosen.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

No one will gain or lose. They can do what they want.

Baroness Young

It is all very well for my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham to say that they can do what they want. No doubt he can do so because he can either drive a car or get someone to drive him.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I am a disabled driver; and I use small shops.

Baroness Young

I am delighted that my noble and learned friend still has the opportunity to use small shops, but he should recognise that the small shops may not be there for him to use much longer. That is what the argument is about. Fine, he can continue to drive. Bully for him. That is very good, but there are many others who cannot do so.

It is a question of balance. The House having decided on six hours' shopping, this solution seems to me perfectly fair. A fixed six hours helps many people. The solution is not ideal and in a perfectly fair, free world it is not what I would have chosen. I would not have chosen the six hours on Sunday, but having accepted that option, I believe that the amendment is a better balance. I hope very much that the Committee will support it.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that she rose to the challenge of the deregulators sitting in front of her. Perhaps I may rise to her challenge and say that as chairman of the Shopping Hours Reform Council my position has always been to support the compromise solution which this House and another place have now accepted. I see it as a genuine compromise. I do not see it as deregulation in disguise.

The proposal for the fixed six hours for trading ignores many of the arguments which were made effectively both during the options debate and at Second Reading about the patterns of consumer choice and the fact that the majority of shopping in small shops is carried out before 10 o'clock in the morning.

Perhaps I may repeat what I said at Second Reading. One can imagine a situation in which if one wishes, for example, to buy a pint of milk or a newspaper, one will go to one's small local shop—whether it is the local corner shop in town or the village shop—and purchase that item early in the morning. If one has run out of such products one does that in the evening. However, if one wishes to make a substantial purchase, whether of a do-it-yourself kind or a weekly shop, one will go to a supermarket. One can do that between the hours of 10 o'clock or six o'clock with the option which can be agreed by the individual traders. That is the normal common sense pattern of trading which is not affected by fixing the hours between 10 o'clock and six o'clock, given the various options that the shops can choose. It is important that it is a compromise. I give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Young

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. I had wished her to complete her argument on that. The point about small shops is that they do the majority of their business on a Sunday. If one considers the statistics, it is quite clear that between 25 per cent. and 40 per cent. of their business is done then. Therefore, they are very much affected by what happens. We ought to keep a balance between the interests of the small shops and those of the big traders.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

I accept the noble Baroness's point. That is precisely why the genuine compromise solution of the Shopping Hours Reform Council gives those small shops the advantage of being able to open 24 hours a day whereas the big shops are restricted.

I take the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, that part of this argument must be a stalking horse to some of the failed arguments of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign. My noble friend Lady Dean—she is unfortunately not present today—and I argued strongly during the options debate that the arguments to say that one could not adequately look after one's family if one went shopping on Sunday were completely ludicrous. However, we also made the point that for us shopping was a chore which we wanted to get out of the way as quickly as possible. If we can shop at 10 o'clock in the morning on Sunday and then go home and do precisely what we were encouraged to do by those who spoke for the other side of the argument—to cook lunch for the family, or to spend time with elderly relatives, as indeed we wish to do—we have more time to do so.

Finally, it is rather strange that those proponents of the Keep Sunday Special option which was defeated in this Chamber—it was a complex and an enormously over-regulated solution which would indeed have caused local authorities many headaches—are now arguing in favour of this solution to the problem. They are right that it would ease local authorities' difficulties because they would have no regulations, but, frankly, to propose the amendment as a way of getting out of the difficulties of the regulation involved in their own original solution seems peculiar.

Viscount Caldecote

I support the amendment. In doing so, I hope that I shall not be considered either a Trojan or a stalking horse. I entirely agree with every word spoken by my noble friend Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart.

I wish to add one point. The opening time of 10 o'clock means that lorries would unload from nine o'clock. It means that they will be going about the towns from half past eight. If that does not destroy completely the peace of Sunday morning, I do not know what would. It is as close to deregulation as one could possibly come without calling it that.

Lord Milverton

I do not support the amendment because I do not believe that having a set time from 12 o'clock to six o'clock is sensible or convenient. It is argued that, as the Bill at present provides for opening for six hours between 10 o'clock and six o'clock, there would be the lorry traffic. Are noble Lords not aware that even now on Sundays one does not need early delivery by lorries? There is other traffic such as cars and motor bikes. It is not as though early Sunday mornings at present are all quiet.

One noble Lord said that this solution would give the morning in which to preach. The Church should not expect to be privileged by having a certain time on Sunday to conduct their services. We who preach and who take services should do so in a way which makes people feel that they would like to come to church.

I did not agree with the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and others because I do not believe that the Church and Christians should make Sunday just as we want it. It is only when many more people wish to enjoy it in that way that Sunday will become special. Let us face the facts. There are people whose relaxation, besides worshipping, is to shop or join in the many other activities which are different from what they do on other days of the week. Worship is only one aspect. My noble friend the right reverend Prelate may look astounded when I say that I find that I can go for several Sundays without worship because I believe that if one has been worshipping regularly one builds something up. I believe that the Church should be there for when people feel the need for such refreshment.

I believe that the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and the others have got it all wrong. Let us not have this provision from 12 o'clock to six o'clock. It is all nonsense.

The Earl of Onslow

My noble friend on the Front Bench asked me to speak to my amendment which proposes leaving out Clause 5. Because my noble friend Lord Brentford has encouraged me, I shall do so.

I also draw the Committee's attention to two facts. One is that the vast majority of large shopping areas are outside residential areas and are separated from small shops.

Noble Lords

No, no.

The Earl of Onslow

This is factual. It is planning law and it is no good noble Lords saying, "No". It is well known.

Lord Elton

It may not be well known where I live, which is 400 yards from a Sainsbury supermarket.

The Earl of Onslow

That Sainsbury supermarket is not in a residential area.

Lord Elton

Yes it is. I reside in a residential area. I am a few hundred yards from the Sainsbury supermarket. There is no difficulty in the matter. My noble friend, unfortunately and unintentionally, is wrong.

The Earl of Onslow

All I can say is that in the area in which I reside—

Noble Lords


The Earl of Onslow

—supermarkets are well separated, as they mostly are, from residential areas. My noble friend Lord Elton—I use the term "noble friend" advisedly—may have picked the wrong street and the wrong supermarket, but on the whole large shops are separated from residential areas by planning law and planning regulations. That is the point of planning.

Lord Elton

I should tell my noble friend that I was there first!

The Earl of Onslow

I am sure he was. The other point, which has been completely overlooked until now, is that recently there was an appeal by an unholy alliance of Tesco's. Sainsbury's and Safeway's to object to a wholesale warehouse called Costco to be built on the Isle of Thurrock. As I understand the Bill, such a warehouse will be allowed to open on all Sundays if it wishes. All you will have to do is buy your card and buy at a discount at the wholesale warehouse because it is not covered by the six-hour rule. Another one has just been opened in Croydon. I suspect that they will spread fairly widely over the country which will make the Bill even more sensible than it is at the moment.

My amendment is to delete paragraph 5. We do not need the registration of people who have kitchen knives on the off-chance that they might slice their wife's throat. If people can be trusted not to break the law, they should not need to be registered. If shops stay open longer than they are allowed, they should be prosecuted. Is there any necessity for registration? What we are in effect saying by "registration" is: "You have to register people on the off-chance that they might break the law". It seems to me much more sensible not to have that. I thought the whole principle of English law up to now was that if you break the law it is your fault, whether or not you knew it was wrong. What is the point of having registration, piling on regulations and legal points? I always thought the Government, as a Conservative Government, theoretically objected to that.

If we pass a law like this, it might say: "You may only open for six hours on a Sunday, and if you open for six-and-a-quarter hours you are liable to a fine of up to £50,000 for that quarter of an hour and may possibly go to prison". That may be a slightly excessive fine for an extra quarter of an hour, and in these days of trying to reduce the prison population it might be over-egging the pudding to send someone to prison through that extra regulation. Is it really necessary to make a regulation which says: "Here am I, I can open for six hours"? We know that he can only open for six hours; that is what we are legislating for. If he breaks the law, prosecute him, but do not go in for this extra regulatory effort. It seems to me to be a waste of time.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

if there are any Trojan horses about, it is clear that they are occupied not by members of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, of whom I am one; they are occupied by the deregulators. I do not refer to my noble friend Lady Jay or her colleagues in the House who have fought a perfectly honourable and honest campaign in terms of what they have described and emphasised as being a compromise. I refer to those who stand well behind her—the large stores themselves.

We have the idea to "perm" six hours out of eight. First, that will lead to great confusion. Secondly, through the confusion it is designed to lead to a situation where one is perming any number of hours out of 24. Make no mistake about it, that is the intention and the purpose. The apparent limitation to six out of eight hours will be impossible to police. It will produce pressures on consumers and staff, as well as on small shops, which will be totally irresistible.

If we vote for the amendment, we shall be voting for something with two great qualities. The first is simplicity, not incomprehension and enforcement; the second is in terms of being a general compromise, establishing a compromise for which almost all of us said we were voting on Second Reading; and in the options debate, including my noble friend Lady Jay.

The way to achieve a genuine compromise which will stick and which will presumably be acceptable to the great majority of noble Lords is to clarify the position and vote for the six hours. Let us not be confused by six hours out of eight, but vote for the six hours proposed under the amendment. I commend it to the Committee.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

Like many other people, I feel that Sunday is a day on which above all priority should be given to the things of the Lord. This priority will be damaged by the Bill as it stands, but the amendment would reduce the damage and allow people to worship corporately at ten o'clock or half-past ten, before the shops are open. I therefore support the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

I do not know whether I shall be able to help the Committee, but I shall do my best. As Members of the Committee know, the Government have no view on this and it will be a matter for the Committee to decide. One never ceases to learn things. I was fascinated by my noble friend Lord Milverton who said that it was perfectly all right not to go to church on Sunday, provided that you had been on a few other Sundays beforehand, because you had built up a certain amount of spiritual fat and you could trade on that. I do not know whether the right reverend Prelates would agree, I rather fancy not. However, we shall leave that point.

It is important to remember that the Bill, which is based on the proposals of the Shopping Hours Reform Council, allows shops to choose the six hours during which they wish to open from an eight-hour period from 10 o'clock in the morning to six o'clock in the afternoon. Local authorities need to know where they are if they are to enforce the law properly.

The amendment of my noble friend Lord Brentford, which is also in the names of my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont and Lord Stoddart of Swindon, would fix those six hours between 12 noon and 6 p.m. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Onslow would allow large shops to open for the full eight hours between 10 o'clock and six o'clock. Those are the three options.

When the Shopping Hours Reform Council produced its thoughts, it found it was necessary to tread a fairly delicate path. It recognised the need to preserve Sunday as different in some way while designing a model which was flexible enough to meet the needs of shoppers—the point about which my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter was worried —and which at the same time ensured that no retailer was unfairly treated.

As a result, the Shopping Hours Reform Council created the six-hour option. That has now received the support of both another place and this House. The six-hour option recognises that for some retailers it is necessary to be an early bird: supermarkets which cater for those who seek ingredients for their Sunday lunch and do-it-yourself stores which like selling paint to those enthusiasts who seem to want to paint anything they can on a Sunday. For others, such as garden centres, in the spring and summer family browsing in the late afternoon is the ideal market to catch, while early opening in winter takes advantage of such daylight as there can be. So the principle is pretty flexible. It allows retailers to choose any six hours from the eight hours between 10 o'clock and six o'clock in the evening. But by restricting trading to six hours, the model will in some cases restrict shop opening to little more than half the shop's normal trading days. Therefore, the Shopping Hours Reform Council will argue that Sunday will remain different.

Many Members of the Committee may feel that this, what one might call, balancing act on the part of the Shopping Hours Reform Council comes with a considerable price tag attached to it. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said that the price of flexibility is additional bureaucracy for local authorities and for retailers in the need for retailers to give notice and for local authorities to keep registers and so on. However, I wonder how burdensome that is likely to be in practice. The first point to remember is that fewer than 10 per cent. of the shops will be obliged to take advantage of the notice provision if they wish to trade.

The amendment of my noble friend Lord Onslow agrees with that of my noble friends Lord Brentford and Lord Elton on the need to reduce bureaucracy. Of course we all want that. But my noble friend Lord Onslow believes that the way to do it is to extend the trading hours which are allowed on the model from six to eight. It is a fact that eight hours' trading is pretty close to normal trading or total deregulation. That concerns my noble friends Lord Brentford and Lady Young. Total deregulation was decisively rejected in both this House and another place.

5 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but I think that there has been a misunderstanding between us. He sent me a very polite note asking would I move my amendment. I took it to mean the one on deregulation alone rather than that on the hours business. The hours question has more or less been answered; namely, what is the authority for the eight over the six? Let that lie. The one that I hoped he would answer was: is there any necessity to make a licence for people to do something when, if they break the law, they only have to be prosecuted and one need not have the licensing authority? That is what I thought he wanted me to address. I am sorry if I had to interrupt my noble friend. I hope that he can possibly clarify both points.

Earl Ferrers

No, that is not the reason I invited my noble friend to address his amendment in this debate. It was because his amendment was grouped with the other amendments. As other Members were discussing their amendments, I thought that it might be convenient—and that my noble friend realised that it might be convenient —for the Committee to discuss all the amendments on hours together. Justification or not, it is in the Bill that there should be some form of regulation. As I said, that is the down side. There has to be some form of regulation in order to ensure that people obey the law.

Let me return to my track. Many Members of the Committee might sympathise with the arguments that there is especial reason for restricting Sunday trading by large shops predominantly to Sunday afternoon. The amendments of my noble friend Lord Brentford would achieve that. That would preserve the special nature of Sunday morning and might prevent Sunday trading from inhibiting attendance at church. That would have the support of many Members of the Committee. That option was put before another place. It was rejected precisely because many of those who wish to shop and trade on Sundays have compelling reasons for doing so on Sunday mornings, such as the reasons put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. If trading in general is restricted to Sunday afternoons, there is a much stronger case for excluding certain types of shop—those which depend on morning trade.

As with all the other amendments that we shall consider today, the Government do not invite those who would normally support this amendment to vote one way or another. The issues are plain enough; namely, whether the Bill creates the right balance in terms of trading hours, flexibility and so on, or whether it would be improved by fixing the hours of trading, reducing the trading period or shifting trading to afternoons. My noble friend Lady Young said that the amendment was a compromise. Good heavens above, it is a compromise. The whole of the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposal is a compromise from an enormously conflicting variety of views over which there was no compromise or agreement before. It is a compromise which has had the agreement of another place and of this Chamber when the Bill was first committed.

It is up to the Committee to decide what to do. I have a personal view, which I give as an individual and not as a member of the Government—my noble friend Lord Onslow keeps saying that the Government's view is this, that or the other but the Government have no view on this issue—because I feel that I am entitled to say what I would do in the same way as other Members have said what they will do. My personal view is that the Bill as it stands has got a difficult balance just about right. I shall not vote for any of the amendments. One can go on until the cows come home trying to find different arguments and different hours of opening or different hours during which shops can open. But in view of all the complexities of the subject, I feel that the Bill has got the balance about right. My own view is that I shall not vote for these amendments, but Members of the Committee can and will vote in whatever way they desire. That is the position from the Government's point of view.

Viscount Brentford

I am grateful to all those who have participated in this very high spirited debate on this small amendment. I should like to reject the charge of being a Trojan horse from my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to say that I am very flattered at having attributed to me the very witty remark made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham.

Viscount Brentford

I beg my noble friend's pardon and will substitute the name of my noble and learned friend. This amendment is not at all a fresh attempt to bring in the previous Keep Sunday Special option. In no way does it do that. We have accepted the view of Parliament that that is dead and buried. This is but a small movement along the lines of the amendment which has been accepted by this House and another place.

Perhaps I may assist the Committee with regard to local authorities and their views by quoting from a letter that I have in my hand. It is from a solicitor to one local authority, commenting on this amendment: As the Bill is drafted at the moment Local Authorities will have a duty to enforce its provisions. Consequently, if large shops were left to choose their "six-hour trading period", it would mean Local Authority officers would have to work from before 10.00 a.m. until after 6.00 p.m. to make sure that shops did not open before their chosen hour and close when they should have done. Thus will obviously put a great strain on … [them]. It would certainly make enforcement far easier and also less of a strain and drain on Council resources if large shops could open for a fixed six-hour period, e.g. twelve noon until 6.00 p.m.". I believe that that is the right way to move. However, I am not sure whether the Committee will agree.

5.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 73; Not-Contents, 132.

Division No. 1
Ardwick, L. Brentford, V. [Teller.]
Ashbourne, L. Broadbridge, L.
Avebury, L. Caldecote, V.
Aylestoné, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Chichester, Bp.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Clanwilliam, E.
Coleraine, L. Morris, L.
Congleton, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Coventry, Bp. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
David, B. Mutton of Lindisfarne, L.
Diamond, L. Nicol, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Ellenborough, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Elton, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Falkland, V. Plant of Highfield, L.
Forbes, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Gainford, L. Renton, L.
Gladwyn, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Rochester, L.
Hanworth, V. Romney, E.
Hayhoe, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Healey, L. Serota, B.
Holderness, L. Stedman, B.
Howell, L. [Teller.] Stewartby, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hunt, L. Strange, B.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Swinfen, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L
Kilbracken, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Killearn, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Listowel, E. Weatherill, L.
Lockwood, B. White, B.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.[Lord Chancellor] Wilberforce, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Marlesford, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
McCarthy, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
McNair, L. Young, B.
Aberdare, L. Gridley, L.
Acton, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Addison, V. Hacking, L.
Aldington, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone,
Alexander of Tunis, E. Halsbury, E.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Harding of Petherton, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Harlech, L.
Annaly, L. Harris of High Cross, L.
Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Haskel, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Hayter, L.
Astor, V. Hemphill, L.
Attlee, E. Henley, L.
Birdwood, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Birkett, L. HolmPatrick, L.
Bledisloe, V. Hylton-Foster, B.
Blyth, L. Inchyra, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Jay of Paddington, B.[Teller.]
Brabazon of Tara, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Bridgeman, V. Kenyon, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lawrence, L.
Butterworth, L. Layton, L.
Byron, L. Liverpool, E.
Cadman, L. Long, V.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Carnock, L. Lyell, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Clark of Kempston, L. Macleod of Borve. B.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Malmesbury, E.
Courtown, E. Manchester, D.
Craigavon, V. Marsh, L.
Cranborne, V. Masham of Ilton, B.
Crickhowell, L. Merrivale, L.
Cross, V. Milverton, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Montgomery of Aliamein, V.
Davidson, V. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Denham, L. Mountevans, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Moyne, L.
Downshire, M. Mulley, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Munster, E.
Erne, E. Nelson, E.
Ferrers, E. Norfolk, D.
Flather, B. Norrie, L.
Gallacher, L. O'Cathain, B.[Teller.]
Geddes, L. Onslow, E.
Gisborough, L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Goschen, V. Palmer, L.
Peel, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Pender, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Sudeley, L.
Pym, L. Suffield, L.
Rankeillour, L. Swinton, E.
Renwick, L. Teviot, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Tollernache, L.
Seccombe, B. Torrington, V.
Selborne, E. Trumpington, B.
Shannon, E. Turner of Camden, B.
Sharples, B. Ullswater, V.
Shaughnessy, L. Vivian, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L. Wakeham, L.[Lord Privy Seal.]
Skelmersdale, L. Westbury, L.
Skidelsky, L. Wharton, B.
Strabolgi, L. Whitelaw, V.
Strathcarron, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Strathclyde, L.

[* The Tellers for the Not-Contents reported 132 names. The Clerks recorded 131 names.]

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.16 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 5: Page 4, line 42, leave out ("Easter Day or").

The noble Earl said: I rise to move Amendment No. 5 because following upon it there are four amendments to widen the scope of those who wish to shop on Sunday. The amendment is basically asking why one cannot buy a frock in a large shop on Easter Day. If we accept the consequential amendments—and I hope we will—the shops will still have to shut at Easter and I can see no logic to that except that we want to boss people about. Parliament should not allow people to be bossed about by others.

My noble friend Lord Norrie tabled the same amendment separately, though my point is slightly different from his. He is not pressing his point. I am pressing just that small point. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

I think somebody ought to say something from the Back Benches. Easter is the great, the central, the triumphant day of celebration of all Churches of the Christian faith. I believe that in theology it transcends Christmas Day in importance. If we believe in keeping Sunday special, this is the Sunday above all Sundays to keep special. I hope that my noble friend's amendment will be defeated.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I was hoping to hear from one of the right reverend Prelates. I should have thought that this matter greatly concerned them and I should like to hear their views.

The Lord Bishop of Coventry

I rise reluctantly but I must resist the notion that any attempt to regulate, in tune with the Christian tradition of this country, amounts to bossing people about or interference. We must respect the fact that this society is rooted in a deep Christian tradition, one which I trust is open to an affirming of all faiths and of none, but which also preserves certain regulations.

I cannot think of any one of my friends of other faiths in Coventry who would not resist the proposal. To have some days which are still respected and revered, and seen as celebratory spiritual days, is something that many people value. A Hindu friend commented to me the other day on how much he liked to hear an Easter hymn sung on Easter morning in the News and hoped that the BBC would not depart from that practice.

The sense of reassurance and joy that one feels in some parts of the Christian framework and tradition being preserved is very strong. For that reason I do not believe that the keep Sunday special proposals or arguments have all failed, as has been suggested. I believe that the basic thrust behind them of keeping a special day has been preserved in the compromise legislation which we have already accepted. We have preserved something of the special nature of Sunday even if it is much less than I would have wanted. I would plead much more strongly that we should take Easter Day seriously and keep that special quality about it which has made it central to our society, our traditions and to our community over the centuries.

Baroness Trumpington

I do not wish to be hasty or to prevent anyone else from speaking on this matter. Under paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 1, a large shop may not open on Sunday when that Sunday is Easter Sunday or Christmas Day, unless the shop falls within the exemptions listed in paragraph 3 to the schedule. The amendment in the names of my noble friends would delete that reference to Easter Sunday, but leave intact the reference to Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday. So large shops would be allowed to trade on Easter Sunday to the same extent as the Bill allows them to trade on any other Sunday in the year.

I should point out that the provision which this amendment seeks to amend was introduced into the Bill by a sizeable majority on a free vote in the other place. The Government have remained neutral on the options for reform of the law on Sunday trading and have not invited the Committee to take sides for or against amendments to the option for reform in Schedule 1.

The Committee may also wish to consider whether the popularity of shopping on Sunday, including Easter Sunday, pointed to by my honourable friends, should outweigh the importance of Easter Sunday within the Christian calendar which found such forceful expression in the other place. The House will need to consider whether it is appropriate for Parliament to make special provision for festival days of the Christian calendar, but not those of other religions. But these are matters for the Committee.

The Earl of Onslow

That is a very novel doctrine for the Church of England. I cannot think that in any of the 39 Articles it is stated that it is perfectly Christian for a small shop to open at Easter but not for a large shop. It is a novel doctrine which is not found in the Councils of Nicaea or Chalcedon. It is unnecessary to take this amendment to a Division. One could go on pointing out some of the inconsistencies in the present legislation as proposed. It is not going to advance anything to call a Division on this point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 6: Page 4, line 46, at end insert: ("( ) Any shop where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of, either—

  1. (i) motor supplies or accessories; or
  2. (ii) cycle supplies or accessories; or both").

The noble Lord said: I believe that this is a technical amendment which seeks to restore to the Bill before us the right contained in existing legislation permitting the unrestricted sale of motor and cycle supplies and accessories which shops selling these products have been allowed lawfully to do since the Shops Act 1936 and also the 1950 Act, and possibly even earlier than that.

The Bill before us would limit shops over 280 square metres to six hours consecutive trading on a Sunday and so does not continue the existing right to unrestricted opening for motor or cycle supplies or accessories", although it does continue to exempt other examples for travellers, such as railway shops, service area shops and petrol filling stations.

Since 1950 car ownership has risen ten-fold and the variety of spares and their complexity have also greatly increased. To satisfy that demand the motor supply industry has developed a comprehensive retail structure within the legal framework of the 1950 Act. To change the law now could prejudice the viability of that investment and indeed the employment of the staff. My interest in this is as a member of the public policy committee of the Royal Automobile Club, although of course I have no financial interest in this.

The RAC, the AA, the Retail Motor Industry Federation and the Consumers' Association feel that the constraint in the Bill before us regarding the sale of motoring spares would introduce an unnecessary and burdensome restriction and could also have potentially dangerous effects. Some 13 million motorists belong to the motoring organisations and the RAC and AA will always rescue and recover members stranded on the roads on Sundays. Indeed, Sundays are one of their busiest days with almost a million call-outs annually on that day. Although their patrols are well equipped, there are many instances which require the purchase of the correct spare part at a reputable motoring shop.

In addition there are over 10 million motorists who are not covered by the rescue organisations who also need access on Sundays to these shops to repair broken down vehicles or those which need maintenance. It goes without saying that a car does not break down to order and it cannot be guaranteed to do so within the six hours in the Bill. Cars are of course more reliable than they were, but they are also more complicated. For example, I am told that there are now some 93 different types of oil filter and 231 air filters. It is against that background that the size and number of specialist accessory shops have lawfully developed.

If the Bill goes through unamended all the large motor and cycle accessory shops which have grown up quite legally over the years will be restricted to the detriment of their many customers who shop early or late. It is estimated that about 25 per cent. of business is now done legally in hours that would be restricted in the Bill as it now stands. It would be odd if a Bill intended to liberalise the Sunday trading laws actually restricted one category of merchandise which has been allowed to be sold legally and without controversy since at least 1936. It is also interesting to note that the keep Sunday special amendment which was defeated at a previous stage of this Bill, did permit this activity to continue. So I hope supporters of that amendment then will feel able to continue to support this amendment now. As I have said, this is a simple amendment. All it does is to try to keep the law to the benefit of motorists as it stands and as it has stood since 1936. I beg to move.

Lord Allen of Abbeydale

I wish to say a few words in support of this amendment. As one would expect, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has covered the ground very thoroughly and I need say very little. As the noble Lord explained, under the present law motor and cycle shops have long been permitted to open without restrictions. It seems very strange, as he said, that when there are so many more cars and they have become so much more complicated, and also in the interests of road safety when it is increasingly important that they should be kept in good shape, the Bill which is aimed at rationalising the law, should, for the first time, limit the opening of those shops which carry the widest. range of spares and accessories.

I have no personal interest. Once upon a time I could change a wheel or change the sparking plugs. But now the factory tightens the wheel nuts so much that I cannot cope with them and when I peer into the recesses of the engine in my motorcar it does not seem to have any plugs at all. I am well aware that there are large numbers of private motorists who are responsible for their own repairs and maintenance and who carry out that work on Sundays. In the interests of road safety alone there is a very powerful case for this amendment which does not break any new ground and which does no more than maintain the present position. Owing to the somewhat unusual pattern of procedure which had to be followed in another place, there has not been any such detailed discussion there and this amendment was not discussed. I hope that the Committee will be prepared to approve it today.

5.30 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

I support the amendment because, as the Committee probably realises, I am by nature a liberaliser. However, while supporting the amendment, I draw attention to another little irony that will result from our making it legal for motor supply and accessory shops to trade on a Sunday. It will then be perfectly legal for that shop to sell a pair of dungarees. However, if the amendment is accepted, as I hope that it will be, it will not be legal for a shop which sells frocks to sell dungarees. I am sure that this is the sort of legislation that we love to pass, but that will be its effect. However, I support the amendment.

Lord Elton

With respect, my noble friend is slightly wrong because 51 per cent. of the shop will be able to sell dungarees but, as the amendment is drafted, 49 per cent. will be able to sell frocks or anything else. The amendment states: consists wholly or mainly in the sale of". The words "or mainly" cause me great concern.

I have two reflections to make on the amendment. First, it is a great pity that those who tabled and spoke in favour of it did not take the opportunity to achieve what they wanted when it was offered by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign's compromise. However, that is history, and water under the bridge. Secondly, if the amendment is accepted as drafted, we are left with another Trojan horse because "wholly or mainly" is a term which is justiciable but which cannot be or is not defined in statute. It means that there will be an opportunity for large operators to open a motor accessory shop and to add other activities up to 50 per cent. or possibly beyond. That will introduce exactly the competition against which the rest of the legislation is designed to protect small shops. I hope that the Committee will bear that in mind. I look forward to hearing other views.

Lord McCarthy

This amendment is the first of a series and, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, I do not think that we can take it out of the series. It is the first of a series of amendments which, in the Shopping Hours Reform Council option, make use of the exceptions clauses which enable the removal of restrictions from large shops in a number of specified areas. The first problem is that the kind of shops now specified in the schedule do not make sense. They include shops selling intoxicating liquor, pharmacies, airport shops, railway shops and filling stations. Anyone could say, "Why can we not include another type of shop?" People could ask in particular, "Why should we not include a type of shop that was included before we started with this legislation?" Therefore, the Committee has to decide for itself—think that this has been put forward elsewhere—the criteria that lay behind the provisions about intoxicating liquor, pharmacies, airport shops, railway shops and so on. What were the legislators thinking of when they listed such things?

It seems to me that one can argue that there should be exceptions of that kind if three cumulative characteristics exist. First, if all the shops concerned are big shops—there will not be any small shops operating outside the restricted hours because there are none—and if all shops selling motor supplies or accessories or cycle supplies or accessories were larger than tennis courts, there would be a case. However, that is nonsense. It is not the case. Secondly, one might argue that one would be in a state if there was only one shop in an area, if it was a big shop and if it happened to be closed.

The third criterion fits and is a question of whether we think it so important that it overrides the other two. I refer to the question of whether the shop sells necessary things. I do not see how one can say that intoxicating liquor is necessary. Indeed, those to whom it is necessary probably should not have it. However, one might say of pharmacies and airport shops that there is nowhere else that one can go. That is the only real argument.

There are other shops that sell such things. They exist and for the most part they are not the size of tennis courts. The only thing that one can say is that the shops referred to in the amendment are necessary if one breaks down and needs the parts. However, I do not think that that is convincing.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

I hope that my noble friend Lord Ferrers, the acting Leader of the House, will be able to confirm the doubts that have been raised about the drafting of the amendment. Its purpose is obviously right. If, as we have been told, it is the case that such activities have been free of restriction on Sundays for many years, it would be most unfortunate if this Bill, which, whatever its shortcomings, is intended to give some liberation to trading activities on Sundays, should have the side-effect of putting out of legality activities that have been lawful for many years. I hope that if, as has been suggested, the drafting of the amendment is not perfect, and my noble friend will no doubt tell us that, he will then be able to tell us that the Government accept that it would be wrong if the Bill were to impose a restriction where one did not previously exist.

Obviously, motoring accessories need to be accessible over as long a period as possible. One's car can break down; one can have a puncture and encounter other sorts of trouble. One cannot foresee whether that will take place within the normal, limited shopping hours. Therefore, both because, as I understand it, the freedom to deal in these matters has been accepted for many years and because of the common sense of it, I hope that my noble friend will either accept the amendment or explain what is technically wrong with it and undertake to put it right.

Lord Crickhowell

I am strengthened in supporting the amendment by the memory that on Easter Day the rector of the church of which I am churchwarden arrived considerably late for the Easter service because his car had broken down on the way. Luckily, our admirable curate was able to conduct the service adequately until he arrived. Clearly, it is in everyone's interest that it should be possible to repair cars on a Sunday if they break down then.

I declare what I suppose is an interest in that I am a member of the committee of the AA. For once, the AA and the RAC are wholly in accord on this matter. I should add that when they first considered the provisions, many people in the AA were not particularly concerned, but the more that they looked at it, the more they discovered that it was crucially important that such shops should be open on a Sunday. It is important, not least for our own patrols which often have to visit such shops to get spare parts which would not otherwise be readily available to them on a Sunday. That is the practical reality of the matter.

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, sought to include other amendments and to broaden his argument. I am comforted by the fact that Amendment No. 6 is not grouped with any other amendment and I am not therefore considering arguments about drink or other matters. I am looking at the particular argument of whether we should maintain the law as it exists at present and provide a service that can be obtained perfectly legally at present. In those circumstances, and bearing in mind that we are defending the existing legal position, I think it a bit hard of my noble friend Lord Elton to describe this as a "Trojan horse" argument or even to suggest that we should have supported the much wider proposition that he advocated at an earlier stage simply because within that wider argument, which the House dismissed, he had included this one piece of merit. That is rather less strong than the arguments that my noble friend normally advances in your Lordships' House. I think he can do better than that.

This is really a simple matter. In a Bill which relaxes the existing regulations, we are seeking to ensure that we do not inadvertently tighten them again and remove a valuable service that has been perfectly legal for many years.

Lord Elton

Perhaps I may reply briefly to my noble friend, because, quite sensibly as any good general would, he attacked me on my weak flank. I grant that it was a weak flank and perhaps I should not have advanced it at all, but the main question I asked related to the words "wholly or mainly". I hope that my noble friend Lord Brabazon will address himself to them because they colour my attitude to his amendment. If they were not there, I should not be on my feet. I should be content.

Lord Skelmersdale

Perhaps I may follow that point on "wholly or mainly", because those words are already in the Bill under the definition of "shop" and in the exemptions clause. So if anyone has to defend the words "wholly or mainly", it is my noble friend on the Front Bench.

Lord Elton

I do not accept that at all, because this is a different type. Here is a plea that a tight specification of goods should be available. I should be happy with that. The fact that in other areas the definition is looser and justiciable is beside the point. I am all too pleased that people who break down in distress, whether they be clergy, curates, churchwardens or even me, should be able to be rescued by means of the shops that my noble friend wishes to remain open. But I should not like there to be included in that a carte blanche for large amounts of other goods to be brought in. Therefore I think that this is of a different order and I hope that my noble friend will perhaps come back at the next stage without those words.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

The irony of this situation is that the criticisms of the present Sunday trading legislation have been based on the argument that it was full of anomalies, and that it was complex and ambivalent. What do we have now? We have a relatively simple Bill, although it is not without some complexities, as I said earlier. It is a relatively simple approach. We now see attempts to re-introduce exceptions of many sorts. I find that not without irony.

I shall repeat this argument on subsequent amendments; but the amendments are the result of vested interests, log rolling, masquerading as intellectually respectable reasons for varying, doing something extra, modifying, or adding, so that we shall be back in a complicated mess, and there will be yet a further move—I prophesy that there will be a further move—to sweep the whole thing away and have total deregulation. These are paving amendments towards total deregulation. I hope that they will all be rejected.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My noble friend may be surprised to hear me agree with him; but it is because of the arguments he put forward in his concluding sentences that I want to put on the record the fact that the Shopping Hours Reform Council does not support the amendments because it feels that the Bill, as it stands, has been a difficult compromise to achieve. For the reasons that I mentioned on a previous amendment, a balance has been struck among an enormous number of complicated interests. It is for that reason that the Shopping Hours Reform Council is not supporting or promoting the amendments, and I shall not vote on them.

The Viscount of Falkland

As my name is down to the amendment perhaps I may say that I support it wholeheartedly, although I am, in general, a supporter of keeping Sunday special. As other peers have said, those who use motor cars—whether we like it or not more and more people use motor cars—use them to a great extent at weekends, especially on Sundays. The motoring organisations are called out mostly on Sunday afternoons to deal with breakdowns.

A complexity of parts is required to keep vehicles on the road. That extends to the number of bulbs, quite apart from the number of filters mentioned by another noble Lord. Cars break down. The advertisement of one of the motoring organisations shows a much relieved lady looking through her rain-spattered window at the happy arrival of a repair man. I can imagine how her face might look if the advertisement were continued with him telling her that there was no possibility of obtaining that spare on that Sunday to get her moving again. That is what the likelihood would be.

There is another possibility. Those who find that their cars do not start at a time when they cannot go to larger shops may be tempted to borrow someone else's vehicle, and, as it were, chase around and search for a considerable amount of time, causing added congestion and problems. They might even go onto motorways. On the M.4 one can go on the motorway at one entrance and come off at an adjacent exit. That causes additional problems and the risk of accidents, because people who are searching busily and who are frustrated when driving are more likely to have accidents.

Whether one is a supporter of a special Sunday, or whether one is having a special Sunday, one is likely to be using a motor car on a Sunday. If one cannot get the right part quickly, it would, in practical terms, cause a great deal of frustration and congestion, and risk of additional accidents. Generally, it is only the bigger stores that give the full range of services for modern motor cars. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, is sitting on the edge of his seat to tell us about the position for motor cycles, which is similar but even more difficult.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

I support the amendment. We have heard all about motor cars, about which I agree. I see that the amendment deals also with cycles. More and more people are cycling over the weekend. There are masses of mountain bicycles, although some people do not approve of them. It must be a good thing to have accessories available for cycles as well as motor cars.

Lord Strathcarron

I support the amendment on behalf of motor cyclists who, by tradition, service their motor bikes at the weekend. I should like to remind the Committee that motor cyclists have met the safety targets set by the Government some 10 years in advance, and it would be a great pity if that happy state of affairs were jeopardised because motor cyclists could not obtain on a Sunday the spare parts that they need.

Viscount Brentford

I cannot accept the amendment as it is drawn because of the words "wholly or mainly". I am happy to support the principle behind the amendment, but I should like to ask my noble friend to consider withdrawing the amendment on the basis that the Committee approves it in principle, and to bring it back at the next stage without the words "wholly or mainly". Then I should be happy to vote for it wholeheartedly.

Lord Hacking

Perhaps I may give some comfort to noble Lords who have been worried about the expression "wholly or mainly", and a little assistance to my noble friend the Minister. I am a lawyer, although not a member of the Judicial Committee of this place. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said, and perhaps it is better that I did not hear. I have been unable fully to research the definition of "wholly or mainly". It was placed in the Bill, in this amendment and my other amendments because it was the formula chosen by the parliamentary draftsman.

The assistance I can provide is that the words "wholly or mainly" have been considered in revenue law where it means 90 per cent. I would ask my noble friends who are concerned about this matter to have some confidence in the good sense of the courts. As it happens, the burden of proof, under Section 101 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, rests with the person who is seeking the exemption. The burden starts with the person who is advancing the case. Secondly, in 1987 the courts have considered the provisions of the Shops Act, and they have not been prepared to come to a silly conclusion on the words. I shall go into that point in more detail on the next amendment. They have not stretched the meaning of the words in the Shops Act beyond their ordinary meaning. They have come down firmly in favour of construing the Shops Act legislation, unpopular though it may be, by the words that are used in the statute.

I hope that my words will provide some comfort to my noble friends who have expressed anxiety and that they will be of assistance to my noble friend on the Front Bench.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

When the previous Bill was before the House and in Committee, many of us argued consistently in favour of total deregulation. We did so for two main reasons. The first was that there was no reason why people who wished to shop at hours convenient to themselves and why the shopkeepers who wished to serve their needs should not be allowed to do so. The second reason was that the 1950 Act was so strange and produced such extraordinary results—with which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, had fun on many occasions—that it invited breach of the law. As the Gowers Committee stated more than 50 years ago, the law was being brought into contempt. Fifty years later the Auld Committee stated that it was being brought into disrepute. In addition to the extraordinary nature of the schedule, one of the main reasons was that many shops stocked goods which could be lawfully sold on a Sunday and goods which could not and that was an invitation to breach of the law, which was widely accepted.

That brings us immediately to the difficulty of this amendment; it is the words "or mainly". The revenue law has nothing to do with it. The words "or mainly" in this context presuppose that the shop in question is selling goods other than those to be sold to motorists. In other words, it is the same invitation to breach the law that we had previously.

On the other hand, powerful arguments have been put forward in favour of the amendment and they must be weighed one against the other. If the matter rested there, I would vote in favour of the amendment. However, it does not, because we have had the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. Those of us who wanted total deregulation have accepted a partial deregulation based on a compromise. It was evidently part of the compromise, either explicit or implicit, that the provision now in the Bill should be part of the compact. That being so, those of us who accepted the compromise are bound in honour not to support the amendment.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

I came to the debate in a fairly ambivalent frame of mind. Members of the-Committee who have spoken against the amendment have persuaded me that I should support it. Many of the arguments have been about important principles; for example, that these items should be available. I was one of those who voted for partial deregulation but who would have preferred to have voted for total deregulation because of the element of protection for small shops. I do not believe that small shops would in any way be threatened by maintaining the law relating to those who are supplying motor accessories.

Without going down the road about the nature of such accessories, I humbly put forward the idea that motor accessory shops are as much hobby shops. I am sure that Members of the Committee will be aware of many people who spend Sundays tinkering about with their cars, adding go-faster stripes, mirrors and signs on the back. That is a Sunday occupation in the same way as that related to garden centres.

Therefore, I support the amendment. Above all else, the principle of not regulating something that is not at present regulated is most important. I urge the Committee to support the amendment.

Viscount Caldecote

In the Bill as drafted, filling stations are exempted from any restrictions. Would not a way out of our difficulties be to amend the Bill so that filling stations could sell any kind of motor accessory at any time? Many filling stations are open on Sundays arid will continue to be. That could solve the problem.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I wish to make two comments in almost two sentences. First, I hope that the Committee will not feel bound by the terms of anything which the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, may have decided by way of compromise through her admirable organisation. We must make up our own minds on the merits of the amendment—

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble and learned Lord. I was reflecting my personal position in this respect and the comments made by my noble friend Lord Murray. He suggested that following the Trojan horse analogy, which the noble and learned Lord introduced in a previous amendment, this was another Trojan horse and I was rejecting that.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I do not think that this is a Trojan horse, but I fully accept what the noble Baroness said about her personal position.

My second point is that I am not at all worried by the words "or mainly". In this country the courts are judges of fact as well as of law. The magistrates, who deal with 97 per cent. of crime, the civil judges, who deal with the rest and with civil business too, and the juries (when they are called upon to decide) have enough common sense to apply the words "or mainly" in the ordinary dictionary sense as matters of fact and degree.

Viscount Bledisloe

I cannot understand how something can be a Trojan horse if it has existed for 50 years. Surely a Trojan horse is trying to smuggle in something new under a disguise. Secondly, I am amazed and wholly unconvinced by the argument of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon. I doubt that the Shopping Hours Reform Council consciously bartered away the existing right of motor traders of any size to sell goods on Sundays in return for something else. It is extraordinary to suggest that because some organisation bartered away a right, we should be bound or influenced by a compromise which barters away an existing right and removes someone's legitimate trade.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I was glad to hear my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham declare that he was not at all worried about the term "or mainly". The motor spares shop, with which the amendment is concerned, is a highly sophisticated business. It is unlikely—indeed, it is absolutely inconceivable—that an organisation which specialises to such an extent will move into areas that are so far away from its natural product.

I must point out to my noble friend Lord Caldecote that the average shop at the average filling station is quite small. It could not contain an inventory required by the AA, the RAC or other rescue organisations. Those organisations could not carry out their functions without an extremely large inventory because of the sophistication and non-exchangeablity of parts, of which air filters and oil filters were an example. They are simple examples, but there are others: steering parts, brake parts and electrical parts. We should recognise that the majority of breakdowns are electrical, cooling, mechanical faults or tyres. Therefore, one must appreciate the range of parts which must be carried. They can be carried only by a specialist shop. Such a shop would certainly be over the small shop size and would be very unlikely, in my experience of 30 odd years in the business, to be selling items which are far removed from motor parts.

6 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I add my support to this amendment. I rely on wheels not only in my car but in my wheelchair. If I do not have wheels, I do not have movement. Sometimes, even as the law stands at present, it is extremely difficult to get repairs done, not only on a Sunday but also on other weekdays. Any limitation would restrict some people's mobility even more than it is at present. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will look into this matter and I hope that he cart help the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon and his supporters.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that it is inconceivable that specialist shops should start selling other lines. Of course it is as they are presently organised, as the law presently stands and as it is totally disregarded, at present, in relation to Sunday trading.

If a situation arises in which there is real financial advantage to be gained by setting up a small shop which can evade the rules imposed by the Bill, then chains of shops dealing with motor accessories, and so on, may decide to allow in small boutiques of one kind or another. When I say "boutiques" I do not mean only clothes, but small shops of that kind. That will create a very real problem.

It seems to me that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, does not meet the point that I make. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will listen to me because he may well be able to help me on this matter. He says that the courts will interpret fairly and with common sense what "wholly or mainly" means. Of course they will do that. However, let us take the example of a shop selling 60 per cent. motor accessories and 40 per cent. clothes, although that may seem odd at the moment. Surely the courts would then decide that that shop was selling wholly or mainly motor accessories and that, therefore, it would legally be able to sell the other items.

I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brabazon, is able to either meet that point or consider it further. This amendment opens a very large door and no one has yet answered the problems that may be created by so doing, at least not in a way that I can accept.

Lord McCarthy

I ask the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon to take on board the fact that, if one looks at the schedule, there is no need to use the words "wholly or mainly". The words "wholly or mainly" are to be found in paragraph 3(1) (a) which states: any shop where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of intoxicating liquor". But, paragraph 3(1) (b) states: any shop which is a registered pharmacy and … is not open for the retail sale of any goods other than". Therefore, that uses the words "any goods other than" and not the words "wholly or mainly". Therefore, at present the schedule has exceptions to the "wholly or mainly" provisions and the noble Lord could make use of them.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I wish to say a few words in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said about specialist shops. I agree with him. At the moment they are specialist. At one time we used to think that when we went into a garage or a petrol station we would buy petrol and perhaps some car accessories. Now when we go into a petrol station we find that petrol is almost a sideline. There are all sorts of items. The petrol station which I use sells sweets, chocolates, pop—I still call it pop but I think they call it Coca Cola these days—sandwiches and papers. You name it, they sell it.

The result is—and this is the tragedy—that the shops opposite which used also to sell those items are now on the verge of bankruptcy. That is the thin end of the wedge argument which worries me. After all, nothing can be more specialist than selling petrol. It may be that after a few years people will get the idea that they can make a lot more money by selling many more items other than those items for which they were originally established to sell. That is what worries me about the amendment. That is what worries me about the argument—which was very good and perfectly reasonable—raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps the Committee will permit me to make a few general points because I believe that we are going to spend a certain amount of time discussing whether or not to extend the very few exceptions as regards large shops opening beyond the six hours. Whatever I say, I remind the Committee that it does not constitute a recommendation about the way in which Members of the Committee should vote or the way in which decisions should be taken. Just as the Government were neutral on the available options, so they are neutral in relation to the amendments to the options which were chosen by your Lordships.

It is entirely for the Committee to weigh up the merits of each amendment. I shall merely attempt, if I can, to be as helpful as possible by putting some of the issues as impartially as possible.

Your Lordships have chosen the option of partial deregulation and we now set out to provide legislation which is simple to understand. It depends on one main criterion: whether the size of the shop is above or below 280 square metres. Shops which are smaller than 280 square metres will be able to open at any time. Shops which are larger than that will, for the most part, be restricted to six hours trading. That is fairly simple and understandable.

But, as Members of the Committee have discerned, the Bill as it stands makes exceptions from those restrictions for some types of large shops. They were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, who referred to shops in railway stations, registered pharmacies which are open for the retail sale of pharmaceutical items only, shops at airports and so on. It is now the duty of the Committee to decide whether we consider that those few types of exempt shops should be added to or whether we believe that even though there may be strong arguments in favour of extending the list, those arguments are not so strong as would justify making the law more complicated.

We do not need to fall into the trap of feeling that we must accept or reject all of the proposed exceptions. Each one must be decided on its merits. Members of the Committee may decide that all the proposed exceptions should be included in the Bill, or that it would be better for, perhaps, one or two additional types of shop to be treated as special cases. That is a matter for the Committee. When I am invited, as I was by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, to comment on whether the Government would like to consider the matter, I can only say it is for the sponsors of the amendment to consider any observations made by the Committee.

I have a very personal word to add. As it has taken so much of what one might describe as blood, sweat and tears to reach a position where both places have agreed on the shape that the reform should take, I feel that the more we tinker with it, the more we put at risk the uniformity which, at present, has been achieved. That is merely a personal view of caution as opposed to any form of dictatorial observation.

I turn now to the specific question of motor supply shops. I believe that Members of the Committee would all agree that the approach of the schedule in the Sunday Trading Bill is very different from that which was taken in the 1950 Shops Act. Noble Lords may, therefore, wish to question whether the fact that exclusions are contained in the 1950 Act for the sale of motor supplies is still a relevant consideration to apply in relation to the Bill. But, as my noble friend Lord Brabazon said, shops have been able to sell motor supplies on a Sunday since 1936 and they have made investment decisions based on that freedom to trade. But, on the other hand, under the option in the Bill, motorists need not fear being stranded for want of a spare part. There is already a general exemption in the Bill for any petrol filling station or for any shop at a service area within the meaning of the Highways Act 1980. Moreover, small shops (those which are under 280 square metres) can sell spare parts for cars and trade at any time of the day.

My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter took exception to the fact that he was erroneously accused of using the phrase "a Trojan horse". In response, I can only say that he erroneously accused me of being the "acting Leader" of your Lordships' House. I am not. My noble friend the Leader of the House is sitting here in the Chamber and I am not the acting Leader. I believe that my noble friend meant to say that I was the Deputy Leader of the House. I am sure that he, too, makes a mistake periodically. I would not wish to usurp my modest position of being Deputy Leader by considering myself as an acting Leader, because I am not.

Having put that problem to one side, the real point of my referring to my noble friend is his concern about the drafting of the amendment. I shall repeat what I said earlier. The drafting is a matter for the sponsors of the amendment. It is true that motor supplies and accessories can already be sold on a Sunday. But the amendment is not restricted to the sale of such items; shops have to sell mainly those items. It may appear to some noble Lords that, as the Bill stands, it will not restrict large cycle and motor supply shops in a way which is unacceptable. In fact, it will allow such shops to sell legitimately their whole product range for six hours on a Sunday. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible that Members of the Committee may feel that that is not long enough and that motor supply shops are, indeed, a special case. It is a matter for the Committee.

Lord Airedale

I have one point to put to the noble Earl. When the court has to interpret the words "or mainly", is it to consider quantity or value? For example, if a shop sells 100 sparking plugs for £100 and 50 pots of geraniums for £150, how does that affect the court's decision on the question of "or mainly"?

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

What a silly question!

Earl Ferrers

My noble and learned friend finds that a silly question. However, another of my noble friends says that it is a sensible one. The answer that I am bound to give to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is that that will be a matter for the courts to decide.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate on what is really the first amendment to deal with exemptions. The issue boils down to two things, one of which I might describe in the words of my noble friend Lord Elton—and, indeed, it is becoming something of a catch-phrase—as a Trojan horse. I must point out to my noble friend Lord Elton that if this is a Trojan horse, it is one that bolted in 1936. Such shops have been permitted to trade in those goods since then.

I have a further point to make especially to the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Epping Forest, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. Although I may not have grasped her words correctly, I believe that the noble Baroness started her speech by referring to "these amendments"; in other words, the amendments which deal with exemptions. I should like to make it clear that my amendment is different from the others. It seeks to preserve something which is already a legal activity and has been for many years. It has already been said that accommodation has been made in the Bill for people who have previously been breaking the law. The motor suppliers have not previously been breaking the law. That is a significant difference. I see that the noble Baroness wishes to respond. I give way.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

I am much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. Of course, I understand the difference between the amendment now under discussion and the ones that succeed it. In my opening remarks I was referring to the way in which my noble friend Lord Murray approached the group of amendments. He sees them as a collective Trojan horse. I hope that that is the last time that the phrase is used this evening.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I fear that the noble Baroness may be unlucky in that respect. However, I shall not use it again. I must point out to the noble Lords, Lord Murray and Lord Stoddart, that this is a different amendment. It deals with an activity which has taken place perfectly legally for many years.

I turn now to a comment made by my noble friend Lord Ferrers in his closing remarks. It is an important point. Investment decisions have been made by such shops over the years to build shops of more than 280 square metres. They have done so in the knowledge that they can trade perfectly legally for seven days a week. If they are now to be restricted to trading for only six hours, that will have implications for the staff—who, presumably, at present want to work for the length of time that the shop is open—and will also have an impact on the shops themselves. Of course, we have already covered the point about customers. To that extent, it would be retrospective legislation: it would Le putting the clock back to force such shops, which are trading perfectly legally, to close for two or three hours on a Sunday when they have previously been open.

There is another point that has caused a great deal of heat and, perhaps, not given quite as much light. I refer to the definition of the words "wholly or mainly". I believe that my noble friend Lord Hacking and my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham dealt perfectly adequately with any queries that Members of the Committee may have on that point. I believe that we should leave it to the good sense of the courts to decide—as, indeed, they have done for many years—on the meaning of those words.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

Does the noble Lord agree that it is not solely a question of whether the courts think that it is "mainly" or not? There are two questions involved. First, there is the question of law. If one of those shops is selling, say, toys (like petrol stations do at present) it is not sufficient to say, "You are going beyond selling motor goods to motorists", because the answer would be, "As a matter of law, the statute says that it is all right if we 'mainly' sell the motoring goods". It is then a question of fact for the jury or the magistrate to say whether or not that is so substantial an amount that it is, or is not, "mainly", As I said, there are two questions involved. The words "or mainly" raise a serious legal difficulty which I hope the noble Lord will consider.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I am not a lawyer and I certainly do not have the knowledge of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. However, I would point out that this is a phrase which is used in the Bill in the line above that where this amendment would be inserted which states, wholly or mainly of the sale of intoxicating liquor". If that is acceptable in the Bill, I do not see why it should not be acceptable in the amendment.

At the end of the day the matter may be one which the courts have to decide but I am sure that they have had experience of such issues. I do not believe, as regards the kind of shops I am discussing, that there has been any problem over the definition of these goods in the past 50 years. It is not something one hears about very often in any case, if ever.

I believe I have covered the points that were raised but perhaps I should refer briefly to the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who mentioned the possibility of motor accessories being available at filling stations or motorway service areas. I believe my noble friend Lord Lucas answered that point. There is no way that the average petrol station or motorway service area could possibly stock the enormous range of goods to which I referred in my opening remarks. That is why big suppliers are already in existence. I hope the Committee will support the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hacking moved Amendment No. 7: Page 4, line 46, at end insert: ("( ) any shop where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of—

  1. (a) trees, shrubs, plants or seeds;
  2. (b) garden furniture, supplies or equipment").

The noble Lord said: We now move on to garden centres and DIY stores. In moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 which also stand in my name. The Committee therefore has the choice of supporting the combined amendment that seeks exemption for both garden centres and DIY stores—that is Amendment No. 8—or one or both of the separate amendments; Amendment No. 7 relating to garden centres and Amendment No. 10 relating to DIY stores. All the amendments have been tabled on a cross-party basis and I greatly appreciate the support given by Members of the Committee on all sides of the Chamber. Unfortunately, I believe I have lost the physical presence of the noble Lord, Lord Healey, but I see that I still have good support from other Members of the Committee on the Opposition Benches.

The purpose of the amendments is to free garden centres and DIY stores from the regulatory structure of the Bill, particularly as regards the hours of opening, to enable them to continue to open and close at such times as they and their customers desire. The amendments are directed—I wish to emphasise this—to the enhancement of the Sunday pastimes of gardening and home improvement, whether the home improvement be painting, wallpapering or carpentry, and to the enhancement of family life. Indeed, many families enjoy touring garden centres and DIY stores where much more viewing takes place than buying.

The amendments are important to the industry. The Bill affects the majority of the 1,400 garden centres and 900 DIY stores in England and Wales. Most of these premises, because they have to stock and sell bulky goods, are over 280 square metres in size. The Bill also impacts on the 40 per cent. of sales, out of an annual turnover of more than £10 billion, which take place on Sundays at garden centres and DIY stores. The Bill is therefore likely to damage the profitability and levels of employment at those stores.

On the other side of the shop counter, the amendments are also important to the customers. Altogether 6 million people visit garden centres and DIY stores on Sundays in the peak season period, particularly around spring. Those customers want to continue to make use of the maximum daylight hours. They want to start their shopping before 10 a.m. and they want to be able to return for further supplies after 4 p.m.

It is important to set these amendments into the history of the shops' legislation. As the Committee knows, the 1936 legislation is the basis of the Shops Act 1950, which was a consolidating measure. The 1936 legislation was not anti-consumer. Indeed, it wanted to accommodate reasonably the needs of society at that time. The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava introduced the Second Reading of that legislation in 1936 in this Chamber. In referring to the exemptions contained in the fifth schedule to the Bill, as it then was, he said: You will see there is as complete a list as any man could desire of the things that any reasonable person might require at short notice on Sundays … It is deliberately designed so that no member of the public should be inconvenienced on Sundays". It was within that frame that this Chamber allowed, within the Shops Act 1950, nursery gardens to sell their own produce. Indeed, when I started gardening I remember visiting nursery gardens and being given a spade by the owner who told me to select the cherry tree or shrub that I wished to plant in my garden. At that stage garden products were predominantly sold from the soil in nursery gardens. That is specifically included in Section 58 of the Shops Act 1950. To take another example, it was, and is, permissible to sell flowers, including potted flowers or flowering shrubs, under Section 47 of the Shops Act 1950 and Schedule 5 to the same Act.

The trouble is that society has changed and, as the Committee knows, the shopping legislation has not responded to that change. There is now 80 per cent. more home ownership than in 1936 and therefore 80 per cent. more home owners who wish to plant out their gardens and decorate and equip their homes to their individual taste. It is not surprising therefore that from the 1960s garden centres and DIY stores started to open up and to increase their range of goods. Are we therefore going to say to those 6 million members of the public who visit DIY stores and garden centres on Sundays, "Sorry, we are going to cut back these facilities." "I am sorry but you cannot shop early in the morning and get on with your gardening." "I am sorry but you cannot return after 4 o'clock or 6 o'clock in the evening." "Parliament says so."?

We must be aware of the impact of our laws. The hours proposed in the Bill for DIY stores and garden centres were tested in stores in Northampton last month. The same hours as those proposed in the Bill were used. I must inform the Committee that the customers' reaction was extremely unfavourable. Having said that, those of us who have our names to these amendments are sensitive to the opinions held by members of the Retailers for Shops Act Reform group and also by the members of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign. We have been so sensitive that we have taken these exemptions from the option which they were urging upon us when we debated the options in this Chamber. I should add that we have somewhat simplified the exemptions but in essence they are exactly the same as the exemptions that were included in the option which was before the Chamber.

Genuine anxieties have been expressed by my noble friends Lady Young and Lord Elton. I must say in response that we are not attempting to do anything which will damage the "specialness" of Sunday. I can say precisely that we are restricting these exemptions to established Sunday and family fasting. Also, we have drafted our amendments carefully so that they cover only goods properly sold in garden centres for the garden and in DIY stores for home improvement. Under the terms of the amendment, it will not be permissible lawfully to sell groceries or washing powders in garden centres. Nor will it be permissible to sell fridges or soft furnishings in DIY stores.

At this time of night I shall not take your Lordships through the cases that were taken in the High Court in 1987. However, perhaps your Lordships will accept from me that in three consolidated cases concerning a number of parties the High Court of Justice strictly applied the terms of the Shops Act and was not prepared to extend the ordinary meaning of that Act, unpopular though it was. Therefore, if the amendments are accepted, your Lordships can have the comfort—as I hope is always the case—of the courts properly construing your Lorclships' intention.

The other comfort that I would give to your Lordships concerns the terms of Schedule 2 to the Bill. Schedule 2 lays down strict requirements on local authorities to enforce the provisions of the Bill and to appoint inspectors. Those inspectors are then given in the Bill extensive rights of entry into and search of shop premises.

Together with Section 101 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980, to which I referred earlier, this truly gives protection from what worries my noble friends who sit close to me, from a wedge, or the opening of the deregulation floodgates or the destruction of the sanctity of Sunday.

In conclusion, the amendments are not anti-Sunday or anti-family. They are not against achieving a proper balance in the Bill before your Lordships.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Elton

Before my noble friend sits down will he explain one point? It appears to me that the three amendments are largely alternatives. Am I correct in thinking that he does not propose to move all of them, but will move them seriatim?

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend replies to that very relevant question, perhaps I may point out to him that Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 overlap and could not possibly both be added to the Bill. It appears that Amendment No. 7 stands by itself and has a great deal of merit. I have doubts about my noble friend's other amendments.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, indeed, these are alternative amendments. I felt that, since different views may be held by your Lordships, it was sensible to have a choice of including either garden centres or DIY stores, or both.

Lord McCarthy

I should like to ask the noble Lord a number of questions. Is it not the case that Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 10 all use the phrase "wholly or mainly"? Therefore we would face the same potential problems if we voted for any of the amendments.

Has the noble Lord read the remarks of Mr. Stephen May of the John Lewis Partnership? If he has not, I should like to quote them. Mr. May says about the noble Lord's amendment that on the basis of "wholly or mainly": A large modem DIY store has anything up to 90,000 square feet of selling space. What is to stop a B&Q diverting 40% or more of its space to merchandise from its sister business Comet—and what would electrical competitors such as Currys say about that? By the same score it would be technically possible for a Sainsburys-owned Homebase to incorporate within its perimeter a food supermarket". Would that be possible under the amendrnent? If not, how can the noble Lord assure us of that?

Lord Gisborough

One reason for not having such shops open would be if they could compete with and drive out the corner shops. None of the items covered by the amendments appears to conflict with the interests of corner shops and the amendments would do no damage to corner shops. Therefore I should like to support the amendment.

Baroness Young

It was inevitable once we took our decision that there would be a number of amendments which were clearly designed to upset the decision which the House reached only on 29th March. We now have a series of amendments which would exempt various stores from keeping to the six-hour rule.

I accept that there is a difference in the case of Amendment No. 6, which was carried, simply on the grounds of road safety. That is a completely different issue from all the others that we have debated in. relation to whether shops open or close. Therefore, I can see the argument there. However, the arguments in favour of garden centres, DIY stores, bookshops and so on simply extend deregulation.

In the debate on Amendment No. 6 I regretted to hear my noble friend Lord Crickhowell—who I am sorry to say is not in his place—dismiss the point of my noble friend Lord Elton that, had anybody wanted these provisions, if they had voted for the KSS/RSAR option they would have been able to have them because under that proposal garden centres and DIY stores were excluded.

Furthermore, the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, has just mentioned the point which was raised by the John Lewis Partnership of the unfairness if such amendments were passed. A garden centre would be able to sell furniture all day long whereas another store would not be able to sell garden furniture for more than six hours. That is the kind of anomaly which would arise. It would be repeated in relation to DIY products and everything else. The difference between these amendments and the KSS/RSAR amendment is that we defined very closely what such shops could or could not sell. We were laughed at and were told that it was very complicated. However, that proposal was very carefully thought out on the basis that visiting garden centres could be described as a leisure activity. For many people it is.

Therefore, a long list of exemptions was put forward before the ink was dry on what we decided. Those who wanted garden centres to be open all day declined to support the option which would have allowed them to do so; those who support the opening of DIY stores declined the option which would have allowed them to do so. They now think that they can change the Bill further to upset the balance. I very much agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said in relation to Amendment No. 6. We would be driving a coach and horses through the Bill. It would mean that within a very short period of time there would be total deregulation, the one option which both Houses of Parliament have been against.

Of course there are winners and losers in all things. I am sorry that our amendment was not accepted and that garden centres in particular could not stay open. However, it would be quite wrong to upset the balance that has been agreed by choosing large numbers of groups of organisations which could have exemption from what Parliament has decided.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I confess that I speak in support of the amendment, but I do so with a good deal of surprise about the course of our debate today. My confusion has been strengthened by the speech which we have just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I thought that it was for this House and its Members to make decisions on the merits of the case. Yet many of the arguments—including the argument from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and that from the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, although she half denied it—suggest that somehow a contract had been entered into, but not a contract between Members of this House but one between campaigning outside organisations.

I was very surprised by the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, whose views I always respect, when he referred to an explicit or implicit compromise which he argued meant that he was committed not to seek to amend the Bill today. I have to say that I was committed to no compromise and to no contract. I do not understand how the Committee can take that view. Of course, individual Members may decide that they wish to adhere to the decision made by the House in this difficult area of choice. Individual Members have been free to campaign under one of the acronyms with which perhaps I alone am unfamiliar. But surely each amendment should be discussed on its merits. The case should be examined. It should not simply be said that the House has made up its mind after a long debate, and that that is the end of the matter.

That is the view put by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. As always, he does so with great good humour, distinction and subtlety. But that is what the Government are saying. The Government have had enough of this Bill—I do not blame them for taking that view—and they wish the House to leave the Bill well alone. The Government want no amendments to the Bill, for all that the noble Earl expresses a personal point of view today. Many other Members of this Chamber say precisely the same.

I put it to noble Lords that that is an untenable and dangerous position for this Chamber to adopt. We should discuss and vote on amendments on their merits. We should not refer to the previous decision as being incapable of amendment. Having played no part in previous discussion, and having taken no view between the lobbying organisations, I believe that that is the reasonable position to adopt today, whatever the strength of one's personal view.

I say this in support of my argument. There is a case for examining amendments on their merits. It is a Bill totally lacking in principle and in logic. Every Member of the House knows that to be the case. It is the nature of the compromise. I listened to a very good speech at Second Reading from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. It was a speech of principle. I heard a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. It was a speech of principle on another side. But what the House settled on, as noble Lords have said today, was a compromise without principle.

So far as concerns logic, my noble friend Lady Hamwee made a very good speech. I greatly enjoyed it. I heard the powerful speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. I followed it almost all the way. Suddenly there was an "however", a change of direction. The logic was not carried through and I do not believe she would claim that it was. She argued that the House of Commons had decided on a reasonable compromise and we should therefore settle for that compromise. I am not against compromises. Perhaps the House had reached the correct compromise. I do not seek to dispute that. But you cannot pretend that there is a principle underlying the compromise and a logic underlying the decision which the House adopted. I do not believe that to be true. I say that because I believe that that argument is more important—it applies to several amendments put forward today—than the argument put forward with great clarity and force by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking.

I see no case against the amendment and a very strong argument for it. The DIY shops are in a special position. That should be acknowledged. That is what the amendment seeks to do. I hope that the amendment will be discussed and voted on on its merits, without reference either to the decision of the House at Second Reading or to the views of the campaigning organisations outside this Chamber.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Norrie

I wish also to speak to Amendment No. 8. I should like to do so as a former full-time director of a garden centre which I still own.

It has been stated previously that we all wish to see an Act which is popular, practical and permanent. A six-hour limit on leisure shopping on a centre's busiest day satisfies none of those criteria. In the Bill, shopping in a garden or home improvement centre and shopping for food in a supermarket are exactly the same activity. In reality they are worlds apart. There is no comparison between choosing a loaf of bread and selecting a shade of pink camellia from the garden centre or a pattern of floral wallpaper from the home improvement store. The latter is enjoyed for many years; the former is eaten within days.

In short, regular household shopping is a chore. The visit to the garden or home improvement centre is an outing. On those outings, families browse, plan and formulate ideas for their homes and gardens. It is no surprise that Sunday, naturally the family leisure day, has become the busiest trading day in those sectors.

That development over the past 20 years is scarcely surprising. As the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, home ownership has now extended to nearly 80 per cent. of the population, and people generally have more leisure time. That said, many do not have a great deal of spare cash and so they have to do the work themselves.

Home improvement and garden centres opening on Sundays allow people to undertake those improvements which they could not otherwise afford. Between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. of business in that sector is transacted on Sundays. That is when people are free to do their gardens or their decorating. To limit the hours of opening at the busiest time is a recipe for disaster. The public will be frustrated and the traders will be penalised.

With public support and local authority tolerance, such outlets have opened between nine o'clock and six o'clock on Sundays for many years. Some noble Lords may wonder why the extra few hours make so much difference. The answer is that people wish to work on their homes and gardens during the day. Many want to start early and to pop into their local garden centre to buy their plants, or local DIY at nine o'clock in the morning. They then have the whole day at home to complete their project. Others find themselves needing last minute supplies towards the end of the day to finish the job and four o'clock closing is just too early for them, in particular as the evenings lengthen. Four o'clock is too early for those who hire tools or garden machinery for the day from their garden centre. By the time they return to meet the four o'clock deadline, they have lost half the afternoon.

There is no doubt that without the amendment many people will be greatly inconvenienced and they will not thank us for it. I know from my own personal experience just how unpopular and damaging this restriction on garden centres and home improvement stores can be. In this House we have long sought to encourage pursuits which involve the family in constructive activities. Gardening and home improvements are home based, family-inspired activities. How much healthier and social it is to dig the garden or paint the fence than to sit inside watching the television or video. I cannot believe that we seriously contemplate forcing people to rush their Sunday lunch in order to get to the garden centre by four o'clock or be locked out. Frankly, their indigestion will not be relieved by the principles underlying the legislation, especially when the traders and their staff want to serve them.

Noble Lords do not have to accept my word. As the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, an experiment was carried out in Northampton during the four Sundays in March of this year. The garden and home improvement centres restricted their opening times from ten o'clock to four o'clock to test people's reactions. My worst fears were realised. The response ranged from amazement through disappointment to downright anger. Most people had the same message. Sunday was their day to improve their homes and gardens, and they were greatly inconvenienced by what they clearly saw as an unexplained restriction.

Perhaps I may give the Committee two examples from the hundreds of quotes from the Northampton public. One person looking for plants for his garden said that he always took his children out on a Sunday afternoon and needed to get his gardening done in order to spend the rest of the day with his family. The ten o'clock opening had spoiled his plans.

Another person had travelled some 25 miles. He said that Sunday was his only day for working on his home but having to wait until ten o'clock for the store to open. meant that by the time they reached home half the day was used up. As the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, said, the trial in Northampton demonstrated just how unpopular it would be for the Bill to progress without the amendment. The noble Lord also said that in the spring and summer 6 million people visit garden centres and home improvement stores on a busy Sunday.

I have concentrated on the plight of the customer if the amendment is not passed. However, it goes. without saying that the garden and home improvement centres themselves, and the people already working in them, will suffer financially if we leave the Bill as it is. Paradoxically, the Bill specifically deregulates some of the nation's largest retailers, the oil companies, who will be free to expand their forecourt sales at the expense of garden centres and home improvement stores. Are Members of the Committee aware that the non-petrol and oil sales already account for £1.7 billion of garage turnover? It would be ironic if legislation—one of whose main purposes was to protect the small from the large—gave the very largest a monopoly.

Perhaps what is most important is that the amendment is not a significant or fundamental change to the integrity of the Bill. There are fewer than 2,500 garden centres and home improvement stores in England and Wales—less than 1 per cent. of our shops. We all know a garden centre and a home improvement store when we see one.

I take great heart from the fact that the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and Retailers for Shops Act Reform specifically sought in their options to exempt these types of outlets from their general restriction on large shops. They recognise the special position of leisure shopping. The early and late shopping visit is long established. To force shopping hours into the middle of the day is wholly counterproductive and it will not carry public support. Without that, we do not do our job well as legislators. This is a genuine attempt to make regulation work and since November 1993 we in this House and those in another place have voted on this Bill on no fewer than six occasions, excluding Committee, to reform the Shops Act. Throughout that process, those in this House who have campaigned for regulation have acknowledged the special place of motoring, gardening and home improvement. To do otherwise at this stage would be perverse.

I greatly respect the impartiality of the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. However, the fact is that the local authorities have in the main turned a blind eye to garden centres and home improvement stores which have been trading on Sundays for the past 20 years. Why ask those local authorities to continue to do our dirty work for us? Many will not do so. Those that do will become the subject of ridicule, and the law will again fall into public disrepute. I ask the Committee to support the amendment.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

As one in favour of total deregulation, I have no difficulty with the amendment as regards garden centres and do-it-yourself stores. If I had any difficulty, I should certainly have been persuaded by the noble Lords, Lord Hacking and Lord Norrie. The case seems to me overwhelming from the point of view of a complete deregulator.

However, we cannot consider those two types of shops alone. We are considering them in the context of the total retail organisation of the country. Moreover, we cannot consider the issue irrespective of what happened when we last had such a Bill. It was hard fought, in the end noble Lords carried a Bill with deregulation and it was thrown out in the other place. The Home Office then tried valiantly to reconcile the different interests. It failed officially, but in the end the various interests came together. Each side made concessions, the Keep Sunday Special Campaign (with whom I had been at variance) made concessions in our direction; we made concessions in its direction. The noble Viscount said that there was no principle behind the compromise. The compromise itself is a principle: each side gives up something in favour of the other on reciprocal terms. That is the principle and it ought to be adhered to.

Recently in your Lordships' House we had a notable example in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill where the different sides were irreconcilable. Then the Leaders on each side, including the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, himself, came together and negotiated. In the end, I think that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, was right in saying that his side attained two-thirds of what it had been seeking. That was not disputed by the noble Earl. But it was important that, having arrived at that compact, each side resolutely adhered to what had been agreed to. Without that kind of action, the Bill would have foundered; without that honour in negotiation, the conduct in your Lordships' House would be quite impracticable. I therefore strongly adhere to the line that was taken by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.

There is another point. As the noble Earl reminded us, the matter has come from another place which has blessed the compromise. We are running a risk—not only a moral but a political risk—if we now try to whittle away in our favour what has been conceded by our opponents. However much I favour the economic argument that has been so cogently deployed, I cannot support the amendment.

Baroness Nicol

I supported the KSS option on the first Committee day on the Bill. I therefore consider it entirely logical that I should at least wish to consider again the part of that option which states that garden centres and do-it-yourself stores should open without restriction on Sundays. I think it would be totally illogical to reject them without further discussion. I disagree with those Members of the Committee who feel that garden centres and do-it-yourself stores cannot be separated from general retailing. They are a different kind of retailing; they are a leisure activity. That is particularly true in the case of garden centres.

Garden centres in particular have gone out of their way to make special provision for families. I listened with some amazement to my noble friend and other noble Lords during the Second Reading debate, when they described a visit to Sainsbury's as the highlight of a family's outing in the week. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, the matter is quite different when it comes to a garden centre because children enjoy it. The centres have set out to make them enjoy it and it is part of the family's exercise for that weekend that they should be able to go together to choose what they want to enrich their gardens.

The garden centres too are usually in locations where they do not cause traffic problems. Usually they are away from shopping centres. I have no doubt that there are exceptions to this rule, but most of them are well away from shopping centres and they cause no difficulty, either to the local residents or to the people who want to go to them and to park.

Furthermore, the goods they sell can be much more easily categorised—if noble Lords will forgive the word—and identified. However, I accept that if the Committee were to agree to extend the opening hours of garden centres it may be necessary to look again at the wording, to prevent an expansion of inappropriate sales. There is another point. Since they have operated on Sundays for many years, there is not likely to be a difficulty as regards staff.

However, when it comes to do-it-yourself stores, I am in slightly more difficulty. Although the activities which they serve are also leisure activities and they serve weekend activities which the family can share, there is a difficulty because of the problem of location in many cases. I see that they can add to the traffic problems and be seen to pose a threat to other stores which may have an overlap of goods. There is much more difficulty in identifying the range of goods which they should be permitted to sell in pursuit of a leisure activity. So I am willing to be persuaded so far as concerns do-it-yourself operations, although I put my name to the amendment. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, decided to give the Committee separate choices, so that if we want to vote for one amendment and not for the other, we can do so.

At this late hour I shall not say any more. However, I feel that to bring in the matter of principle, as some Members have attempted to do, is in this case quite wrong. The two cases can stand alone and should be allowed to do so.

7 p.m.

Lord Renton

If most of the amendments on pages 2 and 3 of the Marshalled List are accepted, it will take us step by step a long way towards deregulation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, was fully justified in the very general comments that he made on that point.

With regard to this group of amendments, I am in favour of Amendment No. 7 and not opposed to Amendment No. 8. But quite frankly, if we have No. 8, we do not need No. 7, which is a duplication of it. Amendment No. 10 is in a different category altogether.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol (perhaps she will give me her attention), that we can make an exception in favour of leisure activities. But Amendment No. 10 seems to have precious little to do with leisure activities. It deals with the repair, building and decoration of dwellings—homes. Quite frankly, it goes very far. It would cover all builders' merchants and what I call wallpaper shops, which are more euphemistically called home improvement shops.

I strongly oppose Amendment No. 10 and hope that it will not be pressed. It has nothing to do with garden centres, DIY or leisure activity. It is in an entirely different category. I hope that my noble friend Lord Hacking, with his well known good judgment, will not press it.

Lord Skelmersdale

Perhaps I may put in some words edgewise, "like a fish slice" as Flanders and Swann said. In an intervention earlier today the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, referred to all the discussions on this part of the Bill as being concerned with vested interests. Like my noble friend Lord Norrie, I have been involved in horticulture for much of my working life, but I should state clearly that only once, for a three-week holiday job, have I ever worked in garden centres or earned from them. My family firm, which is a nursery, does not even supply them. But I am an occasional customer and have seen their expansion over the past 20 years. It is not unreasonable to say that, without them and the DIY centres, which grew up almost in parallel, we should not now be discussing this Bill at all. Quite honestly, I do not think that we would have a Bill.

Although in recent years the whole opposition to the Shops Act 1950 has developed to embrace what one might broadly call the food trade, it was started by the garden centres and do-it-yourself shops. They first tested that Act and in many cases local authorities failed to prosecute them, as we all know. But that is not why they continued to trade. The sectors expanded simply because there was demand for them. Very successful they have been, too.

Looking back—it is easy to look back, is it not? I wish that I had put a great deal of money into garden centres and do-it-yourself stores 20 years ago, but I did not—their success is particularly marked when those sectors have traded on Sundays. The Horticultural Trades Association say that Sunday sales represent 40 per cent. of garden centres' annual sales. It is not unusual for someone to wake up on a sunny Sunday morning, especially in the late spring, and say to himself, "I must go out and garden today but I do not have any seeds, pots, wallflowers, bedding plants, or whatever." Exactly the opposite applies to do-it-yourself activities. It is the rainy, cold day which acts as an incentive to put up shelves, hang wallpaper and so on, and then you find, on going to start the job that you do not have a sharp drill or have run out of wallpaper paste or whatever. As has so aptly been said, being leisure activities, it is at the weekends, and particularly on Sunday, when those things are done, almost always by more than one member of the family.

I believe that we all recognise that fact. Although their words were different, the promoters of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign recognised it, too. Obviously, they can and have spoken for themselves, believe that they have recognised that both activities are family activities; that garden centres are a part of our very successful tourist industry; and that neither sectors compete with village stores. The Royal Horticultural Society's plant centre at Wisley is an example. It is an adjunct to a garden which cost slightly over £3 million last year to keep up. I am told that if the trade on Sunday is restricted to six hours when the garden is open for eight hours, it will mean a reduction in income of £180,000. That is quite a lot of money for an educational charity with a turnover of just under £11.5 million. Nor is that all. The total cost of the bill to the RHS is estimated at over a quarter of a million pounds because of other garden centres which they run (at Rosemoor in Devon and Hyde Hall in Essex). More gardens and hence more garden centres are planned across the country. I do not have a figure for the National Trust but I should have thought that it must be in that order, or greater with four large garden centres now in its properties.

Having said that, my main concern is not about money but about politics. Politics has had a dirty name in this country for some time. People to whom I have spoken from all walks of life have welcomed the fact that at last Parliament has decided to liberalise Sunday trading. What will they say when they discover that in these two areas, far from being liberalised, they are in fact being restricted? That is why I have no difficulty in supporting the middle one of the amendments to which I put my name. I agree with my noble friend Lord Renton. Amendment No. 10 goes much further than I should like. I believe in liberalising shopping for leisure activities on Sunday for as many hours as those traders feel confident to open. That is the position with which I shall remain content.

Lord McCarthy

Before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to ask this question. Does he agree that the issue is not as he states it; namely, that DIY and garden centres should close down on Sundays but that they should not be allowed to open before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m? How many of them do that now?

The Earl of Onslow

I should like to declare an interest again. I have a garden centre. I paced it out the other day and it sneaks in at just under the 809 square cubits of which the law speaks. I suppose, as a small garden centre, the internal area (the external plant area does not come under the Bill, nor do the awnings or the pergolas) or the actual sales area is considerably larger.

Perhaps I should argue in favour of restricting access to competitive shops, like the big garden centres such as Capability Brown or whatever. There are many very big garden centres. However, I do not believe in doing so. As has been said several times before, it is a family activity. We should be able to function on the merits of our own businesses. We do not need either mollycoddling or bossing about, which is what the Bill tries to do.

I shall therefore support the amendment. But I add one further point. Whenever one visits a service station on the motorway or a large garage, one can almost certainly buy potted plants, house plants, cut flowers and several gardening items but one cannot buy a cylinder head gasket or an oil filter. Most garages, therefore, are being allowed to sell garden plants while garden centres cannot sell garage items. That is not a sensible piece of legislation.

Lord Elton

I am sure we all want to finish this point quickly—or at least I should like to finish it quickly because I want my dinner. I do not know whether other noble Lords agree with that. However, one or two issues must be brought together.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, made it clear that we must consider the merits within the context of the principle. The principle was that the scales were balanced and a compromise reached. Now, one by one, we are beginning to drop things into one side of the scales and not the other; that destroys the compromise. It was reached in this Chamber and not, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, if he were able to hear me, would agree, outside among the other organisations. I was interested in the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, in relation to the earlier stages of the Bill. Unfortunately I missed his contributions though I thought that I had been here for most of the time. However, his points were adequately met by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

I want to point out one or two misconceptions. First, the sale of anything but plants in a garden centre has been illegal since 1950, as has the sale of almost all forms of DIY. We are therefore not talking about restoring the status quo, but legalising an illegality. The question of anomalies is not swept away by these amendments, as proposed. I received a letter from the John Lewis Partnership which says, Already big DIY businesses sell a wide range of non-DIY goods such as carpets, curtains, kitchen furniture and lighting, contributing perhaps one-third of their total turnover". It is big business. We are not talking of something the size of this Chamber, where we sit below and above the Bar. We are talking of places of many thousands of square feet. It is not proposed that they should be shut; it is only proposed that their hours of opening should be limited, as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, aptly intervened to say.

Members speak of this proposal as though it were the proposal offered by the KSS at the last stage. It is not. There was no "wholly" or "mainly" in that; it was for the straightforward admission of garden centres for their own proper trade.

I have already spoken of the anomalies. It is worth illustrating that a 90,000 square foot garden centre could easily set up a 40,000 square foot electrical store; for instance, Kingfisher owns B&Q and it could do it. We are not talking only about existing garden centres. We are talking of an area into which the major traders—the people who sponsored the great revolt which overturned the KSS proposals—are being offered an opportunity to set up their own garden centres and then sell all sorts of other lines which, though they collectively add up to less than half of what is sold, separately could wipe out the competition from the small shops in the area.

Therefore the principle and the merit combine. The principle is that there was a decision that we should maintain some sort of speciality for Sunday on the balance in the Bill as we agreed it in Committee before it was reconvened. The merit is that if we start adding more and more to this side of the scales we re-introduce all the anomalies that my noble friend Lord Onslow—in a commendable speech—decried earlier. We also threaten the small traders who this country need and who should be protected.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Harris of High Cross

I support Amendment No. 8 which will allow the freer opening of garden centres and DIY stores. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said that we were changing the balance between regulation and deregulation. I am an unashamed deregulator, which will come as no surprise. But the noble Lord has much to answer for. Once we embrace regulation we are embarking upon an impossible task of drawing lines between permitted and non-permitted activity. I was shocked to hear my old friend, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, drawing a line between garden centres and DIY stores. It was his elevated and final view that garden centres may be leisure activities but not DIY.

Lord Renton

The noble Lord may not have heard me properly. I said that I was in favour of garden centres and DIY stores. They can both be justified on the grounds that they are leisure activities. I was against Amendment No. 10, which comes in a quite different category.

Lord Harris of High Cross

I apologise to the noble Lord. I thought that Amendment No. 10, which concerns, construction, extension, renewal, decoration, repair or maintenance", embraced DIY but went wider. I am supporting Amendment No. 8.

The difficulty remains for all Members of the Committee that if we are in principle a regulator, we must draw lines and not object when other people find that those lines do not precisely correspond to any principle. My noble and learned friend Lord Simon says that it is a principled compromise. But it is an unprincipled compromise because there is no litmus paper to enable us to judge the good exceptions from the bad.

I am not a gardener nor, I am afraid, addicted to DIY. But I have visited garden centres on a Sunday morning before or after Church,—if before, I have had coffee in a garden centre as early as nine o'clock; it is out in the country and perfectly acceptable to go with my wife or grandchildren. Garden centres and DIY stores are one of the great examples of the revolution in retailing which opened up new possibilities. They are one of the great glories of the capitalist system, even under some constraints. They present an opportunity for new businesses catering for developing and aspiring, ambitious families wishing to improve their estates in the same way as some Members may do on a larger scale.

I was shocked again—it has altogether been a very shocking day for me—to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Young, say, not with precise accuracy it appears from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the KSS offered the option of freer opening for DIY stores and garden centres as part of its package. As its package was rejected by the other place, it must now withdraw that concession. It was the bait to persuade people to swallow full restriction; once restriction is defeated then the bait is snatched away.

Baroness Young

Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening. He is grossly misinterpreting what I said. If I said it in that way, I obviously did not make myself clear.

It is true that under the KSS/RSAR option we believed that garden centres and DIY stores should be open. But the difference between our proposals and the ones in the amendments is that everything was closely defined. Therefore the unfairnesses which were drawn to our attention by, in particular, the John Lewis Partnership, were not present. The point is that, once that proposal was lost—and the House decidedly did not want that option—we then had another option. If we now break the second option, we are simply going straight down the path of total deregulation. That is what I always suspected would be the case. As I do not believe in total deregulation, I think that we should call a halt to it.

Lord Harris of High Cross

I shall not continue with the argument about the Keep Sunday Special change of stance, as it seems to me. It is something which many people outside this House would not fully credit; namely, that experienced and prominent statesmen in our land should devote parliamentary time, attention and expense to this kind of pettifogging effort of where to draw the noose around the consumer's freedom of action. It is a wholly preposterous effort to curb and curtail pleasant, agreeable, and useful activities. I stand by my position that useful and harmless freedoms should only be abridged in the cause of some major national advantage and I see none of that here.

I wish to assure the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that freedom will gradually develop because retailing developments are by no means at an end. They will go on in ways which we cannot yet foresee, but they will turn out to be less unpleasant than she currently believes. So when deregulation fully arrives we may join hands and go on our way at any time of the day or week on our harmless rounds.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

For a few moments I would like to deal with the compromise that was reached. It is important. It is important also to understand that it was made in the House of Commons. It was not made outside, but in the other place. It was made to resolve a stalemate which had existed over a very long period of time and which the Government and all Members wished to break. That is why the compromise was reached. It was reached by only 18 votes.

If there had been no compromise it is likely that we would not be dealing with a six-hour Sunday but with a "no hours" Sunday. The big stores would have been able to open for four Sundays before Christmas. That is what would have happened unless a compromise had been reached. That is also why the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and my noble friend were absolutely right to say that it would be wrong and dangerous to break that compromise now. That is what we are in danger of doing with this group of amendments.

The fact is that once we pass one it will be very difficult to refuse to pass the others. I shall tell the Committee what will happen. We have heard a great deal about leisure. Now we want to make an exception because something is "leisure" which is not a necessity. Previously, we made exceptions because things were necessary. We allowed chemists to open outside certain hours because they were selling necessities. Now it is proposed that we should give a privilege to firms which are selling "unnecessaries". That is absurd.

What will the food shops say? They will say, "If we agree that it is correct and will not hurt anybody to sell leisure goods which are not necessary, how much more necessary is it to sell things which everybody needs which comprise not only food but clothing as well?" My noble friend said that it was a great chore to go food shopping, but in my experience I have never understood that it is a great chore for women to go clothes shopping. But they will not be allowed to do that. I give way to my noble friend.

Baroness Nicol

I must have explained myself rather badly. As regards garden centres, it is not so much the article which one goes to buy but the activity of going to the garden centre itself which is the leisure activity. It is the pleasure of going into those surroundings and enjoying the facilities which are available there. That is the leisure activity, not the actual product.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I perfectly understand that. We could get over it by charging admission to the garden centre and not selling anything. Whether that would be agreed is another matter. I hope that the Committee sees the difficulty. There has been a sort of arrangement reached which has come from the House of Commons in this form. If we interfere with it and pass one of these amendments, then we have driven a coach and horses through a Bill which the other place agreed to after much heart searching and a great deal of hard work and conciliation by many dedicated people on both sides of the argument. That is why I implore the Committee not to pass any one of these amendments: if it does, it will be regretted later.

Lord Glenarthur

Until now I have hesitated to play any part whatever in this Bill for the very good reason that in 1986 I was the Minister who had to take the then shops Bill, the Sunday trading Bill, or whatever it was called, through your Lordships' House. That was a most exhausting experience. But having listened to some of the comments made this evening I am provoked to make a brief intervention.

I suppose it is a question of once bitten, twice shy, which explains why I did not play a part at either Second Reading or as regards the so-called "compromise amendment" debated just before Easter. I was very struck by a remark made by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale. He said that it was largely because of the activities of the DIY centres and garden centres that the Auld Report, which pre-dated the earlier Bill and other things, came before your Lordships. It was very much because of the nature of the change in the way in which people used their Sundays and led their lives in general that those enterprises grew and became such an important part of the countryside and our way of life. I can say from my own experience in Scotland where, thankfully, we are not troubled by this Bill, that we are able to go to our garden centres and DIY centres as and when we please on Sundays because they are not regulated in the way that they are here.

I take the point which my noble friend Lord Norrie made—that is to say, that there are very sound practical reasons and family reasons why these centres should be open. I also take the point made by my noble friend Lord Renton about the difficulty of Amendment No. 10. I suspect that my noble friend. Lord Hacking will accept those difficulties. I cannot accept the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and others that because a compromise agreement was reached before Easter we are still ruled out of order if we try to amend the Bill further with a view to putting right certain obvious anomalies which go back a very long way. In part they were what the 1986 Bill was designed to put right.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I am obliged to the noble Lord. I wish to make it clear that I was not suggesting that amendments should be ruled out of order. The House is perfectly entitled to discuss them and pass them. I was merely trying to warn the Committee not to pass them and to draw its attention to what had happened in the other place.

Lord Glenarthur

I did not word my remarks nearly carefully enough. Even that is something which we should not be asked to adopt. It is perfectly reasonable that we add to the Bill sensible amendments. I do not believe that that would put at risk the compromise which has been achieved outside or inside, or wherever it was arrived at. I endorse the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. I hope that the best amendment, which is Amendment No. 8, can be properly endorsed by the Committee this evening.

Lord Elton

Can the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, tell the Committee whether he has had time to reflect on the very real difficulty, which several of us have tried to point out, that a 90,000 square foot garden centre or DIY centre could incorporate a 40,000 square foot electrical goods centre or something else? That is how I understand the law, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, seemed to endorse that. Will the noble Lord consider drafting his amendment in terms so that a garden centre can open only for the sale of garden plants, goods and furniture, and a DIY shop can open only for the sale of particular goods associated with DIY? I cannot draft on the hoof, but at the moment many of us see a large hole in this drafting.

7.30 p.m.

Viscount Brentford

Perhaps I may comment on that point and make one other point briefly. I may have misunderstood my noble friend Lord Hacking, but I understood him to say that, as far as garden centres are concerned, his amendment permitted the sale of garden goods only. However, that is not my reading of it. The amendment refers to "wholly or mainly" garden goods. Therefore, a court could easily interpret the provisions to mean that if a shop sells 51 per cent. gardening goods and 49 per cent. clothing it would be perfectly in order to open on a Sunday. We should know that that is what the amendment states. Therefore, I oppose it.

My other point relates to DIY centres. We should realise that there will be an element of unfair competition if we permit such centres to open. At the moment, they have some 20 per cent. of the self-assembly furniture market. The other 80 per cent. of similar sized shops would be ruled out of order for trading on a Sunday. Such DIY centres also have 27 per cent. of the lighting and minor electrical business. It would be unfair competition if they were allowed to be open to sell all the goods that they stock. Therefore, I do not believe that we should accept the amendments both for those reasons and for all the reasons that were so ably expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

Lord Monson

Before the noble Viscount sits down, does he not agree that the problem with the word "mainly", to which he rightly drew attention, could be overcome by inserting at the next stage a definition subsection which could provide that "in the above subsection, the word 'mainly' means 80 per cent.", or 90 per cent. or whatever percentage is thought appropriate?

Viscount Brentford

I made that point in relation to a previous amendment, but it was not taken up. I am open to considering that particular point, but it does not alter my view of the amendment as a whole.

Earl Ferrers

The question that we are debating is whether the Committee feels that garden centres alone or do-it-yourself stores alone should be exempted from the six-hour restriction or whether the arguments are so strong in both cases that both types of shop should be permitted to trade all day. We must remember that garden centres and DIY stores which cover an area of under 280 square metres can open all day. We are considering only those of over 280 square metres, and they can open for six hours on a Sunday in any case.

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, made a very impressive speech. I did not agree with the content, but I was impressed by the delivery. He said that there was no principle or logic in the Bill. He said that he had listened to speeches of principle on one side and to speeches of principle on the other side, but that the Bill had no principle. He also said that the Bill is a compromise. I can only say to him that, of course, it is a compromise. I do not think that that is anything to be ashamed of. It is a compromise because for years we have heard people of principle and speeches of principle and the trouble was that there were so many principles there was no meeting point. The only way to get them to meet was to have a compromise. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that it is a principle to have a compromise—and a very suitable one it is. That is nothing to be apologetic about.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I did not suggest that there was anything dishonourable in a compromise—only that if one has a compromise, one cannot object to amending it on the grounds that one is challenging a principle. If a compromise represents an agreement, it is open to individual Members of the Committee, particularly those who have not hitherto taken a view, to argue the case on merit and not be bound by what sometimes has been described as a contract, signed and sealed in this place on 29th March. There was no contract and we are free to discuss and decide on the merit.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord is entirely right. I would never have suggested anything other than that. I have suggested throughout that this is a matter for your Lordships to decide. I simply warn the Committee that it has taken about 45 years and 29 attempts to get some kind of agreement in another place. We now have a certain amount of agreement there and a certain amount of agreement here—and we do not want—

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

Perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to intervene because I may not have made myself clear. The principle is—and it is a firm and universal principle—that contracts should be observed, and should be observed strictly. I add that the agreement that was reached on the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, which was observed strictly by the proponents of that agreement, was also observed—because we felt that we were bound to observe it—by those of us who had no part in the negotiations.

Earl Ferrers

I do not think that we want to go too far down that road at this stage. I was merely trying to point out that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, was right to say that it is up to your Lordships to decide but, in deciding, your Lordships will want to take the general picture into account. I do not wish to persuade your Lordships what to do.

Unlike motor supply shops, garden centres and DIY shops by and large cannot trade legally on a Sunday under the 1950 Act although, as we know, going to garden centres or DIY shops is a popular Sunday leisure. time activity. Your Lordships may feel that garden centres, in particular, are for this reason, too, a special case. Indeed, garden centres are perhaps the only retailers whose trading depends on taking advantage of all available hours of daylight. But your Lordships may also wish to bear in mind the fact that garden centres also sell many products which are sold by other large shops. For example, they sell barbecues, garden furniture, pet equipment, power tools, toys, and even clothes. They sometimes sell paving slabs, swimming pools and fencing timber. They even sell singing Christmas lights and metal cats with reflecting eyes which are supposed to terrify the daylights out of normal cats and keep them off the flowerbeds. All that is highly desirable and much valued, but your Lordships may wish to consider how large shop competitors of garden centres might feel if large centres were to be allowed to open at any time on a Sunday but their shops would he restricted to six hours' trading.

As your Lordships have been told, one argument for allowing DIY shops to trade for more than six hours is that if garden centres are allowed to do so, in schoolboy language "it isn't fair" if DIY shops cannot do so as they often have the same products and are in some respects direct competitors to garden centres.

But if one follows that argument, if all large DIY stores are to be exempted from the six-hour restriction and to be allowed to open all day, what about furniture stores, carpet warehouses and other types of shop which sell many of the same products as DIY stores themselves sell? Where should the line be drawn? If all these stores were allowed to open at any hour on a Sunday, as my noble friends Lady Young arid Lord Elton have pointed out, that would be total deregulation by another name, but your Lordships have decisively rejected total deregulation.

On a question of practicalities, your Lordships might care to consider whether the courts will be able to decide, with any degree of confidence, exactly what is a DIY shop or a garden centre and what is not. For example, a department store sells Christmas decorations, carpets, furniture, kitchens, tools, and paint. So does a DIY shop. Does that therefore make the department store a DIY shop? Will it therefore qualify for unlimited trading on a Sunday under the terms of the amendment? The Committee may feel confident that a garden centre can be identified readily and easily as a garden centre, but that a DIY store is riot specifically distinct; or the Committee may take the opposite view and favour an exception for DIY stores but not for garden centres. That is entirely a matter for the Committee.

I would add just one personal caveat. I have mentioned it before, and I do so without any form of direction. I think that we should be careful about bringing into the Bill a great number of additional exceptions. We have already agreed an exception for motor supply shops. If all the exceptions which have been proposed were accepted, we might well find, as my noble friend Lady Young has said, that the reform is becoming largely indistinguishable from the total deregulation which this place has already rejected. But the decision as to what to do is entirely a matter for the Committee. I try only to put those views as impartially as one reasonably can.

Lord Hacking

I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have participated in the debate. The argument has been put fully, and therefore I have just a few observations to make before I test the opinion of the Committee.

Mention has been made of our political relationship with another place. As with the earlier amendment about motor supplies and cycle supplies, the other place has not separately considered the issue.

Baroness Trumpington

Order! I am terribly sorry, my noble friend must not speak from the Gangway. He must speak from his place.

Lord Hacking

I am so sorry. I shall constrain myself. I was more comfortable in that position, but I shall speak from my place. Because the other place was anxious about which option to choose, it did not consider separately these amendments, as it did not consider separately the other amendment. If the Committee is pleased to pass one of the amendments, and the matter goes back to the other place, it will then be in a position, for the first time, to consider the issue and to express its views by accepting or rejecting our amendment or by sending back a substitute amendment. I am a great admirer of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, but I do not see that as a political risk; I see it as part of the norm of our relationship with the other place.

Again, much has been said about compromises. I played no part in any of those compromises. The majority of the Committee played no part in any of those compromises, and it seems to me that each of us, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, rightly said, should reach a decision on the merits. As for driving a coach and horses through the Bill, it is for us—is it not?—to consider each of the issues and to decide whether there should be further exemptions. If we decide on a case-by-case basis that there should be further exemptions, then there will be plenty of time for this place on Third Reading and for the other place to look at the Bill as a whole. We cannot tell the contents of the Bill until we have been through the exercise of considering these important issues.

It seems to me that the correct approach is to reach a decision on the merits, and in doing so to understand the needs and reasonable desires of the public who may not elect us but whom we continue, none the less, to serve.

There are three amendments before the Committee. Having heard the debate, I do not propose to press Amendment No. 7. It is my intention to withdraw Amendment No. 7 if invited to do so by the Committee. It is my intention to put Amendment No. 8 before the Committee, and I do so for two sound reasons. The first is that in the practical world, where DIY stores and garden centres function, they both engage in the business of providing garden products and DIY products, and therefore to divide them has a certain artificiality about it.

The second reason is that I believe the amendment deals with the concerns that have been expressed about the words "wholly or mainly" and the fear that the two issues will cause the deregulation horse to canter through the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, makes a number of remarks when he is sitting down which I do not always hear. I am not inviting him to stand up, but I should be grateful if he could kindly listen to me, because I wish to press the matter at the end of the debate.

If the Committee would look at the words of Amendment No. 8, it will see that it deals with the problem of "wholly or mainly", because we set out in Amendment No. 8 a list of items which come under the garden centre category and a list of items under the DIY store category. For a court to be invited to say that a store selling in any quantity carpets, refrigerators or white goods is involved "wholly or mainly" in the business of that garden centre or DIY store, is to invite the courts to come to the sensible decision that the selling of carpets, refrigerators and so on does not fit into the frame which is set out in Amendment No. 8. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hacking moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 46, at end insert: ("( ) any shop which is a nursery, garden centre or do-it-yourself home improvement shop, or both, and is open wholly or mainly for the sale of plants, garden supplies and accessories or materials and tools suitable for use in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration of the structure of dwellings,").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

7.47 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 34.

Division No. 2
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Long, V.
Attlee, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Barber, L. Lyell, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. McNair, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Milverton, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Monson, L.
Butterworth, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mountevans, L.
Carnock, L. Moyne, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Nicol, B.[Teller.]
Cochrane of Cults, L. Norrie, L.
Courtown, E. Northbrook, L.
Craigavon, V. Onslow, E.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Oppenheim-Bames, B.
Dixon-Smith, L. Pym, L.
Geddes, L. Rankeillour, L.
Glenarthur, L. Rennell, L.
Hacking, L. [Teller.] Renton, L.
Harding of Petherton, L. Renwick, L.
Harris of High Cross, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Seccombe, B.
Kilbracken, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Lane of Horsell, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Lawrence, L. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Taylor of Blackburn, L. Whitelaw, V.
Torrington, V. Wilberforce, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L. Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Wharton, B.
Annaly, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Ashbourne, L.
Banbury of Southam, L. McCarthy, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Brentford, V. O'Cathain, B.
Caldecote, V. Plant of Highneld, L.
Cockfield, L. Reading, M.
Coleraine, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L
Coventry, Bp. Rochester, L.
Elton, L. [Teller.] Sharples, B.
Ferrers, E. St. Davids, V.
Flather, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]
Gallacher, L. Tugendhat, L.
Goschen, V. Turner of Camden, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Wakeham, L. [Lord Privy Seal]
Holderness, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Jeffreys, L. Young, B.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

7.55 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

It might be for the convenience of Members of the Committee if we were to break at this time. If that meets with approval, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

Lord Annaly

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until twenty to nine.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.57 to 8.40 p.m.]

Earl Ferrers

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.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Airedale) in the Chair.]

Schedule 1 [Restrictions on Sunday opening of large shops]:

The Earl of Buckingham had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 9:

Page 4, line 46, at end insert: ("( ) any shop where the trade or business carried on consists wholly or mainly of the sale of books,").

The noble Earl said: In view of the lateness of the hour, I do not propose to move Amendments Nos. 9 or 12 this evening. However, I propose to move similar amendments at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Lord Monson: moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 5, line 3, at end insert: ("( ) any shop at a farm, smallholding, allotment or similar place which is not open for the retail sale of any goods other than produce produced thereon.").

The noble Lord said: In the absence in the Chamber of the noble Earl, Lord Peel, it falls to me to move Amendment No. 11. It is wholly self-explanatory. It would exempt from the regulations: any shop at a farm, smallholding, allotment or similar place which is not open for the retail sale of any goods other than produce produced thereon". It does not leave room for any ambiguity. There is no question of trying to use the provision as a cloak under which to sell carpets, furniture or anything else. I hope that the Committee will agree that it is a thoroughly worthwhile amendment. It makes no dent at all into the general restrictions imposed by the Bill.

I should add also that it will help English and, indeed, Welsh winemakers who are struggling so hard to overcome the obstacles erected by the European Commission, in spite of the fact that the quality of their wine improves enormously year by year. Every bit of help that can be given to them will be extremely welcome. I beg to move.

Viscount Brentford

This is just one more move to extend the exemptions to the Bill. It seems to me that once again we have a further attempt—and Members from all sides of the Committee were saying this a few moments ago in the supper room—to drive a coach and four through the Bill.

We should remember that the area of 280 square metres is that of a tennis court. Therefore, that is quite a large area. I do not favour the amendment. It is one more step towards total deregulation.

Lord McCarthy

The amendment refers to a "smallholding" but it sounds rather like a "largeholding". What proportion of such shops would the noble Lord say are larger than a tennis court?

Lord Monson

I do not have the faintest idea because I did not draft the original amendment. Of course, in the example of a vineyard, it is difficult to define where the shop begins and the vineyard ends. It might include the whole vineyard, it might not.

The noble Viscount suggests that this amendment drives a coach and horses through the Bill. In fact, it drives the tiniest of Shetland ponies through it, if it drives anything at all. We are talking about a very tiny amount of trade in relation to the total trade undertaken on a Sunday. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, asks a perfectly reasonable question. However, it really depends on where the shop part ends and the smallholding or farm begins. That is a grey area and I should have thought that it would be safer to drop all restrictions.

The Earl of Onslow

This amendment could be called a Trojan pony, if one is allowed to mix one's metaphors somewhat. I believe that the farm retail shops were excluded under the 1950 Shops Act. I know that there are different rules for farm shops which produce their own produce. They were certainly exempt under the 1950 Act.

As the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, said, there will be very few shops which are larger than a tennis court. I suppose it is possible that some of those shops sell a lot of home-killed meat. However, as Members of the Committee will know, I am in favour of allowing people to do what they want to do without let or hindrance from other people. I support the amendment, although I suspect that it is not quite as well drafted as some of the others.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

It had not been my intention to speak to this amendment. I had taken it for granted that it would have the support of the Committee and it is only the intervention of the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, which makes me realise my naivety in approaching the more arcane aspects of the Bill.

I took it for granted that the omission of this provision was an oversight which the Committee would wish to remedy. It now seems to me that it was omitted as a result of an agreement reached in a smoke-filled room. It is part of a contract to which many of us were not party. I understand that no doubt it will be a great embarrassment to the Minister if the amendment is accepted. However, I hope that the amendment will be judged on its virtues and I believe that its virtues are clear. I see no reason whatever why the amendment will drive a coach and horses through the Bill. The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, has not explained why that should be the case, how it is the thin edge of the wedge or why this is a further step towards complete deregulation. If that is the case, I should like to hear the argument.

It seems to me that there is an extraordinary tendency throughout the whole debate to say that matters were all signed, sealed and delivered on 29th March and that it is improper, almost, for any Member of the Committee to challenge the agreement reached at that time. That agreement was reached between organisations with which some of us have not been in any way involved.

It may be that the amendment is defective. I should be prepared to listen to that argument and not support it if it is. It may be that in some way this opens the floodgates to total deregulation. The noble Viscount has not made that point. I hope that the noble Earl will not repeat the Government's position and say that he is neutral. He is neutral so long as there are no amendments to the Bill. I hope that the Committee will accept what seems to me to be a totally reasonable amendment to which no Member of the Committee can take exception.

Earl Peel

I apologise to Members of the Committee for not being present in the Chamber when the amendment was called. The main point that I should like to make is that the amendment is very similar to one moved, and accepted by the Committee, by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara earlier today. It is concerned with the position of relatively large farm shops which sell their own produce—whether it be fruit, vegetables, meat or whatever—which has been produced on the farm from where it is offered for sale to the public.

Under Section 58 of the 1950 Shops Act—I cannot claim to go as far back as my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara in his amendment which referred back to 1936, but I still go back to 1950—farms have until now been trading without any restrictions. As the Bill stands, farm shops of up to 280 square metres in floor area will continue to be able to sell either their own or brought-in produce without any hours' restriction, but large shops will be limited to six hours on a Sunday.

As the relevant provisions in the Shops Act will be repealed, the six-hour limit would also apply in the case of retail sales to the public for produce from the farm on which the larger shop is situated. In other words, those farm shops which are larger than 280 square metres in size which are currently able to sell their own produce for any number of hours on a Sunday would be restricted to six hours in the future.

We are probably talking about 100 or so such farms. But exactly the same argument applies as was put forward by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara. The people concerned have understood that they will not be restricted. They have developed their business accordingly, which in many cases has involved them in considerable capital investment. I should also point out that, generally, we are talking about fresh produce which is produced on the farm and which can, in many cases, go off. Therefore, it would be only sensible and fair for them to be allowed to continue in such a way.

If the amendment is not accepted, it would be tantamount to retrospective legislation in that we would be preventing such people from carrying on a business which they have been legally entitled to do since 1950. Therefore, in the same way as the Committee agreed to an amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, I very much hope that Members of the Committee will be persuaded to accept my amendment.

Baroness Turner of Camden

It had not been my intention to intervene in the debate because I do not hold very strong views about anything. However, I wonder whether the amendment is necessary, if we are simply talking about shops on farms. In my experience —and I am talking about some farms that I know in Wiltshire which sell their own produce—the shops concerned are really quite small. If that is so, they are covered by the legislation that has already been agreed. On the other hand, if they are very large (the size of a tennis court) it seems to me that they will be in competition with other shops which are limited to opening for six hours. It does not seem to me to be at all reasonable to accept an amendment in those terms. I shall vote against it.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, said that the amendment would cause embarrassment to me and that he wanted it to be judged on its virtue. I am quite happy to judge it on its virtue and to invite Members of the Committee to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that there was a grey area about vineyards as to where the vineyard stops and the shop starts. I do not believe that there is such a grey area. We are talking about covered areas. If the covered area is below 280 square metres, the shop can be open the whole time and you could have a vineyard of about 100 acres in size. That would be perfectly all right. However, 280 square metres is quite a sizeable area. As we know, it is about the size of a tennis court. That is a substantial area. I find it hard to believe that there are many shops approaching 280 square metres on an allotment site. After all, that is what the amendment suggests.

My noble friend Lord Peel must have come across some funny allotments in his lifetime if they have had shops of over 280 square metres on them. It seems to me that that would not leave much ground left for growing the various crops. I know that there are some farm shops that are larger than 280 square metres. But where they exist. I suspect—although, I do not know—that they sell a great many items other than produce grown on the farm.

On the whole, large farm shops tend to sell salad stuff out of season and such produce as oranges, pineapples and so on. I am bound to say that I find great difficulty in growing oranges and pineapples around my part of Norfolk. However, larger farm shops sell not only vegetables which they have brought in but also biscuits, sweets, flowers and a great many other items. If a farm shop is selling just home grown produce, in all likelihood it will be smaller than 280 square metres and therefore it will be able to open at any time on a Sunday. If it is selling other items, one must ask why it should be treated differently From a large supermarket to which it would be a direct competitor. But, of course, that is a conclusion at which Members of the Committee must arrive.

It is true that Section 58 of the 1950 Act allows farm shops to sell their own produce, but the difference is that the Bill already allows small shops under 280 square metres in size to sell anything that they like. The question is: do the big farm shops sell only their own produce? Even if they did so, they would still be able to open for six hours on a Sunday. It is a matter for Members of the Committee to decide.

Earl Peel

I should like to respond to some of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden. I believe that the noble Baroness said that she regarded such shops as being in competition with smaller shops. It is worth pointing out that, by their very nature, farm shops tend to be remote and in the countryside and therefore they do not really compete in the way suggested by the noble Baroness. Further, we are talking about produce that has been produced on the farm. Therefore, there is a significant difference from what the noble Baroness suggested.

Lord Monson

I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, for his most powerful support and to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, for filling in the gaps in my knowledge as regards the number of shops which in fact exceed 280 square metres in size. The noble Earl says that there are about 100 of them. That is quite a number, but not so many as to greatly alter the effect of the Bill as a whole.

The pertinent issue here is that of retrospection. After all, as I understand it, we are talking about produce produced solely on the farm and not items brought in from elsewhere. We are not talking about other people's produce. If the amendment is not accepted there will be a degree of retrospection in that the 100 shops which are currently allowed to trade under the 1950 Shops Act will no longer be allowed to do so. I believe that to be wrong. Therefore, I intend to press the amendment.

8.58 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 18; Not-Contents, 25.

Division No. 3
Allenby of Megiddo, V Monson, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Moyne, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Norrie, L.
Carnock, L. Northbrook, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Onslow, E. [Teller.]
Glenarthur, L. Oxfuird, V.
Harris of High Cross, L Peel, E. [Teller.]
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Lyell, L. Torrington, V.
Annaly, L. McCarthy, L.
Barber, L. McNair, L.
Brentford, V [Teller.] Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Caldecote, V. Morris, L.
Coleraine, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Renton, L.
Elton, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Ferrers, E. Stoddart of Swiadcn, L. [Teller]
Graham of Edmonton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. Trumpington, B.
Jeffreys, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Long, V. Whitelaw, V.
Mackay of Clashfem, L. [Lord Chancellor.]

Resolved in the negative and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.7 p.m.

[Amendment No. 12 not moved.]

Lord Cochrane of Cults moved Amendment No. 13: Page 5, line 12, at end insert: ("(h) any shop within a holiday park and open only for the sale of goods as an incidental facility to persons using or enjoying other facilities at that park.").

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, who unfortunately, due to the illness of his mother, is not able to be here tonight. I find myself at a particular disadvantage in moving an amendment standing in the name of another noble Lord at this late hour. I should at this stage declare an interest in that for many years I have been involved in the holiday trade, albeit not on the scale of the organisations mentioned in this amerdment. I also have the further advantage of trading in Scotland, where we are not subject to any of the nonsensical rules which this Bill attempts to remove.

The purpose of the amendment is to remove new controls from large holiday parks where none had previously existed. It falls neatly into the category which we have heard described at great length by various noble Lords earlier concerning restrictions, so altering circumstances which have existed at least since the 1930s.

These large holiday parks currently trade on Sundays under what is called the "resort exemption". It is a complicated matter and I shall not labour the point tonight, but, at the will of the local authority, it allows trading on Sundays in holiday resorts. There is another category called a "fishing resort", to which a different set of rules applies. Neither set of rules is provided for in the Bill.

These holiday park premises—for convenience one might like to imagine the word Butlins but there are many others —nowadays are self-contained. Once you are in the door it is almost like a holiday prison. You are not expected to go out for any purpose unless you are so disgusted that you demand your money back—you probably will not get it back —and push off.

I wrote to my noble friend on the Front Bench and received, as always a helpful and courteous reply. However, I have to say to my noble friend that some of his arguments appeared a little despairing. His principal point was that it was inequitable that other tourists who were not so lucky as to stay in these magnificent establishments would feel jealous if they saw people within them shopping wildly at all hours of the day. I would respectfully point out to my noble friend that not only is that slightly unlikely, because people would probably not be able to see through the fence anyway, but also, if the park did not exist, the local economy would not benefit and people in the town would not have anything to feel jealous about.

Further, these shops are not on a thoroughfare. They are not generally accessible to the public. There are problems in relation to whether or not they are akin to museums in that in certain circumstances you pay to go in—not to stay but just for a day visit to ride on the giant slide or whatever it may be.

The parks are not competitive with local shopping. As we have heard, you can shop at airport shops and the like. People travel to these parks in the same way as they go to a station. If they go on a Sunday they will be very angry to find that they have to wait until 10 o'clock in the morning before they can buy their breakfast whereas the chaps at the lesser park up the road can buy their breakfast at 8 o'clock. These parks cater substantially for people in self-catering accommodation. Those of us who have used such accommodation know how annoying it is if you want something; let us imagine a perfectly ordinary requisite such as a corkscrew, which the previous occupant of the flat has stolen and you do not have one.

Park operators build into their pricing structure an estimate of the amount of money that will be spent in their shops, restaurants and so on. If that is reduced it is inevitable that the level of service within the park will diminish. Alternatively, the park will become less valuable because it will be making less money, or the operators will have to raise their prices. It is well known that in a parallel operation the cross-Channel ferries virtually exist on duty-free sales. And if one did not buy any duty-free goods at airports, for example, the charges to airlines would rise enormously. This is another version of the same situation.

The main point is that a new level of restriction is being imposed retrospectively on a long-established business which is much needed by the public. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

I must again ask what percentage of shops in holiday parks which sell goods as an incidental facility are larger than a tennis court? Why do they need to be so large? The noble Lord states that such shops sell breakfast goods, food and corkscrews. Such items do not seem to require a large shop. What percentage of them are vast shops?

9.15 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

Does it matter what the percentage is? All that we ask is that a right which exists is not taken away. It must be wrong for legislators to take that right away unless there is a serious reason to do so. If those shops are allowed to be open, even if the provision applies to one shop, it seems to me that we do not have the right to take away someone's existing legal right without very good cause.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

I wish to support the amendment. I refer to the element of retrospection which was involved in the first amendment. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, I do not believe that the number of shops matters. It may be 10 or 20; no doubt my noble friend will be able to tell us how many shops there are. The fact is that they have opened perfectly legitimately under the law as it stands. Investors have made their investment decisions on that basis; people have been employed on that basis. They are currently employed for eight hours a day. The hours will be cut back to six, or whatever the figure is. That will be a disbenefit to them. It will be a disbenefit to the shop owners and to the consumers who wish to use the shops.

If the shop owners are allowed to do that under the law as it stands, why should they now be restricted to do less than at present?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I do not understand this notion of retrospection. The amendment does not make any retrospective provision. It merely states that from the coming into force of the Act, certain shops will be subject to certain restrictions. If shops hitherto have not been subject to those restrictions, they will not be fined for having carried on business before the Act, that they may not carry on after the Act comes into force. Therefore it is not retrospective legislation, and that must be made clear. The arguments put forward that it is retrospective legislation simply do not hold water.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

They certainly hold water. Those shops have opened under the law as it stands. If the law is now changed retrospective to the building of those shops, their opening, the investment put into them, the employment of the people in them and to their use by customers, and if they will now no longer be able to open for more than six hours a day, it is a retrospective move.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

Perhaps I may assist the noble Lord opposite. I understand that at present about 40 parks of this nature exist. Perhaps I may take the opportunity to apologise to noble Lords for the late tabling of the provision. The problem came to light only comparatively recently and it required a good deal of work by my noble friend to elicit the various details.

With regard to my reference to corkscrews, I did not suggest that the shops sold only corkscrews. I stated that if one were self-catering, various items were needed. In view of the time of night, I thought that, if one did not have one, it might he easier to imagine a corkscrew rather than rashers of bacon.

Lord Moyne

A point has been missed in the debate. The reference to retrospectivity, which is wrong, is an example of how the point has been missed.

The entire Bill is designed to make legal practices which were in existence, and which no one contested in practice. In other words, it brings the law into line with practice.

In a small way the amendment simply does the same. It would have been stupid not to pass the amendment with regard to DIY. It would be equally stupid not to pass this amendment for that reason, because the whole purpose of the Bill is to bring the law into line with practice.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

That is the nub of the matter, and a very powerful argument. Of course the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is right in saying that it is not retrospective legislation as we understand it. The Bill means that those who have invested in such facilities will no longer be able to attain a return on an investment honourably made. Looking at the issue in a different way, those who have enjoyed such facilities as customers in the past will not be able to enjoy them in the future.

As I said earlier to the Committee, I come new to this legislation. I come new to the arguments; I have listened to them for the first time. However, I cannot conceivably understand why, in legislation which is meant to move forward a situation which is totally unsatisfactory, we take away what people have taken for granted in the past.

I am sure that the omission is an oversight. I appreciate that from the Government's point of view it is better not to pass the amendment. However, I hope that the Committee will recognise that this provision is one with which we can be content without proceeding to a Division.

Lord McCarthy

The noble Lord consistently misrepresents the position. It is not a case of the law being in line with practice. If we had legislation which brought the law into line with practice we would have deregulation. That is what the noble Lord wants; it is what the noble Lord opposite wants. But that is not what we have.

We are not bringing the law into line with practice. We have a compromise. Therefore some practices which are lawful will be made unlawful. That is not bringing the law into line with practice.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy attributes to me views which I have not expressed and which he cannot possibly know because he is unable to read my mind. I have not said that I am in favour of deregulation. All I said was that we should judge those matters on the merits of the case. I confess that my ignorance extends to what is wrong with the tennis court. I do not understand the argument that a shop which is as large as a tennis court is an improper shop to be open except for the restricted hours. That is the argument of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and I do not see how it stands up.

The essence of the case is that those facilities have been available to the public; those who own them have invested in them. It is as simple as that. All right, it is not retrospection; it is common sense. The argument we have heard time and time again today for the compromise is common sense. The amendment is common sense; let us, for goodness sake, accept it.

Viscount Brentford

I suggest that the amendment is similar to the last one rather than to the one on DIYs. We should bear that in mind. It is the same argument, in my view. I say to my noble friend Lord Cochrane that I should be happy to present him with a corkscrew if that is his great worry on the position.

Baroness Trumpington

My noble friend Lord Cochrane of Cults has argued gallantly in favour of an amendment which would exempt from the six-hour restriction any large shop within a holiday park which is open, only for the sale of goods as an incidental facility to people using … other facilities", at the park. Supporters of the amendment can conjure up the spectacle of benighted holidaymakers being deprived of their bacon and eggs first thing on a Sunday morning because they forgot to stock up with those essentials the evening before.

It is entirely a matter for the Committee to decide, as we have said ad nauseam. But Members may wish to consider why holidaymakers in a holiday camp should have access to a large shop before 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning when holidaymakers in the nearby seaside resort do not. I remind Members of the Committee of the resort exemptions in seaside towns. Those exemptions apply only for 18 weeks in the year and shops can sell only certain goods, listed in Schedule 7 to the Shops Act 1950. They are also at the discretion of the local authorities under Section 51 of the 1950 Act.

I wonder whether Members of the Committee are necessarily convinced that it will always be clear when a shop is an incidental facility to the holiday park. It might be possible, if such an amendment were carried, for a park to develop a retailing complex. At what stage would that be regarded as a shopping mall in its own right rather than an incidental feature?

Members of the Committee may wish to consider whether it would be possible to argue that an exception should be made for practically any type of large shop. The Committee may feel that shops at holiday parks are indeed a special case. On the other hand, the Committee may feel that any additions which cannot be considered as strictly essential will inevitably make the Bill more complicated and so less easy to enforce. However, the matter is in the hands of the Committee.

Lord Cochrane of Cults

I thank my noble friend for her speech on behalf of the Government. For once I am sorry to say that I find extremely little I can agree with. I normally regard my noble friend as a staunch upholder of all that I believe in, and I am sorry. I shall make sure that when she comes to stay with me she does not get any breakfast until well after 10 o'clock.

Baroness Trumpington

I shall have gone quite legally to a shop and stocked up before I arrive!

Lord Cochrane of Cults

I am grateful to my noble friend. The hour is late and we must get on. The nearest shop is a mile and three-quarters away. I did not say that resort exemptions should be continued in their existing form. I said that they existed but that no comparable purpose was intended. That is the lacuna in the Bill.

My noble friend delved into various definitions and said that possibly one could develop a holiday park into a shopping mall. I do not see what is the matter with that if the customers on the park want to shop in those premises. If you have built them too big, you will either have to close them and turn them into something else or go bust. It is not something on which the Government should tell people what to do. That is the great distinction in the Bill. We have the nanny side and the freedom side.

However, in view of the late discovery of the problem and the lateness of the hour, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment. It can then be further considered before the Report stage, when it will undoubtedly be raised again.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 not moved.]

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 16: Page 5, line 36, leave out ("10 a m.") and insert ("10.30 a. m.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I shall speak at the same time to Amendment No. 18. When I spoke to Amendment No. 4, in the names of the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, and other Members of the Committee, I suggested that one of the few arguments against total deregulation was the need to protect the peace and quiet of people who live near shops. It was a very powerful argument. That is one of the reasons why I swung against total deregulation.

The other main argument against total deregulation is the desirability of keeping most small shopkeepers in business, to the benefit of themselves and of us all; an objective against which only the most ultra-zealous free marketeer could argue. I am a free marketeer but, I hope, not an over-zealous one.

It is argued that a permitted opening time as early as 10 a.m. for large stores would adequately protect small shopkeepers. But let me read to the Committee two items: it is well known that on Sunday, the period between 7.30 am and 10.30 am is the time when small convenience shops, newsagents etc, do the bulk of their business". The Committee will note that it does not say 10 a.m. but "10.30 a.m.".

One might suppose that the quotation comes from an organisation devoted to the protection and furtherance of small businesses. It does not. It comes from Kingfisher plc, which is an organisation representing a large business.

The second quotation is from the Shopping Hours Reform Council, which maintains that, SHRC proposals recognise the needs of small shops by requiring supermarkets to stay shut until 10 a.m. at the earliest". I suggest that that implies that the council recognises that it would be much more helpful to small shops if the supermarkets stayed shut until at least 10.30 a.m., if not later.

There is also the question of disturbance to people living nearby. As one Member on the Government Benches, whose name I did not catch, pointed out, a 10 a.m. start means a 9 a.m. delivery, which results in lorries rumbling through streets from 8.30 a.m. onwards. An extra 30 minutes' peace and quiet on Sunday morning would be most welcome to such unfortunate residents.

As I indicated earlier, over and above that the principle of a fixed six-hour permitted opening period is a good one for reasons which many noble Lords from all quarters of the Committee have explained. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, on one point that he made this evening; namely, that it would save council tax payers a very substantial sum of money. That must be something which we should take into consideration.

However, I could not support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford and others. In fact, I abstained because I felt that the period from noon to 6 p.m. was too late. Apart from the arguments already advanced, it would operate against those small shopkeepers who deal mainly in luxury goods, such as antique dealers and such places as the Body Shop which do most of their business in the afternoon. It would help the grocers but not the purveyors of more expensive goods.

I feel that a fixed period of opening of either 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. would be much better for shop owners, shopworkers and consumers than 12 noon to 6 p.m. However, that is dependent on agreement being reached to relax the law relating to booksellers, farm shops and others, to which we shall return at Report stage. Unless agreement can be reached on that I can see no case for contracting the maximum permitted period during which large shops can remain open.

If, at Report stage the House decides against any permutation of the fixed six-hour period, I suggest it will still be highly desirable, both from the environmental angle —that is to say, the peace and quiet and tranquillity angle—and for the purpose of giving an extra lease of life to small shopkeepers, to prevent large stores opening before 10.30 a.m. at the earliest rather than 10 a.m. I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

I am not sure whether this is the right time for me to ask a question. Are we talking also about shopping arcades where there are several shops like the Body Shop? Can the arcade stay open but only the shops smaller than 280 square metres, or only individual shops? This is probably not the right time to raise the matter but I should like an answer to my question.

9.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

As Members of the Committee know only too well, a key element of the Shopping Hours Reform Council option is the restriction of trading by large shops to six hours. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would still allow six hours' trading but would reduce the hours from which the shop could pick, as it were, from eight to six-and-a-half. The potential trading period therefore would be 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, that seems to me to jettison the advantages of flexibility without any of the offsetting advantages in terms of reduced bureaucracy which my noble friend Lord. Brantford and other Members of the Committee sought in their amendments debated earlier. Some people feel there is a special reason for restricting Sunday trading by large shops predominantly to Sunday afternoon, and I recognise that. But that option was put before another place and rejected on a free vote. It was rejected precisely because many of those who wish to shop and trade on Sundays have compelling reasons for doing so on Sunday mornings.

As I have said many times, the Government are not inviting Members of the Committee to vote one way or another. My view is that the Bill has the balance about right and we would be better to leave it as it is rather than to adopt the amendment of the noble Lord which is more restrictive. 01 course, that is entirely a matter for the Committee.

Lord Monson

The noble Earl misinterprets what I am trying to do, but that is entirely my fault. In order to save time I omitted to flesh out and explain the purpose of Amendment No. 18. My inclination was for a six-hour period from 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. I thought some Members of the Committee would perhaps prefer 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and therefore tabled 5 p.m. to give the Committee an opportunity to discuss the two possible options. It was not my intention to give a six-and-a-half-hour period. As the noble Earl said, that would be silly. Either we have a fixed six hours, which saves a lot of time and money, or we have a longer period.

There is an advantage in the 10.30 a.m. start rather than 10 a.m., giving a seven-and-a-half hour period. I fully accept that there is no advantage in a six-and-a-half-hour period. I am a little lost as to what to do because I do riot believe there is a case for a fixed six-hour period unless there is a concession between now and the next stage for booksellers, farm shops and the shops which are the subject of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Cochrane.

I know that there has been talk of deals, contracts and so on which has been well shot down by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and others. Between now and the next stage it might be possible to have fruitful discussions with members of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign to see whether we can agree compromise amendments which can be accepted by virtually everybody. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Caldecote had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 17:

Page 5, line 36, leave out ("10 a.m.") and insert ("12 noon").

The noble Viscount said: I do not propose to move this amendment or Amendment No. 19. We have covered a great deal of the ground already. I should like to consider what has been said with a view perhaps to bringing it back at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 18 to 22 not moved.]

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 23: Page 6, line 33, at end insert: ("Transitional Provision) Any notice given for the purposes of paragraph 4(1) above after the passing of this Act but before the commencement of this Schedule shall, notwithstanding paragraph 4(3) above, take effect on that commencement.").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical and, I believe, uncontroversial amendment. Its purpose is simply to ensure a smooth transition from the existing law to the new in accordance with the wishes of Parliament. Under the Sunday Trading Bill large shops are obliged to notify the local authority of their intention to open on Sunday and their proposed opening hours.

As the Bill stands, a notice of intent to open does not become effective until 14 days after it is given unless the local authority agrees to a shorter period. This is to provide local authorities with reasonable time to deal with any bureaucracy involved, but equally it allows them to speed up the process if they are able to do so.

When the Act comes into force therefore the following situation could arise. Depending on the efficiency or disposition of the local council, some stores will be able to open immediately while others will have to wait a week or two weeks. This would of course have a particular and unfair effect on those stores which currently open lawfully under the 1950 Act but which, because of their size, will be required to give notice under this legislation. I am thinking here, for example, of shops in service areas or railway stations. This is clearly not what Parliament had in mind.

Fortunately, there is an easy remedy. The Bill provides for a gap between enactment of the Bill and the day (referred to as "the appointed day") on which its main provisions actually come into force:. This is to give local authorities, employers and others time to put in place any new procedures required by their obligations under the Act.

My amendment simply ensures that if shops give notification to open during that gap between enactment and the appointed day then they can start to open on Sunday immediately the law comes into force. In other words, if they give notice early the 14-day requirement will be waived. This is to the benefit of all. It surmounts the problem of continuity for various stores. It ensures consistency of treatment for shopkeepers and consumers across the country and, just as importantly, it helps local authorities with their planning and organisation.

Let me make it clear that nothing in this amendment effects the requirement to give 14 days' notice in the future. Stores which take the decision to trade after the appointed day will be bound by the 14-day rule. This amendment is exactly what it says it is: a transitional arrangement to ensure the new Act gets off to a smooth start. I cannot believe that this modest proposal need detain the Committee long. I beg to move.

Baroness Trumpington

My noble friend Lord Cochrane of Cults accused me of being "nanny government"; but I must point out that in truly neutral fashion I merely put the pros and cons regarding the amendments moved by your Lordships. Regarding this amendment, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Norrie for pointing out what might have proved a stumbling block—if only a minor and inconsequential one. The noble Lord has explained that in order to trade for six hours on a Sunday, large shops which are required to give notice under paragraphs 2 and 4 of the schedule can expect to wait for 14 days for the notice to take effect unless the local authority agrees to a shorter period.

I remind the Committee that as the Bill is drafted large shops would not be able to give notice until commencement of the schedule on the appointed day. Taken together, that might have the effect, if the local authority failed to agree to a shorter period, that shops might be required to wait for 14 days after the commencement of the schedule before being able to trade legally on a Sunday. I suspect that by far the majority of local authorities would in any case agree to the 14-day period being waived in those circumstances; but, as my noble friend has pointed out, the proposed amendment would have the effect that provided notice is given to the local authority after the Bill has received Royal Assent but before the schedule comes into force, the shop should be permitted to trade on the day that the schedule comes into force irrespective of whether 14 days have elapsed.

Once again, this is a matter entirely for your Lordships; but in this particular case, giving my own personal feelings and in no way trying to influence anybody, the amendment is of a minor and non-controversial nature and should help to ensure that the law comes into force in an orderly manner. I shall therefore support it.

Lord Norrie

I am grateful to the Minister for her co-operation in agreeing to this necessary amendment. As has been said, it is non-controversial and will ensure a smooth transition from the existing law to the new.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Schedule 1, as amended, shall be agreed to?

Lord Renton

I should like to make one or two brief comments about the drafting of paragraph 2, of which I have given notice to my noble friend Lord Ferrers. Your Lordships may find that the provisions are drafted in a rather confusing way. The paragraph's meaning depends upon negative exceptions to negative exceptions. That leads to double negatives which we always try to avoid. It is important to get this right because paragraph 2 of the schedule governs paragraph 3 and various later paragraphs. I could say more about the drafting, but all that I ask is that my noble friend will ask Parliamentary Counsel to clarify paragraph 2 before Report stage. I should be glad to have a word with him about it if that would help.

Earl Ferrers

I know that my noble friend Lord Renton is a past master at drafting, and I fancy that he would always prefer to redraft almost any clause or schedule that came under his eye. I would not quarrel with him about what he said. That would be a most inappropriate and uninformed thing for me to do. I shall certainly ensure the point he has raised is drawn to the attention of the parliamentary draftsman so that he can look at it and satisfy himself that what he has drafted is phrased as well as it might be.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

Schedule 2 [Supplementary provisions]:

Lord Harris of High Cross moved Amendment No. 24: Page 8, line 17, leave out from beginning to end of line 40 on page 9 and insert: ("(3) A notice under sub-paragraph (1) above shall be in the form of a statutory declaration under the Statutory Declarations Act 1835.").

The noble Lord said: I have some hopes of winning an easier passage for this modest amendment, because it does not tinker with the great compact that has been struck by at least some Members of this place with Members of another place. Nor does it raise again the. shadow of dispute over the rights and wrongs of Sunday opening. Rather, it is a simplification that I hope might appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Renton.

On Second Reading I complained that, whereas the famous Trumpington Bill for the repeal of the 1950 and other Acts, which passed through this place, was a one-page document, we find here a 20-page Bill in which two whole pages are devoted to defining the conditions under which exemption might be granted to persons of the Jewish religion. I mocked the whole of the procedure whereby a person of the Jewish religion is required to have signed by an authorised person a certificate giving notice that he was a person of the Jewish religion. An authorised person could be the secretary of the synagogue or any other person approved by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. It seems to me that a person of the Jewish religion might know that he was such a person and would not necessarily need all those other folk to vouch for him.

I am particularly encouraged to bring forward the amendment because I recently read a paper by Graham Mather, whom I might describe as a qualified solicitor of my acquaintance, in which he discussed the need for better legislation, and in particular, simplified and shorter legislation. He quoted some statistics from the Hansard Society Commission showing that the volume of legislation had increased from 40 general Public Acts in 1901, with 247 pages, to 70 or 80 Acts over the past two decades which ran to between 2,100 and 2,200 pages. In the interval larger A.4 sized pages were being used. So those statistics understate the proliferation and verbosity of legislation. It seems to me that if we could make do with two lines rather than two pages, that would be a help. In particular, it would remove what I categorise as a Schindler's List whereby there is this vouching of persons of the Jewish religion and the requirement that local authorities should keep a public register of those people who would be permitted to open on Sunday because they would be closing their shop on a Saturday.

My simple amendment, which I hope will find favour with the Committee, removes all that gobbledegook and mumbo-jumbo and inserts as sub-paragraph (3): A notice under sub-paragraph (1) above shall be in the form of a statutory declaration under the Statutory Declarations Act 1835 I understand that that is a serviceable measure. It is a solemn declaration of intention which would be cast in terms of a solemn declaration to close a shop on Saturdays and to open on Sundays. Breach of such a declaration would give rise to criminal penalties. I hope that at this late hour the Committee will see that there is some merit in that proposal which will not inflame passions among Members of the Committee or between this place and another place. Therefore, I beg to move.

Viscount Brentford

While I have no quarrel with the noble Lord's argument, I have been informed that discussions were held yesterday with the Board of Deputies of British Jews on this matter. Its preference is to leave the Bill as it stands and not to accept the amendment. It prefers the way the Bill is drafted, and because that is its view I should not support the amendment. I hope that it will be withdrawn. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, would like to have discussions with the Board of Deputies of British Jews on this matter.

Lord Elton

Will the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, say whether it is intentional that paragraph 10 of the schedule has been lost? That would appear to be a change, although I do not know how important. It excludes some people from the operation of the schedule and I thought that the intention was merely to simplify the operation.

Baroness Trumpington

There is an immediate appeal in an amendment which appears to delete 20 lines from a Bill. However, I am somewhat surprised that the noble Lord did not consult the Board of Deputies of British Jews before he tabled this amendment. I agree with my noble friend Lord Brentford that the noble Lord's amendment does not have its support.

The provisions in the Bill for shops observing the Jewish Sabbath were drawn up in association with the board of deputies and I am advised that it does not wish for self certification, which is the effect in practice of this amendment. The board is concerned that the provisions which have been provided for those with a genuine religious commitment might be used by others for narrow commercial advantage. The board of deputies believes that it is important that a rabbi or other authorised persons should vouch for the bona fides of each applicant. The Committee might consider that it should respect those views.

I am sorry that the noble Lord considers the provision to be unnecessarily complicated but I can assure him that it is the result of a great deal of thought and discussion. It has the support of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and therefore I hope that he will see fit. to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Harris of High Cross

I am not in the least disconcerted by the announcement that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is not in favour of the change. The gobbledegook of which I complain has become time hallowed and has featured with slight variation in previous Acts. It is a natural conservatism which may incline those most affected to cling to these familiar formulations.

The reason that I would not consult the Board of Deputies of British Jews implies no disrespect whatever. However, I would no more consult it than I would consult the Bishops' Bench on other terms of the Bill. This is not a workers' co-op or a Bill put forward by representatives of different interests, although sometimes one hears the sharpening of axes in the background. Therefore, when the Chamber is fuller and I have canvassed among my Jewish and non-Jewish friends in this House, I shall bring the matter forward on Report taking into account the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. At the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Loading and unloading at large shops on Sunday morning]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 25: Page 10, line 4, leave out ("9 a.m.") and insert ("9.30 a.m.").

The noble Lord said: I rise briefly to move Amendment No. 25 solely for the purpose of explaining its intention. Those of us whose alertness remains undiminished, despite the lateness of the hour, will have observed that it ties in with my Amendment No. 16 which I withdrew some little while ago but which I may well move again on Report.

Clearly, if large stores are not allowed to open until 10.30 a.m., they do not need deliveries until 9.30 a.m. Therefore, local councils should have the power to prevent deliveries before that time. That would clearly be of great advantage to the man in the street and, in particular, to the man on the lorry route. With that brief explanation, I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

Clause 2 and Schedule 3 together allow a local authority in effect to prohibit the unloading or loading of goods from a vehicle at a large shop before 9 a.m. on Sunday unless it is carried on with the consent of the local authority or subject to the conditions on which that consent was granted.

These provisions were introduced as government amendments at Report stage in the other place. They followed concerns expressed by the local authority associations that their existing powers under traffic and nuisance legislation were inadequate to deal with the specific problem of deliveries to large shops on Sunday mornings.

We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that an additional half hour would make a significant difference to local residents. That is a matter for the Committee, but I wonder whether the half hour will really be considered important. While I am sure that many people will value the opportunity to have a lie-in, equally I am sure that the majority of residents will be awake by 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The time of 9 a.m. was chosen as a compromise between the need of people living near to a large shop to have an undisturbed early Sunday morning and the need of large shops, in particular supermarkets, to receive deliveries on Sunday. The Government were told by retailers that 9 a.m. was the latest time they could receive deliveries and manage to replenish their shelves in time for a 10 a.m. opening. The local authority associations were content that the powers in Schedule 3 met their concerns.

Both this Chamber and the other place have voted for the SHRC option, which would allow large shops to open at 10 a.m. on Sunday if they so wish. Having decided on that, the Committee may wish to consider whether it would be consistent with this decision for retailers to be placed in the position that they would be permitted to open at 10 a.m. but not enabled to be fully stocked. If the time were amended to 11 a.m., it is likely that some retailers would not be fully stocked until a considerable way through their six-hour opening period. As I said, this is a matter for the Committee. In deciding whether to amend Schedule 3 the Committee will wish to consider whether adding an extra 30 minutes to the prohibition is a substantive change worth making. I ask Members of the Committee to consider those matters.

Lord Monson

I am grateful to the noble Earl for his reply. I do not agree that 30 minutes makes no difference. I believe that it would be helpful to local residents. However, I accept that while the earliest opening time remains at 10 a.m. it would be rather hard on retailers not to allow them to unload until 9.30. Unless such a change is agreed to at the next stage, there is no point in going ahead with the amendment.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Government on being so sensitive to public opinion that they introduced the amendment in another place to impose the 9 o'clock limit. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 not moved.]

Schedule 3 agreed to.

10 p.m.

Clause 3 [Construction of certain leases and agreements.]

Lord Lyell moved Amendment No. 28: Page 2, line 13, at end insert: ("( ) Where under the terms of any such lease or agreement as is mentioned in subsection (1) above the occupier of a shop is required to pay to the landlord a service charge (however described), that lease or agreement shall not be regarded as requiring the occupier of the shop to pay any part of a service charge in respect of a Sunday on which the shop is not open for the serving of retail customers. ( ) In this section "service charge" means an amount payable by the occupier of a shop within a shopping centre as part of or in addition to the rent and—

  1. (a) which is payable directly or indirectly for services, repairs, maintenance, insurance or the landlord's costs of management, and
  2. (b) the whole or part of which varies or may vary according to the costs incurred on behalf of the landlord in connection with the matters specified in paragraph (a) above or according to any formula specified in the lease or agreement for the purposes of securing payment of a proportion of the service charge.").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes, who is unavoidably detained this evening, I should like to move the above amendment. It is specifically related to a finer point, but one which is of considerable importance. It relates to service charges for shops within shopping centres. I shall not dwell further on the matter as regards whether or not such shops are malls. However, I believe that the issue will be familiar to Members of the Committee. The amendment is adequately drafted to cover what is stated in Clause 3.

It may well be that in those shopping centres half or a proportion of the shops will decide to open on a Sunday while others will decide not to do so. Opening the centre for any shopping on a Sunday would certainly involve costs and clearly the ground landlord would be entitled to recover the costs involved for security and other essential services. However, I believe that Members of the Committee will agree that it would be unfair if such costs were to be borne in part by those shops which did not open; that would benefit those who did. The amendment seeks to secure that any service charges relating to Sunday opening, which I believe can. be defined, would be shared by those shops which avail themselves of the privilege of Sunday opening.

In Clause 3, the Bill recognises that there will be some problems in leases. It makes clear that shops will not be required to open on a Sunday, even if their lease from the ground landlord would require them to be open during normal business hours. We hope that the amendment will simplify the matter and bring a practical and common-sense extension of the principle in Clause 3. We also hope that it will benefit both tenants and landlords in clarifying what might otherwise become a bone of contention between the parties. Indeed, it could easily become a bone of contention between fellow tenants within the shopping centre.

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to indicate to us that shop owners should know where they stand in such matters, rather than the whole decision being taken to court and becoming part of case law. It is in the nature of a probing amendment. I trust that my noble friend the Minister will be able to take it in that spirit. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend makes it all sound so simple. He says that the amendment would make practical and common sense. Members of another place were concerned that shop owners might be obliged to open on Sundays, even though they wished to stay closed, by the unfair wording in their leases. Therefore, the Government added Clause 3 to the Bill so as to make it completely clear that a general provision in any lease that requires opening during "normal opening hours", or similar such phrases, could not be construed as requiring shops to open on a Sunday.

My noble friend feels that the Government have not gone far enough. Those who feel like him fear that some shops may be pressurised into opening on a Sunday if they were required to pay a service charge regardless of whether or not they opened or stayed shut. I ask my noble friend to consider some of the practical problems involved with the amendment. The service charge on shops covers such things as security, lighting and heating, the cleaning of passage ways between the shops and the fountains and flowers in those shopping centres, where applicable. How can a shopping centre manager be sure which part of the flower bill relates to Sunday and which part relates to Friday afternoon? It might sound simpler for items such as heating. But I am told that the heating bill is not metered on a daily basis; it may not even be fair to divide by seven and knock off one-seventh of the charge in respect of Sunday. For example, what would happen if the weather one Sunday was particularly warm or cold?

Again, if we take security, shops which are closed on Sunday also need security cover. However, that cover is obviously less when all the shops are shut than when they are open. How does one differentiate between the costs for those shops which are shut and those which are open? It must be impossible to work out with any accuracy the charge which relates to Sunday.

The Committee might like to consider another practical difficulty. As the amendment is drafted, the occupier of a shop would not be obliged to pay a service charge in respect of any Sunday in which a shop is not open. But there may be many reasons why a shop may not be open on a particular day of the week. The owner might wish to attend, for example, a wedding or a funeral. If he chooses to take a Tuesday or a Wednesday off, can he be let off the service charge in respect of that day? The answer must surely be "no". Why should Sunday therefore be any different? But that would be the effect of this amendment. It would not matter if the shop normally opened on a Sunday if the owner went down with 'flu on a Sunday he could demand a rebate. The Committee may take the view that this is as it should be, and that is entirely a matter for the Committee. However, I ask the Committee to consider whether in practice this amendment, if carried—I realise it will not be carried—might prove impossibly difficult to administer for even the best intentioned landlord.

I also ask my noble friend to consider whether, even if the amendment is fair, it is a practical proposition. The Committee will realise that I have substantial doubts about that. As service charges reflect the actual costs incurred, it follows that if a bit is knocked off the service charge for one shop a bit must be added on the service charge of another shop. The Committee might say that is fair enough if it were a case of a small shop which chose to shut and a large shop which chose to open. But what would happen if it were the other way round? Would the Committee still feel that was fair? What if the large shop, though shut, benefited from all the potential customers passing its window displays and seeing all the lovely things inside on their way to the small shops? Would it still be fair if, for instance, by not paying, a large shop such as John Lewis forced up the charge for all its smaller neighbours, perhaps obliging them not to open too, even when they most certainly wished to do so?

I am bound to say that there is no easy answer and. that is why the Committee may feel that this is a matter best left to local negotiation between the parties concerned. This is, of course, entirely a matter for the. Committee. If my noble friend does not wish to press the amendment—from what he has said I do not think that he does—he might like to cogitate upon those problems before we reach the next stage of the Bill.

Lord Lyell

My noble friend has been most generous in giving a full explanation and has given me, my noble. friend and, I suggest, many others a great deal to read and digest. I shall withdraw the amendment this evening and no doubt we may wish to discuss this principle again at the next stage of the Bill. I am grateful to my noble friend for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Lord Annaly

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at eight minutes past ten o'clock.